"Costume Party, Costume Play"

Disclaimer: Law & Order belongs to Dick Wolf, as it is his creation. In particular, the characters of Jack McCoy and Abbie Carmichael are his intellectual property. I'm only writing what should have happened, and you know what that is.

Author's note: Since "Why Miss Carmichael," I have been searching for a way to follow up on it. Finally, I have found inspiration and motivation, thanks to Dark Charaxes, who got me into Jack/Abbie in the first place. The title should give you an indication of what's going to happen here. Plus . . . Angie Harmon's birthday is coming up, so I've gotta do this.

Jack McCoy checked himself out in the mirror. He was wearing a black dress jacket over a black dress vest and white dress shirt. An intricately knotted Victorian tie wrapped around his neck beneath the collar of said dress shirt and khaki riding pants were snug on his legs. He wore a pair of polished black shoes that ended in sharp points and a cane rested in one hand.

What in the hell possessed me to dress like this? the recently elected D.A. wondered. Then he remembered.

Tonight was Abbie Carmichael's birthday. He let out a silent breath as he recalled Abbie. Fiery Abbie, "take no prisoners" Abbie, "Hang 'Em Higher" Abbie, caustic Abbie, unknowing love of his life Abbie. Ok, so maybe the last one was just being overly maudlin on his part, but he was old enough now that he'd had enough of sowing wild oats and now he wanted to settle down, enjoy the last of his years with someone he had come to hold in very high esteem and carry a secret affection for.

The theme of the party was costumes. Everyone who attended had to wear some kind of costume. Jack was fully expecting devils and witches; something about a costume party just almost always brought them out. However, he didn't know what Abbie was going to be wearing and she didn't know what he was going to be wearing, either.

Won't she be surprised? Jack thought, leaving his apartment to make his way to the hotel where the party would be held.

When Jack arrived, the party was in full swing. All around him, people were dressed in costumes of various kinds. He smiled in amusement as he spotted someone dressed as Spider-Man. Obviously, those movies had proved quite popular.

To the side of him, he noted someone garbed similarly to him, but in red and gray and with orange-tinted glasses and a red fedora. The person threw a friendly smile at him, revealing fake fangs. A vampire, Jack thought with an internal sigh. He nodded in acknowledgement at the younger man.

"You must be Jack," a voice greeted amiably, prompting Jack to turn around and spot a young woman wearing cat ears and a cat-tailed harness. She also wore an artificial fur bikini and artificial fur gloves and boots meant to resemble cat paws. Her hair was styled to carefully conceal her genuine human ears so that the cat ears looked more authentic.

"Hi, and you would be?" Jack prompted pleasantly.

"I'm Kara," the cat-costumed woman replied. "Ms. Carmichael has told me a lot about you."

"She has, has she?" Jack remarked. Despite himself, he was beginning to blush.

Kara smiled. "Yeah. Though she never mentioned how handsome you were."

Jack chuckled slightly. "I don't suppose she thinks of me in that manner."

"Then she'd be blind," Kara said.

"Who'd be blind?" a familiar voice asked, prompting both Jack and Kara to look in the direction of the voice. They spotted a tan, dark-haired woman fast approaching them, garbed in a long-sleeved black open dress over a black halter and a much shorter black skirt. Fishnets covered and accented her legs, with buckled black boots covering her feet and calves. Black mascara accented her eyes and black lipstick drew attention to her lips.

"Ms. Carmichael!" Kara exclaimed.

"The birthday girl's here!" "Spider-Man" shouted merrily. "Seriously, happy birthday, boss."

"Thanks, Nate," Abbie answered.

"Happy birthday, Abbie," Jack greeted, smiling at her. The two longtime friends embraced in a friendly hug, although Jack's feelings about being in Abbie's arms were not simply "friendly."

"Glad you could make it, Jack," Abbie said, finally letting him go. Jack puzzled as to why the hug had lasted as long as it did. Maybe she had the same feelings for him that he did for her? Maybe, but he wasn't going to give himself false hope.

"I'll leave you two alone," Kara remarked innocently, sashaying away from her boss and her boss's old friend and possible sweetheart.

"Is she always this friendly?" Jack questioned sardonically.

"Yes," Abbie replied bluntly.

Jack chuckled slightly. "Is there something wrong, Abbie?"

"No," Abbie answered. "Let's just enjoy the cake."

"There's cake?" Jack asked.

Abbie snorted. "There's always cake at a birthday party. It wouldn't be a birthday without it."

After the obligatory cake was finished, Jack smiled at Abbie. "You got a little cake on your face."

Abbie looked at him inquisitively. "Where?"

Jack pointed at the corner of her mouth, prompting Abbie to lick the cake smudge off. Fortunately, he was a man of iron will; otherwise, he would have jumped Abbie as soon as she licked away that cake smudge. Oh, the things that tongue probably could do . . . He internally shuddered and cursed himself for being so perverse.

Abbie smiled at Jack and the older man saw her dark eyes glitter with some kind of inner light. "Want to dance?"

"You're asking me?" Jack wondered.

"Yes," Abbie replied with an amused tilt of her head. "Consider it my birthday present from you."

"How can I refuse the birthday girl?" Jack asked with gentle wryness. He took her hand and began to dance with her. "I should warn you, it's been a long time since I had the opportunity to dance like this with a woman."

"Then let me lead," Abbie offered in response.

Jack chuckled. "If you insist, but answer this: Why were you so snippy when Kara was flirting with me?"

"Do I have to?" Abbie narrowed her eyes in slight irritation.

"Yes." Jack smiled slowly. "What's wrong?"

"Ever since we rekindled our friendship, after you called me about that dream of yours, some old feelings have come back," Abbie admitted.

"Old feelings?" Jack prompted.

"Yeah," Abbie went on. "I never said anything to you about it, because I didn't want to take the chance that you wouldn't feel the same and then we'd have that elephant in the room every time we were near each other."

"Am I right in guessing that those feelings were of the romantic variety?" Jack deduced. Abbie nodded. "In that case, I have something to tell you."

Abbie looked at him, waiting, searching.

"When you got the offer from the Southern District, I realized that I'd developed feelings for you," Jack confessed. "Granted, our relationship didn't start off so well, but over time I came to respect you deeply. That much you probably already knew, but . . . I enjoyed your company, too. Far more than I thought I would at first.

"But the offer was a great opportunity for you. I knew that, too, and I believed that it would be unfair to hold you back from that just because I wanted you to stay with me. So I bit my tongue, wished you luck, and bid you farewell. Like a good friend ought to." He chuckled. "Besides, there's the saying: 'If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it's yours to keep. If not, it wasn't meant to be.'"

"You could have said something after," Abbie said.

"I know," Jack admitted. "Honestly, I was rather afraid to."

Abbie chuckled with only a small amount of mirth. "You? Afraid?"

"I could say the same thing to you," Jack retorted gently. "Abbie, I'm almost twice your age and I felt that you deserved someone who could grow old with you."

Abbie let out a small "tsk." "Maybe, but what if I'd had the luck to fall in love with an older gentleman like you? Doesn't what I want enter the equation at all?"

Jack's head lowered ruefully, a small, self-deprecating chuckle escaping his lips. "Excellent argument, Counselor. I see the years have sharpened your wit."

"I learned from you, after all," Abbie remarked.

"In any case, I suppose fear came into it, for both of us," Jack mused. "And now that that's over with, you were jealous, weren't you?"

"Of Kara?"

"Yes, of Kara."

"Yeah, fine, I got a little territorial." Abbie smirked. "Don't tell me you never felt the same when some guy started sniffing around your past girlfriends or wives."

"I would be a liar if I told you that," an amused Jack answered.

"What do you say?" Abbie asked. "Want to give it a try?"

"I'd be honored," Jack answered.

End Notes: Yeah, I realize I'm late to the party, as in, the party's already over. Oh, well, this will still do as my second entry in the Law & Order flagship and it does more to establish Jack and Abbie's new relationship. A third story may follow, assuming I can dredge up some inspiration for it. In the meantime, feel free to let me know what you think.

P.S. The thing about Jack being a D.A. was derived from spoilers for the next season of L&O.