explodedpen: (becker)
[personal profile] explodedpen
Title: An Imperfect Tense
Fandom: Primeval

Summary: Time changes in shifts, 'til finally little is left of the original line.
Characters: Becker; Claudia Brown; references to and minor appearances by others.
Rating: PG13
Length: 2108
Beta: [livejournal.com profile] tli

Spoilers: For everything. Not major ones but yeah, covering all bases here.

Author's Notes: I…I do not even know. Umm…whoops? Quote that inspired the title can be found at the end. Also massive thanks to [livejournal.com profile] tli for the hand holding and the beta :)

* * *

It started with nothing, really. Just a simple flash headache, so strong and so vibrant that instead of reaching out to push the door open he walked straight into it.

“Becker, did you just-?” Abby stared at him in shock. “You alright?” She started laughing.

“Fine,” he muttered, his ears burning as he forcefully shoved the door open and hurried away.

* * *

Becker rubbed his chest, wincing at the sudden pain as he tried to unlock his car door. He could breathe, it didn’t feel like a vice tightening but it hurt. He gasped once before the pain vanished as abruptly as it had arrived.

Across the car park he caught sight of Connor staring at him curiously.

He finally unlocked the door and climbed inside.

He tried not to notice Connor watch him drive off.

* * *

Becker woke to the sound of a car alarm going off outside. His eyes shot open and he was halfway upright before he even realised what was going on. He rubbed his eyes blearily, the world unnatural shades of grey as he shifted to peer out of his bedroom window. Down below a grey car flashed its grey lights.

Becker frowned. Grey lights?

He rubbed his eyes for a few minutes, yawning. When he opened them again the car down below was blue, its lights flashing orange.

He turned and went back to bed.

* * *

Pain. A niggling, annoying headache had wormed its way through his skull. A slice of hurt pulsing in time to whatever Lester was telling them all. Becker resisted the urge to squint at the man, as if that could somehow ease the headache and miraculously improve his hearing.

Luckily Lester didn’t seem to notice.

Becker took a slow, deep breath and felt the pain flow out of him on the exhale.

Lester glanced in his direction, looking surprised, but didn’t break the flow of his speech. Becker tried to pick up the thread of the lecture, but judging from the terminally bored expression on Connor’s face he had missed nothing.

Luckily the blare of the anomaly alert meant he wouldn’t have to find out.

* * *

Becker leant against the wall, gripping hold of his head. Another headache had hit, blinding him enough that he had to stop, uselessly propping himself up against the wall. The world seemed grey around him, but he scrunched his eyes shut. A small part of his mind felt the vibration and heard the heavy clatter of boots against the floor as people passed him.

The pain dulled but he held his position for a few moments longer.

“Becker? Can you hear me?”

Becker dropped his hands down immediately. For a moment he could have sworn he saw something like the afterimage of a woman, stood in front of him, but it disappeared almost immediately along with the residual headache.

He risked turning his head to look up and down the corridor but saw no one.

“Need more sleep,” he muttered to himself.

* * *

Becker rubbed his chest, the strange phantom pain settling there, joining the one building in his head. He glanced up at the bathroom mirror and recoiled in horror.

There was no face staring back at him.

The pain grew stronger as he gripped tight hold of the counter.

But as quickly as it came the pain dissipated. He blinked and his reflection returned in the mirror, staring back at him in opened mouthed shock.

Connor burst into the Gent’s toilet. “Becker, we’ve got an –” he broke off abruptly, concern flashing across his face. “You alright, mate?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” said Becker quickly, forcing himself to relax his grip on the counter.

Connor didn’t look entirely convinced but didn’t press it further. “There’s an anomaly. We’ve got to go.”

“Actually, Connor…” Becker began hesitantly.

Connor paused, his hand on the door. “Yeah?”

Becker stared at him. It wasn’t the time. “Never mind. I’ll be right out.”

Connor nodded and shot off again.

Becker spared a second to check his reflection, then splashed cold water against his face and straightened.

* * *

"What do you mean they've gone through the anomaly?" Becker snapped, pressing the accelerator to the floor and feeling the pull as the car increased speed.

"I think they were pushed through." Jess sounded apologetic through her worry, as if she could've - should've - stopped them somehow. "Becker, you've got to get there and help them!"

A strange pain suddenly ripped through his head, so fierce that he almost lost control of the car.


"I'm okay," he forced out. He desperately tried to get his breathing under control as he overtook a slow moving Peugeot 106.

"What's wrong? what's happening?"

"Nothing, just tell me what's happening on site!"

"Take the next left, then the building should be 300 metres ahead; the anomaly's inside."

The pain struck again as Becker pulled up in front of the building. He barely managed to stop the car; his hand blindly scrabbling for the seat belt release before he opened the door and all but fell out on the road.


He didn't answer her, hands clutching at his head in a vain effort to stop it exploding.

Between one blink and the next his world exploded into a haze of colour. He lay back and screamed, unable to do anything else, vaguely aware of voices talking in his ear.

He opened his eyes as two people ran straight through him. He curled up in a protective ball, gasping and wheezing. "Jess… Jess, help… help me."

"Stephen, I'm reading their black boxes - they're back!"

Stephen? "Jess, it's Becker,” he ground out. “Help me!"

"Good," said a voice nearby.

At once the pain finally receded to a dull roar sending an odd tingling sensation prickling across his skin. Becker risked raising his head and froze. He'd seen pictures, he'd read the reports and there was no mistaking it. The man in front of him was Stephen Hart. "What?"

Stephen didn't react; he merely turned and raced into the building.

"Wait!" Becker called after him.

"He can't hear you," said a new, quiet voice.

Becker rolled over quickly and found himself looking up at - "Jenny? What're you doing here? What the hell is going on?"

She smiled sadly. "My name is Claudia," she told him. "Claudia Brown."

Becker stood up. "Claudia Brown? But -"

"I am the Before," Claudia cut in. "Jenny Lewis is the After."

He shook his head. "I don't have time for this! I have to help them."

Claudia's hand shot out and grabbed his arm as he turned. "Becker, listen to me. You can't help them, not now." She released him. "They don't know you," she said gently. "You never existed for them, not in this timeline." She glanced back at the building. “But Stephen does. This time he didn’t die.”

Becker stared at her. "What?" He blinked in surprise as the world around him seemed to dull, melding into shades of grey. "What's going on?"

"I can explain, but we don't have much time and you need to listen." Claudia let go of him, her hand dropping to her side. "You're a Before now. The timeline has been altered." She paused, staring into his eyes with such sorrow, such pity that he wanted to look away. "You been written out of existence, out of sync with time."

"What?" Becker shrugged off her grip. "I don't have time for this!" He turned towards the building and ran.

"Becker!" Claudia called after him.

But he ignored her and dived through the doors. His boots didn't make a sound as he ran, feet pounding against the tiled floor as he navigated the sprawl of debris. It wasn't hard to track the creature's path through the hall towards another set of doors hanging off their hinges.

"Becker!" He heard Claudia call his name again. "Stop!"

Between one blink and the next all the colour faded from the world, leaving everything in shades of grey. Becker skidded to a halt, bringing up one hand to rub his eyes.

Claudia materialised in front of him, blocking his path. "Becker, there's no point - you can't do anything." She glanced down at his feet. "Look where you're stood."

Becker involuntarily looked down and saw a broken shard of glass from the door poking upwards through his foot. He immediately hopped backwards, twisting his foot to and fro, but strangely there was no pain. The glass shard didn't even seem to have been disturbed. "What the -?"

"I told you," said Claudia gently. "You don't exist any more."

"What are you talking about?" Becker snapped. "Of course I exist - look at me!"
He tried to push past her but she caught hold of him again, a pinched, anxious expression on her face. "Becker, please, there's nothing for you in there."

"They need me -" Becker tried.

"You're Before, someone else is the After," Claudia released her hold on him. "Stephen is alive in this timeline. There is no Hilary Becker. I know it’s confusing and I know you don't understand but you have to listen to me. You have to trust me. I've been where you are."

Becker stared at her. His world was grey and a woman who didn't exist was talking to him. "Talk fast."

"Someone went through an anomaly," she said, her gaze flickering to the ruined doors. "And whatever they did erased the previous timeline, erased you."

"I'm not dead," he said automatically.

"No," Claudia agreed. "You're not. But you're not alive either." She hesitated. "Neither alive nor dead, such is the curse of the Before," she murmured. It sounded to Becker like she was quoting someone else. She shook herself. "We never really considered the consequences but every time we went through an anomaly we changed something, timelines changed and people were lost." She smiled ruefully. “The very act of passing through an anomaly irrevocably alters time.”

Becker stared at her wordlessly. Her expression was so sympathetic but there was something else, something she wasn’t admitting to. The eyes gave her away.

"What about my family?" Becker asked suddenly. "Do they still exist? Are they like me now - can I see them?" He turned as if his entire family would spring out of the walls but Claudia grabbed him again.

"Becker! Stop!" Claudia's fingers dug into his arm. "My time's almost up and you have to make your decision."

"What about my family? My life?" Becker demanded, shrugging her off.

"You don't have a family, you don't have a life, you don't exist!" She gave him that look again - pity and sorrow intermingled. "I'm sorry but you have to choose."

"Choose what? What are you talking about?"

"Every one of the Before gets a choice," said Claudia carefully. "To stay, or to go. And you're running out of time."

Becker stared at her helplessly. "This is insane."

"Make a choice. You can stay here, forever out of sync, or you can come with me."

"Go where?"

Claudia smiled sadly. "To where all the Before go." She held out her hand. "It’s not fair, and it’s not right, but you need to make a choice. And you need to make it now."

He stared at her helplessly. "If I stay?"

"You'll be a ghost, unable to touch, to communicate," she said quietly.

"My family, my friends..."

Claudia cocked her head, as if listening to something far away.

He hesitated, watching her closely. "What did you choose?"

Claudia stepped back, conflicting emotions flickering across her face. "I chose to stay," she admitted finally. She hugged herself. "I saw everything." Her voice broke and she paused, visibly collecting herself. "I don't want to stay any more. With you, I might be allowed to leave."

"Can't you go?" Becker asked her. “You don’t need me.”

Claudia didn't say anything, but her silence was answer enough.

"I can't leave..." Becker trailed off. “I don’t even know where we’re going to.”

"You're out of time," she said, tilting her head and listening again. "Make a choice."

Becker opened his mouth but no sound came out.

"It doesn't hurt," she promised him.

"How do you know?"

"Because nothing could hurt more than this." She held out her hand to him.

He reached out, taking her hand in his. Her skin was surprisingly warm and soft to the touch. "It’s not really a choice, is it?"

She squeezed his hand. "It’s okay, Becker."

She turned, his hand still held tight in hers and began to lead him into oblivion.

Existence really is an imperfect tense that never becomes a present

~ Friedrich Nietzsche
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