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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Primeval fic: How Stephen Got His Groove Back (Part Two) (Second Life verse)

January 3rd, 2013 (09:52 pm)
bouncy

feeling: bouncy

Title: How Stephen Got His Groove Back (Part Two)

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

A/N: I’m trying to get back into the habit of posting -- and there’s a few weeks left of ficlets before I’m out :) Then I guess we’ll all have to pester Lena for more! This is all part of the Continued Adventures of Feral Stephen.

Summary: Stephen's always been a creature of instinct. But there are some instincts Cutter's not prepared to address.



-o-

After bringing Stephen home from the Permian, Cutter had taken some pleasure in the fact that the man clearly trusted him. Stephen was not prone to sentimentality, but Cutter knew by now that Stephen considered him a friend, probably his best friend. Accordingly, Cutter had discovered that Stephen talked to him about a great many topics, and he had helped the younger man deal with a myriad of issues.

They talked about how to clean up Stephen’s flat, what to do with the clone’s things. They talked about work and about social situations. Cutter offered advice about how to acclimate to the modern world. Stephen shared stories about his time in the Permian, and Cutter chuckled over all the pop culture references that left Stephen utterly aghast and perplexed.

They talked about nearly everything, in truth, with more openness and candor than his Stephen. They talked about everything, or so Cutter had wanted to believe.

At least until Stephen stood in front of him, brow furrowed and mouth pressed thin. This was a familiar look, Stephen’s deeply pensive expression, when he was considering speaking but was unsure how to begin.

“You may as well just say it,” Cutter blurted for him, and he meant it too. Cutter was ready to explain anything from the origin of the Arab Spring to the wonder of the power couple that was Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Stephen was quiet for another long moment.

“It can’t be as bad as the explanation of why we can’t eat dinosaur poop regularly,” Cutter pointed out.

Stephen nodded, serious. He took a breath and look at Cutter fully. “I want a woman.”

Cutter blinked. “Pardon?”

Stephen nodded again. “I’m interested in a woman,” he said. “I mean, dating a woman. Spending time with her.”

Cutter stared.

And suddenly missed dinosaur poop.

-o-

On the topic of women.

It wasn’t that Stephen had no experience, it was that he had had no human interaction for eight years and generally had the social disposition of a surly 13 year old. Only when Stephen belched, he didn’t think it was humorous, he merely forgot he was in the presence of others until it was too late to take it back.

But, like a surly 13 year old, Stephen had hormones. It was easy to forget such things when the man still used his fingers during formal dining situations, but it wasn’t a fact that necessarily surprised Cutter. After all, Stephen had been in the Permian for most of a decade.

Alone.

There was a certain weightiness to that that Cutter had always known, but when Cutter thought about it that way, it seemed even more cruel. True, Cutter himself had been more celibate than not in the eight years of Helen’s disappearance, but there had been a period of mourning, and part of it had been by choice.

And part of it hadn’t been celibate at all.

Such things were neither here nor there anyway, now that he had found Claudia Brown again, and celibacy became as antiquated as the Permian to him.

He had to admit, it had done wonders for his mood. Some of his lifted spirits were undoubtedly from having Stephen back in his life, but spending time with Claudia was also a major factor.

The point was, of course, that Stephen had no such fall back. The man had had no other options. Helen had seduced him, stranded him and Stephen had endured eight years of solitude. Perhaps it had been easier to deal with in the past, when he was too busy trying to survive or running around in a loin cloth to notice. When the most attractive thing was trying to rip your throat out, Cutter reckoned sex was low on the list of priorities.

Those priorities had changed, though. Back in the present, Stephen had time to think about things like women and relationships. Things like sex.

Plus, now there were women around.

All in all, Stephen’s newfound desire to think about women wasn’t so newfound after all. Rather, it was long repressed and it was entirely reasonable for him to be concerned about it.

Reasonable, but not exactly something Cutter really wanted to talk about.

Still, he was Stephen’s friend.

And friends talked. Friends listened. Even about...

“Did you have a particular woman in mind?”

Stephen’s face went blank; then, he looked vaguely panicked. “No,” he said, making a wayward gesture. “It was just the general notion.”

A general notion. So no one had caught Stephen’s fancy; Stephen just had a fancy that needed to be caught.

Badly, if his twitchiness was any indication.

Cutter nodded, trying to keep himself serious. “Okay,” he said. “Well. It’s totally understandable.”

Stephen nodded intently.

Cutter pursed his lips, continuing carefully. “And I think, you know, it’s doable.”

Stephen’s blue eyes were almost hopeful.

“But you may want to, ah,” Cutter began, looking for the words.

Stephen stared, waiting.

“You’ll have to start by talking to them,” Cutter said finally.

At that, Stephen blinked.

“Women,” Cutter clarified.

Stephen looked confused. “I talk to women.”

“I don’t mean about work things,” Cutter said. “About other...things. About life. Their interests. If you want someone to spend time with, you have to let them know you’re interested in spending time with them.”

“Flirt,” Stephen concluded. “You’re telling me to flirt.”

“Yes,” Cutter said readily, relieved to not have to spell it out further. “You’ll want to start flirting.”

Stephen considered this for a moment. Then, he finally nodded. “Okay,” he said. “I can do that.”

Cutter managed to smile, and dared to hope it might be that simple.

-o-

Cutter had half hoped that Stephen might forget the entire conversation. However, Cutter should have realized that he was nowhere nearly that lucky. Moreover, Stephen had a single-minded determination in life; things he put his mind to, he accomplished, almost without fail. This was a logical consequence of spending most of a decade left to his own devices. For the most part, it served him well.

Cutter was not entirely convinced it was such a good idea when it came to flirtation. Because Stephen could learn technical skills, he could improve in basic tasks. But interpersonal relationships were much less concrete and required the willing participation of other people.

Namely, women.

Granted, women liked Stephen -- from a distance. His rugged looks had women around the ARC swooning. He imagined that some found his damaged psyche after a decade on his own appealing. But up close, one on one interaction was still uncharted territory, and Cutter feared it would be riddled with landmines.

Stephen made his first attempt with one of the lab assistants. She was about Stephen’s age, pretty enough, and always friendly. Really, she was a good choice, and Cutter imagined the two might even be able to find a few things in common to talk casually about.

But Stephen never got that far.

Instead, the encounter ended with a yelp and screech and Stephen profusely apologizing before turning beet red and fleeing, head ducked as he came back to Cutter.

On the other side of the lab, Cutter winced. “No luck, then,” he said in commiseration.

Stephen’s jaw was locked tight in embarrassment. “She almost screamed.”

“Well you scared her,” Cutter said.

Stephen looked up at him, humiliated. “How am I supposed to talk to women if I scare them?”

Cutter shifted, his voice as gentle as possible. “You could try starting conversation more naturally.”

“I was perfectly natural,” Stephen insisted. “I said hello.”

“Yes, after you stood directly behind her and stared at her for three minutes,” Cutter pointed out.

Stephen sighed. “I was trying to best gauge her mood!”

“When she turned around you were right there,” Cutter said. “Staring.”

“Watching,” Stephen corrected.

“It’s much the same thing with you,” Cutter said.

Stephen blew out an angry breath. “So I stalk, stare at and generally stupefy women,” he muttered. “Great.”

Cutter clapped him on the shoulder. “At least we know what to work on.”

Stephen rolled his eyes and skulked away.

-o-

Stephen’s next effort was with the new girl, Jess, who ran the computer systems. She was cute and young and perky -- and she didn’t seem to scare easily, which Cutter counted as a plus. In all, he was vaguely optimistic.

But when Stephen came back, downtrodden, Cutter’s hopes faded. “What did you do to her?”

“What did I do to her?” Stephen asked with a snort. “What about what she did to me?”

Cutter raised his eyebrows, wondering what on earth such a tiny woman could possibly do to make Stephen react in such a way.

“I went up, started a conversation,” he said. “Didn’t sneak, didn’t prowl. It was all very normal.”

“So what happened?”

“She started talking!” Stephen said indignantly.

Cutter waited for more explanation. “Isn’t that the point?”

“A little talk, yes,” Stephen said. “But she talked for nearly thirty minutes straight. I timed it.”

“Well, that’s a good sign,” Cutter said. “It means you were having a good interaction with her.”

“There was no interaction!” Stephen hissed. “She talked. I listened. When I tried to leave, she laughed and talked some more. She was like a Permian leech, latching on and sucking and sucking--”

“Well, at least you found out before you asked her out,” Cutter offered helpfully.

“Oh, no,” Stephen said. “I didn’t want to walk away with nothing, so I did ask her.”

“And what did she say?”

Stephen huffed. “Apparently she has eyes for someone else,” he said. “I endured all that for nothing.

“Well, those are the perils of dating,” Cutter advised.

Stephen sulked. “And we consider ourselves an evolved species,” he said tersely as he stalked away again.

-o-

Stephen was persistent.

He analyzed his failures and came up with new approaches.

And he failed again.

Sometimes, he was too forceful. Other times, he never forced the issue enough. He was blunt when he needed to cajole, forceful when he needed to be charming. His poor eating habits were an issue, and women noticed the days he missed showers or wore the same clothes consecutively. He didn’t know how to talk about current events, and when he told stories about gutting small rodents in the Permian, he scared away any of the few candidates who had made it through his initial stages of awkward flirtation.

After one of the female soldiers had thrown water in his face for attempting to ask her out, Stephen came back to Cutter, fuming.

“It’s futile!”

Cutter tried to hide his chuckle. “It’s not so bad.”

“It is so bad,” Stephen said in frustration, hair still dripping.

“You’re just lucky she wasn’t armed,” Cutter joked.

Stephen’s eyes burned with anger. “You think is funny?” he asked. “Sit around and laugh at the caveman, is that it? Get a good laugh while Stephen makes an arse of himself again?”

Cutter’s smile fell, his gut twisting. “That’s not--”

Stephen huffed, shaking his head. “You should have just left me in the Permian,” he said. “At least that way when I was alone, I didn’t have to think it was my fault all the time.”

Cutter was left gaping, as Stephen stalked away again.

-o-

Stephen’s outburst had caught Cutter by surprise. Sure, Cutter had known that Stephen was interested in dating, but he hadn’t realized just how precarious his emotions were on the topic. It wasn’t just a physical need, but an emotional one as well.

The entire thing was awkward and a little amusing for Cutter.

It was a lot more for Stephen.

Because he really was a surly 13 year old, putting up an angry front because he was afraid to let it show how much rejection hurt. And Stephen had been rejected. None of the women had been cruel -- and many had had a right to shoo the man away. Stephen wooed with the grace of a pit bull, although he was trying.

Stephen was capable of many things, but he clearly did not deal with failure well.

He found Stephen outside in the carpark, leaning against Cutter’s car and looking at his hands. To add to his indignity, Stephen still didn’t have his driver’s license, forced to catch a ride or run whenever he wanted to get somewhere. It occurred to Cutter that maybe there was a reason 13 year old boys were surly: sometimes their lives sucked.

“Hey,” Cutter said.

Stephen just grunted.

Cutter came closer. “I didn’t mean anything,” he said.

Stephen worked his jaw, but didn’t look up, didn’t respond.

“I didn’t realize it meant so much to you, is all,” Cutter ventured carefully. “Women aren’t easy to figure out. It took me a long time to move on after Helen. And I almost lost Claudia before I even got my head screwed on right to try to get her.”

It was a confession Cutter had thought about, but had never said aloud. His own dating life had never been easy, and losing Claudia in the timeline shift had hurt more than he’d ever let himself admit. Coming home, seeing her again -- it was as if everything had clicked in place. And Cutter was so grateful for that chance -- grateful for Claudia and who she was and the relationship they had together.

“It’s never easy, though,” Cutter said gently. “You’ll get it figured out.”

Stephen blinked rapidly, still not looking up. “I don’t even know how to do this,” he said. “Relationships.”

“Well you’ve been away for nine years,” Cutter reminded him. “Give yourself some time.”

Stephen snorted bitterly. “Before that, my only serious relationship was with a married woman. Who happened to be my teacher. And who took me to the Permian and left me there to die,” he said.

Cutter hadn’t thought about that, mostly because he tried not to think about Stephen and Helen at all. It was still a difficult topic to broach in his head, and the idea of Stephen betraying him like that still stung. It was hard to reconcile it all, to understand how he could befriend a man who had thought so little of him in the beginning, but he knew it didn’t matter. People made mistakes. Cutter was lucky enough that he had gotten the chance to fix his.

Stephen was many things, but lucky wasn’t among them. Some of it had been his own fault, no doubt, for dabbling with his teacher and a married woman, but Helen had used him, led him on, and then left him when it was convenient to her. She’d treated his clone just as poorly, and the idea of that being Stephen’s only significant romantic relationship was something of an unsettling thought.

Stephen shook his head. “I knew better, too,” he said. “I knew she was married. I knew I shouldn’t sleep with my teacher. But I didn’t know what any of that meant back then. I didn’t know anything at all.”

He’d been young. When Cutter was that young, he’d been off making his own mistakes, some more colorful than the rest. But he’d learned, used his second chances well and moved on.

Stephen had lost nine years, and Cutter could see now that it wasn’t a laughing matter. Stephen was scared and he was uncertain and he was anxious -- and the more of that he felt, the more it made him angry.

Sighing, Cutter leaned against the car next to Stephen, looking out over the carpark. “Well, you can’t force it,” he said.

Stephen grunted. “I can’t do it at all.”

Cutter made a dismissive noise. “You can,” he said. “But relationships -- they aren’t things you can force. They have to happen. You talk to women, you spend time with them, and something will click. Maybe not right away, but sooner or later, something will click.”

Stephen’s jaw worked. He glanced at Cutter, looking younger than he was. “And what if I screw it up again?”

Cutter shrugged. “Let’s start by avoiding married women and mad scientists,” he said.

At that, Stephen laughed. “Those are criteria I can agree to.”

“Good,” Cutter said, pushing up again. “No maybe we should go back inside.”

Stephen made a face. “I’ve made enough of an idiot of myself today,” he said.

“No such thing,” he said wisely. “Where women are concerned, you have to accept making an idiot of yourself for the rest of your life if you want to be happy.”

Stephen looked skeptical.

“Trust me,” Cutter said. “I know.”

Finally, Stephen got up. “Say, I don’t suppose Claudia has any friends...”

Before Cutter could reply, he envisioned the various disasters that would ensue with a double date with Stephen.

He pursed his lips together, shaking his head. “None available,” he lied, not looking at Stephen’s disappointed face as they went back inside.

Comments

Posted by: kristen_mara (kristen_mara)
Posted at: January 4th, 2013 04:55 am (UTC)
Hair!


Lovely mix of sweet and sad!

Having to go through the clone's things, and Nick getting on better with this Stephen than the other one...

LOL at Jess rabbiting on. I love Nick's observations and belated realisations about Stephen's feelings and thoughts, and poor Stephen didn't realise when he hooked up with a married woman that he'd be dumped in another era! ;)

Good on Stephen for trying to date again and for Nick supporting him - mostly *G*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 25th, 2013 02:56 am (UTC)
stephen angsty

I'm glad you liked this foray into dating. Poor Stephen is out of his depth! You'd like to help, I'm sure.

Thanks!

Posted by: freddiejoey (freddiejoey)
Posted at: January 4th, 2013 05:13 am (UTC)
Abby and Sarah

“No such thing,” he said wisely. “Where women are concerned, you have to accept making an idiot of yourself for the rest of your life if you want to be happy.”

Stephen looked skeptical.

“Trust me,” Cutter said. “I know.”

Wonderful!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 25th, 2013 02:57 am (UTC)
stephen wary

Thank you :)

Posted by: goldarrow (goldarrow)
Posted at: January 4th, 2013 05:31 am (UTC)

*Howls with laughter*
*sniffles with sympathy*
*giggles*

Stephen’s face went blank; then, he looked vaguely panicked.
*snicker*

Before Cutter could reply, he envisioned the various disasters that would ensue with a double date with Stephen.
smart Cutter :)

That was lovely. I spent it alternately sniggering and wanting to hug Stephen to make him feel better.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 25th, 2013 02:57 am (UTC)
stephen goodbye

Poor Stephen. He's good at a lot, but not this.

Thanks!

Posted by: natchris (natchris)
Posted at: January 4th, 2013 11:05 am (UTC)

A fabulous adventure as always

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 25th, 2013 02:58 am (UTC)
stephen goodbye

Thank you :)

Posted by: nietie (nietie)
Posted at: January 4th, 2013 02:08 pm (UTC)
Stephendung

And suddenly missed dinosaur poop. *howls*

Sweet and sad. Cutter's friendship and concern towards Stephen is great. But I agree: a double date would be disastrous *g*

Edited at 2013-01-04 02:08 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 25th, 2013 02:59 am (UTC)
stephen hair

Heh, I can only imagine poor Claudia's reaction to it. Thanks!

Posted by: fredbassett (fredbassett)
Posted at: January 4th, 2013 05:10 pm (UTC)

Oh no, poor Stephen!

If at first you don't succeed.....

But I'm not surprised Cutter chicked out of a double date!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 25th, 2013 02:59 am (UTC)
stephen cutter sit

LOL, poor Stephen will have to keep at it.

Thanks!

Posted by: reggietate (reggietate)
Posted at: January 4th, 2013 07:11 pm (UTC)
bruise

Oh, the trepedation when Stephen announced he wanted a woman! :-D

You certainly can't blame him for being a bit out of practice, but he'll get there. Even Cutter is dispensing sensible advice.

Another excellent addition to the series.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 25th, 2013 03:00 am (UTC)
stephen blue wonder

Yeah, poor guy is bound to want some action. And to have no idea how to get it.

Thanks :)

Posted by: knitekat (knitekat)
Posted at: January 4th, 2013 09:43 pm (UTC)

Poor Stephen - and Cutter too ;)

LOL over Cutter missing dino poo and not wanting to double date.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 25th, 2013 03:01 am (UTC)
stephen and cutter

Sometimes I feel worse for Cutter than Stephen :)

Thanks!

Posted by: clea2011 (clea2011)
Posted at: January 5th, 2013 01:17 am (UTC)
Stephen beach colour

This was very funny, poor Cutter!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 25th, 2013 03:01 am (UTC)
stephen happy

Thank you!

Posted by: lsellersfic (lsellersfic)
Posted at: February 17th, 2013 02:46 pm (UTC)
Primeval:Stephen

Oh dear! Poor Stephen! I hope it all comes together soon!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 28th, 2013 01:25 pm (UTC)
stephen broken

I'm sure he hopes so, too :)

Thanks!

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