Tuesday. 11.34 am.
"Can you hear that?"
Daisy stops still, head at an angle. She looks like Colin does when he's after a treat. Tim stops looking at her in the reflection of the TV and looks at her for real.
"Ticking," Daisy answers, squinting.
"It's the cogs in your mind, isn't it? Working on your first great novel."
Daisy has perfected a look of wounded pride that almost always has Tim feeling guilty, but he acts like he can't see it and continues making Lara Croft climb up the wooden boxes, wondering how sick it is to be ogling pixels in the form of a fine female arse. Especially when he could be ogling the form of the fine female arse behind him.
Daisy makes tea. He watches every movement, even as his avatar on screen ducks and rolls.
Tuesday. 11.47 am.
Daisy plants herself next to him. Tim tries not to stare. He uses his peripheral vision. "Has Mike been around?"
"Okay, yes, but for about three minutes, two hours ago."
Tim gets the packet he's been hoarding from beneath his section of the beanbag and offers a jaffa cake to Daisy.
"It's not what you think it is."
Daisy takes one and bites it in half, speaking through biscuit. "You're sure?"
"Of course. Mike wouldn't warn with something so simple as a tick."
"What if I said it was a tock?"
Tuesday. 11.58 am.
Daisy has chocolate at the corner of her lips. She's oblivious to it. She's focussed on telling Lara to 'stop being a stupid tart' and shoot at her assailants.
Tim's eyes are strained from looking at two things at once, so he pauses the game and twists in his seat.
"Tell me more about this ticking," he says, faking annoyance.
"You really can't hear it?"
Tim shakes his head. He could reach forward and lick that chocolate away so easily. "How does it sound?"
"How do you think it sounds?"
Tim leans forward. "Tick... tick... tick... ... ... tick?"
Tuesday. 12.01 pm.
There's an almighty bang. Tim and Daisy pull apart just in time to see a ribbon of blue paint fly into the air, with smoke cascading around it. There's red and yellow next, spattering against the wall in an array of primary colour.
"I told you," Daisy says, eyes wide. "What did I say? I said, 'I hear ticking'. I said, 'was Mike here?' And look, I was right!"
"That wasn't Mike!" Tim protests.
Daisy looks at the wall, her jaw working with anger.
There's a knock on the door.
"Is it ready, yet? Only, I think it should be ready. I thought I heard that it was ready."
Tim struggles to his feet and extends his hand for Daisy to take hold. They stumble to the door together and fling it open to find ---
Pushing Daisies, gen.
The facts were these. Young Imelda Cod wanted to be a ballerina. She would spend two hours, forty-four minutes and twenty-nine seconds practicing every day. She had special pairs of shoes in seven different colours for every day of the week. Ribbons to put in her hair. And the finest tutu of all the other young dancers in her group.
Imelda was skilled at the demi-plie. She excelled at the grand plie. Her arabesque was second to none.
Alas, Imelda could not pirouette.
No matter how many times Imelda ensured that her body placement was correct, that she was holding good posture and balance, she would topple to the side.
At first, her parents had been unsupportive.
"Baby girl, you'll get there eventually. It takes time," her father, Emerson, said, sorting through photographs she wasn't allowed to look at on his desk.
"Honey, concentrate on the things you can do."
But concentrate as she might, Imelda could not stop the belief that she could conquer the spin and twirl that made or broke a primadonna. She extended her practice sessions to three hours, twenty-two minutes and fourteen seconds. She studied pictures and films and live performances of ballet dancers much older and more experienced in the most elegant of dances. She devoted herself to her craft.
During this time, she began to notice she wasn't the only one who would spend time away from the family. Emerson Cod had begun to disappear for hours at a time, sometimes not coming home at all of a night-time. Imelda would lie in her bed and listen to arguments between mother and father.
"She needs you!"
"We need the cash!"
"What's more important? Money? Or family?"
"Can't you see? It ain't that simple, Delilah."
Soon, Imelda was to have the lead role in her dance group's performance of The Nutcracker. She knew every step. She could perform each step perfectly - except one - the crowning achievement, the final victory.
Imelda's practice sessions grew to four hours, one minute and thirty-eight seconds. Her feet chafed and bent. But she was determined and determination counted for a lot in the cut-throat world of the battlement frappé and piqué.
Eventually, her day came. She was nervous, but her mother dressed her in finery and assured her that she and Imelda's father would be in the audience, cheering her on. Imelda fell into a zen-like trance and danced to the best of her ability.
The performance was a tour de force, a stunning display of agility and flexibility and poise, and Imelda pirouetted as she had never pirouetted before. In her peripheral vision she could see the audience giving her a standing ovation.
As Imelda turned to look into the applauding crowd, she saw her father rushing through the door. He had missed the entire performance.
At age six years, three months, two days, seven hours and twelve seconds, Imelda Cod experienced her first heartbreak.
Life on Mars, Sam/Gene slash.
Now, I've never been one to complain, like, but sometimes you can't help but feel taken for granted. If it's not that I'm hung off his arm like some kind of trophy, I'm left on the floor, stamped underfoot.
He loves me really, he's told me so.
"You keep me warm at night," he mumbles, then sicks up all over me. The bastard.
"You've been through it all," he says, patting me down with something that's like love, but clearly isn't, because in the next moments his arms aren't wrapped up in me, but are wrapped around another.
"First time I saw you, I knew I had to have you," he croons later, and I believe him, like a fool.
He discards me, day in, day out, just when I think we're gonna be together forever. Sometimes he shares me with his friends. I've thought all's going well, that it's just us and the brisk night air, and suddenly I find myself on someone else's shoulder, as Gene sits there snogging his brains out. Beneath me there's leather. Scratching against me's a rogue hand. And there's nothing I can do.
"What am I gonna do, eh?" he mutters when we're alone again, as we walk by the canal.
"You make me look the part," he continues, stroking me. "But he makes me feel the part." And he sounds so warm, even without being enveloped in my folds. He lifts me and presses his body into me and I forgive him for all his sins.
Life on Mars, Sam/Annie.
"He's not very tall," she whispers. Annie rolls her eyes and does her level best not to say something catty. Her mother never responds well to back-bone. Annie doesn't say, "whatever he lacks in height, he makes up for in length," despite wanting to, very much. No, she nods, dully.
"Not very tall," she parrots. "But he's good at his job."
"Get you and a Detective," her mother says next, and the capital D is underlined. "I was always worried you were, you know..." Sandra pauses. "Well, you went to university, and then decided you wanted to be a police officer," she continues, seemingly explaining everything. "Some of your friends were... questionable."
Annie feigns ignorance in understanding her mother's intended commentary and finishes sticking the cocktail sticks into the olives with a stabbing motion that may or may not be barely concealed rage.
"Would you like any help?" Sam asks, stepping into the kitchen, and he's sweetly awkward in that way he only gets when Annie would prefer he'd show some bloody balls.
She knew this would happen. She's letting her mother get to her. Annie takes a deep breath and smiles. "We're nearly finished. How about you go back and sit with Dad."
Sam does this little expression she's never seen before. It says "I'm scared!" and "insanity is reigning!" all at once. And considering the fact she has seen Sam both scared and insane, she knows she should be worried.
"He hasn't started talking about his trains, has he?" she asks quietly, warmly, and Sam nods briskly. "Just humour him, yeah? He'll run out of steam by the time tea's ready."
Sam shuffles out of the kitchen and Annie can hear Robert asking if he wants to go play rugby on the weekend. She stifles a smile, then thinks about it again, and realises Sam would be a damn good rugby player if he put his mind to it, and his love of competition would make him put his mind to it. He'd be wearing short shorts. And he'd get muddy. Oh, she'd definitely have to back Robert up on this one.
"He's awfully well spoken," her mother cuts in, interrupting her thoughts. "Is he one of those posh ones?"
"No," Annie says. "His dad was a---" Crook. Murderer. "Travelling salesman."
"Oh, right." Annie can hear the lingering question in Sandra's response. "Did Sam go to University?"
"So you're smarter than him. Men don't usually like it when women are smarter than them, you know. I hope you've been careful, like I told you to."
Annie huffs out a big breath. "Sam likes that I'm smart, but no, I'm not smarter than him. He knows things I could never know."
Like what it's like living 33 years in the future. And what it's like being on LSD. And what it's like being tormented with the girl from the Test Card. Yes, it was a very bad idea to bring Sam home to meet the parents. They all need protection from each other.
Annie picks up the platter and walks with it into the dining room. She places it on the table and sits next to Sam. He clutches onto her hand possessively and with a slight smile that is all stress.
"Oh, you're so darling together," Sandra exclaims, with her own platter wobbling precariously in her hands. "Such pretty things."
"The food looks delicious," Sam responds, almost mechanically, his eyes roving over the pineapple, cheese and olives with faint horror.
"After this, Sam, I'll show you my set-up in the attic!" Annie's father says, and Sam and Annie grip onto each other even tighter.