When the doctor came in to examine Connor, Jenny pulled Abby out into the hall.
"He seems to be in good hands." Jenny nodded in Connor's direction. "So I'm heading back to the Arc to fill in Lester and everyone. Are you going to be okay here?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine." Abby knew she should be worrying about more important things, like the extent of Connor's injuries, but one thing kept sticking in her mind. "Can I ask you a question?"
"When you said there were a lot of girls back at the Arc who would be happy to know Connor was still, well, cute, you were kidding, right?"
Jenny laughed and shook her head. "Of course not. Girls are always asking me about him."
Abby felt her mouth drop open as she stared at Jenny. "They are? No one's ever asked me, and I'm his flat mate."
Jenny sighed. "Abby, that's because they think you're his girlfriend. You're the competition. Connor's quite the catch."
"He is?" Sure, he was one of the sweetest, most generous, and bravest guys she'd ever met. But she'd never thought other girls might think so too. Girls, plural. More than one.
"For heaven's sake, Abby," said Jenny with some a huff of exasperation. "You know how smart and funny he is. And he's almost always in a good mood and friendly to everyone. Plus he's handsome."
"Handsome? Connor?" Abby pictured him in his typical t-shirt and hoodie, or waistcoat and hat, hair going every which way. She gave Jenny a skeptical look.
"Abby, come here." Jenny tugged aside the curtain so they could peek into Connor's room. The doctor was examining his arm and shoulder while Connor watched intensely. "Look beyond the clothes, well, the grime from today. He has thick, gorgeous hair, big brown eyes that I've heard can make you melt. He has a really strong jawline and that cute dimple. The girls at the Arc are always mentioning the dimple."
"They are?" Abby stared at him, seeing nothing she hadn't seen a million times before. Yet somehow it wasn't the same at all. "He's always been cute," she said slowly.
"Not cute, handsome," said Jenny. She stepped back into the hallway and pulled Abby with her. "I'm not kidding. You need to stop looking at him like a pal and see him how strangers see him."
"It's just," said Abby, trying to put her thoughts in order, "I've known him so long that I can't help picturing the guy he was when I first met him. You didn't know him then, Jenny, but he was super skinny, and he wore thrift-store clothes a couple of sizes too big, and he always said the wrong thing at the wrong time."
"That was a couple of years ago," said Jenny. "You were both young. I bet you've changed too."
"Yeah, I guess we both have at that." She scrubbed her face with her hands as thoughts swirled around and around in her head. She hadn't been worried about taking things slow with Connor, but now she was, and it was annoying as hell.
"It's all so confusing sometimes," she confessed. " I don't want anyone else to be with Connor, but I'm not sure I want to be with him either, sometimes. We can't just date, yeah? We know each other too well. It'll be all or nothing with him."
Jenny gave her a sympathetic smile. "Don't worry about it now. You'll figure it out. I just wanted to let you know that you can't wait forever. Don't underestimate him. And now, I'm going to stop lecturing you."
Abby chuckled. "It did start to feel like that, didn't it?"
"I'll call later to see how he's doing, okay? And I'll have someone deliver your car so you don't have to worry about it."
As Abby thanked her, Jenny gave Abby a hug and then hurried down the hall and around the corner.
Back in the Present Day …
After Abby practically ran out of the break room, Jenny finished the rest of her soda and crisps and gave herself a long, luxurious stretch in the break room. As her back popped in a wonderful release of tension, she let out a moan, thinking about how she'd gotten under Abby's skin. It was fun to poke and prod her, and it took her mind off her own romantic problems, such as they were.
"Long day?" asked Cutter.
Jenny jumped. She quickly brought her arms down and straightened her shirt from where it had ridden up above the waistband of her trousers. Cutter was leaning against the door frame, arms crossed and a wry smile on his face.
"Do you always sneak up on people like that?" she asked him. She got up and tossed out her garbage, trying to steady her racing heart.
"Should I knock before I come into the break room then?" He fished in his pocket for change, popped some coins in the soda machine, and selected a Coke.
"No, of course not. Just make some noise or something."
"Okay, next time I'll stomp in here like Connor when he's in a hurry."
The two of them smiled at the image of Cutter running through the halls the way Connor did, all elbows and knees like a newly born colt learning to walk for the first time.
"Speaking of next time. The next anomaly, we're bringing food and drinks with us," Jenny said, watching his gulp down his soda. "Our working conditions are inhuman."
"Inhuman? Really?" He leaned against the wall, and Jenny caught herself staring at the way his lean form filled out his t-shirt and the way his unkept hair was practically begging her to run her fingers through it and put it in some sort of order. Of course, if she did that, then he wouldn't look like Cutter, would he?
Cutter snapped his fingers. "Jenny, are you still in there?"
Jenny blinked and forced her thoughts back to their conversation, willing herself not to blush. She was off her game, probably from lack of food. "Yes, inhuman," she said, briskly. "Maybe you can go all day without eating or drinking, but the rest of us need sustenance."
He chuckled. "Okay, we'll look into it tomorrow. Maybe Becker can put together some sort of army rations or something for us that are always packed and ready to go. I don't know. It's too late to do any planning now."
They lapsed into silence, and Jenny wondered if this was one of those moments she was always prodding Abby about, one where you had to do something obvious because the man wouldn't know to do it himself. She decided to go for it.
"I'm too tired to cook tonight," she said, "so I was thinking of getting take-away or just going to a pub for a sandwich. How about you?"
Cutter shrugged. "Hadn't given it much thought. Right now, a beer sounds good. I think I have some in my fridge at home."
Jenny was proud of herself for not rolling her eyes at him. "You know, I've heard a rumor that you can buy a beer in a pub. Care to join me? You can drink while I eat."
She could see the gears actually turning in his brain. His smile slowly morphed into a grin. "I've hear that rumor too. Would it be okay if I got a sandwich along with my beer?"
Jenny laughed. "I don't see why not."
As they headed out of the break room to the parking garage, they decided on a place that wasn't too far away called the Four Lions. As Jenny turned toward her car in order to meet him there, he grabbed her elbow and steered her in another direction.
"I'll drive," he said. His hand slid to the small of her back as he guided her to his parking space on the other side of the garage. Jenny's stomach did a little twist in a good way as he unlocked her door for her and then closed it as if they were on a real date.
"I'm glad you suggested this," said Cutter as turned on the engine and pulled away. Then he did something remarkable and entirely unexpected. He reached over and gave her knee a squeeze.
Jenny finally did blush, but it was dark outside, and Cutter was watching the road, so she didn't try to force it away. "Me too," she said.