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dark Dean

Choose Life Part 2

Posted on 2007.05.09 at 18:40
Tags: ,
Notes/warnings:  as per Part One.  Bonus pairing - Sam/Nelson.  But gen!  GEN!  Gracious me.  (although...hmm)


Part One here

Chapter 5 – In which Nelson gives Sam something to think about, in a big way!

He stayed like that for the rest of the evening, lifting his head occasionally to gulp down whisky from a glass that magically seemed to stay full, then retreating again into his disturbed thoughts. At one point he was dimly aware of Gene coming up next to him to order a round, pausing for a moment or two, but Sam didn’t feel up to responding and eventually Gene went away.

One by one, as the hour grew later, the other occupants of the bar drifted away to whatever lives they had waiting for them. Sam was grateful for the encroaching silence – keeping his eyes shut, he could imagine himself alone in the universe, which, in his current mood, suited him just fine.


The soft query jerked him abruptly out of his semi-stupor. Reluctantly, he forced open his eyes, to find Nelson gazing back at him from the other side of the bar, the slightest shade of wariness underscoring the cheerful neutrality.

"Yeah. Look – sorry about the mess." What the hell, he’d apologised to everyone else. Might as well get the set.

"No problem, mon brave. Time you were headed home now, though."

"Home?" The word lanced through Sam. "That’s just it, Nelson. I thought I was home. Now – I just don’t know anything any more." A tide of sheer frustration crashed through Sam, and he slammed his clenched fist onto the counter. "Fuck, Nelson. Is this ever going to get any easier? Because I’ve fucking had enough."

Nelson didn’t flinch. "I’ve told you before, Sam. You are where you are. You’ve got to learn to make the best of things. Here is all that matters now – accept that and you’ll be fine. Reject it, and you’ll never find peace."

Sam leaned forward. He could hear in his own voice the earnest precision of the very drunk, although his mind felt clear and sober. "I did accept that. I do. I went away and I chose to come back. I rejected my real life, but it just won’t let me go."

"You’re wrong, Sam." Nelson’s words were soft, the dark eyes solemn, with a hint of pity that set Sam’s teeth on edge. "You’ve got it all backwards. You didn’t choose anything. And it’s you that won’t let go."

Sam listened to this little speech with growing indignation. Suddenly, he’d had enough of being on the back foot, of having to apologise for his existence to anyone who stood still long enough.

"Oh, is that right?" he bit back. "Well, thank you so much for your little pearls of wisdom." He swung away from the bar, unable to stand still any longer. "You think you’re so bloody smart, don’t you? Got the answers to everything? What the fuck do you know about how it feels to be me?"

"Oh, I know plenty, believe me, Sam. Do you really think you’re the only one who’s ever gone through this?"

It took a second for Nelson’s bitter retort to filter into Sam’s drink-fogged brain, but it stopped him in his tracks. Slowly, he turned his head, gaping at Nelson, a million questions all streaming through his tangled mind at once, unable to find words to express any of them.

Nelson spoke again, his tone once more calm, solemn. "We’ve all been there, Sam. Every single one of us. Sooner or later, everybody does."

Sam blinked, swallowed. Made his unsteady way to the nearest chair and collapsed heavily onto it, a chill of premonition rippling through him like seasickness. He was sure he didn’t want to hear what Nelson had to say.

"I…what…you’re not…" Come ON! "Tell me." Damn.

Nelson took his time, coming round the bar, pulling up a chair opposite Sam. "Sure?" Sam nodded mutely. He’d come this far.

"All right. Let me tell you a story, my friend."

 Chapter 6 – Nelson’s story.

"It’s 2002. Remember 2002, Sam? Silly question, of course you do. Anyway, there I am, having the time of my life. I’m an IT consultant for a chain of hotels, with some freelance work on the side and a reputation to die for. Coining it in like you wouldn’t believe.

"Funny how it came about. Back in the 90s, I was at university, no money, bar job in the evening, usual story. Anyway, the bar I was working at was expanding, the owner wanted to go into accommodation and that sort of stuff, so I set him up a website. Easy if you know how, but he didn’t. You with me?"

Sam was. He didn’t answer, but the wide eyes, the rigid stance as he leant urgently towards Nelson as if to lose one word of this incredible speech would mean catastrophe, were response enough.

"OK. He was made up with it, especially when the customers started rolling in. He had to hire more staff. I worked over his accounts, he was still writing everything down in little books, never heard of Excel. As time went on, I stopped working the bar, became a partner in the company. We opened another one, in Solihull of all places, and it went from strength to strength. A couple of years later I left him to it and moved to a more established company, hotels all over, international reputation."

He paused, head tilted, a wistful smile playing around his mouth, looking suddenly younger and more open. He shook his head slightly.

"Christ, Sam, life was bloody fantastic. Work hard, spend hard, you know? I had the bling, the flash car, hot and cold running girls – I was a walking cliché, and proud of it."

Silence. Sam watched the dust motes dance in the half-light as Nelson headed over to the bar, returning with a bottle and two glasses, pouring a generous measure for them both. The glasses clinked together in salute. Sam met Nelson’s eyes, captivated by this tale of a world he thought he’d left behind forever. "So? What happened?" he asked softly.

Nelson sighed. "Turn of the Millennium, I was at a party in Manhattan. I met this girl – Christobel. British, dripping with money, stunning. Totally out of my league, but she didn’t see it that way. Cut a long story short, we were married before the year was out. She changed me, settled me."

He finished his drink, poured another. "You remember where you were when you heard about 9/11?" Sam nodded, waiting. "Course you do. Everyone does, right? Such a momentous moment, terrible, sticks in the mind." He laughed, a short, bitter sound more like a sob. "Me, I’ve no idea. Day before, Chrissie told me I was going to be a dad. I was in a haze. September 11th, happiest day of my life. And, I don’t know, maybe I was punished for that.

"In the end, it was all so mundane. Few months later, crossing the road, some maniac ran the lights. Took me out of the game. I never stood a chance.

"I woke up here – right here, in this bar. Well, out back actually. No bloody clue what the hell was going on. Staggered in through the door, asked the nearest person where the manager was. Turned out to be your DC Skelton. He looked at me like I was a nutter, told me I was the manager, this was my pub. Well, I thought I must be dreaming, so I just settled in and got on with it. And here we are."

 Chapter 7 – Requiescat

The room fell silent again. Idly Sam noticed a change in the light, as the deep shadows gave way to the monochrome lightness of the pre-dawn. Everything looked different. Nelson’s garish, dated clothes appeared suddenly incongruous on a man who clearly wasn’t of this time. Sam couldn’t understand how he hadn’t noticed before – it was so obvious now.

He frowned, deep furrows of concentration etching themselves into his forehead as he thought it through. "It’s not the same though," he said slowly, wanting to believe, not quite able to. "I hear things, see things – voices telling me to be strong, telling me to come back. Doctors and nurses talking about my condition. I’m in a coma – was in a coma. I went back."

Nelson smiled, a weary humourless grimace. "Who told you that, Sam? How do you know?"

"I – the voices. The television, radio. The phone." He shrugged. "I know, it sounds mad. But I know what I heard. You don’t have to believe me – God knows, no-one else does."

"Oh, I believe you. You just don’t understand. That’s part of it. When you understand, when you accept this, all that will stop."

"No." Sam’s mind was racing, desperate to make sense of the incredible revelations Nelson had shared. "No, you don’t understand. You see, I woke up. I WOKE UP, Nelson, back in 2006. I went back to work. I tried to carry on where I’d left off. But I couldn’t ever forget what you said to me, about knowing you’re alive when you can feel, you know? It haunted me. I felt nothing there, I tried so hard but I felt nothing. So I came back. I chose to come back."

Nelson’s eyes sparked with uncharacteristic anger. "Jesus, Sam, don’t you ever listen? Why do you think you couldn’t feel anything?" He slumped back, taking a deep breath, the anger vanishing as quickly as it had begun. "Look, I used to think like you do. When I first got here, I heard voices too. Usually Chrissie, begging me to come back. Crying, screaming, saying she needed me, the baby needed me. She said I was just being selfish, and I believed her."

He paused, gathering his thoughts. Meeting his eyes, Sam was rocked by the depths of misery he encountered. An uncomfortable sensation of shame stirred somewhere deep within him, forcing him to look away.

Nelson went on, painfully. "In the end I did the only thing I could think of. I made a choice. I was going back, whatever it took. I sank a full bottle of scotch, then smashed the bottle and got to work. As the blood flowed, I could hear Chrissie laughing, louder and louder. I could hear my baby. I started to fade out – I remember wondering if I’d be found dead here, or if I’d just disappear.

"Next thing I knew, I was in agony. DC Skelton had smashed the door down, found me lying there. How he figured out what was going on, I’ll never know. Anyway, he tipped a whole load of gin or something over the cuts on my arms. Said it was to clean them up, but it brought me round fast, I can tell you. He bandaged me up, put me to bed. I asked him, shouldn’t I be going to hospital or something, but he said what was the point in that. Then he told me. He told me it’d been the same for him. Well, in his case he was a copper, got shot on duty. But that’s not the point. The point is, the details may change, but in the end we all get here the same way."

The first shaft of daylight forced its way through the grimy window, piercing the fug and dust of the darkened bar, early promise of another glorious day. Nelson sighed, heaving himself to his feet, collecting up the glasses and half-empty bottle. He turned towards the bar, speaking without looking back.

"You didn’t choose this place, Sam. Whatever you might think. The choice was made for you before you ever got here. All you can do now is understand that and learn to live with it. Just like the rest of us."

Sam nodded, closing his eyes and leaning his head against the wall behind him. Automatically his mind replayed, over and over, everything Nelson had said. He felt – well, that was the thing. Rationally, he supposed he should feel – oh, horrified, despairing maybe, even afraid. The sheer magnitude of what he had been told should surely have overwhelmed him. Instead, he was suffused with an emotion so utterly alien that he couldn’t instantly put a name to it. Maybe it was just exhaustion, the onset of the mother of all hangovers.

Nelson clattered around him, clearing away the detritus of the night, preparing the pub for the arrival of the new day’s customers. The Railway Arms kept unconventional hours, and it was far from unknown for Gene or other closet alcoholics to roll in first thing demanding a liquid breakfast to offset the evening’s excesses. The thought of having to face Gene on no sleep finally forced Sam to his feet. He creaked towards the door, turning with his hand on the handle, catching Nelson’s eye.

"Thanks," he said simply.

Nelson smiled back, white teeth gleaming, the familiar persona firmly back in place. "Peace, my friend."

And finally Sam recognised the foreign emotion for what it was, a feeling he couldn’t with certainty remember ever having encountered before. Peace. For the first time in his life, he was at peace. Flinging the door wide, he strode out to face the dawn.



Time passes. Sam goes back to work, knows he’s on probation, takes extra care. In the end, Gene slams him up by the throat against the office wall, Gary Cooper wobbling in alarm, tells him to quit pussyfooting about like a daft bird and give them back the cocky irritating Tyler they’ve come to know and loathe. Sam, rightly, takes this as a sign that he’s forgiven.

Tentatively, he tries to draw Chris out on his former life, but Chris clearly has no idea what he’s talking about and the reference to shooting on the job starts to make him nervous, so Sam drops it. Nelson talks a bit, on late nights after closing when the two of them are alone, but over time the details get more sketchy, till eventually Sam feels he’s forcing Nelson to cling on to memories he’d rather let go. Tacitly they agree not to mention it again. Sam knows this is right, but it’s a tiny cloud on his otherwise unblemished horizon that now he’s the only one with a past.

On the plus side, there are no more phone calls. No more creepy visitors haunting his dreams from the television. No more analysis of the condition of his brain. After a while, he even forgets to get freaked out every time static noises emanate from the radio.

And then one day, relaxing in the Arms with the crew after a less-than-hectic day, he sees a young man with terrified eyes slam the phone, the bright red phone that hasn’t rung in so long, into its cradle. Sees him collapse into a chair, head buried in hands, shoulders slumped, and the last piece of the puzzle clicks into place as Sam realises what he has to do. He makes his way over to the disturbed young man, sits down next to him. "You all right, mate? Looks like you’ve had a shock."

The man stares at him, eyes wild and red-rimmed. "I’m lost."

Sam knows what to say. "You're not lost. You're where you are. And you have to make the best of it. It's all you can do."





duckyone at 2007-05-09 18:46 (UTC) (Link)
I really, really liked that....a lot.

Thank you.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-09 20:10 (UTC) (Link)
No, thank you!! I'm delighted you liked it.
hambelandjemima at 2007-05-09 19:04 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, that was so good. I couldn't stop reading once I'd started :)
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-09 20:12 (UTC) (Link)
Oh that's such a great compliment! *hugs self* Thank you! :D
wiccagal_1996 at 2007-05-09 19:06 (UTC) (Link)
That brought tears, actual tears to my eyes. I needed that, wish that was how they'd resolved it on the show. Just an epilogue to Sam's life.
Christ I'm babbling. What I mean to say is that was amazing and thanks for sharing.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-09 20:16 (UTC) (Link)
Ah yes, making people cry! One of the great joys of my life.

I'll say this for the show, whatever the rights and wrongs of the ending, they certainly left us plenty of scope for possible resolutions! And Nelson, for me, was one of the great dangly threads.

Thanks! :) (Ignore the icon, I just need to look at Bodie's crotch occasionally!)
wiccagal_1996 at 2007-05-09 20:18 (UTC) (Link)
No complaints from this end *ogles*

I've yet to really use Nelson, can't get a decent handle on him but you certainly have and it's brilliant how you've got him so intergrated into this.
vadergem21 at 2007-05-09 19:48 (UTC) (Link)

Loved it!

I absolutely loved this!

It was worth all that effort you put in. The twist of everyone being in the same boat as Sam is genius and my mind just boggled at the thought of Gene, Ray and Annie being in Sam's situation... maybe that explains why Annie can't deal with Sam's craziness because of the pain of her own experience. I have to admit, it did cross my mind that maybe the 1973 was a collective dream possibly, that it's where coma patients go... which would nicely explain A2A next year lol.

I also loved the end part when Sam becomes in turn the guide for the young man who is lost. Very poignant moment and helped to solidify Sam's commitment to 1973.

Brilliant. You should be proud of yourself.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-09 20:20 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Loved it!

maybe that explains why Annie can't deal with Sam's craziness because of the pain of her own experience.
Yeah, you could well be right. In my vision of the chain of events, Annie was the next one back to Chris, and (although the memory fades with time) the more recent the experience, the more residually sympathetic a character is likely to be. So I guess Ray's been there forever!

Thank you so much - I'm really pleased you enjoyed it so much.
kirsteena at 2007-05-09 20:05 (UTC) (Link)
Like it! Nice!
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-09 20:21 (UTC) (Link)
Hee - thanks! Hope your own fic epic's coming on OK - looking forward to it. :)
(Deleted comment)
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-09 20:22 (UTC) (Link)
Why thank you! :D
freefalling85 at 2007-05-09 22:50 (UTC) (Link)
Bloody hell! that was *amazing!*

What a clever idea for a fic! wow, 1973's a collective dream world - jeez :D

Brilliant writing, I really like your style and I can picture this happening.

Great story, mem'd for re-reading :D

Bravo, mon brave, bravo :D
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-10 12:11 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! The idea initially was that Sam died in the accident (pre ep1) and the 2006 spookiness is just him failing to come to terms with that fact. Then I got interested in the 'collective subconscious' theories on TRA and the fic mutated a bit. Now I don't know what's going on! (I don't think there's any chance of any of them waking up, though, so they're either dead or as good as).

Using words like a trickster
liquorishflame at 2007-05-09 23:37 (UTC) (Link)
Reminds me of a line from Hotel California 'We are all just prisoners here, of our own device.'
All those lost souls gathered up in one place, a magical 1973.
Food for thought, great fic :)
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-10 12:14 (UTC) (Link)
I hadn't thought of that! I used to find the concept of that song so chilling. Thanks for the connection! :D
Using words like a trickster
liquorishflame at 2007-05-11 01:07 (UTC) (Link)
Welcome :)
lookin_for_luke at 2007-05-10 02:08 (UTC) (Link)
Wow. That was amazing.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-10 12:15 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much! :D
Kate M.
zadcat at 2007-05-10 02:32 (UTC) (Link)
Great story. Makes me wonder what year Gene comes from!
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-10 12:17 (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, me too! He's been there a while, I'd say, although not as long as Ray. Maybe he's from 1981!
lozenger8 at 2007-05-14 06:22 (UTC) (Link)
"Every experience I’ve ever had told me you’d be trouble. But my gut feeling said different. I trust my instincts." He stopped, and when he spoke again the anger was missing, leaving a heart-wrenching disillusionment and sadness in its place.

"I trusted you. With my life. With all our lives. And at the first sign of trouble, you ditched us for your Hyde mates, left us for dead."

You broke me with this - because it was completely plausible and fantastic and I could see it.

I adore that you've broken this up into sections that are marked by Dickensian titles. I adore the atmosphere and Sam's perspective.

I tried to write this concept and failed, so you have no idea how much I admire you for succeeding and making it really fantastic. So much so that the ending made me teary and I wanted to crawl up into a ball and cry.

I've told you before that I love your writing - and you just keep giving me more reasons. So thank you, for that. Thank you for writing.

I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-14 10:49 (UTC) (Link)
because it was completely plausible and fantastic and I could see it.

Thanks! The more I write, the more I realise I can't forgive Sam. This can't be healthy! Doesn't stop me loving him though - which isn't all that healthy either.

I tried to write this concept and failed, so you have no idea how much I admire you for succeeding
You know, I'm not actually sure I did succeed. Certainly the concept I had in mind doesn't seem to be the same as what others have got out of it. I've learnt a big lesson from MG though, in terms of not trying to dictate what reaction people should have, and just being happy that they liked it.

Thank you for writing.
*gulp* Wow. What a wonderful thing to say. Thank you.

hmpf at 2007-05-23 00:04 (UTC) (Link)

This is brilliant.

And it makes sense of it all so very nicely. Thanks. :-)

And this made me laugh out loud:


"Oh, you’re in charge now, are you, Gladys?"

"Fine, Guv. Let’s go where you want to go instead."

A pause. "Nobody loves a smartarse," Gene grumbled(...)
Sunshiny Me
sunstar77 at 2007-08-07 01:00 (UTC) (Link)
I just finished this story and had to tell you it was fantastic. I really loved it.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-08-29 18:03 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for taking the time to comment - and I'm really glad you liked it.:)) Sorry I haven't answered sooner, I've been jetsetting in a pleasingly cosmopolitan way!
talkingtothesky at 2011-02-26 21:24 (UTC) (Link)
Blimey, reading this with Ashes in mind...you hit the nail on the head, didn't you? *g*

Really excellent writing and spot-on voices for all the characters. I love this! ♥
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2011-02-28 20:10 (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad - when I look back on what I've written, I must admit to being quietly proud of this one. Mostly because it gave a voice to characters such as Nelson, and Annie, who I have/had the habit of neglecting in favour of the epic Sam/Gene lurve!

(And hey, now you come to mention it, it doesn't sit too badly with A2A. *is v pleased* *remains in denial re. A2A*)

Thank you for commenting! :D
basaltgrrl at 2011-03-01 22:38 (UTC) (Link)
I love what you've done with Nelson here, and the real resolution I now feel after reading this. It's very, very good!
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