Pairing: Hilary Becker / Matt Anderson
Word Count: 5,140
Summary: The anomalies have gone public and the team are just finding out the price to their newfound fame.
Notes: Slightly crack-fic. Any similarity between a certain event recently visited by denialists, or to guests mentioned, is definitely intentional.
Warnings: Canon character deaths mentioned
The stars of the show
“Please, don’t make me do this,” Becker pleaded. “I’ll work double shifts every day for a month. Two months!”
Lester just smiled pleasantly. “This has been arranged for some time, and I’ve already told them that you’re going to be there. You, Matt, and Abby.”
“For a bloody TV and Film convention? We’re not actors or film stars or any of that crap.”
“There will be a number of other non-actors there –writers and such- and besides, since the anomalies and the ARC were cast into the public eye, like it or not, people know who you are. They want to meet you, to ask things; it will be good publicity to have our people there to answer questions, to put an approachable face to the project.”
Becker knew he was losing the battle but he wasn’t going down without a fight. “If it’s so important then why aren’t you going?”
“Because one of the perks of being in charge is being able to delegate,” Lester told him. “It’s just one day; for goodness’ sake, Becker, just grow a pair and deal with it.”
Staring at Lester, Becker tried to work out if he’d really heard what he thought he did. No matter, he thought, trying a different approach.
“But I’m going to be useless- at least Matt and Abby can answer questions about the creatures and the anomalies and all the science stuff. I can’t, so why do I have to go?”
Lester’s smile widened worryingly. “Becker, have you seen any of the websites that have been springing up recently? No? Well we have to monitor them in case anything appears that we don’t wish to be splashed across the internet and do you know what the most popular site is?”
Becker shook his head.
“Yours. I believe that you have quite a following by now, which is why the organisers requested you specifically to attend.” Lester picked up his pen again, effectively ending the discussion. “On Saturday morning, a fortnight from now, you will be at the convention centre at 9am sharp. Understood?”
As Becker sighed, nodding miserably, Lester glanced at the door.
“I presume that Matt is still hanging about outside, waiting to try and talk his way out of it too. If he is, please inform him that my decision is final and not to waste his breath arguing about it.”
Becker let himself out, finding Matt and Connor waiting in the corridor.
He shook his head and Matt swore. Connor looked equally disappointed, though Becker couldn’t for the life of him work out why. Connor didn’t have to go to the damn thing; he was one of the lucky ones who got to stay behind and keep the ARC running.
Connor knocked on Lester’s door, flinching when he heard the annoyed-sounding ‘come in’. As he entered, Matt said,
“He wants to go. I think he was hoping that if one or both of us got let off the hook, he could take our place.”
Becker looked back at the door and shook his head in disbelief. “Weird.”
The daily activity of the ARC was the equivalent of reality TV now; it was like Police, Camera, Action but with added dinosaurs. The decision had been made somewhere in the Home Office, presumably by someone who didn’t actually have to take part, that it would be a good way to ease the fears that the public had after being introduced to the anomalies in such a drastic way during the convergence. It would make them more comfortable in knowing a little about what happens in the ARC and being able to get to know the people who are protecting them, the memo had said. So, the cameras were allowed inside for a couple of days each week to film the goings-on; a weekly programme being broadcast, showing the exciting bits of their week as well as behind the scenes segments where they were interrogated about their private lives by a presenter who was too nosy for her own good. As the primary team they had become the focus, the stars of the show, whether they liked it or not.
The ARC had become an overnight sensation; the ratings on that first screening had beaten every other channel and had continued to do so ever since. As they had all avoided any media coverage associated with the programme, it hadn’t hit the team just how popular it had become until they started being recognised in the street. Unfortunately, that was both a blessing and a curse. It meant that while the public were more aware of the anomalies, of the dangers they could present, and that the police and emergency crews were more willing to assist them now that they actually knew what they were dealing with. On the downside, this new knowledge brought out the spectators. Each time they were called to an anomaly, the team found themselves being watched by members of the public waiting around for something interesting to happen.
There were times when, despite the extra assistance it gave them, Becker wished that they could go back to how it was. He missed the times when no one knew what an anomaly was, choosing to run away from it rather than stand around and watch.
At 8:30am on Saturday morning, Matt and Becker sat in the car park waiting for Abby to arrive, trying to remain in the car and avoid this fiasco in the making for as long as possible. A few minutes later, Abby’s car pulled up alongside theirs and she got out and came over to them. Connor was bouncing along happily beside her, having managed to talk Lester into letting him attend too.
“You can’t hide out here all day, you know,” she told them when Matt wound down the window.
She was right, Becker thought, relenting and getting out to follow her and Connor to the guest entrance of the convention centre. Inside it was already busy with stallholders setting up in the main area, and other guests arriving, being shown to their tables where they would sign autographs for fans. He hadn’t even started yet and Becker already felt ridiculous; despite Lester’s assurances, he couldn’t think who the hell would want his autograph.
Lester had assured them that all they would have to do was play nice for the public, sign a few things, and then do a half hour questions and answers session. That was until yesterday, when he’d announced a slight change to the programme and now they would be required to do a fifteen minute photo session with fans as well.
And they wanted Becker to wear his uniform of black combat gear.
In a move that partly hopeful and partly trying to be awkward just because he felt like causing as much of a headache for Lester as possible about this, Becker had countered that he’d only wear it if he could take his guns as well. Lester had backed down quickly and agreed that he could dress how he wanted. It was a shame, really; Becker would have felt better about this whole thing if he could have brought his guns.
Someone said his name and he looked up as a young woman in her twenties, with blonde hair and an early morning perkiness that could rival Jess, approached with three others. They were all wearing identical blue t-shirts with the organisers’ logo on them, staff ID tags hanging around their necks.
“Mr Becker, hi! I’m Holly and I’ll be looking after you today. Mr Anderson, you’ll be with Lucy. Miss Maitland? Tasha has been assigned to you, and Jonathan will be looking after Mr Temple.”
The assigned minders all introduced themselves to their charges before Holly, obviously a step up the food chain from the rest of the Blue Shirts, began directing them to their tables.
Becker looked up in horror at the three foot high picture of him that had been mounted above one of the desks, a shot of Matt next to him. They were from some publicity photos that had been done when details of the ARC had been broken to the world. He hadn’t liked that picture then, and he still didn’t.
“We’ve placed you and Mr Anderson next to each other-”
Mat smiled at her. “It’s just Matt, sweetheart, not Mr Anderson.”
The girl nodded. “Of course, Matt. And Mr Becker, what would you prefer us to call you?”
Holly’s smile faltered slightly and Becker could see that she was expecting him to be trouble. He sighed.
“Fine. You can call me Hils.”
Her smile turned back up full again and she got back to business. As though sensing safety in numbers, Holly and Lucy, Matt’s minder, showed them around together, telling them where the facilities were and filling them in on the schedule for talks and photos. He was grateful for that; being stuck on his own all day with just Little Miss Perky for company would have driven him crazy. At least now he had Matt to talk to.
“Where’d Abby and Connor go?” Matt asked suddenly, looking around.
Lucy pointed to a couple of desks almost opposite theirs where Abby and Connor’s pictures were.
“We originally had you all sitting together here but, when Mr Temple joined you, we moved Miss Maitland so that he wouldn’t be sitting alone. Is that alright? Mr Lester suggested that you two would be-”
Becker could probably guess what Lester had said. “Less of a problem if you put us together?” he finished and, seeing Lucy’s cheeks tinge pink for a moment, knew that he was right. Now he felt a bit guilty for plotting his escape as they had been showing him around; he’d been mentally logging every fire door and exit point since he arrived, just in case. “Relax- we’re not going to make your lives difficult today.”
“No,” Matt agreed, a wicked smile curving his lips. “We’re saving that for Lester for sending us here in the first place.”
Holly and Lucy shared a relieved look as they steered their charges to their tables, showing them the photos that were set out to be signed, where spare pens were and so on.
An hour later and Becker was starting to think that an anomaly would be nice right about now. Since the doors had opened and the public let in, he’d seen people dressed as Stormtroopers, various Doctor Who incarnations, every single superhero you could imagine, cartoon characters, television characters. There were even a couple of people dressed like him, complete with BDU’s and fake guns. He was starting to suspect that Lester had been telling the truth about him having a following online. It wasn’t just that, though; the place was packed, with people just watching or taking photos, or pointing and talking between themselves. That, he found a little unsettling, seeing them point toward him and Matt before giggling to themselves.
The queue at his table for autographs was currently being shepherded into some kind of order by another Blue Shirt who he couldn’t remember the name of. The poor woman was trying her best to direct the crowd, all clutching cameras and babbling excitedly when they reached the front. He did his best to be friendly, asking them about their costumes or where they’d come from, being a good sport and posing for pictures with them, all the while still feeling slightly bemused by the whole thing.
Holly nudged his arm as another photograph was slid across the desk in front of him to be signed, and he smiled at the teenage boy holding it.
“Hi. Who would you like it making out to?”
“Craig. Wow, it is so cool to meet you! I’ve watched every episode of The ARC and I’ve decided that’s what I want to do when I leave school.”
Becker smiled politely, having heard this countless times already today. People thought it was a fun job, being able to see prehistoric creatures, getting cool guns -or maybe that was just him, he thought- but it wasn’t always. That was just the parts they showed on TV. In reality, it was long and difficult days, people getting hurt; they still had people missing, and some had given their lives for the project.
He signed the photograph and posed for a picture, but didn’t encourage the boy, turning his attention to the next person in the queue as the lad moved away toward his waiting friends, showing them Becker’s autograph.
A few hours later there was finally a lull in traffic around the desks and Becker made a run for it, telling Holly he was going for a cup of tea. On his way past Matt he indicated in the direction of the Staff Only area behind the tables, a little dismayed to see Holly and Lucy get up too as Matt followed him.
“That last woman slipped me her phone number!” Matt said as soon as they’d got their tea and were sitting in the relative quiet on the stairs out back, away from the chaos for a while. He showed Becker the slip of paper with her number on it, a little heart drawn at the end. “Why on earth would she do that?”
Becker rolled his eyes, making the two girls laugh. “Have you looked in a mirror lately?” He glanced at the girls. “He can be a bit dim at times,” he joked.
“Oh, shut up,” he said, leaning over and deliberately messing Becker’s hair, watching as Becker fussed about to neaten it again. “I’m not used to people doing things like that, that’s all.”
Lucy stared in amazement. “Really? I would have thought it’d happen a lot. To be honest, I would have done it myself if I hadn’t seen the way you two kept looking at each other and realised it would have been pointless.” Her eyes widened slightly in alarm as she saw the look pass between them. “Sorry; I shouldn’t have said that. It’s none of my business.”
Becker shook his head. “It’s okay; we’d just prefer to keep our personal relationship out of the public eye if possible.”
“Well, we won’t say anything,” she promised, Holly nodding too.
They sat there for a while longer until Holly looked at her watch.
“It’s almost eleven o’clock,” she said. “We should be getting the talk area; your colleagues are probably already there.”
Reluctantly, Becker finished his tea and got up. This was the part he was dreading; he’d meant what he said in Lester’s office about feeling like a spare part for the questions and answers session, and he said as much to Matt. As the two girls set off, Matt waited until they were far enough ahead that he could steal a moment with Becker.
“Finally,” Becker muttered, as Matt backed him against the wall to crush their lips together. He’d been so close yet so far from Matt all day, sitting next to him but unable to do much more than touch his arm on the way past or when he spoke to him. In fact, the closest he’d got was when a couple of fans had asked to take a picture of them both. He’d draped an arm over Matt’s shoulders as he felt Matt’s fingers trail down his back, unseen by those taking pictures.
“Do you think anyone would notice if we disappeared for an hour? Let Abby and Connor get interrogated instead.”
Matt laughed softly. “I don’t think they’d go for that,” he said. He brushed another quick kiss over Becker’s lips. “It’ll be fine. I promise I’ll let you answer all of the weaponry questions.”
They moved apart as Holly’s blonde head poked back through the doors, asking them, firmly but politely, to hurry up.
The four of them were led up onto the stage where chairs had been positioned behind a long desk, microphones placed along it. They had been instructed to introduce themselves and then talk a little bit about what the ARC did- though why they needed to, Becker wasn’t sure. This was what that bloody TV show had already done, or at least what the presenter had claimed that the interviews were for. A kick to his ankle from Matt and a whispered, “Stop glaring; you look like you’re contemplating taking an assault rifle to the lot of them”, made him smile, much to the relief of Holly, who shot Matt a grateful look.
Becker should have listened to his first instincts, he decided, when the first question was asked. The rest of it hadn’t been that bad so far, but he just knew that this whole questions and answers thing was a bad idea. When one of the Blue Shirts went into the crowd, holding a hand held microphone out to a woman near the back of the crowd, the first question was,
“Mr Becker? I noticed that you weren’t wearing a wedding ring but do you have a girlfriend?”
He sighed. “No, I do not,” he said, adding silently, but my boyfriend is sitting right beside me.
A boyfriend who was currently trying his best not to laugh and failing spectacularly. Becker glared out of the corner of his eye.
“Come on, now; let’s respect their privacy and refrain from asking personal questions,” the Blue Shirt reminded the audience. “Who else has something they’d like to ask?”
After that, they fielded questions about everything and anything. What was their favourite creature? Something that was cute and harmless, Becker and Matt agreed, whereas Abby chose the Mammoth and Connor spent a couple of minutes raving about the G-Rex. What was it was like going through an anomaly? How did Connor build the detector? What kind of guns did they use and why use EMD’s rather than ‘proper’ guns? Becker was sure that Matt had paid the kid to ask that question. Of course, he had to play up the EMD’s non-lethal angle, but he was pretty sure he had raved about his Mossberg in a similar way to Connor’s enthusiastic reply about the G-Rex.
A man near to the front of the audience raised his hand, waiting until someone held a microphone out to him.
“I’d like to ask how the dinosaurs are created. Are they animatronics, or do they use CGI and green-screens to put them in later?”
The four of them looked at each other in disbelief, the audience turning to stare at the man.
“It’s real, mate,” Matt told him. “The creatures aren’t ‘created’ at all; they come through the anomalies. You’ve seen it for yourself on the news or in the papers, and on the show.”
The man shrugged his shoulders. “They showed us footage of the moon landings in 1969 too, but we all know that was a hoax. It was filmed in a studio,” he argued. “I mean, dinosaurs, holes in time… you can’t expect us to believe that.”
Connor stood and walked down the steps toward the man. “I doubt that animatronic creatures could do this,” he said, tugging up the side of his shirt to show a particularly nasty scar from a pissed off creature that had swiped a claw across his ribs during his time in the past. “Or would CGI creatures have torn Stephen apart or killed Ryan and Sarah? Or left me and Abby stranded in the cretaceous for a whole bloody year? We’ve still got a man missing, a friend we don’t even know if he’s alive or dead, after going through an anomaly.”
The man took a step backwards, looking shocked. He opened his mouth to say something else but the Blue Shirt near to him moved the microphone away and said something that made him sit down and be quiet.
Jonathan, Connor’s minder for the day approached him, and Becker heard him ask if Connor needed to take a break. Connor shook his head, going back up to the stage and leaving Abby and Matt to field another question about the creatures while Becker edged his chair closer to Connor’s, making sure he was alright. There were still a number of conspiracy theorists out there, people who thought that the anomalies were a hoax; Becker didn’t understand how, after everything they’d seen, people still didn’t believe that it was real. Connor seemed to cheer up again as he listened to Abby and Matt talking about the creatures, smiling as Abby recounted the story of a particularly entertaining capture that had ended with Connor, Becker and a sedated creature falling into a river. At the time, Becker remembered, it hadn’t been that funny but then he’d been cold and wet and had to fish a heavy, stunned creature out of the water at the time. Hearing it from Abby’s point of view, however, he understood why she’d been laughing so hard and why Matt- it had been before his time- found it so amusing now.
As she finished her story, Abby nodded to the Blue Shirts standing at the back of the audience, next to a small table. Two more of them carried a large wooden crate, covered with a blanket, onto the stage and Abby spoke to the audience.
“Now, we have a treat for you but I must insist that for the rest of this session, you all remain quiet and calm and do not use any flash photography.”
As she finished speaking, the Blue Shirts at the back of the room opened the plastic pet-carrier that they had brought in a few minutes earlier, letting Rex out. The little green lizard walked out of the carrier, looking around curiously until Abby called his name. Chattering happily he took to the air, showing off and doing a loop before gliding over the audiences’ heads. Eventually, he came to a stop, landing on the table in front of Abby and taking the piece of melon she held out for him.
“This is Rex. He’s a Coelurosauravus, and he comes from the Permian era. He got trapped here a few years ago when the anomaly to his home closed before we could get him back through.”
There was a loud squeaking from the covered box and Abby laughed. “I think that someone else is trying to remind us that they’re waiting to be let out.”
Becker and Connor each reached into the box and picked up one of the squirming creatures, sitting them on the table. For today, to prevent any escapes, Sid and Nancy were both wearing canvas dog harnesses that were clipped to leads.
“And these little guys,” Connor said, passing Sid’s lead to Matt so that he could address the audience without trying to wrangle Sid at the same time, “Are called Sid and Nancy, and they’re Diictadons.”
The pair of them talked a bit more about their pets and some of the other animals in the menagerie before opening the floor to questions again. It had been a good move, Becker thought as he petted Nancy’s head absently, bringing in possibly the most harmless and cute-looking creatures they’d come across to show-and-tell. Sid was still waddling along the desk as far as his lead would let him, but Nancy had lost interest and was nudging Becker so that he’d continue to pet her. He had to admit that Connor and Abby were good at this, engaging the crowd and telling them just enough to keep them interested but not too much so as to overwhelm them with details. There was only one slight hitch, when someone broke the ‘no photography’ rule and took an impromptu picture mid talk. As the flash went off, Sid started squawking, alarmed, which set Nancy off too. The camera was confiscated until the end of the session and the animals were calmed down as Connor picked up from where he’d been before the interruption.
Before long, however, their time was up and Becker and Matt sat at the front of the stage with Sid and Nancy, letting their audience come and have a closer look. The two little creatures seemed to be enjoying the attention, especially when Connor had passed out chunks of fruit for people to feed them with. Rex, having noticed the treats, had started showing off again, spreading his wings and posing on the desk before taking to the air in a low fly-by over the crowd’s heads in order the hopes of getting a share of Sid and Nancy’s fruit.
Eventually, Abby opened his carrier and called his name, and he returned, landing on the desk and walking inside for her to close the door. The Diictadons were put back into their box and covered once more so that the lights and noise and flashes of cameras outside of the talk area wouldn’t bother them. They were spending the day with a friend of Abby’s a few miles away, only being brought here for their brief appearance. Now, they would be driven back as Becker, Matt, Abby and Connor went for lunch.
Lucy had been watching from the side of the stage as the Diictadons were carried back out toward the Staff Only areas, looking on as Connor put them back into their regular cage. It would be harder for them to escape from that during the drive than it would from an open-topped crate. Becker had seen her almost daring herself to go and pet them after the talk but she had never quite plucked up the courage. He got Connor’s attention, nodding his head in Lucy’s direction.
“You can come and see them if you want,” Connor told her. “They don’t bite- well, not unless you’re a shoe. They seem rather partial to shoes.” He saw her hesitation and brought Nancy back out of the cage. “See? She’s really friendly.”
Lucy edged closer, crouching down and eventually daring herself to reach out and touch Nancy’s head. When Nancy squeaked excitedly, scampering closer to nudge her knees for more, Lucy pulled her hand away. Moments later, she started petting Nancy again, a huge smile on her face as the little creature fussed around her, begging for attention.
Holly came over to join her, as did Tasha and Jonathan, and Connor let Sid back out again. The two Diictadons were quite happy to be the centre of attention once more but soon he had to put them back into their cage and hand them over to Abby’s friend. Although they seemed content here at present, as soon as lunch was over he wouldn’t be able to look after them and the last thing that any of them wanted was two bored Diictadons chewing their way out of their cage and going walkabouts.
After lunch it was photograph time. Becker found himself being shown to another room, this one with a plain curtain backdrop behind where they told him to stand. People were brought in, one by one, to have their photograph taken with him. He hugged if they asked him to, or posed, making small talk with them while the photographer got his shot. With the exception of the middle-aged woman who put her arms around him and pinched his arse just as the photo was being taken, grinning at him suggestively, he found it rather amusing. He still couldn’t believe that so many people wanted their picture taken with him, not when there were so many famous and iconic actors around the convention, but he had to admit that it was flattering.
For a long time, they’d had to keep their work at the ARC a secret, never getting any recognition for the sometimes-awful job they did. Now, there were people he’d watched on television coming to him to tell him how much they admired the work they did. And the public, the very people they had shielded from the anomalies without their knowledge, came up to say thank you.
“If I didn’t know better I’d suspect you were enjoying yourself,” Matt teased a few hours later as Becker came back toward his desk. He’d already been back once to grab a photo before hurrying back into the crowds. Now he sat down.
Becker smiled, admitting, “It’s kind of fun.”
“’Says the man who offered to work double shifts for two whole months if Lester would let him stay at the ARC- yes, I heard you begging.”
“I was not begging.”
“Were too,” Matt argued, leaning in closer to whisper, “and I should know what that sounds like, shouldn’t I?”
Becker felt a blush creeping across his cheeks as images of just what Matt was talking about flashed through his mind.
“That was before I realised who else was here,” Becker told him, ignoring Matt’s comment and holding out the plastic case he held in his hand, showing him the contents. “Look! Anthony Head- you know, Giles from Buffy! When me and Connor went for a cup of tea earlier, he was in the queue and he started talking to us.”
“And you asked for his autograph?”
Becker shook his head. “Not there; that would have been weird. I asked when we walked back to his table with him. Had my picture taken with him, too. And get this,” he said, beaming happily, “He actually asked for mine, too! How awesome is that? He wanted my autograph. He said that he admired the work we all did.”
Matt sniggered. “You are such a fanboy.”
“I am not! Anyway, it was just the one,” Becker protested. “Connor’s got about twenty autographs; he’s been geeking out all day. And Abby’s been to see some bloke from Lord of the Rings at least three times.”
Matt didn’t look convinced. “And you’ve only got one?”
“Well, alright, it was two. I met Adam Baldwin as well, but you know how much I love him in Chuck.” Becker flipped over the plastic case to show him the other signed picture. “There are a few others who’ll be here tomorrow who I’d just love to meet too; Mitch Pileggi and Nicholas Lea from the X-files will be here. Maybe we could ask Lester for tomorrow off and come back…” He saw Matt share an amused look with their two chaperones and frowned. “What?”
“I’ll let you do the honours,” Matt told Holly.
“Your boss, Mr Lester, already agreed to you appearing tomorrow as well,” she said.
“What? When did he arrange that?”
“Three months ago,” Matt informed him, “When he agreed to us attending in the first place. They told me a while ago.”
Lester had lied to them to get them here, knowing that they’d refuse if he’d told them it was for the whole weekend.
He smiled. Thank goodness Lester was a sneaky bastard.