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Primeval fic: No Matter What the Ending (6/7)

June 27th, 2015 (08:18 am)
peaceful

feeling: peaceful

A/N: Look, action! It's all going down now, for better or for worse :) Hopefully some things come together!

PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE
PART FOUR
PART FIVE



-o-

Jenny goes first, climbing through the window with skill and ease. It’s not something they’ve talked about, but they each sort of know. This is Jenny’s mission, as much as Stephen belongs to Sarah and Connor belongs to Abby. They’ll be with each other, every step of the way, but they know who’s calling the shots.

Which is probably why Jenny’s operation is being executed almost like a military operation. Granted, she never knew Jenny in real life, but her no-nonsense attitude takes everything that made Claudia Brown good at her job and makes her simply extraordinary. It’s almost a little funny to think about a woman who can be as meticulous about her nails and hair as she is her weapons and ammunition.

As well prepared as Abby is for all of this, she can’t deny that the physicality of it still takes her aback. She’s trained in perfect conditions, and the smoke in her eyes and lungs is more than a little bothersome. It’s an unsettling thought to think about, and she certainly hasn’t entertained it before, but the risk isn’t just nonexistence on this mission. They could very well die before all is said and done.

Ending their own futures and everyone else’s.

No pressure or anything.

Abby is so focused on not tripping in the growing dimness that she nearly does just that when Jenny comes to a stop, going very, very still in front of her.

Abby doesn’t need to ask why.

They’ve planned this out too carefully to ask something so obvious.

After a long moment, Jenny takes them around, edging around the corner until Abby hears the voices over the distant sound of crackling flames.

It’s Helen and Cutter.

Jenny pulls Abby down, and they crouch together at the corner, taking a second to get their bearings.

Abby’s only heard Helen’s voice a few times in real life – her glimpses of the timeline from the castle hardly seem to count now – but the sound is still enough to send a chill down her back. If she’d known before just what one woman could do, she might have taken matters into her own hands the first time Helen showed up. All ethical considerations aside, if one woman could destroy the universe, then something had to be done about that.

One woman to destroy it.

Three to save it.

All signs of trepidation are gone as Jenny gets to her feet. Abby knows to stay put – this is Jenny’s time.

And she’s more than up for the challenge. On her feet now, Jenny straightens the ammo under her coat, easing her stride as she walks up to Cutter, the gun she’d brought with her clearly in her grip.

“Well, isn’t this nice?” Jenny asks. “Is this a couples event? Because I would hate to be a third wheel.”

Even from her place still hidden in the shadows, Abby can see the shock on Cutter’s face. “Jenny,” he says. “You can’t be here.”

“I can actually,” Jenny corrects. “If you’re thinking I shouldn’t, well then I could say the same to you.”

“We were just finishing up, actually,” Helen says, and Abby can see her posture stiffen, fingers tight around the gun in her hand, even as it’s pointed at the ground.

Cutter turns cold, tired eyes back to Helen. “We were just tying up a few loose ends,” he says. “Once and for all.”

“That’s a lovely sentiment,” Jenny says. “But to be fair, I don’t think she should get a say.”

Cutter looks confused.

Jenny’s still holding the gun but she turns toward Cutter, almost drawn to him. “You and Helen, it’s been done and over for a while now,” he says. “Whatever you think you owe her; whatever you hope to gain from knowing her; it’s not worth it. It’s not worth any of it. Not Stephen’s life, not the ARC, and certainly not another second of your time.”

“This isn’t about you!” Helen yells.

Jenny doesn’t even flinch, eyes still on Cutter. “Don’t go looking for a sword to fall on, not for Stephen’s sake,” she says. “Look for reasons to live. To walk out of this burning building.”

He swallows hard, his Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat.

Jenny hesitates but reaches out, her free hand brushing against his cheek, feathering lightly through his hair. “You think she can give you answers,” she says. “But I can give you a life, Nick. Choose me. This time, put me first.”

Cutter visibly pales.

Helen’s stance hardens and the gun twitches in her hand. “You’re not even supposed to be here--”

At that, Jenny does turn. Abby considers revealing her position -- Jenny’s precariously protected, and Abby can’t risk losing her or the mission -- but Jenny holds her ground, staring down Helen with no reservations. They’ve practice for this. They’ve trained for this. They’ve fine-tuned everything for this. It’s dangerous, but Jenny knows what she’s doing. She knows when to hold her fire and when to pull the trigger. She knows how long to let this go on, and when the moment is finally coming.

And Abby has to let her do it.

“I could say the same to you,” Jenny says.

Helen’s face contorts. “You have no idea what you’re messing around with.”

Jenny smiles breezily. “I think I do, actually,” she says. “And I’m going to give you a different choice. The choice to walk away, right now.”

“What?” Helen asks, incredulous.

“Walk away,” Jenny says again. “Choose life. Go to the future and stay there. Go to the past and never come back. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll leave and never look back.”

“Oh, please,” Helen says. “And let you waltz off with my husband?”

“Yes, if that’s what he wants,” Jenny says, entirely matter of fact. She looks at Cutter. “Is it?”

Cutter is still flabbergasted, and he hesitates for a split second.

Across the hall, Helen’s rage solidifies as she raises the gun.

It’s a moment, almost suspended in time. Cutter’s made his choice. Helen’s made hers.

And Jenny made hers ages ago, before time even had any meaning at all.

There’s no doubt now, how this story ends.

No doubt at all.

Helen fires, and her aim is good, but it doesn’t matter. Jenny already has Cutter on the ground, and she squares her footing, the gun trained on Helen before the other woman has a chance to realize just how badly her plans are being ruined. It’s a perfectly orchestrated moment, made possibly by infinite rehearsal and eternal planning. There’s no margin of error, because Jenny’s just that good.

The sound of the second gunshot cuts through the air, resounding through the smoke with an intensity that almost sends Abby sprawling to the ground. It’s not just a single gunshot, after all. It’s the gunshot that will mend eternity and save the world.

Shocked, Helen wavers on her feet. She lets out a breath and looks down at the patch of red growing around her chest. “No,” she breathes, voice catching as her fingers loosen around her gun and it clatters to the ground. “This isn’t the future…I didn’t see this…”

She turns wide eyes to Jenny, gasping.

On the ground, Cutter is sitting up, staring in shock at his ex-wife.

“Is this the end?” Helen asks, looking to Nick one more time before she staggers to her knees.

Her body twists as it falls all the way to the ground and goes still.

Just like that, the moment is over.

The future is decided.

Fate is set.

Helen Cutter is dead.

And Nick Cutter is breathing.

Helen’s been wrong about a lot of things, but none more than this: this isn’t the end.

If anything, this is only the beginning.

-o-

There’s no time to celebrate, of course.

Of all the things, they’re out of time.

It’s ironic that Cutter’s the first one to move, fumbling to Helen’s side and pressing a finger to her pulse point. As he’s checking her vitals, Abby gets her wits about her and remembers that the mission is still at stake.

With Cutter’s distraction, Abby takes her chance, sprinting from her hiding place and running as fast as she can toward their preplanned exit, taking Jenny with her. They skid toward a corner, waiting until they hear Cutter coming after them.

“Wait!” he calls, panting and breathless. “Jenny!”

Abby looks and Jenny and nods, hoping it’s enough.

Jenny suppresses a smile. “See you on the outside.”

Maybe it’s not quite enough, but it’ll do.

Abby takes off at a jog.

It’s really going to have to do.

-o-

Splitting up is part of the plan. With two trails to follow, Cutter will be confused sufficiently without being wildly off course. They’ll both head toward the same exit, ensuring that Cutter will at least follow one of them to safety.

It’s a bit simplistic -- considering they had forever to think about it -- but sometimes simple things are the best things.

Sometimes, though, simple things don’t take everything into account. This is the constant variability of reality, Abby knows, because Sarah lectured them about it. Jenny planned for it. Abby calculated for it.

Yet, when she comes face to face with the unexpected, she nearly falls apart.

Turning the corner, she runs headlong into Connor.

Connor.

Wide eyes, soot on his face, older than she remembers, and still far, far too young.

“Connor,” she breathes, almost choking and not from the smoke.

His brow furrows in obvious confusion. “Abby,” he says. “But what are you--”

It’s a legitimate question. They’re all legitimate questions. And they’re all questions Abby can’t answer.

Instead, she reaches out, taking him by the wrist. “Come on,” she says, starting to run again.

It feels only too right when he follows.

-o-

Her heart is pounding, and her chest is tight.

She’s planned so meticulously, she’s prepared so carefully, and she’s thought of everything.

Everything except the living, real emotions. Everything except the thrill of touch, the desire of sensation. There’s an immediacy in human connection, a weight to finite interactions that she hasn’t fully accounted for. Eternity is endless in its pursuits and ultimately gratifying in a way this never could be.

But this.

Being alive with the knowledge that the moment counts.

That’s intoxicating. Abby’s not into drugs, but she imagines this is what it must be like. This is why people keep coming back, even when they know how dangerous they are. This is why mortality matters.

As they round a corner, he pulls her to a stop. “Abby, wait!” he says, even more breathless than she is.

Her instincts tell her to keep running -- he’ll follow her, she knows he will eventually -- and there’s just no time.

But she can’t help it if she stops.

Connor is resting, head bowed and hands on his knees. He cranes his neck to look at her. “I came back for Cutter,” he pants. “We have to--”

We have to what, she thinks? We have to hold hands and make it through this alive? We have to hold each other close while we still can? We have to kiss and throw it all down, right here right now because if she’s waited for eternity, then maybe this isn’t a moment she should squander.

It’s all wrong, though, and she knows it.

Even if she chooses Connor, it’s not here, it’s not now.

And is she willing to sacrifice the best version of herself for a fleeting feeling? Is she willing to forfeit the universe for a boy?

She finds a strength she’s always had, even if she’s not always chosen to use it. “We have to go before this whole place goes down,” she tells him. “Cutter will be fine. Trust me.”

She holds his gaze, and doesn’t look away. The look he gives her is full of trust, and it’s striking that he’s a lot like his lizard counterpart.

Though somewhat cuter.

She’d never seen it before, or at least never allowed herself to think it.

Reaching out, she squeezes his arm again. “Connor,” she says. “Please.”

He hesitates, eyes darting around. Finally, his eyes settle on her again. “You know the way out?”

Abby grins. “Yeah,” she says. “I know the way.”

-o-

For one minute, everything is perfect.

Abby runs, and Connor follows, falling several paces behind her. The plan is in motion, and Abby has everything. She has a past and a present and a future. She has this moment.

It’s tempting to think this could last forever.

That she could have eternity, right here, right now.

But then she ducks out the door and is blinded by the sunlight. She’s disoriented for a moment before someone grabs her wrist and pulls her away. At first, she thinks it’s Connor, but when she regains her senses, she realizes it’s Jenny.

The other woman has pulled her to the shadows, leading them along the obscured edge of the building that juts out toward the fence. The gate has been left open, and they skirt out of sight until they find Sarah hidden in the bushes.

“So?” Sarah asks, expectant.

“Cutter’s alive,” Jenny announces, sounding more exhausted than relieved.

“And Helen?” Sarah prompts.

“She’s dead,” Jenny says shortly. She offers a small shrug. “I didn’t train all that time to be a poor shot.”

She has a point. Abby shrugs meekly. “Besides, if we’d failed, don’t you think the universe would have collapsed by now? Wasn’t that the working theory?”

“Killing Helen should have reduced the timelines well enough to prevent the collapse, yes,” Sarah says. “Although if we want to set the future the way we intend, then we really do have to move.”

It’s the commonsense reminder Abby needs, and she pulls the device out of her jacket. She hesitates, though, when she sees Jenny again.

Jenny has always been the most certain among them, and probably the most independent. She’s the only one among them who never would have hesitated to take the shot when she needed to.

She’s hesitating now, though.

And Abby knows why.

She turns, following Jenny’s gaze to the building behind them.

Connor is there, talking wildly into his cell phone, probably asking for backup. He has found the others.

Cutter is on his hands and knees by the other Jenny’s side, trying to rouse her.

It’s nothing that they haven’t expected. In fact, it’s exactly according to plan.

That doesn’t make it any easier.

“He really does love her,” Jenny says, voice almost inaudible. Her breath catches and she swallows hard. “I know what we were shown, but back when I was on Earth, I always wondered if it was real or not. If he would ever be able to let go and accept me instead.”

Emotion is a powerful force, almost stronger than time itself. Abby knows from her short time with Connor.

She knows how much harder it must be for Jenny.

To see the defining moment of your life realized.

And not being a part of it at all.

“I waited so long,” Jenny says, voice faltering now. “It felt like forever.”

Abby moves closer. “This mission has always been about choice,” she says. “You’ve done your part. If you want to stay, no one would think twice.”

By the building, Connor is pacing, running his hand through his hair. On the ground, Jenny stirs and Cutter’s face lights up.

Sarah closes in on Jenny’s other side. “It’s your life,” she says. “You have the right to live it.”

Cutter’s face lights up, relief evident as he scoops Jenny up and holds her close. As he buries his face in his hair, he’s crying.

“It’s not, though,” Jenny says, the words growing steady and her face resolved. “It’s not my life. It’s her life; if I stay, all I’ve done with you two would cease to exist. I want her to be happy, but I want to be happy, too.”

Abby turns her machine on, watching it whir to life. “If you’re sure--”

Jenny wipes an errant tear off her cheek and turns away from the scene behind them. “I’m sure.”

Abby brings the machine fully online, programming the next set of coordinates. “Then we better be at it,” she says with a nod to Sarah. “No time to spare.”

With that, an anomaly comes to life, and Jenny is the first one through before it even starts to rotate. Sarah takes a breath and isn’t far behind. Before Abby follows, she spares one last glance back. The rest of the team is coming now, and things are going to be okay.

Things have to be okay.

Abby’s going to make sure of that.

And she steps through the anomaly.

-o-

On the other side, she doesn’t even have a second to orient herself before someone pulls her to the side. There’s a loud klaxon blaring, loud enough to make her ears ring.

“What the--”

Jenny immediately shushes her, pushing her to the ground against the wall.

Sarah is by the door, peeking tentatively through the porthole. “We don’t have long to pull this off,” she murmurs.

“We really are cutting it a bit close,” Abby muses, regaining her feet. “No sign of them yet?”

Sarah shakes her head, wiping her hands anxiously on her jacket. “Jenny, can you--?”

“Hide out here and take care of Cutter?” she asks. “With pleasure. I know the plan.”

“Abby?” Sarah asks.

Abby gets to her feet, bobbing her head reassuringly. “I’ll be right behind you.”

-o-

They only have a second.

The only need a second.

Jenny retreats to a safe location while Abby follows Sarah through the door into the cage room. It’s heavier than she expects -- that’s one of the things that still gets her about reality, the weight of it all -- and she’s barely inside when Sarah pulls her quickly to the wall.

The blaring klaxon is even louder here, but there’s no time to worry about hearing damage when Abby catches a flash of movement at the other entrance to the room. At first, she worries it’s one of the predators.

Unfortunately, it’s worse.

Cutter with Stephen a step behind. Each trailing after Helen.

Abby suppresses a yelp, ducking down with Sarah next to the nearest nook before the other three have a chance to fully enter. It had taken them awhile during their planning to find the perfect hiding spot, to find a place with a good view and easy exits without being obvious to either humans or predators.

Even so, Abby feels far too exposed, and she has to work to quell the pounding of her heart in her chest.

It’s more unnerving than Abby wants to admit to see Helen walking and talking again. Abby knows that at this point, Helen is telling the truth about getting Nick and Stephen out of there. But what she is conveniently skipping is that most of this mess is her doing. Leek is an easy scapegoat, which is exactly why Helen used him. It almost doesn’t seem fair, when Abby thinks about it, to leave people like Leek to be pawns in Helen’s attempts at immortality.

But then she hears the howls of the predators and her sympathy evaporates pretty quickly. Everyone gets to make their choices. Some people, like Stephen and Cutter, made bad choices under duress or when compromised by emotion. Other people, like Leek, made bad choices for their own gain.

Abby’s not here to save people from making selfish choices.

She’s here to save them from making bad choices.

Her concentration is shattered when there’s another growl, closer this time. She glances to the far end of the room and sees the raptor charge through. It passes close enough to make her flinch, but Sarah holds her ground, watching as it darts by them and makes a straight line to where Cutter, Stephen and Helen are trying to exit.

It’s happening fast -- of course it is, that’s how time works -- and when the raptor takes Helen by the boot, Abby is half tempted to intervene right then and there and let the damn thing take her leg off or worse. It’s not an easy thing to watch, to see Cutter and Stephen try to save her life when Abby knows that she’s directly responsible for both of their deaths.

Still, she reminds herself, Helen gets what’s coming to her. She trusts Jenny’s shooting ability just as much as she trust Sarah’s theory that killing Helen will solidify the timeline.

Still.

Still.

With two gunshots from Stephen, Helen is yanked free, and the door pulls closed as the raptor skitters away, gasping raggedly as it collapses to the ground. It shudders violently before settling into stillness.

Abby doesn’t dare breathe.

Sarah’s knuckles are white on the bulkhead next to her. The tense moment lingers, marked by the clamoring of the predators as they continue to approach the room.

Instinctively, Abby moves closer to Sarah. “You okay?” she whispers.

Sarah wets her lips and nods. “It’s going to work,” she says, as if reminding herself that it’s enough. “It’s going to work.

Abby’s fingers twitch around the time travel device before brushing against the small cache of weapons tucked into her jacket. This part may not be as important as saving Cutter, but it’s even more dangerous. There’s a lot that can go wrong, and they’re putting a lot on the line.

They’re putting everything on the line.

When the door opens again, Abby has to forcibly still herself. Sarah is ghostly white next to her, eyes fixed on Stephen, who promptly locks the door. He stands at the porthole, so transfixed with Cutter on the other side that he doesn’t even notice their prying eyes.

As he backs up, though, it’s impossible to ignore the predators. They’re filling the room, and more are still coming. Abby’s heart skips a beat -- if one of them sees their hiding spot, then this all could go much worse -- but predators work on instinct. They want food, and Stephen’s not even trying to hide. As he backs up into the center of the room, he’s offering himself up. He doesn’t go for his gun; he doesn’t try to hide.

Abby’s never considered it suicide, what Stephen did in this room, but she sees the process of giving up for what it is. He’s making a choice, a very deliberate choice. Maybe because he thinks he deserves it. Maybe because he can’t stand the thought of Cutter suffering for his mistakes. Maybe because it’s easier to die than to face the consequences of his actions. Maybe he’s a coward; maybe he’s a hero.

The predators circle, and Stephen stops. The confidence falters on his face, and the cold horror of his choice sets in.

There’s a moment, then. Pulled taut and held steady in the scope of eternity. The choices they make matter now.

Abby poised to act; Sarah tense beside her.

Stephen stands ready to die.

Sarah inhales and holds her breath.

Stephen exhales and doesn’t close his eyes.

And that’s when the first predator strikes.

It catches Stephen across the chest, and Sarah’s fingers clench into a fist. “Abby, now!”

With that, Abby pulls the pin on a grenade, letting it fly. The instant it’s in the air, Sarah ducks, wrapping herself around Abby.

There’s no explosion, but there’s not supposed to be. Instead, there’s a flash and a hiss. Pulled into a ball, Sarah’s body is hot pressed next to hers, and Abby breaths through her sleeve for long, tense moments.

She counts it off in her head.

One, two, three--

Sarah moves first, pulling up and getting to her feet.

It’s too soon, Abby thinks, but Sarah’s made up her mind.

Getting up after her, the smoke of the flash grenade burns her eyes. She coughs once, trying to catch her breath. She staggers a step, but catches up with Sarah who is circumventing the fallen predators and moving straight to Stephen.

It’s a sight to behold, really. Of all of them, Sarah’s always been the most timid. Not that she’s been less bold, but she’s the one who entertains the doubts, who thoroughly dismisses them with logic and reason. She’s not soft-spoken by any stretch of the imagination, and she has an innate sense of adventure, but she’s more natural with books than a gun.

She doesn’t so much as flinch, though, as she leaps over one of the sabretooth cats, skidding on her knees beside Stephen.

It was always an acceptable risk, using non-lethal measures to subdue the creatures, knowing Stephen would be caught in the crossfire. They had all deemed it a better in the end, especially since Stephen would be in pain and quite confused. Honestly, Abby had secretly hoped they’d be able to catch the predators a split-second before they attacked, but none of their time projections had allowed for that. Stephen didn’t have to die in this room, but he wasn’t going to get out without a little blood spilled, no matter how badly Abby wanted to change it.

Unfortunately, Stephen’s still form has been trapped by the Future Predator that collapsed on top of him, presumably when it had dove to try to rip out his throat.

“Help me with this,” Sarah grunts, trying to maneuver the massive creature from its position.

Abby finds herself lacking some of Sarah’s blind conviction. These predators are huge, and she knows too well what they’re capable of. She also knows that while Jenny’s solution at incapacitation is effective, it is also only temporary.

Sarah grunts, shoving the rubbery flesh in frustration. “Abby!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Abby says, casting a nervous glance at the raptor that is twitching a few feet away. She forces herself past it, kneeling down next to Sarah.

“If you can lift it, I’ll pull him free,” Sarah says, adjusting her stance to brace herself.

She makes it sound so simple, and Abby suddenly wishes for her fortitude. Even so, she reminds herself that this is why she came. She has to do her part.

Even if it means lifting terrifying, deadly, still twitching futuristic beasts out of the way.

She steadies herself, getting enough leverage under its lanky body to prop it up. It’s heavier than it looks -- probably pure muscle -- and she has to reposition her feet to get under it more, using her shoulder to lift it higher.

Sarah huffs, yanking hard until Stephen’s limp body is pulled free. Once he’s clear, Abby grunts and lets the predator fall back to the ground with a thud. It shifts again, making a clicking sound in the back of its throat, and Abby can see its heart rate start to quicken.

Time is getting away from them again.

Turning her attention back to Sarah, she sees her leaning over Stephen.

Stephen, who’s still not moving, blood smeared all across his front. His eyes are closed.

Abby’s chest clenches. It’s like seeing him collapse on a gurney after being bitten by the anthropleurid in the subway tunnels. The color drained from his face, almost lifeless before her. They’d saved him that time; they’d pulled him back.

She’d prepared herself for a little blood – she’d accepted that as a cruel necessity of fate. But this is more than a little blood.

For a horrible moment, Abby thinks this time that they’re too late. That they cut this one a little too close.

That all their planning, all their work, that it’s all been for nothing.

Then Sarah looks up, eyes full with tears but a smile on her face. “He’s alive.”

Stephen’s alive.

Abby wants to be relieved, but she can’t help but look at the rest of the room. There’s a sabretooth on the far end that’s start to kick one leg, and the Future Predator at her feet makes a low guttural noise.

Stephen’s not the only one still alive.

Working hastily, Sarah is pulling Stephen up. She strains under his weight, but she’s been training for this as she wraps her arms under his and locks her fingers around his chest.

“Abby?” she asks expectantly.

That’s her cue, and Abby flushes red to think that she needed it. Hastily, she primes the device, working to steady her breathing as the coordinates pop up and she points it forward. Sarah drags Stephen forward to the anomaly, and Abby tries not to look at the raptor gaining its footing no more than several meters away.

This time, she can’t leave fast enough.

-o-

On the other side, however, it’s nowhere near that easy.

The jump has worked perfectly, landing them just outside the facility toward the back, away from where the rest of the team has gathered and Special Forces soldiers are making their way inside. Jenny is already there, and she’s helping Sarah lay Stephen out on the ground.

That’s all according to plan.

When Abby catches up with them again, it’s hard to feel reassured. Stephen looks horrible, and even though she can hear his railing breaths, it’s clear that the first slash from the Future Predator had been serious. His t-shirt is mangled and stained with blood, and Abby can see the torn skin and muscle underneath.

She hates herself, suddenly. For picking and choosing what tragedies are allowable. The humane thing would be to spare Stephen from any of this, from the pain to the recovery to the horror alone. Who are they to say what makes sense in the big picture? What right do they have to decide any of this at all?

Responsibility, John had called it. This is their responsibility.

Stephen’s blood is quite literally on their hands, and they’re not even planning to stick around for the aftermath.

For all of Abby’s doubts, Sarah is fully in control. Ripping Stephen’s shirt down the front, she takes out the bandage she packed before they left, promptly using it to apply pressure to the gushing wound.

“Where’s the ambulance?” she asks with more authority than Abby has heard before.

Jenny is ever dutiful in reply. “Should be here any second now,” she says. “I called as soon as Helen was in the clear.”

“And Cutter?” Sarah asks, adjusting her position to sit up a little more, putting more pressure down on Stephen’s chest.

“Safe and secure and out like a light,” Jenny reports. Her lips twitch a little. “Honestly, I’ve never seen him so peaceful in his life. It makes me feel a little guilty, knowing what he’ll wake up to.”

“It’s better than what he’d be living with otherwise,” Sarah reminds them. She looks around. “Where are they?”

Almost on cue, there are ambulances in the distance. Jenny gets back to her feet, jogging around to the corner to wave them down even more precisely. Abby inches forward, swallowing back a bout of nausea at the sight of blood. Sarah, however, is singularly focused.

“Stay with me, Stephen,” she cajoles. “This will all make sense, I promise, but you’ve got to stay with me.”

It’s a passion Sarah usually reserves for books and study, for theory and conjecture. It’s a fervor that Sarah has demonstrated only a few times before, and never quite like this. In eternity, life is exhilarating, but it doesn’t create the same rush of adrenaline. It’s different, to feel your heart thrumming beneath your skin.

It’s so much different.

Jenny comes jogging back, with one of the ambulances turning around the corner. When it parks, two medics unload and push past Jenny and Abby, even as Sarah holds her ground.

“He was attacked,” Sarah announces without being asked. “I’m not sure how deep the wound goes, but it might have hit a lung.”

One medic is poking at the bandage around Sarah’s hands. The other gives her a cursory look. “Are you a doctor, miss?”

Sarah looks up at her. “Yes, but not that kind of doctor,” she says. “I’ve done what I can to stop the bleeding, but he’s going to need surgery, I think.”

The second medic makes a face while looking at the cut. “What did you say he was attacked by?”

“I didn’t,” Sarah replies flatly. “And you don’t need to know what it was to treat the wound.”

The second gives them a skeptical look as he reaches for his supplies. “Look,” he says. “We’re in the middle of an industrial district, and you’re saying he’s been attacked. Something doesn’t add up here.”

“Animal attack – the animal is now secure.” Sarah’s face hardens. “What doesn’t add up is that you two are professionals, trained and dedicated to saving lives. Yet here you are, wasting precious seconds while he bleeds to death inside and out. You’re taking the beating of his heart for granted, and I assure you that is something you have no right to do. So I suggest if you want to save yourselves, you should start by saving him.

There’s no mention of any authority that empowers her to say such a thing, but the absolute conviction in her voice makes the second one pale. “Then let us help him, okay?” the first medic suggests, a little gentler. “You’ve done your part. Now it’s our turn.”

It’s a request that Sarah clearly wants to resist, but she can’t. The medic is right, after all.

Sarah has done her part.

Now it’s time to let go.

They’ve jump through time, they’ve subdued predators, they’ve dragged a bleeding man out of an anomaly, and letting go is the hardest part.

This is what they’ve trained for, though. This is what they’ve worked for.

And Sarah lets go.

She sits back, relinquishing pressure. In an instant, both medics are assessing Stephen, the first creating a new bandage while the second starts to take his vitals. They start talking to each other while a new pressure bandage is applied and an oxygen mask is slipped over Stephen’s still features.

Sarah is still frozen, hands limp at her sides. The depth of Sarah’s loss grips Abby, and she reaches down, pulling gently on the other woman’s arm. Sarah is pliant, and when Abby pulls her to her feet and away from the medics, she obeys. As they retreat, Jenny joins them on Sarah’s other side, and they stand together, watching.

There’s nothing to say, and though Abby knows they’re using valuable time, it’s time they need to take.

It’s time Sarah needs to take.

One of the medics returns to the ambulance, and comes back with a gurney. Stephen is loaded up, and the first one glances back at them. “His vitals look pretty good,” she says, with an encouraging smile. “You’re right about the surgery, though. We’ll be at St. Mary’s, if you’d like to meet us there.”

It’s a simple, perfunctory invitation.

That carries far more weight that it’s supposed to.

When the ambulance doors close and Stephen disappears, Sarah’s breath catches. Abby wraps an arm around her, offering whatever support she can.

She remembers this, Stephen in an ambulance. It had been the moment she’d thought she might go for it herself with him, if she had the chance. That had been short-sighted, of course, fueled by adrenaline more than anything else. Stephen had never been the one for her, if only because it’s pretty clear he’s always been meant for someone else.

She never would have guessed it was supposed to be Sarah, a woman he’d never meet in a timeline that she had not lived in. But in a tug of war between two Cutters, she would be the perfect, reasonable, sympathetic escape that would change them both for the better.

“I never even looked him in the eyes,” Sarah says finally as the ambulance starts to pull away. “We never made eye contact.”

Jenny presses against her from the other side. “Not yet, anyway.”

“I planned it so carefully,” Sarah continues, pausing to gather a breath. “But I just never thought that it’d be so hard.”

Jenny nods. “I almost stayed this time, too,” she admits. “Just to see if Cutter would be okay, no matter how well I know the future.”

“I wasn’t supposed to feel this connected to him,” Sarah says. “We can reason it away, we can plan it to every last detail, but I never counted on the feelings.

“Well, you have been preparing for an eternity to save him,” Abby reminds her gently. “You are connected to him, more than you want to think.”

Sarah closes her eyes for a moment, shaking her head.

“Hey,” Abby says. “The offer stands for you, too. You can stay. Once we leave, you’ll be reabsorbed into the timeline and you’ll get to meet him all over again.”

“He is a beautiful, beautiful possibility,” Sarah says, and when she opens her eyes they’re wet.

“Yeah,” Abby agrees.

Sarah looks at her. “But he’s just one possibility,” she says. Then she shrugs her shoulders. “I can’t trade infinity for that. Not for that.”

Abby smiles, even though her throat feels tight. Jenny draws them both close.

Sarah exhales heavily. “Well,” she says. “Shall we?”

Abby pulls out the device, hitting a few buttons. She points it ahead of them, letting the anomaly open in front of them. “We shall.”

Comments

Posted by: goldarrow (goldarrow)
Posted at: June 27th, 2015 05:14 pm (UTC)
Cutter&Claudia - PWM

Good lord that was intense!
*pants*

Yay for the two saves, and *huggles* for the women taking the hard road to save everything.

Sarah looks at her. “But he’s just one possibility,” she says. Then she shrugs her shoulders. “I can’t trade infinity for that. Not for that.”
Lovely.

Posted by: lsellersfic (lsellersfic)
Posted at: June 27th, 2015 06:49 pm (UTC)
Primeval:Abby

After the slow burn of the early parts, its great the way this ramps into high gear without seeming forced.

Posted by: knitekat (knitekat)
Posted at: June 27th, 2015 08:50 pm (UTC)

Yay for a double fixit and the angst as Jenny and Sarah give the boys up.

Posted by: The Libran Iniquity (tli)
Posted at: June 27th, 2015 09:36 pm (UTC)
Primeval

What a ride so far! I love the easy flow of the earlier chapters, watching the three grow and learn and build their plan. The action is tense and very real. I'm looking forward to the conclusion!

Posted by: nietie (nietie)
Posted at: June 28th, 2015 10:14 am (UTC)
abby

Waah! Very intense chapter.
Letting go must be so hard for them. *hugs the three women*

Posted by: fififolle (fififolle)
Posted at: June 29th, 2015 07:19 pm (UTC)
Primeval - Sarah Page

So beautifully written! What a ride. *flails*
Abby meeting Connor was breath-taking, and loved Sarah sharing her feelings on seeing Stephen.

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