Series: One Day at a Time, part 1 (follows on from Five Days/Three Years, and A Quiet Morning In)
Title: New Beginnings
Characters/pairing: Ryan/Connor, Abby, Lester, Claudia
Warnings: Occasional language.
Spoilers: Anything through to episode 1.6
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: approx 4000
Summary: Ryan had thought he could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Until he realised it was just the headlights of the oncoming train.
AN. Thanks to Fredbassett and Lukadreaming for the beta.
Links to previous chapters in the Five Days/Three Years series can be found here.
“Abby, can I talk to you about something?”
“Yeah, sure.” Abby continued washing up while Connor lurked in the doorway to the kitchen.
“No, I mean properly. Can we sit down a minute?”
Abby stopped and looked round at him. “Is something wrong?”
“No. I just need to tell you something. And it’s kind of important so I don’t really want to tell it to your back while you’re more interested in the burnt-on remains of last night’s lasagne.”
Connor knew he was taking refuge in humour to cover the fact that he was nervous as hell about having this conversation with Abby. Ryan was right, he probably needed to tell her before she found out in some other way. And if Connor really thought about it he did want to tell her. But wanting to do it, and actually doing it were two very different things.
Abby’s expression became concerned as she dried her hands and they went through to sit down on the sofa.
“So? What’s up?”
“I um...” Connor stumbled to a halt, and started fiddling with the hem of his waistcoat.
In theory it was easy. In theory, all he had to say was, ‘Turns out I’m actually gay, or possibly bi, I’m not entirely certain yet, and Captain Ryan is my boyfriend’. He had even managed to say it out loud (in a very quiet voice) to himself in the mirror, just as a practise run a couple of times. But the longer Abby watched him, looking ever more amused, the more his vocal cords refused to co-operate.
“I sort of... I mean, I am. I think I...” He stopped again and offered her an embarrassed smile. “Sorry, I have no clue how to say this.”
Abby tried, and failed, to hide a growing smile. “Say what, Connor?”
“Oh god, it wasn’t this difficult when I thought it in my head.”
Abby abruptly stifled a giggle.
“Connor, let me make this easy for you. Why don’t you stop pretending that you’re not sleeping with Captain Ryan, and I’ll stop pretending that I don’t know.”
Connor just gaped at her until Abby giggled again.
“How did I know? Come on Connor, you’re not exactly the world’s most subtle person. I think I started to figure it out after the third bad excuse for why you were spending the night at his place again.”
“I hadn’t realised I was being that obvious,” he mumbled, suddenly unable to meet her look any more.
“It was only obvious because I know you.” There was a quiet affection in Abby’s voice, and he took that to be a good sign.
Connor took a deep breath, and forced himself to look at her again. “So, are you okay about it?”
Abby looked surprised at the question. “Does it matter what I think about it?”
“You’re my best friend. Of course it matters.”
Abby looked thoughtful for a moment. “Mostly I think it’s unexpected.”
“I know what you mean,” Connor said. “It surprised the hell out of me when it started as well.”
“So is it serious with Captain Ryan?”
Connor had a horrible suspicion that he was starting to blush. “Yes, I think it is,” he said quietly, even now not quite able to believe it himself when he thought about it too hard.
“Are you happy?”
Abby’s eyes seemed to be searching his for confirmation that this was, in fact, a good thing. Connor didn’t hesitate to answer.
Abby suddenly broke into a huge grin, and grabbed Connor and hugged him.
“Then I think it’s absolutely fantastic.”
Connor hugged back, his eyes closed in relief. He hadn’t liked lying to her about what he was doing every night, and it had been getting harder and harder to come up with excuses. But more importantly, Connor had wanted to tell her, to share his happiness with his best friend, to have someone that, he hoped, he would be able to talk to about the fact that for the first time in his life he had a partner. A boyfriend. And that still sounded so bloody weird whenever he thought the word.
But there was one other thing that he needed to be sure of first. Connor pulled away.
“Abby, please will you promise not to tell anyone about me and Ryan?”
A slight smile of amusement was still playing on Abby’s face. “Not quite ready to come out yet?”
“It’s not that, not really. I’d be okay with telling people. And I know this is the twenty-first century and all that, but it’s still not exactly the done thing in the military, and if the other soldiers find out, well, it’s not going to help Ryan’s career.”
Abby gave him an appraising look. “I won’t say anything, but if you really want to hide it, you’ll have to do a better job of being subtle about it.”
“Yeah, I suppose I’ll have to work on that a bit.” He laughed to brush the subject away. It wasn’t something he really wanted to talk about too much anyway.
“So,” Abby said after a moment. “What’s he like? I never really got to know Ryan before the two of you vanished into the past together.”
Connor shrugged, unsure how to put into words what sort of a man Ryan was. “He’s kind of ‘what you see is what you get’, you know? He’s protective, and tough, and practical, and he doesn’t say a lot. But then, if you can get underneath all that it’s like there’s another man entirely, and he’s funny, and caring, and affectionate, and I’m probably not doing his tough-guy image any favours by telling you this.” He giggled a little nervously, and Abby grinned at him.
“I’m glad that you’re happy, Connor. After everything that’s happened to you, it’s about time you got something good for a change.”
Connor smiled to himself. ‘Something good’ didn’t even begin to cover his relationship with Ryan. The best bloody thing that had ever happened to him was rather closer to the mark.
“It is kind of weird, though,” Abby added. “I mean, talk about the odd couple. I wouldn’t have thought you have anything in common. He’s a tough macho soldier and you’re a...”
“Weedy little geek?” Connor supplied.
“That wasn’t what I was going to say.”
“No, but it’s what you were thinking.” He shrugged. “Honestly, I have no idea why it happened. It just did.”
“It doesn’t have to make sense, Connor. You can’t control who you fall for.”
Connor looked curiously at her for a moment. He knew he was sometimes a bit slow on these things, but there was no mistaking the fact that Abby’s last comment had not been entirely meant about him.
“Abby?” he prompted, smiling a little. “Are you trying to tell me you fancy someone?”
Before all his time travelling with Ryan, the thought that Abby was interested in another man would have made him jealous. Now it only made him pleased for his friend, and more than anything he wanted to see her happy, and living her life. Even more so now he truly understood how quickly it could all be snatched away.
“Connor!” She whacked his arm, but Connor was certain he saw a brief flash of colour in her cheeks.
Connor tried very, very hard to keep a straight face. It was Josh Barclay, it had to be. However much Connor had been occupied with Ryan since he returned, he hadn’t been entirely oblivious, and when he and Abby had talked about all the things he had missed while he was travelling around the anomalies, one name had recurred over and over in Abby’s anecdotes. And the fact that it was always ‘Josh’, not ‘Corporal Barclay’ said as much as the smile that unconsciously appeared on her face whenever she mentioned him.
“Connor?” she added in a voice that meant she was about to ask for something. “When you were in the future, was I with anyone? Can you give me any hints about whether this guy likes me or not? It’d help to know before I make an idiot of myself if he isn’t interested.”
“Abby! You know I can’t tell you about future events. It’ll mess everything up.”
“You’ve told Cutter. And Lester. Why won’t you tell me?”
“I’ve told Cutter and Lester the important stuff. Not about your boyfriend.”
“So I was seeing someone?” She paused. “Or is that, I will be seeing someone? Argh! This time travel stuff makes my head hurt!”
“You should watch more sci-fi, it’ll all make more sense then.”
Abby rolled her eyes and grinned. “Rule 5 still stands, Connor. You’re not having any Star Trek marathons while I’m in the flat.”
Connor grinned back. “Are you sure? There’s a really good episode of Deep Space Nine if you want to understand temporal paradox.”
“Okay, okay. Honestly, some people have no taste, eh Rex?”
Rex chirped and flew down from the bookcase onto the back of the sofa. He chittered at them, and they both laughed at the lizard.
“Anyway,” Abby poked him in the ribs. “You’re avoiding the question. Who’s my boyfriend in the future?”
Damn, she’d seen through his less than stellar diversionary tactic.
“Abby, please, you know I can’t tell you. We agreed. I want to. I really wish I could I tell you stuff, but it’s so much better that you don’t know. Please, you have to trust me on that.”
No one had told Abby about her fate in the future. If Connor had his way she would never find out. Besides, that was precisely what he had broken several laws of temporal physics to try to prevent.
“How is knowing if someone likes me or not going to mess up an entire timeline?”
“Even if I did tell you, by me and Ryan coming back we’ve changed things so that it won’t happen like it did in that future time anyway. So there’s no guarantee that you’d end up with him in this timeline because it’s different.” Connor realised he almost certainly given away too much, and hastily added, “If you were hypothetically seeing someone in that future.”
“Who was it?” she asked eagerly.
“Just give me a clue? Pleeeease, Connor.”
“Abby,” he whined.
“Teeny tiny little hint?” She was grinning impishly at him, and Connor knew he was very close to giving in. Besides, maybe it might be okay to break his rule on just this one occasion. He was almost tempted to tell her to go for it, to take the uncertainty and nerves out of the equation for her. Maybe it would be okay if he just dropped a few hints? But what was the subtlest way of saying, ‘actually, I’m not the only one with a thing for soldiers with big guns’?
The phone rang. Connor dived for it, absurdly grateful for the distraction.
“Ah, Connor, I’m glad it was you who answered. It’s Claudia Brown.”
“Oh, hello. What’s up? Is there another anomaly?”
Abby’s questioning expression immediately turned serious when he said that, and she seemed poised to move as soon as he gave the word.
“No, nothing like that. How are you feeling? Have you recovered from your time away?”
‘Time away’? That was a bloody euphemism if ever he heard one. Claudia, along with Cutter and Lester were the only people who knew the full truth of what had happened to him and Ryan in the future, and to Connor while he had been with Helen. Well, they knew as much as he and Ryan had been prepared to tell them, which wasn’t entirely everything, but was near enough.
“Yeah, I’m fine, thanks.”
“Good.” Pleasantries aside, Claudia’s voice became all business. “In that case we’d like it if you rejoined the Anomaly Project. Lester and I believe that with all your knowledge you could be an invaluable member of the team. Not that you weren’t valued before, of course.”
Connor might have been vaguely offended by her hasty cover up addendum, but in truth he was too fired up with the thought of getting back to the project again. And the fact that he now did have all the extra experience from his time spent with Helen meant that he might be able to do more to help Cutter understand the anomalies, and contain the threats that came through them.
“Cool, that’d be brilliant,” he said, grinning. He had a sudden urge to ask if Ryan was back on the team as well, but quickly reminded himself he was supposed to be being subtle about it. There was no point asking Claudia, he would find out soon enough whether Ryan was back.
“Excellent,” Claudia said. She hesitated, and then added, “There have been some new developments that you and Abby might be interested in as well. Largely as a result of the information that you gave us, in fact. I can’t say much right now, but I’m fairly certain you’re going to like it.” Connor thought he could hear the smile in her words, and he was intrigued.
“What can you say? When will we find out?”
Abby seemed impatient to find out what was going on, but Connor fended her off.
“We’ll be in touch. It’s good to have you back, Connor. Goodbye.” Claudia hung up.
“What was all that about?” Abby demanded as soon as he put the phone down.
“I’m not entirely certain,” he said slowly. “But whatever it was it sounds interesting.”
Ryan was used to being kept waiting by bureaucrats, both military and civilian, so he was surprised when Lester’s secretary told him that he could go straight in. Still, he knocked on the door and waited for a, “Come,” before he opened it and went in.
“Close the door, please, Captain,” Lester said without preamble.
Ryan did as he was told, and then stood in front of Lester’s desk, not quite to attention, but not quite relaxed either. Lester finished going through a set of papers on his desk for a few moments, completely ignoring Ryan, before he eventually slid them into a file and put it into a desk drawer.
“I understand you’re fit for duty again?” Lester said, finally sitting back and giving Ryan his full attention. Or more likely, enough of his attention to fulfil the requirements of etiquette.
“Yes, sir.” Ryan had been declared fit two weeks earlier, and he knew they both knew it.
“Good. Your orders will no doubt be coming from your commanding officer soon, but I may as well fill you in right now. I want you back in charge of the Anomaly Project field operations Special Forces unit, effective immediately. And what’s more, you and your men are now officially on permanent secondment to the project. I want men who know what we’re dealing with and how to handle it. I can’t have a different set of soldiers every time your lot gets rotated round for another tour of duty.”
“I thought that Thomson was in charge of the field unit, sir?”
“Captain Thomson has been reassigned elsewhere.”
This all sounded too good to be true, and Ryan was becoming suspicious.
“There have been several developments while you were convalescing, Captain,” Lester continued in an almost conversational tone. “Given the information from yourself and Temple suggesting that the anomalies get worse rather than better in the coming years, the entire project has rather muscled its way to the top of the government’s priority list. As such, we will very soon be moving out of the Home Office to a new building specifically dedicated to researching the anomalies. All top secret, of course. I believe it used to be an animal testing laboratory, but the animal rights activists hounded them out of business. It suits our purposes, however. It has readymade science labs, and animal holding facilities. All rather convenient, really.”
Ryan wondered exactly how ‘convenient’ it had really been, and whether the previous owners may have had rather more unofficial persuasion to leave the premises. Either way, it was none of his business, and he merely nodded.
“Security will, of course, be a major consideration at the new facility. Which is why Captain Thomson is the new head of security.”
Shit. It had been too good to be true.
“As you are both of the same rank, I do not expect to see any military pissing contests going on between the two of you. As far as I am concerned, you are in charge of all field operations, he is in charge of internal security.” Lester sighed, and his expression softened a touch. “I know the situation is not ideal, Captain, but there was no way to remove Thomson entirely.”
“You know who he’s working for, sir. He’s a security risk.” Ryan tried very hard to keep his voice completely neutral.
“I know perfectly well that he is playing to another agenda. Which is precisely why I wanted to keep him where I could see him. If we outright removed him from the project, chances are that he would be replaced with another agent, one whose identity was unknown to us. At least with Thomson we are aware of the situation, and can try to control exactly what information he has access to.”
Ryan nodded again. Lester clearly worked rather hard at giving the impression of being just another officious suit from the Home Office, but Ryan was more than aware that there was a scarily sharp mind hiding behind Lester’s poker face. Having to work with Thomson was not something he was looking forward to in the slightest, but he could see the sense in Lester’s thinking. Better the devil you know, and all that. Ryan just hoped they really would be able to keep this particular devil under control.
“Do I get to pick my own team for the field ops?”
The corner of Lester’s mouth quirked into a smile for a second, before he regained his usual composure.
“Ah yes, I did hear there was some friction amongst the ranks. In answer to the question, yes, you can have your old team back. And I assume those men who came in with Thomson will be reassigned along with him. You won’t need to worry about being stabbed in the back by your own men, Captain.”
Ryan didn’t think that was at all funny. He had heard enough from Robinson and Barclay about how the Special Forces team had been split by rivalries and infighting after Thomson had brought his own people in, and Ryan needed to know that he could trust every man in his unit. With his life, if necessary.
Lester paused for a moment, and when he continued it was in a completely unexpected direction.
“I understand from your report that Thomson attempted to torture Temple.”
Lester’s face remained impassive as he spoke, and Ryan’s stomach twisted. There was no bloody ‘attempted’ about it.
“I want your honest opinion, Captain,” Lester continued, either oblivious to, or more likely ignoring Ryan’s discomfort. “Do you think that Temple will be able to work with Captain Thomson?”
Ryan made absolutely certain that his expression was completely impassive when he spoke. “He can handle it, sir.”
But the truth was, Ryan didn’t know. The last time he, Connor and Thomson had been in the same room, both he and Connor had attempted to kill Thomson. Of course, Thomson would have no memory of those events, because they had never happened in this timeline, but both he and Connor remembered them vividly, and Ryan knew that Connor still harboured fears of Thomson and Section 42 coming for him again. There was no way that Ryan was going to admit any of that to Lester, however. Not if it might cost Connor his place on the project.
Lester remained silent for a few moments, his expression unreadable, but his eyes searching Ryan’s. Eventually he said, “Very well. I sincerely hope you are right. We wouldn’t want there to be any... unfortunate incidents.”
Just as long as I have permission to kill the bastard if he so much as touches Connor, Ryan thought to himself.
Lester’s eyebrows raised just a fraction, and Ryan wondered what his own expression had given away.
“I suggest, Captain, that you let Temple fight his own battles on this occasion. There’s only so much that I can do to protect the two of you, and I’d rather you didn’t give anyone an excuse to reassign you elsewhere. And, much as I hate to admit it, Temple has suddenly become rather important to the project. He has useful information, and unlike Cutter’s wife he is actually willing to share it.”
Ryan nodded again, this time almost imperceptibly.
Lester had risked a lot to help him in the future, and even though this Lester was aware of those actions from Ryan’s report, he had no memory of them, in the same way that Thomson had no memory of his dealings with Connor. True, the Lester in the future had been backed into a corner, and his actions may have been a final desperate bid to retain some control over the situation, but the fact remained that he was, in essence, the same person. Now that Lester knew what was going on in the big picture, and how much he had to lose, it was in his interests to protect those that he trusted and keep his enemies where he could see them. Ryan just hoped and prayed that Connor didn’t get caught in the middle of it all.
“Good,” Lester said eventually. “I’m glad we understand each other, Captain. Your official orders will no doubt follow shortly. You’ll receive instructions about the location of the new site and where to report to. Thank you, that will be all.”
Ryan headed out, turning everything over in his mind. They were going to have to work with the man who had tortured Connor, and who he had almost battered to death because of that. And yet the enmity was all one-sided, because as far as Thomson was concerned none of those events had ever happened. It made Ryan’s head spin just trying to understand that. He had no idea how the hell he was going to be able to deal with this, let alone Connor.
But even so, it was going to be good to get back to work. He was going crazy stuck at home, and he knew that Connor was eager to get back to the project as well, especially now he had so much more knowledge and understanding of the anomalies to offer.
Outside on the street, Ryan switched his mobile back on, and after a moment it beeped to tell him he had two text messages. The first was from Connor.
Having dvd nite in with Abby. R u ok on ur own? PS. Hav told Abby. She thinx its gr8. J
Ryan sighed as he tried to decipher it. He hated text-speak. He grinned when he got to the end, though. He’d been telling Connor that he needed to let Abby know about their relationship for the last few days. He had to admit it was mostly a self-defence tactic. It was better if she heard it from them rather than working it out for herself and possibly gossiping. Not that Ryan particularly thought she would, but there was no point taking the risk.
The second text was from Dan Robinson.
Just got back from Scotland. Heard CT was back. Do you need company and beer, or should I assume you’re otherwise occupied? ;-)
Ryan’s grin got even bigger. Perfect timing all round. He quickly texted Dan back again.
Beer and curry at mine, rugby kick off 7.00PM.
He decided he would give Connor a call as soon as he got home, and let him know he’d got plans as well. Ryan was already looking forward to the prospect of a lads’ night in with Dan. Because Connor was many, many things, but a beer-drinking, curry-eating sports fan was sure as hell not one of them.