Pairing: Becker/Lester, Connor/Ryan
Word Count: 4280
Summary: Connor sees an opportunity to save Ryan when an anomaly opens up to the Permian.
Notes: This started as a fic provisionally called ‘Save Ryan, Save the world’ (yes, I’d been watching re-runs of Heroes at the time...Save the cheerleader, save the world) – I wondered how different things would have been if Ryan had lived and gone back through the anomaly with Cutter, just that one moment changing everything that came after. Some of that ended up in this fic, although it went off in a different direction at the start.
Notes (2): Part of Primeval Denial’s fic finishing challenge.
“So, let me get this straight,” Ryan said in disbelief. “I’m dead, or at least, everyone thinks I am.”
Connor nodded. “Yep. But you’re not really dead, are you? I mean, you’re talking to us right now.”
“And would you mind explaining why you just shot the professor with a tranq?” he asked, looking down at Cutter, lying on the ground next to them and drooling onto his jacket collar.
Twenty feet away were the bodies of two creatures, one killed by the other and the winner from bullet to its skull. Ryan had to admit that the dark haired bloke in the body armour – Becker, Connor had introduced him as – was a good shot. He’d taken the creature out with one bullet and from quite a distance.
He’d seen the professor fall first, even though nothing had come close enough to injure him. Helen had made a run for it as soon as they got here and so he was pretty sure that she hadn’t done anything to him. His confusion only grew when he saw the pink feather tipped tranquiliser dart sticking out from between Cutter’s shoulder blades. The dinosaur was still advancing on them after having killed the future predator and now Cutter was out cold. Great, he thought; this day just couldn’t get any worse.
He had his hand to his gun as the creature pounced but he never had the chance to fire. A single shot rang out and the creature stopped. In any other circumstances, the look on its face would have been comical, its eyes widening in surprise before it crumpled into a heap on the ground.
There was a single bullet hole, right between its eyes.
“We couldn’t let Cutter know we’d been here,” Connor told him. “The less people we have exposure to, the better.”
Ryan frowned. They had never cared about things like that before.
“We know better now,” Connor said when he voiced that thought. “When you get back, it’ll be a bit different. At least it will if you remember it before. To everyone else it’ll just be like it’s always been.”
“Connor, you’re making about as much sense as you usually do,” Ryan pointed out. “And by that I mean ‘not a lot’.”
The dark haired bloke let out a snort of laughter, shutting up again when Connor glared at him.
“Now, this is where it gets complicated,” Connor continued.
“You mean it wasn’t before?”
“Would you just listen? Thank you. So, originally, you never made it back from this anomaly… If you go back now it will change everything but it could also screw this up. You see, if you go back now then Becker won’t get hired, which means he won’t be there to come back with me to shoot the creature and save you now.”
Ryan frowned. “So why can’t I just tell them to hire him when it’s time?”
Connor shook his head. “His appointment as head of security was a result of a number of things happening,” he explained. “Some awful, horrible, scary things, but if we stop them from happening then none of this will happen.”
“So what do you expect me to do? You save my life so that I can what? Just stay here forever?”
“Of course not. You can come back with us.”
Ryan went out of the cave they were sheltering in to find Becker sitting on a tree stump nearby, toying idly with the rifle balanced across his lap. When he heard Ryan’s footsteps he turned, rifle up and aimed, before realising who it was.
Ryan smiled. “Glad to see you’re looking out for him,” he said, nodding in the direction of the cave where Connor was sleeping. They had another three hours until Connor said that they anomaly was going to open up again; it was only six hours since they’d pushed a half-conscious Cutter back through the anomaly just before it closed and he was already restless and anxious. He hated waiting. How Connor was managing to sleep through it was beyond him.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Becker told him. “Keep wondering how much trouble we’ll be in when we get back. This trip wasn’t exactly authorised.” At Ryan’s raised eyebrow, Becker continued. “Connor worked out where the anomaly went and he said he was going whether Lester gave him the go-ahead or not. I was sent to keep an eye on him, make sure he didn’t do anything stupid, but… well, I couldn’t let him come through on his own.”
Ryan took a seat next to Becker on a rock. He’d had to rethink his first impressions of the soldier; while he’d admired Becker’s skills as a marksman, he’d thought the man himself to be distant, cold even. But risking his career by not only letting Connor go through the anomaly after it had been forbidden but also going with him so that he wouldn’t have to do it alone had changed Ryan’s opinions of the man.
He thought of the tale that Connor had told him, of the loss and pain that they had been through since that fateful mission. Stephen, Cutter… he couldn’t believe they were both gone. He couldn’t help but compare what he’d left behind with what he’d been told, what he now saw. Connor had changed in those two years, going from a geeky kid who was always acting the fool and getting into trouble to a smart, capable young man. It had been a shock to see him at first; he’d filled out, obviously from exercise and training, and he’d handled the tranquiliser gun with casual ease as though he used guns with regularity. The Connor he’d known had been enthusiastic but accident prone; no one ever dared to give him a gun in case he accidentally shot someone from the team.
He’d always had a soft spot for Connor but he was just a kid… Now Connor had grown up. Now a little voice in the back of Ryan’s mind told him that he was allowed to acknowledge the attraction.
“He wouldn’t turn you down.”
Ryan frowned at Becker as the other man’s voice broke into his thoughts.
“He practically worships the ground you walk on,” Becker continued. “When he realised where this anomaly led, his only thought was that he could save you.”
Any number of responses ran through Ryan’s mind. He could deny what Becker was saying but he could tell that it would be pointless.
“I thought for a while that you and he…”
Becker laughed, shaking his head. “Snarky comments and fancy suits are more my style.”
It took a moment but Ryan could feel his mouth drop open when the pieces clicked into place.
“If he’s still speaking to me after he finds out what we’ve done.”
Ryan glanced back to the cave, to Connor. “He’s changed. The Connor that I know – knew – was just a kid.”
“Well, he had to grow up fast. He’s lost more friends than anyone in this whole mess. Did he tell you that he was with Cutter when he died? He was the one who carried Cutter’s body out of the ARC,” Becker told him. “He spent a year trapped in the past, only to come back and be betrayed by Philip Burton, a man he looked up to, who he thought wanted to help.”
“He didn’t tell me all of that.”
“He doesn’t talk about it much. If you do make a move, Ryan, be good to him. He’s had enough crap happen to him to last two lifetimes and if I hear that you’ve caused him any more hurt, I could make sure they’d never find your body.”
Ryan smiled. “I’m sure you could.”
“Just making sure we’re clear on that,” Becker informed him calmly. “And believe me, I wouldn’t be the only one gunning for you. We’re all quite fond of him.” he stood up, heading back to the cave. “I’ll wake Connor. According to him, the anomaly is due to return in a couple of hours and we need to be ready when it does.”
Becker and Connor stepped through the anomaly with a reasonable amount of trepidation, not sure whether they were going to end up under arrest of just at the end of a rifle for disobeying Lester and potentially screwing up the timeline.
They needn’t have worried, though; there was no one waiting for them at all.
“I don’t understand,” Connor said, looking around as though expecting Becker’s men to be hiding, lying in wait for them. “Even if they didn’t come here to get us, the anomaly should have shown up on the detector. Someone should have come to investigate it.”
Ryan followed them out, relieved that there was no one here. He was technically dead, after all, and had been dreading having to explain how a) he is still alive and b) yes he really is him and not an impostor or clone. Of course, he’d still have to have that conversation when they got back to the ARC. According to Connor, the old offices they had worked out of while he had been with the anomaly project were gone, replaced with a shiny new facility especially for anomaly research. He wondered if anything he remembered would be the same.
And where was he supposed to live? His flat would be gone, as would all of his belongings, because he’d been declared deceased.
He just hoped that wherever they decided to let him stay had a good supply of aspirin, because this was making his head hurt.
Just to show that some things had stayed the same, the vehicle that Becker and Connor had left nearby was still there and about an hour later, Becker parked in the car park of a huge glass-sided building and climbed out of the car.
“Well, here we are,” he told Ryan. “Welcome to the ARC.”
Connor took a deep breath as he reached for the door. “Time to face the music,” he said, stepping inside, the other two following.
It was clear to see who were the original staff, the ones who recognised him: They were the ones who stopped dead in their tracks, staring at him.
Ryan looked around at the stunned faces staring at them, noticing how Connor instinctively moved closer to him as though to shield him from it all. He could see a couple of the techs nudge each other, one whispering to the other three newer recruits when they voiced their confusion.
There was the sound of hurrying footsteps before a door slammed somewhere in the distance. Moments later, Lester came into the room; not running, but moving as fast as his dignity would allow.
He stopped in front of them, the irritation and disbelief on his face fading into the same wide-eyed shock as everyone else.
“But you- I mean, how?” Lester turned to Connor and Becker. “Is he really-?” It was then that he noticed their audience, the rest of the ARC staff edging closer, hoping to hear the conversation. “Perhaps we should move this discussion to my office?”
As he passed by the detector desk, he spoke briefly to the technician sitting there and she nodded, picking up the phone beside her.
“I thought that Abby and Cutter would like to be here for this too-”
Connor stumbled over his own feet when he heard that, grabbing Lester’s jacket sleeve to stop him.
“Cutter? Nick Cutter?”
Lester raised an eyebrow at him, glancing at Connor’s hand still clutching at his sleeve. Connor let go.
“Of course I mean Nick Cutter? How many other Cutters do you know.” Lester ushered them into his office and closed the door. “With the exception of that batshit crazy ex-wife of his, I mean.”
“But he died!”
“I could say the same about Captain Ryan,” Lester argued, “but he appears to be standing in front of me right now.”
Connor looked ready to snap at Lester but Becker reached out to lay a hand on his arm, but Connor nodded that he wasn’t going to do anything stupid.
“I watched him die, Lester; I was there with him at the end. I sat and watched as he bled out in a burning building, heard his last breath. I had to carry his body out, so don’t you dare make a joke of this.”
Lester’s shocked expression at his outburst quickly softened. “Connor, I’m sorry.”
Abby and Nick arrived five minutes later, barely getting through the door before Connor threw his arms around the other man in a tight hug as Abby went to do the same to Ryan. Cutter just looked bewildered, patting Connor on the shoulder with the unease of someone not entirely comfortable with these kinds of displays of affection.
Once they’d all got over the initial shock, it was time to talk. Obviously they had disrupted the timeline a lot more than they had intended, however careful they had been, but now it was a case of finding out how much they had inadvertently altered.
“Nothing should have changed,” Connor insisted. “All we did was stop Ryan from being killed. No one saw us! Cutter was unconscious the whole time.”
“Sorry about that, by the way,” Becker said, glancing at Cutter.
Nick glared at him. “You’re the one who shot me with that bloody tranquiliser?”
“We couldn’t risk you seeing us,” Connor told him. “I just don’t understand what went wrong. Not that I regret accidentally saving you, Cutter, but how many other things have changed? We could have messed everything up.”
This time, Nick gave them a sheepish smile. “I wasn’t quite as unconscious as you thought; you miscalculated the dose.”
Becker glared at Connor, who smiled sheepishly, mumbling that he’d stolen the darts from Abby’s case and that they must have been the ones for smaller creatures.
“Anyway, I heard a bit of what you were saying…” Cutter told them.
At Connor’s insistence, Nick and Abby began to talk, allowing him and Becker to compare their histories. Nick went through the version of events that he had lived since that day in the Forest of Dean, how he had gone home and told everyone that Ryan was dead – “That’s why you didn’t look surprised to see Ryan when you walked into the office!” Connor butted in – knowing that it was what was supposed to happen. Claudia was still gone and Jenny took her place, but a few other things had changed. This time, Helen didn’t take them by surprise with her sudden reappearance in their lives. He managed to get to Stephen first, made sure there were no opportunities for her to worm her way into his life, to persuade him to help her and ultimately lead him to his death. Helen had attempted to invade the ARC with her clones, too, just as he remembered Connor mentioning all those months ago in the Permian, only this time she had one more person to contend with. Stephen and he had stood side by side and had foiled her attempts.
He had left the project a few months later, but he lived nearby with Jenny. They were getting married next year.
With Helen locked away in a psychiatric unit, Connor realised, she had never been presented with the opportunity to go back in time to attempt to wipe out mankind from the beginning, meaning that he and Abby had never followed and been trapped there.
It also meant that Danny had never been recruited as a replacement team leader because the spot had never been vacant following Cutter’s death. That was something they could fix, though. It wouldn’t be too hard to track Danny down and bring him into the ARC.
“Quinn? You don’t meant that dreadful policeman?” Lester asked in horror. “If I remember correctly, you were rather vocal in your dislike of him following his repeated interferences. You were the one who insisted that we press charges after he broke in,” he reminded Becker.
That gave Becker a bad feeling. “He was arrested?”
Lester shook his head. “He was given a last chance and told to never darken our doorstep again. I doubt that he will want to hear anything from us.”
But Becker knew better; after all, he had answers for Danny about his brother, answers that the man had been searching for.
“He’s really a nice bloke when you get to know him.”
Lester didn’t look convinced.
“What about Matt Anderson and Jess Parker? Are they here?”
Cutter frowned. “I don’t know any Matt Anderson, but isn’t Jess that wee lassie who started here a few months ago?”
Becker felt relieved at that. He was going to miss Matt, but it made sense; maybe by altering their own timelines, by stopping Helen and by extension, Philip and New Dawn, they had altered Matt’s past too. Maybe there was no need for him to come back to try and save everyone.
Becker hoped that, wherever he was, Matt’s world was the one he’d been trying to create, a safe future where the future predators hadn’t taken over and almost wiped out the human race.
Connor sat back and listened. He couldn’t believe they had been so stupid, not checking that Cutter was really out cold before talking over him. They were just lucky that this timeline seemed to be fairly close to their own, that they hadn’t destroyed it all.
“Can someone tell me what happened to me? And Becker? You seem to know him so I assume he does work here.”
Lester nodded. “Becker joined us a short time after Helen’s aborted attempts to gain control of the ARC.”
“And me? I mean, do I work here? Where do I live?”
To his relief and Becker’s, he saw on the other man’s face, they both seemed to have caused relatively small changes to their own lives. Becker’s history still seemed to be the same, though he wasn’t a Captain in this time.
“You resigned your commission shortly before joining us,” Lester explained, handing him his own personnel file to read. “I hired you as a civilian.”
Connor read through his own file, looking up at Lester in surprise. “According to this, I have a flat of my own. Is that right?”
“Yes. Why? Where were you living in your original timeline?” Lester asked.
“With you. You let me stay in your spare room.”
Lester looked horrified at that revelation.
A few hours later they decided to call it a night, the mixture of lack of sleep in the Permian and then the shocks of this new timeline taking their toll on Connor, Becker and Ryan. Connor invited Ryan to stay with him – to Ryan’s delight, though he tried his best to conceal it – while Becker hung back.
“James – Lester – can I have a word in private?”
Lester closed the door again once the other four had gone.
“I know that if I’m wrong, if it didn’t happen here, this could make things a bit uncomfortable but I have to know…” Becker took a deep breath and just jumped right in. “Are we together?” He couldn’t look at Lester, not sure that he could take it if the answer was no, and so he just carried on. “Because I saw the address in my personnel file and I didn’t know if that meant that I was – am – just staying there like Connor was in our reality or if we’re together. We were, back home; we’d been together for almost a year and we were happy. We lived together and we’d just got a cocker spaniel puppy - Beanie - actually you got him for my birthday-”
Lester cut him off by backing him against the door and kissing him breathless.
“Thank God! I was dreading having to see you every day, remembering what we had but having it suddenly swept away from me,” Lester told him, relieved.
“And Beanie?” Becker asked hesitantly. He loved that puppy…
“Probably piddling on the carpet as we speak,” Lester confirmed with a smile. “Though she is called Honey, not Beanie.”
Becker couldn’t help feel a sad that he wouldn’t see Beanie again, but he still had Lester. And Honey; as sad as he was to lose Beanie, he was looking forward to meeting his puppy in this reality.
Connor looked around the flat – his flat! – with a mixture of curiosity and trepidation. He’d found the keys in his locker at the ARC, only recognising them as his by the Lightsaber key ring that he’d always kept his key to Lester’s flat on. Then he’d had to have someone write his address down and draw him a map of how to get here. Until he fitted the key into the lock, however, he had remained sceptical. He half expected someone to tell him that it was a mistake, that it wasn’t really his flat after all and that he still lived out of boxes at the ARC or crashed in Lester’s spare room. Coming in here felt like walking into someone else’s home, somewhere he had no recollection of, but sure enough there were his DVD’s lined up on the shelf. His limited edition Star Wars figurines sat on the mantel over the fireplace. Boots and jackets that he knew were his had been discarded in the foyer and his favourite knitted throw, the one his mum had made him when he went away to university, was draped over the back of the sofa.
He definitely lived here.
There was only one thing, or rather two things, missing. Sid and Nancy. Apparently here they had both made it back through the anomaly before it closed.
He looked up when Ryan handed him a mug of tea, having helped himself to use of the kitchen and also to the contents of the biscuit barrel, Connor noticed.
“Maybe I should stay at the ARC,” Ryan offered. “Give you time to get used to this place.”
Just the thought of being left alone here terrified him. “Please don’t go. I don’t want to stay here on my own.”
Ryan nodded. “Okay. Have you got some spare blankets and pillows? I’ll make up the sofa-”
“The bed’s big enough for both of us,” Connor told him, suddenly shy. “Or not, if you don’t want to. Of course you don’t! I’m sorry; I didn’t mean- Oh hell.”
“Connor, look at me.”
Connor looked up as Ryan took the mug from him and set it on the table.
“I like you,” he said. “A lot. Just tell me that you meant what you said, tell me that I wasn’t misinterpreting it.”
“You weren’t,” Connor confirmed, almost in a whisper, still looking at Ryan.
“Good.” Ryan slid his arms around Connor, pulling him close enough to press their lips together. For a moment Connor froze, going tense in his arms, before he relaxed, responding to the kiss with the same energetic passion he showed in everything else.
Becker blinked against the darkness, wondering what had woken him. Beside him, Lester slept soundly, as did the little copper-coloured spaniel puppy called Honey who was currently curled up at the foot of the bed. Suddenly his mobile phone vibrated again, making a soft buzzing sound against the bedside table it was resting on.
He checked the display: Connor. Getting out of bed quietly, so as not to disturb Lester, he went into the lounge.
“Connor, its three o’clock in the morning.”
“I know and I’m sorry. I can’t sleep.”
There was a moment of silence. “Does this all seem a bit too good to be true?” Connor asked eventually. “I mean, everyone’s fine, we haven’t messed anything up… I keep thinking that something has got to be wrong. I even phoned my mum and dad, but they’re okay. Annoyed that I woke them up, but okay.”
Becker heard a thump from the bedroom, followed by the padding of tiny paws coming into the room, and reached out a hand to pet Honey. She wagged her tail and jumped up onto the sofa to sit on his lap, cuddling up to him as she went back to sleep.
“I know what you mean, Connor, but maybe there is nothing wrong that we can’t sort out easily. Maybe we’re just so busy looking for problems that we’re making ourselves paranoid.” He heard Connor’s huff of laughter on the other end of the line. “Go back to bed; I’m sure Ryan will be wondering where you’ve gone.”
“How did you know?” Connor asked, sounding surprised and just a little bit embarrassed.
Becker smiled, remembering his conversation with Ryan back in the Permian. “I had a hunch. Get some sleep, Connor, and we’ll talk tomorrow.”
Connor sighed. “Fine, I get the hint. I won’t keep you from Lester any longer.”
“Connor, joking aside,” he said seriously, “if you want to talk for a while, we can.”
“No, you’re right. It’s just going to take a while to accept that this is real, you know?”
“I know. Goodnight, Connor.”
“’Night, Becker, and thanks.”
Becker scooped up the sleepy puppy on his lap and carried her back to the bedroom. She looked up at him with huge dark eyes for a moment as he set her down in the basket in the corner, before curling into a tight ball and closing her eyes again.
Sliding under the bedcovers, Becker felt a warm hand on his stomach as Lester draped an arm around him, pressing a kiss to his shoulder.
Becker nodded. “I think it is.”