Fandom: Torchwood/Life On Mars
Pairing: Alice Carter/Sam Tyler
Timeline/Spoilers: TW, after Children of Earth. LOM, S1
Notes: Unbeta'd. All comments, nitpicks & crit weclome
Disclaimer: Not mine. No profit, no foul.
Summary: Alice walks into a blue box with a stranger.
ETA: If you like this story, please check out the prequel written by edzel2 here -- it's the story of how Alice met the Doctor, and it is completely gorgeous.
Don't you just love how fandom can make these wonderful spirals of creativity? *snuggles fandom*
Alice walks into a blue box with a stranger because he has eyes that speak to her of loss, and because he says he'll take her somewhere far away. Somewhere that will have none of those constant reminders of Steven that have so very nearly broken her. Somewhere full of people who have no idea who she is, or what happened to her. To the world.
'They won't know me,' she says. 'They won't care.'
'No,' he agrees. 'They won't.'
It sounds wonderful. Insane, obviously, but wonderful. The stranger tells her that he knows her father, but she's sold on the idea now so she decides not to hold that against him.
Alice walks out of the blue box into the year 1973. It wasn't what she'd expected -- to the extent that she'd expected anything -- but it meets the promised criteria so she doesn't complain.
Behind her, the stranger and his box disappear. That, she had expected.
'Goodbye,' she says, anyway, to the empty air.
Alice builds herself a life in this place. It vaguely surprises her; that fact, but not enough to do anything about it. She'd thought about death enough, but suicide isn't in her. If she examined it closely enough she knows she'd find it's all about Jack -- savouring the promise of death because it's the one thing he can never have -- but she really doesn't need to. It's always been about Jack.
She works at a shelter for battered women, and is given advancement even though she doesn't seek it. The staff like her because she gets on with the job without protest or fuss. The girls like her because she doesn't pry or judge. She guesses her eyes probably speak to them about loss, too.
'My name is Alice Carter,' she tells them, 'and you're safe now.'
It's a lie, but she makes it convincing and she thinks they don't always know.
There are a lot of criminals but not many convictions. She doesn't blame anyone for that; the world is neither easy nor fair. She doesn't blame the women who go back, or the ones who don't leave. She ran, herself, (like father like daughter) but that doesn't suit everyone. And it's harder, for these girls. The expectation of equality is almost forty years away from being as ingrained for them as it is for her. She doesn't try to push them faster than they can cope with. She tries to work out what they need, and do her best to provide it. Optimism, understanding, hope, commiseration, the comforting hand of someone who knows how it is to be fucked over.
Sometimes she tells them it's okay to go to the police, sometimes that it's okay not to. She tries to do what's right for the individual, for that particular woman, and fuck the rest. Society will just have to look out for itself, and not demand sacrifices from anyone.
'It's your choice,' she says. 'You don't have to do anything other than look after yourself. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.'
(It's not about Jack, it's just about her and her girls, about using this time that she stubbornly refuses to give up to do something worthwhile. Fuck Jack, this is her thing. Hers.)
(And yes, she knows that's bullshit.)
Manchester CID get involved on the big ones, the ones that go into meltdown and end in blood. The one in charge is a good man once you scrape out the environmental chauvinism from under his nails. She likes him instinctively, and backs away for the same reason. He can love, this Gene, it's clear to see, but there's steel in him, that cold core of leadership and responsibility that makes a person capable of doing what needs to be done.
Scrape away the good man and you'll find the soul of a cowboy, a wild west lawman who lives by the gun. A hero.
She's had enough of those.
(And really, the number of her girls who run away from home just to wind up in the arms of daddy all over again, it's beyond ridiculous. She's Jack's creation, yes, she's given up on changing that, but she won't be his lover. She can refuse that, at least.)
They have trouble, every now and then. The shelter is supposed to be both secret and secure, but information can always be bought if you know the right price. There's a particular girl, Abby, twenty-two but she looks like a child, a broken doll. She was released to them from the hospital with her ribs taped and her face black, and it's still not over. She's practically still bleeding and he comes for her anyway.
Alice wakes up blearily and reaches for a mobile phone that no longer exists (yet) but CID were tipped off and there's been a Ford Cortina parked across the street all night. There's a scuffle, and to Alice's twenty-first century eyes, use of excessive force.
'Me, DCI Hunt,' Abby's boyfriend is advised. 'You, bad guy. This, my fist.'
It's an unorthodox interpretation of his rights, but Alice offers no objection.
She thinks she might also offer no objection if DCI Hunt demanded to fuck her, but he doesn't. On balance, she thinks that's probably a good thing.
The other one, the second-in-command, is quieter. Less forceful, less brash, although just as committed. There's a distance about him, a reserve, that also appeals. He treats her with respect, acts like he knows she has a brain as well as a set of tits. It's as refreshing as it is welcome.
She likes him too, this Sam, but he doesn't scare her as much. There's something off, something fundamentally wrong, about him, and that gives her a sense of familiarity, of comfort. Sam Tyler isn't going to be interested in saving her, in fixing her. He has enough issues of his own to worry about. She likes that.
She allows herself coffee, a quick drink. Nothing in it, not like that, just two professionals networking. She says something along those lines and he agrees with a ready smile. It's the first time she realises exactly what it is that's wrong about Sam Tyler, why he doesn't seem to fit.
'Was it a man in a blue box?' she asks, but he seems genuinely confused by the question.
'Did you vote for Tony Blair?' she tries, and he makes a good job of repeating the puzzlement. But not quite good enough.
'Did you believe Saddam had weapons of mass destruction?' she goes on. 'Do you remember where you were when the Twin Towers went down? When you heard that Princess Diana was dead? Did you buy the Band Aid single?'
She starts singing 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' until his hand clamps over her mouth. His palm is hot and smells of the packet of peanuts they'd shared. She licks it, tasting salt, and he quickly moves it away.
'I'm sorry,' they both say in unison.
'Who are you?' he asks.
She shrugs. 'Alice Carter. You?'
'Sam Tyler.' He blinks at her, and then they both laugh in unison, too.
He doesn't think she's real.
She doesn't take it personally; he doesn't think anything's real.
He was in a road accident in 2006, and then he woke up here. No blue boxes, no choices. No tragedy, other than the obvious. He believes he's in a coma in reality, and dreaming this entire world.
Of course, it's entirely possible that he's right.
They share decades of information and cultural references that nobody else does, but what does that necessarily mean? If he's dreaming her, doesn't it follow that she would know what he knows? And although she has another three years of Barack Obama and banking collapses and Megan Fox, how does she know these aren't all his inventions too?
Maybe she really is nothing but a projection of his subconscious, just a representation of some of his own personal issues. His anima, her university course in Jungian psychology suggests.
Maybe her world, her life -- Steven, Jack, the 456 - was just a chapter in his dream. Maybe none of it was ever real.
'I'm sorry,' he keeps saying, but she waves his apologies away.
She really quite likes the idea.
DCI Hunt is abusive to both of them, when they formally become a couple. Alice briefly wonders what it would make Gene if this is her dream rather than Sam's, but then decides she'd rather not know.
He takes her out on the pretext of vetting her for official Police Girlfriend status, and tells her that Sam doesn't love her.
'He's a decent enough bloke, don't get me wrong,' he says. 'And a bloody good copper, although you'd have to drag me by the balls over hot coals to make me admit that I said it. But he's not all there, love. Not right in the head, if you know what I'm saying. He won't look out for you, not like he should. There's too much other shit rattling around in his brain.'
She smiles, and nods, and squeezes his hand in thanks.
And tells him to fuck off, because if she doesn't need a hero, then she needs a father figure even less.
Sam doesn't love her, no. He's too damaged. Too much emotional scarring, too many long shadows, too many daddy issues.
Alice doesn't see why that should be a problem. Isn't it supposed to be a good thing, to have a lot in common with your partner?
'Haven't you ever tried to get home?' he asks her, one night in the dark. 'Isn't there anything... anyone... you still think about? That you miss?'
'No,' she says, and rests her head on his chest.
It might be a relationship -- maybe even a world -- founded on lies, but Alice can live with that. It's what she knows best, after all.