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dark Dean

fic: Life Before Mars

Posted on 2007.05.28 at 16:57
Current Mood: artistic
Tags: , ,
Words: 6,878 in total, split into two linked parts due to constraints of LJ post lengths.
Author: Bistokids
Pairing: Sam/Maya for some of it, but strictly gen.
Rating: green Cortina, there's a minimum of language althought the C word rears its ugly head on one occasion!
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Kudos. Except Sam, who's mine. So sue me - when Kudos had him, they chucked him off a roof. I'll treat him better!

A/N: Inspired by a number of discussions recently on TRA and jumping_off, examining Sam's motivations and the kind of person he must have been. I decided to pull together the clues available in canon (there are more than I thought), take outrageous liberties with them and create Sam's backstory.

Sam can’t remember life before his Dad left. At least, he doesn’t think he can. He’s been told stories, of birthday surprises and trips to the football, but when he tries to conjure up images of them, they aren't there. The only vague memory he possesses is green, with flashes of red and a pair of shiny shoes, coupled with a chilling sense of uncertainty and misery. That one comes back to haunt him in dreams from time to time, leaving him sweating and grasping at Maya for a comfort she can’t really provide.

He knows what Vic Tyler looked like, from a photo that he keeps safe even now, taken at Heather’s wedding when he was four. His mother threw away most of the memorabilia that might have connected him to Vic, much later, in a fit of angry despondency. He managed to salvage the one snap, though. It shows him with Vic, the pair of them smiling with a contentment that Sam finds it hard to imagine his family ever feeling. He found out later that this was the last photo ever taken before Vic disappeared from the wedding reception, leaving Sam and Ruth to fend for themselves.

He has a hazy sense that Ruth was once a beautiful, happy, nurturing mother. His actual memories are of neglect and misery. His early life was punctuated by regular visits from solemn-looking women with hushed voices, who came to the house, asking him questions and making notes, shutting themselves in the kitchen with Mum for long periods of time while he entertained himself and tried to ignore the periodic sounds of shouting and crying emanating from behind the closed door.

Other than that, there were very few visitors. Heather was there often, offering support from within the security of her own happy marriage. Sam’s pleasure at seeing her was bittersweet – she lifted his own life with smiles, hugs and little presents, but Mum cried when she came round, especially after Heather had the baby. He grew close to his little cousin, Lee, by virtue of necessity – it was routine for him to be left in charge of entertaining the baby while Mum and Heather chatted in low tones over endless cups of tea or glasses of wine.

Things improved slightly when he started school. He took relief from the emotional neutrality of the classroom, the need for routine and the rigidity of rules. He found it hard to make friends, though, preferring to withdraw and look on from a distance as the children around him fought and bonded. As they grew older he watched slightly enviously as they swapped invitations to tea or parties, but never felt the urge to invite anyone to his own home.

In the earlier stages, he found the work at school came naturally to him. As time went on, though, he began to struggle. His home life endowed on him a deep wariness of interrupting or bothering adults, which meant he found it difficult to ask for help, and his mum took little interest in his studies. Quite often, he wasn’t sent to school at all, instead being called upon to look after Lee at home. On other occasions he just didn’t bother going. He remembered long empty days where he would take himself away to be alone with his thoughts, seeking out rooftops or good climbing trees where he could gaze out over the world and not be bothered by it.

When he was twelve, they went on holiday. For the first time ever. Uncle Joe and Auntie Heather had a friend who offered them all the loan of a caravan in Morecambe for a week. It was the most utterly exciting thing he could ever remember happening, and the details were frozen in his mind like a time capsule. Catching a coach from Manchester National Express depot – Sam had seldom been into the city centre and had no idea that there even was a coach station there. It was shabby and dark, with oily concrete floors and an overpowering smell of exhaust fumes, and Sam loved it.

It was a joyful time. In Sam’s memory, the sun beamed constantly and benevolently down on them for the whole duration of their stay, although he realises this is unlikely actually to be the case. Each day was made up of late leisurely breakfasts eaten outside the caravan, perched on rickety metal and canvas chairs that were apt to collapse in on themselves if you sat on them too heavily. Long walks along the vast tracts of soggy sand that make up Morecambe Bay, scaring themselves with dark tales of the sea, practically invisible on the far horizon, suddenly turning and engulfing unwary holidaymakers within seconds. Bags of chips on the seafront, greasy fingers wiped surreptitiously on the back of shorts as the crimson sun sank silently into the encroaching tide.

Sam actually cried when the time came to go back to Manchester, something he couldn’t remember ever doing before. He sat on the long seat at the back of the bus, gazing out of the rear window as the coastline receded and disappeared, and tears cascaded down his face at the thought of returning to the stark banality of his daily existence.

He was suddenly aware of a presence next to him, and glanced round to see Lee, kneeling on the seat, gazing at him with solemn brown eyes.

"Why are you crying, Sammy?"

Sam scrubbed at his face furiously with the back of a hand. "I’m not crying! It’s nothing. I just – I don’t want to go home."

Lee smiled, unconcerned. "It’ll be OK. We’ll have fun together. Just like we always do." He spotted something then, Sam doesn’t recall exactly what, pointing excitedly out of the window, and the pair of them immersed themselves in the unfamiliar sights of the journey home.

Sam has no idea what caused the crash. All he knows is that suddenly the coach was full of the terrifying din of twisting metal, luggage crashing out of roofracks and hurtling uncontrollably around the confined space, screams and wails. He was hurled backwards, crashing into the unyielding metal frame of the seat in front, sliding down it to huddle in a tiny gap on the ash-strewn floor. Of Lee, who had been kneeling in the centre of the back seat, there was no sign. Sam assumed he must have been thrown further down the aisle. He was too preoccupied to give it much thought – his arm was twisted round and screaming at him in agony, and he was fighting to stay conscious as waves of darkness threatened to engulf him.

The one detail Sam recalls with crystal clarity is the silence. As the coach settled, creaking in protest, nose-first in a roadside ditch, there was an interval where the world stopped. Nothing. In retrospect, Sam guesses it was a matter of a few seconds, but in his memory it feels like the silence stretched on into eternity, before gradually gentle sobs and whimpers crescendoed into panicked yells. At this point the memory fades along with, Sam assumes, his tenuous hold on consciousness.

His time in hospital is a blur. His arm was set and plastered, his mother held him with a tenderness he had rarely experienced from her, and told him in broken halting words that his cousin, Lee, five years younger than him but the only person in the world he could honestly call a friend, had been flung to a shattering death in the body of the coach. Sam, unable to bring himself to assimilate this, tuned out.

There is a place between sleeping and wakefulness, a warm uncomplicated existence, your mind aware but comfortably numb, your body locked in a stasis that you know you could break if only you could summon up the energy. Sam spent the next six weeks of his life in this place. He pulled it round him, made it his home. Presumably the nurses fed him, bathed him, took care of his physical needs. Sam was oblivious to it all.

There was no sudden epiphany, no single event that catapulted him back into reality. Just, one morning he realised he was hungry. He ate a huge breakfast, sobbed inconsolably for half a day, then declared himself ready to go home. Just like that.

He went back to school, enjoying despite himself the celebrity that came along with the plaster cast and the near-death tales, but unable to settle back into the old routines. He avoided going home as much as possible – Heather was there a lot, and his continued existence seemed to cause her intense pain. The smiles and presents were a thing of the past now. She never spoke to him, rarely looked at him at all.

So he developed a new, more bearable routine – checking into school first thing to get a registration mark, then disappearing off into the centre of Manchester. He’d spend whole days just hanging around the coach or train station, dreaming of escape. Walking round and round the endless streets, discovering the shades and tones of the city. Browsing in record shops – his favourite had a booth where, if he was lucky enough not to be shoved aside by older customers with proper money to spend, he could immerse himself in angsty rock music and forget the angst of the real world. Occasionally he’d save up enough money to proudly select one of the records – Bowie, Numan, The Jam – and bear it home like some sort of trophy, although they seldom got played as the record player was in the lounge.

On one of these days, he got to the record shop mid-morning, pleased to find few customers and an empty booth. He chose an album – Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon – he’d wanted to listen to it for ages, but the shop was usually too busy for anything more than singles. Cocooning himself in the isolation of the booth, he put on the headphones and gently lowered the stylus.

He’s never been able to describe satisfactorily the intensity of the experience that followed. He tried playing the album to Maya once, and she disappointed him hugely by pronouncing it ‘really nice’. Sometimes even now, when he’s feeling particularly stressed or worn down, he closes the curtains, pours a glass of wine and lets the genius of Floyd drain him of all feeling.

He managed to get two-thirds of the way through side one before he was interrupted by a hammering on the glass. A long-haired teenager was gesticulating at him, mouthing something which he couldn’t hear, but the meaning was all too apparent. Sighing, he lifted the stylus. And he made a decision.

Replacing the record carefully in its sleeve, he pushed it into his bag. He sauntered casually out of the booth, taking care to go and browse for a few more minutes, studiedly relaxed despite the thudding of his heart which was threatening to burst out of his chest. After what he considered a decent interval, he nodded farewell to the owner and left the shop, resisting the impulse to break into a frantic run.

The adrenaline hit was incredible, and Sam found himself swaggering before he’d taken more than a few steps, a broad grin plastered across his face as he surreptitiously patted his bag. Until:

"Oi, kid!"

Sam stopped dead, turned slowly, adopting a nonchalance that he was far from feeling. "Yeah?"

The speaker was older than him, seventeen maybe, and Sam vaguely recognised him from school. Darren somebody. Got himself expelled a couple of years back, nobody really knew why but the rumour was he’d threatened to stab a teacher. Now he was gazing at Sam assessingly. "Good album, that."

Sam had no idea how he was supposed to respond to that, so he said nothing. There was a tense pause. At last, Darren’s face broke into a grin, and he lifted a thumb.

"Nice one." And Sam smiled back.

Darren became a key part of Sam’s life for the next few years. They hung around together a lot, along with a group of other teenagers who were similarly disaffected for a variety of reasons. Sam would have died rather than admit it, but he hero-worshipped Darren, and was easily persuaded to try anything that the older boy suggested.

As a result, he saw the inside of the school as rarely as he could get away with, but his education in other less conventional areas blossomed. He was soon an adept thief, intelligent enough not to adopt any predictable pattern, innocent-looking enough that he could meander around shops unsuspected. He learnt to drive – along with related skills such as hot-wiring and barrelling that most conventional driving instructors tended to overlook. He took up smoking (successfully) and drinking (with less conviction, but he did it enough to fit in).

He also learnt to fight. Sam had always been small for his age, with an aspect of almost bewildered naivety that didn’t reflect his inner thoughts. It was a blessing and, more often nowadays, a curse. Older, tougher boys were apt to prejudge, and Sam came in for more than his fair share of teasing and bullying, not to mention the occasional beating. He was a quick learner, though, and few were stupid enough to take him on more than once.

His mother noticed the increasingly frequent bruises, but Sam assured her it was just a problem with someone at school. He entreated her not to get involved, saying he had it under control, and Ruth was happy enough to comply. She was more preoccupied than usual these days in any case – Uncle Joe, unable to handle the tragedy of losing his son, became increasingly isolated and withdrawn, until one day, leaving a terse note of apology, he packed a bag and left. Heather moved in with Ruth – just one more reason for Sam to avoid home.

Which is how he came to find himself wandering aimlessly around the streets as the shadows gathered after a scorching day in mid-July. He was sixteen now, awaiting the inevitably abysmal results of O levels he’d taken for want of anything better to do. That particular evening, the world seemed empty – he’d tried all the usual haunts, but none of his regular gang was anywhere about. Reluctant to give up and go home just yet, Sam decided it was a fine evening for a drive.

He sauntered into the car park of the local Conservative club. This had become something of a favourite patch for Sam – for one thing, you tended to find a better class of vehicle there, and he enjoyed the challenge of breaking into the more expensive, and therefore more secure, cars that the club had to offer. For another, the latent socialist lurking within him resented the grouchy old guard that populated the place, with their narrow-minded, prejudiced attitudes that stopped somewhere just short of outright bigotry. He felt strongly that the occasional shock to the system was just what they needed.

Having said that, he’d been taking advantage of these particular facilities a bit more often than was strictly sensible – clever criminals didn’t have a pattern. He resolved that this would be the last time for a while that he’d come here. In the meantime, there was an excellent-looking BMW sports convertible that would be just the thing for a summer evening.

Glancing around to satisfy himself that he was alone, he picked up a half-brick from the ground, hefting it in his hand. Strolled over to the BMW and heaved it against the driver’s window with enough force to shatter the glass. The alarm blared an immediate and stern protest, but Sam was confident that he could be in and away before anyone came out to investigate the sudden noise. Carefully punching out some of the broken glass, he leaned in through the gap, reaching around to unlock the door.

And found himself, with no warning at all, dragged bodily away from the window, spun round and slammed backwards against the door frame, leaving him winded and gasping. He would have fallen but for the uncompromising pair of fists gripping the front of his shirt, forcing him onto his toes. His eyes had closed with the impact, and he opened them now to find himself confronted at close range by a chiselled-looking face with flashing green eyes. He shifted his gaze slightly downwards, his heart sinking as he confirmed that the man was in fact a member of the Manchester Constabulary – a sergeant, to judge by the stripes.

"Oh fuck," he muttered despondently.

"You said it, you little toe-rag," the sergeant answered. "You’re nicked."

Sam wasn’t ready to give up just yet, though. "All right, all right," he said irritably. "Just get your hands off the shirt."

The copper narrowed his eyes in suspicion, but his grip loosened slightly, which was all Sam needed. Arching his upper body back as far as was possible in the constrained circumstances, he struck sharply forwards, his forehead connecting sweetly with the bridge of the nose in front of him. The copper went down like a sack of spuds, collapsing onto one knee, blood seeping through his fingers as his hands came instinctively up to clasp his face. Sam, seizing the opportunity, fled.

He couldn’t resist stopping to look back and check the situation, though, and that was his mistake, although in retrospect Sam has come to understand that his entire future was shaped by that hesitation. Pulling up, he turned, fully expecting to see the copper sprawled on the floor or staggering into an upright position. What he most definitely was not expecting to see was the furious sergeant powering towards him at full speed. Sam froze, paralysed by shock, as the copper caught up with him and, without missing a step, crashed his fist into Sam’s jaw.

Sam thinks he must have blacked out for a moment. Certainly he has no memory of hitting the floor, just of gazing up into the darkening sky watching the stars and trying to work out if his eyes were open. A question that was answered as the sergeant loomed into view, hoisting him roughly back onto his feet and holding him there while the haze faded and the pain kicked in.

He pulled away, pasting his most defiant glare into place. "You supposed to go around smacking suspects, copper? I could sue you."

"Listen, you little prick, I’ll do whatever I friggin’ like. And it’s Sergeant Hunt to you. Or Officer."

Sam couldn’t suppress a giggle. "Hunt the Cunt," he crowed.

His jaw clattered again as Hunt delivered a stinging slap. "You have got entirely too much gob on you. Now shut up and come ‘ere."

Sam was forced into a half-run as Hunt, keeping a firm grip on his arm, strode purposefully round the corner to a patrol car, carefully parked out of sight of the club. Wrenching open the rear door, he shoved Sam forward onto the seat, shutting him in.

Sam slouched back as the engine started and they pulled away. His mood was one of fatalistic panic, if such a thing could be said to exist. Looking squarely at the situation, he had to admit that it was a minor miracle that he hadn’t been in trouble with the law well before now. Most of his friends had been in and out of the nick – he’d got away with it every time, and had become complacent. He wondered blindly what his Mum would say – would she be angry? Disappointed? Would she care at all?

So immersed was he in this rather woeful reverie that he took no notice of what was going on outside the car, until it suddenly pulled up, the door next to him opened and Sgt Hunt clambered in beside him. Sam looked wildly out of the window, realised they were nowhere near the police station. They were parked up in a waste ground, the rubble strewn around bearing witness to the recent presence of now-demolished buildings. He backed away until he was leaning against the far door, watching Hunt with tense wariness, but the officer showed no sign of resuming his previous assault, merely regarded him levelly until Sam felt compelled to speak.

"What…" he swallowed past the dryness in his throat, tried again. "What’s going on?"

"Nothing to fret about, Tyler." A chill rippled through Sam – how on earth did Hunt know his name? "We’re just going to have a little chat."

So they chatted, if you could call it that. Basically, Hunt interrogated. He was good at it, too – dragging details out of Sam that even he didn’t know about himself, forcing him to question his values, humiliating him and breaking him down till hot angry tears spilled unbidden down his burning cheeks and he yelled, "Pack it in, will you?"

"All right," the Sergeant replied calmly, his gaze assessing and not without sympathy.

Sam took a few deep breaths, brought himself under control. Stared out into the darkness, refusing to meet Hunt’s eyes.

"Look, why are you doing this? How do you know me?"

Hunt snorted. "I know all the scrotes working my patch. I’ve had my eye on you for a while now, and my gut told me you were different. So I did a bit of digging. Seems to me you’ve had a rough ride, Sam."

A note of diffidence crept into his voice. "Listen, this is a once-only offer. I don’t do the Mother Teresa bit as a rule. But if you really want to sort yourself out, I can give you a hand."

Sam glanced back at him. "And if I don’t?"

"Not my problem. I’ll drive you down to the nick, book you in, and we’ll take it from there."

Fair enough. Sam gazed unseeingly down at his hands, thinking through the implications. Hunt seemed content to let him take all the time he needed, rolling down the window and lighting a cigarette, leaning his head back against the seat as he practised blowing smoke rings.

After an age, Sam came to a decision. Just one thing, though. Still staring downwards, he spoke, his voice low, resigned. "I won’t be a grass for you."

"Did I ask you to?"

A pause. "All right. What do I have to do?"

Part Two Here

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