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Primeval fic: What's in a Name (Second Life verse)

September 24th, 2012 (10:11 pm)
giggly

feeling: giggly

Title: What’s in a Name

Disclaimer: I do not own Primeval; lena7142 created Feral Stephen.

A/N: And here’s the next bit of the Continued Adventures of Feral Stephen. With thanks, as always, to lena7142 for her help in beta’ing and really, just everything.

Summary: Stephen decides it’s time for a change.


-o-

“Stephen, come here,” Cutter said, gesturing to the other man while fiddling with his microscope.

There was no reply.

“Stephen,” Cutter tried again.

When there was still no answer, he looked up and sighed. Across the table, Stephen was standing there, staring at him.

Cutter glared and made a point to pick up the other slide. “Not in a helpful mood today, then, eh?”

Stephen’s face didn’t register any emotion. “I don’t think you should call me Stephen.”

Cutter started loading the new slide, scrunching his nose absently. “And why’s that?”

“Because that’s what you called him,” was Stephen’s simple reply.

Cutter kept working, but gave Stephen a careful glance. “And that’s a problem?”

They didn’t talk a lot about the clone, as Stephen still referred to him when he came up in conversation. There had been the conversation in the Permian, by the firelight in the thicket when Stephen had been sweating through the night. There were occasional throwaway references, but every time the clone came up, it was awkward and Cutter tried to avoid it for his own sake as much as Stephen’s.

Still, occasionally the other man did broach the subject, which Cutter reckoned was his right, seeing as the clone had been his genetic derivative. Regardless, they weren’t exactly conversations Cutter relished. To Stephen, the man was just a clone. But to Cutter, he had been a best friend. One who he’d watched die in a horrific and self-sacrificial manner.

Though Stephen sometimes showed hints of emotional understanding, this did not appear to be one of those times. His expression was simple, his tone entirely practical. “I just think it’s confusing,” he said. “People sometimes forget that we’re different people. The clone wasn’t me; I’m not him. We could best clear up this difference by simply changing my name.”

“But you are Stephen Hart,” Cutter pointed out.

Stephen shrugged. “That means surprisingly little to me,” he said. “No one called me for almost a decade.”

There was probably truth to that. For nine years, this Stephen probably had communicated more with grunts and whines than words. The idea that his name might still mean something to him very well could be erroneous.

“Okay,” Cutter said. “What would we call you then?”

Stephen shrugged. “I don’t care.”

Cutter lifted his eyebrows. “You’re going to have to pick.”

Stephen looked thoughtful for a moment. Then he shrugged again. “Hart will do just fine, I think,” he said. “Simple, to the point, and ultimately still accurate.”

Hart, Cutter thought. Still Stephen, but not. He had to admit, there was an appeal to it.

“Okay,” Cutter agreed again. “Hart it is.”

Stephen -- Hart -- nodded in satisfaction. “Good.”

“Excellent,” Cutter said. “Now, Hart, can you come here?” He bent over to look through the lens. “I was hoping you could help me identify...”

Cutter trailed off and looked up, sighing. Stephen -- Hart -- was gone. Apparently a new name didn’t change his sparkling personality and utterly profound sense of unhelpfulness.

Sighing, Cutter shook his head and got back to work. He’d deal with Hart later.

-o-

The rest of the team responded in varying manners to Stephen’s new choice in name. To Becker, it made no difference; he’d been calling him Hart from the beginning. Abby seemed to struggle with it a bit, and Connor took to creating a myriad of nicknames when he found out the man was in the market.

“Stevie, perhaps,” Connor suggested eagerly.

Hart’s eyes narrowed.

“Or you could go with something like Stefan,” he said. “Still the same, but not quite.”

Hart’s brow darkened.

Connor snapped his fingers. “SJ!” he said eagerly. “You know, for Stephen James?”

Hart’s lip lifted just slightly in the smallest approximation of a snarl.

Connor finally got the hint. “Hart’s good, though,” he said, nodding. “Very strong.”

Hart seemed to relax just slightly.

Then Connor’s face brightened. “What about Jimmy!”

Hart growled this time and promptly got up to leave the room.

“Right!” Connor called after him. “Totally a dumb idea! Hart, it is!”

-o-

It shouldn’t have been hard, but sometimes it was. Cutter slipped more than the rest of them. Asking for Stephen to assess a predator, calling on Stephen to sign off on a paper. When he asked Stephen if he was going out for a pint after work, the man snarled in total frustration.

“I’m not him, damn it!” he exploded.

Cutter blinked at him in shock.

“I’m not your bloody Stephen Hart, so stop calling me that,” he said. “I’m my own person -- when are you people going to finally accept that and stop treating me like I’m your replacement model!”

Cutter gaped, too shocked to speak, as Stephen stormed out in a huff, slamming the door behind him.

-o-

Cutter tried harder, but it didn’t get any easier. When he remembered, saying Hart’s name was awkward and cumbersome. He felt like he hardly knew the man, and it threw the entire dynamic off. Abby was suddenly uncomfortable around him and Connor didn’t know how to joke with him anymore.

When he was dropping Hart off, Cutter sighed. “This Hart thing is making the team uncomfortable,” he said. “It’s like we don’t know who you are anymore.”

Hart glared at him. “You don’t know me anymore,” he said. “You know him, and if you have to keep using his name to make me fit in, then maybe I don’t belong here at all.”

“It’s not that,” Cutter said with a sigh.

“It’s not?” Hart asked sharply.

“No,” Cutter said, wishing he could explain. Wishing he could tell Hart how much he missed Stephen. Wishing he could explain how much Hart still reminded him of his friend. Wishing he could tell Hart why that wasn’t a bad thing.

He sighed, and shook his head. “We’ll work on it,” he said finally. “See you tomorrow, Hart.”

Hart nodded slowly, but got out of the car. He lingered for a moment before going inside.

Exhausted, Cutter drove home.

-o-

Cutter tried harder.

Mostly, he found that he stopped calling Hart’s name at all. It was easier that way.

But not better.

-o-

Sometimes, that wasn’t an option.

They were chasing a pair of prehistoric bears, some of the early large mammals. They were vicious and it was wild, even beyond Hart’s realm of expertise. They were rampaging wildly, and only Hart’s audacity had managed to pin one of them down at all.

Still, subduing the thing thoroughly was hard work, and Becker and Hart were both thoroughly distracted by the task. That left Cutter, Connor and Abby to handle the other beast -- without much success

They were running out of options, and the bear was getting closer to causing real damage. Not just to property -- but to people. It was hungry and increasingly desperate and if they didn’t corral it soon, there was going to be a disaster.

Loading another gun -- this time with real bullets -- Cutter instructed Connor to move around with Abby toward the back. They would have to surround the thing, hope they could plug them with enough holes to get the job done. Cutter didn’t like killing the creatures -- not for their sake or the timeline’s -- but he wasn’t sure there was any other choice.

It was the best plan they had, but it was taking some time to get in place. They just needed a little more time.

They didn’t have it.

Connor and Abby weren’t in place, and the bear’s stance shifted. It was a small change in stance that Cutter recognized--

The bear’s head jerked toward its partner -- its mate, probably -- where Hart and Becker were trying to contain it.

They were so busy with the one, they would have no time to defend against the other.

No time.

The bear lunged, its massive body moving, charging across the flimsy barricade and past Abby and Connor before they could get situated. It was moving surprisingly fast--

Right at Hart.

Cutter’s heart thumped wildly, eyes going wide. He couldn’t get a shot off. He couldn’t do anything but yell.

“Hart!” he yelled.

Stephen, though his reflexes were usually rapid fire, didn’t look as the other bear bucked and groused against Stephen’s manhandling.

Hart!” he tried again, screaming now. “Stephen!”

And this time, Stephen looked up.

To see the bear closing the gap.

His look of surprise dissipated, his face hardening with focus. Without hesitation, he jerked the other bear around, yanking its massive body up and in front of him just in time for the other bear to crash into it.

The two bears collided heavily, falling backward onto Stephen. There were a pair of howls, angry and pained, and then a gnashing of teeth as the two black, hairy masses writhed in a mess of fur and claws and teeth.

Cutter ran forward, still half stunned, pulling his now-loaded gun up in front of him. Becker was responding in kind, nearer still, but he hesitated--

The two bears, though mates, had turned against each other, which was the good news.

The bad news was that Stephen was lost somewhere in the melee. Cutter caught glimpses of him, a flash of skin, the hint of jeans -- but there was no way to pull a shot off. Not without risking shooting Stephen instead.

It was a risk Cutter couldn’t take.

Wouldn’t take.

“Stephen!” Cutter called again, feeling frantic now. “You need to get clear!”

And just like that, Stephen somehow rolled out, ducking low and skirting out of the way.

Cutter fired. Becker’s gun went off at the same time, and neither of them stopped firing until the bears fell still and bloody on the ground.

For a second, no one moved.

Then, on the far side, Stephen stumbled to his feet, breathing heavily. His shirt was torn, a long bloody gash down his front and scratches on his arms. But he was upright and blinking readily down at the two bears.

“Nice shot,” he said, nodding in genuine approval.

This time, it was Cutter’s turn to growl.

-o-

The medics checked Stephen, but said he was fine. Though Stephen had steadfastly refused painkillers, he did allow the medics to clean and bandage the wound without too much fuss. Becker was handling the mess with the bears, which Cutter was grateful for. The truth was, he was still shaky, and not just from what he’d had to do.

And it wasn’t even just that he’d almost lost Stephen again. That much was becoming commonplace, he found. Stephen had always had a hero complex, but this Stephen had no sense of fear to temper his decisions with. Keeping him alive was a trial, to say the least.

Cutter didn’t like that, but he could accept it to some degree. What he couldn’t accept was almost losing Stephen when he didn’t have to.

“You didn’t respond today,” Cutter said finally.

Stephen frowned, feeling his ribs tenderly. Cutter suspected they could be cracked, but Stephen hadn’t been overly informative with the medic. “I was busy.”

“I called your name,” Cutter said. “Twice.”

Stephen’s frown deepened. “I don’t recall that.”

“Of course you don’t,” he said. “Because you were listening for the name Stephen, not Hart.

For a second, Stephen’s face was blank. Then, he shook his head. “That’s ridiculous.”

“Is it?” Cutter asked. “The second I called Stephen you turned and acted. That’s your name, and we both know it.”

Stephen’s expression twitched, and he appeared to be working hard to keep it from belying anything. He shook his head. “That’s sentimentality.”

“That’s you,” Cutter argued. “And that’s okay.”

Stephen looked annoyed. “I’m not Stephen anymore,” he said. “Stephen died from a scorpion sting. Or in a cage room. Whichever you prefer. He’s still dead. I’m not.”

“No, you’re not,” Cutter agreed. “But you’re still Stephen.”

Stephen’s look hardened. “You all need to let him go.”

“Maybe you need to stop fighting him so hard,” Cutter argued. “You said yourself, he was the better part of you.”

Hurt registered on Stephen’s face. “That’s what you believe, isn’t it? You wished he could be here and I wasn’t.”

And there it was. It wasn’t an issue of practicality or self-identification. It was hurt. Hurt that a clone had come in and lived his life. Hurt that a clone had gotten things like friendship and stability and normalcy while he’d been relegated to the past. Hurt that someone else had got the things he’d missed out on and hurt that he suspected everyone liked that version of him better.

Only Stephen didn’t know how to be hurt. He didn’t know how to have emotions. Instead he growled and he postured and he had people call him Hart, as if that could somehow remind him less just how much it hurt, day after day.

Cutter sighed, but didn’t back down. “We do wish he was here,” he said finally. “But we want you here, too. You’re not the same person, this is true. But different doesn’t mean better or worse. It just means different. When we call you Stephen, it’s because that’s who you are. Who you both are. We can accept both of you -- the question is, can you?”

There was something guarded in Stephen’s eyes, something unsettled and almost scared. But he drew a breath and pursed his lips. “It’s just a name,” he muttered.

“I think it’s a whole lot more than that, mate,” Cutter replied.

There was another moment of indecision, long and awkward. But finally, Stephen nodded. “Fine,” he said. “You can call me Stephen.”

Cutter’s face widened slightly, breaking into a smile. “Good.”

“But I swear,” Stephen said, holding up one finger dangerously. “If Connor calls me Stevie--”

“Then trust me,” Cutter agreed amicably. “You’ll have every permission to kill him yourself.”

“Slowly and painfully,” Stephen added.

Cutter grinned. “Sounds fair to me.”

Comments

Posted by: kristen_mara (kristen_mara)
Posted at: September 25th, 2012 06:20 am (UTC)
Sparks


Stephen wanting a name change! And the excuses he gives! It must have been hard not to have anyone address him at all for so long.

**Apparently a new name didn’t change his sparkling personality and utterly profound sense of unhelpfulness.**

Laughed at this - similar personality to Nick then, no matter what name ;)

Loved their talk at the end, with Nick pointing out how Stephen hadn't reacted and about differences and acceptance. Glad they came to a satisfactory resolution after some ups, downs and Stevies!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 1st, 2012 11:56 am (UTC)
stephen blue wonder

I love the understated trauma in feral Stephen's life. He's not about to admit it, but he's had a lot of emotional damage done to him and sometimes it just shows, the poor guy :)

Thanks!

Posted by: freddiejoey (freddiejoey)
Posted at: September 25th, 2012 08:09 am (UTC)
Stephen - sally

Love this x many.

Feral Stephen rocks!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 1st, 2012 11:57 am (UTC)
stephen cutter distance

He does rock! Thank you :)

Posted by: flaccidduck (flaccidduck)
Posted at: September 25th, 2012 08:33 am (UTC)

And there it was. It wasn’t an issue of practicality or self-identification. It was hurt. Hurt that a clone had come in and lived his life. Hurt that a clone had gotten things like friendship and stability and normalcy while he’d been relegated to the past. Hurt that someone else had got the things he’d missed out on and hurt that he suspected everyone liked that version of him better.

*hugs feral Stephen*

fabulous fic!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 1st, 2012 11:57 am (UTC)
stephen happy

Feral Stephen deserves a hug, even if he doesn't like it.

Thanks!

Posted by: fredbassett (fredbassett)
Posted at: September 25th, 2012 12:48 pm (UTC)

That's a fabulous look at how names affect people. I loved teh way you worked through Stephen's issues in this in such a believeable way.

Great series.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 1st, 2012 11:58 am (UTC)
stephen cutter sit

Names do carry such a strange and distinctive weight, and I can only imagine that's even more true for poor Stephen.

Thanks!

Posted by: reggietate (reggietate)
Posted at: September 25th, 2012 06:04 pm (UTC)
stephen-nick-m25

You can't really blame him for feeling second-best, but I knew he'd answer to 'Stephen' when push came to shove :-) Great fic.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 1st, 2012 11:59 am (UTC)
stephen angsty

He does have such a strange and difficult position on the team. But he is Stephen, no matter how much he may try to change it.

Thanks!

Posted by: knitekat (knitekat)
Posted at: September 25th, 2012 07:50 pm (UTC)

Poor Stephen, feeling second best.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 1st, 2012 11:59 am (UTC)
stephen hair

He really is in a difficult position.

Thanks!

Posted by: clea2011 (clea2011)
Posted at: September 25th, 2012 08:57 pm (UTC)
Stephengreen

Aw, poor Stephen and his problems. Nice look at him working through them.
LOL at Connor and his name suggestions!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 1st, 2012 12:00 pm (UTC)
stephen cutter sit

Stephen definitely has problems, but with Cutter's help, he may get through them :)

Thanks!

Posted by: Lena7142 (lena7142)
Posted at: September 26th, 2012 01:07 am (UTC)
feral stephen

This may be my favorite of your feral Stephen ficlets. At least in the top three... :)

Edited at 2012-09-26 01:08 am (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 1st, 2012 12:01 pm (UTC)
stephen skeptical

Aww, that makes me happy. This is one that has a more coherent purpose than most :)

Thanks!s

Posted by: judithjohn (judithjohn)
Posted at: September 26th, 2012 11:13 am (UTC)
Fairy

Another fantastic instalment. The dialogue between him and Cutter is always lovely.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 1st, 2012 12:01 pm (UTC)
stephen shocked

I'm really glad you're still enjoying!

Thanks!

Posted by: joshinator (joshinator)
Posted at: September 26th, 2012 11:40 am (UTC)
Nick - sally

great theme. I love how you delve into how a name is linked to our sense of identity.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 1st, 2012 12:02 pm (UTC)
stephen up

Stephen's identity is so complicated; the name thing is just the start of it for him!

Thanks!

Posted by: natchris (natchris)
Posted at: September 27th, 2012 04:22 am (UTC)
Stephen

“But I swear,” Stephen said, holding up one finger dangerously. “If Connor calls me Stevie--”

“Then trust me,” Cutter agreed amicably. “You’ll have every permission to kill him yourself.”

“Slowly and painfully,” Stephen added.

Cutter grinned. “Sounds fair to me.”

Love this fic so much!!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 1st, 2012 12:02 pm (UTC)
stephen happy

Thank you!

Posted by: lsellersfic (lsellersfic)
Posted at: October 2nd, 2012 04:48 pm (UTC)
Primeval:Nick/Stephen (Team Mates)

Well, I'm glad they've got that sorted out!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 5th, 2012 03:08 am (UTC)
stephen sad

Me too :)

Thanks!

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2012 09:49 pm (UTC)
Delightful!

This is SO great! All the great angst I love is here, the loss, the guilt, the mourning, the idea of measuring up to what Stephen believes is the better half of him, feeling inadequate that he can't be that Stephen, or doesn't think he can anyway. I LOVE Cutter's rallying of acceptance, of admission. It's that friendship thing you do SO UTTERLY WELL!

Fave parts:

Still, occasionally the other man did broach the subject, which Cutter reckoned was his right, seeing as the clone had been his genetic derivative. Regardless, they weren’t exactly conversations Cutter relished. To Stephen, the man was just a clone. But to Cutter, he had been a best friend. One who he’d watched die in a horrific and self-sacrificial manner.

“No,” Cutter said, wishing he could explain. Wishing he could tell Hart how much he missed Stephen. Wishing he could explain how much Hart still reminded him of his friend. Wishing he could tell Hart why that wasn’t a bad thing.

--I giggled at the self-sacificial comment.


“I’m not your bloody Stephen Hart, so stop calling me that,” he said. “I’m my own person -- when are you people going to finally accept that and stop treating me like I’m your replacement model!”

--This hurt SO MUCH and I wanted to hug him! It's totally understandable and heart wrenching!


Stephen had always had a hero complex, but this Stephen had no sense of fear to temper his decisions with. Keeping him alive was a trial, to say the least.

Cutter didn’t like that, but he could accept it to some degree. What he couldn’t accept was almost losing Stephen when he didn’t have to.

-- Again, giggling like a school girl over the hero complex! I never get tired of that!


Stephen’s look hardened. “You all need to let him go.”

“Maybe you need to stop fighting him so hard,” Cutter argued. “You said yourself, he was the better part of you.”

Hurt registered on Stephen’s face. “That’s what you believe, isn’t it? You wished he could be here and I wasn’t.”

And there it was. It wasn’t an issue of practicality or self-identification. It was hurt. Hurt that a clone had come in and lived his life. Hurt that a clone had gotten things like friendship and stability and normalcy while he’d been relegated to the past. Hurt that someone else had got the things he’d missed out on and hurt that he suspected everyone liked that version of him better.

Only Stephen didn’t know how to be hurt. He didn’t know how to have emotions. Instead he growled and he postured and he had people call him Hart, as if that could somehow remind him less just how much it hurt, day after day.

Cutter sighed, but didn’t back down. “We do wish he was here,” he said finally. “But we want you here, too. You’re not the same person, this is true. But different doesn’t mean better or worse. It just means different. When we call you Stephen, it’s because that’s who you are. Who you both are. We can accept both of you -- the question is, can you?”

-- I cheered for Cutter in this moment. WONDERFUL declarative speech!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 28th, 2012 02:39 am (UTC)
Re: Delightful!
stephen blue wonder

There is just so much angst with these two to explore. I'm glad other people like reading it almost as much as I like writing it!

Posted by: Evil Insane Monkey (eviinsanemonkey)
Posted at: November 17th, 2012 08:26 pm (UTC)
PE: Danny Quinn

love this!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 20th, 2012 01:19 am (UTC)
stephen cutter sit

Thank you :)

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