Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 1,625 words
Notes: Gen with a small mention of Sam/Maya. This is a story that deals with themes of suicide and features allusions to character death. For fawsley.
November 22nd, 1976 - Sam decides he's going to make his mother some perfume. He's got all of the ingredients. Water, taken from the tap outside with all the rust. Adding to his water he's got some cooking oil (for the colouring), some rose petals from the bush in the front garden (for the smell), and some of his mum's real perfume (for comparison.) He's using one of mum's mixing bowls, but she won't mind, not when he gives her this.
He mixes it as best he can. He's annoyed because the oil and the water don't seem to want to go together. Sam goes into the kitchen and gets an egg, because he's seen mum mixing eggs and oil and Fanny Craddock always says it's good for 'binding'. Now he's got water, oil and egg, and he mixes it some more. It's still not exactly doing what he wants it to do, but at least it's got pretty yellow streaks now. Time for the petals. He picked pink ones, because they're the smelliest. He crushed them first and they're not so pink anymore, but he reckons they'll do the trick.
It's an hour later, an hour of seeking perfection, before Sam finally holds out his gift of perfume. He really wanted to make it look presentable, so he emptied out the other stuff down the drain and filled the fancy bottle. It was a difficult process that took all his ingenuity.
His mum looks confused as she takes his offering. "What're you doing with this?"
"I made you perfume."
Ruth's expression changes from confusion to horror and she tries Sam's 'perfume'.
It's like her face crumples in on itself. She grins, wide, but it's not a real grin, it's more like she's gritting her teeth. She looks down at Sam with narrowed, piercing eyes that glint with something that's not entirely joy and he smiles at her.
"Love you, mum."
"Just as well, Sammy. Just as well. Now run along, there's a dear. Maybe in your bedroom from now on, yeah?"
April 4th, 1984 - "There was a weird bloke at our gig tonight," Sam says, clomping through the hallway with muddy shoes. It doesn't matter how many times Ruth has told him, he always forgets to take them off. She stands just in the doorway of the lounge as Sam moves awkwardly around.
"Kept staring at me." Sam takes off his sunglasses and walks past Ruth to place them on the coffee table. "And he was with this woman --- very good looking, but sort of, I don't know... she gave me weird feelings."
"Very good looking women tend to do that to teenage boys, Sam."
Sam flops down on the couch. "No, I didn't mean that."
"How'd the gig go, anyway?"
"Not great. I think you were right about Brian. He can't sing for shit."
"So you should be."
Ruth raises an eyebrow. "D'you want something to eat? I left some soup for you."
"No, it's okay. Have you ever known anyone who's kinda tall, dark blond hair? Sort of... intense? He had light eyes --- I think they were blue, or green..."
"It's not ringing any bells."
Sam leans back, his brow furrowed. "Wears a big black coat?"
Ruth glares. "That is no way to speak to your mother, young man."
Sam gives her a quick, bitter look and walks silently from the room and Ruth sighs to herself about adolescence and Sam's quick temper.
The next morning he hands her tea as she's coming down the stairs to make breakfast. "Sorry, mum. My behaviour last night was uncalled for."
"I forgive you, I suppose."
Sam rolls his eyes affectionately and is about to trudge back upstairs when there's a knock on the door. He reaches forward and undoes the latch and stands stock still as a tallish man with dark blond hair and intense green eyes stands on the doorstep, fiddling with the cuff of his big black coat.
October 19th, 1994 - He's got himself into trouble, of course. Whacked over the head by a cricket bat and rushed to hospital. He looks so pathetic in the bed, white sheets stretched taut over him and she sits by his side, lightly brushing her hand by his cheek. He needs his mother.
The Doctor says he's got amnesia. He remembers some things, but not all. He remembers his name and hers, but for a while, not that he's a police officer. He seems surprised when she tells him, like he'd never have expected he would want to do that and she thinks it's ironic because he's never wanted to do anything else.
She tried --- because she was scared of things like this happening --- to get Sam to go for different careers, but he was as determined as anything.
"I had the weirdest dreams when I was out, Mum," he says, and she wants to smile reassuringly, but instead she clasps tightly onto his hand.
"Promise me you'll not get yourself in this kind of situation again."
"You've said that before, and now look at you."
Sam blinks a couple of times; he's getting drowsy. "I'm sorry."
Ruth guesses she should tell Sam that it's alright, but she can't, because it's not alright. She was terrified, she's always terrified about him. But then he starts drifting off, his lips softening and his frown disappearing and she rubs the back of his hand gently.
"You just sleep, love."
December 25th, 2001 - Sam's supposed to be spending Christmas with her, but instead he's spending it with his girlfriend Maya in Mexico. She likes Maya, that doesn't bother her, but she feels it's just another indication that they're drifting apart.
He only ever calls her up when he needs something these days. Occasionally it's advice, but it's always something --- never just about wanting to spend time with his mother. Sam cut the apron strings years ago. She knows this shouldn't worry her, but it does.
Bloody stupid place to go, Mexico. She doesn't know what possessed him. She'd suggested France or Italy, somewhere nice and safe. But Sam hadn't listened, as usual. He'd said he needed adventure in his life, that it had got too monotonous, and she thinks about his grey suits and feels she probably agrees. The good thing about Maya is that she brings out another side to a Sam who has become too straight-laced for his own good.
The phone rings and she answers it, setting aside her turkey sandwich. There's a delay informing Ruth that it's an international call.
"Mum, just calling to wish you a Merry Christmas," Sam's voice says.
"And from me," another voice pipes up.
Ruth laughs. "Merry Christmas, you two."
"Forgive me for not being there," Sam demands, although Ruth thinks he probably doesn't intend it as such.
"Yes, I will... eventually."
"I gotta be off, but I'll see you soon. I'll bring you back a giant sombrero."
"Bit rubbish here, don't you think?"
"You could use it as a shelf. Bye!"
Ruth puts the receiver down and smiles to herself. Well, as long as he's happy.
July 10th, 2008 - She had packed the boxes away, but now it's been a year and she thinks she should be able to look through Sam's belongings without crying. She's wrong, but she tries to do so anyway. Looking through the collections, she realises she never really knew Sam --- not the Sam that he became. He has few personal belongings, some photographs, but nothing truly illuminating. She appreciates now that she's spent so much time unable to forgive Sam because she couldn't understand his motivation. He'd just recovered and he threw it all away. She drops a framed photograph of Sam and Maya back into the box and is about to shove it back into the wardrobe.
And that's when she finds the tape. It's small and black and she cradles it in her hands, the smooth feel of the plastic making her throat constrict. She knows it might be blank. She also knows she would love to hear the sound of her son's voice again. She fossicks around for a tape recorder and when she finally finds one sits on the end of the bed and waits.
"I had an accident and I woke up in 1973. Every time I say it, it sounds cracked. Was I mad, in a coma, or back in time? Whatever happened, it was like I landed on a different planet. And I kept thinking, if only I could work out the reason, I could get home. But somehow, when my back was turned, when I wasn't paying attention, it became my home. And I miss it. I miss it more than I ever thought possible.
"I made a promise. I make so many promises. And it's so hard to do the best by them. It's so hard to do the best by everyone. I try not to think about it, but sometimes it's impossible to get away from the feelings of failure. I'm weak. I wanna be stronger, but I don't think I've got what it takes.
"I don't want to make the same mistakes over and over again. I don't wanna sacrifice my happiness for the good of all. And I don't know if it just makes me selfish, or entitled, or a bloody lunatic. I want --- to live in hope again. To make a difference. I wanna be someone my mum could be proud of, instead of the empty husk of a man."
Ruth stares at the tape recorder for quite a while after it finishes and draws in a large, stuttering breath.
"I'll always be proud of you, Sam."