Pairing - Danny / Connie
Rating - PG-13
Summary - Connie is forced to confront her parents. Previous chapters can be found here.
Man, I feel like a woman- ch 3
When the telephone rang, Connie checked the display and then turned to Danny with pleading eyes.
“Will you answer it for me?” she begged.
Danny knew who it was without looking. So far, Connie’s parents had called nearly every day for the past three weeks, and every few days before that, wanting to speak to their son. He had been putting them off with whatever excuse he could think of but they were getting suspicious that something was wrong, something he wasn’t telling them.
“Connie, love, you have to talk to them sometime…” It had been six weeks since the incident, as everyone now referred to it, and she’d been avoiding them since then.
At the insistent shaking of her head, he sighed and picked up the phone.
“Hello, Mrs Temple.”
“Ah. You again. Can I speak to Connor, please?”
“I’m sorry, Mrs Temple, but he’s unavailable at the moment. I’m not sure how long he’ll be-”
“And I suppose that if I ask you to tell him to call me, he won’t, just like every other time.”
“I’m sorry, Mrs Te-”
“Don’t bother with excuses again, Mr Quinn.” So, he was back to being ‘Mr Quinn’, he thought. Before all this, they’d been calling him Danny. “Now I know he’s there and I want to speak to him right now!”
Danny glared at Connie, still keeping out of reach in case he tried to hand her the phone.
“I can’t right now, Mrs Temple, he’s busy.”
“Busy. Right. Do you think I was born yesterday, Mr Quinn? This is your doing, isn’t it? You’re keeping him from calling me? If I find out you’ve done anything to my boy-”
“That’s it. I haven’t hurt him, nor would I ever even think of doing such a thing! Now, I’m not going to stand here and be accused of that crap. Goodbye.”
Danny hung up the phone to her protests and gave himself a mental rebuke for getting angry with her. It wasn’t her fault that Connor couldn’t call her back, or that Connie refused to, but he knew he hadn’t helped at all by yelling at her.
“How about sending your mum a letter?” he suggested desperately to Connie. “If you’re worried that she won’t think it’s you by your voice, write to her. She thinks I’m holding you prisoner here or something.”
Connie’s eyes widened in alarm. “She what?”
“She practically accused me of not letting you have contact with her because I’m abusing you,” he said. “You can’t ignore her much longer.”
“I am so sorry to have dragged you into this,” she said, pulling him down beside her on the sofa and giving him a kiss. “Maybe I could email her? I’ll do it tomorrow.”
The next morning, they were disturbed by a loud knocking on the front door. Connie grumbled to herself and stuck her head under the pillow, knowing that Danny was already downstairs and would answer it. Then she froze; what if it was her mum and dad? Oh, this would not look good- their son’s boyfriend shacked up with a woman… She scrambled out of bed and quickly threw a t-shirt on before creeping out until she could see what was going on. She saw Danny open the door.
Danny frowned as he saw the policemen standing on his doorstep.
“May we come in for a moment…” The conversation moved to the lounge and Connie couldn’t hear any more so she edged out into the hall, keeping out of sight.
Danny sat in his lounge after offering the two police officers coffee- which they refused- and wondered what the hell he was meant to do now. They were here, one told him, following up on a report given by Mrs Temple, that her son might be in danger and that she suspected Danny’s involvement. Especially after his angry outburst on the phone, she’d said. How was he meant to answer that? He could ask Connie to come and say hi, to prove that no one had been hurt, but they were looking for Connor, not Connie. No way were they going to believe any explanation of that one- even a sex change would have official doctors records to prove it, of which they had none.
“Look, there’s no problem,” he assured them. “Connor’s just been forgetting to call her back, that’s all. He’s not missing.” Not exactly, he thought.
The officer didn’t look convinced. “Then ask him to come and speak with us and we can let Mrs Temple know he’s fine.”
Danny knew he must look guilty as hell at this point; he’d been a copper, he knew how these things went. He couldn’t prove he hadn’t done what Connie’s mum had told them he had.
“I can’t. He’s not here.”
“Then where can we find him?”
Danny had only one possibility. “Work. I can’t provide you with details; we both work for a branch of the Home Office under the official secrets act.”
That earned him a look that he’d given to enough people over the years, the one that said ‘You really expect me to believe that?’ only this time it was the truth.
“Look, let me call my boss- he can vouch for me,” Danny suggested, adding, “I can’t give you the number- I’ll call him,” when they asked.
Reluctantly, they agreed, allowing Danny to get the phone from the kitchen- under escort, though what they thought he’d do he had no idea- and dial.
“Lester? It’s Danny,” he began before either of the officers had the chance t take the phone from him. He just hoped that Lester took the hint as he said, “Is Connor there yet? Only I’ve got two policemen here wanting to speak to him- his mum thinks he’s gone missing.”
One of the officers reached over and took the handset before he could say any more.
“This is PC Bradley. Whom am I speaking with?” He listened for a moment. “Mr Lester- sorry, Sir James- we have had a report that Mr Connor Temple may be missing or in some kind of trouble. I understand he works for you? May we speak with him?- no, I really do need to speak to him- I see, yes, of course- very well. Thank you for your time, Sir James-”
PC Bradley stopped abruptly, holding the phone back out to Danny, frowning. “He hung up on me.”
Danny gave him a sympathetic smile. “It’s nothing personal; he does that to everyone.”
The two officers stood and put their hats back on.
“Well, it seems that Mrs Temple’s concerns were unfounded; we’ll let her know that Sir James has vouched for his wellbeing.” The followed Danny to the door and he let them out. “Sorry to have bothered you, Mr Quinn, and if you could get him to contact her…”
The moment the door closed behind them, Danny heaved a sigh of relief. He looked up to see Connie watching him, chewing nervously at her fingernail.
“I am so sorry. I can’t believe my mum did that.” She took another hesitant step closer. “Are you mad with me?”
Before Danny could answer, the phone rang and he picked it up, steeling himself for another showdown with Connie’s mum. It wasn’t Mrs Temple; no, this was worse.
“That was Lester,” he told Connie moments later. “He wants you in his office as soon as possible, and I got the feeling that the invite extended to me, too.”
Ten minutes later, Connie and Danny stood before Lester’s desk as the man in question fumed.
“…and I do not expect to be receiving calls from the sodding police and then having to lie to them. I will not have the security of this project put at risk by having the police nosing about, just because you haven’t called your bloody mother! Now, I know that you’re afraid of seeing them but if you don’t sort it out, I will. Understand?”
Danny nodded and glanced at Connie. He could see the sheer terror in her face, her eyes glistening.
“I can’t,” she said, her voice shaking. “What am I meant to tell them?”
Lester sighed as a tear rolled down Connie’s cheek and felt his anger dissipate. Tears had always been his undoing; as annoyed as he was, he couldn’t stand to see her cry.
“Bring them here,” he said softly, going around the desk to offer her a tissue. “Let them see what we do and maybe it will be easier to explain.”
Connie sniffled and wiped her eyes, giving him a smile. “Really?”
“I’ll clear it with security,” he said, “and if you would like me to have a word with them…”
“Thank you!” Connie gave him a hug before looking embarrassed and hurrying back to Danny’s side.
Lester gave them both a stern look. “Call them today,” he said. “I mean it; do not put this off any longer.”
Seeing that Connie was still hesitant, Danny nodded. “Is tomorrow OK for a visit?” he asked, wanting to get this over with as soon as possible.
Lester agreed and they went to Danny’s office to make the call.
Captain Becker met the Temples at the door the following morning. Lester had asked that they be brought to the offices, where he and Danny intended to keep Connie until they arrived. Both men had a sneaking suspicion that if left to her own devices, Connie would be nothing more than a dust trail by the time her parents got here.
He showed the Temples into the office, promising that all of their questions would be answered, seeing their surprised faces as they took in their surroundings, gawking like tourists.
“Lester? Mr and Mrs Temple are here.” He showed them through the door and closed it behind them, heading back down to the staff-room.
Lester asked them to sit, introducing himself.
“I understand that you have some concerns about Connor,” he began. “I can assure you, however, that you have no need to worry. Connor works as a member of the research team here and about six weeks ago, there was- not an accident as such, an incident-”
“What do you mean by ‘incident’?” Mr Temple demanded.
Lester signalled to someone outside and the Temples looked around as Danny entered the room, followed by a dark-haired woman. Danny nodded in uneasy greeting to them.
“I don’t understand…”
Lester held up a hand to stop Mr Temple. “The incident I spoke of had a rather unheard of effect on Connor,” he told them. He glanced over an nodded in encouragement to Connie.
Connie gripped Danny’s hand tightly and took a step forward.
“Hi mum. Dad. I-It’s me. Connie- I mean, Connor.” He glanced up at Danny with panicked eyes when they didn’t respond, just stared at him in disbelief.
“It really is me, mum. See, there was this cave when we went through the anomaly and then something happened and I changed.” He paused. “And you have no idea what an anomaly is so that won’t make sense. Listen, mum, do you remember when I was eight, and I got my head stuck in the railings at the park? Dad tried to get me out but he couldn’t and you had to call the firemen. Or that time when grandma gave me that horrible pink jumper for Christmas? You made me wear it every time she came to visit all year, even though I hated it.”
There was total silence and Connie shrank back against Danny’s side again. It just about killed him to see her like this again; she’d come so far in the past six weeks, getting her confidence back, and now it was like they were back to square one.
“Connie, do you think you could nip out and ask Lorraine to bring us some coffees?” Lester asked, picking up the hint that Danny shot his way.
As soon as she was out, Danny turned angrily to the Temples.
“Look, I get that this is a shock, but think how it’s been for Connie,” he said in a low voice, glaring between them. “She’s finally managed to get things back to normal and I’m bloody proud of her for doing it. If you think I’m going to let you upset her, think again. Now when she gets back in here, try having a bit of compassion.”
Connie’s dad got to his feet. “How dare you speak to us like that?!” he began, but his wife reached out to touch his arm, making him stop.
“He’s right,” she said softly. “I still don’t understand how, but that is Connor.”
“Connie,” Lester corrected. “She’s Connie now.”
She nodded. “This may be confusing for us, but I cannot imagine how it has been for Conno- Connie.” She glanced up at Danny, seeing the defensive stance, arms folded across his chest, anger clear on his face. “He’s right,” she repeated.
When Connie came back in, followed by Lester’s assistant carrying a tray of coffee and biscuits, her mum approached her hesitantly.
“I’m sorry, love. I just- Oh, come here!” She drew Connie into her arms.
Danny had to admit that bringing Connie’s parents here had been a good idea. By the time they stood in front of Manny’s enclosure, the fact that their son was now their daughter was almost forgotten, overwhelmed by a hundred other strange and exciting things.
“What is that?” Connie’s mum asked, staring up at the huge creature. “It looks like…”
“A mammoth? That’s because it is,” Connie told them, going closer despite her parents’ objections and warnings, and putting a hand through the bars to call the mammoth over. Manny’s trunk came through the bars and snuffled at her head, ruffling her hair. “He’s named after the one in Ice Age. It’s OK; he’s friendly.”
“It really was a mammoth,” Connie’s dad mused as they walked back up to the detector room. “This place is amazing. I had no idea what you did.”
At that moment, the alarms began wailing and there was a flurry of activity. Connie’s mum looked alarmed as Becker and his soldiers ran past in full combat gear, rifles slung over their shoulders. Danny checked the detector.
“Playing fields on the edge of town,” he said. He looked to Connie’s parents. “Do you want to see what this is really about?”
They arrived minutes after the anomaly team, Danny parking the car at a safe distance just in case anything decided to come rampaging through the anomaly, and got out. He found his kit in the back and took out a pistol, handing one to Connie as well. The team were there, as were the soldiers, but he didn’t want to take any chances.
“That is an anomaly,” Connie told her parents, pointing to the glittering object hanging in the air in the centre of the field. “It’s a gateway between different times, different worlds. We, at the ARC, investigate them and find whatever came through and send it back. That’s where the animals at the ARC came from; their anomalies closed before we had the chance to put them back where they belonged.”
Danny saw the old Connie in that moment, getting so excited as she explained all about the anomalies and the detector she’d built. He slipped his arm around Connie’s waist as she talked, smiling. He noticed Mrs Temple watching him.
“All of those times you made excuses, telling me that Connor was out or unavailable,” she said to Danny as soon as Connie stopped talking, “You were just looking out for her, weren’t you?”
“I didn’t know how to tell you,” Connie chipped in. “So I asked him to stall you until I’d worked it out.”
“You could have just told me,” Mrs Temple continued to Danny. “Yet you didn’t, even when I contacted the police?” At his nod, she smiled. “I owe you an apology, Mr Quinn.”
“How about we go back to calling me Danny and forget about the rest?” he suggested.
They took Connie’s parents for dinner at a local restaurant, her dad quite happy chatting to Danny, leaving Connie time to talk to her mum alone.
“What’s the matter?” Connie asked. Her mum had been looking as though she wanted to say something all evening but had been holding back.
“It’s nothing,” she said, then a moment later in the disapproving tone of mothers everywhere assessing their daughters, “Don’t you think that skirt is a bit too short?”
Connie couldn’t help it; she started laughing.
End of ch 3.