"Happy birthday," Abbie says, holding aloft not a single cupcake, but a full-sized cake on a plate. It is clearly not purchased from a bakery.
"You made this? For me?" Ichabod asks, impressed. She had just fed him a home-cooked meal, and he is baffled as to how she managed to smuggle a cake into the cabin without him noticing. "I did not know you were a baker as well."
"Well… it's not technically from scratch. It's from a mix. But I still did the mixing," she admits, setting it on the table. "I thought you'd appreciate the effort, minimal though it was, over one I just picked out from the bakery."
"Yes, I do, Lieutenant," he replies. "Is it chocolate?"
"Of course it is," she says. "Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. I know your favorite."
"Indeed you do," he agrees. "You always do."
"And sprinkles because sprinkles make it fun," she adds, eyes twinkling with mirth. She squeezes his elbow, then lifts up on tiptoe and brushes a kiss on his cheek, above his beard. "Happy birthday," she repeats, softer, then dashes away, muttering something about matches.
His fingers come up to lightly touch the place where her warm, soft lips have touched, the spot tingling with the memory of them. He has the presence of mind to drop his hand before she returns.
"I'm not going to sing 'Happy Birthday'," Abbie says, returning with a worn matchbook.
"Pity," Ichabod answers, "you have a beautiful singing voice."
"Well, you'll have to wait until the next karaoke night," she returns, lighting the candles. I should sing "Happy, Happy Birthday, Baby"… no, wait, that's more of a breakup song. "Birthday" by the Beatles? Nah, not right either. I know! I should sing it like Marilyn Monroe sang it to JFK… "Happy birth-day, Captain Ichabod…" She swallows a giggle at the thought of his face at such a performance.
Unaware of his partner's frivolous thoughts, Crane watches, remembering the false reality Henry placed them in three years ago when Abbie was in Purgatory. The cupcake, the red, white, and blue candle, how she explained the tradition of making a wish and blowing out the candles. He remembers how cranky he was about the whole thing, and wishes he had been more open and accepting of what she was trying to do for him.
Even if it had all been a sham.
I will do better this time.
"Make a wish," Abbie says, her voice barely audible.
Ichabod looks over at her, bathed in the glow of the eight candles she managed to find, her flawless skin glowing golden, and hesitates, summoning up the courage to speak his wish instead. "I... I dare not wish," he says instead.
"Aw, go on," she presses, smiling. "It's just a silly tradition." Her smile falters when she sees the look in his eyes as he gazes not at the cake, but at her.
"I only have one wish, Lieutenant," he says, still looking at her. "You may think that I would wish to return to my own time, or for our battle to be over, with us victorious. You may even think that I would wish for Katrina to return to me, whole and on the side of good once more."
Abbie glances down at the candles, vaguely worried that they're going to drip all over the cake, but she is too engrossed in what her partner is saying to really care. "You don't wish for those things?" she asks, scarcely breathing. The air seems to have grown thick and warm, and she knows that it is not caused by eight paltry birthday candles.
"No. For all of those things would change the nature of my association with you, Abbie," he explains. He saw her eyes flit towards the candles, and leans down to blow them out. He extinguishes them all in one breath. "There. No wish made."
She is not sure what to say or do. She knows the wish isn't really a big deal, yet senses he has more to say, so she makes no move to pull the candles out or cut the cake. When he says nothing, she asks, "Why did you dare not wish?"
"Because I have no right wishing for such a gift," he softly says. "I can no more wish to have the moon and stars gift wrapped and delivered to you."
She stares up at him, wide-eyed. "What are you saying?" she asks in a whisper.
"I am saying that if I did dare to wish..." he sighs, closing his eyes, "I would wish to have the moon and stars wrapped with a golden bow for you, because that is what you deserve, Abbie. You deserve all that is wonderful and good, even those things that are unattainable." He opens his eyes, reaches up, and cups her cheek in his hand, caressing it with his thumb. "You deserve so much better than the likes of someone such as..." He drops his hand.
She catches his hand as it falls and brings it back to her face, kissing the fleshy part of his palm at the base of his thumb. His breath catches, and she says, "Don't you dare say I deserve better than the likes of someone such as yourself, Ichabod Crane."
"Mi-Miss Mills," he stammers, looking at his hand as she stubbornly holds it to her face, "am... am I interpreting your words correctly?"
Abbie drops her hand and opens her mouth, suddenly unsure. "If... if you were saying what I think you were saying... you know... before," she answers.
Crane's thumb skims the silken skin of her cheek once more. "I was..." He sighs again, words failing him for the first time in his unnaturally long life. He tilts her face slightly upward, bringing his other hand to frame her face as he lowers his head. He feels her hands come up to rest on his chest, and for a fleeting moment, thinks she is going to push him away. Instead, her fingers curl into his shirt, holding on as she meets his lips with hers.
It is a gentle kiss. Almost polite. He doesn't demand, he doesn't stake claims. His words may have failed, but she still receives the message.
He begins to pull away, but she isn't finished, tightening her grip on his shirt and lifting up on tiptoe to stay in contact. He melts, then makes a small grunt of surprise when she shifts just a little, sucking on his lower lip until he opens his mouth.
He moves one hand around to hold the back of her head while the other drops to wrap around her waist as the kiss transforms from gentle to passionate. She softly moans, releasing his shirt and moving her hands around his torso, under his arms.
He lifts his head, gazing down at her. "I love you, Grace Abigail Mills," he whispers, exhaling the words that he has been holding inside for too long.
"I..." she starts, falters, then summons her courage and starts again, "I love you, Ichabod Crane," she answers, looking up into his eyes.
He blinks once. "You do?" he asks, his voice an awed whisper.
She nods. "I've been trying to find a way to tell you... wanted to tell you, but I... I didn't know how you would react, being from a different time period and all..."
He smiles. "You forget, Katr—" He breaks off, his smile falling. "You know what happened," he says, his voice now edged with darkness.
"Right," she softly agrees. Stupid, Abbie. Katrina told him she loved him first. Now her ghost is in this room with us. "Sorry, I didn't mean..." she says, trying to move out of his embrace.
"I know," he quietly says. "And I assure you, there is no comparison to be made. You are you and she was... who she was, and all of that is gone. Water under the bridge." He waves his hand, then returns it to her waist and drops his forehead against hers. "You know I cannot forget, but it no longer holds the sting it once did."
Abbie has been burned by this situation before: the man claiming to be over his ex, but really isn't. However, with Crane, she knows he is telling the truth. She knows he does not lie to her. He may lie to others out of necessity; he may even lie to himself out of fear, but he does not lie to her. She nods. "Okay."
She is so close, so tempting, and he realizes he really does not feel like talking at all right now. His heart feels so full of her presence that speech feels superfluous. "I must kiss you again," he breathes, already angling his face towards hers. "I have waited far too long to waste moments not worshipping at the glorious altar that is your mouth." He kisses her and his hands spread across her back, where he pulls her closer, nearly crushing her body into his.
"Too tall," she exhales after several long, decadent moments spent exploring the new world of kissing and being kissed by Ichabod Crane. She remembers his stories and knew he had game, but she wasn't expecting to be left reeling. He's good at so many things. I don't know why I'm surprised.
"In my day, yes, I was," he returns, smiling fondly down at her. "In this time period, I am only slightly above average. It is you, my sweet, who is too short," he adds, his eyebrow jauntily lifting.
She shoves his chest, laughing. "Would you like some of this cake, birthday boy?"
"I would love some of your... cake... Abbie," he replies, the corners of his lips twitching as he attempts to suppress a smile.
She steps back, staring incredulously up at him. "Crane...?"
"Urban Dictionary is most educational, Lieutenant," he says, picking up the knife.
"Okay, I'm taking away your laptop," she says, laughing. She takes the knife from him and cuts one large slice.
"Are you not having any?" Ichabod asks, frowning.
"We're going to share this one," Abbie answers. "Come on." She leads him to the couch and they sit close together, much closer than they have in the past. She cuts a bite from the slice and holds the fork aloft, feeding him.
"Mmm," he groans, thoroughly enjoying the sweet treat. "Very good." He takes the fork from her and returns the favor, feeding her.
She agrees that it turned out well, then, instead of taking the fork back, she feeds him from her fingers. He licks every bit of chocolate from her small digits, then kisses them. Then he plucks up a morsel for her with his fingers.
They abandon the slice of cake when it is half gone, setting it on the coffee table in favor of returning to devouring each other on the couch.
"You wanna rethink that wish?" Abbie softly asks while Crane is busy acquainting himself with the soft, fragrant skin of her neck.
"I am composing an entirely new list of wishes," he murmurs.