Title: Claudia Brown, Dancing Queen
Author: alyse
Fandom: Primeval
Pairing: Claudia/Nick, vague hints of Abby/Claudia
Rating: PG13
Warnings: None
Spoilers: None - set during season 1
Author's Notes: Written as a treat for [livejournal.com profile] lsellersfic for [livejournal.com profile] fandom_stocking 2011, who wanted Primeval. I know you said you weren't all that fond of fluff, but unfortunately that's all I seemed capable of writing in time for fandom_stocking reveals. I hope you enjoy it anyway, m'dear, and Merry Yule!

Many thanks to Aithine for the beta.

Summary: Claudia was generally considered to be the more mild-mannered of the Home Office liaisons. In which Claudia puts on her dancing shoes and kicks ass.

-o-

It wasn't long after Claudia had finally talked Lester around to the need for an office Christmas party of sorts - spinning it as team bonding, forming connections between the disparate elements of their motley little crew of civilian academics and military know how, the need to blow off steam after what had turned out to be several weird and stressful months, etc. etc. etc., so on and so forth - that the horrible finally realisation struck her.

Now that she'd got him to agree to it, she'd have to attend the bloody thing.

It was all right for Lester, she thought a little bitterly. No one expected anything more than 'bah, humbug!' from him, even at the best of times, and Christmas didn't appear to be the best of times for Lester. The man epitomised the opposite of goodwill towards his fellow men - and animals, past or present. She wouldn't be at all surprised if he kicked kittens in his spare time, and he'd kick Christmas kittens twice as hard. In fact, he probably had special shoes for that as well, just so he wouldn't get his regular no-nonsense Italian handmade leather ones dirty.

Claudia, on the other hand, was generally considered to be the more mild-mannered of the Home Office liaisons. In fact, she'd even go as far as saying that both sides - military and academic - probably had her firmly in the 'human' camp. And maybe, given that Connor and Abby had talked her into approaching Lester in the first place, the 'gullible' camp as well.

So what if she'd sworn off office parties of all sorts since that disaster in 2005. She hadn't been able to look some of her colleagues at the time in the eyes until at least May of 2006, and that wasn't just because of the dancing. She may not be winning Strictly any time soon, but she wasn't bad on a dance floor, or even - as it turned out - the Office Manager's desk (apart from that whole falling off it thing, and that was only because when she was on top of it, it was far smaller than she remembered it being compared to how it had seemed when she'd been sitting on the other side of it, ready for a telling off).

And all that because it had occurred to some bright spark to spike the supposedly non-alcoholic fruit punch.

No. It was the mistletoe incident that had resulted in an embarrassment of office gossip riches. Or would have done, had anyone else been sober enough to take pictures with their camera phones.

Possibly she'd have to make a ruling. If they were to have the blasted thing on Home Office premises, she'd make security confiscate all phones at the door. That might well be the safest thing. She wasn't stupid enough to think that confiscating the booze would work.

Of course, it might have been safer still to insist that if it was absolutely essential that the small section of floor space allocated to the Anomaly Research Project really had to be decorated (and according to Abby, it did), then Connor Temple should have been banned from taking part in that particular activity right from the start. And not just because he'd managed to trip the switches, taking out the power for the entire floor, when he decided to amp up the Christmas lights.

It was his penchant for mistletoe that was really making Claudia regret not firmly removing him from the premises, not to be allowed back until after the party had started. She knew why he'd been so insistent on it, of course - the boy pretty much had hearts in his eyes every single time he looked in Abby's direction - but that didn't make this evening any more comfortable for Claudia. Not least because it meant she had to navigate carefully around the desks and go several hundred feet out of her way every time she wanted to go to the loo.

Right now, for example, she was keeping carefully to the edges and making sure that all she was drinking came from the plumbed in water cooler in the kitchen. Water she'd put into her plastic cup herself. Yes, the desks in the centre of the room might have been cleared to make a little space, and Abby had liberated some speakers and an mp3 player from somewhere, but not even Abba was going to make Claudia get up and dance (not even Dancing Queen, which was a perennial favourite of hers, and she didn't care that technically she was too young to have heard it when it was a hit the first time - the Mamma Mia musical had a lot to answer for).

So no dancing, not even if watching Connor revolve around the floor in an uncoordinated frenzy of flailing arms and feet was highly entertaining. Connor certainly seemed to be having fun - he had a huge grin spread across his face, although that might have had something to do with the fact that Abby had finally succumbed to the puppy dog eyes (or the Christmas spirit(s) that Claudia was convinced Ryan had smuggled in) and grabbed him firmly by the scarf before planting one smack bang on his mouth.

Not even the fact that she'd gone on to do the same to first Stephen and then Ryan seemed to have dimmed Connor's current joie de vivre.

"Having fun?"

She'd been so focused on watching Connor and Abby dance, she hadn't even heard Nick Cutter approach, and the voice in her ear made her jump a little. He flustered her, but then he always flustered her a little, whether she'd heard him coming or not.

"Yes, thank you," she said politely, gripping her plastic cup of water so tightly that it was in danger of spilling out over the edges. Her voice was pitched a little high, too, she noticed, and not all of that was because she needed to make herself heard over the music. "Are you?"

Cutter shrugged, turning his attention to watching the two youngest members of his team affectionately. Connor was currently spinning Abby around the small dance floor, so energetically she thought that if he actually let go, Abby would fly off somewhere; she was light enough. But then perhaps not - Abby was also a lot stronger than she looked. When Connor stumbled, his feet falling over themselves, it was Abby who held him up and Abby who, laughing, set him firmly down in a nearby chair before she danced away lightly, leaving Connor looking longingly in her wake.

"Looks like Abby's having fun at least," Cutter observed, leaning in to make himself heard. "Are you not dancing then?"

She was already shaking her head when Abby's dancing brought her closer to the pair of them. Maybe Abby had heard Cutter's remark, or maybe Abby was just full of all sorts of Christmas spirits, but her enthusiasm was catching. When Abby held out her hand, her eyes were dancing as gleefully as her feet and there was a grin on her face almost as broad as the one that had been on Connor's. Given that, Cutter liberating Claudia's cup from her hand and gently pushing her with one hand settled in the small of her back wasn't really necessary to send Claudia out onto the dance floor after all.

It was Christmas. And it was Abba.

Abby moved well, but more than that, she was obviously enjoying herself and that kind of pleasure was infectious. It didn't take Claudia long to kick off her shoes and toss them to the sidelines (where one of them narrowly missed hitting Connor on the ankle) and to get down with the best of them, which considering that the 'best' of them included Ryan and Stephen (neither of whom seemed to have much rhythm when it came to dancing - maybe they limited all of their nifty footwork to the field) didn't give her a lot of competition.

And this was fun, damn it. They had little enough of that these days.

She glanced back at the sidelines, and Cutter was smiling at her, obviously enjoying the fact that she was having fun. She grinned at him, beckoning him into the small circle of chairs, but he shook his head, smiling widely back at her.

"You're as much a killjoy as Lester," she called to him, raising her voice over the sound of the music, and his smile turned to laughter as Stephen finally gave up on the whole dancing thing and sauntered over to join him. Connor joined the pair of them, his hands dancing as rapidly as his feet had and his face still shining with enthusiasm as he chattered away merrily to them. Then he caught sight of Claudia and laughed, pointing above her head.

Somehow she'd missed that particular bunch of mistletoe, and of course Connor would know where they all were, probably because he'd been the one to position them all.

She stared back at Connor, arching one eyebrow witheringly, but he simply grinned, one of those wide, toothy grins of his that seemed to light up his whole face, scrunching his eyes up like a child's. Then his eyes widened innocently, trying - and failing - to look like he'd had nothing to do with it.

Sometimes, he was so bloody young he made Claudia's heart hurt.

"Oh, for..." Abby came to a stop beside her, rolling her eyes when she, too, looked up and saw the greenery hanging overhead. She shot Claudia a sympathetic look, a world away from Connor's glee, but it only took a second or two for her expression turned devilish, bright and amused. She cast another look in Connor's direction, this one impish rather than irritated, but it was only when she looked back at Claudia that it finally dawned on Claudia what Abby had in mind.

For a moment she was tempted, before common sense asserted itself. Of course, common sense was vastly overrated, no matter what Lester's views on the matter. And it was Christmas, season of goodwill to all men (and women). Even Connor.

Oh, what the hell. So, she didn't have the excuse of alcohol this time around, but somehow she got the impression that her current colleagues had far more interesting things to be talking about post the Christmas season than who'd kissed whom at the office party. Like, oh, the likelihood of Tyrannosaurus rex coming through an anomaly and snacking on January sale bargain hunters, for example (and she just knew that Connor would already have worked out how big an anomaly would have to be for that to happen). And Abby was funny and smart, dedicated and driven, and probably the closest thing Claudia had these days to a female friend.

Abby's lips were warm and dry under hers, tasting faintly of the cherry flavoured lip balm that she used. The kiss stayed chaste and friendly, but there was an expected sweet edge to it that sent a brief pang through Claudia, fleeting and then gone as Abby pulled away, smiling softly at her.

It was a good job that no-one lost control of themselves to the extent of wolf-whistling, not even Connor, who was staring at them both open-mouthed and blushing a little, which meant that Claudia didn't have to lecture any one about the application of equality and diversity regulations in a government department, and Abby didn't have to hurt anyone. Claudia had no doubt whatsoever that Abby would be perfectly capable of that if the situation called for it.

Of course, that didn't mean it passed without any comment whatsoever - Ryan laughed good-naturedly and while Stephen's amusement was clear, he limited himself to saluting the pair of them with his cup of hopefully not-too-heavily doctored punch.

Abby gave Stephen a little curtsey when she finally moved away from Claudia, stalking over to him to pull him back onto the dance floor as another Slade's Merry Christmas, Everybody started to play. Stephen caught hold of Nick Cutter as he went, not letting the other man balk but pushing him, laughing, into the cleared little circle until he was standing next to Claudia.

He leaned in, smiling at her all of the time in a way that told her he really hadn't minded Stephen's interference. "You're still under the mistletoe, Ms Brown," he murmured in her ear, and she retrieved her cup, which he still held, taking a sip of water to wet her suddenly dry mouth.

"Indeed I am, Professor Cutter," she returned archly. And then, made bold by the warmth around her, by the friendship of these dedicated people, she added, "Are you going to do something about that?"

This time his laughter was just for her. "Abby might be tough act to follow," he teased, his affection for Abby clear in his voice.

"Maybe, but you won't know unless you try. I thought you scientific types were all about experimentation?"

He laughed again, managing to avoid the obvious 'experimentation' joke, and she thought she'd got away with it, or that he was going to be the one who got away, when he leaned in towards her. She had a split second to appreciate the arch to his brow, the slight lopsided smile playing around his lips, and then he was pressing his mouth against hers, soft and just as sweet as Abby's.

But he kissed her more thoroughly than Abby had, taking his time and not being hurried. It wasn't the first time she'd kissed him, but it was the first time she'd been kissed by him, and it sent a lovely wave of warmth through her.

She was a little flushed when he pulled back, and his smile at her this time was wider, maybe even slightly smug around the edges.

Men. She resisted the urge to roll her eyes, largely because she wouldn't mind another kiss like that, especially from Cutter. Okay, so maybe she was a little overflowing with Christmas spirit but at least it wasn't the kind of spirits that meant she wouldn't be able to look anyone in the eye until Easter.

"Merry Christmas, Claudia," Cutter said, leaning in towards her again to be heard over the sound of the music.

She smiled up at him, catching hold of the back of his neck and urging him closer towards her. "Merry Christmas to you, too, Nick," she said, and kissed him again.

The End
.

September 2017

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