?

Log in

No account? Create an account
do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Primeval fic: Fixed Points (1/2)

December 23rd, 2013 (03:04 pm)
okay

feeling: okay

Title: Fixed Points

Disclaimer: I do not own Primeval.

A/N: For kristen_mara, who always deserves another way to save Stephen. It’s a happy ending, though not in the expected way. Beta by sendintheklowns. This has not been Brit picked -- apologies! Also, I hope the plotting makes sense. Timey-whimey stuff is not my forte!

Spoilers: References events through S3, including major character death. But it’s still denial friendly. Umm, sort of.

Summary: This is the point of origin. This is where Helen started to change things. So this is where we can make it right again.



-o-

It’s not fair. And it’s not easy. Nick’s fought too hard, he’s lost too much. He’s given everything he has, and it’s just not enough.

None of it’s enough.

Because there’s a hole in his stomach and an aching in his heart. Helen killed him, and he’s lost in Connor’s arms. He’ll never tell Jenny the truth; he’ll never see Claudia Brown and he never saved Stephen. The battle is forfeit.

And that’s how Nick Cutter dies.

So the story goes.

-o-

When Nick opens his eyes, he can still taste the blood in the back of his throat and smell the smoke in his nostrils.

But he’s not bleeding anymore. There is no fire. Connor isn’t there.

No, instead, he’s looking at a plain, white ceiling, feeling strangely whole and light.

More than that, he’s looking straight at Stephen.

It’s too much, and the world goes inexplicably dark again.

-o-

The next time, things are clearer and calmer.

But no less sensible. He takes a few steadying breaths and turns his head to the side. Stephen is still there, perched on a chair nearby, looking concerned.

“You’re not going to pass out again, are you?” Stephen asks.

Cutter frowns. “You’re dead,” he replies. He makes a face. “Does that mean I’m dead?”

Stephen offers him a small smile. “Not exactly.”

“It’s an easy question,” Cutter snaps, because he doesn’t understand and he’s tired. He doesn’t take to confusion well, and he’s pretty tired of being pulled around like a damn dog on a chain. “Either I’m dead or I’m not.”

Stephen doesn’t flinch. Instead, he picks up a paper. He holds it out.

Uncertain, Cutter takes it, scanning over the headlines toward the obituaries.

Nicholas Cutter is survived by his sister and his parents. In lieu of flowers, his family asks for donations to the MCU research foundation.

“I am dead,” Cutter says, confused. He shakes his head. “But then where am I? An afterlife? Some altered consciousness? This can’t be anyone’s idea of a heaven, but I guess hell--”

Stephen shakes his head, a little bemused. “None of the above,” he replies.

Nick feels his patience grate. “But then where--

Stephen pulls out another paper and hands it to Cutter. “Check the date.”

Cutter takes it, casting the other man an annoyed look. “You were less difficult when you were alive,” he mutters.

Stephen rolls his eyes. “Just look.”

Cutter does.

Then looks again.

January 5, 2045.

He looks at Stephen. “This is a joke.”

Stephen shrugs. “Is it really so improbable?”

Cutter huffs. “This is hell, then.”

“No,” Stephen says, a bit more insistent now. “This is the future.”

Cutter glares at him, putting the papers both down. “A future where I’m dead, according to your papers.”

“A future that thinks you’re dead,” Stephen clarifies.

“So says a dead person,” Cutter says. He shakes his head, sitting up and pulling away the wires and monitors. “This is ridiculous. This is a trick. It has to be a trick. Helen--”

He moves to stand, but his head spins. He falters, and everything goes blank for a moment as his knees give way. He’s brought back to consciousness by a strong grip, and when his vision clears, he’s cradled in Stephen’s arms, looking up at the other man’s concerned gaze. He doesn’t look any different; not a day older. Everything is the same, and it’s so damn familiar that it hurts.

“Maybe this is heaven,” he muses.

Stephen snorts. “Definitely not,” he replies.

Cutter grunts, but doesn’t have the strength to reply. He doesn’t know what’s happening, and he doesn’t know what’s real.

But in Stephen’s arm, he thinks maybe he doesn’t care.

There are worse places to be, he decides as consciousness leaves him again. Cutter knows because he’s been in most of them before.

-o-

This time, Stephen sighs before Nick can open his eyes. It’s still strange and unusual, but it’s almost a welcome sight to see the other man still perched by his side.

“This is the future that is supposed to exist,” Stephen says with no further preamble. “Do you remember when Helen changed the timeline? When Claudia Brown ceased to exist?”

Cutter turns his head. He’s hooked back up to the monitors, but the tubes are gone. He gives Stephen an appraising look. “Of course,” he says. “That was when I realized I had no idea what the real implications of the anomalies were. I knew it was time to start being careful.”

Stephen nods. “That’s not how it was supposed to go,” he says. “You and Claudia were supposed to stay together. Things went well for you. When Helen came back, she joined the ARC and helped. The three of you learned how to control the anomalies; you protected the planet and saved the future.”

“So what happened?” Cutter asks. “That’s not how it went.”

“Helen never knew how to stop,” he says. “She thought it was possible to not just preserve the future, but make it better. So she went back. But every time she went back, things got more complicated.”

“But if she changed the future, how did you even know about it? When she changed the timeline in my life, no one else had any idea,” Cutter says.

“But you did,” he says. “You were a fixed point because you were with her in the point of origin. You still knew the truth because she changed history around you.”

“So, what, she changed it around you, too?” Cutter asks.

Stephen looks down, swallowing hard. “More than you know.”

Cutter sits up a little. He still feels weak, but his strength is girded by his curiosity. “What do you mean?”

Stephen collects a breath and looks up again. “This is the point of origin,” he says. “This is where Helen started to change things.”

Cutter tilts his head. “So…”

Stephen nods. “So this is where we can make it right again.”

-o-

He doesn’t pass out this time, and after several minutes Stephen helps him out of bed. Cutter is sore and teeters somewhat, but when Stephen helps him down the hall, he finds himself strangely able. The scar on his stomach is healing, and Stephen does not seem concerned about his condition.

The wonders of modern medicine, Cutter can presume.

Besides, he finds there are more pressing concerns.

As they sit down to eat, Cutter starts with the questions. “How did you save me?” he asks.

“A well-timed anomaly and a useful clone,” Stephen says, with no sign of remorse.

“Doesn’t that go against your purpose here?” he asks. “Aren’t you trying to minimize the affect on the past?”

“That’s why I needed the clone,” Stephen says, putting down a bowl of soup in front of Cutter. “That’s why the newspaper says you’re dead.”

“So I didn’t die?” Cutter ventures.

“No, you did,” Stephen says. “Helen shot you. You bled out.”

“But….”

“But medicine has got better in the last 35 years,” Stephen says with a shrug.

Cutter picks up a spoon, making a face. “That still doesn’t explain why.”

Stephen chews his lip, looking at Nick nervously. “It’s complicated.”

Cutter shrugs expectantly. “Well, if you’re not going to explain it to me, then why am I here?”

Stephen sighs. “Just eat,” he says. His expression softens. “Please.”

Cutter is uncertain. More than that, he’s skeptical. But Stephen seems genuine.

And it’s Stephen.

It’s Stephen.

Cutter finds he can’t deny him anything.

-o-

After they eat, Stephen shows him around. The facility is impressive, well stocked and fully updated with technology Cutter can’t begin to recognize. Stephen shows him around, and Cutter finds himself so enamored with the nuances that he almost doesn’t realize the glaring problem.

“Wait,” Cutter says, appreciating a device he can recognize his own handiwork in. “Where is everyone else?”

Stephen stiffens just a little, but keeps his face impassive. “Helen’s done her damage,” he says.

“But what does that mean?” Cutter presses.

Stephen’s face hardens. “It means we have a lot of work to do,” he says. “And not a lot of time left to do it.”

At that, Cutter frowns. “What do you mean? We have the ability to control the anomalies in the most nuanced way imaginable,” he says. “We have nothing but time.”

Now Stephen’s expression is grave. “No, we don’t,” he says. “The technology tears holes through time. It’s essentially like poking holes through a fabric. At first, it’s not a big deal, but the more you poke, the more they start to run together. Soon your fabric is starting to fray.”

“Wait,” Cutter says. “You’re saying that the universe has started to unravel?”

Stephen nods. “And by my calculations, we only have a week to stop it.”

“Can’t we just go back?” Cutter asks. “Give ourselves more time?”

“It’s not just going to stop moving forward,” Stephen says. “It’s going to fall apart. Everything is going to stop existing. The future, the present, the past -- it’ll all be gone.”

Cutter blinks. “You mean we destroyed the world?”

“I mean, we’re about to,” Stephen says. “Unless you and I can stop it before that happens.”

-o-

Cutter’s died and been brought back to life, but it doesn’t bother him as much as he knows it probably should. The truth is, the last few years with the ARC have been confusing and tumultuous. The sheer number of reality-shattering revelations has left him mostly immune to it all. He can still remember watching Helen, gun in hand, wishing she’d just pull the trigger already.

Funny, that was the only time she hadn’t disappointed him.

And even if his threshold for insanity hadn’t been heightened since Helen disappeared through an anomaly all those years ago, having Stephen here is an apt distraction.

This is Stephen.

The man he saw get ripped to shreds; the best mate who had died so Cutter wouldn’t have to. Cutter had spent months grieving him, just wishing for another chance.

Now, it seems, he has it.

How or why -- he’s not sure he cares. Even if it’s not real, for now, he’s okay with that. Because of all the regrets in Cutter’s life, Stephen is the biggest one.

Cutter wants to fix that.

If he can fix everything else in the process, all the better.

But somehow, he knows it starts with Stephen.

-o-

It doesn’t take long, of course, before scientific curiosity gets the better of him.

“This is remarkable!” he exclaims, taking the device apart and squinting at the fine filament wires that run through it. “You know, I had an idea for something like this, but I’d never been able to find a way to complete it.”

Stephen grins a little. “You did, actually,” he says. “You just needed the technology to catch up with your ideas.”

Cutter’s eyes widen almost in glee. “So did we manage to create a self-sustaining power source for it, then?” he asks. “I never felt that we’d be able to get a reliable hold on the timestream until we stabilized the power source.”

“With Connor’s help, you were able to do more than that,” Stephen explains. He points into the machine. “The energy not only sustains itself, it actually fuels itself. It’s a supply loop. The input becomes the output, and so on. You, Connor and Helen built a time machine by tapping into the power of time itself.”

Cutter’s mouth falls open. “How is that even possible?”

Stephen chuckles. “The science is pretty complicated,” he says. “But by studying the anomalies, you and Connor were able to essentially reverse engineer them.”

“So they’re natural?” Cutter asks. “Did we ever find the point of origin?”

“Natural is a relative term, I think,” Stephen says. “We never did find a point of origin in the truest sense of the word. But wherever the first rip in time was, it doesn’t matter now. Once we consolidated the energy here, all the anomalies start and stop here.”

“So it’s like time is fluid,” Cutter realizes. “And we merely created a fixed point by which to navigate it.”

“More or less,” Stephen agrees.

Cutter laughs, sitting back and shaking his head. “It’s genius,” he says. “Nothing short of genius. Undoubtedly this has to be the most important technological achievement of our lives.”

Stephen sobers a little. “In a way, maybe,” he says. “But that doesn’t change the fact that we have to stop it. We didn’t know how to control it early enough.”

“Okay,” Cutter says. He stands back, shrugging a little. “Why don’t we just turn it off?”

Stephen gets a small, knowing smile on his face. It’s one Cutter recognizes from their years together. “We tapped into the power of time itself,” he says. “It’s like hacking the universe.”

“So we have to disconnect,” Cutter concludes.

“We can’t,” Stephen says. “Look at the relay circuits. Look at the power source. If we disconnect it, we’ll disrupt time. The impact would be catastrophic.”

Cutter wrinkles his nose. “So what exactly do you want to do?”

“Destroy it,” he says. “Stop the feedback where it starts, and time should heal itself.”

“Or it could just self-destruct entirely,” Cutter points out.

“Which is happening anyway,” Stephen says. His shoulders sag. “This is our only chance. All these years, we’ve been trying to get more control over the anomalies but that’s never been the answer. We need less control. We need to eliminate all the points of origin so time can start over and set things right.”

“But at this point, do we even know what the right history is?”

Stephen looks at him, face shadowed with regret. “Maybe not,” he says. “But trust me, I know what the wrong ones are.”

He wants to argue. He wants to study more. He wants to learn it for himself and make the call like he knows he should.

But that’s how he ended up here. That’s how he got himself killed, and that’s how he lost Stephen. That’s how he lost Claudia in the first place. Cutter’s been so used to doing things on his terms. He’s always been so certain he was right.

Standing here with Stephen, though, so many years in the future, he’s not so sure anymore. He’s not sure what’s real; he’s not sure what’s true. The world is at the end of itself.

To Cutter, though, it’s starting to feel like the beginning.

At this point, he’s not sure he has anything left to lose.

“Okay,” he says with a reassuring nod. “We’ll take your lead this time.”

Stephen pauses, his head tilted to the side. “Really?”

“Sure,” Cutter says. “You’ve always been smart. And you’re a damn good study. You’ve been here longer than me, and I wouldn’t even be alive if not for you.”

Stephen’s face shifts, and he swallows a little. “You have nothing to thank me for,” he says softly.

“More than you know, lad,” Cutter says, coming up and clapping him on the shoulder. “Now, let’s do this. You said we’re running short on time, right?”

“Yeah,” Stephen starts.

“Then we haven’t a moment to spare,” Cutter says. “It’s time you tell me everything you know.”

At that, Stephen grins stupidly. “It’s just what you’ve taught me.”

Cutter laughs. “Then let’s hope I’m a quick study.”

-o-

They work hard late into the night. Stephen explains what he knows, but Cutter quickly feels the pieces come back into place. This is a future he hasn’t lived, but he knows all the gaps intuitively. The science is advanced, but it’s just a few steps beyond what he already knows.

And this is why he went into science in the first place. There’s a thrill about learning that he’s never been able to deny. That’s why he never could stand teaching, why field work always appealed to him. It was why he’d never thought twice about joining the ARC, why despite everything he could never regret the choice to study the anomalies.

Knowledge isn’t power to him, not like it is to Helen. Knowledge is the very breath of life. It makes life worth living.

At least, it used to.

As he discovers his own future, he finds himself watching Stephen.

It hardly seems real. That this is Stephen. His best friend. He can still hear his screams; he can still see the cross on his grave.

But this Stephen is real and alive, vibrant and real.

Yet, not quite the same. There’s something different about him. There’s a loss in his reservation, a wisdom in his deference. And the respect that had been so strained before he died -- it’s still there, stronger than it’s ever been.

So much has happened, so much between them.

Here, though, the past doesn’t matter.

Here, Cutter can only hope for the future.

-o-

It’s late when Stephen finally stops him, and Cutter protests before he realizes how exhausted he is. He almost collapses into a chair while Stephen puts a plate of food in front of him.

“You never did know how to look after yourself,” Stephen quips dryly. “I’d forgotten about that.”

Cutter frowns. “I’m not that bad.”

“Eat your food before you pass out,” Stephen tells him. “And yes, you are that bad. You worked all day without once acknowledging that you’d been shot just yesterday.”

“It wasn’t yesterday,” Cutter says. “We’re 35 years in the future.”

“It was yesterday to your body,” Stephen says.

Cutter takes a small bite, shrugging. “Well, you did face me with the end of the world,” he says. “And I thought the healing technology was good.”

“It is good,” he says. “But we’re not capable of miracles.”

“Well, I don’t know about that,” Cutter says. “I’ve barely got a scar and Helen shot me. And you -- you don’t even have a scratch on you! How did they manage to pull that off?”

Stephen quiet, his gaze deflecting.

Cutter realizes it’s the first time he’s referenced Stephen’s death. His cheeks redden. “I’m sorry,” he says. “You probably still remember--”

Because Cutter still remembered. He remembered everything. And if he could recall the horror of being murdered by his own wife, he could only imagine what Stephen remembered about being torn from limb to limb and eaten alive.

Stephen shakes his head. “It’s not important.”

“No, it is important,” Cutter says. “I know what happened. You saved my life--”

Stephen shakes his head, more vehemently. “No, I didn’t--”

“I was there, Stephen,” Cutter says. “I should be thanking you for saving me. Twice.”

Stephen works his jaw but just shakes his head again. “No,” he tells him. “Please. Just don’t.”

“But we should talk about this,” Cutter says, his patience suddenly thin. “Isn’t that what got us into this mess? That we were never able to talk to each other?”

Stephen’s face is deeply pained. He swallows hard and nods. “You’re right,” he says. He smiles slightly. “You always are, though. And we will talk. I promise. But not tonight. Not now.”

“When?” Cutter presses. “The world is ending.”

“Not if we stop it,” Stephen reminds him. “Once we do that, we’ll have time for everything.”

Cutter is dubious.

“Trust me,” Stephen says. “You’ll see.”

Trust is a hard and precarious thing. Stephen lost it once, and Cutter doesn’t know if he’s ready to give it back.

But this is Stephen.

This is Stephen at the end of the world.

Trust may be hard, but regret is harder.

And as it turns out, love is the easiest thing of all.

“Okay,” Cutter relents. “But we will talk.”

Stephen smirks. “Yes, Dad.”

-o-

Cutter doesn’t want to sleep. There’s too much to do. There’s too much to learn. There’s too much to say.

But he’s spent too much time arguing with Stephen.

This time, he’ll do it Stephen’s way.

-o-

In the morning, he fingers the scar. It seems like another life. Absently, he wonders about Connor and Abby. He wonders about the ARC and Helen. He wonders about Jenny Lewis, and if she knew how he felt.

He wonders about a lot of things. Just a day ago, they were so important.

It was another life, though.

He couldn’t save them then, just like he couldn’t save Stephen.

Today, though.

Today he wants to save them all.

-o-

Stephen makes breakfast, and they eat together quietly. Cutter goes over his notes -- words in a hand he recognizes but doesn’t quite know.

“These are mine?” he asks, a bit shocked.

Stephen smiles. “I kept them for you,” he says. “I tried reading them -- a lot actually. But I never was as good as you.”

“You sell yourself short,” Cutter says. He snorts. “Some of this is gibberish even to me.”

Stephen laughs. “It’s nice to hear you admit that.”

“Oh, come on,” Cutter cajoles. “I wasn’t so bad, was I?”

Stephen’s laugh tapers off. “No,” he says, wistful. “You weren’t so bad at all.”

Cutter nudges the other man. “Come on,” he says. “I thought we had work to do. And I could use a hand.”

Stephen is watching him, blue eyes wide and focused.

He smiles, true and deep as he rises to follow.

-o-

They work seamlessly.

This is how it had been, after all. Eight years in the lab together; Stephen knew his nuances and his ways. They had never needed words, because Stephen had always known.

With all that has changed, that much has stayed the same.

Cutter wonders if it would always would.

-o-

The hours pass quickly. It’s not easy work, but it hardly seems like work at all. There’s no problem they can’t handle.

Cutter feels invincible.

He watches Stephen, and he wonders how he missed it.

Stephen watches him, and he’s never felt so hopeful in his life.

-o-

They break for lunch late in the afternoon. Stephen prepares another simple meal, and Cutter finds himself starving. He’s devoured most of it before he stops to look up.

Stephen is watching him again.

Cutter swallows, cheeks reddening a bit. “So it’s just you here?” he asks finally, after he swallows his mouthful.

Stephen looks away, taking a scant bite of his own. “Anymore, yes,” he says. “It used to be a lot more lively, though.”

“Yeah?” he asks, glancing around. “This place looks pretty comprehensive.”

“It was,” Stephen says. “Back in its height, it actually was a live-in facility.”

Cutter raises his eyebrows. “We lived here?”

Stephen smirks somewhat. “It was Claudia’s idea, actually,” Stephen says. “She could never get you to leave, you said there was too much work. So she brought home to you.”

“And Lester approved?” Cutter asks.

“Are you kidding?” Stephen asks. “He loved it. Less risk of exposure when the staff stayed on site.”

“Didn’t we all go a mad?” Cutter asks.

Stephen laughs. “We would have, if not for Connor,” he says. “The man never grew up. Even when he and Abby settled down, he was impossible. But you always said he helped keep us human.”

“That is one way of describing him,” Cutter says, smiling thoughtfully. Then he looks at Stephen. “You sound like you’ve been here for a while. Just when did you arrive anyway? It hadn’t been more than a year since you…”

Stephen looks down again, his good mood stilling. “Time is relative here,” he says. “What was a year for you doesn’t have to be a year here.”

Cutter furrows his brow, looking carefully at his friend. He looks older, he realizes. There are more lines around his eyes and a darkness in his expression. He’s worn, more than his years. “So you have been here longer then,” he concludes. “Back when the others -- they were here?”

Stephen takes a hasty drink. “Lots of things have changed,” he says. “That’s why I know it’s important to fix it.”

He’s diverting. Cutter’s always known the tactic. In the past, he let Stephen get away with it. In all truth, he preferred not knowing.

He knows better now.

“Where are they?” he asks.

Stephen takes another bite, chewing carefully. “Does it matter?”

“I think it does,” Cutter says. “You brought me to this future, you’re telling me their life stories. They are why this matters, aren’t they?”

“It’s Helen,” Stephen says. “She started by erasing Claudia Brown. Then, she killed you. One by one, she took them all out of play until there was no one left.”

“But how?” Cutter frowns. “And how do you even know? If she’s erased them--”

“It’s a fixed point,” Stephen reminds him. “This lab, this place. It’s locked down in the timeline. She can take people in and out, but she can’t erase them entirely. This is where everything converges.”

“But why hasn’t she erased you, then?” Cutter asks. “Not that I want her to or anything--”

“I was pulled out of time, just like you,” he says. “We don’t belong here, so we’re not pieces she can manipulate here.”

“Are you sure?” Cutter asks. “Because it doesn’t make sense. All my notes are here; all the memories are here. You’re telling me we’re living in a lab where people stopped existing but their notes lived on. If that’s true, then--”

“Then time is coming apart,” Stephen finishes for him. “It’s twisting around this point, tearing like fabric pinned to the wall. This is the right future, which means it’s the only place where we can stop it.”

“And you think it’s that simple?” Cutter asks. “I mean, the theory is pretty untested--”

“You asked how long I’ve been here,” Stephen interrupts. “I don’t even know anymore. I’ve lost track, honestly. And you’re right, I don’t know if this will work. But I can tell you that I’ve been here long enough to say that nothing else has worked. We’re out of options, Cutter.”

“But you’re talking madness, Stephen!” Cutter says.

“Do you think I’m lying to you?” Stephen returns.

“Well, it wouldn’t be the first time--”

Stephen’s face turns red. “You’re going to do this? Now of all times? Haven’t we both been through this enough?”

“You’re asking for a lot!” Cutter snaps back. “And I’m trying to trust you--”

“And I’m trying to save you -- to save everyone!” Stephen says. He sighs, rubbing a hand over his face. “I know I’ve screwed up. More than you ever could know. But I brought you here because we can fix this. You and I. We can fix this.”

It is madness. And Cutter doesn’t know if it can work. He doesn’t know if he wants to believe it or not.

And Stephen is a liar, and Stephen has hurt him more than most.

But Stephen is more than that.

Stephen is more.

He’s never realized it, but Stephen’s smart and strong. He never needed Cutter’s approval, though he always sought it. No one can make him feel like Stephen. No one has made him happier.

No one has made him angrier.

And really, here, there’s just no one left but him.

“Okay,” Cutter relents. “But I want more of the research. In fact, I want everything.”

Stephen starts to smile. “Then I’ll get you everything.”

-o-

The research is staggering.

He’s not great at keeping track of the things he does -- that had always been Stephen’s job -- and seeing a life’s work of research is a bit daunting. Most of it is his, but some of it is Connor’s and Abby’s as well. Not to mention the other scientists at this evolved ARC facility. It’s impressive, where their work ended up. Cutter almost feels proud.

Until he remembers that it’s about to destroy the very fabric of time and space.

It’s the cost, he knows. This is what happens when you play with things bigger than yourself. When he was young and idealistic, he never thought twice. When he saw that first anomaly in the Forest of Dean, thoughts of ethics and consequences had seemed petty and easy to overlook.

But he’s lived a life where Claudia Brown ceased to exist. He’s lived a life where Stephen Hart dies. He’s lived a life where Helen goes stark raving mad and murders him.

It’s not a question of ethics and consequences.

It’s knowing when to stop.

It’s knowing not to start.

There’s a lot to do, but sometimes Cutter still finds himself staring. Not just at the work he accomplished in another life, but at Stephen.

Stephen.

Not screaming; not bleeding; not dead and buried.

Alive and vibrant.

Right here in front of him.

Looking up from the work, Stephen is skeptical. “Something wrong?”

“It’s just...good,” he says finally.

“The world is ending,” Stephen says dryly. “I’m not sure I’d call that good.”

The last time I saw you, you were being torn apart,
Cutter thinks. I’ve had nightmares of your death; I’ve wanted this chance for so long.

Instead, he shrugs. “You’re here,” he says. “For me, that’s good enough.”

Stephen stares at him a moment longer, almost disbelieving. But then a small, slow smile spreads across his face. “You’re getting soft on me,” he says. “Who would have guessed?”

Cutter huffs.

“Come on now,” Stephen cajoles. “There’s still a lot to do.”

Even so, working with Stephen, it’s hard to regret. There are still some good things to come of this. He smiles at the other man, who is intently studying a manuscript.

Some things he’ll never regret.

-o-

When Cutter gets through the notes, it feels like an unfinished story.

“That can’t be it,” he says. “This all ends, almost mid-sentence. How is that even possible?”

“Helen’s interference,” Stephen says. “I’ve been trying to connect the dots, but all the threads--”

“It’d take a lifetime to tie it all together,” Cutter says.

“We don’t have a lifetime,” Stephen says.

Cutter grimaces, because that’s the way it always seems to go. He thinks of his future self, working hard, thinking there was always time.

Just like he’d always assumed he’d have another chance to make things right with Stephen.

Sometimes they got second chances.

Sometimes they had to earn them.

Cutter couldn’t take time for granted.

He couldn’t take anything for granted.

Nodding, he purses his lips. “Better get the coffee going,” he says.

Stephen lifts his eyebrows.

“It’s going to be a long night,” Cutter concludes.

Stephen grins.

-o-

They’re facing the end of the world -- the extinction of mankind -- and Cutter’s never felt more invigorated. There they are, two dead men, and it’s the most alive he’s ever been.

The habits are worn and familiar, and Cutter remembers the long nights when grants were on the line, when the data was flush and the need to know fueled everything. Cutter had accomplished feats in his life, he’d been published and decorated, and Stephen had always been there.

That’s their past.

He smiles, watching as Stephen refills his coffee mug and organizes a stack of notes.

That’s their future.

Hell, maybe that’s just how it’s always been meant to be.

-o-

Everyone had had theories. Cutter had posited more than a dozen; Connor had had fifty. Abby had thrown a few down and the rest of the scientific staff had come up with nearly twenty.

Some had been disproven quickly. Others had proven false over time. The rest, Stephen had systematically tried out, to no avail.

They can’t stop the energy; they can’t divert it. They can’t go back and stop themselves from even starting it.

Which all makes sense, Cutter knows. Energy is immutable. It’s all a matter of entropy. Things will always grow, you just have to decide which way it goes.

Just like with Stephen after the affair had been outed. Cutter had tried to ignore; then he’d tried to forgive. He’d got angry; and then he’d just been resigned.

It hadn’t changed anything.

No, the answer isn’t in any of that. It’s not a question of stopping or controlling the energy.

It’s turning it back on itself, using the energy to cancel the rest out.

It’s like turning your hatred into grief, your anger into tears.

And Cutter understands everything.

-o-

“We can’t stop it,” Cutter says, flitting through the papers frantically and lying them out in front of him.

Stephen comes over, curious and critical. “Well, not yet, but--”

“No,” Cutter interrupts, his excitement building. “We can’t.

“But--”

“The energy is self-sustaining,” Cutter says. “We will never be able to stop it, no matter what we do.”

Stephen’s expression is inscrutable. “So you think we’re doomed them?”

“No!” Cutter says. “I think we need to let the energy do the work for us!”

Stephen’s brows knit together, in that way Cutter knows. He’s thinking, putting things together. Some of these things don’t come naturally to Stephen, but he’s got the heart and determination to piece it together.

If Cutter just takes the time to show him.

“Look,” Cutter says. “We created the device to tap into the energy stream and redirect it to our processors.”

“That’s how we fuel the device, yeah,” Stephen says.

“If we try to turn it off or disconnect it, the energy will just bypass it and keep going -- or worse,” Cutter explains.

“Yeah…”

“So we don’t stop it,” Cutter says, feeling his enthusiasm almost boil over. “We use it.”

“But using it is what got us into this mess,” Stephen says.

“Because we were using it for our own means,” Cutter says. “Now we have to use it against itself.”

Stephen is watching him.

Cutter points to the papers. “If we redirected the energy flow back to the stream -- create a loop of sorts -- it will overload the system. The device will effectively destroy itself.”

Something shifts in Stephen’s face -- realization begins to dawn in his eyes. “The energy will be inverted,” he says. “The connection won’t be able to withstand the exponential power increase and will ultimately implode.”

“Exactly!” Cutter says, the adrenaline thrumming now. “And the shock of it will destroy the connection and the device, which should have a ripple effect--”

“And fix all the timelines,” Stephen says. He laughs in disbelief. “It’ll fix everything.”

“It should,” Cutter agrees. “We’ll stop it at the source.”

Stephen nods, fully understanding the logic by now. “By eliminating the point of origin--”

“Yes,” Cutter concludes, eye bright and chest full. This is the answer -- to everything. He’s looked so long, so hard and here it is. Right here, with Stephen. No one has to die. No one has to disappear. “It’ll be like none of this had never happend at all.”

-o-

The high of discovery is impossible to replicate. Some people like to drink; some people take drugs.

Cutter, though.

This is all he’s ever needed to feel alive.

The irony is, of course, that he’s dead.

That just makes it sweeter.

“We can do it right now,” Cutter enthuses, moving back to the device. “The modifications shouldn’t even be that hard to get right.”

Stephen follows him. “Well, maybe we should--”

Cutter turns, shaking his head with a grin. “Wait? Why?” he asks. “This is it, Stephen. This takes us back to the beginning.”

Stephen hesitates, the joy fading in his eyes. “The beginning isn’t as good as you think it is,” he ventures finally.”

Cutter blinks, and then he realizes. The beginning. Back before Helen went mad, before Stephen sacrificed his life. Back when Cutter was a professor and Helen was his wife, and Stephen was a student…

That’s not an easy thought. In all of that, nothing changes the fact that Stephen betrayed him. It’s only after everything that Cutter understands Stephen’s more than that. In any other context, he’s not sure it’d be so easy to forgive the other man.

Even so, he’d rather hate Stephen than have him dead.

“If we reset this, we have no idea what’ll happen,” he says. “Who knows? It could minimize Helen’s incursions enough -- everything could be different.”

“Cutter,” Stephen says, and he looks down, his voice faltering. “I’ve done things--”

Cutter steps closer to him, reaching out to put a hand on his arm. “And so have I,” he says, resolute now. “You brought me here to stop this from happening. It’s a chance I’m willing to take.”

Stephen looks up, smiling sadly. He nods. “I know,” he says. “And we will.”

Cutter’s smile widens again.

“Tomorrow,” Stephen amends.

Cutter’s mouth drops open. “But the end of the world--”

“Can wait one more night,” Stephen says for him.

Cutter is ready to protest.

Stephen gives him an earnest, plaintive look. “Maybe it’s selfish, but I think I’d like just one more night,” he says, shrugging. “Unless you don’t want…”

To make things right. To have one last night. To not just fix the world, but to fix them.

Cutter glances toward the machine, which is systematically destroying the fabric of time. He looks at Stephen. “Okay,” he says, because eternity is so long and a lifetime isn’t enough. “One more night.”

NEXT

Comments

Posted by: kristen_mara (kristen_mara)
Posted at: December 24th, 2013 08:56 am (UTC)
Tardis Stephen


Glad they've got a second chance and yay for the 'one more night' and working as equals!

Thank you!


Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 16th, 2014 01:48 am (UTC)
stephen cutter sit

Second chances! Or third or fourth or fifth as it is with us :)

Thanks!

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: December 30th, 2013 03:59 pm (UTC)

This was SO wonderful to read. The bromance that should have been. You write this with such an agony of missed opportunities both for Cutter and Stephen and also for us fans who had wished for a second chance for them. The parallel is palpable and the hope for them to make things right is so intense. I feel it! I love this!

Fave part:

Because Cutter still remembered. He remembered everything. And if he could recall the horror of being murdered by his own wife, he could only imagine what Stephen remembered about being torn from limb to limb and eaten alive.

Stephen shakes his head. “It’s not important.”

“No, it is important,” Cutter says. “I know what happened. You saved my life--”

Stephen shakes his head, more vehemently. “No, I didn’t--”

“I was there, Stephen,” Cutter says. “I should be thanking you for saving me. Twice.”

Stephen works his jaw but just shakes his head again. “No,” he tells him. “Please. Just don’t.”

“But we should talk about this,” Cutter says, his patience suddenly thin. “Isn’t that what got us into this mess? That we were never able to talk to each other?”

Stephen’s face is deeply pained. He swallows hard and nods. “You’re right,” he says. He smiles slightly. “You always are, though. And we will talk. I promise. But not tonight. Not now.”

“When?” Cutter presses. “The world is ending.”

“Not if we stop it,” Stephen reminds him. “Once we do that, we’ll have time for everything.”

Cutter is dubious.

“Trust me,” Stephen says. “You’ll see.”

Trust is a hard and precarious thing. Stephen lost it once, and Cutter doesn’t know if he’s ready to give it back.

-- Stephen's painful humility in this moment gave me a knot in my chest about what he will tell Cutter when they finally talk.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 16th, 2014 01:48 am (UTC)
stephen hair

Cutter and Stephen will always break my heart. These two just should have worked it out and never got the chance. I still mourn for that.

Thanks :)

Posted by: goldarrow (goldarrow)
Posted at: January 13th, 2014 03:26 am (UTC)
Stephen Watchful

This is amazing. True timey-wimey fixit.
However, I am a bit worried about what's going to happen :(.

Love the interplay between the two of them, searching to find common ground again, remembering and learning from the memories.

*heads off to read part 2*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 16th, 2014 01:49 am (UTC)
stephen breathing

Writing for Kristen means certain limitations in terms of how sad I can make things :)

But you have good cause to be worried. I worried myself with this one!

Thanks :)

Posted by: knitekat (knitekat)
Posted at: January 13th, 2014 09:00 pm (UTC)

Lovely bit of timey-wimey and a second chance for the boys.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 16th, 2014 01:50 am (UTC)
stephen sad

You know how I feel about second chances.

And I'm realizing now I didn't make it very clear that this was a two-parter -- just in case you didn't see the link to the next part!

Thanks!

Posted by: knitekat (knitekat)
Posted at: January 16th, 2014 09:02 pm (UTC)

Hee, now noticed ;)

Posted by: lsellersfic (lsellersfic)
Posted at: January 15th, 2014 07:07 pm (UTC)
Primeval:Nick/Stephen

This is an interesting premise and the empty labs have a distinctly spooky feel!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 16th, 2014 01:56 am (UTC)
stephen hair

I'm realizing that maybe I didn't make it clear that this chapter is linked to a second -- just in case you didn't see that :) This is a two-parter.

The premise was a bit out there for me, so hopefully I pulled it off.

Thanks :)

Posted by: lsellersfic (lsellersfic)
Posted at: January 16th, 2014 07:56 pm (UTC)
Primeval:Nick/Stephen

I'm realizing that maybe I didn't make it clear that this chapter is linked to a second -- just in case you didn't see that :) This is a two-parter.

I spotted that when I left this comment so I already downloaded part 2. Off to leave a comment now.

12 Read Comments