Title: Primeval Season Two
Sequel to: Primeval Season One
Characters: Chloe/Becker, Stephen, Nick Cutter, Abby, Connor, Lester, Leeks, Jenny, Helen
Disclaimer: Don't own
Summary: Chloe's trip to the past has changed their present and many other very important details in their lives, though some more than others. Is there a Ben Becker and a Claudia Brown in this universe? And what is Helen up to NOW?"Sorry."
Chloe looked up at that accent and her heart began to speed rapidly in her chest.
He was handsome.
He was very handsome.
"I wasn't looking where I was going." She gave him a small smile, hating herself for how awkward she always seemed to get whenever faced with someone even mildly good looking.
And this guy was much more than just 'mildly' good looking.
He smiled at her, his hazel eyes seeming to track every feature of her face before his smile grew a bit wider. "I'm Ben." His hand was large, and when hers slid against it in a handshake she could feel it calloused. "Ben Becker, Tourist."
"Chloe Sullivan." She smiled. "Local."
"Have you lived in Metropolis all your life?" Ben asked, clearing his throat as he clasped his hands behind him, back straight, shoulders wide.
"Oh, no, I just work here, at the Daily Planet. But I live in Smallville, it's a town about an hour's distance from here." Chloe smiled, shocked that he was pursuing a conversation with her. "I'm a junior reporter." Her gaze worshipped his body before raising to his face once more. "What do you do?"
He hesitated a second, before smiling. "Accounting."
This was good.
Accountants were said to be somewhat boring and very dependable.
She needed boring and dependable in her life.
She craved it.
"Will you be staying long in Metropolis?" Chloe was shocked to hear herself ask this.
Ben smiled, apparently pleased. "Would you like to have dinner with me tonight and find out?"
She looked up at him, a little dazed, and not caring that he had sidestepped her question, or that a strand of hair had fallen in her face. "Dinner?"
"Yes. Dinner." Ben replied, taking a step towards her, reaching out and softly brushing the strand of hair out of her face and behind her ear. "You can pick the place, and just give me directions."
Chloe couldn't speak, confused.
Guys-they didn't just do this with her.
She wasn't Lana Lang. Or Lois Lane.
She grinned. "I know just the place."
Gasping, Chloe looked around her at the darkness of the room, disoriented, heart racing. For a minute she couldn't figure out where she was and it scared her, the room foreign, and then she remembered...the new timeline and every changed circumstance crashing upon her as it did every day. She didn't know Ben in this timeline, Claudia Brown was Jenny Lewis, and somehow Chloe was in a relationship with Stephen. Or the other her had been. She guess she still was. She didn't know, wasn't sure.
Stephen had taken it very hard when he'd found out that in her timeline they hadn't been in a relationship, that there was someone else in her life then. Chloe had thought that maybe the best thing for her to do was to move out and spend some time with her father while they tried to sort things out by Stephen had convinced her to stay with him, stating how Baby was used to their home and how it was already 'baby dinosaur proof'. He also hadn't wanted her gone, was willing to stay in the guest room and give her all the space and privacy she needed. She hadn't seen a reason to move out after that. Stephen had been her best friend in her world, and she couldn't tell him no and hurt him more than he already was hurting. The pain he was feeling, the longing, it was obvious and painful, guilt-inducing.
"You were dreaming about him again."
Chloe stifled a scream, hand going to her mouth, gaze racing to the open door.
Stephen leaned against the doorway, face covered by shadows yet his body language and voice telling her everything she couldn't see on his face.
Chloe drew the sheets up to her chest, clearing her throat, trying to repress the feeling of being adulterous.
She looked down, not sure what to do.
In this world she was with Stephen, had been with him for a long time with the amount of pictures and memories and such in this flat could be counted on. She'd never gone to Smallville, never met Ben, never shared the connection she had with him. And yet, and yet not a night went by without her dreaming of him. If Ben even existed in this new world he wouldn't know her, wouldn't have the memories that plagued her, wouldn't share the feelings that she just couldn't shake...no matter how hard she tried. She couldn't get the hazel-eyed SAS captain out of her every thought. It was so pathetic. She was pathetic.
Stephen didn't deserve this.
Chloe was trying to make this work, trying to move on, for Stephen, Ben, and herself.
But it was hard.
"I can't control what I dream." She whispered.
"I know." Stephen responded, leaning his head back hard against the doorframe. "Doesn't mean I have to like it. You say that you were living in a world in which not only weren't we together-but you had someone else."
"We weren't-Ben and I-we were friends...trying to be...I-." Chloe sighed and closed her eyes. "It's complicated."
Her whole life was complicated.
Not just the romantic aspect of it.
Claudia Brown existed in this reality as a woman named Jenny Lewis, who had no memory of being Claudia. She worked as the PR of the ARC, and really didn't believe that there were dinosaurs or such. She thought they were all pulling her leg or something, and the fact that they had yet to have an anomaly happen kept her in her little delusion.
At least they had some good news.
Every time an anomaly opened it gave off a burst of radio interference. They hadn't spotted it before because they hadn't been looking for it. With this knowledge they could build a machine that would detect said interference, similar to how one could track down a pirate radio station. They were also trying to develop a handheld detector to work within short distances.
With this technology they'd be able to spot the anomalies as soon as they opened.
Connor was supervising the work, it had been Nick's recommendation and the boy was in geek heaven.
"I'm trying to understand, Chloe." Stephen pushing away from the doorframe and stepping into what had once been 'their' room, moonlight falling upon his face, betraying the mixture of emotions varying from understanding to resentment. "But I can't. I can't handle this like an adult. I'm pissed and jealous and I want to beat up this man who has, in this world anyway, done nothing to make me hate him." He moved towards the window and looked outside of it, giving her his back as his fingers tightened on the window frame. "You don't understand because you can't remember it. If you could just remember all we've been through, then it will be alright. Everything will be alright again."
Chloe watched him, feeling like a terrible person.
This while week she'd been battling herself, her memories, her doubts, and Stephen had been by her side through all of it. He'd been steadfast and rock solid even though nothing sexual happened between them. He was a good man who didn't deserve what he was getting.
To be truthful, Chloe felt ridiculous.
Here was an amazing man, wanting to be with her, loving her, and what was she doing?
She was holding onto a ghost.
Onto a man who didn't know her.
A man who probably never would.
"I wish I remembered." She finally admitted, hugging her . "I wish to god I remembered our first date, or our first kiss." She stared deep into his eyes and begged him to believe her. "I wish I could remember the first time I realized I loved you as more than a friend. But I don't remember, Stephen. I truly don't. And I know its not fair to you, but it's not easy for me either."
"I know." Stephen sighed, turning towards her. "But it's killing me, love. You have to understand that this can't be easy for me. I'm sleeping in the guest bedroom! You don't even remember the first time I told you that you were beautiful for fucksake!"
"Well, I don't know about this timeline," the blonde interrupted, lowering her gaze and nibbling on her bottom lip before looking up. "But in mine you were delirious the first and only time you said that to me."
Stephen blinked. "Delirious?"
"Yeah, it was my first case since waking up after my Time Jump. These bug creatures from the Carboniferous era leaked into the Underground, and you got bitten by an Arthropleurid, which is basically this huge centipede on steroids." She shook her head at the memory. "As the medics took you away, Nick said that you were delirious, and I didn't believe him until you looked at me and told me I was beautiful." She snorted in amusement. "I knew then that you were very much delirious."
He looked down at her, silently.
"You then asked me to have dinner with you, and considering you could be dying and I was terribly bored having to be at the Home Office all the time, I naturally accepted." Chloe was lost in her memories. "We then devised a plan, got the venom from the centipede so the doctors could make an antivenom for you, and I stayed in the hospital with you the whole time until they pronounced you out of danger."
Stephen tilted his head slightly. "Did we go to dinner?"
"Yes." She snorted with laughter, bringing a hand to her mouth.
"That doesn't sound very good." The tracker frowned, eyeing her.
"Oh, it was great!" Chloe disagreed with a chortle. "You gave me this huge knife as a thank you gift for staying by your side the whole time, and the people at the restaurant kept giving us these terrified looks! The waiters tried to tell you that you couldn't keep that knife in the restaurant and you said it was so you could cut your steak because it was done so badly."
Stephen's lips twitched. "That sounds like something I would say."
"In the end you intimidated the waiters so much they let us keep the knife, and we spent most of the night just talking and getting to know each other." Chloe responded. "I told you about Smallville, you told me about your life and about your girlfriend."
"Girlfriend?" Stephen blinked.
"Yeah, I think her name was Susan?" Chloe frowned, unable to remember. "Anyway, she studied rare diseases, and I made a crack asking if she'd ever given you any, and you choked on your saliva. But unfortunately the guy at the table next to us thought you were choking on food, and rushed over to administer the Heimlich Maneuver. Vigorously. Despite your loud protests."
Stephen could only cover his face with his hand in horror. "Please tell me you're making this all up."
"Oh, no, it all really happened." Chloe laughed, shaking her head. "It was a very exciting night."
He groaned. "No wonder you didn't consider me dating material in the other timeline. As far as first dates go, that was a complete failure."
"I don't know about failure." Chloe shook her head, hair falling into her face. "It was probably the first time since I got lost in time that I actually, genuinely laughed. For a while I wasn't sure if I really could laugh like that again. Open. Honest. Not trying to but actually feeling the gut-wrenching need to hold my stomach since I was laughing so hard it hurt." Her smiled was nostalgic. "It felt good to realize that I could."
Stephen pulled his hands from his face and just looked down at her, before reaching the bed and sitting on the edge, cupping the side of her face.
She stared down at him, heart skipping a beat in surprise. "Stephen?"
"We should get some shut-eye." His thumb caressed her cheek. "Tomorrow's another day at the office."
"Right." She whispered. "Good night, Stephen."
"G'night." He whispered, getting up and leaving the room, closing the door behind him.
Helen Cutter wanted to know what the hell was going on.
When she'd purposely injured herself so that when she returned there would be pity mixed with any other emotion in the others' eyes...no one was where they were supposed to be! She'd gone to Stephen's place, knowing that out of all of them Stephen was the weakest when it came to her. She'd always been able to control him, manipulate his emotions, and she knew that if she appeared in his flat injured and in need of help that he wouldn't kick her out.
But then that plan had been blown to bits when she broke into the flat and found it empty of anything Stephen Hart's, and instead filled and decorated with pinks and purples. Apparently Stephen must have recently moved from this flat and some hideously girly person had rented it after him.
That had been a disappointment, since Helen was sure she would have been able to get a lot more out of Stephen then anyone else, but she hadn't survived in the prehistoric ages on her looks alone. She was cunning, vigilant, and smart.
But she wasn't very patient.
And she might have lost her temper when she broke into her daughter's flat and realized that it was completely empty. Not only didn't Chloe live there anymore, but apparently no one had for a while now, which confused Helen but she put it out of her mind. She had other things to worry about.
Like the fact that she'd apparently injured herself for nothing.
And that pissed her off.
She was forced to tend to her own wounds (which, thankfully, weren't all that deep) and then sat in the empty flat wondering what her next move should be. Helen was used to her plans coming together, so this was frustrating.
She gazed out the window onto London, frowning.
At least she had a place to stay while trying to figure out her next move.
Nick Cutter didn't like this new timeline and wished it'd never been created. He sometimes dreamt that they went back to that moment in time, and that whatever they'd done wrong in the past was corrected, so that things continued the way they were supposed to.
In the real timeline, Jenny Lewis didn't exist. This posh, snobbish, aristocratic brunette wasn't here at all. Instead, there was sweet, spunky, redheaded Claudia Brown. She'd warned him not to go back, she'd pleaded with him, telling him that she felt something was wrong.
But he hadn't listened to her...
...And had ended up erasing her from the timeline.
He still couldn't forgive himself for this.
Especially not now that he had to see this doppelganger of her, Jenny Lewis, every single day.
"I'm just saying that you can't deny you have a sweat tooth." Chloe declared, to the amusement of Abby and Connor, and the annoyance of Stephen.
"I do not have a sweat tooth." Stephen glared at Chloe, though there was really no heat behind it at all.
"Stephen. I live with you! I know you do!" Chloe argued her point, reminding Nick of yet another change that had been brought on in this timeline.
His daughter was in a relationship with the man who'd had an affair with her mother.
Nick always felt a little sick when he thought about it.
Of course he could find it in him to forgive Stephen for what had happened so many years ago, but Nick found it harder to condone this relationship that had developed between his daughter and Stephen in this timeline. And he knew that Chloe was finding it odd as well. Stephen had always been her best friend, a close confidant, and now she'd arrived in a world in which she lived with Stephen and Baby...and Nick didn't want her trying to force herself to be with the man just because she didn't think it unfair to him if she didn't.
He looked up, watching his daughter approach, wondering when she was going to call him 'dad' again.
"You looked lost in your own world." Chloe smiled as she sidled next to him. "How are you today?"
"Relatively well considering that we're in the wrong world." Nick muttered, looking around the ARC once more. "I just can't get used to any of this. I feel like I've gone bloody insane. Not to mention Claudia."
The smile melted off of her face as she reached out and rubbed his arm. "Jenny, Cutter, her name is Jenny now. You need to start calling her that."
"I know." Nick frowned, not happy at all. "I just don't understand what we could have done that has altered the timeline so much."
"Me neither." Chloe hugged herself, frown deep on her face. "I keep going over it over and over again, but all I can remember is Tom Ryan dying in my arms." She cleared her throat and looked away. "I can't remember anything else...anything that could have done this at least."
Nick nodded, having gone over his memories over and over as well. "Talking about changes...have you been able to find your Ben?"
She flinched, going paler, hugging herself tighter as she looked away. "No." She closed her eyes. "Either he's someone else like Jenny...or he doesn't exist anymore."
Seeing the pain the second option brought her, Nick hugged his daughter tightly, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "I'm sure he's out there, somewhere."
Chloe nodded wordlessly, hugging him tight, before letting go. "I need to let go and just stop looking, I'm going to go insane if I don't...and it's not fair to Stephen."
"I think Stephen's bloody well getting more than he deserves right now." Nick frowned, placing his hands on her shoulders. "Chloe, you are not the one who was in a relationship with him. You do not have to stay with him just because the other you was with him. The other you didn't have Ben. You do."
"This me or other me, it's still me Nick." Chloe sighed. "And I know what Stephen did with Helen was inexcusable, but ever since then he's done nothing but prove his loyalty to you-especially back at the Anomaly. I know its hard, and that once broken trust is hard to find again, but Stephen has no interest in Helen anymore."
"No, he doesn't, because he has her daughter." Nick snapped, unable to keep that silent anymore. "Don't you find that disturbing? I know I do!"
"Nick." Chloe shook her head.
"Don't 'Nick' me Chloe. You're my daughter, my only child, and I can't give my blessing to this." He stared down into her eyes, letting her know how displeased he was with the situation. "I'll always love Stephen, and I've forgiven him already for his indiscretion with your mother...but it doesn't change the fact that it was with your mother. It's sick and wrong to go from mother to daughter, and I won't force you to leave him, but I need you to understand that I am not happy with this and will not be happy with this."
Chloe gazed up at him before raising her hand to cup his cheek tenderly. "Dad."
His heart flittered at that one word. "Yeah?"
"If-if I find I can't love Stephen the way he deserves I will break it off with him," she confided softly. "But if I find I can...please let me be happy."
Nick's heart hurt when she asked him like that, and he sighed, gazing down before gazing back up, nodding.
"Thank you." She whispered, stepping up on her toes to press a kiss to his cheek before leading him towards where Lester was calling them.
Neither noticed Stephen leaning with his back against the other side of the wall, face blank.
They'd received a report from the city which at first had seemed like a mere fire yet intercepted mobile calls from inside the building had leaked out information about smelly gases and a possible creature sighting. Chloe had to admit that considering the anomalies were the same in this timeline or her original one she was more than reasonably excited to be back on the job and not muddling around her personal life. Stephen had used the days they'd had eventless by brushing up on her shooting skills, and hopefully now if she had the need to shoot something she wouldn't bumble it up as much as she had last time.
"And he just invites her to watch a movie with us! This stranger!" Abby declared in deep annoyance about her flatmate, Connor, and his apparently new 'friend' Caroline. She was on her way but had called Chloe while driving and was venting her situation to both Chloe and Stephen through the speaker option. "He swears she picked him up. And wrote her number on his hand! Who does that anymore?"
"He's cute." Chloe declare. "It was about time a girl picked him up. Especially if you continue to pretend you have no attraction whatsoever to him when you clearly do."
'Cute?' Stephen mouthed, making a face at her.
She grinned brightly at him, mouthing: 'You know you think so.'
Stephen's expression was disgusted as he shook his head and concentrated on the road.
"I don't like her." Abby growled, ignoring Chloe's contribution. "And neither did Rex. He tried to bite her."
"He did?" Stephen frowned as he parked. "Animals have good instincts you know."
"Exactly!" Abby agreed completely.
"Abby, we're getting out now, you and Connor need to get here as soon as possible." Chloe announced, ending the phone call as she and Stephen exited the truck and joined up with at Nick and Jenny, who were looking at the building.
Jenny seemed a little nervous yet refusing to show it, eyeing the building before following the other's leads when they started heading towards it. "You don't really expect me to believe all this stuff about dinosaurs."
"Honestly?" Nick gave her a look as he continued on. "No."
Jenny looked at him and then frowned, looking away. "Can you stop doing that, please?"
"Doing what?" He asked.
"Staring at me." She was obviously uncomfortable yet trying to hide it.
"I'm not allowed to look at you?" Nick raised an eyebrow, everyone else falling behind a little to give them some privacy for this awkward conversation.
"Not like that." Jenny could still be heard saying.
"Like what?" Nick's gaze returned to the building.
"Like you know me." She replied.
"See, I feel like I do know you." Cutter declared.
Chloe sighed, shaking her head, understanding how this could be so hard for her father to understand and react to.
"You don't, because if you did I'd be aware of it, wouldn't I?" Jenny raised an eyebrow, voice testy.
Nick snorted. "Oh, no. Not necessarily."
Jenny made a face. "Lester told me you were odd."
"Don't put too much faith in anything Lester says." Nick gave sound advice.
"I don't see why not." Jenny blinked. "He seems like a very impressive man."
Nick snorted, giving her a look before shaking his head. "You're right, I probably don't know you."
Chloe chuckled, amused by that, and sent a look in Stephen's direction, surprised to see no ounce of amusement on his face, instead it was tense. She frowned, wondering what was bothering him, but didn't ask as they bent under yellow tape and entered the cordoned off area, a firefighter stepping in front of them and blocking their way to the entrance of the building.
"You can't come in here."
"Sorry, this is a matter of national security." Jenny took over, doing her job as she pulled out her ID and showed it to the man. "Can you ask all your men to withdraw until I give you the all-clear?"
"What?" The man blinked.
"I want all these people back about half a mile." She declared in an authoritative way, obviously speaking to someone of a lower rank. "And if any of your team speak to the press, they're fired."
The man let out a breath of frustration.
"Now do as she says." Nick advised before turning to Jenny. "You always this bossy?"
She smirked at him, eyebrow raised. "I understand the object's to get the job done." She then turned and sauntered away to continue doing whatever it was she was supposed to do.
Nick shared a look with the firefighter before they turned back towards the building. "So what do we got?"
"Some kind of chemical leak." He replied with a sigh. "We got a few idiots who ignored the alarm trapped on the 14th floor. Two of my firefighters were in there as well."
"Okay." Nick nodded.
The firefighter shook his head and went to do as Jenny had ordered him.
"So we have no idea what we're up against." Chloe mumbled as the three of them began walking towards the building.
"There's the smelly gasses." Stephen reminded.
"Where are you going?" Jenny called from behind them. "What am I supposed to do?"
"Ah, you'll think of something." Cutter replied without looking back, opening the door and holding it open for Stephen and Chloe as they entered the building.
"This place smells rancid." Chloe made a face as she entered the lobby, following Stephen towards the stairs, a light layer of fog around her ankles. The men took the steps two by two, which she thought was utterly ridiculous and show-offy as she lagged behind them as they made their way up to the 14th floor.
Stephen sent her a look, noticed her lagging behind, and frowned. "If there's no fire the lifts will be safe."
She could kiss him right about now!
"You have a point." Nick agreed.
Stephen went to one of the doors that led out of the stairwell and opened it, a blanket of fog rolling over him, forcing him to pull back and shut the door, coughing, face made up in disgust. "Smells like...something rotting!"
"That's their version of the Earth's atmosphere." Nick declared. "It's probably Precambrian. It's high in sulphur and carbon dioxide."
"HELP!" A woman could be heard screaming inside. "HELP!"
Nick and Stephen shared a look before opening the door and rushing in. "Are you alright?"
Chloe hurried after them, the fog up to her hips, stopping behind the men when she saw a female firefighter holding an axe and crouching over one of the desks.
"There's something inside the fog." The firefighter exclaimed.
Stephen's eyes narrowed and he hurried further, stopping, eyes widening. "Cutter?"
Nick came towards him and stopped in shock. "Give me the ax!"
The firefighter threw it to him in time for the blonde to wield it on this huge...worm...thing...with spikes and a mouth that opened up nastily and it made a roaring sound.
All in all, it freaked the crap out of Chloe.
She somewhat preferred raptors!
Nick chopped at the thing and it hissed, spitting out this black thing that he had to duck to dodge, and then with a final blow to its head it was dead, but dark shapes in the fog warned that it hadn't been alone.
"We need to get out of here." Stephen helped the reluctant firefighter off of the desk as they turned back to the stairwell.
As the firefighter, who'd been behind them, exited the room into the stairwell one of the giant mutant worms grabbed hold of her uniform's pants, giving a jerk and causing her to fall to the ground. Chloe grabbed her arms with Stephen and pulled while Nick slammed the door repeatedly on the half-emerged body of that...thing. It shrieked and snarled yet wouldn't let go...until suddenly just...collapsing.
Stephen helped the firefighter to her feet. "It's dead."
Chloe bent to her knees, eyeing the creature better now that it was half out of the fog. "What happened?"
"I'm not sure." Nick admitted, studying the thing.
The firefighter was obviously entering shock, pressed against the wall, eyes wide on the creature that'd almost gotten her.
"I think it might be from even back further than we thought." Nick turned to look at Stephen, showing to Chloe that despite the fact that he might not be happy with the relationship she had with Stephen, that he still respected him and saw him as his equal and partner in this whole mess. "The oxygen in our atmosphere must be like poison to it, so it can't breathe outside the fog." He gazed at the half closed door, obviously thinking of the floor...and the whole building...filled with fog.
"Yeah." Stephen agreed.
Cutter turned to Stephen once more. "Get on to Connor, tell him to think of something."
Stephen nodded, pulling out his cellular.
"They said there was a fire in the server room on the 15th floor." The firefighter shook her head. "But there wasn't, just this fog. And something glowing."
"The anomaly." Chloe stood, turning towards her.
"What?" The firefighter whispered.
"It's a long story." Chloe sighed, running her fingers through her hair. "You need to get out of here. Stick to stairs, stay out of the fog on your way down, and you should be fine."
"There's still people trapped up there!" The firefighter exclaimed.
"It's our job now to find them. You've done yours." Chloe replied, placing her hand on the woman's shoulder. "There's a brunette woman down there in stiletto shoes and an impossibly expensive looking dress. Go to her immediately and she'll tell you what to do."
The firefighter hesitated before nodding. "Keep the ax. You might need it." And with that she turned and hurried down the steps.
Seeing a female firefighter hurrying through the lobby towards the plate glass front doors, Jenny made sure to be there to intercept her immediately, her stilettos clip-clapping furiously against the tile floor in her hurry.
"Are you alright?" She asked as the woman came out through the revolving door. "What's going on?"
"If I told you, you wouldn't believe me." The firefighter replied, obviously in a daze.
Jenny's eyes narrowed slightly. "Go to the police. Don't talk to anyone until I say so, and you'll be debriefed later."
"Okay." The woman nodded, hurrying away as if the devil were at her heels.
Jenny's eyes narrowed further at this action on the woman's part and looked inside the lobby through the plate glass, grabbing her phone and calling Lester.
"Ah Miss Lewis." Her boss answered. "What do you have to report to me on the situation at hand?"
"We're inside the building now, but frankly James I have no idea what's happening." She began to pace back and forth outside the revolving doors, staring within. "They won't talk to me."
"Cutter's team are very...close. Don't take anything too personal." He advised. "Just sit back and let them handle everything. They're very eccentric but they somehow manage to get the job done somehow."
"Okay." She sighed, flipping the phone closed, continuing to pace, staring inside.
What the devil was going on in there?
It looked completely normal and peaceful!
But that firefighter...
It couldn't be that those stories about dinosaurs...
Jenny shook her head, flipping her phone open and calling Nick Cutter. He sent her to voice mail. She growled in annoyance, about having had it with that man!
"Cutter, will someone please tell me what the hell is going on in there?" She snapped at his voice mail answering machine before turning back to look through the plate glass.
As they continued to climb the stairs at a much more leisurely pace this time, Nick's phone rang once more, and Chloe watched him gaze at the Caller ID before cutting it off.
"Are you going to continue sending her to voice mail?" She asked curiously.
He shrugged, obviously not sure.
Chloe shook her head before stopping when Stephen, who was in front of them, did.
"What do we do now?" Stephen asked, gazing up at the thick fog on the stairs above them.
Nick's mobile rung again and he cut it off quicker than before, staring up before making a face. "Can't go up. The fog's too thick. The lift?" He turned to Chloe. "Maybe you should go downstairs and inform Claudia about what is going on."
"If you want Jenny so well informed answer her call." Chloe replied, pushing passed him and going up to the exit of the stairwell to the twelfth floor, gazing through the small square glass box in the door at the fog on the floor. "It's thick in there."
"Chloe, maybe you should do as your father says." Stephen surprised her by saying. "It's dangerous in there."
"Exactly." Nick nodded.
Chloe turned to them, eyes narrowed. "And when are you boys going to realize that I'm not a part of this team because of my charm or good looks? I was in what we're believing to be suspended animation within an anomaly unlike any you've seen this far, and I was apparently floating there for two years. On top of that while I was a fetus my mother was continuously time-jumping through anomalies and I grew up displaced in time...and the only anomaly we know to date to have opened in America opened up in my kitchen. Not only that but I'm one of two people in the world that we know of who actually remembers the world's original timeline and not this alternate one we've accidentally created." She stepped forwards, eyes narrowed. "These anomalies and happenings aren't just something I find interesting and I don't do this job just because I want to save people's lives. Anomalies are a part of my life, have been before I even knew they existed, and I'm not going to stick my head in the dirt and hide and pretend that I'm not a part of this somehow. So while I understand and appreciate the fact that you both care for me and want to protect me I'm only going to say this once. Back the hell down."
Stephen and Nick were silent, heads lowered, before they exchanged silent looks, sighing.
"Good." Chloe nodded, seeing that her point had been made, hand going to the handle of the door. "I bet ten dollars I get to the elevator before you two old men do."
Stephen smirked. "Oh you're on."
Nick looked between them before sighing and shaking his head, finally smiling genuinely for the first time since entering this new timeline. "You're British, love. Bet a tenner."
"A tenner." She repeated, nodding, doing her best british accent. "Alright then mates, I bet you blokes a tenner that I make it to the lift before you do."
"You've got the worst accent I've ever heard." Stephen laughed.
"She does." Nick had to agree fondly.
"For that, I'm getting a head start!" Chloe declared, and without warning she flung the door open and raced into the fog.
Stephen and Nick hurried behind her, Stephen's long legs helping him overtake her quickly, reaching the elevator first and slamming his hand down on the button. "Come on come on come on."
The red digits on the wall read down from floor seventeen to floor sixteen, and they were currently on floor twelve.
Chloe and Cutter arrived at the same time, gazing around them worriedly as the fog continued to grow.
The elevator door dinged as it slid open to reveal a thick wall of fog that slid out towards them.
Nick and Stephen shared worried looks over Chloe's head before moving as one towards the door...only to stop when they noticed a dark outline vaguely visible in the fog seconds before the wormlike creature lashed out at them, snarling. Nick raised his ax and everyone ducked away as the thing tried to spit a black liquid at them.
Chloe tumbled to the floor and rolled before getting back up in time for one of the slugs to knock the ax away from Nick.
"Back to the stairs!" Nick yelled, racing back the way they'd come as more slug things came out of the elevator, effectively cutting off Chloe and Stephen's path to safety.
"Run!" Stephen hissed to Chloe, turning in the opposite direction and leading the way.
Chloe quickly followed, but the fog was rising and getting thicker and somehow she got separated from him and lost, all alone in the winding hallways in the middle of fog so thick she could barely see what was an arms length in front of her. She wanted to scream for Stephen but knew it wasn't smart, instead keeping quiet, walking slowly, cautiously, and keeping an eye open around her. She didn't know where she was going, felt like she was walking forever, could feel her phone vibrating like crazy and glad it was on silent mode. She didn't need the sound attracting the worms from hell.
A gurgle behind her caused her to turn and see a black mass heading towards her, and when she turned back she came face to face with one of those things, its mouth open, making that horrible sound.
She ducked the spray of black liquid, body hot, hands trembling slightly, the room seeming brighter as she slipped and hit her head against the floor, the creature looming over her the last thing she saw before everything went black.
"What do you mean Jenny nearly got you killed?" Stephen blinked, confused as he spoke on his mobile with Cutter, safe for the moment within the elevator shaft.
"She came up against my wishes, took the lift when I told her not to, and then she nearly got me killed when I had to save her arse from those things! Good thing the office had actual katanas on the walls for decorations or we would have been history! And not in the good, fulfilling way!" Cutter complained, Jenny could be heard in the background talking to herself a little hysterically, saying how dinosaurs weren't supposed to be real and how this had to be a very sick joke. "Connor and Abby just arrived with weed blowers, that'll help disperse the fog. You and Chloe sit tight."
"That's what I was trying to tell you." Stephen frowned. "Chloe and I got separated, I don't know where she is and she's not answering her phone."
Nick was silent, before he cursed. "We need to find her."
"We need to trust her." Stephen replied. "You heard her Nick, she's a part of this, and she knows we're all headed to the fourteenth floor. We have to trust her to be able to get there."
"I can't just-!"
"Do you think it's easy for me to say that?" Stephen snapped at his friend. "I know you don't like it, Nick, but I love your daughter! The thought of leaving her on this floor is clawing at me but I have to trust her-and trust her to use the skills we've taught her."
Nick took in a deep breath. "You really do love her...don't you?"
"Yes." Stephen closed his eyes tightly, wishing with all his might that his feelings would be completely understood and accepted by his best friend and mentor. "I do. So much."
Nick was silent before taking in another breath. "We'll trust her."
And with that he hung up.
Stephen tried Chloe's number once more...it rung out to her voicemail.
"Be okay." He whispered before putting the phone in his pocket and continuing the climb up the emergency ladder.
With a groan Chloe opened her eyes, bringing her hand to her head, her whole body throbbing vicious, living throbs. She couldn't remember where she knew the feeling from, her head all fogged up, and that horrid scent was killing her as well...
Everything came rushing back to Chloe, as was the last thing she remembered of the worm looming over her, and with a jolt she sat up, realizing that she was laying on the ground next to the anomaly. Her eyes widened. How had she gotten here? The anomaly was in the server room on the 15th floor! Had the worms brought her here? Were they scavenging their food and bringing it here so they could take it to their time?
She reached for her phone yet was unable to find it. Great. Apparently the worms were smart enough to leave her phone behind. Just her luck.
Behind her the anomaly throbbed with life, and she could feel each and every one as if it were a heartbeat linked to her own.
The blonde felt her eyes closing, lulled by the feeling, body tingly and lax.
They'd managed to make it to the two remaining people stranded in the building on floor fourteen and get everyone back down safe and sound, Connor's upper body only momentarily swallowed by one of the larger worms. Thankfully they'd fixed that before he could be chewed or swallowed or asphyxiated, and although the boy was covered in worm gunk he was utterly fine. Jenny had gone on to show Nick just how different she was from Claudia by bullying the two survivors into silence, and although he supposed it was her job he found her methods callous and inhumane. But he had more important things to do now than contemplate how different this woman was to the one he'd realized he'd been very much in love with. Connor had come up with a way to force the fog back into the anomaly (and with the fog the creatures) but the catch was that it had to do with the temperature of the building and the temperate was controlled from the server room...which had the anomaly in the first place.
So Nick had sent Connor and Abby towards the server room and after failing once more to get into contact with his daughter, had called Stephen, discovering that he was trapped with a large group of those worms on the 13th floor. Armed with a leaf blower and the katana he was growing quite fond of, Nick made his way up the stairs rapidly. He was going to rescue Stephen and together they would find his daughter. He might still find it hard to accept the fact that Stephen was with Chloe, but he had to admit grudgingly that in moments like this he was glad that there was someone else out there capable like Stephen who would do all in his power to protect the girl.
"Let me help. I want to do something" Jenny declared, out of breath as she tried to keep up with him.
"Why don't you just stay downstairs and bully some more traumatized employees?" Nick growled. "Then you can come up with some spin to smooth all of this away."
"You don't approve of me very much, do you?" She asked.
"I used to think you were really something, but you're not that person." He replied, hurting to think of Claudia.
"Am I supposed to understand that?" Jenny wanted to know.
"No, I guess not." He replied, hurrying his pace, hoping to discourage her and force her to return back to the lobby.
They continued up the stairs, Jenny reluctantly impressing him by keeping up despite her heels.
"I'm impressed," she finally announced after some silence. "After everything Stephen's done you're still willing to risk your life for him."
"Lester asked me to assess anything that might interfere with the team's efficiency." She replied. "I thought Stephen's affairs with Helen would have come into that category. And not only did he sleep with your wife but he's in a relationship with your daughter. Many would see that as disgusting and immoral of him."
"So, let me get this straight." Nick finally turned to look at her. "Lester sent you here to spy on us?"
"I prefer to call it management appraisal." She replied with a half smile.
"And you think that I should leave Stephen up there to die just because of what happened with him and Helen?" Nick frowned, unable to believe what he was hearing. "Because I don't approve of the relationship he has with my daughter?"
"Some people would." Jenny replied pointblank.
"Well, I'm not one of them." He shook his head, continuing on. "Whatever problems I've got with Stephen, I can sort them out for myself. And about his situation with Chloe, I do not like it, but she is an adult and can make her own decisions."
"About that." Jenny kept up with him though her voice was breathy. "How is it that Chloe is your daughter with Helen? James hasn't really mentioned the details but considering your and Helen's ages and the dates of your marriage-the date of her birth doesn't make any sense."
"When Helen got lost in the anomalies she was pregnant with Chloe." Nick didn't know why he was telling her this. "She gave birth to our daughter fourteen years before Helen disappeared into the anomaly. Had Chloe been born into the right timeline she'd be eight years old now."
"That's utterly fascinating." Jenny whispered to herself. "Dinosaurs, anomalies, and children displaced in time! This is far more interesting than my last job!"
Nick looked back at her, shook his head, and continued upwards.
Stephen felt trapped in more ways than one. He knew that Nick wanted him to stay put until they could come for him but not only were the worms becoming more vicious and spitting that black stuff at him, no matter how many times he tried calling Chloe wasn't picking up, and he was terrified that he'd been wrong and something had happened to her. Things seemed to be going worse and worse. What seemed like only yesterday life had been a paradise for him. He'd been living with the woman he loved, enjoying the job he loved, and in good relations with his best friend and mentor. He'd been about to propose...and then all of a sudden Chloe and Cutter had seemed to be replaced by two complete strangers.
He wanted his girlfriend back.
If he had to recreate every single memory they'd shared to make sure things were the way they'd been before, he was gonna do exactly that.
Deciding he couldn't start this more proactive phase in his life by waiting for help, Stephen made a move, jumping from the cabinet he'd been on top of to the nearest desk, jumping from one to the other until a worm caught one of his feet and caused him to lose balance, falling into the fog.
Jumping down from the air vent they'd had to crawl through to get to the sever room without going through the ridiculously thick fog on the 15th floor, Abby straightened up as she looked around the room, which was empty other than the throbbing anomaly.
Connor stuck his head out of the shaft. "Abby, I think it's that one, the aircon."
She went towards it and pulled open the glass door, pressing some buttons and bringing up the temperature drastically.
"That's enough." Connor called, eyes on the temperature reading. "Come back."
Abby nodded, rushing towards the vent and reaching for for Connor's hand, glad when she was pulled to the relative safety of the vents and out of the fog. "Is it working?"
Connor looked towards her, frowning slightly. "I hope so."
When Nick and Jenny finally stumbled upon Stephen on the 13th floor the fog was much thinner, lower, and there were visible signs of struggles, as well as the bodies of a few of the worms who'd decided to attack Stephen and obviously hadn't had things go their way. There were other worms in the room but they were just watching the human warily.
"You took your time." Stephen edged towards them.
"Well, you do tend to run off on your own." Nick replied, relieved to see his friend safe and unhurt.
"Have you found Chloe?" Stephen asked.
Nick shook his head, eyes dark with worry but knowing that he had to stay calm and in control of the situation and his emotions.
"The fog's lifting." Jenny announced, eyes on the large worms around them.
"It's working." Stephen nodded, watching the worms begin to wither and writher as the fog dissipated.
"Ugh!" Jenny made up her face in disgust as the creatures began to swell. "What's happening to them?"
Nick's eyes widened, not having expected this. "Must be the heat."
"They're expanding." Jenny took a wary step back.
Suddenly the creatures began exploding all around them, chunks of skin and tissue flying everywhere, blood spattering all around.
Jenny screamed, Nick and Stephen grunting as suddenly things like fish with sharp teeth exploded from the creatures, latching onto them with those razor-sharp teeth. The trip cried out in pain as they hurried tore the things off of them as fast as they could.
"God! They're spawning!" Nick yanked away at them rapidly. "They're not biting, they're burrowing. They're trying to find a new host! Don't let them break the skin!"
"These are parasites?" Jenny cried out in horror, yanking all the more desperately.
"Gotta find something to bring the temperature down." Nick looked all around him.
"It'll take too long." Stephen tore some off of himself.
Nick climbed up onto a desk. "Anybody got a light?"
Jenny searched her pockets before passing him her lighter.
Nick lit the flame and rose it to the fire alarm, immediately trigger the sprinklers to turn on, bathing them with the cold water...the parasites falling to the ground, dying. "Claudia." He jumped down and looked at her. "Are you alright?"
"Don't call me Claudia." Jenny snapped at him, before taking in a deep breath and nodding. "And I'm fine."
Stephen rushed passed them. "CHLOE! CHLOE WHERE ARE YOU?"
Nick sent Jenny one last look before following after.
Jerking at the sound of her name, Chloe's eyes fluttered open, disorientation beginning to descend as she turned in time for Stephen to sweep her into his arms and hold her tight.
"I was so worried!" He whispered into her hair. "Why didn't you answer your phone?"
"I lost it." She apologized. "I'm sorry."
"No, it doesn't matter, you're okay." He finally lowered her to the floor, gazing deep into her eyes. "You're okay."
He seemed to be repeating that for his own benefit.
Chloe gazed up into his eyes and could see a man who loved her.
It was time she let go of the past.
It was time she truly, truly gave him a chance.
Smiling softly, Chloe cupped Stephen's cheek before grabbing the front of his shirt with her other hand and bringing him down to her as she pressed up on her toes and kissed him.
She felt a little awkward and out of her depth, very shy and unsure, and then Stephen was kissing her deeply, his arms around her tightly, nearly stealing her breath away.
Finally she pulled away, breathless and blushing, staring up at Stephen's face to see his incredibly blissful smile.
Someone cleared his throat.
That was the moment Chloe realized she'd just made out in front of her father.
Face turning red, she pulled away completely from Stephen, embarrassed. "So you're alive." She blinked, noticing Jenny. "What are you doing up here?" The blonde went towards her. "And what happened to your hair?"
Jenny's hand went to her hair. "One of those things messed up my hairstyle, didn't it?"
"Oh drat it." Jenny frowned.
Chloe smiled before turning to her father.
He brushed some of her hair out of her face. "Hey kiddo."
"I believe that's your first nickname for me, dad." She grinned, pressing up on her toes and placing a kiss on his cheek before looping her arm around Jenny's arm and leading her away, asking the brunette about how her fist 'real' day on the job had been.
As the men walked a little ways behind the women, silent, Stephen finally took in a deep breath and turned to his mentor and friend.
"Do you ever wonder if what we're doing is right?"
Nick sent him an amused look.
"I mean, maybe the anomalies have a purpose." Stephen made a face. "Maybe we should stop fighting, and face them."
"What?" Nick asked. "Just stand by and do nothing?"
Stephen took a moment to answer. "People should know what's happening...'cause we're gonna need to prepare for whatever comes next."
"Yeah, but how do you prepare for a world where evolution has gone mad?" Nick wanted to know. "We have to fight to try and maintain some kind of natural order."
Stephen sighed. "Does anybody really know what the natural order is anymore?"
Nick sent another look at Stephen and let out a sigh, unable to answer.
Freshly showered, home at last, Chloe listened to Stephen humming in the shower of the guest room as she reached for her small jewelry box by the side of the bed. She took the rings out and carefully lifted the false bottom before taking out and unfolding the picture she'd hidden there. It was the only picture she had of her and Ben, and that was because she'd had it in her wallet when the timeline had shifted. It was her only proof that he'd existed...that they'd existed. How many nights had she cried herself to sleep while looking at this picture and trying to tell herself that when she woke up things would be back to the way they were before and that Ben would be doing his cute determined face as he came to her home now that he knew (somewhat) her secret and could now slowly integrate himself into her life once more.
But every morning she'd awake to find that the world was still this odd place, and she was still in the flat she shared with Stephen, and Ben wasn't going to come to visit her.
The blonde gulped as she gazed at the picture of her and Ben lying in bed together, hair tousled, covered only by sheets, and grinning completely besotted smiles to the camera which Ben was holding.
Tears prickled at her eyes but she shook her head, refused to let them fall.
Clearing her throat, Chloe started to tear the picture in two and yet couldn't finish the action, ending up folding it in half once more and putting it away in its hidden spot.
Although she wasn't ready to say goodbye completely, Chloe knew she was ready to start.
Nick Cutter stood outside of Jenny Lewis' house, taking in a deep breath, trying to gather the courage to do what he needed to. Stephen's questions had weighed on him, as had Chloe's decision to not fight this reality but to adapt to it and the changes it brought. Changes like a relationship with Stephen, and Jenny Lewis. He pulled out his wallet and gazed at the photo there of him and Claudia smiling at the camera. He was never going to get Claudia back and he needed to accept that...needed to accept Jenny.
It was one of the reasons he was here.
Taking in a deep breath, he put his wallet away and headed towards the door, knocking on it.
Footsteps could be heard and then Jenny opened the door, obviously surprised to see him.
"Okay, here's the thing." He didn't let her speak unless somehow he lost the nerve. "Suppose there was another world once, and you were a different person. And suppose there was an accident that happened in the past, which meant that world evolved differently so that some people who had lived were never even born, and other people grew up with completely different lives."
Her eyes widened, her face disturbed.
"Now, what if all of that were possible?" He asked.
"Who is it, Jen?" A male voice asked from within, and suddenly a handsome blonde male appeared in the doorway.
Nick gazed up at the man and then smiled sadly, blue eyes returning to Jenny. "You're busy. I'm so sorry." He turned and walked away, closing his eyes tightly.
Behind him he could hear the man asking Jenny who he was.
"Just...someone I work with." Jenny whispered.
Yes, Nick's heart whispered, Jenny was only someone he worked with.
So deep in his heartbreak, he never noticed Helen watching him from the shadows.
"Hey." Chloe cleared her throat as she leaned against the doorframe of Stephen's room for the first time since he'd moved in there, hugging herself.
Stephen froze in the doorway of the bathroom, the towel he'd been using to dry his hair slipping through his fingers and falling heavily to the ground. "Hey."
"So, I've been thinking." Chloe began, giving him a timid little smile. "You're my best friend."
A small frown began to mar his features.
"And you're my confidant, probably the person I'm closest to in my time." She took in a deep breath. "You're strong, caring, protective, funny...easy on the eyes."
The frown was melting into an intrigued expression.
"I can see how I fell in love with you in this timeline." Chloe pushed away from the door and took a couple of tentative steps into the bedroom. "You've been patient and wonderful with me when you're going through such a hard and unusual situation."
Stephen watched her.
Nervous and unsure of herself, Chloe slowly went towards him.
Stephen met her half way and lifted her into his kiss, easily keeping her off of the ground, his arms tight.
Fisting her fingers through his hair, Chloe kissed him with all she had.