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dark Dean

Life Before Mars (Part 2/2)

Posted on 2007.05.28 at 17:15
Tags: , ,
Continuation.

Part one here

The change was gradual but absolute. For the rest of the summer, Sam met up with Hunt once or twice a week, and it acted like a sort of community service. Hunt found all sorts of jobs for him to do, occasionally taking him around the beat in the squad car (Sam became adept at ducking down whenever he saw any of the old gang) or keeping him stashed away in the station filing or generally tidying up. At some point, without realising exactly when, Sam started to trust the gruff sergeant, and when his exam results came through Hunt was the first person he turned to.

They sat down together that afternoon and had a long deep talk about Sam’s future, his aspirations and dreams, and whether they could be realised. Finally they reached a compromise. Sam would go back to school the next year, take the minimum of exams to have a few qualifications to back up his plans. In the meantime, he would get a job so that he could develop a little of the independence he craved. Hunt took it upon himself to ensure that all this happened, talking to the somewhat reluctant head of the school, finding Sam a weekend job at a DIY store, and even coming with him to talk it all through with Ruth.

Ruth was unimpressed. "I’m sorry, Sgt Hunt, but I really don’t think..."

But Hunt had her measure. "Please, call me Dave," he said softly, his tone warm and his eyes twinkling, displaying a smooth charm that had Sam’s mouth literally hanging open. Ruth melted, bestowing on Hunt a sweet smile that took years off her. From that moment, the result was a foregone conclusion.

And so the year passed, and Sam thrived on the order and security that his new routine brought, not to mention a bit of cash in his pocket that lent an illusion of adulthood and responsibility. His home life improved – now that he was contributing to the household income both Ruth and Heather treated him with an unaccustomed respect. He settled into studying, and took to it with a natural ease that made him realise for the first time that he might actually be bright. At the end of the year he emerged with five A grade GCEs, immediately quit the job and applied to join the police force.

Hunt was openly scathing about his chances, but Sam wasn’t fooled, especially as the Sergeant provided him with a glowing reference. And when the letter of acceptance came (in a delightful twist of fate, it dropped through the letterbox on his eighteenth birthday) Hunt forgot himself enough to wrap his arms around the boy in a brief but stifling hug, then took him straight out to the pub for his first legal drink. He even paid. For the first one, anyway.

His time at Bruche, the police training centre out in the sticks of Cheshire, was a complete eye-opener for him. He came to discover that his slightly murky past had left him with skills that adapted well to this side of the legal divide. The academic aspects came as easily as breathing, now that he actually had the motivation to succeed, and he had an aptitude for problem-solving and puzzles that led his trainers to predict a bright future for him in CID.

He graduated at nineteen, one of the top in his year, and was posted to a suburban division under the mentorship of a Sergeant Glen Fletcher. Sgt Fletcher was a keen, committed officer who was clearly destined for higher things and took it as a point of principle to pass on his values to this fresh-faced recruit. He was also black, a fact which led to Sam having a sometimes chilling glimpse into the tribulations faced by an officer of an ethnic minority group. He was horrified to note that, for all the abuse Fletcher was subjected to by criminals or yobs out on the beat, the taunts were ten times worse from inside the force. Sam built up a deep admiration for the fortitude of the officer, and an uncompromising intolerance of racist attitudes that made him a few enemies of his own along the way.

By the time he’d finished his probationary period, it was clear to everyone that Sam was a natural copper, that he and the job were perfectly matched. Three years in, he was regularly standing in as Acting Sergeant when the need arose. It was on one such occasion, a desperately slow night shift when he had been posted as radio controller, that the reality of the job he had chosen was brought home to him with some force. There was nothing on at all in his sub-division, and he was idly scanning the frequencies of nearby areas, when a shout for urgent assistance came through on one of them. Officers from several divisions, their worry laced with a pleasure at something interesting actually happening, sped through the empty streets to offer support.

When the call came through that the officer had been shot, all hell predictably broke loose. Firearms units, dog units, helicopters, everyone and everything turned out but to no avail. And when the name of the officer became clear, Sam’s heart swelled and pounded so unbearably that he found himself fighting back tears.

He went to visit him in the hospital, shocked at the sight of such a powerful man helplessly trussed up in the traction equipment that the severity of his injuries demanded. Hunt, now an inspector, told him that he’d taken advantage of the quiet night to take a drive round his old beat, stumbling onto a group of youths breaking into an off-licence. He’d challenged them, at which point one had turned on him with a pistol. Hunt had radioed in the assistance call, but the bullet had thudded into his leg almost as soon as he’d disconnected, and the lads had scarpered before anyone else made it to the scene.

It was quickly obvious to everyone that the injury was a career-finisher, that Hunt would never recover sufficiently to return to active duty. The Force, as was their duty, provided a new post for him, one that would tie him to the office for the remainder of his service. Hunt gave it a go, but the inactivity was alien to him and he became progressively more moody and bitter. In the end, after a matter of months, he informed Sam over a quiet pint that he had decided to quit. Sam was relieved.

"But what will you do?"

"I’ve been thinking about that. Me and the missus have always fancied living abroad. I’ve got a few mates over in Spain. We’ll get a place in the sun, maybe set up a bar. I quite fancy myself as a landlord."

Sam could well imagine him as master of his own little empire out on the Spanish Costa’s. "Great idea. Can you afford it, though?"

His friend looked positively shifty. "Oh well, I’ll get the pension, won’t I? And I’ve – well – I’ve got a bit put by, you know?"

"How do you mean?" Police salaries, while comfortable enough, were hardly extravagant. Hunt had a decent-sized house, which presumably came with a decent-sized mortgage, and the missus (a nebulous presence who Sam had never actually seen in all their years of friendship) didn’t work. Hunt was an old-fashioned hunter-gatherer type, who didn’t approve of women as breadwinners if they had a man around to provide. Sam couldn’t see how he could have built up much in the way of savings.

Sam studied the other officer, who apparently had suddenly found something of great significance swirling around in the depths of his pint glass. After a long silence, Hunt spoke quietly, not looking up, his tone defensive. "Oh come on, Sammy-boy, you know the score. You’ve been in the job long enough now."

A light suddenly clicked on in Sam’s brain, and he rocked back in his chair, utterly horrified. "You’ve been taking backhanders, Dave? God, you haven’t."

Hunt suddenly slammed his hand flat on the wooden table, the glasses jumping so that the agitated contents fizzed and frothed. "Oh don’t give me that! Get down off your high horse, Tyler. Your time will come."

Silently Sam stood, gazing for long seconds at Hunt – fixing in his mind the image of the man who had changed his life, a man he knew now he would never see again. He still carries that image, as clearly as if he were still standing there. Hunt staring back at him, his eyes carrying all the messages that he refused to give voice to – anger, shame, a plea. But Sam, his own eyes cold and dead, turned his back, walked out of the pub. Gently closed a chapter of his life, and resolved that he would never become that sort of officer.

Strangely enough, Sam can see now that Hunt, through this revelation which shocked him so deeply at the time, had bestowed upon him one parting gift, a final crucial piece in Sam’s attitude to his job. He became consumed by a determination to be not only the most proficient officer he could be, but the most honourable. He developed a reputation for thorough, humourless, no-nonsense policing that led a few of his colleagues to regard him with wariness. It also led to him rising through the ranks with a fluidity and ease that was admired and envied in roughly equal measure.

Shortly after Hunt’s departure, Sam was posted to the Operational Support Unit, still technically a uniformed officer, but frequently getting the opportunity to assist CID and involve himself in plain-clothes operations. He was a popular choice by virtue of his physical appearance – when not in uniform, he still looked barely out of his teens, with a disaffected air that meant he could blend in easily out on the streets. After a time he was officially seconded to CID, a temporary attachment which became permanent.

Looking back, Sam sees this time as the happiest of his career so far, and likely to remain so. The promotions he has gained since have earned him more in the way of money, authority, respect, but have lifted him further away from the realities of policing, although he still tries to get out and get involved when he can. As a DS, he had a certain amount of responsibility within the department, but nothing that prevented him from getting his hands dirty. He built up a steady pool of informants, generally people who owed him a favour rather than the sort who were in it for the money. And, as Hunt had predicted, he was eventually offered a backhander. Just the once. It was also the only time he ever beat up a suspect in the line of duty. The message got back.

During this time, Sam developed something of a specialist field. He was drawn to drugs cases, seeing within them so many youngsters of the type he had been, getting drawn into a lifestyle they couldn’t control. Looking back, he was and remains astonished that he himself never got pulled into this sub-society – there had certainly been plenty of it about when he had been in his teens, but he’d always instinctively avoided it, apart from the odd joint here and there. Now, he saw himself in a position to help children like him break free of a dangerous, potentially lethal lifestyle, and he seized the opportunity with a tireless commitment.

His devotion to his chosen cause, along with his efforts to liaise between and bring together agencies within and outside the force, earned him his first commendation. It also, indirectly, earned him a promotion. In 2000, he became a DI, and took a post in CID at A Division, with responsibility for central Manchester.

The following year, two events took place that were to have a significant impact on his life, both professional and personal. In September, terrorist atrocities abroad reverberated through every corner of society. As a senior officer in a major city, he was sent on a series of intensive counter-terrorism training courses. The subject fascinated him even while it repelled, and he read in depth about the history and patterns of terrorist groups within the UK.

During this period, a new DC transferred into the department. Maya Roy. Sam recalls clearly the first time he saw her, staring round the department with a combined air of curiosity and defensiveness that awoke protective instincts within him that he didn’t know he had. He wouldn’t call it love at first sight, he doesn’t believe in the concept, but he was immediately fascinated by her.

He got to know her gradually, fell for her imperceptibly, both of them being of a mindset that relationships at work were not a healthy idea. It was a good couple of years before either of them woke up to a fact that everyone else in the department had been aware of for ages – that they were an item. They worked well together, with a fluidly professional team spirit that translated well into investigations, and an ability to leave the job behind them when they were together outside the station.

Late in 2004, they sat curled up on the luxurious sofa in Sam’s clean, spacious, impersonal flat, a bottle of wine shared between them leading on to three or four more, and talked through the night. By the time the dawn crept into the sky, they had decided that the time had come to move in together, to make their relationship more permanent.

It was the first time in Sam’s life that he had been involved with someone to this extent, that he had allowed anyone to get inside his skin, and he immersed himself in it with his customary thoroughness. He was a devoted, gentle and romantic lover, and the relationship thrived on the attention until the pair were beginning to tentatively contemplate marriage.

Then, just last year although it seems longer, the DCI in his department retired. Sam applied for the post, sat the promotion exams, and walked into the job. In a moment of synchronicity that filled him with glee, he was awarded the promotion by none other than a delighted Glen Fletcher, now a Chief Superintendent. "Be a good role model, Sam," he told the new DCI with a beam, knowing that the advice was redundant.

Initially thrilled with his new post, he soon began to discover that running a department of the size of A Division CID was a whole different ball game from what he had been used to. He became separated from the active realities of policing, his friends within the department were now his employees, and he had to spend the vast majority of his time on administrative duties or in frustrating meetings with senior management. Now he comes to think about it, he realises that what he was suffering was a form of depression brought about by the disillusionment of his situation. The insight is unlikely to be too much use to him now, though. He smiles, a tiny, wry grimace.

His relationship with Maya started to suffer. She knew that something was wrong, pressed him for details, but he couldn’t bring himself to admit, even to himself, that something he’d aspired to and craved for so long was not the joy that he had imagined it to be. He’d begun to avoid going home, just like when he was young, arranging meetings for after hours to the irritation of the other staff who had to put their lives on hold, or just sitting in his darkened office listening to the creaks of the deserted station around him.

When a big case did come their way, he seized on the chance to get out into the field. He sees it as leading from the front, although he’s fairly confident that others see it as a bit of a nuisance, or a lack of faith on his part in the abilities of his department. He can’t bring himself to back off, though, to distance himself from all the reasons he joined the job in the first place.

Which is how it came about that he was the arresting officer in the Raimes investigation yesterday. Seeing the suspect breaking off and tearing away from them aroused all his instincts as a field officer, and he was off and running before anyone else had a chance to react. He enjoyed it, too, the high-speed chase, the thrill of catching his quarry, of bringing him back in handcuffs.

Today, though, had been a disaster from start to premature finish. He’d arrived at work checking his messages, only to find a despondent ramble from Maya which said ‘We need to talk’ but clearly meant ‘It’s over’. He’d faced her outside the interview room, with no mention of the message – this was a professional situation and, from long habit, they never brought personal issues into work.

The interview had been a shambles – he really thought he was getting somewhere until Raimes’ apparently watertight alibi was revealed, shattering every aspect of the case and leaving them instantly back at square one.
And then Maya – refusing to see the facts in front of her, breaking the taboo by bringing up their personal life. He’d turned to her, opened his mouth to answer, and what had come out was ‘I’m going to take you off the case’. Where on earth had that come from? The look of naked pain on her beautiful face had pierced him, but the words were said, and he couldn’t back down. God, he wishes he had. As he stood on Satchmore Road play park, gazing down at her bloodstained shirt through tears he fought to conceal, he wished beyond anything that he could take back those fatal words.

And now? Now, he is lying on rough tarmac, trying to work out what just happened. There’s no pain, just a crushing blurry numbness. He remembers listening to Bowie on his iPod, can still hear faint echoes of the song threading around him like a dream. He opens his eyes, sees the fingers of one hand in front of his face, the detail crystal clear against a background of bluey-grey haze. He moves his hand, watches his fingers twitch, fascinated by the rainbows of brightness they leave behind as they displace the heavy air around them.

He lies there out of time, contemplating his hand, waiting for the pain to start. As the ethereal wail of a distant ambulance gradually grows louder, he is overcome by a lethargy that he hasn’t got the strength to fight off. Somewhere in his mind, he hears a voice, young, fresh, full of life and hope. It tells him to sleep, to rest, in peace. He closes his eyes.

Comments:


Milly
wiccagal_1996 at 2007-05-28 17:34 (UTC) (Link)
:Chokes: That was completely and utterly perfect. YOu have Sam's voice, his real inner voice completely and mind bendingly perfected.

This is possibly one of the best character study/backstory pieces I've ever read in any fandom (and I've been in a fair old few). You give an insight into the person he was, the person he is and the person he's going to become. It;s amazing how well you've threaded canon into this and come out with something I think the producers/writers of the show would be hard pressed to top.

Did you get that I liked this? ;)
xx
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-29 09:14 (UTC) (Link)
something I think the producers/writers of the show would be hard pressed to top.

Wow - it doesn't come much better than that! I'm truly touched - thank you. x
§ xeno §
dorcas_gustine at 2007-05-28 17:37 (UTC) (Link)
All right, this is now my personal canon.
Milly
wiccagal_1996 at 2007-05-28 18:57 (UTC) (Link)
Seconded...
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-29 09:17 (UTC) (Link)
Mine too! lol. It's surprising how much there actually is in canon about Sam's backstory, when you start to analyse all the details. Obviously they're open to different interpretations, but there's plenty to work with. Thanks.
echo_voice
echo_voice at 2007-05-28 18:44 (UTC) (Link)
Jesus. That's really quite phenomenally good. I loved the backhanders storyline - explains Sam's attitude to policing, and loved the idea that with promotion came disappointment and detachment. I think there's a real sense of that in canon, with Sam saying "What use are feelings in this room?" etc. Just wow.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-29 09:19 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. I've been intrigued about what makes Sam the kind of officer he is, and this is one possible explanation. The backhander thing wasn't actually in my original plan - it just sort of wrote itself in, and it makes sense of a few things.
aww shit it's
cribbins at 2007-05-28 19:52 (UTC) (Link)
That works. That works scarily well. I loved the bit with Hunt in Sam's old life. Is he the Hunt Sam couldn't save?

Anyway, like the others said, this is now my personal canon.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-29 09:21 (UTC) (Link)
Is he the Hunt Sam couldn't save?

Yes. YES!! I have this theory that everything that happens to Sam in 1973 is his mind trying to resolve past issues, and one of his deep regrets is that Hunt turned out not to be the shining paragon he had thought. So his mind tries to put that right.
aww shit it's
cribbins at 2007-05-29 11:41 (UTC) (Link)
Cool. Yeah, that came across especially in that part. And now I feel clever. Yay!
ᴛᴏ ᴋɴᴏᴡ ᴡɪsᴅᴏᴍ
sciosophia at 2007-05-28 21:03 (UTC) (Link)
Loved it :) It was really, really good and works so well as a background to Sam that it's scary.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-29 09:23 (UTC) (Link)
Great! That's just what I was aiming for (the working, rather than the scaring, but I can live with both!) Thank you.
Loz
lozenger8 at 2007-05-29 01:01 (UTC) (Link)
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.

And suddenly, he knew the difference between a hawk and a handsaw. ♥

This is fabulous. It's completely believable and beautifully written. I'm so impressed by all of the little details and how they slot into canon. It's not my personal canon, but it is magnificently realised.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-29 09:27 (UTC) (Link)
And suddenly, he knew the difference between a hawk and a handsaw
Hee!

the little details and how they slot into canon
Thanks - I was keen that it should work this way round, that the story fits into the canon, rather than the canon slotting into the story.

It's not my personal canon, but it is magnificently realised.
Which is all I was after. This is just one interpretation, but hopefully it stands up to scrutiny. I'd be most interested to read other interpretations (not nudging at all - well, maybe a bit!)

Thanks for your lovely comment. x
Hambel
hambelandjemima at 2007-05-29 09:11 (UTC) (Link)
Well written, well thought out and so believable too. You've woven bits of canon in so well that at times I was going, "oh YES".

Wonderful.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-29 09:30 (UTC) (Link)
Hee - that's great! Thank you.
Sytaxia
sytaxia at 2007-05-29 11:34 (UTC) (Link)
Absolutely gorgeous writing; every detail from canon and from your own imagination fits in perfectly - it's totally seamless, which is one of the hardest things about backstory work. Your writing is also pitch-perfect for Sam; the way that the more literary descriptions and beautiful visuals fall into the cadence of a very matter-of-fact, linear report narrative - so fitting with the character.

Love it! Fantastic job!
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2007-05-29 20:40 (UTC) (Link)
That's really reassuring - the concepts came quite easily, but the plan read like a timeline list (date, event, date, event) and I was worried that the story would end up that way too. I'm delighted that you felt that it flowed OK - that was really the most difficult aspect. Thanks. :D
space_oddity_75
space_oddity_75 at 2007-05-30 00:45 (UTC) (Link)
Wow! What a beautiful insight into Sam's mind & pre-Mars history! I absolutely loved it. Thanks for sharing it! :))))
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