Title: One Minute to Midnight
Author: alyse
Fandom: Primeval
Pairing: Claudia, Ryan, implied pre-Claudia/Ryan
Rating: PG13
Spoilers: Up to 1.2
Word Count: ~1,650
Disclaimer: Primeval and its characters belong to Impossible Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Notes: Written for [community profile] fandom_stocking for [personal profile] annariel/[livejournal.com profile] lsellersfic. Thanks to [personal profile] aithine for the beta.

Summary: Over the months Claudia and Ryan have worked together, they've come to an unspoken understanding.


Sometimes Claudia thought that she and Ryan were the only sane ones out of the bunch, and given that they spent all day tracking down holes in space and time and hunting the prehistoric monsters that came through them, she wasn't sure that said a lot. It helped, though, having Ryan on hand, being able to catch his eye when things turned ridiculous or dangerous and knowing that he'd deal with it in that calm, competent way he had.

Over the months they'd worked together, they'd come to an unspoken understanding. He wrangled the monsters and she wrangled the team and occasionally the public. The only difference was that he got to use a gun. Sometimes, she had to admit, she envied him that. Not that she really wanted to shoot Nick Cutter, not when it meant she'd have to deal with all of the messy paperwork that would follow. Perhaps she should get a Taser instead, although she could just picture the look on Lester's face if she tried to requisition one.

She wondered if she could add it to her Amazon wish list instead. Christmas was coming up, and who knew what Santa would bring her. On the other hand, she was now picturing her mother's face and it was no more understanding than Lester's would be and a lot more horrified.

"Penny for them?"

Ryan leaned against the car next to her, balancing his gun casually in a way that gave her goosebumps.

"Oh," she answered vaguely, "just thinking about Christmas."

He snorted good-naturedly, his eyes scanning the area in front of them, ever vigilant even though the anomaly had been closed for a couple of hours now and they'd seen nothing more dangerous come through than some oddly coloured dust.

"Do you ever think..." she started to say and then trailed off, not quite sure where she was going with it. Ryan gave her an encouraging look, or something that passed as encouraging for Ryan. "All that time," she said. "All that past and all of it spilling into the present..."

She waved her hand vaguely, but Ryan seemed to understand what she was trying to say, or at least he was nodding thoughtfully as though he understood.

"I watched this programme," he said, even though it wasn't at all like him to volunteer much information. "About how old the Earth is and how long there's been life on it."

He glanced at her as though he was trying to gauge whether or not she was following him, and she pasted her best 'I completely understand' look on her face. Perhaps it worked, or maybe he just knew her too well, because the corner of his mouth quirked up before he continued. "It said something like if the Earth was a day old, multicellular life wouldn't show up until around nine p.m., dinosaurs finally turn up at about eleven, and we - humans, that is - show up at one minute to midnight."

"Fashionably late to the party, as always."

The quirk at the corner of Ryan's mouth deepened. "Something like that," he said, "but I suppose what I'm saying is that if Cutter is right and these things, these anomalies, are doorways to the past, then there's a lot of past where there's not a lot but rock and dust."

"I suppose that's... reassuring?" she offered, the words coming out more like a question.

"Yeah, I guess. If he's right, then I suppose that means there must be lots of anomalies opening up to time periods where there's nothing dangerous to come through and we can only be grateful for that. For most of the time, even when there was life, there was nothing but these... bacteria stromatolite things." He caught her look and gave her a sheepish shrug. "I watch a lot of documentaries," he said. "The Discovery Channel and the like, especially these days."

There wasn't a great deal she could say to that except admit: "I own the box set of Walking with Dinosaurs. And Walking with Monsters. And Beasts..."

Ryan laughed, his dimples flashing in the cool sunlight. "Me, too," he said, grinning at her in a way that left her a bit dizzy.

"Walking with Cavemen is on my wish list," she admitted, returning his grin with interest.

Ryan threw his head back, his whole body now shaking with laughter. "I dread to think what else you have on there."

She stopped short of blurting out 'Taser', limiting herself to a brief and probably stupid smile and then changing the topic to something hopefully safer. "So these bacteria stoma things?" she asked, struggling over the word. "They can't actually walk through the anomaly, right? Not like the other things we deal with?"

Ryan sobered up at that, his fingers tapping out a staccato rhythm on the butt of his weapon and his eyes back to scanning the horizon. "I'd like to think so, but then what makes you think they haven't?"

She stared at him for a moment, speechless, and he shrugged, still focusing more on the area around them before he finally turned his head and looked at her. "SARS, Ebola... Who says that something microscopic hasn't come through before now?"

The thought was horrific. She couldn't understand how Ryan could possibly be so calm about it, but then Ryan was calm about everything. She swallowed steeply, her eyes tracking helplessly over the pale dust brought through the anomaly by ancient winds.

"On the other hand," Ryan continued, "if Cutter's right, these anomalies might have been opening and closing for decades, maybe even centuries, and we're not dead yet."

That wasn't entirely comforting but Ryan's expression, when she turned her head to look at him, was a lot more reassuring. It gave her the courage to ask another question, more to keep the conversation going and away from things she didn't even want to think about than because she thought Ryan might have the answer.

"Do you ever wonder why these things never seem to open from the future?" she asked, the question bubbling up from who knew where.

He shrugged, giving her a crooked little smile. "Maybe they have," he said. "Maybe we really have doomed the world and all that's left is cockroaches. How would you tell them apart from the ones we have now?"

She gave a helpless little laugh, one that shook slightly around the edges, not really liking where the conversation was going. "I don't know, but you're a real ray of sunshine today."

Ryan grinned again, turning his attention back to their surroundings. He really didn't rest, not in the field - she couldn't help but wonder what he was like when he was off duty. If he was ever off duty.

"I haven't shot anything today," he explained, only half-serious. "Tends to make me a bit twitchy. But who knows? Maybe I'm right and we should forget all about the meek. Maybe it's super intelligent cockroaches who inherit the Earth."

She giggled, surprising herself given the bleakness of the topic - she was probably acquiring the same kind of mortuary humour that Ryan and his men exhibited, learning it through acclimation or something. Although, losing what was left of her mind was also a distinct possibility and if that was the case, she was probably in good company. "As long as they aren't giant cockroaches," she said with a shiver. "Not again."

"Last time they were centipedes," Ryan corrected mildly. "I think you're confusing them with the giant cockroaches in those old 50s movies. You ever wonder where the idea for those came from? Maybe there's something Hollywood hasn't told us yet. An anomaly in LA would explain some of the Yanks' weirdness, right?"

"I suppose so." She leaned back against the car again, suppressing another shudder and taking comfort from Ryan's presence. Abby and Connor were down at the anomaly site, too far away for her to hear their conversation, but there was no missing Connor waving his arms around excitedly or the set of Abby's shoulders, which told Claudia she was probably rolling her eyes again. But since it seemed to be the normal level of excitement - and exasperation - on their parts, she was pretty sure there was nothing for her and Ryan to get worked up about.

"I'd rather not run into giant anything again," she said, and that earned her another chuckle from Ryan.

"Once-in-a-lifetime enough?" he teased, grinning at her firm nod, and then his tone changed as he added, "I read up about them, you know." His voice was thoughtful, catching her attention. "The Arthropleura, whatever Connor said it was. He was right - they need oxygen levels much higher than anything we have today to survive for long outside an anomaly."

"Well, that's also reassuring," she said dryly. "I retract my comment about you not being particularly sunny today."

"Well, I take some comfort from it." He hesitated and then added, out of the blue, "So if you don't want to talk about anomalies, fancy spilling some details about what else is on your wish list? Since anything involving giant insects is obviously right off it?"

She dragged her eyes away from Abby and Connor to look at him, struggling to follow the rapid change in topic and where it had come from. He shrugged again, still smiling. "You said you were thinking about Christmas?"

The blood rushed to her face, hot and fierce. She really hoped that he hadn't thought she was fishing.

"I... um..."

He chuckled again, the sound a low, comforting rumble. "Don't worry about it, Claudia. You don't have to tell me all of your secrets. Not unless you want to." And then he grinned again, the bastard. "Besides, I'm pretty sure I can get Connor to find it if I need to. Or maybe just pick up a remote controlled spider or something. I'm pretty sure they make those."

She gave a half-hearted shove, one that didn't even make a dent in his bulk, and he laughed again, his whole body shaking with glee.

"Okay," she sighed, "if you're going to be like that and really want to buy me something, you can start by buying me lunch. It's been a long morning."

He sobered up, his mouth settling back into that appealing quirk at the corner as he watched her warmly for a moment. "It's a date," he said, flipping her a half-salute that was nothing like the crisp ones he snapped out for the men and women under his command. It sent a flood of warmth through her, one she hid by ducking her head and tucking her hair behind her ear. "I'd better go and check on what Temple is up to. Make sure he's not getting himself - or us - into trouble."

He gave her a quick parting smile, and once again she returned it, suddenly giddy at the prospect of a couple of limp pub sandwiches and a flat lemonade. She watched him rise to his feet, all business now. "Later," he said. It sounded like a promise, quickening her heartbeat for a moment.

It looked like the understanding between them wasn't unspoken any more.

The end
annariel: Alex Kamal from The Expanse (Primeval:Claudia/Ryan)

From: [personal profile] annariel

Thank you once again for this!! They make such a natural couple, I think, and you capture the things that would bring them together here really well.

September 2017

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