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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Primeval fic: Run for Your Life (If You Can) (1/1)

June 27th, 2015 (08:06 am)
pleased

Title: Run for Your Life (If You Can)

Disclaimer: Primeval is not mine.

A/N: I was quite pleased to get this prompt by goldarrow. Go, check it out here and tell her how awesome it is. Beta provided by my good friend sendintheklowns but I did some tweaking afterward, so mistakes are entirely my own. At least this one shouldn’t be quite as confusing as my other art challenge fic!

Summary: Silly Stephen, starting things he didn’t really want to finish. Someone could put that on his gravestone when this was over. Set S1



-o-

“Stephen!” Nick yelled. “Get the hell out of there!”

Stephen was still poised, holding his ground to take another shot, but the damn thing was as tall as a building and none of Stephen’s bullets had made so much as a dent so far. More than that, it was coming right at him, teeth bared in what appeared to be carnivorous fury.

Stephen!” Nick screamed now, sounding truly desperate as another flare went up in the sky. Cutter and the others were trying to distract it, but apparently dinosaurs weren’t attracted to shiny things.

No, they were only attracted to idiots who were trying to shoot them. It was like trying to kill a lion with a pellet gun -- it just wasn’t going to work.

Stephen had known that from the beginning -- he’d been the one to remind Nick of that fact -- and yet, here he was. Standing his ground when he knew better, standing his ground when he knew what was going to happen.

This hadn’t exactly been the plan, of course. But this team of theirs liked coming up with haphazard plans that involved more luck than actual skill. The problem was, they weren’t very lucky.

In the original plan, Stephen had been supposed to lure the thing to a nearby clearing, where more copious support was being funneled in. It might have worked except the damn thing had spooked, sending it on a different course in the entirely opposite direction, through the trees and right toward the closest residential property. Stephen, seeing the danger to others, decided to distract the thing in a last ditch effort to minimize the death toll.

That much he had done, and he’d done very well.

He simply hadn’t thought of a way to stop distracting it.

Silly Stephen, starting things he didn’t really want to finish.

Someone could put that on his gravestone when this was over.

“Run!” Nick screamed, waving his arms wildly at the periphery of Stephen’s vision as another round of gunfire failed to dissuade the creature. “Run!

It was probably the best advice Stephen had ever been given. Really, it would have been nice if someone had told him that a long time ago. Run, Stephen, don’t sleep with your crazy attractive and very married professor. Run, Stephen, and don’t befriend the man whose marriage you destroyed. Run, Stephen, go finish your Ph D and get a life of your own. Run, Stephen, and don’t follow paranoid students into the Forest of Dean to find the woman who could quite possibly ruin your life forever.

Run, Stephen.

Away from the Forest of Dean, away from giant centipedes in sewers, away from Helen Cutter and everything she represented in his life.

Run.

And for once, Stephen did.

-o-

Stephen, by most standards, was a good runner. He was fast, and he was capable of high bursts of speed and significant endurance, when needed. He’d run all over most of London, quite honestly, and it was always a pastime he’d enjoyed. Cutter had tried running with him a few times, but after being left behind and out of breath, Nick had declared Stephen a masochist and left the strenuous physical pastimes to him.

Unfortunately, by spinosaurus standards, Stephen was not a very fast runner. Not that it was a very fair contest. Stephen had to take twenty paces for every one the thing took, and if he zigged and zagged, the damn thing just crushed the foliage between them.

He was just a little man, carrying a little gun, running on little legs.

The spinosaurus roared, shaking Stephen right down into his lungs. In case he didn’t feel small enough already.

Somehow, he quickened his pace, letting the gun drop as he broke through to the edge of the trees and stumbled toward the edge of the river.

Water was no good. No, the spinosaurus was thought to have liked water, and Stephen was a fair swimmer, but it wouldn’t matter. If he hit the water, he was going to die a lot faster and a lot messier.

Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a figure by the water’s edge, near one of the abandoned maintenance sheds they’d sectioned off earlier while creating a perimeter to contain the threat. At first, he thought it was Nick or one of the Special Forces men, but then he realized it wasn’t.

It was…

Helen?

The momentary distraction cost him, and the massive head came down, swiping at him. Stephen almost fell, forcing himself to regain his footing and redouble his efforts.

He ran faster.

Right into the building after Helen.

-o-

The building was nothing more than a glorified shed, and it was full of shovels.

In case he wanted to bludgeon the monster to death.

Or, at the very least, wallop it once in the eye before it ripped Stephen’s head off.

His choice to come in here seemed stupid immediately, and for one hysterical moment, he realized that thinking with his sexual impulses was actually going to get him killed this time. It was just like Stephen, that when he finally ran, he ran in all the wrong directions.

He wanted to believe that Helen had his best interests at heart. He wanted to believe that there had been something between them. He wanted to believe that he hadn’t ruined his life and Cutter’s marriage for an insubstantial fling.

But she kept leading him into a dead end and then leaving him there.

Maybe Nick was right about her.

Maybe he was wrong about her.

But then he saw the open storm grate in the far end of the building.

Coincidence?

Possibly.

But he’d seen Helen, and she had to have disappeared somewhere.

Besides, Stephen was always going to follow a Cutter, one way or another.

Until the day he died.

The building shook, the ceiling being ripped clean off. A blast of hot breath covered him, and his stomach churned.

If he didn’t hurry, that day was going to be today.

Lunging, he narrowly escaped the first wall crashing in. Sticky saliva spattered him as he dodged the bobbing head again. He tripped, falling face first into the cement floor. It jarred his chin, and his ears rang. It was sheer luck that sent the second wall toppling on top of him, and the spinosaurus howled in frustrated as its prey was hidden.

Stephen punched blindly at the debris, sifting through it until he found himself on all fours.

And looking straight up into the eyes of the beast.

His breathing caught, his heart stuttered.

The jaws opened, teeth coming at him.

And Stephen fumbled backward.

Right into the black hole behind him.

-o-

Now, Stephen was falling.

It was a little too familiar, in all honesty. Being weightless, out of control. Knowing that the bottom was going to hurt, but having no way of stopping himself.

That fleeting, split-second certainty that this fall could save his life.

Or end it.

Nick couldn’t catch him.

Helen probably wouldn’t.

Stephen should have run harder, faster, sooner, but it was probably always going to end like this.

Honestly, Stephen had probably been falling since university, he just never realized it.

He just had no way of stopping it.

-o-

Impact was a burst of pain.

Dumbfounded, Stephen was too shocked to speak as Helen crouched into view. She studied him for a moment, and he couldn’t tell if she was amused or merely disappointed.

Hell, he couldn’t even tell if this was real or some kind of dream.

Or a nightmare, for that matter.

He shifted, trying to speak, but stars exploded, blacking out his vision. When he was able to see again, Helen had her back to him, disappearing from view with a strange, small dinosaur trotting along behind her like some kind of prehistoric pet.

The pain reached its pinnacle, stealing Stephen’s breath before he could call out after her. He had expected escape to be better, but this wasn’t better.

Stephen wasn’t even sure what this was.

A spinosaurus trying to eat him, a hole in the ground, Helen and a pet dinosaur.

Then darkness.

Only darkness.

And with it, finally relief.

-o-

Stephen thought it would be over.

Part of him hoped it was over, at least.

No more lies; no more self-recriminations. No more half-lives and nagging guilts.

No more impossible mysteries that made less and less sense the more he thought he knew.

But when there was nothing else, there was still the doubt.


There were still the questions.

Was it worth it? Would he do it again?

If given the chance, would he still fall in love with Helen? Would he tell Nick the truth? Would he have left the university when he had the chance? Would he have made a different life from himself?

That would have been easier, if he was honest. He would have been a better person, probably. But Helen made him who he was, for better or worse. Without Helen, he never would have stayed with evolutionary biology, he never would have met Nick.

He never would have traveled the world or completed research far beyond his pay grade. He never would have seen the things he had or done the things that made him happiest.

He never would have made the best friend he ever had.

He never would have met Connor or Abby or any of the team. He never would have seen dinosaurs or helped people in a way that actually mattered.

Was the pain worth that? Could he justify his mistakes with the good things he’d done? Would he ever settle the cosmic score tipped against him? Would he ever give enough to make it right?

Would he do it again?

When everything inside of him was telling him to run, would he stay anyway?

Would he tell Nick how sorry he was or hope that the last eight years spoke for themselves?

Stephen was always standing in front of disaster, trying to shoot it down.

Trying and failing.

Run, the voice inside his head started to scream. Run.

But as far as Stephen was concerned, there was no other place he wanted to go.

-o-

“Hart.”

Stephen twitched, half hoping it was just a dream.

“Hart!”

The voice was gruff and demanding but only somewhat familiar. Even so, Stephen recognized the weight of it immediately. This wasn’t a request.

This was an order.

“You’d better wake up,” the voice grumbled. “Or I swear, I will carry you out of here.”

At that, Stephen cracked his eyes open.

And immediately regretted it.

A range of pains assaulted him, pulsating throughout his body. His ribs ached, and his wrist throbbed. His back felt like it had been wrenched, and the pounding in his head was unlike anything he’d ever felt before.

At least when he’d been bitten by the anthropleurid, there had been a numbing effect.

Now, his body seemed to be in complete rebellion from the pain.

“You with me?”

Stephen craned his neck, more to glare at the owner of the voice than to actually see who it was. Unfortunately, that was easier said than done. He was on his stomach, and when he tried to lift himself, the burst of pain made his vision go gray around the edges, and he nearly passed out all over again.

“Whoa,” the voice said, before steady hands took him by the shoulders and rolled him over. “Easy there.”

Groaning, Stephen cracked his eyes open more carefully this time. His vision was doubled for a moment, but when he blinked, he managed to bring it back into fuzzy view.

“Captain Ryan?” he asked, squinting a little more to be sure.

The so-called team hadn’t been together all that long, but Claudia had suggested that Stephen get to know the Special Forces team as a matter of practicality. While Nick and Abby were pretty good at defending themselves, Stephen was the good shot of the group, making him the most likely link between military forces and their civilian bunch. Most of them had merely tolerated Stephen’s presence, but Captain Ryan had always seemed to offer him a bit more respect.

Stephen wouldn’t call it friendship, not even in the most generous sense of the world. No, Ryan was far too professional and Stephen was far too private. But they had come to an instant and unspoken understanding about why they each were there.

That being said, Stephen had expected to be dead, so seeing Captain Ryan was still a bit of a shock. “The spinosaurus?” he managed to ask.

Almost on cue, there was a roar above them. Not as close as before, but it still sent a shiver down Stephen’s bruised spine.

Ryan helped lever him up into a sitting position. “The team’s still working on it,” he reported. “Abby’s had to recalculate the sedative dosage five times, but the team is having a hell of a time finding a place where they can shoot him.”

“Skin is thicker than we thought,” Stephen said, trying to sit up a little more and hissing as he tweaked his wrist. “The standard tranq darts aren’t going to be effective.”

“We figured that out a bit too late,” Ryan mused as the ground shook above them. “We’ve called in for heavily artillery.”

Heavier artillery sounded messy, that wouldn’t make Cutter very happy. Or Lester for that matter. It was hard enough to hide a gigantic dinosaur. It was harder still when you needed a military grade arsenal to put it down.

Easing his way up, he gave the room a proper look. Only it wasn’t a room. He’d overlooked that before, even if it seemed a rather important detail now. “I thought this was a sewer drain,” he said, wondering just how far he’d fallen. There was no sign of Helen, at least. Or any kind of dinosaur, for that matter. Somehow that didn’t make it less strange.

Ryan looked around, more curious than perplexed. “Looks like a cave structure,” he said with a small one-shoulder shrug. “Not sure how it got here -- I’ve never heard of anything like this in this area.”

Somehow that wasn’t surprising to Stephen. Knowing Helen was involved, he couldn’t be surprised. If she was living in the present, she would need a few places to hide. And this seemed more than apt. There could even be an anomaly somewhere back in the tunnels, which would explain how she got in and out.

It would also explain the dinosaur.

Of course, all of this could also be blamed on a concussion.

Nonetheless, Stephen looked anxiously at the rock formations with fresh uncertainty. “Is it secure?”

“You’re the one who came down here, not me,” Ryan reminded him. “That was pretty smart, though, going down instead of staying on the surface.”

Stephen made a face, unable not to look sheepish. “I didn’t even know this was in here.”

“Well,” Ryan said. “Not only did it probably save your life, but while the thing was trying to break open the hole, we managed to set up a better containment barrier to keep it from getting away again.”

There was another massive thud and a howl. “That sounds like it’s right above us,” Stephen said.

“It is,” Ryan said.

Stephen looked at him in surprise. “Then why aren’t you up there, trying to get a hold of that thing?”

“Someone had to come after you,” Ryan said. “When you disappeared, Cutter was going to charge down here himself. The only way I could keep him from doing something stupid was to promise to go after you myself.”

Stephen stared at him. “So instead of letting Cutter do something stupid, you did it yourself? Charging into the middle of the battlefield with a pissed of spinosaurus?”

Ryan shrugged without affectation. “It’s my job.”

Unable to control himself, Stephen had to snort. “Chasing dinosaurs isn’t anyone’s job.

“Maybe,” Ryan conceded. “But I signed on to protect people. I never put any limitations on what or how. Putting other people first, no matter what, is the only part of my job description that matters. No one dies, not if I can help it. We all know what we signed up for.”

There was a certainty to his voice that Stephen almost envied. It was a strange thought, to be so confident in one’s choices. To know that you were living the life you were meant to live, no regrets.

Wincing again, Stephen gingerly worked his way to his feet. “I’m not sure I did,” he admitted, swaying a little once upright.

Ryan steadied him without comment. “I doubt that.”

“No, really,” Stephen said, exhaling heavily as he tried to bear weight on his feet. “I honestly have no idea what I’m doing.”

He was playing the hero, when the truth was that he was anything but. He was the one who, no matter how hard he tried not to, kept chasing after his best friend’s wife and nearly getting himself killed for his trouble. First in the Forest of Dean. Then in the sewers. And now here.

The worst part was, Stephen always came up empty handed for his troubles, with nothing but a few new fresh scars to commemorate his disastrous overtures.

“I saw you out there,” Ryan said. “You stood your ground as long as you could until there was no one else in any danger and then -- and only then -- did you run to the safest possible location, not necessarily for yourself, but for everyone else. Only an idiot runs to open water with no promise of backup.”

Stephen felt a little steadier and yet somehow more off kilter than ever. “And how do you know I wasn’t actually just an idiot?”

Ryan almost smiled. “Because it wasn’t the first time I’ve seen you stay instead of run.”

“You make it sound so simple,” Stephen quipped, starting them toward the ladder on the wall near the hole. It had been installed on the rockface, snaking up toward the manhole cover above them. If this was Helen’s hideout, she’d been using it for awhile.

She was smart like that.

If Stephen were smart, he would have climbed down on the ladder instead of falling and addling his head so badly.

“It is simple,” Ryan said, keeping step right next to him. “Priorities are priorities. No one dies, not on our watch. It doesn’t matter what they’ve done or why they’ve done it. It doesn’t matter if they put themselves in that position. I can tell you from experience, I’ve never regretted any life I’ve saved, but the ones I’ve lost keep me up at night.”

Stephen paused, looking at the other man. This was the longest conversation they’d ever had, and it was, most likely, the most personal conversation Stephen had had with anyone in years.

Ryan clapped him reassuringly on the shoulder. “This is the job we do until we can’t do it anymore. No one dies. All the rest doesn’t really matter as long as you get that much right.”

Still aching, Stephen managed a rueful smile. “I hope you’re right.”

Ryan’s face was almost smirking. “I know I am,” he said. “Most people run from danger -- that’s the basic human instinct -- but you’re the kind that runs to it. That doesn’t make you stupid. More often than not, it makes you a hero.”

“I’m starting to think they may be the same thing,” Stephen said.

“You and me both, then,” Ryan said, nodding up the ladder. “You think you’re ready to go up?”

It was quieter now, save for the sound of distant voices. The danger had passed, at any rate.

Not that it would have mattered.

If this cave was Helen’s, then there was bound to be more danger down the line.

Stephen drew a breath, mindful of his sore ribs. “Yeah,” he agreed, giving the cave one more uneasy look. “I’m ready.”


-o-

Ready was a somewhat relative term. He was neither physically or emotionally in prime condition, and if his knees were weak from falling into an underground cavern, the emotional force of his team coming at him, looking positively relieved, was almost enough to send him back down there again.

Even so, if he wanted to run, he knew he’d never be fast enough at the moment.

“Stephen!” Cutter said, almost glowing. “You’re all right!”

The man came up, hugging him squarely. It jarred his injuries, but Stephen hardly had a chance to grimace as his team rallied around him.

“I thought it had eaten you for sure,” Connor said, coming around the other side.

“You really did give us a scare,” Abby agreed. “Again. You need to stop making a habit of it.”

“What were you thinking, anyway?” Nick asked, pulling away and shaking his shoulder. “You nearly let that thing eat you.”

Stephen shifted uncomfortably, glancing over up river where the spinosaurus was being secured.

Still breathing.

Ryan gave him a small smiled before retreating toward his men.

Maybe it really was that simple.

He let out a breath. “You got it down without killing it?”

Nick puffed up a bit with pride. “When you drew it out here, you gave us plenty of time to get things together.”

“They were able to fly in supports,” Abby said.

“It was so cool,” Connor enthused. “You should have seen it.”

“Because next time you shouldn’t cut it so close,” Abby admonished.

Nick sighed, putting his hands on his hips. “Should we get you a doctor?” he asked. “How far did you fall, anyway?”

Stephen swallowed, trying to work saliva past the growing lump in his throat. “Far enough,” he said before managing a watery smile. He wondered if he should tell them about the caverns. Cutter probably deserved to know about Helen, but there were more pressing concerns right now.

Besides, he couldn’t tell Nick what he didn’t know, and a fleeting glance of Helen and a dinosaur in an underground cavern sounded more and more like a head injury than reality.

Stephen himself wasn’t sure what was real or not anymore.

Cutter made a face, swatting him lightly. “Probably not far enough to knock some sense into you, though.”

Stephen huffed with laughter. “A fall like that would probably kill me.”

“Nothing of that now,” Cutter said. “We’re all going home tonight, even that big guy over there. You think you can give us a hand?”

They were already moving back toward the spinosaurus, one after another. Stephen was sore and tired, but he couldn’t help but follow.

They were all going home tonight, and Stephen had a part in that.

That was what mattered.

That was what was worth staying for.

When Stephen doubted everything else, he would never doubt that.

No one dies.

Not Abby and her lizards, or Connor and his gadgets.

Not Claudia and her PR, or Ryan and his team.

Not eve Lester in his office.

Not Cutter, not even in his obstinance.

Not even Helen, who probably had never loved him a fraction of how much he loved her.

Because Stephen regretted a lot of things, but those relationships were things he would never run from, even when he probably should. He couldn’t regret the people he loved or the friendships he’d made.

Even if it killed him.

No one dies.

No doubt, Stephen had made a lot of mistakes, and no doubt, he’d make many more, but if he got that much right, then things would be okay.

Comments

Posted by: fredbassett (fredbassett)
Posted at: June 27th, 2015 04:27 pm (UTC)

That was great!

I loved the interaction between Stephen and Ryan in this. Ryan was spot on about his motivation. If only that had stayed true for the series as a whole!

Posted by: goldarrow (goldarrow)
Posted at: June 27th, 2015 04:33 pm (UTC)
Stephen Watchful

Wow!
This was amazing - full of both action and introspection. You've caught Stephen's complexity perfectly.

He simply hadn’t thought of a way to stop distracting it.
That surprised a giggle out of me.

Brilliant.

Posted by: knitekat (knitekat)
Posted at: June 27th, 2015 08:30 pm (UTC)

Great fic, action and introspection. Lovely conversation between Ryan and Stephen.

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

Wow! I loved the actiony beginning, and the conversation between Stephen and Ryan in the cave was so true to both of them.

Posted by: nietie (nietie)
Posted at: June 28th, 2015 10:03 am (UTC)
Hurt/comfort

I was breathless reading the first part where Stephen was running.

Wonderful introspective fic with Ryan being so calm and competent and a great help for Stephen (in many ways).

Posted by: fififolle (fififolle)
Posted at: July 2nd, 2015 05:45 am (UTC)
Primeval - Ryan/Stephen competence is se

Fantastic story. Loved his whole world mixed into running away, made for a great read. And scary spinosaurus! Super hopeful ending.

Posted by: lsellersfic (lsellersfic)
Posted at: July 2nd, 2015 08:59 pm (UTC)
Primeval:Ryan/Stephen

Good story! Nice focus on Stephen!

Posted by: kristen_mara (kristen_mara)
Posted at: July 12th, 2015 08:49 am (UTC)
Hottie Nick/Stephen


Whew, that was quite a ride for Stephen and the reader! Great look at him and his thoughts, and love his talk with Ryan and then the team crowding around him. Will start reading the mindbender fic tomorrow *G*

do i dare or do i dare?