AN: I know nothing about the actual behavior of bearded lizards. Just go with it, ok? First posted Primeval fic.
Abby tapped a few keys on her home computer and frowned at the video clip. She'd received the file from the guy at the Wellington who'd taken on the reptile house in addition to his own small mammal duties back when Abby had been laid off. She'd kept in touch, though, because she still felt a commitment to the exhibit she'd worked so hard to develop, and when she had the time, she still volunteered there.
Now Bob sent her video feed from the bearded dragon enclosure. He needed her help, so Abby reviewed all the footage he could send to see if she might find something to work with. Brad and Angelina, the bearded dragons, ought to be mating. But they weren't.
A noise in the kitchen distracted her. Connor was apparently making himself a snack. She hoped he didn't make too much of a mess. Although, that thought had a stale flavor to it. Since moving back in, Connor didn't make much of a mess at all. In fact, Abby hardly saw him anymore.
Their adventure in the Cretaceous period hadn't been quite the drama fest she'd expected. After the first day, they'd spent a night in a tree. Connor had been his usual self, teasing and ridiculous, and he'd asked to move back in, which Abby completely agreed to. The next day, they'd discovered Helen's lost anomaly controller. Connor was able to activate it, opening the anomaly to Site 333. Before they could even move, Danny had dove through it towards them, an expression of intense relief on his face. He informed them about Helen's demise – and the grim satisfaction on Connor's face was something Abby would remember for a long time, having not realized quite how much the man had hated his professor's ex-wife – and the continued survival of thousands of Australopithecus.
The three then made their way back to the site of the future anomaly. But they discovered a bit of a surprise there. It seemed that the bleak future, overrun with predators and giant bugs, no longer existed. All three ARC employees were shocked to find themselves stepping through the anomaly into a well lit and pristine room, filled with scientists and ARC personnel.
A gentleman in a lab coat, who identified himself only as a physicist they'd eventually meet in their own time, explained that the standing theory amongst the ARC scientists posited that with the deaths of Helen Cutter and Christine Johnson, the original ARC team was able to change the bleak future they'd seen previously. He refused to give them more information, insisting that they had to go home and continue forward through 'linear time' without extra knowledge, otherwise they might create a paradox. Abby had been confused by this, and Danny the same, though Connor seemed to understand it completely. These future scientists were able to charge the anomaly controller and program it to take the three team members back to the warehouse, where no doubt Becker and Sarah waited for them.
Home at last, none the worse for wear. Sarah had been hatching a mad plan involving shrapnel cannons and Metallica played on very loud speakers when the three adventurers arrived in the middle of her argument with Becker. Giddy with relief and delight, the ARC team returned to base, the future anomaly having collapsed moments after Abby, Connor, and Danny came through.
Since then, life had become very quiet. They'd had only two anomalies in the three weeks since then. Connor theorized that without Helen's deliberate meddling with the anomalies, the entire system would stabilize. The team was able to relax at last, catching up on studies and holiday time and let go of the stress and madness.
Abby had let Connor move back in to the flat immediately. The ARC medical team kept him on strict desk duty. Apparently, three concussions in six months were very bad for him, and both times the ADD went off since their hunt for Helen, Connor had been restricted to the ARC, to monitor the anomalies remotely. But something about Connor's behavior bothered Abby. She thought maybe it was the come down from the adrenaline high of almost daily anomalies and hunting Helen Cutter, but there was more to it than that. He didn't fight the medical team over desk duty nearly as much as she'd expected. At home, he didn't try to engage her in conversation as much, nor cause nearly as many disasters as before. She worried that the concussions had affected him.
In fact, it felt a lot like Connor had become mentally disconnected somehow. He worked on his computer a lot, and when she asked, he claimed he was rewriting his dissertation. He sometimes would play with Sid and Nancy and Rex, but he never tried to pull her into the fun and games like he used to. Once, she got dressed up to have drinks with some friends, and instead of trying to invite himself along or convince her to stay home, he'd simply absently wished her a good time, and went back to his laptop. More disturbing, the Playstation3 stayed boxed up in his room, disconnected and quiet. And when she'd suggested a movie night, he'd shrugged indifferently. So she'd ordered a pizza and gotten a movie, just like old times, but when she expected him to sit beside her on the couch and make snarky comments at her selected rom-com, instead he sat on the floor, said very little, and actually moved to the table to work some more rather than finishing the film.
Thinking back, Abby couldn't figure out when Connor had changed. The last time he'd seemed like himself, they'd been up a tree some 80 million years ago. When they'd gotten home, she thought everything was back to normal, but apparently it wasn't.
She scowled at the computer screen, not really seeing the footage of two lizards pointedly ignoring each other, preoccupied with trying to analyze the behavior of a different creature altogether.
"Boy, I didn't think you'd ever get that pissed at lizards." The voice right behind her made her jump.
"Conn! God, don't sneak up on me like that!"
"Sorry." He had a cup of tea in one hand, a piece of toast in the other. "What have you got there?"
Abby sighed. "It's the bearded dragons at the Wellington. They should be mating by now, but they're not, and Bob asked for my help to figure out why."
He leaned forward a bit, looking at the footage. "Which is which?" he asked.
Abby tapped the screen. "The one with the bigger body is Angelina, the other is Brad. We got Brad a while ago, trying for a mating program. But they've never mated. They get on okay, it looks like. They just… don't mate."
Connor took a bite of his toast, thinking about it. After swallowing, he said, "So, what's the dynamic here? I mean, you say they get on alright, but what was it like at first?"
"Well, when we moved him in, at first Angelina made sure Brad knew she was the boss. I mean, the females are bigger, they call all the shots."
"Did he ever try to initiate mating?"
"I think so," Abby answered. "But she shot him down. Then the season was over, and it was life as usual for a while."
"And the next time? Did she shoot him down again?"
"Um. I wasn't there, I'd have to ask Bob, but I guess they didn't mate, because they still won't now." She sighed heavily. "I guess they're just not into each other, though the fact that Brad isn't even trying now is a little weird." Behind her, Connor let out a scoffing laugh that made Abby whip around to stare at him. It was a sour, humorless sound, so completely unlike him. His expression was a bitter smirk, and he didn't wear it well. "What?"
Connor sneered, he actually sneered at her a little. "You really don't see it? She's got him trained. He won't try, because she's never been receptive in the past. She's taught him that he isn't worthy; every time he's tried something, she's shot him down, so now he knows better. The best he can hope for is peaceful cohabitation, so that's what he takes, and he just lives with it." He turned to walk away. "I'll bet you ten quid that Bob will tell you they started the process once, but then Angelina turned on Brad. Since then, he's learned to keep his distance." He stomped up the stairs and vanished into his loft room. She could hear him moving around for a few moments, but then silence descended.
Abby sat for a long time, thinking about Connor's words, and more importantly, his tone. He'd seemed bitterly ironic. At first, she wondered what bee got into his bonnet, but then with growing horror, she started to see the forest beyond the trees. She realized that the behavior of the bearded lizards was only a metaphor for something Connor wanted to tell her.
He won't try, because she's never been receptive in the past.
The best he can hope for is peaceful cohabitation, so that's what he takes, and he just lives with it.
Abby understood suddenly that she did have Connor trained, didn't she? She'd never done anything to let him know that now she would be receptive to him, as a boyfriend, as a lover. She remembered that one amazing kiss very well, but now even more pointedly, she remembered the way she'd backtracked afterwards, talking about just being mates and no weirdness and all.
She's taught him that he isn't worthy
Abby covered her face with her hands. Oh god, she'd blown it big time. Here she'd waited for three weeks, expecting Connor to say something, do something, to try and push their relationship to the next level after that kiss, so that she could finally let him in. And yet, in all the time they've known each other, she'd done her best to make sure he didn't push. Every time he had, she's smacked him down just as efficiently as Angelina the lizard did to Brad.
What a mess she'd made of things.
Connor had essentially just told her he wasn't going to try to move their relationship into new realms ever again, so it was up to Abby to do it. She wanted to, she really did. She only hoped she wasn't too late in realizing it. What if Connor had really completely given up on her? What if he'd actually decided he didn't even want her anymore?
Well, there was only one way to find out. She didn't know how she could sort out the lizards at the Wellington, but at the very least, she could sort out herself and Connor.
With a deep and determined breath, Abby climbed the stairs to the loft. Since it wasn't really a proper bedroom, with only half-walls and such, there wasn't an actual door to knock on. She hesitated on the penultimate step. Connor sat cross-legged on his bed, hunched over his laptop, headphones over his ears. If he were to look up, he'd see her standing there.
With a hard swallow, Abby stepped up and into the room. After a moment, her movement seemed to register, and Connor glanced up at her. He pulled one side of the headphones away. "What is it, Abs?" He sounded tired, resigned almost.
Abby fidgeted with the hem of her tee-shirt. "I was thinking, about your analysis. Of the lizards' behavior."
"Well… how would you suggest getting them to change?"
He shrugged carelessly. "I dunno. I'm not the Lizard Whisperer, that's your job."
"Not even a guess?" Abby shuffled a little closer. Connor stared at her, his face blank, but she could see a million thoughts in his eyes.
"Well, I don't think lizards are psychic. He's not going to just know if she's receptive. If she is, she'd have to let him know," he said finally, and Abby's heart pounded in her chest. She could tell by the way he phrased it that there was hope for them, if she could just give Connor the encouragement needed.
With another fortifying breath, she crossed the room and sat on the bed next to him. He shifted, setting aside his computer, making room for her instinctively, but his guarded expression didn't change.
"Conn…. I owe you an apology," she started slowly. "I've been horrible to you."
"No, let me finish. I've been… just terrible. You've been wonderful, and I've been awful. I acted like… like a tease, kissing you and then acting like it didn't happen. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry for that. It wasn't fair. And…. and all this time, I've acted just like Angelina, shooting you down. I shouldn't have, it was stupid, I was just…. afraid." God, this was so much harder than she'd thought it would be.
Silence held them for a moment, and then Connor prompted softly, "Afraid? Of me?"
Abby nodded. "I was afraid. This isn't going to make sense, but what if it was great, really great, and then you left? Because everyone…. everyone leaves eventually, and I didn't want to let myself l–love you, because then when you left it would crush me." She hurried to get it all out, even using the dreaded L-word with only a slight stumble, because it was true. "It was stupid, I know. Because I was scared of losing you, I lost you anyway, I guess. I understand if you're totally disgusted with me now. I was waiting… I wanted… I was hoping you'd make the first move, so that I wouldn't have to, because I was chicken, and I wanted you to do it. But you didn't. I didn't understand it until today, but I get it now. And if…" She finally looked up into his face. She couldn't read his expression if she wanted to, he seemed so still and serious. "If you've totally given up on me, I understand and it's okay, but if you still…. if you still want me…. I mean, I want you now. I've fallen for you, Connor." Once the words were finally out, it felt like her heart weighed less. She could let go of the tension now, because she'd laid out all her cards, and now only had to wait to see what she'd won.
Connor's eyes searched her face. Then, to her joy, he reached out a hand to brush along her cheek, before cupping the back of her neck and pulling her close, pressing his lips to hers. His kiss was as soft and sweet and warm as she remembered, and her hands drifted up to grip his shirt, holding on to him. He shifted closer without ever breaking the kiss, pulling her against him. They spent long moments learning each other's mouths, progressing to deep wet kisses, heat sparking between them as their tongues met and slid together.
Finally they parted, but only a few inches. Abby's lips tingled. Her eyes met Connor's, and his were dark and warm and shining at her. He smiled then, his dimples wrinkling his cheeks.
"See? Not so scary," he whispered, and she giggled. His hand ran up and down her back, soothing and relaxing her. He tipped his head forward so their foreheads met. "All you had to do was tell me you were ready. I'm not going anywhere, I promise. You're all I've ever wanted." He kissed her again, a sweet touch of lips to seal his oath. "I love you, Abby."
She sighed, snuggling into his embrace. "I love you too, Connor."
"But I still have no idea how to sort out your lizards."
Abby laughed, hugging him tightly.