Happy birthday fififolle!!!!! Hope you're having a lovely day. We can't let your birthday go by without an appearance from the boys, so here's a little fic for you.
Title: Someone to Watch Over Me
Pairing/characters: Connor, Ryan (pre Connor/Ryan)
Warnings: Mostly fluff, some angst.
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: approx 2360
Summary: Ryan is acting strangely, and Connor is confused.
AN: Birthday fic for the lovely fififolle, who asked for something that followed on from Different, which was written for the Connor drabble tree on Denial last month.
Connor shivered, and shoved his hands deeper into his pockets, hunching into his coat as far as possible. The anomaly hung in the air twenty feet away, and its broken shards of crystal light seemed as sharp as the night air.
He had a vague memory of the weather report on the radio claiming the temperature might drop to minus one tonight, and it occurred to him that he possibly ought to have brought more clothes. Or, in fact, stayed at home in the warm where he had easy access to the TV and the kettle and the last of his birthday chocolates. Of course, if he had stayed at home, he would have missed the anomaly, and the possibility of dinosaurs and time travel and adventure and other very cool things.
On the other hand... minus one!
“Here, you look like you could do with this.”
Connor jumped and might possibly have made a slightly unmanly squeaking noise as he whirled round to see Captain Ryan standing at his shoulder. Just how did such a big man manage to sneak up on him without making a sound? It was bloody unnatural! Then he noticed the enamel mug that Ryan was holding, and smelled the coffee.
Connor accepted the coffee, and wrapped his hands around its warmth.
“Where did you get coffee from?” he asked, when Ryan didn’t move away. “Not that I’m complaining or anything, but we’re in the middle of nowhere.”
“Combine the Boy Scout’s motto with the wonderful invention we like to call the thermal flask,” Ryan replied with a rather amused look.
It was possibly the longest sentence Connor had ever heard from the soldier, and he offered a nervous smile in return.
They stood together in a mostly comfortable silence for a while, both of them watching the anomaly as Connor sipped at the coffee.
“Connor, why are you here?” Ryan eventually asked.
Connor frowned. What was that supposed to mean?
“Because there’s an anomaly.”
“It’s gone two in the morning, and it’s bloody freezing, and absolutely nothing has come out of the anomaly. Even Cutter and Stephen have gone home. Me and the lads are more than capable of calling you lot back if anything does come through, so why are you still here?”
Connor shrugged. “I might miss something exciting?” he volunteered.
Ryan chuckled. “Typical bloody scientists,” he said, but there was that hint of a smile again as he spoke, so Connor decided it wasn’t meant as an insult.
“And Professor Cutter wanted someone to take regular readings from the anomaly,” Connor added, indicating the magnetometer and various other bits of equipment that were set up around him.
At that, a tiny frown crossed Ryan’s face before he returned to his normal neutral expression.
“And he left you to do it?”
“I volunteered. I wanted to be useful.”
After the incident with Tom and Duncan and the fake dinosaur, Connor was still terrified of being thrown off the team again, and he wanted to prove to Cutter that he was a valuable member of the team, not just a pointless hanger-on.
Ryan didn’t say anything to that, but Connor couldn’t help noticing that the soldier looked rather less relaxed than he had done a moment ago.
Connor shivered again, and hugged the coffee closer.
“Look, why don’t you at least go and sit in the car for a bit. Maybe have a nap? You’ll still be nearby if anything does happen.”
Connor was about to object, but then he realised that it wasn’t so much a suggestion as an order. Then he suddenly yawned, which rather put paid to any arguments he might have made. And a warm car did sound rather appealing then.
Connor quickly finished the coffee, almost burning his mouth in the process, handed back the mug and trudged off towards the cars. He was still wondering why Captain Ryan was being so nice to him when he fell asleep five minutes later.
Connor was sitting on a wall at the next anomaly site, idly swinging his legs, when Cutter joined him.
“Baby stegosaurus, eh? Never thought we’d get something like that,” Cutter said, smiling fondly at the memory.
Connor himself was still grinning like mad, even though said baby stegosaurus had barely done more than poke its head through the anomaly, before it turned round and went home again.
“I know. How cool was that! A real live dinosaur. And one that didn’t try to eat us as well, which is always a bonus.”
“There is that,” Cutter chuckled, and leaned against the wall beside him.
Connor patted the magnetometer that was next to him.
“Got plenty of good readings as well. I think the anomaly’s starting to fade now, though.”
“Good, good.” Cutter hesitated. “Listen, Connor, it’s great that you want to help, but you don’t have to go mad about it. I mean, don’t put yourself in danger or anything.”
“What?” Connor was honestly bewildered.
“Ryan told me you were here all night at the last one. The readings are useful, but they’re not worth you getting pneumonia or anything, that’s all I’m saying.”
Cutter looked rather uncomfortable, and Connor’s forehead creased in both confusion and worry.
“I was fine, honest. I enjoy it.”
“Well, just don’t go overboard, eh?”
Cutter patted his knee, and walked off to talk to Stephen, leaving Connor feeling more than a little confused. What the hell had all that been about?
He looked up and saw Ryan watching him from a distance. Suddenly it all fell into place.
Ryan must have said something to Cutter after the last anomaly. But why? Unless... Oh, crap. Ryan probably just didn’t want him hanging around, getting in the way. He had been pretty keen to get Connor out of the way and into the car, after all. And today Ryan had been hovering at Connor’s shoulder when the stegosaurus made its brief appearance. Probably worried that he was going to do something stupid and need rescuing.
Connor’s good mood disappeared along with the anomaly, which chose that moment to pop out of existence. Great. No matter what he did he was never going to be really part of the team.
He jumped down off the wall and left the anomaly site without speaking to anyone.
He barely heard his name being yelled as he flailed and splashed in the lake, trying to keep his head above the water, and cursing the multiple layers of clothing that were trying to drag him down.
There was another splash, and a strong arm wrapped around his chest and hauled him towards the bank, while Connor kicked and spluttered. He felt more hands grabbing him, and scrabbled at the muddy edges as he was pulled up and out of the water.
“Bloody hell, Connor! Are you all right?”
“Connor, are you okay?”
“Did the creature attack you?”
He coughed up some rather nasty tasting water, and collapsed into a heap.
“Yeah, I’m okay.” He finally caught his breath properly and looked around at Cutter, Abby and Stephen’s concerned faces. “Thanks for pulling me out.”
“Actually, it was Captain Ryan,” Cutter said, indicating the lake’s edge, where Ryan was still getting up, and looking as drenched as Connor felt.
Ryan walked over and loomed over him.
“You okay, Connor?”
“Yeah. Thanks for the rescue.”
Ryan looked round, and called to one of his men, “Get a blanket over here for him.”
“I’m fine,” Connor mumbled, trying to stand up. Ryan and Stephen both put a hand on his shoulders to keep him sitting down. A blanket was wrapped around his shoulders, and Ryan continued to loom while the army medic checked him over, and Cutter and Abby lurked at his side, looking alternately worried and amused when it appeared that Connor was actually fine, just soaked and startled.
“Well one good thing, I think you scared the creature back through the anomaly,” Cutter said with a smile.
“And probably half the fish in the lake as well,” Connor replied, returning the smile.
“Perhaps next time you’ll be a bit more careful,” Ryan said.
“I doubt it,” Connor quipped without really thinking.
Another of those little frowns crossed Ryan face, and Connor realised that was probably the wrong thing to say. Ryan already seemed to think he was a liability in the field, and this latest escapade had probably just proved that he was right.
Then Ryan leaned down and squeezed Connor’s shoulder, and gave him a wry smile.
“No, somehow I don’t suppose you will.”
He walked away, leaving Connor staring after him with absolutely no idea what the hell was going on.
Another two anomalies happened before Connor worked up the courage to actually start a conversation with Ryan himself. That wasn’t to say they hadn’t spoken since the incident at the lake, merely that Ryan had always been the one who initiated it, and Connor had spent most of the conversation not quite able to decide whether Ryan was simply trying to find an excuse to get him away from the anomaly or not.
“Captain Ryan, can I ask you something?”
The direct approach was probably the best, Connor had decided.
Ryan raised a slightly surprised eyebrow at him and nodded.
Connor faltered. In his head it had been so easy to just walk over to Ryan and tell him to back off, to tell him that he could look after himself, thank you very much, and didn’t need Ryan hovering around him all the time. In reality, with the soldier standing right there in front of him being all tall and macho and slightly scary, it was another thing entirely.
“Connor, what is it?” Ryan prompted after several seconds of Connor standing there trying to find the right words.
“Why are you always hanging around me?” Connor eventually said. It wasn’t entirely what he had intended to say, but apparently his mouth had got tired of waiting and decided to start the conversation without him.
Ryan looked momentarily surprised.
“Why, is it a problem?”
“That depends why you’re doing it. Because believe it or not, I am a fully grown adult, and I can look after myself. I don’t need to be protected, or looked after. And it makes me feel like you don’t trust me to be let out on my own, and you don’t want me to be here.”
Ryan tried to interrupt, but Connor was on a roll now, and carried on before he lost the momentum.
“And whether you like it or not I’m a part of this team and you’re not going to get rid of me, if that’s what you’re trying to do. So maybe we should just-”
Connor’s rambling came to an abrupt halt, and he realised Ryan was... smiling at him? What?
“Connor, have you quite finished?”
“I’m not trying to get rid of you. I have absolutely no idea how you came to that conclusion, but you can stop thinking that right now.”
“Good. Second, if you must know, the reason why I keep ‘hanging around’ you is because I’ve noticed that you seem to attract trouble, whether you intend to or not. It’s not because I think you’re a liability, it’s because when the inevitable does happen, I’d prefer to be nearby to make sure you’re still around afterwards.”
Connor really couldn’t think of a single sensible reply to that.
Ryan chuckled softly and stepped closer into Connor’s personal space.
“Connor, I’m sorry if you got the wrong impression. But the fact is, most of the time you seem to be so busy trying to prove yourself that you don’t think about your own safety. And if you won’t, someone has to.”
Connor had to concede he might have a tiny little point. Maybe.
“So all the stuff with the coffee, that was just because you didn’t want me to freeze to death or something.”
Connor hesitated. There was something in Ryan’s expression that he had never seen before. Something that spoke of amusement, and something else. Affection? No, that couldn’t be right.
“And the other part?”
“And the other part was because I wanted an excuse to talk to you.”
“Oh.” Connor was puzzled. “Why?”
Ryan rolled his eyes.
“Connor, do you want to have a drink with me this evening? Assuming the anomaly has gone by then.”
Connor gaped like a particularly baffled goldfish for several seconds.
“A drink? As in coffee? Or as in a drink with alcohol in it? Or, you know, a drink as in a date sort of drink? And maybe it might be best if we just forget I said that last bit, because I’d rather not get punched by you if I’ve completely got the wrong end of the stick.”
Ryan laughed, and stepped even closer.
“Whatever sort of drink you’d like it to be, Connor. We can work the rest out later.”
Connor found himself looking into Ryan’s eyes, and it took him a few moments to realise that for the first time in his life someone had actually just asked him to go out with them, without it being a joke or a dare, or a drunken mistake.
And it had come from the very last person on earth that he had ever expected.
Connor smiled tentatively.
“Thank god for that,” Ryan said, sounding inexplicably relieved. “I was starting to wonder if I’d just done something incredibly stupid.”
“I think that’s usually my job,” Connor pointed out.
“Good thing you’ve got me around, then isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it probably is.”
He glanced back at the anomaly, still looking unfortunately strong and stable. Connor shivered a little, not entirely due to the cold.
“So,” he said, looking at Ryan hopefully. “Don’t suppose you boy scouts have got any coffee right now, have you?”
Ryan rolled his eyes.
“If you’re very lucky, we might have some emergency chocolate as well.”
They set off together, and Connor decided he didn’t mind Ryan watching out for him so much after all.