Disclaimer: I don't own the characters you read before you. All rights belong to Wolf Films and all that.

Author's Note: Just some mulling I've done thanks to this one website (available upon request). After all the fluff I've been writing, I thought I'd write my typical psychological fare. I watched "Harold & Maude" recently, and felt inspired. What can I say?

Beta: Busy, busy, busy.

Timeline: Post "Deep Vote" and leave it at that?

------------------------------------------------------

"Well, then, Counselor, I believe this is called 'crossing the Rubicon.'" Jack remarked to Abbie, loitering by his apartment doorway.

"You can skip the history lesson, Jack," she retorted as she schlepped inside and flopped onto his couch.

He scanned her wilting form. "You look like you sprinted the way over here."

"Yeah, I did, actually. It's been a long day."

"I'm sure. You know, I usually am asked out in the early evening. Now, whether she was a former assistant or not is another story."

"Well, by doing it early, I'm making the event special. And it's not like we're working together anymore. I'm still single, and from our recent phone calls, you're free as well. There is no guilt, for neither one of us is on the rebound. So, what's stopping us?

"I have to say that I feel something with you, Jack, just as I did back then. I'm not quick to call it love yet, but it very easily could be. All I know is that I want this. I think we can make it work." The late hour had its toll on her conviction.

"I'm getting a scotch."

"What a way to set the romantic mood, Jack: liquor," she barbed.

"It's not for me; it's for you. I have a feeling you're going to need it."

"No, thanks. I don't need a hangover on top of all this."

He bobbed his head in disapproval. "Yeah, you do."

A few minutes later, he tendered a wineglass brimming with the desired nectar. "Trust me, decisions like these require a little bit of a buzz."

"Fine." Abbie reluctantly had a dram.

Jack settled himself upon the opposite end of the sofa. "Enough stalling. I'm sure you want my answer."

"Well, it is why I'm here, Jack. I have to admit, we could make a good couple."

He furnished a lop-sided leer. "In that case, I'll try to say my piece with whatever brainpower I have at this time of hour. I can't say I haven't thought about it over the years, Abbie. After the explosions of my past relationships, a change of pace wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for me. I've certainly noted our respective similarities and chemistries, but I didn't want to put you through the relationship ringer."

"Back when we worked together, that was one thing, but not anymore. However, if you're not interested, I understand," his companion reacted unperturbedly.

"I'm sorry, but it's rather late in the game for me, Abbie. You know, when I was with Claire or my ex-wives, I got the occasional dirty looks from strangers. You certainly don't deserve that; you're better off with someone your own age."

"What if I don't want that?" Her fervor reignited.

"Abbie…."

"Look, Jack, I know what I want. I've thought about it —"

"Have you? Have you really?" He interrupted. "Can you honestly tell me that you've thought about all the angles? Have you thought about the insults? The grief of juggling your newfound personal life vs. our combined work schedules? I don't even dare mention our respective body issues." His manner was not accusatory.

"I've thought about it enough."

He scoffed at her ambiguity. "I don't think 'enough' is good enough here, pardon the pun."

She was ready to drown in the scotch. "Okay, fine, I got it. You don't…."

"I never said that, but like you, I try not to enter into a relationship half-cocked. And I'm surprised I'm still this coherent this late."

"Well, you did say you've thought about this."

"Oh, please, this is nothing compared to when the detectives, Lieutenant Van Buren, and Jamie all dog piled in here at 2:00 A.M. once. And that was over life and death of a hostage, too. You know, it would be a lot easier if I were younger," the senior stabbed wryly.

"But you're not."

"And you wouldn't care?" he grilled in disbelief.

"Jack, give me some credit here."

"I am; I'm giving you a lot, actually. Because of anyone I'd like to consider dating, I like to believe you wouldn't do this out of sheer impulse."

"You know that I'm not an impulsive type of woman."

"No, you're not. Although, all this out of the blue timing gives me pause."

Abbie rolled her eyes. "I'm not a watch, Jack. I had an epiphany — you can never time those."

"Very true. Now I need a drink." He dawdled to his scotch bottle.

"I think you're stalling."

"You're right; I am. I don't want to tell you of your choices as I want to savor the moment. The rational part of me wants to tell you to think it over, and thus, get the turndown," Jack sighed whilst pouring off his cocktail.

"You said 'choices.' What are the others?"

"That I want you in ways I can't even count, but I know better than to jump right in. I never did ask what brought on your 'epiphany.'"

"Simply put, I finally had the chance to re-examine my life this past month and I found this…void. I'm getting bored with my job and there is no one there I could confide in, let alone talk to. Then I thought about you and our time together and how — dare I say fun, enriching, healing, purifying — it all was. After that, I realized there are no workplace issues anymore and how it could all translate into something deeper." The proud woman blushed at her monologue.

He had a protracted sip and resumed his place. "Yeah…."

"Yep…."

"I had a feeling you were fishing for something when we started our phone calls last month."

"Doesn't that make me sound predatory?" she stated in self-deprecation.

"Actually, I enjoyed the distraction. Let's just say my new co-workers aren't the best company, either."

"Another thing we're even at."

"We've always had that, Abbie. It certainly has made life easier," the E.A.D.A. grinned.

"You're stalling again."

He finished off the snifter and gazed her cautiously. "Okay, fine, I'll start on my end. You're right — we're both free and I can't say I haven't dwelled on it in the cold nights. I would say 'yes', except you're basing this on emotions and as you said, your current life feels empty. Plus, you've kept saying 'I think' or a derivative thereof, which indicates doubt.

"It sounds like you want me for a band-aid. I can be many things, Abbie, but I can't be that. Don't get me wrong, I'm both moved and tempted. But you need to ask yourself 'what is it that you want out of life right now and could you, would you be able to have any of that with me?'

"Besides what I've said before, there are the possible status issues — goes hand-in-hand with former employer/employee — the generational gap, telling the family, my checkered past, and anything else that should be addressed. Better acknowledge it now, so it won't haunt you or possibly us later on."

Abbie sagged onto the cushions. "You certainly sound like you've got a good grasp on things."

"I've been around and I've had time to think about it," he shrugged.

"Hm. Looks like I have a full plate after all. I guess the first and foremost question is: how long are you willing to wait until I figure it all out?"

He deeply inhaled. "I'm a patient man, Abbie; take as much time as you need. A week, a month, hell, even a year or longer. But if you're going to do the last one, I wouldn't mind some advanced notice."

"Typical lawyer. Good to know anyhow, but won't some lucky woman get her claws into you in the meantime?" she chimed.

"I'll give you fair warning if that happens; I don't want to sandbag you. I will say that while I'll be patient, I won't wait forever."

"Understood."

Jack clutched her glass. "I'd offer more scotch, but I don't think it will help you much right now."

"I think I better go." Mortification overwhelmed her as she hiked to the door.

"Abbie, don't feel embarrassed. Sometimes, impulse is a good thing."

"Yeah, I used to remember this one phrase saying how 'too much of a good thing is wonderful.'"

"Now is not the best time to quote Mae West on me." He tried to joke.

"I know; food for thought."

"Abbie?"

She was opposite him. "Yeah?"

"Whatever you choose — yes or no — I'll respect it, but only if that's what you want."

"I'll call you." Abbie summarily departed.

"Maybe I should said, 'yes'," he mumbled before he plunked himself onto the davenport.

------------------------------------------------------

A light fog misted One Hogan Place the following weekend. A bundled-up Abbie gaited to an errand park bench, the haze caressing her skin and wooly fedora.

'I never thought the weekend would arrive. I haven't had a single thought that didn't have the words 'felony', 'blueback,' or 'omnibus motion' in my head this week. For once, I wish the criminals would take the week off, if nothing else than to avoid paperwork.' As she seated herself, she eyeballed the foreboding courthouse.

'Well, Jack, I'm sure you can appreciate my dilemma. Between us workaholics, I don't know which one will burn out first: it probably will be me if I keep up my daydreaming. I wish I brought some coffee and I really should quit stalling, shouldn't I? Today seems to be a perfect time to think and I've picked just the spot, too. I wonder how many cases we've discussed and debated in this park, maybe right here on this very bench.

'So, where to begin? I'll spare the physical appraisal as I wouldn't get much accomplished there — damn his bushy eyebrows. Categorizing works, going in chronological order of what he said. He opened with "the insults and dirty looks." Oh, please, I've gone through all that in my time in public service. So, they'd pick apart my personal life instead of my politics or personality. What's new about that?

'Nice try, Jack, but I'll still give you points for giving a damn. Next up would be the only major problem: the job. He's right — it's going to be a real pain organizing a social life on top of his job and mine. On the positive side, since he knows the territory, he'd be sympathetic. It could still cause trouble, though, if I juggle too much.

'What can I do? Is it worth risking my job? I mean, it is my true passion. I don't think I'm ready to dwell on that yet. So, let's move on.'

She instinctively shuddered from a passing gust. 'The weather is doing a nice job conveying my feelings on the next topic: body issues. Of anyone that could…help me there, it would be him. I still don't know why I told him my rape, but I'm glad I did. I hate feeling like this: this sense of fear.' Her body was all a tremble.

'It's textbook "feelings of the unknown". He wouldn't hurt me, and since he said he wouldn't go into a relationship half-cocked, I know that would apply sexually as well. Or, at least not with me. I never thought I'd be thinking of any of this. It's amazing how everything changes with time.

'I might be jumping the gun here, anyway — will he even be that close? That brings up another good question: intimacy. With society's stance on attaching sex with it, that could be a big problem — do I have to sleep with the man in order for us get closer with one another? Of course, Jack is from another time and a gentleman. Besides, I've already divulged my rape to him — that's as intimate as anyone could get with me.

'I'm thinking too much on this.' Her eyes wandered to her gloved hands. 'Hm. I could always take my mind off it with a racial epithet or two. I know Jack wouldn't care, but there are pinheads out there that would take umbrage to my biracialism. As Adam once said, "If there is a melting pot, this is it", and I'd definitely fight back.'

The vapor then altered into rainfall. She spotted her distorted reflection amidst the materializing puddles.

'Thank you, Rain, for bringing up another point: my attractiveness. I don't deny my good looks; I just put it aside for work. I know Jack has never acted on it, but what if we're out and another man makes a pass at me? The last thing I would want for Jack is to wreck his self-esteem or have him think I'd want him jealous and/or lavish in the attention.

'Conversely, what if I'm shown off as a trophy? No, if he were going to hint about that, I would have already sensed it. It's been my experience to ferret out that caveman appeal. And I shouldn't forget about the reverse: him with older women.' She trotted into an anonymous street, lost in herself.

'What is next? After the big three, he continued with "possible status issues", plus an allusion to our former employer/employee relationship. Yes, there was a boss/assistant aspect to us, yet I can honestly say he treated me as his equal, except for early on. I know that's one of the main concerns of an employer/employee romance, nevertheless, that's not relevant here.

'Of course, I can't speak for his other assistants. From what I've heard about Diana Hawthorne, Claire Kincaid, and Jamie Ross, our time together was rather calm in comparison — that could be the key. I know we've bickered and argued, but those can be labeled as isolated incidents, since we coasted along most of the time. It was never a pissing contest, except for the immediate beginning. What fun that was.' Abbie smirked at the bittersweet memories.

'Now, with that out of the way, onto the number one theme: the age gap. His Vietnam issues aside, I don't foresee anything here — I certainly haven't felt my age or been out of step with him. Or to go another route: a reverse Oedipus complex or seeking for a father figure like some May/December couples. As much as I love my father, I definitely don't have any desire to sleep with him. Jack isn't anything like my father or, to be appropriate, grandfather in this case. I'd be better off focusing on his New York-isms and the regional differences instead.

'Since I'm on this family tack, telling them would be next, wouldn't it? Oh, yeah, my parents wouldn't have any objection over my dating a man possessing the sum total of my years and then some. With the exception of having quadruple coronaries at once, I think they'd take to it just fine.' Acid churned within her mind.

'On the other hand, I did stand up to my mother regarding that doctor, proving I can take the heat. Whereas, what about his family? Would it matter? In our recent phone calls, he barely speaks about them. I still want to meet his daughter, despite the potential minefields. I wonder if I could put her in her place, like I do for her father.' She adopted a Cheshire grin as the climate stilled.

'Weather calmed down. Anyway, at least, then we wouldn't be sneaking around. Did he do that with the others? It's a good enough time as any to bring up the second bugaboo: his past, his experiences, and his failed marriages. He's been with so many women and so many failed relationships and…, no, you better not finish that thought, Abbie Carmichael, or we'll never get anywhere. It's like the chicken said, "I knew the job was dangerous when I took it."

'It doesn't matter for I doubt that they'll pop up, anyway. Still, I may have to watch his indignation over drunken drivers — will he ever get over Claire Kincaid's specter? Probably not, although, he has already proven some willingness if he's thought about being with me. I don't think I'll be used as proxy — my skin tone is the wrong color, anyway. Either way, I will have to keep an eye on that and his occasional alcoholism. Double my pleasure.

'I think that's all of what he mentioned, but I'm sure there are other dimensions to this as well. Besides what I ruled out, what else makes a relationship? Honesty and we can't forget its best friend, communication. Given our body of work, I'd say we have nailed that down. The same goes with compromise, even at our worse. So far, so good.

'Doesn't leave much left. I could focus on emotional support next, but after my thoughts on intimacy, that's a moot point. Now, that I'm thinking about it, I shouldn't ignore the most crucial item of all: would we drive each other nuts? Between my conservatism, his sporadic male crudity, and our combined stubbornness, who knows? I guess that's what the fun of dating is about: fine-tuning all that.

'Speaking of male crudity and possible status issues, I know that Jack keeps his testosterone in check, but what if his machismo has him shoulder any hidden grudges? Especially against a woman whose aggression is patented? I wouldn't think that as of now, but his past self is another story. He can still act very much like an alpha male, but thankfully, he keeps it shelved. Besides, he knows better than to pull any of that bunk on me.

'I mean, he's seen me in action with macho males before, but I still should speak to him about that. We wouldn't want the situation to develop into one that the Grobmans got into. That's depressing.' She recalled the case between Walter and Denise Grobman and the husband's bizarre desire to murder his wife out of sheer male ego.

'And that brings me back to the job. We should be alright with our combined salaries, and I never was one for shiny beads. However, would he get out of shape, if, say, my income becomes higher? Other than that, that covers everything. Anything I left out is for future reference: marriage and kids, but I'm not going down that road today. Although….' She actually envisioned of such a child, possessing his eyebrows and her cheekbones.

'Okay, I better stop thinking; that's just too weird. I'd say I've identified it all and can deal with all of it, except for the job. How ironic, since that's how we met. Unfortunately, I'm not at the level to cut back my workload right now. Meanwhile, the temptation with him is getting stronger. Damn indulgences, damn rut that I'm apparently in, and damn him for calling me on it.

'It doesn't get any simpler: a potentially fulfilling relationship vs. the bigger arena. Despite all this dime-store psychoanalysis and soul searching, I still can't allude to love yet. And the question remains: will he wait for me? He doesn't exactly have a lot of time on his hands. Plus, what if someone gets her mitts into him first? He said he could wait, but the possibility exists.

'I'm not neurotic, but I'm coming off as one. And, worse, would he dump me after putting up with so much? He seems to be made of sterner stuff or I wouldn't be this attracted. So, is it possible love with him or confirmed passion for the job? If only I could have my cake and eat it, too. Well, Carmichael, you know who your man is — I just have to juggle and snag him first.

'I'm definitely fretting too much. I should be happy that I'm not normally this wishy-washy. Well, there it is — all that to wade through if I want a relationship with him. I wish that I had thought about all this in my epiphany a few weeks ago. I guess I'm more impulsive than I thought — or my mind needed to latch onto something besides mind-numbing work — and he's right.

'I wanted a quick fix. I don't now, since I finally had a chance to think, as much as I've been chided for that verb. Am I ready for this? Am I ready to tackle all this for him and for us? I'm obviously going to need my indomitable will to ground myself.

'Hm, my Texan stubbornness may be an asset after all, as long as it doesn't take me down along with everything else. I don't think I have ever given this much thought to anyone in my whole life. Is it any wonder why I think the way that I do with him?' A payphone was in her eyesight. 'Oh, good, a payphone. I need to check my messages since I didn't want to be distracted with my cell phone.'

She perused her voicemail. 'Five messages from work vs. one from Jack. Makes the choice rather clear for the moment, doesn't it?' Abbie conducted the rest of the day in silent mediation.

------------------------------------------------------

Following several hours (and knocks on the door), Jack raced to observe a drenched former assistant of his in his hallway.

"I see you got my message," he deadpanned.

"I did, but after some hard thinking, I think I could finally give you a declaration of sorts."

"Oh?" His interest was piqued along with his eyebrow.

"First off, you're right — I'm not ready. I have my job and you know how important it is to me and what I'm doing."

He suddenly tensed up. "Right."

"But after checking off all those obstacles — and there is a lot, I know — I don't think we'll be taken down so easily. That's what matters in a relationship, right?"

"Between the good ones and the great ones, yes."

"Right, but I first have to wait until I've accomplished enough in my job. I need, at least, a good hard year under my belt before I can try to slow down. I was going to say two years, but that's insane and unfair to you. Now, would you still wait as you said or…? Not that I would blame you if you said 'no'." Abbie fretted his response.

"Well, there will be times where I won't be looking forward to it, but I can wait. Like you, I'll keep busy. You'd be amazed with how fast a year can go by." He winked in jest.

"That it does. We both know it won't be easy. It will be the job and our base personalities that will get in the way most." Her tone was solemn.

"Who said it was going to be easy? If it wasn't, then what would be the point?"

She faintly beamed. "You got me there. Look, I have got a lot of paperwork to do, even though, I'd love to stay here and talk."

"How about you bring your work here and we can work on it together? I've got the time," he enticed.

"As long as you don't get any Chinese, you're on."

"Oh, you're making me earn my keep."

"No, but you can leave me a place to hang my hat on. Just one question: did you do this with the other women, too? Or, am I just that special?" she quipped.

"Actually, I went a little overboard here: I only do that with the really special ones," he taunted in turn.

"Just making sure. I do have some general rules, but I'm sure you already have a good idea about them and they can be post-dated for, at least, a year from now." The lady demurely shuffled her feet.

"You should say them now — all the better to prepare myself and I'll need the reminders."

"You catch on fast, Hang 'Em High McCoy."

"I've learned from the best, Hang 'Em Higher Carmichael. Now, go get your paperwork." Jack pointed the elevator in lighthearted command.

"Yes, boss," she jovially mocked in her mad dash to the elevator.

'I love that man, or one of these days, I'm going to.'

------------------------------------------------------

Leave a review if you wish and see you in the funny papers.