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Primeval fic: The Short Unhappy Life of Stephen Hart (Second Life verse)

September 2nd, 2012 (10:53 pm)
enthralled

feeling: enthralled

Title: The Short Unhappy Life of Stephen Hart

Disclaimer: I do not own Primeval; lena7142 created Feral Stephen and this backstory for clone!Stephen.

A/N: So, this isn’t my fault. First of all, Lena is the one who decided on the backstory for clone!Stephen, as explained in her fic Point of Origin. Then she took advantage of the fact that I can’t say no to anything, especially not her, and asked me to write the clone’s life after Cutter disappeared. So this is her fault. She even beta’ed it, enabler that she is. So this is part of the Second Life verse but does not feature feral Stephen.

Warnings: Canon character death. Sort of. As in, the character dies in canon but dies differently here. The tragedy is still as depressing, I’m afraid, though.

Summary: Sometimes people walked through anomalies and didn’t come back. Stephen should have known.



-o-

When Stephen was young, Helen Cutter took him to the Forest of Dean. She said, “I can take you places you’ve only dreamed about. But you have to trust me.”

Stephen was in love and he was stupid. He’d already slept with a married woman and probably compromised his entire academic future. And what Helen was offering...

A chance at greatness. At discovery. At them.

But Stephen was young and he was timid. He told her he had to think about it, even if he knew she’d convince him to say yes sooner or later, just like with everything else.

But the next day, she went back to the Forest of Dean by herself and didn’t come back.

Stephen would spend the next eight years trying to figure out if that was the best or worst thing that had happened to him.

-o-

Time went on. Stephen never forgot Helen, but he learned to keep living. He finished his studies; he got a job. Nick Cutter had shown him the same leadership Helen had, but offered fewer complications.

It was a simple partnership. A gradual friendship.

For Stephen, that was enough.

-o-

When Helen came back, the attraction was still there. Her pull had never changed. He was drawn to her almost inexplicably. He could forgive her for anything; he still wanted her.

That had been hard enough when she was his teacher, enticing him on. A married woman he couldn’t have but who chose him.

It was almost impossible when he had befriended her husband.

And yet, when she came to him, when she touched him, when she kissed him, it was almost like he had no other choice.

-o-

When they ended up back at the Forest of Dean, Stephen told himself it didn’t mean anything. He’d been here many times with Cutter, searching and finding nothing.

But when they were all there together, Stephen wondered how to reconcile these two parts of his life. These two disparate paths suddenly converging.

He wondered.

-o-

Cutter walked through an anomaly with Helen and Ryan and the soldiers.

And none of them came back.

-o-

The forest was silent, no flicker between the trees. Lester had approved a small contingent to scout the area, just in case. The small guard was on a rotation, and Abby and Connor showed up every morning and Claudia lingered longer than she should have with wet eyes and a red nose.

Stephen never left. He kept waiting for it to open up, waiting for them to come back.

Because he didn’t know what else to do.

-o-

Lester called him.

“It’s a raptor at a shopping centre,” he said, as if that were explanation enough.

Stephen stared at the blank spot among the trees.

“We don’t have anyone else,” Lester continued, a little awkwardly.

And Stephen gathered a breath and let it out.

He wasn’t Helen’s best student. He wasn’t Cutter’s brightest prospect. He wasn’t the leader Lester was looking for.

But apparently he was always close enough.

“Okay,” he said. “Have Connor and Abby meet me there.”

-o-

Cutter was instinctual in the field. He rarely took the time to explain himself; he just acted. He had a keen eye for the big picture and knew how to make all the pieces fit together.

Stephen took each moment as it came. He preferred to be practical when he could, trusting his gun more than his gut when he had the choice.

“We go in, we find it, we shoot it,” Stephen said.

Abby’s brow creased. “We can’t just kill it.”

“I appreciate the concern for the animal life, I really do,” Stephen said. “But we have to have our priorities. What we do is dangerous. I will not risk anyone in the field for any reason. If you can tranq it, fine. But if there’s any danger, shoot to kill.”

Abby’s mouth flattened but she didn’t disagree, putting the tranquiliser in her pocket and holding the gun.

Stephen turned to Connor and held out a gun. “Do you understand?”

Connor’s eyes brightened. “I get a gun?”

Stephen shrugged stiffly. “It’s not a toy. And these creatures are not cute or cuddly. We go in, we do the job, we get out. Any questions?”

-o-

Of the three raptors, they managed to tranq the baby. Stephen killed the father when they lured it with the baby. Connor killed the mother when Stephen’s gun jammed.

Of course, Connor also almost killed the janitor, but that was neither here nor there.

It was done, and that was enough for Stephen.

-o-

Afterward, Stephen went back to the Forest of Dean. There was no one there anymore, all cleared out to do other things.

Stephen stared into the darkness.

But there was no one there.

-o-

Stephen went to work. There was nothing else to do.

Abby was quiet and subdued. Connor was nervous and twitchy. His jitters wore on Stephen until he finally asked what was wrong.

Connor looked surprised. “I’ve just been trying to come up with a way to predict the anomalies,” he said. “I had some good progress that I worked out with Cutter, before...”

Before he disappeared.

Stephen refused to indulge the dark thought. Instead, his eyes narrowed. “You think you can predict the anomalies?”

Connor blinked readily. “Yeah, I think I’ve rigged a device to track them, but it hasn’t got a good range yet,” he said.

“So you’d be able to tell when there was an anomaly open without an actual sighting?” Stephen pressed.

“Yeah, I think so,” Connor said. “It needs some tweaking, which was why I was hoping Cutter might be able to help...”

Stephen shook his head. “I know all of Cutter’s research -- better than he does,” he said. “You may need to talk me through the circuits, but I can help you sort the science.”

Connor actually looked thrilled by the idea. “You think?”

Stephen gave him a look. “Just tell me what we’re looking at.”

-o-

Connor’s work was good. Abby helped where she could, and Stephen persisted. It was slow and tedious work, but they got better. Connor soon had a working prototype. Stephen soon had hope.

Lester started reorganising. He shifted personnel, hired on more staff. They created more security checks and revised the program.

“The Anomaly Research Centre,” Lester announced. “A little bland, but I suppose it will do.”

Stephen didn’t care what they called it; he just needed to bring Cutter back.

-o-

When they get a call about worms in an office park, Stephen was less than thrilled. It was a messy job, and he had to do most of the hard work himself, sending Abby and Connor off to handle the necessary backup.

There were a few times he thought he might die.

(A few times he sort of wished he might.)

But few things in Stephen’s life happened the easy way. He still walked out, messy, wet, tired and alive.

On the front steps, Claudia joined him. He hadn’t seen much of her since Cutter disappeared, and even now, her face looked paler than before.

“You’re reckless,” she said.

Stephen sighed. “There’s a job that has to be done.”

“And procedures and rules on how to do it,” Claudia reminded him. “This job is dangerous.”

Her voice wavered precariously, but she kept herself together.

Stephen looked at her. “I know,” he said. “My best friend walked through an anomaly and never came back. I’m doing what I have to do to make sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

“So, what, you can suffer instead?” Claudia asked. She shook her head. “That’s not...what he would have wanted. He wouldn’t want you to put yourself in harm’s way like this. Not for him. Not for anyone.”

Stephen worked his jaw, swallowing hard. “Maybe,” he said. “And he can tell me that himself -- when he gets back.”

Claudia’s expression flickered, hurt welling in her eyes. “Do you really believe he’ll be back?”

At that, Stephen had to smile, just a little. “I know he will,” he said. “No doubt in my mind.”

-o-

It hadn’t been more than two months when Lester called Stephen into the office. He hemmed and hawed, but finally came to the point, “It seems like something of a formality, but I would like to offer you a job.”

Stephen stared at him blankly. “I have a job.”

“Yes,” Lester agreed. “But paperwork is what it is, and I can’t have a team out in the field cavorting without a leader--”

Stephen shook his head in realisation. “You want to give me Cutter’s job?”

“You’ve been working it anyway,” Lester said. “The title would just be a formality and there would be a small uptick in the pay--”

But Stephen didn’t want to hear it. It took all his self control not to storm out of Lester’s office in a huff and turn in his resignation altogether. “No,” he said. “No way.”

Lester sighed. “You’re the natural choice.”

“No, I’m not,” Stephen said, insistent now. “I’m the wrong man for this job. I could never do it alone.”

Lester pursed his lips. He seemed to be expecting this, even as much as he disliked it.

Stephen didn’t care. Lester’s approval meant nothing to him.

“Besides,” Stephen said, lifting his chin. “Cutter will want his job when he gets back.”

-o-

Stephen knew the right things to say. He could stand up to Lester in his own way. He could be the strong shoulder of support Abby needed. He could be Connor’s sounding board.

He comforted Claudia, directed new staff. In the field, he put himself in the line of fire. He protected civilians and teammates; everyone.

Ultimately, he did what he could.

It seemed like a small price to pay for all the things he couldn’t.

-o-

A woman named Valerie kept a sabre tooth cat for a pet. She’d been worried about lies and deception; she wanted to protect the creature.

Stephen didn’t care what she wanted. She’d let her boyfriend get killed and was still more concerned about some idiotic prehistoric cat.

First chance he got, Stephen plugged it full of holes and decided to let Claudia sort out the truths and the lies.

Stephen just wanted to go home.

-o-

But home was no refuge. There was no refuge. Because there was no Cutter.

There was just Stephen, alone in his apartment, with his own lies and regrets.

He was no better than Valerie, letting people he cared about take needless risks. If he’d told Cutter about Helen, if he’d told him about how she’d betrayed him once all those years ago.

Maybe he wouldn’t have gone back. Maybe he’d still be here. Maybe he would have been with Claudia, maybe he would have mentored Connor. Maybe he’d still be the team leader.

Maybe.

But he wasn’t. Because Stephen had lied. Stephen had made too many mistakes. He’d failed Cutter.

And he wouldn’t fail anyone else.

Not if he could help it.

-o-

By the time the anomaly opened up in the water, Stephen had his approached honed and perfected. He was methodical and careful. It took some time, but he found the anomaly. He found the boy. He found Abby.

It was enough.

-o-

Cutter was declared dead. He’d been missing for a while, but with the announcement, Stephen was finally charged with clearing out his house. He went through the things, boxing up what he could and throwing out the rest.

When it was over, he had Cutter’s life in boxes, neatly arranged and organised. It seemed wrong and incomplete, and he kept expecting Cutter to come back and tear him a new one about treating his things that way.

But Cutter was missing. Cutter was legally dead. The boxes would stay that way, neat and orderly and unused.

And for the first time since Cutter had disappeared in the Forest of Dean, Stephen bowed his head and cried.

-o-

When a little girl wandered through to the Silurian, there was no choice but to go after her.

“At least take backup,” Claudia had said, but even she seemed to know how futile that sounded.

Stephen shook his head. “No sense in risking two of us,” he said. “Besides, you’ll all be right on the other side.”

-o-

Stephen should have known better.

Sometimes people walked through anomalies and didn’t come back.

Stephen should have known.

-o-

Finding the girl was easy; getting her out was hard. As they traversed the hot sand, treading on the rocks to avoid the scorpions, he couldn’t help but think this might have been easier with backup after all.

Then the girl fell, and the ground rumbled, and Stephen couldn’t think at all.

-o-

Under the sand, Stephen was suffocating. It pressed hard on him, getting in his nose and mouth and eyes. Everything hurt and his eyes burned and he gagged and coughed.

Then--

Air.

He sucked in greedily, hacking. Taylor was screaming, and Stephen squinted up through gritty eyes as the scorpion loomed. But its attentions were elsewhere.

Taylor.

She’d probably saved his life, but only by risking her own. She wouldn’t die for him, though. Not if Stephen could help it.

So he did the only thing he could--

And launched himself upward.

-o-

The scorpion’s shell was hard, but the underbody gave somewhat when he punched it. The creature screeched angrily, hissing as it stumbled away.

Stephen struggled to find his footing, still swaying precariously.

He grappled for his gun, still strapped to him, but his reaction time was slow and clumsy with the sand.

Something sharp stabbed him, hitting him hard in the thigh and his entire body threatened to crumble with the shock of pain.

Still, he fired.

And the thing howled violently, thrashing and wailing.

Then, it was over.

Falling back to the sand, staring up at the sky, it was over.

-o-

Taylor was hysterical, and Stephen managed to sit up. Connor’s tracker was still working, and even with his leg burning, he grinned. “Not much farther now,” he said.

She didn’t look like she believed him.

Honestly, Stephen knew she probably shouldn’t. He was a liar, after all. And a poor excuse for a leader. But he did what had to be done.

On his feet, he listed heavily. Taylor had to half support him in an awkward, limping gait, but he still led her out, still took her home.

Because sometimes people did come back from anomalies, and Stephen had to believe that.

Until the day he died.

-o-

When he stepped back into the present, his leg gave out. It was entirely numb now, the loss of sensation radiating down his leg and to his toes, all the way up to his chin. His tongue was heavy in his mouth and each breath was a strain.

Taylor screamed for help, cried in relief.

Stephen tried stand, tried to make sure she was okay, but he had nothing left.

On the ground, on his back, he had nothing.

-o-

They tried.

Abby and Connor were besides themselves, chattering above him. Connor didn’t stop talking; Abby held his hand, squeezed his shoulder, told him it would be okay.

There was a commotion beyond them, but Stephen could no longer turn his head to see. In fact, he could move much at all. Venom, he figured. To incapacitate the prey. A slow but inevitable death.

They tried.

But they were going to fail.

-o-

They put him on a chopper. Abby and Connor loaded up to go with him. Before they took off, he saw the others. Some of the security forces he knew. Claudia. Lester.

“You fight,” Claudia said. “So you can see Cutter when he comes back.”

“Do pull through, Hart,” Lester quipped. “I don’t need the headache of hiring additional staff with the year we’ve had.”

But Stephen had fought. Stephen had fought hard.

And lost.

He’d told Lester from the start that he was the wrong man from this job, that he couldn’t do it alone.

Of all the things to be right about.

-o-

In the air, the paralysis turned to pain. Chills racked his body as fire erupted, white hot through every synapse of his being. His breaths rattled now, each one harder, more strained than the last. His vision started to get white around the edge, hazy and gray as everything started to effuse.

The medic tried to help, but there was nothing to do. Connor stopped talking; Abby started crying.

“You’re going to be okay, Stephen,” Abby said, almost pleading with him.

“And I already bought an iPod,” Connor said pathetically. “So you know, I don’t need you to die so I can have yours. You have to be okay.”

Stephen’s teeth chattered, his lungs wooden and useless. He shook his head.

Abby broke on a sob. “But we need you,” she said. “Please.”

“You’ve killed way worse things than a bloody scorpion,” Connor said. “I don’t know what we’d do--”

Stephen wanted to tell them it was okay. He wanted to tell them they’d be okay. He wanted to tell them that he didn’t regret this. He regretted a lot of things, but not this.

Not this.

But the pain intensified and his heart staggered. His vision splintered and his breath caught in his throat. Reality was in a thousand little pieces, disparate and meaningful, and the light refracted like an anomaly right in front of him.

Sometimes people walked through anomalies...

And Helen was there, smirking. I can take you places you’ve only dreamed about.

And Cutter was waiting. Not beckoning. Not rejecting. Waiting, as if he’d been there all along.

It had been nine years now, and Stephen had spent every day trying to atone. He had hoped Cutter would understand.

But now, Stephen realised, even if he didn’t, all of this was still worth it.

He’d saved lives. He’d made friends. That was worth it.

Worth everything.

His life.

His death.

And beyond.

-o-

Sometimes people walked through anomalies.

Some of them came back.

And some of them just never did.

Comments

Page 1 of 2[1][2]
Posted by: Lena7142 (lena7142)
Posted at: September 3rd, 2012 04:01 am (UTC)
stephen

I REGRET NOTHING!!!

This fic is so wonderfully executed; the writing is lyrical and poetic and the ending is brilliant and so tragically beautiful that I flail every time I read it. Thank you for writing this for me! Poor 1st-timeline!Stephen deserves to have his death be more than just a footnote, and you made it so lovely and poignant. Thank you!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 8th, 2012 03:10 am (UTC)
stephen cutter distance

You wouldn't!

I am glad to give his death some weight, though, if only because he deserves it. He never could catch any breaks.

Still, it's all your fault.

Thanks :)

Posted by: goldarrow (goldarrow)
Posted at: September 3rd, 2012 04:21 am (UTC)

I actually cried.
Brilliant, beautiful, and so, so painful.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 8th, 2012 03:11 am (UTC)
stephen cutter

I'm sorry for making you cry! But glad it elicited a response.

Thanks!

Posted by: goldarrow (goldarrow)
Posted at: September 8th, 2012 03:24 am (UTC)

Posted by: flaccidduck (flaccidduck)
Posted at: September 3rd, 2012 06:15 am (UTC)
Nick and Stephen

Wonderful

*reaches for tissues and starts to howl*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 8th, 2012 03:17 am (UTC)
stephen hair

*offers tissue*

Thanks :)

Posted by: judithjohn (judithjohn)
Posted at: September 3rd, 2012 06:20 am (UTC)
Fairy

*becomes helpless blubbering heap of tears and snot*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 8th, 2012 03:17 am (UTC)
stephen cutter

Sorry? I am glad it resonated, though.

Thanks :)

Posted by: reggietate (reggietate)
Posted at: September 3rd, 2012 07:24 am (UTC)
sadstephen

*sobs* That was utterly heart-rending. I hope Stephen found Cutter in that great beyond.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 8th, 2012 03:18 am (UTC)
stephen skeptical

I do hope Stephen got some of the respite he so readily deserved.

Thanks :)

Posted by: lukadreaming (lukadreaming)
Posted at: September 3rd, 2012 09:44 am (UTC)
Stephen and Taylor

Don't take this wrong, as I really didn't want to read this - I'm feeling crap and everyone seems determined to write miserable fic! But the story pulled me in and I cried. A lot.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 8th, 2012 03:19 am (UTC)
stephen cutter distance

Aw, I do apologize. I never really intended to write this fic, but when Lena asks me to do something, I literally can't say no. I'm so weak willed!

Anyway, thank you for reading anyway :)

Posted by: natchris (natchris)
Posted at: September 3rd, 2012 11:08 am (UTC)
Stephen

Stunning she says as she weeps.....

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 8th, 2012 03:19 am (UTC)
stephen smiles

Thank you :)

Posted by: nietie (nietie)
Posted at: September 3rd, 2012 12:40 pm (UTC)
Dial Denial new

Nooo! A brilliant timeline, but Cutter still missing and Stephen dying, noooooooooo!
Beautifully written, though. *sniffs*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 8th, 2012 03:20 am (UTC)
stephen cutter distance

Poor Stephen. At least one version of him gets to live in this verse.

Thanks :)

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: September 3rd, 2012 03:57 pm (UTC)
I loved this!

I totally love this AU of Stephen having to carry on without Cutter. I love that you molded the episodes to the different reality. As always you do a great job of expressing Stephen's thoughts and angst over his survivor's guilt and of course you know that I loved his dying scene and your talent for making a silent Stephen express so much more. I love the poisoning because it was delightfully drawn out and yet you felt the peaceful acceptance without extraneous words by Stephen. I love how you also molded Stephen to meet the needs of Connor, Abby and Claudia since we never got to see that reality again. Still, I was half expecting Cutter to show up, just too late.

So loved it!

Fave part:

But the pain intensified and his heart staggered. His vision splintered and his breath caught in his throat. Reality was in a thousand little pieces, disparate and meaningful, and the light refracted like an anomaly right in front of him.

Sometimes people walked through anomalies...

And Helen was there, smirking. I can take you places you’ve only dreamed about.

And Cutter was waiting. Not beckoning. Not rejecting. Waiting, as if he’d been there all along.

It had been nine years now, and Stephen had spent every day trying to atone. He had hoped Cutter would understand.

But now, Stephen realised, even if he didn’t, all of this was still worth it.

He’d saved lives. He’d made friends. That was worth it.

Worth everything.

His life.

His death.

And beyond.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 12th, 2012 12:00 pm (UTC)
Re: I loved this!
stephen skeptical

I enjoyed working with the slight shift with the episodes, and it was particularly fun showing how Stephen was a leader even when he didn't want to be or try to be. Figures you would so relish his death, LOL!

Thanks :)

Posted by: knitekat (knitekat)
Posted at: September 3rd, 2012 08:13 pm (UTC)

Beautiful fic and look at how Stephen and the team carried on in the other reality.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 12th, 2012 12:01 pm (UTC)
stephen happy

It was an interesting fic to write, changing the episodes to fit the altered timeline. I'm glad you liked it.

Thanks!

Posted by: fredbassett (fredbassett)
Posted at: September 3rd, 2012 09:37 pm (UTC)

That was bloody amazing!!

I didn't see the ending coming at all.

This was heartbreaking and beautifully done.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 12th, 2012 12:02 pm (UTC)
stephen goodbye

I never particularly enjoy killing Stephen, but I was following the verse as Lena created it, so I didn't have much choice. That said, I'm glad this was an enjoyable read!

Thanks :)

Posted by: freddiejoey (freddiejoey)
Posted at: September 3rd, 2012 10:37 pm (UTC)
Stephen - sally

As brilliant as it is sorrowful...

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 12th, 2012 12:02 pm (UTC)
stephen cutter

Stephen is just often prone to tragedy, I'm afraid.

Thanks :)

Posted by: clea2011 (clea2011)
Posted at: September 3rd, 2012 11:24 pm (UTC)
Stephengreen

That was lovely, totally heartbreaking, but lovely :-)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 12th, 2012 01:38 pm (UTC)
stephen goodbye

Poor Stephen seems to always end up a tragic character.

Thanks :)

Posted by: joshinator (joshinator)
Posted at: September 4th, 2012 02:03 am (UTC)
Stephen

You made me cry but it's still really lovely

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 12th, 2012 01:38 pm (UTC)
stephen cutter sit

Sorry to make you cry! Thanks :)

Posted by: kristen_mara (kristen_mara)
Posted at: September 4th, 2012 03:58 am (UTC)
Pensive


Well, you know my reaction to this!

Maximum angst beautifully done - but I'm glad that Stephen found a peace at the end. And you know what I want him to find - life in an AU *G*

**Stephen would spend the next eight years trying to figure out if that was the best or worst thing that had happened to him.**

Meep. And the twists, like how Nick didn't come back, and the differences in what happened with the anomaly call outs without Nick being there.

**But apparently he was always close enough.**

That is SO angsty! And Stephen determined that Nick will come back (he was right) and Claudia begging him to hang on...

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 12th, 2012 01:40 pm (UTC)
stephen broken

LOL, I know. That's why I was worried you'd dislike me after I wrote it. I still need to send you the fix-it. I keep thinking I'm going to reread it but maybe I'll just send it to you as is and you can see what I mean about my strange choice in form.

(And then you'll badger me for the sequel...)

Except for the fact that this Stephen died, I did like playing with his leadership, even when he didn't seem to see it.

Thanks :)

33 Read Comments
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