Spoilers; Episode 8, Series 3 (Finale). If you haven't seen it a) Don't read this, & b) WATCH IT NOW. :-)
Author Note: Apologises first off for the formatting to this. Fanfiction is hating me today :-(
"I don't want to start any blasphemous rumours,
But I think that God's got a sick sense of humour,
And when I die, I expect to find him laughing"
Blasphemous Rumours, Depeche Mode
The tape starts to play, a dull VHS quality that never feels quite as good as Betamax was, and Chris settles himself down with a resigned look of confusion on his face. In some ways he's almost nervous, unwilling to know what's on the tape so clearly labelled with his name, because he saw the haunted look on Ray's face, Ray who never shows much emotion, who keeps every repressed feeling locked inside, yet who looked at him like a dead man walking. He doesn't know what to expect, and it scares him in a small way. Chris doesn't like not knowing things, which is ironic in some way, because so often he finds he doesn't know the answer.
But from the first frame of the tape- the image of a scared young copper Chris used to know with his back against the wall and a gun held trembling in his hand, the loud sound of shots echoing in his ears- Chris stops seeing what's playing out in front of him. The images hit his mind like the bullets he is hearing on the screen, and for a moment he can't believe what is happening. His posture changes to the figure of tensed up shock he's suddenly become, and although his eyes are frozen to the screen, not daring to turn away, he isn't watching it what is unfolding before him, a television drama of his own previous reality.
He knows what happens next, because suddenly he remembers everything, the information suddenly revealed in his mind like a game show prize. Congratulations, Christopher Skelton. You've won the truth! Chris doesn't want this, wants to close his eyes and block out the sound from the tinny speakers on the side of the television, but he can't bear to, can't muster up the energy. He hears the bullets and the shouting loud and real in his ears.
And it's like he's living it all over again.
The brick wall is uncomfortable and rough before his back, and curiously- over the screech of the bullets and the shouting that's going on, the mangled mess of raised voices, twisting together so that Chris can't completely tell the shouts of the Guv or the angered cursing of the men whose blag they've just foiled- he thinks he can hear a loud radio from a nearby pub. The faint melancholy tune of Simon and Garfunkel's 'Sound of Silence' is on, the pub proudly boasting that it plays pirated music for people to come in and listen to. Chris is just happy they aren't playing The Trogg's 'Wild Thing'. He's sick of that song. Yet the first thought in his brain as he considers the music bleeding into it, aside from the blind panic that's clouding his judgement and the strengthening terror that's rising up like bile in his throat, is that he'd really like a pint right about now. Maybe when this is all over, he'll be able to convince his Guv to let them have a drink, just the one. Once it's all over.
The weathers' been a bit funny for a few days now- one of the guys in his station's blaming it on the Johnston Administration sending more troops to Vietnam, but Chris doesn't believe him- and where the sky was bright before is now peppered with the promise of rain, dark clouds above him heavy and threatening. There's a cold feeling in the air that Chris can't describe, a lack of breeze and an ominous darkness that leaves him feeling uneasy. Not that he's concentrating on that right about now. There are more important things going on.
The Guv yells his name loudly and Chris hears his own voice, unsure and worried, with the slight tremors of youth and inexperience, shout back
"We need backup sir! They're on their way!"
He can hardly hear the reply over the drumbeat of bullet chambers emptying and reloading from both sides. Yet Chris is still hesitating to join the firefight of gunfire this has become. He doesn't know how many there is shooting at them; his brain's not up to counting much at the moment, and he doesn't dare try and get a closer look, but he's gathered enough to know they're outnumbered, painfully. They need backup, otherwise the two of them wont be getting out of this in one piece, but from the angered irritation on the Guv's face he's an idiot to even consider it.
"Don't ask stupid questions!" Chris has only been in the Force for a couple of months, so he's still learning, yet sometimes it feels like he's always running slower than everyone else. He's tried to keep up with his peers, uses the right methods and techniques, copies what they do as a reference. Even outside of work he has to try hard to fit. He listens to the right music- even though he bloody hates the Beach Boys-, wears the right clothes even though they just look wrong on him, because it's not who he is. That's how it seems it's always going to be; Chris, the awkward one, who never knows what to say and who usually makes an idiot of himself, Chris the div, who drops his gun more times than he's fired it, who asks lots of questions because he wants so badly to understand, to get things right. But he never quite manages it.
"Just do as you're told!" His Guv's staple phrase is being shouted at him, and Chris grips the handle of his gun a little tighter, feeling his hand sticky with sweat where the warm metal's been pressed against his skin too long. His heart is beating like gunfire, and he's trying to stay calm, because he wants to do this right. He wants to make his family proud. Another year of working the beat as a PC and he'll have enough saved to move out from his mam's house, which he shares with five siblings. He's the eldest, the worker of the family now his father's buggered off, and if he moves out, it'll give his mam an extra room to let out. If he gets better at policing, he might get a promotion, make his mam proud, show her he can do it, and prove to himself he can. Although he doesn't really want to be a copper right at this moment. He knew it was dangerous of course, but the glamour of the job had always lured him in. Chris Skelton had always wanted to be a good copper. "Follow me!"
The whistling is loud, cutting through the gunfire like a razor, the sound almost making Chris want to put a hand over his ears. Inside he manoeuvres himself as close to the edge of his protective wall as he dares, trying to ready himself. His Guv is firing his gun, aiming in a steady way Chris can never hope to achieve. Chris doesn't actually think he's actually managed to hit the target he's been aiming for yet, and if he has, he's managed it by fluke. He doesn't want to move, is scared to leave the safety of the wall until back up comes, but orders are orders and Chris has to follow them, especially if he wants to make DC.
He feels sick to his stomach, and for a moment wonders if he's going to throw up. He doesn't think he's ever been this scared, despite the fact he spends most of his time in a state of constant nervousness. It's just who he is. Bottling his fear, he moves out from behind the wall quickly, his gun loaded and aimed in his hands, his courage almost failing him completely as he releases how vulnerable he is. Five men with guns are facing him, masked in black, standing next to the broken glass of the jewellers they've just robbed. Chris doesn't even have time to regret his decision.
The first bullet takes him by surprise, knocking the breath out of him like a punch to the chest, but the pain only sets in when the other bullets find their target, striking his chest hard. It's a shocking bone-deep aching pain, and he's so distracted by it, so caught up in the intensity of it that he doesn't notice his gun has fallen from his hand, the clattering of the metal subdued as it hits the floor, like he's listening to the world underwater, the sounds around him jerky and out of focus, and he feels with a certain detachment the rough ground solid underneath his back. Being shot is nothing like they portray at the picture shows, or how some of the copper's who've survive it tell at the station. There's none of the numbness that's been described, none of the dramatic holding your hand up from your chest to see blood. Being shot hurts, and embarrassingly, there are tears forming at the edges of his eyes. He wants his mam, but she's not here, and he can't even be manly about being wounded in action. It's the sort of thing that earns a mark of respect at the station, but Chris would rather not have been shot at all.
He can't remember how he ended up on the floor, staring at the sky as pain writhes in his chest and blood gargles with the last vestiges of life in his throat. For a moment he's scared, but it's getting harder to think clearly. The promised numbness creeps into his senses instead of the wracking pain, and Chris doesn't feel so cheated. At least it doesn't really hurt any more. He knows that he's dying, the blood sticky and clogging on his uniform that's going to stain something bad, but curiously he focuses more on the sky above him then his own mortality. It's probably his mind trying to make sense of all this in some bizarre way, but for a moment Chris doesn't see rain clouds or the grey of mid afternoon, or even the fact that the sun is nowhere to be found. Instead, he just sees stars. Millions of pinpricks of bright white light, the shear intensity of them blinding, overwhelming, like he's reached the end of the universe and he can go no further. They're so beautiful, and he imagines this is what space looks like, standing from a viewpoint on the moon and looking out at the cosmos. It's almost a laughable idea, because no man will ever stand on the moon outside the realms of sci-fi films. He's seen that new Star Trek that's been on television recently, but he can't imagine any of it will ever be possible. But for a moment he doesn't really care about that, and he just stares at the stars, taking in the sight above him, seeing the pure awesomeness of it all, looking down on him.
And then he doesn't see anything at all.
Chris resurfaces to reality from where he's been drowning in the images his mind has cornered him with. There are no stars, no blackness and definitely no whistling ringing in his ears, only the small room to one end of Fenchurch East. The screen before him is still showing the tape, and the sight of seeing his own dead body staring sightlessly out at him should distress him, but instead it just makes him feel numb. Everything makes sense now, and Chris wishes it didn't. He understands that they all must be dead; Gene, Alex, Ray. Even Sam, who he now realises, must have known. All the cryptic little comments about getting home, about the future. But Sam's gone now and so is Annie- probably with Sam, he imagines- and there is no future, because it's just Chris and the rest of the lost souls, discarded into purgatory. The world has been trying to wake him up for so long; with the whistles and the dreams he's been having and the presence of Alex Drake. Alex who knew this world wasn't real, that they were just 'imaginary constructs' Chris wants to be real, wants to know this is all some sick joke made up by Keats. He feels real. This life feels real. But despite the fact he's never warmed to the Disciple and Complaints Officer, but he's hard pressed to understand why he would make up something like this. So Chris is just left with the consequences of knowing the truth. He's dead, completely dead, a corpse of a copper from the 1960's, yet he's alive and living in 1982. He has a life here; he remembers everything, so how can this all not be real? He remembers birthdays when he was younger, going to school, joining A Division. He remembers his mam's funeral, Viv's funeral. What about Viv? Was he not real either, a figment of Fenchurch East's collective imagination? And what about Shaz…?
The whistling is loud in his mind suddenly, stark and unforgiving as he tries to block out memories he doesn't want, and he suddenly remembers the other two videos. Ray has already seen his and Chris can only imagine how he's dealing with this, but Shaz…
He gets up quickly from the chair, feeling like he hasn't moved for a thousand years, the legs of the seat scraping the floor as he moves. Shaz can't see the tape. It'd kill her – if that's possible because she must be dead too. His Shazzer is dead, and somehow that thought hurts hard, even though she's right here in the station, alive and smiling. He's kissed her, loved her so much his heart can hardly bare it, yet she doesn't belong here either. She can't know, can't find out. His own selfishness rears its ugly head, as he makes towards the door, his mind filled with a purpose now, the ambush all but forgotten. It's not real anyway, what does it matter if some Dutch criminals get away with what they've been doing? He doesn't want Shaz to know, doesn't want her to be affected by this fallacy as the life she's been living will tumble down around her. He can't bear to see her hurt.
The whistling in his ears fades, a memory of a time long gone as he leaves the dingy video room behind. He's not so lost anymore, and he doesn't think the reality of what's happening has really hit him yet. It's too much to take in, and Chris has never been good with dealing with things at the best of times. Ray will understand, Ray will know what he's going through, yet every fibre of his body is screaming for him to stop Shaz seeing that tape. It's inevitable he knows, she'll find out eventually; yet he doesn't want her to see it.
Not now. Not yet.
Let her hold onto her humanity a little longer.
A/N: Apologies for any historical inaccuracies in this fic. I couldn't quite figure out a date where Chris would be from- I know he died in the 60's, but unlike Shaz there was never an actual year given. From the uniform he's wearing, I researched he's probably from around the mid 60's, so I made a guess at '66.
Any comments or critique, please don't hesitate to send me.