Disclaimer: All is owned by Kudos and the BBC. I'm just playing.
Credits: Big thanks to hestia8 for betaing at record speed.

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Christmas 2001

This year, the annual Christmas drink doubled as the Chief Superintendent's retirement reception. On the one hand, this meant one less tedious function for DI Sam Tyler to attend. On the other hand, it meant that this party, crowded enough under normal circumstances, was now utterly packed not only with Sam's current colleagues, but also with the guests of the Chief Superintendent, most of which were retired police officers.

The resulting crush made it difficult to avoid bumping into people. Sam didn't quite manage it, pushing against one of the aforementioned retirees, a tall old man who reacted instantly to the assault:

"Oi, mind where you're going." After this exclamation the man turned around. When he caught sight of Sam, the frown on his face disappeared, bushy grey eyebrows rising in surprise instead. "Bloody hell."

"I'm sorry, sir," Sam apologised. He cast a demonstrative glance around the crowd and then shrugged and grimaced. "It's a bit crowded in here." He was already turning away again when the old man spoke up again.

"DI Tyler…"

The man calling his name made Sam turn to face him again. Suddenly under the scrutiny of Sam's inquisitive eyes, the man seemed at a loss for words. The few seconds' hesitation enabled Sam to study him a little more closely. Even though the man had to be well into his seventies, he stood tall and proud. In his prime, he had to have cut an impressive figure.

The object of his investigation had recovered his words. He gestured toward a faintly familiar woman. "Have you met Mrs. Skelton?"

Sam hadn't, not formally at least, so he first shook his head and then offered his hand to her. Of course he had seen her at other receptions, but they had never been introduced. She had apparently been one of the first female CID officers, although she had transferred out of the department after her marriage. Even nearing sixty, she still had a graceful beauty. All of it was borne out in the brilliant smile she gave Sam when she took and shook his hand.

After that, Sam was lost for something else to say, though, so a relative silence stretched between the three of them. It was broken when the old man started reminiscing. "Tyler… Tyler… I used to have a DI Tyler working for me." He looked at Sam questioningly. "Any relation?"

"I don't think so, sir." Sam was the first police officer in the family.

The former officer was nodding, not particularly at anybody, but lost in thought. Then he snapped to again, and patted Sam on the shoulder. "Well, I'm sure you'll go far, Sammy-boy."

In the meantime, the senior police officers had started gathering at the front of the reception hall, where a small podium had been set up. The official part of the proceedings was about to start. Sam's interrogator noticed this and took Mrs. Skelton by the hand. "Come on, Annie love, we're wanted up front." And with a nod as a goodbye to Sam, they were off.

Mrs Skelton took her place on the podium next to her husband, the old man tacked onto the end of the line of speakers.

The speeches weren't that interesting. Every speaker of course did his best to paint a flattering picture of the Chief Superintendent, but that wasn't particularly difficult. He had always been well liked, for his infectious enthusiasm for his job and his willingness and ability to adapt if not for any extraordinary competence at investigation. Sam's most vivid memory of him was the Superintendent's wide grin when he personally congratulated Sam on his promotion to Detective Inspector. It had seemed even more cheerful than the occasion had merited.

Almost like the grin that appeared now on his face as the man Sam had bumped into took the microphone for the final speech.

"Right, everybody has said everything already, so I'll keep it short. Lets us all get back to our drinks." That line drew a cheer from most of the crowd. The man waved it down.

"I've had the dubious honour of having the good Chief Superintendent serve under me when he was a mere Detective Constable. Hopefully some of you here can still appreciate the challenge." This time, there was a scattering of laughs, encouraged by the widening grin on the face of the former DC. "I'd love to be able to say that I taught him all he knows," the man continued, eyes now sweeping into the room to come to rest on Sam, "but I'd probably be wrong." The man's eyes left Sam and he turned back the Chief Superintendent. "A lot has changed since you started, Chris, and you lived through it all and prospered. I'm not sure I could have." He shook Chief Superintendent Chris Skelton's hand, then drew the man in for a quick hug, before switching his attention to Mrs Skelton to give her a chaste kiss.

"Enjoy the rest. You've earned it."