A Primeval fanfic by phoebenpiper
As soon as Abby sat down across from him in the canteen, Connor began eagerly, "So I've been thinking, and we really need to decide about dancing."
"What?" his fiance asked, looking lost.
"The wedding?" What else was there to discuss today?
But Abby clearly didn't feel that way. Instead she rolled her eyes and scolded, "Have you suddenly forgotten the rules?"
Connor was hurt by her accusation. "No, of course not! That's why I waited until today to bring it up."
Abby looked momentarily confused again. Eventually, however, the light dawned, and she exclaimed, "That's right, it IS Wednesday! Sorry about that - the bank holiday on Monday has me all messed up this week."
Connor nodded. Before their engagement, he'd often lost track of the days as well. But not any more. Not since "The Rules".
From the moment Abby had proposed, Connor had been eager to start planning their wedding. And Jess had been thrilled to be allowed to help. However, the first thing Jess had done was make them postpone the wedding.
"You can't plan a proper wedding in only a few months," Jess had insisted. "We need at least a year to do it right."
"A year?" Connor had been horrified at the idea. After all, he'd ALREADY waited years for Abby, so the idea of waiting any longer was practically unthinkable.
"But what real difference does it make if you get married two months from now or twelve?" Jess had insisted. "After all, you already live together."
"Well, technically we live with you," Abby had pointed out, shooting Connor a look. It had been - and still was - a bit of a sore spot with her, as Connor had insisted that it'd be too difficult to plan the wedding AND search for their own place at the same time.
But Jess had continued, "But being married won't change the fact that you're already together, that you already…you know." Jess had started to blush as she'd continued, "I mean, this isn't the 1950s. Just because you're not married doesn't mean that you two can't…I mean, you already…."
"Have sexual relations?" Emily had helpfully offered.
Connor was pretty sure he'd never seen Jess's face so red!
"Emily!" the team leader had scolded under his breath.
"What, Matt?" Emily had replied, clearly not understanding Matt's - or Jess's - embarrassment. "You're the one that explained what 'living together' and all those other euphemisms meant." Turning to Jess, she'd asked, "That IS what you meant, isn't it?"
Jess had nodded, offering a weak, "Yes."
In an attempt to lighten the mood - and take the focus off of Jess - Connor had jokingly announced, "In that case, I'd like to make it perfectly clear that Jess and I are NOT 'living together'. Nor Jess and Abby, for that matter," he'd added, eliciting laughter from the table.
But Jess's point had been made, so it'd been decided to delay the wedding for a year. However, with the delay had come a caveat - Abby did NOT want to hear about the wedding planning 24/7 for an entire year. There'd been much discussion over this as they'd searched for a compromise, and finally it was Abby who had once again made the proposal.
"How about we choose a day - say Wednesdays. On that day, you two can talk to me about the wedding to your hearts' content. But the rest of the week, I don't want to hear a peep about it. Hell, I don't even want to see any brochures or websites or anything except on Wednesdays. Agreed?"
And thus Wedding Wednesdays had been born!
Every week, Jess and Connor would discuss ideas in secret, sending confidential emails and passing notes like errant school kids. And come Wednesday, they were finally free to share it all with Abby. They'd order pizza and spend the entire evening curled up in the living room discussing their plans. In fact, they'd written "WW" in large letters on the calendar on every single Wednesday to make sure they wouldn't schedule anything for those evenings. Connor had even set a special alarm on his mobile to go off every week so he'd know, long before he was even conscious, that it was Wedding Wednesday.
Which was why the bank holiday hadn't thrown him off.
And now that Abby was finally on the same page, she asked, "So what were you asking about dancing?"
"Dancing?" Jess asked excitedly as she joined them. "What about dancing? Are we going out somewhere?"
Connor shook his head. "The wedding."
Jess looked momentarily confused before she remembered as well. "Oh, that's right - it's Wedding Wednesday! I can't believe I forgot!"
Connor couldn't believe it either and made a mental note to suggest the alarm solution to her.
"You MUST have dancing," Jess continued. "You simply must!"
"Well, obviously!" That wasn't his question. "But we need to decide: band or DJ?"
"Bands are ever so much more personal," Jess replied.
"Bands are also, I'd imagine, ever so much more expensive."
Connor sighed. Try as he might to instill in Abby that money was not to be the limiting factor, what with their year's back pay still mostly sitting in the bank, Abby was still always bringing up the expenses.
Before Connor could offer his input, Becker arrived at the table. "What's more expensive?" he asked.
"Bands," Abby answered.
"For the wedding," Jess added.
Becker groaned. "Don't tell me it's Wednesday again already?" he grumbled under his breath.
Jess shot him a look. "No one's forcing you to sit with us, you know?" she said with a smug smile, knowing full well that he wouldn't leave. She then continued, "It looks like it's time for a list."
Now it was Connor's turn to groan. Jess made more lists than anyone on the planet!
"Honestly, I don't know how any of you make decent decisions without making lists," Jess said as she pulled a small spiral notebook out of her handbag, opened to a blank page, and began the list. She drew a neat line down the centre of the page and wrote "band" and "DJ" across the top on either side. She then filled in what they'd discussed so far, jotting down "more personal" and "cheap" in their respective columns.
Noting this last addition, Becker commented, "I doubt anything related to a wedding could be defined as 'cheap'."
Jess ignored him, instead asking, "So what else?"
Connor tried to think. "Variety?" he suggested.
Abby nodded. "With a band, you're stuck with what they can play. But a DJ can play anything. Obviously he can play modern stuff, but if we want, he can also slow it down and play something more traditional, like waltzes or something."
Becker must've swallowed his food wrong for he suddenly started coughing. Jess patted him on the back, concerned, before turning back excitedly to the others. "You're absolutely right! A deejay it is, then!" She ripped the list from her notebook and crumpled it in her hands.
"What are you doing?" Becker asked, appalled, as he snatched the crumpled note from her hands. "You can't just make a decision like that," he continued, frantically trying to flatten the list out against the table. "Look - there's barely anything on this list yet."
Connor gave Abby a look - he never knew Becker was such a Listie.
"But Becker, we don't need the list anymore," Jess explained. "The whole 'variety' thing seals the deal."
"How can you say that? It's only one thing." Becker grabbed the pen and scrawled the word "variety" onto the DJ side of the list. "But there's lots of reasons to get a band that haven't even been mention yet. For instance, you could hire someone you know. Isn't Jenny's husband in a band? See, you could hire him." He jotted down "Jenny's husband" on the list. "And if you hire him, he'll probably give you a deal, so then the cost would be comparable," he added, crossing out the word "cheap", leaving only "variety" on that side.
But Jess shook her head as she pulled the list away from the soldier. "Even if you come up with a zillion reasons to hire a band, it's still obvious that we should get a DJ. Clearly you don't understand the purpose of lists."
After that comment, Connor wasn't sure HE understood the purpose of lists, but he was glad that the decision had been made.
"Now we need to start making a list of what songs you'll want," Jess said, taking the pen back from Becker and turning to a new page in her spiral notebook.
Connor nodded. "I already started one," he blurted out but stopped himself before he said more. After all, they didn't really need to know WHEN he'd started planning music for his and Abby's wedding!
The next day at lunch Jess came scurrying into the canteen, looking around expectantly.
Connor waved her over, confirming, "It's okay - Abby's not here yet."
"Oh, good," she said, giving a relieved sigh as she took her seat across from him. Leaning across the table excitedly, she began, "So I started making some phone calls this morning…."
As Jess launched into her story about the research she'd done into possible DJs, Connor couldn't help but smile to himself. He didn't know what they would've done without her help. Connor knew exactly what he wanted for this wedding, but he had no idea how to make his dreams become a reality. Jess, on the other hand, seemed born for this sort of work, and she was absolutely thrilled that they'd asked for her help. So it was definitely a win-win situation.
Before Connor knew it, Abby was clearing her throat, alerting them that she'd arrived. Knowing the rules, he and Jess shared a look, indicating they'd continue the conversation later when Abby wasn't around, and welcomed her to the table.
"Sorry I'm late," Abby said, taking her seat as Becker sat down across the table.
"Late?" Connor asked, glancing at his watch. Unbeknownst to him, 20 minutes had passed whilst he and Jess had chattered away.
"So," Abby began tentatively, "I…uh…have a proposition for you two."
"Another one?" Connor teased. "I'm never gonna catch up at this rate."
Abby laughed before continuing. "What would you guys think about moving Wedding Wednesdays to another night, say Tuesdays or Thursdays?"
"But then we'd lose the alliteration," Connor complained.
"And it's already on the calendar," Jess pointed out.
"That's right," Connor said, thinking of the ramifications. "And we couldn't just draw arrows to the new night because it'd no longer be 'WW' - it'd be 'WT' or…um…'WT'."
Abby sighed, clearly frustrated. "But I now have a conflict on Wednesday nights, so we need to move it."
"Conflict?" Connor asked, confused; this was the first he'd heard of it. "What conflict?"
"Is everything okay?" Jess asked, sounding worried, and Connor suddenly wondered if he should be worried, too.
"Oh yes, I'm fine," Abby replied, putting Connor at ease. "I just…I won't be free on Wednesday nights anymore."
"You know, Abby," Becker began, "I'm betting your conflict won't last for more than an hour or two. And don't Jess and Connor do most of the planning anyway? So maybe you could keep Wedding Wednesdays, and they could simply fill you in when you got home."
"That's brilliant," Jess exclaimed.
Connor agreed. "And that way we can keep the calendar AND the alliteration. What do you think, Abby?"
"I think Becker just saved the day," Abby said, smiling at the soldier before turning back to her fiance, asking, "So how's your day been going so far?"
By the next week, Connor and Jess had already hired the DJ and almost had the list of music finalised. For his and Abby's first dance, Connor desperately wanted "Elendriel" from The Lord of the Rings, and he hoped he could get Abby to sign off on it. He and Jess had also come up with a list of several waltzes to appease the older generation before livening up the party with some Lady Gaga and the Sex Pistols.
As Jess finished reviewing the list for the umpteenth time, she asked, "When did Abby say she'd be home?"
Connor shrugged. "She didn't. But I'd guess she'd be home soon."
"What do you think she's doing?" Jess asked.
"No idea. Probably just some new yoga class, or kickboxing or something."
"But if that were the case, wouldn't she have just said so?" Jess asked.
Connor hadn't really thought about it, but Jess was right - why hadn't Abby just told them what she was doing? Why all the secrecy?
"Hey guys, I'm home," Abby called out as she bounded up the stairs. Tossing her gym bag on the floor, she joined Connor on the couch and gave him a quick hello kiss. "My feet are KILLING me," she moaned, kicking off her shoes and rubbing her feet before asking, "So what've I missed?"
Having noticed her flushed face, Connor asked her a question instead. "So how was kickboxing?"
"Kickboxing?" she asked blankly.
Connor ran his hand through her sweaty fringe. "You don't usually sweat this much with yoga," he teased.
"Oh right! Kickboxing," Abby said. "I guess you found me out. And yeah, it was good."
"Good," Connor said, eager to get straight down to business. "So we've settled on a playlist," he proceeded, putting the laptop on his knee and scrolling up to the beginning of the spreadsheet.
The next fortnight went by without incident.
Well, technically there was that incident with the anomaly at Hampton Court, with the team chasing Hyrocatherium through the maze. It had taught them all a value lesson in the efficiency of EMDs passing through hedges, and Emily had been suitably contrite, although Matt had recovered quickly. But the wedding planning had proceeded smoothly - in fact, Jess and Connor were quite enjoying having a few hours to plan by themselves each week before Abby got home as they seemed to work much faster when it was just the two of them.
However, that streak was bound to come to an end. The following Wednesday the three of them had started discussing the music for the actual ceremony itself. After lunch, Jess had done some research, hitting on a string quartet that was reasonably priced AND had a huge repertoire.
"What do you think?" she asked eagerly, bringing the website up on one of the hub's large monitors.
"I think it's perfect," Connor confirmed. "Let me go check with Abby. If she's cool with it, you and I can search through the selections tonight before she gets home."
Jess agreed, and Connor hurried off to the menagerie. Only Abby wasn't there.
"Jess, do you know where Abby's at?" Connor asked into the comms.
"I'm not a miracle worker, Connor," Jess teased. "I can't automatically tell - oh wait. Abby didn't return her black box after this morning's anomaly, so I can track her. Looks like she's in...the armoury?" Her surprise turned the statement into a question.
"Cool. Thanks, Jess." Connor hurried off to the armoury, hoping Becker would let him borrow his computer a moment so he could show Abby the website.
Charging in without knocking, he began, "Becker, can I-"
What happened next happened so quickly that Connor couldn't even be certain of what he'd seen. All he knew for sure was that when he'd walked in, Abby and Becker had been standing close together, and the next moment the soldier was practically on the other side of the room. And for some reason, Connor would've sworn he'd seen Becker's arm around Abby's lower back, holding her close, but Connor was fairly certain he must've imagined it.
"Hey, Connor," Abby greeted casually. "Whatcha doing in here?"
Still a bit off-balance from what he'd just seen, or at least thought he'd seen, it took him a minute to recall his purpose for coming. "Oh...uh...Jess found this amazing string quartet for the wedding, and I wanted to get your approval so she and I can work on the music stuff tonight."
Abby nodded. "Sounds good. Is there a website or something you can show me?"
"Yeah. Becker, mind if I use your computer for a sec?" Connor asked, heading for it before he'd even gotten an answer.
There was something about the soldier's reply, something off in his tone, that made Connor glance over at Becker. And what he saw was shocking.
Becker was blushing! His face was redder than Connor could've ever imagined it. In fact, it rivalled the crimson colour that used to creep into Jess's cheeks whenever Becker did something nice.
"Connor? The website?" Abby's calm yet firm voice brought him back into focus.
"Oh...uh...right. The website." Connor's fingers started to absently fly across the keys.
But his mind couldn't get the image of Becker out of his head.
"So what was Abby doing today?" Jess asked that night as she and Connor sat down to their pizza.
"Huh?" Connor had been strangely unfocussed all afternoon.
"In the armoury," Jess explained, adding, "I mean, that's not Abby's normal hangout."
"Yeah, I don't rightly know why she was there. It was all a bit...weird."
"Weird?" Jess asked. "In what way?"
"Well," Connor began, "have you ever seen Becker blush?
Jess laughed. "Making OTHERS blush is more his specialty. I don't think he's capable of it himself."
"Oh, he is! And his face was as red as yours gets."
"Becker was blushing?" Clearly Jess couldn't believe it. Eagerly she asked, "Why? When? Quick - tell me everything!"
"It was this afternoon. In the armoury." Hadn't he already said that?
When Connor didn't elaborate, Jess prompted, "And? Why? Why was he blushing?"
Connor shrugged. "Not sure. I asked if I could borrow his computer to show Abby - oh!" he exclaimed, suddenly remembering, "and Abby's totally cool with the string quartet, by the way, so we can-"
"Connor, focus! You asked if you could borrow his computer...?"
"Right, I asked if I could borrow his computer, and he sounded - I don't know - weird when he answered, so I looked up and there he was, blushing away."
"That's it? You just asked to use his computer?"
"But what could he have been embarrassed of on his computer?" Jess asked, more to herself than to him. "I mean, all the ARC computers belong to the government, so I can't imagine him storing anything naughty on his. Especially when he knows that I could hack into it at any time." She must've remembered that she wasn't alone for she looked up at Connor, her face starting to turn red herself as she stammered, "Not that I've ever...I mean, I wouldn't! Not at work! And not that I've hacked into his computer at home or anything, either. I wouldn't ever invade his privacy that way! Certainly not NOW, when we've become such close friends. I mean sure, I might've taken a look at his mobile once, but that was ages ago, when I barely knew him, and I was just trying to find out more about him because he wouldn't tell me a thing! But I didn't find out anything anyway - I think he's the last person on the planet who actually remembers phone numbers because there was nothing in his phonebook! How weird is that? But PLEASE don't tell him I looked - I'd simply die!"
Connor was laughing at his flatmate now. "Yep, that's a pretty good impression of how red he got."
Jess swatted his knee. "You're mean!"
"I'm not the one breaking into people's phones," he teased.
"That was just ONCE, and it was ages ago, like I said. But really, please don't tell him. Or Abby. Promise?"
"No worries. I've done my share of stupid things, too."
"Really?" Jess smiled and seemed to relax a little. "Like what?"
Connor glanced at his watch. Abby wouldn't be home for at least another hour, so he figured it wouldn't hurt to cut a little into their planning time. "Well," he began, "if you've read the files, you know that, at first, the others weren't even aware that Rex had come back through..."
The next Monday, Jess asked the unthinkable as she joined them at lunch. "So would it be okay if we moved Wedding Wednesday this week?"
"Move it?" Connor asked, his voice sound whinier than he'd intended. "Why?"
"Because Becker's sister Gwen is coming to town, and Becker asked if I could join them for dinner."
"Becker's having dinner with his sister? On Wednesday night?" Abby asked.
Even Connor had been able to follow that!
"Yes," Jess answered patiently, "so do you mind moving it? I really don't want to skip a week because I've been doing loads of research lately on flowers and such."
So it'd been agreed to temporarily reschedule Wedding Wednesday to Thursday. The calendar was changed, but of course Connor didn't bother to reset his alarm, so when Wednesday arrived, he felt out-of-sorts all day, wanting to discuss the wedding but not being allowed. Abby must've sensed his uneasiness, for the moment they got home from work that evening, she took his hand and led him to the bedroom.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
Abby grinned. "Taking advantage of having you - and the flat - entirely to myself tonight."
Connor thoroughly enjoyed their evening in and started to think that maybe they SHOULD look for a place of their own.
When Jess finally got home, at half eleven, the couple were snuggling on the couch in the dark watching Love Actually.
"So?" Abby asked expectantly as Jess turned on the light. "How was dinner?"
The girl walked over to the couch and, much to their chagrin, flopped down between the two of them with a sigh. "It was...nice," she offered.
"That didn't sound very convincing," Abby teased.
"No, really. It was quite nice. Dinner was lovely - we went to this Indian place with this AMAZING garlic nan."
Connor gave his flatmate a sympathetic smile, realising the implications.
"And Gwen was lovely." Jess gave a dreamy sigh as she added, "She even told me, when Hil was off getting the car, that he'd been the one to invite me. Not that Gwen wasn't thrilled to see me and all, but it'd actually been Hil's idea to bring me along to dinner."
Connor knew it was because she'd spent the night with Becker's sister, but he still couldn't help laughing at hearing Jess call him by his first name. The fact that the macho soldier was named Hilary was simply a joke that would never grow old.
"That's awesome, Jess." Unlike Connor, clearly Abby wasn't focussed on the name thing. "A few months ago he dreaded the idea of it being just the three of you. Think how far he's come."
"But it's not NEARLY far enough!" Jess gave a depressed sigh, leaning her head against the back of the couch. "Why oh why must he send such mixed signals?"
"Jess, he likes you," Abby said matter-of-factly. "He may be rot at showing it most of the time, but he really does. And he's making an effort. Like you said, he invited you to dinner with his sister, who you know teases him mercilessly about you. Why would he put himself through that kind of torture if he didn't like you?"
"But why can't he be more direct about it? For every step forward, there's two steps back. I mean sure, he invited me to dinner with his sister. But the first thing he did when we got there was order a garlic appetiser."
"But you LOVE garlic," Abby pointed out. "I'm sure he ordered it because he knew you'd like it."
"I'd also like to be kissed sometime this century! And I think I've made that VERY clear!" Jess finished with an angry sigh.
"Jess, you've got to be patient," Abby soothed. "These things don't happen overnight - or at least they don't when they actually mean something. Just look at me and Connor. And Becker's lost a lot of people he cared about, so it's hard for him to open up, to let down his defenses, to let himself be vulnerable. But he's trying, he really is. And he REALLY likes you, Jess. You gotta believe me on this."
Connor was impressed with how certain Abby sounded, figuring it must be her woman's intuition kicking in.
But Jess was still not mollified. "But why does it have to take so long?" she asked, giving a forlorn sigh.
Connor had never noticed before how versatile Jess's sighs were. They almost rivalled Becker's eyebrow raises in their versatility! Momentarily he wondered if he should make a list of her entire repertoire before stopping himself. Make a list? What was he thinking? Clearly Jess was rubbing off on him.
She was also, he realised, still talking. "I feel like I've been waiting forever!"
Connor nodded. "I feel your pain, Jess. It was YEARS before Abby and me got together. In fact, it was nearly eight full months from the time I told Abby I loved her 'til she finally got 'round to kissing me."
Connor thought Jess's eyes were going to pop out of their sockets.
And Abby looked almost as surprised. "When was this?"
Connor suddenly realised that he shouldn't have said anything, and he frantically tried to think of a way to change the subject.
But Abby was quicker.
"Then you DID say it! You bastard! You know, I'd convinced myself that I'd imagined it, that the terror had simply made me hear what I wanted to hear. All these years I-"
"Wait," Connor interrupted. "Back up a sec. 'What you wanted to hear'?" He couldn't help smiling smugly at her confession.
"Yet you still waited eight months to kiss him?"
Clearly Jess was stuck on this fact.
And now Connor was, too. "Yeah, Abby. If you liked me so much, why'd you wait?"
"In case you've forgotten, Connor, YOU had a girlfriend at the time."
"Not for long, " Connor said in his own defense. "Besides, Caroline doesn't really count, since she was being paid to date me."
"Uh...on that note, maybe I should be getting to bed," Jess said uncomfortably, standing up.
Realising how it must've sounded, he quickly explained, "It's not what you think! Just to be clear, Jess, *I* wasn't the one paying her."
"Let it go, Connor," Abby soothed, patting his knee, having scooched back over to his side the instant Jess stood up. "And you're right, Jess. It's late - we should all be getting to bed."
The girl nodded. "Especially since we have a big day tomorrow."
"We do?" Connor and Abby asked in unison.
"Wedding Thursday," she reminded them as she entered her bedroom. "Good night."
"So, I never asked you," Jess began as she and Connor settled down to their pizza a week later. "What'd you do last week?"
Connor stared at her blankly. "What d'you mean?"
"I mean, what'd you do whilst Abby was off at kickboxing? Did you just play video games, or surf the web, or what?"
It took Connor's brain a moment to catch up, and when it did, he frowned. "I didn't do anything."
Jess smiled. "I've had nights like that, too. I sit down to check my email, and next thing I know, it's-"
"No, I mean I didn't do anything by myself because Abby was with me the whole evening."
Jess looked surprised. "She didn't go to kickboxing?"
Connor shook his head. "She never even mentioned it. We just came home straightaway and..." Connor grinned as he thought about what had happened next.
"No need to elaborate on that!" Jess said, putting up a warning hand. "But don't you think that's a bit weird?"
Connor shrugged. "Not really. I mean, she probably just saw it as an opportunity to have some alone time with me."
Jess nodded. "Yeah, I guess you guys need more of that, huh? Sorry I'm not out more," she finished with a sigh.
Connor patted his flatmate comfortingly on the knee. "Just be patient. Abby's probably right - Becker seems to really like you. And it's not like he has some other girlfriend you have to-"
He was interrupted by Jess's black box going off. She lunged across the room to the kitchen counter and, putting in her earpiece, asked frantically, "Ravi, what's the situation?"
Connor waited, listening anxiously to the one-sided conversation.
"Maidstone. That's not too far. ... Any sign of incursion? ... Seriously? ... Uggh, what a mess! ... Yeah, go ahead and send an initial team out to close it and set up a perimeter. I'll be right in and handle organizing the other teams."
Connor knew what that meant - he would NOT be spending his evening planning his wedding. Instead, he'd be off somewhere in the dark chasing creatures, and no doubt nasty creatures at that. And he realised he wasn't the only one whose plans would be ruined - Abby would have to skip her kickboxing class for a second week in a row.
Before even waiting for Jess to finish, Connor grabbed his mobile and called Abby. She didn't answer, and he was just starting to leave her a message when his call-waiting let him know she was calling back. He quickly switched over to the new call, answering, "Hey."
"What's up?" she asked, sounding out-of-breath, obviously having been in the middle of her class.
"Sorry to interrupt," he said, "but we've got an anomaly. Sounds like a nasty incursion, from what I could hear. Jess wants us to go out."
"Understood. Should we meet at the ARC and go out together?"
Connor wasn't sure what Jess had in mind, but she was already on her own mobile, calling in the other team members, so he didn't want to interrupt her. "Yeah, sounds like a plan."
"Cool. See you soon."
Connor hung up at the same time as Jess.
"I told Abby to meet us at the ARC," he explained.
Jess nodded. "Matt and Emily are on their way there as well." As she jumped up and headed for her bedroom, she called back, "Do you mind calling Becker for me while I change?"
"What? You afraid Lester will follow Tesco's lead and kick you out of the ARC for wearing PJs?" Connor teased and was answered with a slamming door. Chuckling to himself, he punched in Becker's number and then, holding his mobile to his ear with his shoulder, began to put on his shoes.
It rang three times before there was an answer.
"Did Jess change her mind? Should we simply go straight there?"
Only it wasn't Becker; it was Abby's voice on the line.
Connor grabbed his phone and glanced at the screen, but no, he wasn't crazy, he HAD dialed Becker's number.
So why on earth had Abby answered?
Still dazed and confused, Connor stammered incoherently, "Uh, no...Jess didn't...the ARC's fine."
"All right. We'll be there as soon as we can," Abby said before hanging up.
"Is Becker on his way?" Jess emerged from her room and, grabbing her jacket, headed for the door in such a hurry that she must not have noticed Connor sitting there with only one shoe on, still staring blankly at his mobile.
Jess's scolding tone brought him back to the present, and he quickly threw on his other shoe and followed her down the stairs. She already had the engine running by the time he reached her car, and she peeled out before he even had his door shut.
"So did you get in touch with Becker?" she asked again as she sped through the streets toward the ARC.
"Yeah. ... Well, no, but essentially yeah."
Jess shot him a weird look. "Mind explaining?"
Jess nodded. "You called her first, yeah?"
Connor shook his head. "No. ... I mean, yes I did, but that's not what I mean."
Jess sighed with frustration. "Connor, you're not making any sense. Start from the beginning."
He took a deep breath, hoping maybe Jess could help make things make sense. "I called Abby. And she said she'd meet us at the ARC. Then you told me to call Becker. So I did. Only Abby answered."
Jess nodded. "You probably just hit redial - I do that all the time."
Connor shook his head. "That's what I thought. But I didn't. I called Becker - I checked."
"And Abby answered?"
"Yep. Abby answered Becker's phone. How weird is that?"
Jess nodded. "That's pretty weird. But I'm sure it doesn't mean anything. They were probably just running some errand together."
"On Wedding Wednesday? When she's meant to be at kickboxing?"
"Oh, right." Jess thought for a moment before reminding him, "But you said she skipped last week too, yeah?"
"Yeah." This momentarily made him feel better...until a new thought suddenly connected. "But Becker was with you last week."
"So?" Jess clearly wasn't seeing the connection.
"Maybe there's no kickboxing at all. Maybe Abby and Becker have simply been getting together every Wednesday night."
"To do what? And why not simply tell us?"
Connor shrugged. "I don't know. But they've been acting super weird around each other for weeks. Maybe something's up. I mean, I did catch Becker with his arm around her that one time."
Connor was flung forward by the force of inertia as the car screeched to a sudden halt.
"WHAT?" Jess asked, turning towards him.
Connor nodded. "I told you about that, didn't I?"
"You most certainly did NOT! Becker had his arms around Abby? When? What happened? What did you say? What did HE say?"
Shrugging, he answered, "Not much. It was that day I found Abby in the armoury. I'm sure I told you about it."
"No, you only told me about him- Oh my God, Connor! THAT'S why he was blushing that day! It didn't have anything to do with what you might find on his computer - he was blushing because you'd caught him and Abby in the act!"
A horn sounded behind them, impatient for Jess to go, now that the light was green. She turned back towards the windscreen and peeled through the intersection.
But Connor was still confused by her comment. "What act?" he asked.
"Becker and Abby! Clearly they're having an affair!"
Connor laughed at Jess's melodramatic tone. "Don't be ridiculous, Jess. Abby would never...I mean, we're...you don't think...with Becker?"
"It all makes sense now, Connor. They've been getting together every Wednesday night, knowing that you and I will be busy with the wedding stuff. Don't you remember? It was Becker who suggested that we keep Wedding Wednesdays because Abby's 'conflict' wouldn't last more than an hour or two. How would HE know, when Abby wouldn't even tell US what she was doing? Clearly they must've been getting together."
Connor nodded, thinking back. "And she only started referring to it as 'kickboxing' after I called it that."
"Exactly! And last week, remember how weird Abby was when she found out that Becker was having dinner with me and Gwen on Wednesday? She must've been upset that he was standing her up."
"So she stayed home with me instead, probably just to get even with him." Connor shuddered, suddenly feeling dirty and a bit used. "And she didn't even mention that she was skipping out on 'kickboxing', as if I wouldn't notice." Of course, he hadn't noticed, but that somehow only proved his point.
"And when I got home from dinner, Abby was so adamant about Becker liking me," Jess said, her voice cracking as if she were trying not to cry. "She didn't mean a word of it - she was only saying it to throw us both off her scent." Jess sniffled. "I can't believe Becker would do that to you. Bloody bastard!" She slammed her hand against the steering wheel, resulting in a muffled "Ow!"
"Careful," Connor said, worried not only for her safety but his own, considering she was still speeding along the darkened streets. "And why are you so certain it's Becker's fault? Abby's been the one lying to us this whole time."
"But Abby loves you. She asked you to marry her. You LIVE with her. Becker, on the other hand, doesn't have any allegiances. He hasn't made any promises...to anyone." Connor heard her voice crack again on this last phrase, and he guessed her subsequent pause was to allow herself to get under control again before continuing. "Mark my words, this is all Becker's fault. He charmed her somehow, convinced her they could get away with it. He's a snake, through and through!"
But Connor wasn't convinced. Abby had always taken the lead in their relationship. And Action Man had always been glacially slow to take any action. No, this was most definitely Abby's doing.
And it was breaking his heart.
Unfortunately Jess was busy breaking his head as well - she hit the ARC's parking ramp so fast that the car bounced, knocking Connor to the ceiling.
He was still rubbing his head as she pulled into her parking space...and as Becker immediately pulled in next to her.
As the four of them jumped out of the vehicles, Becker asked, "So Jess, what are we dealing with?"
"PIGS!" Jess shouted angrily before storming off towards the lifts.
Connor had not been this miserable in ages.
Knowing what he knew now, merely having to work side by side with Abby and Becker would've been bad enough. Now every word, every smile, every glance shared between them had new significance. Why hadn't Connor noticed it before? The two of them made a great team out in the field; no wonder they'd decided to try out that same teamwork in bed. But it was making Connor heartsick to watch.
And that alone would've been sufficient to ruin his night, but the Entelodonts were determined to make it worse. Connor now understood why these Eocene mammals were affectionately nicknamed "hell pigs". And the cattle, frantically stampeding to get away from the 2-metre-tall prehistoric predators, weren't exactly the most fun times either. It didn't help that Connor had tripped and fallen in a pile of manure practically the moment they arrived such that he couldn't escape from the scent.
Jess wasn't exactly helping either, and Connor wondered if they wouldn't have been better off with Ravi, slow and incompetent as he was, as field coordinator. Jess was clearly not focussed, and when Becker snapped at her for giving them the wrong directions to the anomaly site not once but twice, Jess had turned off the soldier's earpiece. Becker was understandably furious, which didn't exactly help his focus either. And if it hadn't been for Emily's quick shooting, they might've ended up in hospital courtesy of a hell pig charging as Becker attempted to use Connor's earpiece.
One soldier was wounded, though thankfully it was due to his own stupidity and not Jess's, but it certainly didn't help Becker's mood. Nor did the fact that it took them till half three to get the Entelodonts rounded up and back through the anomaly.
Connor had hoped he could ride back to the ARC with someone else, but thanks to the wounded soldier, they were now a vehicle short, so he was stuck riding with Becker and Abby. The head of security's angry speeding and weaving reminded Connor of Jess's; if circumstances had been different, he figured the two of them would've made a good couple.
But not now.
And certainly not when Becker stormed through Ops directly to the hub, yelling, "What the hell did you think you were doing, Jessica?"
"ME? What about YOU? How could you do that to Connor?"
Before Connor could hear more, Abby grabbed him by the arm and pulled him down a side corridor.
"Connor, what on earth is going on? You and Jess have been acting weird all night."
Connor couldn't even look at Abby. Standing there next to her, he was overwhelmed by how much he loved her, how much he needed her, and he couldn't believe that was all over now.
Abby tipped his chin up, making him look at her.
"Connor, what is it?"
Connor gulped. He needed to know, and he wasn't one to beat about the bush. "Are you and Becker...having an affair?"
He didn't think he'd ever see Abby laugh so hard. "Are you joking? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Becker's...Becker! He's a coworker, a friend, but NEVER in a million years anything more. Why in the world would you ever think that?"
"You weren't at kickboxing - I don't think you even HAVE kickboxing. And you answered his phone."
Connor watched Abby's face as this sunk in. Following the initial look of confusion, realisation dawned, followed shortly by horror.
"Oh my God," Abby said, closing her eyes for a moment. "So that's why Jess was...I'll be right back!"
Abby sprinted back towards Ops, and Connor automatically followed her.
He heard the shouting match long before he got there, but Abby quickly stepped in.
"You and I need to have a talk," she said firmly, grabbing Becker by the arm and dragging him away.
Connor met Jess's eye across the room as she angrily wiped the tears from her cheeks. He knew Abby's actions had probably only confirmed Jess's suspicions, but somehow he was almost starting to feel better. Abby certainly hadn't reacted the way he'd expected her to; of course, he'd expected her to deny it, but her laughter had seemed so genuine, her protestations so real. But why had she dragged Becker off like that? Clearly SOMETHING was going on between them, even if it wasn't an affair.
When the two of them reappeared a moment later, Becker seemed to have his tail between his legs. He walked over to Jess, looking chagrinned, and quietly began, "I'm sorry, Jess. I...I guess I have some explaining to do."
Abby grabbed Connor's arm. "Come on. You need to drive me back to my car."
Connor shook his head. "But Jess drove."
"She won't mind us taking her car. Besides, Becker needs to give her a ride home. C'mon."
Connor was so confused that he blindly let Abby lead him down to the car park. Since she knew where she was going, he let her get into the driver's seat as he once again climbed into the passenger's. Only this ride was much more sedate, not only because there was little traffic on the streets this early.
And as she drove, Abby explained:
"You're right. I haven't been going to kickboxing. Becker and I have been getting together every Wednesday night, but not for the reason you think. In fact, for the totally opposite reason."
Before Connor could sort that out in his head, Abby continued:
"I would've told you sooner, Connor, only it wasn't my secret to tell; it was Becker's. But we never thought it would cause such problems for you two. Becker feels terrible, as do I. I'm SO sorry to have made you worry!"
Connor nodded in the darkened car, feeling somewhat better.
"Do you remember," Abby went on, "about a month ago, when we were discussing the music for the wedding?"
Connor couldn't help but smile. She'd mentioned the wedding - surely it must mean that the wedding was still on, that she still loved him, that all of this had been a silly misunderstanding.
"Well...you see...Becker doesn't dance."
This confused Connor. "Sure he does. He's gone out dancing with us."
"Standing near the bar, bopping his head in time to the music doesn't exactly constitute dancing, but it gets him by. But then we started talking about having REAL dancing at our wedding. And Becker knew Jess would want to dance, and he simply didn't want to let her down. So he asked for my help."
Abby slowed down to turn into a lot, and Connor saw the lighted sign on the adjacent building:
Two Left Feet Dance Studio
Connor smiled as Abby brought Jess's car to a halt next to her own in the nearly empty lot. "More alliteration," he pointed out, suddenly picturing Becker in the armoury with his arm around Abby's back - Connor should've recognized standard ballroom position!
Abby nodded. "And thus the conflict. Becker didn't want to mess up Wedding Wednesdays, but he didn't really have a choice. He desperately wanted to do this for Jess. He likes her, Connor - he REALLY likes her. And I," she said, leaning over and giving her fiance a kiss, "REALLY like you."
Connor grinned as he kissed her back, long and hard. He was glad it'd been a misunderstanding, that Abby was still his and his alone.
But he also couldn't get the picture of dancing Becker out of his mind.
"So how is he?" Connor asked when they came up for breath. "Becker? Dancing, I mean?"
Abby laughed. "Rubbish! They might as well have named the studio after him. Jess will need to wear shoes she doesn't like to our wedding, because Becker will no doubt be stepping on them all night."
Connor laughed. "Somehow, under the circumstances, I don't think Jess will really mind."
"I'm so sorry, Jess. Hurting you was the last thing I wanted to do." Becker turned to look at Jess for the first time since he'd pulled up in front of her flat; in fact, for the first time since they'd left the ARC. "Can you ever forgive me?"
Jess sniffled but didn't bother wiping the tear rolling down her cheek. This wasn't like the tears she'd shed earlier tonight, tears of anger and hurt; instead, she was overjoyed with what he'd just confessed! He and Abby had been sneaking off to dance lessons just so he could dance with her at the wedding - it was so adorably thoughtful and sweet! The hatred she'd felt only hours earlier had completely evaporated, and she was now convinced that she liked him more than ever, something she never would've imagined possible.
"Of course I forgive you! But will you forgive me for saying such horrible things to you?"
Becker nodded. "I don't blame you. You made a logical deduction based on the information at hand, which admittedly wasn't much. I mean, I know I haven't exactly been very open about how much I love you, so of course you'd-"
He was stopped midsentence as Jess's lips suddenly pressed against his.
He'd said it! Hilary Becker had actually used the L-word OUTLOUD in reference to her! And unlike Abby, she was not about to wait eight months to express her happiness!
And oh, he tasted so good - and tasted all the better for having waited so long! She didn't care that they were sat in a car in front of her flat - she couldn't imagine a more romantic ending to this night.
"I'm rot at dancing, by the way, " Becker mumbled several minutes later as Jess practically crawled into his lap. He then paused, holding Jess's face still for a moment as he looked meaningfully into her eyes. "On the dance floor, that is," he clarified.
Jess grinned, and Becker's lips were instantly on hers again.
She wondered what he'd think if she proposed instituting Snogging Saturdays.
Though unlike Abby's proposal, Jess wasn't about to make any rules preventing it on other days of the week!
[Author's Note: I got the idea for this story after I was teaching someone (who DEFINITELY had two left feet) how to dance recently. My first thought was to write the Abby/Becker stuff, but then I decided it might be more fun to write it from the other perspective. However, the image of Becker stumbling all over Abby's feet still makes me smile!]