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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Primeval fic: (Not Always) Bulletproof (Second Life verse)

January 24th, 2013 (09:09 pm)
rejuvenated

feeling: rejuvenated

Title: (Not Always) Bulletproof

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

A/N: With thanks to lena7142 for the beta. Part of the Continued Adventures of Feral Stephen.

Summary: In some ways, they were invincible. Then, in some ways, they weren’t.



-o-

“There’s no point,” Stephen said decisively. He was prone to that -- talking without a doubt. In nine years, no one had questioned Stephen’s judgment, and he seemed to have taken the lack of criticism during that period as unwavering belief that he was invariably correct.

Of course, it didn’t help that he was right a lot of the time.

Still, Becker sighed. “We’re not going after it unarmed.”

Stephen shook his head. “Those things are bulletproof,” he said.

Cutter shrugged, hedging carefully. “The ankylosaurus is known for its body armor,” he said.

Stephen glowered at him somewhat.

Connor nodded readily. “They’d be good rugby players,” he added earnestly.

Stephen’s scowl deepened.

“Of course they would,” Becker said derisively. “Because they’d smash over the entire field. We’re bringing the guns.”

-o-

When Cutter got on site, he had to admit, he was glad Becker had insisted on the guns. The ankylosaurus was huge, looming and massive, its tail whipping angrily as it mucked about in the cleared-out greenbelt. Trees had fallen in its wake, a children’s play area entirely demolished.

After months in the field together, the team was well honed in action. Any disagreements in the planning always faded away, and they were united and careful, easily reading each other’s approaches and gauging the appropriate responses. They complemented each other, and once their frictions had settled, Cutter reckoned they were a right good team.

In some ways, they were invincible.

Then, in some ways, they weren’t.

Because their approach was perfectly timed and expertly executed. Stephen led the way, flanked by Abby and Connor. Cutter rounded on the other side, side by side with Becker, who kept his aim up

In the middle, the ankylosaurus grunted and twitched, stomping his feet and baring his teeth. Stephen tensed, mouth pursed, and he shook his head--

It was a small gesture, but they all understood. The ankylosaurus was not going to be placated. Stephen could often ease his way into creature interactions, but dinosaurs weren’t always in the mood. Sometimes they were too hurt or too hungry.

Or, in the case of this ankylosaurus, just too ornery.

The thing stomped its feet and whipped its tail, charging forward -- straight for Abby.

She shrieked, diving out of the way. Connor and Stephen rushed to distract the beast and Becker opened fire.

The first bullet was a straight shot at the thing, but it pinged harmlessly off the shell.

Bulletproof, just like Stephen had said.

The bullet ricocheted, and Stephen went down.

Because humans, as it turned out, were not always bulletproof.

-o-

The ankylosaurus flailed, armored body trundling as it worked into a charge. Becker, realizing his gun was useless, ran after it, every bit as blindly heroic as Stephen in the end. Abby had recovered, immediately setting her sights on subduing the rampaging creature as Connor joined her.

It was a pressing issue, to be sure, and one Cutter found that he could not be bothered with -- not with Stephen still and unmoving on the ground.

Connor and Abby had taken up their distractions, Connor’s pistol impotent but Abby’s tranq gun still in hand. Becker rounded quickly, nodding at Abby and Connor who took off rapidly to draw the thing away.

It was reckless perhaps, but as the creature lumbered after them, Cutter understood. The path to Stephen’s prone body was now clear.

Desperate, Cutter broke into a run, closing the distance promptly. Stephen was on his side, and when Cutter skidded to a stop, hand on Stephen’s shoulder, the man flopped lifelessly on his back, head lolling to the side --

And revealing the blood.

For a second, Cutter froze, remembering pulling Stephen out of the water in the Permian, seeing him torn limb from limb in the cage room--

But this was different. This had to be different.

Taking a breath, Cutter focused, reminding himself that he had to keep it together -- for Stephen.

Stephen.

Limp and pale and bloody on the ground.

Stephen.

Swallowing, Cutter reached down, leaning closer to see where the blood was coming from. It had coated the side of his face, matting his beard and too-long hair, smearing on the ground beneath him. Cutter looked closely, first at the cheek and the hairline, and then he found it.

The puckered crease along Stephen’s temple, skin torn and ripped from a bullet to the head.

-o-

It was happening fast.

On the far side, near the barricades, Abby and Connor were waving their arms frantically, drawing the creature toward them. Becker had regrouped with his men, giving terse orders before lifting a much small gun than normal up in his hands. He nodded and the men fanned out, and Becker ran straight ahead. As he approached, he dropped, rolling to the ground right as the creature came up short of Abby and Connor, who were waving flares now. Becker used that moment to fire -- not a bullet, but a tranquiliser -- into the beast’s underbelly.

Once, twice, three times --

Then he was moving again, rolling up and coming to a crouch once he’d cleared the underside, pointing the tranq gun at the beast as it howled and thrashed and finally staggered, going to its knees before crashing to the ground -- still.

It was fast -- and yet somehow it was still too slow.

In front of Cutter, Stephen was colorless on the ground, the stark red of his blood all over Cutter’s hands as he pressed down on the wound, feeling the pulsating beat of Stephen’s heart through the torn skin. Stephen didn’t move, didn’t flicker, eyes closed and face lax even as the scene raged nearby.

It was happening far, far too slow.

-o-

The team gathered. Abby and Connor were huddled close together, looking down even as Abby pressed a hand over her mouth. Becker dropped down next to Cutter, face pinched as he asked, “How is he?”

Cutter didn’t dare look at him, didn’t dare move. “He’s been shot,” he said, the words taut and rough. He felt the resentment swell in him. Stephen had told them the thing was bulletproof; Stephen had said...

Becker’s expression was dark. No one blamed him, but he blamed himself. “Here,” he said, hands out. “Let me see.”

Cutter was reluctant to let go, but he realized suddenly that he still trusted his team. With everything -- even Stephen.

Moving his hands, his face paled as the blood gushed again, and Becker made a face while leaning forward, fingers in the blood, feeling at the skin.

Pressing down in Cutter’s stead, he nodded, trying to be resolute. “It looks like a crease,” he said.

“A what?” Abby asked.

“Just a nick,” Becker clarified. “Bullet grazed him when it ricocheted off the armor.”

Cutter worked his jaw, looking at Stephen’s wan face. “How sure are you?”

Becker nodded. “Pretty sure,” he said.

As Connor and Abby went to direct the ambulance, Cutter stared at Stephen and hoped that Becker was sure enough.

-o-

At the hospital, they waited together. Abby rested her head on Connor’s shoulder, while Becker sat in a chair across from them. Nick couldn’t bring himself to sit, pacing off the room in even turns.

“It was my fault,” Becker said.

Cutter grunted, but didn’t slow.

“It was bad luck,” Connor said. “That’s all. I’ve had plenty of it.”

“We all know it was an accident,” Abby added gently.

“It was a mistake,” Becker said, shaking his head while he stared at the wall.

Abby and Connor had no reply to that, and Becker hung his head while Cutter walked past him.

“One bloody mistake,” Becker said, sighing heavily.

Cutter took a breath, and saw Becker. Saw Connor and Abby. Saw his team. It had been an accident, a mistake. Blame and recrimination were too easy. Cutter had lost Stephen once because of his own failure to forgive.

He wouldn’t risk Stephen again.

He wouldn’t risk any of them.

Sighing, he paused, looking straight at Becker. “One bloody mistake,” he agreed. “And it could have happened to any of us.”

“It’s my job to keep you safe,” Becker said.

“And it’s a tall order,” Cutter reminded him. “What with Stephen jumping off roofs and getting hit by cars.”

Becker stared at him, almost shocked.

Cutter shrugged. “Like I said, we all make mistakes,” he said. “So we best all forgive them, too.”

-o-

Stephen was okay. The bullet had grazed him deeply, tearing through the flesh but not breaking the bone. Aside from a nasty headache, he was fit and field worthy.

He was still slow to come about, but Cutter reckoned that he could cut Stephen some slack on that one. The man had taken a bullet to head, after all.

Even so, the doctor had been convinced to let them all wait in Stephen’s room while he came to. Which was how Cutter had ended up sitting vigil -- again.

Only this time, he wasn’t alone. Abby and Connor were in a pair of chairs, Becker leaned against the wall. They were a damn good team. Not perfect, but still the best Cutter had ever worked with.

When Stephen shifted on the bed, it was hard to tell who noticed first, but no one dared get in Cutter’s way as he reached Stephen’s bedside. It took a few minutes still, but with some cajoling Stephen opened his eyes.

He was still a bit on the pale side, the bandage pressed over the stitches in his temple from where the bullet had broke the skin. But when he opened his eyes, he was almost instantly lucid. There was a brief moment of confusion, then understanding. He jolted a bit, trying to get up, but Cutter pressed down on his shoulder even as the headache made Stephen squeeze his eyes shut in protest.

“Easy,” Cutter advised.

This time, when Stephen opened his eyes, he squinted. “I feel like I got trampled by the ankylosaurus,” he said. He looked a little concerned. “I didn’t, though. Did I?”

Cutter smiled. “No,” he said.

Stephen looked momentarily relieved. Then concerned again. “So what happened?”

Cutter hesitated, trying to find the best phrasing. While he was thinking, Becker interjected. “You caught a ricochet,” he said. “Bullet bounced right off the armor.”

Stephen took the news stoically. “I’ve been shot?”

“Just a graze,” Cutter assured him.

“I still think it counts as being shot,” Connor rejoined.

Stephen didn’t seem particularly impressed. Instead, he shook his head. “Huh,” he said. “I guess they really are bulletproof.”

“And maybe you are too,” Cutter told him. “That’s some kind of luck. Taking a bullet to the head and walking out with nothing but a headache.”

Stephen was nonplussed. “Luck or skill -- I’ll take either,” he said. Then he winced. “But it is a pretty bad headache.”

There was a small silence, then Becker cleared his throat. “For what it’s worth, I am sorry,” he said. “I fired the shot; it was my bullet.”

Stephen shrugged. “I could have told you it was worthless.”

“You did,” Becker said. Then he shrugged. “But for the record, next time, I’m still bringing the gun.”

It was a brazen proclamation, and it was tempting to point out that the other man needed to learn to listen better. But Becker needed to listen, just like Stephen needed to compromise. Just like Abby needed to think beyond the animals and Connor needed to get his head out of the clouds. Just like Cutter needed to trust things beyond his gut.

Cutter was scared of losing Stephen, that much was true. But that wasn’t the only thing at play here. Not anymore, at least.

Because they were a team. An odd group, to be sure, but joined together. More than that, they all had their place; they all had their role to play. Together, they weren’t bulletproof and they weren’t quite invincible, but they were still pretty close.

Stephen smirked. “Good,” he said. “Then I’ll still get to tell you I told you so.

In the end, maybe that was the point -- not invincibility, but cooperation, not always bulletproof, but inseparable -- and Cutter wouldn’t have it any other way.

Comments

Posted by: natchris (natchris)
Posted at: January 25th, 2013 04:10 am (UTC)
Stephen blue

Angst and brilliant descriptions and a lovely ending.

Terrific

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 8th, 2013 03:18 am (UTC)
stephen hair

I'm really glad you liked it! Thanks :)

Posted by: goldarrow (goldarrow)
Posted at: January 25th, 2013 04:24 am (UTC)

*g*
I love these stories!
Ouch for Stephen getting shot, and LOL for him not really caring... The "I told you so" line was classic.
Poor Cutter - now he doesn't have to just look out for Stephen pulling something idiotic, he has to keep an eye on Becker, too!
Well done. *still chuckling*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 8th, 2013 03:19 am (UTC)
stephen sad

I'm glad people are still enjoying them. I'm about out of them -- I'll have to take prompts for more :)

Thanks!

Posted by: fredbassett (fredbassett)
Posted at: January 25th, 2013 01:43 pm (UTC)

That was such a wonderful summary of the team at the end.

Great story.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 8th, 2013 03:19 am (UTC)
stephen wary

I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thanks!

Posted by: knitekat (knitekat)
Posted at: January 25th, 2013 09:00 pm (UTC)

Wonderful fic, poor Stephen getting shot but yay for them all being a team together.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 8th, 2013 03:20 am (UTC)
stephen blue wonder

Teamness is always a win in my book. Thanks!

Posted by: joshinator (joshinator)
Posted at: January 26th, 2013 12:06 am (UTC)
Stephen Oh Yeah

Awesome story

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 8th, 2013 03:20 am (UTC)
stephen smiles

Thank you!

Posted by: freddiejoey (freddiejoey)
Posted at: January 27th, 2013 01:39 am (UTC)
Stephen Pri

Fabulous fic as always in this fabulous series

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 8th, 2013 03:20 am (UTC)
stephen cutter sit

Thank you :)

Posted by: kristen_mara (kristen_mara)
Posted at: January 27th, 2013 01:46 am (UTC)
Old Fashioned Stephen


I love Becker going underneath the beastie in order to get to its soft spot! Yep, he's as courageous.

Great to see how they've all come together as a team. And more grey hairs for Nick ;)

LOL for Stephen's end line.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 8th, 2013 03:21 am (UTC)
stephen cutter distance

I would sort of like to write more team-centric stuff but I get nervous writing about characters I don't know well.

Thanks :)

Posted by: aelfgyfu_mead (aelfgyfu_mead)
Posted at: January 27th, 2013 09:56 pm (UTC)

lifting a much small gun
should be: "lifting a much smallER gun"

I feel for Becker; he didn't take Stephen literally enough! Bullets bounce, man! (to quote Cameron Mitchell of SG-1)

I like Stephen's retort at the end especially.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 8th, 2013 03:23 am (UTC)
stephen smiles

I can't blame Becker, and I can't blame Stephen. I think they'd be good complements.

Thanks :)

Posted by: reggietate (reggietate)
Posted at: January 29th, 2013 09:19 pm (UTC)
scampiscorpions

Stephen's a bit of a bullet-magnet at the moment, poor chap, and Cutter's hair must be turning grey from all this worry! Great addition to this series :-)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 8th, 2013 03:23 am (UTC)
stephen cutter sit

LOL, poor Stephen. I'm just so prone to writing h/c that it's not funny.

Thanks :)

Posted by: lsellersfic (lsellersfic)
Posted at: March 24th, 2013 01:49 pm (UTC)
Primeval:S2 Team

Cutter's thoughts about the team at the end are great!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: March 31st, 2013 03:11 am (UTC)
stephen cutter distance

Thank you :)

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