Fandom: Life on Mars
Rating: PG-13 for expletives.
Word Count: 1700+ words.
Notes: More gen insomnia fic, you lucky things. There's some not entirely accurate quoting of the Philip Larkin poem "This Be the Verse" in this one.
"You okay, Sam?"
"I'm fine. Why?"
Annie licked her lower lip. "You look concerned about something."
"I don't have anything to be concerned about," Sam replied. He avoided looking into her eyes. "Must just be stress."
"I've seen you when you're stressed, you're all jumpy. This is something else. Want to talk about it?"
"I'm sick of talking."
Sam walked away, leaving Annie to frown at his back. She thought she heard him talking - not that sick of it, then - as he made his way down the corridor.
In the dark, in a dark place, he can think - just think - just -
"For Christ's sake, get me out of here."
He needs to be in a dark place, he needs the dark, but everywhere it's light and the light is blinding, flashing in his eyes every time he tries to look up. What happened to the dark?
He sobs. He claws at his face. He rocks backwards and forwards.
"Please. I've had enough now. I've learnt whatever had to be learnt."
They stand over him, all over him, he can feel them, like swirling mists - curlicues and tangles.
"I just want to, I just want to, I just -"
"I've a right headache," Sam said, letting his body sink into the chair at his desk with a resounding thump.
"It must take a lot to keep that poe expression on your face day after day, it were bound to happen at some point," Gene replied, standing in his doorway like a rooster on his roof. He was smoking, the smoke rising up towards the ceiling in curls.
Sam smiled a nasty little smile. "Very sweet, Gene."
"Sweet is as sweet gets, Gladys. You finished making enquiries on the Robinson case yet?"
"I'm on it."
Sam lifted his pen, ready to write, when -
"Sam, can you hear me? Are you ready Sam?"
He turned around. It sounded like the voice was coming from the next room. He stood up, walking towards the words.
"Where're you off to, Sammy-boy? You've still work to do."
Sam waved Gene away with the palm of his hand. He neared the entrance of the office and ducked his head out.
"Say it again," Sam said, a frown appearing. He rubbed at his forehead. "Come on, what was it you wanted? Ready for what?"
Gene stared at him, raised his eyebrows and drew a flask from his hip.
In the quiet, in the deadly silence, he can understand, but there's no silence.
No darkness. No silence.
Just bright lights and noise. Noise, everywhere, noise.
Gibbering voices speaking words he once knew but now can't remember.
It starts with a sentence, a simple sentence - he thinks it's a simple sentence - but it gets louder and more confused. There are more things said and the more that's said the less he can make out.
"Tell me what you're trying to say. Tell me," he screams, but he doesn't know if anything comes out. It gets lost in the thrum of other voices. He's lost in the voices. They assault him from every side.
At another point, he thinks he knew whose voices they were, but now, now it's indistinguishable.
Gene stood looking as Sam knelt in the corner, his head in his hands. Annie, eyes wide, stood next to him. Her mouth was open. She was staring at Gene, waiting for something.
"He's too far gone," Gene said, voice just lower than a whisper. His face contorted into an expression of grief. Of disgust.
"He needs help, Guv," Annie said in response, but Gene shook his head.
"It's not for us to help him. He needs to help himself." He turned away, set to go straight out the door. He hung his head and turned around. It took four quick strides for him to reach Sam, and when he did, he grabbed Sam by the wrists and hauled him up. Sam collapsed against the frame of his body, still sobbing. Gene pulled him into the centre of the room, a gesture to Annie to take his keys from the table.
"Hospital?" A monodescriptive question, saying more than ten thousand words of persuasion.
Gene nodded and echoed the word, voice still quiet, behaviour still stern. "Hospital."
Sometimes he thinks he can see her, hear her. Is it her? All he ever wants is to feel safe. He's not safe. They can see him. They're examining him. He's a test subject. It's metal objects and people poking and when did it get like this - was he just not paying attention?
He wishes for so much. He wishes for home. He doesn't know where it is, but he doesn't only want it, he needs it. If he clicks his heels together, will it all come back to him? Where are his heels?
"I promise, I'll do anything you ask."
No-one listens to him. No-one's there. They're all somewhere else. He's somewhere other. The voices aren't voices at all. What's all the light?
The doctor waited for Gene's reply and repeated the question, this time speaking more slowly.
"Has the patient displayed any signs of apparent psychosis before this incident?"
"No," Gene replied, his eyes finally appearing to fix on the doctor's face. He shook his head vehemently. "No."
Annie stared from the doctor to Gene, no small amount of shock etched in the lines of her expression.
Sam began ranting once more, rapid and unfailing. Loud, too - on the verge of a shout. "They --- fuck you up, your mum and dad, they may not mean to, but they do..."
Gene's attention was diverted back towards Sam at the noise. His mouth became a tight, thin line.
"Fill you with the faults they had, add some extra just for you..."
"What's he going on about?" Gene asked. He moved over and sat next to Sam. Sam moved, as if aware of his presence. He pulled at the binds keeping him tied to the bed.
"They were fucked up in their turn. Fools in old-style hats and coats. Half the time were soppy-stern. And half at one another's throats."
"I believe it might be a poem, though I am unfamiliar with it if it is," the doctor replied. "Does he read much?"
"Not really." Gene raised his shoulders, as if to shrug. "He's smart-like, but you usually see him poring over reports as opposed to books of poetry." His eyes settled upon Annie. "You should go home, love. Get some rest."
"Man hands on misery to man. Deepens like a coastal shelf. Get --- get out as quickly as you can. Do not have any kids yourself."
Annie's eyelids fluttered down onto her cheeks before flicking back up so that she could stare at Gene. "Don't you think you should tell him?"
Gene's reply was full of exasperation. "Can't tell him anything, can I? He's not understanding us."
"I'm talking about the doctor."
The doctor swivelled from shining a torch into Sam's eyes to gazing at Annie intently. "Tell me what?"
"He took a knock to the head a few months ago. Ever since, he's been a bit - well, he sometimes says things which don't make much sense." Gene stood up from his chair and slowly advanced on Annie. She started backing away, before planting her feet squarely on the floor and raising her face to Gene's. "He should know. He might be able to help. Sam needs help."
It's not real. He has to tell himself it's not real or he'll go mad.
Mad. Madness. What does he know of these things? He's not mad. If you know you're not mad, then you're not. Mad people don't know madness exists.
He gasps. He feels weighed down. He opens his eyes and for the first time he sees. He sees that he's still here. Despite it all, despite everything, he's still in the wrong time. And he doesn't know why, but that feels right.
Gene sat next to him. Sam could see he was dozing. He took a sip of water and watched. He watched Gene just as Gene had watched him for days. The plastic cup in his hand cracked and Gene's eyes shot open.
"You're awake," Gene said - but he was wary. He pushed his body up off the chair and then settled back down.
"Yes, I am. And how are you, Gene?"
"As good as can be expected." Gene puffed his cheeks out. "You gave us all a good scare, Sammy-boy."
Gene opened his mouth to speak but stopped. "You don't know?"
"I'm assuming I've been in some kind of accident. I can feel all my limbs, so it's not too bad. I didn't get shot, did I?"
"No, Sam. You didn't get shot. Wait there, will you?"
"Where else am I going to go?"
Gene practically ran out of the room. Sam knew he could be fast when he wanted to be, but he'd never seen him shift it like that. A minute later, Gene reappeared with Annie. There were tears running down her face. She stalked over and put her hand in Sam's.
Sam smiled at Gene and Annie. He knew something serious must have happened, otherwise they wouldn't be acting like this, but not knowing exactly what it was gave him free reign to be cheerful.
Annie brushed her fingers over his lightly. "Are you feeling alright?"
"Yeah, I feel great."
Gene stepped forward, gesturing upwards. "Your head doesn't hurt?"
"No. Should it?" Sam raised his free hand and for the first time realised there were bandages where his hair should be. "Did I get conked on the head? Is that it?"
"You had a tumour, Sam. In your brain. It was increasing the pressure in your head, building up over time, making you see things, hear things."
Sam blinked once, twice. "How d'you mean?"
"You were acting like you were a card short of a full deck," Gene answered.
Annie frowned at Sam. "You don't remember?"
Sam was the picture of oblivious.
Dark. Quiet. Perfect.
Sam stretched, finding himself strangely pleased to be waking up in his grimy old flat. He was tired of the hospital. Everything there was harsh, cold, clinical. He wanted to see dirt - and there was more than enough here.
"Oh, you're back," she said, looking up at him with wide eyes.
Sam launched into the air and rolled to the side. "Shit. You scared me half to death."
"If I'd really done that, Sam, you'd be unable to use such colourful language." She smiled at him, a deceptively innocent smile and shook her clown doll towards his head. "We missed you."
Sam pulled his hands to his face, scrunching up his eyes and heaving in a deep breath. The words which came out were foreign to him.
"I missed you too."