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Primeval fic: Fight or Flight (Second Life verse)

December 6th, 2012 (10:18 pm)
mischievous

feeling: mischievous

Title: Fight or Flight

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

A/N: The next in the Continued Adventures of Feral Stephen. With thanks to lena7142 for her beta :)

Warning: Some blood and graphic violence against prehistoric creatures.

Summary: Stephen finally understands what Cutter’s been talking about.



-o-

“You can’t keep doing this.”

Stephen sighed. He’d heard this rant before. More than once, actually. In fact, he mostly had it memorized after all this time, right down to Cutter’s desperate inflection and impassioned blue eyes.

“There are people here who care about you,” Cutter continued, right in step with the expected monologue. “And you’re not a superhero. You’re human.”

“And I know what I’m doing, Cutter,” Stephen reminded him.

“Do you?” Cutter asked. “You nearly got trampled by a bloody Spinosaurus.”

“Sure,” Stephen said. “Because I didn’t want to get eaten by him. Going through his legs was the most logical option.”

Cutter looked like his head might explode. “No!” he said, throwing his hands in the air. “The most logical option is to stay with the group and formulate a plan of attack that involves heavy weaponry, appropriate blockades and a well organised assault.”

Stephen gave him a weary look. “That would have taken too long,” he said. “My way was much more efficient.”

“Right,” Cutter snapped. “Unless you get trampled to death.”

“But I didn’t.”

“But you could have,” Cutter said, emphatically now.

“And I could have thought with my head all those years ago and told Helen to go stuff it when she asked me to go with her through time,” Stephen replied blandly. “You’re the one always telling me to stop living in the past.”

“And to start embracing the future, not just the moment,” Cutter said. “If anything happened to you--”

Stephen gave him a small smile, shrugging with nonchalance. “Then you’ll be there to back me up,” he said, with the most certainty he had about anything. “Right?”

Cutter looked infuriated for a moment. Then his face fell and his shoulders slumped. “I just hope I’m enough,” he said.

At that, Stephen’s smile widened. “You got me to wear clothes,” he said. “How hard could it be?”

And Cutter had no reply.

-o-

It wasn’t that Stephen was bent on putting himself in danger.

It was just that other people had a poor sense of what was actually dangerous. It wasn’t his fault that they thought everything with teeth was a national security threat.

This was what Stephen was good at. He wasn’t good at much, but he was good in the field: tracking creatures, catching them, subduing them. He didn’t know where he fit in most of the time, but out there, everything made sense.

For all the rest, that was what he had Cutter for.

-o-

Stephen fell off a roof. He got hit by a car. He got slashed by a troodon.

Close calls, but still misses. Cutter’s hair started to go gray around the temples, but he stopped giving the full lecture, instead settling for a joking, “Are you trying to kill me?”

Stephen smirked. “If I wanted to kill you,” he joked back, “you’d be dead already.”

-o-

Still, Stephen learned. He adapted. The team dynamic changed him, bit by bit. He started listening to Becker. He didn’t usually obey the man, but he did listen. Sometimes he discussed his plans before he implemented them. It got better.

Stephen had a place. Stephen belonged. Stephen was happy.

Joy was a precarious thing, tenuous and uncertain in his life. For years, joy had been a primal thing, a succulent meal, defeating a foe. It was guttural yells at the top of his lungs and diving into the waters naked and refreshed, staring in the faces of giants and not backing down.

This joy was different. It was tentative, forged between people. It was a shared joke; beers at the pub. It was talking about women and football and telling stories. It was so much harder.

And so much better.

He was scared to admit that, but after enough time passed, he couldn’t deny it either.

-o-

“A utahraptor,” Cutter said. “Do you think you know what to do with it?”

Stephen looked at him, eyebrows up.

Cutter rolled his eyes. “Right, sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to insult your capabilities.”

Stephen grinned. “As long as you realize the error of your ways.”

Becker came between them, toting the largest gun he could apparently find. “If you two are done making lovey eyes at each other, maybe you’d like to get on with this?”

Stephen smirked, pulling his knife and coming up alongside Becker. “Jealous much?”

Becker was unimpressed. “Just watch out for roofs and cars.”

Cutter came up between them, rolling his eyes. “Enough with the puffing of chests and posturing,” he said. “The goal is to apprehend the creature with no gunplay and no injuries. Agreed?”

Becker inclined his head.

Stephen shrugged. “That sounds good to me.”

-o-

The creature had escaped in a wooded area south of the city. Fortunately, it wasn’t very populated, and Claudia had coordinated with one of the units to establish a safe perimeter.

Stephen knew this without having to know it at all. He had come to expect it. He trusted it. Reliance on others, he reminded himself -- it was all a part of making this world his own again. He learned from his mistakes, after all.

The utahraptor was faster and larger than its better known kin. Still, tracking it wasn’t that hard, and Stephen led their party through the nooks and crannies. When the trail narrowed and seemed to disappear into the brush, Stephen scowled a bit.

“We’ll have to split up,” he said, nodding forward. “Cutter and I can go this way, and the rest of you should take the other flank and we’ll meet up again when the thicket clears.”

Becker glanced toward Cutter. “You have your gun?”

Stephen rolled his eyes.

“Better safe than sorry,” Cutter said.

“I’m safe and never sorry,” Stephen retorted, as they pushed on.

-o-

The trail got hot again quickly, and Stephen knew he’d made the right choice in taking the left leg. The thicket was still mostly impenetrable, but Stephen picked up his pace, noting the signs of disturbance within it as he moved along. Cutter kept close, falling in tandem behind him. Stephen was so focused on the hints of movement, that he barely noticed the clearing until he was in it.

He blinked, looking around, taking it in. Large; the utahraptor wouldn’t be inclined to avoid it. Which meant--

He turned back toward the thicket in time for green to part and the beast leapt out, mouth snarled and claws up--

Coming right at Stephen.

Stephen’s reflexes were good, but the instant he started to move, he lost his footing.

No, he didn’t lose his footing.

He’d been pushed.

Face planted in the grass, Stephen’s mind raced. Frantic, he rolled, ready to pounce--

But it was too late. The utahraptor was mid-air again, ready to strike.

But not at Stephen.

Cutter.

Stephen’s breath caught, heart thudding painfully, limbs frozen and mind too stunned to move.

Cutter.

-o-

It happened too fast.

The utahraptor lunged.

Cutter moved, but he was too slow.

The creature landed and Cutter went down. The utahraptor screeched and Cutter cried out and Stephen saw red.

-o-

In the Permian, Stephen had learned to react simply. He had responded to threats without thought or nuance; he defended himself and his territory with basic, primordial ferocity. He had survived not because of his intellect necessarily, but because he’d allowed his reasoning to be subjected to the veracity of his most basic emotions. Humans had the same animalistic instincts, after all, they just learned to tame them. They were nothing more than domesticated animals, looking for a reason to let loose.

This was something Stephen knew, but wasn’t very proud of. It had been necessary, but in his time back among civilization, he had begun to realise the limitations of such a lifestyle. Fight or flight had saved his life, but it didn’t give him any meaning. Thinking of his friends, putting others first, learning to interact -- that had given him meaning. He had stopped thinking of fight or flight, and just thought of being.

This was mostly Cutter’s doing. Cutter, and his rules about clothing and haircuts, his reminders about showers and using cutlery.

Cutter, who put up with him when he couldn’t sleep and who was by his side when he fell off roofs or jumped in front of cars.

Cutter, who wouldn’t leave no matter what sort of stunts Stephen pulled, no matter how often he did something stupid just because it had seemed like the only option at the time.

Cutter, who had found him and given him a second chance.

Cutter, who was lying on the ground bleeding.

Cutter.

And all of his refinement, all of the efforts he’d put into being civilized -- didn’t matter. It was fight or flight, pure instinct, the basic animalistic urge to protect what mattered most.

Because Stephen hadn’t just survived in the Permian. He had killed as well. And he could trot around like a housebroken puppy, but in the end, he was still wild and feral when he needed to be.

And for Cutter, on the ground, Stephen needed to be.

Stephen needed.

He’d lost too much and he wouldn’t lose this and then there was no more thought--

There was only action as Stephen lunged forward at the beast.

-o-

Stephen hit the ground on top of the utahraptor. It hissed, snapping its jaws at him, but Stephen formed a fist and pummeled it hard in the face. It hissed again, scrambling, claws catching Stephen as it threw him off.

He hit the ground in a heap, pain shooting through his arm, but he ignored it, getting up. He didn’t hesitate, charging back toward the creature and driving his shoulder into its ribcage and knocking it back to the ground. Its head hit hard, and Stephen mounted it, ignoring the claws as they dug into his skin. The jaws tried to bite him, but Stephen grabbed one of the clawed hands and wrenched it back until it snapped.

The thing howled, and bit at Stephen, catching his flesh. Stephen reached out with his hands, raking his fingers across its eyes. The skin was tough but still gave, drawing thick blood as the beast curled and thrashed, sending Stephen flying with its sheer weight again.

This time, the utahraptor followed up, and Stephen barely got his foot out in time to stop it from taking a large bite out of his stomach. Stephen caught it, though, the force sending it skittering to the side. He scrambled to his feet, fingers finding the knife at his waist.

When he lunged this time, it was blade first and he caught the creature square across the chest. It was deep -- maybe fatal -- but even dying beasts were still capable of damage. It writhed, bucking so hard that a jerk of its head caught Stephen hard, sending him sprawling, knife slipping away into the grass as his vision swam.

He knew the thing was coming even if he couldn’t quite clear his eyes. He anticipated it, and managed to avoid getting eviscerated, but the utahraptor’s mouth still clamped down on his arm.

Stephen screamed, as loud as he could. Not just from the pain, but from the frustration. Because he had spent too many years fighting these creatures. Too many near misses and close calls. He’d lost too much of himself, lost too much time. He didn’t want to lose anything more because this creature had seen a sparkly light and dumbly gone through.

Not that Stephen couldn’t understand the appeal -- he’d done the same damn thing -- but he had one thing over housepets.

He was human. He was capable of higher thought. He didn’t want to die. And, more than that, if he died, no one would help Cutter, and that wasn’t acceptable.

Most things were negotiable. That wasn’t.

It wasn’t.

And if Stephen had to give up his life, his sanity, his very humanity, then so be it. But he would get rid of this threat.

No matter what.

The utahraptor was vibrating and Stephen clenched his teeth, adrenaline surging so hard not that he couldn’t even feel the pain. Couldn’t feel anything. Not even as he wrapped his fingers around the the lower jaw and pulled.

In response, the utahraptor clenched harder, and Stephen used the pain, biting hard enough that he felt blood in his mouth, blood on his fingers as he gripped tightly and ripped.

Not just skin and scales, but bone and muscle. The teeth were pulled free from his skin, and the beast flailed but Stephen didn’t let go. Instead, he gathered one last breath and poured himself out with all he had--

Ripping hard enough that skin tore and bones broke and the utahraptor’s jaw fell half away, broken and ruined.

The creature cried out in desperation, but Stephen was past the point of showing mercy. He bore down, ripping the lower jaw clean off and tossing it aside. It flailed, going to the ground, eyes wide and pupils blown. Stephen followed up kicking at it, foot catching the gash in the chest and pulling it apart, one kick, another kick, and another--

Until there was no threat. There wasn’t even a utahraptor. There was just a bloody pile of flesh and bone, exposed and mutilated in the clearing.

“Stephen? Oh, god--

The named jarred him, and he remembered. Remembered that this wasn’t the Permian. That he wasn’t a predator. The he was a person. That this was civilization. That--

Cutter.

Stephen startled, turning abruptly. Becker was there, standing at a distance, gun in hand and face pale with shock. Beyond him, Abby and Connor and--

Cutter.

He hadn’t just destroyed a utahraptor for his own sake, he’d done it for Cutter’s and he had to believe that it wasn’t for nothing.

Breath tight in his chest, he lunged forward again.

-o-

Becker was there, but Stephen moved around him, not even sparing the other man a second look as he gaped. Instead, Stephen zeroed in, moving toward Cutter--

He caught a glimpse of him, still on the ground. Abby and Connor were there, kneeling down--

Connor was up, eyes widening in horror. “Stephen,” he stammered. “You okay?”

Stephen heard him but didn’t respond, brushing by Connor with a singular focus. On the ground, Abby looked up then gasped. Connor put a hand on Stephen’s shoulder. “Maybe we should sit--”

Stephen recoiled, jerking away with force and an inarticulate growl. Connor startled and Abby tried to speak, but Stephen wasn’t listening.

His eyes settled on Cutter.

On his back, blood on his shirt, eyes closed. Skin pale; hair sweaty. Vulnerable. Hurt.

Maybe dead.

The idea of it was profound, and Stephen felt it heavy in his stomach. Nausea threatened him and his head went light. Cutter was hurt. Cutter could be dead. Cutter...

It was Abby this time, a gentle touch that sent a shudder through Stephen’s body. It was human to feel scared; it was human to feel emotional pain. It was human to protect and to empathize.

Stephen was human.

But only just.

The terror turned to anger and he felt the emotions build. Because civilized or not, this was a cruel, stark world. Housepets could be killed just as readily as the rest, and he had forgotten. He’d forgotten everything. He’d become soft and weak and now Cutter was on the ground...

And it wasn’t okay.

Nothing was okay.

It was desperation, and he heard himself keen, felt it vibrate in his throat. He thrashed, shaking Abby clear so she stumbled into Connor. He crouched, fingers fisting into Cutter’s shirt and ripping without hesitation.

The skin of his chest was ripped and marred, three bloody gouges, the last one raking deep across the stomach, just over the liver. Infection was likely, but blood loss was the immediate concern. The tattered strips of shirt were sodden but apt enough, and Stephen took the remains and pressed down hard on Cutter’s exposed and bloodied skin.

Behind him, there were voices. Someone touched him but Stephen snarled, curling into himself and keeping his pressure constant. He knew he needed to get Cutter help, but the bleeding--

But there was no help--

But it was Stephen’s fault--

Cutter--

His eyes locked on Cutter’s face, fingers clenched so tightly that his knuckles ached, and tried to remember what to do. Tried to remember who he was. Tried to think what he would have done in the past. Tried to know what to do in the present.

But Stephen wasn’t in the Permian, but he didn’t quite belong in the present. The only future he knew was one Cutter had laid out for him. He was lost somewhere in between, but Cutter had grounded him.

Cutter had believed in him.

Stephen believed in simple things. Raw emotions. Plain fact. Blood on his hands. Heart in his throat.

It was all he had.

And he thought, not for the first time, that maybe he had nothing after all.

-o-

Time was meaningless.

Time was a beating heart, blood pulsating. Time was breathing, in and out, in and out. Time was Cutter’s face getting paler, the pool of blood larger.

Time.

“Stephen,” someone said, jarring him roughly. “You need to let go.”

Stephen didn’t move, didn’t blink. Eyes transfixed. He’d lived in the past where time had stretched in front of him like an unimpeachable force. He’d live his life before he even existed.

Time.

“Stephen--”

“He’s in some kind of trance--”

“Oh, for goodness sakes. We don’t have time--

Time.

Someone yanked him, pulling him off balance. He fought to right himself, establish his contact with Cutter, but instead he found himself being pulled again, harder this time, sending him to his backside.

He rolled and came up fighting. He lashed out defensively, desperately surging forward.

There was nowhere to go. Strong arms caught him and restrained. Stephen flailed, more desperate now, and another pair of hands grabbed him and held him in place.

Stephen raged, frantic and inarticulate.

“Stephen, stop.

“Stephen--”

“They’re helping him, damn it. They’re helping.

Stephen’s eyes focused, beyond the bodies in front of him to Cutter.

Still on the ground, but with two strangers now. One unfurling a white pressure bandage; the other starting an IV.

“They’re helping.

Medical treatment. Cutter wasn’t dead. They were doing what Stephen couldn’t.

Just like that, the fight left him.

Body slack, it still took a moment before Connor eased his grip. Becker waited even longer. Abby hovered in front of him, looking up at him intently. “They’re going to help him,” she promised.

Stephen blinked, not sure what else to do. Not sure of anything. The medics loaded Cutter up, put him on a backboard and lifted.

Becker’s grip released and Connor stepped away. Abby reached out, and squeezed his uninjured arm.

Stephen stared, the helplessness numbing him. He did nothing as they took Cutter away. He did nothing.

“Okay,” Becker said. “We should get you looked at now.”

Stephen watched the medics as they disappeared down the trail.

Someone touched his arm, and he distantly felt pain.

Becker’s face was scrunched up. “This looks deep,” he said. “We’ll want a second ambulance--”

Stephen’s fight was gone. But that wasn’t the only primordial instinct he had. When fight wasn’t an option, flight was.

When there was a battle Stephen couldn’t win, he didn’t try to fight it. There was no glory in inevitable defeat. There was only death and failure.

Cutter was hurt; Cutter could die; it was Stephen’s fault.

So Stephen did the only thing he could: he ran.

He ran hard and didn’t look back.

-o-

In the Permian, Stephen had discovered that destinations were often overrated. In the modern world, people were always so focused, always going somewhere. A particular address, a concrete location. They spent their lives in an ever-pressing need to arrive.

True, there had been some locations in the Permian. He had explored the land, mentally charted it to help his own survival. He knew where his home was; he knew where the safest spot in the river was. He knew about the patches of wild berries and the dens of some of the more savory creatures in the area.

This knowledge was well and good, and sometimes he went to such places or avoided them in turn. But alone for eight years, Stephen had also mastered the art of just going.

Sometimes, when he was running for his life, there was no time to plot a route or envision a destination. He just had to run -- as far and fast as he could.

Moreover, it wasn’t like he always had a lot to do in the endless hours of his life. So he’d gone.

Up hills just to see the next crest. Down valleys just to see what lived in the shadows. Around the volcano, into the thicket; poking around caves, swimming in rivers, climbing trees.

Stephen went because there was nothing else to do.

Over time, it became a comfortable and familiar routine.

It was one he fell back on now.

Because he didn’t know where he was going, but he knew what he was leaving -- Cutter’s pale, still form, bloodstained and on the ground -- and as far as he was concerned, any place was better than that.

He ran, leaping over logs until the forest thinned and there were signs of civilization. He navigated a half-full car park, darting around the cars and leaping on the hood of one as he propelled himself farther away. He turned sharply, heading down a sidewalk, cutting across the street and between two buildings.

The alleyway was dank, and it came to a fence, but that didn’t stop Stephen. He leapt, latching on and scaling it quickly. He jumped down, landing lightly on the other side before picking up his pace and setting off again.

He turned, sprinting through the adjacent alleyway until he burst into a busier street, almost running over a man on the sidewalk. The man yelled, but Stephen didn’t slow, running at full speed into an oncoming crowd of pedestrians.

They shrieked and scattered, some nearly tripping over themselves to get out of Stephen’s way. A large burly man loomed, face set, and Stephen sensed the confrontation he posed before it started and diverted entirely.

He didn’t exactly look, but he could hear the lull in the traffic, and he was halfway across the street when the first car honked at him. He ran faster, ignoring the screech of brakes as he came up on the other sidewalk and kept on running.

There was more yelling, more shrieking. Someone cried.

Stephen didn’t stop.

His heart pounded; his ears rang. The air moved around him, and Stephen remembered how to move, how to predict the landscape, how to see it, feel it, be it.

Then. Flashing lights. Loud voices.

“Stop!”

“This is the police!”

Police. They had authority. They had purpose.

Stephen didn’t care. He didn’t know how care. Nothing mattered, nothing--

Uniformed men. In front of him. He dodged two, found two more. He ran them over. Faced more.

And more.

Sirens.

Lights.

“Stop!”

Stephen ducked. He ran, he moved. One of them waved his truncheon, but Stephen escaped with nothing but a glancing blow. He twisted, evading the hands that reached for him, tried to hold him, tried to stop him. But they were humans, not predators, and they couldn’t stop him, Stephen couldn’t stop--

And then something poked into his side.

And electrified.

The volts stole his breath and he stumbled, but didn’t stop. Hands on the cement, scraped and bloody, he scrambled to find his footing, plowing forward in plain determination.

Then -- again.

The site flared up with pain, a thousand knives and the tremors shook him so hard that he felt his teeth clatter and his vision dimmed.

He was on the ground now, body tense, hands holding him down. But Stephen flailed, desperate, kicking, hitting, biting, screaming--

Another volt, burning through his side and his arms and his leg, locking his jaw and seizing his airway. His head smacked the ground and Stephen didn’t have to give up the fight because it was finally taken from him.

-o-

He gasped, awareness flooding back as suddenly as it had been wrested away. He blinked and found himself staring at the ceiling.

White, nondescript. The smell of antiseptic.

Hospital.

Stephen tensed, feeling his panic pick up again. He was ready to leave but found himself immobile.

Looking down, he saw his wrists and ankles latched to the bed in soft restraints. Frustrated, Stephen yanked, testing them.

They held.

Teeth gritted, Stephen thrashed harder now, putting his full energy into it. The restraints pulled, clanking against the metal of his bed, but to no effect but to send a sharp wave of pain through him.

The sensation dimmed his vision, turning his stomach violently. He tried to curl in on himself instinctively, but found himself unable. Instead, he pressed his lips together, breathing heavily through his nose while he squeezed his eyes shut in desperation. After a few moments, he was able to sort through the pain -- throbbing in his arm and cutting through his chest. His nerve endings felt fried and his head ached, but nothing life threatening.

He’d be fine.

Opening his eyes, Stephen looked around the room, more tired now. It was bleak. More than that, it was empty.

The other times he’d come to in hospital, Cutter had been there. Cutter had never failed, even when it had all been Stephen’s damn fault. Especially then.

But Cutter wasn’t there, because Cutter was hurt and bleeding. Because Cutter could be dead.

He tried to take a breath, to clear his head, but it didn’t work. Nothing worked. Stephen was alone.

In eight years, he’d got used to that.

But the fact was, he wasn’t used to it at all.

That was Cutter’s fault of course. Cutter had reminded him about so many things. If Cutter had just left him there, then Stephen wouldn’t be lying, tied up and sore and on the verge of tears in some damn hospital room.

Cutter wouldn’t be bleeding and hurt and dead.

Miserable, Stephen closed his eyes, surrendering to his own impotence as he let himself drift back to sleep.

-o-

When he woke up again, something was different.

He wasn’t alone.

He sensed the presence before he opened his eyes, tensing in response, ready to bolt if needed.

As he moved, he realized something else -- he wasn’t restrained.

Blinking, he was so stunned by that revelation that he forgot that he wasn’t alone. Staring with wide eyes, he noted that his wrists and ankles were free now, although this time he did note the heavy bandage on his arm and the plentiful tight stitches in his chest.

“We assured them that you weren’t a danger,” Abby said. “Try not to prove us wrong, okay?”

Stephen blinked, looking up for the first time. Abby was in a chair, Connor next to her. Abby looked exhausted, and Connor wasn’t much better off.

“It wasn’t easy to convince them either,” Connor added. “They said it took nearly a dozen police to stop you.”

Stephen vaguely remembered that, though he was surprised by the number.

“The fact that you were covered with blood and running like a maniac didn’t help,” Abby said.

Stephen moistened his lips, shifting uncomfortably in the bed.

“The gouges in your arm and the cuts on your chest were pretty helpful though. Plus, you nearly lost a finger or two,” he said. “We told them you’d just been mauled by a wild dog. Which is a pretty cool cover story, really. One of Claudia’s more creative ones.”

Stephen frowned. These details probably mattered, but Stephen couldn’t care. He didn’t care. Instead, he looked at Abby and Connor and found the voice to say the only thing that did matter -- and that he was terrified to have answered. “Cutter.”

It was a question as much as a plea, all in the form of a statement.

Fortunately, Abby and Connor knew him well enough. Connor looked away, but Abby swallowed, nodding. “The utahraptor got him pretty bad,” she said.

Stephen’s stomach clenched, and his body started to tremble. He glanced unconsciously toward the exit, mentally assessing how fit he was to run if he needed to.

“He had a lot of stitches and they gave him a bit of blood--” Abby continued.

Connor snorted. “A lot of stitches?” he interjected. “He’s got more than you, and you look like bloody Frankenstein!”

At this, Stephen cocked his head. “He’s alive?”

Connor blinked, but Abby realized her mistake. “Oh, goodness, yes,” she said quickly. “Stephen, he’s fine. The raptor nicked his liver, but the surgery went well and he didn’t have any complications. He’s in recovery now.”

For a moment, Stephen could only stare. The words were simple and straightforward. Stephen even knew what they meant.

But he knew what he’d seen. With the fight or flight instinct still pulsing so hard through him, the reality that there was nothing to fight, nothing to run from, was rather hard to grasp.

“Anyway,” Abby said. “We promised the nurse we’d get her when you woke up.”

“They’re still a little skittish,” Connor said. “They sort of think you may be a mass murderer.”

If it was a joke, Stephen didn’t laugh.

Abby rolled her eyes. “Just sit tight,” she said, offering him one last fleeting smile as she went to the door.

Connor followed, eyes wide. “You really did look it, though,” he said. “I may need some tips next Halloween!”

Stephen didn’t say anything as he left.

He didn’t know what he would say.

He didn’t even know what to do.

Cutter was okay.

That mattered. Stephen just wasn’t sure how to believe anything anymore.

So he sat in the bed and stared at the wall, not sure whether or not to hope this was a dream.

-o-

Everyone visited. Connor and Abby came back. Becker stopped by. Sarah and some others.

Stephen endured their concerns and their platitudes. Normally, he might try to entertain their conversation, but he had nothing to say. Silence was not just for their benefit; it was all he had.

But when Claudia came by, a little red eyed but smiling, she walked right up to the bed. Stephen shrank, expecting her diatribe. She was almost as bad as Cutter sometimes, lecturing him about how to do things properly and the messes he made that she had to clean up in the press.

More than that, it was his fault that Cutter had been hurt.

But she looked at him fully. “Well,” she said primly. “I suppose I owe you a thank you.”

Stephen flinched. “Sorry?”

“They say you saved Nick’s life,” she said. “Got the raptor off him before it had a chance to do any real damage.”

Stephen stared, trying to remember.

“He’ll be upset that you got hurt in the process,” she said. “He’s always after you to be more careful.”

Stephen still couldn’t think of anything to say.

Claudia’s expression wavered, her eyes softening. “And he’s right,” she said. “But I can’t say I’m not glad you ignored him this time.”

“He got hurt backing me up,” Stephen blurted.

She frowned, giving him a funny look. “Nick Cutter doesn’t back anyone up,” she said. “He’s got his own mind and he uses it. You’re part of a team; you work together. If he was backing you up, then you returned the favor tenfold.”

She said it so simply. Like it was true.

Because she believed it to be true.

Cutter was hurt, and she didn’t blame him. She didn’t blame anyone.

She sighed. “You look horrible,” she said. “I think you’re in need of a walkabout.”

“The nurses said--”

She waved a hand. “We’ll get a wheelchair.”

“But where are we going?”

She inclined her head, a small smile on her face. “To see Nick, of course,” she said. “I can see on your face you haven’t believed a word I said, so I think maybe you should see Nick and try to sort it out for yourself.”

Stephen blinked. “But--”

“But nothing,” she said. “We need to get you two on the same page so we can stop making these trips to the hospital so often.”

-o-

Claudia pushed the wheelchair, and normally Stephen wouldn’t humor such measures, but he didn’t trust himself. He still felt vaguely light-headed and with his hands and arm tightly wrapped, he was off-kilter in everything he did. And he didn’t trust himself, not just physically, but at all.

Outside the room, she paused. “He looks worse than he is,” she said. “They were worried that it might be too much for you, but I think you can handle it.”

That made one of them.

-o-

Inside, the room seemed too small. It was crowded with equipment, buzzing with electricity. The bed was cluttered, and the blinds were drawn, casting the room in a dreary, unnatural shade.

And then he saw Cutter.

The Scotsman was on the bed, the starched sheet pulled up to his waist. His eyes were closed, and there were wires and IVs. The monitor by his bed beeped a steady rhythm, but it did little to reassure Stephen.

Claudia rolled him right up close, and put a hand on his shoulder. “I’ll be right outside.”

His throat constricted, and his instincts screamed for her to stay, to take him back, to take him anywhere. But he couldn’t say anything as she left, the sound of the door snicking shut behind her, leaving Stephen alone with Cutter.

Alone.

Stephen felt himself twitch, his heavy limbs restless and ready to move. Ready to go.

His gaze skittered, from the machines to the closed window to the door. It wasn’t far, and his legs were fine. He could make it, even with the bandages. The side-effect of the taser had worn off.

Fight or flight.

The instincts raged.

But this was Cutter. Stephen’s eyes settled on the other man -- his friend. Cutter.

The one who had found him. The one who had brought him back. The one who had stuck with him through everything. Cutter had been Stephen’s friend, even when Stephen had hardly known what that meant. He had been there for Stephen, every step of the way.

How many times had Cutter wanted to fight him? How many times had he wanted to run in the other direction?

He hadn’t, though. Because that was what friends did.

Even when it was hard.

Especially then.

With a shuddering breath, Stephen forced his body to still, denying his instincts.

He would stay. No matter what: Stephen would see this through.

-o-

His decision made, no one could sway him. When Claudia tried to collect him, he staunchly refused. When the nurse tried to take him not long after, he was just as stubborn. They tried wheeling him back out against his will, but Stephen flailed, almost throwing himself on the floor.

There was talk of getting security and a strong sedative, but Claudia pulled the doctor into the hall and worked some kind of magic. Which was all well and good with Stephen. That would spare him from another physical altercation, which Cutter would certainly disapprove of.

But Stephen wasn’t leaving.

-o-

They finally agreed to put Stephen in the second bed, transferring him against hospital protocol. Stephen figured Claudia had had a lot to do with that, and no doubt, the doctor had heard about his fit when he was brought in.

That was all a secondary concern, however. Now that his mind was made up, Stephen dedicated himself wholly to the bedside vigil. He studied the machines, memorized their patterns. He listened for the steady synchronization of Cutter’s heart rate, noting the smallest fluctuation with alarm.

Then he watched the man himself. Watched as his fingers curled slightly and his eyes jerked beneath the lids. He was due to wake up, Stephen had been told, and he knew from studying Cutter’s chart that the sedatives were being reduced and that there was no sign of complication.

Stephen was so keenly aware of every nuance, that he knew Cutter was waking up five minutes before the man cracked an eyelid. He noted first the upswing in his heart rate. Not just a normal fluctuation, but a sustained increase in rhythm. Then, the fine motor movements, small and inarticulate, unconsciously stimulated by the wearing off of any drugs. And his eyes moved more consistently, then his eyelids fluttered, and he was awake.

For a moment, the Scot’s blue eyes blinked at the ceiling, confused and dazed. Then he seemed to look around, first at the equipment, then at the bed and then at Stephen.

“You’re right,” Stephen said. “I’m not a superhero. And neither are you. What you did was stupid.”

Cutter’s face scrunched up in pain. He shifted, grimacing, smacking his lips together in futility. “You’re welcome,” he croaked.

Stephen frowned. “I didn’t say thank you.”

Cutter gave a small chuff of laughter. “You’re here, aren’t you?”

And somehow that said everything.

-o-

“I think it’s too early,” Stephen said, eyes narrowing as he watched Cutter suiting up.

Cutter rolled his eyes. “The doctors say I’m fine.”

“Doctors have God complexes,” Stephen retorted without hesitation. “You can’t trust them.”

“Fine,” Cutter said, reaching to grab his gun. “Then trust me. I feel fine.”

He looked at Stephen fully, and made a convincing case. He was upright and alert, eyes bright and skin ruddy. He’d been out of the hospital for weeks now, and though he’d showed no sign of complication or relapse, Stephen was having trouble with his return to work.

Because he could still see Cutter on the ground. He could still see the blood. He could still feel the gnawing fear in his own stomach when he thought he might have lost his best friend.

And yet, he did trust Cutter.

And therein was the crux of Stephen’s problem. There was no one Stephen wanted by his side more than Cutter. Which also meant there was no one Stephen wanted farther away than Cutter.

Cutter stood, primed and ready, watching Stephen watch him. He smirked. “At least now you know how it feels.”

“What?”

“To worry,” he said. “You know why I get on you about all your stupid risks. It’s not because I don’t think you can do it; it’s because I hate the idea of seeing you hurt.”

Stephen’s brow furrowed. He hated it when Cutter was right. Especially about emotions.

Growling, Stephen grabbed his knife. “Just be careful.”

Cutter shrugged, grinning a little. “I will if you will.”

“Deal,” Stephen said, sniffing gruffly. “Now, let’s go.”

And they left, side by side, heading straight back into danger without looking back.

Comments

Posted by: Lena7142 (lena7142)
Posted at: December 7th, 2012 04:41 am (UTC)
feral stephen whump

*Ahem*



Edited at 2012-12-07 04:42 am (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 13th, 2012 01:25 pm (UTC)
stephen cutter

Hahahahaa.

Have I told you today how much I love you? It bears repeating: I LOVE YOU.

Thanks :)

Posted by: natchris (natchris)
Posted at: December 7th, 2012 04:56 am (UTC)

And therein was the crux of Stephen’s problem. There was no one Stephen wanted by his side more than Cutter. Which also meant there was no one Stephen wanted farther away than Cutter.

Life and love in a nutshell. Brilliant!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 13th, 2012 01:25 pm (UTC)
stephen shocked

Thank you kindly :)s

Posted by: lukadreaming (lukadreaming)
Posted at: December 7th, 2012 06:47 am (UTC)
Stephen bruise

This is bloody brilliant! It makes total sense that the one thing to get through to Stephen would be Nick getting hurt. And there are countless lovely touches in the fic - that image of Stephen running and swimming and climbing because he had all that time in the past is very strong.

Two Brit points - it's truncheon and not nightstick. And tasers aren't routine equipment for British police. It's like guns - they'd only be authorised in special situations.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 13th, 2012 01:27 pm (UTC)
stephen wary

With all that I've managed to hurt Stephen in this verse, I figured it was time to turn the tables :)

I changed the nightstick, though I think I'll leave the tasers if only because I'm really lazy, LOL. The funny thing is that lena7142 did a bit of research to see if tasers were used and the internet suggested that they were used to some degree. Though we didn't do extensive looking on how often or in what contexts. The perils of writing about a country you don't know very well!

Thanks!

Posted by: judithjohn (judithjohn)
Posted at: December 7th, 2012 09:02 am (UTC)
Stephen -sally

Tremendous fic.

Bravo!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 13th, 2012 01:28 pm (UTC)
stephen skeptical

Thanks :)

Posted by: reggietate (reggietate)
Posted at: December 7th, 2012 05:58 pm (UTC)
prettyboys

*BRB, flailing helpless at your brilliance in this fic*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 13th, 2012 01:28 pm (UTC)
stephen shocked

LOL. I hope you managed to stop flailing :)

Thanks!

Posted by: aunteeneenah (aunteeneenah)
Posted at: December 7th, 2012 06:27 pm (UTC)

Brilliant! This brought tears to my eyes. Very well done.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 13th, 2012 01:28 pm (UTC)
stephen cutter distance

Aw, well I'm quite glad you enjoyed it!

Thanks!

Posted by: knitekat (knitekat)
Posted at: December 7th, 2012 09:38 pm (UTC)

Brilliant fic. *nods* Cutter getting hurt would be the only thing to get through to Stephen.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 13th, 2012 01:29 pm (UTC)
stephen shocked

Yeah, Stephen has no sense of his own safety but seeing the one person he can admit to caring about hurt? Would get to him.

Thanks!

Posted by: joshinator (joshinator)
Posted at: December 8th, 2012 01:14 am (UTC)
Stephen Oh Yeah

*sniffs*

Lovely!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 13th, 2012 01:29 pm (UTC)
stephen sad

Thank you!

Posted by: freddiejoey (freddiejoey)
Posted at: December 8th, 2012 08:03 am (UTC)
Nick eriah

Intricate and beautifully written

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 13th, 2012 01:29 pm (UTC)
stephen smiles

Thanks :)

Posted by: fredbassett (fredbassett)
Posted at: December 8th, 2012 08:56 am (UTC)

Great story, really intense!

Now Stephen finally has some idea how Nick feels.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 13th, 2012 01:30 pm (UTC)
stephen cutter

Yeah, it was about time that Stephen got a sense of what Cutter had been going through :)

Thanks!

Posted by: nietie (nietie)
Posted at: December 8th, 2012 10:16 am (UTC)
Nick/StephenBW

Intense and primeval emotions. So beautiful.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 13th, 2012 01:30 pm (UTC)
stephen goodbye

Thank you so much :)

Posted by: lsellersfic (lsellersfic)
Posted at: December 8th, 2012 05:05 pm (UTC)
Primeval:Stephen

Nice to see the positions reversed for a change!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 13th, 2012 01:31 pm (UTC)
stephen blue wonder

Given my tendency to hurt Stephen, I figured it was probably time to switch it up :)

Thanks!

Posted by: kristen_mara (kristen_mara)
Posted at: December 15th, 2012 12:04 pm (UTC)
Hair!


**Going through his legs was the most logical option**

LOL

**He’d live his life before he even existed.**

Meep...

*flails* Well, that scenario certainly showed the strengths of the bond between Nick and Stephen and how much it means to them both! I love how Claudia got them both put in the same room (sensible woman). Perhaps Stephen won't give Nick as many grey hairs now (or not as many in as short a time *G*)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: March 14th, 2013 03:33 am (UTC)
stephen cutter

Wow how did I not reply to this? LOL, I fail at life.

But I'm glad you enjoyed this! For all I've put them through, it seemed apt to turn the tables.

Thanks :)

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: December 21st, 2012 12:01 am (UTC)
So lovely! Again, you do bromance so well

I just thoroughly enjoyed this! I could envision this superhuman Stephen and all the vulnerability is so sweet without being gratuitously sloshy because these men don't do that, in many ways the are so much alike in the way they express themselves and for Cutter to then throw back at Stephen that he now knows how he feels because he experienced it directly was downright logical!


Fave Parts:

But she looked at him fully. “Well,” she said primly. “I suppose I owe you a thank you.”

Stephen flinched. “Sorry?”

“They say you saved Nick’s life,” she said. “Got the raptor off him before it had a chance to do any real damage.”

Stephen stared, trying to remember.

“He’ll be upset that you got hurt in the process,” she said. “He’s always after you to be more careful.”

Stephen still couldn’t think of anything to say.

Claudia’s expression wavered, her eyes softening. “And he’s right,” she said. “But I can’t say I’m not glad you ignored him this time.”

“He got hurt backing me up,” Stephen blurted.

She frowned, giving him a funny look. “Nick Cutter doesn’t back anyone up,” she said. “He’s got his own mind and he uses it. You’re part of a team; you work together. If he was backing you up, then you returned the favor tenfold.”

She said it so simply. Like it was true.

Because she believed it to be true.

Cutter was hurt, and she didn’t blame him. She didn’t blame anyone.

-I LOVE Claudia and always missed her when she was "replaced".



The one who had found him. The one who had brought him back. The one who had stuck with him through everything. Cutter had been Stephen’s friend, even when Stephen had hardly known what that meant. He had been there for Stephen, every step of the way.

How many times had Cutter wanted to fight him? How many times had he wanted to run in the other direction?

He hadn’t, though. Because that was what friends did.

Even when it was hard.

Especially then.

With a shuddering breath, Stephen forced his body to still, denying his instincts.

He would stay. No matter what: Stephen would see this through.

-- LOVED this bromancy moment!

That was all a secondary concern, however. Now that his mind was made up, Stephen dedicated himself wholly to the bedside vigil. He studied the machines, memorized their patterns. He listened for the steady synchronization of Cutter’s heart rate, noting the smallest fluctuation with alarm.

Then he watched the man himself. Watched as his fingers curled slightly and his eyes jerked beneath the lids. He was due to wake up, Stephen had been told, and he knew from studying Cutter’s chart that the sedatives were being reduced and that there was no sign of complication.

Stephen was so keenly aware of every nuance, that he knew Cutter was waking up five minutes before the man cracked an eyelid. He noted first the upswing in his heart rate. Not just a normal fluctuation, but a sustained increase in rhythm. Then, the fine motor movements, small and inarticulate, unconsciously stimulated by the wearing off of any drugs. And his eyes moved more consistently, then his eyelids fluttered, and he was awake.

-- THIS IS SO GREAT! Instincts, honing in on Cutter's rhythms, friendship almost on an atomic level!


“You’re right,” Stephen said. “I’m not a superhero. And neither are you. What you did was stupid.”

Cutter’s face scrunched up in pain. He shifted, grimacing, smacking his lips together in futility. “You’re welcome,” he croaked.

Stephen frowned. “I didn’t say thank you.”

Cutter gave a small chuff of laughter. “You’re here, aren’t you?”

And somehow that said everything.

-- DELIGHTFUL! Mushy without the gooey sentiment!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: March 14th, 2013 03:34 am (UTC)
Re: So lovely! Again, you do bromance so well
stephen blue wonder

I missed this -- so I'm thanking you now :) I do love the vulnerability in Stephen, which is fun to exploit.

Thanks!

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