DISCLAIMER: : I do not own the characters of Abbie Carmichael, Toni Ricci, Lenny Briscoe etc., they and any other references to "Law and Order" are the property of Dick Wolf and NBC.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Tabula Rasa
By Janine




It was dark, the early hours of the morning, and it was raining hard and fast. To be outside on a night like that-actually a morning like that-you would have to have been nuts...or a cop. As officer O'Brien stepped up to the door way of the grocery store he figured that at least the call wasn't a total bust. He'd probably be able to get a pack of smokes.

Inside the store was a mess. Once you got past the first few stacks you could see the entire scene. One stack was knocked over leaving chips, pretzels and what have you spread all over the floor, but that wasn't where officer O'Brien or officer Stewart's attention was focused. They were concentrating on the two bodies lying in a pool of their own blood on the cold white floor a few meters away from the counter. At a glance Stewart would have put their ages at seventeen, both of them. At the side of the counter were a man and woman. The guy had his arms wrapped around the woman who was visibly shaken up. Both officers knew right away that she was the shooter.

"You go talk to the broad, I'll check out our friends over here," O'Brien said moving towards the bodies.

"Bastard," Stewart muttered as he headed over to the happy couple. He hated it when O'Brien stuck him with people duty. He usually had to ask the same question three times before he got a coherent answer. It was a pain in the ass.

As protocol demanded O'Brien dutifully bent down to check for a pulse on both of the bodies. In cases like these it was a waste of time, since they were clearly dead but he didn't need the man riding his ass because he didn't conduct his investigation the way it said to on the cue card. Everybody was suing everybody these days for everything and he didn't need to be the scapegoat for someone getting off on a technicality because he didn't check the pulse of a corpse. Stupid things like that would get your ass fired, and he didn't need that, he had a family to feed and all that. When he finished with that he made a visual inspection of both the boys then searched their person all the while being careful not to contaminate anything. He could smell beer on them, but they was teenagers and that wasn't anything unusual. The first boy had been shot once through the throat. There was no weapon on or around him, only a coke can off to the side. The second boy had been shot five times all five shots were in the stomach. No weapon on or around him either. Seemed to him what they were looking at here was a double homicide.

"Yeah," Stewart said coming up to O'Brien a moment later, he was holding a plastic bag with a gun in it. "Woman's the trigger, we gotta arrest her."

"You want the pleasure or shall I?" O'Brien asked heading over to the lady.

"She's all yours," Stewart said following his partner.

"You have the right to remain silent," O'Brien started as he grasped her wrist and applied the cuffs. "Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law..."



Abbie Carmichael sat hunched over at her desk rubbing her temples with her thumbs. She had spent four years in the narcotics division putting people away, but if some perp were to have come up to her at that particular moment and offered her something to get rid of the migraine she was suffering through she would have seriously considered the offer before tossing their ass in jail.

Not bothering to look up when she heard a knock at her door Abbie called out in an irritated voice.

"What ever it is I don't want to hear it!"

"Another memorable greeting by the lovely merry sunshine," came the amused voice from the doorway. Abbie paused in her rubbing, she knew that voice, it was...Ricci, Toni Ricci. She smiled and turned her head to the side.

"This is a surprise," Carmichael drawled meeting Ricci's eyes. "Come in."

"Thanks," Ricci said making her way over to the chair in front of Carmichael's desk. Looking up she noticed Abbie's grimace and tilted her head to the side curiously before asking, "How're you doing? You look well."

"Thank you very much Toni, it's always a pleasure to see you too," Abbie responded dryly though she couldn't quite help the small smile that appeared on her face. Toni had always had that effect on her.


"Feels like the birth of Athena," Abbie answered wincing slightly, then she turned her attention to Ricci's bag. "You don't have anything in there that could help do you?"

"Will you have me arrested if I say yes?" Ricci asked playfully.


"That's nice of you...but I don't have anything," Toni responded.

Abbie straightened up and leaned back in her chair watching Ricci for a moment. She was a beautiful woman in her early thirties. Flaming red hair, and freckles, but it was her eyes that were her best feature as far a Carmichael was concerned. They were warm, mischievous, inviting, intelligent, but if you got on her bad side they could also turn to ice. Finally stopping her visual inspection she spoke. "Are you here for any particular reason or did you just stop by to give me shit?"

Ricci shifted in her chair, her face becoming serious. Carmichael had come to think of it as her business face. It was rarely seen outside of the office or the courtroom unless you really pissed her off. Ricci was one of the most unconditionally nice people that Carmichael had ever met.

"The Barrett case," Toni responded. Carmichael looked up and raised an eyebrow.

"What of it?" Abbie asked in a semi-suspicious voice that she couldn't help.

"I've been assigned to be you're co-chair," Ricci responded. Abbie leaned forward resting her elbows on her desk. "Last I heard Jack and I were still working that one." She frowned a little as she spoke, she didn't like being surprised.

"I just got word on my cell on my way out of the courthouse," Ricci said. "Have you been in all day?"

"No, I got in about half an hour ago," Abbie responded. She shook her head, "I haven't checked my messages yet."

Ricci was about to respond when there was a knock at the door. They both turned to look and see who dare interrupt them. It was Jack McCoy, so all was forgiven.

"Am I interrupting?" Jack asked from the doorway. As usual his hair was disheveled and his tie loosened. Although she would never admit it to him, or anyone else for that matter, Abbie found it disarming.

"No, come on in," she responded waving him in. McCoy looked at Ricci and nodded, they were sure to have seen each other around in the past even if they hadn't worked together.

"I've got some news," McCoy said making his way into the office. It was either stand or take the couch, he opted to stand.

"Let me guess...the Barrett case?" Carmichael asked watching as he moved around her office some more.

"So you've heard," he responded glancing at Ricci once more.

Leaning forward Abbie focused her gaze on McCoy. "What's going on Jack?" McCoy stopped walking and turned to face her.

"I've been subpoenaed. It's in relation to a case I worked a few years back, out of state. I won't be gone long, but I'll be gone long enough," he responded. Abbie nodded and leaned back in her chair. She was curious about this case but he wouldn't tell her anymore about it now, she knew that, so she decided to let it drop. Glancing over at Ricci, Abbie knew that Adam had assigned her to the case because of their record together in narco.

"When do you leave?" she asked him.

"A few days from now," Jack responded eyeing the door. "I've got to go make the arrangements," he continued making a vague hand motion towards the door. Before turning to leave he focused his gaze on Abbie again. "Keep me posted?"

"Will do," Abbie responded. "Oh, and Jack?" He stopped where he was and turned around. "Good luck."

"Thanks," he responded, then, "Ms. Ricci." With that he headed out the door and down the hall to the left. Once he was out of sight Abbie turned back to Toni.

"Have you been briefed?"

"All I know is it's a double homicide," Ricci responded.

"Alright," Abbie said working her temples again. "Are you hungry?"

"Always," Ricci responded with a grin.

"There's this Italian place around the corner..."

"I know it," Ricci said. "Are you sure you want to go out?" Abbie smiled at that.

"Yeah. I'm more interested in the pharmacy beside it than that garlic bread though."


Ricci watched silently as Abbie popped the top of her newly purchased bottle of Advil and started fighting with the protective cotton inside. She had always wondered what the cotton inside those bottles was for, besides pissing people off that was. She continued to watch the scene playing out in front of her trying not to smile as Abbie started ripping at the cotton sending little pieces of white fluff into the air. With anyone else Toni would have just reached over and grabbed the bottle taking the cotton out herself, she had a talent for that, but she wasn't with just anyone and she knew that Abbie would not appreciate it no matter how good the intent. She could almost picture the look of pure irritation that would cover the other woman's face.

Returning her attention to Abbie she noticed that the brunette had gotten out two pills and was now downing them with the restaurant's complimentary water.

"I guess this means we won't be asking for the wine selection," Toni commented once Abbie had taken her medicine. Abbie just looked at her for a moment before picking up her glass and taking another sip. Toni ignored her and reached over for the case file sitting in front of Abbie. She picked it up and was about to start looking through the contents when their waiter arrived. His name was Chris if you could trust the name tag. He was young, nineteen maybe and had a fashionably hip goatee. Under his apron thing he was dressed all in black and Toni was sure that he was majored in the arts.

"Can I get you something to drink?" he asked politely though his attention was scattered around the room. TV had reduced his attention span to that of lightening bolt Ricci was sure. She had a cousin like that who was twenty and couldn't concentrate on anything for more than ten seconds.

"I'll have a Coke," Ricci told Chris.

"And for you ma'am?" he directed at Abbie. She looked up at him with a slightly amused look on her face and Toni knew that not many people referred to her as ma'am.

"I'll have an Iced tea," Abbie told him. Chris scribbled on his note pad for a moment before looking up again.

"The day's special's are..." he didn't even manage to get out one of the specials before Abbie interrupted him.

"I'll have the fettuccini." Chris glared at her for a moment before scribbling down her order. Toni got the impression that he had worked very hard to memorize those specials and didn't enjoy being interrupted. She concluded that Abbie had hurt his feelings.

"I'll have the chicken penne," Toni told him when he focused his gaze on her. He scribbled some more then turned and left the table.

Once Chris left the table Abbie retrieved her file from Toni and opened it up. After skimming through the contents she returned her attention to Ricci who was eating what had to have been her fiftieth bread stick.

"What would you have done if we hadn't come out? There's nothing edible in my office," Abbie commented. Toni looked up at her, her eyes were gleaming and Abbie wondered what she was thinking.

"I would have managed," Ricci responded vaguely. "So," she said changing the subject. "What have we got?"

"On the surface, a hold up gone bad. The accused is a 54 year old woman. She and her husband own a grocery store near Jersey. Two nights ago after closing time two teenage boys came into the store. Around ten minutes later shots were fired, the boys were killed, and Mrs. Barrett called the police."


"She claims self-defense," Abbie responded leaning back so that Chris could place her drink in front of her. Ricci did the same and then as fast as he had appeared he disappeared.

"Right," Toni said reaching for her glass. "What's the catch?"

"Neither of the victims was armed. Not unless a can of Coke passes for a deadly weapon these days," Abbie responded derisively.

"Hmmm," Toni commented. "Have you spoken to her yet?"

"No, I still have to go see Briscoe and Curtis."

"Tag team?" Toni questioned.

"Why not?"


The station was buzzing as usual, uniformed and un-uniformed officers moving about doing their part to make the city a little safer. Standing by a desk near the water cooler were two women, a leggy brunette, and a red-head, both of whom were drawing the attention of the male officers, and if one looked closely enough some of the female officers as well.

"What have you got for me?" Abbie asked looking down at Briscoe. He and Curtis were seated while she and Ricci stood. More than once she wondered how the police were expected to fight crime when they couldn't even afford chairs.

"The investigating officers were O'Brien and Stewart with the 69th. They got the call around 10:30 p.m., arrived 10:45 p.m. The boys were already dead," Curtis responded.

"Any witness? Inside or outside the store?" Ricci asked dividing her attention between the two detectives.

"No one was in the store but them three. As for outside, Mrs. Barrett don't remember and those boys ain't in any position to tell us," Briscoe responded dryly.

"Is that it?" Carmichael asked looking between them.

"It was pretty cut and dry as far as our job goes," Curtis responded.

"We didn't exactly have to search far and wide for her," Briscoe added with a shrug.

"So O'Brien and Stewart with the 69th?" Ricci asked making sure she had the names right.

"Those are your guys," Briscoe responded taking a sip of coffee.

"Thanks," Abbie said before nodding to Ricci.

"Always a pleasure," Briscoe called after them with a smile. "We finally get some broads coming around here that look like that and I'm too old and you're too married to enjoy it," Briscoe continued turning to Curtis.

"It?" Curtis asked smiling.

"Them," Briscoe corrected with a look in the direction the ADA's had left in.

"Keep dreaming Lenny," Curtis said as he reached for one of the many files on his half of the desk.

"I will."

"Is this what I have to look forward to as I get older? Being horny and undersexed?" Curtis asked glancing up.

"That and aching joints. Aging's a bitch I'm telling you," Briscoe responded shaking his head.

As they exited the station Toni raised her hand in a useless attempt to block a gust of cold air blowing directly into her face. Moving out further onto the sidewalk she turned to look at Abbie.

"Your call," she said simply as she rubbed her hands together.

"I want to talk to O'Brien and Stewart first," Abbie responded looking over at Ricci. The other woman looked miserable, and she was rubbing her hands together so fast Abbie was sure they'd fall off.

"Walk or taxi?" Toni asked.

"Definitely taxi," Abbie responded pulling a pair of gloves out of her pocket. "Here," she said shoving them in Toni's direction. Toni looked up at her then down at the gloves then back at her before reaching out for the gloves and gratefully pulling them on.

"Thanks mom," Toni said with an affectionate smile. Abbie simply smirked at her before taking a few steps to the curb to hail a cab.


"So what are you two? Like the D.A's or something?" O'Brien asked as he walked briskly through the precinct. He was a burly man which was nice, he was clearing a path for Carmichael and Ricci.

"We're not 'like' the D.A's, we are the D.A's," Abbie responded sidestepping to avoid an irate young woman who was showering some poor officer with some colorful choice phrases.

"Whatever," O'Brien responded dismissily. "Look, I'm real busy, what is it exactly that you ladies want?"

"We'd like to speak with you and officer Stewart about the Barrett shooting," Ricci interjected noticing the look Carmichael was shooting at the back of O'Brien's head.

"Like I said, I'm real busy, besides Stewie's not here right now. Why don't you just read the report, huh? That's why we write 'em. It ain't to help our grammar you know," O'Brien responded as he slapped a passing officer on the back.

"Obviously," Abbie muttered. "We won't take up much of your time, but we need to speak to you."

"I just told you lady, Stewie ain't here," O'Brien responded gruffly.

"Then we'll just speak to you. If we need to get in touch with officer Stewart later on we will," Ricci answered. She decided she had better intervene since Carmichael was way past hating this guy.

O'Brien took off his hat and ran his left hand through his hair, before putting the cap back on and staring at the clock for a long minute.

"Fine. Over here," he responded then he began to muscle his way across the station again.

"Shit!" Abbie yelled shielding her eyes.

"Bet you wish you had your gloves now!" Toni called back smiling though there was no way Abbie could see her through all the snow even though they were less than a meter apart.

"Is that an offer?" Abbie asked blinking as a chunk of snow flew in her eye.

"I never pictured you as an Indian giver," Toni responded following Abbie. Thank god Abbie was wearing black or else Toni would have lost her in the snow. It was a mess out there, an absolute mess.

"Come on," Abbie said reaching behind her and feeling around until she grabbed Toni's arm. Once she had a firm grasp she yanked Toni into a doorway.

"Where are we?" Toni asked raking a hand through her hair. So far she just knew that they were indoors, and to her that was okay.

"My apartment," Abbie responded brushing off her jacket. Toni looked around at what was obviously a lobby.

"It's big," she commented tucking Abbie's gloves into her pockets for safe keeping.

"It's upstairs," Abbie responded with a smile.


Carmichael walked into her apartment turning on some lights then concentrating on getting out of her snow soaked gear. Ricci however moved slower looking around at what was visible of the apartment. It was a neat apartment in appearance and decoration. It had everything in it that an apartment should have. From where she was standing Toni could see into the kitchen. There were pots and pans hanging above an island, and a bowl of fruit sitting on the counter. In the living room was a TV and VCR, a stereo system, a couch, two recliners, and a glass coffee table. The apartment had everything that a home should have, but to Toni it didn't feel lived in. She knew instinctively that Abbie didn't spend much time there, in fact she was certain that the couch in Abbie's office got slept on as much as her bed did. She smiled, just like the couch in her office.

"You can come in you know," Abbie called to her. Toni turned her head to the side and saw that she was now in the kitchen puttering around. What she was puttering for Ricci didn't know.

"What, no written invitation?" Toni responded kicking off her shoes.

"'Fraid not," Abbie answered. "Do you, ah want coffee? Something to eat?" she continued shifting her glance between Toni and fridge. Not that here was much to offer in there.

"Coffee would be great," Toni responded making her way into the kitchen. "You cook?" she continued questioningly as she leaned against the island. Abbie looked at her with a wounded expression before answering.

"Not well," she admitted with a smile. "However coffee I can do."

"Luckily for both of us I can cook," Ricci said as she watched Abbie open a cupboard.

"From scratch?" Abbie asked without turning around.

"Of course," Toni responded.

"What can you do with mayonnaise, crackers, and yogurt?" Abbie asked as she put the filter in the coffee maker.

"I can take that take-out menu off of your freezer and call in for Chinese," Ricci responded moving towards the freezer.

"You are good," Abbie said as she turned around.

Ricci dropped her chop sticks into the tiny painted box full of Loew mein and looked over at Abbie.

"...so basically this is what we have so far," Abbie was saying. "Closing time for the store is 10:00 p.m. At ten Mrs. Barrett took all the money out of the register, then went outside and turned on her car. She went back into the store turned off the lights in the back room and when she came back out two boys were knocking at the door. Despite the fact that they were closed she let them in, then approximately ten minutes later six shoots were fired and both boys were killed. Mrs. Barrett calls the police, they arrive fifteen minutes later. Mrs. Barrett's car is still running but there are no other vehicles in the parking lot." Abbie paused momentarily to breathe and Toni spoke.

"And she shot them because she believed the first boy was holding a knife."

"That's her story anyway," Abbie agreed.

"So I take it we're paying Mrs. Barrett a visit tomorrow," Toni stated leaning back. Abbie simply nodded and picked up her chop-sticks.

Toni was bent over poking in one of Abbie's cupboards as the brunette attorney came out of her bedroom holding a bundle of clothes. Shifting the clothes under her arms Abbie walked into the kitchen then placed her bundle on the island before leaning over and looking at Ricci.

"Abbie!" Toni called out.

"Yes," the Texan drawled from behind her. Toni jumped up at the sound of her voice banging her head on the edge of the counter.

"Shit, don't do that," Toni muttered rubbing the back of her head.

"Sorry," Abbie said in a tone that conveyed she wasn't sorry at all. "I'll put on a bell or something, will that make you feel better?"

"Actually, yes," Toni responded leaning back down. Reaching back inside the cabinet she pulled out a dusty bottle of vodka.

"Where'd you find that?" Abbie asked curiously. She didn't remember buying that. But then again it had been a while since she had cleaned out her cupboards. And by a while she meant never.

"Behind a box of mini-wheat's," Toni responded standing up. "Breakfast of champions, huh?" she continued with a grin before blowing off the bottle.

"Before you get to drunk to stand up why don't you put these on?" Abbie suggested pushing the clothes towards Toni.

"I take it it's still snowing out," Toni said reaching for the clothes.

"Cat's and dogs. Or is that raining? Either way it's pretty bad, the anchors for the weather network are going wild," Abbie responded.

"Alright, I'll be back. Don't start the party without me," Toni called over her shoulder as she headed into Abbie's bedroom to change.

Toni tossed the clothes on the bed then carried out a visual inspection of the bedroom. It was considerably more cozy than the rest of the apartment and she knew that this is where Abbie spent most of her time when she was home. The room was painted burgundy. She loved burgundy. After looking around the room for a few more seconds she walked over to the bed and looked at the clothes Abbie had chosen for her for the first time.

"I'm gonna swim in these," she muttered looking at the track suit. It was from the University of Texas track team, no doubt left over from Abbie's track star days. She smirked, usually she had to be 'going steady' with someone before she got to wear their hero clothes. Toni was sure the outfit looked wonderful on Abbie's five foot nine frame, but it would be considerably less flattering on her.

Toni glanced at the window before taking off her clothes. Checking the window before changing had always been a habit of hers since she was a kid. Once she was out of her suit she picked up the maroon track pants and just looked at them for a moment. She smirked to herself as she pulled them on, and thought, after three years I'm in Abbie Carmichael's pants, then she shook her head as if that would erase the thought and pulled on the sweat shirt. Picking up her discarded clothing she took Abbie's lead and hung them over a chair. Before heading out of the room she looked into the mirror. She was right, they were big on her.

Abbie looked up from the papers she was reviewing when she heard the bedroom door close. She focused her gaze on the hallway and a few seconds later Toni emerged. Abbie couldn't help the smile that worked its way across her face at the sight of the other woman. She hadn't intentionally picked anything out that would make Toni look goofy, it was just that pretty much anything she owned would have been big so she went for the outfit that would have the best effect. Still, despite the fact that Toni looked ridiculous she managed to pull off cute. She looked cute in her clothes.

"Don't you even start," Toni said pointing at Abbie as she took a seat beside her on the couch.

"Somebody's sensitive," Abbie commented still smiling.

"Why did you have to be so damn tall?" Ricci asked although she too was smiling. She knew she looked ridiculous.

"Good genes and lot's of milk," Abbie responded flexing. She was wearing a pair of track pants and a T-shirt.

"Oh Ms. Carmichael you're so strong!" Toni gushed in a sarcastically fawning tone.

"Funny," Abbie replied as she closed the folder she had been looking in.

"I thought so," Toni agreed. "Have we finished the business portion of the night?"

"Yes, and at the hideously early hour of 9:00 p.m.," Abbie responded.

"We'll put in extra time tomorrow," Toni said with mock seriousness. "Now...it's time to find out who the real woman is," she continued picking up the bottle of vodka.

"Bring it on."

Part Two

"...I mean I absolutely loved those guys. It's crazy when I think about it now because I would have to prosecute them for half the things I heard, but back then...back then it was all good," Toni was saying. The bottle of vodka was almost empty. Ricci was lying on the couch and Carmichael was on the floor. She had fallen off the couch half an hour before and had apparently decided to stay where she was. "One night this huge fight broke out, and I got in the middle of it trying to play peace maker. The next day a pair of brass balls were delivered to me. My mom hated it, but it was wild." When she heard no response from Abbie she shifted so that she could see the floor. Abbie was lying on her back staring up at the ceiling with a glazed expression on her face.

"S'no kair," Abbie muttered her expression not changing.

"Snow care? What's snow care?" Toni asked looking at her with a scowl.

"No, snopid...s'no fa-ir," Abbie repeated, slower this time, putting emphasize on the word 'fair'.

"The word is stupid, and I'm not stupid you're stupid," Toni said in a whinny voice as she imagined hitting Abbie on the head. "Besides, snow fair still doesn't make any sense."

"I said, n-o f-a-i-r." Toni could tell that it was taking all of Abbie's concentration to pronounce every word.

"What's no fair?" Toni asked closing each of her eyes independently and watching as Abbie got closer, then got farther away, then got closer again, then went far away again...

"This," Abbie said waving her hands. She hit her hand on the coffee table and brought it into her chest cradling it like a wounded animal before she started to speak again. "You played me."


"You...you grew up drinking with Russians!" Abbie exclaimed.

"True," Toni acknowledged with a smile. "You're feeling pretty drunk, huh?" Truth was she was buzzed too.

"Don't think so snopid," Abbie began, then she realized she mispronounced the word 'stupid' once again. Realizing this she amended her statement. "Slightly buzzzzed perhaps," she said raising into a sitting position and then standing up. "You know what Toni?"


"You ain't my friend no more," Abbie said nodding her head. "Ya got me all drunk, and..."

"I thought you said you were buzzed?"

"And you're a smart-ass, and...and when I feel....I mean fell off the couch ya just left me. Ya just left me!" Abbie continued picking up a pillow.

Once the pillow was in her hand Abbie slowly moved towards the end of the couch where Ricci's head was then she swiftly(at least for a drunk person) lifted the pillow and whacked Toni over the head with it. She raised the pillow again to hit her but Toni realized what was going on and blocked the intended blow. Toni then managed to get to her feet and picked up the pillow her head had been resting on and swung it at Abbie.

Within moments a full fledged pillow fight was being waged.

With a series of intended head blows Toni managed to back Abbie into the hallway which lead to her bedroom and bathroom. Unintentionally Abbie stumbled into her bedroom where she backed up until her legs bumped the end of the bed. Momentarily distracted she didn't see Toni raise the pillow again and she most definitely didn't see it before it connected with the side of her head knocking her off balance. Reaching out as she began to fall she grabbed the front of the sweater Ricci was wearing and they went down together.

"Oh god Abbie...I didn't mean for...are you okay?" Toni asked worriedly as she rose onto her elbows to take some of her weight off of Abbie. For her part Abbie didn't respond, she simply lay there staring at Ricci's face, which was directly above her own. She couldn't help it. She was captured. She had always thought that Toni Ricci was a beautiful woman but somehow that didn't seem to be an adequate description at the moment.

"You're beautiful...a Madonna," Abbie muttered softly not even aware that her thoughts had been turned into words and transmitted for the world to hear.

Toni blinked in rapid succession after Abbie had spoken. Her brain was having trouble processing the fact that Abbie had just called her a Madonna. Her thoughts rushed around in her head, zig zagging in-between and around each other.

Then their lips were on each others, pressed together gently. And then they were kissing each other, tongues exploring, and caressing, bodies pressed tightly against each other as they sought to make the most contact with each other that they could. They were kissing passionately, desperately.

Then it was over, and Toni was standing and backing away from the bed, backing out the door, backing up to the couch where she finally stopped. Her pillow was gone, she realized, it was in Abbie's room forgotten. She wasn't going to go back for it so she stood up and pulled out the bed, then she lay on it as it was. She could still feel her lips tingling as she stared at the ceiling. She wondered how the kiss had started. She wondered if she had started it, or if it had been Abbie. She wondered if it mattered who started it. All she really knew was that her heart was racing, and that she had kissed Abbie Carmichael.

It was five thirty in the morning and Abbie was awake and heading for the kitchen. She had been awoken by a dream that she now couldn't remember. She didn't have to be up for another hour, but she knew that she wasn't going to be able to go back to sleep. Reaching the end of the hallway she came to a stop. Toni was lying on the pull-out curled up asleep. Abbie flicked herself in the head, and wondered why she hadn't gotten Toni the blankets and pillows she had gotten out for her. Then she remembered. She remembered the bottle of vodka, the pillow fight, and she remembered the kiss.

She walked back into her room and grabbed the blanket she had intended to be Ricci's all along then she walked back into the living room. She draped the blanket over Toni careful not awaken her, then once the other woman was covered she headed into the kitchen. She got herself a glass of water, and a peach, then exited the kitchen. Once back in the living room she saw that Toni had uncurled from the fetal position she had been in and was now resting comfortably. Abbie watched her for a long moment then walked back into her room and closed the door behind her.

It was six thirty when Abbie emerged from her room for the second time. The water was gone, the peach eaten, and she now knew more about the solo-flex machine than she had ever cared to know. Like before she headed into the living room then moved to the side of the bed. Taking a deep breath she reached out and touched her hand to Toni's shoulder shaking her gently. A few second later Toni's eyes opened and blue captured brown.

"It's morning," Abbie said pulling her hand back self-consciously. Toni nodded and sat up.

"A new day," she added.

Then they headed into the kitchen together.

Abbie was staring and she knew it. When you're staring at someone you almost always know it. You can feel it in your guts just like they can feel that they're being stared at. She could feel herself staring at Toni, but there was nothing she could do about it. It was like she wasn't in control of her own will. All she could do was stare. In another place and time this would have irritated her immensely, but right then, right there she simply continued to stare. Absently she noticed that she was concentrating on Toni's lips. They had been on hers the night before and she remembered how they felt and tasted. She remembered how soft they were, and gentle.

Toni could feel Abbie's eyes on her watching, staring. She could feel it in her bones she didn't need to look up. Those dark orbs were focused on her with a startling intensity. Instinctively she knew it was about last night, about the kiss they had shared, she was sure of that. What she worried about what Abbie was thinking about that kiss. About what she was feeling. They had known each other for years, working the occasional case together like they were doing now. They made a good team and it showed in their work. Ricci had come to think of Abbie as a friend, one she deeply respected both personally and professionally. There was a bond between them, one she had felt from the first day they met and she hated to think that it may have been damaged in some resurgence on teenage hormones. But if Toni were to be honest with herself she knew that what had happened was more than that. She knew that she was attracted to Abbie. It was an attraction born from the time they had spent together, born from the sheer beauty of the other woman, born from her intelligence, and stubbornness, and everything that made Abbie, Abbie. It was more than a surge of hormones, more than a flash of heat that caused that kiss, and Ricci knew that.

"Do you want first dibs on the shower?" Abbie asked breaking the silence.

"Are you sure? It's your house," Toni responded looking at her.

"You're my guest, what's mine is yours," Abbie said simply.

"Then I guess I'll take a shower."


As they passed through the metal doors that lead into the institution Carmichael held her breath for a moment before finally letting it out once they were inside the building. She had passed through those very doors hundreds if not thousands of times but she still had the same reaction she'd had that first day. There was something inherently unsettling about the place. It was cold, and sterile, and uncaring, and she hated it. It didn't help any that her nerves were already on end. Her morning had been tense. The ride to Ricci's apartment had been tense. The wait in the cab for Ricci had been tense, and the ride to the Institute had been tense. Carmichael knew that if she was Mrs. Barrett she would be very sorry to be seeing them that particular morning.

They passed silently through the building until the guard stopped at a door, then walked away.

"Good lawyer/bad lawyer?" Ricci asked as she glanced inside the room.

"Yeah," Carmichael agreed. "I'll be the bad lawyer."

"Really?" Ricci asked feigning surprise.

"After you," Carmichael said ignoring the comment.

Mary Barrett was sitting at one end of the table with her lawyer. She was dressed in grays, and looked miserable which was usually the case when one was on that side. Carmichael and Ricci silently moved to the other end of the table and sat down.

"Good morning Mrs. Barrett," Ricci greeted with a smile.

"Good morning," Mrs. Barrett responded. Her voice was shaky. She looked and sounded nervous which was also common. Common and wanted.

"We're just going to ask you some simple questions. We need you to be completely honest," Ricci said once Mrs. Barrett's attention was focused on her. Before continuing she glanced to her side to look at Abbie who was engaged in some sort of staring contest with the public defender. It was either that or they were minutes away from mating. Either way it was alright with Ricci, if Mrs. Barrett's lawyer was distracted it was better for them. "In your words can you tell me what happened that night."

"It started out just like any other night. At ten I started to close up the store. I took the money out of the register and put it away, then I went out front to the parking lot and started up my car. I like it to be warm. Then I went back inside and turned off the lights in the backroom." Ricci nodded along as she spoke even though Mrs. Barrett hadn't said anything that wasn't it the report yet. "When I came out of the backroom I heard someone knocking at the door. I couldn't see who it was because of the stacks so I had to go look. When I got there I saw that it was those two boys. We had already had trouble with them and I didn't really want to let them in but I figured it would be better to just let them in and get them out and maybe avoid any trouble."

"Trouble?" Ricci asked, thinking that trouble definitely hadn't been avoided.

"Yeah, like a brick through my window," Mrs. Barrett responded. Her voice had hardened a little and while that didn't necessarily mean anything Ricci took note of it.

"Well I went back behind the counter after I let them in and they went off into the shelves. A minute or two later they started tossing thing around so I told 'em to stop it. But they didn't listen to me, they just kept tossing stuff around. So I tell them to stop it again. Then the long haired one, he turns around and looks at me pretending that he didn't hear. So I says it one more time. After that he starts to walk towards me and he tells me, 'What are you scared of bitch? You'd better shut up or I'll give you something to be afraid of'." She looked directly at Ricci as she said this trying to say it like the boy supposedly did. "Well I'm getting scared by now cause we'd already had problems with him and I knew that he meant what he said, so my hand went to the gun that we kept under the counter. We only had it there to scare people, we didn't never plan to use it. Anyway his friend came up behind him and they was just staring at me. Then the one that threatened me he started to walk even closer and that's when I saw it."

"Saw what?" Carmichael asked speaking for the first time since entering the room.

"The knife," Mrs. Barrett said in a hushed tone. It was like she was talking about buried treasure or something.

"You are aware that the police located no knife on or around either of the victims bodies, aren't you?" Abbie asked looking at her.

"Well yeah, Mr. White," she was referring to her lawyer, "he told me that, but I saw something in his hand. The light was reflecting off of it like a knife and he was coming at me. So I raised the gun to try and scare him you know. Show him that I could hurt him, but when he saw it he just smiled then he pounced towards the counter and the gun went off. I don't even remember doing it. I just remember him coming at me then..." she trailed off.

"And what about the other boy Mrs. Barrett? Was he just guilty by association?" Carmichael asked leaning forward. "Shoot one, get the other one free?"

"Miss Carmichael..." Mr. While started to say in an indignant tone which left no doubt where he was heading. He was going to tell them that this was an interview not the Spanish inquisition, and that if they couldn't keep it civil then that would be the end of the interview etc.

"It's a perfectly valid question. Two boys are dead and I'm only hearing an excuse for one. She pumped five bullets into a boy whose only crime as far as I can tell is throwing a bag of Doritos around," Abbie said contemptuously cutting him off.

"I didn't mean to shoot them, I didn't know," Mrs. Barrett said. "He rushed me and the gun just went off."

"It went off into Jeff Blaine five times," Abbie said incredulously. "That hardly sounds like an accident," she continued. Mrs. Barrett's lawyer was getting ready to protest again so Ricci decided it was time for the good lawyer to make another appearance.

"Mrs. Barrett," Ricci started. When the older woman turned to face her she seemed glad to be getting away from Carmichael which is what they wanted. "You said that you'd had problems with Dylan Anderson and Jeff Blaine before. What kinds of problems?"

"They vandalized my store and they assaulted my husband. Beat him to the floor, then beat him some more," Mrs. Barrett responded passionately.

"And after that savage attack you allowed them to come into your store after closing?" Carmichael asked skeptically.

"Miss Carmichael...my client already explained why she allowed the two men to enter the store," Mr. White said giving her the evil eye. Abbie remained unfazed.

"Yes, and her answer makes even less sense now than it did then," she responded harshly. Ricci could tell that it was starting to piss Abbie off how White kept referring to her as 'miss' Carmichael. "But as long as we're talking about things your client has said perhaps she'd care to explain why a gun that was never intended to be used was sitting under the counter cocked and loaded?"

"That's the way I bought it," Mrs. Barrett replied defensively. "It went straight under the counter the same day I got it."

"Is the gun registered Mrs. Barrett?" Abbie asked wearily. Mrs. Barrett looked at her lawyer as if he could change the facts before she answered.

"Not to me. I got it from a friend," she said finally as she looked down at her hands.

"The police say that you're the one who placed the call," Ricci started. "Was that the only call you made?"

"No, first I called David. My husband. Then I called the police," Mrs. Barrett answered playing with her fingers. She knew that this was another bad answer.

"You just committed a double homicide and the first thing you did was call your husband?" Carmichael asked in a tone usually reserved for people who went on talk shows claiming they'd had alien babies.

"I was scared, I didn't know what I was doing. I just dialed," Mrs. Barrett responded.

"Are you sure you weren't just trying to get your stories straight?" Carmichael asked.

"That's enough," Mr. White said standing up. "This inquisition has gone on for far to long, and is now over." With that he stood up and called the guard. Moments later Mrs. Barrett was ushered out the door, and Mr. White gave Abbie one last withering look before slinking away as well.

Then Ricci and Carmichael were left alone in the room.

"Think you went a little easy on her?" Ricci asked sarcastically. She had forgotten what a barracuda Abbie could be when she wanted to be. She was suddenly very glad that they were on the same side.

"It's not my job to baby-sit her feelings," Abbie responded unconcerned. Toni watched her for a second before speaking.

"Well, like I said this is your show. What's next?" Ricci asked.

"I want to go talk to the parents, why don't you check in on Mr. Barrett?" Abbie suggested picking up her brief case.

"Sounds good to me," Ricci responded standing up.


Carmichael was seated in the Anderson's living room in a wicker chair off to the side. Mrs. Anderson was in the kitchen fixing her a cup a of tea even though she assured her that it wasn't necessary, and she and Mr. Anderson were engaged in an inane conversation about the weather. Apparently it wasn't a normal cold out, but a bitter cold. Finally Mrs. Anderson came into the room, and Abbie was able to begin.

"I'm sorry for your loss," Abbie began addressing them both. They just nodded and looked back at her. There was very little that one could say in a situation like that. The truth was that Abbie was a stranger, and didn't have any kids, and no matter how many and how sincere her condolences she couldn't really understand what they were going through, and there was no way they could communicate it to her.

"Do you have any idea what Dylan and Jeff were doing at Barrett's grocery store that night?" Abbie asked.

"He said that he was going to the arcade with Jeff and Stark, and that after that they were going to play video games at Stark's," Mrs. Anderson answered. "They weren't looking to make any trouble."

"Who's Stark?" Abbie asked not recognizing the name from any reports.

"Brent Stark," Mr. Anderson said. "He's the one with the car."

"There was no mention of a car," Abbie said more to herself than to either of the Anderson's but she found herself being given an answer.

"That's the only way they would have been able to get out there. It's in the middle of nowhere, and those boys were allergic to walking," Mrs. Anderson said.

"Was it at all possible that any of the boys were armed?" Abbie asked a moment later. Mr. Anderson looked up at this question and Carmichael could feel the tirade coming. The moment of silence after she asked the question was just the calm before the storm.

"My boy was not a thug, and neither were his friends. Dylan was not armed with anything but his bank card when he walked out the door. I don't know what that woman has been saying but she had no reason to kill my boy," Mr. Anderson said. Abbie sat for a moment letting him calm down before asking her next question. She didn't enjoy asking grieving parents the question she had to ask them, but it was necessary if justice was to be served. She was a messenger of sorts and she was tired of being shot to hell.

"Mrs. Barrett said that she and her husband had had problems with Dylan and Jeff before. Do...." she was cut off by Mrs. Anderson.

"One night a brick got tossed through their store window after the boys had been in the store, and she blamed them for it. They didn't do it, and she couldn't prove that they did it, but that didn't matter she still blamed them," Mrs. Anderson said shaking her head.

"She said that they assaulted her husband," Carmichael said looking between them.

"Assaulted?" Mr. Anderson asked incredulously. "Mr. Barrett accused them of shoplifting one night. He grabbed Jeff by the arm telling him to stay in the store and Jeff removed his hand. Mr. Barrett then tried to move in on him again and Dylan got in between them pushing him back. If anyone was assaulted it was Jeff, not that man," Mr. Anderson continued practically spitting out the words.

"Well," Carmichael said standing up. "Thank you for your time, and once again I'm sorry for your loss." The Anderson's nodded and walked her to the door. Then before exiting Abbie turned back to them. "Oh, the friend you mentioned...Brent Stark. Do you have his address?"

"Yes," Mrs. Anderson replied. "Would you like it?"

"Thanks, that'd be great," Abbie said with a smile.


"Would you like some coffee? Tea?" Mr. Barrett asked as he led Ricci into the living room.

"No thank you," Ricci answered.

"Please, sit down where ever you'd like," he responded waving around the room.

"Thank you," she said picking a chair next to the couch.

"Have you seen Mary?" He asked once he too was seated. "They haven't let me see her since she was transferred," he continued.

"I saw her this morning," Ricci answered.

"How was she?"

"She seemed fine considering the circumstances under which we met," Ricci told him. Mr. Barrett nodded, his thoughts no doubt drifting to his wife. "I need to ask you some questions about the night of the shooting," Ricci told him a moment later.

"I've already given a statement to the police," Mr. Barrett responded.

"I know, but I'd still like to ask some questions," Ricci told him. He looked at her suspiciously for a moment.

"Where'd you say you were from again?" he asked.

"The district attorney's office," Ricci answered. With that his attitude got noticeably colder. She had just become the enemy, the person who was going to try to take his wife's freedom away.

"I'm not going to help you railroad my wife," he said.

"I'm not interested in railroading your wife, I'm interested in the truth," Ricci told him. "If you want to help your wife you'll answer my questions to the best of your ability." Mr. Barrett scowled at her for a moment. She could tell that he was reviewing what she had said in his mind, trying to find fault with it or a way to disprove what she was saying, but he would find none.

"What is it that you want to know?" he asked finally.

"What time did you receive the call from your wife?" Ricci asked straightening up in her chair.

"Just after ten thirty," he responded. "What does that matter?"

"I'm just trying to establish a time line," Ricci responded. "Your wife said that you had had some problems with Dylan Anderson and Jeff Blaine before."

"They were low rent thugs, like the three amigos on crack. They vandalized our store, and they attacked me. Not to mention just being punks and pains in the ass in general, like all the other teenagers these days. The police never did a damn thing about it. Never did a damn thing about anything they did to us, or anyone else. I guess there was a special on at Dunk' n 'donuts the day they beat me up," Mr. Barrett responded darkly.

"There were three of them?" Ricci asked.

"Yeah, the third guy always stayed in the car. He must have been the anti-social one. His name is Stark. They were always saying shit like 'hurry up old man or Stark's going run your door down'. Something with a B...Bob...no Brent. Brent Stark," Mr. Barrett responded distastefully. Ricci made a mental note of the name, she would check up on Mr. Stark later.

"Where did you buy the gun from?" Ricci asked once Mr. Barrett had calmed down a bit. She was surprised he wasn't the one who had ended up shooting someone. He was a very angry man, and it wasn't just directed at those boys.

"She got it from some guy Gloria recommended," he responded. "Gotta love that, 'recommended' like he deals in specialty coffee or something."


"Yeah, she has a salon in the city. Whenever she comes into the store and Mary's in there they always talk forever. Blah, blah, blah, guess who got new shoes, stuff like that. Mary must have said something about those punks and Gloria suggested we get a gun," Mr. Barrett responded reaching for a smoke.

"When was this?" Ricci asked.

"In September last year. The...the 20th. I remember because I had a golf tournament that day and had to leave at the fifteenth hole 'cause Mary needed a ride home," he responded as he lit his cigarette.

"Thank you Mr. Barrett," Ricci said standing up.

"You'll understand if I say I hope I haven't been help to you," he responded getting up as well to walk her to the door.

Ricci wished that she was the one who had thought of making a gourmet coffee shop and placing ten of them on every block in every city in the free world then charging four bucks for a cup of something that most people couldn't even pronounce. Because if she had thought of it she'd be a rich woman instead of a poor sucker who had just paid four bucks for a Cappuccino. These were Toni's thoughts as she walked away from the cash register and headed for the door. As she was nearing the exit her cell phone started to ring. Moving over to a nearby table she sat down and dug out her phone.

"Ricci," she said into the receiver.

"Hey," came the voice on the other end. Toni knew who it was immediately. Abbie had a very distinctive voice, a very sexy voice. A voice she found she had been missing over the past couple of hours.

"I was just about to call you," was what Toni said relaxing into her chair.

"What did you get?" Abbie asked. Toni could hear some background noise and knew that Abbie was on the street somewhere.

"There was possibly a third boy. Mr. Barrett said that they traveled in a pack of three. The third boy is apparently..."

"Brent Starks," Abbie finished for her. "The parents mentioned him too. They said that he was with them that night."

"Well I tracked down his address," Toni continued taking a sip of her coffee.

"Prick," Abbie muttered sidestepping out of the way of some guy on a cell phone.

"What was that?" Toni asked.

"Nothing," Abbie said coming to a stop and waiting for the light to change.

"Well I'm on my way over to the Stark's place now," Toni said.

"Alright, when you're finished come by the office and we'll go over everything," Abbie said. "Shit!" Abbie yelled. In the background Toni heard a car horn go off.

"Are you okay?" Toni asked worriedly.

"Fucking cabbies, you'd think that they'd ask them what a red light means before giving them a license. Hint, it doesn't mean speed up moron! Damn near ran me over and I'm a pretty big target," Abbie said irritably. Toni could picture the look of thinly veiled disgust on her face and for some reason it made her smile. Abbie was cute when she was angry.

"Are you sure you're okay? Toni asked.

"I'm perfect except for the two years just shaved off my life expectancy," Abbie responded dryly.

"Alright, then I'll see you later," Toni said reluctantly. Every time that her mind hadn't been actively engaged by work she had found her thoughts drifting to Abbie. There was like a Carmichael collage in her mind. She would see Abbie smiling, or Abbie smirking, or Abbie contemplative. She figured that she was a Backstreet Boys C.D away from writing both their names on a piece of paper and encircling it with a heart.

"Okay," Abbie said. "Try not to get run over or anything," she added wincing as the words left her mouth. She shook her head and thought, that's just brilliant Carmichael, 'try not to get run over or anything', very suave. That'll make her come running into your arms.

"Bye," Toni said oblivious to Abbie's mental tirade.


Abbie was already at the office when Toni arrived. Neither of them had eaten so they ordered a pizza when she arrived then went over what they had learned for their various interviewees after leaving Riker's. They had finished a few minutes ago and the room was now blanketed in silence, each woman lost in her own thoughts. Abbie had intended to say something, it had to do with the case but she had forgotten what it was and still hadn't remembered. Now that it wasn't absolutely necessary for her to focus her mind kept drifting and her eyes kept wandering. They were back in her office now and Toni was sitting on the couch looking out the window.

"You're staring again," Toni said softly breaking the silence as she continued to stare at the nights sky thoughtfully.

"Sorry," Abbie said. This time she hadn't even realized she was doing it.

"We should talk," Toni said still looking out the window. Neither of them was prone to denial, so she was actually surprised they had managed to go this long without it being mentioned.

"About what?" Abbie asked more as way to buy time than anything else. She had thought about what had happened between them a lot that morning before they had headed over to Riker's but still wasn't any clearer on how it happened or how she feeling about it happening, and once they started working she had been able to put it out of her mind until a few minutes ago.

"You know what about," Toni said finally turning away from the window and shifting so that she was facing Abbie.

Abbie looked away from Toni's gaze and started to trace the contours of her desk with the tip of her finger. She was no good at emotional chats. They made her uncomfortable, and though she was usually quite articulate emotional chats turned her into a tongue tied idiot. Usually she would just avoid conversations like these, or stare at the other person until they dropped it, but she knew that she had to talk about it. She owed that to herself and to Toni.

"I..." Abbie started to say, then she stopped. "I don't know what to say," she continued a moment later looking at Toni. Toni didn't reply right away so they continued to sit there in silence.

"Despite the fact that it was my suggestion, I'm finding that I don't know what to say either," Toni finally said with a shrug.

"Let's not talk about it then," Abbie said quickly sensing a way out. "I was thinking that it would probably be a good idea if we interviewed..."

"Stop!" Toni said. "We will talk about it. It's just going to be uncomfortable."

"Right," Abbie said looking down again.

"Let's just be adults about this," Toni said. She was starting to feel like she was a teenager again, and she didn't like feeling like a teenager when she was a teenager, and definitely didn't want to feel like one now. Things like this were supposed to get easier as you got older, and wiser and more experienced.

"Adults," Abbie repeated nodding.

"Okay then...we'll talk about it... like adults would. We'll be mature and honest," Toni said still not having any idea how to begin the actual conversation.

"Maybe we should pinky swear that we'll remain the very bestest of friends no matter what happens," Abbie said smiling. Toni smiled back and then they settled into silence again.

"Okay," Toni began in a half sigh a moment later. It was the kind of 'okay' one gives themselves when they're about to make a speech in front of the class, or enter enemy lines. It was an 'okay' meant to psyche the speaker up for some arduous task. "I'm just going to say it. I didn't plan on it happening, I didn't mean for it to happen but...I'm not sorry it happened."

"Why'd you run away then?" Abbie asked. She remembered pulling Toni down on top of her, she remembered staring at her, she remembered kissing her, then she remembered Toni fleeing the room. "If you're not sorry," she added when Toni just stared at her.

"I wasn't really running per say, I...I was back peddling. It was a backwards walk was what it was," Toni responded finally. She wasn't even really aware of walking out of the room. It had been...instinct.

"But why?" Abbie asked. She didn't even know why it so important that she knew. She probably would have done the same thing if she hadn't have been on the bottom. Actually, she probably would have left the apartment, so it was probably a good thing that she was on the bottom. At least Toni only changed rooms.

"I was in a some kind of state of shock. It's like when you're a kid and you got caught stealing cookies from the cookie jar. There's a moment where you're like 'uh oh', then you run. Or in my case back peddle," Toni responded.

"You actually had a cookie jar when you were a kid?" Abbie asked surprised. She'd never actually seen a cookie jar in anyone's house except for on TV.

"Focus Abbie," Toni said looking at her.

"Sorry, it's just that...sorry," Abbie said looking away for a second.

"Your turn," Toni said drawing Abbie's attention back to her.

"I'm...I'm not even really sure what happened. I remember being hit in the head, and falling and grabbing onto you. Then I remember looking at you... and then, then it was like time slowed down and words and paintings started floating around in my head, and then...then we were kissing," Abbie related softly, thoughtfully, as if she was reliving it all.


"Yeah, like paintings from the Renaissance period. Flowers, and cherubs and..." she trailed off for a second, "well you know, perfection on a canvas." She was staring at her desk again and Toni was staring at her. Toni wondered what Abbie would have done if she didn't have her desk to play with. She figured that she probably would have been picking at her clothes.

"You're nervous," Toni said. Once they had actually gotten the talk going she had started to relax, but it was obvious that Abbie hadn't.

"I'm not good at emotional conversations," Abbie said voicing her earlier thoughts.

"What's making you nervous? Besides the emotions, and the conversing that is?" Toni asked. Abbie looked up at her meeting her eyes and holding them for a moment before speaking.

"That I liked it," she said simply leaning forward.

"Oh," was all Toni said trying to figure out exactly how to take that. Was she freaked out because they were both women and liked it? Was she freaked out because they were friends and she liked it? Was she freaked out because they were working together and she liked it? Was she even freaked out? Or was she merely stating a fact?

"I mean, I'm nervous because I keep thinking about it. I'm nervous because now my hands sweat every time you're within a yard of me. I'm nervous because....because I keep waiting for it to happen again," Abbie continued never breaking their gaze. She had gained confidence as she went on and was now looking Toni straight in the eyes as if to say 'now the balls in your court'.

They sat there for a moment longer looking at each other, then Toni lowered her eyes before bringing them up to meet Abbie's again. Then she was on her feet moving towards the desk, moving around the desk, and finally moving to stand in front of Abbie.

"Push your chair out," Toni said softly as she looked down at Abbie. Abbie looked up at her and Toni could see the questions she had written all over her face as plain as day. Abbie Carmichael didn't take orders, didn't do things without question, she wasn't one to be pushed or intimidated. But Abbie pushed out her chair without voicing any of the questions in her head, then she sat there waiting to see what would happen next.

Toni took another step forward then hesitated momentarily before she lowered herself onto Abbie's lap so that she was straddling her legs. Toni then tilted her head to the side and regarded Abbie.

"Are you nervous?" Toni asked watching the other woman's reaction carefully.

"No," Abbie responded. Toni smiled, the answer sounded so convincing but she knew that Abbie was nervous. Abbie was a terrific liar, it was one of the reasons she was such a good lawyer, but Toni knew the truth. Truthfully Toni was nervous herself. She wasn't sure what had prompted her to walk over to Abbie, or where she got the nerve to straddle the other woman, just that she had done both of those things and wasn't going to stop now. Couldn't stop now.

"I'm going to kiss you," Toni told her still watching her reaction. "Probably for a long time," she continued feeling that she should give Abbie some warning in case she hadn't figured out what was going on yet.

"Like I said, I've been waiting," was all Abbie said in response.

Toni regarded her for an instant longer then she slowly leaned in and brought their lips together. The first kiss was brief, and controlled, hesitant. So soft that their lips were barely touching. But that was the first kiss, the trial run. The next time their lips met the kiss was much firmer, more confident and Toni leaned in increasing the contact between them. The next time their lips met, Abbie leaned forward and entered Toni's mouth with her tongue, exploring the other woman's mouth and they moaned into each other. Abbie moved her hand to Toni's back drawing her closer and Toni tangled a hand in Abbie's hair as they continued to devour each other, posses each other. Their lips moving against each other incessantly, passionately. Their bodies moved closer, fusing together as their lips moved against each other hungrily, and when they finally pulled apart, it wasn't by will, but by necessity. Hand still in hair, hand still on back, and foreheads together they sat there breathing heavily looking at each other.

"Was it good for you?" Toni asked smiling.

"Not really, I was left surprisingly unmoved," Abbie responded smiling as her hand moved across Toni's back unconsciously.

"I think you're lying counselor," Toni said placing her free hand over Abbie's heart. She could feel it beating, rapidly.

"Do you... have any evidence to back up your theory?" Abbie asked trailing her hand down Toni's side and leaving it to rest at her hips.

"It's purely circumstantial," Toni said removing her hand from the back of Abbie's head and leaning back so that she could see the Texan's features. She was absolutely stunning, a Greek goddess come down from Olympus to consort with the mortals.

"What's next?" Abbie asked searching Toni's face. It was a loaded question and they both knew that. Unfortunately Toni didn't have an answer for the deeper meaning of the question at the moment, so she answered the only way she could.

"You walk me home," Toni said softly.

"That's really up to you right now," Abbie responded looking down.

"I suppose I should get off you then," Toni said blushing.

"If you want to go home yeah," Abbie replied. Then she smiled, "But if you want to..." the rest of her reply was cut off by a knock at the door. Toni jumped off of her with the agility of a jungle cat and moved to the other side of the desk. Abbie looked over at her with an amused expression on her face.

"Come on in Jake," Abbie called looking at the door.

"Evening Ms. Carmichael," Jake said with a smile. "Ms..." he left it hanging as he turned to Toni.

"Ricci," Toni filled in.

"Another long night, huh?" Jake asked as he rolled in his stuff. "Anything interesting?"

"You have no idea," Abbie replied smiling then turned to look at Toni. "I guess I'll take you home now."

"Didn't mean to interrupt," Jake said sensing he had interrupted something.

"It was nothing that can't wait," Abbie said grabbing Toni's jacket and handing it to her before grabbing her own. "Later Jake," she called as they walked out the door.

"Night," he called over them absently.

"Can I wear my gloves tonight?" Abbie asked as she pushed the elevator button. Toni made a great effort to look as if she were seriously considering her answer before she spoke.


Part Three

It was a beautiful morning in New York. Cabbies were yelling, people in trench coats were hawking faux Ray Bans and Rolex's, business people were knocking each other over in the streets, and there was slush up to your ankles. Alright, so in actuality it wasn't such a beautiful morning but that didn't really matter to Abbie. No slush, or suit, or stolen brand name product could ruin her morning. She thought it slightly ridiculous that after two kisses-three if she counted the goodbye kiss Toni had given her once they arrived at her apartment-she should be so totally bewitched. Then she thought that it was more than that, that they had known each other for years and she had always been especially fond of Toni, that they had shared a bond from the first day they met. Then she thought she thought too much and continued down the street.

Toni was waiting by the door to Abbie's office when Abbie arrived. She greeted the brunette attorney with a cup of coffee and a smile.

"God, I forgot that you're a morning person," Abbie said as she approached the door. The grin that covered her face took out any sting that her words may have held however.

"Good morning to you too," Toni responded. "You'd better be nice or I won't give you your fix," she continued holding up the cup of coffee.

"Well in that case," Abbie started opening the door. "After you."

Abbie decided that it was her turn to get some couch action, so she was stretched out on it while Toni sat behind her desk. The sun was shinning through the glass warming Abbie's skin and she just lay there for a moment soaking it up before Toni broke the silence.

"So the Blaine's pretty much gave you the same spiel as the Anderson's?"

"Almost verbatim," Abbie responded. "Same old thing. If we go by the parents account both boys were next in the line for sainthood."

"Mr. Barrett definitely didn't feel that way," Toni said watching Abbie recline.

"That's not surprising," Abbie responded turning her head to face Toni.

"Think we should check it out? If they were somewhere in-between the thugs Mr. Barrett made them out to be, and less than the saints their parent's said they were it could help their self-defense plea," Toni responded resting her elbows on the desk.

"Dylan and Jeff were minors," Abbie said. "Any records they might have had would be sealed."

"Dylan and Jeff may have been minors, but Brent isn't. He's twenty. One of those High School kids who never wanted to leave High School," Toni responded. "Three amigos...logic says that there's a good chance what's on Brent's records would be on theirs. If there are any records."

"Alright, let's check it out," Abbie said swinging her legs over the edge of the couch. "Tag team?" she asked. They'd spent a lot of time together over the past few days, and she wouldn't have minded spending more time together but if Toni wanted to do it solo she'd understand. Toni just smiled and grabbed her coat.

"Last one to the elevator pays for the cab," she said and headed out the door. Abbie took her time getting up and getting her things together. It was her turn to pay for the cab anyway.


Abbie was bending down directly in front of the open drawer of a large filing cabinet. Toni was at the side of the drawer beside her searching the labels. Toni hated these places, they were always dusty, dark, dank, and apparently no one who filed the documents had any idea what the words 'alphabetical order' meant. You would go in for one file and it would take an hour, sometimes two depending on the level of incompetence of the filers. She and Abbie had been looking through files for at least forty-five minutes and her back was starting to kill her. She should have stretched or something before starting the search, maybe brought along a chiropractor to re-align her back when they were done.

"How much would you love me if I said I found it?" Abbie asked straightening up.

"I'd kiss you," Toni said standing up and moving the few steps to Abbie's side. She crooked her head so that she could get a look at the file but Abbie moved it. "You're not serious?" Toni asked looking up at her. Abbie simply kept the file where it was at her side and looked at Toni expectantly. "Fine," Toni said raising up onto her tiptoes she placed a kiss on Abbie's check. Abbie smirked then placed the file on top of the cabinet and opened it up.

"Breaking and entering, possession..." Toni read out loud. "Those two were solo, but look here," she said pointing near the bottom of the page. "Arson. Two accomplices, couldn't be named because they were underage. Also an assault of an elderly couple, two accomplices."

"An old barn out in Jersey," Abbie said scanning the rest of the report. "Let's make of copy of this just in case," she continued closing the file.

Abbie stood off to the side as Ricci placed the file into the photocopier and turned it on. A harsh white light was cast over Toni's features momentarily then it disappear and Toni was lifting the lid.

"What are your plans for the rest of day?" Abbie asked as Toni handed her one of the copies.

"Office, paper work," Toni responded. "All that good stuff."

"Same here," Abbie responded as they headed out the door.

"What are you doing later?" Toni asked as they entered the hallway. "For dinner," she added.

"One word...Kraft," Abbie responded with a smirk.

"Are those plans solid or are you open to suggestions?" Toni asked opening the door to the street.

"That cheesy macaroni's tempting, but I suppose I could put it off. What'd you have in mind?" Abbie responded as she put her hat on her head. Jack always made fun of her hat, he always said it looked like something scrapped off the side of the road.

"Come over for dinner," Toni said as they headed left. "I can promise you something that's not from a box, and wasn't delivered in Styrofoam."

"What time?" Abbie asked turning around to face her.

"Whenever you think you can drag yourself away from the office," Toni told her with a smile.

"Don't you think midnight's a little late for dinner?" Abbie asked smiling as they crossed the street.

"Late? Why? What time do you normally eat?" Toni asked looking at her with mock curiosity.

"I'll be there at eight," Abbie responded.

"Perfect," Toni said, then they continued down the street.


Toni put the Chianti in the bucket of ice to chill then walked into the living room and sat down. She had to calm her nerves. Even though they had already kissed and borderline groped this was their first real date and she was nervous as hell. She was all jittery and had to calm herself down. Abbie wouldn't be there for another fifteen minutes or so, and for the first time since their drinking contest Toni actually sat down and thought about what was going on.

She had first met Abbie three years ago when she was called into work a narcotics case with her. It was a last minute type of thing, and they were both pissed off at the situation. Toni had had a stack of work up to her head stacked up on her desk, and she didn't want to have to take a case that would only make the pile bigger, and Abbie had been working her ass off for weeks and didn't want some butt-kisser coming in to screw up her case. They met fully intending to hate each other, but a few minutes after meeting their intentions faded and despite their best efforts they ended up not hating each other. Toni had kept her involvement in the case minimal which Abbie appreciated, and which gave her a chance to do some of her own work. They won the case and seeing as she managed to work with Abbie without the Texan killing her they were destined to work together over and over again as the years went on.

She had known that she was attracted to Abbie since their first meeting that day. She had walked into the office and when she lay eyes on Abbie was literally speechless for what could only have been a second or two but had seemed like an hour. It was more than Abbie's exotic beauty that attracted her though, it was the aura she gave off. Toni had felt it as soon as walked into the office. Over the years the attraction had been there, had grown as they got to know each other better, as they became friends, but it always remained in the background. Whenever they worked together, or when they occasionally got together for drinks they never really talked about their personal lives. Abbie was never dating anyone when they got together, and her subtle questioning turned out to be too subtle because she was never able to figure out if Abbie liked boys, or girls, or boys and girls. She was actually beginning to think that the only things that turned Carmichael on were law texts and cross-examinations.

But a late work night, a snow storm, a bottle of vodka, and a pillow fight had changed that.

Snapping out of it Toni got up and pulled the lasagna out the oven setting it down to cool then walked back into the living room to turn on some music. She realized that she didn't really know what kind of music Abbie liked so she settled for a mix that she hoped would be adequate. She loved Whitney Houston, and liked her new C.D. but most of the songs on it were kind of angry and bitter so she decided not to throw that one in the mix. She settled for some Babyface, Enigma, and just for the hell of it Women and Songs.

The doorbell rang just as she finished loading in the C.D's. Actually rang and rang and rang.

"What are you? Three years old?" Toni asked once the door was open.

"Sorry," Abbie responded with an abashed grin that Toni found irresistible. "I'm a little bit anxious."

"Well, welcome to my palace," Toni responded waving her in. She realized that this was only the second time Abbie had been to her apartment. The first time had been shortly after they met, and she had done some considerable re-modeling since then. She took Abbie's coat as the other woman wandered into her apartment looking around.

Once she had hung up her coat she found Abbie concentrating studiously on something in the corner. Abbie must have sensed her come up behind her because just as she entered ear shot the brunette spoke.

"You have a fuse-ball table?" she asked. Her voice was somewhere between excited and quizzical.

"Yeah, I used to hustle in University," Toni responded grinning. "I figured that if this whole 'law' thing didn't workout I should keep up my skills."

"There's a big demand for fuse-balls guru's, huh?" Abbie asked turning to face her.

"You have no idea," Toni responded. "Come on I'll take you on the tour."

"Come on," Abbie pleaded. "It's not funny, that really, really hurt!"

"And they still let you on the team after that?" Toni asked swishing her wine around in the glass as she leaned back against the couch. They had just finished dinner and were now lounging in her living room in front of a fire.

"Well, I was a runner not hurdler. Besides, it was the birds fault. I was out ahead until that bird flew in front of me," Abbie responded smiling. "You'd be surprised how long it's possible for someone to stay airborne before dropping like a pile of rocks and skidding to a stop."

"Let's hope that the bird ended up in the grill of someone's car," Toni raising her glass.

"Your turn," Abbie said leaning back.

"I suppose it has to be more detailed than getting hit in the head with a basketball?" Toni asked.

"Yes, even though the mental image I just got of that was amusing," Abbie responded.

"Well unlike yourself I'm no great athlete," Toni started. "I guess it was gym class in grade ten. My PE teacher really traumatized me and other young girls. Anyway this tale starts with the swim unit, which as you know was always fun. You have to keep in mind that I'd already alienated Mrs. Hargrove by hitting her in the stomach with a volley-ball three weeks earlier. She was this close," she held two fingers a centimeter apart, "from ripping me a new eye socket."

"What was she pregnant or something?" Abbie asked sarcastically.

"Yeah, she was."


"Exactly. So she was still kind of pissed at me. So it's the swim unit and we've just finished with the synchronized swimming part ..."

"Synchronized swimming?" Abbie asked smiling.

"Yes," Toni responded shooting her a look. "I was actually pretty good at the sailboat. But I digress. We were doing free style dives, and I get up on the board. Julia's yelling 'cannon ball, cannon ball' so I'm like 'what the hell' and I jump."

"What happened?"

"It was a beautiful cannon ball, I wasn't a big kid but I got this huge splash going. It was really very impressive," Toni responded replaying the event in her head.


"But...Mrs. Hargrove was marking at the side of the pool and I completely soaked her...and the mark book," Toni answered shaking her head. "But on the bright side, the rest of the class loved me. They all got A's cause she couldn't be bothered to do all the marking over again."

"What'd you get?" Abbie asked already knowing the answer. There could only be one answer.

"An F, and it wasn't for 'I forgive you'," Toni responded. Abbie leaned back and smiled as she took a sip of her wine.

"You win," Abbie acquiesced gracefully with a smile. "You win."

The TV was on and Toni was vaguely aware of Abbie whispering the lines of the show along with the characters on screen. The fire had started to die down, and neither of them were particularly inspired to go over and revive it which left the room lit only by the fire's dying amber's, and the pale glow of the television set. Toni was sitting with her head resting on Abbie's shoulder while Abbie's arm was draped loosely across hers. Neither of them was exactly sure how their intimate arrangement happened, they just knew that as the evening progressed they had migrated closer and closer together until there was no space left to cross. There was a pull between them that neither of them fully understood, and in those quiet moments they were both acutely sensitive to it. It was something that they couldn't negate, couldn't deny, and as the days passed it was a connection they came to realize they didn't really want to deny. They had been drawn together from the first day they met. Their intentions, and their circumstances couldn't obstruct their bond, and now grew as they openly explored the emotions that had been stirring within them both for a very long time they knew they had entered into something special. Something precious.


"I think we should offer her a plea," Toni said. She had spent some time the night before thinking about the subject after Abbie had left. She knew that could present a case of first degree murder, but she didn't think that it was second degree murder. Nothing that they had discovered convinced her that Mrs. Barrett had led Dylan and Jeff into the store with the intention to kill them.

"I think we can make a case for first degree," Abbie responded shutting the folder on her desk so that she could give her full attention to Toni.

"But was it first degree murder?" Toni asked softly yet persistently as she leaned forward. "I don't think so. Do you honestly believe that she let those two boys into the store with the intention of shooting them?"

"I don't know why she let them in," Abbie responded. "All I know for sure is that she murdered two kids," she continued also leaning forward. "It's up to the defense to prove why she did or didn't let them in, and what her intent was or wasn't. It's our job to convict her."

"Our job isn't just to convict her, but to serve justice. That means that we've got to convict her on a charge that befits the crime she committed. That's manslaughter, one," Toni responded. "Let's give her a chance to plea out and save the cost and time of a trial," Toni responded. "Adam will love you," she added with a small smile.

"Alright, we'll make the offer," Abbie agreed after a moment. She wasn't too happy about it though. She had always thought that there was too much pleading, that too many criminals got off simply because they had information on people even more despicable then themselves. And when bad people got off, justice wasn't served and she felt like she hadn't done her job. "I don't think they're going to take it though," she continued. "White's going for an acquittal."

"Once we make the offer what happens next is in their court. We've done our part," Toni responded. Abbie nodded.

"We've got to do it soon. We're approaching our court date," she said finally.

"What are you doing around noon?" Toni asked leaning back in the chair.

"Nothing," Abbie responded even as she thought about all the paper work she had to do.

"Wrong, you're going to Riker's," Toni said with a smile.

"Yeah?" Abbie asked insolently.

"Yeah," Toni responded confidently. She then stood up and looked out the window to see if anybody was around before leaning over and giving Abbie a chaste kiss. As she sat back down she watched Abbie's face which had a smile stretching across it.

"You're going to spoil me," Abbie said finally though she didn't sound displeased with the possibility.

"Hopefully," Toni said. "Hopefully."

Mrs. Barrett sat at the rectangular table with her head down and her hands folded in her lap. Mr. White sat at her side his eyes darting between Carmichael and Ricci. Ricci's posture was relaxed, almost indifferent. She looked more like she was waiting for a cup of coffee instead of sitting in the interrogation room of a penitentiary. Carmichael on the other hand looked sharp and was watching Barrett and White alike with an intense gaze.

"Man one, she serves the maximum term," Carmichael said turning to face White.

"Misdemeanor assault," White responded meeting her gaze.

"Man one, she killed two boys she's getting off easy," Abbie told him.

"Come on now Ms. Carmichael, my client...." Abbie cut him off.

"This isn't the Bargain Basement Mr. White, it's a one time only offer. An ultimatum if you will. Decide now or won't get a chance to decide at all," Abbie said. Once she was finished she turned her attention to Mrs. Barrett. "There's a big difference between 15 years and 25 years to life."

Mrs. Barrett looked over at her lawyer with an alarmed expression on her face. No doubt Mr. White had made acquittal seem like the inevitable outcome of the trial and this was the first serious talk about life imprisonment that Mrs. Barrett had been privy to.

"Can they do that? Can I get life?" she asked him.

"You were defending yourself Mary. I know that, they know that and soon a jury will know that. They wouldn't be making this offer unless they knew they would lose," White responded directing the last sentence at the ADA's. Abbie stared at him derisively.

"Do you really want to bet your client's life on that assumption?" Abbie asked him raising an eyebrow questioningly.

"It's not a bet Ms. Carmichael, it's a statement of fact," White said standing up. Mrs. Barrett followed his lead. "We'll see you in court."

"The offer stand for 24 hours," Abbie said as they headed for the door. "Why don't you consider discussing it with your client. She might not be as willing to part with her freedom as you are." Mrs. Barrett who was trailing behind White turned to look at Abbie when she said that. Abbie smiled mentally and stood up.

"Where are you going?" Ricci asked speaking for the first time since entering the room.

"I think Mrs. Barrett's breaking, I'm going to see if I can crack her a little more. I'll be back," Abbie said and headed for the door so that she could catch Barrett and White before they took her back to her cell.

As she was walking out of the interrogation room, Ricci's cell phone went off. Exiting the room as she fished out her cell phone and answered it she watched Abbie talk to Mr. White and Mrs. Barrett a few meters down the hall. A few minutes Abbie headed back over to Ricci who was hanging up the phone as she arrived.

"So?" Ricci asked turning to face Carmichael. She sounded a bit distracted.

"Still a no. He's going for an acquittal, he's not interested in anything less," Abbie said shaking her head. "How about dinner later? It's on me," she asked a second later.

"I can't," Toni said looking down. "I've got to go take care of something...it's..."

"It's alright," Abbie said shaking off her explanation. "I'll see you tomorrow, alright?"

"Yeah," Toni responded finally looking up. "Try to actually get some sleep," she said as they headed for the door.

"Yes mom," Abbie responded with a smile.

Abbie paced back and forth walking the length of her office before turning around and repeating the procedure. This is insane, she thought to herself as she continued to pace. She lifted up her left arm and looked at her watch. It was seven. It's only been three hours, she thought. Three hours was nothing, she had waited in lines at the post office for that long. Three hours was not a lot of time, but she was missing Toni already. This is insane she thought to herself again. Suddenly she stopped her pacing and went and sat down in her chair. I just need to stop thinking about her, Abbie thought logically. Because if I'm not thinking about her, then I won't be thinking about which means that I will have successfully stopped thinking about her...which is what I want. She sat there for a few more minutes shuffling papers and stamping various documents before sighing and standing up. To hell with logic, and reason, she was just going to go over to Toni's anyway.

Alright, excuses...what's a good excuse? Abbie thought as she walked down the street. Car broke down...nope, I don't have a car. Hmmm, something about the case, but what? Who should do the opening? No, the trials still a few days away, that can wait. The scene...yeah, I'll tell her I think we should take a look around the shop, yeah that's good. Alright, crime scene, got it. She smiled once she had settled on the excuse for going over there. Before turning onto Toni's street she spotted a guy on the corner selling yellow roses and went over to him and bought one. The least she could do is come bearing a gift.

Toni jumped off the couch and headed for the door when she heard the buzzer. She looked through the peephole then reached for the door knob surprised. She opened the door only to have it stop after an inch because she forgot to undo the chain.

"I promise I'm not here to mug you," Abbie said sticking her face in the hole.

"I can't tell you what a relief that is," Toni responded with a smile. "Just a second," she continued closing the door so that she could undo the chain.

"I ah... here," Abbie said bringing the rose out from behind her back and handing it to Toni.

"Abbie," Toni said softly looking at it. Somehow Toni had never pictured Abbie as the flowers type and was pleasantly surprised.

"Yeah," Abbie said blushing a bit. "I ah, I just thought...I mean I had a thought, a thought about the case, and then I thought that..." her sentence was interrupted by a voice from the other room.

"Toni," the voice said. "Where'd you put my pants?" It was a male voice and it was getting closer. Abbie turned her head in the direction it was coming from and walked further into the main room. A few seconds later a man wearing nothing but a towel came out of the hallway drying his hair. "Hey," he continued still not looking up. "My pants, my pants?" Abbie just stared at him with a fascinated detachment. He was tall, probably around 6'1, he had brown hair and a trim but muscular build. He was, Abbie admitted, quite handsome. He was also half-naked in her girlfriend's apartment asking for his pants.

"Whoa," he commented in a half whistle when he finally looked up and saw Abbie. "Who's this?" she asked turning to Toni who had a dazed expression on her face.

"This...this is Abbie. Abbie Carmichael," she responded very slowly. Abbie turned her attention to Toni for a second before glancing at the half-naked man, then back at Toni. It's not, she started to think. But then she considered Toni's expression, and her tone, and realized...oh god.

"Well, it's nice to meet you, Abbie Carmichael," he said with a smile as he extended his hand. Abbie reached out and grasped it. "You look like a lawyer Abbie," he continued. "You work with Jelly-bean?" he asked looking at Toni. Abbie just stared at him for a moment. Jelly-bean, she's sleeping with a guy that calls her Jelly-bean!

"Guilty as charged," Abbie managed to respond. "On both counts," she continued. I've gotta get out of here. "Listen, I'm going to get going," she said heading for the door.

"Why don't you stay?" he asked. "I do have pants if that's what you're worried about, I just can't find them at the moment," he continued looking at Toni pointedly.

"Will you shut up about your pants," Toni muttered shooting him a look.

"That's easy for you to say, you've still got yours," he said meeting her gaze.

"You've got a towel what more do you want?" Toni asked irritably.

"My pants," the man responded without missing a beat. "So what do you say?" he asked turning to face Abbie again.

"Thanks for the invite, but I've really got to be going," Abbie said continuing towards the door. The room was getting smaller. It was like in Star Wars when the walls started to close in on Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie.

"Abbie," Toni said reaching out for her. "Abbie," she said again when Carmichael didn't stop.

"I've gotta go," was all Abbie said in response then she was out the door, down the hall, and down the stairs. Toni stood in the hallway watching her rapid retreat and sighed.

"I think you're friend's got some issues," the man said standing in the doorway. Toni turned around and glared at him.

"Shut up Jason," she said walking back into the apartment.

"What's the matter with you?" Jason asked following her inside. "I'm the one who's marriage just broke up so why are you the one with the attitude?"

Because, Toni thought walking into the living room and falling onto the couch. My honey-moon just ended. She lay down and draped her arm over her eyes.

"Seriously Toni," Jason said once she lying down. "Where are my pants. Mom gave those to me."

"If you don't stop talking I'm going to set those pants on fire," Toni mumbled dangerously.

"Listen, fine, when you stop PMSing give me a call. I'll be in your room moisturizing," he responded walking off.

Part Four

Abbie brought her jacket closer around her as she walked around a fallen trash can. She had been wandering around the streets after leaving Toni's apartment. It was wicked cold out but she didn't really feel it, she had been numb before she left the apartment. She wasn't contemplating anything, or composing angst ridden poems as she walked aimlessly through the streets. She wasn't thinking at all, she was feeling and it was a strange feeling. She had heard the phrases 'you broke my heart', and 'you ripped my heart out', but she had never really felt them before. The most she had ever felt about any break-up was mild disappointment, but usually it was just relief. But as she walked through the streets it took all of her energy not to lift a hand to her chest and see if her heart was still beating, to see if she still had one, because it didn't feel like it was in there.

Turning the corner she spotted a familiar place and headed towards it without thought.

The bar was dark as bars were known to be. There was a cloud of smoke blanketing the air, but Abbie didn't care, her lungs were the least of her worries at the moment. She took a seat at the bar. She couldn't remember the last time that she had been in the place.

"Well, well," the barkeep drawled. "Look what the cat dragged in. What'll it be?"

"Whiskey," Abbie responded. She really didn't care what it was.

"Long time since you been in here," he said as he moved around the bar. She watched him as he moved around. His name was Luke.

"Yeah," she responded. "You remember me?" she asked surprised.

"Sure," he said with a smile. "We don't get many people in here that look as good as you," he said placing her drink down. Abbie didn't respond, she just swished the amber liquid around in her glass. "You know," Luke continued when she didn't answer. "Bartenders are as good as shrinks, and a lot cheaper."

"Do lot's of people come in here and bare their souls to you?" Abbie asked without looking up.

"The one's that come in here looking like you usually do," he responded.

"And how do I look?" Abbie asked downing the shot and pushing the glass over to him for another.

"Like your dog just got run over by a car, you lost your job, and found your boyfriend in bed with your best friend all rolled up into one," Luke responded filling a glass for her. "In short, you look like hell."

"You're not much of a help," Abbie commented picking up the glass. "Is that what you do? Offer to help people then insult them so they'll drink more?"

"I'm just calling it like a see it," Luke responded with a shrug. "Besides the people that come in here don't need any encouragement to drink," he continued. "Still a lawyer?" he asked after a moment..

"Yep," Abbie responded finishing off the glass.

"Still in...what was it?...Narcotics?" he asked searching his memory files.

"Nope, I got upgraded," she responded with a smile, that was more like a twisted grin. "Welcome to the bigs," she continued mirroring a statement Jack had made to her before.

"You like it?" he asked leaning on the bar.

"Are you trying to start a conversation with me?" Abbie asked wearily. She didn't want to talk to him, she didn't want to talk to anyone.

"I'd say we've already got one going," Luke responded. "I ask you a question and you answer."

"Luke," she said looking over at him. "You seem like a really nice guy, the type any gal would be glad to take home to mom, but I'm not in the mood," she continued. "So why don't you just keep the drinks coming, and I'll help you pay the rent on this place, okay?"

"Whatever you want," he responded filling up a glass once more. "Just one more thing."

"What?" Abbie asked looking up at him impatiently.

"I figured out your problem," he said. "Broken heart."

"Very good Luke," Abbie said holding up the glass. "Now pour me another."

"Won't fix it," Luke said handing her the glass. Abbie looked around the room before turning to face him again.

"I wouldn't spread that around if I were you," she said. "Aren't you in the business of solving peoples problems with a bottle?"

"Actually, most of these guys start problems after a bottle, they don't solve 'em," Luke commented before heading to the other end of the bar to serve a new customer. Once Luke was out of range, Abbie got up and walked over to the Jukebox scanning the selection. She popped in a quarter, punched in a selection then walked back over to her seat. As she sat down the music started to play. It was Patsy Cline, the mistress of the music of pain.

It had started to snow again shortly after Abbie had left. It was light, the flakes floating in the air. It was calm almost peaceful, not at all like Toni was feeling. I should have just told her, Toni thought to herself as she rested her head against the window. She could hear Jason moving around in the kitchen.

"Toni," he said softly coming up behind her. "What have you gone mute or something?" She turned around and looked at him.

"What?" she asked.

"I've been talking to you for the last five minutes, where the hell have you been?" he responded. He sounded upset but Toni knew he wasn't. Jason sounded the same when he was concerned as when he was upset.

"In my head," Toni responded with a sad smile.

"Is this about that girl that was here earlier?" he asked following her over to the couch. "Cause you were fine before she showed up," he continued. "What'd she say, huh? Was she harassing you or something?" He was always offering to defend her from ruffians. It was ridiculously chivalrous and she loved him for it.

"No, it was nothing like that," Toni said shaking her head. "Abbie and I are working together. It's just...there was a misunderstanding."

"Misunderstanding?" he asked.

"Yeah," Toni replied with a sigh. "She thinks...well she thinks that...we're you know..." Toni said vaguely.

"We're what? Republicans? Give me something to work with here," Jason responded.

"She thinks we're lovers," Toni said making a face. She looked over to see that Jason's face had paled at the thought as well.

"No, offense Toni, but ewwww!" he responded shaking his head.

"I know," Toni responded. "Believe me I know."

"But why?" he asked. He couldn't comprehend how anyone could think such a thing. It was icky.

"Because of you walking around in a towel asking for your damn pants," Toni said turning to face him. "How many brothers do that?"

"If you had just left them where I had put them...."

"Let's not go there," Toni said turning away and staring at a wall. He wasn't going to be staying at her house unless his laundry was done, and he sure as hell wasn't going to do it.

"Well what's the big deal anyway?" Jason asked tugging at his ear. He always did that, ever since they were little kids and Toni could never figure out why. But then again her brother, and males in general did a lot of things she couldn't figure out. "It's not like she's your girlfriend or anything," he continued smiling at his own wit. Toni just looked over at him and frowned. "Is she?" he asked when he saw the look.

"Unofficially," Toni responded smiling a bit. She couldn't help it. Jason looked at the door as if he expected to see Abbie standing there before turning back to Toni.

"So you're like in big trouble with her, huh?" he asked.

"Pretty much," Toni responded.

"She have a sister?" Jason asked thinking that it was totally unfair that his little sister got all the best looking girls.

"Sorry," Toni responded.

"So were you two like serious?" he asked finally. She looked really, really depressed.

"Thanks for using the past tense, that's making me feel a lot better," Toni responded pushing a stray strand of hair out of her face.

"I didn't mean anything by it," Jason responded.

"I know, I'm just touchy right now," Toni told him. She and Jason had been close as kids and still as adults even though they didn't spend much time together anymore. "We..." she paused trying to think of a way to describe what had been happening between Abbie and her over the past few days. "We haven't been seeing each other for a long time but...there was, is, something there Jay. What we have is something special...she's something special," she continued softly.

"Did you ever consider working for Hallmark?" he asked turning to face her. Truth was he probably wouldn't have gotten divorced if he had said stuff like that about his former wife. Toni reached over and punched him in the arm. "Don't worry," Jason said seeing that she was still worried. "Just explain it all to her tomorrow and it'll all be roses again."

"I hope you're right," Toni said looking over at him. "I don't want to lose her...especially not this way."

"It'll work out," Jason said positively. "She's gotta be something if she bagged you right?"

"You're such a romantic," Toni said smiling.

"Hey, the sentiment behind that was romantic," Jason said though he too was smiling. "You know," he continued a moment later. "If you bring her home mom is going to be convinced that she's just your best friend, and you're both going through a phase."

"Mom still thinks that being a lawyer is my hobby," Toni responded shaking her head. "Our mother is on a long trip down a river in Egypt." Jason just looked at her. "Denial," Toni explained.

"You use too many obscure references," Jason said leaning back on the couch.

"Obscure? The Nile river is an obscure reference?" Toni asked incredulously looking at him.

"Don't get yourself so worked up," he said patting her on the shoulder. "We don't want to have to call Abbie to come over and take the edge off, do we?" he asked a smile working its way across his face.

"I'm going pretend you didn't say that," Toni said removing his hand from her shoulder, looking suitably offended.

"Come on, you can tell me. We're family," Jason said. "Is she good? She looks good, she looks like a tiger," he continued making a clawing motion and growling. Toni just stared at him hard for a second before getting up and heading towards her bedroom. "Hey, come on," Jason called after. "Throw me a bone here."

"I think you've already got one," came Toni's muffled voice. He smirked.

"Top or bottom?" he asked following her down the hallway.

"Goodnight Jay," she said then promptly closed the door in his face.

"Top," he said to himself as he headed back into the living room. "Definitely a top."

Abbie heard a knock at her door and looked up. She was in her office. She didn't remember coming back to the office, yet there she was.

"Go away!" she yelled at whoever was at the door.

"Can't do that Ms. Carmichael, it's my job to come in," Jake replied opening the door. "You don't want to get me fired do you?"

"I suppose not," Abbie responded watching as Jake started to do his thing.

"Are you okay Ms. Carmichael?" Jake asked although it was obvious she was plastered. Abbie suddenly swung her legs over the edge of the couch and looked at Jake intently.

"You're my friend aren't you Jake?" she asked.

"You know it," Jake responded.

"Jake," she continued standing up and walking over to him. "Are you married Jake? Seeing a special someone?"

"I'm married. Going on ten years now," Jake responded. She really didn't look so good.

"Are you faithful to your wife Jake?" Abbie asked draping an arm around his shoulder and leaning in conspiritally.

"Of course," he said. Abbie could tell he meant it too. But this was Jake they were talking about, of course he would be. Jake was a good guy.

"That's good Jake. You're a good guy. You're my friend, and you don't sleep around," she said walking back over to the couch. "Figures you're married," she muttered sitting down.

"Bad break up?" Jake asked. Abbie looked up at him. She looked like she was on the verge of crying, her eyes were all misty. This was a very new side of her that he was seeing. She had always been nice to him, but vulnerable never would have been a word he used to describe her, though it certainly would have fit at the moment. She was intelligent, abrasive, direct, charming in certain way, and ambitious. She was one of the youngest people he had seen in this office, and she was a woman which made it even more impressive. He couldn't help but wonder who could break her heart.

"You could say that," Abbie responded then made a face. "Where are pants, I can't find my pants, where'd you put my pants. Look at me, I'm all wet and sexy, nah, nah, nah," she continued.

"I think you should go home Ms. Carmichael," Jake said when she finished. He didn't know what she was talking about but she sounded hostile.

"Eh," Abbie responded waving her hand in the air and lying back down. She didn't want to go back to her apartment. That's where they had first kissed.

"Do you want me to call someone?" Jake asked. He was worried about her. "How about Ms. Ricci?" he asked remembering the red-head from the other night. They had seemed close. At the mention of her name Abbie sat up again suddenly.

"Yeah, you call her and tell her that she can pick me up in hell," she declared before lying down again.

"Are you sure you're going to be alright?" Jake asked as he finished up. He had decided that he wasn't going to pass that message on to anyone.

"Yeah," Abbie responded turning around to face the window. "Wallowing in self-pity is something one kinda has to do alone."

Toni arrived at the office really early and ended up pacing outside the doors. She was safe pacing out there because it was a Saturday and hardly anyone was in. She continued pacing out there for a moment before deciding to wait for Abbie inside. She opened the door putting down her briefcase then stopped as she walked farther into the room. Well, at least I know why she didn't return my calls, Toni thought as she spotted Abbie curled up on her couch. Her clothes her wrinkled and one of her legs had dropped over the side. She was too tall to be sleeping on that thing, her back was going to be killing her. Toni knew that she had spent the night in the office, and that it was her fault. She walked over to the couch and kneeled down at the side before reaching over to touch Abbie's shoulder.

"Tex," she said softly as she shook her. She had started calling Abbie Tex the night that she had cooked dinner for her, and Abbie had seemed to like it. She hadn't meant to use it just now, but it had slipped out. "Wakey, wakey," she continued. Abbie moaned softly and turned over so that she was know facing Toni. Her body was still for a moment then she reached up a hand and touched Toni's face. Her eyes were still closed and Toni knew that she was still asleep. She could see her eyes moving beneath her eyelids and wondered what she was thinking about. Then she found out.

"Toni," Abbie said softly stroking her cheek. Toni was about to try and wake her once more when Abbie put some pressure on the back of her neck lowering it, then raised her own head bringing their lips together. After the night she had spent awake worrying about anything and everything involving their relationship the kiss was especially sweet, so tender and loving that it broke her heart. Abbie pulled back a moment later with a smile on her face. Toni moved back a little bit and was about to try to wake Abbie again when she saw the brunette's eyes start to open.

Abbie groaned and flopped a hand over her eyes trying to recoil from the sun like some sort of vampire. She tried to move off the couch so that she could hide under her desk, or buy a pair of sunglasses but she was blocked. There was someone in front of the couch. Forcefully removing her hand from her eyes she looked in front of her.

"Toni," she said surprised.

"Tex," Toni said reaching out her hand to Abbie's. The contact seemed to wake Abbie up fully and she pulled her hand away and stood up.

"I've got to go," Abbie said walking towards the door. Toni stood up quickly and followed her. She had heard that one before, and knew what it meant.

"Abbie stop," she said placing her hand on the brunette's shoulder. Abbie stopped walking, and tensed under her hand. They stood like that for a moment frozen before Abbie placed her hand on top of Toni's and removed the red-head's hand from her shoulder. Then Abbie took another step back and just looked at Toni for the first time that morning. Her hair was pulled up, she was wearing a navy suit with a white top, and the sun was reflecting off of her hair making her look like an angel. Abbie felt her heart start to shatter all over again. Different images flashed into her mind, images of the night before. Finally she looked at Toni and she wanted to just grab her by the shoulders and shake her, and she wanted to kiss her and show her how much she felt for her and how her heart was breaking. She wanted to push her away, so far away she couldn't even see her anymore. And she wanted to pull her in close and hold her and never let her go.

"I've got to go," was what Abbie said finally.

"Abbie," Toni tried again. "I need to..."

"I need to go," Abbie said interrupting her.

"Where are you going?" Toni asked watching her.

"Home," Abbie said. "I've got to change I've got stuff to do," she said opening the door.

"Are you coming back?" Toni asked her following her down the hall.

"Eventually," Abbie responded before squeezing through a closing elevator door. Toni stood there watching the door for a while after it closed. By the time she turned around Abbie had probably already left the building.

Abbie fumbled with the keys to her door for a minute before finally getting the door open. Flipping on the lights she made her way into the living room where she threw her jacket on the couch then she headed into the kitchen. She had a hangover. It wasn't too bad, but it was still a pain in the ass. She put on a cup of coffee then headed into the bedroom to change her clothes.

She moved over in front of the mirror and stood there for a minute looking at her reflection. She almost didn't recognize the face staring back at her. Her jacket was undone and shirt partly pulled out of the waist band. The entire suit was covered with wrinkles and her hair was a mess. Her eyes were blood shot and had dark circles under them. And to top it all off there was a run in her stockings. She ran a hand through her hair trying to return some order to it. It didn't help.

She took off her jacket and carelessly flung it in the general direction of her chair. She didn't know if it landed on her target and she didn't really care. Walking over to the bed she undid the latch to her skirt and stepped out of it kicking it off. This time she didn't even aim for anything, she just wanted it gone. She pulled off her stockings then lay down on the bed staring up at the ceiling. Once she was lying down she undid the buttons of her shirt but didn't take it off. That would have required moving and she didn't feel like doing that at the moment.

The ceiling soon became a movie screen, her mind being the projector. She saw herself sitting in her office rubbing her temples. Then she saw Toni enter the room, she saw Toni smile, and her body jerked slightly as if she had been hit. She watched as she let Toni in and the red-head sat down. She wanted to yell at herself, warn her what was going to happen, warn her how it would turn out but she couldn't. She couldn't stop the events because they had already happened. All that she could do was watch, and hurt. Next she saw them in her apartment. They were sitting around the coffee table, eating and laughing. She saw Toni look up and smile at her.

Next was the pillow fight. They were in her room and she was falling onto the bed bringing Toni down with her. Then they were kissing, their bodies pressed up against each other, straining against each other. It was just a memory but she could feel Toni pressed up against her, she could feel her warmth, and her hands all over her, enveloping her. Her hand moved from her side onto her stomach and started to slip down.

Then the scene changed. It wasn't one that she had ever seen before, these series of images weren't memories. She knew the setting though, they were in Toni's apartment, in her bedroom, on her bed. Toni was kissing her, teasing her. She was running her hands up Toni's side and she was saying something. What she was saying she wasn't sure of, only that Toni smiled in response and proceeded to move down her body so that she was kissing her neck.

They remained wrapped together like that for few more minutes then she felt Toni's hand move down and cup her. She saw herself arch and heard herself moan. Then felt Toni pull down her underwear. Somewhere in the back of her mind she realized that it was her own hands that were pulling them down, that Toni wasn't even in the room, but that reality seemed less real to her at the moment then the waking-dream she was experiencing. Seconds later she entered herself as she saw Toni go inside of her.

Her motions increased in time with the images she saw. She felt herself rising. A thin sheen of sweat covered her body and her hips were undulating, rising to meet her fingers. She saw Toni's hand moving, felt her lips on her face on her neck, urging her on. Her movements got more anxious and she knew that she was moments away from coming. She saw Toni raise her head so that they were looking into each others eyes as her hips raised for the final time. Then as she started to come the image before her eyes changed and it wasn't Toni and her, anymore but Toni and him, together, locked in an embrace like they had just been in.

Then it was over, and Abbie yanked her hand away from her pelvis her eyes popping open. Her breathing was rapid, her body still shaking. She closed her eyes again momentarily and felt tears escape from them, running down her face. What the hell is happening to me? She thought before rolling into her side, and letting the tears continue to fall.


"How'd it go?" Jason asked unwrapping his sandwich. He'd decided he'd play the dutiful brother and come check up on his heart-broken sister. Especially since he was leaving town later on that day.

"It didn't," Toni responded leaning back in her chair. "She's avoiding me."

"So you didn't see her?" he asked.

"I saw her. I saw her run away," Toni responded dismally. "She's hurting bad Jay. You should have seen her, she looked worse than I did this morning."

"That's hard to believe," he said opening a Coke. "Since saying you looked like shit this morning would be an insult to shit," he continued.

"I know," Toni said after giving him a look. "Before she left she just looked at me a minute and I could see so much emotion rolling across her face," she continued. "The fact that it was written there so clearly just showed me how much she was hurting. Abbie's very self-possessed all of the time, she was on the verge of crying," Toni said looking down at her desk.

"When's she coming back?" he asked looking up.

"I don't know. I think she's planning on doing this avoidance thing for a while," Toni said looking up. "At least until she's forced to deal with me again because of the case."

"Listen," Jason said. "I'm not the most eloquent guy on the planet so you'll have to excuse me if what I say next isn't all poetic, but it's obvious to me that you really care about her. I mean I haven't ever seen you like this before, all broken up to the point of insomnia and stuff. And from what you've told me, Abbie seems just as broken up over all this as you are, I mean it seems to me like she's hurting pretty bad too. So this all says to me that you two are like really serious, and in love, and whatever, and to me that means that you gotta track her down, and you gotta talk to her, cause if you don't you'll both regret it. Cause I'll tell you this Jelly-bean, love it's pretty damn special and it's fucking hard, but it's more than worth it when it's right cause it feels so good. But it's not a guarantee, and if you let it slide away, it'll slide like a greased up monkey. By the time you notice it's going, it's gone," Jason said earnestly. He and his wife had been so in love once, but they hadn't tended it, and when they needed too they hadn't talked, and the love they had had started to slide, and then when they realized what was going on it was too late, it had shot away.

"Jay," Toni said when he was finished. "That was brilliant."

"Yeah, well I'm the first born, I got most of the brains. You just got the left overs," he said smiling. He couldn't be too nice to her or she'd come to expect it.

"You're a good brother, and I love you," Toni continued not paying attention to him.

"Yeah, alright, I got it," Jason said picking up his drink. "Why don't you stop with the sap now, I'm trying to eat over here."

Abbie pulled out her hat and put it on as it started to snow once again. She had managed to drag herself out of her apartment and was now standing across the sidewalk from the Barrett's store in the parking lot. The store was open and Abbie could see a few people milling about inside, among them the taxi driver who had driven her there. At the moment she was conducting a visual inspection of the outside of the store. She stood in the second parking space from the left end of the store where Brent said he had parked that night. There were banners and advertisements all over the bottom of the window partially blocking the view of the inside of the store. From where she was standing she could only see people from the waist up.

After a moment or so more in the parking lot she crossed the street and entered the store. All the shelves were located to the left of the door. They were arranged so that they were blocking the view of the counter. Not very efficient, Abbie thought as she walked further into the store. According the police report the bodies had been found in front of the shelves between the second and third ones from the left. From what Abbie could tell that meant that Anderson must have been standing direction in front of her, and Blaine was off slightly to the right, behind him.

She'd seen all she needed to see.

The driver was back in the car by the time she got back over there. He was eating pretzels and drinking from a can of Barq's Rootbeer.

"Where to?" he asked once she was back in the car. As she closed the door she felt her pager go off.

"Central Park," she told him as she unclipped it. She had turned off her cell phone because she didn't want to take any unnecessary calls. If it was important the person could page her, and then she would be able to screen who she did and didn't talk to. It was Jack. She fished out her cell phone and dialed the number on the display.

"McCoy," Jack answered.

"It's me," Abbie said leaning back in the seat and taking off her hat. "Did you get the stuff I sent?" she continued.

"Yeah," Jack answered. She could hear him moving around. "Are you going to offer her a plea?"

"We already did," Abbie told him. "She rejected it. Or I should say her lawyer did. He's an asshole, and it's going to cost her."

"When's your trial date?"

"Wednesday next week," Abbie responded looking out the window. On the other end of the line Jack frowned.

"Are you alright?" he asked she sounded tired.

"I'm fine," Abbie responded but her answer sounded unconvincing even to her own ears so she amended the statement. "I'm just a bit tired."

"Are you sure?" Jack asked. It took all of her energy not to snap at him, she didn't want to talk about what was wrong with her or about anything else for that matter.

"Yeah I'm sure. My neighbors are just doing some re-decorating. Apparently it involves a chainsaw because that has been my very early wake up call for the last few days," she answered. It was a blatant lie but it sounded believable and wouldn't be questioned which was exactly what she wanted. She could hear a knocking on the other end of the phone.

"Alright, try and get some sleep," Jack told her. "I've got to go."

"Yeah, bye," Abbie responded then she turned the phone back off and returned it to her pocket.

Toni walked through the park trying to remember the path that Abbie had taken her on. She was trying to track her down. Abbie had turned off her cell phone, wasn't answering her pager, and no one that Toni talked to had any idea where she was. The doorman at her building said that she had come in around eight, then left about two hours later. That was the last anyone had seen of her. It was now around three and Toni was running out of ideas when she remembered the park. About a year before they had been walking through the park after questioning a witness and Abbie had dragged her off on some path to show her a secluded spot in the park she liked to go to sometimes. She said that she went there to think, and Toni figured that she would give it a shot. Finally she saw a tree that she remember, it was bent over and cracked as if it had been hit by lightening. She had seen it the time Abbie had whisked her away. Behind it would be a cluster of trees, then a clump of bushes and if you pushed your way past them you got to the grove.

Pushing through the bushes Toni spotted a lone figure sitting on the sole bench in the area staring out at nothing. She knew immediately that it was Abbie. She walked over carefully, trying not to make a sound, she didn't want Abbie to see her too soon and bolt. Coming to a stop behind the bench she looked in the direction Abbie's head was facing.

"What's so interesting?" she asked calmly. Abbie didn't turn around.

"How'd you find me?" Abbie asked.

"You brought me here once. I remembered what you said," Toni said slowly walking around the bench. "Where have you been?" she asked taking a seat.

"Around," Abbie responded still staring in front of her. "At the crime scene."

"I need to talk to you," Toni said deciding to just get on with it. Her insides were all knotted up and she needed to get this over and done with.

"I don't want to talk to you," Abbie said standing up. Toni didn't like how calm her voice was, it meant that she was shutting down. At least earlier there had been something in her voice, even if it was a cross between confusion and anger.

"Don't go," Toni said standing up and walking after her. Abbie kept walking, she was nearing the bushes. "Abbie!" she called again. "Jesus Abbie, he's my BROTHER!" That stopped her, Toni noticed.

"What?" Abbie asked turning around. Toni walked up to her.

"That guy last night, he's my brother, Jason." Abbie stared at her for a second before lowering her gaze to the snow covered ground.

"Brother," Abbie said softly. The utterance was made mostly to herself but Toni spoke anyway.

"The call I got before we left Riker's, that was him from the airport. He had just gotten in," she said. "He got divorced a few months ago and had to give Jenny his car the day before he came. He was really broken up about losing his Mustang," she continued. "He's got some drinking buddies in Buffalo and was planning to get wasted with them on the week-end but decided to stop by and see me first. I tried to tell you."

"I know," Abbie said remembering their conversation at Riker's. She had cut off Toni's explanation. She lifted her eyes up and met Toni's for the first time all day. "I thought…" she trailed off before finishing the sentence.

"I know," Toni responded. "I know what it looked like," Toni said with a small smile. "I knew what you thought, it's what I would have thought in that situation. That's why I came to the office this morning. To tell you."

"But I ran away before you could, and have been avoiding you all day," Abbie said shaking her head. "Fuck," she muttered a moment later. "I'm an asshole."

"You're not an asshole," Toni said taking a step closer to her.

"Yes I am," Abbie said looking at her remorsefully.

"You were hurt," Toni said reaching out and taking her hand.

"You didn't do anything," Abbie responded.

"But you thought I had," Toni said.

"So?" Abbie asked.

"So, a perceived betrayal can be just as devastating as a real one. Because emotions they aren't logical and they don't need proof," Toni responded.

"It messed me up," Abbie told her.

"I could tell," Toni responded smiling. "It messed me up too, but it definitely messed you up more."


"What happened was like an eclipse," Toni told her.

"How so?" Abbie asked curiously. Toni came up with some of weirdest analogies she had ever heard but they usually made sense. Usually.

"When early man saw an eclipse it frightened them terribly. It frightened them because they thought that the sun had been taken away and was never coming back. They thought that they'd be in the darkness forever.

"But modern man knows that an eclipse is just temporary, that the dark will go away and the sun will shine again. So modern man isn't as messed up as early man because modern man knows the truth," Toni explained. When Toni finished speaking Abbie bent her head down so that her forehead was resting against Toni's.

"So I'm a cave-woman?" Abbie asked from their joined position.

"Yes, that was basically what I was saying," Toni responded with a small smile.

"It hasn't even been twenty-four hours, but it feels like a life-time," Abbie said softly. It was almost inconceivable to her that she had gone through the whirlwind of emotions that she had been through in less than a day. She lowered her head even more so that her mouth was next to Toni's ear. "I missed you," she whispered. "I missed you so much."

"I missed you too," Toni said so softly Abbie almost couldn't hear her.

"Tabula rasa," Abbie said recalling the Latin phrase that had been a favorite saying of one of her professor's. "This time we'll do it right."

"Tabula rasa," Toni agreed. Then she lifted her hand to the side of Abbie's face and Abbie leaned into the touch. Their eyes met and they looked at each other for an eternity before leaning in and bringing their lips together. The kiss started out softly but quickly became more passionate, more desperate as they both sought reassurance of their hearts already knew. Toni could feel tears running down her face and into their kiss but she didn't care, she needed to be where she was doing what she was doing. When they separated Abbie pulled her into her body and Toni rested her head on her shoulder. So this is love, she thought.

Part Five

Toni was feeling around the door for the knob. Finally she got it and turned it opening the door. She stumbled into the room reaching for the light switch but she couldn't find it. Abbie's hand had just found its way under her shirt and the Texan's mouth was busy showering every available inch of her neck with kisses. Toni moaned and wrapped her arm around Abbie's waist dragging her with her towards the bed.

Not interrupting the kiss, Toni stopped them at the foot of the bed and started to undo the buttons of Abbie's shirt.

"Why do shirts have so many buttons?" Toni muttered as she worked the buttons. Abbie wasn't really helping any either. She kept running her hands under Toni's shirt distracting her from her task.

"The clothing companies are just doing their part to promote abstinence," Abbie whispered into her ear. Toni could feel the smile on her face, and suddenly wanted that shirt off more than ever. "Forget about the buttons," Abbie added a moment later as she raised her hand and hooked a finger in the top of Toni's shirt preparing to rip it.

"No," Toni said resting her hand on top of Abbie's. "I think not." Abbie smirked before leaning in and kissing Toni again, her own hands know trying to undo the other woman's shirt.

Once Abbie's shirt was off Toni turned them around so that Abbie's back was to the bed and she was standing in front of her. She took a step back and just stared at the partially clad woman for a moment. She could see that Abbie's breathing had increased and that she was anxious to continue with what they had been doing, but to her credit she just stood there and let Toni examine her.

"Lace," Toni said with a wicked grin. She reached a hand out and traced the contours of Abbie's bra.

"I like wearing things that..." Abbie started to say, but her sentence was interrupted when Toni tweaked one of her already erect nipples through her bra. "...match," she managed to finish a moment later.

"A set?" Toni asked looking down. She didn't hear an answer but she felt Abbie move slightly which lead her to believe that Abbie had nodded in response to her question. Either way she reached for Abbie's pants and undid them. She didn't let them drop right away though and she could feel Abbie's eyes on her. Then she dropped them and moved back so that Abbie could step out of them. "When the hell do you find time to work out?" Toni asked concentrating on Abbie's abdominal muscles.

"Stomach crunches are about the only thing you can do sitting in chair all day," Abbie responded with a smirk as she took a step towards Toni.

"Ah, ah, ah," Toni said waving a finger in front of her.

"What?" Abbie asked her softly looking at her through her eyelashes.

"I'm on top," Toni said smiling before she reached out and pushed Abbie making her fall back onto the bed. Abbie reached out and grabbed her bringing her down on top of her. She ran her hands up the backs of Toni's legs drawing her skirt up and making it easier for Toni to rest on top of her.

"I'm having a touch of déjà vu," Abbie declared as she started to remove Toni's shirt from her shoulders. Toni shifted so that her knees were resting on the bed beside Abbie then straightened up so that Abbie could take the shirt off of her completely.

Once Abbie had gotten the shirt off she brought her hands to Toni's waist where she rested them for a second before bringing them up and caressing Toni's sides. She continued to move her hands up brushing the sides of Toni's breasts briefly before bringing her hands to her shoulders, then down her arms, all the while watching the progression of her hands with an almost reverent expression on her face. Then she brought her hands back to Toni's stomach and moved them up again, this time stopping at her breasts and cupping them in her hands, squeezing them gently. When she did this she heard Toni moan, and then their lips were pressed together and Toni was kissing her hungrily.

Toni brought her hands up to Abbie's breasts massaging them through the fabric of her bra.

"Front latches," Toni said as she moved down to nuzzle Abbie's neck. "Convenient," she continued a moment later with a smile as her fingers went to work. As Toni undid Abbie's bra Abbie ran her hands down to Toni's waist and undid her skirt. Toni pushed the cups of the bra to the side and trailed kisses down from her neck to her breasts where she proceeded to lick the valley in between Abbie's breasts before finally moving to side and taking an already erect nipple into her mouth to suck on it.

Abbie arched up into Toni's mouth moaning as she continued to lavish attention onto her nipple. Abbie ran her hands up Toni back raking her nails down Toni's back lightly as the redhead continued to attack her nipple. When her hands finally landed on the latches to Toni's bra Abbie started to undo it.

"Having a little trouble?" Toni asked a moment later lifting up her head.

"I'm a bit distracted," Abbie responded concentrating on unhooking the bra while Toni was otherwise occupied.

"That's not a problem is it?" Toni asked not waiting for an answer before returning to her previous task.

"Not at all," Abbie responded in a half sigh as her head tilted back. "But I'd really appreciate it, if you'd take the rest of your clothes off," she continued with a smile.

Abbie lay awake staring at the ceiling with a blissfully happy smile on her face. Toni's head was resting on her shoulder and Abbie bent her head to the side and kissed the top of her head before returning to her contemplation of the ceiling. Her thoughts took a philosophical turn and she found herself wondering about the nature of love. Poets, writers, philosophers, and even scientists had spent centuries trying to figure out exactly what love was. Was there some physical scientific force behind it determining who loved who? Was it a matter of nuclei, or pheromones? Or was there some mystical force behind it that drove certain people towards each other, and others away? Everyone from kings to peasants had an idea what love was but nobody knew for sure, and maybe that was the point.

Abbie wasn't thinking that she knew what love was, she was just thinking about what she knew about love. She was thinking that love was what she felt every time she looked at Toni and felt her heart skip a beat. That it was the calm and peace she felt lying in bed holding Toni next to her. She was thinking that love was what slowed her down so that she could smell the proverbial roses, or watch the sun set. But she also was thinking that love was mean. That love was the crushing, enveloping pain that she had been her companion the night before. That love could be as cruel as it was generous.

When she felt Toni begin to stir beside her, she hadn't really solved anything in her mind. She hadn't had a great epiphany that would change the world. She had just killed fifteen minutes or so, which was alright with her.

"How long have you been awake?" Toni asked sleepily as she lifted herself up onto her elbows so that she could see Abbie's face. Abbie shrugged lackadaisically.

"I don't know," she responded looking down at Toni with a grin. Toni stared at her curiously.

"What's the matter with you?" she asked. "You look goofy." Abbie rested her head on her hand and looked at Toni seriously.

"This is carefree Carmichael, she does not make appearances often," Abbie said still with a straight face. "A smart person would take advantage of carefree Carmichael when she is still carefree, because I guarantee you that antagonistic Abbie will return soon enough," she continued. Toni stared at her.

"Carefree Carmichael, Antagonistic Abbie??" she asked laughing. "Were you thinking those up before I woke up?" she continued with a mockingly suspicious look on her face.

"No, those just came to me because I'm so very bright," Abbie said with a smile as she lay her head back down on the pillow. "I was actually thinking about love."

"Really?" Toni asked shifting so that she could get a better look at Abbie's face.

"Uh huh," Abbie responded nodding.

"What about it?" Toni asked. She knew that Abbie was playing with her.

"That it's not cerebral, that it doesn't make sense. It's pure emotion, it's your will and the blood screaming inside of you," Abbie responded thoughtfully. "You know that saying 'love's a bitch'? Well it's true," she continued raising onto her hand again. "But it's my bitch now, and I mean to keep it." Toni smiled at her and leaned up kissing her softly.

"That was very romantic Tex," Toni said resting her head back on Abbie shoulder.

"Chimerical Carmichael," Abbie responded. Toni looked up again.

"Are you going to be doing that all day?" she asked even though she was smiling.

"Maybe," Abbie said. "Unless you can find something better for me to do."

"Is that a challenge?" Toni asked with a wicked smile. Abbie pretended to ponder the question for a moment before answering.

"Yes, yes it is," she responded. Toni raised the covers and looked underneath.

"We're going to need a lot of water," Toni said seductively sliding her body on top of Abbie's.

"Would you think it immature if I said 'Goody!'?" Abbie asked. She didn't get an answer. Toni had found something better for her to do.

Part Six

Abbie scratched out the last sentence she had written and started over again. She was just finishing the revision when she heard Ricci's voice out in the hallway. The door to her office was open which allowed her to hear what was being said. Putting down her pen she looked up and out her window into the office. She could see Toni standing just outside her door talking to a man. He worked in the office, Abbie knew that, he was a paralegal for one of the lawyers a few doors down.

"Come on Toni," the man said with a somewhat rakish grin.

"I really can't Bob," Toni said firmly yet gently.

"Please," Bob asked raising both hands in front of his face and placing them together. "You're breaking my heart," he added when Ricci still looked unconvinced.

"I've got to go," Toni said side-stepping around him.

"Is it someone else?" Bob asked turning around to watch her exit. "Are you seeing someone?"

"Yeah," Toni answered taking the few steps to Abbie's door. "Her, I'm seeing her right now," Toni continued pointing to the name plate on the door.

"That's not what I meant," Bob said looking at her with a frown. Toni waved and closed the door.

Toni turned around to find Abbie gazing at her with an amused expression on her face. Her head was resting on the palm of her hand and she looked quite comfortable. Toni walked over to the chair in front of her desk and sat down. She crossed her legs and leaned back in the chair staring right back at Abbie.

"What?" Ricci asked finally though a smile that mirrored Abbie's started to work its way across her face.

"Nothing," Abbie said removing her hand from her head and picking her pen back up. "You're just cute that's all."

"I'm sure Bob didn't think it was all that adorable," Toni said watching Abbie play with the pen in her hand.

"I suppose not," Abbie responded finishing up the sentence she had started before getting distracted.

"How's the opening coming?" Toni asked leaning forward try and take a look at it.

"It's coming along," Abbie responded scanning over what she had written. "Here," she said sliding the sheet over to Toni. Toni looked up at her surprised.

"Really?" the red-head asked even though she scooped the sheet up fast enough. In the past Abbie had always been secretive about her opening and closing statement, she never let anyone read them. This one was only half done but it was still highly unusual.

"Yeah," Abbie responded lightly though her gaze was intense. Toni met her gaze for a moment then picked up the piece of paper and read over what had been written carefully. Abbie's hand writing was small and angular with a lot of sharp turns with just a few loops spread throughout. However, despite the sharpness of it the writing flowed beautifully from letter to letter and word to word. It was just the sort of cursive Toni would have expected Abbie to have. She had never before considered what kind of handwriting her lovers had had, it was a little thing that hadn't concerned her in the past, but she found that she was thinking about little things like that with Abbie, that things she once would have considered inconsequential were now important to her.

"Bang-up job," Toni said somewhat distractedly as she slid the paper back over to Abbie.

"Are you okay?" Abbie asked turning the sheet of paper around so that it was facing her again.

"Not really," Toni answered truthfully with a thoughtful expression on her face.

"Okay," Abbie said slowly watching Toni carefully. "Why?"

"Because," Toni responded her voice lowering, "I'm slightly terrified."

"About what?" Abbie asked searching Toni's face. She knew that it wasn't about the case, she knew that it was something more important than that but she didn't know what.

"About..." Toni started then paused as she looked around the office stopping extra long to stare out the window that lead to the office. "About us," she continued pulling her chair forward and resting her elbows on Abbie's desk.

"Us," Abbie repeated. She didn't like the tone Toni was using. "Okay, is this thing about us good or bad?"

"It's good," Toni said trying to reassure Abbie. She was sure that Carmichael wasn't even aware of the look on her face but it was slightly panicky and that wasn't what Toni was aiming for. "It's just that it's also terrifying," Toni continued. She glanced at the window to the offices again and Abbie realized that it was a significant gesture. She got up and walked over to the window closing the blinds.

"Terrifying how?" Abbie asked sitting back down. Toni examined the rest of the room again, and Abbie watched her closely. Toni was nervous and Toni was very rarely nervous. The first night in her office was really the only time that she had seen Ricci unstrung. However she considered that she was very rarely insecure as well, except for when it came to Ricci.

"I think it's cute that you're left handed," Toni said finally as if that explained everything.

"I really don't have a choice in the matter, but I'm elated that you enjoy it," Abbie responded.

"That's exactly the point," Toni said looking at Abbie intensely now. "You're just you being you, and I...I'm..." she paused again searching for the right words, searching for what she was actually trying to say. "I'm falling, if I haven't already fallen, in love with you. And the reality of that is as terrifying as it is exhilarating, because right now when it comes to you I'm not really in control and I want that, but I'm also scared of it."

Once Toni finished speaking Abbie continued to watch her for a minute. To Toni her eyes seemed to become luminescent with forming tears. Abbie then stood up and walked around the desk until she was standing in front of Toni's chair. She reached out her hand and touched Toni on the shoulder urging her to stand. Once Toni was standing Abbie placed her hand on the side of her face then leaned in and brought their lips together. She had said it before, she wasn't good at emotional conversations, her words would usually fail her in situations like these, or so she supposed since she had never really been a situation like that before. So she decided that the best way to communicate what she was feeling to Toni would be to show her.

When they separated they remained close together but not quite touching. Toni's hand was on Abbie's waist, and Abbie's hand was on the back on Toni's neck. They both knew that this wasn't the time or the place, that anyone could walk in and see them, but they couldn't completely tear themselves away from each other.

"I'm scared too," Abbie said finally placing her lips next to Toni's ear. "Sometimes when I think about you I have to sit down because the whole world starts to spin around me and I feel like I'm going to fall over. Never in my life have I felt so out of control, so...vulnerable, and it's scary yes, but I don't ever want it to go away, cause I know what that feels like, and, well...it kind of sucks. So," she continued pulling back so that she could see Toni's face. "As stupid as this is going to sound," she continued with a smile. "I'm sure that everything will be alright, as long as we work through it together, with each other."

"Are you just saying that to make me feel better?" Toni asked tucking a stray strand of hair behind Abbie's ear.

"No," Abbie responded. "I'm saying that to make me feel better," she continued with a smile. Toni looked up at her for a moment then started to laugh. Abbie leaned down and kissed her on the forehead.

"Are you busy right now?" Toni asked a moment later.

"Nah, I'm just preparing some notes to put away a murderer. Why?" Abbie asked looking down at her.

"I want to be with you," Toni said looking up at her.

"You are with me," Abbie responded a small smile working its way across her face. "Seriously though, where would we? I'd offer to sweep all the stuff off of my desk, but some of it's bolted down, and the other stuff is fragile."

"Fragile, what have you got in here, Grandma's china set?" Toni asked looking over at the desk.

"Grandma collected shotguns," Abbie responded.

"My car's downstairs," Toni said ignoring Abbie's response.

"You want to do it in the back of your Beamer?" Abbie asked a huge smile working its way across her face.

"Yeah, I do," Toni responded looking at her. "Is that going to be a problem?"

"Not for me," Abbie responded taking Toni's hand into hers.

Mr. White stood up buttoning his blazer as he walked from around behind the desk. He nodded towards the judge then approached the stand where officer O'Brien was seated.

"How was it that you became aware that a shooting had taken place?" White asked O'Brien.

"A call was placed to the station," said O'Brien. "Then we got a call about a 187 and headed over to the store."

"Do you know who placed the call?"

"I didn't at the time, but I was later informed that it was the shooter," O'Brien answered fidgeting a bit. Mr. White looked at the judge for a moment no doubt debating complaining about the description of his client, but thankfully he said nothing.

"So Mrs. Barret placed the call herself. Tell me Mr. O'Brien, have you investigated many shootings?" White asked.

"All the time. I do work for the NYPD you know," O'Brien responded smirking a bit at his last comment.

"In the majority of those cases did the accused call the police themselves and wait for the police to arrive?"

"In the majority..."

"Yes or no Mr. O'Brien," White said interrupting him.

"No," O'Brien answered looking at White rather nastily.

"What does the fact that Mrs. Barret called the police say to you Mr. O'Brien?" White asked turning to face the jury. "To me it says she had nothing to hide."

"Objection," Abbie said standing up. "The question goes to state of mind, which officer O'Brien couldn't possibly know. Also his last comment was leading."

"Sustained," the judge said turning to Mr. White. "Watch yourself."

"What was the state of the store when you arrived?" Mr. White asked turning his attention back to the stand.

"There were some things thrown around but it wasn't torn up or anything," O'Brien answered.

"But there had obviously been some kind of commotion?"


"Could you describe Mrs. Barret's state when you entered the store for us, please?" White asked.

"Objection," Abbie said once again shooting White a look. White returned the look.

"If Miss Carmichael was paying attention instead of timing her objections, she'd know that I'm not asking him to testify as to her state of mind, but as to what he himself observed. Surely he's capable of testifying to that," White responded.

"Overruled," the judge said before turning her attention back to the stand.

"She was shaken up I suppose," O'Brien answered with a shrug.

"Shaken up?"

"Yeah, she looked kinda pale. Here husband was holding her," O'Brien answered. "You know, shaken up."

"Is it common for store owners to have firearms in their stores for protection?" White asked pacing beside the jury box.

"In this city, sure," O'Brien answered. "But most of them bought theirs legally," he added before White could move on. White glared at him and Abbie smiled.

"How many shots were fired by Mrs. Barret?" Abbie asked as she walked over to the stand.

"Six. She emptied the enter chamber," O'Brien answered. Abbie turned around and raised an eyebrow as she looked at the jury.

"That's a lot of bullets," she commented. As she continued towards the desk she saw White shot up out of his seat. The judge spoke before him though.

"Council you are not to communicate directly with the members of the jury. Is that understood?"

"Yes, your honor," Abbie responded before returning her attention to office O'Brien. "How were the bullets distributed?"

"The first boy, the one closest to the counter was shot once, the other boy was shot five times in the stomach."

"How far away from the counter were the bodies located?" Abbie asked heading back towards the desk.

"The first boy was found approximately three meters away form the counter, and the second boy was a meter behind him," O'Brien responded.

"What did Mrs. Barret tell you when you questioned her about the circumstance leading up to the shooting?"

"She said that the kids were tossing stuff around, and that then one of them threatened her. Then she said that's when she saw a knife in one of their hands and reached for her gun. When he came towards her that's when she shot him, and then after that she shot the other one...when he supposedly came at her too."

"Did you find a knife or any other weapon on either of the boys?"

"No, both of them were unarmed."

"How about in the rest of the store? Did you find any weapons around the rest of the floor in case it was dropped when the boys were shot?"

"We conducted a thorough search of the store, no weapon was located. Only thing we found near them was a can of coke."

"So it's your testimony that the boys were standing a fair distance away from the counter when they were shot, and that they were both unarmed?" Abbie asked.

"Yes, that's correct."

"How long have you been an officer with the NYPD?"

"Fifteen years in May," O'Brien responded proudly.

"In your experienced opinion based on the evidence, would you say that Mrs. Barret was in any physical danger at the time the shots were fired?"

"Objection," White said standing up. "Officer O'Brien was no there, he can't possibly testify as to what danger my client was in at any particular moment."

"Officer O'Brien is qualified to testify as to opinions formed as a result of his investigation," Abbie countered immediately.

"I'll allow it, but be careful Ms. Carmichael," the judge responded.

Abbie smiled and turned back to face O'Brien.

Toni rested her ear over Abbie's heart and listened as her breathing returned to normal. She found that she liked to do that, listen to Abbie's heartbeat. It was an intensely intimate gesture and she liked the feeling of closeness that enveloped her when she did it. It was almost as if she was inside her heart. When she felt Abbie's breathing return to normal she rolled off her and lay her head down on her pillow.

"Can I ask you something?" Abbie asked a moment later.

"You know you can," Toni responded shifting so that they were looking at each other.

"When did you know?"

"Know what?" Toni asked quizzically.

"That you were gay?" Abbie asked point-blank. That was how Toni would have expected the question to come, Abbie had the subtleties of a battering-ram.

"When I was fifteen, the spring of grade ten," Toni said with a wistful smile. "There was a girl who sat two seats across from me, Stefanie," Toni continued. "For about three weeks I couldn't take my eyes off of her, then my musing took on a more interesting leaning. While it was hardly a revelation I was thrilled to make, I made it. I held on to the bi security blanket for a few years...alright for more than a few years," she admitted ruefully. "Then I just...I said to hell with it and went out and bought the latest Melissa Ethridge album."

"Was it hard for you?" Abbie asked when Toni had finished.

"Not to come out to myself," Toni responded. "I was actually surprised that it wasn't a bigger a deal for me. However," Toni continued dragging out the word. "My mother still kind of thinks it's a phase."

"Hmmm," Abbie said thoughtfully as she rested her head back down on her pillow.

"What about you?" Toni asked raising up onto her arm and looking down at Abbie.

"I grew up in Texas," Abbie responded wearily.

"How old were you?" Toni asked brushing a strand of hair out of her face.

"Seventeen, almost eighteen," Abbie responded. "At least that's how old I was when I finally admitted it to myself," she continued. "I dated about three different guys that same year, I guess somewhere in the back of my head I thought that if I surrounded myself with enough testosterone it'd dilute my attraction to the fairer sex."

"Did it work?"

"Obviously not," Abbie responded with a smirk. Toni leaned down and kissed her softly.

"You've got issues don't you?" Ricci asked seriously once they separated. Abbie looked at her for a moment before answering.

"A few," she responded in a half sigh as she looked away. "I've been living like a nun for a long time."

"Hey," Toni said drawing Abbie's eyes back to her. "We'll work through it."

"Why do you put up with me?" Abbie asked as Toni settled back down. "I know that I'm a pain in the ass."

"I like my women butch," Toni deadpanned. Abbie turned over and stared at her for a second.

"I'm not butch," Abbie stated. "I'm a bitch, there's a difference. I'm not sure exactly what that difference is only that it's there."

"Can you change the oil in a car?" Toni snuggling up to Abbie's side.

"Yes," Abbie responded. "But..."

"You're butch."

"I'm from Texas," Abbie stated as if that answered everything.

"So, that doesn't mean anything useless your dad's Hank Hill," Toni told her.

"The semblance is frightening," Abbie responded with a smile. "My dad did sell propane and propane accessories."

Abbie stood up straightening her shirt then walked out in front of the desk to face the members of the jury. Her expression was serious but not harsh. She wanted to convey to them the seriousness of the case and their decision, but she didn't want them to feel pressured.

"Two boys are dead," she started looking each of the jurors in the eye. "As a direct result of Mary Barrett's actions that night, two lives were taken." She paused in her oration to walk back towards to desk. "Whether or not she killed Dylan Anderson and Jeff Blaine is not up for debate. She herself admitted that she shot them down. The reason we're here is because she wants to appeal. Appeal to out compassion, appeal to us for acceptance of her actions." Abbie stopped walking and turned to face the members of the jury again. Her expression softened slightly but her tone remained serious. "Dylan and Jeff cannot appeal to you anymore. That was taken away from them on the night of March 10th along with their lives. The sad truth of the matter is that these boys did not have to die!"

Her voice was raising now, filled with passion. "Mrs. Barrett did not have to let them in, she did not have to draw that gun, and she did not, should not, have fired at a pair of unarmed boys. She was angry, they had assaulted her husband, vandalized her store and insulted her, and the police did nothing. She was at the end of her rope, and maybe even a little bit scared, so what did she do? She went out and bought an illegal fire arm, and put it under her counter, so that next time she'd be ready and they'd be dead. Did being angry and frustrated give her the right to murder two kids? No, absolutely not."

She paused again glancing at the floor before slowly raising her head again so that she was looking directly at the jurors. "Sorry is not enough. Mrs. Barrett made a decision and acted on that decision. Because of that two people are dead. No...." she said shaking her head, "sorry is not enough."

With that she cast one last look in the jurors direction, her eyes silently pleading with them to make the right decision. To do their duty. Then she walked back to the desk and sat down glancing at Toni. Ricci smiled and Abbie let out a little breath she had been holding. It was up to the jury now.

"Man one, How do you feel about it?" Toni asked pulling on Abbie's gloves as they walked down the steps of the courthouse. Abbie placed her hat on her head and stuffed her hands into her pocket before responding.

"I'm fine with it," she said stepping over a discarded coffee cup. "What about you?"

"I didn't want to see her go away for the rest of her life. I think the jury made the right decision," Toni responded as they hit the sidewalk. Abbie reached out and placed her hand on Toni's back half pushing her to the left. "I take it we're going left," Toni said smirking.

"Uh huh," Abbie said dropping her hand once they were heading in the right direction.

"Would it have killed you to just tell me we were going left?" Toni asked glancing to her side.

"Yes, Toni, it actually would've killed me," Abbie responded. Toni reached out and punched her gently in the arm. Abbie leaned in towards her and for a moment they remained close, barely touching, watching each other before separating again.

"So are you going to tell me where we're going?" Toni asked once they started walking again. The office was in the other direction.

"To Disneyland," Abbie responded promptly. Toni shot a look in her direction.

"Where are we really going?"

"The weather in Orlando's great this time of year, and at Epcot they've got glasses of beer that are this big," Abbie said separating her hands to show Toni just how big the glasses were. Toni just looked over at her and stared at her for a moment. "Come on, it's a surprise," Abbie said finally starting to become unnerved by the look on her girlfriend's face.

"A surprise?" Toni asked dubiously.

"Yeah, we're going to celebrate," Abbie said with a smile.

"Is this what you and McCoy do after every case?" Toni asked stepping out of the way of a roller bladder.

"No, we usually just fight over who's going to do the paper work," Abbie responded.

"Who usually wins?"

"He does," Abbie admitted ruefully.

"So what's so special about this case?" Toni asked moving closer to Abbie to make way for the pack of teenagers about to pass them.

"Nothing," Abbie responded looking over at Toni. "We're not going out because of the case."

"Then why are we going out?" Toni asked meeting Abbie's gaze. Abbie paused for a second dropping her gaze to her feet before bringing her eyes up to meet Toni's again. Her face clear, and her eyes staid, and for a moment she just looked at Toni before a beatific smile worked its way across her face.

"Because this," she said joining their hands together. "Is more of a reason to celebrate than any case." Toni looked down at their joined hands staring at them for a moment before tilting her head back up so that their eyes met, then she smiled.

As they started back down the street Toni's mind drifted back to the conversation they had had in Abbie's office after their first kiss in Abbie's apartment, more accurately back to the question Abbie had asked her that night. What's next? When she had answered her that night, she hadn't known, she hadn't known where they were going, or how she was feeling, or where she wanted them to go. But as they walked down the street Toni realized that just like on that night weeks ago, she was still scared, and still uncertain. She knew that the road they had started down was not going to be an easy one, but as she felt Abbie squeeze her hand she knew with a certainty that she had never felt before that she didn't care where they went or how arduous the journey, as long as they went together.

The End

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