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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

The Dinosaur Whisperer (Second Life verse)

November 15th, 2012 (08:44 pm)
moody

feeling: moody

Title: The Dinosaur Whisperer

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

A/N: Next in the Continued Adventures of Feral Stephen. With thanks to lena7142.

Summary: Stephen has a way with animals.



-o-

It was Abby who realised it first.

“Rex likes him,” she said. Then she paused, head cocked. “Have you noticed that?”

Cutter shrugged, still engrossed in his work in the lab. “So?”

“So,” Abby said, nodding down to the atrium where Stephen was helping transport their latest creature -- a microraptor. “Rex has a pretty particular sense of these things. He doesn’t like just anybody. He still gives Connor fits.”

“That’s because Connor gives everyone around him fits,” Cutter said, flipping through the results from his test.

Abby shook her head, unconvinced. “There’s something about him...”

Cutter looked up, watching as Stephen pet the small dinosaur, its quivering body stilling under his touch. “Yes,” he murmured. “There is that.”

Something difficult, feral and hard to understand. Harder still to predict. It often caused Cutter undue headaches.

He made a face. “He’s just got more experience with these creatures than all of us combined,” Cutter concluded.

“I guess so,” Abby said, though she sounded unconvinced.

Cutter’s gaze lingered for another moment before he got back to work.

-o-

The thing was, Abby was probably right.

Cutter noticed it himself with the quetzalcoatlus. The flying beast had been injured, one wing bleeding. Its injury had put it on the defensive, lashing out viciously whenever someone got close. It was clearly no longer a threat -- its clipped wing kept it from flying -- but if they didn’t get it some treatment soon, it was going to suffer -- or worse.

“We can sedate it,” Becker suggested.

Abby shook her head, vehement. “In the state it’s in, medication could prove fatal,” she said.

“Well, we can’t just leave it here,” Becker said with a sigh.

“Can we give it a smaller dose?” Cutter asked. “Enough to subdue it without putting it under?”

Abby looked uncertain. “We’d have to get close enough--”

And then suddenly Connor yelped. “Cutter!”

Cutter spun, on alert, looking at Connor then looking at the quetzalcoatlus.

And Stephen, who was approaching the pterosaur, hands up, one careful step after another as he approached.

Cutter had seen this before, of course. Stephen was fearless when he approached animals, staring down predators like it was just to be expected. But there was no deadly intent in his eyes; no threat in his posture. His arms were up, almost in supplication, eyes beseeching even as they were unyielding as he neared the beast, step by step.

Next to him, Becker swore, moving into position with his gun up. Abby sounded in protest, and Cutter put a hand roughly on the man’s shoulder. He understood the instinct -- the desire to protect Stephen was stronger than ever for Cutter -- but there was something happening here...

The injured animal squawked loudly, lashing out with its beak, but Stephen didn’t back down. Arms up, movements slow and steady, he continued his approach.

Becker shook his head. “Cutter...”

“Just wait,” Cutter said, insisting now, hoping he was right.

The quetzalcoatlus screeched, and Cutter really hoped he was right. Because Stephen was unarmed and too close. If the thing lashed out with the intent to attack, Stephen would have no recourse.

Cutter really had to be right.

He didn’t breathe, didn’t move as Stephen approached. Step after step. As he neared, the creature stilled. Stephen was close enough to touch it now, hand outstretched. The beast trembled, eyes bright as it watched Stephen. The man didn’t break eye contact, movements steady--

Cutter felt his stomach go cold, his body freezing as he prayed he made the right choice.

Then Stephen’s hand settled on the rough flesh. The creature didn’t flinch. Stephen’s palm flattened across the skin, fingers rubbing slowly along the the beast’s belly.

And just like that, the pterosaur’s posture eased, its body relaxing, and head bowing. Stephen reached up, rubbing between its eyes as the creature whimpered pathetically.

Stephen leaned closer, murmuring. The thing eased further, sitting lightly with its injured wing spread.

Looking back, Stephen nodded to Abby who approached, medical kit in hand.

Becker was gaping.

Cutter just had to grin. There was definitely something about him.

-o-

“You should be careful,” Cutter said after the quetzalcoatlus was secure.

Stephen shrugged. “I am careful.”

“You approached an injured creature twice your size,” Cutter reminded him. “Unarmed.”

This didn’t bother Stephen. “He was hurt; not angry.”

“And creatures attack out of pain all the time.”

“Because they’re scared,” Stephen said. “You just have to let them know there’s no reason to be afraid.”

Cutter couldn’t help but be incredulous. “And you can do that?”

Stephen’s smile was smug. “I just did.”

Cutter was not impressed.

Stephen rolled his eyes. “Animals don’t use words, but they still communicate,” he said. “Sometimes I think I understand them better than humans.”

Cutter snorted. “Sometimes I think they understand you better, too.”

-o-

It became a thing: Stephen, the dinosaur whisperer. It’d be amusing if it weren’t so true. The man had a connection to the animals. With the predators, he had no fear, staring them down defiantly, playing a deadly game of chicken that Stephen -- with his ARC backup -- always won. They spoke the same language, though. A harsh, primal challenge from one predator to another.

With the less violent creatures, Stephen had the implicit understanding to corral them without fuss or fanfare. The ARC’s use of sedatives dropped off considerably, and unfortunate incidents of force had also been curbed.

In all, it was a good thing. Abby was greatly pleased with the improved treatment of the animals, and Lester was happy with the reduction of ammunition. All in all, things were going better than ever.

Yet, it still made Cutter nervous. Stephen was careful, and he had rapid reflexes. He knew when to pull out, when to use force, and while Becker gave Stephen space, he always had his gun at the ready, just in case. They minimised the risks.

But they never eliminated them.

-o-

It was a euoplocephalus. A smaller ankylosaur, to be sure, but given the state of the car park they’d cornered it in, it still carried a punch. The overturned cars made for an interesting pursuit, and it was no surprise that Stephen had got there first.

When Cutter skidded into view, the other man was still a few metres out. His knife was still sheathed and his arms were out, palms up.

The euoplocephalus snorted wetly, eyes glaring dangerously at Stephen.

Next to him, Becker was in position. “Steady, steady,” he said, low into his radio mic. On the far side, Becker’s soldiers rounded, forming a tight perimeter. “Hold fire.”

Cutter crouched, watching carefully as Stephen approached. The creature tensed on the first step; it snarled at the second. It went deadly still at the third and didn’t twitch on the fourth.

Just a bit more, just a few more steps--

And then gunfire ripped through the air. Becker swore, and the euoplocephalus flailed as the bullets from the far side of the perimeter ricocheted off its armor.

Stephen saw the danger but there was nowhere to go. He lunged, but he wasn’t fast enough as the creature’s massive tail whipped, catching him heavily and sending him flying. His flight was cut off as he slammed into a car with a meaty thunk, sliding bonelessly to the ground and not moving.

Becker was yelling now, and a full assault was underway. Cutter couldn’t bring himself to watch; he was too busy making his way to Stephen.

The soldiers closed in, and Cutter hit his knees, the pavement rough through his jeans. Stephen was crumpled on his side, eyes closed and body limp.

Heart pounding, he reached down, searching for the pulse at Stephen’s neck. Beneath his fingers, it thrummed quickly, but Stephen showed no signs of waking. “Just hold on.”

Because Stephen had a way with animals, but he was still human. Pale and limp on the pavement, Stephen was still so human.

-o-

In the ambulance, Stephen didn’t wake. He was still in an examination room, eyes closed and face lax while they checked him. He was trussed up in a neckbrace and they cut his clothes away, and Cutter caught a glimpse of the bruising along Stephen’s chest and stomach before they ushered him to the waiting room.

As he waited, Cutter thought Stephen was right. Animals were easy to understand: simple emotions and logical reactions. Humans with their sentimentality and irrational fears, were so much more difficult.

He thought maybe that made it even more important, though.

-o-

Three cracked ribs and a concussion.

Stephen would be sore as hell, but he was going to be fine.

This relieved everyone, especially Becker, who was taking his soldier’s lapse in judgment and premature gunfire personally. The euoplocephalus had been killed to Abby’s dismay, but she would not speak of regret with Stephen’s life in question as it had been.

In all, it was going to be okay.

Cutter just wished it felt that way.

-o-

When he was allowed to see Stephen, the other man was propped up in bed looking miserable.

“Lots of pain?” Cutter asked.

Stephen snorted. “I feel like a caged animal here,” he muttered.

“Not your best analogy,” Cutter quipped ruefully. “But apt.”

Stephen tilted his head. “Did you kill it?”

“No choice,” Cutter replied. “We needed to secure it and get you safe.”

Stephen’s expression looked pained. “She didn’t deserve to die.”

“No,” Cutter agreed. “But in a question of worth, you still come first.”

Stephen looked unconvinced. “Doesn’t seem fair,” he said. “One euoplocephalus and a squadron of men with guns.”

“She still almost killed you,” Cutter pointed out.

“If she had wanted me dead, I’d be dead,” Stephen said, a little gruff. “She trusted me, and I betrayed her.”

“It wasn’t your fault.”

“It was,” Stephen reiterated persistently.

Cutter sighed. “You may understand animals, Stephen, and I respect that,” he said. “But don’t forget that you’re human, too. So I’m not going to apologise for saving your life.”

Stephen eyed him. “Humans are one of the few species to show complex compassion,” he said, a bit clinically.

“And that’s a bad thing?” Cutter asked.

“No,” Stephen said, a small smile pulling on his lips. “I think I’m just beginning to understand it. Animals -- they’re easy. Humans -- they’re much more complicated.”

Cutter nodded in agreement. “I think you have it in you, though.”

Stephen smirked. “I guess time will tell.”

Cutter was certain that it would. Because Stephen had a way with animals.

And in truth, he wasn’t so bad with humans either.

Comments

Posted by: goldarrow (goldarrow)
Posted at: November 16th, 2012 03:02 am (UTC)

Beautiful.
Stephen's way with animals and Abby's noticing of it.
The sad ending of the euoplocephalus and Becker's fury at what happened.
Cutter's ability to get through to Stephen's humanity and Stephen's burgeoning connection.
Lovely.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 20th, 2012 12:46 am (UTC)
stephen cutter distance

I'm very glad you liked this installment. I've loved exploring the different facets of the team.

Thanks!

Posted by: natchris (natchris)
Posted at: November 16th, 2012 03:06 am (UTC)
Stephen

As usual, beautiful writing and lovely fic.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 20th, 2012 12:46 am (UTC)
stephen and cutter

Thank you very much.

Posted by: freddiejoey (freddiejoey)
Posted at: November 16th, 2012 03:22 am (UTC)
Jenny/Nick kissing

You always capture the characters so perfectly. Lovely!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 20th, 2012 12:46 am (UTC)
stephen broken

Aw, thank you!

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: November 16th, 2012 05:25 am (UTC)
I love Stephen as a whisperer

I can completely imagine Stephen's zen gift to calm the most savage of beasts. It gives him an adorable quality. If animals can trust him so implicitly that should be an endorsement of his general character, but humans are complex and it makes sense that Stephen has problems interacting with them.

Fave part:

Stephen looked unconvinced. “Doesn’t seem fair,” he said. “One euoplocephalus and a squadron of men with guns.”

“She still almost killed you,” Cutter pointed out.

“If she had wanted me dead, I’d be dead,” Stephen said, a little gruff. “She trusted me, and I betrayed her.”

“It wasn’t your fault.”

“It was,” Stephen reiterated persistently.

Cutter sighed. “You may understand animals, Stephen, and I respect that,” he said. “But don’t forget that you’re human, too. So I’m not going to apologise for saving your life.”

Stephen eyed him. “Humans are one of the few species to show complex compassion,” he said, a bit clinically.

-- I love Stephen's remorse here and I especially love Cutter's defense of putting Stephen first. Ah, that glow of friendship between them!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 20th, 2012 12:47 am (UTC)
Re: I love Stephen as a whisperer
stephen cutter sit

In this verse, Stephen's had so much more interaction with animals than humans that it only makes sense. And yep, I adore writing the bond between Cutter and Stephen -- with all they've been through, it's so much more pronounced!

Thanks :)

Posted by: lukadreaming (lukadreaming)
Posted at: November 16th, 2012 07:30 am (UTC)
Stephen bruise

That's lovely! I like Abby being the one to notice what's happening.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 20th, 2012 12:47 am (UTC)
stephen cutter

I'm very glad you enjoyed it :) Thanks!

Posted by: flaccidduck (flaccidduck)
Posted at: November 16th, 2012 08:30 am (UTC)
Nick and Stephen

fabulous fic!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 20th, 2012 12:48 am (UTC)
stephen up

Thank you!

Posted by: nietie (nietie)
Posted at: November 16th, 2012 11:58 am (UTC)
Stephensmile

Gorgeous. Yes, I can so see Stephen like the dinosaur whisperer.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 20th, 2012 12:48 am (UTC)
stephen smiles

It definitely makes sense that he'd have these sorts of abilities after so much time with creatures.

Thanks :)

Posted by: judithjohn (judithjohn)
Posted at: November 16th, 2012 04:17 pm (UTC)
Stephen

Feral Stephen is my hero :D

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 20th, 2012 12:48 am (UTC)
stephen cutter distance

Heh, I'm quite fond of him, too.

Thanks!

Posted by: fredbassett (fredbassett)
Posted at: November 16th, 2012 09:17 pm (UTC)
PriWriMo - Stephen - thoughtful

That's fabulous, but such a sad ending because one soldier fucked up. Poor creature.

I love Stephen's connection to the creatures.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 20th, 2012 12:49 am (UTC)
stephen smiles

It doesn't take much in this line of work for things to go very wrong.

Thanks :)

Posted by: knitekat (knitekat)
Posted at: November 16th, 2012 09:47 pm (UTC)

Poor euoplocephalus.

Loved Stephen's way with animals and Abby noticing it first.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 20th, 2012 12:50 am (UTC)
stephen skeptical

Thank you :)

Posted by: kristen_mara (kristen_mara)
Posted at: November 17th, 2012 10:07 pm (UTC)
Saving Stephen


Feral Stephen back in the hospital - I'm sure they have a room permanently reserved in his name *G*

I love his connection with the creatures and how he does his best to save them. And his connection with Nick!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 20th, 2012 12:50 am (UTC)
stephen happy

LOL, I do like putting him in the hospital, don't I?

Thanks :)

Posted by: aelfgyfu_mead (aelfgyfu_mead)
Posted at: November 18th, 2012 05:03 pm (UTC)
Nick & Stephen

I was just reading on Layla Lawlor's LJ her reflections on how humans can basically understand each other regardless of language; even with vastly different customs, we can generally know if someone is happy, hurt, angry, afraid. We can't know that with truly wild animals, though we can with our pets.

Stephen clearly did learn how to read wild animals, in all his time among them; it makes sense that they're now easier to read than humans, for him. He can still (re)learn human feelings, though!

I can only imagine what Becker must have said to the one who shot first.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 20th, 2012 12:52 am (UTC)
stephen goodbye

Yeah, I think Stephen definitely has to relearn human connections -- he's been so isolated that he's probably had to shut down that part of himself in order to survive and keep from going crazy. Now that he's back, it's all foreign and awkward and difficult -- but he can get there.

And yeah, I wouldn't want to be that soldier...

Thanks :)

Posted by: Evil Insane Monkey (eviinsanemonkey)
Posted at: November 18th, 2012 07:33 pm (UTC)
PE: Danny Quinn

oh, this is lovely!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 20th, 2012 12:52 am (UTC)
stephen shocked

Thank you :)

Posted by: clea2011 (clea2011)
Posted at: November 19th, 2012 12:18 am (UTC)
Stephen black white

Lovely chapter, I can see Feral Stephen having a connection with the creatures.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 20th, 2012 12:52 am (UTC)
stephen up

He definitely would have picked up some unusual insights during his time in the past.

Thanks!

Posted by: lsellersfic (lsellersfic)
Posted at: November 19th, 2012 05:57 pm (UTC)
Primeval:Stephen

I like the way the problem was Stephen failing to factor in human behaviour!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 20th, 2012 12:53 am (UTC)
stephen shocked

It seems very much like this version of Stephen -- to pick up on the things no one else sees and fail to notice the obvious.

Thanks :)

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