Fandom: Life on Mars
Rating: NC-17 for dark themes and coarse language.
Word Count: 10,500+
Notes: I think of this largely as gen, but there is a secondary focus on Sam/Annie. There are spoilers for the first and second series of the show, including the last episode. This is not a cheerful story and deals with the issue of suicide.
Palimpsest - The overwriting and reusing of parchment so that different texts can exist on one page.
When he arrives, it's a joke played on him and he knows this, even if no one admits it. It's a joke when Gene slams him up against the filing cabinet and a joke when his heart leaps into his oesophagus and a joke when the sun goes down on the day and he's still here.
He wakes up every morning, longing to be home, praying for grey suits and blue interiors, needing to see his mother again. He searches for a way to connect with that world - as he learns to connect with this one.
He also grows to love it, to love feeling alive. One day it's a bullet, the next it's a speeding car. It's staring down the barrel of a gun and knowing this is it, he did his best, his time is up. It's clutching onto the handle and frowning nervously as the colours whirl by. It's fight, fight, fight - be a hard man, be a strong man, be a man. Every day. No rest for the wicked. No rest for him.
This is life. It's everything. And he's never known anything better, never felt he could be more, never wanted to be more. So he grins at Gene with a pulse racing and in that moment - that moment there - he knows happiness.
And, when he's given the choice, he chooses happiness.
Happiness doesn't choose him.
Sam falls into step with Gene as he strides down the corridor, mug of tea in hand. Sam is holding four folders, the edges creased and crinkled where his fingers curve.
"Gene, believe me when I say this is important."
"I believe you in a lot of things, Sam. Sometimes, you don't know where to draw the line."
"Oh, I don't? It's me, is it?"
Gene stops, takes a swig of tea and stares pointedly. "Yeah. It is."
"Gene." Sam grabs hold of Gene's arm and hauls him to the side. Gene continues staring, eyes wide, mouth closed tight. "Gene, you know as well as I do that my methods get results."
Gene Hunt is in no way to be jostled or jolted into any other mould than bossy bastard with brass balls. "I don't know what results you're after, Tyler, but they're not the same as mine."
Sam scowls and spins on his heel to walk back to the canteen with a rhythmic clatter. He collapses into a chair and takes the bowl of treacle pudding proffered gladly. There are days when he wonders why he chose this. He wishes he had the ability to snap his fingers, send Gene into a trance and have his way. He should have the power, shouldn't he? He knows so much more than anyone around him. He knows what lies at the end of the rainbow, what surges beyond skies of blue.
But he doesn't have the power he'd thought he would have, deep down. He doesn't control everything. He didn't even realise he'd expected to until one particularly loud and bitter argument with Annie. Until he thought he would wake up to her smile and instead woke up to an empty flat. She didn't speak to him for a week.
At night, he thinks about it. He can't stop thinking about it. About reality and unreality. Life and fantasy. Whether it's more or less dangerous to choose one over the other. He wishes he had the definitive answer. Perhaps he is the definitive answer.
Chris sits next to Sam, pressing his feet against the legs of the chair and rocking back. "What've you got there?"
Chris grins. "I meant the case files, but you're lucky, boss. I got blancmange today and it were right awful."
Sam pushes the bowl Chris' way. "Here, have it." He watches Chris spoon half the pudding toward his face in one fluid arc. "The case files are connected to the Brown case."
Chris giggles through a pudding-stuffed mouth. "Is that as good as the blue case? How about the pink one?"
"Chris, can you concentrate on being a police officer for once, instead of a div?" Sam asks with a bitter look up at the ceiling. Chris frowns. Sam closes his eyes momentarily, collecting himself. "Sorry. That was uncalled for."
"No, it's okay boss, it's not like you're the only one."
"You're not a div, Chris," Sam says, warm and quiet.
"Yeah, well. Reports on that one might differ from person to person."
Sam taps the folders. "D'you wanna help me sort this mess out? I could use another opinion."
Chris crosses his arms and shrugs gently. "Suppose so."
"Right. Well. I think that the Guv's wrong in saying this is an isolated incident. I reckon it's one in a long line, but the culprits have been clever enough to start changing different aspects of the burglary on each occasion."
"What makes you say that?"
"Similar situations and circumstances. In this latest one, at David Brown's shop, the main aggressor shouted "shift it and lift it", right? Well, in this one here, at Lynch Automotive, this was done a month and half ago, the owner was told to "wheel it and deal it", and then at this one, Collins' Electronics, we've got "charge it, sarge"."
"So they like to rhyme, when they find the time and they're committing crime," Chris replies, any past animosity toward Sam replaced by another large grin.
"Yeah, and that's not all. There's also something odd here about the timing of these hits, but I can't put my finger on it. Apart from that, you know, there's one where they're wearing masks and have weapons, and one where they have none of that, and the types of places that are hit - a secondhand furniture shop, an automotive society, an electronics store, a jeweller - they're all so different. It's bizarre."
"Did you connect 'em by the things they say?"
"The rhyming, yeah. I remembered it from the Lynch case and went through the records in the collator's den. There could be more there too, but I think four is enough to work on right now. So what do you think?"
Chris spins the empty pudding bowl loosely in his fingers, twisting his mouth in concentration. "There's at least five of them on the job, yeah? There were four blokes in the secondhand furniture shop and a getaway driver."
"I think we need to go interview the different places again. There might be something we missed. If we ask them about what the people said to them, another common-thingy might come up. And we need to see if there are any more cases that fit with these ones."
"That sounds great, Chris, good work."
"What does the Guv think?"
Sam rolls his eyes. "The Guv doesn't think. He punches first, asks questions later."
Chris opens his mouth to retort, but Sam has already stood.
"Okay, Chris, how about you take a look in the collator's den whilst I go interview Lynch, Collins and Featherstone?"
Sam walks out of the canteen before Chris has time to reply and makes his way to Lynch automotive.
The interviews are relatively unsuccessful. The details get lost over time. Sam wants to scream and shout at the people he speaks to - force them into remembering. He remembered. He remembered everything. Tie patterns and party foods, public service announcements and newspaper headlines, all locked away in the back of his mind, just waiting for the right moment to spring into the crystallising dawn.
He radios back, talks to Chris, finds out Chris has discovered no more cases - this is it, these four are his chance at the answer. And it's not good enough. When he returns to the station, Sam makes his wrath known to all who cross his path, and of course, Gene chooses that moment to not only cross Sam's path, but set up a blockade and prevent Sam from continuing on his rampage.
"What's your problem, Tyler?"
"This. This is my problem. Every time I think I'm going somewhere, I'm halted at the next turn."
Gene doesn't move, not when Sam pushes him, not even when Sam punches him. He narrows his eyes, lifting his chin up to glare down at Sam.
"I don't much like your attitude. What did you expect? Crime is crime. We're here to solve it. It's not going to be a walk in the park with the pixies."
"It should make some fucking sense though, shouldn't it?"
"Sense? We make our own sense in this world."
Sam nods, laughing bitterly. "Yes. Yes, we do. That's the first intelligent thing you've said in weeks, Gene."
"Don't take your discontentment out on me, Sammy-boy. Is it Flash Knickers? Is she not swinging her leg over your hook just like you'd always wanted?"
Sam punches Gene again, this time square in the jaw. Gene brings the palm of his hand into connection with Sam's chin and forces Sam's head back, kicking him in the back of his knee and sending him crashing to the ground.
Sam laughs once more, loud and hollow. "If you're gonna kill me, Gene, now would be the time."
Gene blinks, frowning down at Sam. "I'm not a murderer." He hauls Sam up and looks at Sam as if he's trying to read him. "You better sort out whatever it is that's biting your bum, Tyler. I thought for a moment you'd got over all of that Morgan business. I've taken more blows than a back-alley tart for you. Least you could do is show some bloody gratitude."
Sam repeats the last word, voice soft. "Gratitude."
"Perhaps you don't know the meaning of the word. It's got to do with being thankful."
"So you want me to lie, then?"
"You want me to act like I'm glad that we get these cases that send us running around and that you choose to extract information by sending people into traction? You want me to be pleased with a dingy flat and power cuts and shit drinking water and backwards technology and -"
Gene interrupts. "I want you to just be, Sam. Just for once. No complaining. No whinging. No whining. Just be."
Annie steps forward into the hallway, her eyes set on Sam. "When will you learn, Sam? What does it take?"
"No. When will you learn? This? All of this? I made this." Sam spreads his hands out wide.
Gene raises his eyebrow. "You're God on Earth?"
"Yeah. I am. Me. Sam Tyler. God. On. Earth."
Annie chews on her bottom lip, her forehead furrowed. "Sam, I know that things don't always go to plan, but, sometimes, things don't. It takes time. It takes effort. On all our parts."
"But you're not real. The only one who has to make the effort here is me. And I've tried. But maybe not enough. And maybe not the way I was supposed to. And maybe I was kidding myself. Because feeling - when it feels like this - well…"
Sam runs out, not allowing himself to look back at Annie and Gene's reactions. He knows what he will see - confusion, indecision, anger. And he understands because that's what courses through him. He doesn't look where he's running, he just knows that he needs to run, to feel the air rushing through his system, his heart beating against his ribcage, to remind him, to force him into believing - that yes, this is it, yes, he should be grateful, yes, life is for living.
The squeal of brakes arrests his attention less than a second before the impact of the car. His body sails into the air and for a while there is nothing - no pain, no realisation, nothing but Sam and eternity.
He wakes up in a wasteland. His eyes stare up at the grey of the sky and he rises in an arc, feeling enclosed in leather. No. This has to be a dream. He sees the car, he wanders over, listens to Bowie on the eight-track, and then, there's the bobby, scaring him witless.
"I… I have no… this isn't real. This can't be happening."
The other officer is kind, gentle. Sam remembers him well. "Did you not see the signs? Do you remember what happened, sir?"
"Get away from me. Get the hell away. Do not come a step closer."
"Sir? Can you tell me what happened?"
Sam turns and runs as fast as his legs can carry him. He runs and knows where he's running, but he can't help it. This is all too heartbreakingly recognisable. He has lived this. He has had this. He cannot and will not live it again. When the station looms in front of him, his stomach twists and bends and he thinks he's going to be sick. He runs into the station, knowing that he was here just several minutes before, but feeling like - feeling like maybe he's never been here too.
He doesn't bother telling all of CID to stop playing. He bursts straight into Gene's office.
"Tell me what's happening."
Gene awakens with one eye opening; a dragon. He huffs like a dragon as well. He rises, prowling toward Sam and for a fleeting second Sam thinks that Gene Hunt may be his saviour, but then he feels a fist connect with his gut. Sam bends over, winded.
"What the bloody hell do you think you're doing coming into my office acting like the Queen of Sheba?"
Sam coughs. He straightens and looks into Gene's eyes, seeing the expression he had seen on that first encounter, an expectant analysis and annoyance. There isn't the familiar twinkle of humour, or the intense malice of disagreement. There's nothing on Gene's face to suggest he knows anything about Sam other than his unfortunate habit of storming into his office.
"Gene. I'm sorry for what I said earlier," Sam says, clutching at Gene's arm, and needing to make him see that he means it. "You're right." He looks up to the ceiling and shouts. "You're right."
Gene puffs out his cheeks and looks at Sam, nonplussed. "We haven't spoken before. You're a new transfer, in from C Division. They reckon you've got concussion, but I don't see what the big deal is. Your brains could be seeping out your ears for all I care."
"I think --- I think they are, Gene." Sam senses his legs collapsing out from under him and crumples to the floor. He closes his eyes and drags his arms around his knees, curling into himself. "I don't --- I can't…"
Sam is vaguely aware of Gene walking to one of his swinging doors and calling across CID. "Raymondo, I think we need to get a plonk in to check this one over."
Annie arrives in five minutes. Sam hears her rather than sees her; still sitting with his head bent and eyes shut. He feels her fingers brush through his hair, so familiar, so right.
"Annie." Sam looks up, eyes pleading. "You remember me, don't you?"
Annie smiles, soft and sweet. "I'm sure I would."
Sam takes a deep breath. "That's not good enough." He stands, sucking in his cheeks, looking at the ground. "No. This isn't real, none of it's real, so this is impossible and impossibility is ridiculous."
"He's speaking gibberish, Guv. D'you think he got more banged up than they said?"
"If he doesn't start acting more man than mouse, he certainly will be," Gene replies. His voice escalates in pitch and force. "Tyler. Snap out of it."
"Just had a shout," Chris says, standing in the doorway. "That bird who went missing a couple of days ago? She's only been done in down Satchmore Road."
"Susie Tripper. Right. She needs to be the last one. I better get down the pub and give the newspapers a statement. Someone sort out this dopey git and get cracking."
Sam watches as Gene leaves, not giving him a second look. He gazes at Annie, standing off to the side, her eyes intent on Sam's face. Chris shuffles out of the room. Ray chews malevolently in his direction.
"So, what? Am I supposed to take charge now? Lead us all to salvation?" Sam asks the air. No one answers. "Well, I'm not going to. I'm not doing this another time. Change it back." He snaps his fingers, looking up at the ceiling. "Go on, change it back. I've learnt my lesson. I've been a bad Sam. I admit it. I won't do it again. Just give me my Annie. Give me my Gene. Give me my Ray. You owe me that."
When he looks back down, Ray has moved out of the room and Annie's staring at him, eyes wide and lips parted.
"You know what? I know what'll fix this. Of course. Should have thought of it before."
Sam grins maniacally and sweeps from CID, leather swishing behind him as he makes his way up the stairs.
On the rooftop, he surveys his surroundings and all around him sees Manchester, Manchester for miles. Not the real Manchester. An imagined Manchester. One formed from half-baked memories and half-sunken dreams. His Manchester.
He runs. He jumps.
Grey. He is looking up at that sky, overcast and clouded, the same as his mind. He is letting his chest expand with air. He closes his eyes again and laughs, the humour of the situation impacting him like a ton of steel and aluminium composite. He doesn't get up. He waits. He hears the uniformed police officer appear. He's never even asked him his name.
"I fell," Sam says, mid-laugh. "I fell."
"D'you need help, Sir? Did you not see the signs?"
Sam smiles up at the bobby, who is looking down at him, hat perched precariously to the left.
"I'll be fine, Constable. I'll be a-okay. You watch and see."
Sam rolls over and gets onto his knees. He stretches his arms back with mock exaggeration and rotates his head around. The uniformed police officer goes to the car and pulls out Sam's identification.
"Says here you're on transfer from C Division in Hyde, Detective Inspector."
"That's right. That's righter than right. I work for Frank Morgan. I'm supposed to bring down the great Gene Hunt. We're going to reorganise the police force with M.A.R.S," Sam says, grinning and waving his hands theatrically. "Except that doesn't happen, because I fall in love. I fall in love with my co-workers and my job and my life in nineteen-seventy-three. Tada!"
"You need to go to hospital."
"Wrong. I need to go back to my flat. You tell them that. Tell them Sam Tyler's at his flat," Sam yells, walking away, in the direction of his home.
"860 to Alpha - hang on, sir, come back. 86 - sir, come back!"
Sam walks past a sign proclaiming the construction of the Mancunian Way, a sign that Sam knows is an anachronistic anomaly, because when he went back to 2007 he did a lot of research, and the Mancunian Way should already be complete. He pretends to shoot at it, a sly, dark smile painted in the curve of his lips.
So, he's to live this again? Fine. He'll live it again. On his terms. No white hats. No being pushed around. He whips his police badge out of his pocket and throws it in the mud.
In the flat the first thing he does is start tearing at the wallpaper. He's going to redecorate. Bright blues and sea greens, maybe a dash of red. Within half an hour and several destroyed pieces of furniture later - including the cot, now a twisted heap of metal and wood pulled to the fireplace - Annie appears. Sam encloses her in a tight hug and goes to kiss her, but she slaps him around the face and knees him in the groin.
"Get your grubby paws off."
"Annie," Sam says, letting it escape from his lips in a slur. "Annie, my darling Annie."
"I'm not your darling anything. This is beyond inappropriate, Sir."
"You get worse at the station. They don't appreciate you like I do."
"You don't appreciate me at all."
Sam stops, drawing himself up to his full height and pursing his lips. "No. You might be right there." He sits down in one of the two unwrecked chairs of the flat. "Stay. Have a drink. I only have water, but it's better than nothing."
Annie's expression holds lingering notes of wariness and intrepidation, but she sits across from Sam, placing her hands in her lap and tilting her head to the right in expectation. Sam leans forward, pressing his fingertips together, studying her.
"Annie, I know you won't believe me, but we're a couple."
"A couple of what?"
"I think I'd jolly well remember something like that."
"You don't. Everything's reset. Like Groundhog Day. We've done this before - twice now. Not exactly like this, but we've met." Sam moves further forward. "We're in love with each other, Annie."
Annie smiles. It's a smile he knows too well. An expression she gives when she doesn't know what to say or do. She thinks he's either insane or playing a joke on her. He's never particularly liked this smile, preferring the one he elicits when kissing a trail up her inner thigh, surprising her with unexpected insights, or just talking to her, arm slung over her shoulder in possessive simplicity. Sam rocks back in his chair and runs through different scenarios for action. He could start telling Annie the things she's told him in confidence, the University stories, the family truths. He could forget all about talking and once more try to seduce her, get her to remember his skin against hers. He could do any number of things.
The door bursts open. It should shock Sam, make him bring his arms up in reaction. It doesn't. He's fixed that lock enough times to know the cracking of the wood intimately and it's lost its ability to produce fear and terror in him. Gene stands in the doorway, majestic, scowling.
"Having a nice little tea party, are we?
Annie stands, eyes wide, every visible muscle in her body tense.
"Guv, I think DI Tyler's had a nasty bang to the head. He's not making much sense."
Gene pushes air through his lips in an unimpressed noise of frustration. "Men from Hyde never make sense. Move over, Cartwright, and give the big boys some room, there's a girl."
"One day," Sam says, standing also and giving Gene an unguarded look, "you're going to respect Annie."
Gene opens his mouth and closes it - for once, unable to respond. A moment passes and Gene casts his gaze around Sam's flat; great swathes of wallpaper scrunched into a heap, remnants of 1973 décor in ruins.
"What the bloody hell's been going on here?" Gene asks, before shaking his head. "No. I don't wanna know. Tyler, we need you down station and doing your job. A bird's just been done in down Satchmore Road. Susie Tripper. I've spoken to the press and I need my DI fighting fit. Think you can manage half a day's work?"
"The person you're looking for is Edward Kramer. 20 Kemmel Road. He's got sound proofing on the inside of his house, in order to keep the girls quiet. He's a sexual pervert, unable to fulfil his fantasies, so he takes the girls and watches them. He's killed before, and he'll kill again. He's also certifiable, seriously disturbed, so you'll want to dump his documentation in the waste paper basket."
Gene frowns at Sam. "That's not funny, Tyler. The case has to be solved, not made up out of thin air."
"Everything I say is true. Check the records. Beryl Raimes made a complaint about the level of noise coming from Kramer's flat. Only, the copy we have of the statement is smudged. Kramer kills the girls by garrotting them with a thin cord, but there's no other attack marks. There's also synthetic fibre under their fingernails. If you don't catch Kramer now, he's going to take Dora Keynes, the last person to see Susie alive."
Gene continues staring at Sam, but his expression changes from disbelief to confidence. He trusts Sam.
"Alright, Einstein, you're coming with me. Cartwright, get your lovely bumps back to the station and out of harm's way. We'll radio for back-up."
Sam follows Gene out of his block of flats and to the Cortina. He half-contemplates bowling Gene over, stealing the keys and going for a joyride.
"They gave you the case, did they? Before you transferred. They told you what we'd already found out?"
"Yeah." Sam says, grabbing hold of the handle above his head as Gene starts the car. "Also, I'm psychic."
"I can see into the future."
"Yeah, as well as read minds."
"I'm impressed, Tyler. Very impressed." Gene drops the light-hearted tone. "If this is all a wind-up, I will have your guts for garters."
"It's not a wind-up - not about Kramer."
Gene glances in Sam's direction, raising an eyebrow. "But you can still read minds."
"You tell me. See, right now I think that you're thinking something along the lines of 'this dashingly handsome Tyler bloke may be just a little bit bonkers, but there's a feeling in my gut telling me to believe him'. Also, tangentially you're thinking, 'I could murder a bacon buttie right this second and if we didn't have to go to Kramer's, I'd be stopping off and getting one.'"
Gene laughs, a loud bark of a laugh that Sam has grown to love. "Not half bad, Tyler. Ever thought about getting your own magic act? The Terrific Tyler? The Terrible Tyrant?"
"Thought about it. Decided I preferred policing."
"How long have you been on the force?"
"Since I was nineteen."
Gene nods, sending the Cortina around the corner with a sharp turn. "Right. Well, stick with me and you'll be a Super in a few years. Not that you'd want to be, mind. It's all paperwork and bureaucracy."
"I made it a specific target of mine to give up paperwork and bureaucracy."
Sam takes a deep breath and looks at Gene concentrating on the road. He never thought that it could be this easy between them this early on. But perhaps he should have understood from the beginning that the biggest barrier to their friendship has always been himself - that Gene attempted to integrate him into the team from the outset. This outset.
They storm in on Kramer. Kramer, who has not yet been able to take Dora. Kramer, who has his music blaring and starts to run with a terrified howl. Kramer, who is sent crashing to the ground by Gene, wrenching his arms up and shouting that he's scum.
At first, Sam wonders about evidence, at least they had Dora, before. But then Gene comes forward with the photographs, the ones Sam had forgotten about the first time, whilst ruminating on his moral downturn. Uniform arrives. There's no prevaricating. They take Kramer to the station and get him to confess. It's wrapped up and successful. And there are no more questions from Gene. There are never questions from Gene.
Sam goes to the pub with A division and buys them whisky chasers. For the first time in his existence, Sam is the popular one. Annie stays away from Sam until the very end of the evening. She sidles up to him as he sits, pint of bitter in hand and swirling inside his mouth.
"Have you been a bad Sam?"
Sam rubs his hand against his chin. "How d'you mean?"
"I heard something about Kramer not being right in the head."
"Right. You couldn't be, to do something like that, could you?"
Annie sips her drink thoughtfully. "No, I guess not. But there are hospitals."
"He'd be out in twenty. It's best he gets locked up for good."
Sam sees Annie nodding in his peripheral vision. He knows she's nodding for the sake of nodding.
Sam looks up and tilts his head to gaze at Annie, filled with hope. "Yeah?"
"That was done on a dare, wasn't it?"
Sam looks back down, dragging his lips over the rim of his glass. "Yeah."
The next few days pass in a blur. Sam decides on no more magic acts. There's no such thing as his terms. Even when he doesn't want to, he can't help but do the expected. Part of him is convinced that at any moment a switch will flip and everything will return to normal.
He gently nudges investigations. He is seen by those in the station as some kind of policing genius. But then, there were hints he was before, weren't there? With his interest in forensics and his attention to detail. Ray hates him even more than he usually does, which Sam didn't even think was possible. Chris may well have his own Sam Tyler shrine. Annie is warming to him, beginning to be charmed by him. And now that Sam isn't fighting him, Gene appears to like him more than he ever has. Sam is a copper who gets results.
"Tyler, just had word that Matthew Jordan's been brought in for questioning regarding that blag off Oldham road. Time for you, me, the Lost & Found and some head kicking."
The Lost & Found is dark and murky, the shelves full of relics that Sam will never examine.
"Alright, Matthew," Sam says, sitting down. "Tell us what you know and we'll leave you alone." He looks up at Gene, who's staring down at Sam with a quirk of curiosity. "Don't tell us and the Guv here forces his foot firmly up your jacksy."
Matthew is unimpressed and unperturbed. He takes the cigarette Gene offers him and says little. Sam watches the movement, narrowing his eyes, letting every muscle in his body relax. Gene waits until Matthew lights his cigarette and rams his head into the table.
Sam's initial reaction to this had been horror and disgust. He had already decided that Gene consisted of thuggish qualities, but he hadn't realised he could engage this much violence. After this moment, Sam had learnt that Gene analysed situations carefully and sometimes pushed at the boundaries with the finesse of a sledgehammer.
Sam now is waiting for Matthew to tell them about the reasons behind the blag - that Stoker was the target because he had delusions of grandeur, that they did it on behalf of a rival electronics firm.
"See, he acts all high and mighty," Matthew says, shaking his head at a newly offered cigarette. "That's what Strachan said. So he wanted to take him down a peg. Stoker's just one of us, really. No better or nothing."
"How d'you mean?"
"You know, skived from school and ate mash, but now he's all caviar and Blue Nun."
They get the names they need and bang Matthew up.
"That was quick."
"Very quick. I first looked at you and despaired you were one of those new age bleeding hearts types, but you've a good head on your shoulders."
Sam knows he should be happy, because this time everything is going well. He's not a pariah, he's a valuable person, to those around him, to the wider community. But he's also denying himself. By not fighting Gene, he has stripped their friendship of any depth. Gene treats him like one of the blokes and that's all. No early morning confessions. No late night declarations. Just the Guv and Tyler, DCI and DI, sharing a drink and a laugh. And it's so much easier this way - there's so much less heartbreak and so few bruises. Sam would rather have the bruises and the Gene he knows and is sarcastic towards than this.
By the end of the week, Sam finds himself in his flat with one of his razorblades. He sits on the floor - not having bought any new furniture. He slices into his skin, watching as the blood begins flowing, over pale pigmentation and onto brown carpet. He lies back and stares at the ceiling, tears following his blood, as he begins to sob and laugh at the same time.
The ground is faintly damp. He never noticed that before. He gets up and begins walking away before the uniformed police officer can get to him. Sam hears him calling, as he steps off the edge of the wasteland. "Sir, can you tell me what happened?"
If he keeps killing himself, it's just going to continue resetting. He accepts this. This time, he will go to the station, he will do what he did the first time, and maybe everything will slot into place. That's what was missing before. He didn't follow the script. If only he could remember his lines. He's not sure he knows them as well as he'd like; line perfect, pitch perfect. He'll do his best.
Sam allows Chris to make his introduction and responds as he remembers responding from months before. The conversation builds until, finally, Sam says the words he regretted for a long time.
"Alright, what the bloody hell's going on here? This is my department. What have you done with it?"
Gene appears, a hulking spectre. Sam looks him up and down. He asks the questions he knows the answers to, just to hear Gene say what he knows he's going to say, just to feel Gene slam him into the filing cabinet.
"Who the hell are you?"
"Gene Hunt, your DCI, and it's 1973. Almost dinner time. I'm having 'oops."
Even though he desperately wants to, Sam doesn't laugh. He needs this to go exactly as it did before. Or as near to exact as he can make it.
He stumbles when he gets onto the operator and tries to contact Maya. He normally tries not to think about her.
Chris comes into the room and explains about Susie Tripper, Gene leaves, and suddenly, but not shockingly, Sam is in charge. He leads the investigation as best he knows how. They catch Kramer - third time's the charm - and Sam lets Neil talk him into taking the definitive step.
"We all feel like jumping sometimes, Sam," Annie says and now that he's thinking about it, thinking about how she must be feeling, the tremor in her voice makes his throat constrict. "Only we don't, me and you. Because we're not cowards."
Sam would tell Annie that he's jumped twice before. That he may very well be a coward. But if he did that, this wouldn't work. And he needs this to work.
The conversations he has over the next few weeks give him a strange sense of déjà vu. They also leave him scrabbling for replies that he thinks he might have given when first plunged headfirst into an insane world. The truth is, he'd forgotten how ridiculous it was.
He's almost consoled by the very real fear he feels when the Test Card Girl first makes her appearance. He's not as consoled by her choice of discussion.
"You're lonely, Sam."
"You were lonely out there too."
Sam shakes his head, bringing his hands up as a barricade. "That's not how it goes."
"You're lonely because you know things no one else can know. You're lonelier still because you know things told to you time and again."
"Get out," Sam shouts, dragging himself back.
"You can't, Sam."
"Not me. You. Get out. Now."
"My clown and I are very sad, but Sam you know that you've been bad. Your friends do not know where you are, you're so, so close, you're so, so far."
The Test Card Girl advances and Sam becomes frantic. He screws his eyes shut and hopes against hope that she's gone back into the television, where she belongs. He concentrates on his breathing, on the faint smell of whisky from too many nights heavy drinking. When he opens his eyes, she is on the screen. He is glad.
Sam travels to June's bedside and slips her ring onto her finger. He wishes he had warned her when he saw her at the station, knowing what would happen, but that would have been a deviation from the plot. He steels himself for Gene's presence.
"If you've come to interview her, guv…"
Gene punches a second quicker than Sam expects and he reels back. Gene gives a self-satisfied grunt.
"Oh, that feels better."
After the fight, they have their first real dialogue - one that Sam still thinks about on occasion, because for him, it is the essence of the man he has come to count on. Gene talks about his Manchester and inside Sam is smiling, because he knows, he knows it's not Gene's at all. But Gene cares about it so much. And he does his best to protect what he views as his town. Sam can't disagree with the sentiment, even as he abhors the technique.
Sam tells the truth. "I only know one way to police."
Gene responds in kind. "So do I. She's not giving up and nor should you."
Sam huffs out a sigh, smearing blood over a crumpled tissue. If only Gene knew that his words held more weight than present conditions presented.
After Leonard proves himself to be a brave and wise person, Sam allows himself some time to fall into step with the others. Ray shoots daggers at him constantly, but Sam muddles on, because that's what he used to do. Chris is cautiously optimistic and willing to learn. Gene finds him a source of annoyance, but trusts him despite and because of it. Annie is growing to like Sam more than she should, considering their respective positions.
The only difference between the first time and now is the lack of contact from the other world. It's understandable. Sam reasons with himself that it shouldn't make too much difference, after all, it's not like any of them paid any real attention to it anyway, but he worries slightly that it is important, so he acts through certain scenarios as if he were being spoken to through the radio, as he remembers doing before.
Sam realises that soon he will have the Saunders case to work on, and doesn't much look forward to returning to his once future home, but before that is the Henderson murder. This is a case that gave them some trouble. Catherine Henderson killed her husband by poisoning him, but it takes a week for the lab to determine this and by the time they catch up with Catherine, she is less than willing to follow.
"It's all because he wouldn't listen to her," Gene says, sitting in his office and sharing his whisky. Curled smoke drifts up from his lit cigarette. "That's what it's come to."
Sam shrugs. "But why wouldn't he listen to her?"
"She's a bird, for one."
"Sometimes, Gene, I think there's no hope for you."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Being a woman doesn't automatically dictate that your opinion's worth nothing."
Gene points at Sam. "You'd know, Dorothy."
"Some of the most intelligent people I know are women."
"You know women? Really? Apart from your plonk and Phyllis, can't say I've seen you having much luck. For all your animal magnetism, Sammy-boy, you go off alone every night. Some of us have wives we run to. We're intimately acquainted with the curved species."
"I'd love for your wife to hear your daily diatribe on the fairer sex. Bet she'd be best pleased."
Gene grunts. "My wife is none of your concern."
"Any idea where she might have gone?" Sam asks. "Henderson, I mean. Not your wife."
Sam has knowledge of where Catherine has hidden away, but he recalls asking this, he remembers early attempts to measure Gene, to slot him into a category of acceptable policing behaviour.
"None. Her friends gave us nowt."
"Someone must have said something that told us a bit about her? Something we could use to build up a profile?"
"No, I think we'll need a mind reader. Don't suppose you could help?"
Sam takes a swig and shakes his head. Gene gives him another case to work on, the kind that he would usually have thought was reserved for uniform, but under Gene's guidance, CID has a habit of taking on all kinds of cases, even of the stolen bicycle variety. He goes through recent events that are similar and sorts out the witness statements PC Mallows gave him.
"Apparently someone's seen Henderson down by the docks," Chris says, coming to stand by Sam's desk and holding his notepad out for Sam, where 'AT THE DOCKS' is scrawled.
"Okay Chris, that's good, how about you and Ray go down to the docks and have a look around? Question those that live there."
"Alright, boss. Are you not coming too?"
"I have this other case to work on."
Sam is aware that Chris and Ray will not only find more information on Catherine Henderson, but that they will confront her and bring her to the station. There is little for him to do but wait and work. He sits at his desk, following indentations and grooves. He muses to himself about the richness of the detail, the marks from reports written and teacups placed down.
He goes to lunch and eats semolina pudding, thinking about how much better it would taste with some sliced banana. He's about to leave the table when Annie appears. She comes and sits next to him, taking off her hat and setting it down.
"What's that you've got?"
"Semolina pudding. I've eaten as much as I can handle. D'you want some?"
"No thanks. You're just going to leave it? You're a bad Sam."
Sam smiles. "Yeah, well, I'm sure there's plenty more where that came from."
They talk some more, Annie telling Sam about things she's told him before, but it would be impolite and counterproductive to inform her of this fact. He listens, patiently, watching her eyelashes flutter and her lips curve. He drifts off into a world where she lets him brush his lips against hers and smooth his hands over her skin. So often he longs to just touch her, feel her, hold her.
Phyllis comes rushing into the canteen, her expression anxious and her eyes glistening. She stops in front of them.
"Annie, love, we need you at the front desk. DI Tyler, there's been trouble. Ray's down hospital and Chris is…" Phyllis breaks off and Sam's stomach lurches as a tear runs down her cheek. He stands up, his hands reaching forward.
"Chris is what, Phyllis?"
"Dead. Shot, point blank."
"That isn't what happened," Sam says, brushing his hand through his hair and trying to make sense of it. "This isn't right." Sam paces, dragging his feet along the ground. He screams. "I've done everything the same. I've not interfered with cases. I've treated everyone just as I treated them. Fucking hell. Just once? Why can't it go right just once? Chris doesn't deserve to die because of any mistakes I've made."
Phyllis stares at Sam in shock. Annie looks as if she is about to move forward. She hangs back and watches Sam, her eyes full of concern.
Sam runs from the canteen, teeth aching, heart pulsing. In the men's toilets he stares at his reflection. All he sees is mental imagery of Chris, lying on the ground, blood pooling around his body. No more unwitting grin. No more asking for advice. Just nothing. Fixing it is a simple flick of a switch.
Sam fills the basin with water. He takes the heater he has complained about in the name of Occupational Health and Safety and plugs it in. He sets everything up and then does what has to be done.
Electricity surges through Sam. It's enough.
The clouds are ominous, Sam decides. They should have warned him. Normally it's mostly sunny, falsely cheerful and bright. The sky is blue and birds are singing in the trees. But that's all overlaid - placed on top of the clouds like a blanket.
He had been so close before, but something he hadn't done was talk with the uniformed police officer, so he does this now. He plays the role of confused time traveller trapped in leather. He acts confused, even though he's not confused. He's past confusion.
He does it all. He lives it all. Again. And this time, neither Chris nor Ray get shot when they catch up to Catherine Henderson. She goes to gaol. They work their way through the Saunders case and the Barraclough case and everything is going according to plan.
Sam sits with Gene in the Railway Arms and tries to convince him to do things the right way.
"If you think I'm going to do that, you've got another thing coming."
"'If you think I'm going to do that, you've got another think coming.' Think. Not thing. Never thing. Always think."
"Do you really think I give a rat's furry arse about which word goes where when we've a robbery to solve? Unlike you, Samantha, I concentrate on the task at hand."
"By 'task at hand', you mean beer, yes?"
"At this present time, yeah."
"You're so predictable."
"Wish I could say the same about you. Sometimes it's like you know what I'm gonna say before I say it. And you've an argument ready and raring to go."
"It's a rare skill of mine."
"Read minds, do you?"
"Well, sometimes, if I think there's gonna be anything interesting there. Can't say I've had much inclination where you're concerned."
Sam takes a sip of beer and smiles at Gene over the rim of his glass, but stops when he thinks about what Gene's just said. It's familiar. And not in a daytime syndication kind of way. Mind reading. It's a joke they've shared before. And not in this time. In one of the others. In two of the others.
Sam finds it difficult to swallow, figuratively and physically. He pulls back from the bar and places his hands down, smoothing his fingers over the wood to convince himself that it's really there. He's aware of Gene staring at him.
"Feeling queasy? Have a scotch. I find it cures me of all my ailments."
Sam doesn't respond. He tries to think, needs to think. He says his goodbyes and walks out of the pub, into a dreary Manchester night. He ends up at his flat, kneeling in front of the Test Card.
"Gene repeated something I said before. He didn't know he was doing it, but…" Sam dips his head and draws his lips back, giving the semblance of a grin. "But he did. And I think… I think Annie has too. I just --- I don't understand how."
"I thought you understood everything, Sam?"
Sam whirls and sees the girl standing behind him. He never noticed her disappear off-screen.
The girl nods in condescension. "It is difficult to understand the impossible."
"There's no such thing as impossible," Sam says. He stands, for the first time looking down at his menace.
The girl is unruffled.
"Oh, Sam. Do you really believe that?"
Sam slowly turns his head from side to side. She smiles, the picture of innocence.
"Go to sleep, Sam. Tomorrow is a new day. Well. Maybe not for some."
Sam closes his eyes and she returns to the screen. He collapses onto his cot and drags his jacket from the floor, wrapping his arms around himself and placing the jacket on top.
He spends the next several days obsessing over everything that is said to him. Has he heard those words before? What about that look Annie gives him? But he maintains the charade. He works as he worked and lives as he lived. He feels like he's betraying Annie when he lets himself be drugged by Joni - "I can't believe you let that happen, you're a bad Sam." He remains an accepted member of the team, who is grizzled about behind his back.
Gene slides next to him at the canteen. "What's the matter, sad-sack? You look like you've been sold into sexual slavery for Sue Lawley."
Sam lies. "It's this case. Can't wrap my head around it."
"Who says you need to? Just take a big bite and savour the taste."
"Take a bite of what, exactly?"
"That's your division," Sam says, clenching and unclenching his fist as he stares at his knuckles.
"What did you do in C Division, then?"
Gene does a double-take. "What?"
"We filed. In an organised fashion. It meant we got quick answers quickly."
"As opposed to slow answers quickly?"
"Or slow answers slowly." Sam turns to stare at Gene, deciding this is time for one of their conversations that veer into an honesty that often startles him. "Things are going okay, aren't they?"
"You're not about to start all of that analysis business, are you?"
"Well, yeah, I was hoping to."
Gene lets out a billowing puff of cigarette smoke. "Things are fine. I mean, you drive us all nuts, but I think you know that."
Sam smiles. "You drive me nuts too."
"Oh that's us, is it? I thought it were just another aspect of the Tyler mystique."
"That as well."
Gene grins at Sam in uncharacteristic good humour. Sam grins back.
"You're a good copper, Sam. You question everything too much, that's all. Sometimes you don't need to ask to get the answers."
"I wish I could agree with you."
"So what about me?"
"What do you mean?"
"Would you say I'm a good copper?"
Sam hesitates. Yes, in some ways, Gene is a good copper, Gene is the best copper. In other ways…
"Your silence is disturbingly eloquent, Gladys."
Sam taps his hand on the table. "Yes. I would."
This isn't what they previously had, but it's nearly there. Gene compromises sometimes. And Sam makes an effort to do the same. It's not easy between them, but then, it didn't feel right when it was.
"Come on, we've a suspect to interview. You can use your well-trained inquisitive skills there."
Sam follows Gene into the Lost & Found and sets his notepad neatly on the table.
"Right, Ron," Sam says, "tell us why you committed the robbery and we'll let you go quietly into a cell."
"And if I don't?"
"We'll let you go loudly into a cell."
"I don't think he understands the severity of the situation, DI Tyler," Gene says. He looms over Ron. "See, an old man was bashed. I don't much like that kind of behaviour in my city. If anyone does the bashing, it's me." Gene raises his hand. Sam places his own over it and brings it back down to the table with a crash.
"Gene. As much as I'm sure you'd love to make Ron your punching bag-"
"-I don't think it'd be the wisest choice."
"Since when do I care about being wise?"
"I dunno, but let's just pretend for a moment that you do." Sam turns back to Ron, who is gazing at them apprehensively. "Now, something tells me, Ron, that you know that what you've done is wrong."
"Oh? What's that, then?"
"Your mum said you're a good lad. Mothers usually have a fair idea."
Ron opens his eyes wider and makes a sound of disbelief. "You're joking, right? Mothers look at sons through rose-tinted glasses."
Gene answers for Sam. "He holds a lot of stock by the intelligence of women, our Sam."
Sam sucks in a breath and can't help but stare at Gene. Right then, right there, he wants to ask Gene where he got this notion. It's a direct reference to a conversation they never had here and he wants to know how this is possible. So he does. He drags Gene past the shelves and gazes into his eyes, looking for a sign of recognition, a flicker of the complex bastard he understands.
"What made you say that?"
Sam gestures wildly. "The thing about the intelligence of women."
Gene shrugs. "Boredom."
"No, I mean, why that, specifically?"
"Well, it's obvious, innit. You and your plonk. Your total unwillingness to discuss tit size and shape. You're a right pansy."
Sam tenses his jaw and his eyes start stinging. "Of course."
Gene continues, despite Sam's note of finality. "Don't really know why I said it. Just seemed right."
They sit back down in front of Ron and Sam lets Gene ask the questions. Ron is less responsive to Gene's methods than he is to Sam's.
"This is because I'm coloured, in't it?"
Sam tilts his head, waiting for what he thinks will come. He waits a long time. Gene doesn't respond as he expects him to.
"Coloured? Is that what they call it? You're hardly green with blue pinstripes," Gene scoffs. "This is because you caused harm to a defenseless old man. We've witnesses, Ron. And if witnesses were enough, we'd have you in a nice small room by now, where you could think back on what you've done and be ashamed."
"You think I should be ashamed of doing what I have to do to survive?"
"If you need to survive, get off your lardy arse and find a job."
"Easy for some. Blond hair, green eyes. Bet you got the first job you applied for, all those years ago. Some of us have a bit of difficulty, yeah?"
"That's no excuse," Gene barks. Sam can tell he's about to lash out.
Sam speaks. "Do you admit that on April 19th you clubbed Gerald Roach over the shoulders with a three foot by one foot piece of wood and left him bleeding on the ground as you took his wallet?"
"Yeah, I admit it," Ron says. He sounds defeated. Any and all fight in him has gone. "Go on, lock me up."
They put Ron in cell four and it's another success story, even though it didn't feel like it the first time around and feels even less like it now.
Sam spends the evening in his flat on a diet of scotch and in the morning is sick all over his bathroom floor to make up for it. It appears his constitution resets with everything else, a fact he is faintly disappointed about. The day is crisp and Sam travels to the station with a lazy sense of near-contentment.
A banner runs across CID; "Happy Birthday Ray You Poofter", and any residual non-hatred of his life that Sam was feeling whisks away in a flurry of wind, never to be seen again.
"Five more minutes, Dad."
Sam inwardly groans, then goes into Gene's office. He picks up the receiver of the telephone and has a one-sided conversation. He wonders why, if they scanned his brain then, they didn't see the tumour. But he's had so many questions in his time, he can't be bothered about answers that will never come.
They're outside the Manchester Gazette before long, and Sam is half-heartedly talking about doughnuts. He'd happily eat a doughnut, now that he thinks about it. He waits to make his revelations about Reg Cole seem authentic. Annie is taken hostage. So is he, with Gene. And it's so stupid, but he sees this as a big leap forward in their relationships - where he gets to see Annie be stronger than he thought possible and she gives him mental imagery that helps him get through long nights - where Gene further confirms that the past is the past to him and he'd prefer not to think on it. Sam thinks about Stuart and understands why.
This is them.
Reg talks about heroism and Sam has to agree with him.
"You're deluded, Sam. You're breathing, your heart's beating, but it's an illusion of life. You're dead already."
Sam doesn't tell Reg just how true those words are. He says goodbye and the tears are real because he can sense that this time, the bullet will go through his brain.
He refuses to play by any rules - self-imposed or placed upon him. He runs to the station, his legs pumping and his arms working furiously. He doesn't stop to check his reflection. He doesn't stop for anything.
In the station, he goes to find Annie. He sees her sitting with a small group of WPCs and drags her up out of her chair. His fingers grip tightly into the flesh of her upper arms. Annie tries to pull away, but he doesn't let her.
"You remember me, Annie. I know you do. You may not think so, but deep down, it's there. We just have to rub away at the surface, reveal the other layers." Sam digs deeper and stares at her, eyes large and fixed. "I've been a bad Sam, Annie, remember? A bad Sam. I said so. You said so. And we were right, you know, we were so fucking right. I haven't listened, I haven't looked, I've just forced, forced, forced, forced, forced and I don't know why I did that, I mean, I don't get what it is about me that-"
Sam feels himself dragged away and the warmth of another body against his back, one that pulls his arms and digs into the lower part of his spine.
He's only aware it's Gene when he hears Gene's voice, low and gravelled, in his ear. "I don't know who you think you are, but you will kindly leave my plonks alone."
"It's DI Tyler," another voice says. "The new transfer in from C Division."
"Tyler?" Gene loosens his grip slightly, but as Sam goes to move, clasps hold again. "You've got concussion. I've never seen it strike madness into a man."
Gene hauls Sam into a cell with some assistance from Ray, but Sam is mostly insensible to this, cognisant on only a superficial level. Time passes, he doesn't know how much, and the cell door reopens with a new person Sam has never met before basked in the outside glow. There's movement, and speech, and Sam rocking from side to side.
"He's having a nervous breakdown," the doctor says, flicking torchlight into Sam's eyes.
Gene blinks and purses his lips. "That much is bloody obvious. Who've they sent me here? Doctor Spock?"
Chris comes to stand nearby, brushing biscuit crumbs from his chin. "Maybe he could do with the Vulcan nerve pinch?"
Sam gazes at him and laughs.
Gene glares at Chris. "I have no idea what the hell you're on about, Chris, but you better be here for a good reason."
"Just had a shout. That bird who went missing a couple of days ago? She's only been done in down Satchmore Road."
Sam laughs again, louder this time.
"Susie Tripper is the last one, you hear me?" Gene says, pointing at Chris. "I don't want any slow answers. I need quick answers quickly. I've got to get down the pub and give the newspapers a statement. In the meantime, get Ray onto it. He's the highest ranking officer now that the little Hyde fairy here is cuckoo."
They leave. More time passes and all Sam comprehends is the walls, looming around him like old friends. But they're not friends. He has no friends. His friends are gone. It's just Sam. Always just Sam. And he doesn't want that. He can't have that.
Gene reappears after hours - or days - Sam can't be sure - and he has other doctors with him. Sam claws at Gene's chest as they slide him against the floor, purposefully making his legs dead weights.
"Gene, don't let them take me. You know me. You think I'm nuts, but you know me."
Gene is cold and the look he gives Sam shows no recollection. "You're a real mind-reader, you."
They take Sam to a place that is white. They don't check him properly. He garrottes himself with the chain from his St Christopher's Medal.
Sam wakes up and sees himself, a reflection of himself, a shadow of himself, in three dimensions, starting to sit upright. And then another. And another. Multiple Sams and multiple uniformed police officers, all moving; the Sams in different directions, the uniformed police officers only a step or two behind each other. It dizzies Sam, sickens him, fills him with terror.
He runs to the station, behind another running Sam, in front of a different running Sam, climbing the stairs as another takes the lift. It's impossible, all of it - reused existence. Over and over and over again.
He crashes into CID and sees Chris, and Chris, and Chris, and Chris, and Chris, diverging and converging, shimmering in the smoke. There's more than one Ray and more than one Lytts and more than one of everyone, everything.
Sam screams, the sound echoing, as if uttered by every Sam - and maybe it is - he doesn't know.
And then there's Gene, Gene, everywhere Gene; slamming him against the filing cabinet, Sam's eyes watering with the pain, with the sight, the sound, the sensation.
Everything goes black.
Sam awakens, but keeps his eyes firmly closed. His forehead creases softly as he hears the muffled sound of voices. Voices he should recognise.
"I shouldn't have let him just run out. I should've followed him."
"There's a time and a place for should'ves and could'ves, Annie. This is not it."
"Do you think the doctors are right? That Sam will be okay? The crash looked awful."
"Sammy-boy's been in worse situations, mostly by my hand. There's no point fretting over him. Eventually he'll come 'round and be our Sam, never you worry about that."
Sam feels his heartbeat increase. This. He knows this. This is right. This is logical.
"He wasn't making much sense," Annie says softly. Sam identifies a note of sorrow embedded in the simple words that makes his chest ache.
"That God on Earth shit? That was just Sam being the melodramatic ponce we all know and love. He was angry. He wanted to take it out on someone. We were unfortunate enough to get in the way."
Annie makes a non-committal sound. Sam can't believe it. He didn't think, he never dreamt, that he could ever have this again. But he can. He knows he can. He can be Sam and they can be them. The past weeks, repeated weeks, remixed weeks, dissolve into nothing as he's grounded by a reality he relies upon more than he ever imagined.
Sam lets his eyes open slowly to look up at a dingy hospital ceiling and hears Annie gasp. His lips twist into a small smile. He says her name softly, letting the word roll off his tongue - a tongue that feels too large for his mouth. His chest isn't the only part of his body aching, he's sore all over. Annie brushes her fingers over his skin in feather-light movements. He arches gently into the touch.
"You've got a lot of making up to do, Sammy-boy," Gene grunts.
Sam thinks that it's just like Gene to start haranguing him upon waking, injury be damned. "I know."
"I mean it."
Sam nods, as much as his muscles will allow. "I believe you."
"By the end of the week, I expect you to have solved those burglaries. Chris told me about your so-called connections. I bet we've a rogue band of poets on the loose, terrorising my town."
Annie cuts in, her voice falsely bright. "Guv, you're not going to let him rest?"
"He doesn't deserve it." Gene ruffles Sam's hair. It hurts. Sam's glad. He grins. "Look, there he is. The Terrific Tyler."