What Is Real, What Is True
Rating: M/R/Blue is a long way off for BBC America viewers, so here's at least one life preserver to keep us going. I've done West Wing fics and this is my first Life on Mars fic – please let me know if I'm on the mark or miles off. Thanks so much to Loz for being a fantastic beta!
Suicide by cop – that's how the detective Sam had worked with from Detroit on a joint investigation of drug smuggling described the situation he was witnessing right now.
"It's a pretty simple formula, with usually catastrophic results," LaVon Baxter had told him over a pint just before heading back to the states. "Usually a male, usually white, upset over losing a job, or a girl, can't bring himself to do the deed, so he creates a situation where the cops will take him out."
"Like what?" Sam had asked.
"Usually hostages – sometimes family, sometimes strangers. He threatens that if he doesn't get to talk to the boss who fired his ass or the woman who walked, he'll start spraying bullets. Of course, you have stricter gun control laws here, so he'd have to get more creative. With any luck, you'll never see one play out."
These days, Sam's luck only seemed to go one way: bad.
"It's almost like he wants us to kill him, Guv," Chris said.
"He does," Sam replied.
"Are ya daft, Tyler? What the bleeding hell do ya mean 'He does'? Ya having another nutter? What kind of bloke takes hostages during the morning rush hour on the train 'cause some ungrateful tart up and left him? No self-respecting man would let himself go to pieces over that!" DCI Gene Hunt wasn't so much color blind as hue-impaired: he usually couldn't see shades of gray.
Sam let out a sigh of exasperation. "Need I remind you where we are right now? He hasn't asked for money and he isn't trying to make a political statement. That usually leaves only one thing. I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts he's going to ask us to bring her to him."
"Dollars to doughnuts?" Ray asked.
"An American I used to know used to say that – come to think of it, probably still does."
"I want to see my Lucy!"
The team turned towards the source of the scream. It came from the lunatic/distraught perp (depending on who was talking).
"You lot have got one hour to get my Lucy here, or I'll push this button, and I'll take all these people with me!"
"Lovely!" Gene cursed. "Now we need to produce the bird or we'll have more blood than the butcher's! Anyone got any bright ideas?"
"Maybe I . . . could talk to him," Annie piped up. "I did study psychology at university."
"Sorry love, I don't think that's such a good idea. You're the enemy in his eyes – being female and all. Besides, I don't think we can get a couch onto that train."
"It's not a bad idea," Sam chimed in. He'd been encouraging Annie to speak up for herself more and didn't want her to get struck down her first time out. "Who better to talk to him? It would at least buy us some time."
Gene screwed his face up the way he did when he was torn between doing things "old school" as he'd heard Sam call it and trying one of Sam's odd ideas. After about a minute, he announced his decision.
"Right – here's what we're going to do. Chris, get a couple of plonks and start trying to track down the soon-to-be-ex. Ray, find a good angle and get into position in case we have to end it ourselves. Annie, talk him into letting ya get on the train and keep him talking – but don't let him get so low that he thinks there's no point in playing it our way. Sam, you sit just outside the train and make sure nothing happens to Annie, or anyone else for that matter."
As everyone scattered to their respective assignments, Sam was puzzled.
"What do you mean 'in case we have to end it ourselves'?"
"If we can get him before his hand gets the trigger of that vest of dynamite he's wearing, and Annie can't talk him down, and Chris can't find the wife, then . . ."
"Yeah, I get the picture," Sam replied just before running his hands over his face.
The next 58 minutes dragged, feeling more like a month.
"Guv, Guv, are ya there?" came over the radio.
"Yeah – what ya got for me, then?"
"She's left for Milton-Keynes to see her sister. She's driving and we can't get hold of her. She left almost two hours ago. We've put out a bulletin to the plonks patrolling the roads between here and there, and left a message with the sister, but that's the best we can do," Chris said.
"Dammit all to hell! Bloody rotten timing!" Gene shouted so loud that Sam could hear him without the radio.
"You've got one minute to get Lucy here!"
Sam could hear Annie pleading with him.
"They're doing their best. Sometimes these things take a little time."
"Time? You want to talk about time? Fine, let's talk about it. For 12 years, I was a good husband. For 12 years, I didn't stay out all night at the pub after work, I didn't blow my money on the ponies, and I fixed all the things around the house. Then one day – yesterday, in fact – Lucy tells me she wants more, and I'm not the man who can give it to her. Twelve years! She wouldn't tell me what she wanted. She didn't give me a chance. For God's sake, that's all I was asking for – a chance!" Tears were gushing out of his eyes during this tragic soliloquy, prompting Annie to take a huge risk. Sam saw what she was about to do, and was trying to figure out a way to dissuade her without alarming an already unstable man.
Annie moved to comfort the man – first by patting him on the back, then by holding him. She thought that maybe she could even unclasp the homemade dynamite vest.
"I can't put in any more time," he heaved. "I just can't do it."
Upon hearing this, Gene gave Ray the order.
Only one shot was fired, but it was all that was needed. It was all over – literally: all over the floor, all over the walls, and – worst of all – all over Annie. It wasn't just blood that covered Annie, but bits of gray matter as well.
After a brief pause during which Annie took in the horrific scene, she let out what Sam thought was the most blood-curdling scream he'd ever heard. He rushed onto the train car, rolling the body off of Annie and removing the vest. He hurled it into the open field, where it exploded shortly thereafter. Sam took Annie into his arms while she sobbed uncontrollably. They sat on the floor, where he rocked her back and forth. Newly-freed passengers, detectives and constables swarmed around them while Sam tried to settle her down.
"It's over. It's going to be alright now."
"I'm going to be sick." With that, Annie broke free and ran to the open doors. There had been no point in eating breakfast and lunch that day.
Gene boarded the train and looked on, but didn't dare say anything. He saw Sam's expression, which silently shouted, "Say anything and I'll bust your balls".
"I'll take you home," Sam whispered.
"Please, don't," Annie uttered between heaves. "I don't want to be alone tonight – I mean, alone with these thoughts."
"I know what you mean." Sam looked at her for the first time since he had scooped her into his arms. "Where should we go? What should we do?"
"I don't care where – I just don't want to be home alone."
"Alright. I'll take you back to my place. I'll get someone to get you a change of clothes, and you can clean up there. I'll make dinner."
Chris raided Annie's locker and brought the clothes to Sam's apartment while Annie was still in the shower. Sam opened the door just enough to slip the clothes on top of the sink with one arm so he wouldn't see Annie undressed. He didn't even bother to look at what Chris had brought because he was more worried about doing whatever he could to take Annie's mind off of what they had seen.
Annie ran the shower full blast so Sam couldn't hear her cry. "I need to toughen up. I don't want them to think I'm weak," she told herself. "I don't want Sam to think he made a mistake placing his trust in me."
When Annie came out, Sam saw she was wearing a simple flowered light blue sundress with spaghetti straps, showing just a hint of her décolletage. Little did he know she had been saving it in her locker just in case she and Sam ever went anywhere besides the pub. He noticed her hair and shoulders were still wet from the shower.
Sam needed a minute to take in the sight of Annie, the lovely lady now standing before him, as opposed to the usually uniformed constable. He shook his head as if to get back his bearings.
"Hello. Um . . . did you want to eat now? I made curry."
"I'm not sure I can eat."
"Here then – try this," Sam said while handing her a glass of white wine. He made sure nothing on the menu was any shade of red. She took an unusually large gulp and sat down.
Sam turned off the gas, sat across from her and took Annie's hands into his. He waited for her to speak.
"I knew when I signed on I'd see things . . . awful things. I just didn't think I'd see them . . ."
"So close up?" Sam finished.
"Welcome to your baptism by fire." Sam waited for Annie to say something, but she just clenched his hands tightly, as if holding on for dear life.
Annie paused and heard a record playing. She hadn't noticed the music before.
"Simon and Garfunkel – 'Annie's Song'."
"Simon and Garfunkel don't have a song by that name."
"Sorry – I meant 'Kathy's Song'."
Sam thought for a minute. "Do you -- fancy a dance?"
Annie nodded yes. Sam suspected she just wanted to be held, and this gave her the pretext she felt she needed.
They got up from the table simultaneously. Sam gently clasped Annie's right hand in his left while his right gracefully came to rest in the small of her back. Annie felt her head easily rest on his shoulder, her nose detecting something that smelled like after-shave, even though Sam insisted he never wore any.
They swayed slowly and softly as the acoustic guitar strummed and Paul Simon sung.
hear the drizzle of the rain
Like a memory it falls
Soft and warm continuing
Tapping on my roof and walls . . ."
This was, they both realized, one of those occasions when time seems to slow and every sense is working overtime: the sun setting and darkening the flat; the sound of the shower falling outside; the aroma of the uneaten curry mingling with the nature-washed streets; the music that lulled them into an uncommon albeit pleasantly hazy state.
mind's distracted and diffused
My thoughts are many miles away . . ."
Unconsciously, Annie drew closer to Sam. Then came what were the words that could have come from Sam's own heart:
so you see I have come to doubt
All that I once held as true
I stand alone without beliefs
The only truth I know is you
as I watch the drops of rain
Weave their weary paths and die
I know that I am like the rain
There but for the grace of you go I."
The song ended all too soon. Sam was wishing for his iPod, which would have allowed him to program it for repeat. Just as this thought entered his mind, Annie whispered, "Don't let go -- just a little longer."
After all that transpired today, Sam wouldn't deny her anything. He managed to keep holding her and restart the song on the turntable. This time, they both held tight to the other. Sam kissed the top of Annie's head through her hair, only half-realizing that he did it. Annie drew her head back to look into Sam's face. What he saw there wasn't revulsion or shock, but rather longing for more of what he had just given her.
Several ideas flooded Sam's mind: What if I'm in a coma, after all? What if this isn't real? If this isn't real, then what do I feel? Why do I feel it? How could I feel so much for someone who isn't real?
The haunting lyric came around again:
so you see I have come to doubt
All that I once held as true
I stand alone without beliefs
The only truth I know is you . . ."
Annie attempted to read the map of Sam's face to determine the direction of this night, this moment. But she didn't need to wait long.
Before she knew it, Sam's lips ever so lightly brushed against hers. Annie felt the delightful shudder travel through her, and wanting more, returned the kiss with more emotion and passion than she had ever poured into a kiss before. Sam, with his heart pounding, kissed her again with equal intensity, this time taking her face into his hands, while both of her hands wrapped around his waist, pulling all of him against her.
They continued to lock lips while Sam's hands traveled up and down her back, his fingers often lingering on her exposed skin. Annie moved her head away so she could kiss Sam's neck and begin to undo the buttons on his shirt. Sam progressed onto her shoulders, which he took his time kissing and stroking. When she lifted the remainder of his shirt from his trousers and undid all of the buttons, she slipped her silky hands into the small of his back. This maneuver nearly drove Sam over the edge. He was caught off guard by her forwardness and he fell backward onto the bed, taking her with him. The heavy snogging session was broken temporarily by their laughter at this unexpected change of position. Sam took the opportunity to run his fingers through Annie's hair and look into her eyes, unable to curb his smile and not wanting to do so. She smiled back at him.
"Do you want this?"
"I think I've made that obvious," she replied with that toothpaste-commercial smile. Only a couple of hours ago, she didn't know if she'd ever feel alive again – let alone like this.
"I mean, this isn't just me getting my leg over . . . it's more than that . . ."
"Sam," she whispered.
She looked into his eyes and whispered again. "Shut up and make love to me."
Sam kissed her, rolled on top of her, and did as she asked.
Little more was said with words during the remaining eight hours and three encores. A breeze occasionally swept through the open window, caressing their bodies and heightening their senses. It was all each had hoped for and more. At about 4:30 a.m., they gave in to their exhaustion and collapsed, holding one another as they slept.
Sam woke before Annie, giving him a chance to gaze at her face in the morning light. As he lightly moved her fringe, that voice re-entered his head, but this time with an answer to his earlier questions.
Maybe I need to worry less about what is real and more about what is true. Last night, this moment, this lovely guardian angel of sorts – this is true. This is what matters.
He pulled her closer and kissed the top of her head again. No matter what happened from here on in, he would never forget all that they had shared.