Spoilers: Post Series 3, Episode 8.
Pairings: Gene/Alex, Chris/Shaz, Sam/Annie
Author Note; I had to write something. The temptation was too great, and after a finale like that it deserves some fanfic about it. I've always loved Chris as a character, so I wanted to play around with him a bit. Anyway, this is my take on what happens behind the door…:-) (Slightly AU)
"This is going to take a long time, and I wonder what's mine
Can't take no more.
Wonder if you'll understand, it's just the touch of your hand,
Behind a closed door"
Only You, Yazoo
All I Ever Knew, Only You
When he walks through the door of the Railway Arms, it's like he's finally gone home.
Chris stops as the door closes shut behind him, breathing in the scent of the place that he's only now remembering; the beeswax furniture polish for the barstools, the salty tinged scent that turns to a taste on his tongue from the bowl of peanuts placed on the bar, the smell of alcohol and testosterone and so many happy memories of A Division filling his mind momentarily, blocking the present out. The after work pints with Ray and the Guv, the celebratory drinks whenever United beat City, with Ray coming over to the table they all sat on in the corner with his striped scarf around his neck with his round of drinks balanced precariously in the clutch of his hands, his face flushed with the joy of victory. In his sudden vision, even Sam is there, laughing with the Guv before he checks his watch, saying he needs to get back to Annie to which Ray lecherously replies with something along the line of 'Give her one from me, Tyler', to which Sam gives him the finger. In a rushing moment it all comes back to him, every good moment and every bad, every drunken sing song, every melancholy mood made right by one of Nelson's little comments. Even all of Sam's weird moments are remembered in perfect clarity because now it all makes sense to him; all the hints, and little suggestions borne from a future knowledge. He wonders if such wisdom only comes now because he's dead, but then, he's been dead for a long time.
It's only when he felts the slight pressure of Shaz's hand on his arm that he snaps back to reality; or whatever it is that he's presented with now. Whatever it is, it feels real. He is reminded suddenly of Sunday school and boring church services, sitting in an uncomfortable wooden pew with itchy Sunday clothes, the shirt top button choking him as the Vicar droned on his sermon. Chris remembers once asking to the underpaid part-time teacher who helped out at the Liturgy for bored children who couldn't yet take Communion, what actually happened when he died, a question borne of childish curiosity and an attempt to make the meeting a bit more interesting. The teacher, pleased at his vague show at enthusiasm, had gone on to use long words describing what the Kingdom of God actually was, but one word stuck in his head. Eschatology. A word no self respecting seven year old could possibly hope to understand, especially Chris, whose knowledge of reading extended to attempting The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and getting no further than chapter 4. He remembers asking DI Drake what it meant once, and she replied to his question with something about new reality's, where the end of life as we know it is merely the end of an age- one of the many- and the beginning of a new reality. Chris supposed that could really sum this up. He'd begun a new reality already, dieing a scared PC in the mid 60's with blood on the copper's uniform he tried so hard to keep clean and starting anew in 1973. He'd made it to the 80's, and somewhere along the way, he'd grown up, so maybe it was fitting he was back here, at the Railway Arms where his awakening began all those years ago with Sam Tyler, with his talk of other worlds and the future. He's reconciled with his own death now, finally awakening to the truth in a dingy video room in a corner of Fenchurch East. It's no longer 1981, and Chris wonders whether it's 1973 for every copper who finds himself here.
The door swings open again, letting in a brush of cold night time air, and the unsure face of Alex Drake appears, walking in cautiously like she doesn't quite know what to expect, now she knows that her suspicions of the world she inhabited where almost true. Gene's reality was an imaginary construct, just not one of her own making. She gets her whole body inside, but still she does not let the door swing shut, unwilling to shut the world she has come to know so well out. The look on her face, one of desperate sadness and a sudden disappointment, is one Chris recognises, and he understands, as she catches his eye. He knows what'll happen now.
"Go on, ma'am" he says softly "We'll all be here when you get back."
When Alex makes no move, torn between moving on and going back, Chris speaks again, surprised at the words coming out from his mouth. He didn't really think he was good at comforting people, but then, he's been in Alex's position before, not wanting to move on from Shaz and the love they had shared. Maybe Alex deserves her happy ending too.
"I think 'e needs you more" He doesn't have to clarify who he means.
Alex's face lights up in a smile, and her grip on the door tightens, so that it no longer looks like she's coming in, but that she's about to leave again.
"Thank you Chris" she whispers in a voice unlike her own, but he knows that she has to leave because she doesn't want to stay, not yet. Not without Gene.
"S'ok" Chris takes one last look at his DI, because he knows that he probably wont be seeing her for a while yet, depending on how time works round here. Alex is still not finished in that world, the world of Gene's reality, and she wont be ready for a long while. There is something left there for her still, and he can't begrudge her that, as his hand tightens around Shaz's waist. He knows he'd forsake this if Shaz were on the other side of the wall. "I'll keep a drink for you." He pauses, and then gives her a cocky smile "Tell the Guv he can buy a round when he gets here"
"I will Chris"
"Oy, close that door! It's bloody freezing in here!" Alex smiles at Ray's shout from the bar, and with a nod to Shaz and a small grin to Ray, as he gives her a cavalier two-finger salute that is about all the affection she'll ever get from the repressed DC , she walks back out the door. Back to 1981. Back to Gene Hunt. Something tells Chris that she'll be happier in Purgatory with the Manc Lion than with anything Heaven could offer her.
"Want anythin'?" he turns his head slightly to look at Shaz, her eyes taking in the unfamiliar surroundings, the faded décor and lived in feel of home. It occurs to him that this will be the first time she's visited the Railway Arms. She's a 90's girl who found herself along with him in the reality that has been the London 80's; a world of synth pop and New Romantic fashion. But she's not completely out of her depth. Some small anachronistic elements have included themselves around the pub. There's a small colour television on the side of the bar, an idea Sam once mentioned that Ray laughed at. Echo and the Bunnymen is playing on the record player, and Chris finds he quite likes the mishmash elements of all their times. The times they loved, nostalgia from Gene's reality present because they can't bear to part from it completely.
"No thanks babe" she says with a smile, and then her eyes turn to a point behind his shoulder, a look in her eyes that he can't quite describe.
"Didn't think I'd see you here for a while Chris. I wondered when you'd figure it out"
The Manchester accent is full of humour, and he knows it so well that's he's almost afraid to turn round. But Chris isn't scared anymore, and he turns round to find himself looking into the smiling grey eyes of DI Sam Tyler, his boss and his mentor. And there, standing next to him with her permed hair and 70's blouse and skirt is Annie, Annie who gave him biscuits at A Division and who always encouraged him to be better than he was, who was more like his older sister than his colleague. Relics from a time long past but here they are, looking exactly the same as they did when Chris last saw them, when he thought Sam dead and Annie missing, except now he knows that they're both dead, along with him and every other patron at the bar. But the two of them seem different somehow. Sam still has his black jacket of course, but the grin across his face is one of completeness, something he rarely saw on his boss's face when he was 'alive' at A Division. Annie is practically glowing, and it takes Chris an awkward moment for his eyes to travel slightly downwards and realise the bump of Annie's stomach isn't just his imagination playing tricks on him. There's a little Tyler growing in there, and by the size of the bump Chris reckons there's maybe two of them.
"Sam?" he says faintly, because this man is dead, died and drowned yet they never found his body, and then he smiles, a proper Chris smile, one void of all the awkwardness and cautiousness he possessed as traits in Sam's era. " Hey boss"
He remembers Shaz at his elbow, who at the moment is uncharacteristically quiet in the presence of two officers she's only seen in photo's Chris has shown her. She's looking at two people Chris talks about all the time, two people she's never expected to meet, and it occurs to Chris that his self-assured Shaz might be the slightest bit shy. He takes it upon himself to rectify that.
"This is my fiancée, Shaz-…er DC Sharon Granger" 'It'll be Skelton one day', he whispers softly so only Shaz can hear him, and she gives him such a look of love and affection he almost forgets he is in polite company and is in half a mind to kiss her passionately there and then. In this heaven, he may not have everything, may not have the temptations that Keats used to lure him in, but at least he has Shaz, and that's all he's ever wanted. The hanging boughs loaded with the forbidden fruit of his own personal Fall had been something Chris had found hard to resist, because he had known himself well enough, known his failures and shortcomings to know what the temptations would have been. Chris could have been who he'd wanted to be only in his wildest dreams; a DI with more money than Chris had ever had on his police wages; rich enough to be able to buy Shaz all the things he'd wanted for her that he couldn't afford before, to get her a house in that upmarket suburban area of London she'd always liked. He would have had a job in the Serious Crimes Squad, with responsibility he'd never been trusted with. No more of this stars rubbish, no more being haunted by that damned whistle that was a flashback to the mid 60's. Chris wouldn't have to remember dieing needlessly, an inexperienced and scared PC who tried to follow orders, who went out of the world not with a bang, but with a shocked gasp that turned into a pained whimper thanks to the bullets in his chest. But Chris knew what happened when you sold your soul to the Devil, because he'd learned his lesson before. He could do without the riches and posh housing and fancy clothes because all he ever needs is Shaz. And finally, at the end of his second age of reality, he finally gets his girl.
"Nice to meet you, Shaz" Sam says with a smile, winking at Chris as they both remember Sam giving him tips on how to get a girl and how to treat her right. It looks like the hints did the trick. Sam says nothing as he takes in the girl who stole Chris's heart, but there is a look in his eyes that gives Chris an unspoken hint of approval; as he takes in the engagement ring on her finger. Annie smiles at Shaz, moving over and embracing her in a hug like the two of them have known each other for years, her Manchester accent still prominent as she introduces herself but Shaz doesn't seem to mind the sudden space intrusion, and it doesn't take long for the two to set up a conversion themselves, laughing like old friends catching up. Chris always thought Shaz would get on well with Annie.
" How'd you find out then?" Sam asks, as though he's talking about the weather, and it takes a second for Chris to realise that Sam's talking about his death like it's the result of a football match. He doesn't mind though. He's treating the information in pretty much the same way. He can't remember much of his life then, and he's not sure he wants too. Everything was different then, and it's taken him two realities to become the dead man that's standing here now.
"Keats… er, Jim Keats," he says, before seeing Sam's confusion. Sam won't know Keats, he remembers vaguely. " He's…er was… a Discipline and Complaint Officer, you know from the Met, an' e' was trying to bring down Gene, temptin' us over to 'is side. Almost went an' all. He showed us these video tapes, with…with our deaths on 'em."
"Sounds like my Frank Morgan" his DI comments, although Chris doesn't get the reference, but then his face turns regretful "I'm sorry"
Chris shakes his head.
"Nowt to be sorry for, boss. Anyway, we got here. Thanks to the Guv"
"How is he?" Sam looks almost regretful at the fact he has to ask, and Chris realises just how long it must have been since Sam last saw the man who was his best friend. Despite their constant bickering and arguing, Sam thought the world of Gene and Chris was sure the feelings were mutual. Watching the two fighting or laughing together was like watching brothers, and Chris supposed that they were all like family in a way, all brothers and sisters of Gene Hunt's protection. The Guv helped Sam here, knowing he had to leave, but it would have been a long time since they saw each other. Gene can't come into the Railway Arms because he's still got things to do on the outside. And if Chris knows Sam, which he does to a certain extent, he knows that Sam misses Gene more than he'll let on.
"He's good" Knowing he'll have to give more detail, Chris continues. "He still miss's ya', but he'll 'ave Alex now." Sam looks none the wiser, and Chris remembers that Sam won't have met her yet. It's strange knowing more than the Great Sam Tyler, but Chris doesn't mind filling him in. Sam's missed a lot since he left. "Alex Drake, boss. She's like you, ya' know, mad as a box a' frogs, always goin' on about getting home, and coming out with your psycho-stuff 'bout police procedure and the like. She's probably from around your time. I think she knew you there, 'cause she's mentioned it once before. "
A spark of recognition enters Sam's eyes, as his mind brings up a picture of Alex in his old time, the psychologist who wrote down what he told her of his little fantasies while he was in a coma, talking to the future Sam in a soothing voice as he explained him 'imaginary constructs' to her. He remembers how she took particular interest in his comments about Hunt, intrigued that his mind had created a man so against everything Sam stood for. It's almost irony that Alex ended up here too, with Gene and Chris and Ray. Sam can almost imagine her reaction to it all. "I remember Alex" A pause, and then a sly smile, "So she and Gene…"
"Bin dancing 'round each other for a while, yeah" Chris smiles back " 'Bout as subtle as knives, but there you go. She's gone back outside to stay with him. Think 'e needs someone while he's doing his gate-keeper thing"
"Yeah, he does" His words are spoken with a sad sort of melancholy, but then Sam laughs, a proper Sam laugh that Chris hasn't heard in a long time. "Trust Gene to go for the psychologist."
Chris laughs too, knowing Alex Drake will be keeping Gene on his toes. She's not going to be accepting his reality quietly, and Chris is sure Gene will have his work cut out for him. Still, he has someone with him, someone who knows him and can understand him. His smile dampens slightly as a thought hits him.
"D'ya think Gene'll ever pass over? I mean, come in here, with us lot?"
"One day, he will." Sam sounds entirely confident, and Chris knows better than to question the boss's judgement. He'd trust Sam with his life if he had one to give. "Just not yet"
Chris Skelton nods. Gene would never be the sort of person to follow another's will without a fight, and he's sure that Gene will only come in when he thinks his work is done, which might be tomorrow, or might be never. Chris then looks over at the bar, Ray still talking and wise old Nelson cleaning pint glasses with his towel. Shaz and Annie are sat down already, taking up two spaces on the table that used to be reserved for A Division. But it looks now like it can hold the extra people. They're all Gene's people after all. Even if Ray wont be happy that a 'couple 'a plonks' are sitting in his seat.
If Chris has got an eternity, he might as well get a round in.
"Pint?" he asks Sam, and the man from the future smiles at the copper from the past as they talk here, in a pub that is middle ground for the both of them.
"Yeah, go on then" Sam grins, his eyes flicking over to Shaz with a wink at Chris. "Seems like we've got a lot to catch up on…"