Burning Bridges

Connor lay on his bed, his one leg bent, the other crossed over it, bouncing his foot absent-mindedly, staring at the paper in his hand with unseeing eyes. He didn't know how long he had been there. Minutes like seconds, hours like years, time had lost all meaning after what happened to Stephen. Even after his betrayal, the two years of friendship spawned from being a part of such a close nit team could not be forgotten. The shock of his death had impacted the whole team, though it was clear that it was Cutter who was suffering the most. He had felt it worse when Stephen threw his lot in with Helen, believing her over him, even after the years of building a close bond when she left. Cutter had been the one who had been angry with him, had said cruel things, and his guilt for that had was obvious. But the shock was the overwhelming thing. It was as if, amongst the everyday threat, the constant running for their lives, that had forgotten that any of them could actually die. Now time was erratic in the wake of the disaster sculpted by Helen's hands. The days between escaping the complex and his funeral had been a whirlwind, time measured in tears and the giving and taking comfort, but moments spent alone dragging for decades of silence.

It was a feeling that Connor was becoming far too familiar with.

It was like when everyone thought that Abby was dead. But then, the situations weren't completely comparable. The pain he had felt then was far deeper that this. Yes, Stephen had been a close friend for two years, but Abby... what he felt for her was so different. But the relief when he saw her, standing there, alive and trembling from the cold of the abandoned warehouse, it was indescribable. Enough to shock from his lips the words he had wanted to say for so long.

Even if he had never repeated it, they both still knew. Words like that could not be unsaid.

He wondered whether he should feel guilty that he didn't feel as completely broken as when he had feared Abby's death. What he felt now, more than anything, was shock. Numb surprise more than grief. Out of all of them, it seemed an impossibility that it would be Stephen; sharp, agile, trained Stephen that would be the first to lose their life to this job.

Maybe it was his guilt that had made him do it. Guilt that he had believed Helen's deceit and lies over the words of his friends and his mentor. Maybe he did it simply to protect Cutter. Connor hoped that it was not to protect Helen. Now they couldn't know, no matter what the reason was.

Perhaps, Connor thought, the pain would come later. Sometimes he felt like he was just expecting Stephen to just walk through the door at any minute. To come back, safe and sound, just like Abby had. Even though he knew there was no way for him to, Abby's return from the clutches of those mer-creatures had left a feeling that wouldn't pass.

His eyes focussed once again, momentarily, on the piece of papers that he was twiddling it over and over in his fingers. She had some nerve, Caroline. To even just be at the funeral. She hadn't known him, and she had been a part of what had killed him

He guessed now, he should have seen it. Girls like Caroline Steel didn't go for boys like Connor Temple. She had just used him from the very beginning, and like a fool he had believed it. But worse than that, she had driven a wedge between himself and Abby. It was her that had lead to them fighting that say that the mer-creatures stole her away from him. And when their relationship had, potentially, been about to change forever, when she stood there before him, shivering, make-up ruined but to him just as beautiful as ever, looking up at him as she asked him to repeat those impossible words... she had gotten in the way. She had put Rex in danger twice. He should have listened to Abby. He did when it was about anything else, but he had just blindly ignored her warnings, her subtle hints and her... not so subtle hints.

The twirly handwriting swam into focus once more. He had long lost track of how long he had been there, staring it but rarely actually seeing it. He had asked her to write her number again for him, that night they went to the pub, explaining what had happened. Well, he had evaded the part of the story involving his head being swallowed by a giant prehistoric worm, of course, but she got the jist – he had washed it off his hand by accident, and asked her for a more solid version.

The days after Stephen's death, and later his funeral, had not been a time for grief or pause for thought. They hadn't been easy, emotionally or physically, but theirs was not a job that allowed for much down time. Today was one of those golden days of freedom. Paperwork was done, no new anomalies had opened. Both he and Abby had decided to just take the day to kick back, take some time for themselves. When he had left her, she had been busy knocking seven shades of stuffing out of her punch bag, while he had retreated to the quiet solace of his bedroom, just to think. He had put his hands in his pocket without thinking, and he had uncovered the number he now held in his hand, remembering what Caroline had said at the at the funeral.

I just wanted to say sorry. I was just thinking... well you... you have my number.

Her wondered with a tug of his lips which of them had been the one who's glare had made her stutter and falter like that. That was nothing that could be said for her, Everything she had done, she had done for herself, nevermind the consequences, nevermind the relationships ruined by her meddling, or the people who suffered for her selfishness.

Nodding to himself, he rolled up into a sitting position, twisting to place his feet on the ground and stood up in one fluid movement.

Then all the grace was lost when all blood rushed to his head and he stumbled as dizziness overtook him.

Shaking it off, he went over to the window, opening it as he sat on the ledge, bending his knee and putting his feet on the ledge too. Leaning over the table that his laptop was sitting on, where a lighter was sitting quite inconspicuously amongst the other random bits and bobs he had lying around on the surface.

While he had never been one of those mindless kids that followed the fads and took up smoking because it was "cool", but he had always had a mild fascination with fire, and the old-fashioned lighters were something he particularly liked. This was his favourite; silver-coloured, it had an intricate pattern etched into the surface around the edges. He flipped it open, flicking the wheel until it caught and gazed into the flame for a long moment. Something was so beautiful, but undeniably dangerous, it reminded him a little of both Caroline and Abby. As he held the paper to the flame, turning it so they ran up the sides, watching as they hungrily devoured the letters and numbers, he thought about the differences. While Caroline had only ever burnt; destroying things, careless of the damage she left in her wake, Abby was different, she was the type of fire that could not be controlled, but she would always be there to keep him warm. Keep him safe from the dangers, but ready to singe his fingers if ever he got too close.

Hissing in a breath as the flames nipped at his fingers, he dropped the curled and blackened paper out of the window and watching it floating on the breeze. The fire went out as it fluttered away, the blackened remains of it drifting away harmlessly.

Standing silent, unnoticed, in the doorway, as she had for some time now, Abby Maitland smiled. She had watched him contemplating the phone number, wondering what was going through his head. She knew that it had knocked his confidence when he realised that he had been played. But it was still up to him if he wanted to seek out a relationship with the girl, and if it was what he wanted, Abby knew she couldn't stop him. She wanted to see him happy.

Even if that meant him being with someone that wasn't her...

Fearing discovery, she stepped into the room, acting as if she had just come up the stairs.

'Hey!' she put a hand on her hip, cocking it out to the side and giving him a grin. They were getting better, and the smiles were getting easier. All they could do was move on.

'Hmmm?' Connor's head snapped around surprise momentarily taking his voice up an octave or two, 'Abby!' he cleared his throat, jumping to his feet, 'I didn't... hear you coming up.'

'Not surprised, with you head in the clouds,' she said, twitching her eyebrows up with a joking twist of the lips.

He looked out of the window, getting the pun and rolling his eyes as he turned back to her. He couldn't help but smile at her.

'Con, I was thinking... do you wanna go get something to eat tonight? I don't think either of us really feel like cooking, so I thought, we could go somewhere nice?'

He chewed the inside of his cheek, shifting his weight, but she seemed to sense he was going to say no, and quickly losing her nerve, backtracking before he had a chance to.

'Or not, it was just.. and idea, forget it-' she stepped back, out of the room, vanishing from sight.

'Abby!' he ran over to the doorway, grabbing it to keep his balance, only to find she hadn't gone as far as he thought she had, and they almost collided, both stepping back in surprise. They felt a little awkward, both now uncertain where they stood, and of the other's feelings.

'Abby, I was just gonna say... I'd rather... stay in tonight. We could... we could do pizza? Pizza, booze, telly? I just... I don't feel like going out tonight, I'd like to just stay in, I mean, if you want to. Put our feet up, just have a laugh... you and me?'

He knew what he was saying was risky, that his emotions were too close to the surface. But then a slow smile bloomed across her face, and he knew he had done something right. Tucking her chin to hide it, she nodded, looking at him with those pretty blue eyes, a friendly smirk in place as she agreed with him.

'Pizza, booze, telly. Sounds perfect to me.'

This was a bad time, and nothing was going to be the same now that they had lost an integral part of their team. But they still had each other, and that warmth that she always lit in him made it easier to carry on. He thought then, that, no matter what happened in the future, no matter how bad times got... so long as she was there, with him and safe, she would always be the one to keep him safe. To keep the creatures at bay.

X~x~X~x

Authors notes: Wow, why is it my creativity skyrockets whenever I'm meant to be doing anything BUT writing fic. I've got exams soon, and instead of revising, my mind is just like "PLOT BUNNIES! HAVE PLOT BUNNIES! TONES OF PLOT BUNNIES!" -_-'

Anyway, little quotes from other things in here. One from Syfy's Alice, and one from Series 5 of Doctor Who. See if you can find them :D

I don't own anything :( But now, Primeval is back! YEY!