Her back was as straight as a ramrod when she left, even though her heart was pounding furiously. Abbie could not believe she had just told him something she had never confided in another living soul. It was painful to remember the incident, the things leading up to it, the long hours of torment afterward, fueling a rage that had not been put to rest until today, until she was looking across the table at a young woman and for the first time, believing nothing she had done merited what had happened to her. It was hard to let go of those emotions, to relinquish the strength that had fueled her through the court trial. It was hard to imagine facing McCoy again, after what she had told him.

Jack had not pushed, as he signed the ledger. His hand remained steady, constant, just like his nature. Abbie had nearly turned away and then came back, a compulsion leading her to reveal the truth to him, to the one person she knew would not alter in his opinion of her. They had fought so many times for a foothold, pushing one another's buttons in order to find out where the boundaries were. That first tumultuous case had set them at odds, but over the passing months she had grown to respect and even like him, as a colleague, a partner, and a friend. She had hesitated for a long moment; time enough for him to turn inquisitive eyes upon her, for he had been certain that his offering of confidence would be refused.

Many times, he had attempted to probe beneath the firm outer shell that made her so formidable, so determined. His reputation of "hanging them high" was more than outpaced by her similar tactics, an aggression he had never known in another female assistant. He liked her, but the tough edge to her nature was nothing but a fa├žade. He had known that all along, once he got beyond his frustration with her attempting to control his cases. It was the first time she had openly spoken to him, that she had granted him a glimpse into her soul. In that moment, everything between them vanished, absolved in the poignancy of the moment, one that was clearly difficult for her.

"I was a freshman." Her voice was so quiet that he nearly missed it, the gravely tone lessening somewhat with the presence of a controlled lack of emotion. Despite her best attempts to remain impartial, it wavered, only slightly. "He was a third-year law student. We were on a date."

She paused, forcing back the emotions that accompanied the memories, finding his dark eyes watching her intently. There was no pity in them, not even true empathy, just quiet understanding, and the willingness to let her finish. Jack had thought it might have been something like this. He had hoped he was wrong, but her emotions in the courtroom, the violence with which she reacted to this perpetrator, even the fact that she had fled to the ladies' room after the trial, and not emerged until most of the corridor had emptied, only made him suspect the truth.

"I never told anybody. I blamed myself."

Venturing to look up at him, Abbie's features altered in the afternoon light coming through the window behind them. Her voice became solid and constant, as she said, "But not anymore."

She left him there, clearing him of the difficulty of attempting to find a response. Her footsteps clicked in the long corridor, and on the pavement outside. The sun was shining brilliantly and the scent of the sea blew in her face as she stood and waited for him. Moments passed in which she stood alone, wondering if it had not been a mistake. She could not abide it if he changed toward her, if he attempted to shield her. Then the door behind her opened and he came out. His expression was unreadable. They looked at one another, and though his movement was hesitant, he reached out and touched her arm. It was more of a fatherly gesture than anything, that of a friend reassuring her that he understood.

"Come on, Abbie," he said warmly, his tone gentler than usual, "we have felons to convict."

Relieved that he did not intend to pursue it further, Abbie started across the parking lot, long legs outpacing him, even in heels. Jack watched her go with a hint of sorrow, then placed the hand not holding his briefcase into his pocket, and followed.

Abbie was strong. She would go on, as always.