Title: Fixing Things (follows on from Broken Pieces)
Warnings: None. (Less angst this time)
Spoilers: general series 2.
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: approx 2200
Summary: It is said that the greatest journey starts with a single step. They just neglect to tell you that the first steps are usually the hardest.
AN. Written as a thank you present for Alyse, who very patiently put up with my extreme lack of techie skills, and provided massive amounts of assistance and enabling for my A-LP habit recently.
The fact was, Connor’s rejection had so completely thrown her that for about quarter of an hour afterwards all she could do was sit in the living room replaying their conversation over in her head, trying to work out what the hell had just gone so wrong.
Kissing Connor had been a spur of the moment thing. It wasn’t something that Abby had planned, at least not consciously. Imagined, yes, but not planned. It wasn’t like she had intended to suddenly jump him. And she certainly hadn’t been having any fantasies about what he was like in bed or anything. Okay, maybe the odd one. But that was all. Because she didn’t think about Connor in that way. Never had, until now. They were just mates, right?
So why had she kissed him?
And why did this hurt so much now?
Abby stood up, suddenly determined to go and talk to him. Then she sat down again. Maybe right now wasn’t the best time to talk. Maybe he needed to be alone for a bit. Abby had seen the look on his face as he fled the room, and she knew she wasn’t the only one who was hurting. Besides, what exactly was she going to say? “Sorry about the last six months worth of rejections, do you fancy making out now?” Or maybe, “Sorry your last relationship turned out to be a complete lie, how about some casual sex instead?” Abby snorted back a laugh at the sheer inappropriateness. What was it he’d said? “Don’t do this unless it’s real.” Abby wasn’t stupid, she knew what that meant. She understood Connor well enough to know that no matter how flippant or shallow he might appear on the outside, he wasn’t a man who was content with half measures. There was nothing casual about any relationship with Connor, be it platonic or otherwise. When he loved he gave everything, and he wanted the same in return. It was one of the things that Abby loved about him, but right then it was the one thing that was stopping her from following her natural instinct to pursue this, because until she knew herself exactly how she felt, whether it was real, she didn’t want to do something that might in any way lead him on.
Abby got up and took their abandoned mugs into the kitchen, trying to find something to do because just sitting here thinking wasn’t helping in the slightest. Stacking the mugs in the sink led to clearing the table, which led to clearing the worktop. Abby knew it was simply an avoidance technique, but right then she didn’t care, and suddenly she was a frenzy of organising and straightening and throwing away. Until she found the box of oatcake things and stopped dead. Abby knew they weren’t hers, and she was damn certain they weren’t Connor’s. Which meant they had to be Caroline’s. It had been over two weeks and they were still finding reminders of her all over the flat. Abby glared at the box for a full thirty seconds before she buried it deep in the bin where Connor wouldn’t see it.
Screw it, this was just stupid.
Abby headed up the stairs as fast as she could before she had chance to change her mind. There was still a strip of light under Connor’s door, but Abby knocked softly just in case he was asleep. Somehow she didn’t think that was likely, though.
There was no answer, but Abby could have sworn she heard movement from inside the room.
“Connor? We need to talk.” She hesitated, and then added, “Please.”
There was still no response. This wasn’t how she’d imagined doing this, talking to a door, but Abby knew that if she didn’t say this right now then she would lose the courage to say it at all. She took a deep breath and tried again.
“Okay, Connor, you don’t have to talk. Just listen. What happened down there; the kiss. I meant it, okay? It was real.”
Abby paused, and then continued. “You were right. I didn’t want it, not at first, not for a long time. But, Connor, things change. People change, feelings change, relationships change. And I think the way I feel about you has changed.”
She wished she could be sure that he really was listening. Did he understand what she was trying to say? God, Abby realised she barely even knew herself what she was trying to say.
“Connor, I know how you feel about me, and I think I know what you want. But right now I don’t know if I can give you that. I won’t make any promises that I can’t keep about where our relationship might go. But I mean it, I care about you a lot, as more than just a friend. And I’d really like to give it a try. If that’s what you want.”
She paused again, holding her breath for a response. She wished he would just say something. Anything. When there was still nothing her frustration almost got the better of her, and Abby got as far as dropping her hand to the door handle and gripping it. Then she let go again. No. This had to be on his terms. If he wasn’t ready, then she would just have to wait until he was. Abby closed her eyes and waited for another few moments before she finally admitted that it was time to give up.
“Okay, you know where I am if you want... well, I dunno. Just, you know where I am.”
Abby forced herself to walk away, to turn out the landing light and go back to her room. The ball was well and truly in Connor’s court now, so she was just going to have to stop pushing and wait for him to make the next move. Absolutely no more pushing.
Abby smiled slightly. No more pushing was a given. But she might have to be a little flexible on the subject of gentle nudging. After all, sometimes Connor could be kind of slow to get the point on this kind of thing. Although Abby had to admit, on this particular occasion he wasn’t the only one.
“Abby,” Connor called up the stairs for the third time “You’d better hurry up, it’s going cold.”
Abby had slept late after everything that had happened during the night, and Connor had started calling while she was in the shower. She had no idea what he wanted. On the plus side, it didn’t sound like a panicked ‘Cutter’s on the phone and there’s a dinosaur the size of a house in the centre of London’ type yell, so she figured whatever it was could probably wait until she finished getting dressed at least.
She was halfway down the stairs when she was ambushed by the smell. Food, and lots of it judging by the mingled aromas. She found Connor carrying a tray in from the kitchen to the already full table.
“What’s this?” Abby asked.
He smiled, but it was tentative, a shadow of the grin that used to light up his expression.
“Breakfast. For you. For us, kind of.” His face was flushing pink as he talked, and the rest of his words came out in a rush. “Um, it’s sort of an apology for last night.”
Abby stared at him and the breakfast. This was one hell of an apology. Coffee – filter stuff, not the instant, bacon, pancakes with a choice of chocolate sauce or maple syrup, warm croissants, and a small mountain of fruit.
She must have stared for a little too long, because suddenly he looked really worried.
“What? You’re not on a diet or anything are you?” Abby saw his brain catch up with his mouth, and worried was quickly replaced by horrified. “Not that I’m saying you should be on a diet. Because you look great as you are, and you’re the right shape and everything and you know what I’m going to stop talking right now.”
Abby giggled, and was treated to a slightly self conscious smile back from him.
“It looks great Connor, thank you. Although I don’t know why you think you need to apologise for anything.”
He shrugged, becoming serious again.
“Mostly for the shouting and yelling and being weird.”
“Everything’s been weird recently,” she said softly. “You really have nothing to apologise for.”
Connor shrugged again. “Well, either way, get stuck in.”
They did, both of them attacking the food like they hadn’t eaten for days. Connor really was a good cook when he could be bothered to do things properly. Every now and then he would take over the kitchen and produce a huge pan of pasta or casserole of some kind that would last them both for a couple of days. Abby had occasionally wondered how she could persuade him to do things like that more often. If this was what he made after one kiss...
Abby suddenly stopped herself going any further down that thought road. Don’t assume anything, she tried to tell herself. Connor had said this was an apology, nothing else. But then again, Connor wasn’t always the most articulate of men when it came to this kind of thing. She waited until he had finished off the last pancake before she decided it might be time for one of those gentle nudges.
“Connor, last night-”
“I heard what you said,” Connor interrupted. “The stuff afterwards. I was listening.”
“I meant it,” Abby said again.
“Why now? What’s changed?” His voice suggested he wanted to believe her, but his eyes still spoke of rejection and betrayal.
“Honestly? I don’t know.”
Connor sighed, and started stacking empty plates. “If you’d said that stuff a few weeks ago I would’ve...” he stopped suddenly and Abby saw the walls going up again.
“And what about now?” she pressed before he closed off his emotions completely.
“I don’t know,” he said, the frustration and anger evident just below the surface. He stood up and took things back to the kitchen, but Abby followed him.
“It’s okay, Connor, I can wait,” she said. “If you need time to work out how you feel.”
Connor leaned on the worktop, his back to her, and she saw him breathe deeply. Then he turned round, closed the distance between them and cupped a hand around the back of her neck. He hesitated for a fraction of a second before he leaned down and very gently kissed her.
Abby’s first thought was that he tasted of maple syrup. As soon as she recovered from the surprise she responded, kissing him back, and she slipped her arms around him and tried to pull him closer. This was the real Connor. This was the passion and the fun and the unexpected spontaneous affection. This was what had been missing since Stephen had died and the extent of Caroline’s betrayal had become apparent. But the kiss lasted barely a moment before he pulled away slightly.
“Abby,” he said softly. “I already know how I feel about you. That’s not the part that’s difficult.”
“I meant it; I can wait,” Abby breathed. Because the closer she got to Connor, the more Abby realised that he really was worth waiting for. She just hoped he wouldn’t take too long.
Connor smiled. Not the huge, insane grin that he used to have, or even the adorable smile that showed the dimples in his cheeks. It was more a half smile, but there was more hope in his dark eyes than there had been for a long time, and something twisted inside Abby’s chest that was both painful and wonderful when she saw that.
“You might be able to wait, but I’m not sure I can,” he said. He closed his eyes and sighed. “But I kind of get the feeling that I should wait.”
He kissed her again, sweet and tentative, his thumb stroking her neck so softly it was on the verge of tickling. It was nice. It was better than nice, and Abby realised again quite how right it felt, and how well they seemed to fit together like this. But still, Abby briefly wondered how long she should let this go on if they were supposed to be waiti-
Both their phones started beeping insistently, and they sprang apart, Connor crashing into the table behind him, Abby almost hitting the doorframe. She knew what it would be before she even got to her phone, and she was pretty sure the ‘why now?’ expression on Connor’s face mirrored her own.
“Looks like we’ll have to wait after all,” she said.
“Sometimes I think the universe hates me.”
Abby suspected ‘hate’ was probably too strong a word as they ran to grab their jackets and get out. But the universe sure as hell had a lousy sense of timing.