Disclaimer: Negatori.

Author's Note: I was going to wait until the season ended to write Connie, but given the recent episode "Corner Office", I felt inspired. Here's hoping I'm not off too much, but she's so inconsistent, would it matter?

Beta: busy, yep.

Timeline: A day after "Corner Office".

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"Connie, I'm going to need the Weaver transcript to pack up the file." Jack requested as he traipsed past A.D.A. Connie Rubirosa's cubicle.

"Sure," she replied dispassionately. She tersely handed the document to him. "Do you require anything else?"

"Petulance doesn't become you," he snorted.

"I'm being not petulant, Jack. It's simply been a long day."

"It's not even noon."

"Okay, fine, it's been a long morning."

"Come on; let's hear it." He flapped his hand in an accepting gesture.

"I think I've said all I needed to say about this case." She folded her arms in response.

"I don't think you have — you're holding back."

"Um, no, I'm not going to be baited. I don't want to be fired," she cheekily reproached.

"It's not entrapment; I want to know what you really think."

"I don't think you could handle it," she taunted.

"Try me."

"Pull no punches?"

"I wouldn't respect you if you didn't."

She sucked in a breath. "Fine. From what I've seen of you, it's clear you enjoy being in charge, being the dominant one, not to mention the fact that you look like the product of your times. I think on some subconscious level, it irks you seeing a member of the fairer sex in charge and having the shoe on the other foot." The words flowed astoundingly easy for her.

"Well, I'm impressed, but you're wrong." He cracked a sly grin.

"How so? I have evidence to the contrary."

"You're not the first 'powerful' woman I've had to work with, Connie. I won't say they were perfect relationships, but don't delude yourself thinking I'm some sexist pig."

"I'm not thinking that."

"Maybe not, but before you paint an unflattering picture of me in your mind, I suggest you do some investigation work and then decide. Would that be fair?" he posed.

"I suppose. Naturally, I'd have to talk to at least a few of your former assistants — on my own time, of course. I'm sure you have someone in mind, right?" she simpered.

"Well, two are dead, one's a judge, two dropped off the face of the Earth — one of them being my first ex-wife — and one's with the Southern District of New York. Pick your horse as you say," Jack snapped with equal venom.

The elucidation immobilized her. "Sounds like a full plate."

"I'm not the bad guy here."

She dipped her head in recognition. "Okay. Since we're showing all this candor, I do have a question."

"I'm sure you do. Regarding what?"

"Something about last night that I've been wondering about…."

"I'll tell you what: see what you can do with your 'investigation' first. Once you garner at least something of interest and can form an opinion, get back to me."

"Is there any particular reason you're being evasive on this?" Connie leered.

"It's called 'my mind is absorbed with work.' I'll get you the number of the one that works in the Southern District: Abbie Carmichael. I suggest you start there. I'll call her to expect you, but you should call her to give a proper first impression. Don't worry; she'll understand." He proposed before he hiked to his office.

"I bet he's sending me off on a wild goose chase," she murmured underneath her breath.

"I bet Abbie can knock some sense into her," he uttered in sotto voce.

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The sun gleamed vibrantly over the Southern District complex at 12:30 P.M. Connie's curiosities nibbled at her and impelled a phone call to the previous second chair during her lunch hour. A brief tête-à-tête ensued and here she is by the center's entrance.

'Why do I get the feeling that I'm a lamb being led to slaughter? She sounds pleasant enough, though. But I know better than that, don't I?' She glided off her indigo trenchcoat, the sunlight shimmering her crimson tube top and ruby pendant.

'Well, here's hoping this isn't a complete waste of time.' She sashayed her way inside.

After some solicitation from the security personnel, she finally arrived to D.A. Carmichael's office. The lady could hear the sound of the guillotine blade creaking upward as she diffidently knocked on the door.

'Maybe she's busy. Oh, well, I tried.' She was ready to turn on her heel and return from whence she came. However, a muffled reverb halted her in her tracks.

"Come in!" Abbie proclaimed.

She snapped her fingers in irritation and ventured in.

"Ms. Rubirosa, I presume?" the Texan inquired as she buttoned up her mahogany suit jacket.

"Yes, we spoke on the phone." Connie reached over for a handshake.

"How do you do? I'm normally a hellishly busy woman, but since Jack wanted us to meet, I figured to make an exception for him." Abbie escorted her visitor to the apposite chair.

"I appreciate that, but, Ms. Carmichael…"

"Yeah, you've done plenty of that in our phone call. 'Abbie' is fine." She seated herself across from Connie and surveyed the new girl.

'She's certainly eyeing me like the spider to the fly.' "Abbie, it is. I'm sure you would want me to be blunt and I don't want to waste precious time."

"No euphemisms? That's one point for you," she blithely barbed.

"There is a time and place for that and this isn't it. I personally fail to see the point of seeing someone outside of a reunion: 'A.D.A.s throughout the years.'"

Abbie faintly smiled. "I'm sure it would have ended in a duel or if the tone were more comedic, a pie-fight. You know politics."

A chortle unexpectedly flitted out of the Latina. "I suppose so."

"It takes you a while to figure it out, Connie," she confirmed in rare sympathy.

"Oh, I don't know, I think I can figure out my way."

"I'm sure you can. You clearly want to talk about business and I don't blame you. Believe me, if it weren't for Jack, you'd get at least some of my patented defensiveness and sarcasm. I don't do the 'nice girl' routine very well."

"Well, thank you, but I can handle myself." Connie narrowed her eyes.

"Great, I get to be myself. Happy day," the firebrand deadpanned. "Anyway, Jack asked me to talk to you because of your recent case against Samantha Weaver."

She rapidly blinked her eyes in bewilderment. "Why? I don't see how there would be any Federal…."

"That's not it at all," Abbie interjected. "Actually, he informed me of your opinion on the case: that you think Jack went after Weaver simply because she's a woman in power."

"And he sent you to tell me what an equal opportunity employer he is, right?" the junior female sneered.

"I could, but that isn't why he wants us to speak. He thought that if you spoke to another 'powerful' or 'strong' woman that used to work with him, it might change your preconceptions of your working relationship. Now, what I'm going to say, you can take with a grain of salt but it's the truth. I'm not known to be a liar."

"I won't deny your own assertiveness, but—"

"Just hear me out first."

"Fine, say it," Connie sighed. 'Whatever it takes for you to stop interrupting me.'

"With the pure exception of the first month, I would never call what we had a pissing contest. Actually, you'd be amazed with how well we got along together. Granted, we argued on occasion, but they were quickly defused. I wouldn't call it all peaches and cream, but it was close."

"You don't strike me as a woman who would back down," the current A.D.A. observed.

"Nope. I'm quite stubborn when I want to be," Abbie beamed with an ironical sense of pride. "The point is that Jack treated me as his equal. With the exception of the first month, we never fought for dominance, status, or the typical workplace role issues. After that, we became actual friends, God forbid."

"Friends with your boss? That doesn't sound right to me, especially with Jack's reputation," Connie queried suspiciously.

"That's what makes it so ironic. I knew his reputation and the extent of his relationships with his prior assistants, nevertheless, he didn't lump me in with them. It wasn't what people would call a typical professional relationship," the elder woman tittered.

"That's with you, not with me. Maybe you fit in easily with his sense of style, but I, on the other hand, don't," she bemoaned.

"I'd stop with the 'chip on my shoulder' bit if I were you. I fitted in because I knew I had to work with him, plus our underlying chemistry. He's not like any man I've been with. And you can take that any way you like. He's not a problem — he's a fair man. Be fair to him and he'll be fair to you."

"Ms. Car — Abbie, I'm trying, but he's blocking me and now I'm beginning to see his double standards among other things," Connie fumed.

"Hey, if you want to play the blame game to soothe yourself, fine. But don't go ranting at me; go rant at him. Jack will listen to you if you show an open mind. That said, it certainly sounds like you haven't defined your boundaries or expectations with him," Abbie austerely affirmed.

"Boundaries?" she blurted in mystification.

"Yeah, like, how do you feel about him, your politics, your banter, your level of comfort with him, and would you trust him enough to share any skeletons in the closet? Things like that."

'Well, he did share about his father beating him over a girlfriend. I don't think revealing more of my end would be out of line.' "I suppose I could define myself more to him." Connie derisorily lowered her head in the rout ahead of her.

"You're getting the hang of this," Abbie grinned.

"You don't have to patronize me," she seethed.

"Connie, you would know if I were patronizing you. I do it with a lot of people."

"Fine, I will say it's been quite an experience," she glanced at her watch. "You got any other notes for me in the time remaining?"

"Yeah. I think you got potential, but you clearly need to define yourself. And that chip on your shoulder or whatever grudge you have against the world isn't going to improve with age. Jack didn't have to help me with mine, but he did. But just because he helped me, doesn't mean you can't call on his male ego every now and then. It's the only way you'll get his respect or anywhere with him." Abbie mused if her counsel would adhere to her progressing successor.

"Did you do this with his other assistants, or at least the ones after you, but before me?" Connie's inquisitiveness again gnawed within.

"No, you're my first. Anything else, you should take it up with Jack as I've played out all my hands. There is one thing you should take with you, though." The experienced prosecutor ushered the neophyte to the door.

"What?"

"Stop acting so serious or you'll never make it as a prosecutor, otherwise. Sarcasm is a great weapon of choice."

Connie suddenly had the mental image of her head actually detonating in front of her rival and all Abbie would chide, "You know, if your head explodes, you'll never make it as a prosecutor." "I'll remember that. It's been fun…, Abbie, I'll see you around," she acknowledged in vacillation and promptly exited the room.

Abbie could only smirk to herself. "I wonder if this is how Diana Hawthorne acted when she first met up with Claire Kincaid."

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The sunset immersed into the artificial skyline as Jack and Connie parted through the legal bureaucracy.

"You've been quiet," he conversed.

"Had a lot on my mind," she retorted.

"You never did say how your visit with Abbie went."

She exhaled pensively. "It was an eye-opener. I can tell you had a good working relationship with her."

"And?" He dangled the bait.

"And I take back what I said about your issues with powerful women. I doubt that…Abbie would have put up with that." She reddened in her humility.

"No, she would not."

"I have three questions, though."

"Shoot."

"One: last night, when you asked me how you would sleep, were you mocking me or what? Because you sounded like you were," she grilled.

"Not at you, specifically — just your seriousness on this case. I've been at this job far too long, Connie. You got to find any sense of amusement to lighten your burden or you'll never make it far here," the senior soberly scrutinized.

'He's paraphrasing her. Like two peas in a pod.' "I guess it couldn't hurt to tone myself down. Two: I forgot to ask her, but why did she leave the D.A.'s office?"

"Her job and her hunt for the 'bigger arena', that's how she put it." There was a tint of melancholia in his voice. "And the third question?"

'Did you two want to be more than friends?' "Actually, I think I forgot." She swiveled her head away from his probing eyes.

"Careful, you're too young to be senile." He winked at her.

"I'll try to remember that, Jack." Connie stilled her tongue and focused on her subpoena motion instead.

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