Title: Dressed for Success
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: approx 2600
Summary: Connor’s attempts to impress Abby don’t go quite how he planned.
Set early series 2, pre-Caroline, so I guess it assumes a slightly longer gap between the main events of 2.1 and 2.2.
Connor looked himself up and down in the mirror. He had to admit, this wasn’t quite what he’d had in mind.
It had all started a few days ago. He had finally decided that he needed to stop waiting for a miracle to happen, and take some sort of positive action to get Abby to notice him. ‘Notice’, in the sense of romantic potential, and not just ‘notice’ in the sense of him being her housemate who hadn’t done the washing up for three days. So Connor did what he always did when he wanted to attract a girl – he asked a friend for help. In this case, he picked Stephen.
“If you really want to impress Abby, maybe you should change the way you look,” Stephen had suggested. Admittedly, he had only suggested this after several minutes of smirking while Connor tried to explain that really he did know what he was doing with girls, but Abby was different.
“What’s wrong with the way I look?” Connor had been genuinely baffled.
“Well…” Stephen gestured vaguely at his baggy trousers, colourful waistcoat, and clashing shirt.
Okay, point taken.
So Connor had gone clothes shopping. But after the third time he caught himself picking something up that would go really well with an outfit he already owned, he decided it was time to stop and think. Okay, what did Abby like? Well, that one was easy. Abby liked Stephen. So after a slightly worrying amount of thought about what would look good on Stephen, Connor finally acquired a new look.
But now, standing in front of the mirror, he wasn’t so sure. The shirt wasn’t too bad, quite nice in fact, a dark blue silk thing that he had to physically stop himself from buttoning all the way to the top. It was a bit… figure hugging for his tastes. But the shirt had nothing on the black leather trousers which were so tight that quite frankly he wasn’t certain if he would be able to sit down in them without causing a rather nasty crushing injury to a part of his anatomy that he’d really rather not have crushed thank you very much. The entire ensemble certainly left little to the imagination, which he supposed was rather the point. But still…
Connor fiddled and adjusted for so long that he very nearly lost his bottle entirely and took the whole lot off. It wasn’t that he was ashamed of his body or anything, just that he had never felt very comfortable with the idea of showing it off. He was still dithering over how many buttons to leave undone on his shirt when he glanced at the clock.
Crap! Abby was going to be home any minute. Connor swept his hair back in an attempt to make it look like a style, rather than merely a messy mop that had parked itself on his head and stayed there. Then he scrambled down the stairs as fast as the leather trousers would allow him.
Just in time, he heard the door bang and Abby running up the stairs. He tried to arrange himself in a nonchalant pose, and surreptitiously adjusted the trousers one last time.
“Connor, hi,” Abby raced past him, throwing her bag into the sofa on the way to the kitchen. “Sorry to ask at the last minute but can you feed the lizards tonight? I’m in a hurry and I’m running late. Please Connor?”
“Uh, yeah, sure.” Okay, not quite going as planned so far. But then, she hadn’t really actually looked at him so far. “You going out or something?”
“Yeah. I’m meeting a guy for a drink.”
Oh, crap. Connor’s heart sank like the Titanic. Abby dashed back out of the kitchen eating a sandwich. She glanced at him, carried on, and then suddenly did what amounted to a double take and a handbrake spin to stop and stare at him.
Oh, this just got better and better.
“You look… different,” she finally managed.
Connor wondered if the thermostat was just set too high again, or if his face really was radiating as much heat as it felt like it was right then. Still, at least she’d noticed, right?
“Uh, yeah. Thought I’d try out a new look,” he mumbled, rather unconvincingly, he thought. He couldn’t help himself, and even as part of his brain tried to dig a hole and hide in it, he heard the other half clutching desperately at whatever optimism he had left. “What do you think?”
Abby stared for rather longer than was entirely polite. Connor wanted to force his hands into his pockets to stop them fiddling with anything, but there was no way he could actually get his hands into the trouser pockets, so he ended up wrapping his arms around his chest in a defensive posture that he knew was sending all the wrong signals, but right then he suspected the situation couldn’t really get much worse than it already was.
“You already said that,” Connor pointed out.
“Yeah.” Abby put the remains of her sandwich down and walked over to him. She carefully pulled his arms away and adjusted the shirt collar a little. Connor briefly forgot to breathe when her fingers brushed against his skin. “I was just a bit surprised,” she said after a moment.
She looked him up and down, and Connor thought, god he hoped, her appraising expression slowly melted into an appreciative one.
“It looks good,” Abby finally decided. She smiled at him. “So what’s this for?” Her smile suddenly got bigger. “Are you trying to impress a girl?”
“Um… uh…” Connor cursed the entire dictionary for deserting him at this crucial moment.
“So, who is she? Anyone I know?” Abby asked, still smiling.
And that was the moment when Connor lost his nerve entirely. What the hell had he been thinking? What sort of idiot thought that a wardrobe change would make Abby see him as anything other than what he was?
“No,” he couldn’t quite meet her eye when he spoke. “In fact, she actually just called and cancelled.”
“Aww, I’m sorry.” He was far too intent on not looking at her to know whether the commiseration was genuine or not.
“It’s no big deal or anything. You go out, I’ll keep an eye on Rex.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. Go on. Have fun.” Connor was quite impressed with himself when he managed to sound like he really meant that last bit.
“We can talk later, yeah?” Abby was already picking up her bag and heading for the stairs. Connor wondered if it was just his imagination, or whether she lingered at the top of the stairs and watched him for slightly longer than was necessary before she left.
Connor waited a full ten seconds after he heard the door shut before he slumped down onto the sofa.
He wasn’t entirely sure over the sound of his own yelp, but he could have sworn he heard the damn trousers squeak when he did that.
Rex scampered across the back of the sofa and chittered at him.
“Thanks mate,” he commented in a truly defeated voice. “I’m glad you think it’s funny.”
Connor was still lounging on the sofa when Abby came home a few hours later. He had got changed into something far more loose and comfortable, which almost certainly meant that it didn’t rate anywhere on the sexy scale in the slightest. Which was probably a rather apt summation of what Abby thought of him in general, Connor thought bitterly.
He hadn’t expected her back so early, otherwise he would have got out of the way sooner. As it was he didn’t have time to move before she stomped up the stairs, muttering and glaring at the world in general.
“Abby? Are you okay?” he tried tentatively.
“God, I hate bloody men,” Abby slammed her bag down. Connor backed away slowly. She glanced up at him and her expression softened slightly. “Present company excepted.”
“What? You don’t hate me, or you don’t think I’m a man?” Even as he spoke it occurred to him that it perhaps wasn’t the best time for such levity, but instead of being angry, Abby just flopped onto the sofa and closed her eyes.
“I’m guessing it wasn’t a good night, then?” Connor realised straight away that he’d just made a bid for the stupidest statement of the night award.
“Don’t ask,” Abby replied without opening her eyes.
Fair enough. Connor had no particular inclination to know about Abby going out with other men anyway, even if it hadn’t gone well.
“I mean,” Abby suddenly continued. “Why? Why can’t a couple of drinks just mean exactly that? All I wanted to do was have a drink, get to know him a bit, no pressure. Turns out he’s only interested in one thing.”
“God, Abby are you okay?” Connor felt a sudden flip of fear that something horrible might have happened to her.
Abby cracked an eye open and glanced at him. She must have seen the worry on his face because suddenly she was really looking at him.
“Oh, no, it was nothing like that,” she reassured him. “I didn’t give him the chance. Once I realised he couldn’t keep his hands to himself I told him in no uncertain terms to piss off, and walked out before he got the chance to do anything.”
Connor couldn’t disguise his relief. But still…
“Really, Connor, it’s fine,” she said. “I’m more angry with myself than anything else, for not figuring out what kind of man he was sooner.”
Connor felt a sudden insane rush of protectiveness towards Abby. Insane, because he knew damn well that she was probably tougher than he was in all honesty, and if it came to a fight between Abby and, well, anybody, Connor would probably put his money on the diminutive blonde. In Abby’s case, size really was deceptive.
Connor suddenly had an idea. He might not be able to protect Abby, but there was one thing that he could do.
“I know what you need,” he said confidently.
“What?” Abby looked vaguely intrigued, and possibly a little worried at the same time.
“Just stay there. Give me five minutes, and don’t come in the kitchen.”
“Connor?” she definitely sounded worried then, but Connor was already off. His first instinct had been to make a cup of tea. But clearly tonight went beyond tea. He raided his cupboards, hoping he still had all the ingredients and that they were all still in date. It had been a while since he’d last done this.
When he finally emerged from the kitchen carrying two large, steaming mugs, Abby was still on the sofa, but she apparently hadn’t followed his instructions to stay there, because she had got changed and was curled up in her large fluffy dressing gown.
“What’s this?” she peered at the mug he handed her.
He watched with a tiny feeling of trepidation as Abby sipped at the extra milky, extra chocolaty hot chocolate, complete with a carefully crafted mountain of squirty cream floating on top of it, and on top of that a generous scatter of chocolate sprinkles. It was the drink that his grandmother used to make for him when he was a kid, and that he now occasionally made for himself when he was feeling down. This was the first time Connor had ever had the desire or the opportunity to make it for someone else.
He hadn’t realised he was holding his breath until Abby’s mouth curled into the first smile he had seen since she got back.
“Wow. That’s chocolaty.”
“Yep. That’s the point.”
He sat down next to her. The warm glow he was feeling right then might have been due to his first mouthful of hot chocolate, or it might have been the simple fact that he had managed to make Abby smile again. Abby waited until he was settled, and then she tucked her feet up and leaned against him, resting her head on his shoulder. Connor’s breath caught for a moment. Then he realised that he, too, was smiling a little as they just sat together drinking quietly.
“So, this guy,” Connor said after a while. “Do you want me to beat him up for you?”
“He’s bigger than you,” Abby pointed out without moving from where she was.
Connor hesitated a moment. “Do I still get macho points if I persuade Stephen to beat him up instead?”
Abby laughed. “Nobody needs to beat him up. But thanks for offering.”
“What else are mates for?”
Abby paused, and then twisted slightly so she could look at him. A small smile played at her lips.
“So, do I need to beat up that girl who stood you up?”
Connor still felt slightly awkward about the lie and quickly replied, “No, it’s fine.”
“Well, for the record, I think she must be an idiot.”
Connor was too surprised for a moment to reply. In fact, he had absolutely no idea what to say in the slightest, and her face, so close to his, was distracting him far more than was safe. So, in a desperate attempt to stop himself doing something stupid, Connor took refuge in distraction and switched the TV on.
“Shall we find some late night trashy film or something?” he said a little too brightly. If Abby noticed she didn’t say anything.
“Long as it’s not horror,” she said, snuggling slightly against his arm to make herself comfortable.
Connor channel hopped for almost a minute before something caught his eye.
“Cool! Do you mind if I leave this on?”
Abby took a moment to identify what he had stopped at.
“This used to be my favourite film when I was a kid,” Connor enthused.
“I thought Star Wars was your favourite film?”
“Well, yeah, obviously it is now. But I was about nine years old when I first saw
Abby didn’t reply for a moment. Then she asked, “Do you still like it now, even considering what we do?”
“Yeah. But mostly now I can’t watch it without pointing out all the scientific inaccuracies with the dinosaurs.”
Abby poked him in the ribs.
“Connor, you are such a geek.”
Ordinarily he might have taken that as an insult, but he could tell she was smiling, and her voice sounded affectionate rather than irritated, so he guessed perhaps on this occasion it wasn’t meant as such a bad thing.
They sat there, curled up together, and after a while Connor dared to slide his arm around Abby’s shoulders. Without a moment of hesitation, she nestled closer and rested her head against his chest. His eternal optimism took this as a good sign for the future, but for tonight he knew it was nothing more than a platonic gesture of comfort for both of them. Absolutely nothing more.
And yet, as they heckled the raptors, and argued about whether it would be totally cool or just utterly terrifying to get a real live T-rex through an anomaly, Connor found himself feeling strangely happy. It may not have been exactly what he’d intended for the evening. But, he decided, right now this felt pretty good.