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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Primeval fic: Freefall (Second Life verse)

September 12th, 2012 (09:52 pm)
confused

feeling: confused

Title: Freefall

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

A/N: This is the next bit in the Continued Adventures of Feral Stephen. Lena asked for this one, and she also beta’ed it. So, as usual, all fault is hers :)

Summary: Freefall. It was thrilling and exciting and enlivening -- until you hit the ground.



-o-

Cutter was used to some strange things in his line of work. After all, when it came to rifts in time and sundry prehistoric creatures, there was no such thing as normal. If he wasn’t chasing a mammoth down the motorway, he was chasing a raptor through a shopping centre. Or shooting pteranodons out of the sky. Or chasing giant worms through office buildings.

Or trying to catch a ornithomimus as it darted from rooftop to rooftop in one of the residential parts of London.

The anomaly had formed in the attic of one of the homes. When the owner had heard the noise, she’d gone up expecting a bat. But when she opened the window, the small, speedy thing had bolted right through, somehow leaping to the next building.

By the time Cutter’s team had arrived, the thing had skipped five houses down, thanks to the proximity of the homes. Connor stood and gaped. Abby started to assess the creature’s tendencies. Becker opted for a rifle with more accuracy.

Cutter frowned, wondering if they could get a ladder up there. He was contemplating the best way to corral the creature before it jumped on down the row and they lost track of it, when he turned to Stephen.

Who wasn’t there.

Then he heard his team gasp. Becker swore. Abby cried out. Connor whistled.

And Cutter knew before he looked. Cutter knew.

Still, when he turned, his stomach went cold as he saw Stephen climb out onto the roof.

-o-

Since joining the ARC, Stephen had been perplexed to think that they ever got anything done. They were always doing paperwork or going to briefings. They liked to sit and assess, research and study. Stephen could appreciate a certain amount of caution, but he’d spent too many years around creatures of the past to think that standing there thinking for extended periods of time would be effective at all.

Creatures reacted instinctively. Trying to assess and predict such behavior was essentially a waste of time and it usually led to further risk and ongoing complications.

So they could think. And Stephen would act.

Honestly, though, he’d expected someone to follow him a bit quicker. When he stepped out onto the roof, there had been no one there to stop him. Not that they would have been able to. Stephen was determined about these things, because he knew what he was doing.

And he knew the ornithomimus. The creature was small and skittish; it was a hunter, but not likely to go after larger game, not on its own. But it was apt to start running and the one thing the ARC liked more than paperwork was secrecy.

Which meant they needed to capture the thing before it scampered off down a building and they ended up tracking it on the ground.

Beneath him, the roof tiles shifted and Stephen gave his feet a cursory glance. It wasn't that different from climbing trees and running along narrow outcroppings of volcanic rock over the ridges and precipitous hills of a young earth. Stephen was nimble and had good balance, and little fear of heights.

The little creature eyed him, going unnaturally stiff. Stephen inched forward, careful foot after careful foot.

It wasn't that different at all.

Then, it bolted suddenly, crashing toward the end of the roof and making the leap to the next building with relative ease. It skittered for a moment, but recovered its traction, running off and ducking toward the chimney and going still again, as if to camouflage itself.

Stephen followed, moving lightly across the tiles, finding his equilibrium easily. The wind was light -- not a factor. He had his momentum going down toward the eaves, and he trusted his body, his instincts, still well honed after so long in the wild.

It wasn’t that different.

Except for the fact that there was less traction on modern industrial surfaces than on bark or stone. A fact Stephen suddenly became aware of as his foot slid as he pushed off to jump, throwing his trajectory off.

And also, he realized, for the fact that here...

.... there was a lot farther to fall.

-o-

Stephen was there.

Then he wasn’t.

His foot slipped, just a little. But enough.

He made no sound as he fell, body tumbling through the air during no more than three seconds of freefall.

And then, he hit the ground.

In front of Cutter, Abby cried, turning away with her eyes shut. Connor’s face had gone from awe to terror. Becker was the only one who remembered to move, gun down as he ran forward, already pulling out his radio as he approached Stephen.

And Cutter stood there, trying to remember how to move. Trying to remember how to think. Trying to remember anything.

But all that came to mind was the moment of lightness when stepping through an anomaly. The dark twisting in his stomach when Stephen went over the waterfall in the Permian. The ecstasy of coming home and kissing Claudia Brown.

Freefall.

Cutter took a breath, and the reality came up to meet him with a sudden, crashing, inescapable impact.

“Stephen!” he yelled, running as fast as he could, even though it was already too late.

-o-

When he got there, Becker was already down on one knee, gun moved out of the way. He was barking orders into his radio, demanding backup and an ambulance in no uncertain terms.

But that wasn’t important to Cutter.

For Cutter, there was only Stephen.

The younger man was lying in a twisted heap, half sprawled on his back with his legs askew and arms flailed to the side. His head was turned, a pool of blood growing from underneath the freshly cut hair.

“We’re lucky he fell in the garden,” Becker muttered. “Grass is a much softer landing.”

Softer, yes. But Cutter knew the laws of physics well enough. Over two stories up, it didn’t much matter where Stephen fell. The force of the impact...

Cutter didn’t know how to finish the thought. He was good at many things, but he was bad at being helpless. Bad at sitting there and watching Stephen Hart die, again and again and again.

Freefall.

It was thrilling and exciting and enlivening -- until you hit the ground.

And Cutter wondered if this was what it felt like, cold twisting in his gut, voice lodged painfully in his throat. Tears burned in his eyes and doubt churned in his head.

His breath caught and his knees went weak as he crashed to the ground. “Stephen,” he said, looking down the length of the lanky form, broken and listless. “Oh, Stephen.

-o-

There was nothing he could do.

The first time he’d watched Stephen die, he’d been on the outside of a locked door. The metal had been cold under his touch, the glass impenetrable. Even when he looked away, he could still hear the screams of agony, piercing and unrelenting until they’d been cut off suddenly and the only sound left had been the predators fighting over what was left of Stephen.

The second time, Stephen hadn’t died at all, but seeing him disappear over the waterfall had been much the same feeling. Finding him half drowned and bleeding had been terrifying, and the long vigil that night, smothering Stephen’s helpless and terrified screams, would linger with him for a long time.

The third time, Cutter hadn’t been there at all. Not really, but he could imagine it. He could feel the heat, see Taylor’s defiant face twisting in worry. She’d saved Stephen’s life once, but without Cutter, she hadn’t been able to do it again. Without Cutter, Stephen had died, alone and in pain.

This time, Stephen didn’t move. He didn’t make a sound. Becker refused to touch him, not even to stem the flow of blood from his head. Cutter just had to sit there, close enough to hold the man but completely impotent to do so. Somehow, it felt like the worst punishment yet.

Somehow.

-o-

By the time the paramedics arrived, Stephen’s breathing had started to get shallow and raspy. The blood was soaking into the grass, and Cutter thought he might go crazy.

Becker all but dragged him away while they worked, holding him back with one firm hand while Stephen was fitted with a neck brace and strapped down carefully to a board. One of the medics hooked up an IV while the other plastered a bandage to the side of Stephen’s head. After adding a splint to his leg and another to his arm, they lifted Stephen up and carried him off.

Loading him up into the ambulance, they put the sirens on and took off.

And that was that.

Except that it wasn’t at all.

-o-

At the hospital, Cutter was oblivious to his teammates. Abby and Connor meant well, and so did Becker. And he knew they were all worried about Stephen, but Cutter didn’t have it in him. Not when everything inside of him was thinking about Stephen.

He couldn’t find Stephen just to lose him to one bloody misstep.

He couldn’t.

But these things were never in his hands, no matter how much he wanted to pretend otherwise. They tried to predict the anomalies. They tried to control the creatures. But Cutter was still mostly useless, scrabbling at nothing as he tried to survive.

As he tried.

And failed.

-o-

“Mr Hart is in theater,” the nurse explained. “They’ll set his leg and his arm while they’re there, but they’ll spend most of the time trying to control the bleed in his brain. But you should feel lucky. Mr Hart is in very good hands.”

Funny, but Cutter didn’t feel lucky at all.

-o-

They all waited. Abby and Connor curled up in a pair of chairs in the corner, hands locked together as they murmured quietly to one another. Becker was in and out, and he paced the length of the waiting room more than he sat.

Cutter sat numbly on a chair, staring down the corridor. He stared until Claudia came, concerned and fretful, settling down next to him and running her hand through her hair. “He’ll be all right,” she assured him. “You’ll see.”

He wanted to believe her. It might be easy to.

But the fact was, he wasn’t sure how many chances Stephen Hart had left.

How many chances Cutter had left.

If there were any chances left at all.

-o-

In the morning, the doctor came out. “His leg was a bit complicated to set, but I think it will heal nicely,” he explained. “The wrist was a simple break -- no problems there. And really, as far as brain surgery goes, Mr Hart did remarkably well. We controlled the bleed, and the shunt will have to stay in place to help control the swelling, but I’m really quite optimistic.”

Connor stared and Abby blinked. Becker’s jaw twitched and Claudia clutched Cutter’s hand tighter.

Cutter swallowed with difficulty. “So he’s alive?”

The doctor nodded readily. “Yes,” he said. “Would you like to see him?”

Cutter couldn’t say yes fast enough.

-o-

In the recovery ward, Stephen was still intubated. The bandage around his head was bulky, and the one on his leg was cumbersome. He’d complain about it when he was awake.

The thought made Cutter smile, despite everything. When he was awake.

When the tube was removed; when the shunt was gone. When Stephen was breathing on his own and awake.

Stephen could complain then, and Cutter would listen to every word.

-o-

One day turned into two, into three. The doctor said this was normal.

On the fourth, Cutter felt his hope waver.

On the fifth, Stephen opened his eyes.

On the sixth, they removed the tube.

On the seventh, Stephen opened his eyes again. He worked to wet his lips, eyes settling on Cutter. “You look...like hell,” he said, voice barely a whisper.

And Cutter laughed.

Then, he promptly passed out.

-o-

It was like freefalling.

Weightless and unburdened. The air moving past his ears, flitting through his hair. It was terrifying; it was enlivening.

It was everything.

One suspended moment of ecstasy.

One moment.

Before it all came crashing down.

-o-

He woke up to see Claudia.

She was glaring at him.

“That was stupid, you know,” she lectured.

Cutter frowned. “Stephen?”

She sighed. “Of course you’d ask for him,” she muttered. Then she sat back, glancing to the next bed. “Because he keeps asking for you.”

In the other bed, Stephen was propped up. He was still pale, the bandage still in place. But he smiled.

And Cutter smiled back.

Sometimes hitting the ground wasn’t so bad after all.

-o-

When everyone left, it was just Cutter and Stephen. Cutter was being held overnight for exhaustion, but he suspected that Claudia had pulled a few strings to keep him with Stephen.

For his part, Stephen was more or less himself. He fell asleep a little too often, dropping off mid-sentence without warning, but he was curt and uncomfortable, glaring at the nurses and making snide commentary about the pointlessness of casts.

Cutter snorted.

Stephen turned to glare at him. “What?”

“You complain too much,” Cutter said.

“I’m laid up in a hospital bed,” Stephen griped. “I think I have a right.”

Cutter gave him a look. “You’re in a hospital bed because you tried to jump off a roof.”

Stephen’s brow furrowed. “So?”

Cutter raised his eyebrows. “That doesn’t strike you as reckless?”

Stephen shrugged. “It was an acceptable risk,” he said. “I’ve jumped worse before. I just hadn’t counted on the give in the rooftop--”

Cutter shook his head. “You’re unbelievable.”

“No, you’re unbelievable,” Stephen countered. “You all stand around and plot and plan when there are things that need to be done. You’re not efficient.”

“No, but we’re much safer,” Cutter shot back.

“That doesn’t matter--”

“Yes,” Cutter interjected roughly. “Yes, it does.”

Stephen’s mouth closed.

Cutter didn’t hold back now. “You’re the best damn tracker I’ve ever met,” he continued. “You can hunt better than any of us combined. You’re good at what you do, and we all know it. But you’re only human, Stephen.”

Stephen’s face tightened.

“More than that, you’re our friend,” Cutter said, lowering his voice now. “We plot and we plan to keep each other safe. Because we want to do our job, but we don’t want to risk any lives. Especially not those of the people we care about.”

Stephen stared at him, eyes softening with the realization.

“I’ve watched you die enough,” Cutter told him. “So if you could stop jumping off roofs, I’d really appreciate it.”

Stephen took a breath. He worked his jaw. Then, he nodded. “Fine,” he said.

Cutter couldn’t help but grin. “Good.”

There was a moment of amiable silence. Then Stephen added. “But if it’s just a single story--”

Cutter turned and glared at him.

Stephen held up his hands, his casted wrist flailing dangerously through the air. “I’m just saying!”

“Don’t,” Cutter warned.

Stephen rolled his eyes. “What if it’s a flat roof--”

“Stephen!”

“Okay!”

And that was that.

Until Stephen’s next disaster, anyway.

Comments

Posted by: goldarrow (goldarrow)
Posted at: September 13th, 2012 03:15 am (UTC)

OH, OH, OH!!!
You had my heart in my mouth through that one!

Stephen doesn't know his limitations, does he?

And Cutter will keep going until the crisis is past, and then just fall apart.

Then Stephen added. “But if it’s just a single story--”

Lovely!

Perfect moment of humour to lighten the atmosphere!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 17th, 2012 07:52 pm (UTC)
stephen cutter distance

If Stephen knows his limits, he's pretty indifferent to them. Much to Cutter's chagrin. I feel sorry for them both!

Thanks :)

Posted by: freddiejoey (freddiejoey)
Posted at: September 13th, 2012 04:11 am (UTC)
Stephen - eriah

This is magnificent. It made me cry and sigh and yell out "yay".

Love it.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 17th, 2012 07:52 pm (UTC)
stephen cutter

Aw, thank you! So glad you liked it.

Posted by: joshinator (joshinator)
Posted at: September 13th, 2012 05:53 am (UTC)
Nick - sally

“More than that, you’re our friend,” Cutter said, lowering his voice now. “We plot and we plan to keep each other safe. Because we want to do our job, but we don’t want to risk any lives. Especially not those of the people we care about.”

Stephen stared at him, eyes softening with the realization.

“I’ve watched you die enough,” Cutter told him. “So if you could stop jumping off roofs, I’d really appreciate it.”

*melts*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 17th, 2012 07:52 pm (UTC)
stephen skeptical

Thanks :)

Posted by: lukadreaming (lukadreaming)
Posted at: September 13th, 2012 06:17 am (UTC)
Stephen bruise

Lovely ep! I was reading the first part holding my breath and thinking 'nooooooooo!' Then I just had to smile at 'what did I do wrong?' Stephen in hospital! The conversation at the end between him and Cutter was classic!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 17th, 2012 07:53 pm (UTC)
stephen smiles

I'm really glad you liked it! I do enjoy writing whump, so I'm glad it's fun to read.

Thanks!

Posted by: flaccidduck (flaccidduck)
Posted at: September 13th, 2012 06:36 am (UTC)
Nick and Stephen

I read this screaming "NOOOOOOO" too and then it became just completely wonderful.

fabulous fic!!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 17th, 2012 07:53 pm (UTC)
stephen goodbye

LOL, I'm glad the ending made up for the angst.

Thanks :)

Posted by: kristen_mara (kristen_mara)
Posted at: September 13th, 2012 10:24 am (UTC)
Blurred


Cutter's angst is so vivid in this, his broken 'Oh Stephen' and all the flashbacks, him passing out, Claudia's annoyance, and yay for the his 'n' his hospital beds! LOL

LOL and awwww re their conversation in the final scene.

I hope that creature isn't still trip-trapping over the rooftops of London ;)

And poor Cutter again - because he'll have to nursemaid brokenStephen and put up with his irritations until Stephen is healed!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 17th, 2012 07:54 pm (UTC)
stephen's eyes

LOL, I assume the others eventually caught the creature. It's a testament to Cutter's shifting priorities that he doesn't dwell on that :)

And I do love Cutter playing housemaid to broken Stephen. A lot.

Thanks!

Posted by: fredbassett (fredbassett)
Posted at: September 13th, 2012 10:38 am (UTC)

This was great! I had my heart in my mouth during the fall, and the humour at the end was just perfect!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 17th, 2012 07:54 pm (UTC)
stephen smiles

I'm glad the angst and the humor blended well.

Thanks!

Posted by: judithjohn (judithjohn)
Posted at: September 13th, 2012 11:28 am (UTC)
Fairy

Sensational!

"In the other bed, Stephen was propped up. He was still pale, the bandage still in place. But he smiled.

And Cutter smiled back.

Sometimes hitting the ground wasn’t so bad after all."

So yay!!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 17th, 2012 07:55 pm (UTC)
stephen hair

Thank you so much :)

Posted by: nietie (nietie)
Posted at: September 13th, 2012 01:28 pm (UTC)
Nick/Stephen

Meep! I was thinking every thought Cutter was having and feeling every feeling he was having.

“You all stand around and plot and plan when there are things that need to be done. You’re not efficient.” Stephen is right, but like Cutter said, it should be safe too.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 17th, 2012 07:55 pm (UTC)
stephen hair

Stephen just hasn't learned to think of how he fits in with the team -- and the idea of other people caring about him is a bit foreign.

Thanks :)

Posted by: knitekat (knitekat)
Posted at: September 13th, 2012 08:05 pm (UTC)

Lovely fic. Started with the eek! and ended with a grin.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 17th, 2012 07:55 pm (UTC)
stephen happy

I'm happy to leave you with a smile :)

Thanks!

Posted by: aunteeneenah (aunteeneenah)
Posted at: September 13th, 2012 10:19 pm (UTC)

...sigh... (that's me letting out the breath I was holding) lovely, thank you.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 17th, 2012 07:56 pm (UTC)
stephen cutter distance

Aw, I'm glad you liked it. Thanks!

Posted by: natchris (natchris)
Posted at: September 14th, 2012 02:24 am (UTC)
Stephen

Brilliant fic!!

Love this 'verse!!!!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 17th, 2012 07:56 pm (UTC)
stephen shocked

I'm really glad people are enjoying the verse! Thanks :)

Posted by: Lena7142 (lena7142)
Posted at: September 14th, 2012 10:37 pm (UTC)
cutter and stephen

I will never stop loving this fic. The structure and the theme of 'freefall' is beautifully incorporated, and the h/c is just wonderful. *g*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 17th, 2012 07:57 pm (UTC)
stephen cutter

Aw. You make me happy. I can't imagine my life without feral Stephen so I still feel like I need to keep thanking you instead :)

Thanks!

Posted by: lsellersfic (lsellersfic)
Posted at: September 18th, 2012 07:28 pm (UTC)
Primeval:Nick/Stephen

Oh dear! Stephen does need to learn a little more respect for the people he works with and the reasons they do things the way they do.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 21st, 2012 03:09 am (UTC)
stephen sad

Stephen is completely not used to other people and all the opinions and ideas they bring to the table. He's got a bit of a learning curve to survive ;)

Thanks!

Posted by: Evil Insane Monkey (eviinsanemonkey)
Posted at: November 17th, 2012 08:14 pm (UTC)
PE: Danny Quinn

Stephen! You gotta stop scaring your team mates like that, man!

This line sums it all up so nicely: “I’ve watched you die enough,” Cutter told him. “So if you could stop jumping off roofs, I’d really appreciate it."

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