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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Primeval fic: Treading Carefully (Second Life verse)

November 29th, 2012 (08:58 pm)
crappy

feeling: crappy

Title: Treading Carefully

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

A/N: Another installment of the Continued Adventures of Feral Stephen. Beta given by the unparalleled lena7142.

Summary: Stephen seemed to operate under the impression that shoes were optional.



-o-

Cutter held his breath as he watched. Stephen was crouched low, stalking through the foliage, almost like a lion on the savanna, hunting down its prey. Only he had no fangs or claws, just a knife and vial of tranquiliser.

Not to mention the gumption to approach a microraptor and the skill to track the thing over three miles through difficult terrain.

In the rain.

It had been a long chase, and they were all weary, wet and exhausted. So when Stephen had said to leave the capture to him, even Captain Becker had willingly acquiesced.

And now, they were almost done. Stephen approached, slow and steady, moving with the stealth of a predator. He inched forward and froze; Cutter didn’t even dare to breathe.

He got closer -- and closer. He was just about there, the hand with the tranquilizer poised --

And then a branch broke under his foot.

The microraptor startled and scampered away.

Standing up in the rain, Stephen’s face was taut, flush with anger and embarrassment.

Becker was on the radio, directing a back up unit in the right direction while Abby and Connor made a show of regrouping to continue the chase.

Stephen was still standing there, staring hard off into the forest. Cutter came up, patting him on the arm. “You were very close,” he offered by way of consolation. He had learned early on that Stephen did not take well to failure.

Working his jaw, Stephen glared. “I had him.”

Cutter shrugged. “You’re only human.”

Stephen scowled. “Doesn’t matter.”

“Of course it does,” Cutter said. “We’ll just track him again and this time maybe we can try the gun.”

Stephen shook his head, curt. “No,” he said. “We don’t need the gun.”

Normally, Cutter might entertain this notion. Stephen was a damn good tracker, and he had been able to catch the vast majority of the creatures with minimally invasive measures. But they were weary and wet and it had been the better part of the day, and Cutter didn’t want to suffer through another chase for the sake of Stephen’s pride.

“Stephen,” he began, trying to be conciliatory.

Stephen shook his head again, more steadfast. “The problem isn’t the gun,” he said, more emphatic now. Then he bent over and starting pulling at his shoelaces. “The problem is the shoes.”

Cutter eyed Stephen, feeling more exhausted by the moment. “Shoes?” he asked, bracing himself for the swell of Stephen’s Permian logic that was sure to ensue.

“Shoes,” Stephen said, kicking one shoe off, followed by the other. He pulled at his socks, tossing the soiled pair on the ground with a look of disdain.

Cutter was too tired to flat out order the man to put them back on. Instead, he worked his eyebrows. “You think running through the forest and cutting your feet up is the answer to our problems?”

Stephen gave Cutter a disapproving look. “I think minimising the sound of our approach is critical,” he said. “Shoes only offer so much protection. Normally I can be talked into wearing them because the benefits outweigh the negatives. But to move quickly and lightly, shoes are only a burden.”

“Until you step on a rock or something sharp,” Cutter pointed out.

Stephen smirked. “I shouldn’t tell you about the time I stepped on a jagged piece of volcanic rock.”

Cutter frowned. “Why not?”

Stephen grinned. “Because then you might try to really stop me.”

Before Cutter could even ask him to elaborate, Stephen was off, darting through the woods, tracking the microraptor.

Sighing, Cutter picked up Stephen’s shoes and followed.

-o-

After successfully catching the microraptor, Stephen seemed to operate under the impression that shoes were optional. During in-depth tracking, he often left his shoes behind, and he also set them aside during anything near the water or on rock. When he had the option, he usually ended up being barefoot on tile and cement as well.

When he showed up for a staff meeting and put his bare feet up on the table as he lounged on his chair, Lester was almost beside himself.

“So apparently we have no standards anymore, is that it?” Lester demanded of Cutter afterward.

Cutter shrugged. “If your standard involves catching creatures with minimal fuss and less invasive measures, then I think our standards are better than ever.”

Lester was not impressed. “He’s not wearing shoes, Cutter,” he said.

“At least they don’t smell bad,” Cutter offered.

Lester groaned. “Wonderful,” he muttered. “I’ve hired a caveman and instead of rehabilitating him to modern life, he’s winning over the masses to barbarism.”

“He knows what he’s doing,” Cutter said.

Lester’s eyes narrowed. “No shirt, no shoes, no service,” he said sternly. “Or, in this case, no paycheck.”

Cutter sighed. “He won’t like it.”

“Well, I suppose it’s good that I didn’t make this decision based on his odd, prehistoric whims, then,” Lester said. “And I’m sure he’ll adapt just fine. The rest of us manage acceptably, so I should think he’ll learned to tolerate it, exactly like the rest of us.”

Cutter could only hope.

-o-

“That’s stupid,” Stephen announced.

Cutter sighed. His proclamation from Lester had been delivered about as successfully as he’d expected. Which was to say, it was a complete failure.

“He’s basing his decision entirely on trivial social norms,” Stephen said.

“Social norms are not trivial,” Cutter tried to explain.

“When they’re based on emotional distaste, they are,” Stephen said, a touch petulant.

“There are sanitation factors, too,” Cutter pointed out.

Stephen gave him a look. “I shower almost as much as the rest of you,” he said. “My feet are perfectly sanitary.”

“And it’s a risk factor for you,” Cutter said. “You’re more apt to injure your feet this way. There wasn’t broken glass and other litter in the Permian.”

Stephen snorted. “And I’m more likely to get killed the other way.”

“It’s not that big of deal,” Cutter attempted again.

Stephen shook his head. “I won’t do it.”

“You have to.”

“Why?” Stephen asked indignantly.

“Or he’ll sack you.”

Stephen’s face darkened. “Over shoes?”

Cutter nodded.

“That’s stupid.”

“No argument,” Cutter agreed. “About as stupid as it would be to get yourself sacked for not wearing shoes.”

Stephen considered this, his blue eyes deep and distrustful. The fact was, Stephen didn’t have much in this life outside the ARC. He couldn’t risk it; he wouldn’t. Not even for shoes.

Especially not for shoes.

Finally, Stephen growled and turned away, but when he came back the next day with shoes, Cutter knew he’d won the argument.

Still, he couldn’t help but wonder if somehow he’d lost the war.

-o-

Stephen wore shoes. He could still track and catch creatures. He was almost as good as he used to be.

Almost.

Usually, that was good enough.

If the creature heard him, he just lunged sooner. If his footing slipped, Becker was there with backup. If he was just slightly slower with the extra weight, his aim was better than ever.

Usually.

-o-

It was a troodon.

Nothing so special about that, except this one was in the ARC.

Loose.

They’d caught the thing south of London yesterday, but somehow the creature had got out of his habitat back at the ARC when the anomaly had closed prematurely. Catching its minders unaware, the thing had broken free, mauling one handler before going on a rampage throughout the corridors.

It wasn’t the most dangerous creature they’d ever dealt with, but the enclosed space and circuitous corridors were proving to be a challenge. Under lock down, getting mobilized was difficult, and it didn’t help that they kept losing the thing.

“It’s a dinosaur,” Lester said, gesturing in frustration. “How hard can it be to track?!”

“It took out the CCTV,” Jess reported. “I’m working on the secondary system--”

“We’re establishing a perimeter and communicating by radio contact,” Becker said.

“It’s likely to go someplace enclosed to try to hide,” Abby said. “It’s scared.”

“Well, I know how it feels,” Lester said. “So maybe my so-called team of experts would like to do something about that, hm?”

-o-

Cutter didn’t even know where to start, but Stephen didn’t wait for further instructions. He positioned himself at the location of the last confirmed sighting of the creature, crouching low to better examine the corridor. Then, he nodded. “It’s leaving a trail,” he said. “Not much of one, but we should be able to track it.”

“Good,” Cutter said. “Until then, we need to have all other ARC staff in secure rooms.” He paused, looking at Lester. “Including you.”

“No arguments,” Lester conceded. “I’ll be in my office. When you control this...situation, please let me know.”

-o-

Stephen tracked.

Moving through the corridors, he was the picture of stealth, picking up on the smallest scuffs, discerning the scrapes from shoe marks from the ones left by prehistoric claws. His trail was winding, and at certain points, even Cutter could see the effects -- a dented wall, a broken table.

Then, as the trail wound back through, doubling back a few times, Stephen pulled up short.

“What?” Cutter asked, voice low.

Stephen’s eyes were wide, but he nodded. “It went that way.”

Cutter followed his line of sigh with a shrug. “So?”

“The trail goes halfway down the hall and stops,” he said.

Cutter waited.

Stephen looked at him. “In front of Lester’s office,” he clarified.

Cutter stared. Then he looked at Stephen, almost horrified. “You mean--?”

Stephen nodded. “I think it’s in there.”

“Are you sure?” Cutter asked doubtfully.

“The trail just ends,” Stephen said. “Either it learned to fly, or it’s in there.”

“But wouldn’t he know?” Cutter asked.

“Those things can move fast and they’re not as big as some,” Stephen said. “Could have gone inside and found someplace to hide while Lester was conferring with us.”

“We have to let him know,” Cutter said.

“No,” Stephen replied, harsh but hushed. “Any sound could spook it. We’re lucky it hasn’t lashed out yet, and we can’t risk it antagonising it further.”

Cutter looked back down the hall.

“So what are we going to do?”

Stephen’s eyes narrowed and he moistened his lips. “I’m going to catch it.”

And with that, he started down the hall.

-o-

Cutter had no choice but to follow. As they approached, however, Stephen waved him back. Reluctantly, Cutter obeyed, and Becker went a few paces ahead, getting his sights on the door before he kneeled down, gun ready.

Stephen waited until everything was still. Then he walked forward, one foot at a time. Careful and steady.

As he approached the door, he held his hand up, putting one finger to his mouth as he peeked through the open blinds. He shook his head as he approached, one hand on the doorknob.

Then he shook his head again, more frantic now.

Suddenly, there was a noise from inside. A scuffle and then a yell--

And Stephen opened the door and all hell broke loose.

-o-

Cutter was there in two seconds flat.

Becker was there faster, Abby and Connor not far behind.

But as fast as they were, they all came to a halt, frozen, watching.

Because in Lester’s office, the troodon was crouched defensively on one side, eyes open and alert.

On the other side, Lester was on the floor, back pressed against the wall, jaw tight as Stephen stood over him with his knife in the air.

It was a standoff.

Stephen was deathly still, not daring to move. Cutter knew what the younger man was thinking, knew he was considering his proximity to the creature, the creature’s level of aggravation, the enclosed space.

The unarmed person behind him.

Stephen didn’t particularly like Lester, but saving people was in Stephen’s nature. He’d protect the other man.

And Cutter would protect Stephen.

By being absolutely still.

Becker had his gun up, but through the glass, there was no guarantee of a shot that wouldn’t end in disaster. So they held their breaths.

And waited.

Waited.

Waited.

Stephen breathed. He moved one foot.

The troodon tensed.

Carefully, he moved the next.

The troodon didn’t move.

Cautiously, Stephen inched farther.

The troodon was ramrod straight.

Then another step--

And his shoe squeaked.

A small noise, but a distinctive one that Cutter heard in the hall.

Just like that, the troodon lunged, and Cutter couldn’t find his voice to scream.

-o-

They were just a few feet away, but it might as well have been miles. By the time they got inside, it was already over.

Blood and broken flesh.

It was over.

-o-

The troodon was on the ground, neck slit. On the ground, Lester was gaping. Still standing, Stephen’s chest was heaving, the knife quivering as he still held it in front of him defensively. He was plastered with blood, but Cutter thought most of it could be the troodon’s.

Until Stephen’s eyes rolled up in his head and he went down.

-o-

Cutter was fast, but Lester was closer. He had Stephen rolled on his back, ripping at the sodden fabric of Stephen’s ruined t-shirt. By the time Cutter was there on his knees, the nasty gash across Stephen’s chest was already visible.

Gritting his teeth, Cutter pulled off his own outer layer, balling it up to press down hard, ignoring how close the cut was to the one inflicted by the future predator. That one hadn’t been deep, and Stephen had survived. He could do it again. He would.

Under the new pressure, Stephen flinched but didn’t wake.

Behind them, Becker said, “Medical team is on the way.”

Cutter nodded, glancing toward Stephen’s face. He was pale, but he was breathing. Cutter had been here before. More times than he could count. There was a lot of blood, but it could be the troodon’s. Some of it had to be...

“It was his shoes,” Lester mused, as shocked as Cutter had ever heard him.

Cutter frowned, glancing at the other man. “What?”

“It heard his shoe squeak,” Lester concluded, eyes trained on Stephen. “That’s when it attacked.”

There was something to that, but it wasn’t time to assign blame. It wasn’t time for any of that. It was time to make sure Stephen was okay. Barefoot or not.

And then before Lester could say anything more, the medics arrived and Stephen was all that mattered.

-o-

“He’s going to be fine,” the doctor said, smiling just a little. “He lost a lot of blood, but once we got a hold of the bleeder and transfused him a bit, everything seems to be coming back online.”

Cutter stared.

Then he laughed.

Stephen had just got attacked by a troodon, slashed and shocky, but he was going to be fine. Though really, considering all of other Stephen’s near misses, Cutter probably should have expected it.

But the blood on his hands was something he’d never get used to, no matter how intent Stephen was on making it a regular occurrence.

“Would you like to see him?” the doctor asked.

“Yes, please,” Cutter said, not sure if he wanted to commend or castigate the other man when he finally saw him again.

-o-

When they got there, Lester was already coming out, much to Cutter’s surprise. “I didn’t realize you made house calls,” Cutter observed.

Lester straightened his tie, wiping his hands distastefully on his blood-stained trousers. “Yes, well, my office is currently being occupied by a clean up crew,” he said. “Their sullen disposition is worse than the nurses, so I decided to take my chances here.”

Cutter frowned, suspicious.

“Well,” he said. “He seems to be just fine. His usual, difficult self. Good to know blood loss doesn’t inhibit his sparkling personality.”

Cutter’s gaze narrowed.

“Right, then,” Lester said. “I’m going to go home and see if I can find something less...macabre to wear.” He gave Cutter a look. “When you’re done here, I recommend you do the same.”

And then he was on his way.

-o-

Inside, Stephen was sitting up. He was still a little pale, but he mostly looked annoyed, fiddling with the IV in his hand.

Cutter came closer, shaking his head. “Leave it,” he chided.

Stephen gave him a petulant grunt. “It’s uncomfortable.”

“You’d be more uncomfortable without it,” Cutter reminded him. “The wound may not be life threatening, but it will hurt.”

“It’s fine,” Stephen said.

“You needed to be transfused,” Cutter said.

“As a precaution,” Stephen retorted. “I’m fine.”

Cutter wasn’t about to get into the finer details of what constituted fine between the two of them. It was a fight Cutter had tried to win -- and failed every time. Stephen took more risks than he should, but he had learned to listen. This wasn’t his fault, and Cutter wasn’t about to belabor the point. Not when Stephen was alive. Not when that was what Cutter wanted more than anything else.

Instead, he sighed. “What did Lester want?”

Normally, Stephen’s face contorted in dislike at the mention of their boss. But this time he shrugged. “Nothing.”

It was a blatant lie. Cutter scoffed.

Stephen rolled his eyes. “He was just extending me his well wishes.”

Cutter could barely control his incredulity. “Lester? Well wishes?”

Stephen remained aloof. “It’s possible I’ve been wrong about him.”

Cutter’s eyes bugged. “I’m not sure what I believe less,” he said. “Lester’s sudden onset of compassion or your actual admission of fault.”

“More like misconception,” Stephen said.

“Of course,” Cutter nodded. “Next time, maybe try not to misconceptualize how sharp a troodon’s claws are.”

Stephen grimaced just slightly. “That was no misconception,” he said. “That was a necessary risk.”

Cutter couldn’t disagree with that. Of all the things that were different about this Stephen and the other, the willingness to sacrifice himself was a constant, practically written in his DNA. Sometimes Cutter wanted to change that, but this wasn’t like wearing shoes or wearing deodorant. This was who Stephen was.

Cutter had to accept that.

And do his damn best to protect him back.

Sometimes, it seemed like they both had a lot to learn.

He nodded. “I reckon so,” he agreed. He sighed. “All in all, not our best mission.”

Stephen shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “It had its perks.”

-o-

A week later, when Stephen was back at work, he came to the staff meeting and put his bare feet on the table. Lester gave them one look but said nothing.

Cutter could only gape while Stephen reclined smugly.

Some perks, indeed.

Comments

Posted by: aunteeneenah (aunteeneenah)
Posted at: November 30th, 2012 03:43 am (UTC)

feral!Stephen. Yeah, he's a good guy, just not easy to be around, it would seem. It would seem that he and Lester are going to come to an understanding, at least, about shoes, although, probably not about anything else. lol Enjoyed this but poor old Cutter. I'm afraid if Stephen keeps getting hurt, it's going to short Cutter's life span! Well done.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 4th, 2012 02:45 am (UTC)
feral stephen

Yeah, Stephen has some issues with people skills. Poor Cutter has to put up with a lot :)

Thanks!

Posted by: freddiejoey (freddiejoey)
Posted at: November 30th, 2012 04:42 am (UTC)
Stephen and coffee

Love how Friday has also become feral Stephen day. And love barefoot Stephen here. Your Lester's brilliant too.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 4th, 2012 02:46 am (UTC)
stephen up

I am never sure when I write Lester so I'm glad he sounded right. Thanks!

Posted by: goldarrow (goldarrow)
Posted at: November 30th, 2012 05:01 am (UTC)

Beautiful; Stephen's need to be perfect is so touching and sad.

Cutter sighed. His proclamation from Lester had been delivered about as successfully as he’d expected. Which was to say, it was a complete failure.
LOL

*meep* for the Troodon scene. Had me on the edge of my seat; and I squeaked when Stephen went down.

LOL I figured Lester would end up compromising on the shoes, after that. The man may be stubborn, but he's a long way from stupid!

Lovely addition!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 4th, 2012 02:50 am (UTC)
stephen's eyes

I sort of love how damaged Stephen is. It makes him so fun to write.

Thanks!

Posted by: lukadreaming (lukadreaming)
Posted at: November 30th, 2012 08:27 am (UTC)
Lester flames

I like the way that it's often difficult to argue with Stephen's logic, much as Cutter and Lester might want to! And Lester may be annoying, but he's not a fool ...

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 4th, 2012 02:51 am (UTC)
stephen cutter sit

Stephen has this way of being right about things even when it seems like he should't be. He's lucky he has friends who will put up with him.

Thanks!

Posted by: natchris (natchris)
Posted at: November 30th, 2012 08:57 am (UTC)
Stephen blue

made me smile and sigh happily too.

Lovely!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 4th, 2012 02:52 am (UTC)
stephen cutter distance

I'm so glad. Thanks!

Posted by: reggietate (reggietate)
Posted at: November 30th, 2012 01:09 pm (UTC)
scampiscorpions

Poor old Cutter - if he isn't grey or totally bald from pulling his hair out by the end of this series, I shall be very surprised! :-) Not that I want it to end, because it's fab. And I'm sure Stephen's bare feet will be appreciated by the shallower members of the ARC staff, just like the rest of him.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 4th, 2012 02:53 am (UTC)
stephen shocked

Cutter really is a saint in this verse. LOL, he puts up with so much.

I definitely appreciate all parts of Stephen :)

Thanks!

Posted by: joshinator (joshinator)
Posted at: November 30th, 2012 02:30 pm (UTC)
Sexy Stephen

It's a lovely read for a late Friday night. :)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 4th, 2012 02:54 am (UTC)
stephen skeptical

I'm glad! Thanks!

Posted by: knitekat (knitekat)
Posted at: November 30th, 2012 07:57 pm (UTC)

Great fic and loved how Stephen got his way in the end, at least about shoes. Eek for the Troodon bit i the office. Poor Cutter.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 4th, 2012 02:56 am (UTC)
stephen up

Stephen has changed a lot. He should get to keep a few things :)

Thanks!

Posted by: kristen_mara (kristen_mara)
Posted at: December 1st, 2012 11:55 am (UTC)
Hair!


Friday is Feral Day, we're happy to say *G*

And last time Stephen managed to avoid getting injured, so that amazing run couldn't last. LOL. I love how he managed to get his own way eventually about shoes (when I was doing the Duo stories I did consider a scene of Jamie Hart putting his shoed feet up on the conference table, but it would have been nowhere as fun and tense as this).

And I do love Nick doing his best to deal with what Feral Stephen brings his way ;)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 4th, 2012 02:59 am (UTC)
stephen skeptical

I'm really going to have to write more ficlets then so Fridays can stay feral! I have a handful more but I'm getting closer to the end.

And he wasn't hurt too badly at least. What's a little blood loss to a guy like him?

The image of Stephen baring his feet proudly does make me smile. I can see /jamie doing that :)

Thanks!

Posted by: Lena7142 (lena7142)
Posted at: December 1st, 2012 10:32 pm (UTC)
feral stephen whump

The ending to this fic is just so perfect. And the moment where Stephen collapses always gets me!

So much love for your fics. :)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 4th, 2012 02:59 am (UTC)
stephen happy

So much love for you! Yay!

Thanks -- for everything.

Posted by: nietie (nietie)
Posted at: December 2nd, 2012 12:29 pm (UTC)
Lesterface

Lester's snark is awesome. But it was a hard lesson for him to trust feral!Stephen's instincts.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 4th, 2012 03:00 am (UTC)
stephen smiles

I'm glad Lester's snark was good! And he and Stephen would so not get along :)

Thanks!

Posted by: lsellersfic (lsellersfic)
Posted at: December 2nd, 2012 03:01 pm (UTC)
Primeval:Lester/Stephen

Nice to know Stephen knows what to ask for at the critical moment!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 4th, 2012 03:00 am (UTC)
stephen cutter

Heh, Stephen does have his priorities :)

Thanks!

Posted by: Evil Insane Monkey (eviinsanemonkey)
Posted at: December 4th, 2012 01:50 pm (UTC)

Love this!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 14th, 2012 10:48 pm (UTC)
stephen broken

:)

Thanks!

26 Read Comments