Title: Neither Here nor There
Fandom: Life on Mars
Summary: Sam Tyler can't decide where he'd rather be. Set sometime before 2x08. A bit of Sam/Annie.
Disclaimer: I don't own it.
A/N: This is my first Life on Mars fic, having just discovered the fandom (thanks to falafelmusings for that!) I hope you like it and please comment. This is one amazing show.
"Wait for it," said Gene, gun raised outside the rooftop exit, "Ray's going to come out first, so don't go blowing his head off. Count to three before you kick 'im and cuff 'im."
"Is that your idea of softly softly?" Sam asked.
"Too bloody right," said Gene.
Sam stood at the guv's side, poised. Ray was in the flat on the fourth floor, making a drug deal. The sting had taken weeks to set up and now came the endgame. Sam had mapped it out in his head a dozen times because it all had to run like clockwork. Chris bangs on the door, fakes a raid and runs for it. Then a panicked but resourceful Ray leads the scruffs out onto the roof where the coppers with the guns would be waiting. Annie waits in the street below ready to call for backup if needed. It wasn't a perfect plan, Chris and Ray were about as clever as two sponges put together, but it was the best plan they had and what was life without a little danger? For 1973, it was Manchester's finest at work, even if that wasn't saying much.
"Do you ever follow procedure?" Sam had once asked Gene in a particularly exasperating moment.
"Procedure is for pansies," said the guv, taking a swig from his hip flask, and that had pretty much ended that conversation.
Sam had to admit it sure beat sitting behind a desk, researching for hours on his computer to find a lead. This was dirty, hands on work, like it used to be. These coppers were relics from a different age, and now Sam was one too.
He was finding a place for himself here, but that didn't stop him yearning for home and the comfortable life he left behind in 2006. He didn't even know if it was 2006 there anymore. Did time move at the same rate in both places? Maybe he'd been in a coma for ten years or more, maybe that was why Maya had moved on, and who could blame her. He didn't know if he'd ever get back, or if he did, whether there would be anything left to go back to, while here his life was taking root like wildflowers, never mind the weeds.
He heard footsteps now, and shouting. It had begun. Ray was telling the suspects that he had an escape plan. If they went to the roof they could jump to the neighbouring building and hide there. Sam raised his gun as Gene lifted a finger in a silent count.
"Sam, come back. Please come back, we need you here."
"What?" Sam said as he turned his head and scanned the area.
"Shut it, Gladys" whispered Gene.
The voice of his mother was as clear as day, yet they were the only two there on the rooftop. Sam shut his eyes for an instant and tried to imagine himself home in 2006, with his mobile and his laptop. Was it that simple? Like Dorothy? Or was this just another head game, like the other voices and visions?
"Mum?" he said in his head, only it came out his mouth.
Gene shushed him again with a hard glare and Sam snapped back to attention. Sam shook his head and refocused on the door that was now opening. Stepping out from behind it he heard the guv shout, "You're nicked!"
But what followed Ray out the door wasn't Derrick Hodges, the drug dealer, and his criminal cronies, but Sam's mum, looking like the mature grey haired woman she was in the future. Sam dropped the gun in speechless shock, despite his DCI's protests which sounded like they were miles away and down a mine.
"Sam," she said, dreamily. "You're neither here nor there."
Then his mother, his own mother, raised a gun and shot him.
Everything after that happened in slow motion, just like in a film, only he was the star.
There was a tremendous explosion in his chest, he grabbed at it and stumbled back.
He heard the guv shout, "Tyler!"
Chris had emerged and was now running towards him.
Ray and the guv were apprehending Derrick Hodges who was holding a smoking gun laced with murderous intent, screaming something unintelligible.
Where did mum go, Sam thought as he fell, inches from Chris's reach, toppling over the rooftop onto that of the next building five feet below and hitting the concrete.
He couldn't feel anything, not the gunshot wound, not his cracked skull. He was surprisingly comfortable in fact in this bed with a thick blanket and a soft pillow. Sam opened his eyes as though he were waking from a long sleep, except that he was not at home. He was most definitely in hospital, the white glare and acrid smell of ammonia giving it away. He heard a soft beep from a machine. His consciousness cleared further and he tried to speak, but couldn't. There was a tube down his throat. Sam groaned and the nurse gave a start.
"Sam!" she said. "My God. Hang on I'll call the doctor."
The nurse returned a few moments later and began to remove the tube. "Doctor Morgan's on his way," she said, "and so's your mum. She cried when I told her. She's been here every day, bless her."
"What…" Sam started to say as soon as he was able, but it came out a meaningless croak. The nurse lifted his head and gave him some water and he tried again, only slightly improved but audible.
"What…year is it?"
"Year?" asked the nurse, baffled at first, and then warming when she realized Sam must have been disoriented from the coma. "It's 2006."
Sam looked down at his chest which bore no sign of a gunshot wound. What had happened? Where were Gene and Chris… and Annie?
The nurse was gently pressing his shoulders back down to the mattress.
"Now, don't you get up," she scolded. "You can't go anywhere until the doctor sees you. Just rest Sam."
He didn't want to but he complied. He felt like he had been resting for ages. It was over, Sam was home, and yet everything felt as foreign as it had when he had first found himself in 1973. It was as if he had left Mars and landed on Jupiter. He wanted to see his mum, a familiar face, something to let him know he wasn't dreaming or dead. The nurse dismantled the rest of the life support equipment, smiled at him and left.
It was what you wanted after all, wasn't it, he thought as he lay in bed, and yet he wondered what had happened when he left. Did he just vanish, or did he die? Were his friends wondering where he was or was he still there? From his end, it wasn't what he thought it would be like; it felt like abandonment, leaving in the middle of a collar. Sam thought on it some more until he closed his eyes and fell asleep.
"Sam? Can you hear me?"
Sam smiled in his sleep. His mum had arrived. He had so much to tell her if she would only believe him. He wondered where he should start. He was in an accident, and he woke up in 1973…
"Mum," he muttered, but when he tried to speak his head throbbed. He felt pain. There was a terrible pain in his chest that travelled all the way to his head and back again. His skull felt heavy, he could hardly move, and he reached up to touch a thick bandage. He didn't remember any bandages when he woke from the coma.
Sam opened his eyes but instead of his mother, he was staring at Annie. His room had changed -- it was darker, smaller, more cluttered. There were heavily patterned curtains hanging and the air smelled of cigarette smoke instead of ammonia. Annie was in a chair, looking back at him with wide concerned eyes, waiting for him to respond. Sam didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
"How are you feeling?" asked Annie.
He felt like he'd been shot, run over, dropped off a cliff and trampled on, but he didn't think he could manage to say all that, so instead he just made a pained face that said it all.
Annie gave a sympathetic smile and touched his head gently. "Well you're lucky to be alive. The guv said when he first saw you he thought you were dead."
I was, Sam wanted to say, but instead he said, "I was… home."
"Home?" asked Annie.
"I was back," he explained, "Back in my time. I was in a coma…"
"Sam," said Annie, rolling her eyes. "You were shot, don't you remember? They're giving you morphine. You must have been dreaming."
"No," he said, pushing her hand away. "I was there. It was real. This is the dream."
The dull ache he felt in his body sharpened when he tried to move. He took as deep a breath as he could manage and tried to relax. He knew he had made it back, but he didn't know how to convince her. Annie had never believed him when he told her he was from the future.
"You need to rest," she insisted.
That was it, rest, thought Sam. He was shot and woke up in hospital in 2006. Then he had fallen asleep and found himself back here. Maybe if he went to sleep again he would return to the future.
"There was a doctor," said Sam, recalling the familiar name. "Morgan."
"Your doctor's name is Spencer," said Annie. "Just close your eyes. I'll be here when you wake up."
No you won't be, he thought as he drifted off to sleep, but for a moment Sam wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not. He lingered for a moment on her eyes, memorizing her features and the sound of her voice.
She won't be there when I wake up.
She was holding his hand. Sam could feel it as he slept. She didn't leave his side after all, instead staying moored to him like an anchor. Rest was just the thing because he was feeling better already.
"Annie," Sam said, still half asleep.
"Sam, it's mum."
His eyes shot open. It had happened again. The bright, sterile room. His mother. The coma. When he looked at her she smiled and tears rolled down her cheeks.
"Oh, my darling boy," she cried, squeezing his hand tightly and pressing it against her cheek. "It's a miracle."
Even as he smiled at her Sam felt a hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach. He should have been happy, he had what he wanted, had predicted it in fact, so why was he slightly disappointed? Was it because Annie wasn't there? There was no way she could be, she was in another time altogether. He had gone to sleep so he could return, after all. He had to make up his mind. He couldn't keep doing this.
But he missed her and he couldn't help that.
Where are you Sam, here or there, went the voice in his head.
I'm here, he decided. Here and I'm not going back. Chances are it wasn't real anyway.
"Dr. Morgan says you're doing very well," his mum told him.
Morgan. Why did that name sound familiar?
"He says the best thing for you right now is rest and physical therapy to get your strength back," she continued.
Rest. There it was again. Sam knew too well what was likely to happen once he fell asleep. If he wanted to see Annie again, all he had to do was sleep. But what would happen after that? Surely he couldn't keep bouncing back and forth between realities like a tennis ball every time he closed his eyes. How long could this sort of thing go on, and was it in his power to stop it? Sam didn't know how he would ever explain it to his mother, when he didn't understand it himself. He only knew that if he wanted to stay, he couldn't sleep.
"Mum," he began, considering his words carefully, "there's something I need to tell you."
"Yes, luv?" she said.
Just then they were interrupted by a tall mustached man in a white lab coat. "Hello, Sam," he said, introducing himself, "I'm Doctor Frank Morgan. It's good to have you back."
Sam's greeting caught in his throat at the sight of the man called Morgan that he now knew he had met before -- only it had been 1973. Morgan had been the DCI from Hyde.
"It's you," said Sam.
"I'm sorry?" Morgan asked.
"You were there," said Sam. "You were from Hyde."
"Sam," said his mum, "this is your doctor. He's been your doctor since your accident."
"No," said Sam, turning back to Morgan. "You're not real. What are you doing to me?"
Dr. Morgan came closer to Sam's bedside, looking deeply concerned. "Sam," he said, leaning in and speaking softly, as if he were trying to hypnotize him, "You've suffered head trauma. You need to sleep."
"Bugger off," said Sam, pulling back. "What are you playing at? Mum," he said, turning back to his mother, "when I was in the coma I was a DI in 1973. This man was there, only he wasn't a doctor then, was he? He was a DCI."
"Sam, it's very simple," said his mum, trying to calm him, "you imagined it, that's all. You probably heard names and voices in your sleep."
"It's quite common," agreed Dr. Morgan. "The mind tries to make sense of what it perceives and adds context. It can often be quite vivid."
"Now he wants me to sleep," Sam continued, not listening, pointing an accusing finger at his doctor, "but he knows that if I do, I'll go back. I'll end up back there." He turned to Morgan and shouted, "Is that what you want? Is there something you still need me to do before you'll give me some bloody peace?"
"I'll check back in on you later, Sam," said Morgan, exiting the room with a reassuring smile to Sam's mother that said, not to worry.
"Sam, I don't understand," Sam's mum told him once they were alone again. "He's your doctor. You've got to sleep."
Sam looked at his mother, eyes pleading. "I don't want it to keep happening. He's trying to send me back."
"All right dear, whatever you say," she said finally, "Maybe later, then. I'm just so glad you're here with us."
It was easy at first but as the sun set and the room grew darker, Sam began to feel drowsy. He tried fighting it, he turned on the small telly at his bedside, but the lure of sleep was as hard to resist as a siren song. Context, the doctor had said. Bollocks. He may have heard the name Morgan here but there was nothing to explain Gene Hunt or Annie Cartwright. He thought of Annie and the rest of his colleagues at the station, and wondered how he was recovering there where his injuries seemed much more severe. He couldn't think of many reasons to want to go back there, he might not even survive considering the primitive state of medicine, and yet…
Sam jerked himself awake realizing that he had finally nodded off. The telly was still on, but what shouldn't have been there was the station test card from 1973. Yet there it was, on his modern 21st century set. With a sickening feeling, he noticed that the circle at the test card's centre was vacant apart from the familiar blackboard. Heart pounding, Sam looked carefully past the television set to the corner to find the little blonde girl with her clown doll -- his very own Alice, calling his name and luring him back to Wonderland.
"No," Sam said, "you can't be here. You don't exist here."
Instead she replied, "Sam, don't you see? You are mad. You're not all here. You're not all there. That's madness."
"No!" Sam yelled at her, "I'm not mad! I'm back home. I'm home!"
"It's time you let go," she said, stepping closer. "The time has come, the walrus said…"
"Get away!" he screamed, kicking up a fuss until the nurse came in to investigate.
Sam pointed at the empty corner and the telly, which was now showing a late night film, and ranted about a girl that was tormenting him from the empty corner. A moment later, the nurse was joined by Dr. Morgan which only seemed to aggravate Sam further. The doctor held Sam down to allow the nurse to administer a sedative, all the while with Sam fighting them both and screaming.
"Leave me alone! You're trying to send me back! Why are you doing this?"
He felt he had been in a deep sleep for a very long time. Sam knew the year before he even opened his eyes -- he could tell by the smell and the uncomfortably tight wadding of bandages over areas that itched and ached.
Why, he wondered, why did he send me back?
"I think he's waking up guv," Sam heard Chris Skelton say.
Sam heard the shuffling of many feet and opened his eyes. Around his bed were the people from his department, Chris, Ray, Annie and his DCI Gene Hunt.
"All right Tyler?" Gene asked in his usual gruff manner, as though Sam had merely slipped on a banana peel.
"All right. Did we get Hodges?" asked Sam.
"All wrapped up in a pretty little bow," said Gene. "Now that he's earned the reputation of a cop killer he won't see daylight until the next century."
That makes two of us, Sam thought.
"DCI Morgan," Sam said, "from Hyde. Has he been here?"
"Haven't seen him," said Gene. "Why?"
"Just thought he might have… I dunno," he said.
They stayed and chatted for a bit longer before the nurse ushered them all out. After they left Sam turned his attention to the radio on the side table that was playing soft music. He perked up at the sound of Morgan's voice. He was speaking to his mother, and Sam knew by what he said that he wasn't going back this time.
"…I'm sorry Mrs. Tyler, but Sam seems to have slipped back into his coma. We're not sure why, but if he woke up once, I believe he can do it again…"
"You did this to me you bastard," Sam muttered. "You're behind this, keeping me here."
Sam knew he couldn't continue to be in two places at once, but it was as though he was tethered to this time and couldn't cut the cord. It was easy to blame this mysterious Morgan although he had to admit he was also forming his own emotional connections that were becoming more difficult to sever every day. He had allowed himself to get distracted on the job, and in this line of work that's a sure way to end up dead and nowhere. He was the closest he had ever been to going back and if he'd just stop wishing he were somewhere else, and finish whatever it was he was supposed to do, maybe he'd stay there.
Sam reached over to turn off the radio but before touching the dial, he heard the voice of Morgan again, and this time he was speaking to Sam.
"You're not done yet Sam," he said, "Your injury caused you to come back prematurely but it wasn't your time. You need to complete your work first, and then you can come home."