TITLE: The Man Who Sold the World
FANDOM: Life on Mars
SUMMARY: It's only forever, not long at all. The truth hurts, little girl, it hurts like hell.
RATING: Green Cortina, Mild Sam/Annie.
WORD COUNT: 3,000
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Fix-it fic especially for hmpf. Title, summary, and odd lyrics scattered throughout are from David Bowie. Many apologies, but the fic features emo!Sam. Yeah, I know we all want to kill him, but even that doesn't seem to work! With thanks to darthfi for the marvellous beta and jantalaimon for the encouragement to rip the guts out of this and re-write.
DISCLAIMER: Life on Mars is copyright Kudos and the BBC. All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.
The Man Who Sold the World
Sam knew, with the kiss, he was forgiven. Annie, gentle Annie, kind, forgiving Annie, it felt like coming home. He had acceptance from the rest of the team. Their trust, once shaken, was again unwavering. He would be questioned every second of the way, but that didn't matter in the grand scheme of things. He could push, he could teach, he could drag the entirety of the Manchester CID kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century. It would be a challenge, it would keep him on his toes, it would feel good.
And so, switching the radio over from his death broadcast from 2007, Sam reflected that he was fortunate that fate had dealt him this second chance, this perfect representation of everything he wanted.
This, Sam thought, was the fairytale ending.
Happily Ever After
As days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months; and as the months, would eventually, turn into years, and it was still the summer of 1973, Sam finally realised that the Guv was right.
They were all sitting in The Railway Arms, another case wrapped up satisfactorily. Sam had, as usual, the beginnings of a black eye and a nasty cut on his forehead. But it wasn't serious, it never was serious. He had two and a half pints inside him, the other half and a scotch was still sitting on the table and all was right with the world.
Annie, buoyed by her recent successes in CID, was citing recent changes in working practices as evidence of approaching equality for women in the workplace. She smiled into her vodka and lemonade, "Give it another twenty years and we might even see a woman Prime Minister."
Gene banged on the table. "I've told you once, and I'll tell you again there will never be a woman Prime Minister, as long as I've blood in my body and breath in my lungs."
With icy shock, Sam realised Gene was right. Time hadn't really passed here since he came back. Not in any weird Groundhog Day way, but in an insidious way. It was an endless summer of glorious sunsets and brilliant rainbows. Nothing overt, there was just a vague sensation of time not passing. Summer would not move into autumn, 1973 would never become 1974. There would never be a woman Prime Minister. The Commonwealth Games would never be held here. He would never actually get to see a mobile phone or a computer again. He would never again see 2007. Sam stood up, suddenly sick with the thought.
"And where are you going, Tyler?" Gene knocked back his scotch and fixed his DI with a glare.
"I'm just going to get some fresh air. I'll be back in a few."
"Well, mind you do, Sammy-boy. It's your round next."
Sam nodded noncommittally and walked out the door. Standing outside, under the sign, he leaned against the cooling brickwork and decided that he had, in all probability, made a mistake.
The thing about "Happy Ever After", Sam reflected, was the word ‘Ever'. Humans didn't really have a concept of eternity, for all the endless bandying about of the words. "For Better, For Worse", "For Ever and Ever" really didn't have a meaning until really confronted with the unchanging face of eternity.
The door to the pub opened, Sam glanced up to see Annie, silhouetted in the doorway. He tipped his head back, cracking it on the bricks behind him.
"Hey," she said, softly.
He sighed and remarked, "There's no such thing as a happy ending."
"What do you mean?"
"There can't be a happy ending because there is no ending."
Annie paused. "I thought you were happy here, with us. With me. You promised you would stay forever."
"I know, and I always keep my promises. But, and it's a big but, this isn't real. How can I keep my promise to a figment of my own imagination?"
"You're back to that, are you Sam? I thought you were all better. I thought you'd come back to us. But you're not better, are you? You still, deep down, think that we're the fantasy of a man in a coma."
Sam chuckled morbidly. "No. It's worse than that. This is the final fantasy of a dying man. This is the afterlife. An eternity in the last second of life. I jumped for you, Annie. I stood on the top of CID back in 2007 and I jumped."
Annie's face twisted, disapproving. "What?"
"You told me once that we all feel like jumping. But cowards don't jump and I did. I'm a coward, Annie. I couldn't take it and I jumped."
Annie looked horrified for a moment, then snorted. "Don't be silly, Sam. You obviously just had a nightmare or something." She touched his shoulder briefly. "Come back inside. I reckon that Chris has almost drunk enough to start singing again."
Sam sighed, suddenly tired of the struggling. "I'll back in a minute. Tell him not to start without me."
She nodded once and disappeared back inside the pub.
They would always forgive him, Sam reflected. They would always forgive him and ignore his ramblings because this was Happy Ever After. He just wasn't so sure it was enough any more.
And They All Lived
Taking a break from the smoky office later that week, Sam stood on the High Street, watching the hustle and bustle of the crowds in the late afternoon sunlight, shopping and laughing and loving.
He turned in the middle of the street, three hundred and sixty degrees. He had stood here that first day. Bewildered, in pain, shocked, upset. Grasping at straws and trying desperately to figure a way out of the nightmare he had been thrown into. It looked exactly the same, a carbon copy. Here the old lady walking with her shopping bags. The woman with the push-chair, that man on the bike. All the same, only he was different.
What if he'd kept on walking that first day? Would he have, miraculously, walked himself out of his coma-dream and back into real life? Annie, and the case, the idea of saving Maya thirty-three years in the future, had pulled him back. He had never attempted to follow that yellow brick road. Did he know where it led?
Did it still lead somewhere?
Looking at the faces of the nameless passers-by, he decided that he had to try, at least for himself, and he started walking.
The road seemed to go on forever.
With a shock he realised he recognised the shop on the right-hand side. It was just up from the cinema and, if he turned round now, he would see his starting point, just around the corner from the station.
He didn't turn. He instead started to run. The shops became blurs, the shoppers miraculously moving out of his way as he tore his way down the High Street, desperately trying to out-run his own imagination.
Passing Vinyl Heaven for the seventeenth time, Sam finally concluded that running away wasn't going to solve anything.
To His Family and Friends
Three hours of battling through case-files with a raging hangover and Sam had had enough. Although the hangover was beginning to fade to a distant ache thanks to the liberal application of aspirin, the current case had given him another kind of headache. The body count from Vincent Davies suspected crimes was heavy. Some innocent bystanders. Some, not so innocent. Violent Vinny had obviously gained his nickname from some of the latter. Certainly anyone crossing Vinny was destined to meet a bloody end. He winced at some of the photos; the men, and women, tortured, raped and beaten to death.
There was a question in all of this. If this was his afterlife, then surely this was all made for him. Or, a worse thought, made by him. Sure, he knew this sort of thing was in his mind. He was a copper; he'd seen things that no human should ever do. But if this world was created specifically for him, or by him, these people were effectively dying at his hand. Their pain and suffering reduced to a mere sentence in his life's novel. Surely no human should ever be reduced so.
The argument against, that they were mere actors in his play, was of no comfort either. If this was all that was left, regardless of the level of fantasy, if this was all that was left, then it was the only reality. The ultimate reality, no fantasy required. And by extension, no God, no salvation, no hope.
The very thought made him feel sick. By his hand, everyone here suffered. By his hand, people died.
He needed some fresh air. He stood and grabbed his jacket from the hook, not paying attention to where his feet took him, he almost ran through the station, taking two stairs at a time until he was out in the open, standing under the blue sky.
He knew he'd been here before. Standing on the roof, wind whipping through his hair. Annie had stopped him the first time, the second time there had been no-one and he hadn't stopped. At the time, and for weeks afterwards, Sam had reflected that surely that meant he had taken the right decision. Surely we would always be stopped in our most ill-advised actions.
This time there was no-one. Annie didn't know he was here. She'd been called out an hour ago, a rape victim possibly willing to testify. Gene was down the pub, giving what he called a "briefing" to the local journalists on the last case. Chris, well, if he knew, then he would be too late. Ray would probably help. The world was filled with two-dimensional characters, running through the script, acting the part but not interacting with the world.
He was kidding himself. He had nothing in common with anyone else in this god-forsaken place. He didn't have a script, was running at odds with everything else, doomed to make mistake after mistake, misunderstanding procedure that was thirty years out of date, the actors in his particular play paying the price every time.
Was it that bad? Was he failing in this afterlife as well as in his real life? This world was not real, yet it was. What was reality after all, but the construct of the human brain? His belief in this world was shaken; his belief in his position in the world was shaken. His perception altered in the face of the ultimate truth. Was that to be his ultimate downfall?
With tears blinding his eyes, Sam stepped off the edge.
But Found His Way Back
Sam woke in his grotty flat; back aching from another night spent lying on a terrible mattress. He groaned and decided that Hell had to be waking up in the same place every day with no idea how to change it. Which was a shame because this was supposed to be Heaven. Or, at least, a close approximation to it.
It was no use, he had to do something. He had to fight against this, find some way out.
He ran down to the station, feet pounding hard on the pavement. Signing out a set of keys for one of the pool of cars, Sam decided that he was going to drive out of there. Out of Manchester, out of this life, out-run the hell he'd placed himself in.
Forty minutes, and several miles, later, he stopped the car. There was no use. He'd already worked out that he couldn't out-run this and that even in death there was no solution. Everything looped back to Manchester CID and to ‘A' Division. Even here, in the middle of nowhere, he had no place to run really. What could he do? Get a bar job in a scummy little town? Lose himself in another big city? He was thirty years too soon, things that didn't make sense now would make even less sense in a strange place with strange people.
Winding down the window to let some fresh air into the stuffy car, he realised he needed a new perspective on this. The facts were obvious, if a little fantastic. This was his own personal afterlife. Not Heaven, not Hell. Everything was created in his image. He had always wanted to be a copper. Now he would always be a copper. He'd despaired at the modern complexities of policing, of the red tape and lawsuits, now it was simpler.
He got out of the car and leaned against the roof, looked across the open moor and realised that the rules had changed. Stopping fighting had once meant death. But he had been fighting against this reality, struggling back to his real life. Getting back home, he'd stopped fighting. And he'd died. And now there was this. He remembered Nelson's words: "You are where you are. And you have to make the best of it. That's all you can do."
He thought back to what he did have now. Annie loved him, Gene trusted him, Chris looked up to him. Even Ray had some grudging respect for him, though Sam knew he didn't really deserve it. He didn't deserve any of it. These characters, giving themselves over and over to his fantasy, weren't real because he didn't believe in them. But if he did?
What kind of difference would it make if he actually tried to live for once? Stop fighting against existence, stop expecting the universe to rearrange itself for his pleasure and lived in the now. Took Annie dancing. Actually spoke to Ray for once, rather than sneering at his thirty-years out of date attitude. Hell, even pin Gene against the wall next time he came on strong and gave him the good seeing-to he seemed to be begging for.
Sam smiled. Maybe not. But this was his life now; he had to make the best of it. First things first, once he got back to the Station he would ask Annie out somewhere properly. No half-hearted gestures, no fingers crossed or pretending that he was just waiting until something else happened, someone else came along. Then he would look at finding somewhere better to live, or at least decorate the place he had. See if they had such thing as magnolia paint back in the seventies.
Decision made, he stood back to open the door, not paying attention to the road, not hearing a car come over the hill just behind him. The car struck him hard, the blow sending him flying into the air. Sam just had time to reflect that he'd flown exactly like that once before, before hitting the road with some force.
Everything went black.
Who Got Lost
Sam woke to pain.
He could smell the antiseptic in the air; feel the cool air of a climate-controlled room. He was in hospital. Every part of him hurt, even breathing seemed too difficult.
He tried to open his eyes. Everything was blurry, his eyes burned, but he kept trying. Slowly, but surely, his mother's face came into view.
He smiled and the darkness reclaimed him.
Drifting in and out, Sam heard disjointed snippets of conversation around him, very much like the radio voices and Open University presenters that had haunted his life in 1973. Following more and more as time went on, he realised that that brief moment in 2007 before hadn't really happened. These were not the injuries of a coward, driven off the roof of a building by the thought of not being able to live with himself. These were the injuries of a distracted man who hadn't looked when parked in the middle of a slip road. Those endless months in 1973 translated into a few scant weeks in the real world. The voices weren't sure of any permanent damage, tests would need to be done, but they were certain that whatever happened it was a miracle of some sort. Sam vaguely agreed with them. 1973 may have not been real, but Morgan hadn't been either. There was no tumour, benign or not, and there was feeling. Too much feeling if he were to be honest, every nerve-ending feeling raw, scrubbed.
A cool hand on his forehead brought him back to reality and he opened his eyes.
"I thought," Sam's voice, husky with disuse, cracked. "I thought I'd died, a long, long time ago."
His mother smiled through her tears. "No, love. You're still with us, you're home.
There Was A Young Boy
Sam knew he'd been here before. Standing on the roof, wind whipping through his hair. Manchester was spread beneath him, glistening in the late afternoon sunlight. It was cold, it was March after all, but the air held the promise of spring.
He turned round to see Maya standing there with a bewildered look on her face. "What on earth are you doing up here, Sam?"
He smiled. "A murderer always returns to the scene of his crime, after all."
"What are you talking about?" she frowned. "Apart from the fact that there are several studies that prove that particular old saying untrue, I don't think you've ever been up here before."
Sam smiled at that, deciding to let his earlier attempts go, his hands opening, palms upwards, to send them dancing on the breeze and vanishing into the wide blue sky. "You're right as always. I was just admiring the view." He gestured around. "Home, finally." His voice became more serious as he stiffly took a step towards her. "I'm not going to get the girl this time, am I?"
Maya shook her head. "But at least you're around to give her away, eh?"
Sam gave a broad grin. "Yes, thank heaven for small mercies. Well, shall we get inside? You must be freezing out here."
He held out his hand and she took it.
And, as days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months; and as the months, would eventually, turn into years, 2007 would, eventually, turn into 2008 and all was right with the world.
Once Upon A Time