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Title : Silk and Steel, Part 62
Authors : fredbassett & munchkinofdoom
Fandom : Primeval
Characters : Nick, Connor, Leek, Stephen, Helen, Thomson
Rating : 18
Disclaimer : Not ours, no money made, don’t sue
Spoilers : None
Summary : Helen starts to make her presence felt in the ARC.
A/N : Captain Thomson appears by kind permission of [ profile] deinonychus_1 .
Warning : Slave!fic.

Nick yawned and stretched wearily as he looked up at the dirty, off-white ceiling tiles in the bunkroom. They were a bloody disgrace. He'd have to mention their state to Lester, he thought, then swore out loud when he remembered that they had Leek to contend with now rather than Lester.

Sitting up and rubbing his stubbled face, he ruefully admitted to himself that it could have been worse. Helen could have been placed in control of the ARC. And, by the look on her face when she’d stormed out of Lester’s – no, Leek’s – office, that was what she’d been expecting to happen, but it looked like her plans hadn’t come to fruition.

He looked around at his surroundings, noting gratefully that the lights had been turned off at some point during the previous night and that the room was now lit only by the pale early morning light making its way through the windows. Then he noticed that there was someone missing. Where the hell had Stephen disappeared to? And why wasn't Connor still asleep in one of the bunks? The poor lad had been dead on his feet when that girl, Lacey, had led him – already half asleep – into one of the communal sleeping areas and made sure he was bedded him down for what was left of the night.

Then Nick shuddered at his inadvertent choice of words. In this madhouse of a world, any of them – even Connor – could have their lives cut short by more than just dangerous creatures. And there were worse punishments awaiting the unwary than the strapping Connor had received the previous day.

Staggering to his feet, Nick headed for the small kitchen that adjoined the nearby recreation room. He made tea for himself and coffee for Connor. If the lad was already up and working on that damned footage again, he'd need the caffeine. He absently scratched his day-old beard and then added more sugar to Connor's mug.

The short walk along the corridor, down the metal ramp and into the atrium was surreal. The tension in the air was still palpable, with every collared person he passed quick to lower their eyes before him and make way for his passage. The distinction between collared and the so-called ‘free’ workers had never been more marked. No matter how often he smiled or nodded to the various technicians he encountered, their reactions were still the same. Fear hung thick in the air.

By the time he reached the ADD and Connor’s work-station, Nick was ready to strangle Lester, Leek, Captain Thomson and anyone even remotely connected to the almost-mythical Section 42 that was constantly being whispered about in corridors. Connor's startled response to his attempt at a cheerful greeting just made matters worse.

"Hey, hey, lad, it's okay, it's only me," Nick babbled as Connor jerked upright, bashing his sore back against the chair support in the process and literally squeaking in pain. "Here," he continued as he placed the coffee mug in front of Connor and crouched down beside him. "Drink this, you look like you need it. It's okay. You're safe."

"I thought you were Thomson again," Connor gasped. He glanced quickly at the anonymous guard who was standing to attention behind the ADD, then wrapped his hands around the coffee mug as if it was a lifeline.

"Has Thomson been bothering you?" Nick whispered, noting his protégé's nervousness in the presence of one of Thomson's soldiers.

"I don't think the man sleeps," answered Connor after taking a large slurp of the coffee and glancing around as if he expected the Section 42 captain to appear at the mere mention of his name.

Nick took a long look at Connor as the lad continued to drink the coffee as if he was inhaling it. Idly, he looked around the atrium, and then something occurred to him. "Where's your bodyguard?"


"The female soldier," Nick replied.

"Oh, you mean Lacey. She's not my bodyguard."

"I thought she'd been assigned to you and Abby."

"Nope. We’re not that important, Professor. Except when we're out on a call," Connor added. Then he smiled at Nick, the expression incongruous on his still-exhausted face. "I think she's just a bit overprotective." Connor frowned. "A lot overprotective, actually."

Nick frowned. "But Lester, Leek and Annie have bodyguards." Then he felt a shiver down his spine and added, "Well, Lester did until yesterday."

Connor sneaked a look at the surveillance cameras and the guard, and then turned his attention back to Nick. "I can't find anything wrong with the footage," he whispered.

"Ryan couldn't have been in two places at once, Connor."

"But it looks like he was. And I can't find out where he went afterwards. He was gone when the command centre's CCTV came back online, he didn't show up anywhere in the ground floor or first floor corridors. It looks like the footage for both the garage and the stairs down to the basement has been tampered with. Wherever he went, it wasn't back to Lester's quarters."

"But he definitely left Lester's quarters with him yesterday morning?"

Connor nodded.

"They can't convict Ryan of treason without better evidence than that, surely?"

Connor stared at him, clearly shocked. "Professor," he said quietly, leaning closer. "It’s bloody obvious that someone is going to have to pay for yesterday's fuck-up, and Ryan's the most expendable."

"Then how…" Nick started to ask, but the noise of the large doors leading from the garage into the atrium opening distracted him. He watched as Oliver Leek strode into the command centre as if he owned it, Lieutenant Lyle hard on his heels. Nick stood up, intending to confront the man, intent on finding out what he proposed to do about Ryan's situation. And Lester’s, for that matter.

"Not now, Professor," Leek said dismissively.

Nick couldn't help but notice that, while Lyle was alert and staring at him as if he was just waiting for Nick to do something stupid, Leek looked as if he had got very little sleep the previous night.

Then Stephen walked in behind them and Nick's brain shuddered to a complete stop.

Leek strode past, Lyle in his wake, and Nick dimly registered how the soldier watched him as he stood, immobile, until Stephen reached him.

"Cutter, are you okay?" Stephen asked, and Nick turned to his assistant, still utterly shocked by the implications of he'd just seen. "What's wrong? Did something happen while I was out?"

"Ah, Stephen," a female voice purred from the top of the ramp, and Nick watched Stephen's concerned expression freeze on his face as Helen began to walk toward them. "I was wondering where you were. I need you in the biology lab, immediately. Honestly, it’s completely beyond me how any of you got anything done around here before my arrival. The science facilities are in an appalling state."

Stephen's face was expressionless, his body tense, as Helen joined them. She smiled archly at Nick and then turned her attention back to Stephen. "Well, don't keep me waiting, we have far too much to do for you to just stand there looking decorative."
Stephen shot a pleading look at Nick even as he began to follow in Helen's wake.

"Oh, and Nick?" Helen continued as she headed for the door to the ground floor corridor. "You really should shower and shave. You ought to be setting a better example. You’re not at the university now, you know." Then the door closed behind them and they were gone.

Nick just stood and stared at the closed door and wondered if the day could manage to get any stranger.

* * * * *

Nick had to admit that the shower had made him feel better. He rubbed his hair dry with a towel – trying to ignore the ever-present camera in the corner – and stood in front of his battered locker, looking at his last change of clean clothing.

He sighed. That was going to be a problem if the facility continued any longer under Captain Thomson's lockdown. Something else he'd need to talk to Leek about. Then Nick shivered again, remembering the shock he’d felt at seeing Stephen walk into the ARC in Leek's wake. His assistant had been in the bunkroom with him when Nick had gone to sleep the night before. How the hell had he ended up with Leek? And, more importantly, why? What had happened while Nick had slept? The thought that Stephen had been used in some way by Leek horrified him, even if Stephen had seemed calm when he’d greeted him, until Helen had arrived on the scene.

Nick dressed and made his way to the Biology lab. Helen first, and then Leek. The thought of Helen wandering freely through what had, until yesterday, been his territory set Nick's teeth on edge.

"Ah, good morning, Professor," Captain Thomson's voice wafted out from the darkened entrance to one of the storage rooms. Nick's heart pounded in his chest as he swung around in the brightly lit basement corridor and glared at the soldier. Thomson merely smiled. "There’s nothing to worry about, sir, I wasn’t following you. I'm merely conducting a thorough inspection before reporting to our new Director."

"Well, don't keep him waiting then," Nick muttered, trying to step around the soldier. Thomson moved aside to let him pass, his smile widening into an amused smirk that Nick dearly wanted to wipe off his smug, aristocratic face.

Determined not to look back, even when he heard Thomson's slow, heavy footfalls echoing behind him before the soldier turned into the physics lab, Nick strode down the corridor and into his laboratory.

The sight that met his eyes stopped Nick in his tracks in the doorway.

"What the hell do you two think you're doing?" Nick bellowed, not caring who heard him.

All Helen did in response was glance over her shoulder at him, roll her eyes in obvious derision and then return to what she was doing. Although her body was partially blocking Nick’s line of sight, he could see enough to know that she was expertly manipulating Stephen's erect cock with one elegantly manicured hand.

Stephen's face was flushed – Nick couldn't tell if it was with passion or embarrassment at having been caught in public like this – and his body was reacting all too obviously to each firm pull of Helen's fingers.

But then Nick noticed where Helen's other hand was. Those long, elegant fingers were entwined in Stephen's collar, pulling it tight against his throat as Helen used the extra height from her heels to hold him to his full height and further. The position Helen was forcing on him clearly wasn’t designed for his pleasure and the pressure on his throat must have been painful. Stephen's eyes were bright, and Nick had a horrible feeling what he was seeing was the sheen of unshed tears.

"Get your hands off him, now," Nick growled.

Helen took her hand off Stephen’s cock, absently wiped her fingers on the material of his tee-shirt, and half-turned toward Nick. But she didn't release her hold on Stephen's collar. "You seem to forget that I'm your boss now, Nick. If you don't want to watch, you’re free to leave. Don’t let me keep you from whatever it is you’re meant to be doing. I’ll be paying you a visit as soon as I’ve finished with Stephen." She stared down at Stephen’s rapidly shrinking cock and added, “Which isn’t quite yet.”

Nick could feel the blood boil behind his eyes as he surged forward and grabbed Helen's shoulders, shaking her bodily and forcing her to let go of Stephen's collar just to maintain her balance against the unexpected attack.

She struggled against Nick's grasp, staggering as he forced her around to face him. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Stephen slump against the wall for a long moment before he struggled to tuck himself back into his dishevelled clothing. Then Nick's attention was dragged forcibly back to his wife as she lifted her hand and punched him in the guts with all her strength. Nick fell back a step, pulling Helen with him, and she managed to hit him again, splitting his lip. Then arms came at him from behind, pulling his hands away from Helen's shoulders by sheer force.

"What the hell is going on?" Captain Thomson demanded, his breath hot on the back of Nick's neck. Then the captain let go of him and placed himself firmly between Nick and Helen. With a sick sinking feeling in his stomach, Nick noted that the captain didn't spare so much as a glance for Stephen, completely dismissing his presence.

"Professor Cutter assaulted me, Captain. I demand you take him into custody."

Thomson merely looked at Nick for a moment and then turned his attention for the first time to Stephen. Then he began to smile.

Nick's heart caught in his throat.

"It would appear, Dr Cutter, that you have encroached on your ex-husband's territory. Not a particularly sensible move when the two of you need to work together."

"Work together?" she almost spat the words out. "I’m Chief Scientist! Not Nick."

"And I have the final say on matters of security while this establishment bears Prohibited Place status. You'd do well to remember that, ma’am." Thomson injected just enough sarcasm into the honorific to make it perfectly plain where he stood on the question of taking orders from Helen.

"Are you threatening me, Captain?"

"No, ma'am. I was just stating an important fact that you appeared to have forgotten."

"How dare…"

The stare that the soldier directed at Helen sent a shiver down Nick’s spine and reminded him forcibly that this man was quite capable of ordering the most extreme forms of torture under the guise of interrogation and discipline. For a moment Nick thought the soldier might actually be the most frightening man he had ever laid eyes on. Helen's tirade stopped abruptly and she actually took a step back before regaining her composure. She drew herself up to her full height, almost meeting Thomson eye to eye, and returned his stare.

"I will take this up with Oliver Leek, Captain. You can depend on that."

"I would expect nothing less from you, Dr. Cutter. But, for now, I suggest you leave this laboratory. I'm sure that Professor Cutter and his assistant have things to do." Thomson then stood aside, his meaning perfectly clear to everyone in the room.

Helen glared at Thomson as she stalked past him, stopping briefly beside Nick. She leaned close and hissed quietly at him, "You’re in my world now, Nick. Don't ever forget it." And then she stalked out, leaving Nick dumbstruck in her wake.

She knows, Nick thought, his heart pounding. He swallowed, nodding absently at Captain Thomson as the soldier said something that Nick completely missed. The captain was gone by the time Nick collected his wits again. Blinking, Nick turned to the only other person remaining in the lab. Stephen stood rigid, one hand resting behind him against the wall, his gaze focussed just below Nick's face. With one final, horrible thump of his heart, Nick realised that Stephen wouldn't – couldn't – meet his eyes.

"Are you all right?" Nick asked as he took a tentative step forward, one open hand raised in an attempt to appear harmless. Stephen finally looked up, meeting Nick's gaze, and let out a slow breath. Finally, his assistant nodded.

Nick took another step forward, entering Stephen's personal space the way he’d always done so unthinkingly in the past, in his own world, but Stephen’s involuntary flinch brought him up short.

He sighed and then hissed urgently, "We need to talk."
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