This is a very late birthday fic for alyse . Sorry it took so long, *this* was the fic that wasn't behaving when I was procrastinating the other day.
Title: A Tree For My Bed
Warnings: mostly fluff
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: approx 1900
Summary: It’s cold in the Cretaceous, and Connor makes a tempting hot water bottle.
AN: Birthday fic for alyse (sorry it’s rather late).
AN2: The title comes from a track on the Jurassic Park soundtrack by John Williams
It was cold in the Cretaceous at night. Abby was the first to admit that she didn’t know a lot about prehistory, but somehow the dinosaur books that she vaguely remembered from childhood had always given the impression that all dinosaurs lived in hot, tropical times, and that it had stayed that way until an inconvenient ice age had come along.
She tried to pull her sleeves down over her hands, with only limited success, and in the end wrapped her arms around herself and slipped her hands inside the jacket. It only helped a little. The truth was, it was cold and dark and uncomfortable, and Abby couldn’t sleep even if she had wanted to. There were too many noises in the trees around them, too many unknown things moving about in the undergrowth far below.
Abby shuffled into a new position, careful not to wake Connor, but when she looked he was shifting as well, and his face twisted into a grimace of pain for a moment. There was a sharp, hastily stifled intake of breath, and then he settled again.
It looked like the painkillers had worn off. Either that, or else his ankle was a lot worse than she had given credit for, and paracetamol just wasn’t cutting it. Neither of them had dared to take his boot off and take a closer look. Connor winced and got jumpy every time anyone or anything went near it, and Abby was too afraid that if she took the boot off, his ankle might swell up too much to get it back on again. To be perfectly honest, she’d half believed that he was playing it up for sympathy anyway. Connor was rubbish when he was ill or hurt; all whiney and attention-seeking and making out like he was on his death bed whenever he got so much as a cold. The problem was, right now Connor probably believed she was asleep, he was probably half-asleep himself, so the likelihood that he was still putting on a show in a bid for sympathy was slim, and yet he was still showing signs of being in pain.
Abby tried not to think about what that would mean if he still couldn’t walk properly by morning.
She hunched up a bit more, wondering if it was any warmer wherever Danny had ended up. Suddenly, and entirely out of the blue, Abby heard Connor’s voice in her head; “We should huddle together for warmth.” The memory seemed like it came from another time. She snorted. Considering where they were right then, that wasn’t entirely inaccurate. But that wasn’t what she had meant. Back then, she had been able to ignore his suggestion. He was just a silly little boy with a silly little crush. So much had happened since then, and now Abby knew that wasn’t true any more. He wasn’t, and it wasn’t.
She glanced across at him again, and let her gaze linger in a way that wasn’t possible when he was awake, because he always got self-conscious and nervous, or else would start to show off. Now there were no defences, no show; now there was just... Connor.
Somehow in the last few years, Abby had forgotten just how young he really was. How young they both were. Young, and yet trusted with such responsibility, vulnerable, yet brave. Their lives were a tangle of contradictions, but they had become each other’s constants.
Abby blew on her hands, wondering briefly where the hell that load of introspection had come from. Connor shifted again, and managed to end up looking even more uncomfortable than before, and Abby realised he was shivering.
Oh, sod this.
She carefully uncurled herself and clambered across to him.
“Connor?” she whispered.
His eyes opened immediately, flickering from confusion to fear in seconds.
“What’s wrong? Is there a creature?”
“No. It’s just...” Abby considered her options. “Can you lie down properly? Stretch out a bit. It’ll probably help your ankle.”
“But then there won’t be room for you to sit,” he said quietly, his face betraying confusion again.
Sometimes Abby found it amusing that she had to spell practically everything out to him. Now, though, she just wanted to do this before she had time to over-think the situation and talk herself out of it.
“Just do it.”
Connor did what she asked, taking care to keep his ankle from touching anything until he was in position to set it back down again. Abby realised he appeared to be trying to find a weird diagonal angle across the tree, leaving space where she had been sitting before. He still didn’t get it. Abby waited until he was finally settled, and then lay down next to him, slipped an arm around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder.
She felt his sudden intake of breath as much as she heard it.
“Abby?” he whispered.
“It’s cold, Connor. We need to be fit to find Danny tomorrow, and we’re not going be if neither of us gets any sleep because of the cold.”
There was a long pause, and then he let the breath out again.
Not for the first time, Abby wondered how he managed to convey so much defeat and disappointment in a single syllable, and she felt a twinge of guilt. But right here, right now was so not the time to go there and address those issues. Right now their priority was surviving, finding Danny, and getting home, preferably in that order. Maybe after they’d done all that, maybe that would be the time to deal with the other things.
Abby knew damn well which item on that itinerary was going to be the hardest.
Resolutely ignoring those thoughts, Abby snuggled closer and tugged his jacket closed so that she could slip her hand underneath his soft fleece top and gain the maximum warmth. Connor hesitantly, and then somewhat awkwardly, squirmed his arm free from between them and wrapped it around her shoulders, making Abby smile a little. Now he gets it. She moved closer, pressing her face against his t-shirt and gently inhaling his scent.
Connor was warm. Connor was safe. Connor felt right in so many ways, and in moments like this Abby knew how close she was to just ignoring her fears and going for it. It was only when they were apart, when she had time to think about all the ways that it was wrong and dangerous for both of them that she always managed to talk herself out of it, until the next time there was a spontaneous hug or a moment of shared peril.
Suddenly she felt Connor become tense beneath her.
“Connor? Are you okay?”
“Can you just stop wriggling about so much, please?” Connor’s voice sounded odd in a way she couldn’t place.
“What’s wrong? Is it your ankle?”
“No, it’s not the ankle that’s the problem.”
“Can you just keep still Abby!”
Suddenly it twigged and Abby couldn’t stop her gaze travelling down his chest and stopping at the bulge in his too-tight jeans.
Abby lifted her head so she could look at his face and realised he was staring upwards into the canopy, his body held tense and utterly still.
“I’m sorry, okay! You were right there and you were wriggling and you’re... and I’m... and I couldn’t... Sorry.”
He looked mortified, and if it hadn’t been too dark to make out colours Abby suspected she would have seen a flushed red face.
He breathed deeply, and still wasn’t looking at her when he spoke again.
“Maybe you should just go back to the other side of the tree. This probably isn’t such a good idea.”
Abby was tempted. This was treading a fine line between hilariously funny and far too awkward, and it was obvious which side of the line Connor had already fallen on. But at the same time, it was too damn cold. If it came to choice between being too exhausted to do anything in the morning because it was too cold to sleep, or Connor being a bit embarrassed, well, Connor’s feelings were going to have to take a back seat to practicality.
“No. We need to keep warm, Connor.”
She felt his chest rise beneath her as he took another incredibly deep breath, and fall again as he let it out.
“Maybe if I try to think of something completely unsexy, eh? Like Lester pole-dancing.”
There was very long silence.
“I’m going to pretend very, very hard that you didn’t just say that,” Abby said eventually, trying to keep her growing smirk under control.
“I think I am as well,” Connor replied, and this time there was more humour and less tension in his voice, even if his other problem was still all too obvious.
Abby let her head rest on his shoulder again and tried to get herself comfortable without wriggling too much. Amusing as it was, she also knew this probably wasn’t the best time to keep teasing him. Once she was settled his arm curled around her shoulders again.
“So,” she ventured after a little while. “Need any help with those unsexy thoughts? Twelve times table? Reciting Shakespeare? Lester in a thong?”
“Okay, enough with the disturbing visual places,” Connor replied, and this time she really could hear the smile in his voice. “Besides, if you’d shared a flat with Lester you wouldn’t be joking about him in underwear.”
Abby had just got properly comfortable so she resisted the urge to look up at his face and see if he was taking the piss.
“Not a pretty sight?” she ventured.
“I could tell you, but he’d probably fire me.”
“Well, once we get home you don’t have to worry about seeing Lester undressed any more. You’re coming home with me.”
“Yeah.” He gave a soft sigh.
There was quiet for a few moments. Abby happened to glance downwards again and also sighed, but this time it was entirely more exasperated.
“You just followed that train of thought to a less than logical conclusion that involved me in my underwear, didn’t you?”
“You’re not helping with the unsexy thoughts here, Abby.”
This time he was definitely amused rather than embarrassed, and Abby had to fight the momentary urge to offer to give him a hand with his problem. Because really, a tree in the Cretaceous was so not the best place for that. That fact that that implied there might be a right place for it wasn’t quite the surprise that it ought to have been, but then, Abby was very definitely avoiding thinking about anything right at that moment.
“So, Shakespeare then,” she suggested almost reluctantly.
“I don’t really know any Shakespeare,” Connor admitted. “I could quote you most of Star Wars episode one.”
They became quiet again and after a while Connor’s breathing became slow and even, with the occasional snuffle that implied he was finally asleep. Abby felt herself starting to drift off as well. It was a little warmer here in Connor’s arms, and he was certainly a much more comfortable pillow than a tree branch. Unbidden, a childish song suddenly appeared in her mind. “Abby and Connor sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.”
She smiled a little. Well, maybe not the last part. But then again, if they hadn’t found a way home by then, there was always tomorrow night...