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?
"You shouldn't push your luck like this," Stephen declared as he dressed for his morning jog. "You're not fired."
"No, I quit, remember?" Chloe grinned as she brushed her hair, wearing a form-fitting red dress and matching strappy high heels. "There's quite a difference there you know."
"Yes but..." Stephen turned towards her and finally got a good look at her. "Oh, wow."
She smiled at her reflection before turning towards him, flicking a blonde strand behind her shoulder. "I like that reaction."
"And you're this dressed up because...?" He eyed her curiously, appreciatively, as he encircled her waist, drawing her close.
"Jenny's engagement party? The one we were invited to? The same one you said you wouldn't ever go to because you didn't rub elbows with the rich and snobby? Remember that?" The blonde smiled, lined eyes twinkling with amusement as she linked her arms around his neck. "Ring any bells?"
"Maybe." He admitted, leaning down to kiss her, his grip lowering to cup her ass.
Chloe laughed and raised a hand, stopping his lips before they could touch hers. "No time for that, Casanova."
"It was just a kiss." He declared innocently as she escaped his hold.
"It's never just a kiss with you." She replied knowingly, grabbing dainty red bag.
"And why exactly did you get an invitation to Posh Spice's engagement party when the rest of the team didn't?" Stephen wanted to know, folding his arms over his chest as he admired his girlfriend.
"Because, Jenny's fiance has been asking about her colleagues and she said she wanted to invite someone who wasn't confusing or odd." Chloe replied with a smirk. "Plus, according to her her future mother in law's a right monster whom I happened to charm once when she called asking to speak to Jenny, and the woman apparently has been asking Jenny when she's going to meet me in person."
"My girlfriend, the beast charmer." Stephen chuckled.
"I tamed you didn't I?" She teased, going over to where Baby was sleeping on her bed, rubbing her forehead.
"I don't know about tamed." Stephen shook his head, grabbing his keys and placing them into the pocket of his sweats as together they made their way towards the front door of the flat.
"Oh, I'd say tamed." She replied as they exited the flat, Stephen locking it behind him as they took the steps down to where a taxi was already waiting for her. "If you change your mind, I left the address in the kitchen."
"Have a good time with Mama Posh." He chuckled, bringing her in the for the kiss she'd playfully denied him in their flat. "Try not to tease too many fat, rich old men?"
"Only fit, rich men, gotcha." She winked, flashing him a wicked smile before pulling away and getting into the taxi. "If you get jealous enough, remember where the address is!" And with that the cab took her away.
Watching her until the cab turned the corner and went out of sight, Stephen plopped in the earphones of his ipod, switched the music to his favorite song, and began stretching.
Ever since that situation with Abby in the future and the 'three words' things had been somewhat awkward and Connor had taken to spending his free time at the ARC, even saturday mornings such as today. He skated around on his skateboard, circling his large Anomaly Detector, and when it suddenly went off, beeping loudly, lights flashing red, he almost tripped in his surprise and fell off.
"Cutter!" He raced to the keyboard, gazing at the different screens as his program tried triangulating the location of the newly opened anomaly. "Cutter?" His eyes narrowed, realizing the difficulty the Detector was having with the triangulation. "Come on, show me where you are."
Cutter hurried towards him from where he'd been in his office, someplace the blonde had been in quite a lot lately, especially since Chloe had failed to return to the team.
Suddenly the screens began to glitch, the images wavering, static interference making everything impossible to distinguish. "No. No, no, what?"
All the screens went to black the second Cutter arrived.
"What's happened?" Their team leader frowned.
"I'm not sure, it's just crashed." Connor looked from one screen to the other, utterly confused.
"That ever happened before?"
"No." Connor turned to the blonde. "Maybe it was some sort of power surge because of the anomaly...or it could be a false alarm."
But he doubted it.
Apparently, so did Cutter. "But there could be an active anomaly out there right now?"
"I'll reboot it." Connor was already on in, typing in commands and keying in passcodes, the screens flickering to life, showing everything normally. "That's really strange. Everything seems to be fine now."
"Run a full diagnostic."
"Okay." Connor nodded, typing in rapidly, beginning programs, scanning the system, before freezing when the results shot back at him. "It's completely contaminated."
Cutter didn't seem surprised, his eyes narrowing slightly on the screens. "Spyware?"
"Yep." Connor nodded. "Allowing the user to switch the feed from here to wherever they are."
"And cut us out of the loop." Cutter finished in a soft voice.
Connor turned towards him. "It must be that guy, the Cleaner. What do we do?"
Cutter turned to face him, voice low. "First of all, find the anomaly, then clean up the Detector. Don't say a word to anybody."
"Stop the cab." Chloe ordered as the jolt flared through her, vibrating and pulsing with a life that was both completely alien and yet familiar to her. For a moment she'd thought that maybe she was imagining it, but no, it was there causing her heart to skip a beat. She'd known it was a long shot, that she couldn't-and yet the incident in the warehouse had left her suspicious. Had it been the siren-call or-or-? It was why she hadn't gone back to the ARC as yet, had been trying to test a theory, and now as she felt it alive she knew that she wasn't completely insane or self-centered, high-minded, whatever! What mattered was that there was a very distinct possibility that-.
"This is not-."
"STOP THE CAB!" Chloe snapped.
The cab came to a violent stop.
"Thank you." Dishing out the bills the meter declared she owed, Chloe passed them to the driver and exited the cab, her impossibly high heels tapped against the ground as she hurried onto the sidewalk and looked around her, trying to feel where the anomaly's heartthrobs were coming from. She could only ever feel it like this when she was very close to one, and she was surprised that no one else was here yet.
Holding her hand out, she felt for the strongest vibrations before starting out into the dark alley, her heels clipclopping against the pavement as she righted the dainty strap of her bag, feeling ridiculous for going investigating an anomaly on her own and dressed like this, but the second she'd felt the heat sear her she hadn't been able to keep herself from yelling at the cab driver and getting out.
Maybe her mother was right.
Maybe once you went through a couple of them, anomalies became an addiction.
But it could be more than just that.
"Spratt!" A young girl yelled into a large pipe. "Come back! We're not supposed to be here!"
As Chloe got closer she could see the light from inside the large pipe, and upon closer inspection could see the anomaly within, throbbing and pulsating light and life, beckoning. "Are you okay?" She forced herself to look away from the anomaly towards the girl, who couldn't be older than eleven. "Is someone in there?"
"My dog, Spratt." The girl declared, taking a step towards the pipe. "I need to go and get her."
"No!" Chloe shook her head. "You can't do that. It's dangerous. You can't be here."
"Spratt went in there, I can't just leave her there!" The girl exclaimed. "And what is that anyway?"
Oh, where was Jenny when you needed her?
Barking could be heard from the other side of the anomaly.
"Spratt!" The girl made a dash for the anomaly.
Chloe caught her and managed to somehow restrain the spitfire. "It's too dangerous!"
"Then she needs me!" The girl struggled. "She's all I have left!"
That sob tore at Chloe as she bent to look the girl in the face.
This was a bad idea.
"I'm going to go in after her, okay?" Chloe gazed into the child's worried eyes. "Spratt you said her name was, right?"
"Yes." The girl nodded.
The best thing would be to wait until Cutter and the others arrived, or to phone them in right away, but Chloe knew this girl would sneak in the second she had the chance, and the fact that she'd left her cell at the flat per Jenny's orders (her future mother in law thought them vile, uncouth things apparently)...well...Chloe didn't have much of a choice.
Or maybe, just maybe, she wanted to go through that anomaly.
Spratt gave a distressed sound.
"SPRATT!" The girl pulled loose and raced into the anomaly, disappearing on the other side.
"Dammit!" Chloe hissed, turning and taking off her heels, holding them in her hand as she hurried into the pipe after the girl, the anomaly warm and welcoming as she crossed through it onto the other side, finding herself standing next to the girl in the middle of a desert at night.
"Cool." The girl whispered.
Chloe reached her side, eyeing around her. "I agree."
The girl grinned at her.
Spratt barked in the distance, down below the sand dune they were currently on.
"Spratt!" The girl hurried down the dune. "Spratt!"
"Will you stop dashing off like that?" Chloe groaned as she hurried after the girl.
Suddenly the sand around Spratt began to move, it was hardly noticeable at first with the darkness, but as Chloe's eyes grew more accustomed to the darkness she could make out the large amount of activity beneath the sand as creatures chased the dog.
"Spratt! Hurry!" The girl screamed. "Run to me! Come girl!"
Feeling the sand beginning to shift behind them, Chloe's eyes widened as the sand visibly moved as something large headed their way. "Run."
"What?" The girl turned to her.
Chloe looked around her before spying something. "To the rocks! Run! Now!"
The sound of high heels heading their way caused Nick and Connor to look up from where they'd been sitting in front of the Anomaly Detector, and Nick was hard pressed to admit that for a moment his mouth went dry as Jenny appeared. She was dressed in a form-fitting, short white dress with golden heels and a large hat. Nick wasn't one who knew much about hats, but as far as they went he had to admit this one was odd...yet somewhat attractive.
"This better not be another false alarm." Jenny declared as she sauntered towards them.
"Why, were you busy?" Nick couldn't help but ask.
She raised an eyebrow as she stood before them, hip jutted out slightly in a provocative stance. "Engagement party."
"Very nice." Connor blinked at her. "Anybody we know?"
"Mine, actually." She replied, taking in a deep breath. "Not my idea. Future mother-in-law. It's all rather dreary."
"So you'd rather be with us?" Nick raised an eyebrow right back at her.
"Well, I was gonna say any excuse." She replied, lips pulled in a smirk. "So yes, even you."
There was a moment of silence as they smiled at each other.
Nick cleared his throat before his gaze went to the screens. "We have an active site."
"I'll go get changed." Jenny nodded.
"No, there's no time. The anomaly's been open for two hours, maybe longer." Nick shook his head.
Jenny looked down at her own ensemble before returning her gaze to him. "Right, well, if I break a heel, you're gonna pay."
With that she sauntered away, pulling off her hat and shaking her hair loose, hips swaying temptingly.
Nick and Connor both turned in their chairs to watch her go.
"She looks amazing." Connor whispered.
"Hmm." Nick nodded, swirling back to the screens. "So does a velociraptor."
Engaged, he reminded himself.
"What are those things?" The girl whispered as they sat on the rocks, gazing at the sand, the air chilly in the night of the desert.
"I have no idea." Chloe answered truthfully, frowning.
Their path to the anomaly had been blocked by whatever those things had been, and now they'd ended up a good distance from the anomaly. She couldn't even see it anymore. They'd just had to race through the sands, each movement bringing the attention of more and more of those sand things. It was probably only Spratt's racing around here and there that'd disoriented the creatures and given Chloe and the girl enough time to make it to the rocks, and once they'd reached there the things hadn't been able to find them.
Obviously they hunted by the vibrations on the sand, and while this knowledge was handy to have it was also discouraging considering that in the race to the rocks they'd put much distance between them and the anomaly.
How exactly were they going to get back?
"Spratt..." the girl whispered, hugging herself.
"She could have gotten out." Chloe declared. "That was one fast dog."
"You think?" She whispered.
Chloe nodded. "Yep."
"It's cold." The girl sighed. "And my ankle's hurting."
"You sprained it when you fell." Chloe hugged herself, rubbing her bare arms. "We'll be fine though, don't worry."
"We'll die here." The girl bemoaned. "We'll either starve or those things will eat us."
"It wont come to that, but we might get a wicked sunburn if we're not out of here before the sun comes up." Chloe looked up at the moon. "Days in the desert aren't pleasant."
"I knew it." She mumbled. "Just my luck."
Chloe sent the girl a look. "I'm Chloe by the way, what's your name?"
"Taylor Craig." She replied. "I've always been told not to talk to strangers but we're going to die anyway so I don't see the whole point."
Chloe snorted in wry amusement. "You're a little ray of sunshine, aren't you?"
"I'm a realist." The kid declared.
Chloe laughed. "Well, Miss Taylor, my friends are going to come and save us."
"Sure they are." Taylor mumbled.
"They deal with things like this everyday." Chloe replied.
Taylor opened her mouth to retort when she frowned, narrowing her eyes. "Is that them?"
Chloe narrowed her eyes and for a second couldn't see anything...before she finally made out dark figures in the moonlight, dressed like soldiers or special ops.
"Hey!" Taylor got to her feet. "Over here!"
The small group paused for a moment, obviously looking in the direction, before moving on in a different direction.
"GET OFF OF THE SAND! TRYING TO SAVE YOU! IDIOTS!" Taylor screamed, waving her hands violently before turning to Chloe. "Tell your friends to get off of the sand!"
"They're not my friends." Chloe stood slowly, suspicion to the identity of the group growing...or at least to the leader of the group.
Suddenly gunshots and screams filled the night.
"Oh no." Taylor whispered, horrified as the creatures attacked the unsuspecting men. "No."
Chloe pulled the girl to her, Taylor hiding her face in Chloe's stomach and holding onto the woman tightly as screams echoed around them. The blonde covered the child's ears as best as she could to drown out the sounds, yet was unable to look away as the creatures in the sand massacred the Cleaner's men.
Returning to the flat from his jog, Stephen locked the door and tore off his earphones to be greeted by the sound of the shower running. He smiled, wondering what had happened to bring Chloe back so quickly, yet when he opened the bathroom door his smile faded when he wasn't greeted by a view of his girlfriend but of her mother.
"You don't mind, do you?" Helen asked, comfortable and naked as she showered, steam rising up all around her. "I've got slime from the Devonian. The smell would make your eyes water."
"And this was the only shower you could find within a million years?" He glared.
She chuckled, turning to face him. "Stop staring and pass me a towel."
He didn't budge. "What are you doing here?"
Helen rolled her eyes and turned off the shower, stepping out and grabbing the towel for herself, wrapping it around her body. "You and I both know things can't go on like this. The anomalies are getting worse." She raised an eyebrow. "How long do you think the government's gonna be able to keep on covering them up? How long is Nick going to continue playing their game?"
"Forget it, Helen, I'm not interested." Stephen shook his head, walking out of the bathroom.
She followed him. "Never mind how you feel about me. You know this is wrong."
"You..." He laughed, an ugly sound, turning to face her. "You've got to go."
"You know what's really sad?" She raised her chin. "You're being betrayed and you don't even know it. They're not even being honest with you."
"Do not try to turn me against Chloe!" He snapped, raising his hand and only barely managing to keep from hitting her. "No matter what your viper's tongue says I will not be made to doubt her! She told me about goddamned Ben, alright? She told me without me asking. So-."
"I'm very happy to know how devoted you are to her, Chloe deserves a good man...but I wasn't referring to her." Helen declared. "I'd never try to turn you against my daughter."
Stephen's eyes narrowed. "What're you talking about then?"
"He hasn't told you, has he?" She shook her head. "That's Nick for you, never was much good at trusting people."
He was quickly losing his patience. "Helen, tell me what this is about."
"I don't know much, I just know that they have another agenda that you don't know about." She replied.
"Who does?" He came closer, eyes narrowed. "You mean Lester?"
"I don't know who's behind it." She shrugged. "But if the shoe fits..."
Stephen looked away
They'd found the anomaly in a drainage pipe. They'd contacted the builders and closed down the site, Jenny throwing all sorts of building code violations at them. A sound, distorted, had echoed through the anomaly and at first they'd thought it was a creature from whatever time this anomaly led to, but a small dog hurried through. In a sense it was a relief yet in another a complete other mess as the dog (whose tag read SPRATT) might have an owner still stuck on the other side.
Connor, Stephen and Abby had arrived a little later with the equipment while Jenny grudgingly held the dog, complaining loudly since it was messing up her lovely new dress. No one minded or paid much attention to her grief as Connor was testing out a new field camera on wheels which truly wasn't much to look at but would no doubt prove itself useful as they could send it on ahead into the anomalies they encountered to see what was on the other side and what sort of creatures were around, or to gauge the quality if air and so forth.
"Why exactly didn't Chloe come with you by the way?" Stephen asked Jenny.
"She hadn't made it to the party by the time I got called out." Jenny replied. "And even if she had, she refuses to come to work just to spite Lester, you know that."
"I doubt she'd pass up an anomaly." Stephen replied.
Nick looked up, frowning. "She was going to the engagement party?"
"Oi," Connor looked up from the video feed of the portable camera, which had yet to make it through the anomaly. "Why didn't we all get invitations?"
Jenny looked miserable, holding the dirty dog, who seemed to be having a wonderful time licking her face.
"Connor, its gone through." Abby declared, causing everyone to turn their attention to the laptop computer, where the video feed was coming through to them of what was on the other side.
The other side was a desert, the sun blaring bright in the sky, sand as far as the eyes could see.
"High CO2, low oxygen." Connor read the feedback.
"It's pre-Carboniferous." Nick decided. "Maybe Ordovician or Silurian." His eyes narrowed on the image of sand everywhere as it continued moving forwards. "There's no dinosaurs, no mammals, no birds."
There were a formation of rocks in the distance, and something bright red on them.
"Hold on a minute." Abby frowned. "What's that?"
Connor activated the zoom on the camera, eyes widening. "I don't believe it."
"Is that...Chloe?" Jenny asked, momentarily ignoring the way the dog chewed on her necklace. "And a little girl."
"What?" Stephen leaned in closer, eyes widening.
"I think we've found the owner of Jenny's new best friend." Nick declared. "But what is Chloe doing there? And why hasn't she brought the girl back out?"
"Maybe she's injured." Abby frowned.
"There's nothing really in the Silurian to injure her." Connor countered. "You know, we're talking a few basic plants and bugs."
"How big are the bugs?" Stephen asked.
"Bug-size, I think." Connor shrugged. "As periods go it's a pretty safe one to get lost in."
"She must be terrified." Jenny whispered, clutching Sprat closer.
They zoomed in closer to see the girl and Chloe in animated talk, hands moving rapidly.
"Doesn't seem terrified." Connor snorted. "Looks like they're having a pretty good time to me."
"The only reason Chloe wouldn't have brought her out is if something is wrong." Nick frowned, standing straight. "We need to go in and get them out."
Stephen nodded, tightening his hold on his gun. "Let's do it."
"My head hurts." Taylor complained, leaning her head against Chloe's shoulder.
"I know, mine too." Chloe took in a deep breath. "It's like being at altitude, there's no oxygen."
"No oxygen?" Taylor squeaked.
"Well, obviously there's oxygen, we're breathing aren't we?" The blonde amended quickly. "That's why I said like."
"Right." Taylor nodded. "You were right, you know, I'm going to have a terrible sunburn."
"Yeah, me too." Chloe sighed. "I'm going to look like a lobster soon."
"Yeah, you will." Taylor agreed. "I've never seen someone sunburn quite so red before. That takes talent in my books."
Chloe laughed, shaking her head, before suddenly noticing movement in the distance. "Oh no." Even in the distance she could recognize those two lone male figures. "Nick! Stephen!" She struggled to her feet, waving her arms in the air. "The rocks! Get to the rocks!"
They stopped, and waved back.
"No! You idiots!" She yelled. "GET TO THE ROCKS!"
"Hurry up!" Taylor joined her, desperately motioning for them to come. "Your friends are idiots! RUN!"
Suddenly the sand began to shift around the two men, two crab-like claws sticking out of the sand.
"No." Chloe's heart raced in her throat. "RUN!"
Cutter and Stephen took off running as fast as they could, the sand moving at their heels.
"Come on!" Taylor screamed.
The men made it onto the rocks just as claws reached out and snapped at them angrily, unable to reach them. It snapped futilely before disappearing under the sand once more.
Taylor gazed at them. "Fine help you are."
Chloe hugged them both before pulling away. "You idiots! Did you really think I was waving at you?"
The men shared a look.
Her gaze lowered to the dufflebag Nick was carrying. "No one survived, did they?"
"Did you see the people who were carrying these?" Stephen frowned. "Their weapons weren't army-issued, they were classic mercenary's guns."
Nick nodded. "They had goggles with hard drive, night-vision, recording abilities. It was serious stuff."
Chloe nodded. "He's here."
"Are you sure about it?" Nick frowned.
She nodded. "If not him then who?"
Stephen's eyes narrowed on them. "Him?"
"There were no footprints leading away," Nick turned to look at the seemingly endless sand. "They left their water and just disappeared."
"They didn't disappear," Chloe hugged herself. "They were massacred."
"You're not surprised by any of this." Stephen frowned at them. "What do you know?"
"I really don't know anything." Chloe admitted, gazing around her. "I think that's the problem. No one knows anything."
"You obviously know more than I do." He pressed, slightly accusing.
She turned to look at him. "Stephen, I only found out the very little I know the other day, and to be truthful I was more worried and preoccupied with our relationship than anything else. I'm sorry if that seemed more important to me at the time."
He was still frowning, but much of the ire behind the gesture was now gone. "There's a traitor on the team, isn't there?
"Maybe." Cutter admitted.
"It's Lester." Stephen seemed so sure.
"It's someone." Cutter replied.
Stephen shook his head, frustration growing in his every feature. "Come on, they're playing us! They have been since the beginning."
"I don't know that and neither do you." Nick announced.
"Fine, you admitted you don't know." Stephen countered. "But rather than sharing that with us you shut us out. We're meant to be a team."
Nick patted his arm. "You sound like Helen."
"Look, this isn't important right now." Chloe frowned at the both of them, placing a hand on Taylor's shoulder. "We're trapped with creatures who sense vibrations from the sands between us and the anomaly."
Stephen reached into his bag and pulled out two cases of water, handing them to the thirsty girls as he gazed around him. "Well, we're gonna have to go the long way around. If we stick to the rocks we can get close enough to the anomaly."
"We'll have to take it easy, slow." Chloe replied, protective. "Taylor's twisted her ankle somewhat badly, and she can't run if we should need to. It's one of the reasons we're still here."
"I twisted it as I made it to the rocks, but those things ate my dog." Taylor mumbled.
"No, no, no, your dog's alive." Cutter shook his head. "She's on the other side."
"See?" Chloe smiled down at the girl. "Told you she was fast."
"Cool." Taylor grinned, before it melted into a frown. "She left me behind then. That's cold."
"I'm gonna have to carry you." Stephen commented.
"No way!" She scoffed at him in horror. "I ain't baggage. No one has to carry me."
Cutter and Stephen shared an amused look.
"She ain't baggage." Nick informed him.
"Taylor ain't baggage." Stephen nodded, informed.
Chloe rolled her eyes at them and turned to Taylor, squeezing her shoulder. "Can you give me some help on these rocks? I'll probably just end up slipping and falling."
"You probably will." Taylor gazed up at her and nodded, grabbing her hand. "We should probably stick together anyway, I know you said your friends would come to help, but they don't seem too bright, I mean, they thought we were waving."
Chloe chuckled, sending the men a darkly amused look as she helped Taylor slowly down the formation of rocks.
Sitting in a coffee shop, Helen sipped on a cappuccino as she watched this Ben Becker character having a coffee and going over some things on his computer. She had to admit that Stephen was her first choice for Chloe, due to the fact that she knew exactly how to manipulate Stephen and through him her daughter and Nick, but there was something about this Ben that she really liked. Maybe it was the fact that he'd faced down a Future Predator without a gun to save her daughter. Helen had to admire that.
Also, he was very good looking.
Her daughter definitely had great taste.
Helen bit down on her bottom lip.
Well, if Chloe was decided to take Helen's boy toy it really wasn't a big deal if Helen took hers, right?
With a evil little grin, Helen got up and made her way towards his table.
Nick, who was walking ahead of them, at the crest of the sand dune before the anomaly, called back, eyes wide. "Stephen! It's weakening!"
Chloe and Stephen's gazes met at those words as Stephen suddenly picked up Taylor, who screamed and struggled, both hurrying towards the crest by Nick and stopping where he had. There below in the far distance they could see the anomaly throbbing, weakening, and between them and their destiny those sand scorpions were visibly making multiple differently slopes beneath the sand. They were extremely active, probably because they could sense the vibrations of the anomaly, and the harsh reality set upon the humans.
They weren't going to make it to the anomaly before it closed.
Stephen let down Taylor, who would have probably kicked him or something had it not been for the fact that she could sense their horror.
They could do nothing but watch as the anomaly throbbed its last, before disappearing, leaving them in a harsh terrain, far from home.
"What happened?" Taylor finally asked softly. "When are we going back?"
Stephen sighed as he lowered his head.
Cutter sat down on the rocks.
Chloe placed her hand around Taylor's shoulders, drawing her near, and the girl went with it, arms going around the blonde's waist as they all gazed in the distance where the anomaly, and their way back, had once been.
"We can't stay here." Nick finally sighed, standing back up. "We need to keep walking, back track and follow the rocks. There has to be another way out of here."
"I doubt there's another anomaly just waiting to take us back home." Stephen declared.
Chloe squeezed Taylor's shoulders. "Anywhere it can take us will be better than here. As long as it's a place with water it's better."
"She has a point." Nick nodded. "We only have the minimal amount of water, if we don't find more soon..."
Taylor took in a deep breath. "I wish this was all just a nightmare."
"Don't worry, we'll get you back home, eventually." Chloe tried for light humor as they backtracked, always keeping to the rocks.
She spent the next half-hour recounting various times in her past, especially her teenaged years in Smallville, where things had seemed dire and yet she'd managed to make it out alive. Nick nor Stephen had ever heard these stories before and so they were silent as Nick led the group and Stephen followed behind making sure they were safe.
"Ate his mother?" Taylor made a face in disgust. "How sick is that?"
"Well, the meteorites usually induce a lunacy in those they infect, although there are few who are strong enough to keep sane." Chloe sighed. "He's actually getting treatment now, and has been doing very well."
"My mother died two months ago." Taylor surprised her by saying. "I live with Steve, her husband, but I think he's tired of me. He's not my father. He probably resents having to take care of some other man's brat."
"Honey, I'm going to let you in on a little secret." Chloe stopped and bent on her knees in front of the girl. "Men take much longer than women to heal, they're like babies."
"I take offense to that." Nick snorted.
She waved him off. "That's my father, by the way."
Taylor looked between them, eyes wide. "Really?"
Chloe nodded. "I wasn't raised by him though, a lot of confusing and painful things we couldn't control happened, and I was raised by two other people, two people who weren't related to me by blood, but who loved me just as much. And when the woman I loved as my mother abandoned us, the man who raised me went through a very rough patch. I knew he loved me, but men have their own way of dealing with things. He would sit on his sofa, drinking beer, watching TV, and he could be miserable."
Taylor gazed at her seriously.
"But that man loved me." Chloe's voice choked for a second, unable to believe that Gabe wasn't alive in this timeline. "And once he was able to grieve he was wonderful once more."
Taylor gazed down at her hands before nodding. "I used to think Steve loved me, before ma died. Maybe...maybe he's just grieving too."
"I'm sure he is." Chloe smiled, wiping at one of her tears. "And I'm sure he's worried sick about you right now."
"You think so?" Taylor whispered.
Taylor smiled before helping Chloe back up. "Well, I am somewhat awesome."
Nick and Stephen sent each other amused glances over Chloe's and Taylor's heads.
They continued walking, keeping to the rocks and eyeing the sand warily, but after some time everyone was beginning to get tired.
Taylor rested against Chloe more and more. "There isn't a way out of here, is there?"
Nick turned to face her from where he'd been in front. "Sure there is."
"You're lying." She accused, sitting down on a boulder, sniffling. "We're gonna die in this stupid place."
Cutter sighed as he sat down next to her. "You're right. We're not in great shape right now, but I can promise you one thing. We're not gonna die."
"There are clouds, due east." Stephen announced. "It could mean a body of water, vegetation. Food and shelter. We should head that way."
Nick smiled and nudged the girl with his arm. "We stay on the rocks as far as we can, all right?"
She sighed and stood when he did, before turning to Stephen with narrowed eyes. "If you try to pick me up again, I'll bite you." She turned and stormed after Nick.
Chloe bit down on her bottom lip to keep from laughing.
Stephen sent an amused look in Chloe's direction before they continued after them.
Helen Cutter was losing her touch.
It horrified her.
She'd used all her feminine wiles that always got her what and how she wanted, and yet every single one of them had fallen flat. This "Becker" guy, as he'd so curtly introduced himself when she'd slid into the chair across from his, had been cold and uninterested and had brushed her off quite abruptly. No amount of flirtation on her part had swayed his attitude in the least bit. It was confounding. It was humiliating. It was infuriating!
She was a beautiful, sensual woman!
If it wasn't for his ties to Chloe she would have suspected him gay...and that might have soothed her ego a bit but he wouldn't have been the first gay guy that she'd turned back...
So all in all this was infuriating and she was vastly annoyed.
She stormed out of the coffee shop and as far away from that annoying twit as she could.
"Would you rather die of thirst or be eaten?" Taylor wanted to know as they descended a rock formation down the side of one of the many ups and downs of this barren terrain. "Think I'd rather be eaten. Then at least it's quick, two bites, done." She gazed up at Nick as he continued soldiering on ahead. "You're like four or five bites, so it'll be worse for you."
"Can you not try and be positive for five minutes?" He bewailed from in front. "You know, hopeful."
"We're probably the best food around." She continued as if he hadn't spoken. "Imagine you're a giant sand thing living on nothing but millipede, then you get to taste people for the first time."
Stephen chuckled behind Chloe, obviously enjoying Nick's suffering.
"All gooey and warm, we'd be like a delicacy." Taylor continued on with her morbid line of thought. "So who do you think they'll eat first?"
"Why don't you sing a song or whistle or something? Anything." Nick practically begged. "Just stop talking."
"Whoa, whoa!" Stephen said from behind them, stopping.
They stopped and turned to look back at him.
"What is it?" Chloe asked.
"Did you see that?" He asked, looking at a rock formation in the distance.
"What?" Nick frowned, turning to look in that direction, seeing nothing.
Stephen continued looking before shaking his head. "Nothing. Forget it."
They continued on their descent under the blaring sun, trying to ration out the water they had due to the uncertainty of when they'd find anymore. The conversation had died down to nothing due to their tiredness, and Chloe felt like they were on autopilot more than anything else.
Suddenly, the handheld Anomaly Detector Nick carried began to beep.
"Oh, thank god." He whispered.
Stephen hurried to his side, gazing at it. "Oh, yes!"
"What is it?" Taylor frowned, confused.
Chloe smiled as she placed her hands on the girl's shoulders. "Means we're getting out of here after all."
"Which way?" Stephen asked.
Taylor frowned. "I can hear a train."
Stephen frowned. "There are no trains in the Silurian."
Nick's gaze went behind them. "It's not a train."
They turned as one to see a large, violent sandstorm heading their way.
"Come on, Taylor." Stephen reached for her. "Run!"
They hurriedly raced towards the crevices in the rocks, crawling into them to hide from the sandstorm as it descended on them with a fury. In her lone crevice, Chloe brought the material of her shirt in front of her mouth and nose to try and keep the sand from suffocating her. She crawled as deep within the crevice as possible, turning to give her back to the storm and lay in a fetal position, trying to calm herself.
Memories of being trapped in the coffin were taunting her, playing with her mind and trying to induce a panic attack. She felt feverish, her body beginning to shake with her fear as the dark crevice seemed to be slightly brighter.
She fought the terror by humming to herself, and while at first she honestly didn't realize what she was humming halfway through the sandstorm she did. It was Bitter Sweet Symphony by the Verve, one of the songs Ben would sing to her as they lay in bed, his voice low and husky with sleep.
"Chloe?" Stephen's voice broke into her whispered song, alerting her to the end of the sandstorm. "Are you okay?"
"Y-yeah." She turned around and accepted the hand he offered, climbing out of the crevice and coughing as she gazed around her. "Is everyone okay?"
"I dropped the damn detector." Nick announced.
"So this is where hope gets you." Taylor smartmouthed.
Nick sent her a look before backtracking, trying to find the detector, Chloe, Taylor and Stephen following behind as finally they could hear the sound of the detector beeping.
They found it at the end of where the rocks met the sand.
"Remind me to tell Connor he did a good job with these." Cutter declared upon inspecting the detector and finding that it was still in perfect shape.
"Which way?" Stephen asked, gazing at the detector.
Suddenly a gun cocked behind them.
There, walking gently on the sand heading towards them, was the Cleaner, his gun trained on them. "I'll take that."
Stephen pushed Chloe and Taylor behind him protectively.
"I thought it might be you." Nick frowned, standing tall.
Stephen turned to look at him with a frown.
"There's only one ticket out of here and I'm taking it." The Cleaner declared.
Cutter threw the detector so that it landed hard by the Cleaner's feet.
He leaned down to pick it up. "And the water."
Nick went into the bag, pulling out a canteen.
"No, no, all of it." The Cleaner shook his head, gun trained on them.
Nick through his the bag with the containers, the heavy thing landing loudly by his feet once more in the sand.
Chloe's eyes widened as she realized what her father was doing.
She pushed away from Stephen's protection and stepped down onto the sand. "Without water we're gonna be dead in a couple of hours."
"Tough break." The Cleaner declared, backing up.
Chloe stepped closer.
"Chloe get back." Stephen ordered.
She ignored him. "Take us with you."
The Cleaner shook his head, continuing to step back.
"At least take the girl, she's done nothing wrong and no one will believe her if she says any of this happened." She stepped forwards.
The Cleaned shot around her, at the sand.
She stood still as the bullets caused the sand to explode around her, her heart racing in her throat in fear.
"Chloe..." Nick hissed from behind her. "Enough."
"You follow me, I shoot you." The Cleaner warned her.
She needed to stall, to give more time, and so even though she was terrified she bluffed assurance. "I don't think you will."
"Chloe enough!" Stephen made to go towards her but the Cleaner pointed his gun at him and stopped him.
"You were there with us in the mall, according to Connor you were in the ARC, and according to my father you were at the canal the other day as well. You were discovered each and every time, yet you didn't do anything other than to knock my father unconscious." She took another step towards him. "I think you've been ordered not to kill us because we're important to this project."
He fired around her once more, stopping her progress. "I'm warning you."
Behind the Cleaner the sand-trail of a sand scorpion could be seen heading straight towards him underground.
Chloe gave him a smile and a little wave. "Goodbye."
He frowned in confused before suddenly being pulled halfway into the sand, screaming.
Nick rushed passed her and grabbed the bag of water and gun away.
Stephen remained with Taylor, shielding her from the sight.
Chloe just stood there, watching him, not moving in fear of attracting more of those creatures.
Nick shot around the man, luring off the creature for a couple of seconds.
Stephen raced to the man and went to his knees on the sand. "Who sent you? It was Lester, wasn't it?"
The Cleaner snorted. "I'm a professional. I don't talk, ever!"
And then he was pulled completely underground, leaving the three humans standing carefully on the sand, wary.
"You're absolutely certain that you don't know anything?" Stephen asked Chloe and Nick as they slowly, carefully, began backing away towards the rocks in unison.
"If I know anything," Nick announced. "It's not a great idea to run and shout in the sand."
"Good point." Stephen conceded as they finally made it onto the rock, where he turned on Chloe. "What the hell was that out there?"
"If Nick got shot it would slow us down, but if I got shot you'd be able to carry me easier, it wouldn't have been so bad." Chloe defended, trying to calm herself down and needed some emotional support, not this anger.
Stephen shook his head, anger and frustration in his every feature. "Does what I think not matter in the least bit? Will you always do whatever you want? WIll I ever matter?"
"What?" Chloe asked, shocked. "Stephen, I don't understand why-."
"The other you would have understood!" He snapped at her. "She wouldn't have done something stupid like this!"
Chloe pulled back, blanching, hurt.
Stephen looked away.
"I'm not the other me, and I never will be." She replied softly. "If you can't deal with that, with the changes, then I think we're wasting our time."
"Maybe we are." He growled back.
Gulping, she nodded before yanking the detector out of his hands and beginning to follow the trace of the anomaly.
They continued on in tense silence, walking over the rocks and staying clear of the sand until they didn't have a choice but to step onto the sand. Still, the Cleaner had made it towards them on the sand which meant that if they kept their steps gentle and slow, tried to cause as little vibrations as possible, they should be fine. And it worked, for a while.
Just as they'd started the upwards climbed towards the dune whose crest the anomaly should be just over, Taylor fell, landing hard on the sand.
Suddenly the ground around them began to rustle and with an explosion Stephen yelled as he was yanked halfway through the sand, much like the Cleaner had before.
Taylor screamed, horrified.
"No!" Chloe screamed as she and Nick grabbed his arms, trying to pull him back up.
"Hold on, hold on!" Nick ordered Stephen.
"It's got me." Stephen whispered.
"No." Tears clouded her eyes as Chloe shook her head. "Stephen no!"
His gaze went to her right before he was pulled under.
"Stephen!" Nick yelled, trying the dig through the sand.
"No." Chloe whispered, tears falling. "NO!" She slammed her fists against the sand. "Give him back!"
Taylor quickly joined in, jumping up and down furiously. "Don't you eat him!"
"Let him him go!" Chloe screamed.
"You two have to-!" Nick yelled-.
The earth trembled as out from the sand emerged an enraged and disoriented sand scorpion, dangling Stephen by his feet from one of his pinchers.
Another emerged from behind them.
"Stay down and quiet." Nick ordered the girls.
The two creatures faced off, challenging each other for the food, Stephen dropping during the scuffle as they attacked each other viciously. He hurried to his feet and raced back towards them, Chloe's heart beating rapidly as he grabbed Taylor's hand and then her own, taking her with him as he began racing up towards the top of the dune.
Nick went back after the bag.
"Cutter! Leave the bag!" Stephen yelled back at him.
"Dad!" Chloe yelled.
"Ditch the bag!" Stephen yelled. "Get out of there!"
Chloe tried to go back but Stephen's hold was strong, and he pulled her up to the crest of the dune, where down below the anomaly could be seen. "Stephen-my father-."
"He'll be alright." Stephen replied, grabbing a large piece of shell-like exoskeleton, turning it upside down.
"What are you doing?" Taylor asked in confusion.
There was the sound of gunfire behind them.
"Quick, get in!" Stephen helped Taylor inside.
"Stephen..." Chloe looked behind her.
"Chloe, trust me." He pleaded.
She looked back at him and nodded, taking his hand and letting him help her onto it, wrapping her arms protectively around Taylor.
Nick finally crested the hill with the recording goggles, jumping onto the makeshift sled with them the same time as Stephen. The four of them huddled together as it raced down the sand dune, Taylor screaming, before finally coming to a stop at the foot of the dune.
Stephen grabbed Chloe, yanking her up, and Nick did the same for Taylor, the four of them racing through the sand towards the anomaly.
"Are we going home now?" Taylor asked as they neared.
"We're going somewhere." Nick answered as they raced through.
The electricity thrummed around them, light and life tickling their every senses, before they came out on the other side in a large woodland area.
The four shared looks before beginning to walk.
"We're not home, but at least there's no sand." Nick muttered.
"Any guesses where we are?" Stephen wanted to know, eyes alert for any possible attacks.
"Well, the air's normal, woodland looks familiar, so I guess it's gotta be within the last few thousand years." Nick replied.
"Hey look!" Taylor cried, taking off towards a campfire, a harsh tent constructed.
Nick observed the camp. "Middle Palaeolithic. Stephen, we've got to get away from here."
A caveman appeared in all his animal skin, unbathed glory, stalking them, spear in hand.
With one punch, Nick knocked him out.
Chloe blinked, walking towards the fallen man. "Were there spongebob squarepants briefs in the Middle Paleolithic days?"
"I think I just punched an actor." Nick cringed.
"Yeah." Stephen agreed.
"Cutter!" Connor's voice caused them to look up.
"Chloe! Stephen!" Abby cried as they appeared. "I knew you'd make it back!"
"It is really good to see you guys." Connor grinned.
Stephen shook his head. "Yeah, a few basic plants, some bugs!"
Connor made a face. "What?"
Nick, Chloe and Stephen exchanged snorts before turning to look at Connor, shaking their head at him.
Apparently her men hadn't made it back.
This was adding to an already spectacularly bad day.
Was Leek really worth keeping alive?
They'd been 'welcomed' back by Lester, which was awkward since Nick only just managed to force Stephen to promise not to say anything or accuse Lester since they knew so little yet had so much at stake. Stephen had just bumped passed their boss and stormed away, while Nick coldly accepted the welcome and had hid the night vision goggle-recorders. It wouldn't do him any good though, since that night they'd get stolen from his office, vanishing without a trace.
Chloe had gone with Nick to return Taylor to her stepfather Steve, who'd been crying over her loss and had hugged her tightly, kissing her forehead and promising her to pull together and be the father she needed him to be. Spratt, the dog, had been happily licking their faces as the two of them hugged.
It'd made tears come to Chloe's eyes as she walked behind Nick and Jenny, who were flirting although the two of them would probably deny it later on.
But she didn't have half a mind to even notice the flirting, her mind on her own issues. Things with Stephen were starting to crumble, and no matter how hard she tried to put her head in the sand or bend backwards to make things better...they weren't. And making a relationship work shouldn't be this hard. Shouldn't make her feel this tired. She could see how she'd fallen in love with Stephen in this timeline, and if things weren't so complicated she could easily see herself growing to love him as he deserved, but things were...complicated. Not only was she burying her head in the sand and ignoring the huge problems in their relationship, but Stephen was doing the same thing. They were pretending that all was well with them and that life was perfect. They let their natural chemistry lead this relationship and sometimes chemistry wasn't enough.
This wasn't about Ben.
Even if she hadn't met him in this timeline Chloe realized that this would have happened sooner or later. Stephen and her had just jumped into a relationship-or tried to continue a relationship that neither of them had truly had with the other. In his mind she was the other Chloe, and in her mind he was her Stephen. And yet they weren't. They really weren't, and the other wasn't readily mentally or emotionally to deal with that or the changes it was bringing to this relationship of theirs.
She'd hoped to have had everything packed and taken to her father's house before Stephen's return from wherever he'd gone after leaving the Lost World Adventure Park, but as she was logging her things to the living room the flat opened and he entered, freezing as the door swung closed behind him.
"You're packed." He noticed, eyes on the duffle bag she held.
Chloe nodded, lowering it to the ground. "I think we need some time apart."
"Chloe..." he ran his hand over his hair. "About what I said in the Silurian-."
"Stephen, it's something you've been thinking for a long time. You fell in love with this timeline's Chloe, not me." The blonde pulled a strand of hair behind her ear. "I think we need to spend the next couple of days apart and see how things go from there."
"I don't want you to leave." He whispered. "If you leave this will all be over and I don't want that."
"I don't want that either, Stephen." Chloe cleared her throat, tears pricking her eyes. "But we have serious issues, serious trust issues! And neither of us can really shoulder the blame. I knew a different Stephen and you knew a different Chloe...and we keep trying to make each other into the one we used to know."
"I love you, dammit!" He grabbed hold of her shoulders.
"You love the other me," she whispered, lowering her gaze. "We both need time apart."
"No, time is not going to help us. Time apart doesn't make the heart grow fonder it makes it wander, and I'm not going to lose you." Stephen shook his head. "I love you, Chloe." He then went down on his knees, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a case. "I've been wearing this on me for a while now, waiting for the right moment, and I thought I was going to die I realized what a fool I'd been."
Chloe's eyes were wide, her throat constricted as she gazed down at the ring. "Stephen?"
"I know we're going to have issues, and I know that marriage won't solve our problems, but I can't imagine not spending the rest of my life with you by my side like you have ever since the moment I met you."
Chloe brought her hand to her mouth. "Stephen I-that wasn't me-I-."
"Say yes," he pleaded.
She gazed down at him, heart breaking as she answered.