The genesis of this fic is probably like the genesis of every other "Sam Tyler is the Master" fic, namely that they are both played by John Simm,
I had a hell of a time finishing the damn thing, though. I wrote the first half before I [a] watched the second season of Life on Mars and [b] did my "what have other people already written?" research, whereupon I discovered that everyone who'd written a fic of this sort had come to the same conclusion I had, namely that Sam Tyler was going to open his chameleon arch and 1973 was basically screwed.
Then I watched the second season of Life on Mars and everything became clear to me.
The title is fairly obvious and not terribly clever, but I'm proud of it anyway.
It starts very simply: a late-night nervous tick. Sam is looking over the reports Chris gave him, and he uncaps his pen. Click. Recaps it. Click. Click-click. Click-click. He frowns and reshuffles the papers and tries very hard to not think critically of Phyllis' handwriting. Click-click-click-click.
Something I actually do with those clicky pens. It's very difficult to get a four-click rhythm out of them, though, which I discovered during my brief phase over the summer where I was tapping the drumbeat out on pretty much everything I could find. Good times.
Sometimes Sam Tyler goes for days at a time without hearing anything from his other life. Sometimes it makes him wary; what if they've given up? What if he's given up? Sometimes it gives him an overwhelming, slightly guilty sense of relief; maybe he really is just mad, and getting better. And then something will happen: he'll see a shop or a face he hasn't seen for thirty years, and everything will jolt horribly sideways again. He'll hear the beep of a heart monitor, someone on the radio will give their opinion of Sam Tyler's physical state, and he'll think Coma, coma, I'll wake up soon, I have to.
"Sam," the little girl from the television test card says.
Here is where I confess that the test card girl scares the hell out of me, and both times I've seen the very last LoM episode she's more or less given me a heart attack. I hate her and she's a really brilliant addition to the show, because-- obviously it has a nightmare quality for Sam but that feeling would be so much less vivid if a little girl with a clown didn't sometimes show up in the middle of the night.
He's gotten good at not placing things in the wrong era, saying This last happened about now or This will be my flat. Annie doesn't give him quite so many worried looks; he's alive, he's living, he's human, he's here. Sam never tells her about the test card girl. The girl is the one small terrible thing that doesn't fit this paradigm; not from the past, not from the future, just from the never-ending now in Sam's head.
That particular line would be the reason I think Sam-is-the-Master can work as a concept. Sam as a person is weirdly adrift and the only really real thing to him is the inside of his own head. At some fundamental level that's true of the Master too, although in the Master's case it's sociopathic rather than merely psychological.
He's never tried to touch her, to catch her, to make her stop, because he knows if he sees his hand go through her, something in his head will really snap.
And here's direct evidence that this half of the fic was written before I'd seen s2 LoM, because "Sam never touches the test card girl" is blatantly untrue. In the IRA episode second season he touches one of her matches in the red-wire-yellow-wire game. Bang! Oh dear, Sam. You're dead.
He tells himself he's sleeping.
"The time is now," the little girl says. "The time is always now. Are you still scared?"
"The time is now" is Tim Latimer's line. It just seemed especially fitting.
"Yes," Sam says.
"It won't work until you learn to stop running," the little girl says.
Sam wakes up and the telly's playing some band, grainy and unreal. He rolls over, squeezing his eyes shut, face in his pillow, and listens to the thumping bass beat. It sounds familiar and Sam just knows that this is going to be one of those days where Gene will shove him into a wall and he'll damn well shove right back.
I don't know if I actually conveyed it very well, but said thumping bass beat would be the drumbeat, which means Sam-the-Master is cued to it, itching to destroy something.
On a morning like any other he's walking to the station and passes a man on the street and stops dead. Sam has become very good at this too: finding things out of place, not as a DI but as a man completely out of his depth. He stops and turns and there the man is, still standing there, watching him steady and calm and unreadable, and it only takes Sam a moment to pinpoint the subtle wrongness. It's not the man's close-tailored brown pinstripe suit, and definitely not the trenchcoat; it's the trainers. They're Converse.
As I was writing this, two things occurred to me. First, Ten's outfit would probably blend into the 70s a lot easier than, say, any of the old school Doctors' would. Second, I had no idea how long Converse had been in production, and even after taking a wiki tour and making sure the Doctor's trainers would have been fairly anachronistic, Converse were being made in the 70s. Sam wouldn't necessarily have known it, though, and I doubt anyone at the station would have worn them.
Well, except maybe Chris.
"Your shoes," Sam says.
The man looks down at them and grins back up at Sam. "Do you like them?"
"Converse aren't made in 1973," Sam says. "Not designed like that."
"Aren't they?" The man frowns. "No, I suppose they're not. Oh dear. Well, they're just a cheap knockoff anyway. Had them in my wardrobe for ages."
"Would that be the same one that leads to Narnia?" Sam asks.
I don't know if Sam Tyler is necessarily the sort of boy who would have grown up on Lewis, but the above is still one of the few lines in this fic I feel is absolutely pitch-perfect.
"No, no, that's a different wardrobe," the man says. "Good eye, though."
He turns and walks away. Sam yells, "Wait!" but he has to get to work, and he can't arrest the man just for wearing anachronistic shoes, and more importantly he's more than a little afraid he's calling after something that isn't even there.
Sam dreams he's Prime Minister.
"That's a good change then, isn't it?" Annie says when he tells her over lunch. She points a chip at him in emphasis. "Those are normal dreams, Sam."
"I promise you I will never go into politics," Sam assures her.
"But it went so well last time," the test card girl tells him that night, and Sam falls out of bed from shock. She's gone when he looks back up, but he can't stop shaking.
Something I really loved about Human Nature and Utopia was the fact that when they were humans, the Doctor was sort of a douchebag and the Master became a brilliant cuddly old man; the Professor clearly > John Smith. John Smith was frightened of the Doctor because of his distance and alienness and magnitude, but I think any human version of the Master would be able to accept those things; it would be the atrocities that would frighten him. So if Sam was to dream of the Master, it would be of a woman with a vapid smile and blank eyes, of wearing a gas mask while the Cabinet choked to death around him, of smiling at a camera while the sky blazed. And at some level here the test card girl stands in for the Master herself: it went so well, Sam, don't you miss it?
In the morning the radio tells him his brain activity has increased by eight percent, and that it's a very good sign. Gene assigns him a case that takes him first all over the city and then into the archives along with Chris. Shuffling through old reports, Sam comes across one that reads I have every confidence that my aims can be achieved, because I believe that this is a great nation made up of great people. This is a belief that I have found lacking among my peers: I was perhaps born out of step with these cynical times.
That passage is taken directly from the mission statement on the Beeb's Vote Saxon website. It was just so stunningly appropriate, both because it sounds very faintly sinister and because of the obvious delight the Master is taking in the ironic value of that final sentence, so much that I feel a certain delight in its ironic value in the context of the fic.
"Chris," Sam says, passing the sheet to him, "what the hell is this?"
Chris stares at it for a moment. "Dunno how blank paper got in the files, Boss," he says, crumpling it, and tosses it carelessly behind him.
He dreams that Maya is inside a metal sphere, a Death Star the size of a football. "You've left me," she says. "You've left me alone in the dark and the cold. How could you, Harry?"
This is where I confess I feel deeply uncomfortable smooshing Maya Roy and Lucy Saxon into one person. They do fill essentially the same role in Sam-the-Master's life, though.
I like the idea of the Toclafane as being football-sized Death Stars.
When Sam wakes up for a moment he can't remember his name.
"Sam," Annie says that day. "Sam?" She hands him the obituaries in the paper and says, "I think you should read this."
"What?" he asks.
She points to the column.
Sam Tyler, it reads; died in hospital last night, four years old. "I don't understand," Sam says. "I didn't. I just had mumps. Then I was fine."
"There's more than one Sam Tyler in the world," Annie says gently, taking the paper from him.
"But me mum," Sam says. "She'll be devastated, Annie."
"She's not your mum, Sam," Annie says, even more gently. Her face is open and honest and worried, and for a fleeting terrible moment Sam hates her.
When I was trying to work out what would happen in this fic, the first thing that came into my head was, Nothing can happen unless Sam realizes that something about this world is a lie. Killing baby Sam Tyler is a much more effective way to knock all the essential supports from under him than having Morgan turn up and blather about Sam's parents' graves; that renders the world nonsensical too, but when you yourself die, it's not a case of your worldview being shattered, it's the whole world, because it means you can't possibly be you.
He walks home that night angrily hitting out a quick four-beat rhythm, open palm against his thigh. He remembers his dad leaving, the whirl of red that was Annie's dress. He remembers the treacle tart his mum would give him whenever he felt down. He remembers his father whistling, his mother's kisses goodnight. It's real. He remembers going to school; he remembers lessons, knees scraped, equations solved. He remembers wanting to be a policeman. He remembers his best mate, a boy named John-- wanted to be a scientist, always kept a notebook on him, messed about with old cars and rubbish.
Say hello to the cameo of Gallifreyan student!One. I see him as being a very serious and dissatisfied child, and possibly slightly in awe of the Master, who thinks everything is a grand old lark and does it with flair. This would be me mashing up Delgado and Simm to create One!Master, though, and it's not as though I'm ever going to use this personal canon anywhere. But it's still fun to have in my head.
He remembers joining the force at nineteen. He remembers his first DCI. He remembers the eighties and the nineties and all the comfortable electronic amenities of modern policing.
He crashes into a man walking the other way, stumbles back, and sees that it's the suit-and-Converse bloke.
Time Lords have a tendency to be so absent-minded as to have literal collisions. Possibly that is one of the reasons I am fond of them.
"I'm real!" Sam tells him, fierce and angry.
"So you are," the man says mildly.
It occurs to Sam belatedly that his shoulder's throbbing faintly from running into the man. "You're real too!"
"That's a relief," the man says. He's wearing rectangular glasses tonight.
"Sorry," Sam says. "Sorry. I'm not mad, either. Sorry to bother you."
He goes on as swiftly as possible.
"You need to stop running, Sam," the test card girl tells him.
"Harry," Sam says to her. "Who's Harry?"
She tucks her clown matter-of-factly under her arm and laces her chubby little hands in front of her as though to give a recitation. "Two almighty civilizations," she says, clear and precise, "burning."
Sam wakes up shaking so hard his teeth hurt.
That's frightening to Sam for two reasons. First, it's his own line, and like the rest of the phone
He can't bring himself to stop by his own house and pay his condolences, because that would make it real. He writes his mother a card and drops it in the post. Annie treads very carefully around him; Sam wants to stop her in the hall and say Prove to me I'm real. Gene acts exactly the same as he always does, and Sam doesn't need to ask anything; Gene just grabs his collar and shoves him into the wall and Sam's winded and his ribs ache and he shoves back at Gene and knows he's real. He'll never tell Gene he's grateful because he doesn't need to.
And there's the paragraph where I reveal I ship Sam/Gene really hard. Sam can use Annie as his therapist all he likes, but as his therapist the poor girl is going to conclude that he's a bit nuts. Gene just doesn't fucking put up with Sam's crazy bullshit and that does way, way more to keep Sam grounded than a thousand talks with Annie.
"What's wrong?" Nelson asks him when he stops by the Railway Arms. Nelson can always tell when the world is too much with Sam, and even if he doesn't understand what's bothering Sam, he can usually give decent, or at least decent-sounding, advice.
"I don't know what's real anymore, Nelson," Sam says, accepting the glass Nelson hands him. "Even less than usual. A little boy with my name has died."
"Ah, the innocent," Nelson says. "That's always the worst tragedy."
Sam leaves it at that.
I'm not entirely sure why the Nelson section is there, except I feel it's not really a Life on Mars fic without Nelson turning up somewhere. Nelson is ambiance rather than substance and possibly I should have cut that section altogether.
He doesn't have anyone to talk to. He turns on his police radio in the middle of the night just to hear it crackle, and says into it, "I'm still here," but no one answers, which is just as well; Phyllis would only demand to know why he was bothering her at all hours of the night.
One of the last paragraphs I wrote before seeing second season; which is funny, because there is a scene in second season where Sam attempts to communicate with Maya via a police radio and Phyllis goes, uh, DI Tyler, stop dicking around with the police radios.
Annie walks him home one evening to be friendly. She helps him cook dinner, smiling at him sideways, eyes wide, face as sweet as ever. Help me, Sam thinks. "Annie," he says, and she looks up at him. I'm hearing drums, Sam thinks. "Pass me the basil, please," he says.
I have since been informed that I had the feel of 1970s Manchester down perfectly except for the basil, which apparently was an extinct plant in that time and place, with only pathetic dried flecks of it in grocery stores. Of course Sam would only cook with fresh, so that line should probably read "pass the tomatoes" or something.
They eat together and go over the case in which Sam's currently embroiled, and Annie looks so pleased to see Sam acting normally. Sam taps an absent four-beat rhythm against his glass of water and doesn't try to disillusion her.
The longer he stays, the easier it is to watch Gene interrogate a suspect without flinching. Months ago Sam would have thought of procedure and discipline and upholding the law and never, ever treating a suspect the way the Guv does. Now that he's used to Gene, used to 1973, he doesn't have an excuse for the horrible yawning in the pit of his stomach when he watches Gene punch someone in the gut. His heart pounds hard enough to do the work of two and he's becoming so damn sick of being the one to hold back, the one on the moral high ground.
He holds back anyway, because he knows what happens when-- if he doesn't.
Again I reveal my obsession with Time Lords having two hearts. I love it to pieces and shove it into any Who fic I can with no regard for necessity.
This would also be one of the first hints that Sam's awareness of himself as the Master is nearer to the surface than perhaps it should be. When-- if is absolutely a conscious correction of his own thoughts.
One grey morning it's pouring buckets and Sam is drenched to the skin the moment he leaves his flat; his boots splash in puddles with every step, the rain slicks off his leather jacket, water drips off the ends of his sopping hair into his eyes. Sam stops on a street corner and squints up at the leaden sky. "If this is my fantasy," he tells the sky, "it doesn't need to be quite so symbolic, thanks. I'd like a bit of sun, please."
Another of those lines I am proud of because I can hear Sam saying it.
"But it's not," someone says.
Sam whirls, the cold chain of his St. Christopher digging into his collarbone. There, leaning against a doorway, completely dry, out of his trenchcoat today, is the Converse man. "Not what?" Sam asks.
"Your fantasy," the man says.
"Oh, good, do you often talk to nutters on the street?" Sam demands. One hand taps out an irritable soggy rhythm against his thigh.
The man's gaze follows Sam's hand for a moment. "Yeah, quite often," he agrees, and he looks back up at Sam's face. "But you're not a nutter, Sam Tyler."
Does the Doctor ever talk to crazy people? I don't actually know. Possibly he does and we the audience don't actually notice because the Doctor can switch his brain right over to the way they're thinking and somehow the conversation comes out making sense. I like the idea, anyway.
The rain beats down upon his head. A car swishes by on the road behind him. Sam feels the hollow thumping of his single heart and feels water sliding down his palms and off his fingertips. For a moment his voice sticks. "How do you know my name?"
I think if I had to choose one paragraph in this whole fic to not change a word of, it would be that one. That is exactly what I want to say.
A second's hesitation and then man's pushing himself away from the doorway and out into the street. Sam has a fleeting wild supposition that the man will stay perfectly dry, but no, in an instant he's as soaking wet as Sam, although he doesn't look bothered with it. "I'll walk you to the station," he says.
I like the small things that remind us the Doctor's not a god. He may not be human or mortal but he gets sopping wet in the rain just like the rest of us.
Feeling it best not to argue, Sam turns and continues walking. The man walks beside him in silence. Inexplicably, Sam feels just as he does around Gene: every nerve tense, ready for a punch-up, ready with some caustic words to defend himself against an unstoppable force.
Look at me, obliquely sneaking Sam/Gene and Doctor/Master into the same sentence! They both trigger the same fight-or-... fight response in Sam-the-Master, anyway, although I wouldn't go so far as to suggest they serve the same purpose. The idea of Gene the Time Lord strikes fear into my heart
"This is," Sam says. "This is mad."
"No," the man says, almost unintelligibly quieter than the rain. "This is saner than you've been in a while."
"That's good, then," Sam says. "I keep hearing hospital noises, the telly talks directly to me, half the time I can't remember my own name, and I can't stop the drumming. You're either a-- a figment, or you've been following me and now you're winding me up." He stops and turns to glare at the man. "Is that it? Is that what this is about?"
I think this fic has to take place at some indeterminate time roundabouts the middle of s2 LoM. It's ridiculous and there's nothing I can do about it but all the same I feel like giving Sam the drumming is almost cheating, because I feel I should be able to make Sam the Master by just working in all the stuff from the show. But hospital noises do not the drumbeat make, and what can you do. It's just another of Sam's hallucinatory sounds.
The man looks back at him. They're close enough that Sam can see, under the water droplets, a smattering of freckles across the man's cheeks. That's funny. He didn't used to have freckles.
I may also be a little obsessed with Ten's freckles. They charm me and thus I dwell on them.
"You refused," the man says, as though he hasn't heard Sam's question. "You said you'd rather be human again than come with me."
"What?" Sam says.
The man ignores this too. "I still had my chameleon arch, anyway, but I didn't have the fob watch anymore, so we had to make do with that little medallion thing you're wearing."
Sam glances down at his St. Christopher in bewilderment. "What?"
It's as good an explanation as any, and since there is a surprising lack of clock imagery in LoM (aside from the one episode with the hostage situation and the 2:00 deadline) and since Sam wears that silly medallion all the time, I figured using the St. Christopher would be better than using a fob watch.
This also gave me an excuse to use that "What?!" tic New Who likes so much.
"Maybe you thought if you became human I'd let you live out your little human life in peace," the man says, "and somewhere along the way, someone would call your attention to it, and you'd be yourself again, but without me around. But I'm not giving up on you this easily."
The Doctor's here to save him. I'm not sure if I actually believe Ten would be... sane enough to let Sam live out his little human life in peace, but for the sake of the fic, yes.
This is the part, Sam knows, where he's supposed to realise the man is quite mad and politely excuse himself and bolt. Instead he just stands there, shivering a little in the rain. "But," he says hoarsely.
"You went for 2006," the man says. "Maybe you were hoping you'd run into yourself. Well, I couldn't have that, and the TARDIS chose 1973. Some damage had already been done, though; your mind was all set for twenty-first century law enforcement. We had to take the memories of a little boy who died in 1973 to give you a backstory you wouldn't just rip right through like tissues. And it still gave you trouble, didn't it?"
In the cold and damp, Sam's mouth is still somehow terribly dry. "Sam Tyler died," he whispers. "Last week. It was in the papers."
"Yes," the man says, and stares up at the sky. "You're not Sam Tyler."
Sam looks around and sits down on a rain-drenched nameless doorstep. "Then tell me," he says, "who am I?"
The man hesitates, then sits down next to him, legs stretched out ridiculously long. His incongruous trainers are red today.
The red Converse are my favourite. That he wears them with my least favourite blue suit saddens me. I should probably also be saddened that I actually care about Ten's wardrobe.
"What do you remember?" he asks gently.
"Me mum," Sam says. "And me dad. School. Football matches. My best mate. Joining the force. Maya."
"Your best mate?" the man asks.
"John," Sam says. "John Smith." He stares out at the small rivers of water pouring over cobbles into the gutters. "Loved science. Carried a notebook around. We were in the same chapter--"
"Both Prydonian," the man says softly. "And you both finished your work so quickly. You were top of the class and he--"
"Copied off me," Sam says, starting to grin.
"But you let him," the man says, "because you knew he thought school was just--"
"A lot of bollocks brainwashing," Sam says, and runs a hand over his cold damp face.
I love this exchange, if only because I love the way the Doctor and the Master have this capacity to riff off each other, even when the Master's human.
He remembers his father whistling, his mother's kisses goodnight. He remembers his parents saying goodbye on his eighth birthday. He remembers standing in the uncomfortable dark robes of a new pupil and staring into the whirl of forever. It's real. He remembers going to school; he remembers lessons, knees scraped, equations solved. He remembers finishing his work early in the day and shoving his tablet of answers at his best mate, whose name was not John Smith, and lying back in the grass, staring up nearly into the suns, and hoping to reach forever one day.
I like the idea that Vic and Ruth Tyler are sort of shadow-copies of the Master's actual parents. I also like the idea that the Academy on Gallifrey is like any English school, but I think that is pretty much actually Who canon.
Sam Tyler shudders. "Doctor," he says.
"Yes," the Doctor says. "Come back with me, Sam."
"That's not my name," Sam Tyler snarls.
That is the one instance in this fic wherein Sam is absolutely 100% the Master. "Sam Tyler" is used very deliberately there.
"Sam," the Doctor says.
The Doctor isn't Gene; that's the only reason Sam stays where he is, hands clenched together white-knuckled, instead of standing and slamming the Doctor into the nearest convenient wall. "So this is real," he says. "I'm not mad. I'm not in a coma. Back in time depends on the starting point."
"Yes," the Doctor says.
And Sam remembers, in flickering fragments: the metal spheres, the coming darkness, kissing Maya, kissing Lucy, the Doctor whispering forgiveness as though he has the right. "What sort of man am I?" he asks hoarsely.
"Open that medallion," the Doctor murmurs.
Does the Doctor think he is being kind not to tell him? Does the Doctor honestly believe that the Master's stint as Sam Tyler will have made him a better person? Yes and yes! Is the Doctor totally wrong on all counts? Probably.
Sam pulls the St. Christopher out from under his shirt and stares at it. It's small and flat as a coin, and glints a little, wet with rainwater. Drums pound in the back of his skull and he can hear the hospital monitors beeping; go on, Sammy, his mum whispers, and something outside all the mad noise is trying to claw its way from his chest towards the light. The definitive step, his own voice murmurs, a little mocking inside his head, not at all his own.
Reminiscent of the Professor and open me, you human fool, open me and receive my majesty. Except this time is the first Sam has heard it directly; it's usually the test card girl, or the man on the tv or the radio or the doctor talking over the beeping monitors.
"What sort of man am I?" Sam Tyler repeats, with an edge of fury.
The Doctor says nothing.
It doesn't occur to Sam that this man might be lying. It's the truth: Gene is real, and Annie is real, Chris and Ray are real, the Guv's Cortina is real, Nelson and all the people he's met are real; it's Maya, the hospital, those are the fake things. Sam has finally found something that fits-- isn't safer, isn't nicer, isn't saner-- but fits, and Sam knows it in his gut.
That's when you have to make snap decisions, quick, like this.
I remember I got a few comments on this fic to the tune of "wow, Sam decides very quickly to believe the Doctor". Possibly, but I hope I set it up better than that. It's not like Morgan and the revelation that his parents are dead; this is the revelation that he isn't real; the constructed world is the real one, the real one the constructed, and he has memories that fit. If this was Sam Tyler it might be abrupt, but I hope that since it is Sam-the-Master it is less so.
"What happens if I don't?" Sam asks, staring down at the silver glint in his hand and blinking water out of his eyes.
"You stay here," the Doctor says, "and grow older, or-- or die in the line of duty. You can probably learn to block out the noises you know aren't real. Maybe one day you'll learn to block out the drums, too. And I'll stop by. You can always change your mind."
"But I won't," Sam says. "I don't know if Sam Tyler's any better than your friend, but I know what to do here, even if it's-- primitive, and mad. I can't leave Gene and Annie, not if they're all I've got."
You've got me, the Doctor thinks, but doesn't say, because if the Master is choosing, literally choosing to stay here and be Sam Tyler, who is undeniably a good person, he has to accept that.
He doesn't look at the Doctor because he knows he's being a coward. Choosing the safe, choosing the known: still scared, still running. Choosing Gene and Annie over this man. 1973 is still the illusory life.
When he looks up, the Doctor's gone.
He tucks the St. Christopher back into his shirt and goes into the station. Phyllis tells him off for dripping on her floors, Gene compares him unfavourably to a drowned rat, Chris fetches Sam some coffee and a ratty towel along with the reports, and Annie advises him to invest in an umbrella, because the jacket alone obviously doesn't do the trick. He laughs and invites Annie out to a movie, thanks Chris for the coffee, and reads the reports, tapping out an absent rhythm against the desk. If there's nothing to fight, he wonders, why does he want to keep fighting? He compliments Phyllis at lunch and apologises again for getting the floors so wet, and in the middle of his chips Gene comes banging in and demands his DI get the hell in the car right now. Roaring through Manchester's slick streets, Sam leans back and holds on and grins. It's rubbish: he's never going to stop fighting. He damn well has nine hundred years of knowledge crammed away in this mad brain of his, and this is his city, their city. He's going to do his job. No more running.
Because what I wanted to convey is that staying Sam Tyler is the bravest thing he could have possibly done. Also, I think the Master has to be capable of some redemption, and redemption by way of allowing himself to be Sam Tyler is as good as any.
"Help me, Mister Master," the test card girl says.
"Oh, sod off," Sam Tyler says, rolling over, and goes back to sleep.
And those are possibly my favourite closing lines of any I've ever written.