Breaking the fourth wall: new changes
Breaking the fourth wall: new changesDisclaimer: None of the characters are mine but belong to Impossible Pictures™.
Note: This chapter contains spoilers for season 1.
It was curious, but back when he was stuck in the ARC-world (as Connor mentally called it now), Connor simply did not care about the passage of time. It was more than bizarre – the Center was dealing with time anomalies first and foremost, yet none of them had ever thought of trying to handle the situation from the chronological angle at all... not until he and Philip teamed up to do exactly that, anyways... and what came out of that was anything but chronology-related...
"Connor, honey?" Caroline spoke as Connor finally exited after his shave, "can I ask you for a favour?"
"Certainly," Connor said, just a trifle warily: the twins were great, but they could be a little messy and more than a bit hard to clean up, especially Rebecca. "What did the twins do this time?"
"Oh, it's not them – not exactly them," Caroline shook her head. "Ms. Ambrose is coming over today to try out her new book on the twins, and can you watch over them while she reads to them? Make no mistake, they are always wonderful when she's around, but could you, please, all the same?"
Connor used to be rather obtuse when dealing with women, sure enough. After all, his mother did not count, Abby had always been confusing, Jenny was out of his league, and Jess and Emily were friends and thus did not quite count either. However, after several days and weeks of living a family life even he was beginning to understand some of the intricacies of the feminine mind, and this time his new instincts told him that something was in the wind.
"Yes, I'll do it, but what am I missing?" he asked Caroline quietly. "Who's Ms. Ambrose, anyways?"
"Remember the woman I met at Mr. Hart's funeral and told you about?" Caroline replied, also quietly. "Well, that's her. I know that you do not like her, but she isn't exactly evil, and she is good with the twins..."
Connor sat down. Slowly. "Seriously? Because if that is Ms. Ambrose, Caroline, then I have met her much more often than you have, and she... wasn't the type to make children's books," he said quietly, "or - great with children. Caroline, look, she and I – we did not get along at all, but if she isn't going to start anything, I won't either. Beyond this, on the spur of the moment, I can't promise you anything."
"Deal," Caroline nodded, "and I'll be nearby if things don't work out-"
"Caroline," Connor said slowly, "also... next time you want to do something like this... don't. I don't like it when someone tries to trick me so, okay?"
Caroline opened her mouth and looked at Connor, who looked unusually sternly back at her. Usually, this was how Bernice looked at her twin when Rebecca would mess up, only this was more intense.
"Well, I know how Rebecca feels when Bernice is pushed too far," Caroline exhaled. "I'm sorry, Connor. I guess I just used to be the head of the household that I still tend to make the plans by myself-"
"Well, firstly you're still the head of the household," Connor told her firmly, "though when we get married I like to have some say in it too. And secondly, well, you just had some bad luck this time."
"And that's the final time I try to manipulate people for fun," Caroline said seriously. "Now let's go down for breakfast."* * *
Despite his assurances to Caroline (and vice versa) that he was mostly okay with meeting Helen (Ambrose? What kind of a last name was that?), Connor was not so convinced – after all this was Helen Cutter, the embodied of almost everything evil that he had ever dealt with...
Only maybe she wasn't? Aside from the fact that she had helped Caroline out, even if largely by accident, Helen was still a person, and thus beatable – Danny had stopped her, apparently, and she had not wiped-out humanity...
Connor shook and concentrated on what was confusing him the most: her books. Somehow, he could not imagine Helen making picture books for children, especially such adorable children as the twins were (so he was biased – is it so surprising?), and quite good books too. This alone was worthy of a doubt, and, furthermore, Connor didn't think of himself as someone who lived in the past, for the past: if Helen had really changed and turned over a new leaf, he was ready to welcome her to it – he could only hope that she would reciprocate in kind.
And so he waited.
And so did the twins, but they were far more excited, chattering animatedly and running around the house. (It took Connor no more than two or three days to realize that children, just like pets, while adorable were also messy and needed to be taken care of. However, after Rex, Sid and Nancy, various modern lizards, Dragon the dinosaur and the mammoth, Connor was quite prepared to clean up after a rambunctious pair of girls, who as often as not were ready to help him clean it up, unlike, say, pets - even Rex.) Clearly, whoever Helen had been back in the ARC-verse, here she was someone else – great with children, for example.
Children... Connor frowned hard in thought. Cutter had been a great man but he never seemed to be very interested in children. Neither was Abby, of course, or anyone else. Matt and Emily, maybe, but Connor wasn't too sure about them: had they really come from other times, or were they drawn into the ARC-verse just as he, Cutter and Stephen had been?
...Needless to say, Connor had not developed any ideas as to what he was to do next other than to be polite, but he managed to get himself thoroughly confused all the same. Thus, when there was the knock on the door, he almost felt relieved that the wait was finally over...
And then he opened the door.
And Helen Cutter was standing there... looking shocked, and surprised, and more than a little worried for the first time Connor had seen her. The fact that she did not look too much like the Helen Connor knew played a factor in this as well.
"Hello," he said firmly. "I'm Connor, and I was the – sadly – absent father of these two munchkins. You must be Helen. I want to thank you for your advice you gave Caroline back at the cemetery and was hoping that you could advise me on something or other later as well." He carefully thrust out his hand, hoping for the best. He was not disappointed.
"Hello, Connor," Helen firmly shook her hand. "I'm Helen Ambrose. I'm sort of a nominal grandmother to these munchkins you've mentioned, and I don't have any problem talking with you about various adult matters, okay?"
"Yay!" the twins replied before Connor could. "Daddy's not worried anymore!"
Helen looked rather wryly at Connor, who could only shrug, sheepishly.
“They’re kids?” he could only offer, weakly.
Helen held her tongue...* * *
...It was quite a while later. The short storybook had been read and met with a rousing success by the twins. Connor too was properly impressed: he now had a very good idea of what Helen was doing in her spare time when she was not messing with the ARC, and it sounded a lot more excitement than what was going on at the ARC since she was gone...
"Really? That had happened at the ARC when I was gone?" Helen asked when she was sure that the twins run off to share their new book with their mommy. "Moreover, how did you get here? Somehow I didn't picture you figuring out about the fourth wall, you know?"
"You didn't do it," Connor exhaled. "I was worried about that. And as for the ARC... why did you do it?"
"That is actually a very complicated and long story," Helen said, clearly contemplative. "Tell me, do you remember your... friends, Tom and Duncan, I believe?"
"Yes! When did you learn about them?" Connor said quietly – Tom's death had been the first one he had seen and he never fully got over it.
"I never met either of them, actually," Helen shook her head. "So you better listen, because that's when my story got weird..."* * *Helen stood in a shady corner of two London streets, feeling confused about what she just did. "Why did I bolt from there?" she muttered to herself. "Lester and the others – they weren't going to hurt me – they need me! I, after all, do have a lot of experience of practical encounters with dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures! I can be a part of a team – I should be a part of a team-"
Helen stopped. Throughout the greater part of her tenure – in fact, throughout all of her tenure – she really hated working with others: she could work with others, but it was so pointless: it was either Helen complying with the wishes of others, usually the senior alumni, or not working with anyone at all – just as Helen liked it. (And that included her husband too.) She hated that, and now she was going down the same role with new people? What was wrong with her?
"Ah, there you are," a cultured, polite, masculine and totally unknown voice spoke suddenly, startling her. Before Helen's astonished eyes, a tall, powerfully built blond man with frosty cold eyes appeared out of thin air – one moment he was not there, the next moment he was.
"Hello, and who are you?" Helen said warily, her skin tingling with... what? Alarm certainly, but there was something else in the air, something that was not there moments before.
"Ah, I am Mr. Frost," the man said kindly, but his eyes never changed. "Dr. Cutter, you have quite startled us."
"Us?" Helen looked around. "You got a twin brother?"
"A partner," Mr. Frost corrected absent-mindedly, "but that is not relevant right now. What is relevant is that you need to go back. It's your cue to begin your redemption for you abandoning your husband all these years."
"This Claudia Brown woman can cover it for me," Helen said flatly.
"And so she will – but don't worry, you'll get your own reward," Mr. Frost said calmly. "In fact, your little stunt with the birds might actually work with your advantage. Here, take this and go to the stadium. You'll be a hero and start on your redemption even quicker than before."
"Take what?" Helen growled, ignoring the whole redemption part of Mr. Frost’s speech – until she figured out what this Mr. Frost was, she had no intention of aggravating him/it.
"This," Mr. Frost gestured and suddenly there was a crude flask of medicine in Helen's hands. "This is-"
"An anti-worm medicine from the leaves of a late Eocene mangrove plant," Helen snapped and stared, as something stirred within her – memories. "I've been in the Eocene – twice. I have been in the Jurassic – twice. I have been in the Triassic. I've been in the Carboniferous – and almost died there," Helen muttered, as she felt the power within her grow stronger, warping her foot, but growing stronger. "I am Helen Cutter; I dislike my husband, and will not be anyone's flunky! Heal this bloke – whoever he is - on your own, I'm gone!"
She firmly put down the crude flask and walked away from Mr. Frost. And as she did that, the power within her grew stronger...* * *
"And that was just the beginning," Helen continued. "I know that it sounds insane, but this Mr. Frost, he and his partner, he could make things in that world, and somehow I picked up on that trick too-"
"You could've saved Tom, but you didn't," Connor said softly. "Why?"
"'Cause I was a selfish bitch at that point, that's why," Helen exhaled. "When I was your age, I did what my parents and my husband – that's Nick, of course – told me to, and once I was free, it was exhilarating – I went crazy."
"And then Stephen died," Connor said hollowly.
"Yes, and I saw his face every time I went to sleep for a long while," Helen nodded sounding just as hollow.
"And you killed Nick-"
"Actually, he's around, just as you are," Helen shook her head. "Me shooting him actually brought him back here."
"What?" Connor exploded. "What- How-"
"That was actually my idea," Caroline said in a small voice entering the living room. "See-"
"No, wait, one thing at a time," Connor shook his head. "How does the ARC-world work? Moreover-"
"I have no idea," Helen confessed, "other than when I made someone die they returned her – or at least Nick and Christine Johnson did. I'm not quite sure about Claudia or you, for that matter."
"What about Caroline?" Connor pressed.
"She... was different. She wasn't fully immersed in this world yet, as you were by this point, so I was honestly surprised when she made it out," Helen confessed. "That also what convinced me that I had to get out myself – all this power was getting to my head, again. After Stephen died," Helen's voice noticeably fell, "well, that was a reality check that I required..."
"You loved him," Connor said matter-of-factly.
"Yes. And he loved Nick."
"Yes," Connor nodded, thoughtfully. "He did. He so did. That is not the point. The point is, Helen, why should we be friends after all we went through together?" He frowned. "Wait, that doesn't sound right-"
"We don't have to," Helen said in a small voice, very unlike from what Connor used to hear from her. "People know each other without being on a friendly basis a lot of times. Besides, I'm here just to test-out my books, and on birthdays, and-"
"I believe you," Connor said quickly, "but that doesn't mean what I haven't said before doesn't stand. Let's try to be friendly, shall we?" he pulled out his hand.
"Deal," Helen shook it firmly, relief coming off her in almost palpable waves. "And since I didn't get where I currently am without pushing my luck, do you care to come to greet Nick and Claudia when they return from their honeymoon?"
Connor just stared. "Yes?" was all he managed, weakly: life was not done surprising him yet, it seemed.TBC