Disclaimer: What do you think?
Author's Note: With my 75th (and my 25th Jack/Abbie) piece in sight, I thought I'd go on a different tack with a tribute — writing a sequel from Moonbeamdancer's short story "Sick Day". And if nothing else, consider this the Jack/Abbie alternative to the excellent Jack/Claire piece "Feed a Cold". I hope I do it (and her) justice.
Beta: busy, busy, busy.
Timeline: a day after the events of "Sick Day".
"You know I'm going to walk all over you on this appeal, Jack," The veteran defense attorney Danielle Melnick sneered as the two opponents dueled in the E.A.D.A.'s office.
"At least it won't be a smooth stroll?" Jack retorted while he signed his moniker on yet another document.
"It better not be or I'd never respect you again. So, where is your little Texan cheerleader? Revving up her death chamber?"
"No, she's at home with the flu."
"So, you're doing her share of the grunt work out of the goodness of your heart? Oh, please, Jack," she jabbed skeptically whilst dunking the sheet in a file folder.
"Heaven forbid I do it because I'm a nice guy?" he caustically simpered.
"Because I know you and I know better."
"You never did like her."
"I wouldn't say that; it's not my fault conservative Texans rub me the wrong way," she flippantly scorned.
"Again with the politics? It's a broken record with you."
"I'm just pointing out the recurring theme: everything is politics, Jack. Or, you've been living in Oz too long."
"I'm so glad you stopped by to rub salt in the wound on top of your appeal," he jibed.
"Hm. You have been around her too long. It's a pity she isn't a decade older — she'd make a good match for you."
"You had your chance, Danielle."
"Now who's rubbing the salt? Don't worry; I don't think you're sleeping with her. You've certainly learned your lesson."
His eyes narrowed. "Thank you for stopping by, Danielle."
"I'll see you later then, Jack." Her gait had a minor pause. "I hope she feels better. Don't ever tell her that, though; I'd never live it down."
"I'll be sure to tell her in vivid detail. Goodbye, Danielle."
Her comeback was a series of mutterings as she stormed out of the room.
After 5:00 P.M. rolled around and several stops to several pharmacies, Jack finally returned to the apartment, appearing the worse for wear.
"This is probably the only time I would say this, but 'Honey, I'm home'," he blurted out while he deposited his motorcycle helmet, overcoat, and briefcase on a nearby table. The distant reverberation of a woman coughing up phlegm was the only response.
"Please tell me you got the Tylenol. Don't make me beg for it," Abbie droned on in the background.
"That would be interesting to see you plead — if you didn't do Special Narcotics. I don't want you to rehash that. Here." He trekked to the bedroom and presented his girlfriend the desired medicine.
"Gimme." She snatched it out of his hands.
"Glad to see your manners are in fine shape. I'll get you water."
"I can do it, thank you. How was work?" She journeyed to the kitchen.
"Appeals, appeals, and more appeals. I had a particularly fun meeting with Danielle Melnick today over an appeal. She sends her love." He swiftly slipped on a midnight blue sweater and lumbered his way to the couch.
"Oh, I'll bet," she dug.
"Give Danielle the benefit of the doubt. She means well, when she wants to be."
"You know what they say: 'seeing is believing', Jack." She administered the recommended dosage and drooped next to him.
"So, how are you feeling today?"
"Would wishing I was dead be a little melodramatic?" she deadpanned as she sneezed into her clutched, crusted tissue.
"Darn. Anyway, I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow morning. From what I told my symptoms, he thinks the worst of it is about to come."
The gentleman elevated his eyebrows in dread. "Are you going to go by yourself?"
"Yeah, I can drive or I can take the bus so I don't perform vehicular homicide."
"Abbie, I don't know…."
"Jack, stop worrying; I can handle this."
"In a disoriented and/or a heavily medicated state? You know what could happen to someone out there under such conditions," he affirmed in his apprehension.
She was momentarily silent. "Given what happened with the shower yesterday, it would be rather foolish to say 'no', wouldn't it?"
"Alright, but what about work for you? If you take off while I'm absent, won't that sound a little suspicious? The last thing we need to fuel the office rumor mill."
"Funny you should say that," he mirthlessly chuckled. "Danielle, in her roundabout way, tried to hint something like that today, but she thankfully talked herself out of it. Even so, she wouldn't pull anything, at least, not without consulting me first.
"And, I racked enough sick days to take a full year off and if I talked to Adam directly, he won't throw the book at me. I'll just say I got it from working all those late hours with you." He winked at the literal hothead before he swooped in for a kiss.
"And he'll buy that?" she ribbed in disbelief.
"What's he going to do? Fire us?"
"He wouldn't dare. Still, you don't have to do this." She snuggled close to her boyfriend.
"I wouldn't be much of a man if I didn't." He enwrapped his arms around her.
"I suppose now wouldn't be a good time to sprout feminist dogma, hmm?"
"You can try, but I'm still going to do it, Abbie."
"I think I'm going to be sick." Her voice coasted to a queasy pitch.
"No, I'm really going to be sick." She reluctantly disentangled herself and dashed to the restroom. Vomiting noises arrived soon after. He trailed after her and stumbled upon her hunched over the toilet.
Her elongated locks dangled in her maw's way. "Damn hair."
"Here, I'll hold your hair back." He accumulated the cascading hair in a mock ponytail.
"Well, I never felt so humiliat…" She never finalized the word for her nausea overwhelmed her.
"Actually, this is nothing compared to when my daughter had appendicitis. Now, that was a trip," Jack mildly grinned, despite the situation at hand.
"I think I'm done. I guess what's in the bowl is Exhibit A for you staying in tomorrow," she moaned understatedly.
"I'll get you some Ginger Ale; that helped my daughter. I'll be right back." As he departed, he distinctively heard her murmuring.
"What was that?"
"I said…Oh, God." The assertive lady immediately flipped herself back to the commode.
"That's what I thought you said."
A half hour later, Jack revisited her with the selected beverage in a glass. Abbie's sole reaction was gulping the nectar.
"Better?" he quizzed.
The next five minutes were nothing but a series of belches. "Much."
"You look rather grungy — a bath couldn't hurt."
"Maybe after my stomach settles." She gaped at the loitering man. "I'm okay, but you don't have to stay to watch my lunch come back to haunt me."
"I don't mind."
"You know you're too nice for your own good, sometimes?" she posed.
"Don't spread it around; you'll ruin my career."
A wisp of a smile adorned her lips. "Who would I tell? I think I'm ready for that bath."
"I'll set it up; you go refresh your drink."
She unsteadily complied while he set up the lukewarm bathtub with one of the recent eucalyptus tabs. She reappeared with her mug brimming with the miracle ale and her hair tied back into a ponytail.
"I feel like I want to sink in it, I'm so tired," she babbled.
"Do you want me to stay and wash you off?"
"I can bathe myself, Jack. I would like to keep some of my dignity if possible." She then grasped her faux pas from yesterday. "I'm sorry. I know I'm not a picnic when I'm sick."
"Well, now that you mention it, you have been a bit contrary."
"If you want, you can stay. I could use the company," she sheepishly avowed.
"Sure. Do you want me to undress you again?"
"Gee, if I weren't sick, I would think that was a proposition, Jack," she purred seductively (or endeavored to).
"If I weren't playing nurse, I might just take you up on it."
Jack gingerly removed her faint cerulean pajamas and then settled on the toilet. "I'll be right here." She feebly cleansed herself with a washrag. He sighed and stepped over to her.
"The lows keep getting lower. Go ahead." Abbie tendered him the rag. He dabbed her neck and labored his way down.
"What makes you say that? Is the fact someone wants to take care of you or is the fact you can't take care of yourself at the moment?" Her rejoinder was silence. "Alright, be quiet; see how far that gets you."
"You always find a way to get to the heart of things, don't you?" she reacted in exacerbation.
"It's a gift."
"It has nothing to do with you."
"If I'm giving you a sponge bath, I think I've earned the right for a little context." His hands were near the small of her back. "Going down."
"Alright, fine. If you must know, I've been asking myself 'why'."
"'Why' what? You're going to have to tell me, Abbie; I'm not a mind reader."
"It's irrational, but I keep questioning why you're doing this. I've never seen anyone so devoted — certainly never with me. Am I that special, or did you do this with the others, too?"
"I wouldn't be doing this for just anyone. Doesn't that say enough?" The cloth dove underwater and chafed her buttocks.
She relaxed and tilted against him. "Yeah, it does."
"But you're not convinced? Hold out your arms."
He sluiced her exquisite appendages. "No, no, I am. It's just the by-product of being alone, Jack. I've gotten too used to it." Her cadence was not despondent.
"So have I, but I don't let it hold me back on occasion."
"If you got something to say, say it," the firebrand growled.
"I think you're resisting because the first time you're in a more helpless position and that you're replying on someone else for once and willing to give themselves for you. Your feelings of the unknown are making you uncomfortable," he observed.
"You've been talking to Skoda?"
"I've been around, Abbie. I somewhat know how the world works."
"It's partially that, okay, it's mostly that." She corrected herself. "I'm just afraid of being dependant because I am enjoying this, like we did with the shower yesterday. Sometimes, I wondered if I could enjoy anything unless it has something to do with the job. I see that's not true anymore."
"You and me, both. I think it's the by-product of being a workaholic, too. You eat, breathe, and sleep the job. Doesn't always leave you much, like with women, or dare I say, love." He reached for the front of her neck.
"Is that from personal experience?"
"Some. I just never reached the sponge bath level before. You want me to do your front?"
Abbie expanded out her chest. "Go ahead."
"Yet, you still feel tense, is there something else?" He aimed for her collarbones.
"A little to do with what we were talking about."
"'If you got something to say, say it.'"
"Well, it doesn't exactly make me beam with pride that we have to sneak around. I know we have to for the job, but there are times where I'd like to assert my claim over those young twits fawning over you."
Jack hesitated. "I didn't know you felt that way."
"I've been feeling it for a while. I guess being sick gave me time to think. I'm not saying I'm over my head, but…"
"But everything feels like it's crashing around you. Look, Abbie, if you're secretly laboring over some illusions, you should say them. To be honest, I want to tell the world I'm in...love with you, but not yet. Not in this job, not when people's lives could be in the balance. Be easier if we were accountants."
"It would be," she snickered. "Why did you pause when you said 'love'?"
"Because it finally hit me — I'm in love. I've never done this except with my daughter when she was so young."
"Not even with Claire or your first ex-wife? I'm sure they had to call in sick at some point."
"Not really," the senior stated soberly.
"I just didn't want to be another notch on your bed. I knew better, yet…"
"I think your flu has reminded you of your humanity and fragility. You're as much of a human as everyone else, Abbie — accept it," he resolutely informed.
"I don't have a choice, do I? And don't you sound so certain."
"I went through the same thing when I had the flu a long time ago. You use the job to run away from yourself and you see what you get."
"Weren't you sick with the flu a few months after we met?" she leered.
"Where do you think I got the epiphany? And I had no one to help me, either."
"I almost feel guilty and I'm starting to feel like a prune." The woman wielded her wrinkled hands.
"Then I should quickly finish. If you want, I could tell someone — Danielle. At least, it won't be a complete secret, then." Jack carried on with her upper body, delicately rinsing her cleavage.
She froze, exploiting his ministrations for camouflage. "Uh…wouldn't she be the type to run to the Ethics Committee over this?"
"Danielle is many things, but when it comes to this, she won't blab. I think she loves me too much."
"She's not the only one, apparently." She shuddered by his swabbing.
"Do you want me to do your hair again after this?"
He concluded with her torso. "So, what was it that you mumbled before?"
"I mumbled, 'What did I do to deserve you?'" Abbie shifted her face away from him.
"A question I've often asked myself. Ask me that tomorrow night after I play nurse."
She perked up and arose from the soak. "I got a better idea. I think I'm well enough to attempt what I couldn't yesterday in the shower. And it's been a while, anyway." She then hacked up a lung, despite her effort to be desirous.
"Oh, Counselor, your honeyed words inspire me."
"I don't want my Counselor, I want my nurse."
For once, the prosecutor surrendered to what the man within had sought.
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