Title: Stay With Me
Pairing/characters: Nick, Helen
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: Approx 1837
Summary: Nick had to hand it to Helen. She bloody knew how to lay on a show.
AN: This fic takes place during the scene in episode 1.3 when Cutter goes to the Cretaceous to meet with Helen. All dialogue is taken directly from the episode, but I wanted to examine Cutter’s thoughts during the scene.
AN2: Written for the Easter fest on cutters_lab. Also fills the trope bingo square ‘Reunion’. And that’s a line – Bingo!
Of course, she couldn’t just be waiting for him on the beach. Somewhere nice and obvious. No, he had to go looking for her. He had to run the gauntlet of hesperornis, searching the beach and the rocks until he discovered the pool. And even then, even after he had followed her trail of cryptic clues and come though the anomaly and come to find her, still she couldn’t just be waiting.
Nick had to hand it to Helen. She bloody knew how to lay on a show.
“Hello Nick. I see you got my message.”
For a moment Nick could only stare. Even after all the clues and hints and the trail of crumbs leading him here, he still had to take a moment and accept, really truly accept, that Helen was still alive.
There were so many ways that Nick had imagined finding her. Over and over in his dreams and his hopes in the early days after she disappeared, so many ways for him to apologise for their last fight, to take her in his arms and tell her he loved her. So many ways she would do the same, maybe even admit that she had been wrong about her crazy theories (okay, maybe that last part had been a stretch of the imagination, but the rest of it was at least possible).
And now there she was, swimming naked in a Cretaceous rock pool, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
Nick had thought he had imagined every conceivable way that they might be reunited. Apparently he had been wrong.
He carefully clambered down the rocks, and by the time he had made it down Helen had emerged from the water and was getting dressed. If this had happened eight years ago he would have gone to her immediately, held her close and never let go. Now... he turned his back as she dressed. Nick couldn’t even say why he did it. It wasn’t like they had never seen each other undressed. But eight years was a long time. Long enough that it felt more like looking at a stranger than someone he used to share a bed with.
“You’ve lost weight, you haven’t been eating properly.”
“You let me think you were dead.”
He couldn’t stop the bitterness seeping into his voice, no matter how much he had convinced himself he was ready for this.
“I am dead as the person you knew. My old life ended eight years ago.” Helen paused, and when she spoke again he could hear the amused smile in her voice. “You know you can turn around. I’m decent.”
Nick felt a sudden welling of anger deep within him. He had believed her to be dead for eight years. Eight years. How could she sound so calm about it? How could she mock him, after everything he had been through? How could she...
Nick turned around. He wasn’t going to rise to Helen’s games. Not this time.
“There’s no easy way to do this, is there?” Helen said. Nick wondered exactly how much of his feeling has shown on his face that she had dropped the charade so quickly.
“Well maybe we should just skip the small talk. Why didn’t you come back?”
“What are you really upset about, Nick? That I stayed away, or that I didn’t tell you what I was doing?”
That smug smile was back again, and it was all Nick could do not to shout.
“I’m not upset, Helen, I just don’t know who you are any more.”
Had he ever really known who she was? Really known? Because the woman he thought he had married could be driven and ambitious and selfish and so bloody stubborn, but he had never believed she could be capable of this.
“You want to know why I didn’t come back?” For a moment she sounded subdued, and the smug, self important tone was gone. For a moment she actually sounded sincere. “Because I knew your conscious would make you throw all this out there for everyone to trample over, and I wasn’t ready to share it.”
Before Nick could think about responding she abruptly got up and hurled a stone at a hesperornis that Nick hadn’t even seen sneaking up behind him.
“Hesperornis. Scary up close but cumbersome. And very stupid.”
Nick knew what they were already, but he couldn’t help taking a closer look at the creatures. Was this what Helen had been doing all this time? Observing prehistoric animals in the wild? What else had she learned? Much as he didn’t want to admit he was intrigued and fascinated by what she be able to tell him, he couldn’t deny the interest was there.
Somehow, he suspected that was what Helen had been counting on.
“What do you want, Nick? An apology? What’s the point?”
And then, just as he had thought they might be able to reconnect over a common interest, she had to go and remind him of all the reasons why he didn’t want to do this.
“Eight years of my life back would be nice.” Again he couldn’t stop the bitterness.
How could he have believed, even for a second, that he was ready for this? He had been in Helen’s presence for less than five minutes and already they were falling back into old roles, old arguments, old resentments. It seemed only the situation was new.
“Oh, come on. People grieve and then they heal. It happens all the time. Why should you be any different?”
“Why come back at all then?”
Why now? Why are you doing this to me now? An image of Claudia flashed through his mind, and Nick pushed it away.
Helen’s sudden smile made him wonder if she could read his mind.
“Let me guess, you want something?” Nick ploughed ahead before Helen could reply. Helen never did anything without a good reason. Nick wanted to get to the heart of this one, before she ran any more rings around him.
He had long ago given up hope of having any control over this meeting, but he could at least pretend they were on an equal footing.
Helen ignored his question, and instead went to her pack and brought out a flask and enamel mugs and proceeded to pour them drinks. Nick wasn’t entirely certain whether it was a peace offering, or simply a stalling technique.
“You’ve come back before,” Nick said to fill the silence. It wasn’t a question; it was obvious from the condition of her clothes, and from her state of health, that she hadn’t spent all of the last eight years in the distant past. “Did you watch me grieve?” He threw that one in to if he could get a reaction, but was disappointed. As always. “Did you come to the funeral?”
Oh, yes, he could just see her doing that. Coming to her own funeral, watching them all, enjoying the fact that she knew something they didn’t. That was just Helen’s style.
“No, was it good?”
He didn’t know if she was lying. He honestly wasn’t even sure he cared at that point.
There was another pause, and then Helen looked up at him with an expression that suggested the time for small talk was finally over.
“I’ll answer all your qeustions, Nick. All you have to do is come with me. There are more anomalies than you can possibly imagine. I know how to find them.”
And there it was; the truth at last. Or at least, as near to the truth as Helen ever got.
But it wasn’t what Nick wanted to hear.
“I asked you a question. Why do you want me now? After so long?”
“I’m human, I want company. I want to share this incredible gift. But only with you. Nick, I have seen such wonders. Things you wouldn’t believe.”
Helen was still trying to appeal to the scientist in him. To the kindred spirit so eager to advance scientific knowledge that they had been when they first met. Eight years ago it might have worked. But right here, right now, he wasn’t here as a scientist. He was here as a husband.
“You’re asking me to abandon my life. Leave behind everything I know. People are dying back home, and you want me to just... run away with you?”
“Animals die, Nick. Species die.”
Helen’s offhand tone was like a punch to the gut. He had known she had a callous streak, but even for Helen that was cold.
“You know I’m right.” She wasn’t even looking at him any more. She was packing her bag, as if she had already given up on the conversation now she suspected she wasn’t going to get what she wanted. “One day humanity will disappear just like the dinosaurs, and nature doesn’t care. Something else will take our place.” She paused and came close again, meeting his eye once more. “Nick, just leave all the other stuff behind. Come with me.”
“I’ve got a job to do. You could help me if you like.”
Oh yes, like Helen would ever ‘help’ him with his work. She wasn’t interested unless she was the one in charge. He had to ask, though.
“You’re rejecting me?” She looked more surprised than hurt.
“I’m asking you to come back with me.”
He tried not to think about Lester’s ultimatum. Nick had meant what he said about not forcing her if she didn’t want to return, but it would be easier for everyone if Helen at least showed willing. If they could get her onside, her knowledge could advance the anomaly project beyond anything they currently imagined.
“I offer you the key to time. The key to time, Nick. And you turn your back on it. Call yourself a scientist?”
“In call myself a human being.”
Nick knew then that he had lost. He had been kidding himself if he thought he had ever had a chance. Helen had no intention of doing what he wanted. All of this, the messages, the clues, it had all been intended to lure him to her territory where she could get him alone, where she could blind him with amazing sights, and dazzle him with promises of even more wonders. As long as he did it on her terms. When she wanted. How she wanted.
This wasn’t about him. It had never been about him. It was about Helen.
Somehow, Nick wasn’t surprised. Disappointed, but not surprised.
For the last eight years all he had wanted was to know the truth about Helen’s disappearance. Now he did know, it occurred to him that maybe ignorance really was bliss. In his imagination, their reunion had at least been a pleasant one.
He saw the annoyed pout forming on Helen’s face, and some sentimental fragment within him didn’t want that to be the last thing he remembered of her.
This time, Nick was the one who walked away.