Tabula Rasa by Janine
Email Janine at jbstories@hotmail.com

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.

 

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.

******************************

HALL OF RECORDS WEDNESDAY, MARCH 23RD

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.

*************************************

APARTMENT OF ANTONIELLA RICCI WEDNESDAY, MARCH 23RD

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 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 they're 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 which 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 like boys, or girls, or boys and girls. She was actually beginning to think that the only thing 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 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 her 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 & Songs.

The door bell 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 not 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."

"Oh."

"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?"

"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 said 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.

******************************

OFFICE OF ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY ABBIE CHARMICHAEL FRIDAY, APRIL 1ST

"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 clients 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 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 girlfriends 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 a 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 Jean-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 friends 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. "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 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 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 to 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 your 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 it's 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's 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 she 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-heads 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 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 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 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 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.

**********************************

OFFICE OF ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY ANTONELLA RICCI RACQUETS BUREAU SATURDAY, APRIL 2ND

"How'd it go?" Jason asked unwrapping his sandwich.  He'd decided he'd play the dutiful bother 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.  AbbieıAbbie's very self-possessed all of the time, sheıshe 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 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 of 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 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 youı"

"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 thoughtı" 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."

"Why?"

"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 manıbecause 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.

Continue to Part 5-6

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