Sam wakes up in 2007 one morning without trumpets or fanfare or a shred of pomp and circumstance.
"God," he says. His hand shakes around his mobile as he holds his other arm around his middle. The four white walls of his bedroom tower over him and he has so far failed to ignore the half-full hamper tucked into his closet or the dog-eared book on his bedside table.
No missed calls and all answered texts. Sam doesn't remember typing any of them. When Maya answers the phone, she sounds mildly irritated.
"Sam. Did you need something?"
"I--" Sam stutters. "Have I been in a coma lately?"
She pauses. "Bit early for this, isn't it?"
"Maya," Sam persists, "I'm serious."
"And I was serious when I told you I wanted to keep this professional." She sighs. "Sam... if you need someone to talk to--"
"No, I..." Sam swallows, shifts his phone against his cheek. "I'm fine. I'm sorry."
He's jittery with his soap, slow with buttoning his suit. It takes him a paralyzed second to recall how to use a modern automatic.
But he goes to work all the same.
Each traffic light is agony. Sam willfully keeps his iPod off, runs a hand down the lower half of his face at the normal, mundane sights -- a man with a briefcase, a woman with trainers, a kid with a mesh backpack over his shoulders. By the time Sam pulls into the station's car park (huge, underground), and turns off the ignition, he's sure he's going to be sick.
So he stumbles out and he is. He pulls a tissue out of his glovebox, wipes his mouth with it. He has his forehead pressed against the side of his car when he hears a voice.
"Sam!" a man's tenor echoes through the level. "You all right?"
Sam turns. He stares.
"Yeah." Ray's suit is prim and pressed; a laptop bag hangs from his shoulder. He glances at the mess on the ground and winces. "Ooh. Oh, sorry, mate, that's--"
"What," Sam croaks, "are you doing here?"
"Heading in." Ray motions, simply. He smiles -- a horrifying, reassuring thing. "Don't worry too much -- janitor needs something to do, eh?"
"I..." Sam grimaces. He presses a fist to his forehead. "I need. A moment."
"I'd say take the day if you need it." Ray circumvents a wide arc around him, then heads in through the automatic doors.
Sam finds Annie at a desk in the bullpen, checking her e-mail.
"Hi, Sam," she says brightly. Her ponytail bobs as she turns toward a folder in her outbox and hands it to him. "Reese said you'd want this -- Caroline Humphreys' coroner's report, it's... are you all right?"
"Peachy," Sam chokes. He swallows and looks around. Ikea desks, water cooler, black-and-white modern art on the walls. The slight bite of overzealous aircon pings the hairs at the back of his neck.
"Listen, Annie..." He starts, then stops. "Have we... talked about. You know."
Annie raises a brow. "I don't follow."
Sam runs a hand through his hair, tucks the folder under his arm. "It's nothing. Sorry."
"Okay." Annie blinks at him once, then turns to smile at someone else. "Oh, hi, Gene."
Sam freezes. Someone strides up to the desk and stands next to him.
"We got those ballistics reports yet?"
"No, sorry. Think the lab put priority on the Yelchin case."
"Mm." Fingers drum on the desktop. "'Course they did."
Sam slowly turns. Gene's got a blue suit and tie, cropped hair, cool demeanor. He's lost weight.
Gene glances at him. "Morning, Sam."
"Morning," Sam rasps back.
"That for Caroline Humphreys?"
Sam's arm tightens around the folder. "Yeah."
"Good. CC Amanda Davis in Drug Squad when you send me your write-up -- she's working a possession case on Humphreys' brother."
"I..." Sam nods. "Yeah. Okay."
Gene pauses in the middle of turning away. "You all right, then?"
"He's 'peachy'," Annie offers, with very small air quotes, right down near her desk.
Sam scowls, fortitude strengthened with the small betrayal. "I -- I'm fine. Just... bit under the weather, I think."
Gene narrows his eyes a second, the way he always does when Sam's lying. Sam's stomach drops.
"Want you focused," Gene finally says. "Let me know if you need to head home."
"I think 'home' is a relative concept," Sam replies hoarsely.
He can almost hear the myriad possible retorts. And I think your legal name should be Buggered McCracked; the only relative concept I'm interested in is how far that broomstick's shoved up your arse; "home" is wherever I can sit down and not listen to you.
But instead, Gene just stands there with an odd little look.
"Right," he says, and he walks away.
Sam's dream people are living amongst his real people and it's bloody terrifying.
"Hey." Maya finds him in the break room, mixing a cup of coffee. "What was that, this morning?"
"Absolutely nothing." Sam dumps in more sugar than he means to, snaps on the top -- god, he missed no-spill lids. "Sorry 'bout that. Bad dream. Just a... very, very bad dream."
Maya pauses a moment. She glances out the door to the hall, then back to him.
"Sam," she says, a bit more hushed. "Have you been making your appointments?"
Sam turns around, coffee in hand. "My what?"
"You haven't, have you?" Maya's mouth twists with an old frustration. "God, this is exactly your problem--"
"Oi," Sam raises a hand, "hold up--"
"I know you say they wouldn't wave you through a psych eval anyway, but you can at least try to prove them wrong!"
Sam stops, confusion grinding to a halt. "Psych eval?"
"Yes." Maya frowns, less angry now. "Sam... are you sure you're--"
"Not interrupting, am I?"
Maya glares at the figure peeking in through the door.
"Yes," Maya says, firm. "We're done here."
Sam doesn't know if he should be disturbed by the sight of Maya passing Ray Carling through the door or elated at the fact that she seems to despise him as much as Sam does.
Ray remains oblivious. He walks up to the electric kettle, takes it to the sink.
"Handful, is she?" he asks lightly, amiably.
Sam's hand tightens on his cup. "Don't believe it's any of your business."
"Easy, mate." Ray laughs as he turns on the faucet. "Know chocolate's hard to come by -- wouldn't take a pass 'less I had your go on it."
Sam turns. He stares at him.
"God," Sam says, "your dickery transcends time."
"Hey?" Ray replies, but Sam's already stormed out.
Sam doesn't go home in any sense of the word. It's more difficult than he'd hoped to fall back into the motions -- informational packets, PNC database, request forms, reply-all. He keeps getting stuck on things, re-reading paragraphs. Like he can't quite accept what's in front of him.
He nearly jumps when his phone rings. Internal caller ID -- "G.HUNT, DCI." Sam swallows and picks it up.
"Tyler," he answers.
"Hey, Sam. Assigning you to a body in Trafford -- just forwarded the briefing."
Sam refreshes his e-mail. "Yeah, I've got it."
"Get a team down there, the usual. Looks like B&E, cut-and-dry -- shouldn't take you off Humphreys too long."
God, it's even worse on the phone. The dryness, the clarity. The bloody professionalism.
"Yes, Guv. Body, Trafford. I'm on it."
Sam slams down the phone. Some part of him hopes his curt exit makes DCI Hunt storm over, ask him in cold modern terms who the hell he thinks he is.
But it doesn't. Sam grabs his coat.
Annie drives them to the crime scene. Sam thinks her company would be comforting if it weren't for her uncompromising outgoingness or the fact that she's fritzing between Depeche Mode and Arctic Monkeys on the radio. When she starts humming along to 'I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor,' Sam winces and shifts in his seat.
"Watch the road," he mumbles.
"I am!" Annie exclaims, almost cheerfully indignant. "You know I led last Health and Safety seminar."
"Yeah," Sam lies. He rubs his eyes.
Annie frowns. Her cheer subsides from her voice a bit. "Really, Sam, you... are you sure you're all right?"
Sam glances up. Worry makes her familiar and Sam lets out a breath at the thought of that, the realization of that.
"Not really," he says. "I just..."
"Are you nervous?" Annie asks. "Because of the accident? I could drive slower."
Sam goes cold. "What accident?"
"The accident. You..." Annie shakes her head. She's beginning to look and sound the same as she always does, hair and clothes notwithstanding. "I -- sorry. Shouldn't have brought it up."
"It's all right," Sam says. He watches her closely. "I'm not the only person in the world who's been hit by a car."
She smiles, just a bit. "No, suppose not."
Sam nods, then sinks back into the passenger seat. His thoughts swim. What the hell. What the hell does that mean?
His mobile buzzes. Sam frowns, pulls it out, sees a text from someone named "Jasmine." He flips it open.
Seriously. U ok?
Sam glances at Annie, who has focused one-hundred percent of her attention on driving. He texts back slowly, out-of-practice. Who is this?
He gets a reply before the next traffic signal.
Sam takes it as an exclamation instead of identification. Maybe. But before he can answer, they turn a corner and reach the cordoned area.
He doesn't recognize Chris at first, under the constable hat.
"You--" Sam blinks. "Skelton?"
"Hi, Boss." Chris grins, and the title shoots up to Sam's brain, Pavlovian, like suddenly he's back on a dusty street corner in 1973 with a Ford Cortina idling loudly behind him.
Except then a digital camera snap-beeps inside the crime scene and Annie orders another SOCO to check for visible GSR. Sam's gripping a lukewarm paper cup in his hand and Chris is wearing a uniform with reflective tape sewn to it.
"What are you doing out here?" Sam takes a swig of his hour-old, too-sweet coffee.
"Uh." Chris scratches his cheek. "Workin', Boss."
"You're..." Sam frowns. "You're a PC."
"Not much longer, 'opefully." Chris grins, and the sheer familiar honesty of it makes something in Sam hurt like glass. "Been studyin' for the exam like you told me -- checked out books and whatnot, been readin' up on forensics and crime theory and psycho... psycho-analogous, all that."
"Psychoanalysis," Sam mumbles.
"Yeah, that'un!" Chris clutches the memo pad in his hand, jots something down in his odd, secretive way, like Sam won't notice he's doing it right in front of him. "Psycho... an..."
Sam rubs a hand over his mouth. "Chris..."
Chris blinks up. "Yeah?"
"I--" Sam closes his eyes, shakes his head. "Nothing. You'll make a great DC."
"Really?" Chris laughs. "Cheers, Boss. Reckon fourth try will be the charm."
Sam's not sure why that does it, the conversation with Chris. He locks himself in a lavatory stall at the station, presses his hands to his face and cries into them. He feels stupid, immeasurably stupid. He has something he's ached for more than anything during the past long, horrible months, but it's fake, twisted. It's poison.
His mobile buzzes. Sam wipes away tears with one angry hand as he uses the other to tug it out.
Jasmine again. Coming round tonight, she says. Sam scowls and texts her back.
Prefer to be alone
She types back scary quick: No
Sam narrows his eyes at the message. It takes a second or two of recalibrating his mind to using a bloody menu, but he manages to access Jasmine's contact card and finds -- nothing. No surname, no alternate numbers, no e-mail address. Sam remembers being fastidious about all of that, and even more disturbing are the old messages in his received box.
Coffee shop, 1 hr
Did u want chinese?
Black tie, it suits you
See u at home
Sam doesn't need nor want to check the corresponding messages in his sent folder. He pinches the bridge of his nose. Okay, he's seeing someone. He'll be seeing her tonight. And she chats an awful lot with his coworkers, if she knows how he's been today. Brilliant.
His phone lights up with an actual call. Sam feels a surge of annoyance -- he'd forgotten what it was like, being tethered to a piece of plastic. He glances at the caller ID and winces, picks it up.
"Where are you?"
"Station." Sam grabs a wad of toilet paper, pats down his eyes one more time, then flushes it down. "Sorry, I'll be back at my desk now."
"Need you at the interdepartmental security meeting, five minutes."
Sam's hand tightens on the stall latch at the sound of the Guv saying 'interdepartmental'. "I -- yeah. Of course. Conference Room..."
"It's on your schedule."
"Clearly, you don't."
Gene hangs up. Sam thinks, with horrible weight, that he didn't want those cold modern terms after all.
The meeting is bland, repetitive, heavy-handed. CCTV analysis, GPS interception, IP tracking. With modern convenience comes Big Brother, Sam thinks dully. He keeps a memo pad open, jots a note here and there to look busy.
Maya sits next to him, the other Crime Squad representative. She taps her finger against the table, equally bored and quietly annoyed. Sam can't help but notice they're the only DIs sitting in for their DCI.
He finds comfort in that.
Maya doesn't. She makes this clear as she paces out of the conference room, checks her mobile.
"Haywood tried to call me," she mutters. "Probably has the test results I've been waiting for."
Sam shrugs. "Good."
"Not good." Maya narrows her eyes, flips her phone closed. "I'd have already rung five experts if I'd gotten this earlier, but because Gene insists he's 'busy'--"
"Oh." Sam grimaces. "God."
"You. Saying that name. Just--"
Maya scowls. "He's our DCI, whether we like it or not -- best get used to it."
"I know." Sam feels a heavy little shudder, right in his chest. "I have."
They walk in silence down the hall. Sam's surprised she doesn't break off from him immediately -- they must not be on such bad terms, then, at least when Maya doesn't think him completely mental.
"Hey," Sam says, "I'm sorry."
Maya sighs. "It was just a phone call, Sam."
"No, I mean..." Sam stops just before the entrance to the bullpen, turns toward her. "For... all of that, back then. For taking you for granted."
Maya's furrowed brow all but vanishes. She blinks back at him.
"That's..." She looks away. "I appreciate that."
I've never said it before, here, Sam thinks. I've never said it anywhere.
Maya glances around. "I'm sorry too, you know, for... after the accident."
Accident. Sam's jaw tightens. "What do you mean?"
"Knowing you needed someone and leaving anyway." Dull and simple. She bites her lip. "I know... it's been hard on you. What it did to you -- it... it'd be hard on anyone."
Sam looks back at her.
"I appreciate that," he says.
"You were a good DCI," she says straight out, hoarse. "You were bloody good, and you still could be, and they're bastards for not seeing it. The lot of them -- bastards."
Sam stands still as something dark pools up around his ankles. You were a good DCI.
Gene strides into their line of sight down the corridor of desks. Maya smiles at Sam, small, before she heads back in toward her work station.
Sam stands alone in the hallway. Gene makes eye contact.
"Tyler," he says. "My office."
It's Sam's office, technically. He should feel violated by Gene Hunt on a whole new existential level, but the only thing he can bring himself to glare at is the Man City emblem pinned to the corkboard. Otherwise, it's memos, bulletins, a few framed commendations. All white and grey and brown, all perfectly appropriate for the workspace. Sam thinks for a horrible moment that maybe he's not the one who had his life ripped away from him.
Gene sits at his desk, hands folded in front of him. "So," he says.
"So," Sam echoes, unhelpfully.
"You going to tell me what's going on?"
"Without the bollocks this time."
Sam feels a sudden jump in his stomach at the Guv cursing him from the other side of a desk, but it fades to nothing at the look on Gene's face, stony, cold as Sam's ever seen him. He's my boss, Sam thinks, not my mate.
That shouldn't hurt. That shouldn't fucking hurt.
"I'm fine," he says with deliberate clarity. As if that will make it more true. "A bit off, but -- it's not a problem, Guv."
Gene narrows his eyes. "'Guv.'"
Sam's mouth goes dry. "I was being facetious."
"Um." Sam scratches his neck. "Very facetious."
"'Tis a bitter day in Sam Tyler's world, then, is it?" Gene asks with a long exhale. He leans back in his seat, arms crossed over his front, and the familiarity of it, god--
"I..." Sam shakes his head. "No. My world's just fine."
"Right." Gene outstretches a hand over the desk, palm up. "Give me your notepad."
"Hey?" Sam blinks.
"Your little notepad," Gene says, with a touch of his usual patronizing quality. "Here."
Sam hesitates a moment before he frowns and reaches into his suitjacket pocket, yanks it out. He drops it into Gene's hand. "Gene, I really don't see--"
Gene opens it, flips through it. He gets to a page and stops.
"I'm sending you home," he says.
A familiar spark of indignant rage shoots up in Sam. He grits his teeth. "What the hell are you on about?"
"We had an agreement," Gene says, level.
"Agreement?" Sam sputters. "What 'agreement'--"
Gene turns the notepad toward Sam. Scribbles stare back at him -- words and crooked symbols spaced unevenly over the page, veering off the lines, variant in size, almost illegible.
Sam barely makes out the header. "SECURTY METTING." Today's date.
He breathes. "Oh god."
"I told you," Gene says, slow. "You report to me if you're not feeling well."
"Is that what they call it," Sam chokes.
"Take a few days, Sam. Get a scan, see your neurologist--"
"That's why they demoted me, isn't it?" Sam whispers. He remembers things from today -- the slow buttoning, the re-read paragraphs, the trouble using his phone. The way Gene had paired him up with Annie and then Maya, quietly; how he'd measured out too much sugar for coffee.
He'd barely started the Humphreys write-up. It had seemed hard.
"Sam," Gene says.
"I'm okay." Sam turns around. He pulls open the door. "I'm okay, I -- I'm going home now."
Gene's quiet a moment. "Take a cab," he offers.
"Yeah." Sam swallows. "Yeah, I will."
Sam tears his flat apart.
He finds little orange bottles on his bathroom shelves, a pile of textbooks and self-help guides under his bed. Too many dishes sit in the sink and when he thrusts open his cabinets, he finds objects out of order, haphazard, shoved out of sight.
The dog-eared book on his bedside table is marked up with pencil, words underlined. There's a dictionary tucked behind the headboard.
It would be easier if it were strange, he thinks. If he didn't feel himself, some version of himself, in the disarray hidden under the paper-thin veneer. He would do this, hide this. He would be desperate. He would be ashamed.
Sam sits down on his living room floor, back against the foot of his sofa. He draws one knee to his chest, curls an arm around it. He presses his other hand to his mouth.
He feels the same, but he can't tell if he is. He thinks he is, thinks of big words, simple arithmetic. Except he gets to times tables and loses his way around six and eight, and he can't remember, for the life of him, the lyrics to that one Bowie song.
He raises his eyes to his flatscreen, grey and dark.
"Talk to me," he says.
The flatscreen stays dead. He lets out a breath.
"I can't-- this can't be real."
Nothing. He closes his eyes.
Someone knocks at the door. Sam shoots up, stumbles.
The girl from the text messages. Must be. Except that knock--
Keys rattle in the lock. The door slams open.
Sam's mouth goes slack.
"No -- Father Christmas." He's got a black coat over the blue suit and tie, carries a plastic bag in one hand. He looks at the piles of objects strewn about the room and winces. "Oh, shit, Sam."
"You... how..." Sam points at the open door, then at him. "It -- what?"
"Said I'd come round." Gene bumps the door closed with a little kick, then strides through the open floor plan to the kitchen, and that -- that, Gene Hunt dropping his keys on the counter and yanking open Sam's modern 2007 fridge with modern 2007 comfort--
"Oh. God." Sam sinks into the couch. "Oh my god."
"What?" Gene crumples the emptied bag, then frowns at the windows on the opposite end of the room. He walks over and yanks the curtains closed, and that's it, nail in the coffin.
"Nothing." Sam slumps forward, presses his palms to his face. "Oh my god."
The curtains stop rustling. Sam hears footsteps get closer, then stop.
"Yes," Sam says into his hands. "Bad."
After a moment, he hears Gene shove off his coat and toss it over the couch's back. Sam feels the tremor in the cushions as he drops onto them.
Gene sighs. "Go on, then."
Sam pulls his hands from his face, keeps his eyes closed. "About how I've completely lost my mind?"
Gene snorts. "Not exactly news, is it?"
Sam grits his teeth. "You're awfully callous for a paramour."
"You're awfully stubborn for a DI." Gene reclines, raises an arm to rest it over the seatback. "Consider it just desserts for your sordid inter-office affair."
"Yes," Sam hisses back, "I see I'm the one worried about sordidness here."
Gene doesn't answer, and it's a second before Sam realizes it's a tense silence, that in blindly lashing out he hit a nerve worn raw.
"You're the one worried about losing your job," Gene finally says, with the same cold quality Sam had seen in him earlier. "Not certain how much weight I'd carry with the committee if I were stripped of my rank."
Sam looks down. He crosses his arms over his chest as his skin prickles.
"You've been lying to them. About my condition."
Gene drums his fingers on the seatback. "Can't exactly tell them dearly demoted DI Tyler thinks he's in Sweeney-land half the time, can I?"
Sam raises his head.
Gene shrugs. "'Course, you're better now. Most days you're better -- and you've learned to shut up about it when you aren't, so that's--"
"1973," Sam stutters, excited. "Are you talking about 1973?"
Gene stops. He bows his head, scratches his cheek. He doesn't answer for a while.
"Yeah," he says, almost in monotone. "1973."
Sam's brow creases. He looks away as rocks roil around in his gut.
"I'm sorry," he says. "God, I'm... I'm sorry--"
"It's not your fault," Gene mutters. He raises a hand to his breast pocket and then stops, lowers it again. He used to smoke, Sam thinks. He quit for someone.
Sam feels a weight on his back, solid and warm through the fabric of his shirt. Fingers splay out, slide up to his neck. A thumb brushes through the edge of his hair.
Pins and needles sweep down his spine. He might be shaking.
"Gene," he breathes.
"What?" Gene mumbles. His thumb dips into the little hollow at the back of Sam's neck, right where muscle meets bone.
Sam tightens his palm over his wrist. His knuckles go white.
"Nothing," he says.
Gene's thumb stops. After a second, he sighs.
"You don't remember anything, do you?"
Sam doesn't answer. Gene's hand goes limp, then drops from his neck.
Sam doesn't mean to turn. He doesn't mean to catch Gene's wrist and seize it, dig his fingers into the cuff of his sleeve, but he does, and he's stuck with it and with the lump in his throat as he stares back at the Guv, his Guv, same stubborn deadpan in the face of grave truth, same rock-steady authority. He's a bit more tidy, a bit more cool. But it's him.
"I remember plenty," Sam says.