A/N: Hi everyone! I've been re-reading some of my stories lately and there's a couple small changes (and a couple major ones) I would like to make to them. So I'll be doing that over the next little while, but these ARE reposts. I hope no one minds me reposting older stories with a few changes but most of them were published 7-10 years ago so I figured it'd be okay! Anyways... On with the story!
Abby wasn't scared.
There was no reason to be scared she thought to herself as she stared at the flickering light in front of her. She liked to think of herself as brave, courageous, and tough, so she definitely wasn't scared. Besides, the anomaly had closed over an hour ago and the flickering light was nothing more than the dim glow of the campfire that they sat around. It'd been too dark to hike back to town and Connor had dropped the bag with the torches in a swift river where they couldn't retrieve them, so they'd decided to spend one more night in the campsite. The creatures had gone home and now she was sitting in front of the fire with the rest of the team. There was definitely no reason to be scared.
The problem was that it wasn't cold either. It was a hot summer's evening and the fire was for light and cooking rather than warmth. She'd already taken her jacket off and was sitting on it on top of the log. And this was a real problem because if she wasn't scared, and she wasn't cold, she had to come up with another logical reason for her strong desire to cuddle up with Connor, and she wasn't sure she wanted to explore that thought process just yet.
At the moment he was sitting beside her on a low log, gleefully tossing dried leaves into the fire to watch them burn. Becker sat on a stump opposite them polishing his gun and Sarah and Danny sat at the picnic bench a few feet away. Sarah was writing notes of some sort in her notebook and Danny was using her shoulder to sleep on. Abby didn't know how Sarah could stand his constant snoring and little movements while she tried to write, but, then again, Connor snored when he slept too and if it was Connor she found it somewhat cute and endearing. If there was anything to be scared of at the moment it was the direction her thoughts kept going.
She cleared her head and focused on Sarah and Danny again. Maybe they were onto something. Maybe she was tired. She wanted to lean on Connor like Danny was leaning on Sarah because Connor would make a nice pillow. Sarah and Danny weren't a couple or dating or anything, she didn't think, and with them it looked so natural. Why was it so hard for her to just relax and lean against Connor if she wanted to? Why was it such a big deal? There was nothing more to this than the fact that she, Abby, was exhausted and Connor was a good friend at close proximity. With that excuse in mind she forced herself to let out a yawn, hoping to find her eyes closing. Turned out she wasn't really sleepy either. In fact the fresh air and the long walk had revitalized her and she was wide awake. She sighed and picked up a small branch from the ground, pulling out her pocket knife so she could whittle away at it. Anything to keep her mind preoccupied and to stop it from going to the place she didn't want it to, because if she allowed herself to admit the real reason she wanted to cuddle with Connor, if she let the thought fully develop even once, there would be no turning back from it.
"Whatcha making Abby?" Connor's curiosity pierced the comfortable silence that had fallen around the campsite. Abby caught her breath as he slid over closer to her, close enough that her arm brushed his with each stroke of the knife. She liked him there. It helped with the urge to cuddle, a little.
She shrugged, "Nothing, really. Just giving my hands something to do."
"Can I see it for a moment?" he asked her, holding out his hand, "I've got an idea."
Abby pressed the piece of wood into his palm firmly, letting her fingers linger against his hand a moment longer than necessary, but not long enough that it'd be weird. He didn't seem to notice.
"And the knife," he insisted.
Becker looked up from his gun for the first time, letting on that he was listening to them, "Bad idea, Abs."
"I think she should trust him," Sarah piped up as she looked up from her work and carefully twisted around as much as possible without waking Danny.
Abby rolled her eyes, "It's a pocket knife guys, not a machete, do we really need a debate about this?" She pressed the knife into his waiting palm as well. "What's your idea, Con?"
Sarah exchanged a smile with Abby and went back to her work and Becker turned back to his gun with a mumble of, "It's your call I guess, you're the one sitting next to him."
Connor smiled at Abby, "Thank-you Abby, and Sarah. Nice to know some people trust me." He glared pointedly at Becker, but the look went unnoticed so he turned his attention to the knife and wood.
And then the urge was back stronger then ever and Abby found herself gravitating even closer until she was pressed firmly against him. She focused on his hands as she watched him work. She was leaning on him only so she could see better what he was doing, she told herself. His hands moved skilfully and she found herself focusing on them rather than the actual craft. She wondered when he'd learn to carve wood.
"Each piece of wood," Connor told her quietly, "Already has something inside it. You can't just carve anything or it won't look right. You just have to know how to bring out what's already there."
Becker scoffed, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. It's a piece of wood. Does it talk to you and tell you what's inside it?"
"Stop being so contrary, Becker," Abby protested, not taking her eyes away from Connor's hands. "Why are you like this tonight?"
"He's just cranky because he hates camping," Sarah said.
"I don't hate camping, but I do hate idling and we could've gone home tonight where we'd be much more productive, if someone hadn't lost all the torches," Becker retorted.
Abby glanced up at Connor, expecting him to reply to Becker's honest accusation, but Connor was too focused on his work to react. Abby wondered if he'd even heard the conversation. "How do you know?" she asked him earnestly.
Connor looked at her quizzically and Abby felt a bit smug that despite his focus on his project, she could still commandeer his attention with ease when the others hadn't been able to.
"How do I know what, Abs?" he asked her.
"What's inside. How do you know what you need to bring out?"
Connor shrugged, "I… I just do. You can learn to see it. My dad carved wood a lot when I was little. He used to tell me what was inside each one and taught me how to carve, but I don't know how to explain it."
"What's inside this one?" she asked, gesturing at his hands.
He smiled secretively as he went back to whittling. "You'll see."
Becker stood up and stretched his legs, "I'm gonna get some sleep guys, and you all better too because I'll be waking you the moment it's light out to head back."
"Night," Sarah and Abby responded in a half-hearted unison, neither really paying attention as Becker unrolled his sleeping bag onto the ground.
Connor was still working though and Abby had no intention of going to sleep before he did. She hesitated and then rested her head against his shoulder, wondering how he'd react. It seemed easier than it did a bit ago, probably because she was already pressed so close to him.
"Tired?" Connor asked her.
Abby shook her head. "No, just…" she stopped. She didn't know what she was. She'd already gone through this. Not tired. Not cold. Not scared. Just in love. The thought popped up, unbidden and unwanted. And there it was. She'd let her mind rest just enough that she'd forgotten to squelch the idea before it could present itself. The thought itself didn't actually surprise her; she'd felt it for long enough now, she just hadn't admitted it, but the sudden raw honesty of it all, the fact that she knew it was so true that she couldn't even begin to argue it with herself, made her inhale sharply.
She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't even realise that she was crying until Connor's concern finally registered over her emotions. She didn't know when he'd put down the carving and gathered her against himself, but she slowly became aware of it as she pulled herself out of her fog and listened to him quietly begging her to tell him what was wrong. His pleadings were desperate and puzzled. She pulled free enough to give an embarrassed glance around at the others, but the other two men were asleep and Sarah seemed caught up in her work, either not noticing or giving them privacy. Abby wasn't sure which, but she was grateful either way.
"Sorry," she whispered to Connor, settling against him again. She may as well cuddle with him now. "I just realised something is all. Made me a bit emotional, but I'm okay, I promise. Thanks."
The confused and quizzical expression that came over his face made her chuckle softly. Funny how the thing she'd been fighting against so hard and for so long, seemed so easy and natural all of the sudden. Loving Connor wasn't making her weak. It was just that he was so… loveable. It was his fault, not hers, she thought to herself with a chuckle, that she'd fallen for him. Out loud she simply ordered, "I'm fine; finish your carving."
"But…" Connor frowned, "Abs, you were really upset. You can't be okay that fast."
Abby ducked her head, "I wasn't upset, . I was emotional. It's different. Please, just finish your carving?"
Connor gave her a strange look, as he picked up the wood again to obey, but she'd had to have been blind not to notice the sidelong glances he kept giving her as she stayed leaning against him. He seemed on edge, as though worried she'd cry again and probably worried that it'd be his fault if she did. She rarely did cry, she hated that anyone might think she had a weak side, but she didn't mind that Connor had seen her do so. She wondered about that fact and supposed it must have something to do with her feelings for him.
"Connor, relax," she said, reaching for his hands to steady them.
He nodded and she saw a determined look come across his face as he did his best to concentrate on the carving like he'd been doing before. Abby smiled when she glanced up and noticed the way his tongue poked out the corner of his mouth in his determination to do as she asked, but the smile turned quickly to a frown when she let her eyes travel further upwards and noticed that now he was on the verge of tears.
"It's too much, Abs, trying to concentrate on this and worrying about you all at once," he said quickly. "Just too hard to focus on both, is all. I'm fine."
"I told you, Connor. You don't need to be worrying about me, yeah? I'm alright."
His eyes met hers, studying her closely as if trying to determine if that was true, and then he finally sighed and nodded, a look of relief passing across his face. When he went back to work this time, his hands were much steadier, Abby noted.
"How's the carving coming?" Sarah's voice came all of the sudden.
Abby jumped a bit; she'd nearly forgotten the others were still there. She turned around and found Sarah standing behind them. "He won't tell me what it is," she laughed and then looked around the campsite. "Where'd Danny go?"
Sarah nodded at a sleeping bag in the corner behind them. "I made him go to bed. He was getting heavy."
Abby laughed, "Yeah, I'm not surprised. How're your notes coming?"
"I gave up," Sarah laughed, "It's too dark to see them properly. I wrote down the important stuff about the incursion, but I couldn't really tell what I was doing so I hope I can read them well enough to make up a proper report tomorrow. I'm off to bed now. Aren't you two going to sleep?"
Connor glanced up from his work finally, "When I'm done this. Goodnight, Sarah."
Sarah nodded and glanced at Abby. "What about you?"
"I'll wait for Connor," Abby responded easily.
"You don't have to, Abs," Connor said suddenly. "I can show you how it turns out in the morning, if you like."
"No, I don't like," she smiled. "I want to wait for you."
Sarah shrugged at them both, "Well don't stay up too late," she warned. "Goodnight."
They both nodded vaguely and silence filled the campsite again a moment later. Despite not being tired earlier, the emotional evening had started to take its toll on Abby and she found herself yawning, this time without trying. She let her eyes close as she relaxed against him and wondered if she should tell him that she loved him. She thought maybe he'd like to know that. She thought probably he loved her too. She thought definitely that talking was a lot of effort all of the sudden. She didn't know when she actually drifted off, but she awoke, startled, when she felt Connor place a kiss on her forehead.
"Sorry," he said, blushing and ducking his head. "You just looked sorta angelic sleeping in the fire's glow." He glanced at her from the corner of his eye and Abby saw that he was waiting to see if he was in trouble.
She smiled at him, "Did you finish your carving?"
He nodded and presented it to her with a flourish, "An undying rose for the prettiest girl I know."
Abby accepted the wooden flower with a smile and quickly kissed his cheek, a gesture that made his jaw drop just a little bit. She turned the flower over in her hand. "Connor, you've got a lot of talent. It's gorgeous. I love it so much that I'm not giving it back whether you think another girl is prettier than me or no."
Connor's smile faded, "Abby, of course I meant you. You don't really think I'd mean someone else, do you? Because…" he trailed off, looking a bit lost at what to say.
Abby shook her head, "Con, relax, I was just playing with you a bit, honest. I love it very much."
"I'll make you an entire bouquet if you like," he offered eagerly.
Abby smiled and shook her head. "You don't have to, Con. Although if you happen across a piece of wood that looks like it has a carving of Rex inside…"
"I'll find one," Connor promised quickly. "I'll make you whatever you want."
"Why?" Abby pushed, suddenly wondering if she could talk him into saying it first, saying those three little words that she'd accidentally allowed into her mental vocabulary that evening.
Connor hesitated and then shrugged, "because I like it when you have what you want."
"Why?" she pushed again, a bit of a smirk playing across her face.
Connor frowned, "What is this? Twenty Questions? When's it my go?"
Abby giggled but refused to let him off the hook. "C'mon Connor, why do you like it if I have what I want?"
"Because it makes you happy?" his voice betrayed that this was a question, a question as to whether it was the correct answer or not.
"And why do you want me to be happy, Connor?"
Connor's smile returned. "Because you're less scary when you're happy," he teased her.
Abby chuckled too and saw that this wasn't going to go quite where she wanted it to. Maybe he needed more help. After all, she'd pushed away his advances for so long it probably wouldn't even occur to him that she might welcome them now. "I thought," she said softly, "I thought that maybe it had something to do with that thing you said to me a long time ago on the edge of a cliff." Connor's eyes widened in shock that she'd bring it up now, almost a year later. Abby knew that he thought he'd gotten off the hook for his vocal slip up that day. "We never fully finished discussing that, Connor," she reminded him gently.
"I-I can't remember what you're talking about, Abs," he tried lamely.
"Things were a lot different back then, weren't they Abs?" he tried a different approach. "A lot's changed since then. A whole new team now and all."
Abby hesitated, suddenly wondering if she was wrong. What if he really didn't feel that way about her anymore? But that wasn't the case. The rose in her palm was token enough of that. "So you don't feel that way now?" she pressed. "You don't love me anymore?"
And that was it. She wasn't leaving him any room for doubt that she'd heard him properly that day. It was up to him to admit it or not. So far he wasn't. He was sitting in complete silence and she felt the way his body trembled with fear since she was still pressed into his side. She looked up at his face as he stared into the fire, avoiding her eyes. She let him take his time.
Finally, after what seemed like ages, he looked back at her and her heart leapt to her throat when she saw how much love was written in his eyes. "Abs," he said tenderly, "I, us, we're… we're good together. Maybe talking about this isn't such a good idea, yeah? Maybe I might ruin everything. Sometimes things are just better left unsaid."
"I need to know, Connor."
"Why?" It was his turn to ask.
"Because you're right, we are good together, but we could be even better. One day one of us is going to need more and if we can't find it with each other, then we'll turn to other people and things will get ruined, yeah?"
Connor stared at her, and then finally he whispered in disbelief, "Abby, do you love me?"
She had to smile at that. Here she was doing everything to make him admit it first, and he was going to win with one simple question. But she supposed it was only fair since she'd been the one to push him away for so long and to bring it up now. She squeezed her rose tighter in her palm for bravery as she nodded. "Yes."
"Really, Abs?" Connor's voice almost squeaked with sudden excitement and she giggled and put a finger to his lips.
"Yes, but shush, you'll wake the others."
"Right, sorry," he whispered extra quietly, his eyes glowing. "But Abs, that's brilliant, because I-I love you too! So then, maybe you could be my girlfriend?"
Abby laughed, "You don't take your time do you? But yes, I'd like that."
Connor hesitated a brief moment and then eagerly leaned forward to kiss her. Abby smiled against him and then returned the kiss and when they broke apart she found Connor grinning happily. "That was amazing, Abby. Can I do it again?"
Abby laughed, "Connor, you can kiss me as often as you want."
He did so, briefly, but then suddenly he pulled away again and was jumping to his feet. "Oh I don't care if they're asleep, Abby. This is all just too good. I gotta tell the others!"
She watched with an amused smile as he ran over to shake Danny awake and then she turned her attention to their sleeping bags, dragging them next to each other, because tonight he was going to cuddle with her all night long and it had nothing to do with her being scared: not of creatures, not of Connor and not even of love.