wildforce71: Takeru smiling. Sort of. A bit. (Default)
[personal profile] wildforce71
Part two of the Primeval fic-that-wouldn't-die. Part one is here. Enjoy.

Thanks [personal profile] prehistoriccat!






They never really did decide whose fault it was. Matt, maybe, who hadn't kept track of them after their interviews. Becker, who hadn't kept track of them at all. Burton, who ignored the warning signs - though, to be fair, he had no way of recognising them.

Maybe it was no one's fault, just one of those things. Lester wasn't quite so happy with that; it felt messy, as though it was completely unavoidable, and he didn't believe that. This could easily have been avoided with just a little care.

They might not have known who was to blame, but they knew when it started.




Matt debriefed them together at first, at Becker's suggestion. He'd been half thinking of it anyway; he'd seen the way they were the day before, watched them try and fail to deal with things on their own. Their ordeal had made them too heavily reliant on each other to be comfortable apart yet.

So he debriefed them together, running through the year in as much detail as he thought they could handle. Connor was quiet but very passionate; Abby was angry, loud and obnoxious. He quickly got used to looking to Connor to rein her in, which he did easily with a touch or a look.

Matt was impressed at their resourcefulness. Surviving the Cretaceous at all was an incredible accomplishment, but they had come through effectively unharmed, apart from their interdependence. The medical tests had shown only a certain amount of malnutrition and some old, mostly-healed wounds.

He was intrigued by Abby’s description of Connor’s medicine garden, and the Anomaly Detector he’d built out of keys and tin cans. If asked, he would have picked Abby as the practical one, but Connor had certainly stepped up when necessary. To hear Abby’s description, it was solely down to Connor that they’d survived the various injuries they’d suffered.

He only hoped that, wherever he was, Danny Quinn was doing half as well as Connor and Abby had.

Matt took a break and got them something to eat, careful to make sure everything was sealed before it reached them. He let them eat it alone, turning off all the recording equipment and making sure no one was anywhere near the room while they ate.

He spent the time reading over the scribbled notes he’d taken while they’d talked. Half of them were to himself, noting their behaviour or something about them, something he might need to know later.

He’d studied their files and reports until he could recite them, of course, though he hadn’t been sure they’d return. The ARC files in his own time were fragmented, only bits and pieces had been recovered, and there had been nothing past the death of Sarah Page. Still, they’d been so fundamental to the ARC – Connor Temple, their tech genius, and Abby Maitland, their animal whisperer – so much a part of the place even now, he’d wanted to know them. Wanted to see how they’d helped shape this place he found himself in.

But they were just files. Words on paper. Stephen Hart’s half-exasperated comments – “Rescued Temple from being trampled; not sure he noticed, as was busy enthusing over the Plesiosaur” – Nick Cutter’s fond indulgence – “Someone might want to check Abby’s bag when she’s leaving tonight, she was very taken with the wee birds that came through the Anomaly” – even Jenny Lewis’s no nonsense reports – “Connor was able to lock the Anomaly while Abby helped to track the creature, later identified as a ___________; both performed admirably under some stress, Connor after receiving a mild concussion. No civilian or team injuries or casualties” – none of them had told him who they were.

Becker talked about them, sometimes, but only to Jess. Matt had tried, but he got a steady stream of ‘yes sir, no sir, couldn’t say sir’ until he gave up. Lester never talked about them, not ever. Jess passed on some of what Becker told her, but she was editing, he could tell from her tone. He didn’t blame her; if Becker was telling her things in confidence, he couldn’t expect her to pass them on. But no one else had known them very well – a lot of the soldiers had died in the rescue attempts, most of the others had been rotated out when the ARC was dissolved, and the rest of the staff hadn't worked enough with Danny’s team to know the things Matt wanted to know. The tech staff talked about Connor’s brilliance; the animal handlers spoke of Abby’s compassion. But it wasn't the whole picture.

He’d thought he was prepared for this meeting, but it was just driving home to him how much he had yet to learn. Connor and Abby could easily disrupt his carefully laid plans. This would require some thought.

When he came back in, they were talking quietly, urgently. Matt cleared his throat, dropping his papers onto the table.

"I need to talk to you separately now," he said quietly. Abby glanced sideways at Connor, who hadn't moved, but neither protested aloud. Matt continued, "Connor first, please – Abby, you can wait right outside if you like, just don't put the intercom on."

"Why do you need to talk to us separately?" Connor asked. "We've already told you everything."

"Protocol. It won't take long. Please?" He held the door open, watching Abby.

Connor caught her hand as she stood, pressing it to his lips with a smile. "No listening in, now."

"As if I care what the boys have to say." Her smile was brittle, and she didn't look at Matt as she passed him.

Matt watched until she dropped into a seat, tucking her legs underneath her. The blue uniforms they'd gotten from somewhere showed just how much weight they'd lost in the year they'd been gone.

Connor was composed and intense as he answered Matt's questions. Matt watched him between answers; this Connor bore little resemblance to the one in the files, the Connor Temple he'd studied so extensively. That Connor had never been put down, never been beaten by anything. The Connor sitting in front of him might be vocal about his intent to stay, but he wasn't fighting for it the way Matt had assumed he would.

Questions done with, Matt gave them a couple of minutes together before asking Abby to come back in. She was more as he'd expected, loud and abrasive, talking over him without listening to his answers. She wasn't giving him any details, either, shutting him down every time he tried.

He gave up, finally, letting her leave. Connor wasn't in the hall; a soldier passing by said he thought he'd seen Burton talking to him somewhere near the rec room. Matt thanked him absently, giving Abby directions and letting her go on her own.

That was probably a mistake, as it turned out.

Connor was with Burton. That much was true. But they weren't anywhere near the rec room – they were almost clear across the ARC, in fact – and Abby didn't know her way around well enough to follow anyone's directions.

Matt didn't know anything was wrong until Becker barrelled past him without stopping. Matt didn't bother to question, just fell in behind him, following him towards an empty office Burton had co-opted. Connor was sitting on the desk, nodding along as Burton talked.

Becker knocked and pushed the door open in one movement. "Connor, I need you. Come on."

"We're in the middle of something, Captain," Burton protested.

"Sorry, sir." Becker didn't sound sorry at all. "We need Connor right now."

"He doesn't even work here, surely someone else...?"

"It really has to be Connor."

Matt had been watching Connor. The younger man hadn't moved, but his knuckles were white where he gripped the edge of the table and his gaze was locked on the floor.

"He doesn't really work here," he said, talking to Burton though his eyes were still on Connor. "Maybe you shouldn't be telling him so much about what we're doing."

Becker shifted very slightly; he'd be hearing about that remark later, he had no doubt. He didn't have time to worry about it, though, because Connor's eyes had snapped up to meet his.

It was an oddly searching look, and it surprised Matt, because he'd never heard that Connor was particularly empathetic. Sensitive enough to read other people's reactions if he was paying any kind of attention, yes, but not enough to look at their eyes and read them the way he seemed to be doing now. It made Matt feel oddly exposed, but he didn't look away.

"You can have him back later," Becker was telling Burton.

"I do hope so. I'll be looking forward to it." He patted Connor's hand, the only part of him within reach.

Becker clapped a hand to Connor's shoulder at the same moment; the younger man jerked, startled out of his consideration of Matt, and carefully let go of the table. Glancing at Burton, he muttered something that might have been "Me, too," preceding Becker out of the room.

Out in the corridor he dismissed Matt – Matt could see him do it, see him shift mental gears – to focus on Becker. "Where's Abby?" he demanded.

"That would be what we need you for. She's in Lester's office."

"What's going on?" Matt asked. Connor was already moving; Matt started after him without thinking.

"Abby's having some trouble." Matt raised an eyebrow and Becker continued, "She's got some idea that the ARC is trying to split them up. Keep them apart. She doesn't really seem sure why, but she's pretty sure it's happening."

"I spent all night trying to talk her out of that," Connor muttered, glancing around helplessly as they reached an intersection. "Becker..."

"This way." Becker slipped into the lead. Connor followed him quickly, almost treading on his heels.

Matt watched him as they jogged through the corridors. Connor looked tired, worn down by everything that had happened. Probably in shock still, he thought. "Connor, can someone else...?"

"Talk her down? I don't think so, no. She wouldn't listen to you?"

"No," Becker said evenly.

"And Lester?"

"He got her out of Command and into his office, but that's about it. I don't think she's hearing us, to be honest."

Connor nodded, glancing back at Matt. "She doesn’t know anyone else. Not well enough, not anymore. Neither of us do. The ARC didn't used to be this big," he added impatiently.

"Lester spent Burton's money on it when the PPP came in," Becker said absently.

"More room for the guns, I suppose."

"EMDs," Matt said automatically. Connor glanced back, that strange, searching look on his face again, and then dismissed Matt completely as they reached Command.

Matt glanced around. The room was completely empty apart from Jess, who was valiantly concentrating on her screens rather than on Lester's office. Even the ever-present soldiers had vanished somewhere; no one would see anything that happened.

See anything – Matt touched his earpiece. "Jess, the cameras...?"

"What cameras?" She didn't turn, though she had to know they were there.

"Good girl," he said softly. To Becker, he added, "Better get this done before the ADD goes off – we can't keep the room empty then." Becker nodded absently, glancing briefly at Jess.

Connor was already at the door of Lester's office when Matt turned back, trying to catch Abby's attention without getting too close to her. She didn't seem to be physically threatening anything – most of Lester’s paperwork was still stacked neatly on his desk – but she was clearly very upset, yelling and pacing back and forth.

Lester finally got her attention and she half-turned, keeping one eye on him.

"Alright?" Connor asked gently. He still didn't move towards her, standing firmly in the doorway. Keeping them from getting in, Matt realised too late.

"Abby, alright?" Connor asked again. It was the same word he'd used yesterday. Matt noted it; it meant something to them, beyond the obvious.

"Where were you?" Abby was vibrating in place.

"Sorry. Philip – Burton – wanted to talk to me, and I couldn't figure out how to tell him no. I said I was waiting for you, but he said he just needed a minute, and then we were gone. I don't – I'm sorry, Abs." He held out a hand, waiting until she took a step towards him.

"Connor –“ Lester started. Connor shook his head sharply and he fell silent, watching them warily.

"Will we go?" he asked quietly. "I'm kind of hungry. Doc said we could have solids today. I'm thinking sandwich."

"Connor," Abby murmured.

"They aren't trying to split us up," he told her. "I'm sorry I wasn't waiting. It won't happen again. I'm happy here."

She nodded. Matt noted, again, that the words meant something beyond the obvious. “Alright.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” She smiled shakily.

Connor moved forward, reaching to pull her into a hug. Abby pushed him away, eyes flickering uneasily to Matt and Becker. Connor stopped, backpedalling as she fended him off, watching her uncertainly.

“Let’s just go,” she said softly. “Please?”

“Yeah. ‘Course.”

Matt took a couple of steps back, touching his earpiece again. “Jess, can we get the corridors empty for a couple of minutes?”

“On it,” she agreed, already typing quickly. Matt looked up, catching Becker’s eye, and he nodded quickly.

“Connor, let me walk you out.”

Connor nodded absently, still watching Abby. “Yeah. Thanks, mate. Lester...”

“Later,” Lester said, waving him off. “Get yourselves home before you damage something in here.”

“Home,” Abby scoffed, but the fight had gone out of her; she let Connor guide her out of the room, though she twisted away from his touch.

Matt watched Becker shepherd them down the corridor, turning back to Lester when they were out of sight. “What happened?”

“Who knows?” Lester circled his desk, sitting absently. “Abby came to Command looking for Connor. I thought he was still with you –“

“I had to talk to them separately, so he was waiting outside,” Matt supplied. “He says Burton came past and swept him off.”

Lester grimaced. “I had hoped to keep them apart a little longer.”

“You think there’s going to be trouble?”

“Connor is brilliant, in awe of Burton, and watched his last mentor die in his arms. He wants approval.”

“Trouble,” Matt said with a sigh. “He was certainly uncomfortable when Becker and I found him.” Shaking his head, he added, “I got the impression Burton didn't think much of Connor. Undisciplined, I believe Jess said.”

"I believe that was the impression we were supposed to get. Connor's put everything he is into this place, and we're rejecting him. A weaker person might be tempted by a brilliant man taking an interest in him at a low point." He considered for a moment. "Perhaps a word with our good Captain – and Jess, if you think she can keep it quiet. Until we can get this sorted out, Connor is not to be left alone anywhere Burton can get to him."

"You are planning to bring him back."

"I have every intention of getting them both back on the team. But it takes diplomacy, which is more my job than yours. Believe me, if shooting something would solve this problem I'd have called you long ago."

"Aye." Matt nodded, straightening and glancing down into Command. "Abby?" he reminded Lester.

“Was very unhappy when I told her I didn’t know where Connor was,” Lester said tiredly. “She seemed to think we were trying to keep them apart, though she wasn’t very clear about why. Jess cleared the room – commendable initiative – and I was able to get Abby in here, though she was very, very unhappy about it. Becker overheard, tried to calm her down, and when she wouldn’t listen went to find Connor.”

“He’s on the edge. Keeping Abby sane is wearing at him, and being so close to home and not quite there...”

“I’m working on that,” Lester assured him.

“I hope so. We can use them, and I’m not sure they’ll walk away.”

“I’m quite sure they won’t.” Lester sighed, reaching for the nearest file. “Don’t let me keep you,” he said without looking up. “I’m sure you have plenty to do.”

“Yes,” Matt agreed, letting himself out.

Jess was watching him and he crossed to stand by the ADD, absently examining the screens. “That was well done, Jess. You were perfect.”

“Are they alright? Abby and Connor?”

“Yeah. They’re just having some trouble adjusting. They’ll be fine.” He smiled at her, heading for his lab.

Becker found him there a couple of hours later, tending the plant Gideon had given him. It was going to be tricky to keep it in top condition here, so far from its’ tropical home, but Matt relished the challenge.

“How are Abby and Connor?” Matt asked, gesturing Becker in.

“Connor’s asleep. He fell asleep in the car on the way back. Abby was going to eat something and then join him. She didn’t want me to stay.”

“Sleep might be the best thing for them. They’re obviously exhausted.”

Becker leaned against the counter, watching him. “What do you care? He doesn’t really work here.” Matt mentally grimaced at the tone; Becker hadn’t been this openly antagonistic in months.

“We needed to get him away from Burton. Connor hasn’t been dealing any better than Abby has, he’s just been quieter about it. We needed to get him out of there before anything happened.” Matt considered him for a minute. “I want them back. You know that. I think we could really use them. But it isn’t my decision.”

“I don’t think it did him any good, hearing you say that.”

“I think he knew exactly why I was saying it,” Matt disagreed. “What happens now?”

“They take a few days off. Lester finds a way to get them back on the team. We go on.”

“We go on,” Matt echoed, knowing full well he meant more than the team.

The ARC had gone on without them, without Connor and Abby and Danny. But Matt was starting to see that it had been a pale imitation of itself. Connor and Abby could work wonders here, if they were allowed.

Becker left, apparently satisfied he’d made his point, and Matt touched the plant again. “We go on.”

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wildforce71: Takeru smiling. Sort of. A bit. (Default)
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