Title: A Quiet Break In The Country (6 of 8)
Pairings/Ships: Nick/Claudia, Abby/Connor.
Spoilers: Season 1
Disclaimer: I don’t own them....Bugger... (although if anyone at Impossible Pictures wants to offer me a job that’d be great...)
Summary: Never mind anomalies, the boys are having enough problems dealing with the troubles in their personal lives...
Author’s Note: How a series two episode might have gone if it wasn’t for that pesky timeline change...Beta read by fredbassett
Extra Note: This is slightly longer than LJ's allowed word limit (grr) and so it has to go in two posts. A link to the rest is at the bottom.
Abby stared open mouthed at the creature that had thrown itself onto the platform, rising up and hissing threateningly at them as it waved angry, clacking claws around.
It made the brontoscorpio they’d dealt with earlier look almost pathetically small by comparison, this new arrival well over seven feet in length.
If Nick hadn’t spotted it in time and hauled her out of the way Claudia would have ended up squashed.
They all retreated from the edge. The creature didn’t give chase but not did it head back into the water either. Initially all Abby noticed was its size and flailing claws, then other details sank in. It was broad and flat, with a paddle like tail. In fact, it looked remarkably like the other creatures that had started showing an interest in the platform.
Nick voiced her realisation before she had the chance.
“It’s trying to protect its young,” he said, eyes fixed on it as they all continued to back off, metal poles still held at the ready. Not that they’d likely do much good against the massive and heavily armoured arthropod.
Abby couldn’t say she found the revelation exactly comforting, knowing that it would only cause the creature to be more aggressive.
“Well,” Claudia said, the shock of the attack making angry, “it should tell its young to stop harassing us!”
“Oh, you know kids,” Nick joked, “they never listen.”
“What the hell is it?” she asked, ignoring his humour, not tearing her eyes off of the creature that had nearly crushed her.
“From the size, I’d guess jaekelopterus rhenaniae.”
“No,” Connor spoke up, hurrying to join them, either from the notion of safety in numbers or through sheer fascination. “It can’t be. That’s a Devonian animal.”
“Well, maybe they got it wrong!” Nick snapped, clearly more willing to believe his eyes than so called facts set down after finding just one fossil.
“Maybe,” Connor said, “It’s just that- woah!”
From his position next to Abby he literally jumped in the air as something brushed his legs. Her quick thinking and sharp aim saved him from getting clawed at or stung as the scorpion skidded across the floor and back into water.
“Spread out,” Stephen instructed, seeing that being so tightly packed left them vulnerable, not able to keep an eye on all avenues of attack. “Just stay away from that thing.”
They hardly needed telling.
“This is a ridiculous plan,” Claudia pointed out as they moved apart, Nick grabbing her arm and taking her with him, “We can’t just keep doing this. We have to get out of here.”
“One problem at a time, remember?” he said, echoing her words from earlier.
But Abby knew the other woman was right. This was like plugging holes in a dam with your fingers. There was only so long it could work for, only so long they could go without making a mistake. Unfortunately, she was the first one to do something stupid.
Connor was helping her, pointing out the closest creatures, telling her where to look next. He was doing a good of it job too. It was totally her fault when she took too many steps one way.
One moment she was on her feet and the next she was lying on her back, being dragged along the floor by a claw gripping her jacket. Oddly enough she didn’t panic until she realised that it was dragging her towards the water. On land the creature was cumbersome and clumsy, down there it would be in its element. She’d stand no chance.
She heard Connor shout her name in fear as she tried to turn and free herself, needing to get out of the jacket.
The next thing she heard was his cry of surprise as, when he rushed to help her, the creature batted him aside with its free claw.
He knocked hard into the nearby wall, immediately crumpling to floor, utterly still.
For a small moment Abby was more afraid for him than she was for herself and was only brought back to the situation when she came to a sudden stop, hands around her ankles.
She looked down to see that it was Claudia who had grabbed her, as Nick and Stephen were whacking at the creature with the poles they brandished.
“Get your bloody jacket off!” Stephen shouted, trying to avoid the swiping, angry claw.
She struggled to do just that, Claudia crawling over to help her, taking a risk but obviously hoping that it was too busy fending off Nick and Stephen to notice what she was doing.
When Abby mercifully had both arms free, Claudia grabbed her and dragged her out of the creature’s grasp.
Abby noticed that Nick and Stephen were both bleeding now from scratches across their shoulders and arms, but she took little notice of it, not stopping to thank Claudia either. She just shrugged the other woman off and rushed over to the fallen Connor.
He couldn’t be dead. She wouldn’t accept it.
She almost cried in sheer relief when she fell to her knees at his side, put a hand on his chest and heard him instantly groan in protest.
“I don’t want to get up yet,” he said groggily, “Just give me five more minutes.”
It would have been endearing if it wasn’t a sign of probable concussion.
She should have dragged him further back, out of harm’s way, but there was too much going on around her for her to think straight. The large creature was still angrily lashing out at Nick and Stephen, Claudia having picked up Abby’s discarded pole and going to help. The brontoscorpio were back too, skirting around the edge of it all, both interested and wary.
As she tried to make the impossible choice between staying with Connor and going to help the others, Connor suddenly sat up as though someone had given him a shot of adrenaline.
“Crap!” he exclaimed, staring at the battle still going on, “We’ve gotta help.”
The only reason he didn’t fall flat on his face again as he stood up was because Abby moved with him and grabbed him as he teetered.
She was about to scold him for being so stupid and order him to sit down because he was injured and would be no use to them like this, when her sharp eyes spotted something.
It seemed she wasn’t the only one making mistakes.
The creature had advanced further on to the platform again, forcing Nick, Stephen and Claudia back. Stephen told them to keep it busy as he rushed off, up the stairwell. For a moment Abby thought he must be going to get the rifle but quickly decided that was a stupid idea. The dart would be completely ineffectual against the creature’s armour.
Doing as he was instructed without question, Nick, who was rightly busy with try to avoid having his head knocked off, didn’t notice that he’d backed up towards one of the brontoscorpio, effectively blocking it in. It was clear that the creature was nervous and frightened and that was not a good sign.
Abby opened her mouth to shout a warning that she knew would probably come too late.
Fortunately, or not as the case may be, Claudia noticed the danger in the nick of time.
Seconds before the brontoscorpio struck, she dropped her pole, grabbed Nick and turned him away from its attack.
She wasn’t so lucky however and the spike of the tail sunk into her thigh.
She clutched hard at Nick’s shoulders, shock and pain on her face.
He looked horrified.
The still disbelief of the moment was broken as Stephen rushed up again, a fire extinguisher in his hands. None of the creatures liked the blast of gas in their faces and they all immediately backed off, heading for the water.
Even the jaekelopetrus wasn’t immune to the effects. It was, however, much larger than the rest and none of the team were prepared for its retreat.
Clearly startled, it spun around rapidly, tail swinging in an arc.
Wide enough to knock them all into the water.
The coldness was a sudden shock but Abby forced herself to quickly recover, kicking for the surface. How she managed to keep her grip on a groggy and dazed Connor, she’d never know, but she was thankful for it all the same.
She screamed for help, struggling to keep them both afloat.
Stephen was there in moments, helping her getting Connor back up on to the platform, the creatures fortunately having scattered enough that they didn’t impede their progress back to relative safety. She hurriedly checked him over. He was still breathing and he still had a pulse. In fact, his eyes were even fluttering open again, a little unfocused but looking up at her. Almost absently she soothingly ran her fingers through his hair.
Turning to look for the others, she was relieved to see Nick hauling Claudia out of the water too, hurriedly limping away from the edge with Nick’s aid.
They collapsed next to the rest of them.
Nick wasted no time, tearing the hole in Claudia’s trousers wider, exposing an already angry and red looking section of her thigh. There was a hole the size of a penny piece there.
“Oh, my god,” she muttered under her breath, still in shock and on the verge of panicking, wincing as Nick prodded at it.
Her breath was rapid, scared little pants, never a good sign. Nick clutched his hands either side of face, fingers in her damp hair, forcing her to concentrate on him.
“Listen to me,” he instructed firmly, “You’re going to be all right. Okay? It’s not as bad as it looks. But if you panic you’ll only make it worse, so you have stay calm, yes?”
She nodded silently, biting her lip, trying to control her breathing. Scared, but trusting him.
“Okay, let me take a look.”
His hands slipped from her face and he turned his full attention to her injury.
“There’s not much bleeding,” Stephen commented, crawling over to check the wound out for himself.
He’d done a lot of fieldwork, Abby remembered. She wouldn’t be surprised if he’d come across a scorpion sting before. Nothing quite like this of course though.
“The venom probably contains a coagulant,” Nick surmised, inspected the wound a little closer. “It wouldn’t want its prey bleeding too much in the water and attracting other predators.”
He tore the hole in her trousers a wider still running his fingers over her thigh.
“The area’s warm but not too hot,” he confirmed.
Stephen nodded, “That’s a good sign.”
The way they were interacting, it was easy to almost forget about how tense things had been between the two men recently. It seemed that all it took was the attack of some giant arthropods to make them, at least temporarily, put their differences aside but somehow she didn’t think that would catch on as a standard way of repairing friendships.
Claudia was a little calmer now, perhaps reassured by their words. She did look slightly embarrassed though at Nick still running his fingers over her bare thigh.
“Are you trying to completely rip my trousers off?” she asked, voice still trembling through the attempted humour, “Because, to be honest, I’d rather not sit here in my underwear.”
He smiled at her gently, pleased to hear her sounding more composed.
“Does it hurt?”
“Quite a lot, yeah,” she confirmed with a sharp nod, looking pale and sweaty to confirm that.
“Well, that the last time I save you from an attack.”
“Neurotoxin is generally the fatal part of a scorpion sting,” he explained, “It causes numbness, so if you can still feel then that can only be a good sign. It tried to warn you off, not kill you.”
“So, I’m not going to drop dead any second then?” she asked. Again her words sounded flippant and jokey but there was a genuine fear laced in them.
“No,” Nick said, with a certainty that Abby wasn’t completely sure was backed up with fact, “This scorpion has venom designed to work against other arthropods and primitive fish. Since you’re neither, I should imagine you’ll be fine.” He continued to offer explanations before anyone could ask him how sure of that he actually was. “Scorpions are able to regulate how much venom they inject. It’s physiologically expensive to produce and so they don’t waste it. It was only trying to scare us off so it probably only gave you a small enough dose to hurt.”
“Really,” Stephen reassured, echoing Nick’s words to sooth any doubts she still might have, “scorpion stings are very rarely fatal. You’ll probably not feel too great in a while but I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
She nodded, grateful for their reassurances before turning her attention on Abby.
“How is he?” she asked, nodding at Connor.
She was genuinely concerned but there was also an element of distracting herself to it as well.
“He’ll be okay,” Abby said with a smile, fingers still trailing comfortingly through his hair, “Although probably a bit dopier than he normally is.”
“Oi,” Connor said in protest, “I’m not not hearing you, right?”
Abby tried to ignore Stephen’s frown of concern at Connor’s odd grammar and slightly slurred voice. He was just a bit concussed, she told herself. He’d be okay.
Stephen obviously wasn’t convinced and headed over there, ushering Abby out of the way.
“Connor,” he said, talking slow and steady like he might do to a child, “I want you to look at my finger and try to follow the movement.”
He held his finger in front of Connor’s face but the younger man just frowned grumpily.
“I will do as soon as I’ve checked you out,” he reasoned, not taking offence.
“You....I don’t like.”
“Yeah, I know, I’m a bastard. Now, finger. Concentrate.”
Connor grumbled but did as he was told. A little slowly, but he managed it.
“Probably just a concussion,” Stephen confirmed, “But he really should get checked out by a hospital.”
Abby nodded. “He has got quite the bump on his head,” she added, her fingers in his hair having discovered it earlier and now being careful to avoid it.
“Then he needs to get out of here,” Claudia interrupted decisively, sounding in control once more. She held her hands out to Nick, “Help me up.”
He looked perplexed.
“Well, I’m not just going to sit around here feeling sorry for myself,” she insisted at his expression, “Let’s take another look, see if we can find a way out. There might be something we missed.”
Abby smiled, encouraged by the other woman’s determination. She didn’t like to play damsel in distress either.
Nick heard another loud curse from Stephen, the third in as many minutes. He was currently at the top of the stairwell, trying to find a way of removing the door; unscrewing the hinges, picking the lock, anything. It seemed fairly apparent that he wasn’t having much luck.
Abby was on one side of the platform, pole in hand, Connor sitting behind her propped up against the bottom of the stairs. He looked a little better but was still clearly dazed.
Nick himself and Claudia were on the other side, trying to keep the creatures back too. There were fewer of them now, perhaps more wary than before, but enough that they had to be vigilant. Especially every time the jaekelopetrus showed an interest at the edge of the platform.
He’d told Claudia a dozen times at least to just sit down and let him deal with it, that she’d be better off resting. Even if she hadn’t been too badly affected by the venom, she still had rather a nasty wound in her leg. But she insisted she was all right to the point where she got angry with him for continually asking, and eventually he gave up trying to force her to sit back down, instead handing her the fire extinguisher and telling her to blast it in the direction of anything that wriggled.
It took nearly half an hour but Stephen eventually gave up, stomping back down the stairs, throwing the pieces of railing he’d been using in his assault against the door to the floor.
“Useless,” he confirmed in frustration, “There’s no way we’re getting through that thing.”
The metal clanged nosily as it hit the ground and that seemed to be almost a siren song, half a dozen more creatures suddenly climbing up on to the platform.
“Maybe we should try to stay as still as possible,” Nick suggested as he quickly tackled them, getting good at it by now, “We’re only attracted them and we can’t keep this up all night.”
“So what do we do?” Stephen asked crossly, “Sit around and wait to be rescued?”
Nick knew that tone was directed at the situation more than at him but in the current climate between them he couldn’t help but take umbrage at it.
“If it’s the sensible option, then yes,” he snapped back, not even attempting to bite his tongue.
Abby went to interrupt them but Stephen got there first.
“It’s not sensible, it’s stupid,” he insisted firmly, “We’ve not just got those things to worry about. The water is still rising too. Do you think they’re going to be able to tread water for any length of time if it comes to that?”
He indicated Connor and Claudia.
“They are still quite conscious and would appreciate it if you didn’t talk about them like they weren’t in the room,” Claudia retorted, the pain she was still in undoubtedly making her easily offended.
“If you weren’t in the room then we wouldn’t have a problem, would we?” Stephen bit back.
That came out all wrong, suggesting that he thought Claudia and Connor were an automatic burden when he was only concerned for their current injuries. Stephen wasn’t really being so dismissive of them, Nick knew that, but he couldn’t help but jump to their defence, his current anger at Stephen making everything the other man said sound worse.
“And if you hadn’t bothered coming down here with us, then we wouldn’t be wasting time arguing amongst ourselves again,” Nick snapped.
He’d resisted getting properly angry with Stephen for so long. It felt surprisingly good to just let it all out.
And Stephen, it appeared was more than willing to play ball, not backing down as he probably should.
“If I wasn’t here,” he shouted, heading for a full blown argument now, “You’d still be stuck on a bloody balcony!”
“I’m sure Connor and Abby would have coped fine. You couldn’t even get the door open on your own!”
Which was childish, Nick realised but yet still felt good to say it.
“Well, if I’m that damn useless, why don’t you just fire me?” Stephen hollered back aggressively, “Give yourself the excuse! Go on! Then you tell yourself it’s nothing to do with Helen!”
“This is nothing at all to do with Helen!” Nick shouted, “This is a about you! You were supposed to be my bloody friend, Stephen, and you made a fool of me!”
Just as their argument finally turned to the crux of the matter, Abby’s voice finally cut through their shouting.
“Claudia? Are you all right?”
For a moment, and much to his shame, Nick had forgotten about her entirely, too focused on releasing his anger. He turned in alarm to see her sitting on the floor, smiling half heartedly at them.
“I just feel a bit dizzy, that’s all,” she insisted.
But she didn’t fool him. She was scared.
He crouched down in front of her, hand pressing at the crease between her jaw and her neck. Her pulse was a little too fast, breathing a bit quicker too. She was definitely paler and her skin clammy.
“How’s your vision?” he asked gently, hand resting over hers, his thumb comfortingly caressing it had done in the bar earlier.
“A bit blurry,” she admitted quietly, as though she didn’t want the others to hear.
“It’s okay,” he explained, ensuring that he was calm and reassuring, remembering how important it was for her to not panic. “You’re just having a minor reaction to the venom. It’s nothing to worry about, all right? If it was going to have a major affect you’d be feeling much worse by now.”
He was convinced of that. He wouldn’t accept it any other way.
Determinedly she struggled to her feet, probably aware that all eyes were on her.
She took a shaky step but instantly pitched forward, her balance all over the place. Nick had expected as much and his reflexes reacted quickly, arms around her waist to steady her.
“I think I need to sit down,” she admitted.
“Yes, I think you do.”
Keeping a tight hold of her, he walked her over to the stairs, sitting her down on them.
“You’ll be okay,” he reassured again.
And he leant forward, placing a kiss in her hair, not caring that the others were watching.
“Oh, that’s not good,” Abby interrupted and Nick turned to see what she was referring to.
The water had reached the lip of the platform and was finally spilling over.
No, not good indeed.
“Help me,” she insisted, grabbing Connor under one arm as the water seeped along the platform towards him.
“I’m not an invalid,” Connor grumbled as Nick hurried to help.
“Shut up,” was Abby’s only reply.
Connor was no more steady on his feet than Claudia had been, and it took the two of them to help him up onto the steps, sitting him next to her, both of them, for now, out of the water.
It soon reached the back of the platform, half an inch deep under their feet.
“What do we do now?” Abby asked, looking to Nick for answers.
“Try and find a way out,” he insisted.
“So, not waiting for rescue then?”
“I think it’s safer if we don’t.”
He looked silently across at Stephen, just daring him to say ‘I told you so’.
Thankfully, he didn’t take the bait.