Title: The Future is Ours to Make
Pairing/characters: Connor/Abby, Danny, Becker
Spoilers: 3.8, series 3 in general
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: approx 5670
Summary: Connor returns to the future looking for something to help him understand the artefact, but along the way he finds something even more important.
AN: Written for the Denial art prompt for this gorgeous artwork by luvconnor.
AN2: Big thanks to fififolle for the speedy beta.
“This place doesn’t get any prettier, does it?”
Connor glanced sideways at Danny, and then returned his attention to the landscape on the other side of the anomaly.
The future world was exactly as Connor had remembered it. The abandoned, corroded cars, and dilapidated buildings, the strange feel to the air as if the very atmosphere was more dense and humid. He supposed that might explain the giant flying bugs, because the last time insects had ever got that big was in the Carboniferous, when there was far more oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere than any other time in history. Of course, that didn’t tally with the buildings and the cars, because it took millions of years for the atmosphere to change that much, and these things couldn’t be more than a century old, if that. It was another conundrum that Connor tucked away in a corner of his mind to ponder. Right now he had to concentrate on not attracting the predators, and getting in and out of this place in one piece.
He glanced around at the rest of the team. Becker was still glaring at everyone, mostly Danny, because a full team of soldiers had been vetoed. Danny had argued that a smaller team stood less chance of attracting predators in the first place, while Becker had argued just as forcefully that when, rather than if, the crap hit the fan, the more guns they had the better. Connor privately agreed with Danny for the purposes of their current mission, but he had kept quiet.
Becker had at least won the argument about being better prepared this time. They were all carrying handguns with silencers, and Becker and Connor both had rucksacks full of stun grenades, climbing gear, first aid equipment, and assorted things that Connor didn’t like to poke too hard, but which Becker seemed to think were necessary.
On his other side, Abby looked tense. Of course, the last time they’d been here they had been looking for her brother, so Connor suspected there was a whole pile of bad memory associations going on for her right then. Truth be told, Connor didn’t exactly have good memories of this place either, but he needed to do this.
“Connor, where do you want to start?” Danny asked.
“We should try the buildings. Look for any strange technology, anything that looks like the artefact.”
“Or anywhere that looks like it’s been disturbed by people,” Abby added. “If Helen did find it here, we might be able to track where she went.”
Danny nodded, and Connor took a look around, picked a building at random and started heading towards it. He was peripherally aware of Becker prowling around the group, his gun at the ready, trying to look everywhere at once.
They made it to the nearest building without trouble, and Connor found himself letting out a breath he hadn’t even been aware he was holding. Inside it was dark and silent. He let Abby look for tracks before he started to wander around, shining his torch into corners to chase away the dusty shadows.
“What do you think this place was?” Danny asked in a loud whisper.
Connor shrugged. “Looks like some sort of office, maybe?”
“The only tracks I’ve found look like predators, and they’re old tracks,” Abby said. “No one’s been here for years.”
“Keep looking,” Connor said, trying to sound more confident than he felt.
“This doesn’t look like the sort of place the artefact would have been,” Abby insisted.
“Probably not, but we should check upstairs or something, just to make sure.”
“Do you seriously want to search every building, Connor? Because it’s going to take forever.” Abby was starting to sound impatient already.
Connor could feel Danny and Becker silently watching them while Abby stalked ahead.
“Maybe not every one of them, no,” he muttered.
“We don’t even know for sure that Helen did find the artefact in this time.”
Something in Connor snapped.
“For crying out loud, Abby, we’ve only been here five minutes!”
Abby spun round, and Connor threw his arm up to shield his eyes from the glare of her torch pointed right at his face.
“Cool it, you two,” Danny ordered.
Abby turned and headed off deeper into the building, followed moments later by Becker.
“What is going on with you and Abby?” Danny demanded. He looked honestly confused, as well as annoyed.
Connor shrugged again. “Nothing, apparently.”
He took one more look round the room, and then followed the bouncing torchlight ahead.
Nothing. And that was the problem, wasn’t it? Even after everything, even after Abby had kissed him the last time they came back from this future world, nothing new had happened. He was still living in Lester’s spare room, and the one time he had managed to have a conversation with Abby in the last couple of days she had danced around the subject for several minutes before mumbling something about not wanting anything to be weird between them, before disappearing at speed leaving Connor wondering exactly what had just happened.
Abby had kissed him. And now she seemed to want to forget it had ever happened. How the hell was that supposed to be not weird?
Connor shook his head and forced himself to concentrate on the job at hand. He had been as surprised as anyone when Danny and Lester agreed to his proposal that they go looking in the future world for more technology or clues that might shed light on the artefact. Now they were here, he couldn’t afford to get distracted. Connor had a horrible feeling that if they didn’t find anything now, he was never going to get another chance at this. And for so many reasons as far as Connor was concerned, failure was not an option.
“So,” Danny said, wandering alongside Connor. “I thought you and Abby were, you know...” He winked and nudged Connor’s shoulder.
Danny’s eyebrows went up.
“So that wasn’t you two I saw snogging back at the race track after last time?”
Connor’s lips pressed together, and he pretended to be looking at something in the torchlight.
“Ah, right,” Danny said, with a knowing look. “Like that, is it? Look mate, if you want my advice, take the bull by the horns. If you want Abby, go get her.”
Connor had a momentary flash of memory, of Stephen telling him almost exactly the same thing, in almost exactly the same words. He willed the memory away. He didn’t want to think about Stephen when they were in a world full of the creatures that had played a part in killing his friend.
“Me wanting Abby isn’t the issue,” Connor said without really thinking about it. “It’s what she wants that’s the problem.”
“Looked like she wanted you when she was snogging your brains out three days ago.”
Connor briefly closed his eyes and reminded himself that punching Danny was not a sensible or productive option right then.
“Yeah, well, clearly you don’t know Abby very well if that’s what you think.”
“She playing hard to get?”
More like bloody impossible to get, Connor thought, but he kept it to himself.
“Listen, Connor,” Danny said. “Abby likes you. Anyone who isn’t actually blind can see that. You just need to pick the right moment. Bit of action, bit of adrenaline, get the heart pumping, and then make your move. She’ll be all over you before you know it.”
Connor briefly entertained several very interesting mental images, but reluctantly dismissed them all.
“No offence, Danny, but I’m really not sure Abby will go for the caveman thing. In fact, she’d probably just hit me, and I like my nose in its unbroken state thank you very much.”
Danny patted his shoulder and gave him a sympathetic smile. “You’re probably right.”
As Danny strode ahead to catch up with the others, Connor could have sworn he heard the man muttering something that sounded suspiciously like, ‘grow a pair’. Connor scowled, and tried to concentrate on searching, whilst simultaneously trying to ignore a little corner of his brain that seemed to be pondering Danny’s words and agreeing with them.
By the time they came to a mutual agreement that the first three buildings contained nothing of interest, Connor was starting to wonder how long it would be before someone actually exploded. Becker was still glaring at anyone unfortunate enough to fall within his line of sight, Abby was radiating ‘pissed off’ vibes, and Danny was beginning to look bored already. On the plus side, they hadn’t run into any predators or giant insects so nothing was actively trying to kill them, but considering certain members of the team were starting to look like they were one sarcastic comment away from attempting to kill each other, the lack of creatures wasn’t actually as comforting as it ought to have been.
“Okay, let’s try the next one,” Connor said, bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet, and trying to inject as much enthusiasm as he could into the group. “I mean, it’s not like we really expected to find what we were looking for in the very first place we looked, right?”
“Considering we have practically no idea what we’re looking for in the first place, it’ll be a miracle if we find anything at all,” Becker muttered.
Connor bit back a sarcastic response, and simply headed back out onto the street and towards the next block. He found a door half open, and was trying to shove it the rest of the way when the others caught up with him. Danny grabbed his shoulder and pulled him out of the way, and he and Becker achieved in roughly five seconds what Connor had been trying to do for about thirty. Instead of going inside, though, Danny paused and looked back across the street.
“Over there, that’s where I saw Wilder and that woman.” He glanced round the group. “Tell you what, I’m going to check it out, see if I can find where they went. You lot make a start in here, I’ll catch up with you.”
Without waiting for discussion, Danny took a quick look round and darted off across the street.
Becker hissed a curse under his breath, glanced at Connor and Abby, and muttered, “Are you two okay on your own? Someone’s got to make sure he doesn’t get himself killed.”
“Yeah, go on,” Abby said.
Becker ducked below the level of the car roofs and followed after Danny, his watchful gaze still trying to cover all directions at once.
Connor watched them go, and then slipped into the new building and turned his torch back on.
“Let me go first,” Abby said. “If there are any tracks I won’t find them with you charging in and trampling all over them.”
“I wasn’t going to go ‘charging in’,” Connor complained, but he was already talking to the back of Abby’s head. He followed her, shining the light around at what seemed to be a much larger space than the previous buildings. If anything, this one seemed even more dilapidated than the other, with twisted metal and struts, damaged walls, and exposed pipes and what may once have been wiring. Connor wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing in relation to finding future technology.
The more he thought about it, in fact, the more he realised he had little or no idea what would be a good sign of something useful. It had been easy to say, ‘hey, we think the artefact came from that very same future world, let’s go and look for more stuff like it’, but the reality of achieving that goal was starting to look like it would be a great deal harder than he had thought. Still, he had no intention of admitting that out loud. This was his mission, and he wasn’t prepared to let them all say ‘I told you so’ just yet.
“So, any sign of tracks?” he asked, more from hope than expectation.
“We’ll find something sooner or later.”
Abby stopped right in front of him, and Connor almost overbalanced as he attempted to avoid walking straight into her.
“I don’t know if we will, Connor. This is like a needle in a haystack, and we don’t even know what the needle looks like.”
“Abby, we can’t give up already.” He knew he was starting to sound whiny, but couldn’t help it.
“Face it, Connor, this is a waste of time. We’re not going to find anything. Maybe we should just go and find Danny and Becker.”
“No, not yet. We’ve hardly given it a chance.”
“We’ve been lucky not to run into any predators already. It’s too dangerous for something that might not even be here.”
“That’s rich, coming from you.”
Connor hadn’t meant to say it, but the words slipped out before he could stop them.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Abby challenged. Her torch was shining in his face again, but this time Connor batted it to the side and looked right back at her.
“Have you forgotten the last time we were here? It’s all right when you want to go charging off and putting people in danger when it’s something you want to do, but not when it’s something I want?”
Abby glared at him. “My brother was lost out here,” she hissed. “It’s a bit different to you wanting to investigate a pet theory.”
“Abby, this is important to me. It’s not just about a theory. It’s about understanding the artefact.”
“It’s just a thing, Connor. You don’t even know what it is, or what it does.”
“We know enough that I think understanding it will help us to predict and maybe even control the anomalies. Think of the lives we could save if we knew in advance where and when an anomaly was going to appear.”
“We can’t save any lives if we’re all dead.”
Connor clenched his fists in frustration. She wasn’t listening, and she didn’t understand.
“Abby, it’s not just that. It’s about completing Cutter’s work. Helen thought the artefact was something important, and so did Cutter. The last thing I said to him before he died was a promise that I would find out why it was so important. I won’t let him down.”
Connor felt the press of tears and blinked them back. So many things in his life had ended in failure. He was determined that this would not be one of them.
“Connor...” Abby started, but then she froze.
Connor heard it too a moment later. A dull clang of metal on stone. It sounded like it came from deeper within this building. Abby silently drew her pistol and crept to the next doorway and peered into the darkness. Connor stayed back, but he slipped the rucksack off one shoulder and felt inside for one of the stun grenades Becker had insisted they bring. According to the soldier, it would fry the predators’ sonar at least for a few seconds. Connor hoped he was right.
Abby looked back at him and waved him to join her. He put the rucksack back on and moved forwards, a torch in one hand and a grenade in the other. It felt absurdly like one of those computer games he used to play; like Tomb Raider, but infinitely more terrifying.
“Look,” Abby whispered.
She indicated the corridor and shone her torch at the floor. It took Connor a moment, but then he saw it. Footprints in the dust. Human boot prints, in fact, and while Connor was no expert, he thought they looked pretty fresh.
Abby put her finger to her lips, gave Connor a meaningful look, and then she slipped out into the corridor and began to move along it, keeping close to the wall. Connor gave her enough of a head start that they wouldn’t be crowding each other, and then followed, mimicking Abby’s movements. His ears strained, listening for any noise, but all he could hear now were their quiet footsteps and his own breathing.
The corridor was long and straight, with occasional branches and doors. The tracks appeared to go everywhere, although according to Abby some, particularly the ones away from the main corridor, were much older than others.
They turned a corner and Abby held a hand up. Connor stopped, tightening his hold on the grenade. Abby nodded him to move again, and Connor followed her to see a door that was being held shut by a loop of rope around the door handle tied to what looked like a fire extinguisher bracket on the wall. It had to have been done deliberately, and almost certainly by someone who expected to be keeping giant bugs and predators out rather than people.
They crept to the door and Connor unhooked the loop of rope. He glanced at Abby and she nodded at him. Abby kicked the door open and spun back, aiming her pistol into the darkness beyond as the sound of the door banging echoed in the quiet. Nothing moved, and Connor felt momentarily silly for their precautions. But then, if this was Helen, he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of booby traps, so maybe not so silly after all.
Abby went in, and after a moment Connor followed her.
It seemed the small room was being used as a camp of some sort. There was a dirty-looking blanket in one corner, and some discarded foil bags that looked like they had once contained some sort of instant food rations. Connor’s torch light caught a flash of something that was almost hidden under the blanket, and he tugged it aside to investigate.
“Abby, look at this!” he whispered loudly.
Connor picked up a small black device, not dissimilar in size and shape to one of his hand-held detectors. One half of it seemed to be made of tough plastic, while the other half was clear Perspex of some sort. There were buttons and controls, but a few experimental pokes failed to turn it on or achieve any noticeable result.
“Looks like we might be in the right place after all,” he grinned.
“Connor, be warned that any possible variant on ‘I told you so’ will result in that getting shoved somewhere painful.” Abby gave him a warning look, but there was humour in her eyes.
“Let’s see what else we can find, eh?”
Without waiting for Abby to take the lead this time, Connor headed back into the corridor and further into the building.
He was right! There was future technology here, although he had to admit the device didn’t look anything like the artefact in style or design. Maybe Helen had been scavenging technology from all sorts of times and places, and they weren’t linked at all beyond the fact that Helen had taken an interest in them. But even so, if Helen had thought these things were important, then it had to be because they were linked to the anomalies in some way. It was only the thought that there might be more stuff here that was stopping Connor from heading straight home immediately to start working on this new device right away.
He turned a corner and found himself overlooking a large open area on a slightly lower level. A metal staircase led down into the new room, but what really caught Connor’s attention was a large freestanding workstation with a screen of some sort embedded into the surface.
He almost ran down the stairs to get to it, and knew as soon as he reached the workstation this was what he had been looking for. The surface had been wiped clean, unlike the dirt and dust-covered surfaces everywhere else in this future world. The screen was dark and blank, and there was no sign of it being switched on, but when he looked around the workstation he saw what looked like a jury-rigged power source or generator of some kind.
“Connor!” Abby hissed from somewhere up on the walkway.
The predator came out of nowhere. It dropped down and landed barely three feet from Connor, that terrible clicking sound deafeningly loud in the quiet. Connor stumbled backwards and crashed into the workstation. The predator turned to face him, and Connor froze. It lunged and the world erupted in fire and pain and Connor heard someone screaming. He hit the ground flailing, trying to somehow ward the predator off with his hands, and smacked it on the side of the head with his torch. He was still holding the stun grenade, but the predator was too close, hell, it was right on top of him. It drew an arm back, claws ready to rip him open.
Suddenly it slumped onto Connor’s prone body, twitching.
Connor carefully opened one eye. The predator seemed to have stopped trying to kill him. He opened the other eye as well, just to make sure. Abby appeared in his field of vision, the look on her face telling him exactly how close that one had been.
“Connor, are you okay?”
“How am I not dead?”
“I shot it. Twice.”
He shoved at the predator, but it was heavy, and the movement sent a flash of pain through his chest.
“Keep still,” Abby said in that tone of voice she used when she really meant it. She grabbed at the predator’s body and dragged while Connor pushed from beneath it, and between them they rolled it off him. Connor looked down at himself, decided that was entirely more blood than he was happy with, and sank back to the ground, his heart pounding.
He could hear Abby moving around, and then felt her manhandling the rucksack off him. Connor let her, aware he should probably be doing something to help, but the world was swimming in and out of focus and sitting up seemed to require far more effort than usual.
“Don’t you dare bloody die on me, Connor Temple,” Abby said, the words unmistakeably an order.
“Wasn’t planning to,” he mumbled. “Was that you screaming?”
“Me?” Abby sounded faintly incredulous. “Connor, there’s only one person here who screams like a girl, and it isn’t me.”
Connor hissed as a sharp pain spiked up his thigh. Abby seemed to be doing something down there, but lifting his head to look didn’t seem like such a good idea.
“That conversation we were having before about ‘I told you so’? I think maybe you might be a teeny bit justified,” Connor said.
“Well, I wasn’t going to say it, but...” Abby appeared in his field of vision again with an expression that seemed to be aiming for angry, but had got waylaid somewhere around terrified.
Connor felt something tugging at his trousers, and it took a moment for him to realise that Abby seemed to be undoing his belt.
“Um, Abby? Why are you taking my clothes off?”
And god, how many times had that been the start of a rather pleasant dream over the last few years? Connor giggled, and then winced again.
“Don’t get excited. I need your belt as a tourniquet.”
“Oh. That’s not so much fun.”
“C’mon, Abby. Give a bloke a break. It’s not every day a beautiful woman tries to undo my trousers.”
It occurred to him that he might be losing quite a lot of blood. That would probably explain why he had just said that. It would probably also explain why Abby hadn’t hit him for saying it.
There was a sharp tug, and Connor bit back another yell as Abby tightened the makeshift dressing around his thigh.
“Okay, I think it’s time we were leaving.”
Abby grabbed the rucksack and put it on, and then put an arm around Connor’s shoulders and helped him to sit up. His vision swam for a moment, but then he shook his head and took a deep breath. He could do this.
Leaning heavily on Abby, Connor got to his feet, wobbled for a moment, and then wrapped his arm tightly around Abby’s shoulders and steadied himself.
They took one step before Connor suddenly stopped again.
“Wait! The device thingy.”
He looked around and saw the device on the floor. “We’re not coming all this way and almost getting killed and having nothing to show for it.”
Abby muttered something that sounded quite uncomplimentary, but grabbed the device and shoved it into the rucksack.
“Now we’re leaving.”
Each step was painful, but Connor tried not to think about that. Instead he found himself focussing on Abby, on her determination, her unexpected strength in spite of her size. On the fact that Abby was both the most wonderful and the most frustrating person he had ever known.
“Abby? Why did you kiss me?”
Abby turned to him with a stunned expression.
“Really not the best time right now, Connor.”
“I just wondered. You know, especially after what you said the other day about not wanting it to be weird. So I just wondered why you did it in the first place.”
Connor suspected this was quite possibly the blood loss and shock talking, because he had certainly not made any conscious decision to ask her any of that.
“You really want to have this conversation right now?”
“Yeah. You can’t run away from me right now, so it’s the best time to have it.”
Okay, he really hadn’t thought about that before he said it. And yet, he knew it was true. The possibility that he might be dying even as they staggered up the stairs and back to the main corridor seemed to have destroyed what little sense of tact and self-preservation he had, so yeah, now seemed like exactly the right time to have this conversation.
For some reason Abby hadn’t hit him yet. Perhaps nearly dying was good for something after all.
“I just wanted to say thank you,” Abby said eventually. “For the stuff with Jack.”
Connor processed that.
“Okay. But Becker and Danny helped get him back as well. I didn’t see you kissing them.”
Abby didn’t reply. She was also apparently refusing to look at him, although that might have been because she was half carrying him and trying to look where they were both going at the same time. Connor wasn’t certain, but he thought he could see her swallowing repeatedly. Ignoring the squirming ball of terror in his stomach, he ploughed ahead with the rest of what had been going round and round in his head for the last three days.
“Abby, when you kissed me, I thought it meant something. Really meant something. I don’t understand why you did that if it didn’t mean anything.”
“It meant something.”
Connor barely heard Abby’s whispered voice. It felt like his heart was choking him when he replied.
“What did it mean?”
Abby finally looked at him again.
“It means you’re my friend and I was grateful. That’s all.”
Under normal circumstances Connor would have left it there. He would have backed off and quietly licked his wounds where no one could see. But these weren’t normal circumstances. He was bleeding, he was scared, he was maybe on the verge of finally living up to the promise he had made to Cutter (as long as they could get out of here without attracting any more predators), and in the face of all that, suddenly telling Abby exactly what he was thinking didn’t seem so terrifying after all.
“Abby, a box of chocolates says you’re grateful. A hug, or a peck on the cheek says you’re grateful. I know I’m not exactly experienced at this stuff, but I always thought a kiss like that says something completely different.”
“Fine,” Abby snapped. “I take it back. Forget it ever happened.”
“Yeah, same as always,” Connor muttered bitterly.
“What the hell do you want me to say, Connor?” She still wasn’t looking at him.
“I just want...” Connor faltered.
He looked up. Danny and Becker were running down the corridor towards them. Connor’s heart leapt. They were going to be okay. They were going to get out of here after all. But at the same time, he sensed his opportunity slipping away. He tightened his grip on Abby’s shoulder as Becker tried to pull him away.
“No,” Connor mumbled, but he was powerless to stop Becker picking him up and throwing him over his shoulder in a thoroughly practical yet completely undignified way.
Then he was vaguely aware of running, voices, gunshots. And then suddenly shards of time and bright lights and being wrapped in a blanket and people fussing over him.
As Connor finally drifted into unconsciousness, it occurred to him that Abby wasn’t one of those people.
Connor shifted and fidgeted, trying to find a position on the chair that didn’t make his leg hurt. After quite a lot of shuffling he concluded that no such position actually existed. Typical.
Nevertheless, the device was more than enough compensation for a bit of discomfort. Once he had finally managed to get himself out of the ARC’s med bay and into the labs (aided and abetted by some incredibly potent pain killers, and a helping hand from Danny), he had started working on the new device. After much pressing of buttons and poking, he had concluded it might be drained of power, so he had hooked it up to a modified charger and had been rewarded within an hour by a brief appearance of something that looked suspiciously like Cutter’s anomaly matrix on the Perspex display screen. That by itself told him it was connected to the artefact in some way, and as far as Connor was concerned that was more than enough justification for their trip to the future world.
Finally, he might be able to make good on that promise to Cutter.
He looked up, startled. Abby was standing in the doorway of the lab. She gave him a tight smile.
“Hi,” Connor replied. He smiled back, before it occurred to him that he no longer had the whole ‘bleeding to death’ get out if she wanted to hit him now.
“What are you doing in here? You should be at home resting.”
Okay, possibly she wasn’t going to hit him after all. In fact she sounded concerned.
“I’m fine,” Connor lied. “I wanted to get started on this. Come look, Abby. It’s definitely got something to do with the artefact. I just need to get it powered up and then I can start to figure out what it is, and what it does.”
Abby came over and looked at it for all of ten seconds, before turning her attention back to him.
“It’s nearly ten at night, everyone else has gone home, and you nearly died today, Connor. I think this can wait until tomorrow, no matter how important it is.”
Connor thought of the spare bedroom in Lester’s flat. Actually, he’d rather be here working.
“Come on, I’ll give you a lift,” Abby said. She prised the device out of his hands and put it down on the bench. “We can talk on the way.”
Connor frowned. Talk? Oh, great, they were back to this again.
“What? About what I said earlier? I meant it, Abby. I meant every word. So if you just want to give me the talk about not being weird again, I’m not interested.”
“Connor?” Abby looked as surprised as Connor felt.
He didn’t even let himself think about it this time. He was tired, he was hurting, and he had finally realised he was fed up of not knowing where he stood. Maybe Danny had been right after all.
Connor forced himself to look at Abby.
“Abby, I’m sorry, but I meant what I said. I... you know how I feel about you. And when you kissed me I thought maybe you felt something as well. I don’t know what you want from me, Abby. I don’t know how you feel because one minute you’re kissing me and the next you take it back like it wasn’t anything. Like it didn’t mean anything. But it meant something to me, Abby. And you can’t keep taking it back every time you change your mind. Either you mean it or you don’t. And if you don’t mean it, please, just... stop.”
He swallowed, his mouth and throat dry. His eyes were anything but dry, and after a moment Connor had to look away. He wouldn’t let her see him cry over her. Not again. Not any more.
The silence in the room stretched on. He could feel her, so close, and a million miles away at the same time.
Oh, god. He’d blown it. She was never going to speak to him again. For a second Connor wondered if he had just made the biggest mistake of his life. If he had pushed her too far, too hard. If that tiny sliver of hope in spite of the pain was better than knowing that he would never have a chance with Abby at all.
Abby stepped into his field of view and a small hand caught his face and turned him to face her again. Then she leaned forward and kissed him. Just the slightest brush of lips, just for a moment.
“That meant something, Connor,” Abby said softly. “I don’t know exactly what yet, but it meant something.”
Connor hardly dared to breathe.
Abby chuckled. “Yes, really. If you come home, maybe we can find out what.”
It took Connor a moment to register exactly what she had said.
“Home? You mean, home home?”
She smiled at him, a hopeful, cautious, terrified smile.
“Yes, Connor. Home.”
She held her hand out, and Connor took it and slid out of the chair.
He thought Cutter would probably understand him taking the night off, under the circumstances. And maybe even Danny would be proud of him.