Series: Three Years, part 4
Warnings: AU, language, mild violence, smut.
Spoilers: Anything through to episode 5.
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: approx 5100
Summary: Out of the Jurassic frying pan, into the fire…
Connor hadn’t asked where they were going. He hadn’t said a word since they got in the car, he hadn’t responded to Ryan’s concerned, inquiring looks; he had just spent the journey staring out of the car window. Ryan had seen the state of his wrists, and could take a guess what had caused it. The bleeding had stopped, it didn’t look like there had been much to start with, but Connor was still a mess, and that was going to be bloody obvious to anyone who saw them. Ryan had already decided to find a supermarket and stop for supplies, and a couple of changes of clothing somewhere on the way. He was fine with the practicalities. It was the other stuff that he had no idea how to handle. How to help Connor deal with whatever the hell had happened to him. How to get him through the next few days, weeks, maybe longer. But first he had to get him talking.
“Are you okay?” Ryan tried again.
Connor didn’t respond. Again.
“Connor, come on mate, talk to me. Whatever they did, it’s over. You’re safe now.” Was he? Were either of them going to be safe?
“I need you to tell me what happened, Connor. I need to know what we’re up against, what they’re prepared to do.”
Shit, Connor, what the hell can be that bad? Normally I can’t get you to shut up.
It was getting dark, and they were out of the city and driving along a road through a bit of sparse woodland. Ryan was staying off the motorways. Too many cameras that could pick up the number plate and flag the stolen car. Country roads might be slower, but they were quieter. He noticed Connor was shivering, and turned the heating in the car up.
“Stop the car.”
“What?” Ryan turned to see Connor scrabbling at his seatbelt.
“Stop the car. Stop the bloody car.”
Ryan pulled over to the grass verge, and Connor was shoving the door open and diving out before the car had even fully stopped. By the time Ryan followed him out, Connor was leaning against a tree and throwing up. Ryan gave him space until he had stopped coughing and spitting vomit out of his mouth.
“You okay?” he asked, putting a hand on Connor’s back. Connor flinched away from his touch. Shit.
“Sorry,” Connor muttered.
“Come on, mate, talk to me. Please.”
“Just leave it.”
“I can’t. Not with you in this state. I can take a pretty good guess what they did to you, but I don’t know the details, and that means I don’t know what I need to do to help you.” Ryan ignored the smell of vomit, and leaned against the tree beside him.
“Look me in the eye and say that.”
“If you remember, we had this discussion back in the Jurassic, but the other way round. You were right then, I’m right now. You’re not fine. Help me out here, Connor, because you’re starting to scare the shit out of me.”
“Please, just leave it.”
Ryan closed his eyes, and considered the alternatives. He thought he knew Connor well enough by now to know when to push it, and when to back off. This was starting to feel a lot like time to back off and give him space.
“Okay, fine. We’ll leave it.” For now. “Now come on, it’s too bloody cold to be standing around out here.”
Connor at least seemed to agree with him about that, and they covered a few more miles in silence until Ryan found a town with a Tesco, and parked on the next street along to avoid any CCTV cameras monitoring the car park. Connor gave him a confused look.
“We need new clothes,” Ryan explained. “And food.” In case we end up with our pictures all over the evening news and can’t stop anywhere else for the next few days. He decided not to explain that part. “What size are you?” Ryan could take a pretty good guess, but may as well make sure.
Connor looked surprised for a moment before he told him.
“Okay, stay here. I’ll be as quick as I can.”
Ryan didn’t like leaving him, but if people were looking for them outside of London already, it would be harder to identify a single person than two guys together matching their descriptions.
It didn’t take him long to find what he was after. Nothing fancy, just fresh jeans, a couple of shirts, a couple of sweaters, stuff that was going to be warm and cover up as many cuts and bruises as possible. A first aid kit, and painkillers, as well as cheap basic toiletries, and, with a brief thought for Connor, a comb. Bottled water, fresh fruit that would last a few days, and tinned stuff that didn’t necessarily need to be cooked. It wasn’t a perfect selection, and Ryan was already planning to find a camping and outdoors shop the next day for all the other kit he wanted, but it would do for now, or if they needed to disappear in a hurry.
The girl on the checkout looked bored, but she did give him a slightly strange look at his selection of shopping, and even more so when he paid in cash. Ryan just hoped it wasn’t memorable enough for her to tell anyone else, or to put things together if she saw anything on the news in the next few days.
Back in the car, Connor tried to look interested in the results of the shopping trip, but his heart wasn’t in it, and after a while he just went back to looking out of the window. Ryan gave him points for effort, at least. He’d been scanning through the news on the radio, and so far there didn’t seem to be anything relating to them. He hoped it would take the government a little time to come up with a plausible cover story about who they were and why they were wanted. The one good thing about supposedly being dead was that the government couldn’t just tell the police to look for them, they would have to construct false identities first for the police to chase after. Still, it probably wouldn’t take long. But it gave them time for now. Time to find a proper bed for tonight at least.
Once it got to about eight o’clock, Ryan seriously started looking for somewhere to stop. They had got as far as Wiltshire, and he headed for the small towns away from the tourist areas and drove around until he’d seen three or four B&Bs. He decided to start with the one furthest away from the centre of town.
Holme House looked nice enough from the outside. And more importantly, there was parking around the back off the road so the car wouldn’t be obvious.
“What is this place?” Connor asked, showing more interest than he’d managed for the last four hours.
“Hopefully, it’s safe for tonight.” Ryan checked himself in the rear-view mirror. They had stopped in a lay-by to change a couple of hours earlier, and Ryan didn’t think he looked too bad, not with the new shirt and jeans on. Or, at least, he didn’t look like he’d been chased around London and spent a couple of hours hiding in a bush. “Come on, we’d better find out if they’ve got room.”
Connor trailed after him, making a brief attempt to tidy his hair.
The landlady of Holme House was middle aged, friendly, and could talk for England. Ryan’s cover story was that they were on a walking holiday, and were intending to take a look at Stonehenge. After that, she spent the next five minutes telling them all about the prehistoric archaeology in the area, and advising them of the best places to go. Ryan smiled, listened, agreed, feigned interest in the standing stones and Bronze Age burial mounds that dotted the landscape nearby, all the while aware of Connor lurking in the corridor behind him and occasionally remembering to nod or agree as well.
It turned out there weren’t any twin rooms left. Ryan had no intention of letting Connor out of his sight that night, and opted for the family room that was still available. It was more expensive than he would have liked, their money wasn’t going to last forever and short of turning to crime they had no way of getting more, but he’d worry about that later. Right now what he needed was time and space to think and plan, and to try to get Connor back to some semblance of his usual self. He gave false names for them both, and as soon as he could get a word in edgeways past the woman he made excuses to get away, collected the rest of their stuff from the car, and hustled Connor up to the room.
There was a double and a bunk bed, a bathroom off to one side, and a radiator along one wall was pumping heat into the little room. After he’d made a cursory search of the room and decided it was possible to escape out of the window if necessary, Ryan locked the door.
Now for the really hard work.
“How are you doing?”
Connor had sat down on the lower bunk bed and was looking around the room with minimal interest.
“I’ve had better days,” Connor said with a shrug.
Connor gave a short, humourless laugh.
Yeah, somehow I think your day was shitter than mine, Ryan thought. He wasn’t about to enter into a ‘who had the worst day’ pissing contest, so he found the bag with the miscellaneous toiletries.
“You want the first shower?”
Connor got up and wandered listlessly to the bathroom, picking up the bag as he went.
Ryan lay back on the double bed, listening to the sound of things rattling around in the bathroom, and the shower starting up.
Shit. He didn’t know what the hell to do about Connor. He’d never seen the kid like this, not even when things had got bad in the Jurassic. There had always been something, some spark of life, enthusiasm, the fire that made Connor so lively and unpredictable and aggravating and stubborn and bloody brilliant. He wanted the real Connor back, not this ghost of the man he knew and cared about.
After a few minutes Ryan thought he heard something else from the bathroom. He couldn’t work out what at first. A… not quite loud enough to be called a bang, but more a thud of something impacting on something solid.
“Connor?” Ryan got up and went to the door. “Connor, are you okay?”
He heard it again, felt an impact vibration on the wall beside the door, and that decided it. Without waiting for a response Ryan shoved the door open and barged into the bathroom. Connor was in the shower, his eyes closed against the water cascading into his face. His fist slammed into the tiles again, leaving a red smear against the white ceramic that quickly diluted and washed away.
What the fuck?
“Connor! Stop that.”
Connor punched the wall again before Ryan managed to grab him and drag him out of the water.
“Get off me,” Connor yelled. He started to struggle, his fists lashing out wildly. “Let go of me!”
Ryan let himself be hit, the blows had no real force and were mostly glancing off his chest. One punch found his face, and Ryan finally grabbed hold of Connor’s arms.
“Calm down. It’s me.”
Far from calming him down, Connor seemed to go into an even more frenzied panic, and it took Ryan a second to realise that maybe trying to restrain his arms wasn’t the best idea. He let go and stepped back. Connor followed him, pushing, punching, until there was nowhere else to go and Ryan was backed against the wall.
“Connor, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t. Don’t you fucking dare.”
“What?” Ryan was honestly bewildered.
Connor’s eyes, normally alight with fun and enthusiasm, were full of rage. “Stop telling me what to do. I’m sick of people shoving me around. I’m sick of being powerless. Everybody thinks they can just do what they like and I can’t do anything to stop them. I’m sick of everyone treating me like a child.”
“So stop acting like one,” Ryan snapped back.
“Get out.” The fact that Connor was standing there naked, dripping wet, might have made the scene funny in any other circumstance, but Ryan wasn’t laughing.
“Why? So you can start trying to hurt yourself again? Great idea Connor, really fucking smart. I thought you were supposed to be the great genius.”
Ryan saw the moment when Connor snapped. Something flickered in his eyes, and the blow came so fast Ryan didn’t have chance to avoid it. His head rocked back and he was surprised by the force in the punch. This wasn’t random flailing; this was a really serious attempt. He saw Connor pulling back for a second punch, but he wasn’t going to let it happen twice. His hand snatched out and grabbed Connor’s wrist, ignoring the damage he might do to the torn skin.
“You get that shot for free. Don’t try it again.”
Connor twisted his arm desperately, but Ryan wasn’t letting go. His jaw was starting to throb where Connor had hit him. He saw Connor’s free hand move, and easily got out of the way so that the next blow glanced off his ribs.
Fine, if that was how he wanted it.
In a manoeuvre that he could do with his eyes closed, Ryan flipped Connor around and pinned him against the wall, one arm twisted round behind his back. The younger man started to struggle again, but Ryan pressed close behind him and made sure he couldn’t move.
“Don’t start something you can’t finish,” he said quietly into Connor’s ear.
Connor continued to struggle long beyond the point where he knew he couldn’t break free. He twisted his head round far enough to glare silently at Ryan.
How the hell had it come to this? Ryan thought. What were they doing? He was supposed to be looking after Connor, protecting him. Not this. All of Connor’s inexperienced body language telegraphed the fact that he was going to start fighting again as soon as he got free. But this wasn’t something Ryan wanted to do. He didn’t want to hurt him. He didn’t want to do anything that would break the trust they had found in each other since that insane moment when the anomaly closed behind them in the Jurassic.
“Are we going to stand here all night?” Connor said. The hard edge of anger was still there, but the wild fury seemed to have abated.
“Depends what you intend to do when I let go.”
“I’m not an idiot. I know I can’t win.”
Which wasn’t answering the question in the slightest. Nevertheless, Ryan let go and stepped back. Years of training and instinct meant that he was still tensed to defend himself. He wondered how far he was prepared to go to stop Connor. He hoped he wouldn’t have to find out. Connor turned round and rubbed his wrist.
“See,” he said with a touch of contempt that Ryan knew was not directed at him. “Still powerless.”
Connor picked up the large fluffy towel from the rail against the radiator, and wrapped it around his waist. Then he pushed past Ryan and went to the sink, and started to run his scraped and bloody knuckles under the tap.
“What happened, Connor? What did they do to you?”
Another short, humourless snort of laughter. “What do you think they did?”
I think they tortured you, Ryan thought. But I don’t know how or why, and I have no fucking clue how to help you deal with that.
Connor wasn’t the only one who was feeling powerless now.
Most of Ryan’s training in this area had been about methods of resisting torture, and as an officer he’d had some brief instruction in how to help his men survive and deal with such an eventuality. But this wasn’t the army, and Connor wasn’t one of his men.
A single bruise stood out on Connor’s back between his shoulders. Apart from that, and his wrists, Ryan couldn’t see any real sign of physical damage. He knew in many ways that was worse than finding evidence of a beating.
“Why are you still here?” Connor asked after a few minutes.
Because right now I’m not sure you can be trusted left on your own, Ryan thought.
“I want to make sure you’re okay,” he said out loud.
“Sometimes you don’t lie half as well as you think you do, Ryan. Besides, that wasn’t what I meant.” Connor turned around and leaned against the sink. He seemed calmer now, but there was a hardness to his eyes that Ryan had only ever seen once before. The time Connor had shot an allosaur. That was the only time he had ever seen the younger man harm a living creature in a way that wasn’t just a split-second panic reaction, but a calm premeditated act of violence. Ryan was suddenly very aware of the fact that he had left Barclay’s pistol on the bed in the other room.
“Why are you still trying to protect me?” Connor demanded.
“Because we’re both in this together.”
“This isn’t the Jurassic any more. You don’t need me. Hell, you’d probably do better on your own anyway. You know all the survival stuff.”
“I’m not going to leave you.”
“Why? Because Claudia asked you to look after me? Yeah, I heard what she said. She thinks I can’t take care of myself. And you’re still following orders like a good little soldier, even though they’ve abandoned us both. Is this just more of your, what did you call it? Professional pride?”
He said the last two words with a sneer, and Ryan felt his temper rising again. If Connor was spoiling for a fight he was going to get one pretty damn soon.
“This isn’t about duty,” he said in the most carefully controlled voice he could manage.
“So what is it about? Pity? Poor little geek can’t cope on his own, is that what you think?”
“I don’t think that way about you. I haven’t thought that way for a long time. You saved my life. That’s not something I’m going to forget.”
“And you saved mine. So we’re even.”
“When the hell did we start keeping fucking score? Why are you so determined to push me away?”
“And why are you so determined to stay?”
Because you drive me crazy. Because the thought of you in danger scares me more than I want to admit. Because I don’t want to be in this situation alone and right now you’re the only person in this time that I really trust. Because I care about you far more than I have any right to, and that’s another thing that I don’t have a bloody clue what to do about.
Ryan tried to pin down the whirling thoughts, tried to form one coherent reason why they needed to stick together but the words wouldn’t come. He realised he was close to giving himself away completely, and he turned and walked out and slammed the bathroom door behind him.
He kicked the bed, grabbed something intending to hurl it against the wall, and only stopped himself when common sense kicked in and told him that kind of breakage was going to get them kicked out of this place and very definitely remembered if the police came looking. He willed himself to calm down, and after a few moments looked down and saw there was still a mug in his hand. A tourist thing with a picture of Stonehenge on the side. He put it down and leaned back against the wall next to the bathroom door and closed his eyes.
Great move. Absolutely fanfuckingtastic. Connor’s already so far gone he’s trying to hurt himself, and I’m so out of control I can’t even be in the same room as him.
This wasn’t supposed to be complicated. He wasn’t supposed to feel like this. Ryan didn’t have a problem with Connor being a man; he’d been with men before. But he was pretty sure Connor hadn’t. That Connor didn’t go with men. And the guy was, what, at least twelve years younger than him? So many reasons why he shouldn’t feel like this. Even more reasons why he shouldn’t act on those feelings. The main one being that since their one moment of intimacy, Connor had shown absolutely no desire to repeat it. And if Connor wasn’t interested then Ryan had no intention of pushing it, or of risking the relationship that they did have. If they even had that any more.
Ryan heard the sound of the bathroom door being yanked open.
“What the hell makes you think you can just walk off like that? I was asking you a bloody question.” The brief time-out had apparently done nothing to improve Connor’s mood.
Ryan didn’t open his eyes. “What do you want, Connor? What is this all about? Why do you keep trying to push me?”
“You really haven’t figured it out?”
“I could spend the rest of my life with you and I still don’t think I’d figure you out.”
He was still trying to work out what to do to get control of the situation when Connor kissed him. The word unexpected didn’t cover it. Ryan’s eyes opened, and as soon as Connor was certain he had his full attention, he deepened the kiss, shoving with his tongue, trying to force Ryan’s mouth open, his hands pressing him against the wall in a reckless attempt to assert some kind of physical dominance. Ryan didn’t resist, his brain was still trying catch up with what the hell just happened? when Connor broke away.
“Figured it out yet?”
“But… I thought…” He stopped before he started to babble. Because really, no matter how surprised he was, babbling was going to do nothing for his hard man image. “Never mind what I thought.”
Ryan wanted to be gentle as he pulled Connor into another kiss, but anger still bubbled just below the surface in the younger man and gentle didn’t seem to be on the agenda. After a few moments of confused tussling Ryan remembered what Connor had said about feeling powerless, and, making a determined effort to fight down his own natural instincts, he let Connor take control.
His shirt and t-shirt were on the floor within minutes, and then with absolutely no hesitation Connor was unzipping his jeans. It was nothing like Ryan had imagined it would be. There was nothing slow or tentative in Connor’s movements, and his hand on Ryan’s cock was clumsy, inexperienced, uncreative, and just a touch over the line into too aggressive. And none of that mattered because this was so much more than Ryan had imagined, this was real, this was everything that he had tried to convince himself he didn’t want ever since the moment they had first kissed. When Ryan finally came, he arched into Connor’s hand and whacked his head on the wall behind him, barely managing to suppress the shout that he knew would attract too much attention through these thin walls.
When he could focus on Connor’s face again, the expression he saw there was hungry, needy, and still so… lost. Ryan took a moment to deal with the rest of his clothes, and clean himself up. Then he removed the towel and, despite Connor’s obvious need, Ryan started to gently towel him dry first, making the younger man wait as he rubbed away the water that still dripped from his body. As he did that, Ryan placed kiss after kiss along Connor’s jaw, neck and shoulders, carefully avoiding the bruises.
Connor’s anger and desperation had made him almost too rough, but Ryan had no intention of doing the same. He might not know the details, but he knew that too many people, himself included, had hurt Connor already today. Now he wanted to make up for that.
“Ryan, please.” Connor’s voice was thick with need, but he there was something else, and when Connor wouldn’t meet his look Ryan realised it was fear. Fear? Fear of what? Of what was going to happen next? That his feelings weren’t reciprocated? Shit.
“It’s okay,” Ryan said as he guided Connor over to the bed and got him to lie down. This wasn’t going to take long, that much was obvious, but Ryan wanted to make it last as long as possible, to try to erase the pain and the fear, even if only for a few precious moments of oblivion.
His movements were slow, gentle, the strokes interspersed with kisses and nips along Connor’s neck and shoulders and jaw, drawing ever more pleading whimpers from the young man. When Connor came, Ryan caught his cry in a kiss, and held him as the younger man slowly regained his senses.
Ryan grabbed a handful of tissues from a box on the bedside table, and cleaned the sticky fluid from the other man’s chest. Connor didn’t protest until Ryan’s hand brushed lightly over his stomach, and suddenly he squeaked and wriggled away.
So he was ticklish there? Ryan felt a rather evil smile forming. That was something to file away for later.
He was aware of Connor’s eyes following him as he went into the bathroom and switched off the shower, still running throughout their revelatory altercation. He turned the lights off, and climbed into bed, pulling the duvet over them both. Ryan was under no illusions that their problems were over just because of this. They still had a hell of a lot to deal with, and the very real possibility that Connor had post-traumatic-stress or whatever wasn’t going to go away with a quick fumble and a few kisses.
As soon as he was settled, Connor turned towards him, wriggled close, and wrapped an arm around Ryan’s chest. It was… nice. And unexpected, but Ryan decided he was starting to like some surprises where Connor was concerned.
“So,” Connor said in a tentative voice. There was no trace of his earlier anger now. “Where do we go from here?”
“I don’t know.” Ryan hesitated for a moment, trying to find a way of saying what he meant without it sounding either like pressure, or a rejection. The fact that Connor had said ‘we’ was a good sign, but after everything that had been said between them that evening he didn’t want to take anything for granted. “Claudia did ask me to look after you. That’s not the only reason why I’m doing it, but it is part of the reason. But you were pretty clear about what you were saying before, and you’re right. You’ve been dragged along with no say in the matter. So I’m asking you now. What do you want to do?”
Surprise, relief, and bewilderment seemed to be staging a war for dominance in Connor’s expression.
“You’re really asking?”
“I’m really asking.” Ryan wasn’t certain he was going to like the answer, but after everything they had been through, Connor at least deserved to be treated as an equal.
“I want to stay with you. It’s sort of comforting, knowing you’re there looking out for me. But, I mean, that’s not why I want to be with you, it’s not just about you protecting me. Like you said, we’re in this together. And, we already worked pretty well together as a team, right? I can watch your back as well. If, if you’re okay with that?”
Ryan couldn’t hide the relief in his voice, and he didn’t even try. “Am I okay with that? Connor, right now I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather have watching my back.”
Connor managed to look surprised, and Ryan slid an arm round the younger man and kissed him again.
“Um,” Connor looked awkward, and glanced down at his knuckles where his hand was resting on Ryan’s chest. “About the weirdness before…”
“Forget it. I mean, don’t worry. It’s fine. And if you don’t want to talk about it I’ll stop pushing.” Ryan hoped he was doing the right thing. He was a soldier, not a psychologist, and while his men knew they could talk to him if they really had a problem, mostly they just dealt with it in their own ways, ways that involved getting drunk, having a fight, or getting laid. Connor wasn’t known for doing any of those things. Ryan felt a smile touch the edges of his mouth as he wondered about the possibilities of introducing him to those stress relief methods. Although, on second thoughts, he already seemed to be well on the way to mastering the starting fights option. And the getting laid.
“Thank you,” Connor said.
He wondered how long it would take for Connor to get some sleep. Ryan wanted to sleep, he knew from here on in they were going to have to take any and all opportunities to eat and sleep when they came. But his mind was already working over options of what to do next, where they could go, and other kit they would need before they were forced to drop off the radar entirely.
“Ryan?” Connor’s voice in the half-darkness had a strength and determination that he hadn’t heard since they had left London. He glanced down, but Connor wasn’t looking at him, was quite definitely not looking at him in fact.
The younger man breathed deeply a couple of times, his fingers absently making patterns on Ryan’s collarbone. Finally he seemed to come to a decision.
Then Connor told him everything.