Disclaimer: Not mine, no copyright intended
A/N: And so, we reach the end... thank you to everyone that has so far commented or added to favourites. *Hands out virtual chocolate chip cookies as a thank you*
Part 5 - Present day
'Simon' leaned back in his chair and looked straight at the blonde haired girl that had been talking pretty much non-stop for almost two hours. The Barista came over and refilled their cups for the third time, glaring at them. He thought that maybe they were pushing the 'free refills" thing a bit far and wondered if he should suggest going somewhere else – but that was too scary a thought. Outside of work, the coffee shop was the only place he went to. New places were just far too daunting.
He wanted to believe Abby; it would make sense of some of the things he'd been experiencing since leaving hospital, but he'd also been warned that there would be people who would try to take advantage of his vulnerable state. He didn't want to be fooled into something simply because he thought she had nice eyes and a pretty face.
"Why tell me all of this now? Why didn't you tell me when you and this Matt visited me nine months ago?"
"I wanted to, but back then you were struggling to get through the basic tasks in life. You couldn't have coped with all this too. I stayed nearby so that I could wait for you to be well enough to take it in, but that took longer than I anticipated." Abby sighed. She'd hoped it would only take a few weeks, so she'd taken 'compassionate leave' from the ARC and booked herself into a bed and breakfast that was a short drive from the hospital. The Minister had briefed all of the hospital staff that Abby and Matt were not permitted to even be in the grounds; a fact Abby discovered when she tried to get in to see 'Simon'. After three attempts, the hospital had her physically removed by security and threatened to call the police if she tried to gain entry again. She had to give in; she would not be able to help him from a prison cell.
After that, she realised that she was going to have to make her living arrangements a little more long term – She rented a small bedsit and managed to get herself a job at Chester zoo which was about half an hour drive away. She tried to quit her position at the ARC but Lester wouldn't accept her resignation and told her to take as long as she needed. Deep down, Abby knew she would always go back there, even if she was angry with the likes of Matt and the Minister for what had been done to Connor. She'd deal with that issue later; right now her focus was on Connor and getting him back.
"How do I know you're not just one of those people that try to get people like me to make insurance claims and then take loads of money from them?"
Abby smiled to herself; paranoia was one of Connor's more annoying traits but she was relieved it was showing itself now. "I guess you just have to go with what your heart tells you on that one," she said softly. She moved her hand over his to stroke it; he looked at it questioningly, then tentatively touched the single diamond on the ring she wore.
"Did I get you that?"
"Yes. I would've just settled for your mum's ring that you wore around your neck, but you insisted on getting me a proper engagement ring." She reached inside the neck of her t-shirt and pulled out the gold band on a leather cord. "I've had it since the day I proposed to you. We were going to get it altered to fit me properly so that I could have it as my wedding ring when we..." She swallowed back the lump in her throat – she and Connor should have been married for six months by now.
"I wish I could remember," he said sadly.
"You will, one day. You've already made so much progress. The visions in the dreams you keep having, the moments where you know your name is Connor... They're all memories of your life and they're coming back to you slowly."
"They made me think I was crazy. They made me take pills, lots of pills!" He slammed his fist down angrily on the table.
"I know. I've been watching you and I wanted to intervene so much, but each time I tried they set back your progress with more therapy and medication to make you think you were Simon Jones."
Out of the corner of her eye, Abby could see the Barista looking at them again. "Perhaps we should go somewhere else?" She stood up and put her jacket on, but Connor hesitated. He looked up at her, and she could see he was scared.
"It's OK. Maybe I've told you too much? There's a lot to get your head around." She sat down again and took his hand. "We can chat again tomorrow if you like? Give you chance to think about what I've told you, and you can ask questions."
Connor nodded. "I'd like that, same time?"
"I'll look forward to it," Abby smiled and rose slowly. Leaving him was so hard, especially as there were more than just tiny glimmers of hope that her Connor was still there – but she'd waited nine months already; a few more days wouldn't make that much difference and he had to be ready to accept the truth. It wouldn't be long before she'd have him back where he truly belonged.
Connor stared at his reflection just as he had done hours earlier. This morning he was Simon Jones, the weirdo that no-one spoke to because he didn't have a past to mould his personality. Now he was someone with a whole history and a cool job that many would be envious of. For the first time since he'd left hospital, he felt alive and positive. Then it hit him; if he was such a great person, with a cool job and a gorgeous fiancée, why had he agreed to wipe his memory? Abby had been very matter of fact about it, and he understood why wiping New Dawn from his head was important, but to go to such an extreme? Perhaps Abby was spinning an elaborate story to pull him in; ready to chew him up and spit him out when she'd got what she wanted from him?
Something else bothered him too; Abby had said that the mind wipe was permanent – so why was he supposedly getting his memory back? Was that part of the manipulation too? He couldn't remember when he'd started seeing the blonde girl in his dreams; was it after he'd noticed Abby in the coffee shop for the first time or before? He'd had to put his trust in so many people but now he didn't know who to believe.
He placed his hand on his chest; he'd always felt like he was missing something and now he knew what it was – the ring that Abby had been wearing around her neck. He could see that gold band now, and he heard her voice, "Connor Temple, will you marry me?" He remembered pulling the cord over his head and hastily slipping the ring on her finger before Becker and Jess arrived – wait! He remembered! Becker and Jess were pushing someone in a wheelchair... a man... their boss?. Connor grinned at his reflection; a smile that stretched from ear to ear. He knew Abby was the one he should believe, not those doctors. He was... he took a deep breath. "I'm Connor Temple!"
Over the next few weeks, Abby and Connor met almost every day at the coffee shop. Some days, Connor would just let Abby talk; other days he'd ask questions. She tried to be as honest as possible with him, even if some of the things she had to tell him were unpleasant. Their shared experiences were what made them a strong couple, and he needed to know everything if things were going to be the same. She cringed when he asked how long they'd been together; it was almost like being back in the Cretaceous – baring her soul and admitting that she'd treated him badly. He simply nodded and held her hand, just as he had done back then and that brought a tear to her eye.
After a couple of weeks, Abby managed to persuade him to go somewhere else where they could chat a little more privately and let out a few emotions. They spent a whole day in the park, talking about the early days of the ARC; they'd cried together as they talked about Stephen and Cutter and laughed at how they'd managed to keep Rex a secret. They held hands, leaned on each other and occasionally exchanged a tender kiss. Abby had to keep reminding herself not to get too carried away; this was all still new for Connor and he was still delicate. He hadn't yet asked about the details around New Dawn either and Abby was deliberately avoiding it.
"Abby," Connor said after a quiet few minutes when he'd obviously been thinking about something. "I think I'm ready to go home." He chewed his bottom lip nervously.
"Home? As in back to London?"
Connor nodded. "You've filled in so many gaps, and some things are coming back to me of their own accord; I just think that the only way I'll get completely better is to be back at the ARC and back at Jess's flat."
"OK. If you're sure." Abby wasn't sure if she was ready for this. It had been nine months since she'd been there herself and she had unresolved issues of her own – Matt for example; he'd done too little too late to stop Connor doing this in her opinion, and the fact he'd sat back and watched her search desperately for him when he knew where he was all along angered her. She had trusted him; put her relationship with Connor on the line for him over the Philip Burton business; and this was how he repaid that trust. The Minister too; he should have been looking out for Connor but all he was interested in was making sure that there was no repeat of New Dawn. It was as if they'd forgotten that human beings with feelings were caught up in this. "I'll call Jess tonight to make sure our room is still free. We can move back there at the weekend, and then go to the ARC on Monday."
Connor curled his fingers into Abby's and swallowed nervously; looking straight ahead at nothing in particular and lost in his thoughts. Abby squeezed his hand reassuringly and stared ahead too. This was the final step in getting Connor back and getting their relationship back on track, but it could go horribly wrong too. She shook her head and tried to push her negativity to the back of her mind.
The sound of Connor's laughter was like music to Abby's ears. From her desk she couldn't actually see him, but she could certainly hear him and she couldn't help smiling. Jess was helping him get re-acquainted with the ARC's computer systems, and every now and then his laughter would be punctuated by a girly giggle from Jess.
Abby had never really found that she had much in common with Jess, but she couldn't fault her warmth and generosity. Yet again, she'd allowed Connor and Abby to live in her spare room; no questions asked. She'd even made herself scarce all weekend to allow them space to settle back in – something she hadn't done the first time around and it had caused a little tension.
"It's good to see you back, Abby." Matt was leaning against the open doorway. Abby just grunted a 'thank you' and turned to her computer. "Connor too; back where he belongs."
"No thanks to you!" Abby spat back.
Matt walked further into the room, closing the door behind him. He nodded at the spare chair and Abby indicated for him to sit down. "I understand your anger; and you have every right to feel like that. But I can't change what I did, and ever since I've tried to put it right."
Abby sighed. "I'm not the sort of person to hold grudges; life's too short and too precious to waste it on negative thoughts. I have Connor back and he's slowly getting better; that's all I care about right now."
Matt smiled. "How much does he remember? Is everything OK with you two?"
Abby felt herself blush as she thought about their weekend; their first one together as a proper couple again. "We're getting there," she said. "He remembers a lot; some of it I've had to fill in for him."
"Only the facts that I've told him. I'm scared what will happen when he starts remembering the full details and when he realises the exact reasons he did this mind wipe in the first place." Abby paused and took a deep breath. "I'm afraid I'll lose him again."
Matt placed his hand on Abby's shoulder. "We'll all be here for him when or if he does remember it. Let's think of it as a second chance to do it right this time." He stood up to leave.
"Matt, there's something I don't understand. You said the mind wipe was permanent; so why has Connor been able to remember things?"
Matt sat down again and looked thoughtful. "I don't know. The research on the procedure was stopped so the long term effects were never really studied properly. I can only guess that in the case of those it worked for they wanted to wipe their minds completely. Perhaps Connor didn't want to forget deep down, and he clung onto a tiny thread that was just enough to bring him back."
"Getting married," Abby smiled. "That first time we saw him in the hospital; he said he remembered that he was getting married."
Matt laughed. "You could be right. The scientists of my time would have a field day with that!" He exchanged a look with Abby and saw a sparkle in her eyes that had been missing for a long time. Connor wasn't the only one that was getting back to their old self. He stood up to leave again, and then remembered the reason he'd actually come to see her.
"The Minister is hosting a lunch today; attended by lots of influential government types all vying for new positions. I have a plan to make sure he gets what he deserves; something I saw on a TV show a little while ago. Come with me."
"I want to see that man suffer as much as I have," Abby said. "What can I do to help?"
"Nothing. You being there will make him squirm enough, and then I'll deal the final blow."
Abby was intrigued and couldn't wait for lunchtime to arrive.
The Minister did an almost visible double take when he saw Abby arrive with Matt. She nodded a 'hello' and strolled nonchalantly over to the buffet table. Inside, her heart was pounding and adrenaline was coursing through her entire body – she wanted to punch that man's lights out; the mere sight of him made her feel sick, but Matt had reminded her that violence would just get her arrested and earn him even more sympathy.
"Miss Maitland, I didn't expect to see you. I trust you are well?" The Minister said. He then turned to his colleague. "Miss Maitland is one of the field agents on that special project I was telling you about."
The man held out his hand for Abby to shake and introduced himself as Sir Peterson. She shook it politely then turned to the Minister. "I'm very well thank you. Connor and I both came back to work today. He's doing great now that he has his memory back."
"Connor's back?" The Minister looked awkward.
"Yes," Matt joined the group. "Good news eh? After you authorised the procedure to wipe his memories and then leave him in a coma we'd all but given up hope on him."
"You authorised this?" Peterson said, his face creased in a frown. "The Simon Jones incident was yours?"
"It was for his own good!" The Minister snapped. "Imagine if another Philip Burton character got hold of Temple; we cannot afford a repeat of what happened."
"Wasn't your wisest of moves was it?" Matt said. "Still, it's all turned out OK. He's pretty much back to normal now thanks to Abby's patience and love."
"Well, wish him well from me, Mr Anderson... Miss Maitland." The Minister walked away. Matt, Abby and Sir Peterson watched him for a few moments, shaking their heads.
"He's made a few bad judgement calls of late," Matt said. "Shame really."
"Oh?" Sir Peterson said.
Matt leaned in closer, placed his hand on the older gentleman's shoulder and lowered his voice. "In fact, don't you think he looks tired?" Sir Peterson looked questioningly at Matt and then realised what he was suggesting. He nodded and a small smile traced across his thin lips. Matt knew his work was done; he'd sewn a seed and he guessed that within a month the Minister would be either on "sick leave" or forced into early retirement.
"We should head back to the ARC," Matt said to Abby. "Connor will probably need rescuing from Jess before too long; let's hope she hasn't convinced him that chocolate with orange in is weird yet."
Abby laughed and followed Matt out of the room. She dreaded to think what Jess and Connor would be capable of together, but right now she was just relieved that finally everything was getting back to the way it should be.