She smiled at him and he had never seen anything so beautiful. She stretched out her arms and he went willingly into them, fitting his hands around her small waist and bending his head down to meet her mouth with his own. They were together the way they were always meant to be, and for the moment at least, she was his. Ichabod held no illusions that she belonged to him of course, but right here, right now, she was giving a little bit of herself up and he was taking it gladly. He turned his head to the side and buried his nose in the nape of her neck, breathing her in. Why had he denied himself this for so long? How could he have ever pretended to himself that this wasn’t supposed to happen?
Ichabod woke in a cold sweat. He stared up at the ceiling, breathing hard. A glance at the alarm clock on his bedside table revealed it to be in the neighborhood of 3:00 in the morning. He sat up, groaning, and rubbed at his face, wishing that this dream could be one of those immediately lost to his memory. But it was no use: the images were burned into his brain, and he remembered every detail.
He had not been dreaming of his wife, but of Lieutenant Mills--Abbie. Worse, this was not the first such dream he had had.
Other dreams had been much more explicit. Thinking of them now, Ichabod burned with shame. When he suffered from these dreams, it felt as though the decision to be unfaithful to his wife had already been made for him.
It’s just a dream, he reminded himself as he lay back down, his heart beating hard from both guilt and arousal. Just useless mental flotsam that your brain is throwing up while you sleep. It means nothing.
It felt far from meaningless, however. He could still feel the ghost of Abbie’s arms around his neck, of her lips against his own. Lately, this fantasy floated to the top of his mind often: no matter how hard he tried to keep his focus on Katrina, on his wife, his imagination often brought to mind Abbie’s face when he was thinking of whom he most desired. And when he was around Abbie, he couldn’t help but think about touching her, kissing her.
He rolled over, facing the wall. He was a married man. Certainly, the marriage was undergoing certain tensions (they were sleeping in separate beds, he in this cabin and she in a room in Henry’s house), but still, he’d taken a vow. He did not take his vows lightly.
Ichabod tossed and turned, upset by his dream giving him a vivid sense of what it would be like to hold Abbie in his arms. It was a long time before he was able to return to sleep.
The next day Abbie visited him at the cabin, bringing him coffee and donuts. She had a wide grin on her face and her cheeks were flushed from the cold outside.
“Heard you might need some breakfast,” she said, handing him a bag from Dunkin’ Donuts. Ichabod opened it hungrily, ripping into the baked treats that were by now familiar to him.
“You are an angel sent from heavens,” he said, mouth full.
Abbie laughed. “Really, this is all it takes to be an angel? I should bring you donuts every day, in that case.”
They smiled at each other, Ichabod feeling almost dizzy with affection for her. He caught his breath when she frowned suddenly and leaned forward, into his personal space, her hand reaching out to brush his nose.
“You had powdered sugar on your face,” she said. “Don’t worry, I got it.”
“Mm, thank you.” Ichabod hastily wiped at his face, even though she’d said it was all gone. “What brings you here today? Not that you ever need a reason to visit, of course.”
“Of course.” Her smile was a little hesitant now, unsure. “I actually don’t have a reason, or at least, not anything supernatural. You know it’s been quiet since we destroyed Moloch.”
“Yes, thankfully,” Ichabod said. It was a good thing that Moloch was gone, of course, but he had to admit to being slightly bored lately, without much of an idea for how to fill his time. He had also missed Abbie, had seen less of her now that they didn’t have to stop evil forces from taking over the world.
“And Christmas is coming up,” Abbie continued. “And, well, I don’t know how familiar you are with the current traditions or if you’re even planning on celebrating it, but. I thought we could get you a Christmas tree.”
“A Christmas tree. Hm.” Ichabod was vaguely familiar with the concept, having by now seen enough holiday-themed commercials featuring this tree, but he hadn’t considered getting one for himself.
“Yeah, you know, and we could decorate it together and put some lights up around here and stuff. I feel bad thinking of you all alone in here for the holidays. We should liven the place up.”
Ichabod felt his cheeks warm at the thought of her consideration of him. She was looking at him with concern now, like she really was worried about his un-festive loneliness during the holidays.
“All right,” he said, conceding to her wish. “We can get a tree. Although I don’t see what this bizarre ritual of wrapping presents under a tree and decorating it with lights on a string has to do with Christ’s birth.”
“Come on, it’s about being festive,” Abbie said, reaching forward to touch him, tugging on his jacket playfully. Ichabod’s breath caught in his throat. She was always touching him casually like this, teasing him, seemingly unaware of the effect such touches had on his blood pressure.
They went to one of the Christmas tree lots on the edge of town. The second Ichabod stepped out of the car, he was struck by the scent of pine. It was a good smell. Seeing all the holiday commercials and the town strung up in lights had left him cold so far, since these materialistic rituals bore little resemblance to the traditional yule he was used to celebrating, but now he had to admit that the scent in the air from all these trees stirred something in him.
Abbie came around the end of the car to join him, leaning into his arm. “Smells good, doesn’t it?”
“Yes.” Ichabod thought of Katrina and felt a flash of guilt: he should be spending the holidays with her, helping her pick out a tree. But she was living with Henry now, and as much as Ichabod was relieved that his son was no longer on Moloch’s side, he couldn’t forgive him enough to want to spend the holiday with him.
He put his arm around Abbie’s shoulders, guilty thoughts flashing in his mind. She looked up at him, and Ichabod let himself imagine for a moment that they were here to buy a tree together as a couple; that they would be putting up the tree in the home they shared together.
This was, of course, just a fantasy. After a few moments, Abbie walked forward and Ichabod let his arm drop. “Now the question is,” she said over her shoulder. “Do you want a little tree, or a big tree?”
“I’m not sure,” Ichabod said as he followed her, walking along the outside edge of the lot. “What are the pros and cons of each?”
“Hmm. Well, a little tree takes up less space, plus they always remind me of Charlie Brown.” She turned to face him. “Have you seen A Charlie Brown Christmas?” He gave her a blank look, and she shook her head. “All right, that’s one thing we’ll have to rectify as soon as we’ve got you a tree. The pros of getting a larger tree is that you have more space to fit presents under, and more tree to decorate. Plus it looks more majestic, I guess. It’s up to you.”
Ichabod thought about it. Each tree in the lot looked fine, but he couldn’t picture any of them in his small living space. Finally they came to a tree that was set a little ways apart from the rest, and came up to just below Abbie’s chin.
“This one,” Ichabod said, wrapping his hand around a branch of the tree in question. “This one feels right.”
“Yeah? That’s good. I can picture this one in your living room,” Abbie said, smiling up at him. Ichabod felt a yearning pull in his chest at the sight of her smile, and the smile he gave her in return was forced.
So they had his tree. They strapped it to the top of Abbie’s car and moved on to the next stop, the Home Depot to pick up a christmas tree stand and lights. Then Abbie insisted they go to the grocery store to get popcorn, cranberries, and thread--a combination that mystified Ichabod, but Abbie insisted that he would understand later.
“Now to really get in the spirit of things, you’d need some ornaments,” she told him as they carried the bags back to the car. “But I’m of the opinion that Christmas tree ornaments should come to you organically, that they should be things that you make or that are given to you over the years. It’s not the same if you just buy a bunch because they look pretty.”
“If you say so,” Ichabod said. He still didn’t feel invested in this whole project, but it was important to Abbie, which made it important to him. Besides, maybe he’d feel differently once he saw the tree fully decorated. Maybe it would put him in more of the holiday spirit and distract him from his woes about Katrina and his feelings for Abbie.
The popcorn and cranberries turned out to be for the purpose of making garlands. After they’d set up the tree and strung it with lights, Abbie put them both to work threading through the popcorn and cranberries while they drank hot chocolate. She had also put on a CD of Christmas music--the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas, which meant nothing to Ichabod but which, apparently, meant a lot to Abbie.
“You know, this will be the first Christmas I’ll get to spend with my sister since… I don’t even know. It’s been years,” she said quietly, as they sat working. “I don’t think she likes the holiday very much, but I’m excited.”
“I’m happy for you that you’ll get to spend it with family,” Ichabod said.
“You’re my family, too, you know,” she told him, nudging him with an elbow. Ichabod’s heart skipped a beat. “I intend to see you Christmas morning, and you’d better plan on getting me a gift.”
“Of course,” he said. It struck him as funny that he’d be buying Abbie a present using funds from the allowance that she gave him. One of his resolutions for 2015 was to find a source of income for himself.
“This is nice, just spending time with each other,” he said abruptly, unaware of what he was going to say before he said it. “Without the distraction of trying to save the world from anything to get in the way of our friendship.”
Abbie raised an eyebrow at him. “Why, Mr. Crane. You sound downright sentimental.” Her face broke into a smile, her teeth shining bright in the cozy dim lighting of the room. “I agree. It is nice.”
“Are there any other traditions that you’re going to try to rope me into?” Ichabod said as he pushed his needle through a cranberry, sliding it down onto the thread.
“Well,” Abbie said, drawing out the word with a sly smile on his face. “There is mistletoe. Did they have that back in your day?”
“I am unfamiliar with what a hemiparasitic plant could possibly have to do with this holiday,” Ichabod said, stiff in response to her teasing.
“Hemipara--never mind,” Abbie said. “The point of mistletoe is that, during the holidays, you hang it from the rafters and then if two people meet under the mistletoe, they have to kiss.”
Ichabod swallowed. “Oh,” he said in a small voice. Unable to help himself, he asked, “And you would have me put this mistletoe up--in here?”
“Yeah, you never know, if you caught Katrina under it it could help get you guys back together,” Abbie said, and Ichabod deflated somewhat. Of course she would only be thinking of his marriage, and not the two of them kissing. He had been ridiculous to think otherwise.
“I’m not sure that even mistletoe could save our marriage,” Ichabod said, feeling low. When he thought of kissing his wife under the mistletoe, it wasn’t a happy thought; he imagined her turning away from him, wanting to speak only of the redeemability of her beloved horseman.
“That bad, huh?” The look Abbie was giving him was unreadable. Ichabod knew that she was not a great supporter of Katrina’s, and he wondered if Abbie secretly rooted for the dissolution of their marriage.
He halfway-hoped that she did.
“Does the fact that we’re living separately not adequately express that the relationship is troubled?” Ichabod said. “Even if she were to convince me that she harbors no feelings for the horseman, I am not sure we could ever go back to the way we were when we first married. I don’t know that I feel that way for her any longer.”
“You’re not in love with her anymore?” Abbie now bent her head over her garland, her hair falling to obscure her face so that Ichabod couldn’t see her expression, had no idea how she might feel about her question’s answer.
Ichabod took his time before answering. It was a serious question, and one he had asked himself many times over the last several weeks without being able to give a clear answer. But now, sitting beside someone for whom his feelings were waxing rather than waning, it seemed clear.
“No,” he said slowly. “No, I don’t believe I am.”
“Is that so.” Abbie looked up, and he saw that there was an uncharacteristic vulnerability in her eyes. Something electric seemed to pass between them, echoing the force that Ichabod had felt when he first met her, when he was convinced that they were meant to be witnesses together.
“Truthfully,” Ichabod said, his heart beating fast at his own recklessness. “There is someone else I’d rather kiss under the mistletoe.”
Abbie held his gaze, not looking away. “Really,” she said, the word drawn out, heavy with skepticism.
“Really,” Ichabod said. Carefully, slowly, working to telegraph his movements so that she could turn him away if she chose to, he stretched forward to cup her cheek in his palm. When Abbie didn’t move, he leaned forward and kissed her. His heart hammered in his chest and he couldn’t help but remember his dream, when she’d melted into his arms.
Just as he had in his dreams, he was ignoring his marriage vows. But Katrina didn’t want him, and he couldn’t ignore the love he felt for Abbie. He’d gone to purgatory for her, and he’d do it again. Damn his vows.
Abbie stayed still, her lips warm against his own, for a beat or two before she leaned back. But she didn’t move very far and she didn’t push his hand off her cheek.
“Ichabod,” she said softly, and he shivered at the unusual pleasure of hearing her say his first name. “What are we doing?”
“Do you want this?” he asked, his voice just as soft. “If you don’t, I’ll stop, and we shall never speak of it again.”
“Of course I want this,” she said immediately, and he was heartened by the speed of her answer. “But Katrina--I mean, you said it, you guys are separated. But are you sure that this is the way?”
Ichabod wasn’t sure. He hadn’t intended to do this when he’d woken up this morning. But the reality of Abbie, her smile and her voice and her closeness, had hooked him, convinced him.
“No,” he said honestly. “I’m not sure. But I know that I want this, that I have wanted this. I know that you and I are drawn together, and that my marriage is a sham. Is that not enough?”
Abbie studied him, her dark eyes darting back and forth as she took in his words. “It’s enough,” she said. “I want this, too.”
This time it was she who leaned forward, pressing her lips against his. Ichabod kissed her back and brushed his thumb over her cheek, treasuring this. He opened his mouth, deepening the kiss, and his dream was prescient: she did taste slightly of caramel. Their tongues slid together and her hand came up to tangle in his hair.
Ichabod’s pulse was jumping. This felt right and true, the same as everything he did when he was by her side, like it was fated to happen. They kissed and kissed for what felt like forever, and she would occasionally make a small moan or a sigh that he was happy to catch with his mouth.
Ichabod felt Abbie’s hands skating over his shirt, her fingers lifting up the material so that her palms could press against his skin. It sent a shudder through Ichabod, and he leaned back away from her to divest himself of his jacket. She tugged on his shirt so he removed that too. As he watched, Abbie leaned back and stripped off her t-shirt in one smooth motion, revealing a plain black bra.
They regarded each other. It seemed that some bridge had been crossed, and their relationship was changing. They were quickly passing the point at which it was possible to return to the way things were. In the nervousness on Abbie’s face, Ichabod saw that she was thinking the same thing.
But nervous or not, Abbie leaned forward into him, her hand coming up to stroke his cheek. “I care about you,” she said, her voice soft. “Promise me that this won’t mess up our friendship.”
Ichabod covered his hand with her own, turning his head to kiss her palm. “I promise that nothing could possibly interfere with the depth of my feelings for you,” he said. “We are bound for life.”
A smile lit up her face, and oh, how Ichabod loved that smile. He wrapped his arms around her again and kissed the corner of her mouth, then let his kisses travel lower until he was smelling her neck, kissing the warm skin there. She sighed and he felt her arms on his shoulders, gently pushing him back.
“Here,” she said. “Lie down.” Ichabod did so, lying down on his back on the couch, although he shot her a questioning look. His confusion was solved when she moved on top of him, her legs straddling his hips. Ichabod settled his hands on her thighs and then she moved, pressing forward against him, and oh--oh that felt good.
She leaned over until her torso was pressed up against his, until she was low enough to kiss him again. She caught his bottom lip between her teeth, biting him lightly, and rocked her hips forward again. Ichabod’s hands flexed compulsively on her thighs, and Abbie grabbed his hands, placing them on her ass.
Ichabod gasped against her mouth. This was definitely new territory. Hesitantly, he rocked up against her, knowing that she could no doubt feel how hard he was through his pants. She was encouraging, her hips moving in an exquisite rhythm, her mouth hot against his.
Ichabod didn’t know how long they kept kissing and grinding against each other. She brought him close to the edge, trapped in a horrible ecstasy, and Ichabod simultaneously felt desperate to get off his pants and never wanted this to end.
Finally Abbie sat up, panting.There was a thin sheen of sweat decorating her collarbone; Ichabod wanted to lick it off.
“I don’t suppose you have a condom?” she asked, and Ichabod felt his mind go completely blank.
“A--oh.” Ichabod was confused for a moment, before he remembered the episode of Glee that had focused on sexual education. That’s right--people had more options for birth control these days. They would, of course, need some kind of protection. “No, I’m afraid I don’t.”
“Damn. I don’t have any, either.” Abbie bit her lip, looking frustrated.
“Do we truly need one?” Ichabod asked, letting his hands trail up from her thighs to trace her ribcage. “There are plenty of things we can do that don’t require penetration.”
Abbie grinned. “Look at you, all creative. I thought that sex back in the day consisted of the missionary position and nothing else.”
“I beg your pardon,” Ichabod said, indignant. “You moderners do not have a monopoly on sexual creativity. We got up to plenty of--shenanigans, back in my day.”
“Shenanigans, huh?” Abbie giggled, and reached behind herself to unhook her bra, letting her breasts fall free. Ichabod felt his breath catch in his throat at the sight. He reached up to hold them in his hands, treasuring the feel, and Abbie leaned into his touch.
But only for a moment. Then she was, to his horror, standing up. Ichabod was about to protest, begging her to come back to the couch, but she was focused on undoing her fly and stripping.
“Here,” she said. “Take off your pants.” Ichabod obeyed, lifting his hips to shuck them off. Then Abbie, fully naked now and oh, what a sight, came back over to straddle him again.
Ichabod let her take control. He lay back while she positioned herself on top of him, until the shaft of his cock was rubbing at the mound of her cunt. She started moving back and forth, and she and Ichabod moaned at the same time. She was very wet, and it felt amazing against the length of him.
Abbie continued to rock back and forth, rubbing herself off against Ichabod’s cock. Ichabod lay back, letting her position herself how she wanted on top of him to get the most pleasure, and pushed his hips up against her.
Their eyes met, and Ichabod felt something inside of him sing. She placed her hand on his chest, over his heart. How he loved her. He loved the motion of their bodies, the feel of her fingernails scraping against his skin, and the weight of her body in his hands. He reached his hands up to massage her breasts, cupping them and rolling the nipples in between his fingers.
“Yes,” Abbie panted. “Oh god, this feels so good--” The movement of her hips picked up in intensity, the rhythm frenetic and uneven as she shoved herself against him. Finally her whole body went rigid against him, and she stayed like that, poised, for several seconds before collapsing down on top of him.
Ichabod reached up to touch her hair, running his fingers through it. “Abigail,” he said softly, as she panted in his ear. “You’re so beautiful.”
Abigail laughed softly, and to his surprise he felt her tongue on his ear, tracing the earlobe and the shell. He jumped a little, startled, and she laughed again. “So are you, Ichabod,” she said.
She rolled off to the side until her body was squeezed in between Ichabod and the back of the couch. “Your turn now,” she said, and Ichabod sucked in a breath as her hand went to wrap around his cock.
Her wetness as she rode him had made him slick. Ichabod shivered as she touched him, her fingers making a circle around the head of his cock. He loved the heat of her body next to his, her thigh pressed up against him, her breasts touching his arm. He took pleasure simply from the nearness of her, so having her touch him like this was beyond intoxicating.
When she stroked him, he could feel the strength in her hand and the callouses on her fingers. Ichabod cried out, and felt her lips on his neck. She pumped his cock a couple of times and he arched into her touch, pushing his hips into the motion of her hand. She was good at this, as if she’d always known just how to touch him.
“You are--amazing, fantastic--” Ichabod gasped out, heady pleasure making him babble. Abbie laughed into the skin of his neck.
“You talk too much,” she said. “Just give in to it, Crane.”
She had a point. Ichabod knew that he was thinking too much, as he always did; he had a hard time just letting himself go. But he could do it here, now, with Abbie. Ichabod closed his eyes and let his head fall back, giving in to her touch.
Every part of him felt hot and alive. It didn’t take very long before he was agonizingly close, his hips jumping in an uneven stutter, her hand moving faster and harder on his cock. Ichabod reached out blindly until he found her shoulder to grip. He held onto her while she stroked him through his orgasm, acting as his rock while his mind went far afield.
She continued to stroke him, her hand gentle now, as he came down. He felt her kissing a line down his collarbone before he opened his eyes and saw the top of her head. He rested his chin on her head, panting into her hair.
“My god,” he said. “That was….”
“You don’t have to find the words,” Abbie said. She finally let go of him, her hand resting on his abdomen, feeling the up and down of his breathing.
Ichabod kissed the top of her head. “I value my own ability to be articulate,” he murmured. “When I can’t find the words, it’s… distressing.”
She looked up at that, and kissed his mouth. “Well, I certainly don’t want to distress you,” she said, and he could hear the teasing in her voice. “So I’ll be waiting on your treatise that’s all about how good I am in bed.”
What little breath there was left in his body came out in a short huff of laughter. He turned on his side so that he faced her, so that he could wrap an arm around her and pull her in against him. Lying down like this, she could be eye-level with him, different from how she always had to look up at him when they were standing.
For several moments neither of them said anything. He studied the cool dark depths of her eyes and listened to her breathe. She had already been as family to him before this, and now their connection was cemented even further. He reached up to brush a lock of hair out of her face and kept his hand there, stroking his fingers through her thick hair.
“Merry Christmas,” Abbie said, her words mangled in a giant yawn. Her head settled on Ichabod’s shoulder; she was falling asleep.
“Merry Christmas to you, as well,” Ichabod said. She gave him a sleepy smile. He pressed his lips to her forehead and listened to the sound of her breathing slow and deepen as she fell asleep.
He knew that this meant his marriage was truly over. Later he would give himself time and space to grieve it. But right now he was just happy to have Abbie in his arms, and there was no room in his heart for guilt or grief.
“And thank you,” he said, speaking even though he knew she was asleep and would not hear, “For the tree.”