Challenge: Easter 2007 (Option 2)
Characters: Nick, Claudia, Stephen, Ryan
Pairings/Ships: Nick/Claudia, merest hint of Stephen/Helen
Length/Word Count: 2620
Spoilers: Some from episodes 1-5.
Disclaimer: I don’t own them....Bugger... (although if anyone at Impossible Pictures wants to offer me a job that’d be great...)
Short Summary: People still have the ability to surprise Nick for both better and worse.
She must’ve barely even thought about it. She’d all but saved his life, endangering her own in the process and she’d not even hesitated. It said a lot about the people he worked with that that was becoming an all too common occurrence recently.
Human nature was something he’d mused upon a lot of late, which for someone who had spent almost his entire life thinking about animal behaviour was a bit of a change. People were odd and complicated and he could never quite get a handle on them the way he could with animals. Sure, animals could be unpredictable at times but that was nothing in comparison to the vagaries of human behaviour. Helen was the worst culprit at the moment and he had frankly given up trying to understand anything she did on the basis that he likely had no chance of doing so. Her behaviour was an anomaly of human nature. She wasn’t like other people.
Not to say that the people he worked with were ordinary in any way. Stephen was one of the most skilled field men he had ever met, Connor was a mini genius when it came to prehistoric creatures, Abby had an intuitiveness with animals that you just couldn’t learn, and Claudia? More than anything, she just got things done with a level of organisation and care that he had rarely seen in anyone connected to the government. No wonder Lester wanted to keep her around; she likely had a bright future ahead of her even if she didn’t always see it.
Despite their differing specialities one thing they all shared in common was a desire to help; help the creatures they encountered, help the people affected by the anomalies, help each other... An odd kind of kinship had grown rapidly between them in the few months they’d been working together. They’d become friends, even if they didn’t do many of the things that friends normally did together. Even if the only times they saw each other were in situations that were unusual, scary and often downright dangerous. They were a team. They cared about each other’s well being, looking out for one another, all startlingly willing to put themselves in harm’s way if it meant keeping someone else safe. It was the best of human nature and a good antidote to the bitter taste Helen’s actions left him with.
Nick supposed that was why he couldn’t truly believe that he was an exceptional case or that he was special in any way, even if part of him wished that he was. He had a feeling that Claudia would have reacted the same had it been any of them standing there and danger had been oncoming.
The infant saurapod wasn’t actually aggressive but it was easily spooked, in a strange environment and separated from its herd. They should have expected it to bolt really.
It later turned out that all Connor had done was try to take a photo of it, having sensibly turned the flash off since he’d learnt very early on that ancient animals tended to react badly to bright lights going off in close proximity. Still it seemed that even the quiet noise of the camera’s workings was an unusual enough sound to startle the skittish creature, setting it off at a panicked run.
Nick and Claudia were some distance from the anomaly and their current prehistoric guest. She’d gone back to the car to make a phone call to Lester and Nick had followed her, knowing that she had the facility to easily arrange what he needed – namely the most powerful animal tranquilizers they could lay their hands on. He didn’t like the idea of knocking out an animal that they knew so little about but with such a jittery creature that was so capable of destruction he didn’t see that they had much choice.
He had explained to her that they needed to get in touch with a local zoo because they required large doses of etorphine and acepromazine maleate to knock something of this size down and there was no way any veterinary surgery would hold such drugs. He had also suggested that they’d need a lot of diprenorphine as well to revive the animal once they’d gotten it back through the anomaly and a naloxone based antidote in case there was an accident and any of the people got shot instead.
Claudia had looked at him incredulously, shaking her head in mild disbelief, asking him just what she was supposed to say when the zoo asked why she needed it and in such quantities. He had rather cheekily suggested a stampeding herd of elephants and even she had had difficulty hiding her mildly amused smile.
Nick was about to reassure her that he knew she’d think of something, when they both felt a very definite tremor in the ground.
They’d shared a look, a frowning of concern and confusion.
The combination of the sharp bend in the narrow, currently closed off lane and the tall trees lining it made it impossible to see what was coming. Nick had a pretty good idea of course but he hadn’t wanted to believe it until he saw it for himself, charging towards them in a clear panic, going frighteningly fast for something so large.
He couldn’t help but be awed by the power displayed and he stood stock still for a moment, staring in wonder and disbelief.
Fortunately Claudia was more pro-active.
With less than a few metres to spare she barrelled into his side at full force, shoving him out of the animal’s path and on to his backside. She didn’t even hesitate to think that she might be putting herself in danger. In fact she almost got away with it but for the swish of the animal’s tail catching her as it passed, a swift thwack enough to send her tumbling down the embankment at the side of the road.
Nick sat there in shock for a few moments, watching the animal continuing its relentless progress down the road. Stopping it now certainly wouldn’t be easy.
He scrambled to his feet, brushing small stones off of his stinging palms.
“Claudia, we really need that tranquilizer,” he said as he walked towards the embankment she’d rolled down, intending to help her up, keeping half an eye on the road and then grimacing as he saw the saurapod crash through a hedge and into a field. They were going to have a tough time explaining that one to the farmer who owned it.
With the momentary distraction it took him longer than it should have to realise that Claudia hadn’t answered back.
He quickened his pace, frowning in concern as he reached the edge of the embankment. It was much steeper than he realised and there was a small stream running at its base.
Claudia lay there, face down in the water and not moving.
Nick scrambled down the slope as quickly as he could, sliding down the last few metres on his backside and falling to his knees beside her. He wasted no time in grabbing her firmly by the shoulders and hauling her out of the water, turning her onto her back as he carefully laid her on the leaf littered ground.
He tried to ignore the unhealthy pallor of her face, pushing aside strands of wet hair in order to check her over. His fingers found the pulse point at her neck, not as strong as it should be but definitely there. Leaning over her face however he could feel no breath on his cheek and could see no tell tale rising and falling of her chest.
She wasn’t breathing.
He tilted her head back and sealed his mouth over hers, breathing steadily into her lungs before pulling back taking a breath himself and then repeating the process again.
She couldn’t have been in there that long. Thirty seconds at most. Surely not long enough to...
On his third breath she coughed violently, eyes flying open in a panic, water pouring from her mouth. She spluttered and gasped, her hands reaching out and clutching wildly as his shirt, clearly thrown for a moment as to where she was and what had happened.
“Oh thank god,” he muttered in relief, already seeing the colour returning to her skin.
She scrambled to a sitting position, breath still ragged, looking wildly around her.
“Hey, easy,” he soothed, placing his hands on her arms to still her, “It’s okay. You’re all right.”
“You sure?” she asked, looking still a little dazed.
He smiled slightly, “Yeah.”
For some unknown reason she tried to get to her feet but was still too unsteady to do so, falling straight back onto her bottom. Nick moved to her side, hand on her shoulder to stop her from trying it again.
“Okay, you just nearly drowned,” he pointed out, “I think you can give yourself a minute.”
“Right,” she said softly, still sounding confused, “Just a minute.”
Without warning she laid her head onto his shoulder and after a moment of uncertain hesitation he put his arms around her, stroking a hand comfortingly up and down her back as he held her there.
“Just a minute,” she murmured again softly, making him smile.
The action of his hand seemed to have the desired effect and she gradually calmed, the breaths he could feel at the opening of his shirt becoming steady and gentle, her heart not thumping so hard. Glancing down he could see she had her eyes closed, taking the chance to relax in his arms.
Despite the circumstances that had led to it, he couldn’t help but find a sort of peace in the tenderness of the moment. It had been far too long since he’d had this in his life. Even in the months before Helen had disappeared, this kind of affection between them had seemed to have all but vanished from their marriage. He supposed that this was another part of human nature; the want to be close to someone. It was something he’d pushed out of his life for a long time now but also something which was beginning to become prevalent again since he’d met Claudia. He was starting to think the perhaps it would be nice to have someone once more. Even if occasionally the feelings he had did scare him just a little.
It was a part of the human condition he certainly didn’t understand. Attraction. It was just so random. No doubt Claudia was a very desirable woman - pretty, intelligent, quick witted, strong, independent, charming and a bit cheeky in a playful way that amused him. She certainly wasn’t the only woman he’d met with such qualities however. Yet she was the only one in eight years who he found himself thinking about when she wasn’t there, causing him to exhibit a fond smile that Stephen kept winding him up about. She was the first one to make him think that now was the time to move on. But why her? He couldn’t answer that. But was the reason really that important?
None of it made any sense actually but he supposed that in the end it wasn’t meant to. There had to be some mysteries in life after all and at least this was one of the more pleasant ones.
Allowing human nature and the instinct of attraction to rule him just for one moment he dropped a soft, lingering kiss into Claudia’s hair, holding her a little tighter.
Her eyes opened now and she pulled back, looking at him curiously.
“Are you all right?” he asked, as deft as always at ignoring her questioning looks.
He smiled slightly, “I guess this makes us even now.”
“I suppose it does,” she agreed, remembering the time when he had been the one to almost drown and she’d been the one administering the CPR.
“So no more trying to get yourself killed, okay?” he said with mock scolding.
She smiled in return.
“As long as you try to avoid the same because I assure you that’s the last time I save your life from a stampeding dinosaur.”
He smiled too.
The oddly peaceful atmosphere around them was broken at the call of their names. That was Stephen. Obviously he and the others had come looking for the creature although with the ground it could cover it had taken them a short while to catch up.
“Down here!” Nick called back, holding his hands out to help a still slightly unsteady Claudia to her feet, an arm round her shoulders as he assisted her back up the slope.
Stephen soon appeared at the top, walking down a few paces and holding his hand out, helping her up the last couple of metres. Once there she was passed straight over to the Special Forces medic and Nick was accosted by Ryan asking him questions about what had happened and where the creature had gone.
By the time Ryan had finished with him, Claudia was already in the back of the ambulance, sitting on the bed, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders.
“How is she?” he asked as the medic stepped out of the vehicle.
“Seems okay,” the man said with a businesslike nod, “A bit bruised but nothing serious. We’re going to get her down the hospital though just to get her checked out properly.”
The medic walked off, no doubt to report to Ryan, and Nick climbed up into the back of the ambulance, sitting down in the seat beside her.
“What are you doing?” she asked with a small, bemused frown.
“Going with you,” he stated simply.
She shook her head, thinking he was being silly. “It’s just a few tests. I should be out in an hour or two. You don’t have to come.”
“Well you probably saved my life so actually I think I do.”
She couldn’t really argue with that and even if she was tempted to she was prevented from doing so by Stephen appearing at the doors.
“Are you okay?” he asked, smiling sympathetically at Claudia, having heard from Nick now what had happened.
“Fine, thank you.”
Seeing no need to dwell further on the matter he got straight back to business.
“Well Abby contacted Wellington Zoo and the tranquilizer is on its way,” he said, “The saurapod’s munching on some trees in a field down the road so as long as we keep out of its way we shouldn’t have any more problems.”
Nick nodded in agreement.
“How are you going to get it back to the anomaly?” Claudia asked, as always thinking of all the practicalities involved.
“Big crane, big truck,” Stephen explained simply, “Ryan’s organising it.”
“Good. Let me know how it goes.”
He patted the side of the ambulance and turned to go, stepping aside to allow the medic to pass as he nearly walked right into him. Unknown to both of them, Stephen momentarily glanced back into the ambulance before the door was shut. Nick was leaning forward, saying something that made Claudia laugh slightly. One of his hands was resting on hers stroking it softly, the gesture apparently going unnoticed by the pair of them.
Stephen smiled and shook his head fondly as he walked away, wondering if his friend had any clue how dangerously close to being smitten he actually was and sincerely hoping that he had the common sense to do something about it. He himself knew all too well what it was like to let someone go. He was inclined to believe that you should never do it, no matter what the reasons.