Chapter 6- Gwen Cooper
“Pass me that syringe,” Abby instructed, crouching down and checking the still-unconscious creature lying on the ground.
Gwen looked in the medical kit next to her and handed Abby what she wanted. The anomaly had opened up into the late cretaceous, around the same time as the Dracorex lying before her had originated from.
“Right, we might want to get out of the way before he comes around,” Abby told them. “This will wake him up pretty fast and he’s going to be a bit cranky when it does.”
Cranky? Gwen watched as the Dracorex regained consciousness about five minutes later and decided that cranky had been an understatement. It looked royally pissed as it stumbled about, trying to get its balance. When one of the soldiers moved nearby, it noticed him and turned, baring its teeth and letting out a menacing growl, stepping in his direction. The man backed up, bringing his gun up to his shoulder.
“He’s just scared,” Abby told them in a low voice, indicating that they should all move further away. “It’s alright, we’re not going to hurt you,” she told the Dracorex in a soothing tone.
There was a growl in the distance, followed by a roar of a different pitch; it sounded as though there was a fight going on beyond the tree-line. The Dracorex’s head snapped around as its eyes searched the horizon for the other creatures. Suddenly, it took off at a run, heading for the trees without a backward glance.
“I feel kind of sorry to see him go,” Abby said sadly. “I’d got used to having him at the ARC. I know, he’s back where he belongs but still...”
After he was out of sight, Abby packed up the kit and passed it over to one of the soldiers. He fastened it back into the backpack he carried.
“Right, we’ve got exactly two and a half hours before Sarah opens the anomaly again,” Danny said. He grinned at Gwen. “Ready to go exploring?”
She nodded; she had been waiting for this. It had been one thing to see the bizarre menagerie back in the holding pens at the ARC but now she would get to see actual dinosaurs in their own surroundings. It was like a prehistoric safari.
“OK, a few ground rules,” Lieutenant Andrews told them, looking around them all. “No one goes anywhere alone. You stay together. Now most of these creatures, I’m told, hunt by movement; if they get too close, you keep still. If you feel threatened, you all have weapons. Do you feel confident in using them?” he asked Gwen. He had given them a brief training session before they left but she hadn’t used them before as the others had.
“I’m familiar with the firearms we use at Torchwood,” she said, and he nodded.
“Lastly, remember that I’m the one responsible for you whilst Becker is away, and it’s my head that will roll if anything happens,” he said. “Don’t do anything stupid and, yes, I do mean you, Quinn.”
Danny feigned offence but he couldn’t really protest since he did have to admit that he tended to get distracted a lot. And yes, sometimes, those distractions did accidentally put him in the path of angry creatures of gun-toting maniacs. It wasn’t his fault, really, but he nodded his agreement to Andrews. Turning to Gwen and smiling, he held out his arm.
“My lady, would you care to accompany me on a stroll. he asked in a hammy accent
Gwen laughed as she slipped her hand through his arm. “I would be delighted, sir.”
Abby set off in the opposite direction, accompanied by Andrews and another soldier. One of the men tagged along after Gwen and Danny whilst the other two remained by the anomaly.
“I didn’t expect it to look so…” Gwen paused, and Danny finished,
“Normal?” When she nodded, he said, “I thought the same thing the first time I came through one of these. I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t just a lot of grass and trees and stuff. Still, it’s better than some of the others we’ve been through.”
Gwen noticed the change in his tone. “Like which ones?”
“Future. We don’t actually know how far it is into the future,” he told her. “We’ve been through a couple of times; it’s a horrible place. There’s nothing left but these predators, and damn huge bugs- no people. Everything is abandoned and crumbling away into ruins.”
Danny nodded. “Believe me, it is. I just hope when the world gets to that stage, that I’m gone.” He let out a brief laugh and glanced down at Gwen, his smile back as he shrugged off the memories. “Enough doom and gloom; let’s explore.”
This era looked remarkably like their own, with a few exceptions. The landscape before them was almost completely dominated by trees, tall forests that echoed with the calls of the animals living in them. Every so often, there would be a clearing, where the trees around the edge would be brightened by a scattering of flowering creepers. Obviously, the flowers couldn’t live in the forest, where most of the light was blocked out in places, but they thrived in the sunlight. From what Sarah had told her before they had left, this period was really the pivotal point between the land being dominated by forests and the evolution of other kinds of plant life. The most significant being flowering plants.
As she went to take a closer look at one of the flowers, Gwen swatted at a large dragonfly-like insect as it buzzed at her before landing in the large white flower on the vine. It was really the first insects she had seen here, as though they all relied on the flowers and so stayed close by.
An hour later, after narrowly escaping being noticed by a group of squabbling juvenile creatures by hiding behind a thick patch of undergrowth for five minutes until they got bored and left, Danny indicated to a small rock outcropping.
“Come on, let’s take a break,” he suggested. “We’ll be able to see out over the valley from there.”
Their guard, Fisher, tagged along without any real enthusiasm, until they reached the rocks. Danny had been right; from here, they had a perfect view out over the valley and the various creatures that were down there. Although at a fair distance, they could watch them interact and hunt, listening to the various roars and growls that made up the prehistoric ‘conversation’.
She marvelled at a peculiar lizard-like creature that flew overhead on leathery wings, heading for one of the nearby trees. It landed gracefully and casually snapped at the insects still buzzing around.
“Having fun?” Danny asked.
“This is wonderful,” Gwen told him. “It’s so different to be able to see them just doing what they do and not in the pens back at the ARC. I am so glad that I came here.”
Danny grinned and slung an arm around her shoulders. “Do I know how to show a girl a good time or what?”
Gwen raised an eyebrow at him as Fisher hastily turned a laugh into a cough. “I hate to break it to you, but if you think this is a date then you don’t get out often enough.”
“Aw, come on, give a guy a break,” he complained, the smile never quite leaving his face. “I bring you to a prehistoric world and show you cool dinosaurs-”
“You were sent here because it’s your job,” she corrected, teasing. “And technically, Abby showed me the cool dinosaurs first.”
“Maybe I should have brought lunch,” Danny mused. “We could have had a picnic.”
“Probably not a good idea. The smell of food would have every creature here heading straight for us.”
“So, no lunch then. OK, how about…” He leaned in to whisper the rest, glancing to Fisher to make sure he wasn’t listening.
Gwen stared at him. “Danny Quinn, just what kind of girl do you think I am?” Fisher looked their way, his curiosity turning to a snort of laughter as Gwen muttered. “’Make me breakfast; I know your game, matey.”
They watched the dinosaurs a little longer before heading back to meet the others at the anomaly and make the brief trip home. As they waited for the anomaly to be reopened, Andrews checking his watch for the pre-arranged time, Danny glanced at Gwen.
“So, you never did answer my question,” he said. “How about it?”
Gwen saw Fisher watching them, listening curiously. She decided to put Danny out of his misery and stop pretending to be offended. She smiled.
The debriefing back at the ARC was fairly quick, since no major catastrophes had happened whilst they were through the anomaly. Lester had eyed Danny somewhat nervously when they came in, his suspicion turning to relief when the ex-policeman had apparently behaved himself this time.
Gwen left with Abby not long after, heading home to get tidied up before she was due to meet Danny. Abby had been teasing her for the past half hour, as well as berating Danny for his rather dubious choice of pick-up lines.
“Offering to make her breakfast?” she said. “That’s just terrible.”
Danny smirked. “Worked, didn’t it?”
Abby gave him a slap on the arm as he ducked past her. “There’ll be more where that came from if you upset her.”
“Relax. I like her, OK?” he told her. “I’m making dinner for her- the breakfast thing was a joke.”
Abby relented, smiling. “Well, in that case, she’s partial to Italian food, in case you’re stuck for ideas.”
“Oh, wow; this looks great,” Gwen said as Danny showed her through to his kitchen. He had a dining table set up, covered with a red tablecloth and set with a candle in the centre.
“So do you,” he said, taking her coat. Gwen smiled to herself, pleased, thinking that he’d made an effort himself as well. As he turned away to hang her coat up, she took a moment to admire his backside in his black jeans. Nice.
He served a delicious dinner, entertaining her with stories about the creatures he’d seen since starting at the ARC and about his family, asking all the right questions in return. They took their wine through to the lounge after dinner and before Gwen realised it, the clock had turned 11pm. Not that she wasn’t enjoying herself, but…
“Are you going to talk all night?”
It took a moment, but when it dawned on Danny what she meant, he grinned, his cheeks flushing slightly.
“I didn’t want you to think I was serious about that breakfast joke. Abby already told me off for that,” he added.
Gwen rolled her eyes. “Get over here.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied, inching toward her on the sofa and closing his lips over hers.
The kiss was tentative, a slow exploration. Danny smiled into the kiss as Gwen shifted onto his lap backing off a little way.
“Now, about that breakfast…”
“I thought you said you weren’t that kind of girl?” he teased.
Gwen’s smile faltered. “I don’t want you to think I do this all of the time. I don’t, but I like you,” she said.
“I was just joking. I have this tendency to speak before I think; I didn’t mean to offend you.” He brushed a strand of her dark hair off her cheek. “Just for the record, I don’t do this a lot either. I’m not that kind of guy.”
Gwen laughed, realising how silly it had sounded, and kissed him again.
A few hours later, Danny lay propped on his elbow, smiling at Gwen as she slept beside him. There was a serious danger that he could become very attached to her, even though he knew that she would only be here for another week or so. They were just so alike- she laughed at his jokes and listened to his stories, they could talk about their jobs and previous time with the police. She even understood how life at the ARC could take over sometimes, since he was sure that Torchwood was the same. Someone not associated with that kind of project wouldn’t get it, but Gwen did.
This was ridiculous, he told himself. He’d known her for a couple of days but he hadn’t met anyone he had such an instant connection with in a long time.
Just go to sleep, he thought, and stop acting like some schoolgirl with a crush. It wasn’t as though she had to leave tomorrow so he still had a little more time. It would probably be better to keep this little attack of sentimentality to himself, however.
She rolled over in the bed and curled herself against his chest and he lay back down, slipping an arm over her waist. He could figure this out in the morning.