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Primeval fic: The Life You Save (May Be Your Own) 3/6

April 24th, 2013 (09:29 pm)
anxious

feeling: anxious

PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE
PART FOUR
PART FIVE
EPILOGUE



PART THREE



Belief or not, sometimes Helen’s plans weren’t the easiest to follow. If stealing national secrets and compromising his integrity was difficult, standing in anticipation of an anomaly with nothing more than a rope in his hand was downright impossible.

Helen was nearby, armed with a tranq gun and her anomaly detector. She seemed quite intent, but Leek couldn’t help but shift from foot to foot, looking nervously around. “Are you sure about this?”

She arched an eyebrow at him. “A bit too late to think about that now,” she mused.

Leek swallowed. “But maybe we should--”

“No time,” Helen announced, putting away her detector. “Here it comes.”

Before Leek could protest, there was a whoosh of air and a fluttering in the trees. Light exploded then drew in, creating a perfect anomaly no more than three metres in front of them.

For a moment, Leek was awed. He’d seen many anomalies in his time with the ARC and he had read more than his share of scientific drivel explaining the formation of such phenomena. But he’d never seen one open up -- because the ARC didn’t have the capabilities to predict them yet.

They did have the ability to track them once they opened.

Which meant within minutes, there could be an alert and the team could be on their way.

He glanced toward Helen again. “How do we know if something is going to come out?”

Helen didn’t spare him a look. Instead, her body went tense. “Just wait...”

Leek sighed a little. “We don’t really have time to wait,” he said. “You know that we have a tight schedule, and--”

And then, something roared and there was movement, and Leek braced himself in time to see the creature come tumbling out of the anomaly.

Straight at him.

-o-

Leek froze, his memory flashing. It hadn’t been so long, the scars were still visible on his chest. He could still feel the claws, feel the hot breath on his skin in the cool night, the numb terror in his gut that he was going to die.

But this time, Helen charged, leaping at the creature before it could reach him. The two figures collided midair, going flying to the ground while the beast howled. Leek stood, shocked and stupefied, while Helen efficiently threw herself clear, rolling up into a crouch and firing two quick shots.

The creature -- which looked like some kind of sabre tooth -- gnashed its teeth, batting angrily at the darts before flinging itself at Helen again, jaws open and ready to strike.

Terrified, Leek wanted to help -- he couldn’t watch Helen die -- but what could he do? With rope and no courage -- what could he do?

He didn’t have to do anything.

Helen fired again, before diving forward, underneath the creature before it flopped heavily onto the now empty ground. Helen wasted no time, pulling out a syringe he didn’t know she had and jumping on the creature’s back, plunging it deeply into the vulnerable neck of the animal.

It screeched and flailed, almost knocking Helen clean off but she held on tight as the animal started to flag before its knees went out and it finally went limp on the ground.

Slipping off, Helen looked up at Leek. “The rope?”

He blinked a few times, mouth hanging open.

“The rope, Oliver,” Helen said, more insistent this time.

Startled, he remembered to move, half tripping on his feet as he approached and handed her the coiled cord.

She made quick work of it, pulling out a knife to slice off a length, which she tied around the mouth. Then, she expertly tied its front and back feet together, before pocketing the knife again and getting to her feet.

“Go and open the trailer,” she said.

“You just caught that thing with your bare hands,” he observed, still shocked.

“Yes,” she said, matter of fact. “And if you don’t hurry up and help me get her in the trailer, then this will all have been for nothing. You don’t want that, do you?”

Leek shook his head. “No,” he said. “I just...”

He didn’t even know. He’d known Helen was good...but that was almost superhuman. He’d seen Cutter do impressive things and he’d seen Hart make some impossible shots, but Helen...

Was in a league all her own.

If he’d ever doubted his choice, the newfound certainty made up for it now.

“Yes, of course,” he said quickly, turning back. “We’ll be out of here in no time.”

-o-

When they left, the anomaly was still open but it wasn’t until they were in the car, pulling away, that Leek got the text.

“Looks like the team is being deployed,” he observed.

From the driver’s seat, Helen smirked. “And you were worried.”

“I had no idea our response time was so slow,” he said, a bit surprised. “The technology has always seemed quite cutting edge.”

“Oh, Oliver,” she said. “You haven’t seen anything yet.”

-o-

By the time they got back to the facility, Leek had received his second text, requesting his presence at the anomaly site. He was about to reply that he was on his way when Helen grunted from the back of the trailer. “A little help here.”

Leek scrambled, moving to help her as she hoisted the creature out, lying it on a cart. Standing back, he looked down at it again. “A sabre tooth?”

“Female,” Helen confirmed. “A beautiful specimen, too. She’ll be a good place to start for our menagerie.”

Hesitating, Leek creased his brow. “Are you sure it’s all in working order?” His eyes flitted over the sedated beast. “We don’t exactly have a lot of contingencies in place.”

Helen shrugged. “One way to find out.”

-o-

Helen was efficient in her work, but Leek found himself anxious as they transferred the tiger to the floor. He stepped clear of the pylons, waiting restlessly while Helen pulled out another syringe and injected the creature. “She should be waking up now,” she said, retreating toward the panel. She started to tap a few buttons.

Leek swallowed, watching as the creature twitched, heaving a breath as its tail danced. “Maybe we should get some equipment, just in case--”

“Just a minute,” Helen murmured, continued to tap. Then, electricity hummed and Leek took a startled step back from the flow in front of him. Helen looked up then directed her eyes back at the animal. “Come on, come on.”

It took all of Leek’s resolve to stand his ground. Helen had checked and doubled checked. But if something went wrong...

It would go very wrong.

“I could go get some guns,” he offered, inching backward as the animal shuddered, lifting its head.

Helen crouched, narrowing her gaze. “Just a moment more...”

The tiger blinked a few times, its head turning and settling on Helen. A low growl emerged from its mouth, and Leek stepped back again as the creature got to its feet, and raised its shoulders, teeth bared in a sign of full on aggression.

“Helen,” Leek hissed.

But Helen didn’t move; she didn’t even blink. She seemed to be willing the animal to act -- almost provoking it by defiance alone.

It worked.

The sabre tooth launched itself forward, and Leek ducked, yelping as he threw his hands over his head.

But nothing happened.

Peeking, he saw that Helen was chuckling, staring at the sabre tooth, which was pacing the confines of her apparently well-secured cell.

“See,” Helen said, looking back at Leek. “It works perfectly.”

Tentatively, Leek straightened, looking at the stray crackles of electricity as the tiger butted against its confines again. “It really does,” he said, a little disbelieving. He came up next to Helen. “Do you know what this means?”

She turned, looking at him fully. “That it’s time to get this place fully operational,” she said. “No turning back now, Oliver.”

He grinned at her. “No turning back.”

-o-

When he got to the ARC, the team was just returning. “Damnedest thing,” Cutter said. “We haven’t had a false positive before, have we?”

Connor was studying the anomaly detector in the atrium carefully. “No,” he said. “It’s not possible.”

“What if it closed quickly?” Hart suggested.

“We have charted them,” Abby said. “With no sign of consistency.”

“So it is possible,” Connor said, fiddling with one of the wires from the opened back.

“Still,” Cutter said, face pinched with worry and uncertainty. “I think we should look more closely at your detector.”

Leek leaned in, curious. “You mean, there was no anomaly at all?”

“It tripped all our sensors but when we got there -- nothing,” Connor said.

“Could be coincidence,” Hart reiterated.

“I don’t like it,” Cutter said.

Leek smiled gently. “You work with unexplained phenomena, Professor,” he said easily. “Surely you can’t be so surprised when things are unexplained.”

Cutter glared at him. “It’s our job to know.”

“Yes,” Leek said, holding back a smile. “Good luck with that.”

-o-

It was odd, to say the least, and Leek would be a liar if he said the thought that the anomaly had closed so quickly wasn’t of some curiosity to him. Helen had predicted the anomaly; she’d timed it perfectly. She’d even known what creature was going to come out.

Coincidence.

Even in a world such as this, it happened.

Leek chewed his lip, dutifully not doubting, when his phone rang.

“Hello,” he said, picking it up distractedly.

“Lester would like to see you,” Lorraine’s voice told him.

“I’ll stop over after lunch,” Leek offered.

Now,” Lorraine said, her tone brokering no argument.

“Oh,” Leek said, the knot in his stomach starting to harden. “Well, then. I’ll be right there.”

-o-

At first, Leek was nervous. He was still aware that he would be fired and likely put on trial if his involvement with Helen Cutter was discovered. He’d copied classified material, diverted official funds, and participated in a host of other activities of questionable legality.

But as Lester started off on his rant -- about being on time and showing up and being his eyes and ears and earning his pay -- he suddenly realized the man didn’t know anything. Lester in his fine suits and behind his big desk, didn’t know anything. He didn’t know what Leek was doing; he didn’t even have any idea.

He was clueless, which made his posturing and effusive whining almost comical.

Then, Lester stopped. “Is something funny to you, Mr. Leek?” he demanded.

Leek startled. “What?”

“Is this funny to you?” Lester asked again.

Leek pulled out his best serious face. “No, of course not, sir,” he said. “And you’re entirely right: we need to work to make the ARC smoother and more efficient, and I swear to you, on my very honor, I will do everything in my power to make sure that happens.”

Lester looked skeptical, but given Leek’s unabashed agreement, he was hard-pressed to find continued reasons to object. Instead, he sat back a little, straightening his tie. “Just so that we’re on the same page.”

Leek offered a winning smile. “No doubt,” he said. “Just leave everything to me.”

-o-

The doubts didn’t matter; the complications didn’t matter. What mattered was that Leek was doing the right thing. What mattered was that he was good at it. What mattered was that it felt good.

He had power; he had control. He was part of the solution to a problem long in coming.

And that mattered more than anything.

-o-

In the weeks that followed, time flew. Leek kept up with his work at the ARC with the bare minimum effort. He’d managed to help one of Helen’s clones get hired as part of the Special Forces staff -- in case of emergencies, Helen had explained. Leek spent his off hours at the facility, helping Helen and doing whatever odd jobs he could. They had a lot to organize, and Leek wasn’t going to waste any more time waiting for things to happen.

Progress was fast and impressive. They started with security systems, establishing protocol to create a safe barrier from the inside and out. Helen kept their captive sabre tooth happy, and soon they had other cells operational and a full-fledged electronics system in place to start powering other systems as well.

Helen brought in a raptor next. Leek asked where she found it, but she shrugged and said she had her ways. He nodded, and simply asked if there were more where that came from.

Smiling widely, Helen said, “Well, well, this is a new side of you.”

“This is our project,” he told her earnestly. “I’m ready to make it happen.”

“And we will,” she promised.

Leek smiled back. “I know.”

-o-

If Leek was gaining surety, the rest of the team was falling apart. Tensions were running high; Lester was at the end of his rope and Cutter was stubborn while Hart was withdrawn. The revelation about the affair had been every bit the distraction Helen had promised -- and then some. On top of that, there was something going on between Abby and Connor; there was something going on with all of them.

And none of that was even about the anomalies.

When it came to that, Connor was perplexed; Lester was nervous.

Cutter was apoplectic. “I thought we were closer to understanding these!” he exclaimed after another false alarm.

Connor gestured helplessly. “There’s nothing wrong with it.”

“So they’re all just closing early?” Cutter asked.

“Coincidence--” Connor tried to explain.

But Cutter was tired of coincidence, and Leek couldn’t blame him. He was starting to suspect that Helen had more control than she let on; that she couldn’t just predict anomalies -- she could control them.

Coincidence.

Entirely in his favor.

He smiled. “I wouldn’t worry too much.”

“Oh, you wouldn’t?” Cutter asked sharply. “You and all your scientific knowledge?”

The bite to his voice was sarcastic, and the insult was unveiled.

It would have hurt, once.

Now, Leek merely kept smiling. “It will all work out,” he said, reassuring and calm, even as Nick settled back uncertainly. “Trust me, Professor. You will see.”

-o-

Setting up the new computer system was more than somewhat of a challenge, and Leek pored over textbooks to see what he could do before they had to outsource. Uploading data was a sensitive thing, and he wanted to keep as much of this in-house as possible. There was less chance of exposing themselves prematurely that way.

Helen was good with the system, though, and together, they made steady progress. One night, after Helen tended the creatures, she sat next to him. There was a moment of silence. “We need more information,” she concluded finally.

Leek snorted. “I’ve copied every file I have access to,” he said. “There’s nothing in the ARC database that you don’t know.”

“I don’t need information from the database,” she said.

Leek turned his head, looking at her curiously. “Then, I’m not sure I follow.”

She gathered a breath, returning his gaze steadily. “The most critical data isn’t in the database,” she explained. “It’s in the team.”

Leek found himself scoffing. “Well, that’s all well and good, but I can barely get them to fill out a report,” he said. “Do you think they’re just going to tell me if I ask?”

“No,” Helen replied, eyes darkening. “They’re too close-knit for that. Get them in a group, and they’ll stand together. Separate them...”

Leek shook his head. “I don’t know any of them well enough.”

Helen sighed, sounding a little exasperated. “We have to get them to stop trusting each other if we’re going to pull this off,” she said. “Nick is stubborn, but he’s not stupid, and neither are the rest of them. But if we can break them up and get them on their own, we may have a chance of keeping them from finding everything out.”

Leek’s brow furrowed, but he nodded slowly. “I can see that,” he said slowly. “Cutter won’t listen to me, though.”

“I can deal with Nick,” she said. “Him and Stephen -- you leave them to me.”

Nodding, Leek chewed his lip. “Abby and Connor might be a problem,” he said. “They seem to fancy each other.”

Helen laughed airily. “That is easy enough to fix.”

Leek cocked his head. “I don’t see--”

Her looked turned almost bored with exasperation. “Abby Maitland has not allowed herself to realize that Connor Temple may be her perfect match. It wasn’t until I revealed Stephen’s affair that she gave up pursuing him anyway. And Connor Temple is too much in need to say no if he gets another offer.”

“But...,” Leek said, shaking his head in confusion.

“So get him another offer,” Helen said. “Not only can you pit them against each other, but if you hire the right person, she may be able to glean a little extra information from Connor. He seems the type to talk if the conditions are right.”

“You mean...,” Leek said slowly. “Hire someone to be his girlfriend?”

“I mean,” Helen said with slow certainty, “do what needs to be done.”

Leek felt his insides twist as he started to hem.

Helen’s eyes were locked on his. “For the project,” she said, more resolutely now. “For us.”

-o-

It wasn’t just his conscience that bothered him. It was an issue of practicality. Leek could hardly get a woman to look twice at him -- how was he going to convince one to date someone else?

He went to the bar, perched nervously at a table, watching people come and go. He smiled at several of the women, but none of them returned his eye contact, going about their business as if Leek hadn’t tried to look at them at all.

After an hour, he felt humiliated and stupid. He would just have to tell Helen he couldn’t do it.

Except that he couldn’t do that. Not when Helen was the only one who had ever believed in him, who had ever given him a second look. The old Leek would accept defeat -- this new one he was forming, would not.

Determined, he called the waitress and asked her for a drink. His eyes roamed the room and settled on the woman seated alone at the bar. “Give it to her,” he said.

The waitress said nothing, and Leek watched as his order was carried out. When the woman received the drink, she nodded back toward Leek. The woman turned curiously, her eyes settling on Leek.

He smiled.

And the woman smiled back.

-o-

At first, she didn’t drink. She seemed to think for a moment before getting off her chair and gathering her purse and her glass and coming to his table. She sat down without an invitation, crossing her legs and taking a slow, purposeful drink.

Putting it down, she smiled. “You’re not my type,” she said, shrugging easily. Her eyes were dark, and she had a pleasant if uninteresting face. She took another drink before continuing. “But I’m not one to pass up on something for free.”

Leek offered her a lukewarm smile. “That’s quite the disclaimer.”

She finished her drink, starting to gather her purse. “I just thought you should know,” she explained. “Thanks all the same for the drink.”

Leek took a sharp breath, finding courage he didn’t know he had. “Let’s not talk pleasure, then,” he said.

She hesitated, looking at him.

“How about business?”

She regarded the suggestion coolly. “Business?”

“Nothing too sordid, I promise you,” he said with a flick of his hand. He leaned forward. “But it is lucrative.”

She was perched on the edge of her chair, considering the offer. “My mother would have a fit if she knew I was taking business propositions from strangers in bars.”

“I’m not hiring your mother,” Leek told her.

It wasn’t the answer the woman wanted; the entire thing clearly made her uncomfortable.

But she didn’t leave. “Buy me another drink,” she said. “I’m listening.”

Leek’s smile widened as he beckoned the waitress.

-o-

When he told Helen, she was pleased. “I had my doubts,” she said. “But you pulled through.”

Leek beamed. “I’m committed to this,” he told her.

“Good,” she said with an approving nod. “And let me tell you, the confidence becomes you.”

“You make it easy,” he said. “With you...I’ve done so much.”

“And you’ll do more,” Helen promised. Her eyes burned brighter. “Now, I have a surprise for you.”

Leek was surprised. “Oh?”

She smiled, taking him by the hand. “Come on,” she said solicitously. “I think you’ll be pleased.”

He swallowed, face reddening as she led him away. “I certainly hope so.”

-o-

Leek had dared to hope for the best.

When she took him to the cage room, he was moderately let down. “I’ve seen the menagerie,” he said, aware that he sounded a bit petulant.

She rolled her eyes. “But you haven’t seen this,” she said, picking up a device.

He watched, still more disappointed than curious, as she pressed a button. At first, nothing happened, but as he looked to the cages, he realized that the creatures were...different. The sabre tooth had stopped pacing. The raptors had gone still. They were watching them -- not with the trained skill of a predator, but with a blank, receptive stare.

His disappointment forgotten, he moved closer to one of the cages, studying it in absolute awe. “What did you do?”

“It’s a complicated system,” she said, sidling up next to him. “But the technology is quite feasible and easy to sustain for our purposes. Essentially, it’s a direct link to their brainstems, which gives us the ability to control their actions.”

He walked in front of the cat -- the one that had been intent on killing them when he first saw it and had retained a dislike for him since. “And it’s foolproof?”

“As long as the system is up and running, yes,” she said. “We could let the cages down right now, if we wanted. They wouldn’t attack us -- or each other.”

“Remarkable,” he breathed. Then he straightened. “Though I don’t think I’d like proof of that just yet.”

She smirked. “Not yet,” she agreed. “With this in place, I think we can train them -- they should be able to respond to basic commands and learn a simple structure and pattern. It’ll make our lives so much easier and make it far safer to rehabilitate the creatures once we catch them.”

He shook his head, laughing. “This will change everything.”

“Not to be contrary,” she said, nudging him gently. “I think it already has.”

-o-

As a child, he’d been mocked ceaselessly for any cause one could speculate. He was ridiculed for his lack of athletic ability; he was teased for his scrawny body and unassuming social skills. They called him Ollie and likened him to Oliver Twist, begging for scraps he simply was not entitled to.

He’d hated it, then. And he’d hated Dickens just out of spite.

But working with Helen -- changed everything. Day after day, he got up, ready and eager. He worked late into the night, and did feats he might have thought impossible. He blossomed, and he grew, and every time he saw Helen, he understood Oliver Twist for the first time.

Not as a pathetic orphan boy who didn’t understand; but as a fearless lad who saw what he wanted and knew how to go after it.

Please, Helen,
he begged. Please may I have some more.

And Helen always said yes.

-o-

If things at the facility were going well, things at the ARC were falling apart.

Which was to say, they were perfect, too.

Cutter hardly spoke to Hart, who showed up late and disappeared mysteriously for no reason at all. Abby and Connor seemed in the throes of lovers spats more often than not, and Jenny had a horrible time keeping them all in check. Things were getting sloppy; things were going poorly.

Leek had been tasked with sabotaging them, but he had to admit, they were doing a damn fine job of it all on their own.

-o-

Then, Helen changed everything.

This wasn’t unexpected, perhaps -- she’d never played by any rules Leek could understand -- but it still caught him off guard.

Because Helen had asked him to do many questionable things, and Leek had done it all, but this time...

“It’s all out treason,” he said.

“And the rest hasn’t been?”

“The rest has been illegal, but this will get me life in prison,” Leek said. “Or worse!”

She looked almost disappointed. “I don’t think you’ve properly thought through what we’ve been doing,” she said. “You’ve always known our endgame.”

“Yes, to make Lester relinquish control over the ARC and move to our improved facility,” Leek said. “We were supposed to use the truth, though. Not actual violence.”

“And you really thought it would be so easy?” Helen asked, sounding almost pitying. “Lester is a powerful man, and he’s not stupid. We will need to sweeten the pot.”

“By setting up predators throughout London to attack the public?” Leek asked incredulously. He shook his head. “No, absolutely not. Our point was to save humanity, not sacrifice it.”

“It’s never going to come to that,” Helen reminded him. “We just need the threat. And with our ability to control them, the danger will seem far more pressing than it actually is.”

Leek’s mouth fell open. “Can you even hear yourself?” he demanded.

“Yes,” Helen said unflinchingly. “It’s what I’ve been saying since the beginning. We’ve always talked about a strategic takeover--”

“What you’re talking about is a coup,” he said.

“It’s the same thing,” Helen replied. “It always has been. Ever since the beginning. Your hands are dirtier than you seem willing to admit.”

It was true, and he wanted to deny it. His shoulders fell. “I don’t want to be the bad guy,” Leek told her, aware that he sounded a little pitiful.

She came closer, eyes on him resolutely. “And you don’t have to be,” she said. “History is written by the winners, Oliver. And with this move, you will be the winner. Without it, you’re likely to get nothing but a jail sentence in an uncomfortable cell.”

The past few months of adrenaline-fueled plotting weighed heavily suddenly, and he was struck by just how far he’d gone. Just how deep in he was. He had taken secrets; he’d used official monies. He’d lied to his boss and actively deceived his colleagues. He had defrauded his government.

If he were caught, they’d have more than enough to lock him up for life.

And yet, he shook his head. “You told me we were doing the right thing.”

“We are,” she said without hesitation. “This is the right thing for the public, for the country. It’s even the right thing for Nick and the team, even if they don’t know it yet. It’s the right thing for us.

“But someone could get hurt,” he said.

“Not if we do it right,” she said. “And not if Lester has an ounce of intelligence in his oversized head.”

Leek diverted his gaze despondently.

Helen reached out, taking his shoulder and squeezing it. “This is the best thing for you,” she said, and he looked up at her, almost shy. “I know what you want, Oliver. I’ve known since the beginning. And I know how to get it for you, but I’m going to need your help.”

Face contorted, his throat was too constricted to speak.

“You have to take this moment,” she said. “Take this moment to claim your destiny -- and never look back.”

She was convincing, that much was certain. There was a reason he’d come this far, and he wasn’t so blind to think it wasn’t about her compelling magnetism. And he’d believed in this cause -- he still did. The ARC was well intentioned but poorly operated, and he’d never doubted that some improvements would benefit everyone. He and Helen had had so much success in their work that he’d half convinced himself that Lester would see some shred of reason when the time finally came.

That was probably fantasy; Helen was probably right.

But Leek still had some lines he would not cross. He was no one’s villain.

He shook his head. “Find another way.”

Helen sighed. “Oliver...”

He shook his head again, pulling away. “I’m serious, Helen,” he told her. “Find another way.”

-o-

On one hand, it was tempting to quit. To just stop. To cut ties and stop the whole mess. Helen needed him; she was the mastermind, perhaps, but much of the resources and organizational methods were thanks to him. She would have a hard time -- almost an impossible time -- doing much without him.

That clearly wasn’t an option, though. He had too much invested. Even if he trusted Helen to accept his departure, it would only be a matter of time before the diverted funds and supplies would be traced back to him and the whole scheme would be unraveled. The government was slow and corrupt, and Leek had been careful, but there was only so much time he had before this became widespread knowledge.

He had to ensure that his power play was in place before that happened.

Which meant, he needed another way.

He’d been motivated before, but now he found himself spurred on by a new type of self-preservation. Failure was not just about humiliation. It was about his life. If this project failed, he would lose everything.

For the first time in his life, that well and truly bothered him. He had to make this work.

He just wasn’t sure how.

-o-

He kept on at work, pushing harder than ever. He met with Caroline, finding himself increasingly frustrated with her meagre offerings from Connor and Abby’s personal life. It wasn’t exactly the boon of information he’d hoped for.

Still, he had to keep going. He paid Caroline more; he scoured over more files. He worked relentlessly at the facility, organizing everything to the utmost perfection as he possible could.

He was going to make this work. Even if it killed him.

And at night, when he slept fitfully on his bed, he tried not to think about how it might.

-o-

It didn’t get easier.

As things came together at the facility, they kept unravelling at the ARC. Tensions were running high. The team was barely functional, and there were more mishaps than ever in the field. Nick Cutter, who had made a career out of being stubborn, became downright obstinate. Hart was pulling away, acting downright sullen and suspicious, and Abby was pouting every time Connor showed up late.

Which was, for the record, often. Apparently having a girlfriend was a novelty he didn’t know what to do with.

All of this had Lester on edge, and he bellowed and sighed more than usual. Somehow, it was always Leek’s fault, and he had to take Cutter’s rants along with Lester’s insults.

During these times, Leek had to think, his choices weren’t always just for the benefit of mankind. What he wouldn’t give to see the look on their faces when Leek was in charge, when Leek saved them all.

What he wouldn’t give.

-o-

After his refusal, Helen had been quieter and her visits were less frequent. She spent more time away, but that was fine with Leek. He found himself quite adept with the system, and he was getting better with the creatures. With the control mechanism in place, he found himself unafraid to approach them, and he took the training Helen started and moved it along to perfection.

The computers were mostly functional, though there were still glitches to work out. He knew Helen wanted them to be ready to take over within a few months, and Leek knew that they were running out of time, but it wasn’t quite ready yet.

He started to sleep there; started to live there. His flat was foreign and idle, and he started to work through the night. Sleep was a luxury; the project was everything. If he could push up the timeline, if he could improve the system, if he could just make it perfect, then they wouldn’t need violence. Then Helen would see he was right.

Lester and Cutter and Helen and everything -- they would see he was finally right when it mattered.

-o-

“This is outrageous,” Cutter screamed, spittle flying from his mouth as he gestured at Leek. “My team is in the field, and he is here playing at paperwork!”

Lester sighed. His arms were crossed and he massaged the point between his eyes with one of his hands while Cutter ranted after another mission that had barely ended well.

Jenny ventured cautiously between them. “Mr. Leek is merely reminding you--” she began.

“Of what?” Cutter asked sharply. “Of all the things that make this program completely impractical and unsafe and positively--”

“You have to appreciate that we are in a delicate position,” Jenny tried again.

“Rubbish,” Cutter cut her off. He turned burning eyes to Lester. “I won’t tolerate risking my team for the government’s forms.” He cast his gaze to Leek contemptuously. “Or for the whims of the lackeys who fill them out.”

Leek’s cheeks burned and his palms started to sweat.

Lester put his hand down and pursed his lips. “If I had any choice in it, Professor, things would be quite different,” he said. “But as it is, this is the best we can do. And apparently, even people like Leek are a part of that equation, no matter how much we both hate it.”

Leek worked his jaw, gritting his teeth so hard that it actually hurt.

Cutter sucked in a ragged breath, holding it for a moment before hissing it out. “I have no patience for this,” he said, steely eyes on Lester before glancing to Leek. “Not for any of it.”

Leek forced a smile. “We may agree for once, Professor Cutter,” he said in a perfunctory manner. “Time will tell who is right.” He looked to Lester. “Until then, is that all?”

Lester shook his head. “God help us, I hope so.”

As Leek walked away, he thought God probably had very little to do with any of it anymore.

-o-

He worked harder; he gave more. He drained his bank account and sold his car. He maxed out his credit cards and put everything he had -- and then some. He drank coffee through the night until he could practically feel the caffeine pushing through his veins. His vision blurred and he couldn’t remember if he had showered today or the last, but it didn’t matter anymore. His clothing hung off his frame and his back ached from the long hours hunched over a computer.

It was mostly rote, by now. The routines and the processes. He maintained the animals, checked security. His progress was steady, if slow. His eyes were red and bloodshot, and he called in sick a few days when he just needed to get more things done. When he got tired, he thought of Lester’s exasperated sigh and Cutter’s disgusted look. He thought of Helen’s disappointment, and kept going. It was dogged, almost masochistic, but he kept going.

He would do this, and they would see.

They would all see.

It was the right thing to do, after all.

And if he got revenge in the process -- if he got justice -- then that was just a nice perk.

-o-

When Helen showed up again after a weeklong absence, he realized how much he’d missed her.

And she was impressed. “You got all this done?” she asked, looking over the main console.

“Yes,” Leek said, suddenly feeling weary as the sleepless nights caught up with him. “We still have a ways to go, but--”

“But nothing,” she said, turning to him a bit in awe. “You’ve worked hard.”

He almost laughed. “Funny, I didn’t expect you to notice.”

Her brow furrowed and she drew close to him. “Oliver, of course I did,” she said. “I hope you know that, what I said before, I just want what’s best for you.”

He was tired -- he was almost delusional -- and it felt good. It felt so good. “I just want this to work,” he said, surprised when his voice wavered. He felt weak suddenly, and his guard was slipping precipitously.

She inched closer, and Leek’s breath caught. “Then let me finish it. Let me do what needs to be done. You’ve worked too hard to lose it now,” she said, close enough now that Leek could smell her, could feel the warmth of her skin. “Let me.

She was almost touching him now, and Leek was trembling. His mouth opened and his eyes fluttered while his heart pounded in his chest. He didn’t dare hope; he didn’t dare think. But she was so close; and she was right there; and--

All thought left him when she closed the last distance, her lips meeting his. The sudden contact was surprising and invigorating, and after a brief moment, he lifted into the kiss, pulling her close until their bodies touched and their mouths were crushed together in a desperate, passionate kiss.

When he finally pulled away, he was breathless. He leaned his head forward, eyes closed as he breathed her scent and tried to still his palpitating heart. The fight left him, the righteous indignation faded until need was the only thing left.

“Okay,” he breathed, sucking in a harsh breath. When he opened his eyes, they were wet and he looked at Helen with nothing held back. “We do it your way.”

-o-

When Leek left, he wasn’t entirely sure if it was day or night. The sky was dim, though, and he felt hungry but he didn’t want to eat. He could go home, but he didn’t even know where that was anymore, so when he ended up at the bar, it seemed as good as place as any.

He ordered his usual, but barely tasted it as he downed it. He drank the second a bit slower and by the third, he was starting to feel the exhaustion of the last few months truly creep in. He was about ready to collect his check, when the waitress brought a fourth.

“I didn’t order this,” he said.

“No,” she said. “He did.”

She glanced off toward a table in the corner, and Leek was squinting through his blurred vision as the man approached. He sat down across from Leek without an invitation.

Annoyed, Leek made a face. “Look, I don’t really swing that way--”

The man grunted. “This isn’t a pick-up.”

“So you randomly buy drinks for strange men you don’t know?” Leek asked.

“No,” the man replied. “But I have something I need to talk to you about.”

Leek snorted, vaguely aware that he was, quite possibly, beyond tipsy. “You could just try starting a conversation,” he muttered.

The man smiled. “Fair enough,” he said. “But trust me when I say that you’re going to want that drink here sooner rather than later.”

Leek should walk away. Leek should run away. He was a traitor, and he was far, far too busy for any type of cavorting. And it wasn’t like he made friends, so whatever this person wanted, it couldn’t be good.

Then again, Leek was a traitor, so good didn’t really have much to do with anything.

Peering closer, he tried to assess the man for the first time. His higher reasoning skills were a bit muted and his vision was still a touch unfocused, but the features were dark and half-hidden under his unshorn hair. What he could see of the man’s face was further obscured by a series of scars across one cheek and a black eyepatch on the other. His posture was stiff, but the one blue eye peering at him intently seemed familiar.

“Do I know you?” Leek asked.

The man smirked. “In a way,” he said. He lifted one hand, reaching into his pocket to pull out his wallet. The left hand was crisscrossed with scars; the other was covered in a black glove and moving stiffly, as if it wasn’t quite right -- or there at all.

“You shouldn’t stare,” the man said, pulling out a few bills from his wallet and putting them on the table. “I would expect you of all people to be more politically correct.”

Leek just kept starting.

With a laugh, the man returned his wallet to his pocket. “You have questions,” he said plainly. “If you want answers, I’ll be in the park.”

Leek furrowed his brow.

The man got to his feet, pausing just briefly. “But drink that drink first,” he said. “Trust me.”

Leek didn’t know him -- how could he trust him? And what was with people, picking up strangers in bars for nefarious purposes not involved with romantic liaisons? What was the world coming to?

Which meant Leek should just leave. He shouldn’t even think twice. He should just go, back to his flat, back to the ARC, back to Helen -- anywhere but here.

He looked at the drink.

He chewed his lip.

You want answers.

Leek did have questions. About where Helen got the technology she had not acquired via him, about what she was willing to do. About how Lester would respond, about whether or not he was doing the right thing.

Not that the man could know about that.

Not that the man could know anything.

Leek looked at the drink and almost started laughing.

At this point, he already had everything to lose. What was a little more?

He lifted the drink, tipping it back until it slid down his throat. Then he put it on the table and followed.

-o-

At the park, Leek practically fell onto the bench next to the man. It wasn’t graceful and it demonstrated a horrendous lack of restraint, but at this point, Leek couldn’t be bothered by it.

Instead he lifted his head and looked at the man. In the dusk, the man appeared almost ominous, the white scars on his face livid in the reflection of the rising moon and the glow of the streetlights. In some ways, the eyepatch would have been comical -- too much like a pirate -- but the brush of his jagged hair about his face and the unsettling gleam of his one good eye removed any such humor. Instead, the man looked almost inhuman, a more feral, primal version of mankind that had no place in civilized society.

“I really shouldn’t be here,” Leek said finally, flopping back against the bench with his nose scrunched up. “I’m not sure what you’re into--”

The man rolled his good eye. “It really is time to start thinking with your upstairs brain, mate,” he said. “It’ll do you good. Trust me.”

Leek made an inarticulate sound of indignation. “You said you have answers,” he blurted out.

The man nodded. “I do,” he said.

“About what?” Leek pressed.

“About what you’re doing at the ARC,” the man replied without hesitation.

It was such a simple statement that, for a moment, it took Leek a moment to realize exactly what he’d said. Because he’d just mentioned the ARC -- which was impossible since Leek knew the ARC staff and he would be aware of a man with special needs on staff. But the ARC was top secret, so there was no way he could know. Unless--

“And I know what Helen has asked you to do,” the man continued.

At that, Leek gaped. “Did she send you?” he asked, grasping for the only logical answer. Not that it was logical at all since he’d just seen Helen.

The man’s lips curled up into a smile. “No,” he said, sounding genuinely bemused. “Be grateful for that.”

Leek couldn’t be grateful, though, because he had no idea what was actually going on. “Did Lester send you then? Or are you someone from Home Office?”

“None of the above,” the man confirmed.

“Then who?” Leek asked, voice lilting with something akin to desperation. He was too tired for this -- too drunk, too.

The man’s gaze was unrelenting. “I’m a friend,” he said. “At least, as much of a friend as two loners could ever be.”

Leek didn’t make friends in bars as a general rule; really, Leek didn’t have friends. He shook his head. “Why are you here?”

“I know what you’re doing.”

Leek’s stomach churned, and he swallowed. “You can’t--”

“I know,” the man cut him off. “I know Helen has convinced you to betray the ARC. I know you’re working on setting up an alternate facility and that she’s probably already tried to convince you to overthrow Lester’s leadership and try to do things your way.”

Leek blinked, eyes burning, chest tight. There was no way. Even if his diverted supplies had been discovered, no one could know all that. He shook his head, the words of denial tight in his throat, almost choking him.

“I also know it’s not going to work out the way you want,” he said. “You can’t trust Helen. People will get hurt. People will die.” His mouth quirked into a sad smile now. “I learned that the hard way.”

The shock conflated with anger, and Leek found himself huffing indignantly. “Who are you?”

“You really haven’t recognized me,” he said, tilting his head. “Look closer.”

Leek stared, searching through the darkness, taking in the shape of his face and the curve of his lips. There was something familiar in the stature, something telling in the one eye. The serious mask was one he knew...

His eyes widened. With shorter hair and an unmarred face... “Hart?”

The man -- Stephen Hart -- smiled. “I knew you’d work it out.”

Leek’s mouth fell open. “But...you’re not...how?”

“You work for a government organization that oversees passages in and out of time,” he said. “Surely the possibility of people escaping from the past and future has occurred to you.”

It had; Leek had drawn up response procedures in case of such event.

They seemed utterly inane now.

He shook his head stupidly. “I don’t understand.”

“Neither did I, not until it was too late,” Hart said.

“But -- you’re...from the future?” Leek asked, a little helplessly.

“More or less,” Hart confirmed.

“But what happened,” Leek said, nodding toward Hart. It wasn’t a particularly polite question, but they were past the point of exchanging pleasantries.

Hart’s face darkened, some undefined emotion flitting through his eye. “It’s a long story,” he said. “But all you need to know is that it can’t happen again. Which is why I’m here.”

He seemed to want to get to the point, but Leek was having trouble even understanding the basic reality of what was going on. In the grand scheme of things, perhaps a visit from a future version of a colleague wasn’t so unexpected. After all, he was working with Helen Cutter, who had spent the better part of a decade split between the past, present and future. It would be naive to think she was the only one.

It would be naive to think a lot of things, but Leek had put so much into Helen’s plans; he’d trusted her.

And now, here was Stephen Hart, scarred and broken and ominous, telling him to think again.

He made a face. “If you are from the future, why me?” he asked. “Why not Cutter? Or even Connor or Abby or one of your other friends.”

“I have fewer friends than you think,” Hart told him. “And even those that might care to see me wouldn’t believe me.”

“Oh, and I would?” Leek asked with a snort.

Hart’s look was almost sympathetic. “I know what it’s like to believe in Helen,” he said. “I know what it’s like to want to trust her more than anything else. Helen’s good at finding what you want and using it against you.”

Leek clenched his jaw. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t I?” Hart asked. “I wanted absolution, and she led me around with the promise of it until I betrayed everyone I cared about. Nick wanted control, and she manipulated him until he walked right into every trap she ever set. She’ll use you as long as she can and then she will discard you when it is most convenient for her. Don’t fool yourself otherwise.”

Trembling now, Leek still shook his head. “You don’t know--”

“I do know,” Hart persisted. “I know she’s convinced you to set up an alternate site. I know she’s started collecting creatures and has probably showed you a way to control them.”

The pit of Leek’s stomach went icy cold and his limbs started to tingle.

“I know she’s going to use the creatures as a threat against Lester, to make him work with her,” Hart said. “Has she told you that people are going to die? That she plans to use the creatures against the ARC?”

“She said it was just a threat,” Leek balked.

Hart sighed. “Has she brought back a future predator yet?” he asked. “Has she told you that she can control the anomalies?”

Leek had suspected some of that, of course. “That doesn’t mean--”

“She’s going to set you up to take the fall,” he said. “She’s going to work all angles in case it goes south. She’ll probably tell you that it’s not safe to put you both together, but she’s not going to be by your side and when it falls apart, she will walk away. You won’t.”

It was a stark prediction, made without a hint of nuance or doubt. Leek licked his lips. “You couldn’t possibly know--”

“I’m from the future,” Hart reminded him. “I’ve lived this, for better and worse, and I’ve had more than enough time to look back and see what we all did wrong. And believe me, this is a mess we all made, Nick and Lester included. But you -- you have the power to stop it.”

Breathing was hard, and when Leek blinked, he could feel the sting of tears. “I don’t...”

He didn’t know what he wanted to say. I don’t know what you’re talking about? I don’t know if I can trust you? I don’t know how to stop now?

“You’re going to have to decide soon, though,” Hart said. “We all have a moment when we get to decide which way we’ll go. I’ve decided wrong more often than not. You don’t have to.”

Leek pressed his mouth shut, doing his best not to blink. The night air was getting cool, filling his lungs with jagged bursts and breaking through the fog of inebriation.

“You have some time, yet, and I know you’re not ready yet,” Hart said. “But think on it. Think on it hard. Because when the time comes, you’re going to have to decide. Not for Helen; not for Lester. Not for me. For you.”

Leek’s breath caught and he worked his jaw, afraid to speak, afraid to move, afraid to breathe.

“You have to decide,” Hart said. “What do you really want. I think you’ll find Helen can’t give you that -- not really.”

With that, Hart got up.

“That’s it?” Leek asked. “You tell me I have to make a choice and then you leave?”

Hart smiled. “You’ll know when the time comes,” he said.

“But you’re leaving? If things are so dire, then why wouldn’t you stay?” Leek pressed.

“I’ve made my choices,” Hart said. “That’s all any of us can do.” He inclined his head. “Remember that, Oliver.”

He turned and started to walk away, and Leek was too shocked to stop him. He sat on the bench, watching as the dark figure retreated into the night. Leek wasn’t sure how long he sat there, breathing in the cool, crisp air, but when he got up, he felt uncomfortably numb. He walked home on rubbery legs, collapsing on top of the covers and curling up with his clothing on.

In the morning, he didn’t feel rested and he was warmer, but he couldn’t shake the deadened sensation and Hart’s uncanny words.

You have to decide.

He made it sound so easy.

But as Leek got dressed, thinking about his schedule at the ARC and Helen at the facility, it wasn’t easy at all.

Comments

Posted by: reggietate (reggietate)
Posted at: April 26th, 2013 09:44 pm (UTC)
oilyollie

Yikes! Listen to him, Oliver! He know, he really does!

Wonderful :-)

And now I need sleep - so I have the rest of this to look forward to tomorrow, yay!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: May 2nd, 2013 08:23 pm (UTC)
stephen cutter sit

Honestly with so many people telling lies and proclaiming spectacular truths, I imagine sorting it all out would be easier said than done.

Thanks :)

Posted by: knitekat (knitekat)
Posted at: April 26th, 2013 11:10 pm (UTC)

Ooh, a very damaged Stephen. Listen to him, Leek.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: May 2nd, 2013 08:23 pm (UTC)
stephen hair

I had a lot of fun writing Future!Stephen. He sort of deserves his own fic.

Thanks :)

Posted by: fredbassett (fredbassett)
Posted at: April 27th, 2013 09:50 pm (UTC)

Oh blimey, that was unexpected! I love the idea of scarred, eye-patch Stephen. *g*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: May 2nd, 2013 08:24 pm (UTC)
stephen shocked

I'm not sure I ever actually figured out how or why a Future Stephen managed to show up, but he was a fun tool for the fic.

Thanks!

Posted by: goldarrow (goldarrow)
Posted at: April 28th, 2013 10:02 pm (UTC)

Oh, *meep*
When I was first reading it, I got to the line about the one blue eye, and I actually squeaked!

That was a great surprise, and a lovely plot device to bring Leek, no matter how reluctantly, back onto the light side.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: May 2nd, 2013 08:25 pm (UTC)
stephen skeptical

I have to give credit to lena7142. She's had this idea about a surviving Stephen who was badly mauled with an eyepatch for a while now. And I was hesitant about liking the idea until she told me about how his one eye seemed bluer than ever before. And I was hooked.

(Now if she would only write the fic!)

I was worried it would be too random of a plot device, so I'm glad it came across well :)

Thanks!

Posted by: fififolle (fififolle)
Posted at: April 29th, 2013 05:34 pm (UTC)
Primeval - Stephen *DED*

Yay Stephen!! Oh, he's all scarred and eye-less. Poor thing. But he's going to save Oliver, huzzah!
Helen is a real piece of work. This is brilliantly crafted.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: May 2nd, 2013 08:25 pm (UTC)
stephen skeptical

Future Stephen really does deserve his own fic someday.

Thanks :)

Posted by: lsellersfic (lsellersfic)
Posted at: April 30th, 2013 06:26 am (UTC)
Primeval:Leek/Stephen

Ooh! I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop. I love the future!Stephen.

Now to see what Leek actually does about it all.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: May 2nd, 2013 08:26 pm (UTC)
stephen cutter sit

I'm glad Future Stephen works as a plot device!

Thanks :)

Posted by: Cordelia Delayne (cordeliadelayne)
Posted at: May 2nd, 2013 11:48 pm (UTC)
[primeval] stand alone stephen

Ooh, yay to unexpected Stephen!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: May 6th, 2013 02:35 am (UTC)
stephen cutter

I had fun bringing him in :)

Thanks!

Posted by: basched (basched)
Posted at: May 3rd, 2013 10:29 pm (UTC)
Mecker02

Ooooooh!!

*happy clappy*

Sorry, this comment isn't going to be all articulate or intelligent like. I'm very giddy and twirly at how great this plot is, especially with future!Stephen!

This is just so damned exciting! I'll read some more tomorrow! Weeee!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: May 6th, 2013 02:36 am (UTC)
stephen goodbye

LOL, I appreciate the giddiness! Thanks!

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