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21 April 2008 @ 04:57 pm
Primeval Fic: A Quiet Break In The Country (7 of 8)  

Title: A Quiet Break In The Country (7 of 8)
Pairings/Ships: Nick/Claudia, Abby/Connor.
Rating: K+
Warnings: None
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 [info]fredbassett


Part Seven

The water was now a good half a foot higher than the platform as Nick trudged over, careful not to step straight off the edge by accident. Stephen watched him, thinking that the rising level should have been an indication to the other man of just how serious things were getting. Cutter’s priorities, however, were clearly a little skewed. That was one of the reasons why he and Stephen had always made such a good professional team. Nick could, on occasion, be far too idealistic whereas Stephen was often bluntly realistic. The two seemed to balance themselves out quite well.

Now, unfortunately, their differences were just something else for them to argue about.

“Don’t be so bloody stupid,” Nick growled at him. “Going down there, it’s...it’s idiotic.”

Stephen might have been touched by the hint of concern there if he wasn’t still so angry.

“I can do the maths, Cutter,” he snapped, trying to force the other man to see the truth of their situation, “This place is flooding at a foot an hour at least. If Lester doesn’t hear from us at eight and then, say, waits an hour before sending any one down to check, it takes, what? An hour and a half for the soldiers to mobilise and get here? And then they’ve got to actually find us...”

Stephen knew Nick didn’t want to hear it but he saw the other man’s firm expression falter, the sense of the statement hitting home. “You see how fine we’ll be cutting it?” he pressed, dropping his voice, not wanting to worry the others, “And it isn’t just drowning we’ve got to worry about, is it? The higher this water gets, the fewer places we have to hide from those creatures.”

Nick held gaze with him for a long moment, eventually sighing in irritation, unable to find any way of arguing against that reasoning.

“Yeah, okay, fair enough,” he conceded, “But did you stop to think that you are no use to us dead?”

Deep down Stephen was sure that Nick didn’t hate him enough to want to see him almost literally throw himself to the sharks, but it was clear that the other man wanted to keep to the practicalities, not the personal. Stephen needed to stay alive because they needed his help, simple as that.

That stung but he let it go.

“I’ll be fine,” he said, knowing he had nothing to back that up that but adamant anyway. “We saw one of the scorpions get in here from the outside, right? There must be a way out. Unless you’re suggesting it walked through the locked door.”

“You’re bleeding,” Nick reminded him sharply, nodding towards the still seeping cuts from the jaekelopterus claws. “You know as well as I do that that’ll attract the predators. Anything down there will be on you as soon as they sense blood in the water. Besides, in case you hadn’t noticed, you’re a mite bit bigger than a brontoscorpio. Just because it found a way in and out, doesn’t mean you’ll fit through it.”

Stephen nodded, understanding that but not letting it discourage him. “But it’s worth a try, isn’t it? Claudia and Conner need medical help. Sooner rather than later.”

“They’ll be alright,” Nick insisted.

“Not if this water keeps rising they won’t.”

Nick’s silence spoke volumes.

Taking his decision as final, Stephen walked over to Connor.

“Can I borrow your camera?”

“Why? What’s going on?” Claudia butted in. Stephen had a suspicion that she already knew, having figured it out from what she’d seen and overheard, but the woman preferred facts to guess work.

“I’m going to go and take a look,” he explained, doing his best to make it sound like something she shouldn’t be concerned about, “See if I can find out how that scorpion got in.”

“You’re going into the water?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure you’ll be safe?”

She didn’t order him or tell him what to do, she just gave him the choice. Trusting his judgement. And considering how the others had treated him recently, he could have kissed her for that which, in the current climate, would probably have caused Nick to ram a metal pole through his head.

Bizarrely, the idea made him chuckle to himself.

Gallows humour, no doubt.

“I’ll be okay,” he reassured Claudia, as she looked at him oddly, probably wondering what the heck he had to laugh about.

“What do you want the camera for?” Connor chipped in. “I take it you didn’t plan on getting a few snaps whilst you’re down there.”

“The flash,” Stephen explained, “You said yourself that these things have large eyes. Sudden, bright light might be enough to scare them off. Keep them away from me.”

Connor nodded, “Right, just give me a sec.”

He fiddled with the device a moment, removing and pocketing the memory card.

“Haven’t downloaded my pictures yet,” he explained at Stephen’s curious look.

Talk about warped priorities. How did he even think of something like that when they were in this mess? He was as bad as Nick at times. Stephen made a mental note that he really should try not to get killed; those two needed him to watch their backs.

He walked back over to the water’s edge, only pausing to nod in thanks at Claudia’s parting ‘be careful’.

As he hesitated, he briefly considered if taking his shirt off too would be a good idea. It could make it easier to move through the water. But, he decided, having something other than his skin for sharp claws to grab at was probably the more important thing.

“Want me to go with you?”

He turned to see Abby looking at him, hands in pockets. It was the nicest tone she’d used with him in weeks and she looked almost sheepish, like this was some sort of apology.

He shook his head.

“You need to stay here and help Cutter,” he reasoned. “Keep those things in the water, not up here.”

She nodded and he really hoped that she didn’t take that as a rejection of her peace offering.

“Okay, but either way, we’ve got to go about this logically,” she said, running her hands through her hair, still somehow seeming awkward as though fighting the urge to say more. “You can’t just swim down there and hope for the best. Which side of the building did that thing crawl through the grate on?”

Stephen looked around for a moment, visualising the path they’d taken, using his excellent spatial awareness to figure it out.

“That side,” he concluded, nodding towards the right. Then he smiled at Abby, “Good thinking.”

She nodded again but said nothing more.

Stephen took a few paces closer to the edge, peering into the dark water, the only illumination down there being the shimmering anomaly and the weak light coming from above that barely pierced the surface.

He couldn’t deny he was scared but he took the fear and used it, turning it into adrenaline that would make him move faster and react quicker.

Nick grabbed his arm moments before he stepped in.

“You have nothing to prove,” he insisted with quiet intensity.

Is that why he thought Stephen was doing this? A grand gesture to repair their friendship? A way of proving where his loyalties lie?

“I’m not trying to prove anything,” Stephen said, just as firmly. Then a wry smile spread across his lips, “But you know me. Never was one for just waiting around.”

Nick smiled slightly. Then he stepped back, releasing Stephen’s arm, letting the other man make the decision for himself.

“Just don’t go playing with the locals down there.”

Stephen grinned, then dived into the water.

The first thing that struck him was how bloody cold it was, hurting more than his stinging cuts did. It literally took his breath away and he immediately had to surface again, forcing his lungs to cooperate in to drawing a couple of breaths before he took a deep one and dived back down.

The second thing he realised was that it was just as dark as he had imagined. The few feet around the anomaly and below the surface were reasonably well lit but other than that he was in almost total darkness. He really wished he had a torch, the flash of the camera only momentarily illuminating things, making his view a bunch of still photos. Still, it was better than nothing even though he was afraid to set it off too often in case he drained the battery.

He forced himself to be calm, knowing there was no point in jumping at every shadow, most of which his mind probably made up. He couldn’t possibly see what was coming and so he just had to prepare himself to react as soon as anything made itself known.

His heart pounded faster as something brushed against him in the dark and he quickly turned and set off the flash. He momentarily saw the brontoscorpio, mere feet from him, obviously having come to investigate the splash. A second burst of light showed that it had instantly vanished, just as he had suspected, not liking the bright light.

He sincerely hoped that anything else in the vicinity had fled too.

Resurfacing, reasonably content that he had dealt with any initial interest, he began to swim towards the right hand wall.

Out of the corner of his eye he could see Nick and Abby standing near the water’s edge, keeping an eye on him while they still patrolled for any interested creatures.

It took him a while to check the wall properly, wanting to use the flash sparingly and so relying on feeling his way along, surfacing for air whenever he needed to. Mercifully, he didn’t get much hassle from any of the creatures. He wondered if it was the massive orthocone that scared them off, it seeming to have laid claim to this side of the cellar. When he’d first spotted it he’d been wary, wondering how it would react to his presence. He soon got used to it however as it swam lazily by, not the least bit bothered by or interested in him.

He suspected that the grate the scorpion had fled down was some sort of vent, allowing fresh air into the cellar. He surmised that this end of it had to be somewhere underwater, otherwise the creature never would have found its way through in the first place, and so he searched diligently, knowing it would be there.

Eventually he discovered it near the bottom, unsurprised to find the gaping hole and nearby the grate that should have covered it lying on the floor. It’d probably fallen off some time ago and Buckland just hadn’t bothered to get it repaired.

Annoyingly, it was much smaller on this side than it had been on the other. The gap was less than half a meter wide and there was no way he was going to fit in there. Trying to quell the defeated feeling but still knowing it was a lost cause, he swam back to the surface.

“It’s no good,” he said to Abby and Nick as he hauled himself out of the water, taking a momentary respite, “I found it but it’s way too small.”

“Could I get through it?” Abby asked, hopefully.

“If you chop your shoulders off, yeah.”

She looked at him oddly for a moment. She probably wondered whether he was lying to prevent her from putting herself in danger, but eventually she accepted his word.

“Could you block it?” Claudia called across, “Stop any more creatures getting out? There are still people in this hotel.”

Stephen nodded, seeing her point.

“Maybe. If I had something large enough to stuff in there.”

“My jacket,” Connor offered, already shrugging it off.

Well, it would probably work but Abby clearly had objections.

“Don’t be stupid,” she said firmly, scolding him, “You need it. You’re injured.”

“I hit my head,” he reminded her, not seeing the relationship between that and the need for the jacket.

“Yes, and do you want hyperthermia to go with your concussion?” she pointed out archly, hands on hips.

“I’m not a kid, I’ll be alright,” he insisted, an indignant snap to his voice as though he was tired of being babied.

She sighed, throwing her hands up in defeat.

He held out the jacket to her expectantly.

Abby didn’t budge, raising an eyebrow.

“Moving makes me want to throw up,” he admitted, sheepishly.

Huffing, she stomped over, snatched it off of him and took it to Stephen.

“Back in a sec,” he promised, swimming off again.

Minutes later he returned, having stuffed the jacket in the vent as firmly as he could. He wasn’t sure it would stay there but it would have to do for now and Claudia was right, they didn’t want any more of these creature’s escaping and becoming a threat to others if they could help it.

“Okay, you might as well get out of there then,” Nick instructed, “We’ll have to think of something else.”

But there wasn’t anything else, they all knew that. They’d been over the place a dozen times. There were no other exits.

And so Stephen shook his head.

“There might be something else down here,” he reasoned, “Another way out. I have to take a look.”

“You can’t check the whole bloody thing,” Nick said gruffly, “Not on your own, anyway.”

“Stay there,” Stephen warned, seeing where that was going, “There’s no point putting two of us in danger and I’m already in here now.”

“You don’t even know what you’re looking for,” Abby reasoned.

“Storm drain,” Connor suddenly said, clicking his fingers as though he’d literally been struck with the idea out of the blue.

They all looked at him.

“A lot of these old houses had their own storm drains,” he continued, excitedly as the realisation sunk in, “Takes water from the guttering and around the house away to a local field or river to stop the building flooding if it rains hard.”

“But they didn’t build them in the cellar, Connor,” Stephen pointed out, “Seeing as it’s very unlikely to rain in here.”

“No, but in these remote places they often put an access point inside the cellars,” Connor continued, ignoring the sarcasm, “So that the servants could go down there and clear out the branches and leaves and stuff so it didn’t get blocked. It was sealed off so the water couldn’t back up into the building obviously.”

“And it would be big enough to get a person through,” Claudia added, digesting what he’d said.

“Precisely.”

“Any idea where it’s likely to be?” Stephen asked, thinking of the practical. He really didn’t want to be down there any longer than necessary but he liked the renewed hope it offered.

“On the floor, near the walls. They wouldn’t have wanted to put too much extra tunnel in for it.”

Stephen nodded and instantly dived back in to look, not waiting for the approval of the others.

He wasn’t sure if it was a pessimistic imagination playing tricks on him but he was sure that over the half dozen times he was forced to use the camera flash to scare off curious creatures, the light didn’t seem as bright as it had done before. He really hoped that the battery wasn’t running out. Still, he was forced to continue to use it if he was going to search properly, knowing that it would be stupid to try and explore the large floor area by touch alone, even if he was going to take Connor’s suggestion and only search near the walls.

The creatures only seemed to show an interest in him when he was swimming up and down whilst surfacing for air, which was a blessing. He was also thankful for the fact that nothing else predatory had made itself known, the only additions to the creatures they’d already seen being a bunch of primitive fish who seemed more frightened of him than he was of them.

Every moment was still nerve wracking but he was getting used to that.

Finally, he found something, in the far left hand corner. A large, solid drain cover. That had to be it. Tucking the camera into the waistband of his trousers, knowing that he’d need both hands, he grabbed the metal handles and tugged. He wasn’t really surprised when it didn’t budge. The water was providing too much resistance and he couldn’t get good enough leverage.

He headed straight up to the surface, wanting to ensure he knew exactly where to dive the next time.

Making a note of his position, he quickly swam back to the platform. The water there was a good foot higher now, and he noticed that Claudia and Connor had retreated up a couple of stairs. It only increased his sense of urgency.

“Pass me one of those poles,” he said to Abby, holding his hand out expectantly.

She did as he asked.

“You found it then?” Nick surmised.

“Yeah, but I need something to get the cover off.”

Without waiting for further comment, he swam back down.

Removing the cover, using the pole as a lever, wasn’t exactly a walk in the park but he managed it on the third time of trying, knowing that the effort would sap his strength and so putting his all into it straight away. He held on for dear life as the water was sucked down through the gap almost pulling the cover back again. When everything finally settled, he pushed it properly aside and used the flash to take a quick look down there. Definitely appeared to be access to the storm drains and, more importantly, it was more than large enough for him to fit through.

He headed back to the surface, taking a deep preparatory breath.

“It’s open?” Nick called across at him.

Stephen nodded, “I’ll be back soon, okay?”

“You do realise,” Nick pointed out, “that the drains are now flooded too.”

“Only to the same level as this basement,” Stephen reasoned, “Once I get near the surface up there, I’ll be fine.”

“And do you know how far you’re going to have to swim to get there?”

Stephen ignored that. It was something he’d rather not think about at all to be honest.

“I can make it,” he insisted, taking that final, deep breath once again before diving under water.

Left behind, Abby looked grimly at Nick.

“Of course, the one flaw in this is we won’t know whether he got out or if he’s in trouble.”

Nick said nothing, having no comforting words for her.

Below the surface, Stephen swam down to the hole as fast as could. This was a bit like cave diving, he told himself. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d had to swim through a flooded passage to get out. He’d been all right then and this would be no different.

He used one shot of the now definitely dying flash to help him get his bearings but even so, it took his searching fingers a moment to properly find the edge of the hole when he reached the bottom.

Relieved, his hands curled around the rim and he pulled himself through using the leverage to try and propel himself faster in case the journey on the other side was longer than he anticipated.

A sudden, yanking back brought him to an abrupt and startling halt. For a moment he thought he’d simply snagged his tee shirt on something sharp but dismissed that idea as he was instantly dragged back through the hole.

No, something definitely had hold of him.

His arms flew out, bracing themselves either side of the gap trying to fight back, but his muscles stung, using up his precious oxygen too quickly.

So instead he let go, flying back in to danger but freeing his hands to grab at the camera. He set the flash off half a dozen times in quick succession, lighting up the jaekelopterus in a number of terrifying still moments as it let go of him and darted away, startled.

Hurriedly, he swam back down, the camera falling from his fingers and he didn’t stop to retrieve it. Neither did he dare swim back up either, fearing that he’d be going straight into the creature’s grasp and now having no way of scaring it off.

He swam through the tunnel as quickly as he could, adrenaline speeding him on. Could the creature fit through it too? Were the brushes he felt against his trousers its claws trying to grab at his legs?

It was that fear more than anything that drove him on, even when his muscles told him that they had little more to give. If it caught him, he’d be dead.

He almost panicked when his knuckles scraped against a wall in front of him, scared he’d come to a dead end, knowing that there was no way he’d be able to swim back before he drowned. Forcing himself to remain calm, he quickly came to a more encouraging realisation and looked up, seeing the faintest trickle of light high above him.

He swam with renewed vigour, gasping in shock when his head suddenly broke the water’s surface, lungs instantly dragging air in.

Not stopping to bask in his relief, he hurriedly climbed the nearby ladder, knowing he needed to get clear of the water in case he really was being followed. He did stop however when he reached the grating at the top, trembling and oxygen starved muscles not having the strength to move it. He wrapped his arm around the ladder, leaning heavily against it as he closed his eyes and took further deep, grateful breaths.

He still felt weak and unsteady moments later as he used his shoulder to push the grate up, fighting against the urge to just collapse, remembering that his friends were still trapped. He crawled out of the hole and into the moonlight, a quick glance around telling him that he was on the golf course at the back of the property. He replaced the grate, not wanting to risk any more of the creatures getting out, and then he jogged back towards the hotel, trying to shake off the trembling in his limbs, forcing himself into a decent pace when all he really wanted to do was lie down and rest.

Buckland’s face when Stephen stormed through the front door was quite the picture, not that he took time to admire it, punching the other man in the nose as he walked past him and back to the cellar door.

He continued to glare the man into staying exactly where he’d fallen, clutching at his bleeding nose, while Stephen called for an ambulance. Behind him, Nick carried Claudia from the cellar, trying to take in all her instructions about contacting Lester, containing the creatures and evacuating the hotel, before placing her onto one of the lobby sofas, telling her to stay put, and then heading back down to help Abby drag Connor up the stairs too.

At the desk Buckland attempted to crawl away and a sharp kick from Stephen stopped him.

“Foot slipped,” Stephen explained when he saw Claudia looking at him questioningly

She said nothing, obviously not being able to congratulate that kind of thing from a professional stance, but smiling a little all the same.

Nick’s hand rested momentarily on his shoulder when he passed again.

“Thanks,” he muttered hurriedly before going to sit with Claudia.

And despite the circumstances, despite being cold and exhausted, Stephen suddenly felt better than he had done in weeks.

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telperion_15: Busy Reading Fanfictiontelperion_15 on April 21st, 2008 09:11 pm (UTC)
Yay, action!Stephen.

Great chapter.
MysteriousAliWays: Primeval - Stephenmysteriousaliwz on April 21st, 2008 10:53 pm (UTC)
Stephen is quite the one for the heroics.
fredbassettfredbassett on April 22nd, 2008 02:00 pm (UTC)
Wet Stephen really does present a very nice mental picture. And he's good at the heroics :)
fififolle: Primeval - Connor spideysensefififolle on April 28th, 2008 01:50 pm (UTC)
Oooh, I like your action Stephen :) Very nice!