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Story Notes:
Based around episode 3x03. This is in Denial-land, where Stephen (and Ryan!) live! It is intended as a birthday fic for reggietate. This is my third, count it, third attempt at a fic for her birthday. The first one grew a plot to big to finish in time - she may eventually get that one, maybe for her next birthday, the second one kept veering wildly away from the fluffy-smutty feel good I was going for. Third time lucky it might be (barely!), so I may just cancel her next birthday instead! This fic is much better thanks to the input of canadian_jay who helped me catch a few bits that didn't really work and fredbassett for the beta!
Cutter struggled against Stephen's hold, shouting obscenities that made even some of the soldiers look uncomfortable, but Stephen refused to let him go, using his foot to trip them both and, quite literally, sitting on the other man.

Cutter supposed he should consider himself grateful that Stephen hadn't gone to Ryan's extremes and slugged him but, as he watched the building burn with Helen possibly still inside, he didn't feel it.

*~*~*~*~*

"He did the right thing you know." Connor's tone was subdued, several hours later, when the flames had been taken care of and teams were moving through the ARC to see what damage had been done.

Cutter bristled. "I'll remind you of that if we find Helen's body."

He didn't mean to snap at the younger man, but for all her faults, Helen had been... he couldn't wish her dead, not after so many years spent wishing her back to life.

"Cutter," Ryan's voice cut in over the radio.

"Yes?"

"You'd better come down to the bio lab," Ryan said. "There's something you need to see."

Cutter paused mid-step, nausea building in his stomach. Oh God...

He vaguely heard Connor answer for them with a 'We'll be right there,' as the younger man took his arm and pulled him along.

It took every ounce of willpower Cutter had, to actually follow him.

The bio lab had taken heavy damage, the chemicals kept for experimenting burning easily and Cutter swallowed back bile. The smell of chemicals was underlaid by the smell of burning flesh.

Ryan, Ditzy and a young soldier Cutter didn't recognise were waiting, Ditzy on his knees half behind one of the counters.

"What..."

"He's still alive," Ryan pointed to a form on the floor and Cutter shifted reluctantly to get a proper look.

The clone... the bloody clone... not Helen... Cutter felt both dizzy with relief and slightly sickened at the same time.

"Probably not for long," Ditzy announced, standing. "Massive burns and it looks like he sucked in a hell of a lot of smoke. I doubt he'll even make it as far as the hospital."

"Hel...en..." the clone coughed, a horrible sound that reverberated around the room.

"I've given him morphine, it'll ease the pain," Ditzy said. "With luck it'll knock the poor bastard out as well."

"We should question it," Cutter said, the words coming out before he'd really thought of them and for a moment, he wanted to feel bad about it, about thinking first of... "He might know where Helen is..." but he couldn't. He needed answers the clone might be able to provide.

"He's dying, Cutter, he can't do us a damn bit of good now," Ryan said. "Even if he knew, and I doubt that, he doesn't exactly seem to be brimming with knowledge of any sort."

A gurgling sound filled the room and blood bubbled from the clone’s mouth, its body arching briefly before collapsing.

Ditzy leant down to check its pulse, shaking his head. "He's dead."

Cutter made a frustrated sound and quashed down the guilty feeling. Guilt at not feeling guilt. Some psychologist somewhere could have a field day with him.

"I need to check the creature habitats," Cutter said finally, after a few minutes of silence. "Call me if you... find anything else."

*~*~*~*~*

Cutter knew he was being a bastard, but it didn't stop him. The more of the ARC they cleared without any sign of Helen, the more frustrated he got, until he'd scared away just about everyone.

Just about everyone...

"Are you going to keep this up long?" Stephen asked.

Cutter was in his office - mostly undamaged except for smoke - looking at the artefact they'd salvaged.

"Excuse me?"

"Cutter, bite me. I'm not as easily scared away like Connor, or as prone to just letting you act the wanker like Ryan, so stop being such a pillock and go ahead and tell me what your problem is exactly," Stephen said.

Cutter bristled, anger bubbling, how dare Stephen... just because they were... he was building up to tell Stephen where he could stick himself when Stephen spoke first.

"Should I guess instead? You're angry that we haven't found Helen. Oh you didn't want her dead, but you wanted her somewhere you could keep an eye on her, make sure she didn't run off and leave you again..." Stephen said. "And I'm not sure what makes me angrier about that. The fact that you could have got yourself killed trying to save her skin, or the fact you don't seem to care how I might feel about that."

Cutter blinked. "I..."

"She nearly got me killed or have you forgotten that?" Stephen asked.

"No, of course I bloody haven’t, I was there, I saw..." Cutter felt sick just thinking about...

"I know," Stephen sighed softly, coming closer, until he could reach out and touch, a hand resting against Cutter's neck. "But you're still so blinkered when it comes to her, Nick. And I know, believe me, I know how she twists things up but... she could have killed us all today. Me, you, Connor, Abby, Ryan, Becker, Jenny, Lester... and no matter how much you protest, you'd miss him."

Cutter snorted. "Would I fuck."

Stephen smiled weakly. "I stopped you today... but what if I hadn't been here, Nick, what if... I’ve only just got you; I'm not ready to lose you."

"How is it you always manage to make me feel a right wanker?" Cutter asked. "Even when I'm so sure I'm right..." Usually especially when he was sure he was right.

Stephen laughed. "You make it easier when you are being a right wanker."

Cutter made a disparaging sound. "She knows about the anomalies, Stephen... and this thing..." he pointed to the artefact. "We could save so many more lives if we just had..."

"Helen isn't going to help, Nick. I know you want to think she will, if you show her what the anomalies are doing, the devastation they leave behind, but she won't. She doesn't give a damn, if she ever did. Her time alone in the past has destroyed what connections to humanity she still had."

"That's not fair, she..."

"Tried to kill us all," Stephen said. "Nick please... listen to yourself. Hell, listen to us, arguing again, over Helen."

Cutter sighed. "I hate you sometimes, you know that?"

Stephen chuckled. "Only when you know I'm right."

"I do," Cutter conceded. And part of him at least, was willing to admit that Stephen was right. "But it doesn't make me wrong. I couldn't just let her die without trying to..."

"I know," Stephens said. "And believe it or not, that amateur hero streak of yours is part of why I love you. It's just a good job you have the rest of us around to rescue you from yourself sometimes."

"You do the amateur hero bit pretty well yourself" Cutter said, smiling softly.

"Come on... I'm exhausted. There's nothing here that can't wait until tomorrow and I could do with a hot shower and a drink, not necessarily in that order," Stephen said.

"Am I forgiven then?" Cutter asked.

"Are you going to chase Helen into any more burning buildings?"

Cutter bit his lip. "I have no immediate plans," he hedged.

Stephen gave him a dark look.

"I..." Cutter sighed. "How about I promise that if I do, I'll make sure you're around to rescue me from myself."

Stephen snorted. "I suppose it's the best I'll get."

"I do love you, Stephen and these last few months... I wouldn't trade them for the world..." and God, he really wouldn't. Almost losing Stephen had put things in perspective in a big way. But... "But as long as Helen is out there, I can't just..."

"I know." Stephen gave a soft, sad smile and Cutter wished he could tell him something else, tell him that... but they'd promised to be honest, if this was going to work. "So are you coming home?"

"You never actually said I was forgiven..." Cutter pressed slightly. Unfairly probably but, he was pretty sure they'd also promised never to go to bed angry.

"You never actually said you wouldn't chase Helen into any more burning buildings," Stephen retorted. "But I'm still asking you to come home with me."

"I..." Cutter paused. "Suppose it's the best I'll get."

It was tentative, agreeing to disagree, but it'd do. Cutter just hoped it was never really put to the test again like it had been today, because he really didn't know what he'd do next time, if Stephen wasn't there to stop him.


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