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Fic: Nightmares (LoM)

Posted on 2008.07.28 at 14:43
Current Mood: accomplished
Tags: , ,
The poky stick strikes again! The first third of this has been lurking on my hard drive since the Flashfiction Fear Challenge (so a wee while now, sorry Loz, can we pretend it's on time? :D )

Words: 2302
Rating: Blue Cortina
Pairing: Gen (although with the slightest hint, but nothing more than canon really)
Special Draycevixen warning: while there is no incest in this fic (I wouldn't dare after your pokystickyness!) there is the tiniest hint of inappropriately incestuous feelings at one point - but again, I'd argue that it's no more than we're given in canon.

Summary: Sam's mind gets up to some very nasty stuff sometimes.

Sam is aware of gentle warmth on his face, a pinkish yellow seeping in through his eyelids. He opens his eyes a fraction, not yet ready to move his head, stares out at the unfamiliar world through slits. Light, pleasant, not cheerful exactly but airy. Flowers on the curtains, and in vases on the windowsill. The heaviness of sleep is still with him, and he brings an arm slowly up to rub his eyes. Pauses, surprised, as the hand drifts into his field of vision. Suddenly more awake.

It isn’t his hand. The skin is papery, semi-transparent, sort of empty. He sees the blue veins tracking through fleshless folds. Thin, smaller than he remembers, the unmistakeable dark patching of liver spots. Funny, he thinks, how being in a coma can have this effect. He wonders how long he’s been out for. Months, perhaps. Long enough, anyway, for nobody to be waiting anxiously at his bedside to witness his revival, a fact for which he is deeply grateful. He is still groggy, disorientated, and certainly does not feel ready for the inevitably tearful reunion with his mother. Especially with his new, unsettling perspective that he has yet to come to terms with.

He closes his eyes, pictures in his mind the vibrant, beautiful woman from his dreams, with the smile that lit up the world. The conflict, the inappropriateness of the way he perceived that woman, even while fully conscious of her identity, is enough to cause an involuntary shudder. Bloody hell, he checked out her arse! Freud would be in raptures.

His eyes jerk open as he forces the image from his mind. And there she is, in front of him, walking towards his bed, that radiant smile firmly in place just as he remembers it.

“Mum?” he says.

The smile shifts slightly, not disappearing, but now edged with a sympathetic sadness.

“No, Sam, I’m not your mother.” The voice is soft, mellifluous, infinitely cheering and definitely not his mother’s.

“Er. Sorry, of course not. For a minute I – is she coming?”

“No, love.” He sees a shadow pass across her face, watches her as she shakes it off. “Did you sleep all right?”

The ghost of a laugh escapes him. “Yeah. A bit too well. How long have I been – asleep?”

She checks her watch. “Oh, a good long time. Twelve hours or so.”

He frowns, staring at her uncomprehendingly, before casting his eyes round the room, taking in the details he hadn’t noticed before. Other beds, other patients, sleeping still or reading, or just sitting absently in identical bedside chairs with identical looks of dreamlike calm. He blinks, trying to make sense of what he sees. This feels - wrong.


He realises that the woman has been speaking to him, although he has no idea what she actually said. “Sorry, what?”

“I said, ‘Do you need to go to the toilet?’”

Sam considers this question. He can’t remember being patronised so comprehensively since childhood, but he’s too tired, too confused, to feel properly irritated. In any case, he does need to go.

So he says, “Yes”, mildly enough, and the woman bustles forward, arms stretching towards him.

“Shall I give you a hand?”

“No!” This is a step too far. “No, thank you. I can manage.”

She drops her hands, steps back. “Fair enough, love. If you’re sure.”

“Yeah. Thanks anyway.” He swings his legs with difficulty over the side of the bed, shifts forward until he feels the softness of carpet beneath his bare feet. Pushes himself unsteadily upright and takes a couple of shuffled steps, before stopping. “Sorry, which way…?”

She smiles reassuringly, as if she had been expecting this. Points to a door half way down the room. “Just through there. I’ll sort your breakfast, shall I?”

Sam nods, preoccupied. He can’t seem to straighten up. He supposes it’s not unexpected, under the circumstances, that his body might not be ready to resume normal functions quite yet. Hunched and hesitant, he makes his gradual way to the door of the bathroom.

It’s dark and colder in the small room, with a clinical antiseptic smell that screams ‘hospital’. He casts his hand round blindly near the door, finds a string and pulls. The room is flooded with stark white light. Blinking, he positions himself in front of the toilet, pulls down the elasticated waistband of his pyjamas. Dark blue, he notices, patterned. He remembers these from his dream. Odd that he should be wearing them now.

When he’s finished, he moves over to the sink, fumbles with the tap until cool water pours out. As he waits for it to warm up to a more comfortable temperature, he glances ahead of him, into the large wall mirror.

What he sees paralyses him.

He gapes, eyes now wide and wild, at the stranger projecting his terror back at him. Only, it isn’t a stranger. It’s him, and it isn’t. The features are recognisable, but changed, worn, decayed. Old. This man is old.

Without warning, his stomach begins to churn and heave. He staggers backwards, uncoordinated, simultaneously trying to take in the figure in the mirror, and escape from it, and get back to the toilet bowl before he vomits. His weakened limbs, unable to respond in time to the bombardment of conflicting messages, give way, and he crashes to the tiled floor, cracking his head on something along the way. He hears himself scream as darkness engulfs him.

“Sam. Sam Tyler.”

A light voice, persistent, pulling him back from oblivion. He realises he is lying curled into a ball, fists clawing at the rumpled bedclothes, the dampness of sweat streaking his face, dribbling downwards onto the pillow. He keeps his eyes closed, allows his muscles to relax gradually, while his breathing and heart rate fade back to something more normal. Fuck. Things are getting pretty bad when disembodied voices that should have no place outside his battered television come as a relief.

“Sam? It’s time to wake up now. Look at me, Sam. Do you like it?”

“Shut up.” Sam rolls over, trying to blank out the irritating little girl, to find the security of dreamless sleep, even while he knows from experience that it’s a pointless gesture. She won’t give up, he knows that. Deep down, he’s not even sure he really wants her to.

“Please, Sam. Wake up.” And Sam is bolt upright, marooned in the centre of the creaking bed, because that wasn’t right at all. The voice, which should have drifted across the room to his unwillingly receptive ears, seems impossibly to have emanated from his own mouth. Reluctantly, horror stiffening his joints, he turns his head, desperate now for a glimpse of the child he is usually so keen to banish.

The face staring back, eyes so wide that they seem to glow white in the half-light of the flickering, empty screen, terror etched on every crease and fold of skin, is his own. He sits, frozen, watching himself stumble backwards, seeing his own hands scrabbling against the far wall as other-Sam tries to put as much distance between them as he can.

“No! Stop it. You’re not real. You can’t be. I’m dreaming. Please – tell me I’m dreaming.” Other-Sam is babbling, barely coherent, back sliding down the wall as if in the hope of pushing through and away. Sam draws his legs up to his chest, huddled on the bed, peripherally aware of the red fabric covering his knees, the black patent sheen of his shoes. His hands close on something soft, reassuringly warm, and he clutches the clown to himself, breathing in the comfort it offers.

The calm is transient, shattered by the sight of other-Sam casting wild glances at the door, clearly seeking a means of escape from the apparition before him. A surge of nausea swells within Sam as he imagines being left here, alone, displaced by this impossible manifestation. Imagines being confined to the depths of the television, only able to communicate through dreams and cryptic visions. With a pang of pity, he understands that the isolation he hated so much before is nothing compared to this.

“Don’t leave me, Sam. You can’t leave me here. I’ll be so lonely.” The high-pitched, little-girl voice sounds plaintive even to his own ears. Tears spring up as he sees the effect of his words – other-Sam’s resolve is strengthened, and he begins to edge determinedly towards the door. He’s going to leave, Sam knows that, knows he is powerless to prevent it. He sits, rigid, his mind refusing point blank to contemplate what happens after the door closes on his other self.

A sudden crackling hiss and flare of light provides an unexpected respite, startling them both. Other-Sam visibly jumps, hurling himself towards the television, hands outstretched. Sam crawls to the edge of the bed, dragging the clown along with him. They wait, intent, attention completely focussed on the new voices floating out into the gloom.

“Check the anaesthetic. I’m not sure he’s properly under.”

“The levels are right.”

“I’m sure I saw him move. Can you up the dose?”

Other-Sam is galvanised, suddenly frenetic, hands scrabbling and banging against the sides of the box. “I’m here!” he yells. “I can hear you. Listen to me!”

No, Sam thinks, aghast. Don’t listen to him. He’s not me. Please… He opens his mouth; tries to shout, to scream, finds himself mute. The light flares brighter, cloaking the room in white, and Sam feels himself drawn into the emptiness, sees the fading image of himself crouched in front of the television, watches it shrink, smaller and smaller until there’s nothing left.

This time, returning awareness is accompanied by a soundtrack of beeps and soft murmurs. A sharp medicated tang claws at the back of his throat as he breathes, slowly and rhythmically. He tries to open his eyes, manages nothing more than a gentle flicker of uncooperative lids. He listens, sluggish brain slow to assimilate the sounds he hears.

“He’s completely unresponsive. Vital signs are stable.”

“Fair enough. Probably just a reflex response to the anaesthetic. Let’s go on, then. Scalpel, please.”

Sam’s mind chooses this moment to click back into full clarity. Shit. No no NO! His eyes still won’t open, his brain is sending mad scrambled signals to all parts of his body, he should be flailing madly, thrashing around on the table, but every single muscle is stubbornly immobile. Inside his head he is screaming loud enough to deafen himself, outwardly his lips don’t even quiver. Nothing.

A searing pain assaults him as the sharp metal glides through skin, peeling back layers of flesh and fat, invading him. The agony is unimaginable.

“His heart rate’s up slightly.”

A pause. “OK. Keep monitoring, tell me straight away if there’s any change. Nurse, I’ll need more swabs. I’ve got a nasty bleed here.”

The pain must be playing tricks with his mind. He knows he’s still immobile, his muscles resisting any and all efforts to move even a fraction, and yet he can hear the pounding of fists accompanied by rough yells, a million miles away at first, the words indistinct, unrecognisable. He stops trying to move, and the noise intensifies. Concentrates on the shouting, the voice providing a small but blessed distraction from the terrible flaying of the scalpel. The sound grows louder, creeping into the forefront of his awareness, pushing the pain into a darker realm where it becomes meaningless. A single word, distinct.



“Tyler, you lazy git. Are you going to answer this door, or do I have to kick it in?”

Recognition slams into Sam along with a tide of relief that drives all other concerns from his mind. He strains towards the voice, blanking out the appalling hospital sounds until they fade into nothingness.

“I’ll count to three. Might get bored before that, though. One…”

Sam forces his eyes open, adrenaline already coursing through him.


Sam is off the bed and over by the door in one lightning move, fingers fumbling desperately with the key. A click, and he throws the door wide, trembling uncontrollably as he drinks in the sight of Gene Hunt, the backlight from the corridor lending him an ethereal air which sits uncomfortably with the glowering expression. Sam is too far gone to care.

“Gene! God, Gene.” Sam’s face is sodden with tears and sweat. He reaches out, needing to touch, to make sure. “Oh God please please don’t be a dream please be real.” His fingers stroke Gene’s cheeks, cup his chin, move down to clutch at the rough camel hair covering his shoulders. Gene starts to say something, thinks better of it. The two men stand for a long moment, Sam drained and sagging, Gene’s arms coming round to prevent him from collapsing.

“Right-o.” Gene breaks the silence. “Clearly you’ve been at the happy juice again. We’re not going to get anything useful from you in this state. Come on.”

With a tenderness that would amaze anyone who knew him, even Sam if he was thinking more coherently, Gene steers the other man back towards the recently vacated bed. Lowers him gently down, straightening the covers around him. “There you go, Sammy-boy. Get some rest.”

Sam’s eyes start to flutter closed, before widening in panic as a thought occurs to him. “Don’t leave me. Stay. Please.”

Gene sighs, sitting down alongside Sam and bringing his legs up onto the bed to get more comfortable. “All right, not to worry. I’ll be here.”

Finally reassured, Sam allows himself to be overtaken by the bone-deep weariness that is breaking over him in waves. Drifts at last into peaceful oblivion, unaware of the arm slipped round him, the rough hand softly stroking his hair until long after sleep has claimed him.


silvaa at 2008-07-28 14:51 (UTC) (Link)
this was amazing and genuinely scary, you really captured Sam's fear and disorientation. Loved it.

I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2008-07-29 09:48 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! :D I was reaching for a sense of disorientation - very pleased you think it worked.
lozenger8 at 2008-07-28 15:10 (UTC) (Link)
Ooooh. That was really creepy.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2008-07-29 09:49 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. Creepy is good! :)
Jean Genie
jean_geanie at 2008-07-28 15:20 (UTC) (Link)
oooh I've got shivers down my spine.


(especially Gene's tenderness at the end)
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2008-07-29 09:50 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! The Gene bit was actually the hardest to pitch, so I'm very glad you liked it.
severinne at 2008-07-28 15:24 (UTC) (Link)
That was brilliantly disorienting and scary as hell. Loved it, and plenty glad that Gene was there at the end :)
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2008-07-29 09:52 (UTC) (Link)
Ah, but was he??? *wiggles fingers, goes 'woooooh'*

Brilliantly disorientating - love that! Thanks. :D
Sometimes I wish I was a hippo
dakfinv at 2008-07-28 15:32 (UTC) (Link)
Brilliantly disturbing. You really capture the fluidity of dreams/nightmares. And poor Sam, freaked out of his skull.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2008-07-29 09:54 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! :D I am drawn to freaked-out!Sam in canon (OK, I'm drawn to Simm acting his socks off, and who wouldn't be?) so it's an aspect that's great to play with. Glad you were disturbed! XD
hambelandjemima at 2008-07-28 16:26 (UTC) (Link)
Oooh, this was goooood. I think I was as disorientated as Sam in the dream sequence and I love that Gene stayed with him while he went back to sleep.

I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2008-07-29 09:56 (UTC) (Link)
Hee - I've disorientated people! I'm really pleased (like reallypleased) I managed to get that off-balance-ness across properly. And I'm glad you liked Gene staying with him - I was a bit worried it was too soppy, but then I thought Sam deserved it after all that!
scotschik at 2008-07-28 17:00 (UTC) (Link)
Urk! Between this and the book I'm currently reading, I don't think I'll be having fluffy dreams tonight! That was brilliantly creepy and you've managed to capture the logical confusion of nightmares perfectly.

Loved Gene being the protector at the end!
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2008-07-29 10:06 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! I'm delighted you found it creepy, and I hope your dreams weren't too horrible! :D
Strike while the irony is hot
draycevixen at 2008-07-28 18:01 (UTC) (Link)

You really are a magnificent beast! ♥

Extremely creepy in a way that plays beautifully off canon. I was particularly taken with the part where Sam can see the red fabric around his knees and the patent shoes. And the whole part about the surgery while conscious but unable to protest. Truly the stuff of nightmares.

And then, after all that, Gene's gentleness and his stroking Sam's hair has all that much more emotional impact, even though Gene's actual words are so matter of fact.

Thanks! ♥

I appreciate the warning, but I think Sam's vaguely incestuous thoughts didn't squick me *because* they squicked him. I hope that makes sense!
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2008-07-29 10:09 (UTC) (Link)
You know, I don't think I've ever been called a magnificent beast before! And I think I like it! :D The TCG bit was the part that freaked me out most - the fic was quite keen to run with that idea, and I almost had him trapped in the telly for a bit, but I couldn't face it.

I didn't think the incestuous bit was all that bad - and he did check out her arse, after all! - but it never hurts to warn.
Strike while the irony is hot
draycevixen at 2008-07-29 13:36 (UTC) (Link)

I *really* do appreciate the warning. I think my incest squick might have more to do with the concept of it being "sexy"... Ack!
saintvic at 2008-07-28 18:59 (UTC) (Link)
This is fabulous. The way you shift between the different parts of the nightmare and how Sam is pulled along and immersed in all the scenarios is engrossing and sent chills down my spine. Really great writing.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2008-07-29 10:11 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! The shift between the different scenarios was quite tricky, and I'm glad you think I pulled it off. Chills down spine = Good Thing! :D
norfolkdumpling at 2008-07-28 19:41 (UTC) (Link)
*peers over top of cushion*

Is it safe to come out? Blimey - that was genuinely disturbing. In a 'what fabulous writing but I'm sleeping with the light on tonight' kind of way. The way you have Sam moving through the different types of dream is just so true to what nightmares are like, and I can't tell you how happy Gene made me when he showed up at the door.

Thank you, I think, for scaring the pants off me, and providing comforting!Gene into the bargain :)
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2008-07-29 10:16 (UTC) (Link)
What has LJ made of me?? I see that someone considers my work genuinely disturbing, and I'm delighted! Thank you for enjoying the ride!
Mrs Tufty
fawsley at 2008-07-28 19:43 (UTC) (Link)
Fantastically creepy - very gothick horror! Love how you keep tilting reality like a hall of mirrors until we don't know where we are any more than Sam does. Which leaves me with the uncomfortable suspicion that gentle!Gene is all a dream too from which Sam will awaken into yet another nightmare... *shudders*
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2008-07-29 10:19 (UTC) (Link)
Your uncomfortable suspicion is almost certainly true - I did seriously consider tagging on something to that effect, but I felt poor old Sam had suffered enough for one fic! I was very keen to get across that idea that any, or none, of the scenarios might be real - and I adore the 'hall of hmirrors' simile. Thanks. :D
duckyone at 2008-07-29 01:39 (UTC) (Link)
That was brilliant, Bisto. I don't know about anyone else but this actually gives me the feeling of not being sure exactly what Sam's reality really is. It's terrifying.

Then you give us the beautiful scene at the end. Gene's slipping in beside Sam and stroking his hair as he sleeps is such a gorgeous moment.

Gene is Sam's safe place.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2008-07-29 10:22 (UTC) (Link)
Gene is Sam's safe place.

Yes. He is. Which is why I couldn't spoil that for him, tempted though I was! I'm absolutely delighted that the sense of 'what is real' was unclear, because that's the aspect that most ties into canon. For me, unfortunately, the bit I suspect is reality is the part on the operating table. Yikes!

Thanks for enjoying, and commenting. :D
temporalgrace at 2008-11-03 14:02 (UTC) (Link)
This is really creative and original. I love how it segues from nightmare to nightmare to nightmare, so that in the end we don't know what's real.
basaltgrrl at 2010-08-21 13:03 (UTC) (Link)
Wow. Now THAT captures the terror of Sam's layers of reality and struggle between belief and disbelief. Freaky. And how completely awesome that Gene is the thing that he most wants to be real. Plus the fact that Gene stays and takes care of him? Super.
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