TWO YEARS AGO
Abby supposed she’d always known that Manny would be a good kisser. The same way she’d say she’d never had calamari but she’d always assumed she’d like it. Manny wasn’t exactly the casanova of the base, but it was no secret he got around and it was no secret the people he slept with never walked away with any complaints, except that he never seemed willing to make it a long-term commitment.
So she’d known, and expected it, and hell a time or two she’d flirted with him and the possibility, even she’d never admit it, but her eyes had always been so full Owen she’d never--
And now her back was hitting her bed, the mattress caving in beneath their combined weight, Manny’s dexterous fingers running appreciatively over the biceps of her arms, the muscles she was beginning to take a kind of pride in. Owen hadn’t liked them, though he hadn’t told her that, but he wasn’t an asshole and neither was she to think the worst of him--she knew it was more what they symbolized, what he knew they met, rather than their existence that bothered him, a reminder that at every turn Abby was honing into herself a weapon, a killing machine.
Manny groaned into her mouth, hands sliding up beneath her shirt, cupping her breasts and she attacked his pants with the same fervor Alice had when Abby gave her a new toy.
It occurred to her that this would make things awkward in the morning, because while Manny and his rotating door of bed partners might walk away friends, Manny always did not share space with any of them. She might even have to ask for a new roommate, which would be awkward as fuck, and that was the only thing that gave her pause, for a brief moment, her gasps coming out harshly as Manny sucked on her neck. She liked Manny, he was a friend, one of the few people who knew, who had come before, who stumbled with them out of Utah and into Washington, right into Isaac’s hand. And out of all of them, he never flinched when she brought up the ghost that haunted them all. Mel looked away and Nora shifted in her seat and there was an almost palpable relief in Owen’s voice when he pointed out all their leads had run dry, but it was Manny who looked her dead in the eye and said you find out where he is Abby and we’ll take care of it but until then let’s take care of ourselves.
Manny cursed hotly at her ear, and lifted himself off her. She immediately missed the press of his weight against her and yanked at his trim hips. “Wait,” he murmured, words slurred. “Abby, wait--”
She could probably come up with a few reasons why if her mind wasn’t soaked in liquor. Inviting Manny up to their room to celebrate finding a Sinatra Select by drinking it hadn’t been a smart idea. Pre-gaming the celebration with Manny’s must cheaper tequila had been a worse one. And she still wasn’t sure when a friendly drink shifted, and she wasn’t sure who had moved first, if it had been his hands that had pulled at her shirt or her fingers that had slipped beneath his pants, but it didn’t matter in the end because they had come to the conclusion that this was a temptation they couldn't resist right around the same time.
Manny’s mouth fell back to her neck, sucking gently, the scrap of his beard eliciting a delicious wave of shivers down Abby’s spine. When she stroked her fingers along his ribs his entire body shuddered against her, making her feel soft and feminine and it had been so fucking long since she had felt this good--
With a heaving sigh, Manny pushed away and flipped onto his back, arms thrown over his eyes and chest raising and falling like he’d run a mile. “Mierda,” he said, which Abby supposed did sum it about up.
“What?” Abby demanded, rolling onto her side and trying to grab at him again. He pushed her questing fingers away with another curse.
“Abby.” There was nothing new about the way her name sounded on her lips but it felt new, felt poetic, beautiful. She hadn’t felt that way in a long, long time. “I like Owen, but not enough to want him in bed with me, eh?”
A strange, hot flush worked up her body like one of the sticky heat waves that could settle over Seattle like a woolen blanket--a uncomfortable combination of desire and embarrassment. “This isn’t about--”
“No.” That at least was true. It wasn’t about Owen, not in the way he was thinking. Though, of course in the same ways, it would always be about Owen, Abby knew. What might have been, and couldn't be. If someone mapped out her life there’d be a hiccup in it the size of her father’s skull, where one life had ended and another began.
And she knew that Manny knew Abby had invited him up to their room because she’d been pissed Owen had skipped training again today but she wasn’t pissed because--Manny thought it was some weird post-breakup pining thing, so did Leah and Jordan and fuck pretty much everyone else, but it wasn’t that. It was more than that. It wasn’t something as stupid as that.
When they’d buried her father, Owen had promised her Jerry Anderson would get justice, that they wouldn't rest and wouldn’t stop until Abby put Joel Miller in the ground beside him. But Seattle had changed him, and the promise rang hollow most days now. Owen had pulled away from her, when she had needed him most, and had been doing it since the moment they’d joined up with the WLF. He hated it, and hated what they were doing. There was no rose-tinted Firefly mantra to make the murder and violence seem justified.
“The fact that Owen and Mel are--”
Now she rolled onto her side and away from him. “No! God, no. Mel is fucking welcome to him.” It didn’t surprise her either. Mel and Owen comisserated over their shared loss of the Fireflies, their disgust at Isaac’s guerilla warfare in Seattle. And it felt, sometimes, that disgust including her because Abby was thriving here. She was stronger and faster than she had ever been, Isaac was giving her more and more responsbilities, same with Manny and Nora, but every moment of pride they took in what they were doing here was marred by the quiet judgement in Owen and Mel’s eyes.
She felt Manny shift next toward her, but he wasn’t touching her and goddamnit she was sobering up and sobering up meant seeing things what he was seeing--the bad idea parts of this. They were friends, and there was that cliched issue of fucking around ruining a good friendship, and God most of the time it felt she was angrier at Owen more than she had ever been in love with him but still… he was right a little bit. Crawling into bed with Abby meant crawling into bed with Owen in a way. Her life felt like stunted growth since her dad… since he’d died. Owen was an idyllic past--as idyllic a past as she could have, in a post Outbreak world--and she clung to it with a white knuckled grip.
“Look,” Manny drawled, “I can’t say I haven’t thought about it--”
She wished she was less sober. “Ugh. Just shut up.” She scrubbed her hands down her face.
“What? You’re a beautiful woman and--”
“Do you want me to knock your teeth in?”
“You were the one who kissed me. Well, I think you were. Last hour is sort of hazy.” Manny eased himself up on his elbow, glancing down at her with a crooked smile. “But maybe--maybe we just stay friends, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Abby agreed. She stayed flat on her back as Manny eased himself up from her bed, pulling on his shirt and righting his pants. “I’ll get a special place as one of the few people who turned Emanuel Alvarez down.”
“Eh, I think I turned you down.”
A laugh bubbled up her throat. “You fucking wish.”
There was a strange, almost natural stillness to Manny and she felt his eyes on her, and she was careful not to meet his gaze. “Maybe I do,” he said and they both said nothing to that.
Later, when they were playing a round of poker to see who was going to have to do the laundry this weekend, Manny sent her a toothy grin, “Dodged a bullet with that one, eh Abs?”
She laughed, belly full, the first time in a long while. “Guess, you did.”
SEATTLE DAY 3
Covered in Manny’s blood, feeling it drip down her eyes and her nose and across her lips, Abby was too numb to think of a would-be kiss two years ago--but later, it will be another ghost to haunt her.