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Holocene

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And at once I knew I was not magnificent, hulled far from the highway aisle, jagged vacance thick with ice, I could see for miles, miles, miles—Bon Iver, Holocene

 

 

When she was younger, she never liked to be alone. Though no one would have known it to look at her, because Abbie would sit by herself laughing and playing for hours. Or at least it appeared that way.

“Who’re you talking to baby?” Her mama called from the doorway, a barely one year old Jenny hiked up on her hip drooling all over a purple teether. Abbie peered across the board at the pretty woman in a cream gown. Her shiny dark curls were neatly tucked into a sheer bonnet. She smiled at Abbie and raised a pointer finger to her lips.

“Shhh.”

Abbie nodded gently, and turned her upward gaze to her mother. “Nobody Mama.”  

“Ya sure about that?” Her mother asked, stepping a few feet into the room. “I thought I heard you talking to someone.”

“No mama, it’s just me.” Abbie insisted. Lori spun around in her daughter’s room, giving everything a second glance. “Okay sweet pea, five minutes til’ dinner.”

As soon as her mother left Abbie turned to the woman seated across the checker board, mouth curled into a cheerful grin.

“Okay Miss Ma’am, it’s your turn now.” She chimed. Back then she was always around, everywhere Abbie went she followed. But just a few short months later she came to her and told her that she would be going away.

“But I don’t understand, did I do something wrong?” Abbie questioned.

“No sweetie,” She said lifting Abbie’s chin up to meet her eyes. “You haven’t done anything wrong, and I’m not really leaving. It’s kind of like when it’s stormy outside and you can’t see the sun, but it’s there, just hidden behind the clouds.”

“I don’t understand.” Abbie complained.

The woman pulled a blanket from the foot of Abbie’s bed and held it over her body.

“Can you see me?” She asked from beneath the sheet.

“No.”

“Am I still here?”

“Yes.” Abbie’s eyes swelled with tears. “But I want to see you Miss Ma’am.”

“And you will, I promise. You and I, we’re connected precious. I’ll never leave you, not really.” She promised. “But I need you to do something for me.”

“Yes?” Abbie nodded.

“I need you to be strong.” She said holding on to Abbie’s tiny hand. “Look out for your little sister, take care of one another always.”

Abbie’s bottom lip bulged forward as her little fists raised up to dry her eyes.

“Okay.” She promised.

That was the first time she’d learned what it was like to lose someone. She was a child then, soft in the bones, resilient, as children often are, able to bend, change, and grow. It’s so much easier to move on from things when we’re young, before our bones become too hard and brittle, before we only know how to bend them in certain ways. She forgot all of it, her face, her voice, everything. It was almost as if someone had taken an eraser to her memory and wiped the whole of their interaction clear. It wasn’t until she saw her in Fredrick’s Manor that a vague sense of recognition washed over her. Not visually of-course, more that she found familiarity in her presence, her aura. The curtain ruffled, a soft breeze came wading through the moonlight, and there she was. Miss Ma’am, or

“Grace,” she said to herself the next day when she and Ichabod flipped through the records sent over from Lena Gilbert.

It was a preamble of sorts, something that prepared her gentle heart for the coming times. Her family, everyone she loved, she would lose them all.

 

 


 

 

Corbin sat his newspaper down on the booth in front of them. “What do you believe in?” He probed taking a sip from a fresh cup of coffee. Abbie finished chewing the fry she’d just thieved from his plate.

“Sir?” Abbie said, brows sinking down and in.

There was a reason she was so good at her job. There wasn’t a better profiler around, and everyone knew it. Nothing helped to solidify that more than the 3am phone calls she received when she was supposed to be off duty. Some of the other officers would ask her from time to time what her secret was, she halfway thought they didn’t believe when she told them she didn’t have one.

“Just details. Everything is in the details”, she’d always say. Some people found it easy to overlook them, details, with Abbie it was the other way around, it was like she couldn’t not notice them. The unfortunate thing was her ability also bled into her personal life. Like clockwork she found flaws, and unfavorable tendencies with potential romantic partners before a relationship ever had a chance to begin. Or in other words, long before she cared enough about a person to overlook there less promising attributes. Like some high strung life insurance actuary, Abbie saw potential for injury everywhere, and she became more adept at avoiding it as the years rolled on. Her cardinal rule to avoid getting hurt was to stay away from other people. No one was invited in, not ever, and as time passed the loneliness that once frightened her became her greatest comfort.

Now she thought back on Corbin’s words that day she’d told him she didn’t believe in love.

“What do you believe in?” He’d asked.

“Not that. Not for me anyway.” She’d responded at the time. He leaned forward eyes sparkling through the sunlight, as if they hadn’t just seen their way through the midnight shift.

“You gotta believe in something kid.” He winked.

Now all of these years later the things she believed in had flushed themselves out, only it was too late to share it with him. She believed in angels and demons, gods and monsters, and war and peace. The only problem was she recognized all too well the tiny inlets and bridges between them, everything looked the same.   She wondered what it was like to be that way, situated in between a thing, that little strip of land between the ocean and the sand that was neither saturated nor dry. She’d tried to be that once—a casual observer—just a figure in the crowd along the sideline, capable of blending in and out, and going about life unnoticed. It didn’t work, instead she was called out into the darkness by horned demon and was still fighting to find her way back to the light. She was warrior, and that was her lot. Sometimes hunted, at others the hunter, but always in the hunt. There was a time in the beginning of all of this when she believed that they would win this war, establish peace, and live semi-normal ever afters. She’d return to the sideline lift up her hood, and get lost in the crowd. But that’s not the way it happened. Moloch was dead, the end of times averted, and still here they were, right back in the heart of battle. There’s a special cruelty in believing you’ve moved beyond something when you haven’t, in becoming rooted in the idea that something had moved beyond you. She saw it all the time in her line of work. These amazing stories where people walked away from these horrific accidents, unscathed. They’d all look at each other and say “Wow, how in the hell did they ever get out of that wreck alive,” Only to hear the person fell dead weeks later from some overlooked, or undetected injury. She thought it was over, all of it, even went so far as attempting to get a life…and then her old one came back. He came back. The night the Ripper pierced his flesh, she sat on the asphalt watching as the sideline faded further and further into the distance.  

 


 

As of late he had come to disfavor playing chess with her. Her moves and decisions were brazen, too audacious to recognize as viable options, thereby making them nearly impossible to defend against. She wasn’t herself. He alone carried the blame for what happened, he should have known something was off with her. She’d been moving in unfamiliar patterns for some time. She said that he was off of his game, but both of them knew it wasn’t him, he’d remained the same while she’d become…impulsive. The lieutenant did not do impulsive. Thoughtful, purposeful, calculating, those were all traits he’d used to describe Abigail Mills. When she acted she had already considered the possible repercussions and outcomes from her actions. So when he watched her walk into her death, he knew she’d already weighed her options. She merely forgot to notify him.

Ichabod finished unloading the dishwasher, looked at the timer upon the oven and started setting the table. He stepped up the stairs, entered the sun streaked hall, and stood in front of her door a moment before gently rapping his knuckles on it.  

“Lieutenant, supper will be served in ten minutes time.”

There was silence on the other side of the door, but just as he started to turn the knob her voice called out.

“Okay. Thank you.”

“You are most welcome.” He replied not quite loudly enough for her to catch every word.

“How are you feeling?” He asked, cringing from his inability to stop inquiring as to her wellbeing. He’d just knocked upon her door asking that question a half an hour ago.  

“I’m fine Crane.” She called back. “Much better thanks.” She reaffirmed.

“I am quite pleased to hear it.” He returned, letting go of the knob. He hung his head against the door for a moment, just to feel closer to her. It felt so good to have her home again, sure she’d slept through the morning and all of the afternoon, but she was well, and she was here. He frowned at her closed door, if he had his way there would never be another impediment between them. He didn’t trust her as he did before, and she undoubtedly closed her door in retaliation of him coming to her doorway every quarter hour to make certain she was still there…creeping to her bedside to check her breath. Images of the days before, flashed through his mind on his trek back to the kitchen.  

It wasn’t long after Abbie had entered the tree that they’d discovered it was possible that she’d survived. After a few days they realized it was most probable that she’d been transported, and became trapped inside of an otherworldly realm. Jenny and Joe had been working alongside him for months in search of a way to rescue her, but no viable solution presented itself. The day before the dawn of the New Year they finally discovered a method of opening a portal they were all but certain would lead them to Abbie’s location. Having found the way in, the plan had been to resume study in the morrow in search of a way to safely return from the Otherworld. That was the plan, yet Ichabod knew from the moment they discovered the way to her that he would not spare a second in journeying to her side. It was Master Corbin who woke to find him leaving that night, he somehow managed to come upon him as he was slipping into his boots.

“Crane.” He spoke quietly, glancing at the handcrafted letters resting upon the dining room table. He ran his fingers across the candle wax seals as Ichabod rose to his feet.

“Master Corbin.” He could tell from the look upon Joe’s face that he’d realized he was leaving. Joe wanted to ask him to stay, to seek out a surer way, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. The Ichabod he once knew may as well have walked inside of the tree with Abbie, the man before him now was the epitome of misery, a shell of who he was before. He looked across the room into his eyes and saw the answer to his unspoken objection. If it were Jenny, you would do the same. There was no sense in reasoning with him, he was going, and both of them knew it.

He and Jenny had been there since Christmas, as Crane had a particularly rough time of it. Jenny had blamed herself, not for hoping, and wishing for a Christmas miracle, but for getting Crane drunk enough that he started to believe as well. She missed her sister terribly, but Joe was there helping her through it. She just wanted Crane to have a little bit of peace for one night, but it didn’t work out that way. They could see the devastation on his face when the clock struck 12:00am on December 26th. By 12:05 he’d pulled all of the ornaments from the tree and thrown it outside. That night he brewed coffee, and got back to work.

“What can I do?” Joe asked.

“Look after her.” Ichabod stated. He slipped into his coat and met Joe in the center of the floor offering a firm handshake that ended in a hug.

“At least let me give you a lift.” Joe offered, grabbing his coat and keys.

“But Miss Jenny.” Ichabod said.

“She’ll be out for hours.”

The men pulled up just down the block from Pandora’s hideout and killed the headlights.

“I will not return without her.” Ichabod solemnly swore. “I cannot.”

“I’ll wait as long as I can.” Joe promised, dropping his hands from the steering wheel. Ichabod glanced down at the clock, it was nearly 4am.  

“If we’ve not returned by sunrise, wait no more. Hear me, do not follow, and keep watch over Miss Jenny to ensure that she does not as well. In our absence the two of you shall be the only thing standing between all of humanity and the end of days. God’s speed, Master Corbin.”

“God’s speed.” Joe returned. “Hey Crane.” He called out just as Ichabod stepped out of the car. “Bring her back.”

Ichabod offered a regretful smile before stepping out into the howling wind and snow. The time he’d wasted nibbled away at him as he stalked towards Pandora’s lair. All of his feelings made clearer by the fact he was most probably marching toward his doom, but couldn’t help but feel excited simply from the hope that he might see her again. Pandora and the Hidden One hadn’t been seen since Abbie disappeared, but the ever looming threat of their return remained. Ichabod hastily hiked through the lair, and made his way up to the tree. He only thought of Abbie as he read the incantation that forced the portal open.

It seemed almost unbelievable how quickly he’d found her, just paces from the tree he travelled through to get there. He spotted her sitting in the cradle of a smaller tree with illuminated leaves, something vaguely familiar about it. Her clothing, face, all of her was covered from head to toe in soot like matter. He’d read of it, the soot holes that populated this place, the effects it could have on humans.

“Lieutenant!” He’d belted out, at the top of his lungs as soon as he saw her.

“Abbie. Come down.” He called standing beneath her with his arms outstretched. It was only then that he realized that she wasn’t holding on to the tree, rather it was holding on to her.  

He looked up through the glare of the branches and saw the shimmering vines and leaves hammocked beneath her body. There were noises in the distance, cries and howls none of which sounded like anything he’d heard before, they needed to leave. Ichabod kneeled down and removed the small dagger he’d brought along from his boot before taking cautious steps toward the tree. He stood in amazement as the tree stretched down branches in the arrangement of a staircase. Though he was hesitant, and wary, she was there, so he climbed them.

“Lieutenant.” He said as soon as he was close to her. His voice drew no reaction. His hands locked around hers in attempt to lift her to him, but he was met with her earsplitting screams.

“Abbie. It’s me, Ichabod…Abbie!” He shook her, heartbroken as she refused to even look at him. “We must find a way out!” He pleaded. “Please.”

Her head turned to the side, and she leaned forward squinting her eyes. His heart lifted at the recognition in her eyes. She shook her head from side to side.

“Go back.” She said barely hanging on to lucidity. “Too dark. Stay in” Her teeth chattered as a shiver shook her frame, “th, the light.” She mumbled. She reached up with what seemed like all of her strength and ripped a branch from the tree, and pushed it into his hand. The branch grew even brighter once broken, the brilliance of it shone through his fingers, bright fluorescence stippling throughout the shadowy darkness around them.

“It’s further than it looks.” She said weakly.…don’t fall in the poison.” She said holding up her arm to show the soot that covered it. She collapsed then, falling unconscious and he quickly gathered her limp body into his arms.

“Lieutenant!” He screamed, locking his arms around her. He carried them down the tree, and quickly tore a few more branches from it. He spent a moment positioning them anywhere he could fasten them. Belt-loops, sleeves, and a few he simply wedged between their bodies after he picked her up. He took careful steps through the land, looking out for ground that looked as though it might give way. It wasn’t long before he began to take her meaning, the tree was further away than it appeared. It reached a point when every step he took seemed to add two more to the journey. After a while, the branches had burned out and they were still a great distance from their destination. He moved slower then, holding her close as he recalled something he’d read during his study of this place. Freedom rests within one that knoweth whither thou cometh or goest. Suddenly the research he’d done clicked, as he recalled the infinity circle he’d seen next to the quote while studying.

Am I coming or going, he thought, shuffling his weight from foot to foot. He surveyed all around them and came to the realization that they were standing in the center of an enormous infinity symbol, and had been for some time. He closed his eyes remembering the way he came, and then followed that path back to the illuminated tree. He reached up, tearing free a few fresh branches and circled around the backside of the tree. Now when he stepped forward the distance between the trees diminished. He walked along, keeping vigilant to avoid the poisoned sinkholes. The slow rise and fall of her chest gave him every ounce of strength he needed to continue. The adrenaline rushed through him so furiously he could barely feel her weight suspended in his arms. He felt as though he could have walked forever with her this way, whatever it took to see her to safety. When they finally reached the tree Ichabod urged Abbie to hang in there as he recited the incantation to reopen the portal. Within moments he had trotted down the steps of Pandora’s lair, and was back on the street where he’d parted with Joe. He spun around in search of him, but quickly realized he was nowhere to be found. He walked nearly a mile before he felt he was at a safe enough distance to call for help.  

“Master Corbin”

“Crane?!” Joe exclaimed. Ichabod could hear Jenny screaming in the background. He quickly informed them that Abbie was with him and they were in need of aid.    

Fifteen minutes later Joe and Jenny pulled up alongside of him on the road. They tried explaining to him that he’d been gone nearly a week, but it simply sounded bizarre. Besides he had more pressing concerns. The jubilation and happiness was short lived once they discovered how poorly Abbie was faring.   Ichabod refused to release her, placing his ear to her mouth, and holding his breath so that he could better hear hers. The only thing providing him with some semblance of calm was the feel of her lungs expanding and retracting beneath his fingertips. Jenny sat next to him holding onto her sister’s legs, begging her to stay with them, as Joe drove like a man with no future.

Once home, Ichabod ran through the yard, and leapt up the steps sending Abbie’s body bouncing about in his arms. He made his way to the bathroom, immediately sitting them upon the toilet as he started pulling her out of her jacket, and shoes.

“Her trousers!” He yelled to Jenny, as he reached over to start the shower. As soon as Jenny drug her pants off of her body. He jumped into the shower, fully clothed holding her under the stream, watching as the cascading water cleared the dirt and soot away from her skin. Jenny stood in front of the shower, reaching to pull her sisters limbs free of her water logged shirt. She and Ichabod furiously rubbed the dirt away from her body, calling to her in the hope that she’d respond. Only she didn’t. She stopped breathing. Ichabod quickly pulled her from the tub in search of a pulse.

“Don’t go.” Jenny cried, stepping back, watching in horror.

Her linked palms pressed down against the top of her head as she started to imagine the worst. She rocked from side to side as streams of tears washed down her face, blurring the image before her. Jenny looked down upon the hazy outline of the woman who had looked after her for so many years. If these past months showed her anything it was that she didn’t want to face the world without her. She would never get over this, losing the person that tried to protect her from everything. Memories of their life poured through her mind all at once. Her little feet traipsing across the cold winter floor, Abbie waking and lifting her blanket so Jenny could crawl into bed with her.

“I had a bad dream.”

“It’s okay Jenny, I’m right here.”

Abbie’s warm hand linked with hers, every breath held while the doctor administered her shot. “See Jenny. It’s okay, I told you I’ll never let anything hurt you.” Abbie lisped through a gappy smile. Tiny hands wiping away tears over ice cream cones dropped to the ground.

“It’s okay Jenny, you can have mine.” Abbie said holding her cone out to her little sister. She put her first, at all times, and in all things. The thought of never getting a chance to say thank you, of never acknowledging the pains her sister suffered through so her life could be a little better, killed her. She wanted to run, to take off and never look back. How could she just stand there watching her sister die, but then it came to her, how could she go…whatever happened she would be here, she would stand through it even if she didn’t think she was strong enough.

She fell to her knees sobbing, reaching a shaky hand forward.

“I’m here.” She cried.

Ichabod started to unravel, face flush with terror when he was unable to find a pulse. He didn’t understand, already they had cleared a majority of the soot from her body.

“Abbie, please!” Ichabod called pulling her up into his arms, burying his face in the crook of her neck. “Wake up!” The words muffled against her skin.

“Oh God no, ABBIE PLEASE!” He screamed just as it seemed she was slipping away. That’s when he remembered. The sink hole, she’d fallen in.

He lay her flat to her back and began CPR. Jenny sprung up and called for Joe, knowing he was best equipped to resuscitate her. Joe was just entering the house with armloads of medical supplies when Jenny’s call sent him running through the living room. When he came to the bathroom Ichabod was hunched over Abbie’s unresponsive body administering chest compressions.

“Crane I can try.”

Ichabod kept at task as if he hadn’t heard a thing. He placed his mouth to hers and began forcing air inside.

The coughs were first, deep lung clearing hawks that brought darkened liquid from her mouth. Never in all of his years had Ichabod been more ecstatic to witness someone spewing up phlegm.    

He couldn’t speak. He rubbed his hands across her back as she turned sideways, and placed a cool palm to the floor as she spit up. It was only when he heard her first real breath that he allowed himself one.    

Jenny and Joe looked on, still shaking as sighs of relief echoed through the room. Abbie raised her head in the direction of Jenny and Joe, as a tearful Ichabod sagged back against the tub.

Jenny fell to the floor, closing her eyes as she spooled her arms around her sister.

“I love you so much, I thought you were gone.” She cried.

“Not yet.” Abbie said through a weak, hoarse voice. “It’s okay Jenny.” She stated. The familiar reassurance only served to make Jenny close her eyes and cry even harder.  When she finally reopened them her heart broke at the sight of Crane sitting behind Abbie with a thousand teardrops brimming in his eyes. She pulled back, and watched as her sister slowly twisted around to face him.

Abbie sees him there, clear as ever, even though it’s apparent that he hadn’t bothered with trimming his hair nor his beard since she’d gone. Her brows grew defined, top lip all but disappearing beneath her bottom one as she tried to keep it together. She glanced down a second, and watched as bathroom tiles grew fuzzy. Her elbow, feebler than she remembered, shook from holding her weight. There’s so much she needs to say to him but when she looked into the watery eyes of her dearest friend, everything she sees there makes it hard to speak. He’s relieved, he’s hurt, he was afraid, this much she can tell by looking at him.   She doesn’t trust her voice, so she lets her eyes speak for her. After years of companionship, their unspoken communication could rival any language. He slid forward, flattened his bent knees and pulled her half clothed body to his lap. She felt so good that it hurt to hold her. His battle to maintain composure is lost in seconds as months of unshed tears are purged from his eyes.

He hadn’t let them fall since she’d gone, he couldn’t.  Someway he had to keep faith that she was coming back, and work toward her eventual return. Every time he felt like crying, he worked, and so it went that he never stopped. He would fall asleep in the archives, and wake to resume his efforts. He ate whatever tasteless entree was put in front of him, but only after the time he’d almost passed out from hunger and an exhaustion that he just couldn’t feel. The time he’d lost from weakness was inexcusable, and he couldn’t have another episode where he lost time due to dizziness, so he ate. He showered, every other day at least, but in honesty he spent more time sniffing her body wash than bathing. But now, he didn’t have to hold it in, she was here, alive, warm, breathing, and he promised himself then and there that he would die before he ever allowed that to change.      

A deep and miserable sob broke from him as he clung to her body. There was so much he wanted to say. He wanted to thank her for coming back, to yell at her for ever leaving, but the only letters he could manage to piece together were the ones which comprised her name.

“Abbie.” He wept, squeezing her in his arms, every time he thought to release her his arms locked, and held her even closer. They sat there that way, enraptured in bone touching hugs, crying over everything they thought was lost, and everything they realized they still had. Jenny’s hand covered her mouth in attempt to quiet her cries, but the emotion of Abbie pulling through, coupled with the noise Crane made as he tried to subdue pitiful, rib shaking, sobs was overwhelming. She and Joe quietly left the room to give them a moment. Even through the close door they could hear as every suffering Crane attempted to bury, came free and sprung from his soul.  Abbie held to him, telling him she was okay over and over again. Ichabod had lost count of how many nights he’d sat bartering with God, offering forfeiture of any blissful moment from his past, and every single moment from his future for this one thing, this one woman, and she was here. So he held her close, and wept until his tears ran out.  

 


 

The next day.

            

Abbie always found it funny how people seem to notice when you look different. Different hairstyles, weight fluctuations, skin darkening and lightening from season to season. All superficial changes, things that don’t really change who we are. At the same time, she wondered if people really notice when we actually are different but show no outside indication. How do we treat and bandage the wounds that don’t bleed. She felt a bit odd around him now, surprisingly not because of what had occurred between them the evening before. There were explanations for that, people often did things they normally wouldn’t do when emotions ran high. But the way he looked at her was disquieting, she knew he had sensed the subtle changes in her before she’d left, but he never said anything. Now she worried he would.

Abbie entered the kitchen, and he left the dishes he was arranging to offer her a spirited greeting.

“Ah, good evening Lieutenant.”

“Good evening Crane. She said as she ambled toward the refrigerator. Ichabod looked on as she for some reason changed path mid step, and gracefully jumped onto the countertop. Her movements were fluid, seamless, almost as if they were a scripted dance, but he knew they weren’t. He stared at her, raised eyebrow, while he followed her eyes to the small spider creeping across the floor. It had been clear to him that spiders were not her favorite creatures, but she never sought to evade them. He holds a heavy glare to her in search of answers, but she offers none. The bug went into hiding inside of a tiny crack along the baseboard.

“I will catch it as soon as it resurfaces.” He spoke after a moment. The question on the tip of his tongue stayed there as he returned his eyes to her. She would speak to him about all that transpired when she was ready, he merely hopes it will not be long. He moved toward her to offer his hand, but finds himself momentarily disrupted by the spread of her plump thighs across the countertop. He had a two second rule he tried his best to follow, generally allowing only two ticks of the clock to view her body before forcing himself to look away. But after yesterday when he learned what it felt like to settle between those thighs it was inherently more difficult. His eyes lingered about her until his greediness got him noticed. She looks down at her thighs, confused as to what caught his attention, and quickly brings them back to him in search of an explanation.

“I thought you may have toppled the water bottle behind you by accident.” He lied, silently reproving himself. He quickly reached behind her grabbing the water bottle and holding it up as evidence.

“Oh.” She says seeming satisfied.

He stepped forward waiting for her to take the hand he offered. She did so gingerly, eyes warily darting about in search of more eight legged creatures as she slid her bare feet to the floor. She could feel his eyes on her, knew he was watching, but she wasn’t quite sure how to explain that in the place she’d just returned from spiders weren’t only spiders. They sensed things about you, knew about things they shouldn’t have, and they didn’t die when you stepped on them. He pulled out her chair, and she looked at him as if he didn't need to but sat. She’d styled her hair, nothing out of the ordinary, but freshly done. Her clothing was simple, soft denim jeans, soft cotton shirt, all of it tight and flattering to a figure that needed no such flattery. And how was it that her body wash smelled so much more intoxicating upon her skin than it did within the bottle. All of these things serve to help him forget how angry he is with her, how hurt he was that she had offered herself up to die. There would be time to speak with her about it, he would be patient.

“Thank you, this looks great.” Abbe complimented, as Ichabod placed a plate of warm beef and colorful garden vegetables in front of her.”

When he returns a formal, dry “You’re welcome,” she wonders how long they’re going to behave this way. Tip-toeing around one another like they didn’t really know each other, like they weren’t as close as two people could possibly be, at least while keeping their clothes on. Earlier in the day, he had come into her room to look in on her every fifteen minutes. But he never said a word beyond,

“How are you feeling?” He asked right on time from across the table.

“Good.” She responded.

Ichabod sat across from Abbie struggling with himself, endeavoring to tell her everything that was on his mind. Tell her. He thought. This is your second chance to begin anew, do not squander another moment. A brave voice says. But what if she doesn’t feel the same, have you forgotten her words from the prior evening. The blow to our friendship could prove catastrophic, I can’t risk losing her altogether, already she’s further away than she’s ever been.

Apprehension filled his stomach as he sat watching her bow her head in prayer. He lowered his as well, piggybacking off of her blessing, while asking for a little courage.  

Abbie severed a carrot, stabbed it to her fork with a small piece of beef and plopped it into her mouth. The orgasmic sound that came out of her left Ichabod giggling and blushing like a schoolgirl, and just like that they fell out of the day’s silence.  

“I suppose the meal finds your favor.” He spoke, a pleasing smile curling his lips. Abbie grinned finishing her bite. “I had but scant time, and little ingredients on hand, but I suppose it came together in a somewhat acceptable fashion.” He announced, pushing vegetables around his plate, awaiting praise.

“It’s very good, thank you.” Abbie smiled shaking her head. He already knows he can roast the hell out of some beef.  

“Oh, I am quite pleased that it is satisfactory.” He said in a mopey tone, that let her know satisfactory was not enough.

“Do I have to say it?” She chuckles, leaning toward him. Delighted that this too hadn’t changed. Comforted that he still spoke of every meal he prepared in a deprecating fashion until she told him how fabulous it was.

“Say what?” He pouted.  Bighead, she thinks.  

“This is the best roast that I’ve ever had. Every time you make a roast I think it can’t get any better, and then you make another one and voila, it’s scrumptious, and flavorful…”

Abbie watches the smile develop from his eyes...This man is a mess…She leans back in her chair as he holds his chin high with pride.

“What else?” He asked in a tone so snobbish, they both fell into laughter.

“It’s perfect.” She responds at the tail end of their amusement. “Now can I enjoy my food?” She teased.

“By all means, so long as you remember to kiss the cock, the COOK!” He screams mortified. OH. DEAR. GOD! He screamed internally. This is precisely what I deserve. He reasons, wanting to slit his throat with his own butter knife. Knowing had he reined in his thoughts and not allowed himself to imagine her lips wrapping around his cock the way they just had her fork he never would have said that.  Penance for my indulgence in such lascivious, prurient, thoughts. You must apologize at once. Or, A voice says, you might simply hold steady. Perhaps she did not hear you.

The room goes silent. No forks or knives scraping against plates, no clattering of glasses.

She heard you. Sweet death be kind and come for me now, I swear I shan't resist.

Abbie attempts to shove her eyes back into their sockets, hearing Ichabod swallow even though there hadn’t been any food in his mouth. They do this, joke, kid, all of the time, but they don’t quite take it there, in fact they don’t take it anywhere near there. His face is showing signs of humiliation and just as she starts to try to ease the discomfort the oven timer mercifully goes off sending loud, repetitious, beeps through the room. Ichabod leapt from his seat flustered as he quickly pulled the bread from the oven. He had forgotten all about it after she came in. He’s seconds away from excusing himself from the room when Abbie uses the interruption to distance them from the awkward situation, and do a little digging.

“Wow, you baked bread too.” She crooned. “A man of many talents, Zoe better keep an eye on you.”

“Who?” He asked, setting the rolls on top of the stove.

“Zoe.” She said, dipping her chin toward her chest.    

His shoulders drooped down as he pulled his fingers from the oven mitts. He had almost forgotten about her. Zoe. The one thing that now reminded him how foolish he was. How silly could he be to think that Abbie entertained any interest in him whatsoever. Women do not make a habit of setting up men they hold romantic affection for with other women, and that is exactly what she had done.

“Oh yes, yes of course. Miss Corinth.” He grabbed a couple of rolls and placed them to their plates before rejoining the table.

“Yeah, how’s that going?” Quite truthfully that wasn’t a that anymore. He wasn’t sure that it ever really was. Nonetheless a month after Abbie left, she came by the house, somehow managing to catch him in the small hours he was home. She knew what was going on, that Abbie had disappeared and the police were searching for her, that he was searching for her.

“Come on, Ichabod you’ve been at this for weeks. It’ll do you some good to get out and take a break.” She tried for the third time to convince him to come to a lecture at a local museum.

“I’m afraid I cannot. Miss Mills’ whereabouts remain unknown, I must continue my search to find her.”   Ichabod said pouring over his papers.

“You know the police, and FBI have an entire task force devoted to finding for her. I seen a bulletin about her on the news, they even stopped by my apartment because of the loose connection I have with her through you.” Zoe informed him, noticing he hadn’t looked up from his books and papers.

“I’ve offered to help and…”

“—I am aware, and I thank you for that,” Ichabod said cutting her off. “However this is something that I must contend with on my own.” He said flipping a page.

“Why?” She asked throwing her hands up. For the first time since she’d come in he looked up at her.

“I beg your pardon?” He questions.

“I mean why do you feel that this is something you personally need to do alone, when the entire police department is already searching for her. I know she means a lot to you, but”

“—Everything to me.” He corrected.

“Excuse me?” She asked stringing her brows together.

“She means everything to me.” He repeated in a tone so definitive it left little to question. He held his eyes firm to hers so that she understood his meaning. So this conversation would never need to take place again, so she could see him as he was and stop wasting her time, so there would be no further interruption in his. There was more said, questions, regrets, apologies, and well wishes. But nothing that made any difference in the long run. He would have liked to have said that he sent her a card, perhaps some flowers thanking her for her friendship and the time she spent with him. In truth he hadn’t thought of her since that day, he hadn’t thought of anything that wasn’t concerning Abbie since the day she’d disappeared.  

“Crane.” Abbie called, trying to gain his attention.

“Yes.” Ichabod said coming out of his daze.

“How are things going with Zoe?” She asked taking a sip of water.

“Oh yes. We decided that we are better suited as friends.” Ichabod responds.

“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that Crane. She seemed like a nice girl.” Abbie says.

“She was, and don’t be. It was for the best.”

Abbie wanted to ask if this decision had anything to do with her disappearance, but she already knew it did. He was her best friend, if it were him who’d disappeared she would have done everything in her power to find him. That leaves little time for a social life. Her eyes widened as she watched the spider that had gone into hiding make his triumphant return and scuttle across the floor. She pulled her feet into her seat and stood up in terror.  

“Lieutenant?!” He stated, standing to his feet. He turned to see what she was looking at and saw the spider on the prowl. He stepped on it, secured it in a paper towel coffin and tossed it into the waste basket.

Abbie slowly lowered herself back into her seat. She knew she had some things she needed to work out, this ultra-hyper fear of spiders had to go. She was never particularly fond of them, but damn, this was out of control.  

Ichabod returned to his seat and stared at her. Feelings of inadequacy bubbled up inside of her for a moment. She hated feeling this way, like she was weak, like she somehow wasn’t living up to the level of what others expected her to be. What he expected her to be. She sat up a little straighter, feeling somewhat affronted as she met his glare. He was different too, and if he thought she didn’t notice he was mistaken. She thought back to the evening before. It wasn’t the crying, she’d cried a little as well, but everything that followed after showed how jarred he’d been by all of this.

After they had picked themselves up off the floor, he’d cleaned out the tub and ran her a bath while she sat on the toilet shivering beneath his bathrobe. He excused himself so that she could remove her bra and underwear, sending Jenny in to assist her, but he never left from outside of the door.

“Abbie?” Jenny spoke through a tearful gaze.

“Don’t.” Abbie said as Jenny helped her into the water. “You’re my little sister, I’d do anything for you. I’ve said it before, but I need you to know…I’m sorry about what happened, I should have protected you.” Abbie cried.

“I’m sorry I didn’t listen.” Jenny cried. “I know that you were just trying to keep us safe…to keep us together.”

“Unh-uh, you did the right thing.” Abbie said lifting her hand to her sister's cheek. “I am so proud of you, Mama would have been so proud of you.” She stated.

The pair sat silently for a while before Jenny spread conditioner throughout Abbie’s hair and began going through it with a wide tooth comb. A stubborn tangle, and a half-hearted yelp later, and Ichabod was in the doorway.

“Lieutenant.” Abbie looked up, as Jenny leaned in front of her sister’s naked form.

“She’s okay Crane.” She reassured him.  

But he didn’t move he just stood there, not wanting to leave her side.

“Crane. I got this.” Jenny smirked in disbelief.

“Yes I understand, only…” He hesitated. “Only what?” Jenny asked.

“You’re hurting her.” He said quietly.  

Jenny sighed. “I’m not trying to Crane, her hair has a few more tangles than normal.” She stated.

“Start at the tips.” He advised her.

Jenny’s eyes flare as she stares up at him. The balls on this motherfucker, is he really trying to tell me how to comb curly hair? She thinks.

“I appreciate your help, but”

“—As I appreciate yours,” He interrupts. He glanced down noticing she wasn’t using the proper conditioner.   “It’s simply…” He twiddled his thumbs, “Already you’ve done so much, perhaps you should like to rest for a spell, and I will take over.” He offered.

“Uhhhh.” Jenny turned a wide eyed gaze to Abbie. He’d helped her before. A year or so ago when a battle with a demon left her unable to lift her arm for a few days. But that was different, he’d detangled her hair using a spray bottle at the kitchen table, not in the bathroom while she was stark naked.  

A weary Abbie looked at her sister, and gave a subtle nod towards the door. “It’s cool.” She said. “Really, it’s not a big deal.”

Jenny’s mouth hung open. “Ohhhh-kay.” She smiled handing the comb to Ichabod. “Weird, witness, bond thing again. I get it.” She said, even though she really didn’t. Jenny leaned forward and pressed her lips to her sister’s cheek.

“I’m going to see if there’s anything in the kitchen we can pass off as dinner.” She said raising to her feet. “Take care of my sister.” She ordered patting Crane on the shoulder.

“I will indeed.” He replied just as she left the bathroom.

Ichabod purposefully avoided looking down into the tub, even though Abbie was hidden beneath a thick layer of foamy bubbles. He walked over to the cabinet and removed the conditioner she’d once stated provided the best slip, grabbing her preferred detangling brush on the way.

“I can do it you know.” Abbie stated weakly, knowing full well she couldn’t. The poison from the soot would fatigue her muscles for hours yet to come.

He took a seat on the stoop beside the tub, and took the ends of her hair in hand. “I know.”  

After her bath Ichabod closed his eyes, and stood in front of the tub with a fresh bathrobe. He felt her arms slipping into the sleeves but waited until she gave the okay to open his eyes. Abbie couldn’t understand what was going on with her body, the exhaustion she felt was literally staggering. Ichabod overlooked the first wobble of her knee, but when she nearly toppled over again he grabbed her and scooped her up unto his arms. Abbie offered up weak resistance.

“Just give me one second, I just need a minute to get my feet under me.” She pled, but the dour expression across Ichabod face told her he was having none of it. He pulled her closer to his chest.

“You cannot chance a fall. You could hurt yourself, your noggin. I’ve not seen you return from all impossibility to risk losing you to unsteady footing.” He asserted. She stared at him silently for a moment, his face still displaying the turmoil of the day. She worried over them while she was gone, and it was apparent he’d taken things even harder than she thought he would. As much as she wanted to try to walk, she could appreciate how frightening all of this was for him, so she didn’t press it. Her head nuzzled against his chest let him know he had won the battle. He carried her up the stairs to her bedroom, and gently nudged the door shut with his elbow before lowering her to her bed.

“According to all that I have learned, the soot that covered your body will wreak havoc upon your joints,” He stated walking over to her dresser, and pulling open a drawer. “But it is quite temporary. In the morrow, you shall be good as new, though I caution you do not attempt walking before then.”

“Alright.” She agreed, eyeing him as he stepped around the room, going from drawer to drawer gathering her clothes. Sweats, T-shirt, socks, She mentally listed, Wait a minute! How the hell does he know exactly where my bra and panty sets are? Ichabod turned around and could immediately discern what she was thinking. Bits of scarlet appeared across his cheeks as he slightly bowed his head.

“I took the liberty of putting your things away whilst you were gone.” He offered quietly. Abbie smiled through a slight nod.

“Thanks.” She held up the bra he’d given her and directed him toward the cotton ones she preferred at night. It was a struggle, but thankfully she was able to put everything on by herself. Abbie looked down at her sloppily worn attire, and laughed to herself. Hell, at least it’s on.

“All clear you can turn around—Whoa! She shrieked, having tried to take a step without thinking. The room went sideways as she instantly found herself falling forward.

“Abbie.” Ichabod yelled, sliding across the floor barely catching her before she fell. He sat her back upon the bed and stood in front of her.

“Did you not hear me?!” He spoke a little more bitterly, and a lot more loudly than she was used to him speaking to her.

“I said don’t.” He scowled glaring down at her.

He was upset, but she knew that his reaction had much more to do with her sacrificing herself than the steps she’d just attempted. His wording, the way he said don’t made that much clear. She couldn’t help but to recall that ‘don’t’ was the same thing he’d said to her before she carried the shard into the tree. The look on his face still seared into a space in her memory that she couldn’t let go. It was difficult to reconcile the fact that the best thing she had ever done for Jenny, was the worst thing she’d ever done to him. She kept her head high and held her gaze to his, even though it pained her to look at him. Even though she had no excuses or explanations. How could she say sorry for something she would do all over again? How could she say anything with him standing over her bed looking like he wanted to hug and kill her at the same time.

“I’m sorry I hurt you.” She breathed, teary eyed as he stared down at her. The consternation strung across his face grew soft at the sound of her voice. Strong fingers brushed across her cheek and gently cupped her face as he sunk to his knees, eyes fatigued with regret.

“I always hurt you.” She continued.

“No, no, no, forgive me.” He whispered bringing his head to rest upon hers. “Forgive me.” He sighed, coiling his arms around her middle. He couldn’t believe the way he’d just screamed at her after all she’d been through. He pulled back alarmed as his fingers followed his eyes to a dark bruise along the top side of her arm. Abbie could feel the concern and intensity in his gaze, her fingers flittered to cover the bruise of which she offered an explanation as his eyes returned to hers.

“It’s nothing. The tree.”

“What tree?”

“The one you found me in. The tree of life. It wasn’t trying to hurt me. It saved me.” She confided. “It picked me up, and pulled me to safety.”

“The tree of life…as in…” Ichabod’s mouth crept open.

“As in the Garden of Eden. I have so much to share with you.” She whispered. Pandora…that tree she’s planted…it’s not any tree, its”

“—The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” He answered somehow unsure of how he knew. Abbie nodded her head.

“Ichabod.” She whispered, startling him with the use of his first name. If there was ever an occasion where a person had spoken his name in a more desirable manner, he couldn’t recall it.  

“I think we did something bad.”   She continued. “I think we destroyed the garden.” He hated the anguish he saw spread across her face. The back side of his hand smoothed across her cheek as if he could wipe it away.

“How do you mean?” He asked

“When I was there I saw all of these flashes of moments across time. Choices. I still haven’t straightened things out for myself, but as soon as I do, I’ll share it with you.”

He was confused and curious, but he knew that she would tell him everything he needed to know in due time. For now he pulled her into his arms, holding her in his embrace. Her stomach jumped and flipped as his hands wrapped around her waist.

“I was so worried that you would be hurt.” He whispered lowering his head until his lips set beside her cheek. She bowed her head and she rubbed her hands up his chest, quickly finding herself short of breath from the feel of his heart thumping beneath her fingertips.  

“I feared I would not make it in time.” He confessed, as Abbie pulled her chin up, rubbing her cheek against his un-groomed beard.

“You did.” She said. “You always do.” Abbie smiled as she lay her lips against the height of his cheekbone, and left the softest kiss he’d ever received.

“Thank you.” She said quietly, before pulling back to look him in the eyes. “For coming for me.” She breathed. “Thank you.” She repeated with unmistakable sincerity. Her fingers slipped through the mountain of hair covering his face, gently toggling it between her grip. She couldn’t help but smirk at the overgrowth which quickly drew a smile that crinkled the corners of his eyes.

“There was no time for vanity.” He attested.

“I see that.” She laughed, letting her hands fall from his face.

“Lieutenant.”

“Hmm.”

“I shall always come to where you are.” He vowed. Abbie feels the weight in the room shift. He was constantly saying things like that, but being as they were, knowing a little more of them, him centered between her open legs, hands for some reason still loosely drawn around her waist, it felt different. Her pulse rolled together in a continuous lull, as she tried to pull her thoughts together. Just when she thought she’d gathered them, that she might speak, she felt the side of his face press against hers, causing an instant fever to blister through her body. Ichabod slowly lowered his head, brushing the tip of his nose up the side of her neck, before he drug it beneath her chin and softly nudged it upward.

Dear God in Heaven, in inward voice screams through Abbie. How in the hell did we get here, she wonders as she drops her head back, surrendering fully to his subtle maneuver. His hands fall to her sides against the mattress, the weight of him causing the round of her bottom to slip to the edge. His deep breaths caress her neck, and suddenly a hint of his voice mingles with it sending an illicit rush careening through her. His hands lock around her thick hips, and the next thing she knows her bosom arches up against his chest. If that wasn’t bad enough her shady ass legs widened like they suddenly had strength. Oh you can’t support your body weight, but you’ll open wide to let the dick close. She silently shamed herself. So there she was, in his embrace, legs spread almost begging him to push forward. So he did—firmly, with a soft grunt. It would have seemed the temperature in the room was thirty below zero from the way her body shook and shivered. Ichabod was rendered useless by the sound of the,

“Ooph,” that slipped from her throat telling him that she felt him. He mumbled her name just as he pressed his lips to her throat and the spark that he felt in it was blinding. He can’t function, but he somehow finds the strength to drag his mouth from her throat and run it along the supple skin covering her jawline. He looks into her eyes then, awaiting invitation, and finding it in the way her eyes alternate glances between his lips and his eyes. And then the beautiful mahogany eyes he had come to adore, disappeared along with his hesitation. In that moment the man who remember everything forgot. He forgot his manners, he forgot that they aren’t the only people in the world, let alone the house. Perhaps had they not been so entranced they would have heard Jenny’s footsteps down the hall, or at least heard her sharp knock seconds before she entered. Seconds before they almost kissed.

Ichabod sprang up while Abbie quickly jumped back.

“Heeeeeyyyyyyyy!” Jenny said bug eyed. She hadn’t really seen anything, just a lot of quick movement and now the two of them sitting side by side looking guilty as sin.

“Yeah.” Abbie said picking one of her legs up and lifting it over the other one. Jenny’s eyes bounced between the two of them suspiciously. If it were any other day but today, she would have so much fun with this situation.

“Dinner.” She smiled, lifting her eyebrows at Abbie.

“Okay thanks.” Abbie replied winded, as Ichabod chimed in. “Thank you Miss Jenny.”

“Anytime.” Jenny smirked, before retreating from the room, and pulling the door shut behind her.  

As soon as Ichabod heard her down the hall he stood and immediately went into apology mode.

“Miss Mills I am unspeakably horrified as to my treatment of”

“—Crane.”   She said, raising a hand to silence him. She couldn’t do it. It was awkward already, with him apologizing but not being quite able to look at her while he did it.

“Let’s just…look, it has been a long, and I mean long, emotional day…we should just.” She sighs, and tries to find her words. “We’re friends you and I.”

“Yes.” He agrees.

“Close, close friends, who just went through a very harrowing experience. Our emotions are everywhere right now. What just happened, could’ve happened to anyone going through a similar experience so….I think we should keep it in perspective and try not to be too hard on ourselves, and honestly just forget about it. I mean clearly we are not, you know…that.”

Ichabod is stunned silent for a moment. The pendulum swings and his heart squeezes under the weight of gravity. Because a minute ago it felt like they were exactly that. But as she said the day had been long, perhaps she had merely been too fatigued to ward off his advances. He considered, feeling terrible.

“Of-course. We are as you said, close friends. I would never want anything to jeopardize our bond. I apologize if my actions this evening have done anything to bring that about.”    

“What actions.” She asked, eyes straining upward. “See how I did that? Forgotten, we’re good.” She said offering him a fist bump. He looked down at her, and reluctantly pressed his fist to hers.

“Yes. I do indeed.” Ichabod responded, brooding. “Thank you for your understanding.” He spoke.

“No big deal.” Abbie said. But it was a big deal, it was a problem. Her faith in Ichabod was a problem. Letting him get too close to her again was a problem. One that she had tried her absolute hardest to gain control over, and somehow still managed to come up short. For a girl who operated as she did, by maintaining composure, by retaining control, nothing could have been more terrifying. She’d lived her entire life not trusting others, but she didn’t know how to live like this, not trusting herself. But here he was again, closer to her than any other soul had ever been….and she couldn’t trust him, she couldn’t trust herself with him.

Jenny had added rice, meat, and veggies to some bone broth Abbie had prepared and frozen months ago. Everyone gathered and ate in the living room as it was where Abbie could sit most comfortably. She filled them in a little on her experiences, spending a little time speculating about what Pandora and The Hidden One might be up to.

“I mean I guess I don’t understand how you know all of this stuff if you were trapped the whole time.” Jenny stated.

“Just trust me, it’s true.” Abbie stated, with a deep yawn. “Excuse me.” She yawned again. It was clear that Jenny wanted to press her for more information, but Abbie’s second yawn sent Ichabod’s eyes falling upon the clock, giving her the not so subtle hint that perhaps they had overstayed their welcome.

“It is quite late, we shall take the night and reconvene in a few days. Your sister needs rest.” He dictated. “Of course you’re both welcome to stay.” He invited, but Jenny knew he was just being polite. It was fine by her though, she knew she never needed to worry about Abbie when he was around. Hugs and kisses ensued and she and Joe were out the door. She smiled resting her head against him, as he took her hand on the way to the car. She shook her head.

“Just yesterday, I was wondering how I would ever begin to clear this place out. To get rid of all of their things. To say goodbye.”

Joe glanced over at her smiling.

“And now they’re back.” Jenny continued, unable to keep the grin off of her face.

“Well, looks like maybe I’m not the stupidest person you ever met after all.” He joked, remembering how furious she was with him when Crane left.

“Can I be like, I don’t know maybe the second stupidest person you ever met now, or am I still number one on the list.” He asked. Jenny stopped and draped her arms around his neck.

“Oh you’re number one alright…much different list.” She said sweetly before nipping at his lips in a teasing fashion.

“Ohhhh, so is this like the good list, because I legitimately thought you were going to blow my head off when I was on your bad list?” He asked dropping his hands to her waist.

“Better than the good list.” She said before placing her lips in front of his ear. “Different head, much different blow.”  

Joe stood motionless with his mouth gaped wide open. When she released him and finished the journey to the car it took him a moment to get his wits about him and chase after her.

 

Inside, Abbie was finally starting to find some peace of mind. It was a slip up, a minor one at that, she told herself. She focused all of her energy into doing just what she’d instructed him to do. Forget. It wasn’t easy, especially with the timorous manner in which he was treating her. She was used to being the solid one, the one who took care of them. She provided the shelter, she kept them fed, scheduled their medical and dental appointments and saw to it that they were kept, because she took care of them.

And now that it was his turn, she didn’t know how to react to it.

“Are you hurt…Are you chilled, I can retrieve another blanket....Would you like a cool drink…I can spoon you up another serving of soup if you wish for more to eat.” He asked and offered a bit after Jenny and Joe had gone. She shook her head from side to side after each query not quite having the energy or the courage to tell him that the only thing she wanted was him. Just his company, the companionship the shared as friends and witnesses. She was content there by his side, curled up on the couch in front of the space-heater he’d slid in front of her. She shuddered recalling her time away, trying to understand how a place with so much fire could be so damned cold. It was warm here with him, she feels a safety in their togetherness that she loved but at the same time wished she didn’t feel.  

“I’ve no wish to be a bother, but…if there is anything, anything at all that you might need. I am here.” He pledged. Abbie pulled her eyes to his and strung a thoughtful gaze across the living room. She felt her teeth gently tugging at the flesh from the backside of her bottom lip.

“I know.” She replied letting her head fall back against the sofa. For how long, she wondered.

 

Hours later after the candles were half burned, and tiny shimmers of moonlight danced across the living room floor, she woke as long sturdy arms lifted her body from the couch. Ichabod looked down as lengthy lashes fluttered open before eyes that held more confusion then he’d ever seen in them. She stared at him a moment, between small blinks, and he watched as the confusion disappeared.

Her hand slipped up against his chest and rested a moment before her wee fingers curled around his shirt. His heart seized at her small gesture, only to beat uncontrollably when she rested her head against his chest and promptly returned to sleep. He carried her to her bed feeling smaller than he ever had before, the bliss of her homecoming overshadowed by the full recognition of all that she was to him. She came back this time, but somewhere in the back of his mind loomed the fear that she might go again. The fear that the next time he might not be so lucky.

“Welcome home Lieutenant.” He whispered as he pulled her blankets over her. He stood over her bed, not quite able to bring himself to leave the room. It was hours later before he allowed himself a seat at the foot of her bed, and another hour after that before he stopped arguing with himself and laid down.

 

Abbie pulled her napkin to her lips and dabbed the corners of her mouth. “Thank you again.” She said looking down at her mostly cleared plate of beef and veggies.

“It was my honor, truly. I am infinitely grateful that you are once again where you belong.” He replied behind a pained smile.

“It was…” Dreadful, horrible, insufferable “Difficult being here without your presence.” He stated.   Her lips closed as she tried to offer a small smile, unfortunately the lack of truth behind it forced it into becoming this sort of half smile, and half awkward smug look. She looked away a little embarrassed by it, and her eyes expanded as they fell upon the cantaloupe sized hole in her kitchen wall. She quickly turned her eyes to his, honestly more curious than upset, but he started right in offering apologies.

“Lieutenant I, I can explain.” He stuttered raising his pointer finger. “Rather, there is quite a reasonable explanation as to what transpired. I apologize for the destruction of your property—wall, I want to assure you that I have every intention upon repairing the damage, I merely have not gotten around to it because…you see there has been no time.” He confessed reaching his hand around his glass of water.

“What happened?” She asked squinting at the wall before quickly returning her eyes to his. It was only then the she noticed his knuckles, swollen and bruised. Her mouth opened as he quickly slipped his hand from the table and rested it upon his lap. Now he was the one with the evasive eyes, head hanging forward from embarrassment.      

He watched her sit her fork down, and, placed his to the table as well wondering if he'd upset her. Abbie stares across the table at him, eyes falling to his long lissome fingers flaring in and out uncontrollably against the table top. His reaction to stressful situations was the same. His facial hair, now shaved and back to its normal length was the same, and his sky colored eyes were still the kindest that she had ever seen, but he was different. Because the Crane of old wouldn't have curled up at the foot of her bed clutching her ankles in the dead of the night. He wouldn't have punched a hole in her wall, and he for damn sure wouldn’t have touched her the way he had yesterday evening. But he did. The last few years she’d spent more time talking to him than anyone else in the world, so how is it that they’d left so much unsaid?

“Miss Mills,” He started tentatively…

There was a sudden rap against the door interrupting him, and their eyes collided as if to ask if the other was expecting someone. Ichabod sat back annoyed as he pulled the dinner napkin from his lap and tossed it to the table.

Ichabod peered out of the front window and immediately recognized the erratically parked truck in the driveway.

“Mr. Reynolds.” Ichabod said, opening the door.

“Where is she?” Danny asked stepping through the screen, and entering the living room.

Ichabod rolled his eyes as he closed the door. “Won’t you be so kind as to come in?”    

“Abs, Abs, you here?!” Danny called through the house.

Abbie’s petite frame appeared at the edge of the room.

“Abs.” He said relieved. Too excited to move for fear that everything he felt for her would come falling out.

“Alive and well, not having suffered some unfortunate demise at the cause of my hand as you have so ridiculously suggested this past month.” Ichabod snaps standing behind him. He was still heated about being hauled in for questioning, the day he spent being interrogated could have been used searching for a way to free Abbie. He’d promised hell and woe if Abbie were harmed do to the frivolous distraction.

Danny frowned up and turned to face him. “I don’t know what kind of nonsense you’ve gotten her involved in, but it ends today.” He argued pointing at the floor.

“I do not know.” Ichabod repeated. “I believe those are the most veridical words that I have ever had the pleasure of hearing you speak. Perhaps you should say them more often instead of making wholly unfounded accusations for which you can offer NO justification.”

“Hey, take it down.” Abbie interjected.

“Yeah you might want to listen to your roomy, her sister isn’t here to save your ass today.” Danny threatened stepping closer to his adversary. Ichabod laughed, dismissively, leaning in until he was just inches from Danny’s face.

“The notion that I shall be the one in need of salvation is hillarity, as I stated before sir, and I use that term loosely, I believe you piss more than you drink.”   Ichabod snapped sharply. Abbie jumped between them just as their fists were clenching.

“Enough. Stop it, both of you!” She yelled.

She turned to Danny. “This is not why I called you.” She stated. Ichabod’s eyes nearly ballooned out of his head.  

“You, called him?” He asked, as a smug smile touched Danny’s lips.

“You heard her, she called me.” He boasted puffing his chest out. “The question is, with as many times as I’ve been around here to check on her, why didn’t you? Roomy.” He added. Ichabod fingers flexed and bent at his side, as he felt his confidence draining from his body. She’d slept late, and remained in her room most of the day, surely a sign that she was avoiding him. Still a part of him hoped that she was merely pampering herself a bit after her ordeal, especially when she came out with her hair styled as it was. But this, conversing with Mr. Reynolds he did not suspect. Did she want him? He wondered. She hadn’t even been home a full day, and in that time they had barely spoken, but she’d called upon Mr. Reynolds. He was the one she’d chosen to speak with, to confide in. His heart tightened.

Abbie started to remind Ichabod that Danny was her boss, that is if she still had a job, but she didn’t get a chance to say anything because Danny smothered her with a hug that lifted her from the ground.

“I’m so happy you’re okay, I was going crazy…” Danny looked up to find Ichabod still standing there glaring at him. “Look can we go someplace and talk? I really need to talk to you—alone.” He pleaded through a sorrowful gaze.

Abbie took a deep breath, she could tell from his tone the issues he wished to discuss had nothing to do with work, and even though it wasn’t the best time, they needed this. His fingers clutched her elbows as he awaited her answer.

“Yes.” She replied. “Just let me grab my things.” She said motioning to a pair of boots by the door.

“Lieutenant.” Ichabod started in a cautious tone.  

“—Crane.” She gave a slight turn of her head, letting him know that she’d made a decision. He hadn’t let her out of his sight since she returned but he knew he couldn’t keep watch over her forever. He should have said something. Asked her not to leave, perhaps demanded that Mr. Reynolds did, but as the saying goes old habits die hard, and he had a long history of holding his tongue with her. So he said nothing, he stood there, gutted, and heartbroken as he watched another man usher her out of their home. He watched as he opened the door to his truck, take her hand, and help her inside…and then he watched him drive off with the love of his life. He stood there a long while, motionless peering across the room through the half curtained window, images of them together taunting him, long after they’d gone.

 


 

Nearly six hours later Abbie pushed her key through the doorknob, and entered the dark house. Her first instinct was to turn on the light but she fought through it. She needed to regain her strength, to get back to being herself, she isn’t in the Fallen Garden anymore, and she doesn’t need the light on. She sat her house keys down gently, and bent her ear towards Ed Sheeran playing in the background. He must have fallen asleep listening, she thought half smiling. He never took much interest in her music, she wondered what other things of hers he found use for during the months she was away. The acoustic version of One drifted through the house and stopped her breath. She’d long ago added this to the list of songs that she couldn’t bear listening to. She’d even started a playlist entitled Stop Doing This Shit to Yourself, where she kept all of the songs that made her think of him while he was away. This one in particular, severed her. There was something about it that felt too personal…too close to home. Even now she could feel the words settling over her, slipping into the spaces that hid the bulk of her hurt.  

Just stay with me

Oooh All my senses come to life

When I’m stumbling home as drunk as I

Have every been and I’ll never leave again

‘Cause you are the only one

And all my friends have come to find

Another place to let their hearts collide

Just promise me you’ll never leave again

‘Cause you are the only one.

 

A familiar pain stabbed her heart as she entered the dark living room. She’d assumed he’d fallen asleep on the couch or in his chair, in fact she could almost see him there sleeping, so she’s genuinely surprised to find both of them empty. He must have gotten distracted and forgot he left the stereo on, she reasons. She’s four feet into the dark living room when the music stops and his voice calls out from behind her.  

“Good evening.” He states.

A startled Abbie whirls around to find Ichabod sitting on the floor against the wall by the entryway. She breathes a sigh of relief, palm meeting her chest.

“Crane.” A quizzical smile touches her lips. “You scared me.” She gasped, still trying to settle her nerves. He sees she’s safe now, he could simply head to his room and retire for the evening. A part of him wants to, he’s exhausted. The other part of him realizes that the precise reason for that exhaustion is standing directly in front of him, and though there may be solace in his head meeting the pillow, there will be no rest. Because he’s sat here asking himself the same question from the moment she walked out of the door, and he doesn’t think he can survive another minute without learning the answer.

“Are you in love with him?”  

Abbie’s shoulders immediately hunched up a bit as her head dipped down a smidgen. A crease appears between her brows as she tried to gain his meaning. She had come to recognize that flat, orotund tone he used when he sought to avoid mincing words and wanted to get straight to the matter. She would close her mouth or at least place a palm in front of it if she realized how widely it hung open. Suddenly the room feels bigger, or perhaps it’s her that’s become smaller she reasons unable to decide. Whichever it is by her count she’s at least ten thousand steps from the place she entered the room, and another ten thousand from the nearest exit. She heard what he asked, clearly, so why is it that she says,

“Excuse me?” Instead of answering his question. Month’s ago after she had told him to mind his business he had done just that. Her love life, or lack thereof was one of the growing lists of things that they didn’t speak about. She squints through the darkness in an attempt to catch a better glimpse of his face, and hears the floor creak slightly as he eases up off of it. His presence grows as he rises to his feet, her eyes once bent toward the floor now bend upward to follow his barely visible figure. Beams of moonlight shine across his torso, but his face remains obscured by the darkness, so how is it that something inside of her knows his exact expression. The way he always looks at her when he knows well she’s heard the question he’d asked. She’s sharp as anyone he’d ever met, nothing got by her, and he knows her excuse mes and what nows are just devices that assisted in stalling.  

“Are you in love with him?” He repeats, as earnestly as he had the first time.  

She’s stunned silent and remains quiet for nearly a full minute.

“No.” She says finally, just as he’s calling her name in want of an answer. She hears his breath hit the air, and his next question comes out in a quick urgent huff, but softer this time.

“Do you want him?” He asks.

“What now?”

“Do. You. Want him Abbie?” He repeats, “Do you want him?!”

Even though she can’t quite see his eyes, she feels them raking through her. The veil lifts, and it’s obvious what he means now but she doesn’t know how to answer him. He’s asking her if she wants Danny, but the fluctuation in his voice makes plain what he is really trying to say. Do you want me? Months of buried emotion and hurt feelings find their way to the surface.

“You left.” She says barely above a whisper.

He doesn’t speak, but she hears him shuffling about, and sees his figure moving toward the light-switch. The light that fills the room is soft and low, but still manages to feel like an intrusion. It was easier to speak freely under the cover of darkness, to give voice to the things that ailed her without being made to look into his eyes.

The moment he sees her, he notes her change in wardrobe, and grows positively ill. He glowers at her, only to have her look away, eyes pulled into a thousand yard stare upon the flooring across the room. He watches her arms fall into a loose fold across her lower abdomen before he blinks, and looks off. She’s wearing a shirt multiple sizes too big for her, and he knows instantly that it isn’t hers, nor is it the article of clothing she’d left home wearing. To make matters worse, her hair hangs wild and free fully displaced from the neat style she’d had it in when she left. She’s bedded him, and though he makes an attempt to appear unaffected, he isn’t, and it quickly shows. His face and ears burn, but the feeling is nothing compared to the misery rising through his chest.   By the time her eyes return to him, his features have grown hard with outrage and indignation. Abbie looks beyond his scathing glare, and catches view of his fingers repetitively flexing in and out against his side. The windows and doors are shut, but there’s been an unmistakable change in the air between them.    

Ichabod knows in his bones what he wants, he blames himself for not going after it sooner, for not going after her sooner. He looked at her knowing that she had no idea of all that she was to him, or how greatly he cared for her. If she did she wouldn’t be here this way. After last night he’d begun to wonder, if perhaps she did know and had simply chosen to ignore it to spare his feelings. On countless occasions he’s had to turn his head in haste after she’d noticed him gazing at her with his heart stitched about his sleeve. He’d been certain long ago that she would come to realize his regard for her when he continuously found himself at odds with her male admirers.   Detective Morales, her fallen comrade Andrew Brooks, and how could he forget the privateer Nicholas Hawley. There was something different about her, an ingenuity that seemed to lure suitors in by the throng. He was thankful in that prior to now, she had made no allowance for them, but he was foolish to think this wouldn’t happen eventually. He, himself found her to be the most fascinating and perplexing woman that he had ever known, of course other men wanted her…she was perfect. He’d spent countless hours trying to comprehend how she harbored such an untamable spirit yet carried herself with such reserve. It was the tightest of ropes he walked being the man in her life, while not technically being the man in her life, and he doesn’t know how in God’s heaven he’s managed it this long. He knows he has no right to feel slighted, she’s free as is he…only his heart doesn’t feel that way, and because of this, he doesn’t fully understand how hers does. He makes an effort to rein in his emotions but every time he looks at her they’re set free. Because someone’s had her, and he wants her. Because there is a possibility that he could have had her, and he wasted it. Because he never envisioned her moving on in the way that she has. Because he’s asked her a question that she has yet to answer, and he worries what that might mean. Abbie sighs, raising her arms up higher in front of her chest, wondering how long he’s going to stand there staring at her like she’d just killed his dog.  

“You left me alone.” She repeats slowly. Ichabod sighs trying to ward off images of her and Danny together, not fully able to appreciate what she’s saying at the moment.

“I did.” He admits, remorsefully bobbing his head in a nod. “You found company.” He adds snidely.

An intense scowl overtakes her features, and her gaze finds his eyes.

He feels terrible, and knows he’s being petty but he can’t help it. He couldn’t even look at another woman when he was gone, and it wasn’t because he was without offer or encouragement, he simply wanted her. He imagines the worst. His jaw twitches at the thought of his recently sworn enemy kissing the lips he had so long wanted to taste. Fondling the wondrous backside that kept him habitually adjusting his cock every time she wore something snug fitting. Worst of all he imagines that she’d shared the inner most parts of herself, stories and secrets he’d hoped only he’d be so privileged to hear. In truth, though it makes him feel terrible, he can’t be angry about her relationship with Mr. Reynolds while he was away. But after yesterday, after he’d brought her back from the Fallen Garden, and wept like a newborn child in her embrace…after everything that had happened, happened, he couldn’t help but hope that things would begin to be different between them. He knew what she said, that they should just forget it, write it off as some sort of emotional lassitude, but he couldn’t. And something in the way that she touched him, in the way that she whimpered when their bodies drew together led him to believe that she couldn’t either. He is shaking mad, and has not lost sight of the fact that she never answered his question.

“Does my query not warrant an answer?” He asked, tone sharp and rigid.

“No.” Abbie growls.

“No it is not worthy of an answer, or no you do not want him?” He snaps quickly.

“The first.”

“So you do want him?” He derives.

Abbie shakes her head in dismay, cutting her eyes at Ichabod.

“Have you been with him?” He inquired, realizing he should stop, knowing he was completely unable. Abbie tilted her head to the side.

“You saw me leave right.” She responds annoyed.

“Are you not going to answer?” He asked, just as Abbie realizes what he’s asking.

“What are you talking about?”

“—You know exactly what I am talking about, did you fuck him?” He barks angrily.

Her palm whacks across his cheek as soon as the words leave his mouth. She’s threatened to do it a few times before in jest, slap the shit out of him, as she so eloquently phrased, but now he realizes it was no exaggeration. The most recent time occurred when he’d been playing his video game and was traitorously murdered by a member of his own team. It was at that point that the lieutenant came passing through the living room.

“Crane you know where the recyclables go? I need you to handle that.” She’d stated in response to the half weeks’ worth of emptied bottles of iced tea he’d left stationed amongst the coffee table. He’d looked up from the game, eyes following her frame until it disappeared into the kitchen. The moment it did, he swiped his arm sidelong across the table sending the bottles scattering to the floor. He’d slowly leaned back in his chair a proud smirk cast across his lips, as he double tapped two fingers in the symbol of peace against his chest.

“The name is C-Dog.” He stated when her head quickly reappeared in the doorway. “Lest you forgot I’ve done hard time.”

She laughed until tears strung from her eyes. “Okay C-Dog, you gon’ make me slap the shit outta you.” She’d giggled, and just like that his mood was lifted. Because the only thing he needed to do when he fell into a mood was hear her laugh. He felt euphoric that day, knowing he had the power to make her happy that way. To make her laugh until she cried. Now he stood before her starting to gain appreciation of the fact he had the power to push her emotions in the other direction. His jaw throbbed in furious fashion as he tried to comprehend how she’d managed to put so much power into such a swift blow. He eats it though, stands taller even as his eyes meet hers in a unified glare. Embarrassment fills his, while venom fills hers. He’s horribly ashamed, wanting to apologize, but not even certain where to begin. He’s never spoken to a woman in such a disrespectful manner a day in his life, but then again, this is all new to him, he’s never felt this way before. He hasn’t quite figured out how to say I am hurt, and angry, and jealous that you have left with him and remained away half the night. So he says nothing. Ichabod breaks the stillness bringing his hand up to push back the hairs her smack has displaced.

“You have no right.” She said finally. Ichabod runs his tongue against the inside of the afflicted cheek. When he speaks again the hostility in his voice has been replaced with sobriety.

“That I concede,” He acknowledges moistening his lips. “Yet here I stand, without the pretense of such entitlement asking….are you to continue on with him.” He adjusts. It isn’t his question that’s offended her this time, it’s the audacity of him to even ask it. The audacity he has to ask her anything after the way he left, after he broke her heart.

“How fucking DARE YOU?!” She tries to speak calmly, but her emotions overcome her and she ends up shouting.

“—BECAUSE I LOVE YOU!” He screams in declaration, grabbing her up by the arms. “I am IN love with you. I always have been.” He confesses, pulling her even closer.

Abbie’s breath stops under his admission, and she feels herself go limp in his grasp. She staring at him wildly as she feels her heels softly return to the ground. She can’t wrap her head around it, not only what he’s said, but the way he’s said it, as if it were something the entire world knew, as if it were something that she should have just known all along, and was somehow negligent for never realizing. She prays for the strength to pull herself free of his grip, hating herself because of how good his announcement makes her feel. It sinks into her, pulling her apart, and filtering every drop of gravity from her world. She feels almost like a dandelion seed head in his grasp, the ones she and Jenny used to wish on as kids, one quick puff, and she’d blow away. He’s the only thing that has ever made her feel this way, but as still and warm, and beautiful as it is, it terrifies her, feeling so fantastically out of control. The sight of him changes the pattern of her heartbeat, the sound of voice blushes her cheeks, and the thrill of even his most innocent touch moistens her panties. He makes everything feel a little bit better, taste a little sweeter, but her trust in him weakens her, and his desertion took her to a place she never wishes to return to. She shrugs herself free of him and stepped back looking into the eyes that made her want to curse and bless the stars in the same breath.      

“Love.” A hollow laugh leaves her. “Why are you doing this?” She asked through a puzzled gaze. “Why now?”

Ichabod takes a half step forward staring into her glossy eyes. “I never said that timing was my strong suit.”

“—You never said anything!” She charged, still getting her bearings.

“You speak as though I have not tried!” He countered. “I attempted to speak with you about all of this upon various occasions.” He stated, his lowered palms facing the sky in frustration.

Abbie holds a palm to her chest. “I assume I’m supposed to believe that, neverminding the fact that I was actually there and know it never happened?”

“You assume a great deal. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve mentioned having things weighing upon my mind, or causing me distraction, only to have you so graciously supply your evaluation as to how to rectify the situation before actually allowing me leave to state what the situation was.” Abbie thought back, perhaps she did have a tendency to over-talk him and finish his sentences, but that was only because she knew him so well.

“Further on every occasion that I have solicited your opinion or asked what you envisioned in regard to our future, you have made it abundantly clear that you had given it no thought.”

“That’s ridiculous.” She argues. “One, I had no clue as to what vein you were relating to when you asked me those things. Two, how could I be expected to think about anything in the future while all hell was literally breaking loose.”

Ichabod tries to interject, but Abbie waves him off, and continues.

“Three and most importantly, even if what you’re saying is true…and you feel that you love me, your solution was to simply pack up and leave, and you don’t call, and you don’t contact me for nine months Crane.” She reminds him. Tears roll from her large weepy eyes. Heartbroken, he reaches for her, but she shrugs away, and dries them.

“You are a good friend. My best friend, but I’m sorry what you did doesn’t feel like love to me.” She says in the most brittle voice he’s ever heard. “I mean help me to understand, is this the way your love feels?”

“Abbie.”

“Unh-uh,” She stops him holding up a finger, until she can find her voice. “As I recall, I mentioned something about buying a house, about laying down roots, and the very next day… you tell me you need some time away.” She pointed out.

“Christ Crane would you have even called if something didn’t go wrong with Katrina’s necklace?” She asked.

“I mean hell, you stayed in prison five days before picking up the phone. Me, if I go to prison, I’m calling everybody I know on the first day to get me out. So the only thing that makes sense in any of this, is that you didn’t want to see me."  He doesn’t answer and she realizes the answer through his silence. He doesn’t want to lie, and at the same time he doesn’t want to hurt her with the truth. She nearly breaks at his silent admission. She starts to walk away but his hand closes around her wrist to hold her in place. She rips it away, feeling sick, but he pulls her to him once more, turning and trapping her between the wall and his body.

“You must understand,” He starts, “I had a great many things that I needed to work through. Katrina. Jeremy.” Abbie’s head falls.

“Do you blame me, is that what this was about?” She cries quietly. “If you need to…as your friend…I understand that, and will carry that for you until the end of time. But tell me, talk to me.”

“No.” He answers astonished at the question. “Blame you.” He states raising a palm to the side of her face. His voice sounds weighted as he tries to speak through his emotion.

“How could I ever blame you, for something which you were never at fault? Katrina, Jeremy, and I share the weight of all that transpired.”

“You?” She said surprised, unable to watch him torture himself. “You’re a witness Crane, and you did what you were called to do. You did nothing wrong.” She stressed, slipping her palm up his chest until it covered his heart.

“—Yes, but I did little right.” He responds, remorseful. “Had I shown Katrina more affection, worked harder to restore our marriage to the thing that it once was…attempted to love her.”

“—Don’t, you did love her.”

“Yes. But not the way that I loved you.” He responds. “The way that I love you still.” His large hand covers hers, pressing it more firmly against his chest.

“That is entirely the reason why I did not return. I loathed the thought of being something that happened to you….that happened to your life. I could not live with that…I could not respect myself had I allowed you to live with that.” He informed her, on the verge of tears.

“I wanted….no I needed, to be something that you chose. I wanted you to have a choice Abbie.” Abbe rests her head against the wall behind them, feeling herself weakened by her feelings for him. Her eyes soften as he brings a gentle hand to her cheek and brushes away her tears. He can’t take seeing her this way, still he is certain that the tears in her eyes are causing him twice as much pain as they are her.  

“I made a promise to myself that after all that you have given to me, this much I could surely give you. The choice, you never had. I prayed, unstopping, that you would one day call upon me. That you would call me home.” His voice wavers. “That you would call to tell me that I had a home, and when you did not call…”

“You told me that you needed time, I tried to give you that.” She replied fighting back tears. “That’s why I didn’t call. That first week when I didn’t hear from you I just assumed that you didn’t want to talk. During the second week I tried to tell myself the same, but by the third week Jenny had gone behind my back to run a trace on you because I wasn’t sleeping Crane. I couldn’t sleep, I shed pounds, I was grieving.” She sniffles, feeling his large hands drop down to her waist. He’s so close that she feels cocooned by him, like nothing could get to her, nothing could cause her harm. Nothing except for him.

“I was grieving you, I thought I would never see you again.” She admits, her breathless whimper slipping across his face as he centered his forehead over hers.

“I’m sorry.” He breathes and Abbie’s lost at the sound of the strain in his voice. She feels his tears falling against her, even though she can’t see them. She lingers in agony desperate to ease his heartache, but at the same time remains wary of her own.

“I love you.” He pledges. “You are the last person on earth that I should ever wish to cause pain, or see hurt. I am most overwhelmingly sorry for all of the pain you have suffered by me.” He apologized.

“For the way I spoke earlier...I was outside of myself. I can offer no excuse for such deplorable behavior but know that I confess myself both weakened and strengthened by the tiniest hint of your smile. So the thought of any other being the one whom you allow to provide for it…for that soul shifting smile that means everything to me.” He adds brushing a few fingers over her mouth, “It kills me Abbe.” He whispers placing a soft kiss against her trembling lips.

“It kills me.” He repeats, dipping his head lower using his tongue to create passage between her lips. He captures the soft flesh of her upper lip and sucks it gently between his, quivering from the feel of it. All at once Abbie comes alive and he feels the weight of her lips matching his ardor, as she slinks her body against his. He moans shamelessly at the thrilling sensation cascading through his body, hands, grabbing and tugging her firmly against him. Abbie pushes her hands against his chest, and turns her head. After a few heavy breaths she slides away. Ichabod’s shoulders raised up and down as he spun around to look after her. His eye’s drooped with lust have absolutely no ability to focus, but he gives it a go. He knew the moment his lips met hers, that he'd made a grave error, there would be no coming back from this.  Humans, our bodies, all of them are designed to survive. To struggle against the inevitable circumstance of death, and persevere.   Given the odds he'd done better than most, but there's something fatal in her lips, he can taste it…and her kiss had killed him a little. Still the moment she pulled away, effectively sparing his life, compulsion pushed him to offer it up again at the altar of the very lips that had nearly taken it before.

“Abbie.” He gasps, awestruck.  

She’s quiet, reddened eyes and sunken brows, face dripping with hesitance. Perspiration dampens Ichabod’s skin, as an incredible ache settles in his chest. Even the shallowest of breaths intensify the pain of her having left his arms.

A broken breath slips from her mouth. “I don’t think I can do this.” She admits. Panic rips through every part of his heart, he can’t go back now. Not after having his suspicions so convincingly confirmed. They were made for each other.  

“Abbie I know what you are thinking.” He states advancing slowly so as not to scare her off. Abbie shook her head as she stepped backward crossing her arms in front of her.

“You have no idea what I’m thinking.” She insisted, wishing that they could be together forever, while a part of her wished she’d never met him at all. Her heel collides with the wall and she has no choice but to face him.

“Listen to me Crane, listen to me, please leave me alone.” She begged, joining her hands in prayer. “Please. I don’t want to get hurt, let’s just stay friends.” She cried softly.

“I will never hurt you.” He promised, steadily moving forward.

“You already have.” She returned with an adamance that paused him.

“I did.” He admitted tearfully. “I know I’ve hurt you, but that was then.” He cast a hand behind him to show that it was in the past. “I left. Like others. Like your father. But I came back.” He stressed, a doleful countenance covered his face. “I came home Abbie. Does that count for nothing?” He pleads, as she turns her head to the side too hurt to even look at him.

“I returned.” He whispers wanting to touch her, but needing her to want him to. “Regardless of what circumstance perpetuated it, I am here.  And if you allow me to stay I shall never leave again. Please look at me…tell me I am not too late.”  

 

 

Chapter Text

From the time he was a young boy, Ichabod was taught the importance of time. Of using his own wisely, of not wasting that of others. He grew to revere it in a way, and that reverence led him the practice of being on time for everything. Being present when necessary, and expected was a vital part of the good manners he had long hung his hat upon. Good old reliable Ichabod. He was always there when needed by his parents, his comrades, country and soldiers. So how is it that he was late in getting to the one thing that mattered most?

Abbie.

He stood in the center of their dimly lit living room counting the steps to where she was. Two strides, one and a half if he stretched the first, but somehow he knew she wasn’t as close as she seemed.

“I need to know Abbie. Am I too late?” He’d asked.  

It was quiet. Not the ordinary noiseless sort of quiet where nothingness rings in your ears, but an exposing sort of silence. The kind that shows you your reflection and stops you from turning away from it. He’d never known more clearly who he was. Outside, the world carried on. The block full of children he’d heard out engaging in a sundown game of hide and seek were likely still playing. Dogs barked, neighbors caught up on gossip while keeping a loose eye on the young. Yet he was oblivious to it all. Outside, the world. His awareness presently filtered out everything that wasn’t crucial in that moment. Everything that wasn’t her. He stared over at her. Her back sloped along the wall they’d painted together shortly after his homecoming. They’d stood in the Home Depot for nearly two hours circling around color swatches. When it was all said and done, Abbie had chosen the color she first gravitated towards, as he suspected she would. The word selective did not begin to describe her. But in all things, she always seemed to come back to her gut instinct. Armed with overalls and roller brushes they took to it, time well spent on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Afterwards what started as a playful dab upon her cheek with a trim brush escalated into a full on, spirited, paint fight. They were left covered, clothes, face, tips of their hair, both of them collapsed to the drop cloth covered floor laughing themselves silly until they fell into a silence not much unlike the present one.

I should have told her then. He reasoned. I should have kissed her.  

He knew there was no sense in wallowing in regrets of opportunities gone by, but he couldn’t help but wonder if action in that moment could have saved him from the pain of this one. The anger he detects in her makes the moment feel as though it’s carrying on for an eternity. For the first time since he’s known her it seems she can’t stand the sight of him. The pain of it is made twice as severe by his complete inability to take his eyes off of her. So he waits, patiently, for her to look upon him. For now, her long off, watery, gaze is fixated upon a plant halfway across the room. It had nearly perished when she’d gone, going to wilt, and folding in on itself. He pitied it, but couldn’t seem to bring it back to life. Two peas in a pod they were, he and the plant. When she returned it was almost instant how quickly they were resurrected and pulled from the brink of death. He wanted to ask again, the question concerning her heart and his lack of punctuality. He couldn’t. She heard his initial query, he’s sure of it. As sure as he is that these seconds were not forged with usual air, they were heavy and metamorphosing, so she would have every single one of them she needed.  

Ichabod didn’t operate as most others, he hadn’t since awaking in the modern era. While the rest of the earth looked toward the sky to count the hours and days, he was busy orbiting a different sun. Abbie and Abbie alone was his source of light. Truthfully, something in him recognized that from the moment she’d walked in front of his holding cell. She was the thing by which he learned to reckon with the world around him, everything became so much clearer when measured against her rays. So when he hurt her, his entire universe grew a little dimmer. And when he realized that the pain inflicted might have cost him his sun, his insides went dark. He’d never felt more sorry.

Ten minutes come and go, and her lips never part. It’s nothing compared to the amount of time he’s willing to give up for her. To convince her of his love he’s willing to sacrifice every moment he has left. He sighs, and knots his hand behind his back. She eased from her thoughts by the movement in the otherwise still room.   He hears a soft inhale as the eyes he sees the hope of humanity in lift to his. His heart thumps alive, and a speckle of encouragement raises through him because at least now she’s present. There’s a gentleness in her gaze that warms him, but he realizes all too quickly it’s fleeting. With each passing second something akin to disappointment overtakes her glare, and reduces his stature.

“I…” She swallows this imposter of a voice. It wasn’t hers. It sounded broken, weak, and her lips slammed shut around it as though she’s trying to hold it in. His lips part, but he remains silent as she searches for a new voice that meets her approval. The way she looks at him makes him feel as though it was easier when she wouldn’t. The traces of past moments tears settled around her eyes hurt to the point that he can no longer keep this distance. He takes a courageous, although tentative step forward.

“Abbie.” He whispers, more air than voice.      

“No.” She steps away, squeezing the inward corners of her eyes to ward off more tears. He reaches a hand to her, she quickly dodges it.

Please don’t.” She manages, looking up at him. The day feels hours past the time it actually is, and every bit of it is because of him. She’d been through mind games and slugfests with demons that had taken a less exhausting toll on her psyche and body. He wreaked havoc upon her. She needed a minute to fully understand her feelings, but his kiss, touch, and even his quiet towering presence had a way of confusing and influencing them.  

He pulled back the rejected hand, not quite sure what to do with it. Her arms cross in front of her, and he begins to sense his window of opportunity closing.

Abbiiee.” He pleads, voice quiet but imploring.

She winces at the sound of his plea. Her name spoken in a cadence that had come to be a call for absolution of slights or offenses. His way of saying sorry, just by saying her name. The only thing she can think when his says it that way is how can I stay angry with him. Her eyes slip closed at the sound of the voice that means so much more to her than anything should.

They open at the sound of an urgent knock upon the front door. Their heads swivel to it then back to one another in search of answers as to who might be on the other side of it. With none found, Ichabod moved towards the furious knocking while Abbie took a hand across her face making certain all of her tears were dried. Mrs. Crosby, the neighbor from across the street stood before them, red faced and out of breath. Abbie only has to look behind her at the hustling and bustling of the entire neighborhood to know that something is terribly wrong.

“Abbie, Tommy’s missing!” She says in a burst. “We’ve looked everywhere, we can’t find him.”

In seconds Abbie has her flashlight in hand, and is following Ichabod and Mrs. Crosby out of the door. Six minutes and twenty-five seconds later Abbie discovered Tommy held up in a large oak tree in the woods behind the subdivision.

“Hey,” She said shining the light up at his face. “We’ve been looking for you.”

“I know.” He whispered. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t move.”

Abbie flashed the light across his body, trying to figure out if he’d gotten himself stuck. Other than a loose shoelace on his blue sneakers she didn’t see anything that might get caught.

“Why?” She asked stepping closer to the trunk of the tree. “Never mind, I’ll come up and get you. Just stay there.”

He nodded his head.

Abbie reached for her phone, still hearing the calls of the search party, “TOMMY, TOMMY TRAN.” His father’s calls the loudest of them all “TAM TRAN! TAM TRAN WHERE ARE YOU?!” Abbie quickly called Ichabod to let him know she’d found him, and they’d be coming that way shortly.

Afterward she stuck the flashlight in her back pocket and selected a sturdy branch to begin her climb. A minute and a half later she stood with the frightened boy beneath the tree, brushing leaves and dirt off of his torso.

“Are you okay, are you hurt.” She asked, looking him over.

“No I’m not hurt.” He said shaking his head weakly. The hoot of an owl in the distance sent him jumping closer to Abbie.

“Oh.” Abbie sighed, taking a look around at the isolated area. “It’s pretty dark out here,” She said. “You’re safe now. Is that why you didn’t come when we were calling, because you were afraid?”

“Yes.” He said nodding his head. “I was afraid it would find me first.”

“It?” Abbie asked tilting her head to the side.

“The lion.” He whispered.

“Lion?” Abbie questioned with a curious gaze. Her hand slipped against her holster as she did a quick glance around them. She spoke slowly when she turned back to him.

“You know it’s pretty dark out here, a lot of animals in these woods look pretty creepy at night, it gets hard to see. Think back carefully, are you certain it was a lion, and not something else like, I don’t know a deer or something.”

“I did see a deer.” He replied quickly.

“Well see, there you have it.” Abbie smiled.

“—The lion was eating it.” He said directly. Abbie’s mouth dropped open.

“It saw me, watching it.” The boy continued. “It started coming over to me, so I climbed as high as I could. It turned around and drug the deer through those trees.” He added pointing to a thick line of trees fifty yards away.

Something in his voice made her pause. She’d always thought that children’s statements weren’t given the weight they deserved during questioning. A lot of agents thought kids were easily confused, or prone to fantasy, and embellishment. Abbie on the other hand thought they were the most truthful of all, however she did worry that they were prone to suggestion.

“If it comes back, you’ll shoot it right.” He asked fearfully. “It can’t get us can it?”

“Nothing is going to touch you.” Abbie said placing a hand to his shoulder. A loud rustling of leaves rang out from the tree a few yards away.

“What was that?” Tommy called out. Abbie quickly pointed her flashlight in the direction of the disturbance, only to find empty branches with leaves still shaking from movement. Another noise, on the other side of the tree brought about the glare of her flashlight. She breathed a small sigh of relief when she realized it was just an owl.

She unlocked her screen and redialed Ichabod. “Crane, possible cougar sighting, aah, mountain lion, eyes open, we’re in route.”

“Okay Tommy, tie your shoelaces, we need to go.” She said, scanning the trees.

“It wasn’t a cougar Abbie.” He said as they marched along. “It was a real lion, like an African one, but bigger.”

“An African lion?” Abbie repeated, an inflection in her tone. She pulled back a few branches of bush so they could continue on their path. “That particular species of lion isn’t a part of the wildlife in this area. I mean unless there was some type of breech at the zoo, but I think I would have heard about it.” She added, more to herself than to Tommy.

“I know it isn’t, I’ve had a subscription to Nat Geo Kids since I was six, but it wasn’t a cougar I swear. It was way too big. It was the biggest lion I’ve ever seen.” He said stretching his arms out as far as they could go.

It was a little over two hours later before Ichabod and Abbie made their way back home. They’d had a lengthy discussion with the Department of Environmental Conservation, who had sent a team out to investigate the woods for tracks.

“DEC found no tracks, no deer carcass, no trace.” Abbie said slugging off her holster. She sighed and took a seat at the dining room table.

“And yet…you believe him.” Ichabod said, looking up from the glasses of wine he was pouring.

Abbie looked up at him, his words reminding her how easily he was able to read her.

“I know he wasn’t lying.” She stated, crossing her legs in her seat. “He saw, or believed he saw what he said.”

Ichabod handed Abbie a glass of wine, and pulled up a seat as she filled him in on some of the things Tommy told her. He heard very little. For the life of him he couldn’t stop watching her mouth, the magical way her lips opened and closed around various syllables. Unable to stop thinking of the way he’d felt when those same lips opened and closed around his.  

“I know what you’re thinking.” She said looking over at him.

“Do you?” He questioned, blank faced.

“That I just want to believe him because his story isn’t that far off from mine and Jenny’s. Kid in the woods, sees something that couldn’t possibly be real…but you had to see his face.”

“I needn’t.” He disagreed. “I can see the look upon yours. Your belief in him is all the convincing I need. Moreover,” he cautiously added, “those are not the thoughts occupying my mind.”

Abbie almost choked on the wine she was swallowing. She placed her glass to the table and stared off. It didn’t take long for her to realize that not looking at him wasn’t enough to escape the feeling that his eyes were piercing her skin. Even though they were sitting at the table she instantly felt as though she was back across the room holding up the wall. She wasn’t ready to talk about it, and he wasn’t ready to let it go. So much had already taken place today, her emotions felt expanded, and pressed in against one another. It was too difficult to feel the difference between them all. His questions and declarations still echoed through her mind, but she wasn’t equipped to respond. Too much had already been said that couldn’t be unsaid, she didn’t want to add to it.

She brought her eyes from the table cloth, only to find his glare as claiming, and unapologetic as it was when she looked away. There was something almost predatory in it, and the same thing that causes her resent it attracts her to it. The feeling that she needed run and seek cover to protect herself, the feeling that she couldn’t move. Four seconds. Four seconds of looking into his eyes was enough to make her feel more emotion than some men had elicited throughout the duration of their entire relationship. How in the hell did he manage to make her feel so happy, and angry, bitter, safe, aroused, and afraid all in the same instance. He had too much of her. She thought back to the girl from last year. The one that couldn’t manage to go two hours without thinking of him. The one who had to force herself to eat because everything tasted bland. The one who didn’t realize she’d given too much of herself away until it was too late. She wasn’t her anymore.

Abbie spoke just as the tension from the silence started to feel too thick.

“He went in there to impress a girl you know.” She stated lightheartedly, trying to redirect the conversation.

“I beg your pardon.” Ichabod replied unfazed.

“Tommy.” She said. “One of the neighborhood kids told everyone that he was afraid of the dark, and he was worried the girl he liked believed it.”

Abbie shook her head as her mind flashed to the adorable umber skinned girl who’d moved into the neighborhood a few months back. Since then there had been a massive increase in injury to the boy population due to everything from stunt jumps from garage roofs to attempted tricks off of skateboard ramps they should have known were too high.

“So you’re telling me that the entire neighborhood is looking for you because you’re trying to impress girl?” She had asked him on the walk back.   “Oh Tommy.” She’d snickered shaking her head.

“I’m sorry Abbie, honest. I just didn’t want her to think I was a chicken.”

“Don’t sorry me, I know your mama, you’ll be lucky to get off the front porch after this.” She’d joked.

Ichabod recalled the way everyone lit up when Abbie emerged from the woods with Tommy at her side. He looked on as she accepted hugs from the parents and concerned neighbors. Only those closest to her knew how uncomfortable it made her feel. He’d watched her receive hugs from grateful citizens what felt like a thousand times before, but no one seemed to hold her as tightly as a parent whose child was safely returned. Unfortunately their hugs only served to remind her of the parents whose children she couldn’t bring back. That was the tally that haunted her, the one she never forgot.

He’d listened to her speak with Tommy before they met with the Department of Environmental Conservation.

“Thanks again Abbie.” The boy chimed as Abbie stood in front of him. “When I grow up, I’m going to be a hero just like you.”

“I think you’re going to be a hero in your own right Tommy, but you have to grow up first.” She stated. “You remember what we talked about?” She asked in reference to her telling him to never allow himself to be goaded into doing something he didn’t want to do again.

“I remember.” He said.

“Okay, stuff like this is going to happen a lot in coming years. You know who you are right?”

“Right.” He agreed.

“That’s all that matters.” She smiled. She caught the neighborhood kids out of the corner of her eye, including Josh the boy who challenged him, and Shay the girl he the liked.

“Well Tommy Tran, you are one of the BRAVEST people I’ve ever met,” She said letting her voice carry, “And I know a lot of brave men and women. Not many people would have acted as courageously as you tonight. Good job.” She added with a wink. Tommy’s eyes lit up, grin cheesing from ear to ear as he turned to see his friends listening in.

“Hey Tommy, I heard chased off a mountain lion.” One of the kids exclaimed as Ichabod and Abbie met with the DEC.

Ichabod sat across from Abbie trying to listen to her. Nights like this one only seemed to strengthen his fascination with her. She was talking, but it wasn’t in the usual way. He reasoned she was going on and on to fill the quiet between them. A distraction. As if there was anything she could say that could make him unaware of how beautiful she was. Of how brightly her eyes were shining, soft smoked hickory pools with pieces of star fragments inside them. He didn’t know if it was the dim overhead lighting, or the simple truth that she’d gone out searching for a lost boy and brought him home, whatever the case it was a luminescence like he had never witnessed before. He felt himself a better man simply having borne witness to it.   He watches her stretch and relax her body while lifting her legs into her chair, folding and crossing them in front of one another. There are worse lives for a chair he imagines, the one before him has been so lucky as to provide a repose for a goddess. This simple configuration of stained wood had already realized the very dream he had for his life’s entirety. He wanted to be it.

“Did you see his face when she walked over to him?” Abbie asked, gently peeling Ichabod from his thoughts.

“I’m telling you he would have done it all. over. again, lions and all.” Abbie commented with soft laugh before he could respond.  

“The risk one assumes in the pursuit of love.” Ichabod said softly. His demeanor and low reflective tone diffused the air of humor leaving behind an awkward silence in its wake. It would have been easier to brush off were he not looking at her the way he was, a fondness in his eyes she had only noticed when he looked at her. It was this look that often caused people to believe that their relationship was something other than a friendship. That sometimes made Jenny and Joe feel like they were interrupting something when they came into a room. Abbie swallows feeling the world stop, her hands once fidgeting with the denim covering her crisscrossed legs go still. She feels paralyzed.

Like prey.

Almost as if he knows it, his hand wraps around the leg of her chair and yanks it to his. Her body quickly jerks forward and back from the force of it, but stops as the outside of her knees brush against the inside of his. He has her attention. A soft grunt leaves her lips as his kiss finds it. Quiet breathy moans mixed with the sound of soft smacking noises as they tried to suckle every drop of passion from one another’s lips. By the time his tongue slips inside of her mouth every part of her body feels feather brushed. Ichabod’s hands were fisted around the back of her wooden chair, gripping so tightly it was a wonder the stiles hadn’t broken. Her soft coo found his ear just as he lowered his hands to her waist pulling her closer to him and deeper into their kiss. Abbie was halfway to his lap when a warning bell went off in her head sending her jumping to her feet.

Ichabod stood to join her gasping out her name.

His hands sought hers but she quickly separated them and stepped back away from him nearly knocking over the chair in the process. She couldn’t have been more disappointed with herself, and her lack of control where he was concerned. One moment she was sitting at the table, and the next she was seconds from undressing him. She hated the fact that she had been ridin’ with her body her entire life, fed it, clothed it, bathed it, but when he came around it acted like she wasn’t shit. Like he was in charge.

“Come here.” He huffed, reaching out his hand to her and of course her stupid ass leg took a step in his direction.

“No.” She said while taking it. “I mean” she shook her head taking a moment to get mind and body on the same page. “We should…it’s late.” She stated, still trying to put some space between them.  

“Yes, but I’m not fatigued.” He said taking a step forward, breathing heavily. “I’ve never felt more awake.” His uttered with so much bass in his voice she literally felt her labia expand.

“Crane.” She stated looking down at the floor. His hand slipped around her waist. After a moment she mustered up the strength to firmly push it off. He looks surprised by her abrasiveness, but apologetic nonetheless.

“Oh. Apologies.” He says finding his manners, and taking a step back. “May we talk? About earlier?” He asked. “About this?” He added quietly.

“I…I don’t think I can right now. I shouldn’t have kissed you.” She said finding the strength to meet his eyes. She paused allowing a sigh to slip from her lips as she noted his disappointment. “I’m sorry. Night.” She turned and started up the stairs.  

“Abbie.” She heard him call softly from behind her.

Damn. Her muscles froze and she stopped in her tracks.

When she turned to face him she realized she’d never seen eyes pleading in the way his did in that moment. Her chest tightened, heart aching to see him that way. She could see that he was hurting, and the only thing she ever wanted to do when he was hurt was take care of him.

Ichabod climbed up a few of the steps fighting like hell to keep his hands to himself. The last time he tried to touch her he’d gotten his feelings hurt.     

“Can we just…can we just leave it here.” She stated before he had a chance to say anything.  

“By all means,” He replied after a moment, not quite sure what he was agreeing to. He only knew that he didn’t want to bother her.

“Apologies again.” He added as she turned to continue her trek. He understood she’d been through a lot, maybe all of this was too much too quickly for her. But watching her step up the staircase was somehow symbolic of all that he’d been though as well. This place they were in was torture. And no matter how many times he’d promised God that he only wanted her back, now that she was home, he wanted more. He wanted her, and he didn’t know how he would survive the night not knowing whether any part of her wanted him in return. He needed to know.

“May I ask what,” He blurted out just as she reached the top of the stairs. He forced his restless fingers behind his back as he gathered his words. “What does this mean?” He asked trying to disguise the tremble radiating through his chest.

Abbie sighed, eyes growing watery.  Her mouth opened several seconds before she spoke. “I don’t know.”

He pursed his lips together, nodding his head as if he understood, he didn’t. His heart sank at the sound of her bedroom door closing. He’d lost her, he was sure of it.

 


 

The next day he awoke upon the couch. The light beaming in through the living room window immediately made him aware he’d slept well past his usual hour. He had no idea what ungodly hour mercy found him and allowed him sleep, but he suspected the sun had been close to rising before his lids finally fell shut. He glanced around the room as he found his footing, briefly closing his eyes through a quiet yawn. The first thing he noticed was her keys missing from the rack across the room. His suspicions were confirmed when he realized her jacket was gone as well. He called a few times throughout the day. Once to inform her that he had prepared lunch, and again at dinner. She didn’t answer and never responded. The third time he called he was a little more honest about the reason for his call.

“Yes Lieutenant—Abbie,” he stuttered, before bowing his head while hugging his free arm around his midsection. He leaned against the wall. “I am phoning to inquire as to when you might return home for the evening. I…rather hoped that we might find time to…” He closed his eyes tightly, who was he kidding. “Abbie please come home.”

She didn’t. Meanwhile his mind, the one he’d nurtured and strengthened with reason and books throughout his life turned on him.

Why would she want you? What use could you possibly be to a woman such as that? You’re tall to be sure, but not quite long enough to reach that high. Aim lower. Surely you took note of her clothing when she returned home yesterevening. You realize she’s with him again. This is why she hasn’t the time to return your calls. Perhaps the next time you leave home you will see to it that you fasten the latch upon the front door. Some else has slipped inside and made themselves comfortable, quite possibly resting inside of your little home as we speak.  

The glass he’s cleaning breaks inside of his clenching fist sending tiny bits of it digging into his hand. “God’s wounds.” He mutters, tossing the broken pieces into the sink.

He cleaned himself up, along with the mess. When hours passed by he began to worry for her safety, at least that’s what he told himself when he texted her their secret code, the one only to be invoked to ascertain the safety of the other witness.

Joe sat in the living room of the cabin looking at the closed door to the bedroom. He had hoped he and Jenny could have a romantic, quiet, weekend, but the universe had other plans. Somehow he’d become a third wheel, and Jenny and Abbie were sharing the quiet weekend. They had spent the majority of the day before cuddled up in bed. Talking, he assumed, occasionally laughing, snoozing and doing loon calls—he still didn’t know what the fuck that was about.

When Abbie showed up at the door this morning to return his shirt he knew today would be much of the same. He’d just finished pouring Jenny a glass of mimosa when he watched Abbie’s car pull up out front.

“Hey” She smiled, handing him his shirt. “Oooh, mimosas” She sang taking the champagne glass from his hand, and downing it. “Oh my God I needed that. Is there more?” She asked looking around.

“Uh yeah. Let me get you a”

“—Got it!” She said, plucking the bottle of champagne from the table and taking a swig.

“Or you could just,” He stood watching her gulp down a few more swigs, “beast it, okay.”

“Mmm, this is yummy.” Abbie said turning the bottle around to see the label. “What is this?”

“Oh, just Armand de Brignac, Ace of”

“—Whatever it is its good.”

“Hey!” Jenny beamed peeking her head outside of the bedroom.

“Morning!” Abbie returned cheerfully. “Oh!” She suddenly exclaimed realizing by Jenny’s t-shirt and panties ensemble that she might be interrupting. “And the champagne, I’m interrupting.”

“NO! Of course not, get over here.” Jenny smiled, pulling her sister into a hug. Joe’s mouth gaped open, eyes narrowing on Jenny as she flashed puppy dog eyes at him and mouthed ten minutes.

Joe woke up on the couch and looked at his phone. That was ten hours ago! Earlier he’d gone out and gotten everyone food and they didn’t even have the courtesy to eat it with him. Took their sandwiches, the other bottle of champagne and went back into their little hideout. This was a load of bullshit, and he was about to let Jenny know he wasn’t putting up with it the moment she came out of the bedroom.

“Oh my God! Abbie said untangling herself from her sister’s arms and jumping to her feet. “I can’t believe I slept that long. This bed is so comfy.” She remarked noticing it was beginning to get dark outside.

“Mmm.”   Jenny said stretching awake. Her eyes widened, hand covering her open mouth when she saw the time. “Oh my God! You’re gonna be in so much trouble.” Jenny said sitting up on her hunches.

“Me?!” Abbie questioned. “How can I be in trouble, I don’t owe anyone anything.” Abbie commented before tilting her head in the direction of the door. “You’re the one in trouble.”

“You’re fucking kidding right, I’m surprised he hasn’t tracked you down by now.” Jenny said sitting to her bottom. “He’s already proven he can find your ass anywhere.”  

“Now that you mention it, it is kind of funny that he hasn’t called.” Abbie reasoned reaching into her jacket for her phone. “My phone!” She said eyes bugging out of her head, retracing her steps trying to remember where she’d left it. “The car! I left it, in the car.” She said growing quiet.

Ohhh, Ohhh trouble, trouble, trouble.” Jenny sang and bobbed to the tune of Taylor Swift. She laughed as her sister rolled her eyes, and leaned over to hug her.

“See you later.” Abbie sighed before grabbing her bag with her running gear. She’d stayed so long she’d showered and changed back into Joe’s t shirt, along with a pair of tights she’d left there ages ago. Jenny said she didn’t have to worry about it, but she didn’t want to lay in their bed in the clothes she’d been out running in.

On her way out, she bent over the back of the couch and wrapped her arms around Joe.

“Later Joey.” She said kissing his cheek, and ruffling his hair. “Thanks for everything.”

“Yeah thanks for everything.” He half grumbled, half smirked while shaking his head. “Hey Abbie” He called just as she got to the door. “Anytime.” He nodded. She smiled and stepped outside.

“You’re so sweet.” Jenny said standing in the doorway.

“Un uhn, you, I’m mad at.” He said, eyes tracing her bare legs.

“What? Why!” She teased, slinking over to him. “What did I do, I was just trying to be a good sister.”

“Don’t. Don’t play me Jenny.” He stated as she nestled in beside him, slipping her hands up his abdomen. “Just hit me with the hard truth, I’m number two aren’t I.”

“Sweetie.” She said caressing his chin.

“It’s okay, I’m strong enough to take it, just tell me. Say Joe, I love you but you’re number two, and you’re always going to be number two, and I’ll adjust, I’ll prepare myself for it.”

“I can’t say that Joe.” She said.

“Oh, I almost forgot. The L word, you don’t say that one.”

“Well actually,” Jenny said wrapping her arms around his neck, “I was thinking I don’t want to say that because you might not always be number two.”

“Really?” He asked eyes lighting up.

“Really.” She smiled. “Because you see, I do love you Joe.”

“Oh my God! Baby you said it.” He said kissing her lips. “You love me?” He whispered.

“I do.” She smiled. “So much so that maybe one day in the future, a long, long ways into the future we might have a baby.”

“A baby?” He breathed, barely able to allow himself to dream.

“Mmm-hmm. And then you’ll be number…three.” She said matter a factly. “So I can’t promise that you’ll always be number two.

“Oh that’s cold.” He said, wrapping his arms around her. “That’s so cold.” He smiled.

“Don’t ask for truths you don’t really want to hear.” She giggled. “Your phone’s going off.” She said nodding in the direction of the coffee table.

“It’s Crane.” He said looking down at his screen. He mouth dropped open as he looked over the text. “He wants to know if he can stay at the cabin for a few nights.”

Jenny busted out laughing. “Ooooh he is mad.” She snickered. “Let me see.” She smiled taking his phone.

Of course, come on over. You can stay as long as you want. She texted back.

“Are you kidding me?” Joe sulked when saw her reply. “You could have at least told him to go to your place. I’ve been waiting for two days to be alone with you.”  

“Relax, you will. Abbie’s on her way home, he’ll never show.” She declared.

“Oh, is that so?” Joe asked raising his brows.

“Yep.” She chirped. He shook his head.

“The arrogance.”

“What?!” Jenny exclaimed, neck rolling back.

“You heard me.” He countered.

“I’m just stating a fact. How’s that arrogant?” Jenny exclaimed. “There’s not a snowballs chance in hell that Ichabod Crane is going to come walking through that door.” She maintained. “I’d state my life on it.”  

“Wow?” Joe said, eyes flaring wide. “Mills women.” He sighed, exasperated. “You guys think you can just keep people waiting, and they’ll just accept it because, I mean yeah clearly you guys are smart, and charming.” Jenny rose to her knees and crawled into his lap “And you’ve got soft skin, and smell so good,” He added inhaling deeply.   “Big eyes, and curly hair, smells like coconut” he muttered quietly. He slid his hands up her thighs, looking down at them as his palms came to rest on her bottom.

“He isn’t coming is he?” He asked, throat dry.

“No baby.” She said quietly before kissing his neck. My sister’s on her way home, which means Ichabod isn’t going anywhere…and neither are you.” She whispered overtaking his lips.

 

The moment Ichabod received Abbie’s text and realized she was safe, he texted Joe and started packing.

Abbie followed the road, mind assaulted with memories of the kiss she and Ichabod shared the night before. The way his long fingers clasped around her, how aroused she felt from the weight of his body pressing her against the wall. The exhilaration that raced through her when he abruptly drug her chair across the ground, and smooched his lips to hers. Her stomach fluttered, and jumped about as she shifted in her seat feeling her heart rate increase.  

Fifteen minutes later she was walking through the side door. She set her things down and looked around the empty kitchen. She noticed he had cleaned up, the scent subtle scent of the cleanser they used to mop the floor still filled the air.

“Crane?” She called checking to see if he was home. As she made her way through the dining room an envelope with her name written across it caught her attention. She lifted it from its position resting against the centerpiece.

My Dearest Lieutenant,

I can only hope that you find it in your heart to forgive my behavior yesterday evening. Reason has always reined within me, or in the very least it has in the past. However I must now force myself to admit that your presence unlocks a space in me that knows no such rationality, and I confess myself utterly unpracticed in being guided by such passions. Regretfully the fear of having lost you has only increased my inability to contain them. Today after much reflection I could see the error in my ways. I am aware how uncomfortable my advances toward you have caused you to feel. It is not my intention to make you feel such discomfort anywhere, least of all within the confines of your own home. For that I am unspeakably apologetic.

The simple truth is, I love you. I love you Lieutenant and I cannot begin to envision a future in which I will not.

Yesterday evening when I questioned as to whether any opportunity for us to expand our relationship existed, you never replied. I understand that you relayed to me that you are uncertain what all of this means. But I believe you are certain in your desires, and the only uncertainty lies in conveying them to me. After having shared close quarters with you these past years I have come to know you better than most Abigail Mills. I have stood beside you in the produce section and watched you rap your knuckles upon a melon in search of that thick, hollow sound signifying that it was perfect for eating. At least perfect for you. I’ve watched you deliberating between the different pitches. I saw the same look of deliberation upon face last evening.

I have witnessed the lengths you go to in an effort to protect the hearts of those you care for. You have been a most true, and loyal friend. I shall endeavor to be the same by gleaning your meaning from your actions, and not requiring you to tell me that I have been found wanting, and left upon the shelf. I am deeply sorry to have placed you in such a predicament to begin with, to have placed us in such a predicament. Still I remain confident that our bond can and will endure. It will, however, require modification and time on my behalf. As of now, even as I sit with pen in hand I cannot guarantee that my advances would not immediately resume were you to walk through the door. Accordingly it is best that I reside elsewhere until I have fashioned myself with the composure to occupy the same space as you without becoming overcome with the desire to express my affection. You should not be made to avoid your residence because of my inability to comport myself in a respectable manner.

Should you need me, I pray you shall have no difficulty in reaching me upon my cellular device, in the alternative you shall find me lodging at Master Corbin’s cabin.

Yours, most affectionately,

Ichabod Crane.

She looked up from the table at the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs, it was only then that she took notice of the grey suitcase beside the sofa. He moved briskly though the living room stopping midstride just as he reached for his luggage handle.

“Lieutenant.”

Abbie watched his eyes syncing with the surprise registered in his voice. He abandoned the handle and straightened his posture.

“Crane.” She returned, a wad of emotions beating through her. His mouth stretched open at the sight of her holding his letter, but nothing came out. After a few moments it became clear that he wasn’t going to speak so she did.

“You think I want you to go?” She asked, placing the letter on the table. He swallowed, fighting the urge to bow his head or look away.

“I,” He sighed. “Lieutenant I believe that I have made things difficult for you.” He replied.

“You have.” She agreed, raising to her feet. “But that doesn’t answer my question.”

When she was gone he couldn’t remember what had made him act so boldly, so foolishly. He had placed all fifty-two of his cards upon the table, and she hadn’t even began shuffling hers. Now she held them all. He had convinced himself that leaving her in peace for a while was the right thing to do. But seeing her, dark curls hanging loosely around the face that strengthened his faith. Full, soft, lips, doorways to the voice that brightened his day, all of that had a way of making him care a little less about the idea of right and wrong.

“Do you?”   He breathed. “Wish me to go?”

“After three years you should know the answer to that?” She replied walking closer to him.

“Should I?” He inquired, showing the beginnings of his irritation. “When you refuse to answer my call, essientialy refusing to speak to me. Should I know because you avoid my presence?”

“I accidentally left my phone in the car.” She said staring up into his eyes. “It was irresponsible. I’m sorry I worried you, but you have done the same before. Listen.” She said, glancing down at his suitcase. “We’re friends, of course I want you here.”

His hand is hallway to her wrist before he catches himself, and places it back to his side. Echoes of her asking him not to touch her yesterday traipsing through his head. He stands closer though, and her body immediately feels the effects of his proximity.   She looked away, taking a step back.

“Is that the summation of what I am to you…a friend?”  He asked, voice smooth and deep. He was more afraid now than ever before. The second he saw her he realized how terribly he’d tricked himself. How could he ever be around her and not want her.

“I have tried. I simply cannot do it. I know longer know how to separate them Abbie, all of the different ways in which I love you.”

“Crane,” She breathes, growing teary eyed. A rough hand slipped up the underside of her elbow as he surrendered to his longing.   

“Abbie, please. When I am with you…” He took a small breath knowing he would never be able to tell her how it made him feel. “I know what I felt yesterday evening…did you not feel it too.”

“—Crane I can’t.”

“I can.” He replied swiftly.

“You can what?”

“Do whatever you deem necessary for us to be together.” He pledged letting his hands grab hold of her waist. “I am willing to do all that it takes, whatever I must and so much more. I need you.” He said quietly. Abbie stood there fighting through the urge to give in, to open the gates and tell him how much she needed him too. It only became harder as he lowered his head to hers.

“I know I’ve made mistakes…I know I’ve hurt you.” He whispered as his nose grazed the side of her temple. His fingers slipped up to own every inch of her neck, hairs she didn’t know she had stood on end as his soft breath met with the side of her cheek.

“I pray that is the reason you’ve hidden yourself away from me.” He said pressing a soft kiss against the corner of her lips. A chill slid up his spine when he felt how heavily she was breathing in reaction to his presence. Emboldened he tightened his grip around her.

“That you’re hurt, that you’re frightened.” He whispered returning to that spot at the corner of her lips.

“The only other reasonable explanation is that you do not feel the same. The thought of it destroys me.” He explained. “To think that you don’t want me.” He breathed, dipping down to suckle her bottom lip. “To think that you do not want this.” He added dragging, and sealing his lips across hers. He listened to the soft moan escape her lips, as her fingers tightening around his shirt. He had goose-bumps everywhere in reaction to her soft kisses.

Abbie hadn’t been able to stop thinking about doing just this since the moment he first kissed her. She eagerly opened her mouth to him, accepting and tasting his tongue and lips with anxious enthusiasm. Fire grew up through her chest, he was too damned good at this. His kisses were gentle enough to make her feel special, and cared for, but strong enough remind her of the danger in allowing herself to feel that way. They paused for breath and she quickly pushed herself away trying to gather her thoughts.

“I have…”

“—Please don’t.” He said rapidly. He had no intention of entertaining whatever rationale she put forth regarding the necessity of her being anywhere but here. “This silence between us, wounds me. Stop hiding. Abbie, talk to me.” He begged.  

She looked up at him, quickly shaking her head from side to side, her lips tightened together as she tried to stave off tears. This was the entire problem with him, and she couldn’t understand how he couldn’t see it. She couldn’t understand how someone so loving and caring could be so selfish. His wounds, that’s what he was concerned about. His disappearing act fucked her.

Maybe no one knew by looking at her, but her scabs were small, and fresh, barely able to pull together the edges of her own giant wounds, but by God they were there. And he wanted to rip them off. He wanted to reopen everything that hurt, because he was ready now. Now. He had this endearing way about him, this ability get his way with her when he wanted it. No one else had that—his way of getting close undetected. He almost should have come with some kind of safety warning, like the ones on passenger side mirrors, objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. He always was, and she didn’t know how to handle it. After all this time she still hadn’t learned how to handle him, the way he spoke, the things he said…the way his words made her feel. He had a way of making her stand and be present in moments she had no desire to take part in. He wanted to talk, so now they would talk. After nine months of dead, fucking, silence he had things to say. After nine months of missing him and wondering how he was faring, wondering how he was getting by, or keeping time…of wondering if he missed her as much as she missed him. On the worst nights she wondered if he missed her at all. She prayed for him every day, not every other day or almost every day, every-single-day. Not the prayers and thanks she prayed for herself, the ones halfheartedly mumbled up to the ceiling, No, the ‘God I really need for you to hear me’ waking in the middle of the night and getting down on her knees type of prayers. Ironically after all that praying a part of her wanted to tell him to go straight to hell.

But that was the other problem. He had already been—for her—and she knew in her heart if she were ever trapped there again he would return. The dichotomy of Ichabod Crane frazzled her mind. He was selfless and selfish, resilient and fragile, there were merciless parts of him, but also parts of him so sweet and soft. And at the end of the day, if she was in trouble it wasn’t even a question that he would do whatever necessary to help her. The day Danny was stung by the Soucouyant, he was the one she instinctively called before Danny ripped the phone from her hands. Even though she had the situation under control, Ichabod was still pissed when she first arrived at the archives with Danny cuffed and screaming. He petitioned her to tell him what occurred three times before she finally snapped letting him know that Danny was dying, and she didn’t have time to go through it right now.

“Did he,” He paused placing a hand to her arm, “Did he strike you?” He asked already displaying his anger at the thought of it.

“No.” She’d responded.

He loved her. Prior to last night she wasn’t clued in to the exact manner in which he loved her, but she always knew he did, long before he ever left. That’s why it was so hard for her to let go. The people who never cared about her were the easiest to forget, it was always the ones that did that kept her up at night. She didn’t know that he was ready to hear the truth any more than she was ready to voice it, but somehow in this moment the truth seemed to be the only thing she felt capable of speaking. She untangled herself from his arms and looked up at him.

“Abbie.” He says, once again looking down into her soft brown irises.  

“I wanted to—talk…for months.” She informed him. “But you disappeared, you left...” She pauses a moment, reining in the unsteadiness in her voice. She sniffles in an effort to keep her nose from running and drags a shaky finger beneath her nose.  

“And when you did, you took something from me…I don’t know exactly how to name it or how to describe it, but you took it with you.” She said through a thickness necessary to keep from crying. “And I was left here with all of these feelings…and this emptiness that I didn’t know what to do with, and I didn’t know how to fill.”

His face falls as he watches tears slip from her eyes, heart sinking to his stomach as he listens to the soft sniffles and whimpers that he would wage war to quiet.

“I have neverfelt that way before.” She cried, remembering how hurt she was. “I have never been lonely for a man in my entire life, and when you left, I was lonely.” She spat out as if the words disgusted her, as if she didn’t quite believe or understand it herself.

“You made me lonely for you, and you never checked in, not once.” She cried voice cracking, “How could you do that and stand here and say you care about me?”

“Treasure I do.” Ichabod said solemnly. “There is nothing in all of God’s creation that I love more.” He said slowly, eyes wet with tears. “I never meant harm.”

“I believe that, but it doesn’t change the fact that I was hurt. Beyond hurt, my entire spirit changed,” She explained wiping away tears. “I’m not going to let anything make me feel that way again. Not ever.”

He reached for her but she threw her hands up in front of her to keep him at bay.

“No.” She spit out through a tearful glare.

“Very well.” Ichabod said raising his hands as an act of submission. The moment she let her guard down and started to step away he extended an arm and pulled her into his embrace. She groaned at his trickery, unable to believe she’d fallen for it.

“No,” she whimpered, trying to shove him away, but he wouldn’t budge. Even if only as a friend, she needed his arms around her as much as he needed her inside of them. He held on to her through pushing and pulling, and when she finally twisted herself free, his arms surrounded her from behind. Her elbows shot back, delivering sharp pokes into his abdomen. They hurt but not even a fraction of the pain he felt hearing her cry.  

“Lieutenant, stop. Abbie stop it!” He pled tightening his arms around her, trying to keep hold.

“Crane let go, just let go!” She cried, before she finally stopped struggling and relaxed in his arms. “Please.” She whimpered.

“I can’t.” He whispered. “Please don’t make me.” He begged as her head fell back against his chest. “Please don’t make me.” He closed his eyes and pressed his lips to the top of her head squeezing her as her body shook from silent sobs. They stood quietly that way a moment, until Ichabod dropped his head low and whispered into her ear.

“Do you still wish to be released?”

After a few seconds of quiet, she slowly turned around to face him. Just the sight of her pain filled his eyes with the same liquid that had been falling from hers. He embosomed her against his chest and wrapped his arms around her.     

“Forgive me.” He begged, voice weighted with gravel. They needed each other, that much was long clear, but when she was trapped in purgatory he quickly took on a new awareness of their bond. When it occurred, her imprisonment there was the worst time in his life, and he didn’t feel that sense of anguish again until she disappeared into Pandora’s tree. It wasn’t easy for him when he was away. But as hard as it was on him, he knew it was worse for her, because she was the one who was left behind. Nothing made him understand that more than her leaving.  

The more he thought of it the tighter he held her, her form flattened against him to the point he was certain she could hear every beat of the heart she owned. The fragrance of her body lotion hit him like an unblocked blow, sending him barreling back to his time away. More specifically to the night her face woke him from his sleep, and refused to allow him to return. He dressed and went out into the night, and somehow wound up scouring the isles of three different 24 hour drugstores until he found it.

“Is that it?” The clerk asked, looking down at the lotion. Ichabod peered over the checkout counter at the short, heavy set gentlemen. For some reason he couldn’t tear his eyes away from his work vest, two of the buttons were missing, and a third looked as if it were barely holding on.

“Sir?” The gentleman asked.

“Oh yes, apologies.” He said just as he’d spotted an Almond Joy candy bar out of the corner of his eye. It was her favorite. She had this thing for almonds, and coconut, and chocolate. He recalled her testimony that those three things could make just about anything better, and in combination they could heal the world, she’d said. He quickly thought back to the day she leaned over the armrest and held the oblong treat to his mouth to prove her point. He bit off half of it, lips accidently grazing her fingertips as he did so.

She smiled. “See.” She said as he watched her take the other portion into her mouth.

“Quite.” He swallowed, leveled.

“This as well.” He quickly said grabbing the candy from a box at the checkout.

The clerk glared at him as if it was an imposition, but rang it in.

He ate the candy on the walk home, thinking about the clerk’s missing buttons, wondering how long the vest would hold together without them. Wondering how long he might hold together without her. He’d slathered the lotion all over his hands and forearms the moment he’d arrived home, only to feel an indescribable emptiness when it failed to smell like her. He didn’t take it for granted now as he held her. This clean, intoxicating, induplicable scent that seeped from the pores of this induplicable little woman.

Minutes slip by and they were still unmoved. His arms gathered around her, while her face lay flat against his chest. The fabric of his shirt dampened by her tears, while he’d baptized her with a few of his own. He lowered his head to hers, biting the inside of his lip, a small self-inflicted punishment as he grappled with his actions. Even though he’d only revealed his love for her yesterday, he barely remembered the coward who held his tongue. Abbie was the highlight of his existence, and though convincing her of that isn’t easy, he makes the effort.

So she leaned against him listening to his I love yous, and heartfelt apologies, spoken in soft, honeyed tones. He pleads for a chance to set things right, and promises not hurt her again. When he rubbed his hands up her back, and pressed his lips against her head, it was hard not to believe him.  

“Ugh.” She sighs before taking a quiet broken breath. Her tears had dried but she wiped her eyes to make sure. She could’ve kicked herself for allowing him to see her this way. It’s too late now though, he knew. That her skin wasn’t as thick as she pretended, that she’s something that could be fractured and shattered. She steps back trying to create a little space, and he grants it, but keeps a hand to her, praying that she’s heard his words.   Knowing well that she wasn’t something he could afford to lose, he hadn’t enough left in him to cover the cost.

After a moment his palm slips down her forearm in chase of her fingers, he breathes a little easier when she allows them to be caught. He seizes them inside of his hands before bringing them to his lips. Still he’s careful with her, the moment’s fraught with hesitation and unvoiced emotions. He’d heard what she’s said, but more importantly what she hadn’t. She’d said nothing of the nature of her feelings, nothing of love, only of the hurt and pain he’d caused. He reaches down tucking a tendril of loose hair behind her ear, caressing the skin beneath her jaw as he pulls her forehead to his lips.

Abbie recognizes that he’s said I love you like a dozen times already, and she’s said nothing. She jostled her fingers from his palm until she is the hand holder instead of the one whose hand is being held.  

The worst thoughts trickled through his head as he followed her soft steps to the couch. After all, she’s still cloaked in another man’s clothing. He sits beside her at her direction, heart pounding through the boundless mixture of excitement and dread running through his veins. Abbie moved a pillow out of the way, and bent one leg beneath the other as she got comfortable.

His finger traced the hem of her t shirt, staring at it musingly before he realizes what he’s doing.    

“I spent a lot of time at Jenny’s.” She said dryly. “Last night, and today.  I actually spilled something on my shirt, and borrowed one of Joe’s.”

“Oh Lieutenant.” He groaned, acting as if he had no issue with her coming home wearing different clothing after leaving with Danny. “I certainly…”

Abbie’s no-nonsense glare silenced him midsentence, her eyes reminding him that he couldn’t pretend with her. She already knew how severely it bothered him when he forgot all of his manners and upbringing and flat out asked her if she’d fucked Danny.

“I did not mean to overstep.” He said quietly.

“—Really?” She asked, an eyebrow inclined. A quiet poutiness covers his face as he looks at her.

“Look I’m telling you this because it’s the truth.” She stated. Whether he liked it or not there would be many truths that followed. Some he probably didn’t care to hear.  

She told him how she had gone to have a drink with Danny so the two of them could hash everything out. Then she told him how in the middle of their conversation Danny had placed a little black box upon the table between them. Not any black box, one that she’d seen months before tucked away into a drawer at their little rental on the beach. One that was home to a beautiful diamond engagement ring that she’d felt a little guilty for discovering too soon.  She pauses, noticing Ichabod’s leg has taken on a speedy bounce, and urgent one like he has somewhere to be but is too polite to stop her from yammering on.

He had wondered for some time about the depth of her relationship with Mr. Reynolds, but was too afraid to broach the subject again. He had a sinking suspicion that their relationship had taken on a sexual nature, he simply tried not to think about it. He knew the way her touch felt, the way her fingers gripped his back, and sent shivers down his spine every time they hugged. The way her head resting against his chest during said hugs made him feel like the king of the world without so much as a nickel in his pocket. Now hearing her speak he wondered if she held Mr. Reynolds the same way. He wondered if she still cared for him. He wondered how he could have been so foolish and errant in his decisions as to allow another to weasel in and suppose they could ask his Abbie for her hand in marriage. He’s toppled, angry, hurt.

“You okay.” Abbie asked glancing down at his shaking leg. “If you don’t have time to talk right now, we could do it another time.”

“—Oh, no, of course not.” Ichabod responds placing a hand to his knee as if to stop it from moving.

In truth it’s difficult to listen to, the mere mention of her with another man sets his insides aflame. When things were quiet on the apocalypse front, which was hardly ever, his Abbie went to work and came home. Normally they sought entertainment together but when they didn’t she still generally stuck to the same routine. She went to a movie, or a ballgame, and sometimes went out for drinks with her sister, then she came home—alone.   That was precisely how he’d pictured her his entire time away. Alone. Not on a beach. Not on a beach with a man. Not on a beach with a man who thought that he knew enough of her to propose marriage. The grizzle of his jaw tightens.

“Crane?” She asked. “You still here?”

“Oh,” He said finding his way back to himself. “I beg your pardon, please proceed.” He states, attempting to bring his emotions under control.

Abbie eyed him eerily, but went on. She told him how she’d actually discovered the ring the last night she and Danny’s were on holiday. He had gone into town for food, and Abbie was packing a few things up when she found it. That night when he spoke about them, about how wonderfully everything was going, and how it just felt right, she quickly cut in making it a point to suggest that they both keep focused on their careers. Before Danny had a chance to ask she made it clear in so many words that she wasn’t in a place in her life to settle down with anyone.

“And.” Abbie sighed, looking over at Ichabod. “When I thought back on it recently, I felt like such a coward and a liar, because I knew when I said it that it wasn’t true. Somehow the moment I saw the ring that another person bought for me, the only thing I could think about was you.” She confessed, her expression displaying the same confusion she felt when her eyes first settled upon the ring, and Ichabod’s face flashed through her mind. She’d thought after all those months she was over it, that she was over him, and that moment had made it clear that she might not ever be. How could she never be over someone she never really had?

Air Ichabod never realized he was missing flooded his lungs in a heavy gasp. He perked up considerably considering that just moments before he felt positively weak listening to her speak of her time with Mr. Reynolds. Now a small smile pulls the corners of his lips half up before he realized Abbie’s face wasn’t smiling or happy at all, quite the opposite in fact.

Abbie wasn’t perfect, she knew, but she tried to be honest and forthright…she tried to tell the truth. Until that day on the beach she’d never realized how overwhelming her lies had become.

I don’t love Crane, she would tell herself. Okay so I love him, like as a friend but I’m not in love with him, we’re witnesses, partners, we look out for one another, watch each other’s back, that’s it. She’d amended. But none of that explained the quavering feeling she felt in the pit of her stomach when he looked at her in the way he did. It didn’t explain how a quiet night in with him had become the thing she most looked forward to, and it certainly didn’t explain how terrible she felt when he left. The same truth she afforded everyone else, she never offered herself, not really. But the truth has a way of finding you, of seeking you out even when you try to turn away from it. She couldn’t close the box, and return the ring to the drawer fast enough, but it was already too late. Ichabod’s voice, his face, all of him had invaded her mind.

Danny, ever hopeful and persistent had concluded that she just needed a little time. In light of her recent admissions he held off asking the question he’d brought her there to ask. There will be other times, he thought. But the following day when he stated that in spite of them receiving their placements soon he wanted to continue to see her, she suggested that they keep things loose. She fed him some line about having some things she needed to work through, and told him she couldn’t really commit to anything until she did. It was a blow to his pride, and honestly he couldn’t bring himself to expose the way he truly felt. He let her go that day, but looking back on it he wished he would have said something to change her mind. Instead he nonchalantly backtracked after she expressed the way she felt. A strained smile plastered across his face as he spoke.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’m probably just caught up in the moment, the ambiance, the beautiful view.” He said glancing off toward the water. “Gotta keep our eyes on the prize right.” He chuckled, trying to mask feeling a fool.

“We sure do Danny.” She nodded feeling the weight and significance of the moment. She took him in, committing the portrait of him against the seaside setting to memory, knowing she wouldn’t be back there again. She hugged him tight, for much longer than she planned to. He’d been good to her, and for her, helped her to smile and laugh at a time when she didn’t much feel like it. He pushed her, as she did him, and somewhere in that she was reminded that life goes on no matter what. A part of her would be forever grateful to him for that. She raised up, kissed him farewell, and reminded him to be happy before getting into her car and following the shoreline back to the city.

She stopped taking his calls, and his messages went unreturned so when he showed up in Sleepy Hollow she knew it was more than the new position that brought him to town.

Ichabod reached over and rejoined their hands before tenderly pressing his lips to her knuckles. She had to know how much she meant to him, how much this thing between them meant to him. Only her face didn’t show it, and he quickly began to contemplate the things that he could do and say to make it clear. Abbie untangled her hand from his, and placed his hands on his lap. She rested her palm over his hands for a moment, taking a heavy breath before removing them. Her maneuvering was subtle, but he notices, she was pulling away.

“I was mixed up a lot as a kid.” She confides. “I had all of this hurt and…rage I was dragging around with me. You know the situation with my folks, the way things were for Jenny and I.” She reminded him. “I told myself that I was stronger than my past, that it wasn’t definitive of me…that I would rise up and build a new life for myself right over the top of the ruins.” She remembered, a trace of bittersweet nostalgia covered her face.

“In spite of everything I told myself I was going places, far, far, away from where I was. And I tried to, I did in some ways, but my past became like this…stowaway,” She decided, “And it was constantly making its way into my future, even when I didn’t want it to, even when I didn’t notice it was there. It was always present. I was carrying this invisible weight, past perceived transgressions and offenses that went unforgiven. I grew into this great pretender, I was always pretending that everything was okay, and I was in control—that I was happy, only I never really was. I could sense bits and pieces of joy and happiness in other things, all sorts of things, kids playing,” She smiled. “Orange and lavender skies,” She listed eyes lifted upward, “Solving a case, bringing closure and peace to a family. I could always appreciate the happiness I saw, but I never really had it within myself. At the time the only way I knew how to keep from feeling everything from my past was to not allow myself to feel anything at all. So I didn’t. Whenever someone tried to get close, I withdrew, and I was numb to a lot of things and a lot of people.” Abbie raised her eyes to his,

“And then I met you.” She stated watching Ichabod’s eyes fill with tears. His lips briefly part.

“And I got Jenny back, and I allowed myself to feel again, all of it. And it wasn’t picturesque, or easy, it was harrowing to say the least, looking back on some of my issues from the past…but having the two of you here with me, having you present…I was happy.” She whispered. “That’s a part of what you took away from me.” She further acknowledged.

Ichabod sat quietly staring into Abbie’s eyes wanting to hang his head but realizing that she deserved more from him. He knew she hadn’t told him any of these things to make him feel bad, or to take him to task. She simply wanted him to know what he meant to her. What it took for her to allow him as close as she did, and what it did to her when he left.

“Allow me to return it.” He states, leaning closer to her. He wants to touch her so bad it hurts, but he’s afraid she’ll pull away. He quickly licks his lips.

“You can’t.” She stated plainly. “I’ve already found my own. It was hard at first, and it feels different, not quite the same as the happiness I enjoyed before you left—I like to think that we enjoyed,” She quickly added. “But, it’s mine. So I want to thank you for reminding me what it felt like to be happy. For creating a want in me to recapture my happiness.”

Ichabod couldn’t stop shaking. Though he was pleased to hear that she rediscovered something she’d been missing, every word she said sounded like goodbye.

“Do you understand then?” He asked. “That the last thing I ever wanted to do was cause you pain?”

“I do.” Abbie admitted. “Because in a sense I did the same thing to Danny. I let him believe that he and I were a team, that I was happy to the extent that we could become these permanent fixtures in one another’s lives…that I could love him. And at the time I swear to God I thought that maybe, just maybe I could…and I tried to.” She said closing her eyes chasing the memory.

Ichabod’s face reddened with irritation. “Only I do love you.” He pledged. “And further the notion that our connection is comparable to whatever…relationship you share with Mr. Reynolds is ”

“—Danny asked me to marry him last night.” She blurted out before he could quite finish.

For some reason her last words sounded a little louder than all of the others. Like a warning signal or an alarm clock blaring in his ears. She’d said yesterday that she wasn’t in love with Mr. Reynolds, her fingers were ringless, this he knows. But her being the bundle of rationality he knew her to be, he can’t help but wonder if she was considering his proposal.

Is that what she is trying to say? His stomach plummets, ears ringing at the thought of it. His face stones over as he raises from the sofa. He’s halfway through mentally running his sword through Daniel Reynolds’s stomach when her hand catches his.  

“You alright?” He hears her ask, bringing him from his fantasy.

“Not at all.” He admits. She reached up and caught his hand, tugging his fingers in an effort to get him to retake his seat.

“And what was your response?” He asked, refusing to sit.

“Crane.” She says evenly staring up at him. “Sit.” She instructs patting the cushion beside her. He’s resistant at first, even though he’s uncertain why. As if it were possible that her response would be somehow easier to digest standing up. He relents, and reassumes his seat.

“How did you handle…” He pauses and restarts, “What did you do when he asked you…” His heartbeat kicks up a notch and he swallows his words unable to fully bring himself to say them.  “Abbie.” He whispers.

“I did what I should have been woman enough to do months ago. I listened to him, and I let him say what he needed to…he deserved at least that much from me.” She adds, pulling her leg from beneath her as she sat forward.

“And then I broke his heart.” She admitted wiping away silent tears. “For the same reason I left him before, because I am in love with you.” She admitted meeting his gaze. “But…

“—But?” He repeats, with her confession still burning his ears. He understands her. The level headedness and practicality she exuberates. He’d never before met a person who more aptly willed their heart to submit to the inclinations of their head. And even though hope builds in him from her words, he knows that with her loving someone and deciding to be with them are two separate things.  

“I love you Ichabod. But you did hurt me.” She stated resting her hands upon her knees.

“And in attempting to get over that hurt, I hurt someone else. And I am angry and mad at myself about that, and to be one hundred percent truthful a piece of me still hates you a little for leaving.” She said quietly.

“But in spite of all of that, all I want is you” She confesses, reaching up to stroke his beard. “I only want you. But if we, I mean if I rely on that, on you…I can’t let what happened before happen ag—”

In a rush Ichabod’s arms surround her small body, as he seals his lips to hers. She whimpers as fat tears roll down her cheeks throughout his kisses.  

His touch is soothing, and Abbie can hardly believe the way it seems to drive out all of her hurt and anger. She’s noticeable trembling due to the madness of it all.   Even though their kiss is semi chaste it isn’t lost upon her that he’s the most danger she’s ever allowed herself in a man. She becomes lost in him as his lips overtake hers, not in a completely knowing way, but similar to the way a child gets lost in a department store. One moment you’re checking out a new mitt on the sporting goods isle and the next you can’t find your parents, or remember how to get back to them. She was floating, and the moment she realized it and made a conscious effort to stay grounded he pulled back, almost as if he sensed it. He raised his hand to her face, thumbing away a few trace remnants of her tears.

“Know now, these will be the last tears you cry in release of a pain I’ve caused.” He proclaimed. He returned his head to hers, missing the feel of them resting together.

“I swear it.” His palm glides down against the side of her neck. “I shall never hurt you again.” He promises. “All right?”

She’s quiet. As much as she wanted a guarantee, she knew better than to expect or depend on it in a romantic sense. But if they had even the smallest chance, she needed to be able to trust him as a friend.

“Abbie. I need you here with me. Treasure, I need to hear you say it.” He says, knowing the way they need to begin.

“Crane.” She responds faintly. His greedy ass always wanted more.

He’d already broken through to nearly every part of her, that’s the reason she got her heart broken in the first place. Now here he was asking her to lower the last of her defenses, this slight reservation which was the only thing with a prayer of protecting her. She knew if she let it go, she would never escape him intact. He led with his tongue but impassioned lips quickly followed. Soft hums string through the air cutting across the not so quiet noises of their tongue and lips creating and breaking suction.

“Do you feel that?” He moaned, in reflection of the magic in their kiss.

“God yes.” Abbie responded half dazed, stretching forward in pursuit of his lips. Ichabod meets her kisses briefly but pulls back teasing just as her tongue swirls through his mouth.

“Trust me.” He requested, breathing heavily. “Say it, and let your belief in me be heard.”

And unsteady sigh sifts from Abbie’s mouth, several beats pass while she rights herself with his request, and then she looks into his eyes.

“You will never hurt me again.” She says quietly, growing tearful because she knows what trusting this way might cost.

“Once more.” He asks.

“You…will never hurt me again.” She repeats just as quietly but with a little more conviction.

“Every star in the God’s heaven will fall before I break my oath to you.” He vowed with a sincerity in his eyes strong enough to convince her that the world was flat. “Alright?” He added squeezing her ribs.

“Alright.” She agreed just before he placed a soft kiss to her lips.

The next second she’s fully encircled by his arms, long, solid stretched muscle coiled around her and almost instantly she feels safer than she could ever recall. This was the madness he brought to her world, fear one moment, and security the next, her heart hammers away trying to keep up with the changes. Her faith is rewarded with soft, delicate kisses that single handedly alter her comprehension of the word heavenly. She still can’t get over the way he tastes. His mouth is so much sweeter than she’d imagined, like he’d spent the day eating ripened peaches, and hadn’t had the chance to chase the flavor from his tongue. His scent had done things to her for quite some time, the light aroma of his cologne steeped inside of his natural fragrance gave off a pleasantness she had a difficulty combating. It was the reason she kept her distance, it was also the reason she’d once stood in front of the washing machine sniffing his worn shirt for the better part of a half hour before dropping it into the wash. And now it was hers, sifting through her nostrils and invading her senses while his mouth claimed hers as its’ own.   But it was something special about this time of night, when the already faint scent softened even more, almost to the point of becoming undetectable. It was her favorite, and in her head, this is the way he always smelled.

She wasn’t surprised to find his romantic technique mirrored his personality, his mouth a bouquet of strength and tenderness, while his expansive hands toggled between caressing and gripping her curves as he went. He’s ballsy, the majority of his torso is now hunched over her frame while his wet lips refused to allow hers a moments rest. She likes it, his assertiveness, and even though he’s a gentlemen she somehow knew he would be this way. His mouth leaves hers placing feathery kisses beneath her chin…against her throat, she gasps inhaling heavily as his tongue dabbles into the hollow nexus where her collar bones meet.

“Jesus Crane.” She whimpered. His tongue lifts and she can’t help but recognize how perfect he is for her in a brief moment of lucidity.

Ichabod’s manners beg him to stop, any other time, or any other woman and he’d listen. But there’s something ethereal about this one, and he’s waited so long to have her this way that he knows the only thing capable of getting him to release her is her. If her motions indicate that she doesn’t like it, if she says anything resembling no or stop, instead she says

“Mmm, you feel so good,” and he nearly dies from want.

What’s different about now, about her? Everything. Her heart, her spirit, her mind, her voice, everything about her was something he had never encountered in another soul, his mind was still trying to fathom how a kiss could feel so electrifyingly good. The spark of it sends shivers shooting through his body like an unexpected cool breeze on a warm afternoon. Fingers tighten, lips hunt for more, his right hand abandons her thigh and joins the other one at her waist. She sinks back against the couch, and before he even recognizes his pursuit, he’s embarked upon it. His bent knee digs into the couch as he hovers over her brazenly trailing her lips. He’s seconds from lowering his frame to hers when something shows him himself and he angles back.

“Abbie.” He huffs, mouth holding an apology her little wiry grin causes him to swallow. He sits down intent upon gathering himself but winds up lifting her to his lap.

Her hands slink up his neck, cupping the face she sees even when her eyes are closed. She smiles at him, touching her finger to his nearly cerise colored lips, it’s only then that she notices how much they’d swelled. His breath is rapid and nearly constant against her fingers, his eagerness apparent when he closes his lips and kisses them in the same manner that he’d just kissed her mouth. She scoots her bottom a little closer in chase of a kiss, but finds her hip wedged against something else.

And airless gasp dies inside of her, and her heart throbs uncontrollably. She’d seen the outline of it before, and vaguely felt it here and there when they accidently stumbled against one another, but this was different. Then it was quick, a ‘whoops, excuse me’ and a step apart later” it was washed over and semi forgotten. Eyes were evasive, the subject was changed. Now instead of drifting apart they drew closer, eyes locked upon one another across a voiceless air. He could have loosened his hold on her, allowed her to move back a few inches, instead his hands not only hold her flush against him, but pull her even closer in full ownership of the moment. Cocky, lust filled eyes saying everything his manners won’t allow him to.

Abbie shudders before quickly twisting her frame about until she’s straddling him. Her pelvis pitched forward as her shoulders dipped back, her lips swallowed his almost begging to be shown more. He moaned, unable to bolster his resolve as she settled herself against him. Already he was warring with himself, but her sudden elliptical movements weakened his reserves significantly.

His erection pulsed against her sending shockwaves through her thin tights, while dragging kiss muffled moans from the back of her throat. She’s waiting for something to happen that changes the way this feels. To discover that it’s somehow an anomaly and doesn’t actually feel this wonderful. Every tug of his lips and taste of his tongue she expects to feel a little less extraordinary, but every single one feels a little bit better. And Dear Lord his hands were raising demons she didn’t know she housed, he could have all five foot one of her any way he wanted.

Oh Jesus no, this is (kiss) almost (kiss) too good to be (kiss) true. She pulled back briefly staring into his darkened eyes in wonder. What the hell is this?   She thought, returning for more before she found the answer. His hands were pressed firmly against her shoulders, luring her deeper into his kiss. When his hands fall to her waist he allows them to slip just beneath her t-shirt, momentarily quenching his desire to touch her skin. Almost as if they grow brains of their own they inch up eager to know and conquer more of her. In seconds his thumbs are raking across her ribs, slipping upward until they brushed against her bra. Heart stopping panic fills him when her fingers reach down wrap around his wrist. He settled back, chest heaving as he prepared for his admonishment, but it never came. Instead she slid his hand upward until his palm covered her entire breast. Everything stills, and Ichabod’s mouth hangs open throughout the pulse doubling silence. The only thing he can think about is the perfection trapped beneath the cotton and lace beneath his palm. He wondered what it might feel like to take her nipple inside of his mouth, he thinks of all the ways he could please her, completely oblivious to the fact he’s catching flies. Abbie feels his length pulse between her thighs, and moans arching deeper against him, sinking further into the sensation.

In what seems like the next second her back hits the sofa. A large hand pulls her leg up as he pressed his hips against her. Her name stretches from his lips the same number of syllables but it sounds longer than it has before. It reaches her in a foreign place, kindling something inside of her that causes her legs curl up to her sides. His hips slowly roll against her, alternating between grinding circles and thrusting forward, giving her a preview of the way he’ll move once he’s inside of her. This particular preview creates a longing in her to see the feature film, the extended version in 3D, D-Box, uncut. And even though she hasn’t seen it yet she’s already certain she’s down to catch the sequel as well. His hand vacates her breast and slips down her side, it pads across her hips and swivels around to grip the plump flesh on the underside of them. A torturous groan springs from him, tongue going limp inside of her mouth as the rest of his body tensed and grew stiff. The kissing stops as he drags his eyes open and looks down at her, conflicted. She nearly laughs at how taken he is. She’s still fully clothed but he’s looking at her as if she’s already naked. Abbie lifts a steady palm to his cheek to push back some of the hesitance in his eyes.

“It’s okay.”  

When he remains immobile her head lifts to his kiss, letting him know that it was alright, giving him permission to move forward. He loses himself, eyes fluttering closed as he allows himself this moment. Tremors radiate through his chest as their kisses take on a ravenous nature. There’s nothing thought now, just feeling, limbs and frames moving, twisting, and tugging without direction. He lets her breathing lead, his body following her gasps and moans, hoping that it feels good, unable to rely on his own because all of it feels magnificent to him.    

Giant fingers glide down against her center, and she’s felled. His firm hand against the front of her tights has Abbie doing things she didn’t think she did. A voice from the back of her head takes notice and asks,   When did we start doing this? Are you actually moaning his name? Stop it. Calm down, and act like you’ve been here before, you haven’t even taken your clothes off yet. Geesh.

His baritone voice eclipses her ear. “I want you.” He grumbles between fiery kisses.

The same hatin’ ass voice says, HURRY UP AND TAKE EVERYTHING OFF!!!

He removes his hand, locking it around her wrist as he strung her arm over her head against the armrest of the couch. Damn can he move. She suspected as much, but she had no idea it was to such an incredible degree. Abbie’s so caught up in feeling him, his vibrations, his soft strumming hums, the brush of his tongue, so entrenched in countering the delicious thrust filled circles he agonizingly ground into her that she doesn’t pay attention to her own body.

Until an orgasm rippled through it.

Blindsided she frantically frees her wrist from him and hugs him to her. Her fingernails dig into the cloth covering the base of his spine. She anchors herself to him, rocking her hips upward as he thrust down, and for the first seconds of the wave she can’t move. She’s lucky enough to catch hold of her cries and suppress them, but they still manage to squeak out in the form of gasps and whimpers. If there is any part of her that isn’t shaking she has no knowledge of it. The pulsing and spasming of her core seems unending.

Ichabod is awed silent. His eyes expand upon her face watching as the pleasure of their friction spirals through her. Closed eyes, lips quivering until they fall into a soft pout so beautiful it breaks his heart a little. It’s then the fear grabs him, when he truly appreciates everything she could do to him. He kisses her in spite of his fears, savoring the taste of her lips as she settles back against the sofa gathering her breath. After a short while her grip upon him loosened, and she lay there dragging a lazy hand up and down his side. The feeling of him against her, still stiff as a board only serves to reawaken her desires. When she looks at him there almost a look of fear in his eyes. She softly raised her head from his hand, and kissed his lips.  

“What is it?” She purred.

“Nothing my love.” He answers covering his emotions. She doesn’t quite believe him but her rapturous state stops her from questioning him further. Instead her palms raise to his shoulders and gently push him back, creating enough space between them for her to sit up. She lifts herself from the sofa and holds her hand to him. He takes it, and joins her, placing a long kiss to her forehead. Fingers interlocked she leads them across the room, he follows like a lost puppy whose owner has come late to claim him. But he stops once they reach the bottom step. It’s then that he realizes she’s leading him to her bedroom, and as much as he wants to follow, he knows he can’t.

“Lieutenant.”    

Lieutenant.” Abbie whips around raising a brow at his formality. “What happened to my love?” She teased.  

He grins, traces of lust still hanging heavy in his eyes. She was lethal.  

“My love.” He corrects, lifting her hand to press his lips to her knuckles.

“I’m kidding.” Abbie smiles, “I love it when you call me Lieutenant.” She admits, leaning into him. “Crane…what is it?” She asks realizing they weren’t going to be able to leave the look she’d seen in his eyes downstairs.  

He’d thought about this, an innumerable amount of times. About being with her, making love to her, how good she would feel, taste…but also he’s thought about the way he would be with her if given the chance, how he would treat her, revere her. Not only for her benefit and protection, but for his own survival. She held a power over him the likes of which he’d never encountered. He wondered if she even recognized the power she wielded. Whether she knew it or not she was the type of woman that could lead a man into the ocean and make him forget a shore ever existed. He’d cautioned himself to be careful with her, to have something resembling a commitment before he went too far. Still the moment he had her in his clutches all of those heedings went out of the window. He wonders how he was able to chuck it all aside so easily, then he glances down at her, taking in her wide innocent eyes, and swollen lips. He knows instantly how he had come unlaced. He’d never wanted anything more.

“Abbie.” He says, “Have you any inkling of how much you mean to me?”

“Show me.” She whispered, squeezing his side.

“I intend to.” He stated, bending to kiss her sweet lips. “I intend to show all of myself to you…during our courtship.”  

“Court-ship?” She questions, rearing back. Ichabod wrapped his hands around hers to keep her close.

“Abigail Mills, I intend to court you…properly.” He pledges arching a brow. He starts to tell her how he hopes that courtship will end, with her agreeing to stand beside him until the end of time, but he’s worried about how she might react.

Aww Damn, Abbie thinks, I only wanted to move the party to the bedroom, not switch on the lights and clear the dance-floor. Please don’t stop dancing with me, because I really, really, REALLY like the way you were moving! She steps down from the bottom step and gently grips the front of his shirt.

“Crane, really it’s okay I…I love you, you don’t have to do anything other than what you’ve already done.” She informed him, unconsciously batting her eyes. Everything he’d thinking began to turn on end.

Do you feel her fingers slinking up your chest? An inward voice asks him. How about the other one positioned at your hip? Surely you can aptly view that warm inviting smile and hear her assurance that one, she is yours, and two, your actions are not only inoffensive but welcome. What she is offering my good fellow is an invitation. What are you frightened of? Stop dithering, and register your attendance at once. Ichabod looked down at the beautiful woman in front of him, thinking. He’s inches from grabbing her, carrying her up the stairs, and making love to her until he collapses from fatigue. Instead another voice steps in to war with the one he most wanted to listen to.

How can you even consider it? It asked, sounding a good deal like his father. This is not a woman with which you hold no attachment, you know who and what she is to you. She’s just batted her lashes, and your knees buckled. Remember yourself when she was gone before, and back then you hadn’t as much as a kiss, what do you suppose would happen after you bed her. And don’t even start me about what your mother would say. You know well the way in which this should be done, if this is the woman you love, respect her and conduct yourself accordingly. What of all the things she should be made privy to before entering into such a relationship. If she knows them not and chooses to leave upon their discovery, you will only have yourself to blame.

“Abbie.” He stated finding his strength. “In the time that I have known you, you have unswervingly presented yourself to be a lady of the highest regard, and I assure you that I would not dream of sullying your estimation of me by comporting myself in a caddish or brash manner. I want you…and I intend to prove it.”

Abbie leans back smiling at him through half squinted eyes.

Good one chick, She scolds herself, things were going great. You should have just left well enough alone, but noooo, you wanna do it in the bed when things were progressing perfectly on the couch, now you’re fucked, and NOT IN THE WAY YOU WANT TO BE! She silently screams trying to contain the fire he’s started inside of her. This is ridiculous, had I put my hand on his dick instead of his shoulders we wouldn’t even be talking about this right now.

Hmm, She bites her lip in thought, Maybe I should just grab his dick. God it’s still hard and everything, she observed with a quick glance down. She looked back up at him with pure lust in her eyes, and notices his curios glare. Yep, gonna grab it! She decides.

I AM BEGGING YOU ON EVERYTHING HOLY, DO NOT GRAB THAT MAN’S BUSINESS. Her conscience called, sounding so much like her mama’s voice she lost her nerve.

“Abbie?” He stated interrupting her from her thoughts.

“Listen,” She sighed. “I assure you that nothing that has happened here tonight lessened my opinion of you, I was right there with you.” She stated.

“Even still”

“—And correct me if I’m wrong but I thought that the purpose of courting was to establish and deepen a friendship in the hopes of finding a suitable partner.” She argued, knowing reason was the way to reach him.

“We,” she gently tugged his shirt, “Already share a deep friendship. In fact,” she adds lifting her brows, “You are the best and closest friend that I’ve ever had. So the way I look at it, maybe we’ve been courting for some time.”

He smiles down at her and drops a soft peck against her lips that quickly turns into three. He growls forcing himself to pull back as she grins watching as his face goes flush.

“Perhaps in a sense we have,” He agrees, “However, the development of a friendship is one aspect of it, there are many others, including ensuring that one’s intentions are pure and not merely encouraged by more….lecherous desires.”   He stressed.  

A second later his mouth hung open as the sound of Abbie’s true laughter rang out into the air. She only laughed that way when she was completely caught off guard, everything else was a bit subdued. He’s perplexed.  

“I amuse you.” He observed, recalling his words in search of what she might have found comical.

She shook her head and returned her eyes to his. After the time they’d spent together, and everything he’d gone through for her she knew his feelings were true.

“Ichabod Crane, after last night, and today….after it all, I think I have a handle on your intentions toward me. I know they’re not only good and true, but pure.” She said still smiling from her laughter.

He gazed at her bright smile and felt his insides melt a little. She was right, his love for her was immeasurable, but if she had any notion of the filthy things he longed to do her body, she might retract her statement, or in the very least modify it. Still, it wasn’t his intentions that concerned him. He’d watched her cut off the only men he’d known her to deal with in a complete and thorough manner, he needed assurances that he wouldn’t be cut off in a similar fashion. Still he made no statement to correct her misguided assumption.

“You know that do you?” He asked instead, his tone low and sensual.

“I do.” She cooed, as he pulled her in for a quick peck on the lips.

“You’re quite right.” He grinned, brushing a wayward strand of hair from her face. “And it is my hope that my actions shall reinforce such sentiment.”   He replied.

“Actions? Like what actions?” Abbie asked. “Like pampering me, and cooking me all of these delicious meals.” She stated answering her own query. “Or perhaps by doing my laundry, and picking up all of the time—you know you’ve really gotten this Mr. Clean thing down.” She continued lightheartedly before taking a more serious tone.

“Or maybe by having a way of always coming through for me when I need you to. Or being prepared to wage wars for me, picking up your weapons when needed, laying them down when I ask…remember with Joe.” She said lifting her fingers to his beard. “I haven’t forgotten that, I haven’t forgotten anything. Not to mention the fact that you hold me accountable, you give me space when I need it, which reminds me how miraculous it is that you even know when I need space. Do you have any idea how difficult it is for most people to recognize that?” She questioned.

A broad smile crinkles the corners of his eyes as he soaks up her praises.

“But,” She goes on, hand dropping to his chest, “You never let me retreat so far into my shell that your light can’t reach me, and even though I get moody, and I snap at you because of it, I love you for it.” She pledges looking up into his eyes. “I love you Ichabod.” She repeats with a conviction that stops his heart. She’d never thrown it at a man in all of her days, but she needed to know that if he so chose, he could get it, and he shouldn’t feel like a cad because of it.

“You said that you loved me…believe me when I tell you that there isn’t another man on earth that could say those words to me and have it be enough to receive anything I’m prepared to give you.” She said, dragging a finger across his lips. He puckers and kisses them before the leave.

“Coming from you, it’s different.” She whispered, gazing up at him. “Coming from you, it’s everything. I don’t want to rush things or change you…but I think you want me.” She smiled knowing good and damn well he did. “In fact you told me as much just a few minutes ago.” She added pointing toward the couch. “I saw the look in your eyes, and I know what that look means. So if you’ve already shown me that you love me, I’m wondering what actions you feel could possible mean anything more to me than you already do?”

Her words course through him, planting little flags of dominion along the way to his heart. He was hers, most dedicatedly. He stared at her a moment trying to untie the tongue she’d tangled in knots. His voice is quiet when he finally speaks.

“There are things…questions that I need to ask y—I—Abigail” He stuttered, “I know that you think yourself ready to share a certain level of intimacy with me, and you must know how pleasing that is to me, and how vehemently I share in your desire. But you being,” He smiles almost sadly as he searches for words, “All that you are,” He settles upon, “And me being…well an impecunious, lackluster, bag of bones.”

“—Stop.” She said defending him from his self-inflicted assault. “You’re talking about the man I love, I won’t have it.” She informed him. He wonders when he’ll be able to stop smiling like a new born fool every time she says she loves him.

“I simply hope to improve upon a few details so that I can…”

“—Can what?” She interrupts.

“So that I might look upon your face and feel worthy in asking the things that I need and hope to ask.” He confides.

“—Ask me?” She says curiously. His head falls as his breathing picks up and suddenly she knows.  “Oh. Ohhhh.”

“Ichabod.” She begins but her mouth simply hangs open as she’s too stunned to transfer her thoughts to words. Marriage? He deosn’t want to make love until we’re married. Whoa, like married, married. She thought twisting her neck to tug the collar of her t-shirt. Am I understanding him correctly? Damn stay alert Mills, what the hell do you think comes at the end of a successful courtship? At once, all of it became clear. Except for one piece of information that didn’t seem to fit, that threw the entire thing off kilter. She ninety-nine percent certain he’d been with Zoe, there was a night that he didn’t make it home, and she still had the broken T.V remote to prove it.

“I…you.” She took a deep breath trying to understand. “Are you telling me that you don’t believe in sex or making love until marriage—if you are that’s fine,” She states raising her palms to let him no she wasn’t standing in judgment of him. “It’s just, I guess I—I mean I didn’t know that you had only been with Katrina.”

“I beg pardon.” He said brows drawing together. “What is it that causes your supposition?”

“Well because you said you didn’t believe in having a sexual relationship before marriage so”

“With you.” He offers.

“Excuse me?” She says.

Ichabod sighed. “This is precisely the sort of confusion that courting serves to diminish.” He breathed, eyes glimmering as he placed a small kiss to her cheek.

“I do not believe it wise to embark upon a sexual relationship with you prior to an official commitment.” He clarified. “Katrina is not the only woman from my past.”  

“Oh.” She says surprised. Trying to unravel the misassumption she’s thought herself into. It’s silly but the only thing she can seem to think in that moment is that he’s likely fucked Zoe after all. She shouldn’t care, she does, a little at least. She pushed him to go after her, brought it on herself, still she remembers the sense of sadness she felt sitting on the couch with his favorites snacks in hand the night he never came home.

“Okay I’m a little confused. You have been with women whom you weren’t married to?” She asks seeking clarification.

“I have, but.” He shakes his head wondering how they wandered into this conversation.

“—No-no-no.” She interrupts. “I’m not judging you, I guess I’m just trying to understand why now? This hasn’t been a standard that you’ve held your relationships to in the past, I’m just wondering what prompted you to change? Why with me?”

“Abbie.” He growls softly sliding his thumb over her knuckles. He sighs, and takes her by the arms.

“Because you….you are my everything.” He whispered. “My freedom, my enslavement, my atonement and sin…my ailment and cure, you’re everything to me. Even the word you have just chosen, relationship, outside of my marriage to Katrina, the affairs of my past hardly stand against the term relationship.”

“Oh.” Abbie stated blinking rapidly from surprise.

“That sounded a bit like the judgment you promised to withhold.” He smiled.

“It isn’t, I’m just…surprised that’s all.” Abbie commented, before gently biting her bottom lip. “I didn’t realize you had any real mileage on you, especially mileage accrued outside of a relationship.”

“I was, at all times, my most respectful self,” Ichabod spoke up, hands falling to her hips. “But…those women….suffice it to say that when things reached the end, they simply ended, I never thought of them after they’d gone, and I’m certain they never gave much thought to me.” She wasn’t buying that shit, did he honestly forget she’d been so unfortunate as to meet Mary. That bitch tried to drown her two hundred plus years after she got the dick. Still, she continued listening.

“The way that I feel for you…I ache for you. If you go….” His hands tighten around her causing her muscles to twitch, his touch feeling like a new day.

“I have never felt such happiness and joy throughout the expanse of my entire life,” He admits taking her into his arms.

“Be it understood that within that life I had a home, a mum and father who blanketed me with enough love and adoration to cover the earth. But none of the world’s love combined has ever made me to feel anything close to the feeling that I feel at this very moment with you.” He confessed. He lowered his head to hers and closed his eyes.

“Before I have you…I need to know that I have you.” He whispered. She tilts her head to the side opening her mouth to protest before he adds.

“All of you Abbie.”

Greedy. Ass. Man. She thinks, a bit of fear returning.

He was the only man who had any idea what all of her was, she couldn’t fake it with him. There was still something unsettling about him always seeming to know her bluff, whether he chose to call her on it or not. She stood silent a moment mulling over the things he’d said to her.  

“I feel like a thief and a charlatan,” he stated filling in the silence, “For even making such a request of you as I stand here lacking to such a magnificent degree.” He stated.

“You don’t look like you’re missing a thing from where I’m standing.” She reassured him.

They firmness and faith in her voice almost caused him to believe, even though in his eyes he was. Still, it hadn’t stopped him from tracking down her father’s address, and knocking upon his door. Til’ this day he thanked the stars that no one was home. What would he have said had he answered his knock? Hello good sir I am here to ask for your estranged daughter’s hand and marriage, never-minding that it is quite likely she does not hold the same affection for me as I do her, and did I fail to mention that she has gone missing to boot. But that’s how far his feelings for her had taken him. He would put her in front of everything, at any cost. He wanted her, even though he knew he didn’t deserve her. Her tongue slipped across her succulent lips in an innocent attempt to provide moisture, and his heart fluttered. Before he could stop himself his mouth lowered to hers wresting the new found moisture from her lips and leaving in its stay a bit of his own.

“I want so desperately to give to you Abigail,” He breathed between kisses, “My heart (kiss), my unyielding love and devotion (kiss)…my name.” He whispers against her lips. “But I will deny every part of myself until I am able to do so. Until you are mine…until I’m worthy of asking you to be mine.”

Abbie was dizzy from his kisses, feeling as though she was two glasses of wine in even though she’s had nothing to drink. Her head was tilted all the way back. He made her feel like a sunflower, all of her being stretching to bloom beneath his light.

“Ask me.” She breathed, causing his breath to immediately stop. He’s shaken to hear her request even though he’s thought about it every day since she’s been gone. He knew her well enough to know that her independence had been a flagship in her life, it was the only thing she’d known for many, many years. But here she was standing in front of him saying,

“Ask. Me.” She repeats, gazing up at him entranced. At that moment everything became so unbelievably clear. This imaginary deadline for constructing a more worthy self was a fallacy at best, there was no amount of wealth nor correction that would ever make him worthy of her. He sees that then.    

Ichabod stills through quiets breaths trying to find the correct words, but the only ones that matter find him instead.

“Marry me.” He breathes. She slips her fingers through the soft hair covering his face.

“Yes.” She replies confidently. He’s stunned, shivering and convinced she hasn’t heard him correctly, even as she takes to her tip toes and pulls his lips to hers.

“Abbie,” He mumbles, bottom lip slipping from her mouth. “I do not believe you have quite heard me. I’ve asked you to marry me, to take me as your husband…to become my wife.” He re-informs her. She released his lips just long enough to reply.

“And I said yes.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

An hour later Abbie stood outside of her bedroom stretching upward giving Ichabod his fourth final kiss goodnight. She slipped an arm behind her grasping for the doorknob before it became the fifth. After goodnight kiss number one, he stood in front of her, eyes sagging along the outer edges as he bent into a deep bow. Abbie was so touched she ended up stepping forward and kissing him again. That was on her, but kisses three and four were all him, and she could already sense him angling for a fifth.

“Abbie.” He murmured, fingers showing no sign of releasing her hips.

“—Un-unh.” She replied, already knowing what he wanted. All of his no sex before marriage talk seemed to go out of the window as soon as she agreed to a commitment, to marriage. Abbie on the other hand grew warm to the fairytale appeal of waiting. He pulled his head back and tilted it to the side.

“Un-unh?” He said mimicking her in an exaggerated tone. “You haven’t the slightest idea as to what I am preparing to say, how can you dismiss my words with so little regard.” He asked.

“Are you serious? I can read you like the back of my hand.” Abbie smiled. “And even though I may not know exactly what you’re going to say, I know exactly what affect you’re hoping to have on me, and we already decided that you’re not coming in.” She responded.

“Miss Mills.” He scolds feigning offense, “That is not what I was going to ask.”

Abbie side eyed him, watching his lips fall into a sexy pout.

“Entirely.” He spouted, drawing a chuckle at his amendment. He turned up the charm the moment he saw her amusement.

“I’ve missed you…terribly.” He declared, eyes sparkling. “I could simply hold you, or stretch out along the floor.” He offered, leaning over her, one set of fingers clenched around her waist while the other gripped the doorframe. Abbie rolled her lips into her mouth moistening them as she started considering his proposal.

“I need to be close to you Abbie.” He whispered, face dropped to hers. “I can behave.”

“But I can’t.” She returned, inching backward into her room.

Ichabod’s jaw dropped as he felt his lust for her pulsing through his groin.

“Goodnight.” She said closing the door.

Ichabod’s head lowered against it the second it closed, he doubted he’d ever have the strength to raise it again. Inside Abbie leaned against the door enraptured in newborn thrill and giddiness.  

“God help me.” She muttered to herself. She didn’t know how she was going to make a real go of this waiting thing with him kissing her the way he did. Her fingers lift up, dragging across her still warm lips.

“You’ve all my love Grace Abigail Mills.” Ichabod called through the door. A startled Abbie lifted her body from it, turning to face it as a seed of reconsideration beads through her. Just as her hand starts toward the doorknob, she hears him add.

“I bid you goodnight.”

This would not be easy.   She stepped further into her room pulling off her tights. A shower, she thinks, maybe two, anything to cool off this fire burning the undersurface of her skin. It was almost as if she could feel the cells in her body expanding, pillars of reckless energy in a wild frenzy due to the heat he’d roused within her.

“What’s different?” She’d asked him earlier when things started getting hot and heavy downstairs.

“Everything.” He’d answered, nipping at her lips. “Your agreement to become my wife, life-partner. It has covered me with a peace of sorts I suppose.” He replied thoughtfully. “A security I had not known before. It affords me the assurance that when you break from viewing me through whatever star sprinkled haze or lighting I’ve been so fortunate as to stumble into, and wake to view the true me in the full light of the morning you will remember the social contract you’ve agreed upon entering. In short…you’ll stay.” He’d whispered.  

Abbie slugged off her shirt with a small smile as she recounted the evening’s events. A wide smile grew from it, and she immediately caught herself trying to make it small again. She wondered why she did this, minimized her happiness. It was almost as if she was afraid to allow it to be as grand as it truly was. She was pushing an arm into her bathrobe when she heard a loud clattering in the hallway.  

“Crane?” She called peaking her head into the dim passage. She spotted him at the end of the hall picking up a bible and candle that decorated a small table. He rose up straight returning the objects to their rightful positions.

“Forgive my ungainliness Lieutenant, I was opening the window and,” He turned to face her, “My foot…” The rest of his sentence blends into unintelligible gibberish as he takes sight of her. His head bows.

“It’s okay.” She replied, tightening the knot on her robe. “I just heard the noise, and I wanted to make sure everything was alright.” She said easing toward him.

“Of course.” He said so quietly she only caught the end of it. “All is…quite well.” He stated, eyes roving over curves her satin robe was doing very little to hide.

“Good.” She replied squatting down to pick up the bookmark that belonged inside of her bible. Ichabod features grew hard-set as her robe opened revealing her thighs. His ribs rattled. Abbie lifted the bookmark and a black spider sprang from beneath it. She literally jumped his bones.

“Ahh!” She yelped springing up from the floor with a vertical jump that would have put Michael Jordan to shame. She threw her arms around his neck and heaved herself up his body.  

“Oh my my how the tables have turned.” Ichabod teased, as she wound her limbs around him. “Not a time for games.” She reprimanded, scrambling until she piggybacked him.

“Stop playing and kill it!” She shouted, pointing to a large spider making its way across the floor.

“You’ve frightened it away.” Ichabod said, eyeballing the floor in search of it.

“Find it!” She commands. “It’s okay, never mind,” She quickly redirects, “Can you reach the drawer in the table?”

“I can.”

“Hand me my piece,” She said rapidly, “Clip’s in there too.”

“Your firearm?!” He questioned in disbelief, “You aim to shoot it? The spider?”

“Of course the spider,” She replied bitingly. “I can’t go to sleep with it alive so either find it, and kill it, or hand me my gun and I will. Ahhh!!!! There-it-is, there-it-is, there-it-is.” She said hauling herself further up his frame, draping a leg over his shoulder, while seeking to raise the other. He lifted a hand to balance her weight.

“May I suggest that it might be easier to find it were I afforded the use of my eyes.” He said drawing attention to the fact that in her panic she’d wrapped her arms around his head, and cut off his vision. Already she’d thrust one of her legs over his shoulder and was seconds away from raising the other.

“Baby please!” She pleaded, gripping his ears. “There it is!” She yelled yanking Ichabod’s head in the direction she wanted him to look.

He caught a trace of it moving across the floor in a blurry haze, and stomped his boot over the top of it.  

He heard her exhale, and felt her body relax around him.

“Oh God.” She exhaled, sliding down his back to the floor. She hugged him from behind. This shit had to stop. She knew she wasn’t in the garden anymore, but something about them still unsettled her.

“Thank you.” She breathed, pressing her head against his back. Ichabod turned around to hold her, pulling her close until he felt her grow calm in his arms.”

“Mmmph.” She sighed, as her pulse settled. He could tell by her expression how terribly she hated feeling this way. For the moment he’s relieved that she’s swallowing her pride enough to share the things that frighten her.  

“You never need to feel afraid.” He said dropping his lips to her forehead. “Together we can conquer anything.” He proclaimed. She doesn’t respond, but her arms tighten around him. After a moment he glances down at her.

“Baby?” He asks with a small smirk, letting the word roll around his tongue. Having viewed enough television to realize it was a term of endearment. He smiled as she made that goofy humming noise she sometimes made. He usually noticed it when her tongue became twisted or she felt embarrassed.

“You are my baby.” She announced stepping up to press a quick kiss to his lips. His hand abandons her waist, travelling up her spine until it comes to rest at the nape of her neck.

“Is that so?” He asked, all chest and smoky bass, head dropping forward.

My is he charming, she inwardly swoons.

“Mm-hm.” She hummed, eyes locked upon his. She’s thankful for him, not that he killed the spider, but that he didn’t give her a hard time about it, or force her into dealing with it just yet. She gazes at him quietly, and soon the entire room has taken on his demeanor, descending into deadening sort of silence that somehow makes his wordless pleas all the more easy to hear, and all too difficult to refuse. She know he won’t make a second request, but his eyes are asking for it in such a pleading fashion that hers fall downward from the directness of it. There’s a light breeze trickling in through the window twirling a shiver up her spine. She slips forward sealing more of herself to him in the hopes of syphoning a bit of his warmth. He holds her tighter, offering more than she needs. She doesn’t notice the precise moment that her chills abate, only that they do.  

“So am I to receive a bounty for the head of your most elusive arachnid?” He questioned quietly, lashes lowered.

Well damn, maybe he ain’t too proud to beg after all. She thinks amazed.

“—A mere kiss!” He swiftly explained, noting her widened eyes. He smirked a bit knowing where her mind had gone.

Careful to let her decide, he feathers a thumb down the side of her neck before just barely brushing his lips against hers. He keeps his lips in front of hers, waiting for her to decide if she finds this kiss agreeable, and proper. Waiting for her to decide if he can have another, while praying his affection convinces her to let him have it all. Already he’s committed some of her preferences he’d discovered upon the sofa to memory. He knows if he kisses her soft and slow, and squeezes her in all the right places she’ll be more likely to cave, but he wanted her to choose.

Abbie blinks slowly, knowing if she kissed him she might not be able to stop. Already he held her shamelessly close and the look in his eyes let her know that he was fully aware of her ability to feel him. That coupled with his soft breaths upon her face closed her eyes, just as her mouth opened to him. He meets her lips delicately, hands roaming as she egged on kisses too soft and sweet to have been anything other than planned attacks. The second a low groan pried itself free from the back of his throat, she was finished. She swallowed the echo of it, felt it spiral down through her belly and push more of her desire for him unto her panties. Her low pitched whine that follows his groan offered up her official surrender, but just in case he missed her meaning she bends a knee up the outer portion of his leg. His response is immediate. A firm hand leaves her waist, and runs along her plump bottom until his fingers finally stop at the back of her knee. In seconds he has her off the ground, legs locked around him as his mouth claimed hers with kisses that managed to be both tender and urgent. The mind is a powerful thing, but Abbie has no idea how she ever convinced herself that she could wait for this.

“I want you,” She says, gasping as his wet mouth opened across her throat, “I don’t want to wait another second.”  

His fingers slide beneath her robe, sinking into her fleshy bottom, and his vision goes fuzzy. All of it seemed surreal, he’d wanted this so long his senses go into overload from the ecstasy of having it. He’s lightheaded, and growing dizzier by the second so he quickly pressed her back against the nearest wall awaiting the stars in his eyes to dissipate. A small painting goes side swung along the wall before Abbie’s shoulder knocks it from its’ nails completely. Its thump and rattle upon the floor causes Ichabod to realize how overzealous he’s being and prompts him to dial back his force. He slows, kisses softening dramatically, as her legs grow tighter around his waist. Her skin beneath his fingertips causes him to wonder how someone acquires a skin such as this, so soft, and silky it feels almost unreal.

He had prayed to stop wanting her, begged God to at least grant him deliverance from his dreams of her. No salvation ever came. He’d ultimately confessed his heart to God, and asked him to carry the weight of the love he held for her. Everything he could control he did. He trained his thoughts, he watched his words, he regulated his actions—staunchly. But he hadn’t put the love for Abbie inside of his heart, it simply grew there, untilled, and he couldn’t begin to fathom how he would ever get it out. He fought and succeeded most of the time to focus his attention upon Katrina. In spite of his circumstance he lived right, he saw that his body did what his heart could not. Stayed faithful.

Had someone told him that this would be possible, he would have thought them mad. But here he was with his arms full of the woman he’d always wanted…the woman he loved.  

“Abbie.” He huffed, feeling something grow inside of him, too starved and greedy to go unfed.

“You’re sure.” He asks, momentarily raising his mouth from hers. Abbie drug her hands through his hair, as she gently nodded her head. He quickly rejoined their lips as he lifted her from the wall, carrying her toward her bedroom. It dawned on him that there were things he needed to share with her, he tried speaking between flurries of kisses as they entered the room.

“Lieutenant…there are some things…I must share with you.” He muttered, lips delving back for more.

Abbie moaned her reply against his lips, before finding the strength to offer up an,

“I’m listening,” as he lowered them to the bed. Ichabod kissed her neck as she crawled over him and began unbuttoning his shirt.

“These are things that likely would have revealed themselves during the….the.”

He lost himself a little, words jumbling inside of his head as she sprawled out over him and sucked at the skin covering his collarbone. She straightened her back, gazing down on him.

“C—course of our courtship.” He remembered, struggling to remain focused as he gazed up at her.

“For instance you should know that I am—Oh!” He grunted as she hunched over him, “Opinionated.” He breathed. Abbie kissed his lips, making quick work of his shirt buttons. Her fingertips slipping down the center of his chest let him know that he’s short on time. He hurried to fumble through his next declaration.

“Also I have a tendency to procrastinate in doing things I find of no great import, and upon occasion with a few things that I do.” He added.  

“Mm, hmm.” Abbie hummed pulling him forward with the lure of her lips.

“Like studying for your citizenship exam.” She sighed, slipping his shirt from his broad shoulder, dotting kisses along his collar bone. He abruptly flipped her over and settled between her thighs.

“Indeed.” He huffed, ravishing her soft lips. Whimpers hit the air as he slipped his rough calloused hand up her silky thighs. Her cries send his hips winding into her with enough force to leave a permanent indent in her mattress. A strangled groan tumbled from Ichabod’s lips as he went flush with desire. He’s felt yearning before, want, and craving, but he’s never felt this. He’s unquestionably harder than he’s ever been, but even though he’s desperate to be inside of her he holds back. She’d agreed to take his hand, but he didn’t sit right with him that no one was there to warn her against his less favorable attributes. She didn’t have a father in her life, her mother had passed, so that person was him. He took a long steady breath, muscles taut as he lay over her completely still. She brought both hands to his face, as he spoke through her kisses.

“I have difficulty (kiss) in admitting (kiss) when I am wrong.” He revealed in a low husky voice, head spinning. “But that is widely attributable to my arrogance and the underlying belief that  I am hardly ever wrong—OH! Good Grief!” He panted quickly reaching down to pull Abbie’s hand away from the stiffness stressing the front of his trousers.

Oh good grief is right. Abbie thinks, aching to have him inside.

She gently pushed him backward and rolled over on top of him. She found his lips, as his lengthy fingers slid up the back of her thighs to the plump mound that rested there. She thanked the stars that he knew how to touch her without being told. Tendrils of her hair fell against his face as she assaulted his mouth with all the sweetest the world could hold.

“Abbie…you feel so…” Ichabod sucked in a lengthy breath as she pulled his bottom lip between her teeth, “Wonderful.” He said sucking in a mouthful of her lips as soon as she released his. He had more to say, things she needed to know but it was becoming nearly impossible to formulate a proper thought with her rotating her hips as she was. He sat up, trying to hold her still so he could finish.

“At times I can be envious Abbie, jealous and somewhat contemptuous of certain others that may hold superior intellect to myself.” He stated unable to keep from indulging in a quick kiss. “And I take far too much pleasure in their failings and shortcomings.” He continued.

Abbie roughly pushed him back against the mattress, all fire running through her now. Not like a backyard roasting smores type of fire, a who the fuck poured gasoline everywhere and took a blowtorch to it type of fire. Ichabod did. He poured the gasoline, he started the blowtorch and now she was on fire and he wouldn’t shut-up. Did he really think she didn’t know who he was?

Abbie’s sucked small kisses down his abdomen, feeling his erection pulsing wildly against her belly. She raised to unbutton his trousers. A love stricken gaze overtook her as she stood pulled his pants from his body. She seen him for what he was. He was sweet, and protective, almost to a fault, trying to protect her even though he was the person he thought she needed protection from. She shook her head as a tiny smile bent her lips upward.

“By certain men I take it you mean Ben Franklin,” She said going along, returning to his lap. “And by failings I assume you mean his alphabet and I hope you haven’t derived too much pleasure from that. Because you and I know it wasn’t exactly a waste.” She teased stroking his beard.

“I take my victories where I can find them.” He acknowledged. He reached out and gathered up the tie to her robe, looking up to her eyes in search of permission. She took the ties from his fingers and slowly pulled them apart.

His eyes glistened in the soft light, as he watched her. He reminded himself to breathe as her satin robe dropped to the bed and slipped to the floor. She couldn’t get over the way he looked at her, awed, as if she were the most beautiful thing he’d even seen. She reached behind her back and unhooked her bra, watching his eyes twinkle at the first sight of her breast. She knew instantly that she would never forget this moment, here alone with him at the end of the evening. His eyes sunken upon her with all the worship and adoration of a young man seeing his first woman, it looked almost as though the life had been drained out of them—his eyes, she was seconds away from waving a hand in front of his face when he blinked. He looked at her with an astonishment that made her feel like there was glory in her bones.  

He rose forward, an unsteady hand lifting to gently cup her breast. A thumb raises sketching a jagged sideways line across her hardened nipple. Abbie softly hissed in a breath, eyes closed as she lamented how easily it came for him. Her moans, her affection, her everything. He was used to it being this way with her. She wonders if she should bother telling him that she can’t orgasm from penetrative sex unless she’s on top. She wonders if she should tell him that this has more to do with her than him and he shouldn’t take it personally. She wonders if she should warn him that a few of the men she had been with in the past, had made it their mission to make her come in another position, and ended up feeling some type of way when it never happened. She decides against saying anything because she’s feeling more giving than greedy tonight, and her only thoughts are upon pleasing him. She decides this because hours ago she lay in the bed across from Jenny who told her about the hell he’d been through since she’d left. She told her how it had been like watching someone try to figure out how to live a life, after all of the life had been ripped out of them. She told her how he had worked himself sick, and seldom uttered a word that wasn’t pertaining to bringing her home. He ate only to live, he lived only to work, he worked to find her. So tonight her wants and needs would take a backseat, and she would try to make him feel as loved and valued as she felt learning all of that.

“Abbie.” He whispered, finally lifting from his fog. “I’ve been referred to as condescending, and overly prim.” He adding dragging his lips across her clavicle. He held her to him, lungs empting at the sensation of her naked bosom settling against his bare skin.

“Recently I’ve found myself to be quite possessive. Know now I could not survive another man having y—”

“—Enough,” She said silencing him with a single finger against his lips. “I know who you are Ichabod Crane.” She breathed, grabbing a hold of his face and blessing him with passionate want filled kisses. Ichabod returned her ardor with a few of his own. Licking his way down her throat until his wet mouth encircled the nipples he’d wanted to suckle for the better part of three years. He was overjoyed, triumphant in manner that can only come from getting something you’ve always wanted, something you never dared to dream you might actually get.

Abbie fought to keep hold of reality as his tongue toggled between fluttering, and gently nipping at her flesh. Her arms once slung around his neck went limp,

Jesus, he’s done this a time or two. She thought trying to maintain composure. He turned her to the mattress and crawled over her sucking and licking at her other breast, starting at the underside, working upward until his tongue swirled around her peak.  

“Oh God! Crane!” She whined, curling her fingers around his ears as he teased her nipples.   Well so much for composure.  

As he begin his descent running open lips down her abdomen, Abbie turned and pulled open her bedside drawer, fumbling until she pulled a condom from the box.

She studied the wrapper a moment checking the expiration date.   Shit! They’re expired. She silently screamed. She’d had these leftover from Luke, Danny always had his own. When she felt Ichabod’s erection butting up against her leg she was reminded that they likely weren’t going to fit anyway. A sigh drifts from her lips as she falls back to the mattress.

“What is it?” Ichabod asked, raising his head to meet the concerned look in her eyes.

“I don’t have a condom.” She stated. His chest heaved up and down rapidly, as he tried to catch his breath.

“Oh.” He said trying to hide his disappointment. “I should have been equipped with a prophylactic measure, I simply did not…” He paused gathering his breath. “Had I known that I would be here with you, I would have been better prepared.”

“It’s okay.” Abbie said looking up at him.

“Maybe, we’re just meant to do this another time.” She noted.   “I’ve never…made love without a condom before, it’s…one of my rules. Something I don’t do.” She stated raising to her elbows. “I take pills to prevent unplanned pregnancy, you know the ones, but remember I told you the pill doesn’t protect against disease.”

“I understand fully.” He stated pressing a kiss beneath her chin. “I shall visit the market.” He said raising off of her and settling in beside her.

“This is meant to be—tonight.”   He pledged kissing her lips. “I will visit a thousand markets if need be.” He smiled, standing to hunt for his trousers. He looked back at her, crossed legs pointing outward, teeth buried in her bottom lip…the thought of leaving killed him.

“Or.” He begins.

Her eyes widened waiting to hear the rest of what he had to say.

“Or.” She repeated, side eyeing him.

“Abbie I’ve not been with anyone, further you are aware of my medical testing.” He said quietly.    

She knew that she had gotten tested after things ended with Danny, but Crane’s panel was run before Zoe. Her mind traipsed back to the night when the sun had beat him home.

“You mean you and Zoe never….”

“Lieutenant no.” He answered seeming amused by the thought of it. “Not even remotely close.” He said retaking his seat, and dropping a kiss to her shoulder.

“But what about that night you two went out and you didn’t come home until, well...morning.” She stated in a factual tone.

Ichabod's face scrunched in as he tried to decipher what she was talking about.

“—Ah ha,” He smirked, eyes closing as he recalled the night she spoke of.   “I know precisely the night of which you are speaking. I spent the greater portion of it defeating Master Corbin in billiards, and the remainder passed out upon his sofa.” He remembered fondly.

“I had more than my share of drink that night, though it was not nearly enough to relieve me of my thoughts of you.” He whispered, kissing her cheek.

“Oh.” She whispered.

“Yes oh.” He smiled, pulling her into his arms. “In fact, how is it that you were aware I did not return home that evening, as I recall I was showered and dressed before you awoke.” He questioned remembering the host of speeding laws he’d violated in an effort to make it home before she normally woke up. He was in the kitchen with her cappuccino in hand the moment she came down the stairs.

“I didn’t really notice,” Abbie covered, “I just…”

Ichabod could read it across her face. “Miss Mills” he grinned, “You were jealous.” He realized, things suddenly became full circle. That is why she’d refused the cappuccino I prepared that morning, he thought. She’d given him the cold shoulder over the course of the next few days, but he never suspected why.

“I heard you pull into the driveway.” She admitted. “I didn’t really get a lot of sleep that night.”

He squeezed her a little tighter. “Treasure, you are the only one for me.”

He knew that she saw to it her body was safe and protected, after all it was her that had instructed him in such matters when he began dating again.

“Earlier I presented you with an outline of some of my less promising attributes, and shortcomings, but I pray you recognize that I am much more. I am steady Abbie,” He pledged taking her hand. “I swear it. I am aware that my extended departure impaired our relationship…and I will never truly forgive myself for handling that in the manner in which I did. But I am steady,” He gently stroked her face, “And loyal…and faithful.” Ichabod slid his hand up gently rubbing her hair.

“And God do I love you, most fervently.” He swore. Abbie closed her eyes, a smile curved her lips seconds before she pressed them to his.

“I know.” She replied, barely audibly, letting his declarations sink into her.

“And we are to be husband and wife, are we not.” He breathed, stealing another kiss. “The choice is yours, whether I am staying, or going to procure safety measures, I simply wish to be with you.” He said quietly.

Abbie looked up into his darkened eyes, and gently touched his face before speaking through a surety she’d never held before.

“Come here.” She declared laying back.

Ichabod’s knees dropped to the mattress, mouth opening to accept Abbie’s upstretched kiss. He was entranced, blindly chasing her lips as she slowly moved backwards. Long, seeking, fingers slid over her legs, dragging up her inner thigh until his fingers collided with the edge of her panties. Ichabod tried to stifle a groan at the feel of the silky moisture that had already made its way out of the fabric. He left his fingertips at the edge of her folds for a moment feeling her body tremble in anticipation of him slipping them inside. His desire for her coiled his insides, but as much as he ached to be joined with her, he had waited far too long to rush. She would receive every drop of love he had, and he was overflowing with it. Praises of her overwhelming beauty were whispered into her ears, as Ichabod took it upon himself to make her feel every bit as breathtaking as she was. He sat on the bed gently kissing her lips as he bathed in her grace. He wondered if she had any idea how grateful he was to be there with her. Their timing had been off for such an extended period, he had often wondered if they would ever occupy the same shadow. His brain was still recalibrating under the notion that he was allowed to do this. His senses pulsed with delight.

“Come here.” He said, turning her over so she lay belly down against the bed. He took his time massaging her flesh while stringing nibbles and kisses from the nape of her neck to the bottom of her feet. His pressed his lips to her tiny toes, eyes closed in worship. She lay in ecstasy under his ministrations, feeling a dew raise to the surface of her skin, a byproduct of the frenzied heat percolating through her body. His teeth gnawed at her backside as his slowly gripped the straps of her panties, and tugged them down over her supple curves.

“My God.” He murmured taking a moment to examine the wet, cool, panties. Their level of saturation only building his anticipation of how good she’ll feel inside. He quickly tossed them to the ground and returned to her, this time all tongue and lips. Ichabod had never thought of himself as an ass-kisser, but there were always exceptions, and this round mass of utter perfection was an exception if he ever saw one. Abbie could hardly contain herself. His moist lips sucking kisses against her ass and shoulders was world shifting in and of itself, but when he simultaneously slipped his fingers beneath her, eased them inside of her folds, and slowly spun circles over her pulsing nub, the earth shattered.

“Fuck.” She whined, quickly biting down on her pillow to keep her other curses inside. Just when she thought she couldn’t take it anymore, that she couldn’t wait another second, he flipped her over. Abbie didn’t waste a moment, in an instant her hand slipped down and cupped his erection through his boxer briefs. Ichabod’s entire world froze. Abbie watched him come unknotted as she caressed his thickness with her fingers. If he thought he was going to have her sweating, cussing, and shaking and she wasn’t going to do anything about it, he had another thing coming.

Face tore all the way up. Check

Lips quivering. Check.

Panting wildly. Double check.

Eyes closed like they’re never going to open again. Fuckin’ right.

“Mm-hmm.” She hummed smartly, talking shit. His bossy, know it all ass always had something to say. Everything from arguing her down about the date the Declaration of Independence was actually signed to questioning her driving two seconds after he learned how to drive.

“Look at me.” She ordered.

He swallowed, mouth hanging open as he forced himself to open his eyes.

Oh my God. She inwardly shuddered. She’d never seen him look sexier. She wanted to put his back to the mattress and tear his ass up, but just looking at him intensified the tingle buzzing all throughout her body. She needed him inside of her as quickly as possible.

“Abbie.” He groaned feeling his erection jump against her palm.     

Abbie curled her free hand around his side, pulling him to her as her legs spread open like they were allergic to one another.

“Come here.” She softly called.

“Oh God.” He prayed, searching for the strength and determination to love her the way he wanted to, the way he knew she needed. He didn’t know how but someway his prayers were answered. He grabbed both of her hands, most importantly the one stroking him senseless, and pinned them to the mattress.

“Not until you are ready, and not one moment before.” He husked slowly, leaning over her. “Is that understood?”

What the…If he thought any part of her wasn’t ready, she was now. Abbie thrust upward, and wrapped her legs around him.

“I am ready.” She said lifting her head from the bed to nip at his lips.

“Patience Treasure.” He said, brushing his lips across her neck. “You will be. Now.” He licked his lips. “Am I understood?”

Abbie was livid, who the hell does he think he is telling me “Craaaneee!” She moaned loudly, back arching up from the bed as he closed his mouth around her nipple. His gripped tightened around her wrists to hold her in place. He let her nipple fall from his mouth.

“Must I repeat myself?” He whispered breathing furiously.

“No.” Abbie panted. “No, I understand.”

He loosened his hold on her, and fell into the mission of loving the front of her body in the same manner in which he loved the back. Abbie was at a loss. She felt like she was going to come simply from him touching her. Her body had never been inundated with so many caresses, and warm kisses in her entire life. Lips against her shin, teeth biting at her hips, his tongue licking up her thighs. One spot in particular he avoided. He tongued all the way up to the beginning of her folds, then backed off time and time again. By the time he returned to her lips she felt utterly brainless. He licked her lips, slipping his tongue inside of her mouth.”

“Look at me.” She heard him say in the same exact tone she had earlier. She. Was. Fuming. Abbie bit down on her bottom lip determined to hold her ground. She would bite it off before she did what he said.

“Treasure.” He whispered, placing delicate kisses to her jawline. “Look at me.” He moaned softly.

Her eyes fluttered open holding all of the love she held for him. He took her lips while pushing a solitary finger inside of her slick warmth. She moaned out as a slack-jawed Ichabod became lost reveling at the feel of having a part of him inside of her for the very first time. It took a moment but he found himself and began slipping his finger in and out of her while concurrently using his thumb to massage her wetness into her tiny pearl. Abbie cried out twisting up off of the mattress, grabbing his head, and calling for Jesus as his open mouth sealed around her nipple. Her teeth ground together, head pressed against the back of the mattress as he caressed her clit just right. She knew he would be good with his hands, but good lord this was insane, she could hardly take a breath that didn’t have his name attached to it. She knows her wetness is leaking all over his hand, she can feel it between her thighs. A small part of her wants him to know that this doesn’t typically happen, that he’s the only one who ever got it wet like this…the only one who ever made her feel this good. But another part of her knows he already has a big head, and telling him this will only make it bigger. Ichabod raised his mouth to Abbie, and sucked his name from her lips feeling her cries grow desperate. He reluctantly withdrew his finger from her unable to stave off his desire to taste her a minute longer. He left her kiss, turning his head just enough to slip his lust drenched finger into his mouth, eyes closing at the sweet taste of her.  

“You,” he groaned.

Abbie brought his mouth back to hers before he had a chance to close it around another word. He moaned, as her mouth hungrily explored his. He wondered if she tasted herself upon his tongue, wondered if she had any idea how amazing and delicious her nectar was.

“More.” He begged in a deep voice, attempting to slide down her body, but Abbie kept him in place. She needed him. Right here, right now. In fact, the only thing she could think about was the inevitability of her death if he didn’t stick his cock inside of her within the next two seconds.  

“Crane.” She quivered. “Please! Now.” She managed between breathy gasps. Please. The word he had been waiting for to affirm her readiness. The great Abigail Mills was begging for it and he promised himself he wouldn’t enter until she did. But he hadn’t gotten a chance to taste it yet, and least not from the spot it originated from. He’d been saving it this entire time, and couldn’t imagine waiting another second to put his tongue in it.

“Please.” She mewled gripping his face. “I want to feel you.” A beat thundered through the center of his chest so furiously he wondered if she could see it thumping. He rose up, stepped out of his boxer briefs and stood in front of the bed.

She knew what time it was, the size of his penis was something she’d long ago filed under the things she knew about him that she could not un-know. But Damn. Her list of sexual partners was on the short side, and out of them only one had a penis anywhere near the size of Ichabod’s. Her boyfriend from college, what seemed like a lifetime ago. They were young, and though the sex wasn’t all bad she vividly remembered cutting a few sessions short due to him ramming into her in a way that he should have known would hurt. She realized after him that she preferred a smaller size. So looking at Crane now, who was inches and girth in the wrong direction, a part of her wanted to get up, walk out of the room, and leave him there asshole naked with that python he was trying to pass off as a penis. Ichabod frowned sensing her hesitation.

“Abbie. Is it…” “—You’re beautiful.” She said softly, tearing her eyes away from his erection and meeting his gaze.

“Come to me.” She added holding a hand out to him   He was her baby, she could never walk away from him. She hadn’t quite figured out how she was going to take it, but she knew she was going to try.

Ichabod sighed, lips curving upward in relief as she pulled him down to her. She wrapped him inside of her arms and kissed his smile away as he stretched out over her. After a few moments of nipping and kissing he brought his love drunken eyes hers, teasing his tip at her entrance.

“I love you.” He whispered, working the head inside. Ichabod’s entire body tensed up the moment he’d pressed his way into her wetness.

“Oh.” He grunted, muscles locked, and shaking from the warmth of her tight flesh around him. As many times as he’d thought of this moment, he quickly learned that his imagination was a piss poor substitute for the real thing.   She felt better than he ever imagined anything could, and he’d only gotten his tip wet.   A strength he didn’t know he had rose from within him, stopping him from carrying out his first inclination which was to drive the rest of his shaft forward at once. He lowered his head, feeling his face grow overly flushed with passion he hadn’t yet learned how to contain.

He tried to go slowly, stroking himself inside bit by bit, heeding the pressure from her fingers at his lower belly. She was quiet, face taut with pleasure and pain, he knew what he had. But he wondered if she had any idea what she had. If she did she was utterly reckless for allowing him to enter without a warning. His was just thankful his love for her won out. There were still a few inches to go, but he needed to know that she was okay, that she still wanted him, this. He paused instantly, waiting, dropping his lips to hers and smothering her with affectionate kisses. He did his best to love her, while still making a concentrated effort upon not finishing. He couldn’t believe he was already battling against finishing and he hadn’t even completed entry. She had a grip on him the likes of which he’d never felt and every part of him wanted to yield. But when he tugged his eyes open he saw her there, his heart, he knew she deserved someone who could stand strong. He suckled kisses against her neck and lips, waiting for her to adjust to him.

Abbie couldn’t tell whether the discomfort she was feeling had actually ceased or if her affection for him was simply clouding it, but within seconds the only thing she could feel was the love he gave her, and the love she wanted to give him. She wrapped her hands around his back, and pulled him forward wrestling a soft moan from him as he raised his hips and sank the rest of him inside of her. He stilled, horribly unprepared for how incredible she felt. Not incredible in the sense of how the word had come to be used, for any and everything, but in the actual sense. He would never in all of eternity believe such a feeling existed without being surrounded by the very evidence. Abbie whimpered and rolled her hips against him in an effort to spur on his movement.

“Abbie.” He gasped, unable to pretend that there was a part of him that she couldn’t have, his face once hard with yearning grew soft as he struggled against the overwhelming desire to relax himself inside of her. He knew well if he submitted, even in an inch, he would come.

After a moment he gathered himself and found the will to move.

Gasps collided as lust laden eyes fell closed. Limbs stretched rigid with tingled passion twined as the witnesses held dear to the only thing either of them really ever had, each other. It was as though Ichabod was experiencing everything he’d ever felt for her at once, and little parts of him died inside because of it. It was odd that the air around them lightened in the presence of such heavy emotion, and yet it managed to weigh enough to carry their quiet cries. Ichabod shivered, noticing how everything around them felt blessed and pure, like new life jumping into existence. His heart was overfull with love, but he couldn’t help feeling that everything he was doing wasn’t enough. These kisses he gave her ripe with unrestrained adoration weren’t enough, these strokes, these tender, slow, half in to bottom seeking strokes weren’t enough. And they weren’t, he managed four and a half of them in total before he had to pull out.

“Crane,” Abbie huffed, confounded, “Baby what’s wrong?” She asked grabbing his shoulder as he started to scoot down her body.

“Abbie” He gasped, chest heaving. His head bowed. “Treasure.”

She knew. Her hand touched his cheek. “It’s okay,” She said under her breath. “I only want to be with you.” She reassured him.

“It is not.” He replied, before pushing himself down her body. She started to tell him how good it felt, how already he’d made her body feel better than it ever had, but every thought was ripped from her with abrupt permanence as his wet tongue collided with the wetness between her thighs. Two of his fingers slipped inside of her, and the ceiling disappeared behind her eyelids. Her fingers tightened and gripped around the head she prayed blessings over, bottom rising up off of the bed in pursuit of his wet tongue. Just when the pleasure was becoming too much to contain, when she felt that she wouldn’t last another thrust from his fingers or flicker of his tongue, he crawled up over her and drove his throbbing cock back inside.  

It was immediate, for both them. Ichabod didn’t know if it was the way her cries reached inside of him and wrapped around his very spirit, or the feel of her clamped around his manhood, gripping him in a fashion that epitomized perfection, but something happened. Something unknown, and ancient sprung awake inside of him as he thrust inside of her. He couldn’t understand how, but he knew that she was his purpose.

Lieutenant, he tried to say, only he didn’t say Lieutenant he said,

“Nga gasan, nga ud.” My queen, my sun. The words slipped from his lips without his full awareness, it was almost as if they spoke themselves. Abbie’s body quaked as he slowly pulled back and thrust in deeply with a loving force that bent her spine, and numbed her mind.

“Nga Libbu,” She moaned, “Nga eridu.” My heart, my home she replied without missing a beat. And neither did he.  

He was too massive to escape. He pushed through her wetness stretching, and ironing out every part of it with each thrust forward. She had never experienced a pleasure that she couldn’t turn down a notch or escape. He was so loving and gentle, her spirit glowed as he made love to her as if she was the most fragile thing on earth. She had sex before, but it wasn’t this, this was something she’d never done. His hips slowly stroking every inch of him into her suspended her breath, and she suddenly realized, this was making love. An ancient dance that became a song in which the verses were comprised solely of sounds of passion. The headboard gently clanging against the wall served as a steady hollow beat, while the only spoken lyrics were half audible utterations of unlearnt languages called out time and again. And when their beautiful musical approached a glorious conclusion she felt something happening that had never happened before. She whimpered, gasping for breath at the feel of his erection pushing her to the point of no return, his very presence unlocking something deep inside of her for which he alone held the key. And that was when it all began…or ended, which one she wasn’t quite sure. His large hand pinned her raised leg to the mattress as his thrusts increased with speed and strength. She wanted to slow it down, to somehow get a handle on the emotions and sensations rushing through her. When she was on top she was the one causing things to move forward, she was in control…she made herself come. When she wasn’t on top she’d never opened herself enough to allow that control to another.

It would have been easier had it been an out of body experience she reasoned. Bodies shook from the pressure of bursting through to a new level of vibration. She had never been so high. If there had been a way to detach herself from it she might have, but there wasn’t. She tried to hold a piece of her love back, something she could keep for herself. He wasn’t having it. His strokes already world expanding grew harder, impossibly deeper, stiffening every time he drove in, softening all of her resolve. This feeling overcame her, one of being taken towards the edge of a cliff, of not knowing what to expect when the road ran out. Of not giving a fuck if she plummeted a thousand feet. Her love for him forced her to be there, present, pinned, and overpowered as he took from her, and gave her something no other had been successful in taking, or giving. When he sunk in every inch, length finding her bottom, bone kissing her clit, she saw the face of God. He held her down, and she let him, he broke her beliefs, and she let him, her moans turned to screams…and she was powerless to stop them. She allowed herself to be loved, and in that moment she felt herself contracting and closing around him with a force that returned them both to speaking in tongues. Flashes of glass stained windows entered her mind. Women she’s inwardly ridiculed, laughed at even as she assumed they were putting on a show when they spoke in tongues, but this…this moment of purity and giving of self, of being taken…it brought her closer to her source. Abstract memories of times long buried turned through her mind filling her heart with a love as warm as the love she felt spilling inside of her. Ichabod shuddered, still babbling in tongues as she wrung the very life from him. She held him tight, bodies seizing as his moans joined hers, ringing out into the free, magical air.

He lay there inside of her, eyes closed, placing lazy kisses to her lips as he tried to gather himself. He was almost afraid to look at her. When all of this started he was merely concerned with what he could do for her, how he could make her feel. He didn’t expect any of this, the connection they shared, the feeling like he’d returned to a home long lost. His eyes stretched open as he looked down on her noting that hers remained closed. He continued to kiss her as she sighed against his lips but made no attempt to open her eyes.

“I love you.” He whispered. She was quiet for a short while.

“And I love you.” She replied dragging her fingertips up his back.

He pulled out of her, even though he didn’t want to, even though she felt so good that he wanted to put it right back in.

The moment he slipped off of her, Abbie rolled to her side and stared across the room. His arm wrapped around her from behind, and cuddled her to his chest.

“Are you alright?” He asked.

“Mm-hmm.” She replied nodding her head. Lying her fucking ass off. She lay there trying to reconcile some of the things she’d seen with some of the things she’d done, beginning to understand some of the things she’d be willing to do. Strangely in this moment she thought of all the women she’d dismissed as stupid for riding and dying for some dude, never knowing how they loved or how they might have been loved. What if they had this all along, and she simply couldn’t comprehend it. She’d seen it in her line of work women willing to risk it all, right hand on the stand kind of risk it all, ‘No your honor, I understand that there was gun-powder residue found on his hands and clothing, but he didn’t fire the weapon, he was with me,’ even though they hadn’t seen him in two days. She judged them, even though it was something she tried not to do. Honestly she couldn’t even count the number of times she’d risked losing her job—and correspondingly only source of income—in behind Ichabod. Not to mention the little incident where she, an African American female, being of sound mind and body, voluntarily jumped her ass back into to 1781 to save him from his baby mama. She’d never been all in with someone the way she was with him, it scared her. She would do anything to save him. Some of the flashes she seen just now, the same flashes she saw in the tree…made her feel as though she already had.

“Gas-an.” He whispered, elbows propping up his head as he bent supple kisses to her cheek. There was something in the way he said that word that claimed her, that turned her around. The G blending with an unwritten N to the point that both sounded nearly silent. Ngaashaan, it sounded like.

The moment she looked at him her cheeks began scorching from what she could only describe as a blend of love, passion, and utter confusion. The words she’d said, and at one point yelled came flooding back to her mind. Her eyes instantly slammed shut, head lowering along the pillow until her chin was in her chest. Ichabod chuckled, placing a finger beneath it and lifting it back up. They were quiet, blinking, each staring at the sparkle in the other’s eyes. Abbie spoke first.

“We need to find out what all of this means, the tablet, the garden. What happened just now, the language…I’ve never had anything like this happen before, in my entire life.” She emphasized.

“Nor have I my love, nor have I.” He replied. “And we shall discover the truth, after.” He said dropping his lips to hers.

“After?” Abbie asked. His smile faded as he lowered her hand to his flesh, already hard and thick with desire.

“The war will be there in the morrow.” He whispered. Abbie, stroked her hand up and down his length, causing him to draw in a deep breath.

“Or, more sensibly put, a fortnight.” He said, taking her into his arms.

 


 

The next morning Ichabod woke alone in bed. He sat up immediately calling out to Abbie. When there was no reply he gathered the sheet around his waist and darted out into the hall. For a moment he thought back to the times he’d dreamed her presence only to wake to an empty home. That was precisely how the hole came to be in the kitchen wall. His heart began to slow to a normal beat when he heard the clanking of pots and pans coming from the kitchen. Still, he needed to see her.

An irradiating smile creases his face as he watches her melodic movements across the kitchen, pulling breakfast items from the refrigerator and cupboards. He notices the headphones tucked into her ears and leans against the wall watching her hips subtly swaying to a rhythm he doesn’t need to hear to feel. And then she sings, and he swears the heavens opened.

In my mind, I’ll always be his lady

In my mind, I’ll always be his girl

Only time, can tell if I’m his lady

But in my mind, I’ll always be his girl

They say if you love something, you’ve got to let it go

And if it comes back, then it means so much more

But if it never does, at least you will know

That it was something you had to go through to grow

 

Every cell in Ichabod’s body fills with pride as he watches her. He stood undetected for a while until something shifted her attention and she turned her head enough to see him in her peripherals. He laughs as she quickly pulls the headphones from her ears hiding a bashful smile behind her closed lips.

“By all means please, continue.” He smiles, pushing himself from the wall, hand still gripping his sheet.

“You’re a sleuth.” She playfully scolded. Ichabod can’t help but notice the way her eyes brightened when he came into view, it makes him hold his head a little higher.

His brow raises. “Well, once a spy…” He quips drawing her into a one armed hug.

“Good morrow milady.” He hums pressing his lips to hers. Abbie laughed grinning a smile to his good morning.

“Good morning.” She replied settling into a kiss. She stole a quick glance at the sheet covering his waist.

“How is it that I managed to sleep throughout your preparation for the day?” He asked, sitting them down in a kitchen chair.

Abbie laughed thinking back to how she had to sneak out of bed this morning. She woke in his arms, and realized rather quickly how committed he was to keeping her there even though he was sleeping.

“I used the main bathroom.” She answered gently pecking his nose. “Jenny told me how hard you’d been working to figure out a way to bring me home. I know you couldn’t have slept well on the couch a few nights back, and we both know you didn’t get any sleep last night.” She smiled.

“I wanted you to rest.” She said pushing his messy locks back off of his face.

“Crane.” She says softly.

“Yes Treasure?”

She has things she needs to say to him, apologies owed, the same as he had the day before. She knows why he came out before dressing. Both of them had struggled when the other left.  She woke with newfound clarity as she lay in his arms watching him sleep. She was reminded that everything happens for a reason. She got the love she was supposed to get, when she was supposed to get it. And my, what a big love it was. So big in fact that she doubts she would have been able to properly receive it had he tried to give it to her all those months ago. She wasn’t ready, he swore he was, but she knew she wasn’t. His absence made room, prepared her while forcing her to admit all that he was to her. She wanted to tell him that she understood that now, to apologize for sacrificing herself, but she also knows it won’t be quick and the sound of his stomach growling causes her to put it off.

“Nothing.” She said holding on to him.

“Are you certain?” He asked noting the serious look that had graced her face. “Is something troubling you?”

“No baby. Why don’t you get dressed while I finish up here?” Abbie advises, planting a thorough kiss over his lips. His palm shifts to cover her bottom, as he groans against her suggestion.

“Or perhaps you might care to join me, then we could prepare breakfast together.” He offered with a smile. “I should be the one cooking for you.”

“If we get into the shower together we’ll be there until the water runs cold, and then we’ll spend the rest of the day not getting dressed.” Abbie pointed out, slipping kisses in between words.

“Besides, I’ve already showered.” She smiled. “And if we attempt to cook in this kitchen with you touching me this way, we will burn it to the ground.” She laughed. It takes a bit of convincing, but he sees the flaw in his reasoning, and goes on without her.

At breakfast he managed approximately three bites of eggs, and a gulp of juice before he scooped her up. He sat her on the table and undressed her before showing her that she was the only thing he was hungry for. After he’d eaten his fill he lifted her trembling form and pressed her back to the dining room wall where he proved once again that she could reach orgasm in various positions. When it was all said and done Abbie, cloaked only in his shirt, straddled his lap feeding him cold toast. He swore it was the best breakfast he’d ever had.

His eyes on her as the cleared the table reminded her that they still had things they needed to discuss. Unaired grievances that she knew he wouldn’t allow her to brush under a rug, but at the same time he wouldn’t push, he was patient that way. After they cleaned and dried the dishes she led him to the living room where they sat and talked.  

“I know that you were scared and worried,” She began, “And I can tell that you’re still angry.” She placed her hand on top of his, squeezing his knuckles. He didn’t dispute it, a frown grew across his face every time he thought of that day he watched her climb the steps cradling the Shard of Anubis in her hands. Still he took her hand in his, eyes closing as he brought it to his lips.

“I thought I had lost everything.” He said quietly. Remembering how terrible he felt that he couldn’t reach her, and she didn’t listen to him.

“Jenny was in danger, and everything happened so quickly. I had to do something to save her.” Abbie explained. For the most part he understood, it hurt, but he understood her wanting to save her sister. At the same time, he knew there something more going on with her. Abbie pulled her legs up onto the couch, turning her body so she faced him.

“For some time now I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the way this war we’re waging might end.” She disclosed. “You remember the night that Irving was killed, or so we thought?” She questioned.

“Of-course.” Ichabod replied, remembering how heartbroken they all were, the way she stood in his arms crying. That was the night it became clear that the sound of her crying was the worst thing he’d ever heard. It was also the first time he had a true appreciation for how heavily all of this weighed upon her. She had always done such a good job at shielding others from the worries that plagued her.

“Do you remember when I said if one of us needed to wield the sword of Methuselah it would be me first?” She asked. He did, he also remembered threatening to wrest it from her.

“I do.” He answered.

“Well.” She spoke shakily. “I see the way you guys look at me like I’m some kind of hero, like I’m not afraid to risk it all, my life. But lately I’ve been thinking more and more about how terrible it would be to be the last one standing.” Her last word comes out funny, as she begins to lose control of her voice.

“Of being alone.” Ichabod watches her eyes grow red with unshed tears. He slipped his palms beneath her thighs and lifted her to his lap.  

“Treasure…”  

“—It was fine before.” She continued. “It wasn’t good by any means, but I was okay.” She stated. “And now that I have all of you…I know we’re misfits, and a mess, but you guys are my family…I don’t want to lose any of you.” She confessed, dragging her fingers up his cheek, before speaking in a slow firm voice.

“When you were gone, I realized that I can be here without you, that I could survive without you. But I don’t want to. Not ever again.” She insisted. “And mama said,” She paused attempting to keep her voice from breaking, “that I’m supposed to go further than everyone, but what if I don’t want to?” She choked back a heavy sob, straining her voice to  “What if I only want to go as far as all of you?”

Ichabod was severed. He pulled his bride to be to in close feeling his own tears spilling down his cheeks as he tried to be strong for her. He dropped tearful kisses to her head as she buried it into his neck.

“Shhh.” He said trying to calm her. But how could he provide her with a calm he didn’t have. Tears filled his eyes as he tried to find a way to tell her that he needed her to do everything in her power to survive. Even if he, Jenny, and Joe fell. She had to live.

Most people have no inkling as to the time and nature of their demise, and for the most part, neither does Ichabod. But a few nights after she disappeared into the tree he fell into a dream unlike any other he’d ever experienced. Almost as if God was saying, here, look, see. He had to be the first in the history of men to wake ecstatic from dreaming their own death, but he did, and he did so because she was in it, and if she was in it that meant that she was still alive. He was still horrified as he didn’t know for sure, but that dream had given him hope, that dream is what held him together as his entire world fell apart. In the dream she had stood beside him, a few feet from the banks of a river before he offered up his life, a sacrifice.

Then last night, he had the dream again, only this time more was revealed. Though the exact date was not given a sign of the times made itself known. It would occur just months before her belly begin to fatten, full with his unborn children. Two beautiful babies, a boy and a girl whom he saw so clearly in his dream, but knew he would never lay mortal eyes upon. He had awakened in the middle of the night and lay in panic for a moment, but she’d sighed and an ease fell over him. That was moments before he woke her with soft kisses and made love to her all over again. Now he sat cradling her in his arms on the couch and he realized why he’d had the dream. He wanted to tell her that she wouldn’t be alone again, that she would indeed have happiness and family after he was gone. He couldn’t.

“Abbie.”  He whispered, eye’s clouded with water as he thought back to the day he’d thought he lost her.

She raises her tear soaked face to his and can tell by the look in his eyes how he feels. Her mama’s words echo through her head, and she hopes to God they aren’t true.

“Treasure you must never do something like that again.” He stated firmly. “Promise.”

She head bows, she looks down at his shirt not wanting to meet his request, but beginning to accept that she must.

“Promise.” He says against gently squeezing her side.

“You don’t have to worry.” She says. “I promise, and I know that the road we’re navigating can only be travelled by the two of us, but I can’t stop thinking about what’s going to happen when we come to the end of it. Baby I don’t wanna be anywhere you aren’t. So…” Her hands raise to cup his face. “Can you just be there…after? Just promise me that you’ll be there.” She begs.

A few teardrops washed against his beard. She hated how broken his voice sounded when he finally spoke. His large hands eclipsed the sides of her small head as he held her eyes to his.

“I promise to do all that is within my power to try….To stay here with you, always.” He strained quietly, pulling her lips to his brushing forceless feather kisses against them. His voice grew stronger when he leaned back, looking into her wet eyes. “But if I cannot…”

She tried to swallow the lump in the back of her throat. Slowly shaking her head before returning it to his chest in an attempt to hide her tears. She didn’t want to hear any more. She didn’t need to.

Ichabod sat on the couch holding her for the longest time, long after she’s fallen asleep. He didn’t need anything to heighten the joy he felt having her in his arms. He was already well versed in the idea of impermanence. But having been shown the end of his time here, he couldn’t help but relish these moments all the more. There was never a moment for them to pause, to contemplate, or feel. This war never stopped. But for the first time, this short respite afforded them the opportunity to lay a few of their burdens down. He hated that she had carried hers alone for so long. Wishes somehow he could have shielded her from it. He lay partially beneath her upon the sofa, one of her legs, and her entire torso strung out across his body. The partial sunlight creeping in through the window shifted creating a low glow throughout the room. He brushed a curl from her face, replacing it with tiny kisses as his mind conjured up the faces of their little ones, the girl with his eyes and the boy with hers. He wanted more, wanted to actually hold them, and hear them laugh even if only just once. He wanted to kiss their fat cheeks and tell them how much he loved them, and how proud he is to be their father. He wanted to be there for Abbie, and to help her take care of them. His hand tentatively slips over her belly in thought of the spirits that will one day reside there. She will tell them stories of him, he reasons, and they will come to know him through her. It hurts, but not nearly as much as he hurt when he thought he’d lost her.

Abbie wakes up on the couch hours later, realizing she’d cried herself to sleep.   She glances around the corners of the living room, before sitting up.

“Ouch.” She brings a gentle palm to her aching head. She quickly remembers headaches are one of the reasons she hates crying, the other being embarrassment. She knows she shouldn’t be, not with him, but it still feels a little odd that he’s seen her cry harder than anyone ever has. Her palms flatten against the cushions as she raises up off of the sofa, feet falling into stride towards the delightful smell coming from the kitchen. Ichabod is bent in front of the oven removing a chicken he’d roasted on a bed of vegetables. He hears her behind him and immediately places it on the stove stop before pulling the oven mitts from his hands.

“You’re awake.”   He smiled walking over to her. “How are you feeling?” He asked brushing her hair back away from her head, and laying a delicate kiss over it.

“Okay.”

Ichabod glanced down at her completely enraptured by how beautiful she looked. How someone could turn puffy eyes into an advantage he didn’t know, but she managed it.

“How is your head?” He asked noting her hand to the side of her temple.

“I’ll be okay.” She assessed.

“That you will.” He responds. There’s pain and uncertainty in his eyes, even though he sounds so sure. She looks away, feeling something different and unwelcome in his gaze. The discomfort of it makes her feel like kicking herself for falling apart. She’d been taking care of herself for years, she didn’t need someone looking at her as if she needed taking care of…but he did.

Ichabod darts down the hall to the bathroom medicine cabinet, and returns with a small bottle of aspirin. He leads her to a seat at the table, and quickly leaves her to pour a glass of water.

“Take these.”

“Thank you.” She whispered, throwing the pills back and chasing them will a few small sips of water.

“I’m sorry about earlier.” Abbie says before the water has totally cleared her throat. “I didn’t mean to lay all of that on you, and the tears.” She cringed.

“—Abbie.” He cuts her off. He bends to his knees taking view of the mixture of sadness and embarrassment upon her face. His hands cling to her hips as he balances himself.

“Never apologize to me for sharing the things that trouble your heart. You are the strongest person that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, but I do not wish for you to pretend to be stronger than you are. Nor stronger than you need to be.” He stated, stoking her cheek. “That is why I am here. To stare into the face of the abyss with you, to shoulder some of the burden so that your load might lighten.” He pledged.

“Always speak your heart to me and I shall do the same.” He bargained, pulling her into his arms. He means it mostly. He will tell her everything, and they will share in all that is to be endured together…everything except for the ending. That he will carry alone because as much as it hurts him, he’s certain it will hurt her more.

Abbie’s eyes soften as she leans up to kiss his lips. She shakes her head at the realization that he’s kneeling while she’s seated in a pretty tall chair, and he’s still so much taller than her.

“Okay.” She responds sweetly.

“I was saving something for you until after dinner, however I cannot imagine a better moment for you to receive it. Wait here.” He said as he raised his lengthy limbs from the floor. He ran up to his room for a few seconds, and quickly returned clutching a small rectangular box wrapped in Christmas paper. He slid a chair in front of her and gently placed the box in her hands.  Abbie’s head dipped forward as her shoulders curled in.

“Crane, you didn’t have to do this.” She said, eyes flared from surprise.

“I wanted to.” He said softly.

“But..I don’t have anything for you, I know what I was going to get you, but…”

“—You have already given me the greatest gift I could have ever hoped to receive by returning home.” He corrects her kissing her cheek. “I have all that I need. Please…open it.” He quietly adds.

Abbie’s fingers set upon untying the ribbon strung around the box. She glanced up at him almost feeling his enthusiasm when she finally set it free. She lifted open the top to find a beautiful pendant necklace fastened to a white gold chain. Ichabod was overjoyed watching her face light up as she held it up to view it, eyes bouncing between him and the necklace.

“I love it!” She smiled, leaning forward to kiss him. Abbie’s attention drifted back to the blue pearish shaped stone at the bottom of her necklace. There was a smaller, oval green stone linked above it by a row of small clear stones. She traced her finger around the sparkly gems surrounding the green one. She knew his cash flow was pretty much nonexistent, but she didn’t care if it cost two cents, it was beautiful. It had character, and he gave it to her so she instantly adored it.   In fact the more she looked at it, which she couldn’t seem to stop doing, the more she loved it. She could only imagine how goofy her smile looked.

She rose from her seat and threw her arms around him, peppering his face with kisses.

“I take this to mean you find it agreeable?” Ichabod grinned, pulling her to his lap.

“Agreeable’s right here.” She said holding her hand out in front of her. “I am over the moon.” She beamed, smooching his lips. “Thank you, I will cherish it.”  

Ichabod took in a heavy breath, and slowly released it.

“I so hoped it would become to you.” He informed her, taking the necklace and directing her to turn around so he could fasten it to her neck. “Would you like to hear the story behind it?”

“There a story behind it?” She asked a bit surprised.

“There is always a story.” He smirked. “Do you recall the gentlemen I informed you about, the one who served as patron for my trip to Scotland?”

“Yeah Sebastian Davis,” She answered, turning back around after he’d fastened her necklace. “The guy you told me you saved from wasting millions on fraudulent art.” Abbie recalled. As much as she missed him while he was gone she, she still loved listening to all of the stories of his experiences while he was away.

“Precisely. And you know well that I visited my family ancestral home while there.”

“Mm-hmm,” She answered. “Of course that’s where you retrieved the tablet that landed your behind in jail.”

“Touché, however the tablet was not the only item I retrieved upon my visit.” He said glancing at her necklace. Abbie’s eyes grew wide, nose crinkling through the center as she began to understand.

“As the story goes” Ichabod sat up a bit straighter and linked his arms around her. “My great-grandfather once saved the life of a business man who’d travelled from India. He had seen the same man many times before along his route home, but this particular evening he came upon him bound and gagged the captor of five men who meant to rob and kill him for his goods. My great-grandfather leapt from his carriage, aided only by his elderly coachman and quickly cut down three of the men, causing the others to flee. The man he saved, overly grateful, visited the estate the following day bearing gifts. One, and most pristine of which was a beautiful golden necklace fashioned with clear, green, and blue stones.” He said running his finger along her neck.

“Ichabod.” Abbie gasped, heart rate tripling as she looked down at the necklace.

“My great-grandmother wore it, my grandmother wore it, my mother wore it, and now it belongs to you.” He whispered.

Abbie panicked. She could see the pride brewing in his eyes, but a million terrible thoughts passed through her head. On the one hand she was unspeakably thrilled that he wanted her to wear something so important to him, on the other hand, this was legitimately one of his family heirlooms. What if she broke it, or lost it, the pressure was overwhelming.

“Crane. This…all of this is beautiful, but are you sure you want me to have something that means so much to your family? I don’t know what I would do if something happened to it.” Abbie stated.

He cupped her head between his hands. “You are my family.” He affirmed. “I love nothing more than you. Months ago I had this necklace and not you, and can I assure you there was never a more miserable man. If I have you and no necklace I would still be the happiest man to ever walk the earth.”

She perked up a little but he could still see the worry in her eyes.

“Before you’d even gone, I met with Mr. Davis’s jeweler to have the chain link of the necklace replaced for you. Time had done it a great disservice and I feared it would not hold. The clasps and supports are all new, you needn’t worry.”

Abbie bit her bottom lip in an effort to stop smiling. For me, she keeps thinking.

“You mean you knew that you were going to give this to me from the moment you returned.”

“I knew that I was going to present it to you the moment that I left.” He stated. “Somehow I think I’ve known even longer than that.” His next breath was swallowed in a passionate kiss. She gently rocked her hips against him, prompting him to reach down and begin unbuttoning her jeans. He briefly thought back to the chicken he’d left resting upon the counter top.

“I doubt we shall ever eat a warm meal again.” He chuckled, taking her lips.

     

Later that evening Abbie lay raking her thumb across her bottom lip. Ichabod looked down at her laying against his chest.

“What is it?” He asked.

“What do you mean?”

“You are playing at your lip, which leads me to reason there is something occupying your thoughts. “ He observed.

“Last night…when you listed all of your flaws…Do you want me to list mine?” She asked. He shook his head.

“You, Treasure, are perfect.” He replied pressing his lips into her forehead.  

“Not even close,” She smiled, “But I’m perfectly happy to allow you to believe that. One thing though” she said sliding her fingers up his chest.

“I have always been this sort of independent person and…basically I want you to know that just because I don’t need you, it doesn’t mean that I don’t need you. Do you understand?” She questioned. Ichabod’s heart fluttered as he nodded his head.  

“I do…indeed.” He answered.

“Abigail.”

“Hmm?” She hummed, splaying her palm across his chest.

“Yesterday evening, I did not list the full extent of my flaws.” He commented rubbing the hip she’d thrown over him. “One that I find most glaringly obvious was lacking. My finances.”

“Crane.” Abbie said softly.

“—Please.” He knew what she would say, that it was okay, but quite honestly it would only make him feel worse about offering himself in such a condition. He wrapped her hand in his.

Abbie stretched up his body and planted one of the most tantalizing, heartfelt kisses he’d ever received to his lips. He closed his eyes feeling his desire for her rising once again.

“I love you baby.” She cooed, squeezing him tight. “I have us.”  

“I know that you love me.” He stated, still unable to understand why, but grateful nonetheless. “I can feel it. And I am well aware that you are capable of providing for the both of us.” He stated.

“However, I pray that you are likewise aware that I am an industrious sort. Things in the financial realm are difficult for me now, though given time I would see you fashioned with a life of your choosing.” He smiled sadly, knowing that the odds were great that he wouldn’t be given such time.

“However,” He continued. “If you ever find yourself in need of currency,” He said fingering the jewelry he’d placed around her neck, “I want you to sell the necklace.” Abbie twisted to look up at him.

“One, don’t worry because after we finish this war,” She twined their hands together and raised his knuckles to a kiss, “and we will finish this war, I just might take a sabbatical from work, and let you hold down the fort for a while. Two,” She turned onto her belly laying fully on top of him so she could look him directly in the eyes, “This necklace” She said, tracing it with her finger. “I wouldn’t part with it for a million bucks.”

“Of course not.” Ichabod agreed, dismissively. “That price is far too low. Just last month Sebastian offered me four and one quarter million dollars for it.” He stated casually.   Abbie leapt up off of the couch, and glared down at him. “What?! What do you…” She looked down reexamining her necklace. “Mean…what do you mean he offered you four million dollars for it?!” She yelled, not certain if she heard him correctly. Ichabod sat up surprised at her amazement.  

“I had the necklace appraised by Mr. Davis’s jeweler the same afternoon that I had the chain replaced. The diamonds are.”

“Diamond’s?!” She exclaimed.

“Of course.” He said, bearing a curious gaze. “What did you take them to be?”

“I don’t know cubic zirconia’s, and maybe, well it’s too dark to be topaz, but I don’t know—not diamonds!” She explained as he stood to his feet.

“Fancy, vivid, diamonds.” Ichabod confirmed, pulling her back to his arm, already missing her presence.  

“The both of them are rated such, and the blue one is believed to be internally flawless, at least Mr. Pritchford, Mr. Davis’s jeweler was unable to find one.” He informed her. Abbie couldn’t believe what he was telling her.  

“But this has to be…” She looked down at the blue stone, “What nine, ten carats?” She asked.

“Eleven and one half.” He corrected her. “The green stone is four and one quarter.”

“Baby.” Abbie gasped horrified, feeling an overwhelming urge to get the necklace from around her neck.   She reached behind her fingering for the lock. “I don’t think I can wear this, I just…I can’t.” Ichabod stepped forward, sealing his body to hers, and stopping her hands.

“Of course you can...you will.” He stated kissing her lips. “And if you ever need, sell it.” Abbie’s heart had barely settled, but she wondered why he kept saying that.

“What do you mean if I ever need? What are you, what are you talking about it?” She asked growing suspicious. Ichabod quickly dialed it down.

“I simply…I understand that there are a great deal of expenses which you are required to cover every month. I am simply stating that if ever you are unable to meet those expenses and a situation arose necessitating the need for currency, I would certainly understand if you were to sell the necklace. That is all.” He stated. Abbie studied him a moment swearing she’d sensed something else in his tone.

“That’s all?”

“That is all.” He restated, bending to her mouth and nibbling upon her bottom lip before she could say anything else.

“Okay.” She mumbled, just as he took her top lip prisoner. “Baby,” she manages, interrupting his kisses. “I wouldn’t sell or trade this necklace for anything in the world.” She pledged.

Ichabod’s felt his heart expand at her proclamation. A moment later she was off of her feet. She pressed moist kisses to his lips as he cradled her in his arms. She smiled when he started heading toward the stairs. She’d felt him growing firm, even when they were lying down talking, but she wasn’t sure if he could keep up with this pace.

Again?” She chuckled against his lips.

“Oh Miss Mills,” He said in a low velvet tone. “And again, and again, and again.” He spoke between kisses as he carried her up the stairs.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

 

Abbie and Ichabod barely noticed the passing days. Mornings and nights bent together like distant figures walking along a curving shore. They knew as well as anyone that the days were separate, but that separation was almost imperceivable. They slipped into a space where configurations of time lost meaning. Their eyes were wide and awake at 3am, while twelve hours later they snoozed entangled upon the sun-filled sofa. Somehow even the house felt different, more peaceful and full, alive and ripened in the newness of them. Ichabod still couldn’t grasp the idea that any of this was real. Having leave to touch and kiss her freely, instead of only dreaming of it. It seemed almost too good to be true, like heaven’s memory was erased and the universe had forgotten that he was cursed. They made love, they ate, they made love again, they slept. Every action that didn’t encompass him being inside of her was somehow bookended by him being inside of her. It was the better part of four days before they managed to drag themselves out of the house, and doing so was more of a struggle than they had ever imagined.

“This is insane.” Abbie huffed, arming a shirt onto her naked figure. She glanced around the living room, eyes hunting for her panties. Ichabod shot her a soft sidelong smile as he raised his trousers.

“Then it is my greatest wish that our venture into madness be everlasting.” He pronounced while buttoning his pants. He slogged toward the television stand, vaguely remembering having thrown her undergarments in that general direction. An indulgent grin grew across his face as he lifted them from the floor, recollection of the joy he took in peeling them from her bottom slipped through his mind.

“Searching for these I presume.” He concluded, eyes twinkling at the slip of fabric in his hand.

“Thanks,” Abbie exhaled, taking a step toward. “Ahem.” She propped her hand up against the back of her hip waiting for him to break out of his trance.

“Um,” Her interruptive hum chased the smile from his lips, “Are you going to give them to me?” She asked.

“Pardon?” Ichabod sputtered, coming out of his daze. “Oh, yes, of course.” He responded quietly. Abbie squinted as she watched his brow rise into an arch that complimented his mischievous grin. “Come retrieve them.” He drawled.

Her chin dipped from disbelief, eyes reflecting the smile her lips suppressed as she gazed up at him. He can’t be serious, she reasoned, but everything in his gaze informed her he wasn’t joking in the least. What. The. Fuck. She thought taking a small step backward, as she mentally plotted her escape. Their time alone had made clear how severely his touch affected her. It did things to her, crawled beneath skin, and crossed the wires inside of her brain. If they had any hope of leaving the house she needed to get away from him.

Her eyes briefly darted towards the hallway, and quickly returned to him. She wondered if she could make it to the bathroom before he caught her.

“Actually,” she stalls, inching backward while trying to maintain a casual tone, but her movements don’t go unnoticed. Ichabod keys in on her instantly and slowly stalks toward her.

“Can you just toss them into the wash for me,” She asks, stepping faster, “I need to grab a SHOWER! CRANE!” She screams, as his arms stretch forward and gobble up her frame. Her ribs shake from laughter as he swings her through the air, before returning her to the floor. Soft lips part to quiet her giggles, and everything slows. Not even a full minute later everything is speeding up.

“We have to go.” She mumbled, neck reclining as his mouth sucked kisses against the lower portion of it.

His mouth raises momentarily. “You’ve cited your need to bath either way.” He murmured, “Allow me to join you.”

“Crane.” Abbie sighed.

“—I merely wish to love you.” He breathed, hands clutching her ass in a fashion that made her ache for the burgeoning mass resting against her belly. His heart skipped a beat at the feel of her mouth curving into a smile beneath his lips.

“You already loved me today.”   She grinned, spirit overfull with light as she remembered waking up with his head between her legs, “you know, this morning and this afternoon…just now” She mumbled between kisses. “I’m not sure how much more love I can take.”

“Oh.” Ichabod quietly responded, suddenly hearing her in a different way. His head bowed as he slowly released her, heart thundering with panic as he recounted his actions in an effort to determine whether he was smothering her. This was new territory. He felt like someone different, encapsulated by what felt like unending peace, but not quite himself. At times his happiness literally dizzied him. Before he’d never imagined himself as this sort of man, the kind capable of becoming overly affectionate or clingy in a relationship.

“Hey.” Abbie softly called slipping her fingers across the hair on his face. She looked up at him, trying to figure out where his thoughts had taken him.  

“I did not intend to…I.” He stopped, and cleared his throat gathering his thoughts. His hands dropped to his side as her palm fell against his belly.

“Crane…what is it?”

“I was reasoning that I should remind you of how woefully unrehearsed I am in the normalcies of a modern day relationship, but I quickly realized that the complexity of this lies far beyond that.” He stated.

“I have never been so enraptured Abbie. The moment your lips leave from mine the only thoughts that find my head are prayers for their speedy return. The second you depart from my arms, they tremble, and crave you back. My chest weeps for your head, my fingers, your skin.” He whispered, lowering his head to hers.

“It seems that I am wholly incapable of getting enough of you. The more of you I have, the more I desire.” He adds dabbing his lips to the tip of her nose. “Still it is not my wish to crowd you, to always be underfoot when you might choose to walk freely. Promise that you shall always make me aware when and if my affections prove…stifling.”

“I promise,” She said linking her wrists around him, “But they’re not.” She confessed breathing easier. “I feel it too. This ache, this want in the pit of my stomach that only gets stronger the longer you’re not near. The longer I go without touching you.” She added, raising to peck his lips before her voice fell quiet.

“You’re not alone in feeling that way. But it is…a little scary. A part of me wishes it can become something that’s tempered and a little more contained, another part of me never wants it to change.” She said, garnering a smile from his lips.

“But the fact remains that we’ve been trying to leave the house for days now and haven’t managed to do it.” Her hands raised to caress his cheeks. “So this is what’s going to happen. I’m going to take a shower—alone.” She added with a small smile. “Then I’m going to get dressed and meet you in the car. We’re going to make the meeting that we’ve already pushed back more times than we should have,” She hummed, “and then afterwards, we’re going to come home,” Abbie outlined rising to her toes and softly kissing his lips, “and pick up right here.” She spoke in a soft whisper.   “Is that alright?”

The back of Ichabod’s throat felt like an arid desert as he quietly nodded his head.

“Okay.” She confirmed.

“Indeed.” He replied, throat scratchy as he leaned down to kiss her. She knew what worried him, she had the same fear. That it might prove difficult getting back to this moment, this irreplaceable time when the rest of the world stayed outside. This was the longest period they’d had without supernatural disturbances since the break after Henry, Moloch and Katrina were killed. But they knew it wouldn’t stay this way forever, still there was this sense, this feeling—no matter how ridiculous—that if stayed inside, it just might. Ichabod moaned lifting Abbie from the floor a bit as he slipped his tongue between the softest lips he’d ever felt. After a moment she lowered her head, causing him to follow suit and return her to the ground. Five of six pecks later Abbie turned and started for the hallway, feeling his hand graze her rear as she stepped away. Excitement buzzed in her veins feeling his eyes following after her, she made a conscious effort to tame the sway winding her hips. A yearning to return to him seemed to grow stronger with every step she took away. By the time she reached the bathroom her stomach was twisted in knots, empty and longing for the hardness that was just pressed against it. She pulled her shirt over her head and let it fall to the floor as she fought to control her urges. If she was honest, she would have admitted that her inward battle was lost by the time she’d pulled her hair up, but it wasn’t until she stood beneath the running water that she called out for him.

Silence.

“Crane.” She called again, poking her head outside of the shower. When he didn’t reply she got out to search for him. She knew better than most that nothing was ever promised, that no one ever knew the last time they did something that it would be the last time. After all they’d been through they deserved these moments together, she reasoned, they needed to get it while they could. Her feet touched the edge of the living room just as Ichabod returned gripping a laundry basket. He stopped in his tracks, basket slipping from his fingers and colliding with the floor the moment his eyes found her. Her large eyes locked upon his, head tilted slightly to the side, fingers knotted around the penny colored towel she held in front of her. He knew immediately she wanted him even before her index finger stretched up and begged him forward. He travelled to her at a pace that caused wind to take up his hair, in seconds her wet body was off of the ground and in route to the shower. He placed her inside, licking his lips as he re-removed his shirt and she bent to start the water. He paused, immobile with adoration as it dripped from the showerhead and spilled over her body. He hurriedly unfastened his pants, unleashing the tyrant which only grew bigger as droplets of water followed wondrous peaks and curves along the path to its destination at the bottom of the tub. Her hand reached him before he’d fully stepped out of his trousers, his head barreled back at the feel of her wet fingers wrapping around his newly freed length. He stood in front of the shower, trying to remember how to move, wondering why in damnation he would ever want to, all of him seized taut and frozen as her palm swept up and down his aching shaft. He found the wherewithal to pull her lips to his slipping his tongue inside of her mouth as his hips helplessly thrust into her grip.

“Have you any comprehension of how thoroughly you touch unhinges me?” He asked, wrapping his fingers around hers, and stilling her movements enough to join her. “The things it causes me to want to do to you.” He added in a strong voice. Abbie felt the lips between her thighs swell and pulse with unbolted lust. She knew without question that she had never felt a cock as hard as the one her fingers were currently curled around.

“Tell me.” She said quietly before tasting his lips. “Tell me.” She repeated impatiently as he held his tongue. Ichabod gasped, hand braced against the wall as he tried to find his bearings.

“I’d much rather show you.” He replied, finding the strength to press her back to the shower wall.

“Then show me.” She challenged taking on a swollen-headed tone as she gripped his flesh a bit tighter, and flicked her wrist just so. Ichabod’s head fell forward to rest upon the tile behind her.

“Mm-hmm,” She hummed, a subtle tease. He couldn’t respond, the prowess with which she twisted her wrist while stroking him made clear she had the power to short circuit his central nervous system. His stomach wound and tightened as her thumb brushed across the sensitive flesh covering the head of his manhood. Ichabod felt his legs weakening, but through the exertion of what felt like every muscle in his body, and the concentration of every brain cell he possessed, he managed to reach down and grab her wrist. How? He wondered, gasping for air, How on God’s earth could such dainty fingers be so purposeful?  

“Show me.” Abbie whispered again, softer this time. There was a brief pause, deliberation flickering through the eyes that had grown dark with want. She watched, breath bated as that deliberation was replaced with fire. She felt her feet leave the tub as his kisses grew ferocious, he took her lips with an uninhibited abandon that caused her to wonder if he was trying to drink them more than kiss them. He needled them between his teeth as he pulled her backside from the wall only to slam it back against it with the force of his hips. Hungry groans reverberated from deep in his chest, sending shockwaves through Abbie’s body. A heavy whine left her as his hot mouth sucked her collarbone, and the promise of the titanium pressed between them dismantled every shred of her patience, and blurred every notion she’d ever had of self. She didn’t know who she was, she didn’t know who he was. Only that something in her was innately, and totally his…that something in her was more his than hers. She was terrified. She was desperate. He lowered her to the ground, spun her around like a ragdoll, and quickly pressing her against the wall. Her breast flattened against the hard tile as a swift firm hand smacked her wet backside.  

“Umph!” She exclaimed.

“Abbie!” Ichabod stated, surprise registering in his voice. He stopped midway through delivering another smack.

“I’m okay.” She replied, turning to touch his face. “Don’t stop.” She purred, praying to erase the newfound hesitancy blanketing his face.

“Treasure.” He whispered, eyes bearing the softness she’d become accustomed to.

“Yes?” She managed, a question and an answer all at once. She impatiently pressed her lips to his wondering if he knew how thoroughly he had her. Wondering if he understood the lengths she was ready and eager to go to in order to make him feel as good as he made her feel. Wondering if he knew how much she’d liked it just then. He slowed though, touching her gently, dolloping long, sweet kisses upon her face as he turned her body back to face him.

His fingertips caressed her skin leaving traces of all the love she’d seen in his eyes. Abbie writhed against his frame, clutching hold of him as no part of her went untouched. He picked her up, gently suckling and kissing her until she felt as though she going to come against his belly. Just when her orgasm was one modicum of pressure away he returned her to the ground. Teasing her, he took a soapy cloth in hand and bathed her. Massaging and lathering soapy water into her skin, before rinsing her body clean. His mouth swallowed the droplets of water falling from her nipples, as steam rose up and enveloped them. Ichabod sat to his bottom and positioned her foot upon the side of the tub as he licked and nibbled at her thighs. By the time he took his tongue through her folds she was a shivering, fraying mess. Her palms covered his saturated locks as he focused all of his attention upon her tiny jewel. Abbie’s thighs shook wildly as she tried to hold still, as she tried to hold it together.

Her arm stretched up, fist tightened around the towel rack.

“Crane!” She moaned loudly, gripping his hair with her free hand. She looked down just in time to watch him moaning his response against her swollen button. Her head fell back as she called for God. He was unknotting entire parts of her with every rotation and slip of his tongue, parts she wasn’t quite sure how to put back together. That was the moment it hit her, an unfamiliar feeling threaded through her hard and all at once. The desire to have him inside of her mouth. The second she realized what she wanted the feeling overwhelmed her, she was desperate for him to feel the same bliss he was giving to her. Despite his groans, Abbie gently pulled his head back. Ichabod instantly shifted forward squeezing her ass as his mouth greedily reclaimed her flesh.

“Fuck!” Abbie muttered, relishing in the moment for a trace longer.   “Crane.” She huffed again, this time pushing his head more firmly away from her crux.

“Baby.” She whined as she dropped to her knees straddling his lap. Ichabod coiled his arms around her, assaulting her lips and neck with open mouthed kisses. Abbie broke from his kiss and started suckling her way down his chest. Her bottom slid down his legs, as she dotted kisses against his abdomen all along the trail to his manhood.

“Abbie!” He said grabbing her head just as she was set to take him inside of her mouth. “What is it you think you’re doing?”

Abbie raised her head trying to find words in the face of the annoyance brimming in his expression.

“I…” She released his cock, feeling her face and ears burning with embarrassment. “I..I don’t know. I was trying…” Her heart was beating wildly, and there was nothing in his gaze that helped to settle it. He’d made it clear that he’d had multiple sexual encounters, did he really not know what she was doing.

Oh shit, maybe I don’t know what I’m doing. She quickly wondered, mind tracing through everything she ever read or seen about giving a blow job. Am I’m doing it wrong? For a second she feels nauseous with humiliation at the thought of it. Then she remembers everything she’d read.

I couldn’t have been doing it wrong it’s a blowjob not rocket science, you grab it, cover your teeth and suck.   He knows what I’m doing, he doesn’t want it. She reasons. Feeling too foolish, flustered, and deflated to explain herself, or question him, she simply rose, grabbed a dry towel, and stepped out of the tub.

She could hear him calling after her, nearly all the way to her bedroom. Soon after his calls stopped she sat on her bed listening to his footsteps outside of her door.

“Abbie.” He knocked. “Treasure, might I come in?” He asked. She wanted to say no, but what was she going to do never see him again.  

Abbie sat quietly for a moment still attempting to overcome the sting of rejection she felt. She didn’t know why she was having such a hard time with it. Ichabod had a right to decide what he felt comfortable doing in bed, the same as she, and she never did anything she was uncomfortable with. It just hurt that the first person she felt comfortable enough to go down on, the first person she felt a desire to go down on essientialy rejected her action, and made her feel inadequate for attempting it.  

“My love?” His voice called from the other side of the door. Abbie placed the lotion she hadn’t had the time nor will to put on down on the bed.

“Come in.” She granted.

She raised her eyes from the floor at the sound of the door creaking open. He stood with a towel fastened around his waist, drops of water still dripping down his fuzzy chest. He quietly eyed her for a moment, hand still clutching the door handle. She blushed and looked away feeling the awkwardness return. He legged over to the bed and seamlessly kneeled down in front of her sighing as his fingers dipped beneath her chin and raised her eyes to his.

“Forgive me.” He pled. He started to explain himself, but instantly found his tongue bound by her beauty. He shook his head overcome by her bright eyes and pinned up curls. He loved her more than everything he’d ever loved combined.

“I’m sorry Treasure.” He whispered, hating the shame he saw in her eyes. “I…” He dipped his head, and leaned forward to kiss the space between her brows. “I love you. You are to be my wife. You needn’t ever…you needn’t ever take me there.” He vowed slipping his thumb across her lips. Abbie slowly shook her head from side to side, still upset with herself.

“You’re from a different time, I wasn’t trying to…I just…I didn’t know that you didn’t do that, and I could see how offended you were, I should have asked first. I’m sorry.” She said, an inward giggle built in her belly at the realization that she was apologizing for trying to suck his dick. Now she had a taste of what some of her past boyfriends must have felt when she wouldn’t allow them to go down on her—at least not without a dental dam.

“Come on Abs just let me get a little taste.” Luke would always say.

“It’s not safe.” She’d always reply.

“It’s not safe? We’ve been together for almost a year Abbie. You still make me wash my hands before I touch it, and if I touch myself you make me wash my hands all over again. Baby you should know by now that I’m clean, and safe. I don’t want anybody else, you’re all I think about. I just wanna taste you.”

He never did. She’d spent her entire life protecting herself, that mentality extended to sexual relationships. Til this day Danny and Ichabod were the only men she’d allowed to go down on her without protection. She and Danny were four months into the academy, when their constant flirtations caught up with them. One night her dorm-mate and suitemates had all gone out to the bar but she and Danny stayed back to get a leg up on the next exam. She ended up gasping on the sofa with a leg up over his shoulder. That’s as far as things went that night but the following week they booked a hotel room under an assumed name.  

She gazed up at Ichabod, still in disbelief that all of this weirdness had ensued.

“I’m afraid I should be the one who is apologizing.” He corrected her.

“Un-ungh.” Abbie said shaking her head, you should never apologize for making it clear that something makes you feel uneasy. I don’t have to know the reasoning, or understand it, it’s something that you don’t do, and that’s okay.”

Ichabod’s brows rose a bit as his head tilted off to the side.

“What?” Abbie asked slowly reading his expression.  

“You…” She chuckled in nervous confusion. “You do do that.” She stated seriously.  

“In the past. But I will not see you lower yourself or take to your knees for my pleasure, you are my bride—my Gasan.” He informed her with a kiss. Abbie shook her head.

“And what about the other women?”

“I beg pardon?”

“How many other women have you watched lower themselves as you put it, and take to their knees for your pleasure. How many of them went on to be someone’s bride, someone’s Gasan.” Ichabod’s shoulders dropped as his head reared back. She held a hand up in front of her.

“Don’t answer that. I’m just saying, are they somehow less.”

“Of course not, but Treasure…”

Abbie shook her head. She sat briefly squeezing her bottom lip in thought. “And Katrina?” She sighed.

He looked at her quietly not sure if she meant for him to answer this time, not particularly wanting to. The look in her eyes let him know she meant for him to answer. He nodded his head.

“But not me.” She said nodding her head.

“Abbie I had just returned home…I was war fatigued, I couldn’t.” He cleared his throat, gaze falling to her lap. “I couldn’t perform, and she…went about her knees.” He was quiet for a long while. “That was the last time anyone…” He found the strength to return his eyes to hers.

“I equate it with a failing,” He said before licking his lips, “a failing you shall never know.” Abbie’s shoulders sank as she began to understand.

“Baby.” She sighed stroking his face. “That is not a failing. You said yourself, you were exhausted from battle.” And I am officially comforting him about sexual issues with his ex.

“All the same, twas not done between a husband and wife.” He stated. “Quite honestly—”, Ichabod’s eyes stretched, and he immediately quieted down. Their friendship had made them irrevocably close, he’d become so accustomed to sharing everything with her, it was difficult for him to remember that there were things which he should not.

“What?” Abbie asked noting he was holding back.

“Nothing Treasure.” He said bringing her knuckles to his lips.

“Don’t do that.” Abbie said placing her hand around his. “We promised to talk to each other, to tell each other the truth remember.” She gently reminded him. Ichabod sighed.

“Quite truthfully in my experience exhaustion has been the only occasion upon which such an act was necessitated. It was a means to an end.” He said carefully.

“Oh.” Abbie replied, mouth gently falling open. She asked for honesty but the gentle edging in his voice made it clear precisely what kind of exhaustion he was now referring to. Truth she wanted, images of him screwing some woman to the point the point of exhaustion and needing to be serviced so he could continue screwing said woman she could have done without. Ichabod brushed a curly bang out of her face.

“Abbie.” He quietly growled, placing his hands to her waist. He looked down at her sour expression, brows narrowed and lips pushed out as she tried to push the images from her mind.

“I only say these things because…I was worried that you believed me unable to perform my duty without such action.”

“Your duty?” Abbie smirked, breaking out of her mood with a chuckle because she knew he was dead ass serious. His fingers slipped in between her rear and the mattress.

“My most esteemed and honorable duty,” He confirmed, “And mine alone,” He added, not backing down. “I shall never tire to the point that I am unable to make love to you, I shall never tire of you.” He added kissing her lips. Just in case she had any doubts he separated her legs and pushed his hips forward letting her feel how fiercely she excited him.

“Can you feel it?” He asked in a smooth quiet tone.

Abbie shuddered as he gripped her tighter, fingertips slipping into the space that separated her cheeks. His long dicked ass knew she could feel him. She could have had on three pairs of jeans, a sweat-suit and snow pants, and still feel what he was working with.

“Mm-hmm.” She murmured, halfway convinced that he could cut rocks with it. She smiled against his lips slipping a hand between them to rub his towel covered shaft.

“I shall never ask that you take me inside of your mouth. You will never need to.” He said dabbing succulent kisses against her neck.

“I know you wouldn’t ask.” Abbie breathed. “The same way I haven’t asked you to kiss me down below, but still you’ve been eating my nani like you’re trying to gain weight.” She purred against his ear.

Ichabod gasped, his mouth began to water at the mere mention of her nani. “That is not quite the same my love.”

“Isn’t it?” Abbie asked. When he didn’t reply right away she took his hand, and slipped one of his fingers between her folds. Her stomach shook with unsettled desire. Just as he angled it towards her opening she grabbed his hand and held it up between them.

“You see.” She said nodding towards the silky liquid saturating his finger. “I haven’t needed you to kiss me there either, but you have. Why?” She asked already knowing the answer. Ichabod bowed his head and sucked his finger into his mouth, eyes closing in tribute to the sweetness of her.

“Because I love it.” His response came without hesitation. Redness darkened his cheeks as he added, “Your nani,” a little more delicately. “The way it feels upon my tongue,” He whispered, “The way it tastes inside of my mouth….I love it Abbie.”

“I know.” She stated, hands loosening his towel and letting it fall to the floor. Ichabod’s eyes opened to a half lidded height as he listened to her reason. Abbie couldn’t resist pressing her lips to his lashes.

“I don’t know what you’ve done to me,” She said softly between kisses, “Or what you’ve brought out of me, but I am longing to do things to you, things I’ve never done before, things I’ve never had a desire to do.” She whispered. “I think about how good you make me feel, and I feel this vibration beneath my skin to have more of you, to have all of you...to know what it feels like to take you inside of my mouth.”

Ichabod moaned, feeling beads of sweat gather along his hairline as Abbie continued.

“I wonder what it will be like to feel you swell there the way I feel you swell inside of me.” She said quietly. He gently thrust his hips in the direction of her warm hand as her soft voice muddled his brain.

“I don’t look at it as lowering myself,” She expounded swiping her thumb across the spot she knew would stop his heart, “and I’m not trying to offend you or suggest that it’s needed.”

“I feel free with you…and that’s all I want…to be free,” She paused from stroking his erection and looked him in the eyes, “And to fuck you as good as I know you deserve to be fucked.”

Ichabod panted heavily, having long abandoned the notion of getting enough air through his nose. His entire body felt weakened by everything she was doing coupled with her erotic talk.

“I see that same ebbing toward freedom inside of your eyes, back in the shower, before everything slowed down, and you always slow it down. I know how you feel about me Crane…how much you love me.” She purred.

“You put me on a pedestal, and it feels so good. But you have to decide if you want me on that pedestal, or in your bed. Because you can’t fuck me,” she licked her lips, “the way I can tell that you want to fuck me…when I’m on that pedestal baby.” She cooed. “You can always raise me back up, but can I just be here with you right now? Can I just be in your bed?” She asked taking his lips into her mouth.

Ichabod’s entire spirit shook as he stood to his feet, taking Abbie with him. He laid her down to the mattress and pulled the towel from her body. He knew he’d been overly gentle with her, he’d been afraid of hurting her, of disrespecting her.   Her frame was tiny, and even though her nani dripped with wetness she was always so ineffably snug around him. He had made it a point to exercise restraint, to control and soften his strokes even when he wanted beat that shit in. He crawled over her taking his tongue up through the length of her folds, bottom to top. He paused letting his tongue flatten and linger against her peak. Abbie moaned his name, hips swiveling up off of the bed, but he gripped them and pushed them back down. Abbie moaned out in frustration.

“What was that?” Ichabod teased, looking up from between her thighs, tongue inching back to her nub.

In seconds she pulled him up over her body and flipped him over. She lay on top of him, his hands slipping up her back as feverish kisses rippled between them.

“You have to tell me how you like it alright.” She breathed the second she pulled her tongue from his mouth. “If you want it slower, harder, faster, FUCK.” She hollered as his mouth enveloped her nipple. “Tell me.”

Ichabod nodded quietly, as she pushed him back and begin kissing down his body. Abbie was all nerves as she swathed her hand around his length and dropped her open mouth over the top of it. Ichabod tensed, eyes slamming shut the second his love’s wet mouth took him inside. He was weak, and only weakened further by the moan she hummed against his flesh, a soft, desperate ode to joy of finally acquiring something she’d been wanting. His head dug into his pillow as his toes separated.

“Oh!” Ichabod groaned, trembling as his eyes slammed shut.  

“Heavens…heaven’s light.” He gasped, fighting to control his hips as he felt her sucking an impossibly large portion of him down her throat. He forced his eyes open and gazed down at her needing to see it to believe. It still seemed impossible even as he watched her full taffy colored lips bobbing up and down his shaft.

Abbie wanted to ask him how he liked it, to find out whether it felt good to him as it appeared, but every time she tried to stop she was met with the urge to keep going. To suck him longer, harder, softer, to take a little more. His fingers held the side of her head, thumb caressing her lips as they travelled up his member.

“Treasure,” he moaned, “Please. I’ll finish,” He grunted. Abbie rose up again, this time completely, reluctantly removing him from her mouth, kissing her lips to his glistening, bulging head.

“Was it…?” He brought her mouth to his before she had a chance to finish asking her question.

“Never change a thing.” He rumbled against her lips. “Promise me.”

“Promise,” she breathed, eyes crinkling at the corners as his hand brushed over her locks. He gathered her up by the thighs, and pulled her up his frame.

“Come now Gasan.” He huffed, hands dropping to her rear and pulling her into a tight squeeze against his erection.  He fell back against the pillow, her soft curls caressing his face as her lips chased his.  He placed his lips to her ear speaking in secret as if there was someone else in the room.  As if the candles on the nightstand, or clothes in her armoire might find fault or offense with his next words.

“I want you to show me how properly I deserve to be fucked.”  He challenged in a low throaty whisper.

 


 

Ichabod couldn’t stop thinking about their last encounter as they drove along the road to the Archives. He licked his lips as he recalled her astride his cock moving in geometrical patterns that seemed undiscovered. All too quickly winding him into a frenzy with her melodic elliptical rotations, all too seamlessly shifting those movements into something more determined…something more free. He never recovered. It was the first time they’d made love in that position, but still he hadn’t anticipated such a lack of control. He’d requested a few moments of stillness to gather himself, but that request was unequivocally ignored and denied as she doubled her bounce, quickening her rise and fall about his shaft in an agonizing fashion. Everything happened so quickly. His back raised from the pillows in an effort to draw her nearer, to feel her bosom against his skin and gain some semblance of control. He’d opened his mouth to again beseech her to slow down but loud moans and lost language were the only things that found their way out. He spilled himself prematurely, groaning out while clinging to her. She held him close, reassuring him that he wasn’t alone, that his quick release was okay, that she was happy and satisfied. He’d never felt more safe, complete, and loved.

“Not yet.” He’d rasped, begging to stay inside of her. At first she refused, telling him that he had nothing to prove, but she ultimately reconsidered when he told her that he needed to hold her that way for a while longer.

There was still an undercurrent of excitement pulsing through Abbie. Even soft he was touching her in spaces that brought forth a hyper awareness of his hold on her. So much of her wanted to move, to undulate her hips and satisfy the ache his presence inside of her was creating. She didn’t. She knew how sensitive his flesh was just then, she knew he needed a rest. So she lay there on top of him breathing him in, simply enjoying the feeling of being with him. Her finger gently running back and forth against her bottom lip as her head rose and fell in time with his chest. His breathing had become so slow and quiet she was certain he was sleeping, but when she tried to move, his hand came alive and held her in place. His lips pressed tiny moist kisses against her forehead, warming her from the inside out as she raised her eyes to his. Seconds later she felt him re-hardening inside of her.

It was softer this time, slow and unhurried. He kissed her lips as though it would be the last time he was given a chance to. She held to him like he was the only thing anchoring her to this life. Images of them joined together this way in the center of the fallen garden weaved through her mind. This time when he asked her to slow or pause she did, when he begged her to do it just “like that Abbie…like that Gasan.” she did. There were no loud moans or words exchanged. Only quiet gasps and heavy sighs mingled between tender kisses. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she came, his head buried in her cradle of her neck as she was flooded with his seed. The both of them fell into a light snooze that if he had his way would have carried them well into the night, but Abbie forced them to rise from it before it fully consumed them.  

Ichabod looked over at her in the driver’s seat. She glanced at him, catching him quietly staring for what felt like the fourth time since they’d been in the car. He swiftly turned his head and focused on the nature passing by outside of his window.

“What?” She asked through a quiet giggle, but she already knew what he was thinking, she’d seen it in his eyes. It was easy enough to decipher, this look he wore. Everything she knew of him, and men and love had taught her well. He wasn’t the first man she’d watched coming to grips with how much they loved a woman. Different men, different women, different times and places, but the look was always the same. It was the same a hundred years ago, it would be the same a hundred years from now. Ichabod quickly glanced over at her, then down at his hands before his eyes returned to her again in earnest.

“I love you Abbie.” He said as if he were saying it for the first time. A smile that barely touched her lips pulled her ears back as her heart thumped.

“I know baby. I love you too.”

 

Jenny and Joe smirked at each other, eyes suspiciously following Ichabod and Abbie as they walked into the archives. Abbie was pleased that their awkward glares were quickly forgotten, and after polite hellos the foursome got down to work. Twenty minutes later she discovered it was too good to be true as Jenny cleared her throat and began not so gently prodding.

“So, we were supposed to meet a few days ago, and then yesterday, and then at noon, and then at two, and you ended up rescheduling again for four, and the time is now seven. So my question is, what’s been keeping the two of you so busy?” She inquired in a saucy tone.

“Just, you know, getting caught up on chores.” Abbie replied confidently. “A lot of odds and ends went untended to while I was away.” She added for good measure.

Jenny’s brows shot upward, as she looked off on her older sister.   “This bitch.” Jenny mumbled to herself.

“What was that?” Abbie said catching her sister’s eye roll.

“Nothing.”   Jenny said, shrugging her shoulders and shaking her head.

“Okay,” Abbie said pulling her pen from her mouth and waving it in her sister’s direction. “Then can you stop looking at me like that and get back to work. We have a lot to get through.” She reminded her.

A big puff of air passed through Jenny’s lips, before she mumbled under her breath. “Yeah we have a lot to get through because you been fuckin’ all week instead of bringing your ass to work.”

Abbie sat up hearing her sister mumbling in a decidedly reckless tone. “Are you talking to me, I can’t hear you.”   

“I didn’t say a word.” Jenny said, returning to her text.  

 

“So.” Joe said curiously to Ichabod across the room. Ichabod fingered his glasses further up his nose, and glanced over at him.

“Yes?” He responded. Joe chuckled, eyes flaring out.

“Are you kidding me, you guys have been locked in the house for days. We came by, banged on the door and no one answered. Then I texted and got that sorry reply saying that the two of you had gone out to “take some air and were quite terribly regretful that you had missed our attempted visit.” Joe said imitating Ichabod’s voice.

“We were—quite regretful—quite.” Ichabod reiterated, emphatically.

Joe leaned back in his chair. “Yeah, I would believe that except I didn’t even mention that we’d stopped by in my text message, so how did you know we stopped by if you weren’t there?”

“Uh,” Ichabod’s hand flared out, and knocked over his water canister. He cringed remembering Abbie jumping to her knees in bed screaming for him not to hit send as soon as he told her what he’d typed.

“But Treasure, I’ve already pressed it.” He tried to explain. She’d lightly slapped him on the arm, and glared at him as a burst of air shot through her clenched teeth.

“Ouch” He innocently grumbled grabbing the spot where she’d struck him. “Lieutenant.” He quietly whined, eyes wide as a doe’s from worry that she was upset with him. Abbie took one look into his softened artic blue eyes and melted.

“Awww,” She crooned, her face playfully mirroring the sadness she saw in his. “I’m sorry baby.” She half sung wrapping her arms around him. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.” She said touching his arm as she crawled into his lap. “Is that better?” She asked brushing her soft lips against the side of his neck.

“Yes.” He replied, tone pouty, as she cupped his face and kissed his lips.

Ichabod sat across from Joe grinning at his water canister like a maniac remembering just how much better she’d made it.

“Is there something in there?” Joe asked, raising up in his seat, peering at the canister. “Like besides water?”

“Pardon.” Ichabod said coming back to his senses. “Where was I?”

“You were right in the middle of lying about not answering the door when Jenny and I stopped by.”

“The neighbor,” Ichabod held his finger up repeating the story he and Abbie had agreed upon. “Surely you recall Mrs. Crosby, she was so kind as to inform us upon our return that visitors had come calling”

“—That’s what I get?” Joe asked incredulously. “Crane, do you have any appreciation of how long I’ve watched you pining away for her? That I’ve been rooting for the two of you, and that’s what I get?”

Ichabod peered over at Abbie, and quickly returned his eyes to his friend. “I confessed my affection. I told her…everything.” He admitted, removing his glasses.

Joe extended his fist across the table, “Alright, that’s what I’m talking about.” He said cracking a smile as a prideful Ichabod met his fistbump.

“There you go, this is called sharing. And for the record, I figured as much when you didn’t show up the other night. I’m glad you finally spoke up.”

Ichabod stole another glance at his love. “As am I.” He stated, unable to keep from smiling.

“Well what did you say, what did she say.” Joe asked excited to hear all about it.

“I asked to her marry me, she said yes.” Ichabod revealed.

“YOU’RE GETTING MARRIED!?” Joe shouted before Ichabod could shush him, or tell him that they were keeping the news quiet for a while. Abbie and Jenny’s eyes both zipped to their direction, and he knew he was in trouble.

“Married!” Jenny gasped, wildly glaring at her sister.

Six minutes later he was in the hallway with Abbie, watching her pace back and forth while talking to herself.

“Is it me? Am I somehow off key, because I thought we understood each other. Did we not have an entire conversation and come to an understanding.” She scoffed, taking a momentary pause from walking to face him. “Hello?!” She said eyeballing him like he was crazy.

“Me?” He snidely asked pointing to himself.

“Is there somebody else out here?” She snapped. Ichabod frowned. Moments ago when he’d attempted to respond to her she had quite unquestioningly informed him that she was not yet hearing his testimony. Since then he’d sat back quietly watching as she sorted things out with herself. He knew the precise reason she was so terribly vexed, even though she refused to admit it.

“Gasan.”  He said making certain caress every syllable with his tongue.

She tilted her head to the side, eyes bulging outward with annoyance. “Don’t dare.” She said holding up a finger. “You’re not going to sweet talk your way out of this.”

Ichabod ran his fingers back through his hair searching for another approach. “We did indeed have a conversation Gasan—rather Treasure—” He quickly restated at the sound of the inflective noise that came from the back of her throat. “I merely…” He gazed at her, quickly invoking the doe eyes that seemed to work so well in the past.

“Don’t look at me like that, it is not going to work.” She declared.

“Master Corbin has been encouraging me to reveal my heart to you for some time, I simply…” He looked down at the little woman with her arms folded in front of her. He knew he’d screwed up, but he didn’t quite know what to say to make it better.

“Jenny just needled me with twenty-three questions in the past four minutes. She was genuinely convinced that we were having some secret affair, on the low, this entire time, and that I lied to her about it. She thinks that’s the reason I reacted the way I did when you left. She was mad at me because I didn’t tell her about this secret illicit affair that we weren’t having.”

“Your point is taken.” He conceded.

“I don’t know that it is. We said that we’d remain focused on the issue at hand which is how we intend to stop Pandora and The Hidden One.” Abbie lectured. “How can we expect the team to remain focused with you dropping bombs, bombs we’d agreed to pre-diffuse by the way, in the middle of our meeting?” She added, raising her voice.

“He’s so dead.” Jenny stated, hearing her sister’s voice come through the closed door. “Abbie’s a control freak, and a special kind of private, I’m surprised she didn’t make him sign some sort of nondisclosure clause.” Joe looked up to find his girlfriend shaking her head. “He’s toast.” She went on.

“I don’t know.” Joe disagreed, rising to stand beside her. “I don’t think you’re giving our guy Crane enough credit. I think he’ll be fine.”

“You’re kidding right? Hi have you met my sister?” Jenny laughed. “She’s probably out there calling off the engagement as we speak. I still can’t believe she said yes, you know so quickly”

Joe shuffled a few papers across the desk in front of him. His mind travelling to the tiny box tucked in the back of his closet at home. “I mean, it wasn’t that quickly, you know clearly there’s been some feelings there all along, it was pretty clear to me that Crane was in love with her from the day I met him. Even if he didn’t say anything right away.” He said peeking over at her nervously, trying to gage how she felt about things. “Maybe she like, I don’t know gave him credit for time served.”

“Time served? You make it sound like a sentence.” Jenny responded, eyes focused on the papers in front of her. “Honestly, I see your point,” She stated. “I know how he feels about her, and I know how she feels about him, hell they’ve been spent more time together these pasts years than any couple I know. They live together. I get it. But…” Jenny winced, and drew quiet.

“What?” Joe asked.

“I’m just surprised that’s all. I mean Abbie is the only one I know less likely than me to rush into a marriage, not to mention, Mills women…” She shook her head.

“What about them?”

“Let’s just say, there are easier women to love.” She replied.

“I never found one.” Joe stated, moving behind her and taking her into his arms. Jenny twisted her head over her shoulder and kissed his lips.

“You are kind of a hard ass though.” He stated, locking his arms around her belly.

“Mm-hmm, and when it comes to relationships Abbie can be me times three.” She laughed. “Poor Crane, if he doesn’t toughen up it’s gonna be a rough road.”

“You think?” Joe asked.

“You don’t? You saw him, he was a sputtering mess when she asked him to join her in the hallway.”    

“Look no one knows better than me what a hard ass your sister can be, she never once let me stay up past my bedtime, no sugary snacks after five, but as you said she agreed to marry him right. So I’m just theorizing that it’s possible, that maybe” He released her and stood beside her, “just maybe Crane might,” He emphasized raising a finger, “Have the juice.”

“The juice?” Jenny chuckled. “What does that even mean?” She asked. “I bet she comes back in here with his balls in her pocket.” Jenny prophesied.

“You’re on.” Joe smiled.

 

“Abigail, once more it was not my intent to distract attention away from our mission.” Ichabod stated, placing a gentle hand to her shoulder. “Nonetheless, they are our closest confidants, our brother and sister. Is it so unreasonable to allow them to share in our joy?”

“That’s not the point Crane!” She lobbed harshly, causing him to stand to his full height.

“Lieutenant, perhaps you need a moment to rectify your tone.”

Abbie’s eyes nearly left her skull. Muafucka say what “Wait a minute, my tone? I’m sorry was I the one who just blabbed everything we agreed not to”

Ichabod abruptly took her by the arms and pulled her into a passionate kiss. Abbie melted against his strong chest feeling all of the tension she was feeling start to disband.

Her eyes fluttered open, as she cleared her throat. “I hope you don’t think that every time we fight you’re going to be able to just kiss me and make it all bet—”  

Ichabod returned his lips to hers, raising her into a scintillating kiss that left her tip toes slipping across the ground.

“I apologize Treasure.” He whispered, once he’d returned her to the ground. “Perhaps it would be best if we recommenced this discussion at home.” He offered, dropping a palm to her ass.

Abbie bowed her head against his chest as she caught her breath. Her arms slinked around his torso.

“Maybe that would be a good idea…maybe I was overreacting,” she decided looking up, “I’m sorry for raising my voice,” She further acknowledged, “you don’t deserve that.” After a few kisses and cuddles the duo started to return to the others but Ichabod stopped her just in front of the door.

“Abbie…perhaps.” He looked down at her, knowing the type of freedom a woman like her required. Knowing all of her hurts and hiding spaces, wondering if he should continue to let her hide.

“What?”

“Perhaps Miss Jenny will not be angry with you if you inform her of the true reason you wished to keep our relationship quiet.”

“I told you, distractions, and”

“—Abbie.” He said dismissively. Her eyes fell to the floor. “I know how you feel about me.” He continued. “I also know that your reluctance to allow others to see how much you love me stems from a fear of abandonment. Because your father left.” He carefully said, knowing he was moving into dangerous territory, “Because I did. Because your heart is telling you that people move within the same patterns, and perhaps there is truth to that assumption. But everything I am begins and ends with you.” He declared. Abbie could hardly believe her ears, she’d briefly thought he’d suspected something but he never said a word.

“You let me…”

“I went along because I thought you needed me to, because I decided that it mattered not if others knew how you felt about me, as long as I did. However…do you recall what I said to you the night we began?”

Abbie swallowed, eyes watering as she felt the beginnings of a lump in the back of her throat. “Y” She cleared her throat. “Yeah.” She replied in a low voice. Ichabod placed his palms to her cheeks and lifted her face to his.

“Say it.” He whispered.

“That you would never hurt me again.”

“I need you to stand upon that.” He said, heart hammering from a fear of backing her into a corner. From how it might feel if she couldn’t. “Can you.” He whispered lowering his head to hers.    

 

The pair re-entered the room, Abbie leading the way, and Ichabod following closely behind her. Jenny smiled nodding her head at how confidently Abbie strolled in, and how quiet and blank faced Ichabod appeared. She nudged Joe with her elbow.

“Looks like you’re doing dishes for a month.” She teased.

“Can I talk to you guys for a minute?” Abbie asked walking over to them.

“Of-course, what’s up bosslady?” Jenny smiled, smugly.

“I just want to apologize for my behavior earlier. I love you guys—we love you guys, and I shouldn’t have tried to keep anything from you. I shouldn’t have tried to make Crane either. I was…I am learning to trust more, myself and others. Jenny I’m sorry I didn’t say anything, yes we are getting married,” Abbie excitedly announced almost as if she couldn’t believe it herself, smiling as Ichabod’s arms looped around her from behind, “and we’d be honored to have the two of you are standing beside us when we do.”  

“You have got to be fucking shitting me.” Jenny stated, bewildered.

Abbie and Ichabod eyes swelled. “Is that a no?” Abbie laughed.

“Dish duty.” Joe smiled.

“What now?” Abbie questioned still trying to catch up.

“Nothing. Get over here.” He said pulling her into a hug. “Congratulations you two, of course we’ll stand up with you guys.”

The foursome spent a few minutes hugging and chatting before they got back to work. At least most of them did.

“Why do you keep staring at me like that?” Abbie finally asked, turning to her sister.

Jenny smiled. “Marriage. Like forever, and fucking ever.”

“—And ever.” Abbie filled in before returning to work.

“What were you thinking not telling me immediately?” Jenny asked. Abbie sat back in her chair.

“I was thinking about how you saw me hurting all of those months ago. And…honestly Jenny I understand why everything happened the way it did, but I was a little worried that you wouldn’t.” Abbie admitted brow furrowing. “I was a little worried that you would think I was foolish for just diving in this way…and you are one of the only people in the world whose opinion of me I actually give a shit about. So.”

"I would never think that about you. I get it."  Jenny said placing her elbows on the table, and resting her head in her hands.  "I do wonder…"

"Hmm?" Abbie asked when her sister fell quiet.

“So how do you know?” Jenny asked.

“Know what?” Abbie questioned.

“That it will last. Or that it’s right?” Jenny asked glancing over at Joe. Abbie smiled looking over at her sister.

“I don’t." She replied honestly. “I think that’s a part of the beauty of it. There are no guarantees, but the way he makes my heart feel, the way that he treats me. Whatever happens, no matter what happens, he’s worth it to me. I’m sorry if that doesn’t help.” She sighed. “I just know that I never want to face another day without him by my side.” Abbie added.

“I understand.” Jenny replied reflectively. “I do…however,” she added, lightening the mood, “I want to point out that you stay sonnin’ me about professional responsibility and I would like record to reflect that you two were the first ones to push back work because you couldn’t stop screwing.”

“The record to reflect,” Abbie cringed above a small smile. “We get it Jenny, you were a paralegal for five days. And it’s not the same thing.” She retorted.

“First of all, it six days because those a-holes fired me on a Monday at the end of the day because the new paralegal couldn’t start until Tuesday.” Jenny corrected her.

“—That still wasn’t reason enough for you to steal their chair, and why haven’t you taken it back like I told you to months ago.” Abbie asked.

“I. Love. This chair.” Jenny declared patting the arms of her seat. “It was compensation for the way they treated me. And second, what do you mean it’s not the same?” She asked with her faced squished up, “It’s just dick, if you let one near you every once in a while you’d know that.”

Abbie looked across the room at Ichabod who happened to be sneaking a peek at her. She couldn’t stop the smile from gracing her lips, as her heart fell out of rhythm.

“No.” She restated, eyes dreamy. “It isn’t. And before you say anything else answer me this, how many times have I rescheduled a meeting unless it was absolutely vital?”

Jenny scrunched her mouth up as she thought. “Okay never.”

“Exactly. And how many times have I shown up late?” Abbie looked at Jenny’s blank face. “Mm-hmm. I haven’t been out of the house in four days Jenny, so when I tell you it’s not the same thing, take my word for it.” Abbie leaned in closely to her sister and sang in a playful tone. “Mines is better than yours.”

“Shut-up.” Jenny snickered pushing her away.

 

The group buckled down, working independently for a while before coming together. Abbie filled them in on everything she’d been able to piece together from her time in the fallen garden, and they told her about all they’d learned working their angle.

“Okay wait a minute, let me make sure I understand this correctly.” Jenny stated. “You’re saying that you and Ichabod were present in the Garden of Eden, like at the beginning of time.”

“Not really the beginning of time Jenny.” Abbie corrected her.

“Well during the creation of man.” Her sister probed.

“During the creation of man who lived inside of the Garden of Eden is a more accurate way to put it, but even I’m not sure that’s they entire story.” Abbie stated.

“Okay explain one more time.”

Abbie stepped over to the chalkboard. Alright we’ve been fighting this war for ages. Perhaps in different forms, of course in different lands and times, but it is the same war. It originated in the Garden of Eden. Pandora and the Hidden One aren’t stronger this us, they simply remember more, they know more, and it’s only because they can see back farther then we can. We have to figure out a way to level the playing field or we will be continually chasing our tails. Let’s start with what we know for a fact. One, this war began in The Garden of Eden.” She scribbled a loose timeline on the board before turning to Ichabod, “I told you about how I saw us there. We need to discover what happened, and maybe it will shed some light on how to put an end to all of this. In order to do that, to find out why the garden fell, we need to have a better understanding of those who inhabited it when it was paradise. The names, some of the stories, things have been altered, lost among the ages, and at times downright fabricated….but, “she drew a stick figure “We have the man we’ve come to know as Adam. He was created with a woman whom many have come to refer to as Lilith.” She added chalking in another figure.

We have come to know her as Pandora.” Abbie said turning to face the stunned group.

“What?!” Jenny exclaimed, I mean I’ve heard the story of Lilith, but…it’s Pandora.” Jenny questioned.

“Yeah.” Abbie stated. “As the story goes, she was Adam’s first wife whom he essientialy rejected for her refusal to submit to him.”

Ichabod and Joe voiced questions as to how Abbie discovered all of this.

“I saw her.” She replied.

She still couldn’t remember everything from their time in the garden, but bits and pieces of her visions were coming into form. Those traces of knowledge coupled with the text they’d acquired helped her to figure out more.  

“She ran off, left the garden. Angels were sent to persuade her to come back…” A flash of Orion broke through Abbie’s mind. “But she refused.” Abbie said looking noticeably doleful.

“Abbie.” Ichabod stated coming over to her, gleaning from her demeanor that something ailed her. “What is it?”

“I just…” Abbie sighed exasperated, trying to put together the puzzle inside of her head, too many pieces were missing. “I think…I think she was kind to me, I think…we may have been friends at one time.” She stated. “Only I can’t remember why, or how. All is know is that we ended up on the opposite side of things. Of this war.” Abbie recalled, looking up at him.

“There’s a text.” Ichabod stated, heading toward the ladder. One of the hidden text of Genesis, I believe it is a-ha.” He said pulling it from the shelf. Abbie shook off her concerns of the situation with Pandora and preceded as Ichabod flipped through the text he’d grabbed.

“Okay. So also, there is the woman we all know as Eve.” Abbie continued. “She is said to have been created from Adam’s rib, he was put to sleep, a part of him was removed, and from it this woman was formed.” She said drawing a second stick figure next to Adam.

“So Eve was Adam’s second wife.” Joe offered.

“Uh.” Abbie started.

“—Third.” Ichabod chimed in, looking up from the text. “She was his third wife. It states here that after Lilith fled, a second wife was then created for Adam, prior to Eve. However, having watched her being built from the ground up, he was put off by her and refused to have anything to do with her.”

“Geez, guy sounds like a piece of work,” Joe cut in. “What did he have against women and equality?”

“It wasn’t a thing with women.” Abbie remembered. “He just had this way about him, like he wanted to feel more important than he actually was. He was that way with everyone.” She explained, laying the chalk to rest and rejoining the group.

“You recall him well.” Ichabod noted.

“A little.” Abbie admitted.

“Okay.” Jenny said, rising and going to the board. “So to recap, we have Adam, we have Pandora/Lilith, we have Eve, there was a serpent is that like the devil?”

“Not the, a. The Hidden One. He was definitely there.” Abbie said, thumbing her lip.

“And you and Crane were there.” Jenny stated, drawing their figures. “I’m giving you a smiley face because I love you.”

“I’m not that short.” Abbie snapped in reaction to the tiny figure Jenny drew. “And it wasn’t us per se it was a version of us, our souls…okay so it was us.” She concluded, noting that they looked the exact same.

“So we need to find out who Adam’s second wife was, maybe she’s the key to all of this.” Joe stated.

“From her description found here Adam must have been quite foolhardy in rejecting her. It purports that she was impeccably wise, and strong, and described herein as unutterably beautiful.” Ichabod noted. “So much so that even angels fell for her. Quite literally.”

“We should break into pairs,” Ichabod stated. “We need to pour over every lost book and text of the bible until we discover exactly who she was.”

“Guys.” Abbie said quietly, everyone kept right on talking as though they didn’t hear her.

“I’ll start with Washington’s Bible, maybe something’s there that can point us in the appropriate direction.”

“Guys.”

The chattering continued on. “Joe and I will look through the text you just pulled down.” Jenny decided.

“GUYS!” Abbie yelled. Everyone immediately stopped and looked at her, faces alarmed at her raised voice.  

“I know who Adam’s second wife was.” She stated walking over to the board, and erasing the question mark and the stick figure below it.”

“Why didn’t you say something, who was she?” Jenny asked. Abbie’s eyes quickly bounced around the room before linking with Ichabod’s.

“Me.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

 

Abbie stared across the room at Ichabod a few minutes after Jenny and Joe went out for food. She’d told herself that she would keep quiet and let him raise the subject if it was bothering him, but clearly it was, and even more clearly he had no intention of saying anything.

“You okay?” She finally asked.

“I beg pardon?” Ichabod responded, looking up from a stack of papers in confusion. A few tresses of hair dangled across his face. He rapidly threw his head back as soon as it stopped spinning enough for him to process her inquiry, the hairs followed. Abbie twisted her head to the side, and he immediately began to get an idea of what she was talking about.

“Oh!” He raised to his feet as he spoke. “Fine.” He rapidly added in a tone that aimed at being both eager and unconcerned. Abbie stood to her feet as well.

“Alright,” She said calmly, “If you’re sure.” She stated as she stepped around her desk and moved towards him. Her hands slipped inside of her jean pockets.

“Because if there’s anything you’d like to talk about…” She offered playfully shrugging her shoulders in a manner so becoming it stole his breath. Stars slipped before his eyes, a smile unconsciously found his lips as he tried to remember the meaning of their conversation.

“Well?” He heard her ask from across his desk.

“Well what?” He breathed, utterly mesmerized as he looked down at her.

“Would you like to talk about it?” Abbie asked, brow taking a curious dip at his confusion.

It? Oh, he thought as he remembered the cause of the foul mood he’d momentarily fallen out of.

Lieutenant,” He growled in a scolding tone.

“Nooo.” His stated dismissively, nose wrinkled, eyes squinting over at her as if she were imagining things. As if she hadn’t seen the scowl he quickly tucked behind a superficial grin when he discovered who she was in a past life. He hoped he could cover his emotions, but the second his voice filled the air he knew he was betrayed by his own exaggeration. Abbie’s impassive side long gaze only served to further inform him of how horribly he’d just oversold it. His eyes momentarily closed as he took his hand through tuff a hair he felt touching his forehead. He found a low, even voice before he spoke again.

“All is quite well.” He offered after recomposing himself. “That is, well of course…unless there is something which you should like to discuss.” He countered, hope hanging in his voice.

Abbie’s eyes widened a bit as she quickly shook her head from side to side.

“No,” She answered in an upbeat tone. “I’m good…if you are?”

“Of course, what would cause you to believe otherwise? I am perfectly, perfectly, good, as well.” He contended, fingers going a bit crazy before he slipped them behind his back.

“It’s, allll good.” He awkwardly adds, drawing a brow raise from her. For the love of God Ichabod please cease speaking, he warns himself.

“Abbie,” He continued when her dubious upward smirk tells him that she doesn’t quite believe him, “surely you do not suppose that I am the sort to take issue with a romance that occurred roughly five thousand years before the birth of Christ.” He chuckled nervously. Abbie bit down on her bottom lip before responding.

“No.” She smiled, pausing. “I do not.” She replied. His manufactured indifference was easy enough to see through, but she wasn’t going to force him into talking. She gave a gentle nod.

“Okay.” She said turning to go back to her station. “And for the record,” she called over her shoulder.

“I’m not so sure romance is the right term, I mean you said yourself he curved me right? I don’t know about you, but that’s not exactly my idea of a romance.” She smiled before returning to her text.

Ichabod stood silently, a thoughtful countenance covered his face as he looked down at the book in front of him. He inwardly kicked himself for not accepting her invitation to right the thoughts inside of his head, they ran reckless. Not only everything inside of him, but everything he felt had overwhelmingly caused him to believe that he and Abbie were made for each other. The things he learned about their role as witnesses…the things he’d come to know about himself, all of it made it clear that she was the only thing capable of holding him together. The solitary soul he’d managed to be for so much of his life was a ghost, if not for his eidetic memory he would scarcely recognize him on the street. He pitied him. Of all the people who tried to get close, of all the people who tried to know him in the manner in which she did, none had ever succeeded in penetrating so deeply inside of his exterior. Still, in the end it was he who had ripped open his own shell in an effort to crack hers. It was clear early on that the only way she would ever allow him to know her, was to show her the very whole of himself. So he did, bit by bit, piece by piece.

What fascinated him the most was irony of it.   Abbie had a penchant for individualism as strong if not stronger than his, but they came together in perfect seamless unity and nothing could have ever prepared him for how quickly it happened. How quickly she became the closest friend he’d ever had, how quickly she became his first thought in the morning, and his longest prayer at night, how quickly the I’s in his head metamorphosed into we’s. That was partially what irked him so of all this talk of Adam, he hated the thought of his Abbie being a part of a we with someone else.  

“Did you fancy him?” He blurted out unable to hold it in any longer. Abbie was just settling back into her work. She marked her page in her book, and returned to her feet.

“Honestly?” She sighed moving to join him. The impatient, purposeful glare he gave her made it clear that he meant to hear the truth.

He quickly pulled a chair out as she stepped close, she smiled at his manners as she took a seat.

“I really don’t remember.” She admitted scooting her chair closer to his. “I think I did like him just from some of the images I’ve seen,” she said beneath a concentrated gaze, “but it seemed very…I guess similar to the way that I liked Eve, and Lilith—I mean Pandora, and others.”

Abbie gently shook her head seeing his dissatisfaction with her answer, her eyes twinkled with empathy as she tried to figure out how to make him feel better.

“I’m trying.” She pled.

She wished there was something more she could say, something she could do to help him be at ease with all of this, but how could she explain things she didn’t fully understand. She knew how protective he was of their connection, of their roles as Witnesses in one another’s lives. He had a disdain of anything that didn’t speak to that, and anything that could possibly set them upon different paths. A powerful urge to touch him brought her to her feet and sat her upon his lap. Her arms slipped around his neck and he immediately felt a calm sense of relief from the comfort of her weight settling against him. His arms coiled around her as his fingers quickly sought out the hips they seemed to call home these days.

“Crane.” She sighed, voice wrapping around his name in that way it did when she wanted him to stop overthinking things.

“You were created for another.” He whispered a barely hidden hint of dejection clouding his voice, eyes angled downward.

“And yet here I sit, yours.” She reassured him bringing his eyes to hers. “My heart, my love…every part of me. You, are my partner.”

He couldn’t get over how easily her touch seemed to silence all of the unrest inside of his head. He sighed, contented, and cuddled her tighter. Holding her had become his favorite thing.

She twisted about until her legs parted around him, her feet lifted to the bottom side stretchers of the chair as he pulled her forward and sealed her chest to his in welcome. A smile curved Abbie’s lips at the feel of their hearts thumping against one another. She felt at complete peace when he hugged her this way, and had so from the beginning of their friendship. Ichabod Crane didn’t make a habit out of doing anything halfway, but when he wrapped his arms around her the entire world knew he meant it.  Hell, when she thought about it, she realized it was a hug much like this that had created the subtle current of disquiet between her and Katrina. Of course at the time Abbie didn’t know how terribly uncommon it was for a man from his time to show that level of affection to a woman in the company of another. But he knew, and still he chose to hold her that day in purgatory in spite of the fact that the other person present was his wife.

A soft wispy noise left Abbie’s mouth as he nuzzled his face to hers, a grin crinkled his deep water colored eyes just to hear it. He pressed his lips to her cheek, tender and slow before following to her lips in the same fashion. Abbie could feel her need for him rising and radiating through her from the top of her head to the soles of her feet. Without even realized her hips wound with the slightest swirl, it was the tiniest of motions but once freed it seemed to set off a chain reaction. A breathy grunt flew from Ichabod’s throat as he extended his legs. Her lips parted as she felt his cock repeatedly hammering against his trousers in reaction to her presence. Abbie battled against succumbing to her desires and held still. In an effort to take things down a notch she pitched forward and placed a soft chaste kiss to his lips. Only he tasted so sweet that she wasn’t satisfied with just one. She promised herself the forth on would be the last, but when her lips hadn’t pulled away by the fifth he parted them and slipped his tongue inside of her mouth.

The anatomy of their situation immediately changed, only with him did goodbye kisses, become hellos. He locked his arms and drew her tighter against him, shaft swelling from the delicious little whimper he’d coaxed from the back of her throat. The tighter he held her the more clear it became to her that his lips were the only things soft on him, every inch of him felt solid and firm. A little voice in the back of her head tried to remind her of the tasks before them, tried to remind her that this was the place they worked, but

“Crane” She inhaled as his teeth bit and tugged at her lobe. She squirmed against him as the moisture pooling at the seal of her labia seeped out against her panties. Now the only thing she can think of was how badly she wanted his fingers to open the crease and slip inside. Her thighs shook with vigor as the thought coursed through her mind. Hands that seemed to cover whole portions of her dipped beneath the edge of her shirt and ghosted up her back. Her thighs clamped snugly to his sides in response.

Then he was at her ear…asking her if she knew how special she was. Asking her if she knew how many times a day he thanked God for her. Squeezing her ass and asking her if she knew what she did to him. Abbie moaned her reply into the air, as he peppered longing kisses against the underside of her chin.

As much as she loves the things he whispers in her ear, it doesn’t hold a candle to the things he actually does. Her hips do what they want, and soft susurrations fall from him registering his approval. Her eyes opened just in time to watch his close. Lashes longer than anyone should be allowed to have swept the skin beneath his eyes, and she’s certain she’s never loved or wanted anything more. She lowered her palm and married her fingers to his stiff shaft in an unspoken request. She never needed to ask twice. His tongue and teeth were at her throat before he’d even finished standing them up. His lips were slipping down her belly by the time her back hit the desk. He spared a moment to dabble kisses in the crevice between her hips and the beginnings of her vulva. It’s then that she wonders if time is moving as rapidly as it seems. She’d barely come to grips with the sensation of his warm, weighty, breaths against her denim covered crotch, when it seems the next one he takes lands directly against her damp curls. A tongue too wet to be outside of his mouth licked through them and lapped across her tiny pearl, and the world disappeared. His fingers dug into her hips as he tugged her pants down a bit more, not quite far enough for her to wrap her legs around his head like she wanted to, but the limitations did other things for her. Already she’s desperate and begging him for it now. But her pleas go ignored as he continues dragging his strawberry skinned tongue across her spot. A bit of panic finds her, because a part of her worries that something that feels this perfect couldn’t possibly last, but when he licks at her flesh she prays it does. His mastery of her form takes hold, binding the muscles in her belly with some hidden curse that only he knows how to release.

“Crane.” She moans, uncaring of their location, body writhing as he groans against her wetness. She thinks to stop him long enough to grant herself more movement, if only her pants were a touch lower, but his tongue coiling around her clit reminds her that there’s no time. He grips her hips and buries his face harder, and she feels her spirit splinter. Her eyes are glued shut, hips heaving from the desk as broken screams populate the air. Each time she manages to quiet them his humming against her nub releases them again, and again, and again. He raised his head slightly, leaving kisses along her thighs and legs as he drug her pants from her limbs. Abbie crashed back against the desk as she tapered down, spine bending as her thighs plastered shut. She stayed curled on her side shivering and panting as she watched him lift off his shirt. He stood straight, keeping eye contact with her as he unfastened his trousers. His eyes let her know that he was aware what he had done to her. His hand freeing his cock let her know what he was going to do to her again. His fingers briefly wrapped around the base of his thick length to relieve some of the ache as Abbie looked on quietly wishing her lips could take their place. He left her on her side, grabbed her hips and pulled her rear to the edge of the desk. He briefly raised her leg and eased himself inside of her with a groan that lost the will of voice the deeper he got.

Lustful whimpers rasped from Abbie’s mouth, and he immediately bent his lips to hers. She was undone. How, she wonders, there’s no way in hell a man with a tongue that could heal world given wounds should be allowed to have dick this good. He was too much. It’s nearly immediate how quickly she begins to feel like she’s going to come. That bulbous, swollen head of his is pressuring a part of her that he himself discovered, planted a flag on, and introduced her to. Each time he pushes against it she’s reminded of that. When he touches that place she’s certain she can’t take any more, and every time he pulls back he claims a bit more of her and takes it with him.

He moves inside of her like he knows it. Confident, deliberate strokes as if they have all of the time in the world. She wanted to share with him everything she was feeling, wanted somehow to explain to him how good his dick felt buried that deep inside of her, but each time she finds a word he thrusts forward and all is lost. He listened to her sweet song and breathy whimpers as she quietly called on God. Her hand presses up into his chest as lost language is quietly sucked from her lips. Everything in him wanted to release the second her wet flower drew closed and squeezed around him, but he struggled through the urge, standing straight as he picked up the pace. Abbie didn’t know what to do. She was just barely on the other side of her orgasm when she felt herself being brought to the precipice of another. Each mind bending stroke is more commanding and urgent than the next. He’s gripping her hips tighter then, holding them in place as he pumps into her silky heat with pure unadulterated passion.

He lets her feel how hard he can be if she needs him to, he needs her to know how strong he can stand. She hears his low voice repeatedly croaking out “Gasan” and finds her breath is held prisoner as something separating this dimension from the next is shattered. Suddenly she’s above them, looking down at their bodies against the desk as he brought her to another orgasm. She can feel it all. Even though it feels as though two parts of her are occupying separate spaces in time, she can feel him everywhere around her pushing her further than she ever imagined it possible to go. She comes hard and loud, shaking and sputtering nonsense as her nails pierced his flesh. In that moment she hovered outside of herself as a truth thrummed through her. It isn’t said, or heard, it just is. This magical transference of knowledge implanted itself inside of her and she couldn’t turn away from it. Yes this sweet, patient, trusting love could heal world given wounds, but it could also leave her as depleted as scorched earth. He was in, and as her fingers dug into his waist she knows she’ll never be able to get him out again. His thrusts lessened in number but increased in force as he emptied himself inside of her with a long groan from his deepest depths. He leaned over her speaking in their unlearnt language as aftershocks rippled through them, whispering sweet words and affirmations that found her heart and pulled water from her eyes.

Abbie stood in the bathroom freshening up when she heard Ichabod come in behind her. The dim lights flickered a bit as she raised her head and saw his face reflected in the mirror in front of her. Adoration filled his eyes as he touched her shoulder, and she turned to face him. Abbie’s mouth eased open, a jilt of recognition travelled through her at the sight of his expression. She gazed up at him quietly, her pause bringing forth an encouraging smile that only deepened the feeling of déjà vu. A quick flash of him placing a hand to her shoulder inside of the garden traipsed through her mind.

“Are you alright?” He asked in a heavy breath.

“Yeah.” An honest response, even though she’s confused.

“You’re certain?” He probed further, looping his arms around her, and dropping his lips to her temple. A smile sprang in reaction to his embrace.

“Well I’m exhausted,” She laughed, “but alright.”

 

 


 

 

Jenny and Joe returned clutching paper sacks filled with beverages and sandwiches only moments after they emerged from the bathroom. The foursome ate over light chatter, before digging into work, all of them beginning to feel pressured by questions they simply had no answers for. Two hours later it was Ichabod who approached the rest of the group clutching three dust covered books stacked inside of his fingers.

“These are the only additional works I could find that made mention of Naamah” (nay-ah-mah). He said placing them upon the desk.

“—That is what…you,” his careful nod bent towards Abbie “were called.”

“Oh.” She responded through a contemplative gaze. It wasn’t every day that someone told you about your past life.

“I’ve yet to review them all of course, however,” Ichabod stirred fingering open the one on top, “It states herein that this name came from God himself. It is taken to mean pleasant in his sight. It is written here that moments after your creation, you opened your mouth and sang a song for him, one he had not placed inside of your heart, but it was there nonetheless, and it was pleasing to him. It pleased him so much so that you found his favor and grace. Henceforth that is what all others began to call you, Grace. In some languages such as Arabic, and Swahili to name a few, Grace is still pronounced nay-ah-mah.”

“Wow.” Jenny said standing to follow the text alongside Ichabod. “Wait what does that say about people fearing her?” She asked squinting at the page.

“Some,” Ichabod continued holding up a finger, “began to fear her. Not only because of the favor you found with God,” He stated looking at Abbie, “but also because you were regarded quite plainly and accurately I might add as the most beautiful woman in the world.” He gushed eyes glimmering as he gazed down at her.

Abbie blinked, the center of her brow sunk in as her lips parted a bit.

“One, beauty is subjective,” She rattled off still in thought, “Two notwithstanding that it states that….I” she finds difficult to say “was this beautiful girl, who God liked. Nothing in that tells us why people feared me?”  

“Actually it does.” He countered. “Your beauty is described as such that Angels became wicked in chase of you, you were called by some The Seducer of Angels, and finally…a demon.”

“A demon?” Abbie choked. “People thought I was a demon?”

“Yup.” Jenny murmured, eyes still fixated on the page. “Damn Abs, I always knew your ass was evil.” She teased.    

Ichabod cast a defensive glare towards Jenny. “Miss Jenny be reminded that it is the natural proclivity of man to hate, and attempt to demonize that which he does not understand.”

“Relax Ichy, she’s my sister, I know she’s not a demon.” Jenny shook her head. “Overprotective much sheesh.”

Ichabod lengthened his frame, “I was merely stating.”

“Anyways,” Jenny said rolling her eyes, and returning to the book. “It wasn’t man who called her a demon anyways, it was actually a sect of angels.” She informed him pointing to the page.

“All the same.” Ichabod replied raptly.

“Are you two serious right now?” Abbie waved her pointer finger between the two of them.

“She started it.” Ichabod argued pointing at Jenny, causing her to nudge him with her elbow.

“Ouch. Miss Jenny!”

“Y’all need me to separate you?” Abbie asked.    

“Guys, listen.” Joe said, looking up from one of the books.

“According to this, God showed Naamah things he hadn’t shown to others. She became The Mother of Divination, and—man this sounds so much like you Abs.” He spoke as he read along, “She is incredibly virtuous, and a lover of humanity. Conversely the type of love she aroused and garnered from others was so strong that she is often referred to as the Mother of Idolatry. Wow. That couldn’t have gone over well with the big guy.” Joe said with a small smirk. “Naamah….just a sec.” Joe read quietly for a little while before abruptly pulling his neck back, face curling with disgust.  

“What?!” Abbie exclaimed, leaning closer to him. Joe shook his head.

“Nothing, we should call it a night.” He said closing the book.

“Joe! What did it say?” Abbie demanded, going through a hundred terrible possibilities per second, all of them worse than the one before.

“I’d rather not say.” He replied quickly shaking his head, as he kept the book firmly shut. “Let’s just move on.”

“Master Corbin.” Ichabod cut in. “The purpose of our assembly is so that we might utilize our analytical skills in congress, how can we do so if you are withholding information. We should all be afforded the opportunity of determining what is and is not of importance.”

“I didn’t say it wasn’t important Crane, I said we should….” He sighed looking over at Abbie, “Look all we need to do is find Pandora and The Hidden One and kill them, and then this will all be over.” Joe responded looking her in the eye.

“Seriously Joe you’re wasting time, tell me what it says or hand it over.” Jenny said growing irritated.

“No.” He shook his head.

“Joe.” Abbie finally yelled, reaching over in an attempt to snatch the book from his hand. He shifted his shoulders and held the book over his head.

“How come no one ever takes my word for anything? I know I’m the newest member of the team, and you…you still see me as that kid running around in his superman cape, but Abs...”

By this point the three of them had had enough and started converging on him from all sides. He argued back initially trying to stand his ground, but finally the trio won out.

“Alright FINE!” He finally shouts realizing they weren’t going to let it go.

“It said…it said that…she was the only creature in all of God’s creation who was regarded as equal in beauty, if not more beautiful than Lucifer. Lucifer himself coveted her affection and attempted to woo her. He sought the power of God and assumed that with the beloved Naamah at his side he could encourage more to join his ranks in rebellion. When…when you spurned his advances…he…he sent. He sent monsters to…”

Joe’s face hardened as he struggled to push the words out, and Abbie sees a look in his eyes that she hadn’t seen in years.

“To do the types of things that no one ever wants to hear of being done to a woman.” He stated. “Of being done to someone they look at as a sister Abbie.” He said suddenly choking back tears.

His stomach twisted as he thought back to waking in the middle of the night years ago. He remembered it was raining that night, and he can never quite recall whether it was the voices or the storm that woke him up. He stepped down the dark hall in search of Abbie when he heard loud voices coming from the living room. He dawdled around the corner to find Wyatt, a man his father had hired to do some work around the house with his hand around Abbie’s throat. Even at a young age he knew something was wrong. He knew he was hurting her. Her shirt was torn, her eyes were filled with fear.

“Hey little J-Bird.” Wyatt said, greeting him with a deceitful smile. “Me and Abbie are just playing that’s all. We’re just playing.” He lied. “Go on back to bed.”

“Abbie.” Joey said, eyes blown wide. “I want my dad.”

“Listen your dad asked me to come by here and check on you guys, now go on back to bed.” He repeated.

“No!”

“Listen you little—Ahhh, YOU BITCH!” He screamed after Abbie’s knee rammed him in the groin.

“RUN JOEY!” Her shrill voice bounced off of every wall in the house as they made a break for it.

He remembered running as fast as he could.   Even though he was scared there was security in hearing Abbie’s footfall right behind him, and then it disappeared. He was nearly out of the room when the sound of her body being tackled to the ground stopped him. The second he turned back Abbie screamed at him to keep running. Her attacker simultaneously screamed for him to come back.

“JOEY GO TO THE SECRET PLACE, DON’T COME OUT.” She’d shrieked before Wyatt’s hand covered her mouth.

“Shut. Up.” He hollered. The man drew his fist back, and that was the last thing Joe saw.

 

Tears settled behind his eyes as he threw the book on the table.  

“Joe.” Abbie voice shook, eyes brimming with tears.  

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” He said in a near panic. “I never should have left.” He said shaking his head. “I knew…I knew, I did. I knew Abbie, I knew he was hurting you.

“Joey.” Abbie said, raising a hand in attempt to calm him down. “It’s okay.” She said in a slow soothing voice.

“No. I should have stayed,” He stated barely holding back tears, “What kind of person does that?” He said, “What kind of a person sees a man hurting someone that way, and runs.” He cried.

“Joey. You did what you were supposed to do.” She said in a careful tone, making certain to control her emotions.

“No. Dad didn’t think so. He looked at me differently after that.”

“No sweetie, he didn’t.” Abbie’s eyes filled with liquid as she tried to convince him.

“I can’t.” Joe said, before stalking off, the weight of that moment walking with him as it had for so many years. He’d lost count of the time he’d revisited it, he wondered how many times Abbie had, but never found the courage to ask. It seemed like no matter how many steps he took, it was never enough to get away from it. He was only a child but he never forgot it, and always blamed himself a little for running and hiding. In fact he hated himself a little more every time he thought of it.

The room was devoid of all noise. Abbie couldn’t remember a time when it felt more quiet. Ichabod and Jenny stared at her with something broken in their eyes, like she was somehow different from the person who was standing there just minutes ago. She wasn’t. A part of her resented the new eyes they seemed to view her with. She stood quietly for a moment, feeling herself being dragged back to this place in time she never cared to return to, having people look at her in a way they hadn’t looked at her in years. Like she was a victim, like they wanted to say something to her but didn’t know what, or how. Guilt ingrained in their eyes like they, themselves had done something wrong when they hadn’t, but somehow felt a sense of it simply by knowing these things about her. Jenny’s eyes were tearfully apologetic and Abbie could almost sense the questions she wanted to ask. She never told her, never mentioned a single word, and Jenny doesn’t quite know how to react learning something so private about her sister from someone else.

“Maybe we should regroup in the morning. I have to umm…I’m going to go check on him.” Abbie said in a wisp of a voice.

“Abbie.” Ichabod called prompting her to turn back and face him. She can see how concerned he is, how stunned they both are. She shook her head and turned to find Joe.

Abbie followed a loud clanging racket through the tunnels until she came upon Joe taking a crowbar to a wall.

“Joe.”

“No.” He said folding his lips in on each other. He felt a tremble building in the back of his throat until finally a sob broke free. It was full of ache, and sorrow even though he did his best to suppress it. Abbie threw her arms around him, her body shook from his sobs.

“You did what you were supposed to do remember. It was my job to protect you…not the other way around. If he was capable of…” Abbie shuddered. “rape, who knows what he would have tried to do to you.”

“I shouldn’t have left you.” He maintained through gritted teeth. He let the crowbar slip to the ground.  

“I’m so sorry.” He whispered as the two of them sunk to the ground. “I should have tried to get help, and I…I just hid, I fuckin’ hid.” He cried.

“Joey listen to me.” Abbie said leaning back enough to cuff his face. “You were a child.” She said hearing her voice waver. “You did the right thing, there was nothing you could have done. I’m sorry you had to witness that…I’m sorry I ever opened the door and let him in,” Abbie said remembering him giving her some story about having left some of his tools.

 

“I’ll go get them,” Abbie said peering through the screen door. She’d just seen a few wrenches and screwdrivers in the bathroom.

“Pouring out.” He replied with a smile as deceptive as the day is long. “A guy could catch his death out here, mind if I wait inside?”

She took pity. It took the better part of a year in therapy before she really stopped blaming herself for opening the door. Before she was able to understand that inviting someone inside was not an invitation to be raped. That there was nothing that you can do that is an invitation for someone to try to hurt you that way.    

“It wasn’t. Our. Fault.” She said as water spilled from her eyes. “It wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t your fault. We didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Abbie,” Joe said stretching his heels out.   “You didn’t see the way he looked at me after.” He argued.

“Your dad...I know the look that you’re talking about, because afterwards he looked at me the same way. That night was one of the only times I’d ever seen him cry. He felt terrible, and guilty for ever letting someone like Wyatt around us. He wasn’t ashamed of you, or me…he was ashamed that someone he invited into our lives caused us to have to live through that. Is that what you thought?” She asked, heartbroken. “Joe, he loved you more than anything.”

“You mean he wasn’t angry with me?”

Abbie shook her head as she reached over and gripped his chin. “No.” She said softly. “Of course not.” She assured him, still unable to believe he’d felt this way the whole time.

Joe wiped his tears and tried to swallow the lump in his throat. “And you?” He cried.

“Never.” Abbie said in the strongest voice she could muster.

“But…” He looked over at her, tears still coming down.

“Do you remember what I told you then?” Abbie sniffled, feeling wetness beneath her nose. “I wasn’t hurt as badly as I could have been.” Her eyes stared blankly at the wall in front of her as she remembered the events of that night. She spoke softly, filling in some of the gaps that Joe couldn’t quite fill in for himself.

She told him how even after all this time she could still smell the stench of her attacker’s breath, it felt almost like particles of it got inside of her. Not one detail was ever lost or forgotten, the pressure of his forearm against her windpipe, the terror when for the first time in her life she tried to draw air, and couldn’t. The helplessness that bubbled inside of her stomach after she asked him to stop and he didn’t. After she asked him to let her go and he wouldn’t. More than anything she could still see and feel his anger, unmitigated hatred, and the pleasure he derived from hurting her. She remembered yelling for Joe to hide just before everything went hazy. The next time she was lucid her top was bare, he hovered over her as the taste of her own blood pooled inside of her mouth. She screamed and didn’t stop, but it felt like she was a thousand miles under the earth. She didn’t think anyone could hear her, or that anyone would ever find her there. It was surreal. She tried pushing and clawing him off of her, but her limbs still felt weak from being struck. He took her blows like they were nothing, he even puffed up as if he were drawing strength from them.

“NO!” She screamed, hands reaching down to try to keep her jeans up. That’s when she felt it. The little thing she had tucked inside of her pocket. The cool steel of the pocketknife she had promised Corbin she’d gotten rid of. She’d never been so thankful in all her life she’d lied. That fucker never saw it coming. Stick, drag, stick, twist, stick, stick, stick.

Now he was the one who was begging. She slid from beneath him and ran to get Joe out of the crawl space. Seconds later she was at a neighbor’s calling the police. She gave them Wyatt’s name, told them what he had done, and that she’d opened his stomach. She hoped he bled out.

Corbin heard the call come in. He’d radioed back that his estimated time of arrival was fifteen minutes, those that knew him well knew he’d be there in ten. Those that knew him best knew the suspect would be dead within moments of his arrival. Nine minutes later the block was blanketed with cops. Eventually there was a plea, no trial. It was dark out by the time she and Corbin left the hospital, she sat across from him in his squad car looking out of the window. He’d been quiet the whole way home, so had she. The thunder and lightning seemed louder when he shut the engine off, but it had been raging the entire time. Neither of them made a motion to get out of the car. The storm rattled on and the world disappeared from behind the water covered windows. Abbie watched the garage light yellow the air front of them as her mind replayed the attack on an endless loop.  The shock of it all hadn’t allowed her to shed one single tear, she couldn’t. So much inside of her worried that it wasn’t over yet, that she still wasn’t safe. Even sitting in the car next to the Chief of Police, and knowing that her attacker was being watched while chained to a hospital bed. A part of her still felt like he was going to jump out at any minute.

“We could go somewhere else.” Corbin offered.  

The memory of Wyatt’s tongue licking up her face flashed through her mind.

“No.” She said. Going somewhere else would only make it that much longer before she could take a shower, and the idea of that sickened her. She’d been holding onto hope that once she showered it would get easier. Maybe then she wouldn’t feel his disgusting grimy fingers tearing at her skin, or his repulsive odor hanging all over her. But as soon as she stepped inside she knew this wasn’t going to get easier soon. Someone had taken the time to pick up. Blood stains were scrubbed and lifted from the carpet, tables and lamps were returned to their rightful positions. Her eyes fixated on one of the wrenches that had slipped from her fingers and fallen half beneath the couch when he grabbed her. Corbin followed her eyes and quickly picked it up. Still she couldn’t pull her gaze from it even though only the edge of it was now visible.

“I’m going to go up to…shower.” She said in a whisper, thoughts so muddled that by the end of the sentence she had to take a moment to remember what she was trying to say. When she opened the bathroom door all she could see was Wyatt. He’d remodeled and installed everything in there. The tub, the sink, the toilet, the walls, even the floor. Her foot stopped mid-fall as she realized she couldn’t go in. She cautiously backed out, only to be thrown into a full scale panic when her foot came in contact with Corbin’s.

“NO!.” She screamed spinning around to shove him away. In seconds she had backed herself up against the wall, fists drawn into balls at her side.

“It’s just me.” He tried to assure her. “Kid.” A tearful plea grew in his eyes.

That was the first time she cried about it. The first time she realized that it was over, and she had lived. She tried to keep it in, but the pain of it was too much for her tiny body to hold. Her frame shook with fury as giant sobs rose up through her chest and she swallowed them back down. It was her way back then, only allowing herself to cry when no one could hear her. A few sobs escaped as she attempted to draw a much needed breath.

Corbin never forgot the noise she made then, tiny high pitched whimpers from the cries she smothered. Trembling lips sealed tight.

“I’m…sorry.” She managed to gut out, pushing herself from the wall, covering her eyes as she palmed away tears. That’s when he lost it, and all the emotion that he too had been trying to subdue came tumbling out.

“You’re sorry?” He asked in a voice barely able to push the words out. “Kid you….you have nothing to be sorry for.” He cried, wrapping his arms around her. “So help me God, no one is ever, ever, going to touch you like that again. I’m sorry. You hear me. I’m the one who’s sorry. You didn’t do anything wrong.”    

That night she used the downstairs bathroom. She swallowed the pills the emergency room doctor had given her to help with sleep and dozed off with Corbin sitting in a chair at her bedside. The following morning she stepped past the bathroom and found that everything had been ripped out, the tub, the sink, the toilet, the walls…even the floor. When she came downstairs she could see the bulk of it piled up outside awaiting haul away. Though they never spoke about it, she understood. It seemed as if everything that monster had touched was tainted now. She wanted to thank Corbin for removing traces of him from the house, but even that wasn’t enough. She peered out of the window and tried to overcome the feeling that she too belonged in that pile.

Days later she sat across from Corbin at breakfast table, while Joey sat in the living room building a lego structure. Wyatt had tried to lie, but after being presented with the evidence he was ready to make a confession. Corbin had to recuse himself from the case because of his close relationship with Abbie, but he was still going in today to watch as the agreement was presented. It wasn’t exactly a plea bargain because Wyatt was made well aware that he had no breaks coming. She looked over to see every wrinkle on Corbin’s forehead was deepened.

Abbie sipped her juice, and tried to muffle a wince from the sting of it against her lip. “Don’t worry.” She said. He glanced over at her with a curious expression.

“If he doesn’t sign it I mean. I will testify in front of the whole town if I have to. I don’t want to, but I will if I have to, so don’t worry.”

Corbin looked over at her in amazement. He was horrified at the thought of her having to relive her ordeal all over again. But there she was, ready and willing even though he knew how frightened she was. Bravery didn’t begin to describe her.

“Hopefully it won’t come to that, but if it does…the fact that you’re willing to do that knowing what it entails…” He shook his head.

“I have to.” She said plainly. “What,” she sighed heavily, “What if he’s done this before?” She asked, eyes growing watery, “If he goes free, what if he does it again. I don’t ever want someone else to go through what I went through. I have to.”

Corbin’s jaw hardened as his face grew flush with emotion. “I’m sure he’ll sign.” He said in such a definitive manner that she wondered if he knew something she didn’t.

“He came up with that ridiculous lie when he thought there was still a possibility for him to walk away from all of this, I’m sure he’s clear know that it isn’t going to happen, how the hell he ever thought it would I don’t know.”

Abbie’s gaze went side ward towards the table.

“Kid?” He asked, garnering there was something she was holding back.

“I’m assuming he realized that I was a young girl—a young black girl—without any money, or any family,” she paused for a moment eyes reddening as she fought off tears, “and that there aren’t too many things in this country less important than my voice.” She’d answered honestly. Corbin’s eyes glossed with liquid as he leaned over the table. “That’s why he thought he could get out of it.” Abbie continued.

“He thought wrong. Your voice is important to me, and I’m going to do everything in my power to make certain it’s important to everyone else.” He vowed, with a slight nod of his head.

“And you…” he covered her hand with his and gave it a firm squeeze, “You have family kid, and I’m not only talking about Jenny.”

An hour later Abbie pulled back the living room curtains to find his partner’s wife parking in front of the house. She could still recall how betrayed she felt in that moment.

“I don’t need a sitter.” She protested angrily, knowing immediately why the woman was there.

“She’s here to watch Joe, I figured with everything going on it’d be wrong to ask you to look after him.” Abbie closed the curtains and turned around to face him.

“You’re lying.”

He placed his hat on his head, feeling her eyes boring into him.

“Yeah.” He responded faintly staring down at the floor. He raised his eyes to hers. “Listen, it’s just for a little a while, until…until your first appointment with the psychologist.”

“I told you I wasn’t going, I don’t need to, I’m fine,” She maintained as her eyes watered. “I’m fine!” She repeated loudly looking up at him, holding the gaze until she couldn’t ward off her tears any longer. Her fingers stretched over her eyes drying her tears before they had a chance to fall.

“Why don’t you believe me?” She cried.

“She’s here for me.” He told her. “The last time I left you guys here alone…” His eyes briefly returned to the floor, “She’s here for me. We can talk about the psychologist, you can do it on your own time, there’s no rush…but at least one meeting…that’s for me too. After that, if you don’t wanna go back, you never have to again.”

Abbie kept her palms dug into her eyes until the tears were gone.

“Hey.” Corbin said placing a hand to her shoulder. “Abbie.” He called. She opened her eyes and looked up at him, surprised he’d called her by her name.

“You know why I call you kid all the time?” He asked.

She shook her head from side to side, brushing her forefinger under her nose.

“Ever since I’ve known you, I’ve watched you worry about everything and everyone but yourself. You worry about me, and my diet, whether I’m working too much, eating too late. You worry about Joe and how he’s adjusting to not having his mom. You worry about Jenny, and if she’s safe. Even earlier you tried to tell me not to worry when I’m the one who needs to be looking after you. I call you kid because I hope that it’ll help you realize that you are one. You’re a kid Abbie, and I know haven’t gotten to be that in a long, long time, but I hope we can change that. Just for today can you stay here, and just be a kid. Okay.”

Abbie brought her hands up to her face and dried the remainder of her tears as Corbin pulled her in for a hug.  

That was more or less the week she moved in. Her foster parents were good and kind people, but she always felt more at home when she was with Corbin. Not to mention the fact that she admired him, he was simply able to see through her bullshit in a way others couldn’t. Just the fact that he was sharp enough to catch her up that night he took her to the diner was enough to earn her respect. On top of all of that he asked her to stay. So she stayed. The next time she left, he and Joey were dropping her off at college which led to the second time she’d seen him cry. Just a few quick tears he quickly wiped away standing on her dorm-room steps. That evening he’d left her a message on the cellphone he’d gotten her. She sat at her desk munching on a bowl of cereal while she listened to it.

“Hey just a heads-up a certain someone was pretty bummed out on the way home, he might of even shed a couple of tears. Alright I’ll be honest, a couple someones were pretty worked up on the way home. I just wanted to let you know how proud I am of you, and how happy I am for you. I know you’re going to do great. Be sure to have some fun every now and then, and…don’t forget to come home every once in a while and take the big little guy to a ballgame, let an old man buy you a slice of pie. Love ya kid, talk to you soon.”                    

Joe lifted his head from the wall. He never quite knew the full story of what happened after he slid through the trap door. He’d only learned that she wasn’t hurt as badly as she could have been, but he didn’t know exactly what that meant.

“I should be the one saying sorry.” Abbie said.

“What? You, for what?” He questioned.

“Because you were my little brother.” She told him. “Because I was the one who got all of the therapy and extra attention afterward. And I suspected that it bothered you more than you let on, but I didn’t know for sure. I should have seen it, even if I didn’t I should have asked. I should have made sure you had someone to talk to about it. I was so busy trying to forget.”

“I think we all were. You know, before I joined the Marines…” He stared over at her, “it was the scariest moment of my life.”

Unshed tears clouded over Abbie’s pecan eyes, as she leaned over and rested her head on his shoulder.

 

“Do you want to read it?” Jenny asked, finally finding the will to speak.

Ichabod shook his head, almost able to taste the sickness boiling in the pit of his belly.

Jenny’s eyes flitted across the page. “The devil sent fallen angels, demons.”

“Miss Jenny please.” Ichabod said, still needing a moment to digest all of the things he’d just heard. She was quiet a moment, eyes glazed over.

“It’s hard to find a good place.” She commented. “Hard to find people who are willing to take you in especially when there’s two of you, and especially when one of you misses her mama so much that she can’t manage to stop getting into trouble for five seconds. So when you find a place where you’re not neglected, or mistreated, or,” she paused flattening her lips together to stop them from trembling, “faced with being abused, you do everything you can to make it work. She would have done anything to keep us there.” She softly cried, wiping her tears.  

“We have to go through this because we need to know what happened. Doesn’t seem right to ask Abbie to do it. We know Joe can’t. That leaves me and you.”

Ichabod was quiet for a short bit. His nod alerted Jenny to his readiness to proceed.

“Okay.” Jenny said looking down at the page in a stoic haze. “When Naamah refused Lucifer’s offer, he was infuriated. He devised an elaborate plan to exact his revenge, bring her under his control, and take power. He sent Moloch along with a few others to attack her, to rape her.”

Ichabod’s jaw locked as the memory of Moloch informing him that he touched her soul once, and soon it would be his forever spun through his mind. Even with Moloch being dead, he could still feel the terror that ripped through him that day. He could still recall how Abbie’s embrace was the only thing that brought him any sort of peace afterward.

“After his demons executed their attack he planned to come to her rescue and emerge the hero.” Jenny went on. “Everything and everyone was a pawn to him, he only wanted the power. After rescuing her he was going to plant a seed inside of her head and water it until it grew. Why would God allow such a thing to happen to her if he loved her? Why would she follow a God who allows these sorts of things to happen? He would put forth promises of better way.”

“—Allow me to deduce,” Ichabod interrupted, “with him at the helm.”

“Exactly.”

Ichabod walked around the desk and stood next to Jenny so he could follow along.

“Before this moment, this point in time, there was a building discord in heaven but Lucifer was still operating as an angel. And not any angel, he was given, by God, a great power, and none outranked him in His mighty army.” She said.

Ichabod placed his finger to the text and continued where she’d left off.

“However, the archangel Michael who was secretly charged with keeping watch over Naamah discovered the mutiny. A great war stretched across all of heaven, and none knew the allegiance of the angel next to them. It was to say the least the uncertainest of times. “This…this is what started the war in heaven.” Ichabod muttered, brow furrowing at the realization.

“Oh my God.” Jenny breathed.


 

Silence filled the inner cabin of the jeep as Abbie and Ichabod travelled beneath the dark starless sky. Hard rain pelted the outside of the vehicle as the swish of the tires against the wet road lulled in the background.   Abbie looked over at her partner, not an inch of space between his grip and the steering wheel, eyes directed towards a road she doubted he could truly see. She hated days like this. Not the rain, but the storms that seemed to come out of nowhere. The type of days you never imagine coming when your eyes first pull open in the morning. The heavens grumbled and the rain picked up. His long fingers slipped down and turned the windshield wipers to their full rate. He looked at her differently already, and she tries to decide how to tell him that the only thing she wanted was for him to look at her the way he had before they left home, to still have the relationship they had before they left the house. There were words she wanted to say to him to help take them back. Honest, thoughtful words she hoped would cut through the distance and bridge the fissures she felt sinking in between them. Only she couldn’t figure out how. Abbie sighed and returned her eyes to the storm in front of them, letting her words dissolve upon her tongue until they were small enough to swallow.  

At home, she slipped out of her jacket and looked through the foggy window. Ichabod stood on the other side of it taking his time retrieving the mail that had built up over the last couple of days. Drops of water dripped from the ends of his hair as he legged over the threshold. She ambled into the center of the room watching as he shook out of his jacket, hung it on the rack, and bowed his head in front of it. She was sure he felt her eyes on him, but he made no motion to return her gaze. She couldn’t decide what was worse. The guilt she saw in Corbin’s eyes after she’d been assaulted, or the fact that Ichabod couldn’t even look her in the eye once he’d learned about it. He sighed, eyes shut in thought as he lifted his coat from the rack and put it back on.

“Crane.” She quietly called, wondering where his mind was. And then he looked at her and she knew. The tip of her nose stung as her eyes grew strained with liquid.

“No.” She whispered. Arms folded across her chest as she glared at him.

“I…” He spoke in a low tone, then raised his eyes to her. “I’m afraid I haven’t much of a choice.”

“Of course you do.” She said, more breath than voice. “You always have a choice. Do you think I haven’t thought about it? Do you think I haven’t considered the exact same thing a hundred times?” She shook her head, lips pursed together. “It won’t change anything. Think of what you’re saying, who even knows where this guy is, are you going to track down every person with the same name?”

“—There’s no need I’ve already located him. I received the full name from Master Corbin, I discovered his current domicile shortly before we left the Archives.”

“He went to prison you realize that right?”

“I do. He should have gone to hell, I intend to assist him with that.”  Ichabod sneered.

“I don’t think he needs any assistance, he’s going, but when and how, we don’t get to choose that!” Abbie said raising her voice.

“Did you get to choose?! Did you?!” He asked, voice raised. “He forfeit any choice he may have had when he lied his way inside, and forced himself upon you!”

“You don’t have to say it!” She shouted, barely holding back tears. “I was there, I remember what happened Crane. I will never forget, but that moment has taken so many moments away from me, and I refuse to give it ONE MORE THING!” She shouted.

“Gasan.” He softly spoke, her pain pulling him out of the anger that consumed his spirit. He quickly closed the space between them, and slinked his arms around her as he held her in a strong embrace. Her hands covered her eyes, hiding and wiping away her warm tears.

“I refuse to give it you,” she sniffled, reaching inside of his coat and clenching a fistful of his shirt. Her hands raised to cup his cheeks. “Or this.” She whispered pulling him forward until his chin rested against her head.

“Forgive me.” She heard him say. Ichabod took a deep breath, filling his lungs with her, and let it out slowly. He lowered his head and kissed his lips to the bridge of her nose. “I never meant to upset you…” He slowly turned his head. “I should not…I was so angry…I am so angry.”

“I know.” She replied, closing her eyes and laying her head against his chest. “But the past is just that, it’s behind us. I have too much to do here to go back there.”

She shuddered as his lips touched her forehead with kiss as sweet as it was long. They stood there for few minutes, holding on to one another, thoughts adrift.  

“You’re wet.” She said, rubbing the wool beneath her fingers.  

“You’re chilled Treasure?” Ichabod observed, feeling a gentle shiver move through her. ”Does a warm bath sound agreeable?” He offered. “I could draw one for you.”

“Mmph,” She murmured not bothering to open her eyes. “Sounds like heaven.” She managed through a deep yawn. “But I’m so tired, I’d probably just drown in the tub.” She added, words heavy with sleep. He took her hand and led her to the couch.

“I will never allow it.” He swore. “Wait here, if it is a bath you desire, it is a bath you shall have, no matter how exhausted you might be. Permit me a brief moment to lock up.” He said guiding her to sit. She watched him slug out of his coat before placing her elbow to the armrest and resting her head. She was yawning nearly nonstop by the time he came back, devoid of his wet clothes. She mustered a sleepy smile as she took in the sight of him in his green boxer briefs. He extended his hand to her.

“Gasan.” He said, bass causing her to blush. She placed her cool hand inside of his, only to be surprised when he lifted her from her feet the moment she stood upon them.

“You’re going to spoil me.” She warned, slipping her arms around his neck. A closed lipped smile spread across his face.

“That my love is the plan.” He stated.       

Ichabod lay awake, eyes closed, immersed in the feel of Abbie’s thin fingers curled around his side. They scarcely spoke during their bath save when Abbie confided in him that she’d prayed for Wyatt to die the night he attacked her.

“I prayed with all of my heart for another human being to die.” She told him. “Really prayed…so when he didn’t….”

They hadn’t spoken any more about it. He’d sat in the tub holding her inside of the soft candlelight until her eyes remained closed more than they were open. In the bedroom, her head had barely hit the pillow before she was off to sleep, but he still took the time to massage her body lotion into her skin. Her gentle hums let him know how happy, and content she was when he finally snuggled in beside her. One of his hands stretched behind his head while the other rested against the small of her back. Even with the sum of his world resting safely in his arms he couldn’t stop thinking. He failed repeatedly to connect the dots in a life that never made sense. He thought about Lucifer, and how he was going to destroy him. Then he thought some about God. Wondered if he was as sovereign as he’d always been taught, why they had to live the lives they’d lived. Wondered if he was as sovereign as it is said would that not mean that everything good and bad was originating from him. Both he and Abbie had suffered through more than their fair share of horrors, and though he’d made his peace with his, he worried over Abbie. He felt her stirring and slowly slipped a palm up and down her back to comfort her back to sleep.  

“Mmm,” Abbie hummed, tightening her limbs around him. His hand left his head and curled around the fingers she had tucked against his side. He brought them to his lips and kissed them before enclosing them in his palm in dropping them to his chest. He felt a soft puff of air slip against his skin.  

“Feel like talking about it?” She questioned, voice hoarse with sleep.

“Talk about what Treasure?” He gently replied.

“Whatever’s keeping you awake?” She responded, slightly repositioning. Shuffling her head against his shoulder and bending her knee up across his belly.

“No.” He responded, briefly dragging his fingers up and down her outer thigh.

“Do you need to?” She followed, angling her eyes to his face. He was quiet for a spell, fingers still dragging aimlessly over her butter soft skin.  

“Do you recall the conversation we had earlier, about name meanings…about what your names mean?” He said softly.

“Yeah.” She intoned.

“Naamah, pleasing to God, Abigail, God’s joy, Grace, God’s favor.” He whispered, turning a bit to face her. He tries to place a kiss against her forehead, but gets more hair then skin. He brushes it back and tries again. “Would you like to know the meaning of my name?” He quietly asked.

Her eyes opened, palm found it’s way to the fur covering the underside of his chin.

“Of course.” She whispered.

“No glory.” He informed her. Her fingers stopped mid-caress.

“Crane.”

“No, no…” He said bringing her stilled fingers to his lips. “I’m quite fine with it. I of course took issue with it as a boy, especially with Abraham’s roasting, but…I largely forgot about it after my studies.” He remembered.

“Then I woke here, and everything around me had changed. The men I once worked with, along with some of the men who had taken me under their tutelage had become both memories and immortalized.” He paused. “For some things I would have been quite proud to be a part of, others not so much.”

Abbie sat up in bed and slid her back against the headboard. “Hey.” She whispered. “You won’t make the history books,” She placed her fingers beneath his chin and lifted his gaze to hers, “But know that you helped to shape the stories on the pages that fill it.”

A burst of air pushed through his nostrils as he shook his head, she didn’t get it, he wasn’t quite sure that she ever would.

“They are most welcome to their history books, as we know most of them are wildly inaccurate as it is, however…even if they were not…there is no historical retelling, nor monument, nor depiction upon a monetary note,” He raised his hand to her cup her face, “No thing in all of this world that I would ever consider exchanging for what I now hold.” He placed his hands upon her waist and gently pulled her down the mattress until her head rested upon the pillow across from him. His arm curled around her.

“Do you not realize? My name meaning what it does and being as it is, is something that I will never part with because by some luck of the stars and heavens…it is the one that found a place next to yours. I only wish that I might have found you sooner, that we could have loved one another longer, that we could have grown together, and protected one another. Glory be damned.” He whispered, blinking away an eyeful of tears. “I would have slept a thousand years for this one moment.” He gently pledged kissing her nose. “I only need you.”

Abbie was breathless. She gazed into his glossy, cerulean eyes wondering what she could have done to merit the way they looked at her.

“And you will always have me Ichabod Crane.” She promised.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

For the next few weeks the team worked tirelessly beneath the weight of an invisible alarm clock. Each day they remained both worried and thankful that things remained quiet on the apocalypse front. After running into a wall, and coming up empty a few days in a row the foursome decided to take a day off, hopeful to return with fresh eyes and a new approach.

Abbie stepped out into the late afternoon sun, and stretched her limbs, filling her lungs with the chilly air. Usually there was nothing like a good run to her clear her head, and as of late it was chuck full of worries. She soon found that today would be no different. Memories of past times flickered through her thoughts as she struck up an impressive pace along the empty trail. As the minutes passed by it was clear she’d run well past her usual, but she couldn’t stop, not until she knew where she was going, not until she understood what she was running from. The spirit of those that had come and gone throughout her life ran alongside her, the friends she’d lost, new ones she’d found. Everything from the hazy recollection of playing checkers with Miss Ma’am, to the all-out chess battles she’d waged against Ichabod slipped through her consciousness. She could always see the safe spaces on the board, then and now. In life, not so much, and everything had evolved. The girl became a woman, checkers became chess, and the board…became all the world. Every battle of the war revisited her, all of the close calls and near escapes. She wondered how long they could stay ahead of the madness, it was almost as though she could feel it chasing behind her, nipping at her heels with every step.

They didn’t have the numbers. She knew it, Crane knew it, all of them did. It was getting to the point that every battle seemed to take more out of them than it did their enemies. Three times she’d picked up the phone to call Irving and tell him what was happening, and three times she’d stared down at his number unable to bring herself to hit send. He was safe, she told herself, him and his family had gotten away from all of this. She imagined the three of them off together, leading a normal life—whatever that meant. She tried to remember what it felt like. Her thoughts took her back to days spent on the schoolyard playground as she remembered the first time she taught Jenny the ins and outs of tag.

“Stand over here Jenny,” She’d said dragging her little sister to the area beneath the monkey bars, “No one can tag you here, it’s the safe spot.” She’d smiled, tongue showing through her missing teeth. “This way you won’t be it.”

She would do anything for a place like that these days. Somewhere that she could take her sister and know that she’d stay safe, somewhere she could take everyone. Her mind spun in circles as she ran like she would have no use for her legs in the coming days, like all of hell’s fire was blazing behind her and the answer to all of her problems lay just ahead. Breathless, she slowed to a full stop, resting her hands against her knees in front of a large maple tree. Her air came back, slowly at first, she remained bent forward until she managed to breathe it all the way through to the base of her lungs. The calm she felt when she released it made her feel as though most of her worries had left with it. Her feet pedaled backwards a few steps until she rested her spine against the cool ribbed bark of the tree. Her closed her eyes, as she sighed and listened to the breeze. It wasn’t long before it found her—his voice. Even there in midst of solitude he presence stayed with her.

‘Lieutenant, united there is no obstacle that we cannot overcome’.   The rest of her fears abated as she sat with the clarity their partnership brought her. She couldn’t see the way out of their struggles any more than she could see through the thick green trees, but she knew they’d make it out. And just for today she knows she’s going to leave all of her worries on the trail. It’s never been easy for her, believing in words, but there was something about his that grabbed hold of her and refused to let go. She could feel his warm smile creased against the base of her neck, and suddenly she was wearing one of her own. He did that for her, filled her day with little random bursts of happiness she could never hope control. Abbie pushed off the tree and started home, feeling like a fool for walking around smiling like one.  

The sudden crinkle and pop she heard in the brush immediately chased the smile from her face. She twirled around casting a steady glare in the direction of the noise, suddenly feeling as though she wasn’t alone. A small squirrel skittered out from behind a thick log, and she sighed in relief, rationalizing that it was the culprit. Get it together Mills, you’ve run this trail a hundred times, there’s nobody out here, which is why you’re out here, she tells herself. But a part of her doesn’t believe it. She’s more cautious throughout the journey back to the truck, the sense of solitude she’d previously enjoyed was lost, and for the life of her she couldn’t escape the feeling that someone or something was watching her. By the time she reached the edge of the woods the feeling grew so intense that it turned around. Her russet irises immediately locked upon an orange pair high up in the trees. Her brow defined as she took in a large tawny feathered owl staring back at her with an unblinking, unapologetic focus. Abbie’s investigative nature took hold, and she was three steps in its direction before she’d even realized she’d moved. Her mind immediately flashed back to the owl she’d spotted not too far from there with Tommy. The closer she got the more sets of orange eyes she made out, dotted along tree branches, and all aimed at her with the same laser sharp focus. Her head tilted to the side in wonder, and suddenly the creatures lifted from their branches and ascended into a noiseless flight.    

Abbie pulled off her shoes the moment she stepped into the house.

“Crane.” She called, unzipping her running jacket.

“Here.” She hears him call from the dining room.

“Tell me everything you know about owls,” Her sentence trails off at the end as she walked through the living room inhaling the scent of what smelled like a meal fit for a queen.

“Something smells good.” She says peeking her head around the corner of the dining room.

“Lieutenant!” Ichabod beamed, cheer lifting his voice as he uncorked a bottle of wine. “I am nearly finished preparing Selle D’Agneau Rotie Persillade.”  He proclaimed.

“Oh,” She hummed, “The only thing I got out of that was lamb, I think” She added, hanging her coat on the rack.

“Roast saddle of lamb with parsley and breadcrumbs.” Ichabod proudly announced as she entered the dining area. He first caught glimpse of her standing beneath a beam of sunlight, and in an instant everything dimmed.

“Crane!” She yelled. Unfortunately it was a half second too late to stop him from overfilling a wine glass.

“God’s hooks.” He muttered looking down at the red liquid sloshing across the table. Abbie dashed into the kitchen and returned with paper towel to soad up the mess.

He quickly expressed his apologies for his clumsiness. “My attention was…diverted.”  He explained eyes roving over her. Abbie’s mouth hung open, nose crinkling as she tried to understand what he was seeing.

“Did you already polish off a bottle by yourself?” She joked motioning towards the wine bottle. “I’m a mess.” She declared, quickly fingering her windblown curls. Ichabod shook his head as he finished filling the second glass.

“You are exquisite.” He corrected her in a voice which left no doubt that he meant every word.  

Abbie chuckled, dismissing his compliment with a subtle twist of her head as she stared up at him through the top of her eyes. Nonetheless she raised up in acceptance of his kiss hello.

“Un un,” She mumbled rejecting the offer of wine that followed. She tugged at his shirt. “More lips.”

“These things?” Ichabod replied, pointer finger touching his bottom lip.

“Those things.” She confirmed. He reached over and returned the glass to the table, before pulling her to him and carefully wrapping her up in his arms.

“You like them do you?” He asked, lowering his mouth to hers.

“I do.” Abbie confessed, taking delight as she sucked them between her lips. “I missed them while I was gone.” She continued, feeling a rush of excitement from the low rumble working its way up through his chest.

“You did?” He asked, words ringing with a blend of surprise and arousal.

“Yes.” Abbie laughed, “I did, why is that surprising?” She questioned, amused.

“It simply…well, I have the great honor of kissing these.” He stated dragging his thumb down her bottom lip and following it with his mouth. “These, soft (kiss), sensitive (kiss), full bundles of (kiss) sweet perfection,” He breathed before taking a moment to slip his tongue between her lips as he kissed her. His mouth hovered just above hers when he next spoke.

“I could never begin to impress upon you exactly how arresting they are,” He muttered doubling back for another taste, “Or how wonderful they feel. Though suffice it to say, your lips are otherworldly, gateways to an indescribable paradise, whilst mine simply cover my teeth.”

“They’re perfect.” She quietly chuckled, “For me, they are.” She whispered. Ichabod returned with ardent kisses that grew deeper by the second. Unlike the quiet hello kisses they’d been enjoying before, these were driven, and she knew exactly where they were taking them.  

“I need to shower.” Abbie stated.   

“Mm-hmm.” Ichabod mumbled with a slight nod, but pulled her closer so she could feel the discord she’d caused in his trousers. His fingers clung to her round of her backside, and dug into its seam as he kissed her.

“Crane…” Abbie whispered, everything inside of her was ready to tear his clothes off. “I’m sweaty.” She warned.

“You are perfect.” He huffed, raising a palm to caress her neck. He gazed into her eyes. “Have you any idea how impeccable you are….the very bread of life.” He whispered, beginning to gnaw at her jawline.

“The bread!” He groaned in frustration with his next breath. For the love of God. “I could not suppress the festering sentiment that I had forgotten an integral part of this meal, only of course all recollection of which part it was left me whilst I remained inside of the supermarket.” He quickly checked the clock before kissing her hand.

“I’ve some time before the lamb will be due for removal from the oven, if I depart now I can return in fifteen minutes or so.” He measured with a wince, before looking at the beauty before him. He didn’t want to leave.

“No,no,no, it’s good. Don’t worry about it. In the meantime, I can take my shower.” Abbie smiled with a kiss.

“Then we shall meet here in this very spot.” He planned, hands slipping up her hips. “I believe we could find something useful to occupy our time while the meat rests.”

“Is that what you believe?” Abbie joked, both amused and turned on by his one track mind. She looked over at the setting Ichabod had arranged.

“Wait a minute, is that what all of this is about?” She asked motioning toward the candle lit table.

“Lieutenant,” Ichabod scolded, “of course not.” He bantered, slightly tucking his chin into his chest to hide a burgeoning smile. He grabbed the bottle of wine and took it into the kitchen to chill before she could call him out.

Abbie glanced down at the spread he’d laid out and bit her lip. She always tried to afford him the privilege of access to whatever she had, and they had to eat, but she’d be lying if she said she hadn’t thought about the price of everything. The wine selection was one she preferred, but often opted against in favor of a less expensive brand, and he knew that. It was almost as if he could read her thoughts when he reentered the room.

She felt his arms looping around her midsection and wondered if he had any idea about the flurry of excitement his actions released inside of her.

“I’ve news,” He said in a quiet voice, dropping a provocatively placed palm to her inner thigh. “Exciting news.” He added lowering his tone.

“What news?” Abbie asked curiously, temperature inclining every second he held her that way.

“Patience Miss Mills, patience. Trust indeed I shall share any and all details with you as soon as I see to it that you are properly fed…as soon as we see to it that I am properly fed.” He teased with just enough sincerity to make her want to feed him right then and there.

She squirmed a bit, growing more and more aware of the damp fabric covering her folds. It was only made worse by his hand slowly inching upward along her thigh, purposefully as if he were going to run his fingers along the apex it led to. She was already imaging his fingers inside of her panties when his raggedy ass stopped just shy leaving her nearly desperate for his touch.   

“Until we have both eaten our fill,” he continued, dusting his lips to her neck, “the secret shall remain mine to keep.” With that he gave her a soft peck on the cheek and released her. She could practically see his amusement with himself even though he was still behind her.

Abbie spun around before he could walk away.       

“Secrets huh?” She asked, wanting to wipe that sexy little smirk off of his lips.

“Well allow me to let you in on a little secret,” she purred rising to her tiptoes and pulling his ear to her lips, “If this romantic setup is even partially constructed as an attempt to ease your way back inside of my panties, you really didn’t have to trouble yourself.” She whispered, letting her palm slide down his chest until she fisted the band of his trousers, “Your lips aren’t the only thing I missed,” she breathed, “in fact,” she continued cocking an eyebrow, “it’s the only thing I could manage to think about the entire time I was gone. How sweet it tastes when I wrap my lips around it, how good it feels when I sit all the way down on it...”

Ichabod’s nostrils flared wildly. He swore he could actually feel the blood pulsing through his veins, he didn’t know if they were too narrow or his blood was too voluminous but his head begin floating and his vision darkened. He bowed his head, struggling to control his breathing as the tyrant in his pants swelled with want. He knew well if he didn’t remove her hand from his trousers the lamb would become a sacrifice and burnt offering rather than a meal, and the bread would never be broken. His instinct is to forgo it all, but he only has to look at her to remember what tonight was all about, and how desperately he wanted everything to be perfect. He growled away his desire, and pulled her hands into his.

“Be here, in this very spot, approximately fifteen minutes from this very moment—unclothed.” He stated, the bass in his voice ricocheted through her body and damn near licked her clit itself. His towering presence leaning over her only intensified the affect and just that quickly he’d resumed control.

“On second thought,” He adds licking his lips as he toyed with her, “I’ve becoming rather fond of easing inside of your panties as you so aptly put it, those you may leave.” He turned to grab his keys, but she quickly grabbed his arm.

“You can’t just say things like that and expect me to remain patient for fifteen whole minutes. Be here in ten, or I’m starting without you.” Abbie grinned watching Ichabod’s eyes go squinty.

“You wouldn’t.” He gasped. Abbie raised her brow and sealed her lips together.

“You would.” He murmured, realizing all at once. His hands were on her hips before he caught hold of himself.

“Don’t” He whispered, squeezed her hips, “Not until I return. I’ve no wish to miss any of it.” He pleaded before stepping away. Keys in hand he looked back at her with a piteous glare as he slipped into his coat.

“Promise you will wait.” He softly pled. Abbie sucked her lips together, and tilted her head to the side, expression simulating indecision.

“Would you have me beg?” He asked moving toward her.

“I’m setting a timer for ten minutes.” She smiled, meeting him halfway across the room, and gripping the edge of his coat, “after it goes off” She breathed, edging up the seduction in her voice, “I can’t promise what will happen.”

She watched his face grow flushed as she slipped her body against his, head tilted back. He softly seized her lips in slow delicate kiss that once again threatened to screw up his plans. The second he felt her taking more than he could comfortably give he pulled back, quietly huffing.

Abbie smirked. “Okay. Fifteen minutes, and then all bets are off.”

He caught her lips with a small kiss. “Set a timer.” He challenged, confidence staining his voice. “Mark my words, and take every confidence in setting your clock by me. By the time it rings out you shall know my return.”

A moment later he was out of the door. Abbie quickly jogged after him realizing what she’d just done.

“Crane.” She called opening the screen. He turned to face her, hand on the car door handle. “Drive careful, you get home when you get home. No speeding.” She ordered.

“But.” He contested.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be good.” 

If he was half as excited as she was he would’ve run every light. Her period had just ended the day before and she could hardly believe the filthy shit running through her mind all day. Just a few days before it was quite a different story.


 

The third night into her cycle Ichabod lay behind her in bed slipping gentle kisses against her neck and shoulders.

“Would you like a massage Treasure?” He kindly questioned, already easing into the process of giving her one. Abbie dropped the book she’d been reading, and rolled onto her stomach as his fingers slipped beneath her tank top.

“Oh my God,” She moaned, nearly drooling from relaxation. “That feels so good, mmph.” She muttered, sinking further into the mattress, eyes closed as his warm hands unknotted the kinks in her spine.

Ichabod continued with thorough attention, kneading his fingers across her entire body until he felt the tension beneath his hands disperse. Within ten minutes Abbie was in a near catatonic state. A lazy hum muffled against her pillow as he finished rubbing her down and returned her tank to its rightful position. A smile a mile wide covered her face as he returned to the pillow next to hers and gently swept his lips against her shoulder. Abbie was right in the middle of thinking how perfect he was when she felt his lips return to her and melt into the space where her neck met her shoulders. His hands slipped around her, pulling her back into the cradle he’d fashioned out of his legs, trunk and arms.

She was barely inside of it when her eyes flipped open with alertness.  

“Remember, a few more days.” She reminded him unable to ignore the fact that parts of him seemed to need reminding.

“Be certain I recall,” He mumbled leaving a few more kisses on her skin. He ran his fingers back through his hair and sat up on his hunches as she turned around to face him. Abbie could see how badly he wanted her in his eyes.

“I know,” She agreed, reaching forward to run a hand up his thigh. “I can’t wait either.”   That was lie number one.

“You can’t?” He asked, a mixture of relief and enthusiasm springing forth in his eyes. She should have known then. She should have seen it and his eyes, or heard it in the newfound buoyancy coiling around his voice. But she didn’t and therefore she didn’t think twice about telling lie number two.

“Un un, can’t wait baby.” She said stifling a yawn.

Ichabod bent forward and pecked her lips before raising from the bed and marching off to the bathroom. Abbie pulled the blankets up and returned to her book searching for the spot she’d left off. She’d barely read three lines before Ichabod was positioned at the foot of the bed with a bath towel tucked beneath his arm.   Abbie sat up, eyes doubling in size as he put forth his proposition.

She nearly died the moment he started talking, but managed to hold it in. It didn’t take long for him to get through what turned out to be quite the little informative speech about the benefits of sex during menstruation including it being “quite beneficial toward alleviating the issue of cramping.” He made sure to emphasize.

“Which I have noticed,” He continued, laying the towel across the bed, “has been causing you a degree of some…dis-comfort.” He sank down into the mattress skimming his hands up her smooth legs until they settled on her hips. “It needn’t.” He added, tone dropping as his bedroom eyes zeroed in on her.  

“I am…most eager to be of service.” He said kissing her lips, “If the both of us share the same lack of enthusiasm in regard to postponing intimate relations, why should we?” He asked leaning back enough for her to watch a single brow rise. Abbie tried with everything inside of her to swallow the laughter she felt bubbling up inside, but the more she struggled to hold it in the more forcefully it spilled out. Ichabod pulled back with deep confusion set upon his face as her cackles spilled out into the air.  

“Lieutenant?” He muttered, mouth falling open.

“I’m sorry.” She squeaked, fingers flying to her eyes to push away the water she felt building there. “Just give me one minute.” She laughed, fighting to compose herself.

“Okay, okay, I’m fine.” She said finally uncovering her eyes. But the second she saw the salt sprinkled all across Ichabod’s face she fell out laughing all over again.   All she could think about was the fact that just a short while ago he felt uncomfortable slapping her ass in the shower, and now he was brazen enough to try to get some while she was on her period. Well he sure came out of that shit quick.

Ichabod quietly raised from the bed in a manner all too graceful for someone his size.

“Crane, wait.” Abbie howled as she tried to explain. She attempted to gather herself as she watched him take on the overconfident demeanor he routinely shielded himself behind when he felt a bit embarrassed, or foolish. She could never get over how adorable he looked when he pouted. He made himself tall and wide, all legs and shoulders as he pulled the towel from the bed and exited the room.

“Baby wait!” Abbie howled as he rounded the corner. “You have to understand I was holding that in since I heard the words according to my research.” She explained, voice breaking from laughter.

Ichabod reentered the room devoid of the towel and strolled over to his side of the bed. Abbie tried to apologize as he removed his shirt.

“Sweetie. Seriously, don’t.” She said looking up at him. “You caught me off guard.”

“No, it is quite alright.” He replied snidely, “I was merely attempting to provide the woman I love with some relief.”

“Oh is that what we’re calling it now, relief?” Abbie chuckled prompting him to glare down at her for being a smart ass to boot.

“Regardless of what we are calling it, your disinterest was made glaringly apparent when you laughed until you lost breath.” He replied impassively.

“I’m sorry about that.” She giggled.

“You most certainly are not.” He grumbled, a small grin toyed with his lips as he looked down at the amusement still present on her face.

“I’m not?” She asked, rising to her hunches. “Come here.”

“No.” He pouted, shaking his head as he attempted to resist the familiar urge to do whatever she instructed when she looked at him that way.  Abbie’s lashes fluttered in front of her puppy dog eyes.

“Crane. Come. Here.”

It became clear in that instant that he was only hurting himself. He sighed, defeated, and slipped into the bed beside her. The two of them wound themselves in one another’s arms, until he fell back, pulling her with him with a soft grunt. Abbie pulled the blankets up over them, and snuggled her face to his.

“I really didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.” She whispered. “You surprised me is all. I mean now that I think about it I can dig the progression, it just took me a minute. And for my part, when I said I couldn’t wait, what I should have said is I feel tired, and my belly aches, and I just don’t feel very sexy in general right now. Because of that, I don’t want to make love, but I can’t wait until I do want to again. Until then, this is exactly what I want.” She said tightening her arms around him, “Just to be here with you, like this.” She breathed.   “Is that alright right.”

“Of course Treasure.” Ichabod said gently dragging his palm up her back. “Can I get you something, for the pain?”

“Un un.” She said leaning forward to kiss his lips. Her ribs begin shaking and he feels her comment coming before she even opens her mouth.

“I mean you already offered to get me some dick.” She snickered.

“Oh that is it!” He exclaimed, grabbing her pillow and holding it over her face, which only served to increase her laughter.  

“Jesus.” She giggled wiping away tears as he pulled her close and threatened to tickle her since she enjoyed laughing so much.  

“No I’ll stop,” She agreed, “I’ll stop.” She finally decided as his lips pressed into her forehead.

“You know I wasn’t trying to make you feel silly for asking, it’s just…right when I think I know every part of you Ichabod Crane, a new piece emerges.” She told him, brushing his hair back from his face as he looked down at her.  

“Be truthful.” He asked moistening his lips. “Would you rather it had not? I mean, in relation to this hidden part of me emerging. Have I offended you in any way?”

Abbie placed her finger upon his cheek. “Baby,” she sighed, “Not at all.”  

“I’ve never been this way.” He whispered returning to his pillow. “I never would have even considered…” He sighed, recognizing that she already knew. “You’ve changed me.” He settled upon. Even when she laughed before he could see the adoration she held for him in her eyes, it comforted him. Without it there reminding him of her love he would have been mortified.

“What you stated before…with regard to being free with you…with regard to being myself…thank you. Never could I have requested what I have just requested before. It feels… good, and…safe. Having leave to be my barest self…having leave to be this free.” Abbie eyes softened with a tenderness her voice quickly mirrored.

“I love you.” She whispered, sliding her head forward to press her lips to his. “Despite my lack of composure tonight, promise you’ll always share yourself with me.”

“Always.”

 


 

Abbie stepped out of the shower toweling off the water skidding down her body. She stood in front of the vanity with a subtle smile stretching her lips as she reattached her necklace. She couldn’t help but think of him when she looked at it, the memory of his fingers against her skin the first time he’d helped her put it on stayed with her. Most days she tucked it beneath her shirt, but seldom did she take it off. She sat on the bed, moisturizing her skin with the memory of his fingers against her neck coursing through her. He was good with them, those fingers, she mused. Better than good. She amends. Abbie’s certain there are world renowned pianists and surgeons alike with less precision and strength of hand than he had, one touch and she was in. It took her period coming to proffer them a break, had it not come she can’t imagine how they would have stopped. Touching him felt like less of a choice and more like something that bordered on the edge of need for her, she always wanted him. The sweet barely familiar taste of his mouth, the way his tongue brushed against hers and made tingles swell inside of her belly until they touched both her head and toes.   It never stopped there, during love making she could always feel the tiny groans that echoed from his throat wind through her body doling out orders. Those groans spoke to her hips, told them how to move, faster, slower, and her personal favorite, not at all. The way his mouth, his tongue, his hands, his flesh slipped against and inside of her conjured up a portion of her spirit long forgotten. She couldn’t understand it, so as any woman eager to expand their consciousness she went back to study these new feelings every chance she got.

At the same time something inside of her rebelled against anything that made her feel this out of control. She tried to tame it, to bring it to be something she could regulate and govern, that was just Abbie being Abbie. A few nights before her period started she had suggested that the two of them just cuddle for one night. Ichabod being Ichabod met her request with complete understanding and love. They lounged around the living room, talking about this and that but soon Abbie’s mind begin to drift toward the very thing she wanted to avoid doing. A deep furrow built in her brows as she tried to remember what they did in their free time before they started making love. She supposed they did the same things, watched a game on the tube, played chess, had drinks, talked and debated, or sat quietly enjoying a book and silence in one another’s company. But now when they jumped from the couch to cheer a home run, and entered into an unscripted awkward embrace, they held it. Now when her sharp tongue infuriated him during what Jenny had previously termed one of their world famous debates, he silenced it by taking it inside of his mouth. Now when she had a half a beer too many and the light reflected off of his eyes just right, she stood up from the chess board and sat on his lap, instead of only thinking about it.

That night they’d spent a small portion of the evening playing rock paper scissors, that is until Ichabod had a meltdown and accused her of cheating.

“Pencil?! Pray tell what is a pencil Lieutenant?” He exclaimed, taking on that snobbish air that made her want to lock his ass in a cell.  

“You don’t know what a pencil is now?” A casual tone coated her voice, as she uncrossed her legs.

The game may I remind you is entitled rock, paper, scissors.” Ichabod sneered, outrage bleeding through as he took the time to annunciate each syllable. “Your pencil is none of which…Miss Mills you’re a cheat.” He said in disbelief.

Abbie flipped her cellphone around to show him a flow chart she’d googled depicting the winners between rock, paper, scissors, and pencil. Ichabod took the phone, and silently studied the chart.

“You threw paper, I wrote on it with my pen-cil,” She explained, “so you lost. Take the L.” She teased placing her likewise shaped forefinger and thumb against his forehead.

“I will do no such thing,” He argued, batting her hand away. “You conveniently left any mention of a writing utensil out of your instructions for this game. You’ve changed the rules to suit you purpose because I’ve started to win.”

Abbie shrugged casually. “It be like that sometimes.” She admitted. “You gotta roll with the punches.”

“Roll with the…?”

Abbie laughed watching his expression go as blank as an unpainted canvass. He should have known by now how much she hated losing, besides for all she knew he was using some weird eidetic memory crap to guestimate which sign she would throw by the way she positioned her hands. She was almost in tears from laughing until he flung her cell phone across the living room floor.

“CRANE!” She shrieked, leaping from the couch in chase of it.  

“Oh you’re next! She heard him say as his orangutan arms gobbled her up from behind and threw her over his shoulder.

“If my phone is broken…”

“—If your phone is broken you should receive a refund for your ridiculously priced exterior casing. Now tell me how does it feel to be tall for once in your life.”

“Ooooh when you put me down.” She threatened.

“Who said anything in reference to setting you down?”

“Crane!” She growled.

“An apology is in order, and I will have it before you are released.” He demanded, spinning her around the room like she was weightless, like he could do it forever. Memories of days spent on the merry-go-round entered her mind as the wind rushed through her thick dangling curls. Before long she was breathless from laughter and couldn’t help but comply with his request. She slapped his chest the moment her feet hit the ground and immediately stumbled from dizziness.

“Jerk.”

“Is that any way to speak to your betrothed.” He said holding her against him until she regained her footing. She shook her head, face flushed, eyes wet with tears stretched out of laughter. Nothing could replace the security she felt with his long limbs snaked around her body, holding her close. The kisses he left against her temple flooded her heart reminding her that he had no intention of ever allowing her to fall.          

The fireplace roared well into the night. Where at first she was curious as to what they would do to occupy their time, the hours flew by like planes over runways. They ended up standing in the middle of the living room barefoot and stripped down to their skivvies as Ichabod showed her how to dance a minuet.

“I think I got it!” She exclaimed, the moment he rose from a deep bow. Ichabod’s eyes brimmed with hope at the sight of her.

“You danced beautifully Gasan.” He complimented, almost in disbelief of how quickly she’d picked things up.

“Once more?” He asked, not ready for the night to end.

“Okay.” Abbie replied, gently nodding her agreement.

He plucked the remote from the coffee table and tried to restart the song, but inadvertently started another one.

“Oh God’s wounds,” He frowned, eyes bent down as he fumbled with the control. “One moment, I merely need to…”

“—No.” Abbie decided, already vibing to the tune. “Leave it.”  

“But.” He spun around to face her.

“We trade places,” She said realizing he’d stumbled into her Frank Ocean playlist. “I think I can handle being the dance instructor for a little while.” She decided moving over to him placing the phone on the table.

“Oh.” He said nervously, as she returned the remote to the coffee table.

“Oh.” She teased, “Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle.”

He stared at her doubting she knew the meaning of the word. No matter how soft and utterly unabrasive her movements were there was never anything in them that was gentle upon any part of him. There were drowned men who breathed easier than he did in her presence.

She pressed her body to his and slipped her arms up his chest.

“For your instruction,” she whispered, “just hold me.”

“This has just become my favorite dance.” He responded, gathering her into his embrace as Godspeed bled through the speakers.

She placed her head against his chest, falling into a gentle sway as his lips sank into the curls atop the crown of her head.

“Wishing you godspeed, glory, there will be mountains you, won’t move. Still I’ll always be there for you, how I do.” She softly sang along before falling silent.

Ichabod squeezed her a little tighter as the song settled over them. He never doubted for a moment that she would always be there for him. There was something indescribable in feeling that way, in having that sort of security. He never wanted to leave.      

“How am I faring?” He quietly asked a while later, her warm breaths crawling against his flesh. Abbie opened her eyes and raised them to his, letting the light inside of them speak for her. Ichabod’s heart stopped. How could he live up to a look like that? His feet are still on the floor he’s sure of it, but if she keeps looking at him this way his head will crash into the ceiling.

“That good?” He cooed, voice barely audible. Abbie lifted to her tiptoes and pressed her mouth to his with a tenderness that quickly surrounded every inch of him.    

“You are everything to me.” He whispered, between kisses. A soft hum reverberated against his tongue as it dipped between her lips, teeth tugging at his mouth symbolizing her request for more. He knew that earlier she’d stated that they should rest certain parts of themselves, he understood and would follow her direction as to what she wanted and when she wanted it. But the way she kissed and caressed him caused him to wonder if there were other parts of him she wanted to put to use.

“Gasan.” He said, placing his lips to her ear. Abbie grinned, already giddy with wonder of what he might say. At first she didn’t understand why he continually chose to whisper certain things when no one else was around. But she quickly grew to love it. Before, during, or sometimes after making love he would pull her close and say something quietly against her ear. Half of the time it was something indescribably soft and sweet, she swooned over the carefully crafted words that infiltrated her spirit and tugged at her heart. The other half of the time he set her world aflame with a piercing bluntness she still hadn’t gotten used to coming from him. When his lips touched her ear she never knew which way he was taking things, but she was never disappointed.      

“Merely say the word,” He whispered nibbling her ear, lowering his head to gently brush his lips across her neck. She swallowed hard, feeling his desire protruding against her lower abdomen. He could have stopped there, she was in, but he didn’t.  

“Do you enjoy the way my lips feel Gasan…the way my tongue feels?” He asked causing her breath to quicken as she squirmed against him. She could barely contain herself with his hands slipping here and there.

“Would you like to feel them against your nani?” He went on, fingers stuffed with her rear as he lifted her toes from the ground while nibbling her neck.

“Say the word.” He breathed, as he came up for air. “Say…Ichabod, I want to feel your tongue between my thighs.”

Abbie said plenty of words that night. But none more choice and aggressively as she did when he refused to put it in.

“Treasure this was not my intention.” He maintained looking up from between her thighs. “I only hoped to kiss it.” He held before returning his tongue to her clit with a moan.

“Oh my…Crane!” She yanked his hair hard enough to raise his mouth from her. He had already tasted it through her first orgasm and now her second was approaching and she needed to feel him inside of her.  

“But Lieutenant, you specifically said” He argued, wiping his mouth as he rose to his hunches.

“—I know what I said Crane.” She growled, level of frustration was growing exponentially by the second. She panted staring up at him with something wild in her eyes. “I changed my mind, I don’t want to just cuddle anymore, and I don’t want you to just eat it.” She told him, need running through her voice.

“But…” He hesitated.

Abbie impatiently reached up and pulled him down over her, fingers finding the band of his boxer briefs.  

“Gasan…you stated that we would not engage in love making this evening, and already….”  

“—Mm-hmm, I know.” She quickly said, nails lightly dragging across his backside as she tugged his underwear beneath his firm cheeks. “Do you want me?” She asked.

“Oh God yes.” He confessed, gazing down at her. “More than anything, but I do not wish to take advantage of your love for me, I would never wish to coax you into something you have no des—”

His words die as she watched a vein raise in the center of his forehead. She listened to his moans grow as she felt the stiff flesh she’d just freed throb beneath her fingers.

“Abbie.” He whined, bracing his weight upon his elbows and forearms as she pressed his length against her folds.

“You’re sure?” He made certain as he clung to the edges of his sanity. She replied by scooting her hips further up the floor, and moaning as she fingered the tip of his swollen arousal into her opening. He did the rest, eyes rolling into the back of his head as he sank down into her and gave her everything she’d been asking for and more.

Afterward they lay cuddled together on the blanket they’d stretched out in front of the fire.

“Are you warm enough?” He breathed, kissing her face. Her quiet moan in the affirmative was swallowed up by a gentle kiss.  

“Mmm.” She crooned, nestled against his side. A soft chuckle shook her shoulders.   “One day. One. Day. We’re supposed to keep our hands off each other. This was a categorical failure.” She admitted, heavy tongued.

He kissed her forehead. “I’ve never failed more perfectly.” He sighed. A small smirk tugged at his lips. “In fact I propose we fail whenever possible.”

That turned out to be another night that they didn’t get adequate sleep. They following day Abbie knew she needed to do something drastic after she dozed off for the third time.

“Want another coffee?” Jenny asked, glaring at her with concern spread across her face.

“What was what?” Abbie asked oblivious as she straightened up.

“You just seem like you’re having a lot of trouble staying awake.” Jenny clarified.

“Oh!” Abbie said growing flushed, “I’ve been, you know really busy.”

“Hmmph.” Jenny breathed. “Well what time have you been going to bed?”

“Uh, the usual.” Abbie stated casually.

“The usual like when?”

“Like 11:30ish I guess.” She replied, shuffling a tuft of hair behind her ear. Jenny stared at her.

“And what time are you actually falling asleep?” She asked.

‘I don’t know Jenny, it’s not like I’m watching the clock.” She responded growing irritated.

“Okay calm down,” Jenny stated. “I was just inquiring about your wellbeing. If you’re having trouble sleeping, and it’s affecting your day, maybe you should see your doctor.”

“Thanks, I’ll take that under advisement.” Abbie said dismissively before returning to her screen.

Jenny rolled her eyes at her sister, looking across the room to catch Crane in the middle of a full yawn. She thought about letting it go but something in Abbie’s tone made her change her mind.

“Seems to me that’s not the only thing you’ve been taking under advisement. Exactly how many times a night has Crane been advising you to take it?” She quipped.

Abbie starts to deny it, and even considers manufacturing a bit of shock at such an assertion, but one look at her sister’s face told her it was pointless. She fell across the table burying her head in laughter and shame.

“Mmm-hmph, smartass.” Jenny taunted, side eyeing her.

“Please, please shut-up.” Abbie begged lifting her head from her giggle. Jenny shook her head.

“What are you guys trying to make up for lost time or something?”

“Not having this conversation.” Abbie half sang. Jenny returned to her work, but paused when she looked up to see a pleasant grin still hanging from her sister’s face. She’d been doing that a lot more lately.

“It looks good on you by the way.” Jenny noted.

“What does?” Abbie asked, as she closed out her screen. She slid the laptop to the side so she could have a better view of her sister.

“Happiness.” Jenny filled in. Abbie smiled, making a pillow of her arms and elbows against the table. She rested her chin against her wrist and sighed.  

“Happiness will be when we get rid of Pandora and her husband, and put an end to this apocalypse.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever met someone less capable of just taking a moment to enjoy bits of happiness in their life.” Jenny observed.

“Uhh, have you met yourself?” Abbie teased with a laugh. “But, thank you.” She added after a moment of reflection. “It looks good on you too by the way.” She said, “Don’t think I haven’t noticed.”

Jenny pushed her book aside and mirrored her sisters actions, having grown a bit tired herself.

“I guess.” Jenny frowned, rolling her eyes. “It feels weird sometimes, like…I don’t know, just different, you know what I mean. I never would’ve thought that with how crazy my life was that I would meet someone who could relate. Who had a certain type of craziness all their own, and that when you put those two levels of craziness together, it became…I don’t know like a little piece of”

“—Calm.” Abbie offered, finishing her sister’s sentence.

“Exactly.” Jenny nodded.

“I get it.” Abbie stated, her chin slightly raising against her wrist as she spoke. “It’s still a little odd for me too, being in a place I always kind of wanted for myself, and at the same time that I never wanted for myself. It’s weird, letting go of old habits. Allowing myself to have expectations of someone else, not to mention allowing someone else to have expectations of me.” She said thoughtfully. “That’s probably been the biggest adjustment, and yeah weird sums it up pretty good,” She considered, “But it’s a good kind of weird.”

 


 

Abbie was traipsing down the stairs approximately fourteen minutes after Ichabod left. Her enthusiasm grew with every step as a medley of their previous encounters slipped through her head.

“Oh my God.” She mumbled to herself, mind off in flight with the ghost of last stroke’s past.

“Mmpf-mmpf-mmpf.” Her lips curled. She shook her head as a shudder carrying her last orgasm wound through her and set her heart off beat. She stepped across the living room trying to fight off a smile while remembering the way he stretched her arms over her head and fucked her back into the floor. Gahhd-damn, he knows what he’s doing with every inch of that thing, Jesus. The pulsing tingle inside of her panties reminded her to dial it down before she broke her promise to him. She tied the strap to her satin robe, and decided to go in and take a peek at the lamb he’d left in the oven. Seeing that all was in order she sat at the table and started a glass of wine. A note on her cell screen catches her gaze, alerting her that she’d missed a message. She looked down at it to find a text from Ichabod complaining about the lines being “unconscionably” long at the market. She sat patiently sipping her wine until she heard the car in the driveway. She opened her robe and crossed her legs, only to hear a knock instead of a lock unlocking.

“Ugh, you would think someone with an eidetic memory could manage to remember his house keys at least twice a week.” She grumbled, retying her robe as she strolled towards the door. She swung it open already giving him a hard time.

“How is it that—OH!” She gasped. “Danny!”

“Hey Abs, alright if I come in.”

“Umm”

“—Just for a minute.” He stated, extending a bouquet of flowers. Abbie side eyed him, glancing down at the bundle of pink roses in his hand.  

“C’mon, we were friends once, I just want to talk.” He added seeing her hesitation.

“Okay just for a minute though.” She agreed opening the door. She shook her head against accepting the flowers. “I don’t think I should.”

“Oh it’s not like that, it’s just—I mean you’ve been out sick.” He haggled holding them out again.

“They’re beautiful, and it’s very, very sweet but…” She could tell he was hurt by the expression on his face.

“Okay.” She acquiesced, a gracious grin found her face as she decided she was overthinking things. She raised them to her nose, enjoying their sweet fragrance before placing them on top of the end table. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” He smiled, eyes slowly rolling over her. Abbie gathered up the collar of her robe and clenched it closed over her bosom, suddenly remembering her state of dress.

“Give me two minutes Danny, I’m going to run and change.” She said, thumb pointed towards the stairs behind her.

“You don’t have to go through the trouble for me,” He grinned, “I like what you’re wearing right now.” Abbie stared at him blank-faced, causing him to chuckle and hold his hands out in front of him.

“Be back in a minute,” She reiterated, “You can help yourself to a seat.”

“Seriously Abs what I came to say is only going to take two minutes, I was joking, really you look comfy, I don’t want to cause you any extra hassle.”  

“Just two minutes?” She repeated.

“Scout’s honor.” He promised.

“You were a boy scout?”

“Was I.” He boasted.

“Danny.” She quietly chuckled shaking her head. He watches her, wondering how she manages to become more beautiful every time he sees her.

“You look nice by the way—I mean that you look like you’re feeling better,” He added when he saw her face grow cautious. “Getting back to your old self.” He explained.

“Thanks. I am feeling better.” She admitted.

“And you got it smellin’ good in here, what’s that you’re cooking?”

“Danny.” Abbie said, recognizing he was stalling with all of the niceties.

He smiled bowing his head. “I know, I know, two minutes right. Two things, one I was wondering if you’ve given any thought to returning to work like we talked about before?”

“I have,” Abbie answered, “but I’m not quite ready. I was thinking of taking another week, I have some things that I’m still figuring out.” She explained.

“Okay. That’s understandable, take your time. But I want you to know that I’ve been given an offer to return to Chicago, this time as the director of the entire Midwest operation.”

“Wow,” She lauded, eyes widening, “Congratulations Danny, that’s a tremendous accomplishment!”

“Lil bit, lil bit.” He joked, bringing them both to laughter. A noticeable silence settles around them as the laughter subsides.

“I’m not sure I’m gonna accept it though.” He confided.

“What?! Why?!” She almost screamed. “This is a huge opportunity, its everything you talked about before.” She pointed out. The silence returned, and the look of regret and infatuation she saw etched across his face answered her question. She dropped her eyes from his uncomfortable by the unmistakability of the moment.  

“I heard what you said before about the engagement—I mean proposal…I understand now that I jumped the gun. We hadn’t really known each other long enough to take that kind of a step.”

“Mm-hmm.” Abbie agreed, eyes still aimed at the floor.

“I just,” He stepped closer, “I felt this connection to you that I had never experienced before and I…Abs, I understand that you have some things going on that you can’t share with me. And I just want you to know that even though I don’t act like it, I can be patient…I don’t wanna leave if there’s a chance that there might come a time when”

“—Danny please.” Abbie stated, eyes subconsciously bouncing to the table.

It was only then that he looked around, the flowers on the candlelit table, the wine glasses, soft music playing in the background.

“Wa…wait, there’s,” He swallowed, “there’s somebody else?” He questioned, realizing all at once. “But I asked you if there was somebody else.”

“Danny I didn’t”

“—So you knew that day, and you let me sit there like a clown, spilling my guts about everything I felt for you…I feel for you.” He stated progressively raising his voice.

“When we last spoke there wasn’t anyone else,” Abbie explained in a calm tone. “At least I didn’t know there was someone else. Not really.” She amended trying to make sense of things.

“Not really?” He repeated with an air of skepticism. “What do you mean there wasn’t anyone else, you think I don’t know you.” He charged. “I know how long it took for you to let me close, you’re having dinner with this guy.” His voice containing a mixture of hurt, anger, and disbelief.

“You thought I was him at the door just now.” He realized as things became clearer and clearer. “Is that why you answered the door dressed like that. Wow.” He exclaimed scratching the side of his head.

“Please have a seat, and let me explain.” Abbie stated.

“Nah, I’m cool standing.” He replied. His eyes focus on the necklace around her neck, and all of the little signs he missed before start to jump out at him.

“When I spoke to you, I wasn’t in a relationship with anyone, but”

“—But what you met some guy, hooked up and he’s buying you jewelry and shit in a few weeks. Come on you don’t expect me to believe that.” He argued.

“I mean hey, on second thought I guess it’s possible right.” He said growing agitated. “I know my ass was at the jewelry store, trying to get you something to show how much I cared, to show how much my heart was in it.” He laughed bitterly as a liquid glaze built behind his eyes,

“Now some other sucker’s doing the same thing.” He snapped. “The necklace is nice though Abs, real nice, I guess the pussy still mean huh?”

Abbie’s jaw nearly hit the floor from shock, and she fought against every urge to slap the shit out of him. “Danny I understand you’re upset but who in the hell do you think you’re talking to—you know what nevermind, we’re done here.” She seethed, walking to the door.

“Abs,” He stated grabbing her arm, but she yanked it away.

“I never disrespected you.” She stated fuming, mind still scrambled from the way he’d spoken to her.

“I didn’t mean that, to speak to you like that I’m just…I’m confused. I thought, I don’t know, I thought we had something. I thought I had someone.”

“We did, and…” She sighed, struggling to find a way to tell him that the something she had with someone else was more important to her than the something she had with him.

“What we had was special to me, you are special to me.” She said looking down at the floor. “And somehow I know that I wouldn’t be where I am now had you not come into my life. But I don’t feel that it was meant to be forever.”

“I mean…but why?” He asked eyes softening as his voice grew heavy from restrained emotion. “We were so good together. I mean, I know you had that problem with being on the bottom, but I told you I just needed a minute, we could have worked that out, I could have done”

“—Danny!” Abbie exclaimed in disbelief. “It has nothing to do with sex, come on you know me better than that. We were good together, and then…Danny…I care about you, I think you’re beautiful, and I want you to achieve everything you’ve ever dreamed of doing, I just can’t do it with you…because I’m in love with someone else.” She said, eyes growing watery.

“I’m in love with someone. And I know that isn’t what you want to hear, but it’s the truth…you deserve someone who wants to fight for your dreams with you, someone who wants to wake up with you and conquer the day, or the week, the years. There was a time when I thought that maybe I could be that person, and I’m sorry I didn’t realize sooner that I couldn’t, but you have to believe me when I tell you that I let you go the moment I knew.”

“That day at the beach.” He asked, remembering.

Abbie winced, nodding her head.    

“It’s him?” His asked, eyes cast toward the floor. “The roommate…Crane?”

Abbie nodded again. “Danny when we met, he and I were just friends, and to be honest he’d left the country I didn’t know if I was even going to see him again.” She confessed, voice gravelly.

“But you wanted to?” He asked.

“Yes.” She answered quietly.

“The whole time?” He asked. Abbie stood silent.

“The whole time?! He asked louder.

“Yes.” She admitted. “I understand why you’re angry but I didn’t fully understand my feelings for him when we met. I just…didn’t. Danny...I’m sorry I’m not really sure how to explain it to you.” She said, thinking.

“How about truthfully.” He advised.

“When we last spoke and I told you that I didn’t think we should try again, I honestly did not see what he and I had to do with you and I, because nothing had ever happened between us I wasn’t trying to be shifty or dishonest.”  

“And now it has, happened between you?” He asked just needing to put it together in his mind.

“I’m with him.” She stated. “Listen to me...”

The door opened, and they both turn to see Ichabod walking through it, a bag in one hand a bouquet of flowers in the other.

Of fuck. Abbie thought, wanting a hole to open up in the ground and swallow her whole. Ichabod saw the car in the driveway, but the short walk to the door hasn’t done much to lessen the sting of his least favorite person standing in the middle of his living room with his half-dressed fiancée. His eyes immediately lock with Abbie’s.

Danny folded his arms and shook his head at the sight of Ichabod coming in with the flowers.

“Is everything alright?” Ichabod asked, approaching Abbie. Danny turned to go.

“Yup, I’m just leaving.”

“Good.” Ichabod returned.

“Danny.” Abbie called, not wanting him to leave without the closure she hoped to offer.

“—Abbie.” Ichabod contested through a firm tone, his displeasure springing from his eyes.

“Crane.” She pleaded, looking up at him. In spite of everything Danny was a good guy, she wanted him to stay that way. She didn’t want him unable to be good to the next girl because of a lingering issue he had with her.

“We just have a few more things to go over can you give us just one more minute.” She asked.

Ichabod’s jaw tightened, a harsh frown colored his features as he cleared his throat and nodded his head in the direction of her torso.

Oh…OH! Abbie quickly gathered her robe up around the collar. Oh I was going to change but I...” She stopped bothering with an explanation when his eyes narrowed making it clear he didn’t give a fuck less what she was doing.  

“I shall keep our guest entertained while you fashion yourself in more suitable attire.” He stated plainly.

“Don’t bother.” Danny said turning to go again, but Abbie caught him by the arm.

“Don’t leave it like this. One minute. Please.” She pleaded. She’s focused on Danny but can almost feel the heat radiating off of Ichabod. Danny shook his head and looked down at his shoes.

“Alright.” He reluctantly agreed.

She looked back and forth between the two of them, hesitant to leave given their recent history. “Umm.”

“We shall be fine.” Ichabod said, when she dilly-dallied. Abbie’s eyes flittered between them once more before she decided they could manage two minutes by themselves without hurting each other and destroying her house.

“Be right back.” She sighed, excusing herself and darting up the stairs. Her breath was heavy as she hopped into a pair of jeans and a t shirt faster than she ever had in her life. Ears remaining alert the entire time as she was dressing. She’d gotten a detailed account from Jenny about the time she literally had to drag Ichabod away, and she knew for herself what had happened the last time they were in a room together.

Abbie rumbled back down the stairs just as the kitchen timer was going off. She found the men standing in the exact same spot she’d left them, only they were now facing each other in some sort of silent gunless duel. Both of them heads held high, eyes zeroed in on one another, Ichabod with his fingers clasped behind his back, while Danny’s arms were folded across his chest. She thanked God, breathing a small sigh of relief that they’d remained cool.  

“If you’ll excuse me.” Ichabod said facing her. “Mr. Reynolds.” He added in a hard bitten tone that said you can catch these hands as much as it did good day.

“Mr. Crane.” Danny replied in kind. Danny watched as Ichabod gathered up his flowers and grocery back and legged off into the kitchen.

“Damn Abs, pimpin’ ain’t easy, but somebody has to do it right?” He asked sarcastically.

“That’s not what happened,” Abbie stated matter of factly, walking toward the door, and waving him out to the front porch. “I hope one day you understand that.” She said taking a seat on the swing. Danny sighed and found a seat next to her.

“And I hope one day you understand how much I cared about you.” He returned.

“Aww come on Danny, or D-smooth,” She half grinned in that bewitching manner that got him in trouble in the first place. “Isn’t that what you said they called you in college.” Abbie recalled gently nudging him with her elbow.  Her lips closed over a warm smile, as the sun reached them.

“I’m sure in no time I’ll be just another girl you spent time with at the beach.”

“Shiiiid. I don’t even know if I can rep D-smooth no more, I just lost out to a guy who dresses like a larper 24/7. I don’t know, what do I do with that.” He chuckled briefly before taking on a serious tone.

“And you’re never going to be just another girl on the beach.” He pledged eyes finding hers in one of the more honest moments of his life. “The worst thing is, even after everything…even after what I just saw…I still want you.” He whispered. “Never been this dude, never thought I could be.” He said shaking his head.

“Maybe that was part of it.” Abbie said after a moment, looking out at the kids playing in the street. “Maybe a part of our relationship was to show you how deeply you could care…that you were capable of it. So when that special person comes along, you’ll be ready.”

“I wish I would have been ready for you.” He admitted.

“Somehow I think we were always meant to end up here.” She replied through a reflective tone.

“Hmmph.” Danny shrugged, before taking in a deep sigh. “Are you happy?”

Abbie looked over at him and gently nodded her head, eyes brimming with unshed tears.

“I am.” She whispered, seeing his eyes grow red under the finality of the moment.

“Good.” He congratulated her. “That’s what it’s all about.”

“Yeah.” She agreed, thin voiced. He stood up from the swing and held out his hand. She placed hers inside of it and pulled herself to her feet just as his arms encircled her and swallowed her small frame.

“Be happy Danny.”

“I’ll do my best.” He promised. “Never forget you.” He sighed, just before placing a kiss to her forehead.

“Me too.” She sighed.

“Well, I guess I’ma go pack my bags for the windy city.” He stated. “I’m going recommend you as my replacement. It’s just a recommendation but, if they have any sense they’ll listen. However, that means you’ll eventually have to bring your behind back to work.” He teased. Abbie laughed.

“You don’t have to do that.” She remarked, loosely folding her arms in front of her.

“I do, you’re the best person for the job.” He asserted, moving toward the steps. “Hey and keep your eyes open, there are some major players pretty interested in the details of your life.”

“There are?” She asked intrigued as she stepped toward him. “Like who?”

“I don’t know how far up it goes, but they were leaning on me pretty heavy about you. At first I thought it was all just work related, but then they wanted to know about some of the more intimate details of your life. About your family, friends, what you did in your free time. I still haven’t been able to make heads or tails of it. You know I was right over your back, so I didn’t bother worrying you with it, but now that I’m leaving...”

 


 

That evening Ichabod and Abbie sat chatting hours past dinner celebrating, and drinking. She started to tell him about the owls, but decided that it would keep until the morning. She had a bit more than she usually drank, and he ended up at a decided advantage during their on the whim game of strip chess.

“I’ve captured your queen, surrender your brassiere.” He demanded, holding his hand out across the board. “Perhaps you should spare me the trouble of felling your dismal, lonely, king, and proffer your bottoms while you’re at it.”

Abbie laughed, cheeks flooded with booze born warmth, and an electric vibe pulsing through her that made her feel limitless. She tilted her cup up and placed the empty glass upon the table.

“Molon Labe.” She challenged.

 

Abbie woke in the middle of the night huddled inside of Ichabod’s naked frame. She faintly remembers him lifting her from the couch, but all recollection of him carrying her up to bed is lost. The shirt he had been wearing hung loosely about her form, while warm blankets were tucked around their bodies. A little rush of exhilaration pulsed through her heart as memories of Ichabod standing and yanking her across the chessboard flooded her mind.

Well I did say molon labe, she mused mulling over how eagerly he accepted her challenge to come and get her panties. She hadn’t quite realized when she’d levied it how consummately he was up for it, but she soon found out. Tiny game pieces dug into her thighs when he pulled her on top of the table, one hand holding her in place while the other drug her wet undergarments down her frame.

“I’ve something for you as well Lieutenant,” He drawled picking her up from the table and carrying her to the couch. “The turn is now yours to come and take it.”

The rest of the evening was something of a haze. She recalled liquescent kisses growing heated, and evaporating into nips and nibbles as she took to his lap. She remembered losing her sense of self, and becoming orphaned in the feeling of fullness as she sank down upon the stiffest part of him. The way the warmth of the breath leaving his lungs felt inside of her mouth as they moaned their way through kisses, and the sound he made before it stopped altogether.

“Gasan, you’ll spend me,” He’d sputtered out in a warning only moments after she’d straightened her back and hastened her speed. In seconds he’d pulled her back down, fingers securing her plump bottom in place as he thrust upward with a purpose that caused her to join him in a release that threatened their comprehension of reality. After, they spooned together draped in the comforting light from the fire, her head rested atop his arm like a pillow.  

They had argued earlier in the day, just after she’d seen Danny off.

She found Ichabod in the kitchen when she came in from the porch. He stood in front of the sink shearing the stems of her flowers beneath the running faucet. He placed them into an olive vase, and turned, glancing in her direction just long enough for her to see the disapproval in his gaze. She watched as his eyes moved toward the other bundle of flowers she had left sitting across the room. He twisted his head slightly before turning back to the cupboards to remove their dinnerware. A few seconds later she stepped behind him, twining her arms around his waist as she took a deep breath and she buried her face in his back. He stilled, but made no other motion until she grabbed his wrist. He turned around with a heavy sigh, glaring down at her with a look of annoyance so subtle only she would make it out.

“Hey.” She softly said, knowing there was more to the conflict that barely registered across his face.

“Does he understand, or shall I speak with him?” He firmly asked.

“He understands.” She replied evenly.

“Good then.” He said before turning around to continue his task.

Abbie’s neck twisted to the side as she absorbed his reaction. “He actually wanted to let me know that he’s leaving town. Took another position.” She offered.

“Wonderful.” Ichabod replied with heavy sarcasm. She watched him going on about meal preparations as if she wasn’t standing there.

“I would never do that to you.” She states. His head bowed forward as his arms extended across the edge of the counter, she supposed in exasperation of some sort, but she didn’t know what the hell he had to be exasperated about.

“Do what.” He asked, turning to face her. His sarcastic tone had abated, but still she hears a thin line of displeasure in his voice.  

“Make you feel…I don’t know guilty—or any type of way really—about someone who came before me.”

“Mr. Reynolds was not before me Abbie.” He snapped, face twisted as if she was speaking in a language foreign to him. Abbie stepped back, throwing her hands out.

“I’m sorry, but are you kidding me? If he wasn’t before you then what the hell was Zoe?” She asked, furthering his look of befuddlement.

“I’ve know idea,” He quickly said, “You tell me.”

Abbie’s features grew hard as her arms crossed in front of her. He was making no sense, and she wasn’t about to waste time arguing with him about stuff that didn’t matter.

Ichabod leaned back against the counter and stared off, shoulders dropping as he pushed the air from his chest.

“Come here.” He instructed. Abbie pressed her lips together and shook her head.

“No.”

Ichabod reached out, fully extending his arm as he grabbed her around the waist and pulled her to him. Her disappointment with his attitude wouldn’t allow her to take a single step, so her feet slid across the floor as he pulled her.  

“I’m sorry.” He apologized, pressing a kiss to her forehead. “But he was not before me. I loved you first.” He softly confessed. “I feel…I feel as though my leaving was a necessary action…still it created an entryway for him to gain access to parts of you that he never should have received.” He informed her, lifting a hand to stroke her face.

“When I see him I feel as though I despise him. However the person my hatred would be more accurately directed upon is myself. Seeing him is a reminder of my own cowardice, a reminder that….I could have lost you…and it prohibits me from turning away from the terrible truth that I very nearly did.” He whispered caressing her chin between his thumb and forefinger.

“Crane,” Abbie breathed, bringing her hands to his waist. “We both had a lot of things we could have said, or did….we didn’t know how, but the important thing is, we learned.” She said. “We lost time, but we have time now, let’s not waste it beating ourselves up or being angry about things we can’t undo.”

Ichabod leaned forward pressing amends and apologies to her lips. How could he ever be angry in light of the way things turned out, she’d welcomed him home and into her heart. He stood feasting upon her lips, until he remembered the little additional thing that had been eating away at his insides. He leaned back.    

“Miss Mills,” He stated sternly, “there are however a few things I should like to discuss.” He spoke raising his brows.

“What?” A blanket of innocence covered Abbie’s face as she tried to play dumb, but she already knew what he was going to say.

“You know precisely what, however if it behooves you I have no qualms explaining it further. It should be clear that though I understand fully the variety of changes that have taken place since my day and age, your manner of dress amongst a male guest when I arrived home was unconditionally unacceptable.”

A brief smirk covered Abbie’s face before she mocked his haughty tone. “Unconditionally.” She grinned.

“Abbie.” Ichabod returned through a scornful bass filled growl.  

Abbie chuckled falling against his chest. “I don’t make it a habit of answering the door like that, I thought it was you, Mr. I’ll be home in fifteen minutes you can set your clock by me Crane. Then when I realized it wasn’t I was going to change, but I thought…”

Her mouth fell open cradling a silent laugh as he shook his head.

“Look,” She grinned, unable to get over how jealous he could be, “I understand what you’re saying there, it won’t happen again, but unconditionally come on?” She laughed. “What if some poor old man has a wreck, and limps to my door dragging a broken leg behind him in need of help.” Abbie says dramatically, mimicking a wounded limb.

“It depends. What attire are you cloaked upon his arrival?” He asks, readjusting his arms around her as he gets comfortable against the counter.

“What I had on today.”

“Then you shall call for help and welcome him to wait outside until you’re properly clothed.” He stated with just touch of humor filling eyes.

“You’re kidding?”

“I jest not,” He asserted, “He could be the age of ninety-six and hardly able to see an inch in front of his face. It’s most probably the cause of his terrible accident in the first place, still he is most welcome to wait, out-side.”

“You’re an awful human being you know that?” Abbie cracked.

“Why Lieutenant, I’m flattered.” A smug grin curled his lips.  

“You know what I meant.” Abbie said, pinching his ribs. She started to push herself away, but he quickly pulled her back and sucked a moist kiss to her lips. She reopened her eyes smiling as his mouth repeatedly returned to hers with pecks that seemed to grow softer each time.

“You know when I first came in, I actually wanted to tell you that I’m proud of you.” She said, warmed by his affection. He placed a kiss beneath her chin before raising his head.

“Are you?” He queried gazing down at the lips that just left his. He wondered if she had any idea how close he was to forfeiting dinner in favor of them.

“Mm-hmm,” she hummed. “For keeping your cool when you came home, for not fighting with Danny. I know he isn’t your favorite person.”

Ichabod raised his brow, gently nodding his head in acknowledgement of the truth of her observation.

“Quite honestly, from the appearance of things when I arrived home I could not have delivered a stiffer blow then the one it seemed he had already received.” He admitted. “Still it was not an easy task, especially with you so recklessly brandishing a fair portion of thigh from beneath that robe.” He added slipping a palm down her rear.

“The last time you were so scantily clad in the company of others I nearly ended up in a brawl in the center of the bowling alley.”

“Wait, what?” Abbie asked eyes nearly leaping from her head as she thought back to Halloween. “Is that what that was about? You told me it was a minor disagreement over a bowling ball.”

“Essentially it was.” Ichabod stated, “I informed him that if he could not manage to avert his eyes from their constant slither up and down your form that I was going to assist him by shoving his bowling ball through the front of his skull. He disagreed,” he spoke nonchalantly, “as did his companions, and that was right around the time that you came over.”

“Ich-a-bod Crane,” Abbie lectured, seeing him through a whole new set of eyes.

“—Have you any idea how often others look at you in that way?” He quietly asked, “I do. I notice every time. I could barely tolerate it then, and now,” he lowered her face to hers, “I loathe the thought of others ogling what belongs to me.”

“Belongs to you?” Abbie asked, head rearing back as she stared up at him. “Last time I checked my body belonged to me.”

Arrogance bleeds through his eyes as he grins down at her.

“Hmm, well perhaps you are in need of an additional examination, because that’s not quite what I recall you stating, rather screaming the last time we—”

Her palm shot up to cover his mouth. “I hate you.” She laughed feeling him smiling like fool beneath her fingers.

Ichabod chuckled, pulling her closer, freeing his lips only to quickly drop them to hers.

“You what?” He asked, low and soft.

“I love you.” She sighed.

 

As promised he’d waited until after dinner to discuss his news with her, and let her in on what all the festivities were about. She listened as he spoke about how he’d formulated a business plan and pitched it to Sebastian in an effort to save the Archives.

“When did you have time to do all of this?” Abbie asked setting her glass of wine down. Ichabod took a sip from his glass, and sat it next to hers.

“Actually it was something that I began work upon some time ago.” He informed her. “However I was forced to abandon the effort…”

“When I was gone.” She filled in, with a regretful sigh. He took her hand and brought it to his lips.

“A choice I would make one hundred out of one hundred times. But after we…after you agreed to take my hand I finished the proposal I had previously begun, and forwarded it to Sebastian. Yesterday I received the first quarterly payment from the endowment. A fair amount of it must go toward the acquisition of various works, and artifacts I aim to curate, however, the percentage set aside for my fee is…well, yours—mostly.” He said handing her an envelope with a check inside of it.

“Ichabod”, Abbie quietly gasped, and objection already raising beneath her lips.

“I retained a portion of the notes for myself, so that perhaps I might purchase a few of the things that we are in need of.” he said waving his hand in front of the table,” Be it purchasing groceries, or covering the tab for a visit to the cinema or anything you might choose to do…I can contribute.”

“Crane.”

“—I understand that it is a horribly insignificant amount,” He cut in. “A mere drop in the bucket in comparison to all that you have provided for me.”

It had been years that she’d kept him. He could only imagine the amount she’d spent seeing to his medical and dental care, but beyond that, she saw to it that he had spending money at all times. The video game system she’d gifted him cost nearly four hundred dollars alone. She’d said it was for both of them, but he noticed she never played. Ichabod shook his head wistfully, and slid his chair back before taking Abbie’s hand and pulling her to his lap. He looked into her warm brown eyes as he linked his hands around her waist.

“I know not what to say.” He stated quietly. “Thank you seems to be such a woefully inadequate expression of gratitude for all that you have done. For taking me in and teaching me how to navigate this life.” He whispered, leaving a kiss against her lips that made her heart feel like it had wings.

“For never once making me feel less in spite of my financial shortcomings or other inabilities. For every time you ordered me to the petroleum station with a one-hundred dollar monetary note knowing well that the vehicle only required ten dollar notes worth of fuel.” He’d caught on quickly to her way of giving him money without actually giving him money.

“Keep the change.” She would always say. After arguing with her on three or four separate occasions he realized such arguments were futile, she was incredibly stubborn and in the end she never accepted the money back.

“Thank you.” He would quietly reply.

“No biggie.” She’d always respond, as if it were nothing. She knew he needed it. As an adult. He needed to be able to enter into an establishment, and purchase things without clearing it with her first. But he rarely did.

“Understand that none of it went unnoticed.” He breathed against the side of her face as her eyes stared down at her lap.

“Thank you for righting me upon my feet Grace Abigail Mills, it is my greatest desire that now I will be so fortunate as to do that which I have been longing to do for some time, sweep you off of yours.” He breathed, placing a finger beneath her chin to lift her mouth to his. Abbie felt herself blooming beneath the weight of his kiss, the warmth of his lips pulled her into a space so perfect and complete she wondered how she’d ever lived without it.

“I think you’re too late.” She mumbled, breaking their kiss. “I can’t remember the last time my feet touched the ground. But this money...” She smiled, infinitely proud of him. “You should keep it.” She could tell the moment the words left her mouth there wasn’t a chance in hell that he’d take the money back. She laughed out loud looking at the sour expression covering his face.

“Okay, okay.” She giggled, feeling uncomfortable. “I don’t know what to say,” She smiled bashfully. “Thank you.”

His large hand gripped the sides of her face as he looked her dead in the eyes.

“No biggie.” He grinned.

A little later Abbie returned to the living room after putting the check away in her pocketbook.

“Now there’s the face of a guy with a lot on his mind.” She observed. Ichabod leapt up startled and quickly folded his hands behind his back.

Abbie!” He exclaimed, his attempt to repress his surprise from her presence barely holding.

Abbie’s eyes narrowed on him, “Yeah,” she slowly said wondering why he seemed so shocked to see her after she’d just told him she was going to put the check away. “Federal agent Abigail Mills, I live here, we’re partners, you remember come on.” She teased, expecting to elicit a snarky comeback. She worries when she doesn’t.

“What’s up?” She asked, walking over to him.

“I—I….” His mouth hangs open as he attempts to summon his words.

“Baby what is it?” Abbie asked again growing legitimately concerned. Ichabod shook off his fears, and stepped forward bending to one knee. Abbie’s hands raised and covered her lips as he brought the small box he’d tucked behind his back forward. He licked his lips, struggling to steady his clammy hands. His eyes glazed, inundated with fear as he swallowed trying to remind himself that she’d already agreed to stay by his side.  

But what if she’s altered her decision? What if her prior inclination toward saying yes was some momentary infatuation induced fluke and she’s come to her senses.

“Miss Grace Abigail Mills,” He began, his velvet tone hiding the bundle of nervous tension just beneath his skin, “I am afraid upon the first occasion I offered my hand, it was found empty, and I am aware that the jewel it now holds is in no way worthy of your consideration but as it is…it is as much as I can offer at this time. I only pray that my love, adoration, and unweathering support and devotion will serve in supplanting all of which it lacks.

“Ichabod.” Abbie breathed. Her trembling fingers fell from her lips as she stared down at the small sparkly stone.

“I,” he sighed, moistening the lips his nerves had dried, “I recognize that it is quite tiny,” he acknowledged, breath bated as he nervously struggled to read her reaction. “but I swear upon my honor that it is flawless. The moment it was set before my eyes I found it, an exact representation of you.” He added after a moment.

Abbie lay in bed raking her pointer finger over the ring on her left hand. She lay idle for a spell, feeling something of importance hovering just outside of her consciousness.

Why I am awake, she wondered looking at the alarm clock. I don’t have to use the bathroom, I’m not sick, or thirsty…

And then suddenly it’s there in the sound of his breathing, the wispy snooze that felt all too familiar against her ear began to unlock it. The gentle press of his chest against her back, the exact way that his hand locked around her belly, and held her tight. Her heart rate kicked up.

I had a dream, she remembers, and all at once it rushes through her like a storm through an unshut window.


 

She was inside of the Garden of Eden squatting beside a creek, clad in leaves and flowers for garments. She smiled as Ichabod’s reflection appeared in the water before her, and slowly twisted to face him. He took a seat beside her, a warm grin covered his face. After a moment of watching her playfully drag a flower through the cool water he leaned forward and attempted to kiss her. She pulled her head back as she pushed him away in confusion,

“Batiltu Ichabod” (stop), she said, having no comprehension of what a kiss was. It was clear his feelings were hurt. She stared at him a moment, as a scarlet coloring spread across his face.

Abbie stretched forward retrieving her flower from the water. Ichabod sat quietly for a moment, arms on knees, before rising and holding out his hand to her. Moments later she was following him through the garden until they approached a clearing. They weren’t supposed to be there, in that place, at that time. She knew, as did he, but it seemed such a trivial thing. At least until Ichabod pulled back a thicket of bushes and instructed her to peer through them.

“Amaru” (see), he said.

Abbie’s eyes narrowed and her mouth crept open as she tried to understand what she was seeing. She drug her head back from the opening and gazed up at him, for the first time growing concerned that they were doing something they shouldn’t have been doing. Still her curiosity got the best of her, especially with Ichabod nodding his advisement for her to continue watching. She again raised to her tippy toes and stared back through the bushes. She watched as Adam and Eve embraced, opening and closing their mouths against one another’s. She continued watching as Eve lay in the grass and parted her thighs, Adam removed his leaves revealing his flesh which was sticking straight out the way Abbie had noticed Ichabod’s sometimes did. A little voice in her head tells her she should stop watching, but she’s too intrigued to turn away now. Long she’d wondered about the differences between the inhabitants of the garden, but just as there were things revealed to her and Ichabod that had not been revealed to others, there were things revealed to others that had not been revealed to them.

She’d touched it before, the flesh between Ichabod’s legs, early one morning after she’d shown him what hers looked like. He was almost in awe of it, he hesitantly slipped his pointer finger down through the moist crease, eyes, toggling back and forth between her gaze and the wet flesh. He had inspected the moisture that covered his digit, eyeing it curiously before gently sniffing it, and finally dabbing it against his tongue. He immediately closed his lips around his finger and hummed his approval. Abbie stared at him oddly, watching as he bent his head and tried to taste it directly with his tongue, she pushed him back by his forehead the moment she realized what he was attempting to do. He quickly apologized, and tried explaining to her that it tasted good, and he only wanted to have a little more. Abbie was having none of it though, and she promptly reminded him that she wasn’t food. Besides his fingers had felt funny against it, and caused her insides to feel all wet and gooey.

Ichabod on the other hand had allowed her to grope and examine his instrument freely. She wondered about the awkward faces he made, and the disruption of his regular breathing pattern as she ran her fingers across the skin and squeezed it a bit. She quickly removed her fingers from him when his stomach muscles clenched and he winced and groaned a bit. He had no words to explain what it felt like, but he assured her that it didn’t hurt before she returned to her inspection. She twisted this, and slipped a finger across that, still, they didn’t know what to make of it. Just as she lowered her head to get a better view of it, both of them screamed out as it erupted and squirted warm sticky liquid all over her. After spending the next part of the day trying to remove the liquid from her eye, she decided she’d learned all she needed to know about this strange object. But now, watching Adam lay between Eve’s thighs, she reconsidered her position. She wanted to know what they were doing. Twice she nearly went into the clearing as she became worried they were hurting each other due to the noises they made. They were the protectors, she and Ichabod, it was their duty to protect the garden and everything inside of it. Only they weren’t supposed to be there. On this day there was no duty for them, all protection was assigned to the angels in their stay. On top of that, the more she watched them the more apparent it became that they weren’t hurting each other at all. On the contrary….Abbie’s thoughts were interrupted as Eve’s arms tightened around Adam and he cried out before collapsing over her. Abbie released the branch, startled by his cries, and sprinted back through the garden.

Foliage from the floor crushed beneath her feet as she darted back towards the areas they were permitted to be in. The only thing running through her mind is that they shouldn’t have done that, they shouldn’t have watched them, they shouldn’t have been there. She could hear Ichabod hot on her heels as they made it back to the creek. Panic and a fear he’d never known crept up through him when she turned around to face him. He stepped forward, worried over the undeniable disappointment he saw in her eyes, but she stepped back. He waited a moment, eyes begging forgiveness as her gaze intensified, and his frown deepened. He made a motion to move toward her again, and she quickly took another step back and folded her arms in front of her. His heart grew heavy, sinking until it drug his shoulders down with it, his fingers began to uncontrollably bend and twist from his inability to process this new emotion. It weakened his stomach and brought water to his eyes. He stared at her a moment considering what he could say or do to make her smile again. It was usually so easy for him, but it’s apparent that something was different now. He wanted to explain everything inside of his head, but he relents and walks off to give her the space she desired.

He journeyed alone for a while, distraught as thoughts of her filled his mind. He never wanted to make her unhappy with him, quite the opposite, he only wanted to show her all of the things he felt for her that he didn’t know how to express. He’d been tormented with emotions he didn’t know what to do with for some time, and after stumbling upon Adam and Eve together that way one afternoon, he wondered if it might be the way to put an end to it. Now he knew that he was terribly wrong.

Abbie sat alone by the creek, mind whirling as she tried to make sense of everything she’d seen. Her heart ached in want of Ichabod, and already she regrets pushing him away. He was the closest thing to her. That, she reasoned, was the problem, and every day it was becoming more and more difficult to hide it. How was it that he was more inside of her heart than the God that had created it? He was a part of her. They could talk for hours or spends hours communicating without ever saying a word. She looked upward toward the spaces where the air blued, and noticed the sun hanging low, breaking up the sky with blends of purple and orange light. It was beautiful, but something in her stomach couldn’t settle because he wasn’t there to share it with her. The noise of someone approaching twisted her head around.

“Naamah.” Ichabod called stepping alongside of her, tentatively holding out a colorful, variant array of flowers he’d taken from each sector of the garden. Abbie’s heart filled as she stretched her hand upward in acceptance of the blossoms he’d gathered. But the second that she looks at him she could see that something was terribly wrong. Blood dripped from his fingers, and she quickly took stock of the scratches up and down his arms. His chest and back was covered in scrapes, not to mention the deep gash that opened the flesh across one of his calves.

“Ichabod.” She gasped in reaction to the bevy of wounds strewn all across his body. It’s only when she reexamined her assortment, and found the beautiful gasan flower stretching up from the center of it that she understood why.

She gazed up at him with a question in her eyes, how, she wondered. The queen flowers were located at the highest point of the garden and until then they’d believed them to be impossible to get to. They’d tried more times than Abbie could remember and each time they came away with a bevy of cuts and scrapes without getting anywhere near them. Her mouth opened as she stared up at his tearful gaze.   She could still see the trepidation flooding his eyes as he stepped forward and rested his forehead against her in need of her contact. She wrapped her arm around him, careful to avoid his sore spots as he sighed with relief. They stood there for a moment, arms linked around one another, both of them unable to let go until it was clear that all was forgiven.

A short while later Abbie and Ichabod sat naked in front of the hot springs situated sixty yards or so from the place they slumbered every night. She had run her fingers along his wounds while they bathed, taking care to ensure that all the dirt and bits of dry blood were removed from them. He reached forward, and gently tugged at one of the wet curls dangling from her head. Her lips curled in amusement of his fascination with her hair as she smoothed the gel of a healing plant over his injuries.

Though all of the garden felt like their home, they always took great comfort in returning to their special place every night. It was situated in the center of the garden located at the median point between two giant trees. For anyone unfamiliar with the land it would appear from afar to be a glorious and wide plunge waterfall spilling over from a sea of green life. But to Ichabod and Abbie, it was their front door. Just behind the cascading water was a dry and comfortable space that the two of them had made all their own. The pair stepped across the tile they’d crafted from clay and limestone, and painted with colors they’d pulled out of flowers and plants. It wasn’t long after they’d finished setting the tiles that they realized that even though they were much neater than the previous dirt and grass décor, they were a lot less comfortable to sleep on. Out of that necessity they constructed beds, framed by logs and packed in tightly with leaves.

Ichabod’s heart pitter pattered as he watched Abbie hold a vase beneath the edge of the waterfall before filling it with her flowers. She hummed a soft tune as she found a seat atop the barkcloth rug they’d painted patterns upon four rest days before.  A somber glare overtook her features as she looked out toward the waterfall, and he immediately wondered what she was thinking. In an instant he worried that it had something to do with what he’d shown her. It wounded him more than he could ever say to see her unhappy. He lingered around the rug, pausing before carefully settling in beside her.

“Naamah.” He whispered, when she finished her tune. Before he’d even realized what he was saying he’d began explaining himself. He told her how much he loved the garden and everything in it, he told how much he loved God, the sun, and all of the angels who hovered above.

“Ma” (But), He told her when he looked at her the love he felt was too great to hold, and every time he attempted to house it, it hurt him. He told her how for more than a dozen moons his love for her grew stronger and stronger, and the pain became worse and worse, and he didn’t know what to do about it. “I love you more than anything,” He began, “more than the garden, the sun, and all of the angels who hover above…I even love you more than I love Go—“

“—Ichabod.” She warned, palm darting up to cover his mouth before his words spilled out. His eyes grew red from emotion. Abbie’s hand slipped from his mouth as he bowed his head. They sat quietly for a while as time slipped by, then out of the blue Abbie leaned over, palm closing around a piece of the rug as she pushed herself upward and rested her lips against his. Ichabod’s lips parted in response, surprise and fevered excitement rippling through him as he leaned forward savoring the taste of her. She hung her head afterward, touching her lips as her body grew warm, and trembled with forbidden desire. Her heart struck up an odd rhythm while she sat there replaying the kiss over and over until the high of it pushed her to raise her eyes from the rug. Her lips found his again, this time she allowed her mouth to linger for a spell longer before pulling back. A mix of need and elation crawled up and down every portion of her skin as she panted from the desire for more. When she raised her head again Ichabod cautiously leaned in, fingers around her waist, blinking his eyes closed as he kissed her soft lips. She let him. She let him do everything she had just watched Adam doing to Eve. Then she crawled over the top of him and did some things of her own.  


 

Abbie was fully awake now, eyes blown wide as she stared over at Ichabod, feeling now what she couldn’t feel before. The reason she was awake was because something woke her. She carefully lifted Ichabod’s arm, but stilled when he groaned and snuggled back up to her. She waited a moment, and then trying again managed to quietly ease herself from the bed. She stepped into her fuzzy house-shoes, slipped into her robe and travelled down the cool stairs toward the presence she’d felt beckoning her from sleep. A few stray strands of moonlight danced along the wall as she ambled over to the back door.

A gust of wind whipped through her curls as she opened it, and stared out. There they sat, quiet and patient, waiting and watching…owls in the trees, and lions at the door.

The woman who was still struggling with her pestering newfound fear of spiders felt no fear whatsoever as she raised her foot and stepped forward into the darkness. Even when the lions quietly rose to all fours and stood to an incredible height that left their eyes at the same level as hers, peace surrounded her. If there was any fear at all, it was the little kindling of what she somehow knew they represented, a quickening of the times. The larger of the two lions approached, a deep contented purr vibrating from it as it dipped its enormous head and snuggled it against Abbie. She stretched her palm through its mane, taking a moment to massage the light beige fur. The other lion approached in search of the same affection and Abbie quickly obliged before slipping out of her shoes to continue upon her journey.

Her feet met with the cool dewy blades of grass as she strolled along to a cricket serenade. There was a light she could feel more than see beyond the trees, buried deep in the woods. She followed it. The lions and owls followed her. She walked until she came to stand inside of a flatland, the noise of the crickets faded, as the hum of voices speaking all at once grew strong. Abbie looked all around her for the faces these voices belonged to, but none emerged. Meanwhile owls seemed to have come from every direction. She saw them, crammed along tree branches, encircling the ground around her. Desperately trying to make sense of everything, she closed her eyes.

Sumerian, she realized, but still she couldn’t decipher the words she’d heard. And then as if there had been some great fusion between language, she could. She opened her eyes, the owls had gone. Angels. In front of her, behind her, hanging from the trees, wings spread open and closed. Everywhere. Abbie spun in circles, eyes growing large as silver dollars as she took it all in.

“She can see us!” A familiar voice excitedly called out.

All of sudden the angels begin to part, and between them became a pathway which four angels travelled in diamond formation. All of them cloaked in golden armor.  

“It’s Michael.” She heard some of the others whispering as the one in front passed by them. Abbie’s eyes stayed trained upon the tall strapping angel as he approached with steady purposeful steps. He stopped nearly three feet in front of her looked around at the group before bending down upon one of his knees. The other angels followed suit, all of them bowing, one after another in rapid succession. Abbie stood there in the center of them not knowing what to think. Robe open, gown and hair billowing in a furious breeze that seemed to have come out of nowhere.

“I don’t understand.” She shouted, twirling around in the wind, casting a hand up above her eyes in an effort to see a place where the angels ended, but none was found. She pinched herself, wondering if it was somehow a dream, longing to wake up. The two lions stood beside her, deep hums and puffs rolling out of them as she begin to come undone.

“Fear not Abigail,” said the voice she’d heard earlier, “you have slept long and well, but you shall sleep no more.”

“Who said that?” She said looking around, placing her hand above her eyes in order to see into the distance. A figure stood, and emerged from the masses.

“Grace.” Abbie gasped, barely above a whisper.

The woman gave a gentle nod before responding. “It has begun.”

The lions’ roars filled the wood.