Title: Thin Skull

Author: Harper

Email: Xfjnky2@yahoo.com


Since I'd felt decidedly underdressed the last time, I had opted for the perennial favorite for our second date. This time found me in the 'can do no wrong' little black dress that was the staple of any woman's closet, one of the most versatile and handy items of clothing that anyone could own short of a flak jacket. It could be understated yet classy, sexy without crossing the line into racy, simple and elegant all at the same time. Mine was cocktail length with thin little straps, and bared more skin than was comfortable in the rapidly approaching New York winter, but such is the price we pay for fashion. Besides, my legs looked good swathed in black silk hose, and I still had a luxurious black Pashima shawl that I had liberated from Brooke back before starting undergrad. With my long hair pulled back in an artful little twist and a dash of red lipstick bringing color to my face, I knew I looked damn good, and hoped to soon see that fact reflected back to me in nearly black eyes.

As I once again rode up the elevator to the eighth floor, I was glad to note that this time the butterflies in my stomach weren't quite as active as they had been the last time I found myself in this building. Maybe it was the knowledge that I could manage to get through an entire evening without embarrassing myself too badly, or maybe it was the fact that I felt confident in an outfit that I knew show-cased my best assets, but whatever it was, I was grateful for it.

My knock on the door went unanswered, and I waited a few moments before knocking again, wondering if perhaps she was still in the shower and hadn't heard me the first time. After a few more knocks and an ear pressed to the door to confirm nothing but resounding silence in the apartment, I felt my shoulders slump in defeat. Either she had forgotten about our date or she had figured the best way to avoid me was to make herself scarce. Either way, I was fairly certain that she wasn't here, and with a sigh that sounded forlorn even to my own ears, I turned to head back down the corridor to the elevators.

It took forever for the car to come after I pushed the button, but finally I heard the ping announcing its arrival and waited patiently as the doors slid open. Moving to step forward, I found myself nearly plowed down by a tall figure in black, a squeak of surprise crossing my lips before I could stop it.

"I'm so glad I caught you." It was Abbie, a briefcase hanging by her side and a repentant look on her face. "I got caught up in a meeting, and was going to call to let you know I'd be running late, but I realized that I didn't even have your number."

Stuffing down any feelings of self-pity that I'd been feeling moments earlier, I gave her my brightest smile, trying to act as if I hadn't been on the verge of tears.

"No problem. I'm just glad that you didn't have to wait for the next car, or else I might have missed you." I hope that sounded light and cheery.

"Look, do you mind waiting while I take a quick shower and get changed? I promise it won't take too long." Those dark eyes were looking at me with a mixture of expectancy and entreaty, and all I could do was nod.

"No need to hurry. I'll wait as long as it takes." Oh, hope that didn't sound too needy. I had the distinct impression that I was coming off as a starry-eyed kid, which was not at all the demeanor that I'd been shooting for.

"Great." She was moving down the hall, fingers shifting through her keys as she walked. I followed along behind her, watching as she tossed her briefcase to the side, as she shed the lightweight jacket she was wearing over her suit. She took a minute to roll her neck wearily, and I could hear the pop of vertebra all the way over where I was standing nervously just inside her apartment door.

"This is the living room, and the kitchen is right through there. Watch TV, make a drink, pry through my personal belongings. I won't be long." She was down the hall through a door at the back before I could say anything, and for a moment I just stood, rooted in place. It felt odd to be here in her inner sanctum, but I couldn't help my curiosity.

The couch was wide and tan, separated from a large entertainment center by a battered old chest that served as a coffee table. A framed and matted print of Dali's "Persistence of Memory" graced the back wall, and the left side of the room was taken up by long windows covered only by sheer wisps of cream fabric. I could see a stereo and a television tucked into the recesses of the battered wooden entertainment center, and it was bracketed on both sides by two large racks completely filled by CDs. Unable to help myself, I wandered over, my eyes tracing over the collection shelved there, apparently completely devoid of any sort of organization. She had everything from Madonna to Cake to a whole hell of a lot of Patsy Cline, and I shook my head at the motley collection.

The open doorway to the kitchen beckoned, and I walked curiously across the expanse of thick carpet separating me from it. The tile was slate gray, the counters were black, and the appliances were industrial chrome, giving the room a cold, somewhat futuristic look. A quick peek in the fridge revealed that she owned a wide assortment of condiments, three packages of strawberry applesauce, and a half gallon of fat free milk that was down to probably less than enough for one bowlful of cereal. No wonder she was so thin.

Having exhausted the few places where I felt I could snoop and not be horribly embarrassed if I happened to get caught, I headed back to the living room. Settling down gingerly on the couch, not wanting to wrinkle the front of my dress any more than it already was from the drive over, I picked up the remote, flipping on the TV. For some reason, I wasn't surprised to find it on 'Court TV', and with a sigh flicked Catherine Cryer away. Not that the show wasn't interesting to watch, especially when they pulled in a defense attorney and the guest panel and the hosts went at one another like rabid dogs, but it just wasn't what I wanted tonight.

As I flipped past MSNBC, I noticed that that cute little blonde with the rectangular little glasses, Ashleigh Banfield or something like that, was running through the day's latest events, and I settled back. News was always good quality viewing material, and when coupled with my favorite little anchor, I was in heaven.

"Ready to go?" I jerked my head to the side at the words, catching sight of a long cascade of dark hair falling forward over her face as she struggled to fit an earring into place. She'd changed into a fresh pantsuit, this one a rich chocolate brown, neatly tailored to fit her long length, with its wide legs opening up on a pair of heels that were no more than a few scraps of fabric thrown together and used to strap the bottoms to her feet. The shoes took the somewhat severe, business-like suit and made it a little more nightlife oriented, which meant that I wouldn't look completely ridiculous as her companion in my certainly dressy attire. Somehow she'd managed to shower, redo her make-up, and put together an outfit in less time than it usually took me to pry myself out of bed and start the coffeemaker in the mornings, and I couldn't help but be impressed.

"You look beautiful," I said solemnly, my eyes lingering as they traced over her body.

There was the hint of a grin and then, "You do too. Now come on, I'm starving."


She'd looked so sad, standing there waiting on the elevator. Probably thought that I stood her up, that my absence was a less than subtle attempt to end our connection via non-face to face confrontation. Apparently she didn't know me as well as she thought if the idea that I would ever shirk away from a potentially uncomfortable meeting was a viable one. Confrontation was my bread and butter, and I'm completely unashamed to admit that I quite enjoy it. Not that everything in life should be a battle, mind you, but don't be afraid to stick to your guns. Or, actually, to use them if need be. I was, after all, from Texas, the land that felt that gun control movements were the evil machinations of hippie zealots wanting to take away that most essential of all basic civil liberties - the right to bear arms.

When I came back into the living room to find her salivating over that cute little blonde reporter and she looked at me with such hunger, I realized there was one big plus to dating her. I loved how beautiful I looked in her eyes, how she seemed to instantly focus all of her attention on me as if I were the most important thing in the universe at that moment. It was flattering in the extreme, and I'll admit that I'm not immune to the lure it posed. But, I couldn't let myself get pulled in by that, couldn't embark on a relationship based on nothing more than some kid's admiration of me. If this continued, then it would be because we had something in common or we enjoyed one another's company, not because some barely out of her teen's reporter was effectively managing to inflate my ego.

"Did you have any place in particular in mind?" I knew where I wanted to go, but out of deference to any plans she might have made, I'd at least hear what they were before carefully structuring an argument designed to make her change them.

"Not really. I thought I'd get input this time." Wonderful. No need for skillful manipulations tonight then.

"I know the perfect place. Its just around the corner, but I swear to you, it has the best Italian food that you'll find anywhere. Sound good to you?" I was in the mood for something earthy, something hearty, and was desperately hoping that she didn't have an aversion to Italian food, or was allergic to tomatoes, or anything else that might keep me from my goal.

"Sounds great." My plans now unchallenged and cemented, I discovered that I was in a good mood. A much better mood than my day merited. After all, the jury was still out on the case I'd wrapped at the end of last week, which was never a good sign, and I had the feeling that if they didn't come back with a verdict in the next day or so then the judge was going to declare a mistrial. That I didn't want, because a mistrial was as good as a loss in my book, and I tried to keep down the number of those I had as dark stains on my rather impressive trial record.

Fifteen minutes later we were settled into a cozy little booth, the soft glow of candlelight bringing out dark glints in Sam's hair, and I really noticed for the first time just how pretty she was. I mean sure, I know she's an attractive girl, but sitting there, the long line of her neck bared by her upswept hair, lush lips pursed as she surveyed the menu, I realized that it was more than that. For a moment I wondered if someone just looking our way would mistake us for sisters, with our dark hair, our dark eyes, our matching sharp cheekbones. The thought struck me as funny for some reason, and I couldn't help but laugh, drawing an inquisitive look.

"And what have I done to amuse you now?" she asked, a quirky little smile tilting one side of her mouth up, exposing a small dimple.

"Nothing. I was just thinking about a funny story I heard once." Something tells me that my little observation wouldn't do anything to set my already nervous companion at ease.

"A funny law story?" She looked hopeful, and I tried to wrack my brain for something, anything, that I could tell her. Thankfully, a waiter appeared, saving me from a reply, and I made a mental note to add a little to his tip.

This time she didn't order just a salad, and I found myself somehow relieved by that. Nothing against those people who want to protest whatever it is that they're protesting by refusing to eat meat, but I wasn't one to trust someone who could survive off broccoli alone. It just wasn't natural. To give up the primal satisfaction of feeling your teeth cut through a good juicy steak indicated to me that you were someone who just couldn't enjoy the simpler pleasures in life. Not that I figured myself to be in the majority with that opinion or anything, but it was still reassuring to know that dinner wouldn't bring with it any philosophical discussions on the poor plight of what once made up the living creature that is now my food.

"So, are you going to share your funny story, or is it a private joke?" Ah shit, the story.

"Uh, its been a long time since I heard it, so I might mess it up." Come on, as many years as I've been in practice, I've got to have a story. Or maybe its just the pressure to perform that's shutting down my brain.

"I doubt that I'll know whether or not you slip up on some of the details," she said, her voice dry, and I latched onto the one improbable story that my mind seemed willing to conjure up.

"Just remember that I warned you. This didn't actually happen to me, and I've never gone and pulled the case, so you're getting it straight out of the mouth of my first year torts professor via me." She was watching me intently, apparently held in rapture by the prospect of this story, and I couldn't help but think that surely my mind could have thrown me something a little more appropriate for dinner conversation. "This was a long time ago, mind you, though apparently stupidity has been a factor down through the ages. Anyway, there was this business owner who wanted his vending machine cleaned, so he gets one of his employees, tells him to take some gasoline and make sure that he hits all the spots. Why he wants the vending machine cleaned with gasoline is still a mystery, but the employee says okay, gets his gasoline, and goes to clean the vending machine." I pause here for effect, watching her watch me in breathless anticipation. "In an enclosed room… with a space heater."

She laughs at this, and I have to agree. As many not so smart things as I've done in my life, I at least know better than to do anything like that. "But wait, it gets better. Apparently there's a nest of rats living in the back of the vending machine. One of them is pretty angry at this point. I mean, his house smells like gasoline, he's covered in the stuff… all in all, not a good day at the homestead. So, this rat rushes out of there… straight into the space heater, where he promptly bursts into flames."

She's struggling to contain the laughter by this point, so I'm feeling a little bit better about the story. "What do you do when you're upset, when you're covered in gasoline and on fire? Why, you run for the comforts of home of course."

"The vending machine?" she asks between giggles, and I grin evilly.

"None other. Needless to say… boom."

"God, I shouldn't laugh at that," she says, even as she wipes a tear from the corner of her eye, and I grin proudly. That's right ladies and gentlemen, I'm an entertaining date. Score one for flaming rat humor.

"Are you telling me that that really happened?" She looks a little skeptical now, and I put on my most innocent face.

"Would I make that kind of thing up? Apparently the defendant tried to argue that there was no way that he could foresee that his employee would be injured by an explosion caused by a flaming rat." I shook my head at that. Damn defense attorneys.

"Did he get away with it?" She looked slightly worried, which I thought was rather humorous, as if she was afraid that a horrible wrong had been perpetrated on the whole justice system.

"If I'm not mistaken, the courts found that while it wasn't necessarily reasonable to foresee that the employee would be injured in a flaming rat induced explosion, it was reasonable to foresee that cleaning a vending machine in an unventilated room that also contained a space heater might possibly lead to the same results, and allowed the employee to recover for his injuries."

"Thank God," she muttered. "I'd hate to think that all those poor people out there being injured in explosions caused by flaming rats were without recourse."

"I know. Could have been tragic had things gone the other way."

"Sounds like a candidate for the Darwin awards," she observed, and I searched my mind for the reference. Not that I didn't know who Darwin was, of course, but I wasn't aware that he had his own set of awards.

"Not really sure what you mean there," I finally admitted.

"People who are so dumb that they self-select themselves out of the gene pool. There's a whole website devoted to them, and a book too, if I'm not mistaken. Whoever runs it all collects all these stories about people who were killed through acts of their own stupidity. Most of them are pretty funny, if you can manage to push that whole loss of life aspect to the back corner of your mind." Why hadn't I heard of this sooner? Brilliant, that's what it was.

"That's the veal for you and chicken al fredo for you." Ah, food. With a smile to the waiter, I let him know that that was all we needed for right now, and turned appreciative eyes to my entrée.

The food was excellent, as usual, and after devouring my entrée I leaned back in my seat, watching Sam finish off her last few bites.

"You were right. That was wonderful." I acknowledged the comment with a smile, reaching over to refill her wine glass with the bottle that I had ordered to go with our meal.

"Did you always want to be a journalist?" My belly was full, I was in a good mood, and I wanted to know a little more about my dinner companion. Sitting here, watching her through the flickering candlelight, I began to think that maybe this might just turn into more than a 'few dates before the unreturned phone calls start' debacle that had marked my last few attempts at dating. Of course, since I was the one who didn't return phone calls, I supposed that it was up to me to see that that didn't happen.

"Pretty much so. I was on the paper back at my high school. Actually, I had a huge crush on our faculty advisor, which is horribly embarrassing now because I can only imagine how utterly transparent I was," she said with a self-deprecating laugh. I wondered if someday she'd say the same thing about me. "Anyway, I was always writing these little exposes, thinking that I was going to be the greatest thing to hit the news scene since Walter Cronkite."

"You mean you aren't? And here I've been thinking that I've been feeding quotes to a Pulitzer prize winner all this time," I teased, watching a blush chase its way up her cheeks.

"One day, maybe. Anyway, I never really stopped to think about doing anything else. Ever since I was little, my plans had always been to graduate from Columbia and get a great job somewhere. So, I managed to swing the graduating part, and am still waiting on the great job. What about you? I can picture you as a baby lawyer, carrying a little briefcase to class back in junior high." She smiled at that, and I couldn't help but roll my eyes at the description.

"Actually, no. I was going to be an elementary school principle, so that I could sit in my office all day long with my feet propped up on my desk, drinking coffee." I could remember the amusement on my mom's face when I told her my life plans at the tender age of 8.

"So what changed your mind, Abbie?" It always felt strange when someone used your name in the middle of a conversation like that, and I pulled myself out of my memories.

"Something happened, and it just seemed like the right thing to do," I said dismissively, not really wanted to talk about it, not wanting to probe wounds that I'd long ago learned how to ignore.

"Why come to New York? Texas is a long, long way away?" Maybe it was the journalist in her, seeing a momentary spate of weakness and trying to build on it.

"I've got to be in court early tomorrow. How about we call it a night." A flick of my hand brought the waiter scurrying, and I took the check, not even looking at the amount as I handed him a credit card.

Conversation was stilted after that, no doubt because I'd managed to be quite snappy with her. I felt bad about that, but couldn't help it. There were some things that I just didn't want to talk about.

"I'm sorry for prying." We were standing in front of my door once more, and I could tell from the look in her eyes that she was afraid I was going to give her the brush off, that I was going to tell her that it had been fun, but now it was over. Part of me was tempted to do that, to escape the complications of a fledgling relationship, but another part, a bigger part, wanted to give things a little more time.

"No, its my fault. I'm just not that good at talking about myself, probably because I spend all day making people answer questions for me, and don't like it when the shoe is on the other foot. I'm sorry for the way I reacted." And to show her that I meant it, I leaned forward, my lips capturing hers in a long, soft kiss.

When we broke apart, I noted the slightly glazed over look in her eyes, and knowing that it was best to end an evening on a happy note, I bid her good-night.


Two months. I couldn't actually believe that it had been two months since I'd seen her in that bar. It was pretty official now, at least in my mind. Things had definitely shifted from lust to love, or at the very least near-blinding infatuation. I don't know how she felt about things, because she was pretty good at playing her cards close to the chest, but I do know that she'd finally loosened up, and I hadn't heard one single comment about my age, or lack thereof, in weeks.

She had to be one of the most complex individuals that I'd ever known. Sometimes she could be so intense that it was almost frightening, her dark eyes fiery and her voice gravelly soft as she ranted about some case or the other, finally satisfied that I wasn't going to turn around and use the info in a story. Well, not unless she told me it was okay, at which point I'd run to my computer and type up a story just as quickly as I could manage.

Other times she was playful, almost like a mischievous five year old, with her sly smile and her slow Texas drawl. For the most part, I couldn't tell if she was being serious or just teasing me when she got like that, but it didn't really matter. In fact, I quite enjoyed it, and the broad smile that would crack across her face when I finally caught on to what she was doing did the most amazing things to the cute little cleft in her chin.

Of course, her past was still pretty much off-limits, and I couldn't really say that I knew much more about her now than I had before our first date. Most of my information was nothing more than the gossip that I managed to hear around the courtroom. I mean sure, she let little parts of herself slip out in conversation, but it would have been easier to pry facts out of a KGB spy than it was to get her to open up.

But oh, could she kiss. In fact, it almost more than made up for the careful evasions of any questions dealing with her past. It had taken a few more dates after our first one before that became a regular occurrence, but now the culmination of our evenings usually left me a steaming puddle of nerves at her feet. Maybe it was true what they say about experience, or maybe it was just that she never let herself get rushed, just bestowing these kisses that were completely thorough yet slow like honey. Whatever it was, I know that she could set me on fire with little more than a look.

We'd become a little freer in our touches over time. She was still rather stand-offish in public, but I got the impression that she was like that with everyone, that the clear demarcation of her personal space was a defensive tactic that she wasn't even really clearly aware of. That was fine with me though, because there were still the little things, like soft fingers on my elbow when she wanted to get my attention or the occasional light brush of her fingers against my cheek as she tucked a stray lock of hair behind my ear. In private, she was a little more open with her space, and times like now, when we were curled up together on the couch watching a movie, were my favorites.

She was a fan of pretty much anything with fighting and explosions. I asked her why once, expecting her tastes to be a bit more cerebral, but she told me that she did enough thinking on the job. When it came to entertainment, she preferred that it be mindless. After all, she'd said, that's what movies were supposed to be… an escape from reality. Tonight, though, her choice was a little more sedate. Bram Stoker's Dracula, which she owned. I'd looked at her a little oddly when she'd pulled it out of her entertainment center and popped it in the VCR, but she merely shrugged and said that Halloween was only a little over a month away and you never could start preparing for it too early. Personally, I was a fan of the movie myself, but enjoyed the shy smile that my teasing about her viewing material evoked too much to admit to it.

As the movie started, we'd settled easily against one another on the couch. I was a bit afraid that I was crushing her, laying here in the vee of her thighs, my back pressed to her chest, but she didn't seem to mind. Of course, I was more than hyperaware of the heat of her body burning into my back, of the press of her soft breasts, of the hot tease of her breath against my neck. She had her arms wrapped loosely around my belly, with her thumb rubbing unconscious circles around my navel, and if anyone had asked me, I wouldn't have been able to tell them anything that had happened onscreen in the last fifteen minutes.

I tried to pull myself together, tried to fix my attention back on the movie, realizing vaguely that one of my favorite scenes was coming up, but I couldn't seem to manage. Her smell, a mixture of some sort of sweet-smelling shower gel, a tinge of laundry detergent, and the underlying hint of warm skin that was hers alone, teased me, surrounding me. I knew that if I leaned my head back just a little further that it would be so easy to press my lips against that strong jaw line, knew that those hands resting loosely around me now would tighten to pull me closer. While I didn't want to push things beyond what she was comfortable with, the urge to kiss her was almost overwhelming, and after a short internal battle, I admitted defeat.

Twisting slightly, I angled myself to face her, letting my lips ghost past her neck to bury my nose in her hair. A conveniently placed earlobe found its way between my teeth almost without any conscious effort from me, and I couldn't help but let my tongue taste the sensitive bit of flesh.

"Sam…" Her voice was low, rich, winding its way through my belly to set me aflame.

"Hmmm?" The skin behind her ears was so soft, so smooth against my tongue.

"What're you doing?" I couldn't tell if she was amused or aroused, and was unwilling to pull back from my perch to look in her eyes and see for sure.

"Nothing," I said, my voice humming lightly against her skin as I moved downward, teeth and tongue worrying the slim column of her neck. "Don't mind me. You just keep on watching your movie."

Long fingers had found their way under the hem of my shirt, tugging the suddenly restrictive cloth upwards as they trailed a path up my spine. Suckling gently at the creamy flesh at the base of her throat, it was all that I could do to not purr at the feel of her fingertips tracing over my skin.

"Sam?" I could feel the vibration of her voice moving through her throat under my lips, and hoped desperately for her to continue speaking so that I could experience it again.

"Huh?" Okay, so my replies had dipped down into the less than stellar range. But what's the use in worrying about impressive sentence structure when my mouth is so pleasurably engaged in another pursuit?

"I own this movie, darlin'. I can watch it any time." I smiled at the words, tracing a line of kisses up over her chin until I was at her lips, feeling their lushness sear into me, a teasing tongue flicking out to trace over my bottom lip. The hands beneath my shirt moved slowly, tracing hot lines of sensation over my ribs until they were cupping my breasts, the push of her palm teasing the skin through the thin layer of sheer fabric covering it. Unbidden, a small gasp passed through my teeth at the move. As much as we had fooled around before, trading long, wet kisses in her doorway or on this very couch, this was the first time that things had escalated to this level.

"I'm sorry." She was speaking, her lips moving against mine, the words muffled between us. I could feel her hands starting to slip away and lurched forward, trapping them between our bodies.

"No, don't," I sounded breathless, needy, and wasn't sure that I liked that. "Its just that I've been waiting for so long…"

"You don't mind?" I wondered why she even had to ask that. Didn't she know what she did to me?

"Mind? Abbie, all I'm waiting for is for you to say the word." I hoped that she understood what I meant. Formulating clear and decisive arguments seemed to be outside of the scope of my capabilities at the moment.

"Waiting on me to say the word, huh?" I wondered why she was still talking. Didn't she realize that I was trying to kiss her? "What do I get if I say this mysterious word?"

"Whatever you want," I replied seriously. This relationship, and I felt that I could call it that at this point, had been rather tenuous from the start, and I hadn't been willing to risk it by pushing for more than she was willing to give me. She had seemed to want to take things slowly, and I was determined to honor that, but I'd been ready for more intimate physical contact almost since the beginning. Worshipping from afar apparently helped to remove that 'getting to know you' stage that preceded the desire to deepen things. Either that, or I had moved straight-away into full blown lust without stopping at Go to collect my $200. Somehow, I thought that it just might be the latter.

"Whatever I want? Opening yourself up to quite a bit there, aren't you?" I could tell that she was teasing me now, and with a groan of frustration, I pulled away from her lips so that I could meet her eyes.

"I'll let you know if you do something that causes me to want to amend my statement. Now, is it your intention to torment me all night long, Counselor?" Those dark eyes were dancing with amusement, the sneaky grin on her face doing nothing to negate my heightened state of arousal.

"All night's a pretty hefty order," she mused, her face a study in faux concentration. "How about we start with a few hours and see where it goes from there."

Suddenly it felt like I couldn't breathe. Was she saying what I thought she was saying? Did the inviting look in her eyes mean that things weren't going to end up like they normally did, which meant me suffering from a serious cause of acute overload of unresolved arousal?

Swallowing convulsively, I searched her face for clues, trying to determine the real import of her words. "Does that mean…" I trailed off, unable to find the right words.

I watched her head tilt to the side contemplatively, watched a spill of dark hair come free of its moorings behind her ear to brush up against her face, and wanted to slap my forehead in a physical show of my own stupidity. The first rule of suggestive statements is that you never, ever ask a question about them. Questions invite introspection and analysis, and neither of those things are conducive to getting the go-ahead that I so desperately want. You can't give someone time to think, because that gives them time to list all of the reasons why they might have wanted to stop and think in the first place instead of acting in the heat of the moment.

"You know," I was scrambling now, babbling in an attempt to slow down the wheels of thought that I could see spinning in her mind, "I'd love to touch you. I mean, I've wanted to touch you from the very beginning, but I've been moving slowly because I know that you have reservations about this whole thing and I don't want to do anything to rock the boat, so to speak, but if you'll let me, then I promise that it'll be all about you, all about me making you feel good. You don't have to worry about me. I don't want anything more out of it than to just be able to touch you. And here is fine, the couch is good, though I'm not sure that I would have picked it if I had to decide on a perfect place to be able to touch you. Not that its not a lovely couch. Very nice, very soft, but perhaps not quite as roomy as I'd like, but that's okay because I can work with that, so..."

There was a finger on my lips stopping the horrible train of confusing, run-on sentences that had just spilled from my lips in a rush, and I took a deep breath, trying to recover. A bemused smile curved at her lips, one of those that you get when you can't help but be amused by something, and I wondered vaguely if it was possible to make the earth open up and swallow me whole just by the sheer force of my will. I could feel my cheeks burning with embarrassment as she continued to watch me, those nearly black eyes burning into mine as time seemed to pull to a standstill.

"You wouldn't pick the couch?" Maybe it was the lawyer in her, always asking me questions when it was clear that whatever I'd just said should be allowed to die as dignified of a death as it could manage.

"No." Her finger was still against my lips, muffling the word a bit, and I had to fight the urge to reach out with my tongue and taste her flesh.

"What would be your furniture item of choice, if you had to pick?" Maybe I could consider a possible career as a court jester. Did they still have those? I certainly had the bumbling idiot requirement down pat.

"Uh, bed." One word answers were great. In fact, as compared to incoherent rambling, they were highly preferable.

"Sure that one isn't a little overused?" She was an evil, evil woman. Wouldn't someone with normal human compassion have put me out of my misery by now. And I certainly hope that she means overused in the cliched sense of the word, not the "I have to replace my mattress every three months because they just get too damn lumpy when I wear the springs out" sense.

"Roomy." In my book, roomy was a very, very good thing.

She took a minute to think about this before standing, one long-fingered hand reaching down to me invitingly. "I think you're right. Roomy is definitely an important consideration."

There was no way in hell that I was going to speak this time. No, I was going to take her hand and follow her wherever she was leading and hope for the best.

The best turned out to be a bedroom done in shades of gray with dark cherry, mission style furniture. A large bed occupied a place of honor in the room, bracketed on both sides by simple nightstands. I took in the functional alarm clock, the closet opened partially to reveal a line of dark suit jackets, the hint of slate tile through a door obviously leading to the bathroom, the floor devoid of any clutter. It was a room of stark lines and muted colors, with its walls empty of pictures, the surfaces of the bureau and the nightstands clean but for orderly groupings of perfumes or a scattered book or two. I didn't see any knick-knacks, no family pictures or little trinkets that might give any indication about the personality of its owner aside from the latest edition of 'The New York Trial Lawyer' laying face down beside the alarm clock.

"Is something wrong?" There was a tinge of concern in that low voice, and I turned, my lips quirking in a smile of reassurance. Apparently I'd been spending too much time analyzing the furniture, raising doubts that were certainly something that I wanted to avoid instilling at the moment.

"I'm just a little nervous, that's all." And I was, really. I wanted to be perfect for her, to make sure that she'd never be able to look back at this and regret that she'd let it happen. If that wasn't performance anxiety, then I didn't know what was. Especially when the woman I was trying to impress probably had access to a wealth of information and knowledge that I didn't. After all, she'd had more time to gather it. I'd read somewhere, in a cheesy romance novel no doubt, that youthful exuberance often made up for a lack of experience and could only hope that sentiment was grounded more in fact than in flights of imagination.

"And here I never would have known if you hadn't told me," she said wryly, and I grimaced at her smirk. Teasing time was over.

"May I kiss you?" Maybe it was superfluous to ask, but I wanted to pull things back into focus, wanted to make sure that all of her attention was on me and what I was doing.

"Yeah." Her voice was raspy now, sandpaper rough, and I wanted to curl up in the sensual warmth of her tone. Hell, I wouldn't mind curling up inside her.

It was strange how we'd moved back to feather light touches, how the barely there sensation of skin on skin that had once been so frustrating was now so arousing. With a groan, I reached up, wrapping my arms around her neck and pulling her down, wanting to increase the contact between us. Those slim fingers had managed to make their way under my shirt again, burning into my sides, and I barely managed to repress a shiver. It seemed that she was really going to let this happen, that I was finally going to be allowed to really touch her.

"Can I?" Was that my voice, rough and breathless? My fingers were on the top button of her shirt, and I looked up with pleading eyes, begging her to let me undo it. Her only response was a slight nod, and I moved quickly, swiftly parting her shirt so that the skin beneath was bared to my touch, to my eyes.

She was breathtaking, with her flat belly and long torso, with her small yet well-formed breasts hidden behind a thin layer of tan satin. Abbie was all lean muscle and silky soft skin, and I was like the blind, tracing my hands over her flesh, memorizing it, letting her warmth sear into the skin of my palms.

"You're so beautiful." I couldn't keep the awe out of my voice, and she must have picked up on it because a low chuckle was my only response. It didn't matter what she said or didn't say though, because my brain was functioning on autopilot at the moment. All I knew was that I needed to see her, to see all of her, as quickly as possible. So, with that goal in mind, I slid my fingers up her back, deftly undoing the clasp of her bra before pulling it down and off, baring her chest completely to my gaze.

Even though I wanted to touch her skin, I held back. Thoughts of just what I was going to do when this opportunity arose had kept me awake for more nights that I wanted to remember, and I had a definite plan in mind, one that involved me managing to somehow stay in control of myself and the situation. My fingers fumbled a bit with the button on her jeans, but eventually I managed to get it undone, managed to push the rough fabric down her long, long legs, taking the scrap of fabric beneath off as I went so that there were no more barriers to her skin.

I had to take a moment to look, to let my eyes trace up those impossibly long, slim legs, to brush past the mound of dark curls crowning slimly muscled thighs. With a growl, I was on top of her again, pushing her back until her knees hit the edge of the bed, following her down as we collapsed into the soft nest of fabric. Straddling her slim hips, I rose above her, my long hair falling over my shoulders as I surveyed the expanse of bare skin now open to me, as I watched dark eyes for any hint of hesitance. There was none, and I shimmied down from my perch so that my mouth was level with that soft skin.

My tongue, my teeth, my lips all feasted on the flesh of her neck, the curve of her ear, before finally moving even further down to capture a taut nipple. It seemed like I couldn't get enough of the taste and feel of her skin, though my hands were trying desperately, one cupping the breast left free as the other traced lazy patterns up and down her side. I'd switch on occasion, letting my tongue trace neglected contours, letting the sharp edge of my teeth test the resiliency of her skin, until I felt strong fingers in my hair, urging me on.

Sitting up with a jerk, I ripped my shirt off, letting it sail to the floor nearly halfway across the room. My bra followed, but I was forced to stand to rid myself of my pants, and did so right there on the bed, feet bracketing her hips.

"Roll over." My voice was rough, harsh with arousal, and I could see that she wanted to protest for a moment, not used to not being in control, but I begged her with my eyes until finally she gave in, presenting me with the long line of her back, the firm globes of her buttocks. Stretching out on top of her, I reveled in the feel of skin on skin, my aching nipples pressing into the wiry muscles of her upper back, my curls teasing against the dip at the base of her spine. The back of her neck seemed utterly appealing, and so I tasted it, running my tongue along the sweet flesh there, letting my teeth scrape lightly over the skin.

When I realized that my hips had begun to rock against her, I urged her over, straddling her once more as I looked down into impossibly dark eyes. Unable to stop myself, I bent down, capturing her lips in a long, wet kiss, skill having long ago fled in favor of the simple satisfaction of this meeting. Panting, pulling away after a long moment, I moved slowly downward, placing light kisses in a straight line down her torso until I found myself perched between her legs, the heady scent of her arousal intoxicating me. Wanting nothing more than to touch her, I reached forward, my thumbs parting her, sliding through her wetness, familiarizing myself with her skin. It wasn't enough though, just to touch her, and I found myself leaning forward slowly, my hands dropping down past her thighs to cup her buttocks, lifting her upward to meet me.

The first taste was divine, and I took a moment to savor it, thrilled beyond words that I was finally able to touch her so intimately. The only problem I had with anything at the moment was slightly logistical, but a few seconds thought solved that for me.

I was grateful for the fine quality of her sheets, which allowed me to grab her by the ankles and pull her easily over to the side of the bed, where I slid off, my knees sinking into thick carpet. Here, kneeling before her like a supplicant, with her thighs pressing against my shoulders and the light trace of her heels against my back, I proceeded in earnest, not stopping until my tongue had traced every inch of slick flesh, had delved inside her, becoming part of her. I could feel her hips jump almost violently every time I neared the sensitive bit of flesh at the apex of her thighs, knew that she was no doubt so aroused by this point that it was nearly painful, and decided to take pity on her. As I pulled that hard nub into my mouth, I let two long fingers tease her opening, pushing into the tight channel.

It wasn't long before I felt those velvet walls clamp down around me, signaling her climax, but I didn't stop. Instead I continued to suckle her, continued to pump in and out, my fingers curved upward to trace over ridged flesh, teasing the hidden spot I knew would drive her pleasure higher, until I felt impossibly strong fingers weave through my hair, jerking back violently until I was out of reach of her skin, my breath coming in hot, harsh pants.

"Stop," she commanded harshly, and I looked up at her, her beautiful face glistening with sweat, long tendrils of hair plastered to her cheeks. I merely smiled at the word, sliding my fingers from their resting place and bringing them to my lips to clean them of her essence. She groaned at the move, tugging gently on my hair until I slid back into the bed. Those long arms wrapped around me, holding me tight, and despite my own arousal I melted into the embrace.

"I just need a minute," she whispered, and I could hear the truth of her words in the strong, quick pulse of her heartbeat under my ear. I didn't want to wait though, and after a moment's thought, decided that I wouldn't.

It wasn't hard to break free of her embrace, and when I rolled her over onto her back and straddled a long thigh, my wetness soon drenching the expanse of skin, she understood what I wanted and raised her leg up slightly. The delicious friction of her skin as I slid my hips up and down, rocking against the hard muscles of her thigh, was too much in my already hyper-aroused state, and it wasn't long before I felt my head snap back, before I felt my hips jerk spastically one last time as orgasm washed over me, and I was vaguely aware of shouting her name before I collapsed, breathless, on top of her.


I was in a decidedly bad mood. For starters, I was a good 45 minutes late for work, a rare occurrence with me. I hated being late, hated the sense of rushed urgency that carried through the rest of the day. What I hated most of all, though, was that it was all my fault, my lateness.

I'd been out seduced by a near rank amateur. Sam was intense and skillful and considerate and infuriating all at the same time, and when I'd felt her tense up, felt her roll over and get ready to slide out of bed to pick her clothes up off the floor and leave because I know she thought that was what I wanted her to do, I'd asked her to stay. She had, collapsing back onto the bed with a sigh of relief, and I couldn't help but wonder if I'd made a mistake, though whether it lay in letting her into my bed in the first place or simply letting her stay there, I wasn't sure.

What I was sure of was that waking up to the rasp of her tongue between my thighs was absurdly wonderful, and that, once I'd finally managed to pull myself from her grasp and get a shower, walking out of the bathroom to the smell of breakfast cooking in the kitchen made me excited and frightened all at the same time. I didn't know whether to be angry about the way she had insinuated herself into my life, or to gladly accept the obvious perks of the arrangement. All I did know is that early morning lovemaking and an unexpected breakfast had me slinking into my office, hoping that no one would notice.

As if I would ever be that lucky.

"Abbie." It was Jack McCoy, and if that son of a bitch said one wrong word, then I'd rip him a new one. "If I were you, I'd tell your girlfriend to watch out for the hickeys."

Slapping my hand to my neck, equally chagrined that I might be sporting a visible token of the night before and amused that Jack had used a word I hadn't heard since adolescence, I pondered my situation. The hint of a laugh that I saw twinkling beneath shaggy brows told me that I'd just given myself away, and to a fairly amateurish ploy at that, which meant that I was going to have to find some way to dig myself out of this hole. The only problem was, I didn't know how. So, I did the one thing that I knew would keep him off-balance.

"You got me, Jack. What can I say? Yes, my young, virile, extremely attractive and astonishingly talented girlfriend got a bit over-excited." There, take that. Yep, that's right Jack McCoy. If you think you can embarrass me, then think again. This was only an opening salvo, and a tame one at that. Push it, and I'll fight back. The only problem is that I fight dirty, and years of living with two brothers has taught me the value of a good, raunchy comment in stopping all teasing. So, if you think I'm going to let you get the better of me, think again. I can say things that'll make you blush so hard that the tips of your ears explode.

"Girlfriend, huh." He grinned at that, and I couldn't help rolling my eyes. But then, it hit me. Girlfriend… I guess she was. It, like everything else this morning, threw me for a bit of a loop, and it wasn't until I noticed that complete silence had descended over the office that I realized that he was still looking at me, a vaguely confused expression on his face now, and I was still standing there, mouth gaping open like a trout about to be thrown back into the water on a TNN fishing show.

"Ah, I recognize that expression." Jack was speaking again, and I shot him an irritated glance. Didn't he realize that I was trying to work through a fairly important issue here, and didn't need him yapping in my ear. "That's panic."

"Its not panic," I shot back, then winced when I realized just how sharp my tone was. "Maybe just a mild form of panic. Girlfriend is just so…" I trailed off, unable to stop a shiver from tracing down my back. I'd been on my own, or as much on my own as a complete lack of substantive relationships went, for a long time. Married to the job, one might say, and so the concept of a girlfriend was, to say the least, disconcerting. They came with all kinds of responsibilities, like puppies. You had to remember to coddle them and pet them and take care of them and get them little treats or else they'd just look at you with those sad eyes and you'd find yourself just caving in to any little thing they wanted to make it go away.

Jack was chuckling again, and I narrowed my eyes in the most intimidating glare I could muster. I hated it when he found amusement in my situation. "Well, Hang'em High Carmichael's not afraid of a little commitment, is she?"

I was going to strangle him. A true friend wouldn't be so astoundingly unsympathetic to my situation. "Who said anything about commitment," I growled, feeling the little worry lines between my brows deepen. They always did that when I was unhappy or deep in thought.

"I see. So, you'll sleep with her, but not introduce her to your friends or consider her to be anything more than a diversion, a playtoy. Congratulations on moving head-first into the womanizer ranks." He was giving me that damn 'I'm trying to make a point and be sanctimonious and holier than thou while doing it, so pay attention to me' look that had always irked me, and I could feel my lip starting to twitch. Nothing ever turned out well when that happened, and I knew that Jack and I needed to part ways for a bit while I worked things over in my mind.

"I've got to get to work, Jack. Did you have a constructive purpose in stopping by?" It was clearly a dismissal, and I could only hope that he'd get the memo.

"Yeah." Oh, that one earned the wounded look. Apparently he picked up on my less than subtle message. "I need you to meet up with Briscoe and Green and comb through Davidson's statement for anything we can use."

Samuel Davidson had, potentially, murdered his wife. I thought he was guilty as hell, but that was only a gut instinct. Unfortunately, the New York criminal courts had yet to recognize the legal validity of my gut instincts, so we still had to go through prosecutions the old fashioned way - with loads of tedious paperwork and loose ends that would hopefully eventually tie themselves into a neat bow that pinned itself squarely to our defendant.

You could say that my day didn't get any better after that. Davidson had said something we could use, alright, but another one of my gut instincts told me that the whole thing was going to get thrown out of court. As many times as I'd tried to impress the detective's with the importance of making sure that their interrogations didn't have any hint of anything custodial about them, they'd still pushed him for more even after he asked for a lawyer. There was no better way to ensure that we'd lose everything, and I couldn't help going at them with both barrels. I felt bad about it later, and even apologized, knowing that they'd been attempting to do their job as best they could and that my anger toward them, while perhaps justified, was out of proportion.

I had to decide what I wanted to do about this girlfriend thing. Making a mental list, aware that I was postponing writing a brief that I needed to finish but figuring that I'd do much better after I set my mind at ease, I tried to work through the situation. I liked Sam. She was fun to talk to, she made me laugh, she was attractive and a damn good lover. She could cook, she was really into me, and I was, dare I say it, happy.

All of those things seemed to add up to the fact that yes, I had a girlfriend now. It didn't mean that I was going to rush home and spread the good news or anything, but at the very least the nervous tension in my belly was easing away. Now I just had to figure out where to go from here. Part of me, the part that I could feel winning, decided not to upset the status quo. I would just keep on as I had been, letting this relationship make its own path with little input from me, and we'd see how things turned out. At least, that was my plan.


I was beyond deliriously happy. Abbie had had a bad day at work, and for once, instead of retreating back to her apartment and entering that slightly crabby state that I'd have to work hard to pull her out of, she'd given me a call and suggested that she'd like to come over. To my place, no less, even though I wasn't completely sure that she'd ever seen the inside of my apartment. No, let me correct that. I know she'd never seen the inside of my apartment. Any time we'd ever gotten together, I'd either met her somewhere or gone over to her place, which was fine with me because I wasn't really that picky about things like that. But, somehow, the knowledge that she not only was seeking me out to unwind with but that she'd ever so casually mentioned that she'd like to come over seemed to signal a step forward in our relationship. At least, it did to me. Sometimes it was so hard to figure out what was going on in her mind, but for the moment, as long as I was happy, then I wasn't going to worry about it too much. Abbie was Abbie, and taciturn, stoic, and silent were all words that immediately popped to mind along with her face. Not to say that she couldn't be bubbly, upbeat and happy. Well, maybe not bubbly, but her personality wasn't completely flat. It was just that, on occasion, her down moods seemed to overwhelm her up ones.

Part of me was actually drawn to that, I think. It wasn't that I thought she was particularly depressive or sullen, just that she'd lived for so long as a completely encapsulated entity, surviving quite well off of herself without the need for another person, that she didn't always remember that she wasn't like that anymore. Really, it was endearing on occasion, when she'd realize that she'd neglected to think of how I would feel about something or when she caught the clue that things often seemed to revolve around her. Those already big brown eyes would get a little wider, and she'd look at me with the expression of a scolded child, even though I hadn't said anything. Her guilt was a more than sufficient prompt as it was, and she'd spend the next few days being overly solicitous until she forgot again.

Part of it, I knew, was directly attributable to her job. After working in the DA's office for as long as she had, I think that part of her just stopped expecting anything from people. She'd seen it all, and knew that a person was just as likely to lie to her as they were to tell the truth, and after a while, dealing with that environment, with its power plays and mind games, had just made her a bit jaded, a bit cynical. She could slip into the intimidating, no-nonsense ADA role with ease, and I'd seen it appear on multiple occasions when I doubt she was even aware of it. For instance, there was the infamous shopping trip.

I don't know what impulse prompted me to invite her to accompany me. Surely I should have known instinctively that things would just go better if I went out and ran my errand without her, but with the Holidays coming up, I wanted to see what kind of things caught her eye. Abbie's not the easiest person in the world to gift-shop for, you know. Anyway, it was getting close to my mother's birthday, which meant that I needed to find a suitably appropriate gift to Fed-Ex back home so that she'd know that I was thinking of her, and had somehow coerced Abbie into going with me.

It had taken almost two hours of looking before I found it, a wafer thin gold watch. Movado, which I'd always adored, and since I'd been saving up for a while, I had the spare cash to spring for it. There was a sign on the counter proclaiming that watches were 20% off, though I knew it wouldn't apply to mine. Anyone who has ever read the disclaimers on a coupon would have known that mine wasn't going to ring up 20% off. But, when the total had popped up sans discount, I saw those dark brows lower and the next thing I know, she had the saleslady so confused and flustered that she probably would have given us the watch for free, just to get away from the laser-like intensity of Abbie's stare.

All of that has nothing to do with why I'm so happy right now, of course, but was a pleasant little trip down memory lane nonetheless. Just one more reason why I loved her, I suppose. I'm sure I've admitted that before now, haven't I. This is nothing if not love. I'm in it, and I'm in it deep. Completely lost, fallen without any chance of getting up. And, stopping on that note before I sink further into the depths of cornyness, we'll return to my happiness.

She's sitting on my couch, the blue one that had to be at the very least 12 years old, her face animated as she relates some anecdote from work. Its some case she's working on, where the wife's brother tried to con them into thinking that his developmentally disabled son had offed his sister's husband. Someone had told him that the state couldn't prosecute his son because he was incompetent, but when it became clear that the son was just a few steps away from Rikers, he'd caved, and I couldn't help but smile at her as she emoted her feelings regarding that particular defendant.

"So this guy honestly believes that he can get out of the offense by pinning it on his son, because the son has a developmental age of six, and he tells me that it's a conclusive presumption that anyone under the age of seven is incapable of forming criminal intent. I tell him that his deluxe edition of Blackstone's aside," and shockingly, I know what Blackstones is… or perhaps not so shockingly since the weekend after she agreed to go out with me I started researching legalese so that I could seem cosmopolitan and sophisticated should it ever come up, "because it doesn't matter how old his son is developmentally because he's over the age of 18 which puts him in my criminal court. Well, not my court exactly, but you know what I mean. Anyway, we've pulled him in for a conference because Jack got this idea that he could convince the guy to offer motive testimony. So, as we're attempting to convince him that its in his best interests to help us convince his son's lawyer to let him plead when he finds out that the poor kid is about to find himself the next bus up to Rikers. He breaks down crying, right there in the conference room."

"Did he tell you why they killed the husband?" She'd be content with telling the story without any prompting from me, but I like to interject questions every now and then just to remind her that I'm listening.

"Yeah, get this. The brother-in-law, i.e. the kid's father, found out that his sister's husband was cheating on her with this lady who draws those cartoon pictures of people and makes them have big heads. What are they called? Caricaturists or something like that… anyway, he finds out that the guy's been cheating on his sister, so he tells her and she hires a private detective to get something incriminating that she can take to the divorce lawyer because she's really looking to gouge him. The thing is, though, that it turns out that the husband is not only cheating with the lady that draws funny pictures, but also his personal trainer, who I gather from the info we got from the PI, is a husky blonde Norwegian guy named Sven. To top off his multiple infidelities, the husband has furnished the drawing lady with an apartment and pays all of her bills, and just recently gave Sven round trip tickets to Norway for a visit. Which, by the way, was for trip for two, so while the wife thought he was away on business, her cheating husband was really skiing with Sven. She's so angry with him at this point that she decides that he's wasted enough of their money and doesn't deserve any in the divorce. Since cutting him out of their joint assets completely wasn't really a possibility, she and the brother decide to kill him. That way she not only gets the total estate, but also the insurance settlement. And who, according to Mr. Junior Lawyer, is the best person to take the rap for the murder? Reginald, his poor developmentally disabled son, who he is convinced won't be found guilty because of his mental age."

"But I take it that it doesn't work that way." If the arched brow and the lazy smirk didn't answer that question for me, then the derision I can hear in her tone surely does.

"Afraid not. He might have had a claim if Reggie had been incompetent to stand trial, but he was fully capable of understanding the nature of the offense and was able to assist in his own defense, so that was a no go. Seems like he watches one of those idiotic lawyer shows on television, and like his father, is a legal genius in the making. So, without a finding of incompetence, which would only have landed him in a mental facility anyway, the only thing they'd have going for them in the way of a defense was insanity, and he clearly didn't meet the test. That means that mental age of six or not, Reggie was about to find himself the proud new owner of the bottom bunk in a cell upstate." She's always beautiful, but when she gets excited about something or when she confronts a particularly interesting problem to be solved, she's practically radiant. Her eyes glow, her face lights up, and you can almost see the anticipation oozing from every pore.

As she finally starts to wind down, I can see her eyes start to trace over my meager furnishings. It's the first time since she came in that she's actually looked at my apartment, and I find myself eagerly awaiting her verdict. Not that there's much here she could find fault with. The two chairs match the couch as well as could be expected considering that they all came from different sources, and the absence of a coffee table just means that there's lots more floor space in the living room than one would normally expect. The walls are pretty bare, with a few black and white photographs of architectural detail scattered throughout. I took them in college for a photography class that met one of my core arts requirements, and I realize that I never told her it was a hobby of mine. Was being the operative word, because not only was it an expensive hobby, but the lack of a personal darkroom made developing kind of difficult. One day I'd probably get back into it, but for now I'm content to just stare at the few prints that I considered worthy of display and pretend that I'm an actual artist.

The kitchen is really just an extension of the living room, and I've got a few of those colorful old advertisements hanging around. Well, maybe they're more like prints of old advertisements, but I'm still rather fond of them. My favorite is probably the little green devil trying to open a bottle of absinthe that I got in New Orleans my sophomore year in college when I let a then girlfriend convince me to drive all the way down there for Mardi Gras. Unfortunately, we had to cut that particular vacation shut when I got whacked in the head by a full beer can that someone had decided to throw in lieu of beads. I told her that concussions weren't really all that serious, at least when it was just your first one, but she felt so bad about the three stitches that she insisted that we come back to New York immediately so that she could take care of me properly. When she put it that way, who was I to say no?

The spartan decorating scheme forced on me by the combination of a lack of domestication skills and a rather low home improvement budget carried over into my bedroom. I did have a fairly large bed, because that was one of the few things that I felt was essential to good living, but I didn't have anything more than the frame that the box springs rested on. The good news was that that meant that I didn't have to worry about matching my headboard to my chest of drawers since I didn't have one. A headboard, that is. The chest of drawers I did have, though I'm not quite sure who the original owner of that piece of furniture was. I suppose you could say that I was still living in college chic, otherwise known as a random assembly of junk furniture collected from anyone willing to give it away, which was so far removed from her well appointed apartment that it was embarrassing now that I thought about it.

"You've got a nice place." She sounded sincere, but I couldn't imagine that to be true coming from a Mission style furniture kind of her talking to a Salvation Army style furniture kind of me.

"Well, I'm happy here, and that's all that matters." Its one of those all-purpose phrases that you can throw out, which accepts kind statements for what they are while simultaneously recognizing their ludicrous nature. I suppose it was the thought that counts though, and the fact that she remembered to compliment me on my habitat was promising.

She looks so out of place here, in her sleek business suit with her long jacket neatly folded and draped over the back of her chair, that for a moment I'm reminded of all those scenes in television shows where Social Services workers go to tell some poor single mother who's working three jobs that they're going to have to take her kids. Images come to me like that sometimes, and I often wonder if its the by-product of too much Hollywood imagery or a stream of consciousness that tends to derail far too often to be normal.

"I'm really glad you called me." I knew that I was changing the subject and running the risk of sounding needy, but I felt like I had to say it. You know how Cosmo says that when you want your man to start dressing differently, you do it by complimenting him on outfits that you like and think are flattering on him and by not saying anything when you don't like the clothes that he's wearing so that somehow he gets the subconscious clue and conforms to what you wanted without you being pushy? Well, I think I'm trying to do that here, but my application possibly lacks some of the panache of a well-seasoned manipulator. Regardless of a absence of flair and style on my part, the comment earns a smile.

"I'm glad I called you too. It feels nice to have someone to talk to, someone that I can call and know they'll be there for me… someone to come home to." She sounds a bit surprised by this, as if it wasn't a fact that she'd realized before. That worries me a little, because surely someone this far into a relationship should have some clue that that's a fringe benefit. Again, I have to remind myself that while she may be brilliant, there are just some things that apparently don't register at all in that beautiful head of hers.

"So, got any big plans for tonight, anything in particular that you want to do?" I was so shocked by her desire to come over here that I didn't bother to think of anything that we could do after she got here. I simply rushed home from work as soon as I could get out of there to make sure that there wouldn't be any dirty undies laying on the floor.

"Well, I thought that maybe we could order in, watch some TV or whatever." Ooh, the sly way that she said that makes me think that she's trying to be coy. Or whatever my ass, I know exactly what she wouldn't mind doing. I wouldn't mind doing it myself. No matter that its been weeks since I first found myself in her bed, I still can't get enough of her.

"I don't get any channels." I say it in a way that lets her know that I'm lying, that I'm blatantly propositioning her, and the mischievous grin that I get in return tells me that she both recognizes and appreciates that.

Needless to say, it's a good thing that there's a Chinese place down the street that's open 24 hours, because it was quite a while before we remembered to order in.

Section 3 Harper Popular Main Index