And so we come to the ending... I promised someone that, if I killed Abby, I would make it all right again and give them a fluffy ending. This is for her, and for everyone else that has remained with me on this roller coaster. I've been overwhelmed by all of the lovely comments, thank you.
Abby paced around the bedroom, annoyed that, yet again, she couldn't sleep. The baby had been causing her a few problems the last couple of days, and right now its foot was wedged against her ribcage and no matter which way she sat or lay, she could not get comfortable. Her due date was imminent, less than a week to go. A sadness rolled over her as she contemplated the fact that Connor would not be here for the birth.
She padded slowly into the kitchen and flicked on the light switch. Warm milk usually did the trick, so she took out a saucepan from the cupboard, placed it on the hob and turned to go to the fridge to get the carton of milk. In the corner of her eye, she saw something move and her heart began to pound. It had been a couple of weeks since she'd seen it and her mind had been cast back to the conversation she'd had with Evan when he'd said that he'd be more afraid if he stopped 'seeing' his wife. She'd started to believe that it meant Connor was dead, and had resigned herself to bringing up the baby alone - until now. The shadow was back, and her heart lifted and filled her with renewed hope.
Smiling, she began to pour milk into the saucepan and turned on the hob. Somehow she felt she didn't need the drink to help her sleep now. The baby had shifted its foot from her rib, almost as if it sensed the change in Abby's mood and relaxed. As she stirred the milk, she glanced around. The shadow had gone, but it didn't matter. The brief glimpse she'd had was enough.
The phone startled her and for a moment she just stared at it. She knew she should answer it, but was almost afraid to. It was close to 2 am, and there would only be one person calling her at this hour. The ring sounded louder and more insistent than usual, so with a trembling hand, Abby answered it.
"Abby? It's Evan."
"Nothing's wrong. Listen, I know it's the early hours of the morning there, but there's someone I think you will want to speak to." There was a moment of silence, then Abby could hear whispering and the muffled sound of a hand being placed over the mouthpiece. She frowned. What was going on? Then she heard a sniff and her heart stopped. She knew that sound anywhere.
"Abby?" His voice was barely audible through his choked sobs, but it was him and that was all that mattered.
"Where the hell have you been?" she demanded to know, trying to force back her own sobbing but failing.
"Here and there, mostly there." Connor laughed.
"Well, you should be here, Connor! The baby is due any day and you promised me you'd be back in time for the birth."
"You haven't had the baby yet? I'm in time?"
"Yes, but by the skin of your teeth!" She laughed and wiped the tears trickling down her cheek. "Connor?"
"When are you coming home? I've missed you."
"As soon as Evan can get me on a flight to Heathrow. Missed you too."
There was a silence, which seemed a little strange to Abby. She hadn't seen him in almost two months and there was so much she wanted to say, but the words wouldn't come. Instead, she simply said. "Just get here as fast as you can, yeah?"
"I will." It was all Connor could say before the emotion got the better of him. Abby's heart ached as she heard her beloved husband crying and needed to hold him and wipe his tears for him as she'd done so many times before. It would have to wait, but at least now she knew it would only be a matter of hours before she'd see him again. The miracle she'd been hoping for had happened.
The phone call was ended and Abby's head was full of a hundred and one thoughts. What had Connor been through whilst he was trapped in the past? Would it have changed him? Would he still love her? She knew she was being irrational but she couldn't help it. Somehow she had to shake off those kind of thoughts and look forward to his return. She'd cook his favourite meal; that would at least keep her mind occupied whilst she waited for him. Mentally, she went through everything she had to do, cleaning the bathroom, clean sheets on the bed...
The smell of something burning interrupted her thoughts. She'd forgotten about the milk and it had boiled over, making a mess on the hob and the saucepan was smoking. Normally, something like that would make her angry with herself for being so careless, but right now it just made her laugh. Nothing else really mattered now that Connor was safe and well and on his way home.
Connor was sat beside Evan as they drove towards Vancouver International airport. He'd not said much after his conversation with Abby, choosing to listen to everything Evan was telling him about what had happened since his disappearance. He was relieved to hear that Abby was well; Evan had reassured him that Tom had been taking good care of her and that Matt had also been looking out for her wellbeing.
"I guess two months isolation is pretty hard," Evan said, trying to engage Connor in some kind of conversation. "I think I'd have gone crazy, all alone like that."
Connor sighed. "You wouldn't believe what happened to me if I told you."
"Try me. Hell, Connor, since I got involved with the anomalies, nothing shocks me any more!"
For the next half an hour, Connor told Evan everything; the bomb, Abby's death, discovering that Philip was still alive... he knew it all sounded impossible and he feared Evan would think he had gone crazy. Evan listened intently to Connor's story. He was vaguely familiar with Professor Cutter's thoughts on alternate timelines and how even the most subtle of actions could change the course of someone's life. It had all been theory though until now. The possibilities were endless and it gave him even more hope that his wife could still be somewhere out there, looking for a way to get back to him.
"Once I've dropped you at the airport, I'll hire a team to do a thorough sweep of Cross Photonics. If there's even the smallest trace of explosives there. They'll find it."
"I'm pretty certain there won't be anything," Connor replied. "As long as April is definitely dead, we're OK."
Evan nodded. "Both she and Burton are most definitely dead. But I'll still get the check done, just to be certain."
Connor smiled. He knew in his heart that it would be OK here, but there was a tiny little doubt. It would put his mind at rest to have Evan's premises checked. If there wasn't an explosion, then there would be no chance of accusations being made, no stress on Abby and her health wouldn't be threatened.
At the airport, Evan stayed with Connor until he'd checked in, then prepared to leave Connor to go through security. "The next time you come to visit," he said, shaking Connor's hand, "You must bring Abby and the baby with you. We chatted on the phone quite a bit whilst you were away, and I'd love to meet her. We have some wonderful parks and open spaces here, I'm sure she'd love them."
"She would," Connor smiled. "When the baby is old enough to handle a long flight, we'll come over for a holiday. Might give Burns Bog a miss though, eh?"
Evan laughed and nodded. "I'll have that site monitored round the clock. The data that Toby is getting on it is indicating that it will keep reopening and closing, though its strength seems to be waning."
"My guess is it'll burn itself out in a month or so and that gateway to the other timeline will close for good."
With nothing else to say, the two men said their goodbyes and parted. As he waited in the queue to go through the security checks, Connor felt butterflies in his stomach, partly excitement at going home at last and partly nerves. He had no idea how Abby would react. Her voice on the end of the phone sounded relieved and she'd said she wanted him home, but how would she really feel once he was there? She must have been through hell wondering what had happened to him and he wouldn't blame her if she was angry. Something else concerned him too. Had he really come back to where he belonged? What if there were more shocks around the corner for him when he got back to the UK? He tried to push that thought to the back of his head and decided to go and browse the book shop to get something to read on the long flight to keep his mind from drifting into negative thoughts.
"I think these are the passengers from the Vancouver flight coming through now," Matt said, nodding towards the exit where several people with suitcases were coming through. Connor's flight had landed over half an hour ago, but the passengers were only just starting to leave the baggage reclaim area.
"Connor's bound to be the last one," Abby said. She stood up and tried to peer over heads to see if she could spot him. Matt saw him first and moved forward to help him with his case. Connor practically ran through the crowd when he caught sight of them, not caring that he'd almost knocked a woman over in his haste to get to Abby. He barely saw or acknowledged Matt, just allowed him to take his suitcase as he threw his arms around Abby and pulled her against his body as tight as he could. In response, Abby held on to him tightly, determined that she was never going to let him go again if she had anything to do with it.
Matt lightly touched Abby's shoulder and whispered that he'd take the case to the car and he'd see them there when they were ready. He sensed they needed this moment alone and left them to it, smiling to himself and glad that Connor had made it back in time for the birth of his baby.
When they finally released each other, Connor held Abby's face with both hands and tried to focus on her through his tears. "You're alive!" he finally said, allowing one of his hands to drift down to her swollen stomach. "Both of you."
"We're fine, Connor. It was you that went missing through the anomaly, not me." She ran her thumb over his cheek to wipe away the tears and then leaned in, her lips desperately seeking his for the kiss she had longed for so much. He returned it, tangling his fingers into her hair and breathing in her scent.
"You have no idea, Abby!" Connor stopped himself from telling her everything there and then. He was afraid that the upset would have the same effect that the accusations against him had had and that she could still become so ill that she'd die. Instead he took both her hands and squeezed them and whispered. "I'll tell you all about it some time. I just want to get home, have a decent bath and curl up with you in bed."
"Sounds good to me," Abby smiled back. She turned and tugged on his hands, leading him out of the airport towards the car park where Matt was waiting for them. She knew Connor so well, and something in his eyes told her that he'd been to hell and back. She'd get him to open up eventually, but for now all she cared about was the fact he was here with her.
The glow from the candles danced on the walls and ceiling of the bathroom, and their scent filled the air, making it feel cosy and warm. One of the things they'd both insisted on when they had moved into their own flat was that the bathtub would be large enough for both of them. They'd spent many long hours bathing together in the Cretaceous and they wanted to continue that back in their modern life. It was a great source of comfort, being able to lie in the warm water wrapped in each other's bodies.
Connor leaned back and Abby nestled against his chest. He rested the palm of his hand on her stomach, gently stroking it as he allowed himself to finally begin to relax. Jet lag was starting to get to him, and coupled with the soft lighting and the perfume of the candles, he felt his eyelids growing heavy. It would not be long before sleep would overcome him.
"I'm sorry if I made you worry about me," he said. "I should never..."
"It's OK," Abby responded, looking up at him. "I knew you'd find your way back eventually." She closed her eyes and for a moment she hesitated as to whether she should tell him what she'd experienced. What harm would it do? Evan had had similar experiences and maybe there was something in it. "I knew you were alive. You kept visiting me and that kept me strong."
"I kept seeing your shadow. It was like you were watching over me or something. I know it sounds crazy, but Evan says he sees his wife too and thinks that the anomalies let you reach out to those you love somehow."
"It's not crazy. I think I saw you too. It was... it kept me sane." He pulled Abby against him closer and kissed the top of her head. "Evan's wife?"
"She disappeared through an anomaly six years ago. He's been looking for her ever since, poor guy. He seems so nice too."
Connor's mind began to process this new information. It was another anomaly related phenomenon that he should explore. He'd thought he was seeing Abby's spirit since he believed she was dead, but now he wondered if there was some weight to what Evan had thought. Maybe people could reach out to those they'd left behind when they went through an anomaly? Perhaps they could use that in some way? Or maybe it was just wishful thinking and the mind's way of giving you something to cling on to?
This new theory would remain just that for the time being. Warm, content, happy and with Abby safely in his arms, Connor drifted off to sleep.
Epilogue - 1 week later
Connor couldn't help staring. After everything that had happened to him recently, this was a sight he thought he'd never see. Baby Nicholas had been born, fit and healthy, just 36 hours ago and he'd been home for a couple of hours. Right now he was contentedly suckling from Abby, making soft breathy sounds as Abby gently stroked his already thick, dark hair.
The love he felt for both of them was almost overwhelming and he had been fighting back his emotions for some time. He wanted to keep it all together so that he didn't miss one second of the precious gift he and Abby had been blessed with.
Abby glanced over and smiled when she realised Connor was watching. "You'll get your turn soon," she said softly. "I'll express some milk and you can do his next feed if you like."
Connor simply nodded, and Abby looked down again, gazing lovingly at her baby son. Tom had said that he had Connor's looks and she agreed, although she also saw a little of herself in him. She hoped he would grow up to be every inch a Temple and maybe have just a little of the good side of the Maitland family too.
When Nicholas had had enough, she passed him over to a slightly nervous Connor. It amused her that, despite all of the brave things Connor had done and all of the terrible things he'd endured, he was afraid of holding a baby. "He won't break, Connor, " she said, moving closer and showing him how to hold Nicholas properly. "Remember how the nurse showed you to wind him?"
"I know, I know! I'm just... this is a bit scary. He's so dependent on us, and I've already almost let him down before he was even born. What kind of father am I..."
"Stop it now!" Abby chastised. "Here." She helped Connor adjust Nicholas's position so that his head was nestling between Connor's neck and shoulder. Connor relaxed and kissed his son's head whilst gently stroking his back.
Abby stepped back and her heart skipped a beat. Connor would be a great father once he stopped beating himself up over disappearing. She decided to leave him to it for a few minutes; a bit of 'father-son' bonding would perhaps be easier if she wasn't in the room. There was a pile of dirty clothes in the bathroom that needed putting into the washing machine; Connor was supposed to have done it two days ago but she'd gone into labour and everything had been forgotten. She could busy herself with that for a few minutes to give Connor a little space.
At the bottom of the laundry basket was the pair of jeans Connor had been wearing when he came back from Vancouver. She bundled them up to put in the machine but felt something in the pocket. Typical Connor! He always forgot to empty his pockets despite Abby constantly reminding him about it. She pulled out some folded paper and looked at it slightly confused. It felt like the really thick, good quality stuff that was used for documents and certificates, not the usual scraps of paper with scribbled calculations on that she sometimes found in his pockets. She was tempted to unfold it, thinking that perhaps he'd written a letter or something whilst he was stranded in the past, but she stopped herself. If he had, perhaps he didn't want her to read it now that he was safe. Instead she put the jeans into the machine and went to find him.
He wasn't in the lounge where she'd left him, but the door to his office was ajar. He hadn't been in there since he'd been back. He was running his fingers lightly over the wall where the shadow from the vase of poppies was being cast by the afternoon sunshine. She felt a lump in her throat, knowing that it was the shadows on the CCTV footage that had helped him prove his innocence. He'd only told her bits and pieces about what had happened to him and she was desperate to know just what had caused that pain she still saw in his eyes. She wouldn't push him though. She knew only too well how difficult it was to open up about past bad experiences, and sometimes those things could only come out when the person was good and ready.
Connor put his finger to his mouth as she approached; Nicholas was asleep on his shoulder and he didn't want her to wake him. "I found this in your jeans pocket," Abby whispered, passing him the folded paper. He stared at it, horrified. He knew exactly what it was.
He took Nicholas into their room and placed him in the cot before coming out and then he carefully unfolded the paper with shaking hands. Maybe it was time to tell Abby the rest of what had happened to him? The papers were the three certificates that Lester had given him; the birth certificate and two death certificates. It would certainly be an ice breaker since he didn't know how else to approach the subject. Until now, he'd been too afraid that she could still die if she had a shock like this.
"Abby... I need to tell you something," he began, holding out the three pieces of paper. "Look at these and I'll explain."
Abby took them from him and shook her head. "I don't understand, Connor. Why are you giving me blank pieces of paper?"
He was confused. Blank? Then he realised why. "Those things that were written on there don't happen here!" he laughed. The relief washed over him and it felt like a huge weight had lifted from his shoulders. Abby looked him in the eyes and noticed they seemed brighter, more like her Connor again.
"What doesn't happen? You were going to tell me something?"
"There's no need. It's not that important." He pulled Abby into a warm, lingering kiss and held her tightly. One day he'd explain; when it wasn't as raw in his mind as it was now. She was alive and they were together as a family.
That was all that mattered.
See, now didn't I tell you all to trust the writer! ;) If you enjoy my work, comments are really appreciated. I'd also love it if you took a look at my profile at some the stories and authors I've favourited because I think they are brilliant and I'm sure you will too.