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the remnant of a troubled life

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The morning after what Abbie will come to think of as the sofa-bed incident is a little awkward.

Okay, more than a little. More like apocalyptically awkward.

Because after finishing the report on the situation where they definitely didn't blow up a reconstituted witch underneath police headquarters, Abbie closes her eyes for a moment. She convinces herself that she'll move in a minute, she's just so comfortable with Ichabod's arm wrapped around her waist and his steady breathing against her thigh...

She wakes up three and a half hours later when her alarm goes off in her bedroom. Abbie is not in her bedroom. In fact, she is still on the folded-out sofa-bed with six foot-something of time-displaced, hot Englishman wrapped around her like a particularly sexy boa constrictor.

Ichabod is a cuddler. Abbie might have been happier not knowing that. It just makes it even more depressing when he wakes up, realizes that he's spooning her, and almost kills himself leaping off the sofa-bed while babbling apologies.

Abbie sits up.

Ichabod has backed away so far that he's practically in the corner. He looks mortified. "Miss Mills, I must tender my most sincere apology for this inexcusable trespass upon your person. I am utterly ashamed to have encroached upon you in your sleep in such a--"

"Crane," she interrupts his babbling sharply. "Shut up." He closes his mouth, shame-faced. Abbie sighs and tries to soften her voice. "Listen, we just cuddled a little in our sleep, that's all. No harm, no foul. I'm not upset, so you shouldn't be upset."

Ichabod frowns. "I showed disrespect for you--"

"You were asleep." Feeling like she's pouring lemon juice on a paper cut, Abbie adds, "In fact, you were probably just dreaming that you were in bed with your wife Katrina. So calm down, stop cowering in the corner like a scandalized virgin, and help me make some breakfast. If we hurry, we've got enough time for waffles."

Abbie can feel him staring at her surreptitiously as they move around the kitchen making breakfast. He's only briefly diverted by the mystery of the waffle maker. Abbie kind of adores the little gleam of curiosity and wonder he gets in his eyes whenever he investigates some new gadget. She already had to set some guidelines regarding what he gets to take apart to discover how it works. Sometimes it's like dealing with a very large cat with opposable thumbs.

And much like an affectionate cat, it turns out, Ichabod loves to sleep cuddled up to people. To her, specifically.

It didn't mean anything, she tells herself.

On the counter, the toaster pops up. Ichabod jumps, startled, then picks up a piece of perfectly browned toast and puts a corner in his mouth to test it, crunching down on it carefully. "Hmmm. The means of toasting is ingenious, but I still find your bread disturbingly insubstantial."

Abbie has to laugh. Ichabod Crane, time-displaced food critic.

He gives her the little smile that she thinks means that he has no idea why he just amused her, but he's pleased that he did.

It didn't mean anything. Maybe if she repeats that to herself enough, she'll believe it.

That's the last quiet moment they have for almost a week. First there's the case where people's eyeballs turn to sand when the Sandman comes to visit. (The less said about the fact that she now knows what it feels like to be stung by a scorpion, the better).

Immediately after that, she discovers that Jenny has escaped from the mental institution. And then when they find her, they learn that Sheriff Corbin, the closest thing that Abbie ever had to a father figure, was also the closest that Jenny had to a father figure. And he never even told Abbie that he knew her sister. After that, closing a portal to hell wasn't exactly an afterthought but it was definitely not the part of the case that was messing with Abbie the worst.

She needs a vacation. From everything.

Walking out of the interrogation room after talking to Jenny, Abbie feels like any moment she's just going to break into a million pieces. Ichabod takes one look at her and silently follows her down the corridor and out of the building. He's slightly behind her and to the left. Covering her most vulnerable side. It's weirdly comforting.

Abbie makes herself get into the car and put it into drive without pausing because if she stops for even a second, she'll have to think about the look in her sister's eyes. It's been a shitty enough day without adding crying in public on top of everything else that's gone wrong.

They're stopped outside her apartment building, an old brick building with creaky wooden floors, cranky steam heat, and temperamental plumbing, by the time she realizes that she forgot to drop Ichabod off at the motel where he's been staying.

Abbie sighs, dropping her head back against the headrest. She hears the snick of Ichabod releasing his seatbelt and then nothing until he asks, "Miss Mills? Is something amiss?"

"You called my sister Miss Jenny. Why do you always call me Miss Mills?" she asks. It's not what she intended to say. She rolls her head to the side to look at him.

Ichabod frowns. "It is a mark of my respect for you that I refer to you in such a way."

"So you don't respect my sister? Because I thought the two of you were bonding over being freedom fighters."

"I don't--disrespect Miss Jenny!" he sputters. "It is just simply that it becomes an awkward situation when one must refer to two different people in close proximity by the same name."

"And you like her better." Abbie cuts off his protest with a sharp wave of her hand. "Doesn't matter. Listen, I forgot to drop you off at the motel. Put your seatbelt back on and I'll run you over there."

"It does matter. And I do not like her more than I like you," Ichabod says primly. He reaches for his seatbelt and then pauses, looking at her with a concerned wrinkle between his eyebrows. "You are exhausted. Can we not call upon one of your compatriots to transport me to the motel?"

"No, it's fine. I'll do it," she says, sliding her keys back into the ignition. Ichabod's hand on hers surprises her into freezing in place.

"Miss Abigail," he says. (Abbie has to smile at that. Trust Ichabod to find a way to make using her first name sound formal.) "I do not wish to be any more trouble to you. If it would not be too great of an imposition, I could sleep upon your sofa-bed once more."

Abbie sighs and nods. "Yeah, that'd be fine."

Once they get inside the apartment and sit down on the folded-up sofa-bed, Abbie starts feeling like gravity has suddenly become three times heavier than normal. "I should scrounge up something to eat," she says, not getting up.

"I could procure dinner for us from the market on the corner." Ichabod pauses. "Only, I would need to borrow some money. A few dollars should suffice."

"A few dollars will get you two hotdogs at the convenience store." He looks puzzled. "Hotdog. Like a brat, um, a sausage."

He nods, visibly filing the new term away in his memory.

"Mmm, no," she decides. "A case like this deserves pizza."

"Pizza?" He pronounces the word carefully.

Abbie grins. "Oh, do I have a treat for you."

Ichabod devours a staggering amount of pizza. Abbie had kind of planned on there being leftovers from the large she'd ordered, but by the time he's full there are only a few sad pieces left in the cardboard box. "I approve of this "pizza,"" he says, slumped on the other end of the sofa from her.

Abbie nods and yawns. "It is delicious. That's my favorite pizza place." She turns the TV on and starts flipping channels randomly. She stops for a second on PBS, but it's some kind of opera--really not her thing. Ichabod sits up suddenly and makes a noise of protest when she switches channels.

"You like opera?" Abbie asks, switching back to PBS. Ichabod doesn't even respond. "Of course you like opera, what am I saying."

Ichabod is sitting forward, staring at the screen. "Orphée et Eurydice," he says reverently. "I saw this performed in Paris in '74. It was breathtakingly beautiful."

"Weren't you in Boston in 1774 encouraging people to throw tea into the harbor?"

"No, that was in December of the previous year. General Washington sent me to Paris for... well, it is a very long and tedious story. Suffice it to say that I had the opportunity to see this performed at the Paris Opera in August of that year and it was glorious. I never thought I would have such an opportunity again. And one may view such performances at any time of the day or night?"

Abbie has to smile at how enthusiastic he is. "Yes, you can. Not just opera, either--ballet, stage plays, orchestra concerts... If you feel the urge to watch Shakespeare at three in the morning, you can do so. Finally found something that you like about this century?"

Ichabod looks terribly guilty as he admits, "Miss Abigail, for that I might be tempted to stay in this time even if I were offered a way back." Abbie stares at him, shocked, as he goes back to watching the television with wide, intent eyes.

She watches the performance with him, trying to understand exactly what it is that he finds so fascinating about it. It's been a long and emotionally exhausting day, though, and her eyelids start getting heavier and heavier until eventually she falls asleep between one breath and the next.

She's not sure how much later it is when she wakes up again. At some point Ichabod must have covered her with his coat. It's heavy, incredibly warm and cozy, and smells overwhelmingly of Ichabod. Unfortunately for her sanity, that isn't at all a bad thing.

Ichabod is asleep on the other end of the sofa with his head tilted back at an uncomfortable-looking angle. She's stretched out on the sofa with her feet in his lap. His hand is wrapped around one of her ankles.

It's strangely intimate, even though they're barely touching. His hand looks enormous compared to her foot and ankle. He must have remembered how to turn off the TV from her brief demonstration of how to use the remote because it's dark and very quiet in her apartment.

What are you doing, Abigail Mills? she asks herself. There are so many reasons not to think about Ichabod in a romantic way: he's from the wrong time, he's probably a little crazy, and he may be astonishingly progressive for a man from his era but he's still got an attitude about certain things that puts her back right up. Oh, and last but definitely not least, he's still in love with his dead wife.

But she can't stop thinking about him. And sometimes when he's looking at her, she thinks that the look in his eyes says maybe he feels the same way. When she picked the lock on Corbin's old cabin the way he looked at her afterwards, all conspiratorial mischief, made her feel a pulse of heat deep in the pit of her stomach. She had kind of thought that he was going to kiss her then. She wanted him to.

Then after that came everything with Jenny and the revelation that her sister was right all along. Abbie was the one who denied the truth and betrayed her sister. The look in Jenny's eyes in the interrogation room haunted her: angry, bitter, vindictive. Once upon a time they were everything to each other. The only family they had left. Now Abbie doesn't even know if she has a sister anymore.

"What troubles you, Miss Abigail?"

Abbie wipes her cheeks, trying to hide the evidence that she was crying. It's probably too late for that. "I didn't realize you woke up," she says, sitting up and curling her legs under herself.

"I apologize," he says quietly. "It was not my intention to startle you. But please, tell me what troubles you."

Abbie bites her lip. "It's nothing."

"We are friends, are we not? Partners? A friend would not sit idly by while his partner is in distress."

Abbie sighs. He's got a point, and it would be nice to talk to someone she trusts. Corbin used to be her go-to person for friendly advice and a shoulder to cry on. (Corbin who lied to her for years, but her anger at him isn't something she can get into right now.) "It's Jenny. Everything she said to me... she was right. I betrayed her. I let her down. We were all that we had left and I walked away from her when she needed me the most."

Ichabod holds out a hand silently. Abbie shifts over until she can hold his hand without stretching. "You were a child," he says. "A frightened, traumatized child who had just faced a horror beyond all rational explanation. I do not blame you, not in the slightest. Tell me, if you dealt with a child who had gone through an ordeal such as you did, would you blame that child for being frightened enough to lie to adults in positions of authority?"

Abbie closes her eyes, trying to keep the tears from spilling. He's right. A weight feels like it's lifting from her shoulders. "Okay," she whispers. "Okay. That's fair. But what about all the years since? It's been a long time since I was that scared little girl."

Ichabod sighs deeply. "The natural tendency of mankind is to make mistakes. It often feels as if existence is a series of errors, missteps, and miscalculations. All that one can do is own up to one's errors and attempt to mitigate any harm one may have done to others."

"Own your mistakes," she says, nodding. "Except it's not always as easy as it sounds."

"It is never easy," he says with a rueful smile.

At some point they shifted closer without Abbie noticing it. They're still holding hands, sitting with their sides pressed together from shoulder to knee. Abbie leans her head against his shoulder--well, considering the height difference, it's more like his upper arm. "Thanks," she says softly. "I'm glad you're my friend. And partner."

"As am I." He turns his head and kisses the top of her head. Abbie looks up at him and hears his breath catch. Ichabod's lips are slightly parted and his eyes are very dark.

Abbie kneels up on the sofa at the same time as he puts his arms around her, and then suddenly they're kissing, hot and deep. Abbie hooks her arms around the back of his neck and moans as one of his big hands slides down to the small of her back.

He's so proper normally, all British reserve and 18th century manners, that in the back of her head she had kind of thought that he'd be reserved and controlled even in bed. She was wrong. She was so wrong. Ichabod kisses like he's trying to devour her, cupping the side of her face with one hand while pulling her closer with the hand on her back.

Abbie feels surrounded by him, his body heat like a furnace, his long arms holding her close, his mouth slanting across hers. She can feel her nipples tightening and her panties getting wet. Ichabod makes a rumbling noise deep in his throat that is basically made of sex.

And then he practically levitates out of her arms and halfway across the living room, his face drained of color except for two red patches on his cheekbones. "Miss Mills! You have my most sincere apologies for this, this dreadful--"

"If you keep apologizing to me I'm going to shoot you," Abbie tells the ceiling. Ichabod's babbling stumbles to a halt. She stands up and glares at him with her arms crossed. "Don't apologize to me like I'm not just as guilty as you are. We both kissed each other and I will not allow you to take responsibility for my actions."

Ichabod doesn't look happy about it, but he finally nods. "I understand."

"Good." Abbie pinches the bridge of her nose. "I'm going to bed."

"I should go," he says, trying to grab his coat off the sofa without coming within five feet of her.

"No, you shouldn't. I'm an adult. You're an adult. We both made a mistake and we're owning up to it. Isn't that what you said? Own up to your errors and attempt to fix any harm you may have done?"

"I did not expect you to turn my advice against me." He sounds vaguely offended.

"Well, I don't know why not." She smiles teasingly at him and he begins to look a little bit less like he's about to cut and run at any moment. "You remember how to unfold the sofa-bed? Good. Here's a fresh set of sheets and a blanket. I am going to bed now. Any further existential crises can be had in the morning. You got me?"

"I have you, Miss Mills--Miss Abigail," he corrects himself.

Abbie holds his gaze for a moment and then nods. "Good."

It's not until she's in her bedroom with the door closed that Abbie allows herself to remember the strength of his arms, the way his beard felt prickly and soft at the same time, and the hot feel of his mouth on hers. She only allows herself a few moments to remember it before she forces herself to stop thinking about it. Ichabod is a married man (yes, his wife is dead...ish, but he still thinks that Katrina can be rescued) and Abbie will never be the other woman.

She can tell her conscious mind to stop thinking about the kiss all she wants, but her subconscious has a mind of its own. All night long Abbie dreams in vivid detail about the two of them fucking on every surface in the apartment. Honestly? She would almost prefer the nightmares.