Disclaimer: All rights belong to Wolf Films.

Author's Note: Breaking tradition on a number of fronts. 1. This is a prelude to a more elaborate fic, planned for late November. 2. This is a 1st person type of story, which I have not done since 2006. 3. Today is the 10th anniversary of "Cherished"'s first airing. I meant to write that particular episode, but life wouldn't let me. Therefore, I'm going on a different tack.

Additional commentary/notes will be on the November fic, since there's no need to bog this story down with extra details.

Dedication: to the Abbie fans. Now, get out there and create something.

Timeline: The night of "Punk"'s finale.

Nota bene: In order to achieve the deadline (as I wrote the story at the last minute), I had to cut back on proofreading a tad (from my usual 10-12 times to 6). The story is intact, so this note is on any grammar issues you may find. All will be smoothed out within a few days or so, and this part will be edited out. So, watch out for that and a slight dialogue re-edit of "Ride."

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You legal documents can stare all you want, but it won't do you much good. Sorry, but I'm unable to care about you right now. I'd rather resume my thinking position, instead: lean back, place hands behind my head and drift off into space. Luckily, most people interpret it as my contemplating about the law or about a criminal, instead of the reality — daydreaming to counter the regular insanity of my day. Score one for brooding intensity.

Damn itchy slacks. I can't wait to swap these restrictive dress pants for my always comfortable jeans. At least, then, I could brood and work comfortably. It won't be long, though, as dusk is almost here. Good, as I always get more work done at night. There's less distraction, less fuss and the, uh, passionate night with my assistant.

I should laugh about that, but it isn't funny anymore. I learned my lesson, yet I continue to deal with one attractive assistant after another. I'm sure God is having a good chuckle at my expense, not I blame Him. Hell, I wish I could blame Him for what's ratting around in my head, but that isn't fair.

No, this one is on my fellow humans and the free will to commit utter depravity, with my apparent clueless ness as the capper. All this time, I thought Mickey Scott's execution was the eye-opener, but, no, Alice Simonelli and her convoluted rape case proved me wrong. Granted, life hasn't been the same, ever since I witnessed Scott's death on the gurney. And, today, it happened all over, again, with a revelation of rape by the visitor's desk. I never realized how the recent twists and turns in my life were based on prison settings until now — the ultimate irony for a prosecutor.

Speaking of ironies and revelations, I wonder what you're doing, Abbie. I was completely wrong about you and your motivations. Of course, my reaction to you was to freeze, like the proverbial deer in the headlights. And, no doubt, I was just as useful to you.

That's expected, for if I dropped my father's abuse on Adam, what other reaction could there be? The only positive is that the two of us are pretty much friends by now. Meanwhile, I'm not sure what I am to my subordinate. I'm not an actual friend to her, per se, and it's my own fault. No matter what happens, I need to correct this.

I probably should call her, especially after her disappearing act earlier today. Although, if I were her, would I want to chat with the boss immediately after such disclosure? No, I wouldn't. Once tomorrow begins, then, what? Should I mention it? Let her take the lead? Or, just pretend it never happened?

Ironically, I've prosecuted my share of rapists, so I know how to handle them. However, rape survivors — as the word, 'victims,' is not appropriate — are another story. I freely admit on how emotionally retarded I can be, at times. I'm not the sensitive type, nor do I claim to be.

I don't know how to administer the typical words of comfort. I don't know how to express anything evocative beyond 'I'm here for you,' or 'I'm sorry.' I mean the words, but they don't offer the intended much solace. In exchange, I prosecute the perpetrators and make them miserable, for it's the least I can do.

Puts my father slapping me around in perspective, doesn't it? It also puts my own worthiness as a human being in perspective. God, I want her rapist on my wheel, and annihilate him. I should stop thinking about it, in case my temper flares up, and yet…. I don't know how to end that sentence.

It's just as well, for it's time to scramble. That familiar, crotchety old voice is calling for me by the door. "Isn't your head in the clouds?"

Ah, there he is — our dapper D.A. and his distracting white fedora. I have to crack a smile, despite myself. I don't know why the hat elicits laughter from me, but it does. Either way, I have to lighten up. "Oh, Adam, I was, uh, lost in thought. It won't happen, again."

"It's an occupational hazard, so forget it. What's the problem?"

I wish I could tell him, but it isn't my place. "It's just been a very long day."

He's nodding, but I don't think he believes me. "The Simonelli case?"

"Yeah. It wasn't my shining hour, but she took the plea. I wasn't sure she would." Why is it whenever I'm discontent, I end up scratching my ear? Damn reflexes.

"Sometimes, they surprise you."

"All things considered, that's true."

So, he's going to match me by scratching his forehead — his sign of pensiveness. That's natural in a way, as Adam Schiff is the most contemplative person on the planet. "Alright, what's bothering you?"

Good thing I can top him by eyeing everything but him. It's almost like a chess game of gesticulation, or it's the by product of being an orator for nearly twenty-five years. Sometimes, body language is the only clue in my bouts with trial attorneys, defendants and judges. "I thought I've seen every permutation of human behavior, but I think this case beats them all."

Ruffle your brow, Adam, to complete the look. Ah, good, you did it, except it puts me in check. "In what respect?"

"All the varied reactions to the case: mine, Simonelli's, Danielle Melnick's and Abbie's." I probably could take a week on analyzing Melnick, my opponent de jour, but she isn't the top priority.

"Who surprised you most?"

Truthfully, I want to say Abbie's reaction, but, honestly…. "My own. I found myself empathic to Simonelli, far more than I ever imagined."

"You sound almost ashamed."

"I'm not used to being the empath, Adam. Aren't prosecutors supposed to be cold-blooded?" Damn it, I keep playing with my fingers — I always do that whenever I'm in serious thought.

I'm not alone, as you're caressing your jaw. No doubt, you're thinking up a storm. "Jack, you're also a human being, even though, you're paid not to be. If you weren't moved every once and a while, then I'd be concerned."

Wow, he's got me pegged. "I know, but I didn't think I'd be affected this much."

"I had a feeling you would be, in time. Guess we can't call you 'Hang 'em high McCoy' anymore."

I can't deny that. There are days where I miss my former, take-no-prisoners self, but this isn't one of them. "I hope that's a compliment."

Even the way he snorts is dignified. "What else would it be?"

"Point taken. When was the first time you felt this way, yourself?"

He only thought for thirty seconds, yet it was an eternity. You always have to build up the suspense, don't you, Adam? "Do you remember Jacob Lowenstein?"

Did my eyebrows hit the ceiling, yet? Thanks, natural reflex. "I think so; wasn't that in the late 80's?"

"Yeah. He abused his family, and slapped his little girl to death. Just as you had remorse for Simonelli, I had absolute hatred for Lowenstein. Hatred then turned frustration, as I could only get him for manslaughter."

Good thing he never encountered me, then. "Frustration is an easy emotion to have in that circumstance."

"I believe it was the first time the system truly failed, doing wrong by that little girl." His face has never been so tightened, so angry.

"Is it wrong if I hope he has an unfortunate accident in prison?"

"No."

"Adam, I—"

The discussion is over; his hand's up. "Look, it's fine, for it needed to be said. So, why don't we talk about something else — how are you getting along with Ms. Carmichael?"

And, we're back to me, wonderful. I hope my customary broadened-shoulder pose is enough to convince him. I can't afford any interference until I can speak with 'Ms. Carmichael,' personally. "Yeah, I'm getting along fine with Abbie; we're still polishing the rough edges."

What is that glint in the corner of his eye? What the hell? "I can only imagine. You know you're not the easiest person to work with, Jack."

"Did I ever say I was? What about you?" Now, perform your usual 'you bested me with your logic, Jack' grunt.

"Hm. Touché."

You're getting mellower in your old age, as if I should talk. "She's definitely something; I'll say that for her."

"The change of pace must be doing you good, after all."

"Can you clarify that?"

I never realized how expressive he could be with his hands. Too used to him being stationary, I suppose. "It's simple. You're usually paired up with assistants that confront you at every turn and get underneath your skin. I figured you might be better off with a reverse challenge: a similarly themed person."

I hope I don't catch any bugs with my mouth hanging out like that. "I never sensed it that way."

"She's a younger version of you, Jack — don't tell me it never occurred to you. When she first locked up that kid, you were upset because someone beat you to it. Then, she almost bamboozled — what's his name — Bergstrom with that trumped up, fake federal charge. Both are examples of tactics you've pulled in the past. Thankfully, the Bergstrom one didn't go that far."

"Well, she had a little help from me on that, but I see what you mean." I remember about Bergstrom — she attempted to do what I pulled on that drunk driver. Only, I warned her ahead of time. I completely forgot about it.

"Just make sure she doesn't do too often. You hand me enough bad publicity, as it is."

"Oh, I will. You know, I think we are hitting a turning point, as she felt something over Simonelli, too."

Is he about to smile, or are my eyes failing me? "Yeah, she did, so there's hope for the two of you. You realize if you turn human too often, you'll be out of a job."

"Don't worry."

"By the way, have you seen her? I have to ask her about a case for tomorrow."

"No, she took the night off; she'll be back in the morning." Let's hope my physical signals do not have him think otherwise.

"Well, everyone deserves a night off, especially over Simonelli."

First, my eyes, now, my ears — did I hear him right? "I'm tempted to do that, myself."

"No, you still have to complete your grand jury application." What's he pointing to?

Oh, right. "You're in top form."

"That's why I have my fabulous salary. Good night, Jack."

"Night, Adam." And, there he goes. Must be heading home or to another fundraiser — a D.A.'s work is never done. Good luck with that.

I should finish the form, but not at the moment. You delivered a damn good idea about my dilemma, and I'm going to act on it. Since Abbie and I are incredibly alike, it's possible I can treat her as the same as I'd want to be treated. We've been together for several months, so I have my observations to fall back on. If nothing else, I'll know what not to do or say.

Whatever happens, I should not act gingerly toward her. If someone pulled that on me, I'd kick them into next week. From her, I wouldn't expect anything less, and I would even oblige if I could. Still, the problem is multifaceted: gauging on how to suppress or elaborate on the issue without pissing her off.

I think I'm going to gaze at the city, now, as it clears my head. If only I could bypass my reflection in the window, taunting me with reminders of gray hair and developing spreads. Let's face it, Jack — you're old. I'm still attractive, even though, I'm basically a Lincoln impersonator without the charm.

It's not so bad, as, through age, there's wisdom. I'm positively getting there after all the life lessons and experiences I've had in the past few years. Wait a minute, life lessons, experience…. Of course! The only difference between Abbie and me is age and experience.

Thanks, Adam. You jogged my memory about our blowup over Bergstrom, as I cautioned her about repeating my mistakes. Maybe I won't be useless to her, after all. Where's my notepad? I got a long night ahead of me.

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