Happy Birthday fififolle!
Wasn't sure if I was going to get this finished in time, but yey, just made it! Hope you're having a lovely day. I thought you might like a little Connor/Ryan, and then Dan muscled his way in as well. I didn't think you would mind about him gatecrashing!
Title: Taking Advantage
Pairing/characters: Ryan/Connor, Abby, Dan Robinson, Josh Barclay.
Warnings: Occasional language
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: approx 3283
Summary: The blizzard came out of nowhere.
AN: Birthday fic for the lovely fififolle.
AN2: Fills the trope bingo square ‘snowed in’, although possibly only in the loosest sense!
The blizzard came out of nowhere.
One minute it was fine, the sky was clear blue, and air crisp and so cold it hurt to breathe, and the wind numbing any skin unlucky enough to be exposed. Then, within the space of twenty minutes, snow-laden clouds filled the sky and descended on the hilltop, visibility dropped, and what had been a pleasant, if freezing cold, anomaly situation became a nightmare.
“I don’t care if we have an open anomaly, I want everyone off this mountain right now,” Ryan ordered.
For once, not even Cutter argued, which was a pretty worrying indication of how bad things were if ever there was one. Strictly speaking, it barely qualified as a mountain, but it was a particularly high hill, and the anomaly had appeared in a small scattering of trees not far below the summit, which also happened to be the only cover on the otherwise bleak and exposed Cumbrian hillside. In other words, not somewhere Ryan had any intention of being in a blizzard.
The team packed up in record time, and half of them were already heading back down the footpath when Ryan did a last head count and came up one short.
“Where’s Connor?” Abby asked at the same moment.
Ryan scanned the area around the anomaly, squinting against the snow and wind. Connor and his multi-coloured layers shouldn’t be that hard to find, surely?
“Has he gone already?” Dan Robinson asked.
“I didn’t see him with the others,” Abby said, not managing to mask the panic in her voice. “I saw him wander off to look at something about five minutes ago. I thought he’d come back, but now I don’t know.”
Shit. Why did the bloody scientists always have to do that? And more to the point, why did it always have to be Connor?
Ryan knew he didn’t have time to get angry. He quickly came to a decision.
“Right, I’ll find him. You go. One is enough to worry about, I need to know you lot are safely out of here, so I can concentrate on finding Connor.”
“I’m with you,” Dan said immediately.
Ryan almost argued. He trusted all his men, and any one of them could be left in charge of getting the others back down to safety, but Barclay and Tait were young and they didn’t have Dan’s experience. He wanted his second in command to be the one to lead them in his absence, but at the same time Ryan knew it would be an act of complete stupidity to stay here alone to search for Connor.
“Barclay, you make sure they all get back safely, and under no circumstances let any of them come back, even if we don’t immediately show up with Connor.”
Josh Barclay tugged at Abby, gently but firmly leading her away, and reassuring her that Ryan would find Connor, and not to worry.
Ryan hoped Josh was right.
He and Dan made a circuit around the anomaly, widening the circle into the trees when there was no immediate sign of the young man. Visibility was worsening with every minute, snow blowing in all directions and Ryan knew all too well that Connor could have been less than a few yards away and they might well miss him in these conditions.
Where the hell could he have got to in only a few minutes, and more to the point, why hadn’t he come back when the weather worsened? Ryan didn’t like any of the answers that his brain supplied to those questions. Just because there had been no sign of tracks in the snow when they arrived, didn’t mean that they might not have a creature incursion after all, and the thought that Connor might have been attacked sent a chill through Ryan that had nothing to do with the freezing wind.
“Ryan! Over here!”
Ryan snapped out of his thoughts and struggled through the deepening snow to where Dan was crouched. Connor was slumped against a tree, and snow was already settling on him.
“Connor! Connor, wake up.”
Ryan checked for a pulse, and momentarily closed his eyes and breathed again when he found one.
“He’s bleeding,” Dan muttered.
Ryan saw the trickle of blood down the side of Connor’s face from a nasty scrape above his eye. It didn’t look too bad, but the fact that Connor wasn’t coming round wasn’t a good sign.
“Right, I’ve got him.”
Ryan picked Connor up and manhandled the young man across his shoulders in a classic fireman’s lift. They headed back to the footpath, or at least, where they thought the footpath was. It was already becoming buried under the new snow, and it hadn’t exactly been clear on the way up, let alone now. There was no sign of the others ahead of them, and Ryan hoped they were already well on their way down the hillside. He started down the path, and made it all of four steps when he heard a yell from right behind.
Ryan twisted round squinting against the snow suddenly blowing in his face. Dan was on the ground, but he was already picking himself up.
“Yeah. Keep going.”
Dan waved him off, but Ryan heard a hiss of pain when Dan stood up, and it immediately became obvious he was limping.
Dan must have seen the look on Ryan’s face, and he shook his head.
“You go. Get Connor out of here. I’ll be okay.”
“Bollocks to that. You can hardly walk.”
“It’s not that bad.”
“If it wasn’t that bad you’d be halfway down the bloody hill by now,” Ryan snapped.
He closed his eyes for a moment. Getting one injured man down the hill would be difficult enough, getting two injured men down in these conditions was going to be nigh on impossible. And there was no way he was leaving Dan on his own up here.
“Ryan, go. You’ll never forgive yourself if anything happens to Connor. Hell, I’ll never forgive myself if I’m the reason something happens to him. Just get him back.”
Ryan let the options flit through his mind. None of them were good. Most of them were pretty shit, truth be told. That was when another option hit him.
“Dan, come on.”
He turned round and headed back up the path towards the trees.
“What the hell, Ryan?”
Dan was following him, even despite the disbelief in his voice.
“We’re going through the anomaly. Cutter reckoned it was stable. And it’s better than being out here in this.”
“That’s the most insane thing I’ve ever heard.”
“All we have to do is wait on the other side. We can come back the moment it shows any sign of weakening.”
“We have no idea what’s on the other side.”
“Do you have a better bloody idea?”
Dan didn’t reply. Ryan continued trudging through the snow until the fractured light of the anomaly shimmered back into sight through the billowing snow. He didn’t like this any more than Dan, but their alternatives boiled down to freezing on the top of the hill, or breaking their necks trying to get down the hillside. As plans went, it barely even qualified as the lesser of a few evils. It was just the least immediately lethal evil.
Ryan glanced back to make sure Dan was still there, and then tightened his grip on Connor with one hand and drew his handgun with the other. Then he stepped through the anomaly.
It was dark on the other side. Ryan immediately tensed, but when he glanced up and around he saw a wide open night sky above him, the stars bright and clear and the full moon shining down and bathing the world in silver hues. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, Ryan realised he was looking out over a vast plain, gently rolling slopes stretching out into the distance, and not a single living creature anywhere in sight.
And more to the point, it wasn’t snowing. It wasn’t warm, it was the middle of the night, after all, but it wasn’t cold either, and as far as Ryan was concerned that was good enough.
Ryan knew better than to relax, but he did at least breathe a sigh of relief.
Dan stumbled through the anomaly behind him, his assault rifle in his hands and a wary look on his face.
Ryan took a quick walk around the anomaly, making sure he could see in all directions, and that there were no obvious signs of creatures, or anywhere something might be hiding. It all looked good. That was when he heard a murmur, and then Connor startled to squirm and struggle.
“Keep still, Connor,” he warned. Satisfied that everything was clear, Ryan finally allowed himself to move away from the anomaly and carefully put Connor down on the ground.
Connor mumbled something, but Ryan couldn’t make it out.
He leaned closer, and without warning Connor grabbed him and buried his face into Ryan’s jacket.
“Hey, it’s okay, just relax.”
Ryan tugged Connor a little more upright and found himself rubbing Connor’s back and holding him close. Connor shifted and burrowed his face into Ryan’s neck, and Ryan hissed as a freezing nose found its way against his warm skin.
“Wha’ happened?” Connor mumbled. It was difficult to tell whether he was still groggy, or whether his voice was just muffled.
“It’s a good question; I was hoping you could tell us.”
Dan crouched next to him and took the rucksack off his back and dug out the first aid kit. Ryan waved him off for another minute until he felt Connor’s shivering start to subside, and only then did he attempt to peel the young man off him.
“Let’s have a look at you. What hurts?”
“Head, mostly. And I’m freezing.” Connor suddenly frowned and looked around. “Where are we?” His eyes opened wider, and before anyone could reply he grinned. “Is this the other side of the anomaly? Wow! How cool is this!”
Ryan caught Dan’s eye, and they both rolled their eyes.
That, more than anything, convinced Ryan that Connor was probably well on the way to being okay.
“Don’t get excited, we’re only staying long enough to let the worst of the blizzard blow over.”
Ryan was placing a lot of faith in the thought that the blizzard was actually more like a squall, and that it might blow itself out before too long. And even if it didn’t, now that Connor was awake they stood a much better chance of surviving it if conditions were still bad when they were eventually forced to return.
“Connor, let me look at you,” Dan said. He proceeded to clean the scrapes on Connor’s head, while Ryan watched carefully for any other signs of injury that the young man might be hiding under all those layers. It was still a little too cold to want to take clothes off unless they absolutely had to. Not that he had spent any time at all wondering what Connor might be like under those clothes, of course.
Ryan shook his head, and focussed on the situation at hand. He stood up and kept guard while Dan worked, bandaging the wound and checking Connor for signs of concussion. When Ryan turned back, Connor was sporting a large patch of gauze padding and a bandage that made him look like a rather bedraggled Pudsey Bear.
“What about your leg?” Ryan asked Dan.
“I think I just turned my ankle. I don’t think it’s broken, but it might be sprained.” He looked more embarrassed than anything else, Ryan noted.
Ryan stood up and looked around at their surroundings again.
“Okay, here’s what’s going to happen. We are staying here until the blizzard calms down enough for us to get off that hill without breaking our necks. I want at least one person watching the anomaly at all times. If it so much as flickers in a way we don’t like, we get back through it. I’m not getting stranded here, no matter what the conditions are on the other side. And it might look quiet and peaceful, but remember where, or when, we are. Anyone sees anything moving out there, I want to know about it. Is that clear?”
Connor nodded, looking momentarily nervous before he turned back to stare out across the prehistoric landscape, and the expression of wonder returned to his face in less than ten seconds.
Dan settled down not far from the anomaly, and Ryan knew that was one job covered. He glanced back at Connor, and then did another circuit around the anomaly, far enough away not to be dazzled by the light, and scanning the grassland in all directions. It still looked as empty as it had the first time.
Ryan continued to prowl around for a while, occasionally popping his head back through the anomaly to double check the weather.
“Don’t you ever stop being all on guard and alert and... soldiery?” Connor asked eventually.
Ryan stopped and looked down at Connor. He was looking a lot perkier now, and still staring out across the landscape in wonder, but he glanced up at Ryan when he got close.
“It’s my job.”
“I know, but don’t you ever relax?”
“Not in a situation like this, no.”
“So what sort of situation would make you relax?”
Several images flashed through Ryan’s mind, and he quickly shoved the thoughts to the back of his mind, deliberately ignoring a quiet snort of amusement from Dan.
“A beer in a pub would be a good start.”
“Remind me to buy you a beer when we get back, then,” Connor said. “I probably owe you one for rescuing me like that. Thanks, by the way.”
Ryan was momentarily stunned. Connor had just offered to buy him a drink. He didn’t want to admit how many times he had imagined having a beer with Connor, although to be fair, in his head, Ryan had always been the one doing the asking, and it usually wasn’t just because Connor was grateful for being saved.
Ryan took one more look around, and then sat down on the ground next to Connor.
“So, have you warmed up yet?” Ryan asked, more because he couldn’t think of anything else to say to start a conversation.
“Yep. A lot better now.” Connor looked slightly sheepish. “Yeah, sorry about the whole thing using you as a hot water bottle. It’s just, I was freezing and you were all warm and right there in front of me. Plus, you know, concussion. I probably wouldn’t have done it if I’d known it was you, because I’d have thought you would probably hit me or something.” He paused. “You’re not going to hit me, are you?”
Ryan chuckled. “No, I’m not going to hit you. And it’s fine. Being an impromptu hot water bottle is all part of the job.”
Connor’s eyebrows went up at that. Well, at least, the one that was still visible and not covered with a bandage did.
“Wow, I really must have hit my head pretty hard. Because there’s no way you just said that.”
Connor frowned, and looked out across the moonlit landscape again before turning back to Ryan.
“Well, because, you know. You’re all big and tough and Special Forces, and I’m, well, really not. And normally people like you don’t want anything to do with people like me.”
Ryan hesitated. Oh, what the hell. He leaned closer.
“I think you might be right. You have hit your head harder than we thought. Because I thought you were supposed to be smart, Connor.”
He looked honestly bewildered. It was quite adorable, and when Ryan realised what had just gone through his head, he knew he was doomed.
“I think you might have got the wrong impression about ‘people like me’, because I’d quite like to have a lot to do with you, Connor.”
Connor’s expression went from bewildered to confused, via surprised, and possibly with a detour through astonished. Then, strangely, it seemed to settle on something that looked a lot like resigned.
“Well, yeah, but that’s only because we’ve got to work together, and you probably just want me because I can tell you all about the creatures and the time periods, right?”
Ryan wondered if this might be the moment to stop being an idiot and backtrack. Did coming onto someone when they possibly had concussion count as taking advantage? Because if it did, then he really should stop right now.
Instead, he nudged Connor with his shoulder.
“No, Connor. I don’t just want you for your brains. Although if you do have useful information that can keep us alive, it’s a definite plus.”
“Oh.” Connor looked like his expression road trip had done a U-turn and was back at confused.
“So, do you want to go for a drink when we get back home?”
“What? Me? Why?”
Ryan tried very hard to not let his ‘give me strength’ expression slip onto his face.
“Because I’d like to have a drink with you.” He paused. This was Connor; maybe he needed to be a little more straightforward. “Because I like you, Connor.”
“Oh.” Connor momentarily looked like a rabbit caught in headlights. Then realisation seemed to hit him, and he stared at Ryan. “Oh! Right. What, me? Really?”
Ryan chuckled. “Yes, you, you idiot.”
“Oi!” despite his protest, Connor gave Ryan a small, almost shy smile, and Ryan couldn’t stop himself smiling back. God, he really was doomed if Connor was going to look at him like that.
“So,” Ryan prompted. “Drink?”
“Yes please. Although I still owe you one for saving me. In fact, probably two, because of the whole hot water bottle thing as well, although now I think about it I might need to get to a cash point first because I got pizza last night and spent most of my money on that and I’m not even sure they’ll let me in a pub looking like this an-”
“Connor!” Ryan interrupted.
Ryan rolled his eyes. “Don’t you ever stop talking?”
“No?” Connor suggested. He flashed Ryan a cheeky grin.
Before Ryan could talk himself out of it, he captured Connor’s jaw with his hand and held him while he leaned forwards and kissed him, the barest brush of lips until Connor sighed quietly and responded, tentative at first, and then harder. It was better than he had dared to imagine, and Ryan was no longer sure if he cared whether it qualified as taking advantage. Connor sure as hell didn’t seem to mind.
A quiet cough behind them reminded Ryan that they had an audience. Connor abruptly pulled away, the startled rabbit look on his face again. Ryan glanced back at Dan, who was smirking fit to burst. Ryan flipped him the finger, and the turned his attention back to Connor.
Connor nodded. “Oh yes. Definitely. Still wondering if I’m dreaming, but yes.”
“Good. Now, where were we?”
This time Connor was the one who closed the distance between them, one hand tangling in Ryan’s jacket as he tugged him closer.
Ryan knew he ought to check the anomaly again in a minute to see whether they could go home yet. But that could wait. First, he wanted to see if it was physically possible to stop Connor from talking for more than thirty seconds. And Ryan was pretty sure he knew just how to achieve that.
He just hoped Dan didn’t get any ideas about taking pictures.