I am so glad to finally be writing this story. I had the idea for this last January – that's eighteen months ago – but have held off starting it because it needed a lot of planning out. Then I held off because I didn't want to have more than one Primeval WIP at a time, and Just Pretend turned into such a beast. I'd planned to do this as a Big Bang, but I didn't have the time. But, finally, here it is.
I'm not sure yet how long it will be – it's planned out quite thoroughly, but I don't know how many chapters it will shake out to. I'll be updating as often as I can but… well, it's me. However, I am obsessed with this story, so now I've started writing it I might run through it really quickly as I sometimes do with WIPs – I wrote this chapter in one sitting in a couple of hours, so you never know.
This is going to be a complicated one, with lots of different characters and multiple pairings, which is why I haven't put any characters on the story information – unlike basically all my other stories, it's not just Becker/Jess – though that will be a big part. Obviously.
The title is from Robert Frost's poem 'The road not taken'.
You know what, I'm just gonna shut up and let you start reading. Enjoy!
In A Yellow Wood – chapter one
It was early in the morning. Well, not early early, and certainly not early to Jess – she'd already been in the ARC for an hour, running system checks and going through paperwork. She liked to get a good start on things when the Hub was quiet. It was early in the working day, the time that the rest of the alpha team were just getting to work and the ARC-based scientists and doctors and what have you were also arriving.
Not to put too fine a point on it, it was 8.52am.
All was still quiet, and Jess was alone in the Hub, sipping her newly-made second coffee of the day and checking a mission report filed by Becker the day before. It was flawless, of course, and if there weren't many, many other reasons for her to already think he was frustratingly perfect, the way his mission reports never created any additional work for her would have been enough.
Jess allowed herself to zone out slightly, imagining the look on Becker's face if she ever told him any of that, but she was brought back to the present by two things happening.
One, a sudden almost blinding light flashed into being to the right of where she was sitting.
Two, the anomaly alert started blaring.
The two events weren't unrelated.
Jess' heart leapt into her throat at the sight of the anomaly, open, dazzling, and ten feet from where she was sitting. Fear gripped her, she had to move – she was unarmed, and alone, and there was no knowing what might come through. She knew that there would be people hurrying up to her right now from all parts of the ARC, to find out where the anomaly was and be sent out into the field. Comforting though that thought was, she decided that she could do with them getting here quicker, and making sure they had EMDs.
Jess jumped out of her chair, ready to run, but stayed to tap a command into the ADD with slightly shaky hands – an ARC-wide broadcast.
"Jess to all personnel," she announced, trying to keep her voice steady. "Code Blue. An anomaly has appeared in the Hub. Repeat, anomaly is in the ARC, all personnel this is a Code Blue. This is not a drill."
Code Blue meant lock your doors and stay behind them until given the all clear, so at least the civilian personnel would be safe.
Apart from me. Jess shook her head to clear that thought and started to back away from her desk and from the anomaly, her eyes fixed on the shimmering light in front of her, watching for anything about to come through. She frowned, looking at it – it seemed different to other anomalies she'd seen, like it had almost a purple tinge to it.
But an anomaly was an anomaly, and just because it looked a bit purple didn't mean she shouldn't be backing out of there as quickly as possible.
The voice was a little way away, still a couple of corridors from the sound of it, but it was recognisable and Jess couldn't help but sag a little with relief. She started moving faster, towards the door and the sound of Becker's voice.
He skidded into the room a few seconds later, breathing heavily and still wearing his civilian clothes. From the looks of it he'd run all the way there from the locker rooms the second he'd arrived at the ARC – he didn't have a radio, he didn't have an EMD… all he had was a panicked look on his face which he immediately turned on Jess.
Despite the situation, Jess couldn't help but feel gratified he was so worried about her… and if anyone was looking for a reason that she needed therapy, there it was.
"Jess, get out of here," Becker said, grabbing her hand and pulling her towards the door.
"You too, you're not armed," Jess said immediately.
"I –" Whatever Becker was planning on saying, he was cut off by a rippling sound from the anomaly, accompanied by a shift in the way the light of the anomaly was bouncing off the walls. His grip on Jess' hand tightened and they both looked round at the anomaly as something came through.
No, not something… someone. A man. A man they both recognised.
"Danny?" Jess and Becker both said at the same time.
Danny looked incredibly relieved to see them, and Jess was just starting to grin at this unexpectedly good turn of events when he held up a hand. "Hang on a sec," he said, before turning round and diving back through the anomaly.
Jess frowned, not only at him disappearing again but at what she'd noticed in his other hand as he did so.
"Erm…" she managed to say, before five or six soldiers darted into the room, armed to the teeth with EMDs and carrying a locking device.
Becker immediately let go of Jess' hand. She folded her arms, ignoring the tingling in her fingers, and stared hard at the anomaly.
Becker took an EMD from one of his men. "Set up the locking device but wait for my signal before locking the anomaly," he told the man with device.
"That didn't look like Danny," Jess said suddenly.
Becker frowned at her. "Yes it did," he said.
"No, I mean… it didn't look like the Danny I met last year," Jess clarified. "He didn't look like he was lost in the wilderness. And he was holding a 9mm."
Becker stared at her for a moment, and Jess knew he'd noticed the differences too, just hadn't thought anything of it until she brought it up.
"What's that about Danny?"
It was Connor – he'd just arrived in the Hub, Matt on his heels.
"Why isn't that thing locked yet?" Matt demanded.
"Danny just came through the anomaly," Becker told them. "He told us to hang on and then went back through."
Connor's face lit up. "Danny's back?" He exclaimed. His grin was practically splitting his face. He spun around to yell through the door of the Hub and down the corridor. "Abby! Danny's back!"
Jess wanted to share Connor's exuberance, but she wasn't so sure. She opened her mouth to say so, but before she could the anomaly rippled again and Danny stepped back through. Connor stepped through right behind him.
Half a dozen EMDs, including Becker's, went up and pointed straight at the two of them. Jess' jaw dropped, her eyes darting between the Connor who had just come through the anomaly and the one standing by the doorway, who was gaping at his other self in shock and confusion.
Danny immediately put his hands up, a 9mm pistol loose in his right hand. As Jess had thought before he looked remarkably clean shaven and well-groomed for a man supposedly lost in prehistoric times. "Don't shoot," he said. "We can explain."
"Explain quickly," Becker said tensely. "Are you from the future or what?"
"Not quite," Danny said.
Connor – the other Connor… the just-came-through-an-anomaly Connor – stepped up next to Danny, his hands also in the air. "We're not from the future, or the past," he said. "We're from an alternate reality."
He was saying this straight to Connor, as though he would be the one to understand… which, Jess reasoned, was probably right. She looked at Connor and saw that he was no longer gaping, though the shock hadn't disappeared.
"What the hell?"
Abby had arrived on the scene, and Connor looked incredibly relieved to see her. She was staring at the Other Connor, who was looking her over with a slight frown. Jess took the opportunity to give him a once over – it was clearly Connor, but with differences. His hair was much shorter for a start, making him look years younger. And he was wearing a scarf and fingerless gloves and a waistcoat and generally all other kinds of accessories that Jess never saw their Connor wearing.
She'd watched enough science fiction shows to know the basics of alternate realities… and looking at him, she had no trouble believing that the man in front of her was an alternate version of Connor Temple.
The anomaly rippled yet again, and the alternate Danny and Connor scrambled to the side as two more people stumbled through – an alternate Abby (also with short hair, Jess noted), along with a woman that Jess had never met but had no trouble recognising… Sarah Page. Jess only had enough time to glance at Becker, Connor and Abby to see the shock register on their faces, before another person ran through at top speed.
This person was Nick Cutter.
The Other Cutter didn't seem fazed by the fact that there were a lot of guns pointed at him, or that nearly everyone in the room was staring at him in shock. He focused his attention on the solder crouching next to the locking device.
"Hold it open!" He yelled.
"Where's Becker?" Connor – the Other Connor – asked him.
"Where's JP?" The Other Sarah demanded.
"Becker went back for her," Other Cutter said, leaning forward and resting his hands on his knees, trying to get his breath back. He looked up then, straight at Jess and then at Becker standing next to her with an EMD still pointed at his head. He quirked an eyebrow but didn't say anything else.
All of the other new arrivals through the anomaly were staring back at the shimmering light, and Jess found herself staring too, willing the Other Becker to come through. From the urgent way they were speaking, their panicked looks, haggard appearance and the blood trickling down Other Cutter's arm, Jess assumed that there was something dangerous on the other side of that anomaly, something they were running from… and she hated the thought of Becker being in danger, even if it wasn't her Becker.
Matt had clearly reached the same conclusion as Jess, because he stepped forward. "Okay, so let's say we believe you and you're from an alternate reality," he said. "What are you doing here? What are you running from?"
The Others, as Jess was thinking of them in her head, stared at Matt with mingled looks of curiosity and annoyance. It occurred to Jess that none of them had mentioned an alternate version of Matt… or her.
"Our ARC's been overrun by future predators," Danny said after a moment.
Jess froze. Future predators. Suddenly all she could see was blood, and she felt her own blood run cold. Becker moved to the side so that he was standing half in front of her, his grip tightening on the EMD in his hands. Jess should probably feel slighted by his obvious protectiveness, but she didn't – she just tightened her folded arms, hoping no one saw her hands shaking.
"How many?" Becker demanded. "Are any likely to come through?"
"About two dozen as far as we could tell," Other Cutter answered him. "And the room was secure, but we were trapped and it wasn't going to stay secure."
"Becker and JP were covering us as we fell back," the other Connor said, stepping up next to Cutter.
"Where are they?" Becker said.
"They're coming," Other Cutter said firmly.
Becker turned his head to look at Matt. Jess couldn't see Becker's face, but she could see the look Matt was giving him in return, and she knew that they both wanted to close the anomaly, right now, before any of those things had a chance to come through. Part of her, the part that saw claws and teeth and Lester's blood in her dreams in the middle of the night, agreed with them… but it was Becker who was still to come through, who was in danger. They needed to keep it open for him.
"One minute," Matt said eventually. The Others scowled at him, but he just lifted his chin defiantly and stared them all down. They all turned to look at the anomaly again. Becker moved forward, closer to the anomaly, his EMD trained on the shimmering light.
Come on, Becker, Jess thought.
They didn't have to wait long. It was probably about ten seconds of silence before the anomaly rippled once more, and another Becker appeared, stumbling backwards through the light and firing a machine gun one-handed. The sudden sound made Jess jump out of her skin, but the sight of the Other Becker was enough to make her almost faint.
She could see he had blood on him even just looking at him from behind. He came through backwards, firing his gun and dragging something after him, stumbling and swearing. He didn't even glance behind him at the rest of them. "CLOSE IT RIGHT NOW!" He yelled to the room at large, letting go of the thing he was dragging and dropping to one knee with his machine gun raised and trained on the anomaly.
"Do it!" Becker – her Becker – yelled. He hurried forward and stood right behind his counterpart, with his gun raised as well. The soldier with the locking device jammed his finger down on the button straight away, but it didn't have the instantaneous effect it usually did. The beam of light hit the anomaly, and it expanded slightly, wavering, before finally collapsing into a tight ball.
It was a delay of only a second or so, but it was enough.
A future predator burst through the light of the collapsing anomaly. It was already bleeding from several places, so clearly the Other Becker's machine gun fire had done some good. It was moving slightly slower because of it, and clearly not expecting to face close range fire from both a machine gun and an EMD the second it came through. Both Beckers opened fire immediately, and the predator collapsed to the ground, letting out a sound between a shriek and snarl that made Jess' toes curl.
There was a moment's silence. It was Becker that broke it. He lowered his EMD – practically dropped it was more like it, and even from behind she could sense his distress. "Oh my god!" He exclaimed.
There were more gasps and exclamations of shock from the Others, who were still crowded in front of the anomaly, but Jess didn't know what had them all so worried – Becker was in her way and she couldn't see.
Becker was moving though – he actually did drop his EMD to the floor, something that really shocked Jess, and then started to struggle out of his shirt. Jess' eyes widened, unsure what the hell was happening, but her attention was drawn to the Other Becker, who was talking in a low, extremely worried tone.
"Hey – hey! Look at me. You're safe now. Don't – damn it – don't you dare close your eyes," he said. He'd also dropped his gun to the floor, and was kneeling down.
Jess realised that the thing he'd dragged through the anomaly was a person, and clearly they were injured. Jess snapped out of her shock and turned her earpiece on – she was still tapped into citywide. "Medical team to the Hub," she said. "We are now at Code Green, Hub out of limits to all non-essential personnel. Medical team to the Hub."
The message sent, Jess forced herself to walk forward to see what was happening.
Becker had got his shirt off and knelt down next to his counterpart, and with him out of the way Jess finally got a look at the person on the floor.
It was her.
Jess froze again, barely able to believe her eyes. She figured she shouldn't be so shocked to see another of her since there was another of practically everyone, but none of them had mentioned her. They'd said Becker'd gone back for someone – they didn't say he'd gone back for her.
He went back for JP… Jess'eyes widened. JP. JP was her.
"JP – JESS!" The Other Becker was still talking to her. He was cradling the back of her head with one hand and trying to press down on her leg with the other. "Jess you have to stay awake – look at me Parker, that's an order!"
It was the desperation in his voice that got Jess moving again. She hurried forward. "Medical team is on its way," she said, if only to let him know that help was coming.
Neither of the Beckers paid her any attention. Becker – her Becker – was busy tying his shirt around Other Jess' leg. A couple more steps allowed Jess to see what was wrong – there was a deep gash in Other Jess thigh, and blood was pumping from it to a steady beat… her heartbeat. The predator had obviously got her artery. The blood was spreading out across the cement floor – both the Beckers were kneeling in a puddle of it at this point. Jess looked back up at her counterpart's face – she was white as a sheet, and though Other Becker was still talking to her, her eyes slipped closed and stayed closed.
"Jess! Jess wake up!" Other Becker shook her shoulder with his free hand, and even smacked her cheek… all that achieved was a bloody smear on her pale skin.
Jess swallowed, fighting down the bile rising in her throat, and looked back at her Becker – he was pressing down on Other Jess' wound, his jaw tense and determined. Jess' hands started shaking again as she imagined the roles reversed, if the Becker that had come through the anomaly was bleeding out in front of her. She would be frantic, whether it was her Becker or not.
Not that watching herself bleed to death was that much better.
Jess felt a hand slip round her waist. It was Abby. Jess didn't say anything, she just leant into her side and watched silently as the alternate version of her lost even more blood. Dimly she noted that her alternate self was at least dressed for a creature incursion – from what she could see she was dressed in black BDUs similar to what Becker and the soldiers wore. It wasn't an important enough observation for Jess to wonder why.
The medical team arrived then – they'd likely been standing by as close as possible to the Hub from the minute the Code Blue was announced. Jess saw the confusion on their faces as they took in the extra people in the Hub, the duplicates of people standing there and people they thought were dead or missing, but their medical training kicked in at the sight of Other Jess on the ground and Dr Saunders, who was the chief medical officer of the ARC, knelt down immediately.
"We need to get her to medical," he said after one look. "Piers get me a tourniquet."
Becker sat back and let the medical team take over, but the look of horror on his face was going to stay with Jess for quite some time. As for Other Becker, he grabbed hold of Other Jess' hand and didn't let go even as the medical team fixed a better, proper tourniquet around her leg and loaded her onto a stretcher. When they stood up with her and started out of the Hub, he went with them without a backward glance.
Becker stood up slowly, covered in blood, and watched them go. Matt gestured for two of the soldiers to follow them.
There was a couple of moments of silence, before everyone started talking at once.
"I knew this would happen – I said to her to follow us straight away –" That was Other Sarah.
"She'll be okay. She will." Other Abby.
"There's so much blood – oh god." Other Connor.
"Jess, are you okay?" That was normal Abby… but very quietly, so only Jess heard her.
"What the hell happened in your ARC?" Matt
"How did you get here? What kind of anomaly is that?" Connor.
"I swear to god I'm going to kill every single last one of those things!" Other Danny.
"She'll pull through – she always does." Other Cutter.
"But Lester –" Other Connor.
"She'll pull through." Other Cutter again.
"Okay, I think we need to talk." Matt.
"Seriously, how did you even get here?" Connor again.
"I'm fine," Jess said to Abby. Her eyes were still on Becker. The blood was practically dripping off him – his hands were completely red, the knees and calves of his jeans were saturated with it, and his grey vest was smeared as well. He was still looking at the door the medical team had left through, but when Jess spoke his eyes snapped across to look back at her, as if he'd heard what she'd said. They stared at each other in silence as everyone continued to talk around them, before everyone shut up at the sound of a loud, stern voice from the steps above the ADD.
It was Lester, clearly just arrived for work, and he did not look happy.
"Would somebody please tell me what on earth is going on?"
There, I hope that made some kind of sense! Everything will become clearer in the next chapter if not.
I feel I should point out right now that I never, ever saw anything other than friendship between Becker and Sarah on the show. I was really shocked when I first started reading Primeval fanfic (back then I was looking for Abby/Connor stories) and saw that they were a fairly popular pairing. I always thought it was an example of fandom's classic everyone-must-be-paired-up. Hell, in series three I would have shipped Becker with Danny before I shipped him with Sarah, lol! So, if you're expecting a Becker/Jess/Sarah triangle, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. I do love Sarah though, and she'll be a big part of this story.
Anyway, I'd love to know what you thought of this beginning, so please leave me a review if you have a moment!