nietie: (Nick/StephenBW)
[personal profile] nietie

Title: Starry, Starry Night
Word Count: 2,639
Rating: G
Genre: gen
Challenge: the 2015 art prompt challenge at [livejournal.com profile] primeval_denial
Pairing: Nick, Stephen (Abby, Becker, Connor, Jenny)
Disclaimer: Not mine, no money made. Primeval and its characters belong to Impossible Pictures
"Starry, Starry Night" is a song by Don McLean

A million thanks to [livejournal.com profile] fredbassett for the beta. All remaining mistakes are mine.

The link to the art is here: http://primeval-denial.livejournal.com/4747502.html?view=85673454#t85673454


It was another sleepless night.


The whisky burned down Nick Cutter's throat. He was standing in the garden of his house in the middle of the night, sipping his favourite whisky, watching the starry sky.


A soft, warm breeze touched his face.


It all seemed so calm and peaceful. But inside Nick it wasn't calm and peaceful at all.


In the past few months, after Stephen’s death in the cage room, Nick had felt lost. There was so much chaos; memories echoing in his head, haunting him at night. More than once the last conversations he'd had with his friend and protege had gone through his mind.


"Do you think what we're doing here is right, keeping all this a secret?", he heard Stephen say over and over again.


"Yes, I do. Look at the way we treat animals now, Stephen. Every day a new species disappears.

What would people do to creatures they don't understand? This isn't just about the creatures. This is about our future." Nick still remembered every word he had said. The words he had believed. The words he still believed.


Most of the nights he would be spent tossing and turning in his bed, his thoughts going back to that crucial conversation:


"We don't have the right to decide what people should know."


"Whatever argument you have, Stephen, you lost any credibility when you hooked up with Helen."


"She predicted this. Said that you wouldn't listen. That you were too arrogant to face reality."


"Reality? You have no idea what that word even means any more. The world changed. We can't protect anyone until we know why the anomalies appear and what they mean."


"It's always your way or nothing."


"That works for me."


"No wonder she turned to me."


Then in his mind Stephen would look at him accusingly. And next his face would show profound sadness.


Nick felt so guilty. It was his fault Stephen had felt he had to sacrifice himself. That he had to go into the cage room and do the ultimate thing to save his friends. To save the world.


And now he was gone.


And Nick missed him so much.


His days at work went by on autopilot. His nights were filled with whiskey and staring at starry skies.


Starry nights.


Silent outside, turmoil inside.


Nick harrumphed. Now he had a song in his head, "Starry, starry night" by Don McLean:


"Now I think I know

what you tried to say to me

and how you suffered for your sanity

and how you tried to set them free

they would not listen

they're not listening still

Perhaps they never will.".



It was too late now.


Oh God, he could do with another glass of whisky.


He wiped his teary eyes and kept staring into the night.


Suddenly his foggy brain noticed that his telephone was ringing.


With a sigh, almost a sob, he went back into the house.


It was Connor, telling him an anomaly had opened near Russell Square in the middle of London.

Becker was going to pick him up and would arrive at his house any minute now.


Nick told himself to get a grip, get back to reality and to get to business. He took a deep breath, put on his army jacket, picked up his keys and mobile phone, all just in time for Becker to park his car at the front of Nick's house.


In the car Becker told Nick about the incursion. It was at The Penn Club, a Quaker house with 45 bedrooms. There weren't many guests there at the moment and because it was the middle of the night, there was only one staff member at the premises, manning the night desk.


Nick was glad he could put his mind on the anomaly. He felt the sadness being pushed away into the background. It had never left in the past months, but thank goodness his work was not only a reminder of Stephen, but also a distraction.


"Any sign of a creature incursion?" he asked, trying to sound businesslike.


"No, not that I know of," Becker answered. He looked at Nick, sniffed and laughed softly. "There's some coffee in the flask, if you want some."


"Thanks."


Nick was glad the young captain didn't ask any questions or say anything else. As much as he missed Stephen, Becker was a good lad and a useful addition to the team. His thoughts went back to the moment when he'd met the new SF captain. It had been at the British Museum, not far from Russell Square, the location of the latest anomaly.


When they arrived at Bedford Place, Abby, Connor and Jenny were already there.


Connor stepped forward, eager to give Cutter the newest information.


Gosh, lately the boy had turned into a man, Nick thought, a pang of melancholy going through him. Connor still had the same eager geekiness, but he had matured so much after all the hardship and pain the team had endured.


"One of the guests is a lady called Fred," Connor said. "Yes, Fred… She has ushered all the guests into one of the staff rooms and made sure the door leading to the room with the anomaly was closed. Several people had heard snuffles and grunting sounds. So it could be that one or more creatures have come through."


In the meantime, they walked into the club's corridor, turning to the left into what seemed to be the dining room. Another door at the other side of the dining room was closed.


"Next door is another corridor and then there is a sitting room, with a door leading to another corridor. Mrs Fred has assured us that all doors are closed. The anomaly was noticed by one of the guests who had fallen asleep in front of the TV in the sitting room. The man is safe now, too."


"Could you see something through the window from the outside?" Nick wanted to know.


"No, the curtains are closed. So we can't see if there are any creatures inside the room at the moment. But we heard sounds too," Becker said, gesturing to his soldiers to check their stun guns.


"Well, it can't be a T.rex," Connor said with a twinkle in his eyes. "It would have wrecked the building by now."


"Okay, let's come up with a plan," Nick said, with a hint of a smile around his mouth. "Let's make sure the street is cleared and the guests are safe in the staff room. Then let's close the door here leading to the corridor, open the door to the television room and let the soldiers go in first, ready to fire the stun guns. We stay close behind them, arms ready."


Like a well-oiled machine the operation went as planned.


It turned out there were no more creatures in the television room, but every single piece of furniture and item was overturned or damaged. There was a strong, musky smell in the air. It smelled like the cage room of a wild animal at a zoo.


"We have to go through the anomaly to see if we can find out what timeline it is. Becker, you come with me. Connor, you and some of the soldiers have to double check the building. Abby, stay here to look for tracks and patterns. Maybe you can identify what kind of animal has been here. And Jenny should talk to the guests, especially to Mrs… Fred, to give a plausible explanation about what happened here," Nick ordered.


"Student prank?" Jenny suggested. "With university buildings here in Russell Square it would be a plausible one."


Nick nodded and looked at Becker.


"Stay behind me," Becker said. "No heroics, just a quick look and maybe get some samples. And if I say we go back, we go back. I heard Captain Ryan knocked you out once. Well, I can do that too."


"Point taken. Let's do this," Nick answered and they both went through the anomaly.


They stepped into a semi-dark world with hills, shrubs and trees. The sun was either setting or rising and it had rained recently, because the ground was wet and slippery. It was cold, but not freezing cold.


There was no sign of any creature. All they could hear was the wind.


"There are some tracks here, leading into the scrub," Becker whispered. "Stay behind me when we check it out."


Nick followed Becker, his eyes fixed onto the ground, when he saw something what looked like excrement.


He stepped aside, bumped into a tree and lost his balance. He fell through a bush, suddenly noticing there was nothing beneath his feet and then he tumbled down a slope.


He gasped when he fell into a puddle and he tried to sit up immediately.


"Cutter! Are you all right?" he heard Becker's voice from above him.


Nick tested his body and limbs. "I think I’ve sprained my ankle. But nothing serious. I'll try to climb back up."


But the slope was too slippery and there was nothing to hold on to. After a few attempts he had to give up.


"Wait there. Don't move. Don't make a sound," Becker ordered. "I'll go back quickly and get some rope and help."


"Okay. Hurry."


Nick looked around. It was getting darker and darker. So the night was falling.


He looked up and saw stars. They were so bright. So pure. Their light wasn't spoiled by modern civilisation, with its pollution and artificial lights.


He wondered what time period this was.


It didn't seem very old. It could well be the Pleistocene, or the Middle Ages.


Then suddenly he heard a grunting noise and some scuffling in the shrubs in front him.


He held his breath and heard Becker's orders in his head. "Don't move. Don't make a sound."


"Go away, go away," Nick thought.


But the sounds came closer.


Then a creature appeared through a bush.


A dark, furry creature. Walking on four legs.


But when it saw Nick, it got up on his hind legs.


Nick swallowed.


It was huge!


It was a bear. Dark, with a short snout and seemingly very angry.


He knew he shouldn't move or try to run. The animal would grab him within seconds.


Hopefully the beast would notice Nick wasn't a threat to him and would retreat.


But so far, the bear was coming closer and closer.


This wasn't good. As a matter of fact, this was bad, very bad.


Becker would never be able to get back in time, to throw the rope for Nick to climb up towards safety.


He had the urge to close his eyes. To block out reality. But he kept looking towards the menace, trying to avoid to look into the eyes of the bear.


Was this what Stephen had felt like in the cage room? Seeing the creatures closing in on him, knowing the pain would come soon, repressing the urge to run?


Then, in the corner of his eyes, Nick saw something else move in the scrub.


All of a sudden a human figure appeared.


Was it Becker? Was it one of his soldiers?


The man started waving his arms and screamed.


The bear turned towards him, still on his hind legs.


"Boo! Go! Shoo!"


It seemed like an eternity, but  then the bear dropped onto his front legs and hurried off.


Nick stared at the man.


A human being. No Neanderthal or a man dressed in period costume. But a man in jeans and a T-shirt. A man with dark, spiky hair and bright, blue eyes.


"Arctodus. Short-faced bear from the Pleistocene. Mostly a herbivore, but when it feels threatened it will attack," the man said matter of factly. "You can close your mouth now, Nick," he added softly.


"Stephen?"


"The one and only," the man answered. "Well, maybe not the one and only, considering there are different time lines, but I'm not a clone."


"Stephen!" A sob escaped Nick's throat. Then he walked, almost ran, towards the man and hugged him, forgetting about the pain in his sprained ankle. He kept on embracing Stephen, because he had to make sure this person was real. Nick felt the lean body, the warmth, the breath on his neck.


Then, finally, he let go and looked at Stephen, into his blue eyes.


"How… how did you get here? The last time I saw you, you were killed in the cage room."


"That’s one timeline. Helen told me about it."


"Helen? Is she here?"


"No, she's dead. Killed by a future predator. But she told me that in the other timeline she saved me just before the creatures got to me in the cage room. I can't remember anything, though. I woke up somewhere in the future."


"I… I have to sit down," Nick said, his legs feeling wobbly.


They both sat down.


"They're on their way with ropes and help," Nick said.


"I know. But they won't be here soon. I closed the anomaly. There were more bears roaming around and some of them were attracted to the light, on the verge of going through it."


"You closed the anomaly? How?"


"In the future Helen made a device that opens and closes anomalies."


Nick looked at Stephen. "What happened to you? I…. we…. miss you. I'm so glad you're alive. And safe… for now."


"We traveled through several anomalies. The future, the past. But never to a time that collided with yours…. Until now."


"Oh, Stephen, I can' tell you how happy I am to see you."


"Is everyone okay? Did Abby and Connor stay out of trouble? Are you and Jenny together?"


Nick smiled. "We're fine. As fine as can be. They will be so happy to see you. You are coming with me, aren't you?"


"There’s not much for me here," Stephen said. "The previous anomaly led me to a glacial period in the Pleistocene. Very unpleasant."


For a moment they stared into the night.


The stars soothed Nick's thoughts, going from the horrible scene in the cage room to the discussions and fights he’d had with Stephen, to the almost peaceful moment now.


"Stephen, we have to talk. Talk about what happened between us. I am so sorry it had to end like that. I was stubborn. I should have listened to you. Seen if we could have come up with a strategy together."


"It's okay. Maybe it's for the best. Maybe the things I've experienced are for a greater good.

You’re a good man, Nick. Your stubbornness makes you a great scientist, although you could do with a bit of balance to see things more clearly. And I hope I can help you with that."


"I'd be honoured," Nick said sincerely.


It looked like Connor wasn't the only man who had matured. Stephen seemed so wise now, so balanced. And Nick felt as if he had learned a lot in the past months. Yes, maybe it had been for a greater good.


"Well, let's go to the anomaly. I know a way to get there," Stephen said, pulling him out of his reverie.


"Can't we wait a few more minutes? Look at the sky. It's so peaceful and beautiful here."


Silently they sat next to each other, shoulders touching as if making sure the other was real, looking up into the starry night.


Nick once again remembered the lyrics from the Don McLean’s song.


"Now I think I know

what you tried to say to me

and how you suffered for your sanity

and how you tried to set them free

they would not listen

they're not listening still

Perhaps they never will".


This time it would be different. This time he would listen. And so would the rest of the world.

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