Title: Coping Strategies
Pairing/characters: Abby, Becker
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: approx 1970
Summary: Abby doesn’t need comfort.
Abby hugged her arms around herself and stared out of the window. She wasn’t really seeing the outside world, though. She didn’t want to see the street below and the horse drawn carriages and all the people walking around in their Edwardian finery. Or, considering where they were living, not so finery.
She heard footsteps thudding slowly up the stairs but didn’t bother turning to look. She knew who it was; she had seen him walking down the street minutes earlier, head bowed by sheer exhaustion.
“Hey,” Abby said when he entered the room.
Becker grunted, and stopped to take his boots off.
“There’s warm water in the bowl. And food in the pot.”
He had found work as a labourer on a construction site. It was the type of job that took men on for short term work and didn’t ask too many questions. Becker never actually complained, but Abby knew he hated it almost as much as she hated being stuck inside and forced to wear these stupid, impractical dresses.
The sound of splashing water filled the room for a few minutes. Abby knew she ought to have something to eat as well, but she wasn’t hungry, and even if she was, the stew was even more unappetising today than it had been yesterday. Becker didn’t seem to care, just as long as there was a lot of it, but Abby was bored of the same food all the time. It was nearly as bad as the cretaceous, without any of the excitement and interest of actually hunting and gathering to get it.
Without the boots, Becker moved surprisingly quietly for a big man, but even so Abby was aware of him when he came over and stood behind her. She glanced up at their faint reflections in the window, and saw the concern in his face.
“Abby? You okay?”
She shrugged. “Yeah, fine.”
Abby wasn’t expecting it when Becker slipped his arms around her and rested his cheek on her head. It was so unexpected that she didn’t even react for a moment.
Abby twisted and pushed him off. Becker stumbled back a step, a hurt, surprised look on his face. For a second it reminded her so forcefully of Connor’s puppy eyes that she had to look away and clamp down on the sudden emotion.
“What the hell are you doing, Becker? I’m not some stupid damsel in distress. I don’t need comforting.”
How dare he? Abby fed the anger surging inside. Anger was good. Anger was better than the alternative.
Becker must have been exhausted because it took several seconds longer than usual for the shutters to come down. He backed away another step and shook his head.
“My mistake. Of course you don’t.” Every word was clipped.
“I don’t need your comfort.”
Becker held her glare for another few seconds, and then looked away. He scrubbed a hand over his face.
“I never said you were the one who needed comfort.”
He turned and walked out.
What? What the hell was that supposed to mean?
Abby was tempted to just ignore it. This was Becker, after all. He wasn’t known for displays of emotion or long heartfelt discussions about his feelings. In that respect, at least, they were both far too alike. Besides, she had no idea what to say to him. She never had been good at that kind of thing, even with Connor. Leave him alone to do... whatever the hell Becker did when it got too much. They’d be back to normal by morning.
With no conscious decision on her part to do so, Abby’s feet led her to the doorway of the bedroom.
Becker was sitting on the edge of his bed, elbows resting on his knees, his head hanging and his eyes closed. He didn’t look up, even though he had to know she was there.
Abby didn’t want to do this. She hated doing this kind of thing.
She went over and sat next to him.
Yes, they were definitely far too alike.
Abby put an arm round his waist and leaned against him and sighed. Becker was warm and solid and muscled where Connor was soft and cuddly. She missed Connor’s cuddles. After a moment Becker sat up and put his arm around her shoulders and squeezed gently.
Neither of them spoke for a long time. This wasn’t something that they did, ever. Abby wondered if Becker was as lost as she was about what was supposed to happen here.
“How did you do it in the cretaceous?” Becker asked. His voice was quiet.
Connor. She had survived the cretaceous because Connor was with her. But Abby had never even admitted that to Connor, she sure as hell wasn’t telling Becker.
“One day at a time.”
She felt Becker nod.
“We’ll be fine.”
Abby wondered who he was trying to convince.
Becker twisted slightly so he could put his other arm around her as well, and he tugged her closer. Once again his face rested against her head, and she felt soft breaths against her skin.
“You’re not Connor,” Abby said in a whisper.
Becker chuckled. The sound startled Abby, and she realised it was probably the first time in at least a week that she had heard him laugh.
“I don’t want to be Connor.”
Abby smiled, and then processed that comment and smacked his chest.
He huffed another laugh.
“You know what I mean.”
“Yeah,” Abby felt herself smile. “The hats wouldn’t suit you at all.”
Becker squeezed her again, and then let go and extricated himself. Abby sat back and looked at him properly. He still looked like he needed about eight hours of decent sleep, but the lost look in his eyes had gone, at least.
He broke eye contact after a moment, and then there was slightly awkward silence.
“I’ve been thinking we should move to the country,” Abby said.
“Yeah. We should find a farm or something. I could work with the animals and you could...”
“Farms always need labourers,” he said.
She knew it was an arrangement that would suit her far more than it suited him, but Abby was sick of doing nothing. She suspected Becker knew that, and just hoped he wouldn’t argue. Of course, it would also take them further away from the anomaly site. Abby hoped he wouldn’t argue about that, either. They had already given it three months. Sooner or later they would have to start planning for the long term. Abby hoped Becker would understand that without the need for the arguments she’d had with Connor in the cretaceous.
Hope. Ironic, that was the one thing Abby had pretty much given up on.
“We would have to leave a message for the others, in case the anomaly comes back.”
Abby’s breath caught. She hadn’t actually expected it to be that easy.
“Yeah. We could do that.” Just in case.
“When I was fifteen I had a summer job on a farm,” Becker said, his voice sounding almost wistful.
“I never thought of you as a summer job type person.”
Becker smiled. “My father hated it, but it was nice to have some money in my pocket that didn’t have strings attached.”
Abby found herself smiling back at him. “See, I knew it was a good plan.” She hesitated. “Besides...”
He glanced at her. “Besides what?”
Abby turned the thought over in her mind again. It had occurred to her a few days ago, and the terrible inevitability was as frightening as any creature from the past.
“Becker, it’s 1909. If we’re still here in a few years...”
The smile slipped from Becker’s face and he nodded. “Yes, I’ve thought of that as well.” His gaze dropped and he looked at his hands. He swallowed. “Farming would be a protected occupation.”
Abby’s heart leapt a second before she registered the pain and resignation that statement had dredged up. He wouldn’t be so stupid, would he? Surely his ridiculous bloody sense of duty wouldn’t make him want to answer the call for men, even though they both knew it would be almost certain death? He couldn’t do that. She wouldn’t let him.
“I know,” he snapped. He breathed slowly, refusing to look at her. “I know, okay.”
Abby knew a warning to let it go when she saw one. There was still five years before it was going to become a real issue. If Abby had to protect the stupid, stubborn, honourable bastard from himself, she would do. No matter what he thought on the subject.
“So,” Abby asked, aiming for a complete change of subject. “Who do you want to get home for?”
“Obviously I want to get back to Connor, so who are you missing the most?”
“What makes you think there is someone?” Becker said. He appeared to be aiming for nonchalant, but Abby could see the twinkle in his eye.
“Oh come on, Becker. You can tell me.” She nudged him with her shoulder and gave him a sly smirk. “My money is on Jess or Matt.”
“What?” Becker stared at her, his expression somewhere between amused and scandalised.
“Go on, who is it?”
“What makes you think it’s either of them? It might be Lester.”
“Ewwwww! I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say that. Seriously, Jess or Matt?”
Becker rolled his eyes, and then nudged her back with his shoulder.
“You’ll have to wait and see which of them gets the biggest hug when we get home.”
“Like that’s going to tell me anything,” Abby complained. “You hug everyone!”
“I do not!”
He was actually pouting now. Abby wished they talked like this more often. It was the most fun she’d had for ages.
“Becker, you are the most huggy soldier I have ever met! And you do realise you haven’t actually denied that you’re interested in either of them?”
“No, I haven’t.”
Abby rolled her eyes.
“Fine. Keep your secrets. I’ll work it out eventually.” She gave him a sly smile. “Maybe I’ll just pay more attention the next time you talk in your sleep.”
“I do not talk in my sleep!”
Abby was enjoying this far too much. “You do occasionally.”
“Okay, what do I talk about?” Becker challenged.
“Guns, mostly. But there was one last week about hedgehogs.”
“You were very definite about not hurting the hedgehogs.”
“Well that just proves I’ve been spending too much time around you,” Becker said, but Abby could tell he was trying not to laugh.
In truth, she had only heard him talking in his sleep twice, but it was far too good an opportunity to waste.
There was suddenly a loud grumbling noise from Becker’s stomach, and he looked sheepish as Abby laughed.
“I get the feeling you’re trying to tell me something,” Abby said.
“You mentioned food before?”
Abby stood up and held out a hand.
“Come on. It’s just the usual, but there’s plenty of bread to go with it.”
Becker took her hand and hauled himself to his feet. “Sounds perfect.”
“You really will eat anything, won’t you?”
“When you’ve eaten military field rations, homemade stew and bread sounds pretty good.” He smirked down at her. “Even your homemade stew.”
Becker dodged a smack, grinning.
“Matt or Jess?” Abby shot out of nowhere.
Becker opened his mouth and then snapped it shut again.
“You’re going to have to try harder than that, Abigail.”
He headed for the kitchen, leaving Abby standing in the doorway watching him, a smile on her face.
“Oh, I will,” she said to herself. She needed something to distract herself from the boredom until they could get out of the city, and teasing Becker would do just nicely.