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In the Yellow Time of Pollen

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There are many things Ichabod does not understand about this brave new world. For one, this so-called "government shutdown" has him entirely baffled.

"But... if it is not in the best interests of their constituents," he says to the lieutenant's back, "then why would the representatives do such a thing? What purpose does it serve?"

"I don't know," Lieutenant Mills repeats, slowly, as if Ichabod is a slightly simple child. "The minds of Republicans are just as opaque to me as they are to you. Now, are you going to help me sort through these files or not?"

"I shall," Ichabod says, taking a stack of papers from her. They are all remarkably white and even-textured, with razor-sharp edges; he suspects, however, that noting these qualities would not fall under the lieutenant's category of helpful comments. Still, as he reads, he cannot help but run his fingers reverently over the paper.

Lieutenant Mills continues to dig through the cabinets, occasionally removing another stack of papers, facing away from Ichabod. The sight of her in trousers, in public, is so scandalous to Ichabod's mind that he can scarcely allow himself to consider it.

Katrina had only worn trousers once in his memory, and they had been his second-best pair, worn for a lark. Oh, how they had laughed, and continued to laugh as he removed the trousers and made love to her...

But that was long ago, and Katrina was dead, and her soul trapped between worlds. Ichabod shakes his head to clear it and returns to the files. Mostly, the files. He cannot help but notice that the lieutenant's trousers fit her much more closely than his had fit Katrina. They emphasize, rather than disguise, her feminine physique.

Blood rushes to his face, as though he is a boy peeking at a woman in the bath. Ichabod moves quickly on to the next file, which is as dull as the last, and tries to concentrate on its contents.

"Anything?" asks Lieutenant Mills, startling him. "Sorry, didn't mean to make you jump."

"Quite all right," says Ichabod. "And no, not as such."

She sighs. "Thought not. Want some coffee?"

"That would be lovely, thank you."

The lieutenant nods decisively and leaves the room. At first, Ichabod had wondered why a woman of her rank did not have a servant to send for such things, but Lieutenant Mills appears to enjoy the process of making coffee as a sort of respite from work. As well, she is talented at it; at any rate, Ichabod does not enjoy coffee nearly as much when anyone else prepares it.

"Here you go." She sets down two steaming mugs, her own dark as ink, Ichabod's pale with cream. He knows that both are sweetened, which feels delightfully decadent to him.

"My thanks." Ichabod wraps his hands around the mug, relishing the heat.

"You cold?" asks the lieutenant.

"Not in body," says Ichabod. "I remember the cave at times, and merely think myself so."

"I hear that." Lieutenant Mills sips her coffee and closes her eyes, making a small sound of pleasure. Ichabod gazes at her mouth, lips full and ripe as some wondrous fruit. She is truly a beautiful woman.

"Do I have something --?" She wipes her mouth with the back of her hand and raises her eyebrows at him inquisitively.

"I apologize, I was wool-gathering." Ichabod busies himself by sipping at his own coffee.

"No problem. Here, you take this pile, I'll take this one." The lieutenant pushes the smaller pile of paper towards him, then takes a file from the top of the taller stack and begins to read.

"Lieutenant Mills," says Captain Irving, leaning into the storeroom.

"Sir?" she replies.

"I have an assignment for you and Mr. Crane. I need you to go down where the university's been excavating. They found something they think Crane might recognize."

Ichabod perks up at this. "What manner of thing, if I may ask?"

The captain almost smiles. "From what I understand, that's your department."

"We'll head out right away," says the lieutenant, sweeping the papers into a hasty pile. "Ichabod, finish your coffee."

Obediently, he gulps down the last of it and rises from his chair. "I am at your service, Lieutenant."

***

The lieutenant drives them to what appears to be a mud pit; Ichabod tries not to judge it by appearances, having so recently emerged from a cave himself, and follows her to a knot of people nearby.

"Lieutenant Abbie Mills," she says, showing her badge. "I was told you had something to show us?"

"Oh, Lieutenant!" says a small woman -- shorter even than the lieutenant, and thin-framed enough to blow away in a stiff breeze -- wearing thick-lensed spectacles. "And this must be Professor Crane. I'm Professor Mode. Right this way." She leads them to a small tent, under which is a table, upon which is --

"A box," says the lieutenant with mild interest.

"Not just any box." Professor Mode beckons them closer. "Professor Crane, do you recognize these symbols?"

"I do," says Ichabod. He remembers seeing them, or some very like, on belongings of Katrina's. "They are familiar to me from -- ah -- my work."

"Then you can read them?" she asks delightedly.

"Unfortunately --" he begins.

"-- not without a better light," the lieutenant interrupts, giving him a quelling look. "Could you maybe find us one, Professor?"

"Of course! I'll be right back." Professor Mode hurries away.

"I won't be able to read it with all the light in the world," Ichabod reminds Lieutenant Mills.

"Yeah, but while she's gone, we can open it," she points out, and he is struck once again by her brilliance.

"An excellent plan," he says, and sets to work. The lock is not nearly as well preserved as Ichabod's person, and gives way easily. Carefully, he lifts the lid, and -- "Achoo!" -- sneezes violently.

"What the -- achoo!" Now the lieutenant is sneezing as well. "Ichabod, close that -- achoo! -- thing, quick!"

Ichabod clicks the lid shut, and counts himself lucky that he did not sneeze directly into it. "What -- achoo! What is this?" he demands.

"How should I know?" retorts the lieutenant, managing to get the whole query out between sneezes.

Just then, Professor Mode returns empty-handed. "Oh, you poor things!" she says. "You'll have to go home and take an antihistamine. This happens from time to time. I'll have photographs sent over to the police station, how's that?"

"That'd be great, Professor," the lieutenant says, and sneezes again. "Sorry to waste your time."

"It's no bother," she says. "Now go sneeze somewhere else!"

They hurry back to the car. Ichabod's eyes are watering so badly that he can scarcely see, but he manages to seat himself and make use of his handkerchief as the lieutenant radios back to the station. She says something about "allergy attack," and "home," and, most hearteningly, "tea."

"There," she tells him. "We're going home to take care of this," and punctuates her statement with a loud sneeze.

"Good," Ichabod says. He wishes briefly that the car were powered by horses, which might know their way home in spite of the lieutenant's condition, but he trusts that she knows her machine well enough.

Fortunately, Ichabod and Lieutenant Mills have both stopped sneezing by the time they reach her home, though he still feels uncomfortably warm. "Still," she says, moving purposefully about the small but well-appointed kitchen, "I'll make us some tea anyway."

She makes the tea sweet and strong, and it does nothing at all to quell the inconvenient stirring in Ichabod's groin. "Thank you, Lieutenant," he says, seating himself on one of the high stools to drink.

"You're welcome," she says, taking the other stool, "but seriously, you have got to stop calling me Leftenant all the time. It's Abbie, okay?"

"It's disrespectful," he says, watching her sip her tea. Her mouth is purely mesmerizing.

"Not if I'm asking you," she says. "Besides, I know you respect me by how you behave."

"All right -- Abbie." Ichabod feels daring as his mouth shapes her name, and when she smiles, he hides his own expression by taking another drink of tea.

"Thank you, Ichabod," the lieu -- Abbie says. He likes the particular stress she puts on his name, as if he is someone out of a tale. He likes it quite a lot.

Abbie shifts her weight. With her feet propped on the crossbar of the stool, they are nearly of a height, making such details easier to see. Ichabod is not sure that it is a shift of discomfort, however. Perhaps his suspicion is tied to his burgeoning erection, but he suspects that Abbie is moving because she is aroused.

"This tea is delicious," Ichabod says, to distract himself.

"Thank you," Abbie says. "It was a Christmas present from a friend."

Ichabod would like to give Abbie presents. "How nice," he says. In fact, the presents he would like to give her are not as practical as tea. He wants to buy her lace from -- wherever it is they make lace nowadays, and see her dressed in it, and take it off of her, and do delicious, licentious things to her.

"Ichabod," Abbie says. He looks up, and becomes aware that her gaze is resting upon him; he has to look up because his has been resting upon her mouth.

"Abbie," he replies, not knowing what else to say. It is suddenly very warm in the room, almost oppressively so.

"I like you." She blinks, and Ichabod wishes he could touch the fringe of her eyelashes. "Why did I say that out loud?"

"I am very fond of you as well," Ichabod informs her. "Is it warm in here?"

"I think so, or maybe it's just you." She claps one hand over her mouth. "That didn't even make sense!"

"I don't mind." Ichabod unbuttons his jacket and removes it, placing it on the counter in front of him. It gives a small measure of relief from the heat, though not from the intense feelings of desire. Lust, if he's frank.

"Hey, that's not fair. If you get to undress, I do too," Abbie says.

"I have no argument with that," replies Ichabod. "In fact, I find the prospect most pleasing." His shirt is beginning to itch, so he unbuttons the collar.

"Good." Abbie is busy with her own buttons. Ichabod's hands still as he watches her, at the wealth of beautiful skin being revealed. It is, perhaps, good for his heart that she is wearing another shirt beneath the blue uniform, though the blindingly white fabric is sheer enough to show him the shape of her. "You know, you're not like I thought," she continues.

"No?" Ichabod drags his gaze upward again, back to her beautiful eyes. "Is that good?"

"Yeah, it is." Arms freed from the uniform shirt, Abbie stretches them out behind her, lengthening the line of her neck like -- like something lovel, perhaps a graceful boat. "I thought you'd be more uptight, less -- interesting. You would have made a good cowboy." She looks at him and smile, the slow, warm smile that makes him feel as though they share a secret. "I know, I know, you don't know what a cowboy is."

"I know what cows and boy s are," he defends himself. "Would you mind if I removed my shirt?"

"Only if I can remove mine." There is a challenge in her eyes.

Ichabod feels ready to meet it. "Go ahead," he tells her magnanimously. "For my part, we can be as nude as Adam and Eve in Eden."

"Oh, we can, can we?" Abbie grins. "Let's see your head explode, time travelin' man." She lifts the shirt over her head and tosses it behind her.

"You're still clothed!" cries Ichabod. "I cry foul play!" He doesn't know quite what to call the garment covering her bosom, besides black and shimmery, but he knows he feels cheated by it.

"My bra is not foul play!" Abbie laughs, and her bosom moves gloriously.

Ichabod shakes his head and removes his shirt. "You lack honor," he informs her.

"You know what they don't cover in history classes?" Abbie asks. She leans forward, resting her elbows on her knees. "Underwear."

"I find myself gaining respect for your schools," Ichabod says. His nipples are tightening as though it were cool, but he still feels overwarm.

"So what do you have under your trousers? Inquiring minds want to know."

"Do they?" Ichabod's trousers feel tight, now that she mentions them.

"I'll take off my bra if you take off your pants," she offers.

"An intriguing proposition." Ichabod contemplates it for a moment. "I accept, but I insist that you go first."

Abbie laughs. "Touché," she says. "Okay, fine." She contorts herself fascinatingly, and then her bosom spills free of the bra.

Ichabod's mind slips its reins. He finds himself standing up from the stool and stepping closer to Abbie. "May I touch you?" he asks reverently.

She blinks up at him. "Yeah," she says. "Yes, God, please. I want you to."

He thinks that he has never wanted to do anything so much as he wants to touch Abbie's breasts right now. When he does so, they are as smooth and heavy and wondrous as he has imagined, and Abbie lets out a sigh. He strokes his thumbs over her nipples, and her breath stirs the hair on his chest.

"You are perhaps the most brilliant and beautiful woman it has ever been my pleasure to meet," he says softly.

"You're not so bad yourself," Abbie says, and leans forward, pressing her breasts into his hands. "How was kissing 250 years ago?"

Suspecting that what she is requesting is not a treatise on kissing through the ages, Ichabod instead bends his face to hers and demonstrates his technique upon her lush mouth. From the enthusiasm with which Abbie responds, Ichabod believes his century has redeemed itself. Her hands clasp at the small of his back, then venture lower, beneath the waist of his trousers, to cup his backside.

"Abbie," he says against her mouth, then, as she pulls them closer together and her thigh grazes his erection, "Abbie."

"You have a great butt," she says, and kisses him again, her tongue shocking against his.

Ichabod pulls away from her just long enough to say, "I want to make love to you," then kisses her again, as though a moment has starved him.

"Yes," Abbie says. "God, yes." She winds her legs about his waist and her arms about his neck, and he lifts her up.

After two steps, Ichabod is forced to break the kiss to admit, "I don't know where I'm taking you."

"Behind you, on the left," Abbie says, and bites his neck delightfully.

In the bedroom, he deposits her on the bed, and she quickly removes her trousers and undergarments, then helps him to remove his. "Lie down," she says, an air of command in her voice, and Ichabod does so without pause. A moment passes, and Abbie comes closer again, holding a small object. "This is a condom," she says. "I'm going to put it on you, and then we can -- make love."

"All right," says Ichabod. The condom feels tight and strange, but, he thinks, he would put up with a great deal more to be in this position. Abbie climbs back atop the bed, straddling him, and sinks down upon him with exquisite grace.

"Oh," he says, and "oh," as she rises and falls upon him, the glorious feel of her tight around his erection, her breasts brushing his chest on every down-stroke, her face transported.

"Oh, God!" Abbie grabs Ichabod's hands and presses them to her breasts; obediently, he squeezes, and she cries out again, squeezing him in turn. The strange heat crests as his arousal does, and he spends his seed.

Before Abbie can express disappointment, Ichabod says, "Wait," and inverts their positions so that she is beneath him. The look of surprise on her face as he moves betwixt her legs is one that he is sure he will want to remember. He pushes her legs apart and kisses her, tastes her at the juncture of them.

Normally, Ichabod is not fond of blasphemy, but he is sure that Abbie's outcry is not truly meant as such. He continues his tender, or less than entirely tender, mercies upon her delectable flesh until she quivers around him and tries to close her legs on his head.

"Would you like more?" he asks courteously, raising his head so that he can see her face.

"No, that's -- no, I'm good," Abbie says. Her chest heaves as she catches her breath. "I can't say I expected a man of your age to go downtown."

"Is that how you refer to the arts of sodomy now?" Ichabod asks, then yawns deeply. "Well, my wife was, after all, a witch. I begin to suspect that not much of our life together was precisely conventional."

"Then thank you, Katrina!" Abbie yawns as well. "I need a nap. Are you also well-versed in the arts of cuddling?"

Ichabod crawls back up the bed, and she helps him to remove the condom. "I am, but in the interest of fairness, I should note that I have been called excessively bony for comfort."

Abbie pulls him close to her. "Fine by me."

***

When Ichabod wakes, he believes at first that he has merely dreamed of sharing the favors of Abbie Mills. However, his right arm is all pins and needles, and when he opens his eyes to find the cause, he discovers that he still has an armful of sleeping lieutenant. So -- did they truly -- ? It seems to be so.

Abbie stirs; with the instincts born of marriage, Ichabod wraps his free arm around her for comfort. For a moment, it appears to calm her; then her eyes pop open, and she becomes very, very still.

"Ichabod," she says, with an air of menace.

"Yes?" He cannot decide whether to remove his arm or leave it.

"Did we… have relations, or was that just a particularly vivid dream?"

"I believe we did," Ichabod says carefully, "though we may have been under the influence of some… substance."

"I see." She still hasn’t moved. "Is this going to make things uncomfortable between us?"

"It is my fond hope that it will not."

"Good," she says. "You can start by keeping your hands to yourself."

Quickly, Ichabod pulls his arm away from her. "My apologies."

"Accepted. Now, I’m going to take a shower, and we can pretend this never happened." Abbie rises from the bed and gathers the sheet around her as she does so, paying no mind to the fact that this leaves Ichabod exposed. Nevertheless, he watches her leave before getting up to gather the scattered pieces of his dignity.

Abbie — or perhaps it ought to be Lieutenant Mills again — makes swift use of the shower and returns to her bedchamber clad in a robe. "Your turn," she says, refraining from meeting his gaze as she selects new garments from her chest of drawers.

"Thank you," Ichabod says, and ventures into her bathing-room. Her hair products smell pleasantly of strawberries, and he discovers that the scent lingers a bit once he has rinsed off. No matter; he is fond enough of fruit. He dresses in what he can find of his clothing and returns to Lieutenant Mills’ kitchen to retrieve the next, finding her once again at the counter.

Her nose twitches. "You smell very pretty," she says, mouth quivering, as though she is exerting herself not to smile.

"I do," he agrees. "My hair feels most luxuriant as well."

"It takes quite a man not to be afraid of pink shampoo." She looks momentarily horrified at herself. "I mean… I’m sorry, that was inappropriate."

"Was it?" Ichabod furrows his brow.

"It implies that I know more than I should about your… prowess." She drinks some of her tea, which must be stone-cold by now, and makes a face.

"But you do," Ichabod points out.

"We’re pretending that didn’t happen," she reminds him.

Ichabod presses his lips together. "A lesser man might take offense at the fact that you see no need for such pretense with Detective Morales."

"Good thing you’re not a lesser man, then," says Abbie, and she sets down her mug with a clink. "Shall we go back to the station?"

"I suppose that would be best," Ichabod says, though he is not at all certain.

***

Captain Irving eyes them as they enter the station. "Feeling better?"

"Indeed," says Ichabod.

"Yes, sir," says Lieutenant Mills.

"I’d suspect the two of you of playing hooky, but I have some very strange reports from the excavation site," the captain says. "I don’t have to discuss appropriate fraternizing with either of you, do I?"

"Fraternizing?" Ichabod repeats.

"No, sir, but may I remind you, sir, that Professor Crane is not an employee here?" Abbie looks — odd. Shifty, perhaps?

"Fine," says Captain Irving, with a heavy sigh. "Then I’ll remind him of appropriate behavior towards a lady, if I must."

"Sir!"

"That won’t be necessary," Ichabod says quickly. "I am well aware of the requirements of propriety."

"We have work to do. Come on, Ichabod." The lieutenant fairly drags him into their little storeroom by the hand, and shuts the door behind them.

"Are you quite well?" he inquires.

"He knows," she says. "Oh, God, he knows."

"It appears that we are, at least, not alone," Ichabod ventures. "If others have suffered the same effects —"

"Suffered?" Abbie’s eyes flash.

"A mere figure of speech." Ichabod waves one hand as if to dispell the idea.

"Because that was good," she continues.

"Of course it was."

"And just because there was some witchy lust potion involved, that doesn’t mean —" She snaps her mouth shut.

Ichabod is now more confused than before. "It doesn’t mean what?"

"I may have done something I didn’t intend to do, but I didn’t do anything I didn’t want to do, okay?" Her look is challenging.

"Oh, thank God," says Ichabod. "I was afraid that I had… taken advantage."

"No more than I did," says Abbie; then, she pauses. "You… I mean, were you also…"

"Your phrasing was ideal," Ichabod says. "In the interest of propriety and maintaining our friendship, I intended to refrain from any attempts to court you, but I felt no such inhibitions earlier, and was thus able to act upon my… passions." His cheeks flush at his boldness.

"Court me, huh?" She has that near-smile again, that he finds so intoxicating.

"Yes. However, your desire to pretend that the events prior did not happen —"

"I could be convinced otherwise," Abbie says. "Especially if courting includes — what did you call it? The arts of sodomy?"

Ichabod can feel the smile spreading across his face. "It did not, in my day," he says, "but I have been informed by a most reputable source that times change."

Abbie grins at him. "I like this idea."

"As do I." He reaches across the table for her hand, and she takes it.

***

That night, when Abbie drives Ichabod to his hotel room, she follows him inside instead of driving off.

"Welcome to my humble abode," he says, throwing the door wide.

"It’s very nice," Abbie says. "Would you shut that door already?"

"If the lady insi—" And she has him pinned against the closed door before he can complete his sentence.

"She does," Abbie says, and drags his head down to hers by the hair to kiss. It is a strange feeling, but one he could quite easily become fond of. He kisses back, placing one hand on the back of her neck, grasping the doorknob with the other so he can remain standing.

She pulls back after a moment, her beautiful mouth red and wet. "We need to talk."

"I suppose we do," Ichabod says with regret.

"C’mon, sit," Abbie suggests. He sits on the bed, and she takes the desk chair. "I figure we need to discuss our expectations."

"Such as?"

"I’m not ready for marriage or babies." She enumerates these on her fingers. "I don’t want you to get all…"

"All…?" Ichabod prompts.

"Well," Abbie says. "Some guys get all… strange, when we start… interacting. But you’re different, aren’t you?"

"I hope so," he says earnestly.

"You already treat me like a lady, and you don’t seem like you’ll stop just because we’re doing it," Abbie continues. "So that might not be a problem. Just don’t be weird at work, okay?"

"I shall strive for the utmost normality."

Abbie smirks. "Oh, I’m sure you will."

"Now, if I understand correctly, I should inform you of my expectations?" Ichabod twists a fold of bedspread between his hands.

"Sure," Abbie says. "What do you expect?"

"I also do not feel myself prepared for children or matrimony at this time," Ichabod says. "I intend to continue to treat you with the utmost respect, and I hope that you will treat me as you always have."

She looks at him sidelong. "They had friends with benefits in the 1700s?"

"I am unfamiliar with the phrase, but if I have correctly assumed that the benefits in question are sexual in nature, I suspect the arrangement is as old as time." Ichabod considers this. "Perhaps older."

"Good point." Abbie rises from the chair and takes a step towards Ichabod. "So, now that we’ve aligned our expectations…"

"…we might align something else?" Ichabod finishes hopefully.

Abbie grins and moves to straddle his thighs. "My thoughts exactly."

With her astride him, Ichabod has unfettered access to Abbie’s lovely neck, which he kisses and licks with abandon. "May I?" he asks, touching the placket of her uniform shirt.

"Go ahead, please," Abbie says, then bends her head to kiss him as he works the buttons. He is pleased to find that, without the influence of the strange box, he is perfectly capable of both unbuttoning a shirt and kissing a beautiful woman at once.

She pants delectably against his mouth and works to unbutton his shirt as well. Their hands tangle, which makes Ichabod laugh. "You think this is funny, huh?" she demands through laughter of her own, and begins to tickle him.

"Surely this is against the rules!" he insists, squirming away from her clever fingers.

"All’s fair in love and war," she counters, and, with a burst of force, springs upward to capture his hands with both of hers. "There, she says. "Now you have to do what I say."

"And that would be unusual in some way?"

Abbie grins. "Doesn’t mean I don’t like it." She kisses him again, most thoroughly. "How about I let you go just long enough to get us both naked?"

"That would be satisfactory," Ichabod says, although he would gladly keep his arms above his head for as long as Abbie liked. Released, he lifts her off his lap and relieves them both of their clothing.

"Now, where were we?" Abbie asks rhetorically. With one hand on her hip, gloriously nude, she reminds him of a painting of a goddess.

"I believe we were both on the bed," he tells her. "That might be a start."

"It might be," Abbie agrees. She seats herself next to Ichabod and draws him in for a kiss, pulling him towards her as the moon draws the tides. He presses nearer, and she pulls him nearer still, until she is on her back, and he above her.

"Wait," he says. "The condom?"

Abbie laughs, as though he has surprised her. "I never expect a man to be the one to remember, let alone one in his third century! They’re in the bedside table drawer."

Ichabod climbs off of her and looks in the aforementioned drawer, where he finds a handful of the foil-wrapped packets. He chooses one and brings it back to Abbie’s side. "How does it work?"

She sits up and takes it from him. "First, you tear it open. Then you put it on — like this." She demonstrates slowly, rolling the thing down his erection to the base. "See?"

"I believe so," he says.

"And you don’t mind? I know you weren’t exactly used to gloving up in your old life." She glances up at him.

"It seems a harmless perversity," Ichabod says. "If it pleases you, I don’t mind it."

"Always full of surprises," Abbie says. "All right, why don’t you come here and satisfy my harmless perversity?"

He does his best.