Belated birthday fic forsunsets_dinos. Sorry it's a bit late, hope it isn't too fluffy for you.
Title: Human Weakness
Pairing/characters: Helen, Connor (Helen/Nick implied)
Spoilers: 2.7, 3.3
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: approx 1550
Summary: Helen thought it would be easy to change Connor, to make him see things her way. It hadn’t occurred to her that it might work the other way around as well.
AN: Companion piece to Twisted Together.
AN2: Birthday fic for sunsets_dinos.
She dreams of Nick.
Even as the blood flows from him he defies her. He can’t see the truth, even now. He will never understand the enormity of time, the weight of responsibility.
Suddenly she is moving towards him. She kneels at his side, lays a hand on his chest, feeling his life ebbing away.
“I love you.”
That’s why she can’t let him complete his work. He would never want to do the things that she knows he will do. She doesn’t want him to go through whatever events transformed him into the man who could bring about that future.
He slowly raises his head to look at her.
The cold, dead eyes of the clone stare up at her.
“I am Nick Cutter.”
No. No. You’re just a copy. You can never be Nick Cutter.
“I am Nick Cutter.”
She stumbles backwards, gets to her feet.
“I am Nick Cutter.”
“Stop saying that!”
“You made me.”
She wishes she hadn’t made it. The clone is an obscenity, a mockery of the original.
Suddenly that smile that is all Nick touches the corner of his mouth.
“You killed me.”
Helen starts to run.
An insistent hand on her shoulder dragged her back to reality. Helen opened her eyes to see Connor staring down at her with worry etched on his face.
“Are you okay? I think you were dreaming again.”
It only took a second for her to bury the images in the recesses of her mind. It meant nothing, it was in the past.
She felt a bitter smile force its way to the surface at that thought, and if anything Connor’s expression became even more worried.
Helen shook his hand off and stood up, ignoring him. The barren wilderness of some unknown future time stretched out beneath their shelter, all scoured earth and broken rocks and ash on the wind from some distant cataclysm. It was enough to render Connor’s hurt silence into nothing more than a momentary annoyance. Enough to put her own emotions into perspective and force them back where they belonged. Hidden. Dead. Buried.
“You were saying Cutter’s name.”
He was a persistent little bastard, she had learnt that much about Connor in the last three weeks. Either that or he simply didn’t have the common sense to know when to shut up. The trouble was, right at that moment Helen wasn’t one hundred percent certain that she had enough control over her voice to put him down, so she remained silent.
“I dream about him sometimes, too.”
That simple admission was all she needed to feel the fire in her heart again. What right did Connor have to compare his own relationship with Nick to hers? What claim did he have to be haunted by her husband? How dare he imply that they might have something in common?
Helen turned on him, her eyes taking in his concerned, open face, the compassion he so readily offered.
“I know,” she spat. “But at least I don’t cry in my sleep.”
Shock, hurt and humiliation flitted in his eyes for a moment before Connor picked himself up and turned his back on her.
“Fine,” he said after a moment. His voice wasn’t completely steady. “Fine. Next time I’ll leave you to toss and turn yourself right off the edge of the bloody cliff.”
For the first time, Helen took no pleasure from seeing the kicked puppy look in his eyes.
They were sitting on opposite sides of a campfire in the Triassic. Connor had spent the last half an hour talking about going to the future to find out what had really caused the future predators to run amok. He was still unconvinced that it was anything to do with Cutter, or that the predators by themselves could bring about the end of human civilisation. Helen let him ramble, only half listening. It was easier to let him talk himself out than to try to reason with him sometimes.
“You’re not listening, are you?” It was not quite an accusation.
“Sometimes you sound like Nick.”
Helen was possibly as surprised as Connor when she realised what she had said.
“How do you mean?” Connor asked carefully.
She almost ignored him, pretended she had never said anything and let the subject drop. But there was something else to Connor’s question that had caught her attention, and she was intrigued.
“You always want to see the best in people. You assume that humanity en masse is inherently good. That’s what Nick believed as well, even despite all the evidence to the contrary. It’s why neither of you were good scientists. Not objective enough.”
She saw it more clearly then, in the smile that touched the edge of his mouth. Pride. He was actually proud to be compared to Cutter.
“I’d rather believe that than assume that all people are evil. I think people are worth saving.”
Helen shook her head, trying to stop her own smile.
Sometimes he was still so naive, despite everything. How could one man who had been through so much remain so innocent? So optimistic? In so many ways he reminded her of Nick and Stephen, minus the cynicism and world-weariness that came with experience. Sometimes she hated him a little for that.
“There’s no place in evolution for heroics, Connor. Nature doesn’t care if you choose to sacrifice yourself for some higher belief in a noble cause. That sort of thinking is going to get you killed.”
“Like it got Stephen and Cutter killed?” There was no malice in his eyes, but there was a steady challenge.
Helen stared right back at him.
“Stephen and Nick made their own choices.”
Connor didn’t immediately reply. He did continue to watch her carefully, though. Helen continued to hold his gaze. She wasn’t going to let him win this one.
Eventually Connor looked away, picked up a stick and poked the fire.
“Yeah, I suppose they did,” he said quietly. “They chose to save you, and it got them killed.”
Helen felt something twist in her stomach. Before she could reply, though, Connor looked back up at her. In the firelight he somehow looked younger, more vulnerable.
“Are you going to get me killed as well?”
“Are you implying that you’re saving me?”
He shrugged. “If anyone but me had managed to follow you through that anomaly they would have tried to kill you on sight.”
“So why didn’t you? I know you hate me for killing Nick.”
“I don’t think Cutter would have wanted me to turn into a murderer for him.”
“That just sounds like an excuse.” Helen couldn’t help the mocking tone creeping into her voice.
He glanced up again and this time the impression of youth and innocence was gone. There was unexpected understanding in his dark eyes.
“Maybe it’s just human weakness. You should try it sometime.”
He lay down and stared at the night sky stretched out above them. Helen simply stared at him, for once completely speechless.
Helen woke suddenly from the nightmare. Something had disturbed her; a sound, a movement. Her hand instinctively went to the knife at her belt.
She became aware of a quiet snuffling close by and relaxed. It was only Connor. Helen turned onto her side to look at him. He was curled into an almost foetal position, and in the soft moonlight she could see that his cheeks were wet.
Helen almost turned over and went back to sleep. Maybe it was the lingering memory of her own dream, but something stopped her. Certain that he really was still asleep, Helen carefully reached out and tugged his jacket back up over his shoulders from where it had slipped away. Connor snuffled again and she froze.
This was ridiculous. Why the hell should she care if he was having nightmares again? It wasn’t her problem. He wasn’t Nick or Stephen, she didn’t owe him anything.
Connor became still, and Helen thought she had got away with it when he suddenly grasped her hand and held it. She froze again. This was not in the rules. She tried to pull away without waking him. In response, Connor tugged her hand closer to his body, still apparently entirely unconscious and unaware of what he was doing. He was surprisingly warm in the cold night air.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. She didn’t want to offer him comfort. She didn’t want to care.
Connor settled again, still wrapping her hand up in his own, his breath ticking her fingers. Such a simple unconscious action and yet it represented so many complications.
It suddenly occurred to Helen that she couldn’t remember the last time anyone had held her like that. She couldn’t remember the last time she had been intimate with anyone for anything other than pure sex. She shoved those thoughts to the back of her mind and reminded herself that Connor had no idea what he was doing, and that it meant nothing.
He didn’t seem to be dreaming any more, and as she lay there watching him, the tears on his face slowly dried to nothing in the night air. He was in deep sleep again, and she suspected that if she wanted to she could probably pull her hand away without him noticing this time.
Instead, Helen moved closer and allowed herself a moment of human weakness.