PC Annie Cartwright was a good copper, and she knew it. She had her beat and a tidy flat she shared with Terri, who was a graduate student and kept hours stranger than Annie's.
Annie didn't have a real boyfriend, though, until Fred, who cooked and smiled. He had all their finances under control the day she moved in.
He wanted her under control: no friends, no nights out, just her and him forever and ever. Said she'd never be anything, she was lucky to have him.
She tried to move out in June 1990.
He stabbed her to death.
She thought it was some great wind-up that was going to end with Fred saying sorry. When she saw the cars in front of the station, lined up like a classic car parade, she fainted on the pavement.
Annie woke up in the women's department, an older women bending close over her face and frowning. "She's coming round," the woman said. "You with us, Miss Cartwright? Annie? Hello, love?"
"Yes," Annie said. Because she'd fainted, asking "Where am I? What year is this?" didn't seem odd.
"The Manchester police department. 1970, love."
It was impossible, but she soon forgot that.
Sam Tyler was the strangest man she'd ever met, and one of the best. She'd have been hard-pressed to choose between him, the Guv, and her dad.
He met her eyes from the start, and that was new-and-old like nothing had been since--
He made her laugh and he was brilliant, even if he was mad. He thought she was brilliant and made her show everyone until they believed in her.
It made her itch when he talked about his future, like it could be real but shouldn't be. Like there was something she should know, but that she'd lost.
"You're so lovely," Sam said to her once, and she frowned at him.
"I've got eyes, Sam Tyler. You may be off your nut, but you're not blind, and I know you're lying."
He shook his head a little, exasperated. "But you are, inside and out. The most beautiful girl I ever met. And the bravest."
Something in his phrasing reminded her of someone and gave her a horrible chill. She said, "Don't," and left, half running.
Annie avoided him for days after until he wrote her a note: "You are amazing. Forgive me for telling you the wrong way."
"Tell me about 2006," she said, when Sam had told her he was staying, when he'd proposed and they were planning a little wedding with no family and all coppers. She was ready for the itching; it would be a different kind of frustration from talking and waiting.
He frowned at her. "What do you mean, 2006?"
"You told me something about it once. A couple of times."
Sam laughed. "You're sure I didn't say 1984?"
"I hope not, no." Annie shivered and hugged him. "You don't remember?"
"No." Sam kissed her, and it was so very hard to stop.
Their first night together, she wore white even though it was a bit of a lie, and Sam told her she was beautiful in ways that only he would ever say it. They did it quick and desperate for all the waiting, then again, slow and gentle.
"That was the most amazing feeling," Sam said, panting.
Annie laughed. "Good to know I'm worth the trouble. Better than your Maya, then?"
"Who?" Sam said.
She stroked his hair. "Your girlfriend. Before you transferred."
"Oh. Yes, of course you're better." He sounded confused. "I barely remember her. But you're unforgettable."
Annie found some papers stuffed in one of Sam's books. She read them--manic, tiny, familiar scrawl. "Who's Tony Blair?"
"I don't know, love. Someone from a case, maybe?"
Annie frowned at the pages. "Says here someone's going to shoot John Lennon. D'you know when?"
"No. How terrible." Sam held out his hand with that quiet way he had of asking without shouting or demanding. "What is this, pub quiz of the damned?"
"Something you wrote when we first met."
He skimmed them. "I've forgot all of this nonsense. But not you. Never you." He burned the pages to ashes.
Sam said, "I have to," and there was a look in his eyes she hadn't seen in years, more mad than sane. "It's time. I'm sorry."
"I wish you wouldn't." There were a thousand things they hadn't done: no children, not in their jobs; no trip to Africa; no dying at ninety-three. "I'm not ready yet."
Sam kissed her, sweet and familiar as ever. "You'll know where I've gone, when you are, and how to find me."
They made love for days on end before he went, lazy and desperate by turns. "I'll miss you too much," she told him.
"Why did he have to go?" Gene asked her--not the Guv, not after everything they'd shared--looking as hollow-eyed as she felt.
"How should I know?" she shouted. "Why the hell don't you know?"
"He never said." He held her while she screamed, while she beat his chest with her fists, while she learned the burn of scotch that blurred the pain enough to bear. "I did my best to keep him."
"So did I."
He was on Sam's side of the bed when they woke up, naked, aching, and hungover.
"Oh, God," Annie said. "More. Please. Yes--yes."
Six months later, she was ready.
He shouted at her. But Annie had Sam's files, a photograph of the gravesite, and a map.
Gene went pale as a ghost, and Annie had to pour the scotch. "I reckon I'll go down the pub tomorrow," she said.
He held her tight in his glassed-in office. "You're free tonight, then?"
In the midst of it all, she wondered if he'd forget this, too, or remember it as a fling with WDI Tyler who disappeared just like the right Tyler.
She made it as good as she could without him.