Title: Secret Santa
Pairing/characters: Ryan/Connor, Cutter, Stephen, Abby, Claudia.
Warnings: implied slash, occasional mild language
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: approx 2750
Summary: Ryan’s last minute Christmas shopping is rudely interrupted by an anomaly in a shopping centre.
AN: Secret Santa fic for Joereaves, who wanted Ryan/Connor, prompt: presents.
Ryan tapped his foot impatiently. A shopping centre on Christmas Eve was the very last place that he wanted to be, especially one with a bloody big anomaly sitting in the middle of the main shopping concourse. Although, he had to admit, with the centre now almost completely deserted due to a cover story involving words like ‘terrorist’ and ‘bomb threat’, it was actually a lot more pleasant than it had been two hours earlier when the last minute shopping rush had resembled nothing short of a warzone. He was aware of the irony that when he had been caught up in that mad crush of people he had been wishing for a way to get rid of the crowd, and yet now the crowds were gone he still couldn’t actually get that last item on his Christmas list, because, of course, all the sodding staff had left and closed their shops as well.
It was all Connor’s fault.
Ryan glanced across at where his lover was sitting perched on the edge of the fountain in the middle of the shopping centre, his laptop balanced on his knees, talking animatedly to Abby with occasional hand waving, inevitably followed by panicked grabbing when the laptop started to slide off towards the floor.
Ryan tried to hide his smile as he watched Connor and Abby together. Okay, he had to admit, maybe it wasn’t Connor’s fault. The Secret Santa thing hadn’t been Connor’s idea, and it certainly wasn’t Connor’s fault that Ryan had picked Connor’s name out of the bag.
He had almost groaned aloud when he read the name on the slip of paper, though. Getting Connor’s real present had been difficult enough. Getting him a Secret Santa present that was under the maximum allowed expenditure of £10.00, and clean and safe enough for him to open in front of his teammates was turning out to be a bloody nightmare.
Well, the latter of those conditions was possibly optional, and it wasn’t like they didn’t all know about his relationship with Connor. But Ryan always tried to keep his personal life and his work life separate, and he didn’t like flaunting the fact that he was going out with their resident geek. Besides, it wouldn’t exactly be in keeping with the ‘secret’ part of Secret Santa if he bought him something that was quite obviously an in-joke or something smutty. Although it had been tempting just to see Connor turn that entertaining shade of pink when he was embarrassed.
Cutter wondered over to stand next to Ryan.
“Lucky you happened to be here and caught the anomaly early. All those people, it could have been a disaster,” Cutter commented.
Ryan just nodded, trying to divert his attention away from the bookshop to his left. He had all but given up on the possibility of buying Connor a book – he already had so damn many of those crappy Star Trek and Star Wars tie-in novels that Ryan couldn’t keep track of which ones he already owned and which one he didn’t. And it wasn’t as if Connor actually needed any more books about dinosaurs.
“So,” Cutter said with a slight smile. “Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet?”
“Right,” Cutter said with a knowing smile. “It’s just, I noticed we’re still one Secret Santa present short, and we’re supposed to be opening them this afternoon before Abby and Stephen go away to their families.”
“Really? One short?” Ryan kept his face straight, although he wasn’t entirely sure why he was bothering with the pretence. The tree where the presents were gathered was in Cutter’s office, so chances were unless everyone had been particularly subtle about it, Cutter would be aware of the fact that Ryan was the only person who had not yet left anything there. A little way away, Claudia seemed to be trying to keep a straight face as well. Ryan was starting to feel a little ganged-up on.
“Just thought I’d mention it,” Cutter said, still with that annoying smile. “It’s funny, though. You always struck me as the kind of person who would have got everything done with plenty of time to spare, not a last minute rush job.”
Ryan didn’t even dignify that with an answer. Truth was, normally he had all his Christmas shopping done by the end of November. It was only this bloody Secret Santa thing that had thrown him, and left him having a completely out of character last minute shopping panic.
Abruptly the anomaly started to pulse, and Ryan immediately snapped to attention, his gun raised and pointed at the glittering light. A head emerged from the anomaly and peered around, before it was followed by an absurdly long neck. Ryan could only stare as something that looked like it came straight out of a classic dinosaur book trundled through the anomaly, its long, thin whip tail swishing sedately behind its enormous body.
“Wow,” Cutter gasped, still standing beside Ryan.
From over by the fountain Ryan heard Connor exclaim, “Cool!” and Ryan didn’t need to look at him to know that the young man had the biggest grin in the world on his face right then.
“Diplodocus,” Cutter breathed, the awe evident in his voice. “Must be a juvenile as well, it’s barely over two metres tall.”
True, it might only be a little taller than them, Ryan thought, but it was at least three times that in length, and it was by no means a small creature, juvenile or otherwise. Still, Ryan knew enough about this, one of the more famous dinosaur species, to know that it wasn’t a predator, and that Cutter would probably be quite put out if they had to shoot it.
Without warning, the diplodocus gave a loud, trumpety call, and spun round surprisingly quickly for such a big, ungainly creature.
The sound of Abby yelling, “Connor! Look out!” came simultaneously with a thump, a yell and a splash. Oblivious, the diplodocus ambled away at speed into the bright lights of the shopping centre.
Ryan was momentarily torn between following it and staying to see what had happened to Connor. He didn’t have to wait long, as a moment later Connor emerged from the fountain, spluttering, soaking wet, and still grinning like a madman as he shoved his hat back on his head.
“Watch out for the tail,” Connor called after them as the rest of the team took off in pursuit of the errant dinosaur.
It wasn’t even as if the creature was moving very fast or thrashing around, Ryan observed. It was just that it was simply so big that collateral damage was unavoidable every time it turned a corner, or swished its tail a little too enthusiastically. Ryan trailed after it, watching as a display of calendars crashed to the floor, swiftly followed by the destruction of a singing ceramic snowman, that quite frankly, the world was a better place without anyway in Ryan’s opinion. He glanced at the smashed window of a music shop as he went past, and wondered absently about whether a CD was a suitable Secret Santa present. No, Connor had some bloody obscure taste in music, and Ryan hadn’t even heard of half of the names whenever he inquired what it was that the young man was listening to on his i-pod.
“Well, you don’t see that every day,” Stephen said with a wry grin when the creature finally came to a stop.
“Great. Because what we need right now is a dinosaur on a sugar high,” Abby responded, standing with her hands on her hips watching the diplodocus munching contentedly on a tray full of Thorntons most expensive chocolate liqueurs.
“Tipsy dinosaur on a sugar high,” Stephen added, still sounding more amused than worried.
“So what are we going to do with it?” Connor asked as he sloshed up behind them, dripping a trail of water all over the floor.
Whatever Cutter was about to say in response was drowned out by a shriek from the doorway of a men’s clothing store opposite. Everyone turned round to see a short, plump well-dressed man staring in wide eyed shock at the dinosaur.
“What the hell is that?” he yelped.
Ryan saw Claudia moving to intercept and deal with the man, but before she could get there the man dived back into his shop and a second later the quiet was shattered by a blaring fire alarm. The diplodocus trumpeted and spun round, sending half of the Thorntons window display and two of Ryan’s soldiers flying. Connor threw himself to the floor to avoid being hit by the tail a second time. The dinosaur was clearly panicking, twisting first one way and then the other trying to get away from the noise. Ryan looked round desperately, his eyes briefly settled on Connor, spraying water everywhere as he got back up again, and suddenly Ryan had an idea.
“Cutter, Stephen, with me,” he ordered, and ran over to the fire hose that was mounted on the wall. He smashed the glass with his elbow and quickly unrolled the hose. “We can use this to persuade it back towards the anomaly,” he said by way of explanation. “Hopefully it’ll get the message and go home rather than have a face full of water.”
Cutter nodded his approval of the plan, and Stephen waited until Ryan was in position, Cutter backing him up, before he turned on the water supply.
“Everybody move!” Ryan yelled, and Connor, Abby and the soldiers scattered just before the water sprayed out of the hose and hit the dinosaur smack in the side of its neck. It trumpeted again, and turned away from the spray back towards the direction of the anomaly.
“That’s it, girl, go back that way,” Cutter muttered from behind Ryan, hanging onto the weight of the hose so that Ryan could concentrate on directing the jet of water.
Apparently deciding it had had enough, the diplodocus trumpeted one more time before it started to trundle back towards the anomaly. Ryan thought he heard Connor yell out, but a quick glance told him that his lover was nowhere near the creature, so there was no chance he’d been hurt. They pursued the dinosaur all the way back to the anomaly, Ryan following Abby’s hurried advice not to aim at the head. They suddenly stopped short when the hose pulled taut in his hands, and he glanced back to see Stephen waving frantically.
“That’s it! No more hose!” he yelled over the noise of the water and the fire alarm and the confused dinosaur.
It was enough, though, because the anomaly was right there in front of the creature, and with one last annoyed trumpet it headed back to its own time, leaving behind a trail of destruction and sodden Christmas decorations.
“Is everyone okay?” Ryan asked loudly when the gush of water slowed to a trickle, Stephen presumably having turned it off at the supply.
There was a general murmur of yeses, until Ryan spotted the soaking wet, bedraggled-looking Connor sitting on the edge of the fountain again, staring somewhat forlornly at the squashed remains of his hat.
Ryan wandered over to him. “Your hat met death by dinosaur?”he inquired as he stood next him, absently patting Connor’s wet hair.
“I liked that one,” Connor said with a definite pout to his expression.
And suddenly Ryan had the perfect idea.
He raced off back to where Claudia was shouting at the plump man, and threatening dire consequences and Official Secrets Acts. The plump man already looked quite intimidated enough by the official sounding woman, but Ryan figured that a bit of stern looming wouldn’t hurt, and within minutes the man was babbling apologies and swearing that he would sign anything that Claudia put in front of him.
The report that the anomaly had closed came in as the last of the paper signing was sorted, and the fire alarm finally switched off. Claudia went back to co-ordinate the cleanup, throwing Ryan a smile of thanks for the supportive looming. Ryan hung back for a moment, and when he was alone with the still slightly terrified plump man, Ryan gave him his least scary smile. He slung an arm around the man’s shoulders and steered him back into his clothing shop.
“Since we just saved your life, and since we’re not going to prosecute you for ignoring the evacuation order and endangering a government operation, I was wondering if you might be able to do me a little favour...”
Ryan drove like mad to get to the university first. As soon as the cleanup was in hand, Cutter had announced that they had just enough time to go back to his office and have mince pies and open their Secret Santa presents before Abby and Stephen had to go. Then, as soon as no one was looking, Cutter had dropped a spare set of keys into Ryan’s hand with an amused smirk. Ryan put his stealth training to good use to sneak his shiny gift-wrapped box past the others and get into his car and get away first, feeling only slightly guilty when he heard Connor asking where he had gone in a rather confused and disappointed voice as he was on his way out.
Still, he barely made it back before the other carload of people, and Ryan had to race down the university corridors and fumble to get the office door unlocked, aware that the others were barely minutes behind him. As soon as the door was open he leapt down the steps into the room two at a time and shoved his present under the tree, shuffling the assorted parcels quickly to make it look as if there had been six presents under there for days.
He was still catching his breath and arranging himself into a nonchalant lean against a desk when the others arrived, noisily talking and laughing as they came in.
“How did you get in here?” Connor demanded, still looking a little annoyed about being abandoned.
“The door was unlocked when I arrived,” Ryan said calmly. “You really should be more careful about your security, Cutter.”
Connor slumped into a chair, oblivious to the smirk that Cutter sent in Ryan’s direction. Connor was still rather damp and had a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, and Ryan wanted nothing more than to take him home and put him in a steaming bubble bath and feed him hot chocolate, possibly even with marshmallows.
Stephen dug out the mince pies and put the kettle on and then Cutter distributed the presents one by one.
For a few moments the room was quiet save for the sound of tearing paper and ripping apart of sellotape. Claudia seemed inordinately happy with the gift set of assorted bath-related smellies, and Stephen grinned approvingly at the music CD he received. Abby and Cutter were making similar noises of appreciation, but Ryan’s eyes remained on Connor as he ripped apart the wrapping and carefully opened the box.
“Oh, cool! Look it’s a new hat! How brilliant timing was that right after the last one bought it!”
Ryan breathed a sigh of relief at the expression of pure joy on Connors face.
“Quite remarkable timing,” Cutter commented, throwing Ryan another amused glance. Ryan finally relented and smiled back at him.
“Hang on,” Connor said suddenly, his face creased into worried thought. “I thought the maximum was supposed to be a tenner? There’s no way this cost less than that.”
“Maybe it was on special offer,” Claudia responded smoothly, and Ryan wondered if she, too, had figured it out.
He opened his own present, a bottle of pretty decent aftershave, but most of his attention remained on his young lover as Connor grinned and tried the hat on, and Abby teased him pulling it down over his eyes.
Ryan smiled to himself. Mission accomplished. And if this was how pleased he was with just a hat, Ryan couldn’t wait to see Connor’s reaction to his main present when they opened everything together on Christmas Day. It had been expensive, but it would be worth every penny when Connor found the Star Trek Next Generation poster signed by Gene Rodenberry himself.
And this time, Ryan decided, he might not mind so much if Connor was wearing his hat in the house all day. Especially if that was the only thing he was wearing.