Abby swallowed the last of her Coke and swung her legs down from the chair. "I suppose I better get going. If I'm in luck, Connor'll have leftovers in the fridge and maybe a cup of tea'll be waiting for me when I get home."
"You sound like a married couple, you know."
Abby rolled her eyes. "Are you going to give me a hard time about this now?"
Jenny seemed to think about it for a moment as she drank some Mountain Dew. "I think I am, yes."
"Well, the teasing can go both ways, you know."
Jenny looked at her from under her eyelashes. "Nick and I had coffee again. Twice."
"And you're just telling me this now?" Abby gave her a mock glare.
"Well, it's the same old story. Lovely conversation, nice walk home, and then nothing." She sighed.
"Who asked who?"
"He asked me, and then I asked him again."
"We've been awfully busy with incursions lately, yeah?" said Abby. "He's probably just busy."
"It's more than that. He's sad about Stephen and blames himself for the whole Helen fiasco. Not that he actually talks to me about this stuff directly, mind you, at least not directly, but I can tell."
Abby reached over and patted her arm. "It sounds like he needs time. You just need to be there when he's ready and then remind him that you're not Helen."
"I suppose, but it's easier said than done." She frowned at her can of soda for a moment, then glanced at Abby. "You and Connor don't need any time, though, do you?"
"Oi, it's back to me again?" Abby pushed her chair back and threw her can into the recycling bin.
"The deal, remember?"
Abby winced. "I was hoping you hadn't."
"Abby! We said we'd make some plans."
"All right, all right. But maybe tomorrow or next week, okay? Connor's still recovering. Talk to you later." And with that, Abby dashed out the door and down the hall. As she went, she heard Jenny call, "I thought you said he was exhausting you!"
As Abby hurried to her car, she found herself practically running and forced herself to slow down. What was the matter with her? Why did she have an overwhelming urge to avoid Jenny's questions about her and Connor, to even talk about how their relationship, such as it was?
She did want something more with him, didn't she? She felt that flush of warmth flood through her body when his hands brushed hers, and when he did something particularly sweet, like bring home her favorite biscuits for no reason at all, and when he dashed from the shower to his room in nothing but a towel, his skin glistening with drops of water, hair slick against his head.
When had Connor gotten muscles? she'd found herself wondering more than once. He looked so slim under his clothes that she'd never guessed he was so fit underneath it all, all lean and wiry. Abby used to think she preferred men with more bulk. Men like Stephen. But there was something sexy about how no one else but her knew how nice he looked without clothes.
Yet there were other times, different times, like when they sat around in sweats and t-shirts, arguing over which shows to watch, or when she discovered he'd used the last of the toilet paper and hadn't replaced the roll, or when they argued over whose turn it was to clean the kitchen floor. He felt more like a brother to her then, a buddy, a pal.
A really good pal, to be sure, and maybe the best she'd ever had. Sometimes they opened a bottle of wine on a Friday night after a long day with creatures and talked about anything and everything until the wine was gone and their heads rested against the back of the couch. Sometimes, when the topics got particularly intense or personal, they huddled closer together and she put her legs over his, while he rested his hand on her knee.
It had been easier to think about doing something with Connor when he'd first been injured a month ago. It was funny how fear had made her want to take risks that she was reluctant to take now.
Abby remembered walking into the emergency department of the hospital with Jenny, and coming to a full stop in the crowded waiting room, unsure what to do next. Jenny had taken charge, thank God, and led the way to a receptionist. Abby followed in her wake, feeling a bit overwhelmed by the whole experience. Stephen's death wasn't very long ago, and though Connor wasn't that badly injured, it was way too easy to connect the two events.
"Yes?" said a heavyset woman behind the reception desk, barely glancing up.
Abby watched Jenny put on her most professional demeanor. With a self-assured smile, she explained that they were looking for a young man named Connor Temple who had been brought in via ambulance.
The woman checked her computer and directed them down a hall and into a large open area. A bustling nurses' station was the hub with hallways leading off in two directions, filled with curtained rooms. Jenny asked for directions and soon they stood outside Connor's room.
Abby pulled the curtain aside and peaked in. He sat on the edge of the bed, his feet dangling off the side, looking kind of lost. The nurse was cutting the sleeve of his yellow hoodie on his bad arm while Connor scrunched up his face in anticipation of pain. Or maybe it was real pain.
"Hi," said Abby, "can we come in or should we wait out here?"
Connor glanced up and gave her a tentative smile. "Hi," he said.
"I'm just about done," said the nurse. "My name is Mary. Are you his girlfriend?"
"What? No, we're flatmates," said Abby quickly. She introduced the two of them.
"She's my coworker," added Connor with an edge to his voice. He fixed his eyes on his broken arm, his jaw thrust forward.
If Abby didn't know better, she'd have thought Connor was angry with her. But it didn't make sense. They weren't boyfriend and girlfriend. Why should she say they were?
"Abby," hissed Jenny in her ear, "that is not the way to get him to see you differently."
Abby scowled and glared first at Connor for being too sensitive, then at Jenny for pushing her like that. She plopped down in the lone visitor's chair and crossed her legs, trying to get her temper under control.
Maybe she should cancel this stupid deal of Jenny's. It was going to be way too hard and probably end up with one of them getting hurt, probably her, the way her luck went with guys.
Mary certainly didn't help Abby's temper. She was young and pretty with hazel eyes and auburn hair that she'd pulled into a cute knot. She touched Connor a lot as she finished cutting off the ruined sleeve. She helped him remove the rest of the jacket and asked, "Would you like to keep this or should I throw it out?"
Connor shrugged and then winced. "Throw it out. It looks ruined." He shot Jenny a quick grin. "Think Lester will reimburse me?"
Jenny leaned forward and gave his knee a squeeze. "I'll see what I can do."
Mary tucked his good hand under her arm as she took his pulse and blood pressure.
When she was finished, she tossed her stethoscope around her neck and looked at Jenny and Abby. "I was just telling Connor before you came in that it was a good thing he didn't fall on his face. I'd hate to see such a cutie-pie like him get messed up." She winked at Connor, who flushed red from his shirt collar all the way to his hairline.
Jenny laughed quietly. "There are some girls back at work who will be awfully glad about that as well. Right, Abby?"
Abby found her mouth hanging open as she stared at Jenny. What girls at work? She'd have to ask Jenny about this at the first opportunity. When she noticed everyone waiting for her reply, she quickly said, "Right."
Connor glanced at her and met her eyes so fast Abby wasn't sure it had happened. Had this been her cue to say how cute she thought he was? If so, it had gone right over her head once again.
"The doctor will be in shortly," said Mary. "Would you like a warm blanket, Connor?"
It wasn't until Connor said that a blanket would be lovely that Abby noticed he was shivering. She fought a sudden urge to beat Mary to the linen closet so she could be the one to tuck him in. But it wasn't to be. Mary popped out and returned with a thick white blanket. She helped Connor settle back on the bed with a pillow under his arm. She laid the blanket over him all the way up to his chin.
"Better?" she asked, smoothing it down over his chest.
"Yeah, thanks," he said.
As she finally left the room, Abby noticed him looking in her direction much longer than he would've if she'd been ugly or old. Abby decided that she hated Mary. She also decided that she hated all of the women Jenny had talked about at the Arc, the ones who wanted Connor to remain cute. And for good measure, she was starting to hate Jenny for making her think about all of this stuff in the first place.