“You have got to be kidding me,” says Abbie. She would say it again, and louder, if she thought it would make a difference. Unfortunately, Ichabod has that look on his face that means he’s being serious and Captain Irving is for once on his side.
“Unfortunately, Mills, I’m not. Whatever’s killing people this week, it’s killing couples, and I want you to find them before they find anyone else.”
“I’m—you have got to be kidding me.”
Irving just raises his eyebrows. “What, you want me to assign Morales as your partner on this?”
“That will not be necessary, Captain,” Ichabod says firmly, and then looks at her like the puppy someone forgot to take home. “Lieutenant?”
Abbie sighs and covers her eyes. “Rule one: if we’re going to do this, you really cannot call me that.”
“Rule three,” Abbie hisses four hours later, at the door of the most sickeningly adorable bed and breakfast in Sleepy Hollow, the kind only tourists on honeymoons book rooms in, “you let me do all the talking.”
“Maybe we can pass ‘lieutenant’ off as some kind of pet name,” she says, and pushes open the door.
The woman behind the desk gives them a bright, beaming, hopeful kind of smile. The recent murders of three couples on romantic vacations in Sleepy Hollow can’t have been good for business. “May I help you?”
Abbie really wants to take out her badge and back out of this, ask a few questions about if she knew anything about any of the couples, but Ichabod is already bounding forward. “Hello, ma’am, we are here to ask for lodging for the evening.”
The woman already looks a little freaked out, so Abbie steps forward. “We’d like to book a room, he means. Sorry, he’s from England, feels the need to play it up now that he’s here.” Ichabod gives her a disapproving look, but he should have followed rule three if he wanted her to be nice.
“How long will you be staying?”
“I’m not sure, really—maybe a week? We’re sort of … trying things out. Test run, I guess.”
Ichabod looks mildly horrified, but the woman behind the counter beams at them, which is what matters. “The two of you are having your first romantic getaway, then?”
“We met online,” says Abbie, “and finally decided to meet, so he came here. I live locally, but I thought we should both have some privacy, see the sights.”
“Well, we have all sorts of rooms right now, how about I put you in the nice one that overlooks the back yard? Lots of trees, a little garden, there are some benches out there if you want to spend some time outdoors.”
“I’m sure we’ll love that,” says Ichabod, looking smug when Abbie lets him talk.
The woman shakes her head as she turns over the keys, but she’s still smiling at them like she believes the act. “Let me know if there’s anything you need, I collect the towels for washing in the mornings, cable directory and local information are in a binder on the desk.”
“Thank you,” says Abbie, and grabs her suitcase from where it was resting. Ichabod offers his free arm and she takes a deep breath before hooking elbows with him to go up the stairs.
“There is only one bed in this room.”
“Great deductive skills.” Abbie puts her suitcase down and thinks about flopping facefirst in the bed. She actually got a full night’s sleep last night, but pretending to be Ichabod’s girlfriend is exhausting, even if their two-hour anniversary is just coming up.
He lowers his voice to a near-whisper. “Lieutenant, I am aware that this century has different standards of behavior than my own, but surely it isn’t proper for us to share a bed when we aren’t promised to each other in any fashion at all.”
“Crane, you were married, you really should not be having a heart attack at the thought of seeing me in my pajamas.”
“We aren’t involved, it’s disrespectful!”
“We are very involved, Crane, according to you we are biblically involved, so we can share a bed for a few nights. Want some reassurance? Rule four: everyone keeps their clothes on, and anyone who snores gets kicked out of bed.”
“I do not snore.”
“Of course that’s what you object to. Are we agreed?”
He sighs. “Agreed.”
“Good. Now, we need to figure out where to go from here. I for one am not comfortable waiting around for whatever this week’s demon is to come after us. Now, I figure all the couples were from out of town, so we should look into the kinds of places people from out of town go.”
“The cable directory!” he says, way too loud, and dives for the binder on the desk near the television, which proves to be full of pamphlets for romantic walks and restaurants and activities.
Abbie sighs and gets down to work.
“Rule five,” Abbie says after a disastrous dinner in a fancy restaurant built in a renovated church, “when we go to a restaurant you only get to order food when you already know what it is.”
“How was I supposed to know it was so spicy as to burn your mouth?”
“You thought the murderer had enchanted your meal, and you told the waiter so.”
Ichabod takes a rebellious slurp from the Go-Gurt she bought him at the corner store when he complained his mouth was still “aflame.” “I am aware of that, lieutenant. It just happened, after all.” He crosses his arms. “At least we are now aware that our current adversary is not making a home in that restaurant.”
“One possibility down, then.” And way too many to go. Sleepy Hollow needs to stop trying to make romantic tourist destinations out of historical and somewhat creepy things, it’s not going to end well for anyone.
There’s a pause while they’re stuck in traffic and Abbie wishes for her patrol car, and then Ichabod snorts quietly. “The waiter took me aside afterwards, actually, and told me he knows how hard it is to navigate new relationships. So at least it seems our cover is holding.”
Abbie can’t help herself, just starts laughing at the pleased look on his face. “Yeah, I guess that’s one way to look at it.”
“Rule six,” says Abbie when they’re nearly back to the hotel after getting chased away from a ghost walk that they at least managed to ascertain contained no real ghosts, “let me do the talking.”
“That was also rule three.”
“Yeah, well, apparently you didn’t listen the first time. Do you know what would have happened if he called the police?”
“Why would he call the police?”
Abbie keeps both hands on the wheel through a great act of will. Corbin would be proud. “Because you told him we were sneaking off to make love to me, Crane, and having sex on other people’s property without their permission counts as trespassing and possibly indecent exposure.”
He doesn’t blush, but he does look horrified, which is nearly worth the thought of just how much ribbing she would get from the force if dispatch had to send someone out to arrest her and Ichabod. “I only meant to court you!”
“Sometime, when the forces of evil give us a week off, I’m just going to teach you modern idioms.”
“I look forward to it, lieutenant. Both the week off and the lessons.”
“We’ll pencil it in for seven years from now, then.”
His eyebrows go up. “Why Miss Mills, you aren’t planning on being rid of me the moment our time together is done?”
“I’m getting used to having you around,” she says, and pulls into the parking lot of the bed and breakfast.
Well, at least they found the vengeful ghost (and it was a ghost, next week they’re going to have to stake a vampire and Abbie is going to have to explain Buffy to Ichabod, she can already tell). That’s the bright side. The less bright side …
“Rule seven!” Ichabod shouts, clearly winding up for a lecture.
“I think I make the rules,” she interrupts, pressing the ice pack more firmly against her eye.
“I think, Miss Mills, that in this case I can be allowed to add to our list. Rule seven! You do not put yourself at unnecessary risk, especially without telling me first so as to allow me to assist you!”
“It was a spur-of-the-moment plan. And it worked, didn’t it? We know it’s a ghost, you recognized the ghost—and can I tell you how annoying it is that you know this whole cast of characters? All we need now is a plan of action.”
“It worked if one ignores the fact that you took a blow to the head and were unconscious for three minutes, and I intend not to ignore that at all.”
Abbie sighs and takes the ice pack off her face so she can look at him. Of course, he immediately pushes her hand back up towards her face, but at least she has good intentions. “I’m sorry, okay? I’ll be more careful. Losing a witness probably means the end of the world or something.”
“Even with that aside, I hold you in great personal esteem. I don’t have many people I trust in this century, Abbie. I would feel your loss deeply.”
She thinks about snapping out a “rule two,” but that isn’t fair, when he’s just being Ichabod, never afraid to say what’s on his mind. “Thanks, I guess. And likewise. Now, do you have any idea how to kill a ghost?”
Fighting the creatures of the night has made Abbie really enjoy sleeping in, so when she wakes up in the bed and breakfast the next morning, she’s not surprised that Ichabod is gone. He’s a surprisingly considerate bed partner (he doesn’t spoon her without asking, kick, snore, or steal the covers, but that may have something to do with the fact that he sacrificed his pillows to build a barricade between them), so he probably tried hard not to wake her up getting out of bed.
When she gets dressed and starts downstairs, she hears him talking to the woman who owns the bed and breakfast and stops to eavesdrop. “—very different here,” he’s saying, sounding gloomy.
“But love helps, doesn’t it?”
“She certainly makes things more bearable.” That makes Abbie feel guilty for listening in, so she comes the rest of the way downstairs and slides her hand into his when he turns around to smile at her. It’s getting easy to remember physical affection after a few days of wandering around town arm in arm. “Where are we going today?” he asks her.
“Just to see the sights.” She gives the woman who runs the hotel as friendly a smile as she can manage, given the black eye she’s sporting. The woman looks more than a little alarmed.
Ichabod, though, grins. Probably because he knows that by “seeing the sights” she means going to the graveyard to see if he was right about the grave being disturbed. “Then by all means, let’s go see them. Thank you for your listening ear, Mrs. Withers, it was a pleasure as always.”
Abbie faces the conclusion that Ichabod is bonding with the owner of the bed and breakfast that they’re staying in and that if he wants to go visit her again once they’re no longer undercover there’s going to be all sorts of awkward things to sort out. For now, though, she just drags him out the door and into the car. “Come on, Crane, let’s go dig in a grave. Again.”
“Rule eight,” he says, smirking, “no eavesdropping.”
She decides to ignore him.
“You kissed me.”
“Rule nine: no holding anybody accountable for things they do to get the job done.”
Ichabod just grins at her, the same giddy one that she’s probably grinning right back at him. She hopes she never gets used to defeating supernatural creatures enough that the relief doesn’t come afterwards. Seven years will be hard to live through if she doesn’t get to breathe at all. “It was just to get the job done, then?”
“It worked, didn’t it?”
“You didn’t answer my question.” He singsongs it, because Abbie is pretty sure Ichabod is actually a preteen Valley Girl in the body of a British man from the Revolutionary War.
“I’m not in violation of rule two, Crane. And neither are you, I hope.”
“You have not yet ensnared my heart, lieutenant.” He gives her a concerned look. “You aren’t more injured than you were last night? The ghost seemed to take a particular dislike to you.”
“I’m fine. And if you don’t trust me, we’ll go back to the station tomorrow, everyone there is First Aid certified, and they can take a look at me. Okay?”
He huffs, and Abbie immediately promises herself that she is going to make a fuss the first time he gets injured and see how he likes it. “Fine,” he says at last. “Are we spending one last night at the inn, then?”
“Yeah, it’s late, she won’t want to get up to check us out.”
“Shall we have one last date, then?”
Abbie raises her eyebrows. “Crane, it is almost midnight, I have a black eye, and we are both filthy from digging up a grave tonight. What kind of restaurant do you think is going to take us in?”
“I am told that something called the Dairy Queen serves cold treats until one on the weekend, which this happens to be.”
“And you expect me to pay?”
“I will repay you someday, Miss Mills, but I am afraid that for now finding employment has been set aside in favor of averting the apocalypse.”
Abbie laughs, because it’s hard to take him seriously when he gets self-righteous, and because she’s glad to be alive, and because they’re going out for ice cream after killing a ghost and if she doesn’t laugh she’ll cry. “Fine, you’ve got me. Dairy Queen it is.”
Watching Ichabod get brain freeze when he eats his ice cream too fast will be worth it anyway.
Irving calls them to his office the second Abbie checks in the next day and watches them over his desk with an expectant look. “The threat’s been taken care of,” she says before he has to ask.
“And your cover?”
“Went fine, as far as I’m aware.”
“Then we know you can do it again. Report on my desk by the end of the day, Mills.”
Abbie keeps her mouth shut, even though she wants to ask what other situations could possibly arise that would require her pretending to date Ichabod. “Yes, sir. Come on, Crane, let’s get going.”
“I must say,” he says almost as soon as they’re out of the office, “I quite fancy all the subterfuge, it isn’t at all like being a spy in my day.”
“I don’t fancy it at all. We may not have been compromised, but it was damn close a few times, and we broke more of our rules for each other than we kept.”
“I would say, lieutenant, that breaking the rules isn’t the worst thing, where we’re concerned. It all worked out in the end, didn’t it?”
“I guess it did. Now let’s go see if we can get this report written before the next creature starts taking up all our free time.”
Ichabod smiles and holds out his arm for her to take, and Abbie only waits a second before taking it and starting off down the hall.