Title: Ever After
Word Count: 530 words.
Rating: White Cortina (with a possible greenish tinge)
Pairings: Hints of Sam/Annie (this challenge has inspired a lot of Sam/Annie fic!)
Summary: Sam wakes up in a hospital bed...
“I … died.”
Annie carefully smoothed an imaginary crease out of Sam’s hospital blanket. “Well you nearly died,” she said. “You gave us a scare, did you know that, Sam Tyler? You stood up at your desk all of a sudden, and covered your ears,”—Annie demonstrated, “and just—fell down. You should have seen it in C.I.D.—all those big tough men panicking like headless chickens.” She sat thoughtfully for a moment, then went on, “When we got you to the hospital, they told us your heart had stopped for nearly thirty seconds. We thought we’d lost you.”
Sam squeezed his eyes shut briefly. When he opened them he said, “No. I didn’t die here, Annie. I died in 2006. I felt myself die.” He paused, as if he had suddenly realised what he had said. “I felt myself die,” he repeated in wonderment.
—He had felt himself cut free, suddenly, adrift, floating in a void where nothing and no-one seemed to matter very much. From a distance he heard someone, somewhere, crying…
Annie took his hand in hers. “Oh, Sam.” Her voice was sorrowful. “Don’t you understand? This is real.” She grasped his fingers more tightly, as if to underline her point. “I’m real. You have a life, people who care about you—”
“Oh, I know this isn’t the afterlife,” Sam quipped. “It’s far too brown for a start. He smiled, fleetingly, before becoming serious again. “I saw myself lying there…”
—Two bodies, both his. With the sense of detachment Sam had experienced before, he noted that one lay on the shabby brown floor of C.I.D., the other on a hospital bed, enmeshed in all the tubes and wires of modern medical technology. Sam saw Annie fall on her knees beside the body on the floor, as white-coated medical technicians scrambled around the body on the bed.
Somehow he knew he had to make a choice…
Annie looked guilty and reached out as if to brush a stray hair from Sam’s forehead. “It must have been so difficult,” she said tenderly. “I didn’t—we didn’t know—” She hesitated, then went on. “But you don’t have to be afraid anymore. You know what the doctors said.”
Sam nodded. They had found, they said, a hairline fracture in his skull. (Gene had visited later, and scattering ash everywhere, remarked that he’d always known Sam was cracked.) They said that the fracture had probably been there for months—ever since his “accident” in fact. They had said that the pressure on his brain would have caused confusion, headaches, hallucinations. In other words, they had offered a perfectly rational explanation for everything he had experienced since arriving in this place.
Except it wasn’t true.
”Hold on, Sammy-Lad!” “Where the hell is that equipment?”
But Annie was looking at him hopefully, so Sam made himself smile at her. “Don’t worry about me,” he said, sounding somewhat wistful. “I know where I am now. No more ‘funny stuff’, and no more seeing things.”
Taking Annie’s hand in his, he continued, “So it looks like you’ll be stuck with me, Annie Cartwright. Do you think you can handle it?”