So This is Home?
They walked numbly into the apartment that had been told they could stay in for a few days, closing the door behind them. The sun was setting, throwing brilliant, coloured light over the plain, but spacious living room. Everything was shades of white and beige, clean but dull and lifeless. The rooms were all the same; comfortable, modern, but bare and perfunctory. After a life in dirt and trees and nature, it made them feel unwelcome more than almost anything else. For a long time they just wandered around it in silence, keeping hold of the other's hand. By keeping hold of each other, they could keep hold of the only thing that hadn't gone mad in this broken world they had returned to.
The white wooden flooring soon bore the marks of their shoes, caked in mud from another world, it seemed, to this city they were in, all glass and gleaming surfaces. There was a decent sized shower in the bathroom, which Connor insisted she take first. Neither of them really took long, so he wouldn't be waiting long. But both had missed the simple pleasures of their easier lives, trapped in that distant past, and he had long ago realised just how much she longed for a shower. The water, though safe to drink, was by no means safe to risk a plunge. There was a waterfall, which they had retreated to when necessity really took over, but the water was where the most dangerous of creatures gathered. He knew Abby well, and had for a long time. He knew that while she was strong and hated a lot of feminine stereotypes, that wasn't to say she didn't long to be clean of the months of dirt, sweat, tears, blood and tree sap. A year without deodorant, running for their lives on a regular basis and stuck in the same clothes was not exactly comfortable for either of them, and being back only reminded them of that.
He heard the water turned on, and continued wandering aimlessly. A comfortable looking bed, big enough for both of them to collapse on later. He didn't dare go near it now, for fear of just falling asleep there and then. Weariness was so heavy in his bones from nights kept awake by fears of the creatures outside their rudimentary shelter, and of never getting home. How strange it was, now, that they were "home", after such a long time struggling to get to this point, only to find that their home no longer existed. What had become of their old flat, they had no idea. The job they had lived for so long was snatched away from them. Almost all the team, the people they knew; their friends... were gone. They had only each other now. Well, each other, and Becker. The new members of the team seemed nice enough, but it wasn't their team any more.
They were the only ones left from the first team. Stephen. Cutter. Then even Jenny left.
Only they remained.
Well, them and Lester. But even he was now no longer their main boss. Philip Burton, for all Connor's admiration, was still controlling the ARC, and insisting on them being kept from the job that they could not be any better prepared for.
He thought they were... amateurs.
Never meet your heroes, Connor thought to himself cynically with a humourless laugh.
Shaking off his irritation, he went to the kitchen. Like promised, it was well stocked, though no perishables. Tins, jars, a few things in the freezer, including some long-life milk, which he put on the side to defrost without thinking why. Then he noticed what he had subconsciously pulled out of a cupboard above the sink.
His eyes lit up. He had been on autopilot since entering the apartment, but it seemed that his longing since waking up from a dream about Starbucks had been included in the directives. For the first time since talking with Burton and Lester, Connor grinned brightly, if a little tiredly, opening every cupboard he could until he found a kettle. Filling and plugging it in, searching for cups. In the same place the coffee had been, there was a jar of powdered hot chocolate. Nodding to himself, he spooned each into cups, and when the kettle boiled, poured it into the one with his coffee in it. Without knowing when Abby would be done in the shower, there was no point in pouring hers out for it to only go cold.
Speaking of cold...
Turning around, he glowered at the frozen milk carton on the counter. He didn't exactly mind black coffee, but it wasn't the same, and it wasn't what he wanted right then. He wanted cappuccino, but until he could get out to anywhere that could provide that, he just wanted a cup of hot, sweet and milky caffeine, keep him awake until he was free of the days and months of sweat and filth.
Still thinking as he had while in the past, he used the knife that he had in his pocket at all times, not even thinking about whether or not there were scissors or anything more fitted to the job. He had planned to slice open the carton, cut off a section and put it into the cup to heat up. To his worn out mind, that seemed like a good enough idea. Simple enough, and quicker than waiting for it to defrost.
Unfortunately, it seemed that their luck quota for the day had been used up finding that device. The card of the UHT milk was slippery, and the knife lost purchase, slipping and cutting his finger. Yanking his hand away with a quick intake of breath hissing through his teeth, he looked at the damage. It was a shallow cut, nothing compared to the things they had both experienced. It was a rare day they didn't suffer some form of injury.
But this wasn't that world, and this wasn't any other day.
This was the day that things were meant to be better. This was the day all their problems were meant to be gone, finished with. When they could come back, see the friends that they had fought to get back to, fit in once more. To be two people in six billion, not the only two people in existence. This was meant to be the day they got their lives back. When they went back to normal, or as normal as they could ever get.
But no. Sarah was gone. Danny had never come back. They'd lost their place in the world, their job, their home, even their pets. After struggling so far, for so long, everything they had been working for was snatched away from them by two men in suits that thought that they weren't good enough!
As that first drop of blood fell from his hand, all the anger from everything that had happened exploded from Connor. The last straw, that final insult that pushed him over the edge. Everything got too much for him, this world, their replacements, this whole stupid bloody situation, he had had enough!
Knocking the milk to the floor, he threw the knife in his hand away, barely registering the sound of it clinking across the floor, giving a guttural, feral scream of anger and anguish. He slammed his hand into the still steaming cup of coffee, knocking it off the counter to the floor, where it smashed, the pieces skittering everywhere, as well as the scalding liquid. His destructive anger still was not assuaged, but in the spotless kitchen, there was little else to destroy, other than the cup he had put aside for Abby. His teeth ground tight, staring at it, before his back turned, leaning against the counter, sliding down until he was sitting on the floor, palms pressed to his tight-closed eyes, pulling at his lank hair, breathing away his frustration and finding a strange kind of comfort in the pain in his finger as he held tight to his hair.
Long moments passed, and his heart beat slowed, his anger draining until he just felt tired again. Everything that was meant to be right was wrong. Everything that was meant to be simple, easy, just weren't. It had never even occurred to them that anything would be different. They had assumed that they would just go back, carry on living their old lives, just as it had been before. Well, with a few changes for the better.
All the awkwardness between them was long gone now. They had just accepted one another, and a bond had been forged stronger than anything they could have imagined. They had relied on one another so completely to keep each other alive, to keep them sane. It was something that couldn't be forgotten.
His hands slid down his face, rasping through the beard that had grown while they were trapped. Abby had occasionally teased him about it, either claiming that it finally made him look manly, or jokingly complaining about it being itchy when he kissed her. Maybe a shave wouldn't be all that much of a bad idea when Abby was out of the-
His head flew up in surprise, banging slightly against the cupboard he was leaning against. With one hand absent-mindedly rubbing the impact point, he got up, busying himself with the kettle, turning it on again to boil.
'What happened?' She ventured cautiously, not at all unlike the way he had heard her talking to frightened animals.
'Hmm?' he asked, trying, and failing, to act like he didn't know what she meant, pouring the boiling water into the mug for her, 'Oh, I found some... coffee. There's hot chocolate for you too-'
She caught his hand, noticing how he was gingerly keeping it away from everything. Looking at it, then at him, she reached a hand up, dabbing at the trail it had left when he slid his hands down his face without realising. She didn't ask any questions. That was something he always admired about Abby. She always knew how to read a situation, and know exactly what needed to be said, and what didn't.
'Go have your shower Connor,' he was about to say that he would clean up first, but she pre-empted him, 'Leave this to me, I'll sort it out.'
He nodded mutely after a second, moving around her and towards the bathroom she had vacated.
'Oh, and Con?'
He spun around on the spot, looking at her as he always did when she called out to him; expectant and wide eyed. His attention solely on her, what she had to say. 'Yeah?'
'Thanks' she said with a warm smile, one she had only for him, 'For the hot chocolate.'
A slow grin spread across his face. 'My pleasure, Abby.'
His hands were shaking still when he finally looked in the mirror, razor in hand. It fell from his fingers as he stared disbelievingly at his reflection. He looked so different from the boy that had gone to that lost world. His eyes were harder, darker. He hadn't quite realised just how much older the new facial hair made him look, but to try to rid himself of it now would be ridiculous, and another cut was not something that he really wanted.
It was later, when they were lying together in a bed too comfortable for them to get to sleep for a long time, when they just lay there, talking, kissing, holding each other, with a cup of coffee that she had made him when he had gotten out of the shower on his bedside table, her second cup of hot chocolate on hers, that he realised something. Yes, there were a so many things that were bad now that they were back. There were so many things wrong. But to know that Abby was still there with him, still safe, still alive, still breathing, even in this world in which they no longer belonged anywhere. But no matter how bad things got, how wrong they went, he was here with her. For as long at they were together, no matter when or where, it didn't make any difference.
When he awoke to find her gone the next morning, the initial panic was simply overwhelming. But he quickly noticed her silhouette through the thin curtains over the French doors. Neither of them had slept soundly last night, their bodies and minds unused to long hours of safe, peaceful sleep, no matter how tired they were. But when he offered, like he had so many times in the Cretaceous, to take over the watch they no longer needed to keep, she said something that, not for the first time, put into words exactly what he himself felt.
'I'm happy here with you.'