Tabula Rasa by Janine
Email Janine at

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.
Rating: R-ish (maybe more maybe less I'm not quite sure:-)
Synopsis:  There's a shooting, and with McCoy called out of town, Carmichael is given the case and ends up being partnered with an old acquaintance of hers.
*Note*  This story takes place before the events depicted in the episodes "Refuge", and "Refuge: Part 2".  Also, no matter what I like to delude myself into thinking I am NOT a lawyer, so I apologize in advance for any technical errors there might be in my legalese etc.



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 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 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 teenager's 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 he 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 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 recorded 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 restaurants 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 you're guys," Briscoe responded taking a slip 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 to 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 on 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 them 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 what?"

"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 pocket's 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.  I 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 flitter 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.

" 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 it's 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.   "'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."


" 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 raised 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 thought's 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 who's 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 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 you're 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.   "were they the only people that you phoned?"

"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 was 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 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 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 Sparks,"  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 your finished come by the office and we'll go over everything," Abbie said.  "Shit!" Abbie said 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 a lot that morning before they had headed over to Riker's but still wasn't any clearer on how it happened or what 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 in 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.


Continue to Parts 3 & 4

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