Author's Note: This is the capper of a 10 fic "Law & Order" streak I've been on. I wanted to do another lemon, but frankly, I don't have the mental energy for those at the moment. Finally, I'm using "Harm", "Fame", and "Home Sweet" spoilers and tackle the recently retconned Jack backstory at last. Anything else, thank the All Things Waterston board for their conspiracy theories on the subject.
Beta: Busy, busy, busy.
Timeline: Post Season 11, really.
"Turn here." Jack ordered as he perused a road map. "I don't want to quote Dean Martin, but 'Baby, it's cold outside.'" He clutched the collar of his navy winter jacket for warmth.
"That's what twenty degree weather does to you. How much closer are we?" his presently tetchy fiancée (and former assistant), Abbie Carmichael, groused whilst driving their way through Maine. She would have admired the powder snow ambience if it weren't for the fear of sliding her SUV into an embankment.
"About twenty one more miles, I think." He massaged his blurred eyes.
"You think or you know?" she brusquely grilled.
"Don't you sound tense?"
"Well, maybe that's because I don't want to spend the night in the official middle of nowhere. And I hope that turn is right for I can't turn back for another five miles." The vehicle progressed down an isolated loam road.
"The map says it is; just drive straight on through. And, that's not why you're tense. You know, if you have any residual issues, you best say them now."
"No, I'd say you braced me for the worst. On the plus side, I'm not younger than her."
"If only by a handful of years," he cracked.
"Tonight's not the night to taunt me, Jack." She gripped the steering wheel and tapped the gas petal. The truck trekked into a barren forest patch.
"I know. Believe it or not, I'm nervous as well. It's not everyday I want to introduce my daughter to the woman I'm currently with, or want to marry." He slanted over to her for a kiss.
"And it's not everyday I'm introduced like that." Her strain liquefied by both his words and lips. "I'm sorry for being rude, but I'm preparing for the worst case scenarios."
"I should do that as well, as I don't even know what to expect tonight." He sported on his eyeglasses and gazed at the encroaching dusk.
"As long as she doesn't scream, I'll be fine." Her blithe sense of wit returned.
"She didn't do that when I first told her about Claire. It was just mostly unbelievably cold stares. It was the second wife that did me in and thus started the almost-decade-long communication gap with her," the senior sighed.
"Your issues with your daughter aside, I still don't get why you married that woman. She was more concerned about her student papers than for you," she ridiculed.
"I was lonely, Abbie. Loneliness mixed with guilt tends to elicit strange reactions out of people." Jack was flooded by the solemnity.
"I thought you were over this."
"I am, but it doesn't mean I can up and forget, either," he uttered sullenly.
"And it doesn't help people who live in such foreboding shadows." The sun dipped into the background.
"I'm not the easiest person to get into a relationship with, I know. I was surprised by your patience."
"So was I. I think that's what love is supposed to mean. Or, that I'm a glutton for punishment, whichever," she lightheartedly prodded.
"Or both?" he grinned.
"Oh, thanks. A child of abuse and a rape victim — we sound like perfect soap opera fodder."
"Yet, we're not as screwed up as we could be. That's something to say."
"Yeah, it does." An imperceptible smile titivated her features.
"You know, I never thought I could bring someone home to her." The skeleton trees mesmerized him.
Abbie appeared flushed. "You don't have to suck up for my benefit, Jack."
"No, I mean it. I wanted to with Claire, but when I was ready, she wanted out. Then with wife number two, our respective jobs rather got in the way, plus the divorce."
"I remember the deposition. She was ranting and raving about you spending those late hours with Ross, Southernlyn, and, of course, me," the woman reminisced in disbelief.
"I thought she understood how important the job is to me. The woman is a tenured college professor — how couldn't she grasp my end of things?"
"Not every woman is so enlightened."
"Right. I still love her at times, but I'm happy to have moved on."
"So am I. But that's still not going to save your offspring if I have to put her in her place," she mischievously forewarned.
"Well, my daughter can be stubborn."
"Nice to know that's a family trait."
"It certainly applies to the women I'm with," Jack jabbed.
"Oh, my, I'll just have to take it out on your daughter," she taunted.
"I clearly underestimated you."
"I tend to have that effect on people. I wasn't sure how to ask this, but what brought this all up, anyway? I thought you wanted to elope and just ignore your family."
The man was silent in meditation. "Because I want to do it right. I don't want to hide this relationship like I did with the others. You certainly don't deserve that and I thought it was time to break out of my pattern." He mulled if he could endure such a sober challenge.
She hummed in contemplation. "I might as well as ask this now, but when we have some free time, do you think you'd be up for a trip to Dallas?" She prayed the darkness would conceal her anxious visage.
"To meet your parents?"
"Too soon, right? I–"
"No, I think I'd be up for it. Besides, I'll have to pay you back after this, anyway. But it will be an uphill battle, of course," he reservedly presaged.
Abbie again reddened herself. "It's mostly my mother; I think my father will like you, though."
"One can only hope. The woods are clearing; do you think you're up for this?" he tenderly inquired.
The emerging moonlight beaconed off her and her obsidian trenchcoat, producing an angelic, shimmering effect. "One can only hope." She then muttered under her breath, "And I must really love you if I'm willing to drag myself to Maine in this weather."
"And I must really love you if I want to introduce you to my daughter and her mother," he mumbled in response.
"What?!" The lady was so stunned that she collided the engine into a nearby tree trunk.
"Not quite the reaction I was hoping for," he deadpanned.
"I have a feeling that 'you ain't seen nothin' yet'," she retorted while she shifted gears and backed up. The transport at last traveled out of the woodland and for the two inside, it would be a long night's journey into day.
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