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Primeval/Chaos: When We Collide 4/16

June 14th, 2012 (06:42 am)
intimidated

feeling: intimidated

A/N: And the undercover adventure begins. Just to note, I borrowed lines of dialogue from the show in some instances, so parts that sound familiar are probably from the show.

Notes and previous parts in the MASTER POST .



PART FOUR

-o-

Billy always knew the right thing to say. He could spin any situation, talk anyone into anything he wanted. His was the gift of the gab, as it were, and he refused to be shy in leveraging his gift in work, business and pleasure alike.

But for all of Billy’s grand speeches and well-placed adverbs, he had to admit that sometimes he got nervous. This was as it was supposed to be, he reckoned; fear had a purpose in most things in life and spy work was no exception. Fear was a crucial part of refining one’s perceptions, allowing one’s reactions to be fully honed and ready for the challenges of the field.

This time, however, nervous seemed to be something of an understatement.

Rather, it seemed like an outright, audacious if ever necessary falsehood.

No matter what he said, after all, he was still the new guy. The rookie. He was green and wet behind the ears and an over-eager puppy who had potential but still sometimes made a mess of the master’s slippers.

He wouldn’t own up to such things – not on his life – but he couldn’t deny them. It was easy to forget them when he was busy trying to prove himself to his longsuffering colleagues, but suddenly, on his own in the field with the weight of a mission resting squarely on his untested shoulders, the entire thing seemed very overwhelming indeed.

This was a case of national security. Lives were on the line. And it was a mission of the utmost care and craft. He wasn’t just undercover. He was actually impersonating someone else. Assuming their very identity to suss out the dangerous intrigue.

And heaven help him, Fredericks had been civil to him. York had personally sent him off with a clap on the shoulder and a resounding, “Don’t screw up, son.” He had a team for tactical support and one uncertain scientist listening in on his every word in case Billy should make his life more of a mess than it already was.

In the face of such things, Billy could smile and joke.

On his own in Stephen’s car, his confidence wavered. For all his talk and bravado, he wasn’t James Bond. He was a spy, untested in the field with everything to prove and even more to lose.

In short, it wasn’t just Stephen’s life and career on the line. It was his.

He took a breath, looking up at the building. To the untrained eye, it looked like any government facility. Billy knew better.

“All right, lads,” he muttered, suddenly too aware of the monitoring device in his watch. “Time to see what this mission is all about, yeah?”

In his ears, there was a small burst of static. The ear bud was small, just short of glued in, but the sound was clear. “Just be focused, Collins,” Fredericks voice resounded.

Billy got out of the car, rolling his shoulders and trying to compose himself. “I’ve told you,” he said, not able to smirk, “I’m a professional.”

Fredericks spared him any sarcasm or condescension, but Billy could feel his eye roll. It was too late for such banter though and Billy remembered Stephen – his facial expressions, his gait, his heavy burden of guilt – amended his stance accordingly and started in.

It took a minute of mental calculations, but the blueprints he’d studied yesterday sprang readily to mind. He mapped out his path, looking for the markers he’d set up in his mind. The checkpoint was more of a chore than a hassle, and the guard smiled and said, “Morning, Hart.”

“Morning,” he returned, nodding back.

And with that, he was granted access.

If it seemed too easy, Billy wasn’t letting himself relax for it. The guard was just the first of many obstacles and he had to start by finding his way to the so-called secret meeting. Stephen had given him directions to the changing rooms, and he kept his pace even, his head high as he walked down the corridors.

The entire thing made him feel rather suspect, but no one paid him any heed. In fact, it was worth noting that hardly anyone looked at him at all. The one woman in a lab coat who dared meet his gaze looked away the next moment, ducking her head and hurrying along.

Suddenly, Billy actually understood Hester Prynne and the weight of American Puritanism from the wayward American literature course he’d taken at university.

There was no time to dwell or even wax poetic, because he turned the corner and realised he’d gone the wrong way. This wasn’t a changing room, it was a staffroom.

Worse, it was filled with people.

Billy did his best not to look flustered. Usually, he’d start up conversation, but Stephen didn’t seem the type for idle chitchat. Instead, he nodded toward the table of scientists who looked at him and made his way to the coffee machine without missing a beat. He grabbed a cup, pouring some of the liquid and drank it black, which was invariably Stephen’s preference. It was awful and bitter, but he swallowed a mouthful.

Offering one last fleeting smile, he made his way back out, still carrying the cup.

The small diversion was enough to reorient himself and Billy moved with new purpose. This time, the changing room was easy enough to find, but still, when he walked inside, it was hard to hide his relief.

But hiding it was necessary because this room was also occupied.

Billy recognised the occupants. A short, dark-haired young man. Eccentric dress and friendly demeanour: Connor Temple. He was something of a wonder boy in the files, but his own proclivities were his biggest limitation. Still, one look at the younger man’s wide-eyed wonder, and Billy thought he’d get on rather well with him.

The other was a perky blonde, no bigger than Connor but much more experienced. Abby Maitland. The file didn’t do her justice. She had confidence and skill, and clearly she cared about her capabilities in the field since she was seated at the weights machine. If he wasn’t on a mission, Billy might be interested.

But Billy was on a mission.

And the next crucial step was keeping his cover.

He took a drink and approached them, hoping they couldn’t hear his heart pounding in his chest. They looked at him, but offered no hello.

Billy did his best not to take it personally.

Instead, he put his best foot forward. Literally and figuratively. “Hey, so what’s the secret meeting all about?” he asked, offering no other preamble. True, getting his feet wet in the persona would probably be a smart approach but Billy preferred to think of this as baptism by fire.

Fortunately, his to the point approach didn’t faze Abby or Connor. Abby merely went to a locker to get her things while Connor turned at him and shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said. “It’s a secret.”

Billy blinked, taking a drink. The file had said Connor was sometimes prone to inappropriate responses. Apparently that had been an understatement.

Although the younger man’s ability to not even crack a smile while being completely unhelpful was impressive.

“I’ve got that down,” Billy replied blandly.

Abby turned and seemed to take pity on him. Either that, or she just didn’t have the patience for Connor. “He just told us to meet him here,” she said.

“I wanted it to be somewhere where we wouldn’t be overheard,” came another voice, rich and Scottish.

Billy looked up in time to see a blond man come around the corner. Even if he hadn’t studied the files the entire night before, he would have recognised Nick Cutter from Stephen’s descriptions alone.

It was remarkable to see him, really. He carried himself with grit and determination, but his eyes were keen and intelligent. He was a man who knew what he was doing and who did not make a habit of doubting himself. There was no evidence of vanity and no apparent need to impress. He simply was, straightforward and direct.

Briefly, their eyes met, and Billy felt himself shudder slightly at the intensity of the connection. There was so much unspoken in that gaze, years of friendship and trust and then betrayal. The tension almost repelled them like a pair of magnet turned around and it was all Billy could do to stand still and hold his ground and maintain his cover.

Then Cutter veered off, bending over and turning on a radio.

Connor looked back at Billy, face screwed up with almost comical concern. “Wow, that’s paranoia or what.”

Billy looked at him, half-suspecting the younger man didn’t have any room to talk.

He was right, though, and he held his coffee cup just a bit higher, stepping closer to Cutter to give his transmitter the best chance of a signal even with the noise interference.

Cutter did not seem bothered by Connor’s accusation. “Necessary precaution.”

Which only told Billy that Stephen wasn’t the only one ready to take matters into his own hands. Cutter’s innate doubts could work in favour of the mission. If he was ready to talk, then maybe they could solve this thing quickly and Stephen could resume his life and make amends. Everyone would win.

Billy drew closer, Connor and Abby not far behind.

Cutter eyed them, glancing around briefly before leaning in closer for an added air of confidentiality. “Someone is working against us,” he began.

Straight to the point. Billy’s back stiffened and his interest was piqued.

Cutter looked at them carefully again. “Someone who has access to the detector and probably the same person who stole the headset.”

Billy’s mind worked frantically, putting together this information with what had been in the file. The lost headset had been in the reports and all intel had indicated that the breach was likely at a higher level. York had not seemed convinced by Stephen’s doubts about Lester, but he hadn’t ruled them out.

Keeping his composure, Billy maintained eye contact, watching Cutter closely for any hints of something being held back, a subtext he was missing. “Someone,” he said, hoping for further explanation.

Cutter’s eyes narrowed on him. There was a moment of suspicion – something more – and Billy felt his heart stutter. But there was still a complete familiarity in the look, a total reading of one another. This wasn’t Cutter doubting Stephen’s identity, it was Cutter doubting Stephen himself. This was the way it was now between Cutter and Stephen, why Stephen had bailed and come to them. It wasn’t just about national secrets; it was about the growing rift in a friendship that neither party knew quite how to mend.

And it was deepening. With every word, every conversation. The tension between them would reach a breaking point, one way or another, and they could pinpoint Helen’s motives, stop a traitor, but they didn’t know how to mend each other.

In this, Stephen had made the right choice. No matter what effort Cutter was making here to include Stephen, they would never work together like they needed to really get the job done. Not until they talked about it and given how far gone things were between them, that seemed less than likely.

Then Cutter continued. “Okay, look,” he said, capitulating just enough for Billy to relax. “I know we all have our own ideas about who that might be but this isn’t the time. We have to find out for sure.”

That was reasonable enough, but Billy understood Stephen’s frustrations. They were likely running out of time to double check things. They needed answers before the questions consumed them all.

“Okay,” Billy pressed, remembering his primary objective all too well. “So how are we going to do that?”

His mind was already working, putting together plans, systematically checking through the ARC staff, ruling people out, looking for likely candidates. They could learn a lot from simple observation and a study of personal effects. A day around the office, chatting people up could be very informative and if the four of them worked together, Billy could cull the knowledge and find something concrete to report back to York and Fredericks.

Finding a mole wasn’t easy work, but with four people, it was doable, especially when one of them was MI5.

Especially when one of them was Collins. Billy Collins.

The fantasy was shattered, though, when an alarm sounded.

At first, Billy feared the worst. Maybe he’d been identified. Maybe someone had recognised the difference. Maybe the mole had higher access than they’d suspected.

“An anomaly,” Connor said, surprised.

“Well, that’s poor timing,” Abby added.

Cutter didn’t waste time. He sighed just slightly, tearing his eyes from Billy with a lingering air of distrust. “Let’s go, then,” he said.

Billy blinked and tried to get his bearings. An anomaly. Of course he knew that was what they did here – containing the anomalies and controlling the creatures that happened through them – but he had come here to rout out a mole, not fight dinosaurs.

From the door, Cutter looked back. “You coming?”

Billy blinked. He’d come here to serve his country, in whatever capacity was needed. And that was really that.

“Yeah,” he said, putting his drink down and moving after Cutter. “I’m right behind you.”

-o-

It had been fascinating, to say the least.

Watching Billy live Stephen’s life was a surreal sort of thing. Seeing him drive Stephen’s car, go through the security check, interact with his friends – it was enlightening, a whole new perspective on just how much had changed.

To think, only a year or so had passed since they’d discovered the anomalies. A year since he’d been content as a lab tech, being Cutter’s infallible right-hand man. They’d worked together, travelled together; Nick had trusted Stephen with everything and Stephen had never given him reason to doubt. They’d mourned Helen together, though each in private ways, and Connor Temple had never mentioned anything about a disappearance in the Forest of Dean.

He missed that. He didn’t often have time for regret, but seeing the stark contrast now, he missed it fiercely. Connor wanted excitement. Cutter sought discovery. Even Abby wanted new frontiers.

Stephen had always found himself happiest when things were simple and unchanging.

For all the good it did him.

Now the entire thing was bloody shambles to the point where Stephen wasn’t even living it. Some false proximity of himself was. And worse, the people he called his friends hadn’t even noticed.

Cutter had looked right at him and not seen a thing.

It was mildly reassuring that the top secret meeting was indeed top secret and likely to be informative. He’d thought the only thing that could make his experience worse was if the entire thing had been a bust and he’d ended up on the bad side of MI5.

Worse, that he’d betrayed his friends’ confidence and gained nothing for it. He’d only gone to MI5 to protect them before this spiralled out of control. With Cutter’s increasing mystery and Helen’s clamoring for action, Stephen knew things were reaching a head and he knew that he was in no real position to help anyone.

And then, the alarm had sounded.

Because as if Stephen’s life wasn’t hanging by enough of a thread, fate had to throw a bloody anomaly at them just to keep things interesting.

Or annoying.

Or deadly.

The realisation dawned on Stephen. He shook his head. “He can’t possibly be ready for that,” he said.

Tearing his eyes from the screen, Stephen looked around, feeling a bit desperate. The two technicians were still there, running the equipment, but they barely paid him any attention. Fredericks was seated next to him so they could both see the monitor from Billy’s communications feed.

At Stephen’s word, Fredericks looked at him. “I think you may be underestimating the skill and training it takes to be a MI5 agent,” he said, not quite smirking but the intent was gleaming in his eyes. “Even for someone as green as Collins.”

Stephen just stared at him, wondering if he could actually be making jokes when Billy was about to be put up against an anomaly.

“This isn’t some training exercise,” Stephen said, trying to keep his words crisp to emphasise the point.

Fredericks looked back at the screen where the picture was bobbing as Billy ran. It was hard to see much, especially with the monochromatic interior of the ARC, but Stephen still inherently recognised the route to the control room.

“This isn’t like anything you’ve ever seen before,” Stephen continued, trying to throw as much weight into his words as he could.

Fredericks still wasn’t impressed. “We’ve read the files,” he said. “Collins has been fully briefed.”

“Notes in a file doesn’t really capture it,” Stephen said.

“There were pictures, too,” Fredericks said, as if that was helpful.

Stephen gaped. “There could be dinosaurs,” he said, remembering the first time he’d seen one. The shock, the exhilaration. The doubt, the terror.

He was lucky he’d survived that first encounter. He was lucky he’d survived any of them. Mentally, he went through all the times he’d nearly died – the Gorgonopsid, the giant centipede, the worms, the even bigger scorpion – and that was just off the top of his head.

“Chasing down a predator is not the same thing as international espionage,” Stephen said, hoping to make him understand. “The only reason I’m still alive is because I’ve spent the last ten years chasing down predators in the wild and that’s barely been enough to keep me alive. This isn’t the kind of thing that’s best walked into blind.”

“Yes, well, I suppose we’ll just have to put our trust in Collins for the time being,” Fredericks said. He rubbed his head a little. “God knows how much it pains me to say that.”

Stephen looked at the screen, watching as Billy leaned over the detector station. “You can’t just let him face this.”

At this, Fredericks turned back to him. “And what would you have me do?” he asked. “Pull him out? Ruin his cover after only ten minutes on the job? More than that, destroy your chances of helping catch the mole at the ARC and resolving this situation once and for all?”

Fredericks’ gaze was pointed and Stephen felt himself withering. He looked helplessly back at the screen. He wasn’t sure who he was more scared for: Billy facing the unknown or his team for not having the back-up they needed.

Fredericks sighed. “I think you may be pleasantly surprised to see that Collins is more than a pretty face and a sweet talker,” he said. “I wouldn’t tell him it to his face, but he knows what he’s doing. We’re going to have to trust him.”

Stephen tried to settle back in his seat, but his stomach churned uneasily. “I’ll feel better when this is over.”

Fredericks tweaked his eyebrows. “Well,” he said, looking back at the monitor. “So will I.”

-o-

Charm and powerful conversational skills were only part of what it took to sell a cover. The other part was just flat out acting. Acting like you believed your own lies was generally as effective as actually believing them, at least so far as everyone else was concerned.

With this in mind, Billy kept his face straight – wrinkling his forehead and narrowing his eyes in a fair approximation of Stephen’s default appearance – and followed just a step behind Cutter, mirroring his every move and responding in kind. This was an easy rhythm to fall into, one that had been clearly established long before Billy ever took this mission.

The corridor fanned out, opening to a large room. The atrium, Billy realised. The central hub of activity in the ARC. Abby and Connor moved off, but Cutter made a beeline for a bank of computers. Instinctively, Billy followed.

As they approached, Cutter didn’t hesitate, taking the obvious lead. This gave Billy a chance to assess. The monitors were complicated, the streams of data included varied information. A quick scan suggested that the science involved was probably above Billy’s pay grade – he had been a bright student in school, but literature had been his forte, not the sciences – though he could discern the maps and strings of coordinates.

Cutter frowned, shaking his head as he pulled up a new computer file. “Look at the size of that thing,” he muttered. “It’s going to be a mess.”

The picture was unlike anything Billy had seen. A large, hairy animal with massive tusks. “A mammoth,” he said, his disbelief slipping out before he had a chance to stop it.

Cutter turned just a little, the shadow of a grin brushing across his face. “This part never does get old, does it?”

Billy regained his sense and offered a tight smile back. “No,” he agreed. Then he inclined his head. “And it never gets easier.”

At that, Cutter had no reply, looking back down at the screen. The agreement was implicit, and there was no need to speak. Some might find it cold – and certainly, there was a distance and a tension between the two men – but that was only in contrast to the bond that Billy could already sense was still there.

They had their differences, but essentially, they still cared about each other. They still made a damn good team. Two halves of one whole, really, perfect complements in the ways that mattered. In crisis, all the doubts and regrets and frustrations fell away.

This was what Stephen wanted to save. More than the team, more than the ARC, more than the public. This. Him and Cutter, in this moment.

Cutter pulled up another screen and made a face. “This is going to be a mess.”

Billy peered closer, eyeing the specs of the creature and mentally visualising its capacity for destruction. “You think?” he managed, hoping for bravado even as his stomach started to turn.

Because Billy had faced a lot of things. Dangerous things. Deadly things.

But a mammoth?

On the motorway?

What did they feasibly expect him to do about that?

Fortunately, Cutter didn’t need much response from him as he led them over to the car. They started going through the guns, and Billy began to realise just how deep he was in over his head.

Cutter grimaced, shaking his head. “It’s not going to be enough.”

It was marginally reassuring to know he wasn’t the only one with doubts. They didn’t need guns. They needed a bloody tank. Maybe a flamethrower, for good measure. Something that went boom, to say the very least.

Billy nodded curtly, remembering Stephen’s stash of weapons in his car. At the time, Billy had thought such precautions to be excessive.

But now, he was beginning to appreciate their asset’s common sense a lot more.

“Nope,” he agreed. “I’m going to need a bigger gun.”

Cutter didn’t give any explicit approval for such a tactic – and given Stephen’s intel, he might not as a general rule – but he also didn’t stop Billy from pursuing it.

And really, Billy wasn’t about to go after a mammoth with a handgun and a government-issued rifle.

Taking the silence as a tacit consent, Billy turned, jogging out of the atrium and towards his car. It took a moment to orient himself, but the corridors quickly began to make sense. He flashed his badge on the way out, skipping past the security stop and trusting that they knew Stephen well enough to recognise an emergency when one presented itself.

In the daylight, Billy tried to gather his wits, even as he picked up the pace to Stephen’s car.

He could do this, he told himself as he dug the keys out of his pocket. It was just another mission.

Instead of international criminals, he was dealing with large prehistoric creatures. At least he wouldn’t have to worry about getting shot at. He just had to avoid being trampled or gored to death.

Though when he thought of it that way, it wasn’t much consolation at all.

His hands were shaking when he opened the boot, trembling so hard he nearly dropped the gun. Slamming the boot closed, he went around to the front passenger seat to get the rest of whatever gear Stephen might have stowed.

Mind racing, he forced himself to breathe as he sorted through the things. There was extra ammunition in the glove box, though he nearly dropped it as he pulled it free. He had the urge to curse but squelched it. He had an audience, after all, and Fredericks already thought that he was in over his head, so he didn’t need to go proving anybody right.

Just stay the course, Collins,” Fredericks voice came. “Keep it together.

That was easy for him to say. He wasn’t about to take a pea-shooter to slay a mammoth.

That didn’t matter, though. He took a breath and tried to believe it. Billy was an MI5 agent. James Bond wouldn’t panic in the face of a mammoth, no matter how hairy it was or how sharp its tusks were. This was his mission and he was in control and he could do this.

Of course, James Bond was MI6 anyway, so maybe the parallel didn’t work as well as Billy wanted it, too. Perhaps all the sexy missions were overseas, while the ones at home involved large prehistoric creatures.

Or he could just be overthinking it.

Regaining his calm, he closed the door and looked back up—

And straight at a woman.

Short dark hair, mussed but together. Stained shirt carefully arranged, too artful to be chance. Tanned skin, deep eyes and a cleavage that didn’t stop.

Helen Cutter, Billy realised. As if things weren’t complicated enough.

-o-

It was hard to say what caused Stephen more trepidation: a mammoth terrorising the motorway or Helen Cutter.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter because both were now ever-present realities in Stephen’s life. Realities that he had to witness but couldn’t combat in a life that was currently being lived by someone else. Someone who had never fought dinosaurs, who had never survived poisonous centipedes. Someone who had never been faced with the ambiguity of a Cutter.

At this point, Stephen was past shock and well on his way to numbness. Because he wasn’t sure it was actually possible for things to get worse.

Fredericks, however, seemed to finally be coming alive. He was hunched over, picking up a device and pressing a button. “That’s her, that’s her,” he said. “We have confirmation of the target.”

Stephen shook his head. “But the mammoth—” he tried to say.

Fredericks didn’t seem to be listening. Everyone had been banally polite to him since he’d told his story, but now he seemed entirely superfluous to the action.

Which seemed to be the story of his life these days. Stephen was useful but not wanted. Trusted but not with anything important.

“We need to establish a connection,” Fredericks said into the comm.

Stephen leaned forward, shaking his head again. Not that he didn’t want Billy to work up a motive where Helen was concerned. The sooner they were able to do that, the sooner this mess could be over, which was really all Stephen wanted. To out the mole, to determine Helen’s angle, and to keep everyone safe.

But they couldn’t ignore the elephant in the room.

Rather, the mammoth.

The literal mammoth.

The image of the mammoth was frozen on one of the screens, a snapshot from a CCTV in the area.

One of the techs clicked it out of the way, replacing it with a fresh picture of Helen before running what appeared to be a facial match.

“Making contact is our first and primary priority,” Fredericks said again, more insistently this time.

On the other screen, the live feed bobbed and waved as Billy glanced toward the team. They were loaded in the Hilux, ready to go. Helen, sly as ever, seemed to have dropped from view.

Billy hesitated, patting the car. “I’ll catch up.”

Stephen sat forward, hackles rising. “But the mammoth,” he tried again.

Fredericks spared him a look. “You came here to find the mole, yes?” he asked.

Stephen gaped at him. “Sure, but I think the fact that there’s a mammoth running around should probably take precedence.”

The smile Fredericks offered was hardly reassuring. “Priorities are relative, Mr Hart,” he said. “That’s the first lesson of government work, and we have to abide by it here.”

That sounded like Lester. That sounded like Helen. That sounded like Nick.

It sounded like everyone else, offering him incomplete answers to complex problems. Things weren’t black and white; life was never simple.

Someone was going to have to understand that – soon. Before it cost them more than they were willing to pay.

-o-

When he’d become a spy, Billy had worked hard to divest himself from the notion that spy work was all flash and furore. Missions took time. Undercover work tended to be a long-term commitment. He had known the timeline was tight on this one, but he really hadn’t expected to see Helen before finishing his morning cup of coffee.

He hadn’t even got the chance to finish his initial assessment of the ARC. And now there was a mammoth on the loose and Billy was expected to charge headlong into danger to stop it and Helen.

Billy was good under pressure – no matter what Fredericks thought, Billy didn’t want for courage – but he was still human. Helen’s ability to appear from nowhere was damn near predatory. Granted, Billy had been distracted with the notion of netting a mammoth but he hadn’t even had an inkling before she appeared.

And that very well could have cost him.

As it was, he managed to pull back from gaping, but the startled look was unavoidable. “What are you doing here?” he hissed, hoping for malice where he really felt fear.

For her part in this, Helen Cutter was entirely nonplussed. “I needed to see you,” she said, without hesitating or even missing a beat.

Billy tensed, sensing his in. But the instinct to complete the mission was badly compromised now because there was an anomaly to contend with it.

And the team.

Remembering the team, Billy looked up in time to see what he assumed was Cutter’s Hilux approaching from far off. “Get down,” he said, turning back to Helen with a deadly look in his eyes.

She dropped without another word and Billy awkwardly put his larger gun down alongside, putting his hand on the car window in what he hoped was a natural pose. When the other car pulled up, Cutter had the window down, looking at him expectantly.

Billy nodded. “I left the gun inside,” he lied, feeling stupid for the transparency of it. It was too simplistic, but he had to count on the fact that the team had more pressing matters to attend to. “I’ll catch up.”

It was a bitter relief to watch the car pull away. When they were safely out of eyesight, he turned back to Helen with renewed vigour. “What are you playing at?” he asked, unable to keep the accusation out of his voice. Stephen had told him she could be a bitch, and Billy was beginning to believe him. Not to mention the fact that her timing was suspect. She just happened to appear when an anomaly alarm went off? On Billy’s first day undercover?

Was it possible she knew? It was at the very least possible that she had the power to control the anomalies, which was what had been theorised in the reports.

All of this could be bad.

Very bad.

Still, as she got back up and looked him in the eye, her look was salacious and powerful, but there was no flicker of doubt or resentment. She believed he was Stephen. More than that, she believed she had total control.

“Talk to me, Stephen,” she said, almost purring the words. She knew what she was doing, that much was certain – least where Stephen was concerned. The sultry voice, the dark eyes, the invitation to talk. The cleavage alone was damn near a force of nature. I needed to see you. It was a stark contrast to everyone else in Stephen’s life who barely seemed to tolerate his presence. She’d cause the divide and was clearly working her way between them so Stephen would be isolated.

Why, of course, remained to be seen, but whatever her reasons, it did not bode well for Stephen.

It took all of his self-control to remember he had a part to play. Fixing Stephen’s life was an interesting prospect but ultimately impossible until he dealt with the issue at hand.

Carefully, he swallowed, backing off from his outright anger. “You were right,” he said instead. She had come here to make a power play, so he’d let her have it. And then some. “Cutter knows about the conspiracy.”

The deference to her lead was exactly what she wanted. She edged closer. “You come with me,” she said. “We can’t wait any longer.”

The forwardness of the request was unexpected. It was clear Helen was trying to pull Stephen away from the team, but the outright audacity to ask him to do so amazed him. Now, of all times. With a mammoth to contend with.

She clearly was overestimating her control.

Or Stephen was hiding just how conflicted he was when it came to her.

She didn’t let up, seeming to know exactly what Stephen’s line of thought would be. “Nick can cope,” she said, as if to soften the request. “Every second you delay makes Lester’s position stronger.”

Billy tensed at that. It was worth noting her appeal wasn’t just for her, it was for the greater good. More than that, she was playing up the Lester angle. It was possible that she was being truthful about that, but if York had his doubts, then Helen’s previous treachery was definitely a factor in all she said.

But even if Lester wasn’t the mole, Helen was still their best option.

A soft sound crackled in his ear as his wire came to life. “Go with her,” a voice ordered. Fredericks.

Billy had almost forgotten.

There was a squawk and a fresh crackle. Stephen’s voice came, more distant. “The team needs back-up,” he said, fully indignant.

The mission, Collins,” Fredericks said, more insistently now. “Remember the mission.

The mission.

The anomaly was pressing. A full-sized mammoth rampaging on the motorway mattered.

The big picture mattered more. “All right,” he relented, eyes steady on Helen.

She did a respectable job of hiding her glee, but her triumph was palpable. Billy’s shoulders slumped. It wasn’t just an act, either. He was betraying the team. More than that, he was betraying Stephen. The fact that it was in the name of his country didn’t make it any easier.

-o-

Stephen’s chair hit the ground as he got on his feet. “You can’t be serious!”

Fredericks looked at him, far too calm. “I thought we were clear on the mission objectives,” he said. “You did come here to stop the leak, didn’t you?”

Stephen leaned in closer, throwing his arms out. “I came here to protect people,” he said. He straightened, gesturing back toward the screen in desperation. “And you’re leaving the team completely vulnerable when they need back-up the most.”

“I’ve read the file,” Fredericks said. “They are capable.”

“It’s a mammoth,” Stephen said.

“And it’s the preservation of our national security and possibly our entire future,” Fredericks returned. He looked at Stephen, unyielding. “We’re spies, Mr Hart. Not miracle workers. I’m afraid you’re going to have to accept this compromise.”

Stephen wanted to protest. He wanted to storm out. This wasn’t what he’d wanted, not even close.

But there was nothing he could do. He’d forfeited his control by coming here.

He’d forfeited his control by sleeping with Helen in the first place.

Miserably, he sat back down. Now all he could do was watch.

NEXT

Comments

Posted by: kristen_mara (kristen_mara)
Posted at: June 14th, 2012 01:02 pm (UTC)
Stephen Clouds


Billy not being able to smirk while pretending to be Stephen must be the hardest thing about the entire job *G*

Well, apart from being tossed a mammoth and Helen so suddenly ;) I love how Billy is getting a crash course in Life As Stephen, with the attitudes of colleagues and team mates, and Billy's observations of them, especially of Cutter. And his own internal dialogue, brill job!

And poor Stephen, now only able to watch, with no control - thank you for coming up with such a great reason as to why Stephen left the team on their own to deal with the mammonth: it wasn't really Stephen that did so! Because he wouldn't!! *G*

Meep for Stephen realising his friends didn't recognise the switch...

Meep and hee about:
Stephen was useful but not wanted.
The cleavage alone was damn near a force of nature.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2012 11:41 am (UTC)
stephen up

Hah. Yeah, this is a hard mission for Billy. At least since this is his first solo mission, the rest can only surely get better for him...you'd think anyway.

Having it be not really Stephen really is an apt explanation of why he acted so utterly insensible during the last part of S2. I really do prefer it that way!

So glad it's still a fun read the second time through :) Thanks!

Posted by: fredbassett (fredbassett)
Posted at: June 14th, 2012 01:40 pm (UTC)

That's a fantastic take on Stephen?Billy's thoughts and reactions during the mammoth epsiode.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2012 01:42 pm (UTC)
stephen and cutter

I really enjoyed the idea of it not being Stephen at all in late S2 to explain the nonsensical behavior.

Thanks!

Posted by: freddiejoey (freddiejoey)
Posted at: June 14th, 2012 02:55 pm (UTC)
pic#117539008

Yay for another great chapter being up!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2012 01:42 pm (UTC)
stephen smiles

Thanks so much!

Posted by: scwlc_fic (scwlc_fic)
Posted at: June 14th, 2012 03:11 pm (UTC)

Poor Stephen. Stuck watching all this. He's going to blow a fuse. Although, at least he can tell people later that he didn't skip out on the team, that was all Billy. It's a crappy consolation, but it's something.

Also, poor Billy, trapped with Helen now. For the Greater Good. That's going to be super-uncomfortable.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2012 01:43 pm (UTC)
stephen shocked

It's really hard to say who has it worse in this fic. They're both going to have quite a bit of difficulty to come :)

Thanks!

Posted by: nietie (nietie)
Posted at: June 14th, 2012 03:44 pm (UTC)
Chaos

This seems like the ultimate mission for Billy. Being undercover is one thing, but being undercover as somebody people know is something else!
And it must be difficult for Stephen too, having to watch from the sideline what's going to happen next.

Like I said before, brilliant crossover!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2012 01:44 pm (UTC)
stephen cutter distance

Billy really is getting to show all his stuff in this one. Let's just hope it turns out...

And yeah, poor Stephen. For being the man of action, he has little to do here.

Thanks!

Posted by: x_tremelylost (x_tremelylost)
Posted at: June 14th, 2012 04:34 pm (UTC)

Ohhhhh nooooooo!, I need moooore!!!!, :D
Stephen is a favorite of mine, I still remember how mad I was at how primeval writers twisted the character in the second season. No logic on any of it!!!!!, I know Stephen and Billy are so different characters, but, but, but you are greeeeeat!!!, how can you pinpoint it so accurate! thinks I never even thought about it!, wow, that´s call being a good writer!!!!,

ok, now I´ll go to sulk in a corner until next part arrives!

Much love to you!!!!!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2012 01:45 pm (UTC)
billy knows

The choices the writers made in S2 were so dumb sometimes. Stephen made so little sense by the end that it almost hurts to think about.

And aww, you're very kind. I'm really glad you're liking it. More will be up tomorrow :)

Thanks!

Posted by: knitekat (knitekat)
Posted at: June 14th, 2012 07:41 pm (UTC)

Great chapter and a far better explanation than the actual episode for Stephen leaving the team to deal with the mammoth. More (please).

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2012 01:45 pm (UTC)
stephen goodbye

Just about any explanation is better than the one the show gave us. Sometimes I think the writers didn't even try with Stephen's character.

Thanks :)

Posted by: flaccidduck (flaccidduck)
Posted at: June 14th, 2012 10:53 pm (UTC)

fantastic instalment.

I'm wallowing in this fic with delight

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2012 01:46 pm (UTC)
stephen cutter

I'm glad to give you something to wallow in! I know I often need a good wallow :)

Thank!

Posted by: judithjohn (judithjohn)
Posted at: June 15th, 2012 01:45 am (UTC)
pic#116554396

Wonderful episode with the mammoth.

More more in a hurry please!!!!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 17th, 2012 01:46 pm (UTC)
stephen cutter

So glad you're into it! More tomorrow :) Thanks!

Posted by: Cordelia Delayne (cordeliadelayne)
Posted at: June 26th, 2012 12:48 am (UTC)
[chaos] billy collins (jm)

Oh, eek! Poor conflicted Stephen and Billy.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: July 9th, 2012 11:53 am (UTC)
billy knows

I'm replying to these comments all out of order it seems. Sorry!

But I'm glad you've enjoyed it :)

Posted by: lsellersfic (lsellersfic)
Posted at: July 9th, 2012 06:59 pm (UTC)
Primeval:Stephen

Poor Billy! Right in at the deep end, and a good explanation for what is going on in those episodes.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: July 10th, 2012 11:50 am (UTC)
stephen smiles

Glad it seems to fit with canon :)

Thanks!

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