Disclaimer: I don't own Primeval or its characters…
Author's Note: This truly plagued me until it was written (and look, all in one, no waiting!). Deals with how/why Matt would go after Emily. Only briefly covers resolution of the canon's apocalypse story arc, since I don't think he'd allow himself to think about finding Emily until after he finished his mission in life.
Universe: Post 4x07. Basically canon, only assuming there was something more between Matt and Emily than incredible chemistry and angst. Also, post resolution of the story arc proposed in 4x07.
Warning: Angst, some violence…? Also, brief film geekery...
The sun was bright in the clear blue sky and Matt Anderson was content if not happy as he entered the Anomaly Research Center. Honestly, he had never thought of a life beyond his mission to save the world from disaster, beyond fixing the future.
The future should've been pretty much like this. Blue skies. Fresh air. Green and sunny. And beautiful. Deep down, when he had first arrived in this place, this time, he held a seething resentment for its people. He knew it was counterproductive and allowed himself only the briefest indulgence. On the whole, the people of this time hadn't been at fault. It was likely a few or one person who caused the cataclysmic event. They hadn't even realized what was happening until it was too late. That wasn't what bothered him. No, his resentment had sprung from how utterly unaware they were of what they had. How they took this fertile, wondrous world for granted.
It had been dangerous thinking and he had rightly squashed it before it could develop into self-righteousness.
And it no longer applied, did it?
They had fixed the future. At least according to Connor (who was self-proclaimed to be 99.87% certain), Phillip Burton's Prospero had been the cause of Matt's desolate wasteland of a world. They had detained Phillip, seized Prospero, put an immediate halt to the experimentation on anomalies. The young genius had projected they'd only have had a few months if the experiment had been maintained at the levels they found it operating. If Phillip had decided to escalate the endeavour, the cataclysmic event would've occurred within weeks or days.
Although Matt felt certain in his gut, there was only one way to know for sure. Connor in fact had suggested using Prospero to force open just one more anomaly. For one more anomaly alone would not be enough to tip the balance. Matt could see his time, know he'd made a difference. He could go home. Except it would never be the home he had known. That world only existed in his memory, now. And that was a blessing for mankind.
Besides, he wouldn't risk that Connor was wrong. What if his need to know he'd succeeded caused that which he'd given the majority of his life to prevent? The irony of it would be little comfort.
To be honest, he had more of a life here. The closest thing to friends he'd possessed in as long as he could remember were here. His skills, honed as a means to an end, were no less useful in this time and place for their origins. The ARC was still needed to contain naturally occurring anomalies and the creatures they displaced in time. And he found he rather liked his job. He was building a life here.
Not so long ago, he would've guaranteed that in the end, his mission, his father's mission, would've required more than he'd already sacrificed. More than his life. His death. And he'd have given it, too. It was simply the next logical step. Everything he was existed for the sole purpose of changing the future, preventing the apocalyptic event.
The thought of a real life, his own life, a life free of such a burden hadn't occurred to him until the morning he woke up and the world was no longer going to end. At least, he'd like to believe that was when the thought first occurred to him. Except, it wasn't.
Matt couldn't suppress the sigh as he opened his locker and shed his jacket. On the inside of the narrow metal door, he had tacked a picture. The first photo he'd ever kept, ever given a place of honour. He still couldn't remember it being taken. It had shown up at the ARC in a plain brown envelope buried amongst a bunch of similar photos along with an elegantly penned 'Thank You' note on fancy stationary from the former Miss Jenny Lewis. They were pictures from her wedding; both pre-anomaly disaster and post. He couldn't remember smiling that day, but there amongst the various photos was one of he and Emily.
They looked happy.
The others had carried on picking through the photographs, taking the piss out of Connor for the looks on his face or commenting on how gorgeous Jenny was. And he had just stood there, quietly contemplating the photo, as he presently found himself doing once again.
Emily was beautiful. Every time he saw the photo, he found himself a bit surprised as he truly remembered her. He had been suppressing so much, for so long, he automatically seemed to suppress thoughts of her.
He had found out she was married that day.
It shouldn't have mattered. She shouldn't have mattered so much. He had his responsibility, his duty. And she hadn't been part of that.
And that had been the entire problem with Emily. When he met her, he had done something that had never before occurred to him to do. He had considered a life beyond his mission.
He had wanted to run off to Florida with a pretty girl.
My god, he was James Cole. Either that or he had to stop letting Connor talk him into watching various films from his sci-fi collection. The geek had insisted upon his watching 12 Monkeys unable to resist the ties and references to Matt's own story. And Matt had to admit, despite the visual chaos, the mind-bending plot, and camp, it had hit rather harshly close to home. A man sent back in time to an unfamiliar, ludicrous world with only a vague notion of the cause of the apocalypse he needed to piece together. And so tempted by the fresh air, by a pretty girl, he became desperate to stay there, even convincing himself of his own insanity.
Unlike Terry Gilliam's protagonist, however, Matt held firm. He sent away the temptation to drop everything and escape, sent Emily back to her own time. And what was his reward for all he had sacrificed, besides saving mankind?
Well, things could be worse. At least he hadn't been shot and killed in front of a twelve year old version himself. Not that such a twist of irony was even possible. This century was several before he'd even been born.
Matt heartily shook his head, ridding himself of the ridiculous thoughts as he proceeded through the ARC.
Releasing a door lock with a wave of his wrist, he popped his head inside and glanced around the lab.
"Be with you in a moment." Abby's voice carried from where she was sat, engrossed in some specimen she was studying by microscope.
"Thought you might be in here," he greeted the young blonde woman who set aside her work to look at him.
"Oh, hi, Matt," she said. "What can I do for you?"
"I just wanted to check in. See how you're doing," he replied.
"Everything's good with the creatures," she announced. Of course, she assumed that's what he were asking. They were always her first concern when she were in ARC mode. Which meant she was fine. She had taken a tumble last week, when they were trying to usher a herd of ankylosaurus back through an anomaly and lock it down. There was still a bit of bruising on the side of her face.
"And you," Matt clarified.
"Fine," she said, looking uncomfortable. He could understand. Having his weaknesses illuminated wasn't something he enjoyed either. He let it drop at that.
She sighed, looking out over the menagerie.
"It would've been nice if we could've used Prospero to return them to their homes," she said quietly.
Matt felt himself instinctively placed on edge, that edge he used to live upon. He knew Abby well enough now, knew she would never put everything at risk, especially after he had finally told them the whole truth about himself, about where he came from. But he couldn't help what had been ingrained in his being.
She smiled at him.
"Guess we'll just have to do what we've always done," she conceded.
"And what's that?" Matt asked.
"Wait for an anomaly to open to the right time, and send them through," she said, a little hint of sadness in her voice. She shook it off. "So... have you thought about returning to the future, just to see?"
"I'll just have to wait, like the Mammoth," Matt replied.
Abby nodded. He could see that she understood. When he had come clean, she had seemed considerably angered by the lies, that he hadn't trusted them. It seemed that the few months since that time had healed those wounds. And they doubtless knew one another better than when he had kept himself so very closed off to the world. If only he had realized this, if he had been more open, he would've known them all well enough to have stopped suspecting them and trusted them to help him.
But no matter, now. He couldn't undo the harm he had caused to his relationships with his friends. He could only try to make it better now, build his life.
"Where's Connor?" he asked before he left her to her work. She rolled her eyes.
"Still trying to deconstruct Prospero," she replied. Matt had figured as much. He nodded his head, as much in acknowledgement of how much of Connor's time the monstrosity of science had taken from her, as in thanks.
And then he made his way toward the hub.
What had he done?
There was no smile on Jess' face when he greeted her. Only the most serious of circumstances took a smile from the peppy young woman's face. She was the sweetest, most forgiving thing he had ever met. In fact, she probably had forgiven him before he had even finished explaining how he'd lied to them all. At the very least, she had been the easiest one with which to repair his friendship, or begin a real one, as it were.
"I have the information you asked me to find," she said quietly, handing him a sheet of paper. That was odd. Why'd she print it out? Jess had a mean 'green' streak and went out of her way to kill the physical paperwork chain at the ARC.
He supposed it was because he had requested the research off the record. That was what he thought until he began to read it. There was another reason Jess hadn't wanted it on her monitor, displayed for the world to see.
He shouldn't have asked her to do this. He shouldn't have indulged himself at all. For months he had resisted, until he could stand it no more. Finally, he had gone to Jess, knowing not only how capable she was, but that she'd be happy to do so for him, and discreetly.
It had been a mistake.
Because the ease and relative tranquility of his new life was gone the second he realized what he held in his hand.
It was a copy of an old newspaper article, dating to 1867 to be precise. And it's contents made his stomach turn.
"Are you sure this is her?" he choked, looking at Jess. The girl's eyes were shimmering with held back tears. Apparently unable to answer, she nodded her head.
"You're positive this is my Emily?" he barked, taking her arm perhaps a bit harshly, and a lot desperately. The woman in question would've scolded him for his possessive referral to her person, but he just didn't care. She would've hated his treatment of Jess, however. And she'd have been right. He let go of the young woman, giving her as apologetic a look as he could manage at the moment.
"Yes," she managed to say, turning away, searching through a few more papers and handing him another. A death certificate.
"I'm so sorry, Matt," she said, a tear visibly spilling over and tracking down her pale cheek.
He fought the urge to be sick, and switched back into a mode he found comforting albeit empty. There was only one thing that mattered now. And he would not fail.
"Connor's at Prospero," he informed Jess coldly. "Tell him to stay put. I'm headed over there."
She looked for a moment like she wanted to warn him off the action he had decided upon the second his brain registered the meaning of what Jess had found. Instead she said nothing. He could hear her contacting Connor as he rushed out of the room.
Well, this just got several degrees more difficult.
Shutting off the engine, Matt sat for a moment to reign in his emotions. If the soldier at all suspected his motives, that he hadn't thought this all through logically, he'd let Matt get nowhere close to Prospero.
Matt set his jaw, exited the vehicle and approached the man in black fatigues.
"Matt," the soldier acknowledged.
"Becker," he greeted. "What are you doing here?"
"Lester thought a few of Prospero's disgruntled former employees might make their way back here," he explained, hinting at the nature of the psychotics that always came out of the walls once their nest was burned. He glanced at Matt, whose game face was obviously not as concealing as he'd hoped. "What're you doing here? Is there something I should know about?"
"Just need to talk to Connor about something." He gave the captain a smile. "Probably should forcibly drag the lad out for a bit of fresh air."
"Let me know if he resists," Becker added wryly.
"Will do." Matt was already walking away, trying not to look like it was all he could do to keep from running like a madman to find the young genius.
It was ridiculous, the idea that time was of the essence. All those months he hadn't known Emily's tragic fate, and it didn't matter really. It still wouldn't matter if he could open an anomaly to the time he wanted whenever he wanted to do so. It was history. And yet it seemed like it was happening right this moment. Emily was in trouble. She'd be in trouble until he went and fetched her back here.
The only thing that had made it less painful, for it would never be easier, was knowing that sending her back would keep her safe.
But it hadn't.
Ultimately, he had wound up sprinting anyway, taking the mostly vacant corridors like there were a carnivorous creature nipping at his heels. By the time he reached the lab where he knew he'd find Connor, he was out of breath. He leaned his back against the wall for a bit before entering, not wanting to frighten the young man into thinking there really was a creature directly behind.
The lab was pretentiously lit and stereotypically pristinely kept. At least, it had been upon his first visitation, when they seized the facility from Burton. The poor research lab would've been better off facing a tornado than Connor Temple. The young man had torn nearly every bit of tech apart. It was a massacre of technology. Metal, glass and plastic plates were strewn about. Bundles of wires were hanging out of disemboweled devices. Computers were disgorging their motherboards. Tiny screws, silicon chips, and various tools were laying willy-nilly upon counters and tile floor alike. The whole mess seemed to have a pattern, though, like a blast radius of debris. And at it's epicenter,
"Connor," Matt called, attracting the genius' attention away from the seemingly erratic deconstruction process.
"Oh, hello," the young man greeted. Again, Matt had to doubt his ability to hide his emotional state, for Connor became more serious and frowned at him. "What's up?"
"You said that forcing open just one anomaly could in no way catalyze the apocalyptic event," he prompted, deciding to take a slightly indirect approach.
"Yes?" Connor replied, looking only vaguely confused.
"And you're certain of that?" Matt pushed, if only to appease that voice, his father's voice. The one that screamed-well, not screamed, just said in a very final, even tone, that he was not doing the right thing.
"Oh, yes. Definitely," Connor asserted. "It would've taken much more radiation than opening a single anomaly to trigger the event. And if I can figure out a way to neutralize all of the radiation Prospero has flooded into the plane where the anomalies originate..."
"I need you to open one," Matt interrupted the technobabble spiel. It successfully put the brakes on Connor's train of thought.
"What?" he asked incredulously.
Wasn't that obviously where Matt's questions were leading? True, it was a precise 180 from his previous stance upon the issue, in which he had outright, passionately argued against anything less than destroying the experiment in its entirety. Lester had sided with Connor, that on the off-chance they needed it one day, being able to open an anomaly to whenever they wanted could be extremely useful. Matt had pointed out that was precisely the type of thinking that led down roads to Phillip Burton's and Helen Cutter's worldview.
And here he was, discarding all of his morality, because she was in danger.
Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew the folded piece of paper residing there and handed it to Connor. Judging by his face as he read through it, Matt's intentions were now clear to the man.
"Right. Er..." He spun around, searching for something specific or really taking in the disastrous state of the lab for the first time. "Give me a minute."
Matt watched on as his friend scurried about in a random yet somehow focused way, collecting bits, shoving wires back into boxes and tubing, typing frantically at various computer terminals.
"1867?" he asked, pausing to glance over his shoulder at Matt and startling him slightly. Watching Connor work was a bit mesmerizing.
"Prior to November 5th," Matt affirmed rechecking the date on the newsprint.
"No problem," Connor said, not very confidently.
"Connor," Matt drew his full attention. It hadn't occurred to him that he'd go through all of this trouble, break his own vow to prevent Prospero from ever being used again, only to fail. "If it's going to be too late, then there's no point, is there?"
The young man nodded seriously. "Well, good thing it's November, then. There's a...what? 80% chance of it opening earlier that year."
Matt nodded. For a rather scatter-brained person, Connor could be quite reassuring.
"Oh, and coordinates might make this easier, at least on your end," Connor added brightly. "Don't want to end up in the Congo or the Himalayas."
"Too true," Matt confirmed, already pulling the mobile from his pocket. This wasn't business he wanted carried out through official ARC channels. He rung Jess.
Matt. She greeted n her automatically cheerful manner, then more seriously, she asked How is the... her voice dropped to a whisper …rescue mission going?
"Jess, I need some information," he proceeded, assured that the young woman had forgiven his earlier behaviour and was -as always- eager to help out. "Can you get the geographic coordinates for Emily's husband's estate?"
Just give me a moment, Jess drawled. He could hear the clicking of keys as her fingers ran adeptly over her various keyboards. She relayed the coordinates with her usual precision as he copied them down, and with a heartfelt 'Good luck' she was gone back to her work.
"Great. I'll just plug these in..." Connor delved back into his programming as soon as Matt handed off the coordinate data.
It seemed both an eternity and no time at all had passed by the time the young genius had announced his work finished. Connor looked at him, his eyes searching for confirmation, for permission to proceed.
"Do it," Matt ordered, suppressing the part of his conscience that had been nagging at him since he'd decided upon this course of action. He no longer cared. He had done his time, given so much of his life and he had succeeded. Funny that. To confirm the disaster had been averted, that his mission was over, he refused to force open an anomaly. But for the sake of one woman, long since alive, long since dead, he would risk the future.
Was this anomaly brighter, somehow more intense? It was possible, but Matt knew it wasn't the case. Perhaps, he had grown so accustomed to the occurrences, that he no longer really looked at them, noticed how unnaturally wondrous and beautiful they were. A miracle amongst the everyday.
"Well?" Connor asked, clasping his hands pensively.
It was a harsh transition from the wee hours of the night in a Victorian city to the 21st century, and Matt found himself blinking as his eyes readjusted to the sterile light of the lab.
"Good work, Connor," he praised. The lad had opened an anomaly to a week prior to the publication date of the newsprint. Unfortunately the article hadn't specified the date of the incident, so Matt could only pray that a week bought enough time. "Victorian London, in fact."
Connor grinned broadly.
"Now what?" he asked.
"What will do more damage? Leaving the anomaly open or closing it and reopening?" Matt enquired, at least partly conscience to the bigger picture. It was hard to see past the plight of the woman who meant more to him than anyone ever had.
"It takes a much more significant amount of energy to initialize an anomaly. As much as holding one open for several days, really," Connor explained.
"Okay. Keep this one running for me, then," Matt decided. "It's in an out of the way spot on the other end. I've barricaded it, too. Not to mention it's quite late at night there. You shouldn't receive any uninvited guests."
"Wait, where are you going?" Connor called after his back.
"Bit of shopping to do," Matt replied enigmatically over his shoulder whilst pulling his mobile from his pocket and dialing Jess once more.
"Just one more thing, Jess. Promise," he said as way of apologizing for involving her in unsanctioned meddling.
What do you need?
Matt smiled. "God love you, Jess. Can you find me the nearest antique shop that deals in Victorian goods?"
There was a bit of a pause. No doubt the young woman was trying to process the strange request. Luckily, she was quick to act, even when she wasn't sure why she was being asked to do a thing. It had saved their lives before.
The kindly old antiquities dealer, who looked about as ancient as some of the items in his shop, would've probably had a heart attack to see what Matt had planned for the vintage Victorian greatcoat. At the very least, he wouldn't have sold it to him for any amount of money.
He shrugged into the bulky coat. It'd do the job. He'd never pass on close inspection. But he shouldn't draw too much unwanted attention, either. He opened the coat, and promptly tore a hole in the lining that would make a seamstress and historian cringe alike. Taking one of the smaller EMDs, he tucked it into the makeshift holster. The handle kept it from being lost in the vastness of the coat. Perfect.
He tucked the antique coins he'd bought along with coat into a pocket.
Feeling much better prepared, Matt felt part of his anxiety ebb away as he headed towards Prospero's lab and the anomaly it contained, the anomaly that led to Emily.
Of course, it would never be that easy. Wouldn't there be enough obstacles on the other side of time? Did there really have to be a large, highly trained wall in between him and the rip in time?
"You can't do this, Matt," Becker preempted as soon as the ARC team's leader had entered the lab. Matt visibly ground his teeth. Well, at least the soldier hadn't forced Connor to shut down the anomaly. That indicated the captain wanted to talk Matt down. You think the man would've known better by now, that when Matt Anderson set his mind to a task, he would not be swayed from it. And not only that, Emily's life was at stake.
Connor gave him an apologetic shrug from where he was stood behind the military man.
"I'm going after her," Matt stated with an edge of finality. He was in no mood to argue philosophical points when all he could think about was how he'd endangered the only woman he'd... Hell, might as well use the word, loved. He loved her. And he sent her away. And she wasn't safe.
"That's history, mate," Becker caught his arm as he tried to push past. The bloke was strong, if nothing else. He forced Matt to face him. "You can't mess with it."
"Sarah taught me that," he added quietly.
Matt knew the pain the archaeologist's death still caused the soldier, but this was not the time to invoke a woman's death. Not when all that was on Matt's mind was another's safety. Maybe it was cruel. It was at least hard, but he couldn't help himself. He just wanted Becker off his back.
"Are you saying it's Emily's fate to die like that?" Matt snapped. "Maybe it was Sarah's fate to be torn apart by that creature. Did she deserve to die, Becker?"
Anger flared in the broken soldier's eyes. His grip tightened on Matt's arm. He could read the battle in Becker's face, as the captain fought the urge to lash out over Matt's words. The man's face hardened as he reigned in the fury, his jaw visibly clenching. And that's what made Becker so damn good at his job. His self-control.
He released Matt.
"I'm sorry, Becker," Matt said quietly. "That was out of line."
There was a silent, mournful pause.
"But Emily doesn't deserve to be beaten to death by her husband," Matt broke the silence, the earnestness tightening his otherwise calm voice.
"It's awful what happens to her," Becker agreed quietly. Apparently, Connor had tried to explain. He continued on in a voice markedly soft for the captain. "But it's in the past. You don't think I'd want to go back, save Sarah? We can't just go changing every little thing that we don't like."
One of the toughest people Matt had ever met averted his eyes. It was practically inaudible, but Matt could make out the haunting whispered grief from the soldier.
"I have to live with my mistakes."
And then he was back to his soldiering mode, all solid and implacable.
"Sarah's death wasn't your fault," Matt said. "But Emily's is mine."
"You sent her back to where she belonged," Becker countered. "It probably would've happened whether she had ever left her time or not."
"No. It wouldn't have," Matt asserted. He hadn't planned on divulging this, just exactly how responsible he was for Emily's fate. "Her husband's defense was that she was an adulterer."
Both Becker and Connor gave him confused, intrigued looks.
"She was 'in the family way'," Matt quoted the article's euphemism. "And it wasn't by him."
"Matt?" Becker inquired incredulously.
He had been weak. The physical attraction to the woman had been immediate, but he had resisted. At first, it was easy not to act upon it. They had only just met. He had much more serious things to occupy his thoughts. Yet, the more time he spent with Emily, the better he knew her, the more attached he became to her... It had been a matter of days, but his feelings had gotten the best of him. And the revelation that she felt remotely similar, that she wanted to be with him, had been too much. He'd been weak. He sent her away. And she had paid the price.
"I put her in danger. It's my responsibility to see her safe," he said.
Visible understanding, sympathy, passed over the soldier's face as he backed down and stepped out of Matt's way. It took a bit of difficulty, but Matt swallowed back the emotions to focus on his task.
"According to the bloke in the pub, Emily's estate is two hours by carriage from London," Matt told his comrades. "Give me five. Then close the anomaly and forget about me."
"What?" Connor exclaimed.
"Just do it," Matt ordered, then softened, giving Connor a wink and reassuring smile. "I'll be fine."
He turned to Becker to say goodbye. For that's what it could be. And honestly, Matt didn't care. He had begun to truly settle into his life in 21st century. Yet it still hadn't felt right, as if it were missing something. He'd had shrugged it off as a hole left by being freed from the burden he'd carried all his life. But it wasn't. It was her. And if he got stuck in the 19th century with Emily, it wouldn't be so bad.
"Six hours," Becker said. "And then I'm coming after you."
Matt knew better than to argue. He nodded his head in acknowledgement and gratitude. He could hear Connor's voice call after him as he entered the shimmering rip in time.
Even knowing it was coming, Matt wasn't quite prepared for the smell as he emerged from the anomaly, and slipped out of the dock house into the street. Urban centers never boasted the freshest air. But Victorian London left a lot to be desired. Really, what did one expect from a period when people rarely bathed, public sanitation in any form was unheard of, and the primary means of travel was based upon beasts of burden? And then there were the beginnings of the industrial era, chimneys great and small spouting out massive quantities of fossil-fuel burning byproduct.
And when had he become so spoiled? The environment of this place, the stench much more resembled the surface of the world he was born to than the 21st century had. He should feel right at home...
Except there was life all around him here. Quiet though it was in the middle of the night, he could feel the presence in the little signs that the place brimmed with life.
Getting his bearings, he made his way down the filthy, greasy cobbled streets, past the pub where he reconnoitered earlier. The streetlamps had been lit, but were so profusely coated in various forms of grime, the light they cast only hindered his night vision without illuminating anything in the least. All of the alleys and corners remained blanketed in shadow. He had read somewhere that 19th century London was more shifty than the post-industrial cities of the 20th.
It wasn't that he feared he couldn't handle himself. He simply did not have the time to waste mucking about. He walked quickly and purposefully.
The barman had said there was a yard one block over where Matt could hire a carriage at any time of day or night...for the right price. He'd cleaned the old antiquity shop of its entire Victorian coin collection. He hoped it would be enough to buy what he needed...time.
Because, for some reason, there was a nagging feeling in the pit of his stomach that urged him to hurry.
Matt knew he'd found the right man for the job, when the driver agreed to his terms with merely more than a grunt. Terse was good. The rather unkempt man seemed reliable enough. The generous payment Matt offered all but ensured the man's temporary loyalty, if the gleam in his eye had been anything to go by.
The coach and four lumbered along the track. The city had turned to idyllic countryside surprisingly quickly, even at the significantly slower pace of a horse-drawn carriage. The sprawl just wasn't the same as in the 21st century, Matt supposed.
The moon was a large, bright orb in the night sky. It blanketed the trees and hedgerows in silver light. In different circumstances, it would've been peaceful.
Unfortunately for Matt, his thoughts were plagued with guilt and worry.
The entire journey consisted of the same doubts, concerns, and memories circling around his mind. Her beautiful, round eyes. Her face alight with laughter. Her radiant smile. The taste of her lips. The taste of her skin. The feel of her in his arms. The heart-wrenching look upon her face when he sent her back...
Finding out she was married. How much it hurt learning she was someone else's wife. He should've backed off. But he just couldn't stay away. And when she said she didn't love her husband, he was back to where he started, unknowingly losing his heart to her.
They got to the Merchant's estate faster than the driver had predicted, and Matt found himself hastily burying all his emotions down. It was time to 'do' not 'feel.' A rather disgruntled looking stable hand greeted them as they pulled into the yard. No doubt roused from his slumber by the noise of the approaching coach. Matt's driver hopped down and opened the carriage door for him.
"Get a fresh set of horses. Whatever it takes," he instructed quietly, placing some more coins in his hand. The driver appeared unhappy about the prospect of handing money over to someone besides his own person. "Don't worry. It's not coming out of your share. I'll only be a moment."
"Right you are, Paddy," he grumbled. Matt rolled his eyes. Apparently even money didn't wash away prejudice.
He entered the rather large manor through the servant's kitchen entrance. Luckily, it was during those couple hours when the night chores had been completed and the morning preparations had not yet begun. There was no one in sight. And the servants' quarters were quiet. He wound his way, stepping lightly through the corridors to the main wings of the house. It was old, even in this era. And it had accumulated stuff in the way only a place lived in by the entitled for a couple centuries could. Portraits lined the halls, generations of the Merchant family staring at him from the dark. He thought of a photo tacked to his locker. He thought of its copy surreptitiously made by Jess, placed in a simple frame, given to him with only a smile. Matt hadn't been able to take it home, to give it a place in his flat. He had feared he'd spend too much time dwelling upon her face.
In the distance, if he strained against the silence, he could hear noises. Noises that did not belong in this ancient slumbering house. He began to run towards the source. They became more distinct as he hastily navigated the dusty old halls. There was no mistaking them for what they were. Matt had been in enough scrapes to recognize a fight when he heard one. It was one of those eerily quiet ones, the unexpected kind, the uneven kind that saw someone lying broken in an alley. There were thumps and grunts, but no words, no screams. And when he rounded that final corner, Matt discovered why.
The tableau was straight from a gothic horror. Moonlight lit the hall in patchy strips. It fell across the figure of a man in a nightshirt with a wild mane of dark hair, illuminating the fury on his face as he kicked a shadowed bulk at his feet. Before the man was even aware of his presence, Matt drew the EMD from the greatcoat, and shot him square in the chest, throwing the bastard off his feet to land with a satisfying thud on the hard oaken floor. Matt sprinted across the ten metres of worn oriental carpet, falling to his knees beside the still, crumpled mass on the floor.
There was a woman amongst the folds of blood-stained, torn chemise, her dark hair a mass of loose curls. Bile bit as his throat. His hand shook as he reached for her shoulder, and turned her over onto her back.
He choked on his heart. Oh god, he was too late!
No, don't jump to conclusions. In his panicky state, he'd never be able to find her pulse. But thankfully there was no cause for him to try. He studied her unconscious form for a moment, sighing with relief when he saw the rise and fall of her chest.
"Emily," he coaxed, taking her battered face in his hands. There was no response. "Emily, it's Matt. C'mon, love, wake up."
She stirred and moaned, but did not wake. She was fighting, at least. He shifted her upper body into his lap, ran his eyes and hand over her checking the severity of her injuries. Her skin was primarily bruised. A few cuts. But nothing serious. Nothing except for the vast expanse of dark fluid -blood- expanding across the previously white chemise below her waist. The viscous-soaked fabric clung to her thighs and the floor, pulled tightly across a belly that was much rounder than the last time he'd seen her. The moonlight reflected off the surface of a pool forming about her legs. It was spreading, beginning to lap against his knees.
If she had been pregnant, she wasn't any longer. Worse than that, she was hemorrhaging. She would die if he didn't act quickly. He was loathe to leave her side even for a moment, so he frantically looked about from where he was sat upon the floor with the broken woman in his arms. What he found was better than anything he would've wasted time searching for amongst the cluttered household. There, at the base of a window, with the curtain partially pulled over her head, sat a young woman, sobbing uncontrollably. Why hadn't he heard her, noticed her before?
Well, that was obvious enough. He hadn't been able to think beyond Emily for a moment in what seemed like days. He pinned the girl with a direct gaze, and she quieted, her eyes wide with fear. As if seeing her mistress beaten by the lord of the house wasn't traumatizing enough, she had the shock of Matt rushing in and knocking Lord Merchant off his feet with what probably appeared magic.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"J-Jane, sir," she replied. Good, she wasn't completely hysterical.
"You're a maid, here?" he probed gently.
"'M the lady's maid," she answered, raising her chin slightly. Obviously that was somehow superior to a regular maid.
"Will you help your mistress?" he asked desperately, looking back down at Emily in his arms. Jane's gaze must have followed his own, for she seemed to snap to in an instant. She kneeled at his side.
"Oh, I don't know what happened, sir," she said anxiously. "I was fetchin' m'lady a cup of tea. I usually bring her one 'bout this time of night when she can't sleep. There was ruckus, and I found the master cursin' at her n' hittin' her. I was just so frightened I didn't know what to do." She took one of Emily's hands. "I'm so sorry."
"It's not your fault, Jane," Matt reassured the obviously distraught girl. He really didn't have time for her self admonishment. His own guilt was distracting enough. "Can you get me some fresh cloths and a blanket, and water in a container I can travel with?"
Nodding her head, she was on her feet and off to execute his orders in a way only someone who'd been serving others all their life or was military trained could do.
All he could do while he waited was hold Emily close, whispering comforts and pleas in her ear, rocking her gently. Was he doing the right thing? There really was no other choice, was there? He couldn't leave her here with her homicidal husband. If they called for a doctor, who knew how long he'd take getting here. And even if he arrived in time, was there anything they could do for her in this era? She was likely bleeding internally. The trip back to the anomaly would be rough, inadvisable, but if he left her here, she'd die.
Matt jumped. The maid was back with what he'd ask for. He folded the cloths, placing them between Emily's thighs in a futile attempt to stop the bleeding. At least, it might stem the flow a bit, buy her some time. Jane helped him wrap her up in a blanket and gave him what looked like a flask. He looked questioningly at the maid.
"All I could find was the butler's flask," she explained. "I dumped the spirits. Just water, sir."
He slid it into a pocket, and scooped up Emily's broken body.
"You're takin' her away?" Jane asked, alarmed.
"What do you think he'll do to her if she's here when he wakes up?" Matt asked, indicating the unconscious lord sprawled on the floor. Jane visibly swallowed.
"What am I supposed to say?" she asked.
"If anyone asks, Emily is dead," Matt replied. "He beat her to death. You don't know what he did with her body. Don't worry. I'm taking her far away. No one will know otherwise."
"Take care of her, sir," she said sincerely. Matt choked back tears, nodded and hurried back towards the servant's entrance. He'd done such a bang up job of taking care of her so far, hadn't he?
He had feared with the luck he was having that he'd find nothing when he left the manor, but the coach and driver were waiting for him, fresh horses and all. The driver, up to this point indifferent to Matt's concerns beyond what he'd paid him to do, developed a sympathetic demeanor when faced with the state of the woman he helped Matt deposit in the carriage. But he remained laconic.
"Time is of the essence," Matt said, handing him the rest of the coinage from the pocket of the greatcoat.
Time is of the essence? Had this era gone completely to his head. The twists of it had been nearer a gothic tale than anything he'd before experienced, but this wasn't some story.
He pulled Emily into his lap as the coach began the journey back to London in the witching hour.
If Fate were an entity, she hated Matt. Or maybe she was just a fan of ironies and drama. He hoped it was the latter, that Fate had guided Matt to Emily at what would be the most dramatic moment, rather than it being just a little too late. That he had sent her away to keep her safe only to have her die in his arms was a thought too horrible to consider. Matt would prefer to not believe in fate at all, but the coincidence of him arriving at that precise moment... All of time, Connor had opened an anomaly that would have him find Emily minutes before her death.
He told himself he was meant to find her. That she would be all right now. Everything would be okay.
It was just so difficult to believe when he held her bleeding, dying in his arms. Her skin was so pale, her breathing so shallow. He pleaded with her to stay with him just a little longer, just a little further. She woke once, her eyes barely focusing on his face, a weak, clammy hand brushing his cheek.
"You came looking for me," she said breathily, a smile on her lips.
"Yes," he replied, the same shock over her doubt as the last time she uttered those words to him. Finding the flask, he held it to her lips, and she managed to take a drink of water before losing consciousness once more.
He smiled even as tears wet his cheeks. She had been surprised that he'd gone after her when Ethan had taken her. This time, despite her near-delirious state, her eyes had told him she knew he would.
Emily had been waiting for him to come and find her, to take her away.
He cradled her, willing her to survive for the rest of the ride back. He had the driver take them directly to the dock house where the anomaly lay hidden. Matt found his legs to be incredibly stiff from being cramped in the coach with Emily's weight in his lap the entire time, but he bit back the pain, scooping her up in his arms once more.
"Thanks, mate." He nodded to the driver who was looking at him funny. No he was looking beyond him. Matt turned around, to see Becker emerging from the wooden door of the dock house, in his standard black fatigues, EMD rifle in hand.
"I didn't see nothin'," the driver commented before pulling away.
"Becker," Matt greeted the man, relieved beyond reason to see him.
Glancing around warily, the soldier opened the door, allowing Matt to pass through with Emily still clutched in his arms. The anomaly was right where he left it, sparkling like a beacon guiding them home.
"Shut it down," he could hear Becker barking at Connor behind him, as he laid Emily on the floor of the lab back in the 21st century.
"Jess has called for a medical team," Becker informed Matt as he stroked the woman's placid cheek. Still no response. Sitting back on his haunches with a sigh, he found the folded paper that had caused all this sitting beside his foot. Curious, he picked it up, perused it again. The contents hadn't changed except for a mention that the stable hand had witnessed some questionable characters making off with a bundle assumed to be disposing of the deceased Mrs. Merchant.
At least, he wouldn't be scolded for messing up history. Not that he cared. What was taking so long? He checked on Emily. She still wasn't out of trouble yet...
"How far out are the medics?" Matt shouted harshly.
Lester had pulled some strings to allow Matt to stay with Emily in hospital, even when the staff had tried to confront him with 'family only.' He sat by her bedside, studying her face, watching every rise and fall of her chest like her breathing was a miracle. It, for the most part, had looked worse than it was, according to the doctors. Her skin was discolored and swollen by contusions, but they were superficial injuries. She had suffered multiple fractures in her wrists and forearm-defensive wounds. They were currently bound in braces. Matt had been correct about the life-threatening part of her attack. Five months along when her husband had discovered her pregnancy and proceeded to beat her until she miscarried. He would've beaten her to death had he not intervened. Of course, the internal hemorrhaging would've finished the job, had Matt taken any longer in getting her to hospital.
He had done this to her. It was his fault.
The sound of movement alerted his ears. He raised his head from his hands to find Emily opening her big brown eyes and trying to sit up. Her eyes, ringed by dark circles were still so gorgeous he found himself momentarily lost in them. Fear and confusion darkened her pale face as she looked about the room, realizing she was in a strange place. And then her eyes found him, and she seemed to calm.
"Matt," she said softly, a smile lighting her face that twisted his stomach. She didn't remember. She was simply happy to see him. And god, how he wanted to stay in that moment. But he had to tell her what had happened to her. He had to apologize or the guilt would plague him forever. It was apparent her brain beat him to it, as her face sobered.
"Where am I? What happened?" she asked.
He took her hand. They had removed the wedding band from her finger when they gave her the MRI. Knowing that she'd never want to see it again, Matt promptly lost it.
"I couldn't forget about you, Emily," he began to explain. "After we stopped Phillip Burton, prevented the terrible future, I asked Jess to see what happened to you..."
It was difficult to tell her. How could he find the words to tell her what it felt like when he read of her murder?
"What happened, Matt?" she implored, looking more anxious. Movement in the corner of his eye drew his attention. Her free hand had begun to slip down from her chest, instinctually seeking out her belly, the child it used to hold. Panic began to fill her beautiful eyes. "What happened to me?"
He grabbed her wandering hand, brought it to his lips and kissed the fingers protruding from the brace.
"Your husband attacked you," he said quietly. Witnessing the anguish in her eyes as she processed his words cut him to the heart, but he couldn't turn away, couldn't abandon her to suffer on her own.
"He found out about our baby," she said, remembering. "Oh god!"
She tore her hands from his, clutching at her empty abdomen, growing hysterical in a way he had never seen her before. He tried to comfort her as she began to hyperventilate.
"Breathe," he urged, wrapping his arms about her and pulling her close. Her tears wet his shoulder. Our baby, she had said. He knew the moment he'd discovered her fate. But it had never quite occurred to him before that Emily wasn't the only one who had lost a child. His heart ached just a little more than it already did. He wasn't sure how long they held each other, but eventually her breathing grew slow and even, and she fell limp in his arms. Gently, he laid her sleeping form back down.
"I love you, Emily," he whispered in her ear and kissed her cheek.
When she woke again, the sadness seemed to only linger at the edges of her face, the corners of her eyes. She frowned, however, when she looked at him.
"What's wrong, Matt?" she asked.
"All of this was my fault," he confessed. "I'm so sorry you were hurt, Emily. I'm sorry I hurt you."
"You never hurt me," she said, her brow furrowed in concern. "How could you think that?"
"I took advantage of your trust in me," he answered, unable to look her in the eyes. "And then I just sent you away, sent you to die."
"I wanted to be with you. I would've stayed with you, but you tried to protect me by sending me away," she defended him. Her fingers were soft, heaven on his cheek. He looked at her sweet face, still beautiful despite the healing bruises. "You had a terrible responsibility on your shoulders."
"I had a responsibility to you," he countered, giving voice to his anger at himself, for abandoning her, pushing her away.
"You didn't know about..." she swallowed, blinking back tears. "You didn't know I was with child. I didn't even know, then."
Unable to speak, he simply nodded.
"I tried to settle back into my life," she said quietly. "But what I found difficult before, I found impossible after..." She bestowed her broadest, most radiant smile upon him, and he felt his insides twist like the first time he'd seen her smile. "...meeting you."
"I had a taste of what love could really be," she continued. "And I could no longer abide the touch of a man for whom I felt nothing. By the time I realized the delicacy of my condition, it was too late to be able to claim it was his child, anyway. I thought about running away, but didn't know where to go. So I stayed put, because I knew it was the only place you'd know to look for me."
Matt could no longer stand it. He had resisted, because of the guilt, because they had some serious issues to discuss. But her lips were so very teasing, so tantalizingly close. He cupped her cheek, and pressed his lips to hers gently, slowly, giving her time to protest. Rather he felt her smile against the touch before she tilted her head, kissing him back, opening her mouth to him. He savoured her taste, her feel, her warmth. He never wanted to stop kissing her. But that was a physical impossibility.
"I love you," he whispered against her lips, this time assured that she had heard him. She pulled away slightly, her brown eyes studying his face. They had turned dewy, made brighter by their threatening to spill tears.
"I love you, too," she replied. And then the tears did spill over. Matt gently wiped them away from her cheeks with his thumb.
"Are you okay," he asked softly, stroking her cheek. She smiled at him.
"I will be," Emily, his Emily said. "When we're home."
Matt smiled. His life did not feel so empty anymore. He had found the missing piece.
A/N: I don't really think Emily's husband would be that bad of a person. But she did run away from him… And it was necessary for the angst :)
A/N2: Feedback always appreciated. And it's okay if you just want to call me completely insane. It's good to know when I'm losing it.