Word count: 4945
Pairing/s: Connor/Lester, Becker/Matt
Notes: During the Denial meet up last September, we were given prompts during a game of pass the parcel… I’ve had this written for ages but it never got posted. Mine were – ‘stuck out of time’ and ‘puppy eyes’
Notes (2): Set in the Moss ‘verse - full list here .
Notes (3): Title borrowed from a line in Aerosmith’s: I don’t wanna miss a thing.
Becker watched in dismay as the anomaly flickered out of existence, the light it had been emitting vanishing leaving nothing but the faint glow of the moonlight that filtered down through the trees. He turned to glare at Connor.
“Tell me again how the anomaly will stay open for hours, making it safe for us to go through?” he asked.
Connor sighed. “It’s not my fault! All the readings said the anomaly was strong and it didn’t look as though it would fade but this isn’t an exact science, you know.”
Becker just frowned at him. “Well, maybe you should have informed us that your readings are so unreliable before I authorised an exploratory trip through the anomaly.”
“It’s not as though I’ve got a degree in anomaly studies! I’m doing the best I can.”
“And now we’re stuck millions of years in the past, with no idea of when – or if – the bloody thing is going to re-open.”
“Is there any chance you two can leave this until later?” Matt interjected. “We’ve got bigger things to worry about at present, such as finding some kind of shelter before the local wildlife comes hunting for us.”
Connor looked grateful to get away from Becker’s irritated glare, quickly agreeing with Matt.
“At the risk of getting my head bitten off again,” Connor said, with a pointed glare at Becker, “I think I saw some caves in the rocks, just beyond the edge of the woods.”
The two men followed him back the way they had been earlier whilst exploring, to the gap in the rock face. They weren’t exactly spacious, just two small caves connected through a wide crack in the cliff, a short passageway leading them to the outside.
“This will do,” Matt said, crawling in and looking around. The split in the cliff that formed the entrance stretched up high, just enough to let a small amount of light inside but, once they blocked the lower section it would be safe from scavenging creatures. “In the morning, we can have a scout around for water and food.”
Matt waited until he and Becker were far enough away from the caves the following morning, leaving Connor behind to wait in case the anomaly reappeared while they went looking for fresh water.
“Are you going to tell me what all that was about yesterday?”
Becker frowned. “What?”
“Having a go at Connor. It wasn’t his fault that the anomaly closed unexpectedly.”
“I know,” Becker told him. “It’s just that, what is the point of all the time he’s put in working on his gadgets if people still end up trapped on the wrong end of an anomaly? I thought it was supposed to stop things like this happening.”
Matt sighed. “It is, but sometimes things go wrong.”
“I’ll apologise to him,” Becker promised, then hesitated. “What about Moss? I left him at the ARC until we got back, but then we got trapped. Who’s going to look after him if we’re stuck here for a long time?”
Matt smiled. Now they were getting to it; Becker treated that wolf cub as family so, naturally, he was worried. “He’ll be fine. Abby will probably take him home with her; she’s good with animals, she’ll be able to take care of him.”
“But he doesn’t like her very much.”
That was true; Abby had tried to bond with the cub, brought him treats and fussed over him, but Moss had never taken to her or Jess. He wasn’t particularly fond of females, Matt noted after seeing how happy he was to play with Connor or even Lester.
He did know that, no matter what, someone would take Moss in and make sure that he was cared for until Becker returned.
Lester glared at the three of them. “No.” He took in the pleading expressions on the faces before him, and repeated his response more firmly.
“Lester, it’s just until they get back. He won’t need much looking after, just food and water, a few walks and a bit of attention.”
“Then why don’t you look after him?”
Abby reached down to pet Moss, to demonstrate, and they all watched as the cub shied away from her hand, eyeing her suspiciously.
“Because he’s uncomfortable around me,” she said.
Lester looked down at the wolf cub, seeing him sitting patiently beside Jess, his ears drooping and big dark eyes staring up at Lester. Lester felt his resolve crumbling; the cub looked so miserable, and just a little bit pathetic…
He sighed. “Fine. Get his things together and I’ll take him home with me. It can’t be any worse than Connor’s damn pets, can it?”
Abby watched as Lester crouched down and held a hand out to Moss, the cub trotting happily over to him and sniffing his fingers. “See? He likes you.”
Lester couldn’t believe he’d been talked into letting yet another creature into his flat, but how could he have said no when Moss had looked at him like that?
Connor watched the two men returning. Becker looked a lot calmer than he had earlier, which was a relief. The man had been irritable since the anomaly closed and Connor wasn’t sure he could take being snapped at for every little thing again.
“Conn? I’m sorry about I said yesterday,” Becker began as soon as they got close enough. “I know there was nothing you could have done to prevent us getting stuck here.”
Connor smiled. “Thanks.”
Matt looked between the pair of them. “Good. Now that we’re friends again, how about some lunch? We have red berries or purple berries.”
“Are you sure they’re safe to eat?”
Before Matt could say anything, Becker answered for him. “He says they are. He’s already eaten one of each to prove it and he hasn’t keeled over yet.”
The rest of the day was taken up with trying to make some kind of alert system in case the anomaly returned, a task given to Connor as he’d used a similar set-up while trapped with Abby in the Cretaceous, while Becker and Matt attempted to make the cave a little more liveable. By the time they had finished, they’d managed to find foliage to sleep on, to make the hard ground a bit more comfortable, as well as lashing branches together to create a makeshift door to block the entrance with in order to keep out curious creatures.
While out hunting for a fresh water source, Becker had discovered that the stream they were following led to several shallow pools where a few fish were idly swimming around. His second discovery of the day was that Matt apparently knew how to catch them. Within an hour of him announcing that he ‘just needed to find a few things to go fishing with’, Matt had enough fish for dinner and was looking rather proud of himself.
“I can’t believe this is happening again,” Connor mused over a meal of berries and baked fish. “You’d think that my bad luck quota had been used up with being stuck for a year in the Cretaceous but no, here I am again. Stupid bloody anomalies.”
Becker sighed. “It could be worse,” he said. “We’ve got food, water, shelter, company… and nothing has tried to eat us yet.”
Connor frowned at him. “Since when did you become Mr Optimistic? This morning you were all doom and gloom. What’s with the sudden u-turn?”
“We’re stuck here no matter what I say; I’m just trying to make the best of it,” Becker replied huffily, picking up the fish bones and remains of their dinner and walking out to the edge of the tree line to bury it. Noting had tried to attack them so far but no one wanted to tempt fate by leaving food around that the wildlife might catch the scent of. Connor had suggested burying it as he and Abby had needed to do during their time in the past.
As soon as he was out of earshot, Matt turned to Connor. “Go easy on him, would you? He’s trying. He probably won’t like me telling you but earlier he wasn’t just worried about being stuck here.”
“Moss. He was worried about who would look after Moss if we were both stuck here for a while.”
Connor nodded, understanding. Everyone at the ARC knew how much Becker loved that wolf cub and so he could understand Becker’s fears over what would happen to him now. It was the same feeling he had when he had been trapped the first time and he thought about who would look after Sid and Nancy for him. Luckily he had Lester. He hadn’t expected to get home and find that Lester had not only taken the creatures in but had actually grown rather attached to them.
Lester looked down at the wolf cub currently sitting on the floor by his feet. The cub’s ears were flattened to his head, his eyes sad, as though he knew that something was wrong. Abby had gone with him to Becker’s house to collect some of Moss’s things such as his food and water bowls, his toys and his basket, and Moss had followed them inside. He had hurried from room to room, pausing only long enough to ascertain that no, Becker wasn’t in there, before moving on to the next one.
When Lester had brought him here, the cub had merely sat down and looked miserable. He hadn’t touched his dinner, not even the roast beef that Lester had tried to tempt him with when he didn’t want his own food.
“They’re going to come back,” Lester told the cub. “They will; they always do. If it’s any comfort, I miss them too. It seems awfully quiet here without Connor.”
There was the sound of squeaking and claws scrabbling on wooden floors moments before Sid and Nancy came into the room. When they saw Moss, they skidded to a halt, hesitated for a moment before pouncing on him. Lester had hoped that the two Diictodons would snap Moss out of his depression but it wasn’t working. Instead of playing with them as he usually would, Moss had backed himself against the sofa, curling himself under Lester’s legs.
He sighed, going to get the Diictodons some food to encourage them to leave Moss alone. After Connor’s previous prolonged absence and eventual return, Sid and Nancy seemed to handle Connor being away from them a lot better than Moss was managing now.
By the tine that Lester decided to go to bed a few hours later, the two Diictodons had worn themselves out playing with the various toys that Connor had left scattered around his once-tidy flat and were happily curled up on the fleece blanket in their cage. Moss, however, was still just sitting by the sofa.
Lester had changed into his pyjamas and was just about to get into bed when he heard a whimper. Moss was sitting in the doorway, watching him with those sad eyes.
“Fine,” he said, getting into bed and patting the space next to him. “Up you get. You can stay in here tonight.”
Moss’s ears perked up and he leapt onto the bed, walking in tight circles a few times before finally settling down next to Lester and resting his head on his paws. Lester reached over to scratch behind Moss’s ear before turning out the light.
Connor woke suddenly. He had heard a scuffling sound, only faint, but it had been enough to rouse him from slumber. What if something was trying to get in?
Seconds later, he realised that Becker and Matt were gone and the panic truly set in. What if they’d heard something too and gone to investigate? What if they’d been hurt?
He couldn’t face being here on his own.
Quietly getting up from the moss and leaf ‘mattress’ that had been spread across the cave floor to make it more comfortable, Connor picked up a heavy stick that he’d been carrying earlier for protection and crept out of the cave. He didn’t have to go far before he found both men, alive and well and completely distracted and wrapped up in each other. That was it, he decided, feeling his fear vanish and be replaced by anger.
“Thanks a lot!” he snapped. “I thought something had happened to you, that I was going to be left all on my own in this sodding place! You made me worry just so you could sneak off and have a shag? Well fuck you!”
“Connor, we weren’t doing anything!” Matt protested. “Well, okay, we were, but not what you think.”
“Yeah, looks like it,” Connor replied sarcastically.
Matt stepped away from Becker. “Connor, listen, would you? I couldn’t sleep and neither could Hils, so we came out here so as not to disturb you while we were talking.”
“I hate to break this to you, Matt, but talking generally doesn’t involve quite that much groping.”
Becker self-consciously tugged his jacket back into place. “For goodness’ sake, grow up Connor! It was a kiss, that’s all, and I would have thought you’re prefer us to do it out here than in the cave with you sleeping a few feet away!”
Connor shrugged his shoulders, the anger fading slightly. “I suppose. You should have told me that you were leaving, though. I can’t do this all by myself if anything happens to you two,” he admitted quietly.
“You won’t have to; we aren’t going anywhere,” Matt assured him. “Come on, let’s get back inside.”
As the three men returned to their makeshift beds, Connor looked over at Matt and Becker, lying together, wrapped around each other. Now that his anger or fear or the combination of both had subsided, he knew that he really didn’t mind them being like this, nor did he object to them sneaking outside for a bit of alone-time. He just needed to know where they were to keep his mind at ease.
“I didn’t mean to yell at you,” he said. “I found another little cave leading off this one that I can just fit into; I could go sleep in there if you wanted to… you know.”
He was glad that it was dark so that they wouldn’t see his face turning scarlet even he said it.
Matt laughed. “Conn, I’m sure we can keep our hands off each other for a while longer, until we get home.”
Or maybe that was the problem; he’d rather liked seeing them outside, Becker pressing Matt bodily against the rock face, the moonlight illuminating the look of sheer delight on Matt’s face from whatever Becker was doing with his hands… It had made him think of home. Of what was waiting for him there.
“I miss James,” he confessed. “Seeing you two made me think about him. What if we never get back? I’ll never be able to say goodbye to him. At least you two are here together.”
“We’ll get back; we always do,” Becker said, reaching out to Connor in the darkness. “Come on, let’s get some sleep.”
Connor tried but he couldn’t make his brain switch off, thoughts roiling around, what-ifs and maybes coming up with endless possibilities of how this could end. Eventually, he heard someone shift on the mattress and then hands were pulling him closer.
“Go to sleep,” Matt’s voice told him.
This time, Connor closed his eyes and sleep came. Lying close to another warm body helped.
The second time Connor awoke it was starting to get light outside. He could see the faint glow of dawn sunlight sneaking in through the gap in the rocks, just enough to let him see exactly who he had been cuddling in his sleep. Bugger. He was wrapped around Matt, his face pressed against Matt’s shoulder. Unfortunately, he couldn’t move away. Becker had somehow ended up on the opposite side of him to Matt and was still sound asleep. As Connor shifted, Becker pressed closer, sliding an arm around Connor’s waist and moulding his body along Connor’s back. Becker let out a soft sigh as Connor moved again, belatedly realising that his shuffling about was bringing new parts of Becker into contact with him. Oh dear. He really should find a way to change places with Matt, seeing as it was most likely Matt who Becker was dreaming about based on the cuddling and the unmistakable erection pressed against his arse.
Connor tried to edge away slightly, but that just disturbed Matt.
In the dim light, he saw Matt’s eyes open. The other man lifted his head to look over Connor’s body, to Becker, and he smiled.
“He’s a snuggler when he sleeps,” Matt whispered. “I should have warned you.”
Connor could feel his face heating up slightly. “It’s not the cuddling… he’s dreaming, I think.”
“Oh. Hold on a sec.” Matt carefully lifted the arm that Becker had around Connor, allowing the two of them to switch places. Becker never even stirred. Matt lay down on his back, putting Becker’s arm over his waist as it had been on Connor’s, and Becker immediately nestled in closer. “We might as well get a few more hours of sleep and then we can think about finding breakfast,” he whispered to Connor, getting comfortable.
Lester felt something warm and wet on his chin, the unexpected sensation rousing him from his sleep. He opened his eyes to find himself face to face with Moss, the cub standing over him and watching him curiously, pink tongue poking out as he prepared to lick Lester again.
“That’s quite enough of that,” Lester told him, ducking out of reach as he wiped his chin in distaste.
Moss glanced at the door when the sounds of enthusiastic squeaking came to their ears, telling Lester that Sid and Nancy were awake too. They probably wanted feeding.
“I suppose you’re hungry, too?” he asked Moss. The cub looked a bit happier today, but he still wasn’t quite his bright-eyed usual self. Lester got out of bed and found his slippers. “Now, you go and play with Sid and Nancy whilst I get myself up, and then breakfast, okay?”
Moss just lay down again, his head on his paws, and continued to watch as Lester moved about the room.
“Or you could just stay there, covering my bed with wolf hair,” Lester amended, though his criticism was half-hearted. He could see why Becker and Matt were so fond of the cub.
Once they had all eaten breakfast - Sid and Nancy consuming a large plate of diced fruit between them, Lester had his cereal and Moss, mainly because Lester still felt sorry for him, had pork chipolatas cut up in his bowl – Lester looked around the assorted pets.
“Well, what now? I’m all yours today. It’s Saturday, so I don’t have to work,” he told them all. “They will call me if they receive any news about your owners.”
Sid and Nancy, full after their breakfast, decided that it was time for another nap and waddled back into the lounge. He smiled; those two had probably been awake and playing around all night which was why they were still tired this morning. He glanced at Moss.
“I suppose it’s just you and me, then.” He went to find Moss’s collar and lead. “How about a nice walk in the park? You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” He slipped the collar onto the cub’s neck. “Well, it doesn’t matter; we’re going. Hair in my bed, I can tolerate, but puddles on the floor are a different matter entirely.”
They hadn’t gone far before Lester realised just how much of a people-magnet Moss was. His neighbour had come out of her flat just to pet Moss and tell him how adorable he was. Strangers he walked past wanted to ask about him or just say hello to the cub. As soon as they got to the park and he let Moss off the lead to have a run around, Lester sat down on one of the benches. He’d only been there a couple of minutes when two elderly women joined him. They were the owners of the two poodles and the Yorkshire terrier that were currently cavorting with Moss. The four animals were chasing each other around and pouncing on each other playfully. It was the happiest he’d seen Moss since bringing him home yesterday.
The two women seemed determined to coax him into conversation and ply him with mint imperials that one of the pair, Hilda, had produced from the depths of her handbag. They chattered about their dogs and asked about Moss, offering concern when Lester informed them that he was just taking care of Moss for a few days while his owner was ‘dealing with a personal emergency’. He didn’t elaborate and Hilda and Joan didn’t push, something which Lester was glad about seeing as he couldn’t tell them anything anyway.
A while later, Joan got up from the bench. “Time for a cup of tea, I think,” she said to Hilda, then turned to Lester. “Would you like to join us, young man?”
Lester smiled; it had been a long time since anyone had called him young. He rather liked these two, Hilda in particular reminded him of his gran when she had been alive.
“There is a lovely little café nearby,” Hilda told him, as she reclaimed her poodles and clipped them back onto their leads. “The couple who run it make their own cakes, too.”
Lester thought about it for a moment. He was enjoying talking to the pair of them, glad of a distraction. He knew that if he stayed here on his own, he would spend the whole time trying to stop his brain from running through every worst case scenario that could be happening to Connor. He knew that he’d be safe with Becker and Matt, or as safe as he could be while trapped in the past, but that didn’t stop him worrying.
“I would be delighted, ladies,” he said. “On one condition; this is my treat.”
“So what do you do, James?” Hilda asked as they walked. “Forgive me for saying this, but you look like the kind of person who doesn’t spend much time sitting in parks with a dog.”
Lester smiled. “You would be right. I’m a civil servant, managing a research team and trying to keep them out of trouble, and filling out endless reams of paperwork. It’s been rather relaxing to just sit and watch Moss running about. Of course, the company has helped,” he added.
“Give over!” Hilda scolded lightly, but looked delighted. “We’ve been talking your ear off for the past half hour.”
“My job is usually rather stressful and so just sitting and talking, or in this case, listening,” he teased, “is a pleasant change.”
They reached the shop on the edge of the park and Lester saw the café. It was obviously a dog-walker stop as there were bowls of water outside for the dogs and metal hooks set into the wall for leads to be hooked onto while the owners went inside to be served. Five minutes later, Lester carried a tray of tea and slices of cake to where the two women sat at one of the metal tables outside the cafe.
A short time later, Lester’s phone rang. For a moment, Lester thought it was the ARC ringing to tell him that the anomaly had opened again but it was just a marketing call about claiming back his PPI.
Two minutes later, it rang again. Again it was a marketing call.
“James, whatever is the matter?” Joan asked, frowning at his language when Lester swore at the phone as he put it away.
Lester nodded. “I’m waiting for a crucial phone call from my colleagues and I keep getting those stupid marketing calls instead.”
“My son is the same,” Hilda mused. “He can’t stay away from work, even on his day off!”
“It’s not like that. My partner, along with Moss’s owner and his partner, is currently missing,” Lester told him. “That’s why I'm looking after Moss. I’ve been waiting for the call to say that they’ve been found.”
Hilda looked horrified. “Missing? I’m so sorry, James.”
“You didn’t know. Anyway, they will be fine. They always are,” Lester said confidently. He had to believe that.
“Just what part of the civil service do you work in for people to go missing?” Joan asked curiously.
Before Lester could answer, or deflect the question entirely, his phone rang again. Lester picked it up and growled, “I don’t have any bloody PPI, so sod off!”
He heard Jess’s voice and froze.
“Jess? Are they back?”
“No sign of the anomaly yet. I’m sorry- I didn’t mean to get your hopes up,” she said. “It’s just that, well, I know how close you are to Connor and I wanted to check and see if you were alright.”
Now Lester felt guilty for snapping at her, even if it had been a misunderstanding. Every time one of them treated him as something other than ‘the boss’ he was surprised; Jess sounded genuinely worried about him, and he was touched.
“I’m fine, Jess. I was just taking Moss for a walk, trying to distract him; he’s missing Becker.”
He talked for a while longer and, when he put his phone back into his pocket, he could see the two women watching him over the table.
“One of my employees,” he explained. “She was checking up on me.”
Hilda smiled at him. “Sounded more like a friend than an employee to me.”
Four days and sixteen hours after it had closed, Becker glimpsed the telltale shimmering light through the trees. He had been sitting out on the rocks, getting the fire started while Matt and Connor brought back dinner.
“Matt! Connor!” He could see the two men walking toward him and quickly kicked dirt over the fire to extinguish it before hurrying to collect what few possessions they had brought with them.
By the time he emerged, Connor and Matt were close enough to talk to and he yelled at them again, pointing toward the trees. “It’s back; let’s go!”
They dropped the fish and berries that they were carrying and the three men raced back to the clearing, not willing to risk it closing again if they waited for too long.
The anomaly detector alarms started wailing just as Lester sat down in his office with a cup of tea and a stack of requisition forms in need of authorising. Then his secretary came into his office, not bothering to knock as she usually would, looking flustered.
“Jess says that the anomaly is back. The team are leaving now.”
He was on his feet and grabbing his jacket before she had even finished speaking. He paused long enough to rouse Moss from where the wolf cub was sleeping on a large beanbag doggy bed in the corner of his office and they headed out of the door.
Matt, Becker and Connor emerged from the anomaly to find themselves in the same field they had left mere days earlier, the trees long gone and turned into pasture.
“I thought they’d at least send someone to pick us up,” Matt grumbled, looking around. “I really don’t fancy walking home.”
“Well, considering that it’s a ten minute drive from the ARC but was only a two minute run for us to get to the anomaly, and accounting for the couple of second time-delay for the detector to interpret the data and sound the alarm-”
Matt glared at Connor but the young man just smiled back. When they heard the sound of vehicles approaching a short time later, Connor looked at his watch.
“Impressive; they made it in seven and a half minutes. I wonder how many speed limits they broke to do it.”
He was even more impressed when Lester emerged from the lead vehicle, looking completely out of place in his suit and tie, surrounded by Becker’s security team in their combats and tac vests and Abby in her scruffy jeans and jacket.
Clutched in Lester’s hand was a dog lead which Moss was straining against, trying to get free to get to Becker.
“I think they’re glad to have us back,” Matt observed as they got closer.
Lester unclipped Moss’s lead and let the wolf go before giving up any pretences of professionalism and hugging Connor.
Moss had his own welcome home in mind as he raced toward Becker and, when he was just a few feet away, pounced. Becker caught him, stumbling backwards under the weight of an ever-excited wolf cub, and would have overbalanced if not for Matt’s steadying hand at his back.
The following day when he took Moss into the ARC with him as he usually did, Becker was surprised when Moss calmly wandered up to Lester’s office and made himself at home on the big square dog bed in the corner. Lester glanced at the cub and then went back to his paperwork, dismissing Becker when he offered to take the cub back to his office for the day.
“Where’s Moss?” Matt asked when Becker made his way back to the Matt’s office.
Becker smiled, slightly bemused. “Bonding with Lester. He’s made himself at home in Lester’s office.”
“And Lester doesn’t mind?”
Matt looked amused. “A week ago he would have evicted the poor thing without a second thought. What on earth happened while we were away?”