Off the Rack

Spoilers: Seasons 1, 2

Disclaimer: I don't own Primeval or anything associated with it.

Connor sat on a stool at the ARC, soldering a couple of wires together. He was working on a remote-controlled camera that he could fly through anomalies that were too high to drive through. It was one of his more brilliant ideas, if he did say so himself. However no one else seemed to have any faith that he could accomplish this task, which greatly annoyed Connor. Seriously how hard could it be to jerry-rig a toy helicopter with all the cameras and other things he needed?

Apparently, harder than he thought.—

As he bent closer to the wires, tongue pushed between his teeth, he vaguely noticed a strange smell that he'd never smelled before when he'd soldered. Acrid and sharp, kind of like something was burning, something non-metallic.

A cloud of white CO2 blasted across him, making Connor sputter and drop his tools, ruining his morning's work. He jumped off the stool, coughing and blinking as the CO2 continued to blow over him. "What the hell?"

It finally stopped. As the clouds faded away, Connor found himself staring at Cutter, who was breathing hard and glaring at him.

"Next time," said Cutter, waving the nozzle of the fire extinguisher in Connor's direction, "try not to set your clothes on fire."

"What?" Connor looked down, but he didn't see anything wrong. His scarf was still in one piece, his waistcoat didn't have a mark on it, and his brand new shirt was still pristine yellow.

"Your sleeve, Connor, your sleeve."

That's when Connor noticed his left arm. His sleeve was completely charred, the yellow material now mostly black. The cuff was gone and the rest of it looked close to disintegrating. "Oh my God." He pulled the material away from his skin before he remembered you weren't supposed to do that with burns in case the material had fused to your skin. But luckily it came away easily, so he pushed the sleeve up and out of the way. Then he tore off his fingerless glove, but it seemed to have just been charred a bit.

"What happened? What did you do?" Abby rushed to Connor's side, dropping off a stack of papers she'd been carrying when she entered the room.

"He set himself on fire." Cutter tucked the fire extinguisher back into his case along the wall before joining Abby.

"Not on purpose." Connor felt faint as he looked at his forearm. The skin was red and swelling, and a few blisters had started to form. "Wow, that really hurts. A lot."

"Oh Connor," said Abby, patting him on the back. "I think you need to go to hospital."

"Yeah," said Cutter, sighing. "Lester will love this. Another accident at the ARC."

"Sorry," said Connor, though it was hard to concentrate on anything other than how much his skin burned. It felt like it was still on fire.

"Don't worry about it," said Cutter. "I'll take care of Lester. You go get patched up. Be prepared for a safety lecture, though."

"Okay, thanks." Connor nodded absently. "Great, safety lecture. But you do you think I could get some ice first? My arm is going to burst into flames."

"Go on, get out of here." Cutter waved them out of the room.

Abby led Connor to the break room, got him set up with a bag of ice, which she wrapped inside a towel so it wouldn't be too cold, and drove him to the hospital. Once there, the doctor examined him and decided it was a second-degree burn, but just a superficial one, so they sent him home with antibiotic cream and instructions to take over-the-counter pain relievers as needed.

"I guess this shirt is ruined," said Connor when they got home. "Or maybe I can just wear it with the sleeves rolled up. You wouldn't see the burn marks hardly at all then."

Abby gave him her patented are-you-nuts look and put the kettle on for tea. "Connor, seriously, how much did you spend on that shirt?"

He got himself a glass of water and popped a couple of pain relievers. "Two pounds," he said proudly.

"It's a rag now, Connor. Throw it out. You got your money's worth already."

"But it was brand new at the thrift store. That's why it was such a bargain. Still in the wrapper and everything."

Abby sighed as Connor plopped down on the couch and gingerly rested his bandaged arm on a pillow.

When the tea was ready, she carried two mugs into the living room. "How's your arm feel?" she asked, changing the subject.

"Better." He glanced at the white bandage. "Whatever ointment they put on it really dulled the pain. And they said I shouldn't get a scar either."

"That's good. Next time, roll up your sleeves, yeah? Or wear short sleeves. I don't fancy taking you to the hospital."

Abby sounded so serious that Connor looked over at her. She was tucked into the end of the couch, knees drawn up and staring at him over the top of her mug, brows drawn together in concern.

"You were worried about me, weren't you?" he asked, halfway teasing and halfway serious.

"Of course I was," she said, totally serious, which made Connor feel as warm inside as the tea in his mug.

Then she nudged his leg with her foot, trying to hide a smile. "I still need this month's rent from you."

They grinned at each other and sipped their tea.

The next day, Connor got a long lecture from Lester, and to his dismay, he was put in charge of next month's safety talk since he had first-hand experience with fires in the ARC.

Stephen and Jenny took great pains to rib him all day long, not letting him near the microwave, the coffee maker, or anything that could remotely catch fire. When he claimed the fire hadn't been his fault, Jenny had exclaimed "liar, lair, pants on fire," which cracked them both up. At least Abby hadn't laughed at that one. And she'd even glared at them for being insensitive, which he really appreciated.

Cutter approached him at the end of the day while he was working on his helicopter, trying to figure out what he could salvage from the accident the day before.

"I think you've learned your lesson," Cutter said, leaning against the work table. He idly picked up a small motor and turned it over in his hands. "So I won't lecture you more. But I can't help wondering, why do you always have to learn the hard way?"

Connor shrugged. "I'm just trying to do a good job."

"I know you are." Cutter set the motor down. As he started to walk away, he turned and gave Connor a long look from head to toe.

"What?" asked Connor, glancing down at himself, almost afraid he'd somehow caught fire again without knowing it.

"Nothing," said Cutter, shaking his head. "No, maybe it's not nothing. I know we don't have a dress code here at the ARC. I mean, look at me." He gestured to his own attire of a plain grey t-shirt and jeans. "But maybe it wouldn't hurt for you to dress a little better."

"Better? What do you mean?"

"Less clothes for one. Most people wear one shirt, and you've got on . . . it looks like three. And do any of them fit you?"

Connor felt his face burn as he fiddled with his scarf. "It's me style is all."

"I know it is, and it's very, um, distinctive. But Connor, you're not a student anymore. You're a professional, and it might be a good idea to buy some nicer clothes. They don't have to be fancy or anything, just things that won't get caught on moving machinery or catch on fire."

"Okay," said Connor, not able to meet Cutter's eyes.

"Ask Abby," said Cutter, pushing away from the table. "I'm sure she can help."

Connor nodded and slumped on his stool. He'd felt so good about himself just the day before, with his brand new thrift-store bargain of a shirt that was a dress shirt and much nicer than any t-shirt Cutter liked to wear. So what if it was a little big on him. It was a button-down shirt.

And now he had to change how he dressed, all because of a stupid accident. Connor didn't like it. He didn't like it at all.