The Deal

Synopsis: Connor's injury spurs Jenny and Abby to rethink their non-relationships in their lives. Connor/Abby and Nick/Jenny

Spoilers: Up until 3.2

Note: I'm trying to include British vocabulary whenever I can, but I apologize if I screw up or use the wrong words in places!

Abby popped open a Coke and sank into the plastic chair in the break room. Her feet were killing her. After twelve hours of herding a gryposaurus back through the anomaly at a steel mill, traipsing over concrete and metal flooring, going up and down stairs, and crawling under machinery, she just wanted to soak them in a tub for eight hours. Instead, she propped them on the chair opposite her and sipped. She could feel the bubbly liquid go all the way down her throat. It was like heaven.

Jenny stuck her head in the room. "You're still here. Why don't you go home? Lester doesn't care if we do the paperwork tomorrow."

Abby curled her head in a circle, stretching her neck. "I think I'm too tired to go home. And thirsty." She downed another swig of her Coke.

Jenny sighed and fished in her pocket for loose change. "I know what you mean. Next time, I'm bringing a cooler and some protein bars. Want some crisps?"

"Please."

Jenny bought two bags of Doritos and a Mountain Dew for herself and plopped into a chair next to Abby, stretching her legs out onto the opposite chair.

They munched in a comfortable silence for a while.

"How's Connor?" asked Jenny after they'd satisfied the worst of their hunger pangs. "I bet he can't wait to hear all about gryposaurus."

Abby sighed. "Don't remind me. I'll be up half the night giving him every last detail. A bored Connor is not something you want to be around when you're exhausted."

Jenny chuckled. "I bet. He exhausts me just by looking at him sometimes."

"Me too!" It had been four weeks, since Connor had broken his wrist and fractured two ribs during a particularly nasty incursion in an abandoned warehouse. Connor hadn't been injured by the ankylosaurid as it raced around old rotten boxes and metal shelves, though. He'd been injured when he'd stepped on what looked like solid flooring, only to discover that some flattened cardboard had covered what amounted to a hole in the floor. An opening, actually, to an abandoned petrol tank. Due to the confusion of the hunt, it had been a couple of hours before anyone started looking for him seriously. And another hour after that before they found him.

Abby remembered Becker's panicked call—well, panicked for Becker anyway. "I found Connor, and he's hurt. Get some medics here now."

Abby had been on the other side of the warehouse. By the time she raced to the opening, Cutter and Jenny were already there, shining their torches down a hole that was less than a meter wide.

"How is he?" she asked breathlessly. "Can I see?"

Cutter ignored her. He stuck his head farther into the hole, but Becker grabbed the back of his jacket and hauled him away from the opening.

"Do you want to be rescued too?" said Becker, glaring at Cutter. "Stay back."

Jenny stooped and shone her torch into the opening. "Just stay still, Connor, okay? Rescue workers are on their way now. They'll get you out soon. Would you like some water or anything?"

Apparently Connor told her no because she said "hang tight" and stood up again.

"Is he hurt?" asked Abby. When no one replied, she grabbed Cutter's arm and forced him to turn toward her. "Is he hurt?" She heard her voice shake as she asked, but the lack of information was really starting to worry her.

"Of course he's hurt," barked Cutter. "What do you think? He fell twenty feet onto a steel floor. He's lucky he's alive. Who the hell covers a hole with a piece of cardboard, anyway?"

Abby blinked as tears sprang to her eyes. "How bad?"

Cutter's face softened, and he put an arm around her shoulders, squeezing briefly. "I don't think it's too bad. His wrist and side hurt. But he's walking around and the first thing he asked me is if we got the creature back through."

"Typical Connor," said Abby, wiping her face. "Can I talk to him?"

"Sure, but be careful." Cutter leaned close and whispered in her ear. "I can't be responsible for what Becker will do if you end up there with him."

Abby nodded.

Cutter gestured to Jenny and the two of them stepped away to talk quietly. Becker watched Abby as she knelt a half a meter away from the hole. When she glanced at him, he nodded approvingly, but looked ready to grab her if he needed to.

Abby shone the light into the opening. It took a moment of swinging it around before she saw Connor sitting on the sloped floor of the tank. His knees were drawn up to his chest and he was resting his right arm across them as if it needed to be protected.

"Hey you," she called down.

He glanced up and squinted into the light. Abby moved it down a little so it was out of his eyes. "Abby?" His voice was hoarse and he cleared his throat.

She swung the light up to her own face, so he could see it before moving it back into the opening. "Yeah, it's me. How're you doing?"

"Oh, you know. Other than a broken wrist and being coated in petrol, pretty good. You?"

For some reason Abby couldn't fathom, his joke brought a lump to his throat. "I'm okay."

"Want to come down for a visit?"

"I would, but Becker would kill me and then he'd kill you."

Connor chuckled and cleared his throat again.

"What's wrong with your voice?" she asked.

He shrugged. "After I fell, I shouted for help . . . a lot . . . well, constantly actually. But I guess sound can't really travel out of the tank. Started to wonder if you guys were all right up there. Then I started to wonder how long I'd be stuck in here or even if I'd get out at all." He swallowed. "Realized I don't much like petrol tanks. I could live with the smell, but it needs a lamp or something, maybe a beanbag chair. Not very cozy, are they?"

Abby wished she could give him a big hug right now. "When we get back home, I'll make you a cuppa, yeah? And I'll put lemon in it for your throat."

He smiled up at her. "Sounds lovely." Then he leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.

Abby just sat and watched him for a while, wondering if she should stay there or not. Before she could decide, someone tapped her on the shoulder. "Abby," said Becker, "the fire brigade is here."

She stepped back, and along with the rest of the Arc team, she watched the rescuers lower a ladder into the opening. Time passed as the rescuers did something down below, presumably assessing Connor's injuries. Eventually, Abby saw Connor climb up the ladder one-handed while a rescue worker followed close behind him. Connor's right arm was in a sling and secured to his body. At the top, rescuers carefully helped him off the ladder and onto a gurney. He held his good hand against his side as if that was sore too.

There was something odd about his appearance, and it took Abby a moment to realize what it was. He was covered in brownish-black petrol. It was all over his yellow hoodie, his face, his jeans, probably in his hair. It had probably ruined all of his clothes.

Once he was lying down, Abby started to rush to his side, but Cutter curled his fingers around her arm and whispered "let them do their job." When Connor was wheeled out of the warehouse, they followed it into the parking lot and squinted in the light. It was still early afternoon, even though it felt like it should be the middle of the night after the darkness of the warehouse, and Abby felt disoriented.

After the ambulance rode away, Cutter turned to everyone. "Okay, okay. Despite Connor's accident, we did a good job today. We saved a creature, sent it back to its own time, and probably saved lives of people here as well. Just remember that when Lester starts cracking down on safety violations tomorrow and pestering us with all that other bureaucratic nonsense he likes to spout. So now let's—"

"I want to go to the hospital," blurted Abby.

Cutter turned to her, his eyes kind. "Of course. Jenny, why don't you go with her. That way you can answer any awkward questions about why he was walking around here, make sure no one thinks he was trespassing. That's all we need is for the law to get involved."

Jenny nodded. "What about you?"

Cutter made a face and sighed. "I will fill in Lester."

"And I'll finish securing the area around here," said Becker, already turning around to give orders to his own men.

Jenny drove as quickly as she could to the hospital without drawing the attention of the police. She felt pretty sure Connor would be fine eventually, at least she hoped so, but he'd looked so small and lost as he'd climbed on the gurney that she worried her assessment might be wrong.

She wasn't as worried as Abby, apparently, who just stared out the window and absently chewed on a fingernail. An image of Cutter sitting broken at the bottom of a long dark hole entered her mind, and she had to force it away. Dealing with Cutter and her feelings for him and possibly his feelings for her just made her head hurt.

She didn't envy being Abby right now. "You okay?" asked Jenny, glancing her way.

Abby started and pulled her hand away from her mouth. "Oh yeah, just worried. I'm sure he'll be fine, yeah?"

"He will be. Connor's tough, and he didn't seem too badly injured." Jenny tried to exude a confidence she wasn't sure she actually felt.

"Yeah, I suppose." Abby turned back to the window.

"So," said Jenny after a moment, needing to distract herself during the long drive to the hospital. And she figured Abby could use the distraction too. "Remember when you said that I shouldn't wait for the man to make the first move, that I'd die of old age?"

Abby sat straighter in her seat as she turned to face Jenny. "Yeah, go on. Did you make a move on Cutter?"

Jenny laughed. "What makes you think it would be Cutter?"

Abby snorted. "I've got eyes, don't I? Who else would it be, Lester?"

They both giggled. "Well, you're right. Of all the infuriating men to fall for, I had to pick the one who'd win the top prize."

"So what'd you do?"

"I asked him if he wanted to get a coffee."

"And?"

"He said yes. We went to a quaint coffee house around the corner from where I live, had a very nice conversation, and he walked me home. Then nothing."

"Nothing?"

"Nothing. That was two weeks ago. I'm growing old, fast."

Jenny could see a crease form between Abby's brows as she considered this. "Well, he either doesn't like you that way, which I don't believe. I've seen the way he looks at you sometimes, and it's not how he looks at anyone else. Or he's completely clueless. Maybe you should ask him to do something more obvious, like a romantic dinner?"

"Maybe. It gets tricky, doesn't it, when you work with the man you've fallen for."

"Tell me about it," muttered Abby.

Jenny gave her a sly look. "How about you? Made any moves on Connor yet?"

Abby glanced at her in surprise. "How'd you know it's Connor. Oh, never mind. I guess I'm pretty obvious, huh?"

"Only to someone with eyes."

Abby snorted. "How come these things are never obvious to the men?"

"Abby," said Jenny as she rolled her eyes. "If I had the answer to that, I'd write a bestseller and never work in an office again."

"Good point."

"So go on, what kind of moves have you made on Connor?"

Abby squirmed a little in her seat and adjusted the seat belt away from her neck. "I've been extra nice to him when he wants to watch a particularly horrid scifi movie. And I made popcorn two nights in a row. And I didn't yell at him for leaving his socks next to the couch."

Jenny tried not to laugh out loud. "Abby, that's, well, that's really lame. At least I asked Cutter to do something different with me. You're Connor's roommate, how's he supposed to know that letting him choose a movie is a romantic overture. Or that NOT yelling at him means something special."

"I know." She sighed loudly. "But if you think it's hard falling for a guy you work with, try falling for someone you work with, live with, and who's been your best pal for the last two years. I just don't want to ruin things between us."

"I don't think that's possible."

They lapsed into silence as Jenny turned onto the road leading to the hospital. When she stopped at a red light, she turned to Abby. "Tell you what, after Connor gets better, the two of us will plan something that'll, I don't know, make these men look at us a little differently. What do you say?"

Abby shook her head, smiling slightly. "Sure, why not. We could go on a double date or something."

Jenny giggled at the image of Cutter and Connor on a double date. "Well, maybe not that, but something else. I don't know what, but we'll figure it out. Deal?" She held out her hand.

Abby hesitated, then gave Jenny's hand a quick shake. "All right. Deal."