goldarrow: (Stephen-Ryan)
[personal profile] goldarrow
Title: Confidence
Author: goldarrow
Word Count Total: 1550
Characters/Pairing: Nick/Stephen, Ryan, Abby
Rating: 15
Disclaimer: Primeval belongs to Impossible Pictures, not me. I will return them when I’m done, slightly mussed but in superb spirits.
Unbetaed, so all mistakes are my own.

For the June Challenge prompt:
"There is not one among us in whom a devil does not dwell; at some time, on some point, that devil masters each of us... It is not having been in the Dark House, but having left it, that counts."
― Theodore Roosevelt

Set in the Mirror ‘verse, where Stephen is a clone whom Helen has "enhanced" using Future Predator DNA.


Stephen moved through the Atrium at the ARC, feeling everyone’s eyes on him as he walked, slowly but steadily, toward the exit. He kept his eyes forward, not wanting to see the expressions on the faces of the people who must surely know by now what had happened today.

The actual details of the team’s forays against the anomalies were meant to be secret, even from those who worked at the ARC but didn't possess a sufficient clearance level, but there would be no way that they could wipe under the carpet the disaster this day had become. And it was his fault. Only his. If he hadn’t been so sure that his enhancements would make him fast enough, strong enough, to singlehandedly save the woman, then she and the creature wouldn't both be dead.

This was on him. On him alone.

He felt Nick move up beside him, saw out of the corner of his eye that his lover's mouth was starting to open, no doubt to utter some platitude, some excuse to try to make him feel better. Stephen shook his head, refusing any comfort, and made it out the front doors before allowing the threatening tears any freedom. After a few breaths, he managed to smother the internal storm. The car in front of him gave him a place to lean with his back to Nick so he wouldn't have to look him in the eyes. He couldn't. Not yet.

"Stephen." Nick's voice was uncharacteristically tentative.

"No, Nick, I can't." Taking a deep breath, Stephen turned to face his lover, his friend. "She's dead because of me."

"Yes, she is."

Shocked into straightening up so quickly his back clicked, Stephen stared at him, his mouth opening and closing without any words coming out through his suddenly closed throat.

"She is dead. But you tried to save her, Stephen, and that's the important thing. Yes, you were perhaps a fool. The Special Forces team is there just for situations like this. Do you know why you ran to help her?"

"She was there, right in front of it. She was going to be attacked. I could see the creature. It was ready. It was hungry, Nick!"

"Yes. It was hungry." Nick stepped closer to him, eyes intent.

Stephen fought his immediate reaction to back away, allowing himself to listen.

"It was hungry, she was close, and you ran in between them. Finn and Fiver were in position, they could have killed that poor creature, but they couldn’t fire – because you were in the way."

"I know!" Stephen gritted his teeth, wondering if he would end up cracking the enamel. "I know," he said more softly, feeling the despair washing over him again.

"And so I'll ask again, why did you run to help her?"

That question, the only question really, was one Stephen wasn’t eager to answer. So he didn't. He sighed, instead. "You tell me." Staring at the ground in front of his feet, he crossed his arms over his chest, knowing he was looking defensive but not caring.

Nick's arm wrapped around his shoulder in a comforting manner.

"Because, after Helen, after what she did to you, the one thing you still can't do is trust."

Feeling the tears pushing behind his eyes again, Stephen started to pull away.

The arm around his shoulder tightened. "No, you can't run from this, Stephen. You have to decide, once and for all, if we're worth anything to you."

An adrenaline rush washed through Stephen's body at those words. "What the fuck are you talking about?"

"If you're not able to trust anyone else to do their jobs, if you think you're the only one who can save the world, why are you here with us? If you don't need us, why aren't you back out there on your own?"

Betrayed, Stephen gaped at him. "Wh-what? First Helen, now you? She threw me away, now you are?"

Nick grabbed both his shoulders and pulled him around. "No. That's not what I'm saying. We – I – love you, Stephen. And you mean more to me than anyone else. But you keep holding back from us. You think that the only reason we want you around is because of your enhancements. Everything you do now – your constant need to push yourself, your constant practising, your constant testing – tells us that you need to be perfect. That you can't make mistakes, you can't not be the best at anything. You don't believe that we care."

As Stephen stared at him, Nick made a wry face. "Yes, this is me. Talking about feelings. Damn it, Stephen, you're the only one who can make me do this."

A chuckle forced its way through Stephen's throat. "Neither one of us is any good at this, Nick. That I can admit to." He sighed and folded back against the car again. "I do trust you all, that's one thing I can say."

At Nick's look of disbelief, he shook his head. "I do, Nick, please believe me on that. It's just that…" he paused to think out exactly what he wanted to say. "It's just that I'm so used to reacting without thinking." Stephen closed his eyes to block out Nick's face as he continued. "Like my switch from the Olympics to conservation, my accepting Helen's advances, hell, my offer to go to the Forest of Dean that first day, taking on the Gorgonopsid, the Arthropleurid, do you need me to keep going?"

Nick chuckled and Stephen opened his eyes again.

"Uh, no, I don't think I do." Nick stepped close and wrapped his arms around Stephen, waves of comfort almost radiating off him. "But we need you to try to stop being such a prat, okay? We care about you, we don't want to lose you, and you keep scaring the ever loving crap out of us!"

Relaxing into his lover's arms, Stephen fought off another round of tears. "I can try, Nick, that's all I can do."

"Good. We'll do all we can to help."

Nick released him and stepped back as another voice came from a few feet away.


Captain Ryan didn't sound particularly angry, but then he seldom did. The soldier's level of personal control tended to make Stephen feel inadequate at the best of times. Right now, it was making him feel lower than a snake's belly in a dry river bed.

"Captain." In an automatic reaction, Stephen stood as straight as he could as he turned to face the soldier.

Ryan's lips widened in as much of a smile as he would allow himself whilst on duty. "I spoke to Finn. He reported that considering the amount of ammunition they had to expend to kill the creature, it would have lived long enough to maul the woman even if they'd been able to fire immediately. Yes, you were stupid. Yes, you shouldn't have got in their way. But you didn't kill her."

Stephen's knees went a little weak. Leaning back against the car, he nodded. "Thanks, Captain. Thank you."

Instead of accepting his words, Ryan narrowed his eyes. "This time. You didn't kill her this time. Next time, you might not be so lucky. Don't let this define you, but for fuck's sake, learn from it."

After a quick clasp of Stephen's shoulder, the soldier marched back into the ARC, leaving both Stephen and Nick bereft of words. The two men turned to stare at each other, before Nick shook his head and spoke quickly.

"He's right, Stephen. Please, stop taking chances like that. Please. I know you won't die, but it still scares the life out of me."

Gazing after the captain, Stephen replied softly, "I have a lot to think about." He turned to smile at Nick. "And a lot to be thankful for. Time to go home, I think."

"Aye, Lester can whistle for the reports. We'll get them to him in the morning."

As Nick moved around the car, a piercing whistle broke their companionable silence.

"Professor! Stephen! Lester says he needs your reports right now. They have to meet with the woman's family this evening, and he has to have all the details."

Stephen felt his shoulders sag. Looking at Nick, he saw the same ambivalence on his face.

"Can we?" Stephen asked.

Nick's head moved slowly from side to side. "What do you think?"

"Crap." Stephen started walking back to the entrance of the ARC, braced for the waves of condemnation he was sure he was going to feel. But they weren't there. The eyes of the people he met weren't accusing, they were sympathetic for the most part.

"Are you okay?" Abby asked him as they entered the office wing, her expression a combination of sadness and sympathy. "That poor woman. You tried." Then her gaze sharpened. "But next time, remember that you're not alone any more."

After a quick hug, she slid into her office, leaving Stephen bereft of words.

Nick laughed at him. "No, I didn't coordinate with her. We just all feel the same way. You're part of this team, Stephen. Be part of the team."

"Okay." Feeling lighter, Stephen headed into their shared office to write what was probably going to be the most difficult report of his life.


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