Face the music
There may be trouble ahead…
They were both hopeful.
As Abby pointed out, there had been a relatively fair number of anomalies that opened to the cretaceous era, so they had as good a chance as any of getting home. And they had the ARC team on the look out for them, so that was an added bonus.
…Even if they had gotten separated from Danny – they found his footprints, and the prints stopped without sign of a scuffle, so they could only presume that he had passed through a now closed anomaly, instead of finding himself the prey of the many things that lurked in these woods.
Or at least, so they could hope.
That was just another thing that they hoped for – and that he had been able to get to Helen before she decided to screw with the world as much as she had their own little world. And that that anomaly would re-open for him too, if not here, then back in 21st century England. Even if theirs didn't.
But Hope wasn't the same as ignorance.
They knew how bad their situation was, and they weren't going to get anywhere just sitting around, twiddling their thumbs. If it was going to open, it could be anywhere, and at any time. Until it did, they had to make precautions for a long stay.
They had some basic skills, a few supplies that would last a little while if they rationed. A pen knife in each bag.
They had each other.
And so they made a camp. Taught themselves how to hunt.
They learned how to survive.
They made do with the hand fate gave them. Hope as they may, the cards weren't going to be re-shuffled any time soon.
…But while there's moonlight…
They slept in shifts, hyperaware of their position in arguably the most dangerous of time periods that they could have wound up in. Just their luck, of course.
But there was still beauty to be found in this most hostile of places. Often the nights were bright, lit by stars far more brilliant in their intensity than could be seen from their own time. Connor often spent his watches staring up at the night sky, awed by the sheer beauty of the night sky.
The moon seemed bigger here. The constellations were unlike the ones he had seen when he was a child. When he moved to London, it was like they vanished. He never had the time to look up at them anymore, and even when he did, the sky was often overcast, or else they were hidden behind the city smog and light pollution.
Perhaps, in a mad, impossible way, Helen was right. Humans ruined everything that they touched – they took everything on offer, and gave very little back. Maybe she was going about it a little wrong, but he could see some method in her madness. If only there was a way to reroute the way people developed, made them more aware of how brittle the world's ecosystem was, the world wouldn't be so bad. There would be more natural beauty, like that he was seeing now.
But he had seen, at least a little, what meddling did. Like the Professor said, everything they did changed things. Claudia Brown was just a small example.
It was amazing to see just how much the world, and indeed the universe itself had changed over the millennia. The constellations were different here, to what they were back home. Everything seemed heightened; the sounds, the sights, everything was acted as a constant reminder of how very wrong it was, them being there.
Maybe he was beginning to change a little too. Back at the ARC, his computer know-how and ingenuity had been a valuable asset to the team. Now though, it was useless. They had both been forced to learn how to exist. How to carve a living out of the harsh world they were lost in. There was no sleeping on the job, like he had all that time ago when they had first started out. All his senses were sharpened, keen and alert, even in sleep. He was getting stronger. Hardened, wary of everything.
He didn't have a choice.
But he was still Connor. Still there for Abby when she had those rare moments of weakness. He was always there for her, just like she was for him.
It didn't take long for the homesickness to set in. Even when they were spending most of their time concentrating on just making it through to see another sunrise, they couldn't help pining for their home.
Not even just their flat, with Rex and Sid and Nancy, nor the ARC team and their work there. Just for everything about their 21st century lives, and the effortlessness of modern life. Even with the thrill of their job, it was such an easy existence, something neither of them quite realised just how much they took for granted.
Connor longed for the escape of his games and films. They had become more to him since he started working on the anomaly research. It was a welcome sanctuary to lose himself in; science fiction, just as mad as his fact, but that wasn't his life. It was something separate. Something that didn't affect him personally.
He missed being able to work on his computer, or the detector, or the dozens of things that he was constantly working on. He had barely stopped for breath since Cutter… what happened to Cutter. It was easier, better, to lose himself in work, than let himself stop and think.
For Abby, it was more a case of simple pleasures that she longed for most; hot showers and long baths, sleeping in her own bed and the warm of her duvet. She had never had much when she was a child, so she took pleasures in the little luxuries she had been able to get as she grew up and made her own way in life. But here she longed most just to be able to sleep for a full night, without the fear of waking up without a limb… if she woke up at all.
"What I wouldn't give for a slice of pizza…"
Abby gave him a look, but held her tongue. It was undeniable that the convenience of going to the shops was preferable to having to hunt, skin and roast a something-a-saurus – a piece of which he was currently picking out of his teeth with a grimace as he stared into the . The meat was stingy, and not particularly delicious, to say the least. But it kept them alive. Kept them strong enough to make it through another day.
"Mmmm… pepperoni and ham… extra cheese," she quoted from their regular from movie nights with a wistful smile tugging at her lips.
"Or fish and chips…" he added.
"Oh stop…" she whined. She longed for good food, but it wouldn't make them feel any better complaining. She threw another log on the fire, sending sparks into the sky. They kept it burning all night and day, to save them having to re-light it. They learned what burned best for different things – which burned hottest for cooking, or which burned long and low for when they needed to leave their camp to go hunting. It kept most of the night time nasties away, and its crackling was somewhat comforting.
But even so, the forest was never safe. It didn't keep the piercing cries of its inhabitants from sending shudders through them at night. It was never silent, and it was in the nights that they were most aware of their mortality. The screams of unseen predators, seeming at once far away and inches away. The noises were inescapable. They could only try and forget by talking, or just pretending that they didn't shudder or jump at it all.
"God, I miss my iPod…" Abby muttered, the thought spilling from her lips before she even realised she had spoken. She smiled sheepishly at Connor, returning her gaze to the fire. It was one of the few even remotely expensive things she had, aside from the flat.
Even when she was a child, with an extremely limited income for anything, let alone luxuries, she had always been enamoured with music. She would spend hours wandering the aisles of music shops, listening to what was being played over the shop radio and the headphones. She was smart about it, only spending long enough to stop them from worrying she was nicking anything and chuck her out, rotating between a few of them over the days. It had been her first job, working in her particular favourite, back when she was still studying herpetology.
Since then, as soon as she got a pay packet, she had been to get at least one CD. She liked at least one band from each genre; she wasn't particularly picky. She liked songs that meant something; lyrics with some meaning behind them, or that made you think. She had barely slept a night without earphones in as she nodded off since she was 19, and it was something she sorely missed in a place where the only sounds were death trying to creep up on you.
Connor looked at her for a long time over the crackling flames. "Hmm… it would be nice to be able to drown it out." He jerked his thumb over his shoulder, but whether he meant the noise, or just the whole stupid situation, she didn't care to ask, "But I tell you what…"
She looked up, and her curiosity was piqued by the mischievous twinkle in his eye, dancing like the flames between them. It had been far too long since she had seen that glint, and it warmed her to see its return.
He stood up, walking around their campfire to plonk himself down beside her, nudging his shoulder into hers, "I'll get some raptors on a drum-kit, you teach a 'Rex the base, and we'll start a whole new genre. Really ol' skool, yeah?
It felt so good to laugh again. With his arm around her shoulder, and hers around his waist, they drowned out the night-time yelps and cries.
It became something of a routine for them to sing, often at the most random moments. They would be talking about something, or nothing, and a word would remind them both of a song. They were attuned to one another so well that they often thought of the same song, bursting out in a chorus in perfect sync, before collapsing in laughter.
Occasionally, they would croon quieter melodies to one another if their sleep became fitful, or if they couldn't sleep full stop. It wasn't perfect – Abby sometimes teased that his singing voice was enough to keep away any monsters in the forest, whether they had ears or not – but it was something that they shared. Something that reminded them of home. Something to keep the fear at bay, and to relieve the pressure.
They leant together during the nights. They made excuses at first, claiming it was warmer, and that it meant less space to keep watch over and protect, and so it only made sense. Believable lies that did little to veil the unspoken truth they both knew.
They both needed to be close to one another. They needed the reassurance that they were not as alone as they felt. The only two human beings in the entire world, out of place and out of time. They did not belong here, but they did belong with each other, and that was more of a comfort than either of them would admit.
They were not quite sure –either of them – what their relationship was meant to be now, but it had never mattered less. Nothing had happened after that first kiss, but they couldn't be closer.
They depended on each other to stay alive, and to look after each other. The awkwardness that had fallen between each other after Jack's betrayal had been revealed to Abby, and in its stead was a bone-deep trust and reliance from both of them to keep the other safe.
They understood everything about each other a little more each day. Words – both those said and unsaid – were understood instantly. Whole conversations exchanged in a glance, comfort where it was needed, and encouragement given where and how it was needed. Gentle and harsh words sculpted to fit the situation, and never less than what was needed. They worked together seamlessly; a single entity, each with their own functions to carry out to make their lives run as smoothly as life in a deadly prehistoric era could be.
It went without saying that they would give their lives for the other if it was necessary.
It didn't need to be said that they loved each other.
Except one time when it did.
That one time when it really, really did.
That one time when it was almost too late.
That one time when he so very nearly didn't come back.
When they had been so engrossed in the hunt, they hadn't realised that one of them had become the prey of another, far more deadly predator than themselves.
Her shout came too late to warn, but her weapon; her deadly aim was the only thing that saved his life. The lethal point found the heart of the raptor, but it was not just its blood seeping into the forest floor. Abby catalogued the damage with shaking hands, to the sounds of the creature's gargled, final breaths, and the sound of their own prey running away, startled to find themselves surrounded by so many threats.
He made assurances that he was fine, and indeed the cuts he had were shallow; no-where near as bad as they looked. The gash across his brow was the worse but the, head wounds, as he pointed out, were always the worse bleeders.
None of the injuries were as bad as they could… would have been, if she had been just a second slower. A few scars were a small price to pay for their negligence.
But had been that heartbeat, that breath, when she had seen the danger and reacted, the moment as her spear span towards the threat that had thrown everything into sharp relief as cold realisation settled in. Connor, outstretched on the ground, trying to fend of those wicked claws and fatal teeth. Connor, almost blinded by the red flow of blood, by fear and a look of this is it. It was that, the realisation that it was his blood on her handsthat made her see what they were.
They were nothing but frightened children, fending off the world with nothing but pointed sticks. Living on a hope and a prayer and nothing but luck.
Luck didn't last forever, and hope was just as fleeting company, and she had never been one for religion.
She had almost lost the only thing she had, her only constant in a world gone mad. Her only stability and he had almost been blinked out of her life without even knowing what he meant to her. They were the only ones left; not just here, but even back in their time and place, there was no-one from the beginning but Lester, and that was hardly encouraging.
And so she made him better. She bandaged him and cared for him and finally breached the gap.
She took the leap, and hoped he would be there to catch her.
And forever wonder how she could have doubted that he would for a second.
That one time, she kissed away the pain, and the fear, and the rest of the world, for once let him do the same for her.
They were all that mattered.
They spoke more than could be said with words. Words were meaningless in a world where there wouldn't be any for millennia. It was what could be said without words that meant the most. That meant everything.
They danced to music only they could hear; their bodies the instruments to be played with soft touches, rough, heated kisses eliciting the notes, and finding the beat in their chests, keeping perfect time. The eternal harmony of two people who needed each other, finally finding the lyrics they hadn't known they'd been searching for.
That one time, there were two more cries added to the symphony of the night. Cries that sounded like coming home.
Let's face the music…
When they finally, finally stumbled across the glittering, glistening shards of broken time, shining with an unnatural light that - especially to Abby and Connor's tired, disbelieving eyes - burned brighter than any star, neither of them dared to accept it. Some time in the months they had been stranded, they had stopped thinking about getting back. When the measured their success by whether they made it from one sunrise to the next in more or less the same piece, there was little thought left for much further future planning than the next moonrise.
Not that they had stopped hoping that they would get to go back – they had both dreamed of it, longed to get back. They just stopped thinking that they would. Without even realising it, they had resigned themselves to the fact that it was unlikely that they would get back, and had instead carved themselves… not a life, but something approaching it. It was an existence, not comfortable, but good, in its own way. An escape, and a chance to find themselves and each other. To lay the past to rest at last.
But now there it was. Innocently glinting at them, a doorway to… somewhere. There was no way of knowing if the anomaly was even the one that would lead them to the right place, least of all the right time. No way without going through, which neither of them were going to do without the other.
But neither were they going to pass up the only chance they had of finding a way back… home? Could it really be called that anymore? It had been so long since they had seen anyone. No interaction with any living thing, besides that they killed for meat, and those who strayed too close for comfort. They had never thought about it, but now the idea of entering back into a thriving world, loud and metal and so full of life, of noise and music and people, was more daunting than they would have ever imagined.
But it was, ultimately, where they belonged. More than here, that is, and they had to. For the sake of the team; they had a duty to go back. It was that that made them move; made them pack what they had to carry, including the crude weapons they had fashioned – anything could lie on the other side of the anomaly, and they were not going to be caught unawares.
Hand in hand, they stepped through the impossible light. But it wasn't to home.
They already held their home, in the clasp of their entwined fingers.
The world had changed while they had been gone, and it was a fast waltz that they had to both re-learn and adapt to. The steps had been forgotten, the music was playing notes they didn't recognise anymore. Whether it was them, or Helen and Danny that had shuffled the sheets, and so were the conductors to the new symphony, they couldn't know, but now they had no choice but to follow everyone else's steps, and hope they could keep up, or at least keep out from under everyone else's feet.
A new team, with new guns pointed directly at them, though no-doubt they would be just as deadly if they gave them any reason to fire.
Becker was a constant beat, at least, just as suspicious as he had always been, but at least to him they could keep in time with.
Lester, too, was a familiar melody, just as much too sharp and too flat in an unusually comforting discord.
It was refreshing to find points recognisable in the orchestra unfamiliar, one that was missing whole sections; no sign of Sarah, though whether she had left the job or left the world, they hadn't gotten around to asking yet, and of course, Danny had not found his way back yet. They were important parts of the orchestra, and Lester's understudies were not quite tuned right to make it as beautiful harmony it could have, should have been.
And even when they at last, at last found their way back to the flat, even that wasn't right. The animals taken to be cared for at the ARC. The flat left to sit in its dust and shadows.
They didn't even recognise themselves in the mirror. Months of dirt, of fear and change and out of place, they stared at strangers that didn't even have the courtesy of looking surprised under all the months of tiredness.
They began to thing that maybe it wasn't the world that had changed. Maybe it was them, and the world had always been the way it was now. They didn't belong anywhere; not in the past, and not in this present. Everything that was meant to be right was wrong, and not even the things that were meant to be wrong were right.
If not for them both being from the world before, both knowing how it had been, and reassuring each other that it was how they remembered it, they might have begun doubting their own conviction. At last they knew how it had been for Cutter, when he could see the way the world was different, but no-one else could, because for them it had always been like that.
But as they looked at each other, when they had washed off the fear, slept away unbroken hours, chipping at the mountains of sheer, bone deep exhaustion, and eaten away the sickening hunger that they had forgotten in its constant company. When they saw each other, stripped of all the horrors of the past, not just their own, but even this now altered world, they found that they still had a dance they knew. A dance whose music would never change, for as long as there was an Abby Maitland, and a Connor Temple.
The world could end, be it with a bang, or with a whimper, or a thousand unrecognisable sonatas, but for as long as he had his hand in hers, and her hand in his, they could dance through hell itself, and their song would stay the same.
As long as they were together, everything that was wrong, would be made right.
Wow I need sleep.
So, I was determined that I was going to finish re-writing this tonight… which is now this morning -_-' my backside hurts from sitting still so long, and you can tell I'm tired as I'm getting weirder. So I'll try and keep this short before I start writing about the squished fly on my cosplay scissors or the paper cat grinning at me… oops... too late.
…Sooooo… I decided to re-write as soon as I first posted the original. The thing with that version was, it just Was. Not. Me. My writing style is rather more whimsical than what came out in that version, and I have an idea why that was. I wrote it all out in my notebook first, and when I typed it up, I didn't have the frame of mind to change it from what I had written down. Now though, I've barely looked at the original post, and instead let my mind run as free as a prehistoric bird, and now I'm rather a lot more proud of the outcome. And the *first time I've ever written anything even approaching smut* is now improved to a point where I think you could almost count it as such :p
Oh, and the music thing… I think I kinda over played it a little… I wanted the first couple of sections to have things that connected with the things in the later ones, so the music, the cries, the idea of home etc were re-introduced later on, having changed meaning. I hope that got across.
Hope you enjoyed, and please know that anything that you recognise from public media… isn't mine. Not any of the quotes, characters etc, aside from the idea. Please don't sue, you probs have a lot more money than me.