FANDOM: Life on Mars
SUMMARY: Annie faces her fear.
RATING: White Cortina (yes, really)
WORD COUNT: 800 words
WARNINGS: for themes of suicide. Major spoilers for the end of 1.01
AUTHOR’S NOTES: Written for the 1973flashfic Fear Challenge. Unbeta'd, concrit welcome.
DISCLAIMER: Life on Mars is copyright Kudos and the BBC. All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.
Not A Coward
She runs up the stairs, not knowing what she is doing here. Not really. Intellect says that she's here to save a life and that's all there is. She's a copper. Not a good one. Female. And it's no job for a woman. But still, she's all there is at this time, now. She just hopes she doesn't screw this one up.
The job is something to hold on to. She doesn't trust in God. Not now. Her Dad dead of cancer in her final year at University. Her mother the same, barely twelve months later. Don't trust in God. Trust in yourself.
But she's terrified of heights. Always has been. An image, fifteen years old, surfaces in her mind, clear as crystal. Walking up Blackpool Tower with her parents. She had barely started to climb when the panic rose in her throat. Memories so vivid of racing down the steel steps, collapsing on the ground, only wanting to feel the unchanging reality of the ground beneath her flesh.
She's not walking now. She's dashing up those stairs. Lungs burning, muscles cramping. So scared of what she'll find when she reaches the top. Thoughts burst staccato in her mind. Flitting from one to the other, no pause for punctuation. If the roof is empty, she's too late. And, shockingly, she begins to wonder what she would prefer.
She blames only the vast quantity of imbibed wine that May morning on the bridge. That and the not caring for life or death. Achievement can do that sometimes, leaving you standing on top of the world and only one way down.
But now, now it's different. She's another woman. Oxford is so far away and this is no summer's dawn. No student's zest for life, but a battle against death.
She stumbles on the way up the stairs, heart and head pounding. Breath rasping in her throat as she holds on desperately to the object in her grasp. The sand burns against her hand, just like the sun-warmed sand back in Blackpool, and it grounds her slightly. There is no place for her fear here. This is just a job.
She moves ever upwards, pulling herself up the last few steps, bursting out of the door at the top, reaching for the steps that will take her onto the roof. They are open to the air and, feeling the panic welling up, she instinctively closes her eyes. She only reopens them as she steps over onto the roof. The vast empty sky blinds her for a moment and she freezes. Sam's figure is dark against that eternal blue. Poised on the edge, it seems to her that he's already gone.
"Sam? Come away from the edge."
That voice, so calm, so assured, seems to come from a million miles away. She almost turns to see who's speaking, but Sam turns to her now, smiling, and she realises that it was her.
Sam now speaks, but it's nonsense words. She knew he was cracked from the start, always knew he would try this. But she knows the trigger this time. Never mind that it could have happened in a million ways, time and space is fractured enough in her mind. So she responds with her own nonsense words. Placating.
"He's playing games with you. Just, look down."
And, dear God, he does. Her blood runs cold as he stumbles and falls, body turning over as it races to the ground. Her scream is so loud…
But Neil, down below where he promised he'd be, is still shouting and Annie realises that Sam hasn't fallen, but is standing there, one foot over the edge and as much as she realises that is real, she knows the nightmare is still only a split second away.
She swallows against her own fear, pushing up from deep within her. She drags it back down and steps under the railing. She can see over the edge now, if she looks down, so she keeps her eyes on Sam. But a feeling of euphoria bubbles up and runs through her veins. She is now standing on the edge and she is still alive. In that moment there is nothing she couldn't do. If she tried.
"We all feel like jumping sometimes, Sam. Only we don't. Me and you, because we're not cowards."
And Sam, Sam doesn't hear her. Still trapped in his head, he ignores her.
"Give me your hand."
And there's a single moment where she thinks that Sam is going to do it anyway and anger burns through her. How dare he refuse this? She has conquered her own fears for him and this is how he repays her?
But then, then Sam steps back. As he reaches for her hand Annie knows that everything is going to be all right.