Rex scuttled across Abby's feet, making her jump. She hissed his name into the darkness, staring around with eyes wide in the hope that they might catch some glimmer of light and allow her to see something of her surroundings. She was cold and slightly wet; some sort of liquid was dripping loudly nearby and her feet were getting soaked.
"Rex!" she whispered fiercely, desperate to catch the lizard so they could leave this place. His chirping sounded alarmingly far away, and somehow she knew the exit was not in that direction. Despite every instinct telling her she should stay as silent as possible and not attract attention, she chanced a quick whistle.
Something ran across her foot again. Rex was continued to chirp. Farther away. Involuntarily, Abby let out a scream.
A growl answered her, and she choked off with a gasp. The growled faded menacingly, and a moment of silence followed. Even Rex made no noise. All Abby could hear was the sound of her own ragged breathing, and the constant drip, drip, drip. . . Then something began to slide with a scraping sound across the floor.
Without a second's thought Abby bolted, splashing through cold puddles as she ran blind away from what she knew was a large, merciless, and hungry creature. Her jeans became as wet as her shoes, slowing her down enough that she could feel the creature's heavy breath on her back. She pushed harder, but found her arms suddenly dead weights at her sides, sharp pains of numbness piercing her shoulders. The snout of the creature grazed to back of her legs and she found herself sobbing as she stumbled through the utter darkness, frantic and terrified.
Then the puddles turned to tentacles which wound tightly around her legs and dragged her to a sudden, painful stop, and suddenly she could see just enough to catch a glimpse over her shoulder of dirty, scaly flesh, wild eyes, and foot long fangs slicing towards her. She had no breath left to scream, and no time; the creature was on her and she could only hope that Rex had gotten to safety and wasn't going to die like her, ravaged and alone—
Abby's head hit her bedside table as she thrashed, the dull pain pulling her from her dream and into the reality of the sweat-soaked, twisted sheets of her bed. It took her a few deep breaths before she was able to push herself to a sitting position and reach over to turn on her light. A dark shaped loomed in her doorway, and another strangled scream tore from her throat.
"Abby!" Wearing nothing but boxer shorts and one blue sock, Connor stood before her, brandishing a broom by the handle and staring at her with wide, dark eyes. A brief second passed between them, then Abby was scrambling reflexively at her bed clothes and Connor was hurriedly clearing his throat and staring at the floor, a blush creeping up his neck and face.
"I-I heard you screaming," he hastened to explain, voice throaty from sleep. "And I. . . I thought—" he limply waved the broom, his blush deepening and his eyes looking anywhere but at her.
Abby started to giggle weakly. The situation was so excruciatingly awkward, it was either that or burst into tears. "And you thought you'd fend off my assailant with your superlative cleaning skills?" she asked, her attempt at joking sarcasm slightly ruined when her voice cracked. "I'm sorry, Connor, but I've lived with you for over a while now and I can say they're nothing to shout about."
"Yeah, well." Connor was starting to hunch self-consciously in on himself, perhaps becoming aware that he was wearing even less clothing than Abby, who after all was wearing a tank top along with her pants, even if both were rather tiny. "I. . . yeah." He glanced up at her at last, remnants of honest fear mixing with the embarrassment in his gaze. "You—" he had to stop, clear his throat. "You're alright then?"
"Sure." Looking at him, bleary and rumpled, with his hair sticking up all over and his hand still gripping the broom handle with white-knuckles, Abby felt she had to tell him the truth, as much it made her feel pathetic and she would have loved to deny it. "It was just a nightm— dream," she said in a rush, blushing a little herself and feeling utterly stupid.
"About the creatures." It was hardly a question and it stunned Abby how easily Connor knew that, how he spoke without any hesitation.
She found herself nodding, the deepness of his voice on the word 'creatures' sending a shiver through her, increasing her discomfort but dispelling some of her embarrassment.
"I have those sometimes too," Connor admitted quietly, his eyes now meeting Abby's without wavering, irises and pupils darkly indistinguishable in the low lighting. "The sight of a late Permian Gorgonopsid with fully developed temporal fenestra kinda sticks with you for a while."
Abby had to laugh, for real this time, at hearing Connor lapse into his irrepressible geek speak. He smiled back, dimple blossoming briefly in his cheek. And Abby suddenly didn't want it— or him— to leave.
His ready understanding made her feel significantly less humiliated, and though she wasn't going to say it out loud to Connor, feelings of the dream still clung to her. The skin of her bare legs crawled from the remembered feel of rough scales brushing against them, her muscles trembled from the pent up tension, her mouth was dry and a cold sheen of sweat still lingered on her skin. She could still hear an echo of the monster's hot breath and see the reflection of its enormous teeth looming over her—
"Abby?" Connor's soft voice broke into her thoughts and she looked up to find him watching her worriedly. She blinked up at him, trying to banish the remaining emotions of the dream, but he must have seen something in her face because he took a jerky step forward, repeating her name in a low tone. His posture had gone rigid again, and she found her gaze drifting down from his face. All the running away from dinosaurs seemed to be doing him good; there was a fair amount of definition in his shoulders and arms, and his chest looked solid rather than concave as she might have expected. She watched the pale expanse of his stomach flex in and out with his breathing for a long moment before realizing what she was doing.
Jerking her gaze back to his face, she found him looking truly bewildered in addition to worried. "Connor," she said, trying to make it light but cringing at the way it came out breathy. She faltered, not sure what she wanted to say. Some sort of explanation, or defiance, or— some part of her, she knew, wanted it— plea. "You—" He cocked his head, swaying on the verge of taking another step, though she couldn't tell if it was forward or away. Her gaze flicked involuntarily back to his arms. "You're shivering!"
It was utterly irrelevant and not at all related to the words she had frantically been trying to arrange in her head, but it was true. The top of the flat was much cooler than the bottom, especially at night when Abby turned the heat down, and Connor was standing on the bare floor, coming down from an adrenaline high in nothing more than his boxers.
His surprise at her outburst was nothing compared to when she scooted over to the far side of her bed and threw back the covers, gesturing to the empty space beside her.
"Well come on then," she snapped, harsher than she'd like to be in order to drown out the rational part of her brain that was screaming, What the hell are you doing? "I'm not talking to you while you're standing there turning into a icicle." She glared at him as though it was somehow his fault. "You know I can't stand the sound of teeth chattering."
"Right." That bit of logic got Connor to take a tentative step before he stopped and gave her a strangely wary look. "You want to. . . talk?"
"Yes, Connor." Her sigh of exasperation was directed at herself as much as at him. He had to pick this of all times to be slow, and she had to pick it to go all wibbly and not want to be left alone in the dark. "We were both awoken rather suddenly, and I know iI/i won't be able to get back to sleep for awhile at least, and I thought. . ." The fact that she had not only asked Connor—iConnor/i— to get in bed with her, but now had to sit here and iexplain/i herself to him was just too much. She slumped back against her pillows with a grumbled, "Oh, forget it," and began to contemplate how effective smothering herself would be in ending the horrible awkwardness of it all.
"No, no—" It came out as two squeaks, but Connor was moving forward, leaning the broom against the wall before settling himself carefully, almost reverently, on the edge of her bed. "I like talking," he said to his knees. "Talking is good. It's great, actually, talking is. Really fantas—"
Abby flung the covers at him. He laughed softly when he pulled them from his head, getting the hint for once thank igod/i and turning so his position mirrored Abby's: legs stretched out beneath the covers, back against the headboard. Neither of them said a thing.
The longer the silence stretched, the more Abby had to resist the urge to slam her head against the wall behind her. Could this get any worse? Maybe if she reached over and pulled the blankets higher on Connor's hips like she desperately wanted to; she could see out of the corner of her eye he was still trembling slightly, and the sight of him next to her in bed with all that bare skin was more than a little weird.
Connor cleared his throat and tried a long "So. . ." that made Abby physically cringe and immediately go back to planning her death by suffocation. She had come to the decision that perhaps Connor should be the one to die— after all, did she ask him to burst into her room in the middle of the night all rumpled and earnest, trying to save her from some imagined attacker, who, if they were getting the better of her, would totally have slaughtered him?— when he followed with, "Which kind was it?"
"What?" Startled into looking at him properly, Abby found Connor's dark brown eyes had shifted from staring at the comforter to staring at her face.
"Which kind was it?" he repeated, voice pitched slightly lower than normal but tone holding nothing more genuine curiosity and caring. "Your dream. Was it the about-to-be-eaten kind or the trapped-and-alone kind?"
"Oh." Abby blinked, his total understanding again taking her by surprise. "Um, a little bit of both."
Connor nodded like he did when processing information about some new creature and about to spit out a diagnosis of it's behavior and lethality. "Those are the worst kinds."
A smile found its way to the corner of Abby's mouth. "They are," she agreed, matching his neutral tone.
"I wonder if Cutter and Stephen have them too," Connor continued to muse, long fingers absently tugging at a loose string on the edge of her sheets.
Abby obligingly followed his train of thought, happy to share what passed for them as normal conversation, despite the decidedly abnormal situation of it occurring with them sitting half-dressed in her bed. "Maybe theirs are worse," she suggested. "Because they've actually been through the anomalies."
"Yeah, but for all we know there's just a pub on the other side," Connor replied spiritedly, never able to resist a conspiracy theory despite the laughing edge to his voice acknowledging this one as ridiculous. "With loads of passed-out cretaceous patrons on the floor."
"And Helen's just had one too many?" Abby played along, feeling warm and content and therefore affable. "I reckon those Mosasaurs can whip up a pretty powerful brew." Connor's snorting giggle of response made her smile and turn her head to see if that dimple had returned, the one that seemed to promise there was nothing to be afraid in the shadows.
Connor, it seemed, had a similar urge and as Abby met his gaze straight on she realized one or both of them had slid closer to the center of the bed. Their shoulders brushed gently as they looked at each other, Abby's ice-blue eyes uncommonly soft and open with the low light and lack of her customary make-up; Connor's brown ones sparkling with the warmth of his bright, habitual grin.
"I bet out of everyone it's Lester who harbors a secret desire to ride one," Connor made a decent attempt to continue the conversation as though his breathing hadn't become slightly irregular, his smile twitching at the corners.
"Yeah," Abby followed his lead, pretending her sudden shivers were simply due to temperature. "Or Agent Ryan."
The possible meaning of that statement sent them both off into a round of laughter that somehow brought them even closer together, the length of their arms pressed fully against each other. Sleepiness was beginning to catch up to them, making their limbs heavy and their bodies slide deeper into the bed. A small piece of Connor's hair brushed Abby's exposed shoulder; it felt soft and silky and she wanted suddenly to reach up and tuck it behind his ear. She had twisted her body towards him and was stretching out her arm when he gasped.
Abby barely had time to register the words before Connor's hands were fluttering anxiously around her head, making hesitant contact like butterfly wings that she almost didn't recoil from until the index finger of one hand struck a particular heated spot.
"Ow!" Abby used one hand to push Connor's away and the other to probe cautiously at her left temple. A sticky substance and a sharp pain met her fingers, and when she swiftly pulled them away she saw Connor was almost right. She had been bleeding but it was all but dried now— a hefty bruise but a small cut from her wild thrashing during her dream.
"I'll get you a bandage." Connor hadn't ceased his borderline-frantic attempts to be helpful. "Or do you have a first aid kit? We should defiantly clean it out, and put some ice on it. I'll go—"
"Relax, Connor," Abby cut him off, trying to sound unconcerned but grabbing his arm with hard fingers to keep him from getting out of the bed. "It's a scratch, not a massive gaping head wound."
Connor made a face at her, remaining tense and looking concerned. Abby slumped back against her pillows, hoping he would do the same and they could return to the casual comfort of a few moments before. When he didn't, but continued to look at her with a furrowed brow and rock back and forth as though he might bolt to fetch a doctor at any moment, she sighed and rolled over, groping under her night-stand.
"Here, this will do the trick." She emerged with a grin and a bottle of Jameson. Connor's worried face didn't quite changed, but sort of twisted in a way Abby found slightly comical and almost endearing.
"Why do you have—"
"For nights like these," Abby answered, then moved quickly on with, "But I don't have any glasses, so if you don't drink that's totally—"
"I drink." There was a hint of defiance in Connor's voice and his chin tilted up— his usual expression when trying to prove he was more of a 'man' than someone might have implied. Abby smirked as she passed him the bottle, but his swallow was deep and sure and he didn't splutter— an impressive feat as it was more than Connor managed with most liquids.
When he handed the bottle back and she took a swig, she couldn't repress a thought straight from slumber parties in secondary school. Sharing a drink is like kissing, once removed. Her own swallow of whiskey went down a little rough and she hastily took another to disguise her cough. She wasn't going to be choking like a novice teenager while Connor handled the bottle with surprisingly nonchalant familiarity.
The warmth began to spread through her chest and throat with her third drink and she sunk back against the pillows. Connor, she noticed as he followed her lead and ended up pressed against her side again, had stopped shivering.
"What do you think we'll see next?" Abby mused quietly, hoping to restart their easy conversation of earlier.
"Through the anomalies?" Connor's voice was deep and soft with sleep and alcohol.
"Yeah." His skin against hers felt smooth and warm. He was still wearing only his shorts and Abby had a sudden urge to feel more of him, to put her arms around him and put her head on his chest and listen to his heartbeat. She slid lower into the bed, half-turning to her side.
"Maybe a band of Ewoks," Connor murmured, reaching for the bottle and brushing the exposed strip of her stomach with his hand. It took her a long moment to register what he was saying, and a longer one to realize he was joking.
Her laughter was closer to a sigh as she turned her head and found her lips brushing the skin of Connor's bare shoulder. She fumbled for the bottle but gave up after her hand brushed the waistband of Connor's boxers. Connor went very still and she tried to pull it back, but the warmth of the whiskey had spread to her limbs, making them heavy and difficult to control.
"You think Cutter would want to save them or shoot them?" Abby focused enough to respond, though she was pretty sure with her face still resting between the pillow and Connor's shoulder the words came out muffled beyond almost all understanding.
Whether Connor followed or not, he slurred, "I'd want to shoot them," then yawned so hugely most of his next statement was lost, though it seemed to begin with "or watch" and end with "in a fight."
Abby laughed again, and found her eyes were closed. She felt a brief moment of alcohol-dulled panic before realizing there was no creature waiting for her in the darkness behind her eyelids. There was nothing but faint buzz of the whiskey and the warmth and comfort of skin on skin. Her hand had dropped from Connor's chest to the space between them, and she was vaguely aware of fingers twitching under her own.
She couldn't remember if she was holding the bottle or if he was, or if she had put it down and neither of them was. It seemed practical to ask him but the darkness was getting thicker and she was getting heavier and that weight was pushing her against Connor where she could feel his chest raising and lowering with his breathing, deep and slow. . .
When Abby woke up, it was very bright. She raised her head to squint at the window above her bed, saw the streaming sunlight and felt the throbbing pain behind her eyes, and quickly lowered it again. Recollections of the night before along with the realization that what she was laying on was not a pillow but a living, breathing being jerked it back up again, and she blinked frantically in an effort to clear her blurry vision.
Connor lay sprawled on his back across her bed, the covers haphazardly bunching around his torso while his foot still with it's blue sock stuck out the side. His hair was messy and spread out against the white pillow beneath his head, the contrast mimicking that of his dark eyelashes on pale cheeks. His mouth was open slightly but he wasn't snoring, just breathing steadily in a manner that suggested he wasn't going to wake anytime soon. However, he shifted when Abby tried to pull away, the arm he had curled around her waist tightening, and forcing her to notice her own position.
One arm was buzzing with pins and needles from being tucked tightly between her body and Connor's. The other, which she was currently using to hold herself up, she was pretty sure had been flung across his torso. Her legs tangled with his one still under the covers, her hips firmly pressed to his side.
It should have been horrible. It should have been mortifying and impossible and ridiculous. And it was, a little, but while Abby should have either jumped out of bed or shoved Connor to the floor, she merely withdrew her arm and legs and slumped back down. Whether it was the sun or the good chunk of uninterrupted sleep she had gotten or Connor's arm still secure around her and the sleepy little murmurs he let out as he resettled, she felt warm and content, as if the whiskey was still moving through her blood and heating her from the inside out.
It couldn't hurt to enjoy this feeling, her brain reasoned. She'd just have to make sure when Connor woke up he knew that if he ever told anyone else about this ever, she'd kill him. And with that thought putting a smile on her lips, Abby slid comfortably back into sleep.