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told it like it was

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It was the sound of Zoë giggling that first caught Abby's attention, caught it and held it tight. She hadn't heard that sound for such a long time, not since Sommerfield had died, and it wasn't as if Zoë had laughed a lot even before then.

She dumped the load of clothes she was carrying onto the bench and headed in the direction she thought the sound had come from, curious and hopeful both at once. The laughter came again, something light and joyous. It spilled through the crack left by the door to the kitchen, the one that never shut properly, and she reached out, slowly pushing it open with the tips of her fingers.

Neither Zoë nor King spotted her right away, too busy with whatever game they were playing. Zoë was standing on top of King's boots, her small hands held tightly in his as he took a couple of steps back.

They were dancing, she realised as King slowly spun them the pair of them around until he was facing her. Even then he didn't see her, not straight away; his gaze was focused on Zoë, a small smile on his face.

She hadn't seen that smile for a long time either, and she'd missed it, maybe even as much as Zoë's laugh. Maybe even more.

Something tightened in her chest, a fierce pang that only eased when King looked up and finally caught sight of her and that smile of his blossomed from something small and contained to something wider, close to a grin.

Zoë noticed his distraction and turned her head until she was looking where he was, a beaming smile lighting up her small face when she, too, spotted Abby.

"Abby! We're dancing!"

"So I can see!" She didn't need to fake the smile she gave Zoë, not the way it felt like she'd faked every smile since she'd held Sommerfield's body in her arms, so heavy and empty that she'd barely felt Sommerfield's blood drying on her skin. This smile came naturally, drawn out of her by Zoë's transparent joy in this most simple of things. "Are you having fun?"

"Well..." King faked a small frown, his nose crinkling up when Zoë spun her head around, staring up at him with wide eyes and an adorably crinkled nose of her own. "I think I'd enjoy it more if my dance partner didn't keep standing on my feet."

Zoë let out a little squeak, adorably outraged as she let go of King's hands to ball her fists on her hips and glare up at him. "But that's what you told me to do!"

The words fell from her lips in a rush, the sound and fury of a six-year-old faced with unfairness, but King simply grinned down at her, completely unrepentant.

"Don't listen to him, Zoë. You know what he's like. He just doesn't want to admit that you're a better dancer than he is."

King let out a sound of his own, something close to a snort and full of mock outrage, but there was an amused little gleam in his eyes, one she hadn't seen in forever.

Amused and a little speculative, and she gave him a look, one that told him clearly that she knew he was up to something.

Not that it ever stopped him.

"And what about you, Whistler? What are your moves on the dance floor like, hmm?"

If they'd been on their own, she'd have rolled her eyes and put him in his place with a sarcastic comment or two, but Zoë's eyes widened even further as she spun on her heels, staring up at Abby with an imploring look.

"Please, Abby," she begged, moving away from King to grab hold of Abby's hand and tugging Abby back towards her partner, who was totally getting his ass kicked for this later.

By the look of sheer glee King gave her, he knew damned well what he was in for. Knew and didn't give a shit, not if he was having this much fun. But then that was King for you - always willing to pay the piper as long as he got some killer tunes out of the deal.

"There's no music," she protested weakly, allowing herself to be dragged over to King.

"You have to use your 'magination," Zoë explained, and Abby met King's eyes over the top of Zoë's head, a silent conversation taking place between them that pretty much amounted to 'you're totally dead' and 'yes, I know, but totally worth it'.

She didn't know how the hell King was managing to keep a straight face, but he kept his expression on just the right side of serious to appease Zoë as he spread his arms wide, waiting for Abby to step into them.

"It's all right, honey," he said, his tone so over the top reassuring that she almost punched him in the face just on principle, "I'll lead."

"That will be a first," she muttered, low enough that Zoë wouldn't catch it, and King grinned at her again, his eyes dancing with merriment.

He was enjoying this way too much.

Maybe that was why she finally stepped into his arms; she couldn't remember the last time she'd seen King actually enjoying anything. Even when they were hunting, his mood these days tended to the grim, all work and no play as he killed vamps with the kind of single minded determination that reminded her uncomfortably of herself on her worst days.

Or of her father on his best.

He wasn't grim now. He was still grinning, his eyes dancing, as he slid one arm around her waist, keeping his hand just high enough on her back to skirt the line of 'decent'. He used his other hand to catch hold of one of hers, pulling it up into the classic waltzing position. The quirk to his mouth now that his grin had finally faded told her that he found it just as ridiculous as she did.

"One two three, one two three," he muttered at her, his words completely in time as he started to guide her around the kitchen. "Try not to stand on my feet."

Her foot slipped, hitting him firmly on the shin, and he stumbled for a second, losing that rhythm.

"One two three, was it?" she asked, mocking him gently even as she steadied him. She was pretty sure, though, that most of his stumble had been put on to amuse Zoë, who was giggling from the side-lines, her hand pressed over her mouth.

"Maestro, we need some music," King called over to her as he'd straightened up. Zoë hesitated, her brow crinkled endearingly as she tried to puzzle out his meaning. "Turn on the radio, sweetheart, okay?"

Her expression cleared, and she bounced over to the counter, where they'd dumped Dex's battered old radio.

It still worked, but that wasn't why she'd kept it. It wasn't why she'd kept most of the little things they'd retrieved from the Honeycomb Hideout. Dex's radio, Hedges' graphic novels, Sommerfield's braille story books, the ones Sommerfield had bought to read to Zoë. They were all pieces of the life they'd shared, and pieces were all that was left.

Zoë clambered up onto the stool, reaching carefully for the radio and finding the on button. She turned it almost reverently, her expression back to the same serious one she'd been wearing for weeks, and Abby felt that pang again, more fiercely this time, a tangle of love and grief.

It was tuned into some golden oldies station, the kind of thing that Dex had loved listening to, singing along under his breath to Motown, to 80s disco, his fingers clicking as his head had bobbed along to the rhythm, most of his focus on whatever task he was busy with, whether that was cleaning their weapons or welding something new together.

King's fingers flexed against her back, a gentle pressure that wasn't like him, not when he was as in your face as it was possible to get, and Abby snapped back into the present, jerking her head up to meet his eyes. There was an understanding look in them now, all amusement fled, and she swallowed around the sudden lump in her throat.

"One two three," he said quietly and she gave him a shaky smile, her feet starting to move, following where he led.

It wasn't a waltz, exactly - the music was wrong for that, and Abby wasn't familiar with the steps anyway - but there was an ease to it, a flow to the way she moved with King as they swung slowly around their impromptu dance floor, the kind of familiarity to it that came from fighting alongside someone for as long as she and King had fought together. Her hand found its way to his shoulder, and she moved closer to him automatically, compensating for the way he swayed, the fit of her body against his.

He was humming, something mindless but weirdly comforting and definitely not in tune. She ducked her head, hiding her smile, suddenly, ridiculously glad that he was there.

The lump was back in her throat, but it was easier to swallow around this time. Even the prickling behind her eyes, in her nose, was easier to bear now.

The song finally ended, trailing into silence, and then the DJ's voice echoed over the airways, a trite, white noise that she tuned out as her eyes automatically sought out Zoë.

The little girl was spinning herself around and around on the stool, humming to herself as her fingers caught hold of the counter and then pushed herself away again, lost in her own little world.

At least this time it seemed to be a happier one.

The music changed, something older and slower coming on, and King's grip on her tightened infinitesimally, easing her body closer to his. She went with this flow, too, too tired, too heart-sore, to fight it.

She'd never really been interested in fighting King.

King, for his part, finally let go of her hand, sliding both of his arms around her waist and tucking her under his chin. She fit, better than she ever would have thought, and she closed her eyes, turning her head and resting her cheek on his shoulder. It was easy, so easy to fall into him like this.

King was humming again, something slow and sweet, more in tune this time, and she wrapped her arms lightly around his neck, relaxing into him, trusting him with this. He didn't let her down - he bore her weight easily, swaying the two of them back and forth until she lost herself in the rhythm of it, feeling weightless for the first time in a long time.

There were words mixed in with King's humming now, and if she concentrated she could hear them, pick out the lyrics of the song they were dancing to, something soft and poignant.

"Life is too short to have sorrow..."

She pressed closer to him, willing him to stop, not wanting to hear the next line, not when the words cut too close to the bone when she was already raw. Maybe King got that, reading her the way he'd always been able to read her, or maybe he'd just forgotten the words. Whatever the reason, he hummed the next line instead of singing it, and she was so goddamned grateful for that, so grateful for him.

He moved his hands from her waist to her hips, exerting a gentle pressure until she was swaying in time with him, which was only incidentally in time with the music. She lifted her head to look up at him, catching the light in his eyes as a familiar smirk found its way to his face.

"I believe that you love me, so forget your foolish priiii-iide..." he sang, somehow managing to hit the high notes, or an approximation of them. She rolled her eyes at him, ignoring the warmth that was rising to her face and blossoming in her chest, and his grin widened because he was still able to read her too damned easily. "You know this is the Don Johnson version, right?"

The question threw her. "Don...?"

"Don Johnson. You know, Sonny Crockett? Miami Vice? Jeez, Whistler, I know you're a foetus, but they do have re-runs, you know. He's like... a cultural icon. Sonny lived on a boat, had an alligator as a pet... I totally wanted to be Sonny when I was a kid. Back when I was twelve."

"When was this?" she asked sweetly, back on safer ground. "Nineteen sixty-three?"

"Oh, funny. You're real funny, Whistler."

She smiled up at him, all teeth and attitude, their banter putting her at ease in a way that even his arms around her hadn't managed. He hadn't let go of her yet. Part of her was hoping he wouldn't, and the rest of her was hoping that he wouldn't notice the first part. From the glint in his eye, she figured she was out of luck on that one, but he didn't say anything, simply pulling her back into his arms as the song continued to play.

They swayed together for a little longer until the song finally faded out and the DJ came on air.

"And that was Don Johnson singing Tell It Like It Is..."

King pulled away far enough to grin down at her, not bothering to hide his triumph, and she was swamped with a sudden surge of affection for him, for his ridiculousness and his ability to make her feel better when nothing else in the universe could or would. It was a warm and steady feeling, one of the few bright spots in a world that had been lacking in warmth for so damned long. For once, she didn't bother to hide it, relishing the way that something surprised and pleased flashed in King's eyes when he read it on her face.

He pulled her closer again, lowering his face to hers. For a second she thought he was going to kiss her, and her heart skipped a beat, a funny little thump-thump that left her momentarily breathless, her mouth dry.

He stopped when his mouth was only inches from hers, lowering his voice. "Well, this has been fun, Whistler, but unfortunately, much as I love your moves - and I do, don't ever doubt that - my dance card is full this evening."

She blinked at him, thrown by his sudden switch and trying to ignore the twinge of hurt, and the disappointment that followed in its wake, but King cut his eyes to the left, a faint nod of his head directing her attention to where he was looking.

Zoë was standing there, her hands clutched together and her eyes wide as she watched them.

Oh, right. Her heart did that funny skip-jump again and she cleared her throat as King's hands finally slid slowly from her waist, his touch lingering for a moment as he put some reluctant distance between the pair of them.

"I like that song," Zoë said, just as something else came on the radio. She wrinkled her nose up. "I don't like this one as much."

"Well," King said, his voice low and easy when Abby was still trying to find hers, which wasn't made any easier by the look that King flashed her, or the banked heat - and affection - showing clearly in his eyes. "I'm sure Abby will be able to find it on iTunes or somewhere, and she can download it for you. In the meantime..." He put some more distance between them, loping over to the radio with long, easy strides and turning it off. "Why don't I see how many of the words I can remember, and we'll have one last dance before it's bath time, okay?"

Zoë's nose wrinkled up again at the mention of bath time, but she was a good kid; she knew when to pick her battles, which was more than the rest of them did. "Okay," she said obediently, lifting her hands up for King to catch hold of them. King started humming as he started to guide Zoë around, and then singing, low and pleasantly in key this time even as the words came out in a jumble, depending on the lyrics he remembered and the ones he didn't.

"Tell it like it is... Hmm mmm... I'm not a little boy..."

Abby left them to it, heading back to her laundry. But she paused in the doorway for a moment, one last look back at them, and King met her eyes. There was no edge to the smile he gave her this time, nothing mocking or amused about it, just something quiet and deep as he kept on singing, soft and sweet.

"But if you want me to love you, then baby, I will..."

The words were for her, not Zoë, and this time she let them in.