Disclaimer: All rights belong to Wolf Films.

Author's Note: It's just a shortie to get back into the game. Forgive any rustiness, for it's been a while.

Nota bene: See my profile regarding any proofreading issues. I'll try to do as many as possible, until I have a non-malfunctioning computer and re-edit any errors accordingly.

Dedication: To Neoinean. She gave me a good plotbunny during a recent conversation. It was enough to break my extensive writer's block. Thanks, dear.

Timeline: An hour prior to Jack's outdoor scene in "Lost Boys."

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Jack McCoy was sitting on a park bench, observing the congested city street ahead. His gaze then shifted toward his wristwatch. "Five more minutes."

Abbie Carmichael came upon him, attaché case in hand. "You look like a refuge from a Norman Rockwell pairing."

He straightened the half-Windsor knot in his red tie. "You're late."

She parked herself alongside him. "Occupational hazard; I was tied up in court."

"Don't worry, I'm not keeping score."

"Good, for I don't want to point out the hypocrisy. Or, shall I remind you about the times you've been late?" She elevated her chin.

"Let's not. So, what are we eating for lunch?"

She brandished a paper bag. "Barbeque chicken sandwiches; I made them myself."

"Oh, Abbie, where would you be without your precious barbeque?"

"Insane? I could say the same about you and your precious scotch." She wagged her left index finger.

He reached inside and plucked one of the wrapped foodstuffs. "You win this round, Counselor."

She followed suit. "If only they were that easy."

"Tough case? When we last chatted, I thought you bested your carjacker killer."

"I was, then I found out he was only stalling. He won't take a plea, for he's pushing an insanity defense. I fear the judge may buy it."

He unpacked and eyeballed his lunch, a sesame seed bun chicken sandwich. "Did you manage to trip him up with the psych exam?"

She munched into hers. "It's supposed to happen later, today. The hearing isn't until next week, so I have time. How are things on your end?"

"It's just the same old, same old."

"Mike is driving you insane, again?"

He gnawed into the foodstuff, nostrils flared. "I wouldn't put it like that. Chicken's good, by the way."

"Thanks. As long as you're aware of the situation, what am I supposed to say?"

Jack's fuzzy eyebrows shot upward. "'Aware'? What do you mean?"

"The man is the spitting image of you, so you can't be all that startled by his actions."

He pulled backward. "Oh, I wasn't like that, back then, was I?"

Abbie shrugged her shoulders. "Well, yeah, you've always been that way. And, everyone, including me, warned you."

"Great, I'm hoisted by my own petard."

She waved her hand sharply at him. "Oh, don't get histrionic on me. You also kept yourself in line, for the most part. Upon reflection, your penchant for chasing windmills wasn't always a bad thing."

"Yeah?"

She leaned forward. "Remember when Toni Ricci was murdered, and you pulled out all the stops? Adam thought you lost it, but I thought it was incredibly brave. No other prosecutor would have done that."

"Thanks. It serves me right for not appreciating the true irony."

"That's why you have to have a good assistant at the helm."

"I can't argue on that. I think Mike can do it, and yet, I have my doubts about him."

She tilted her head. "You still picked him for a reason, Jack."

He stared at the tree branches above them. "Maybe I should have picked you, instead."

She chortled. "Well, I've always wanted it, but I would have said, 'no.' As much as I enjoyed working with you, I prefer my present state of life. I like our new friendship and freedom from the office."

"So do I. Ironically, we never had to deal with the superior/subordinate relationship — we were nothing but equals."

"I was waiting for you to acknowledge that. It only took, what, eight years?"

He smiled. "I'm a late-bloomer, Abbie, so it takes me a while."

"Better late than never." She ingested another mouthful.

"I've been thinking about running for re-election."

She seized her chest, choking noisily. She downed the obstructing piece of chicken in a few seconds. "Next time, drop your bombshell after I swallow."

Jack lightly patted her upper spinal column. "Sorry. You're the first I've told, as I've just thought about it."

Abbie cleared her throat. "You seriously want to go through all that?"

"It feels right to me, somehow."

"You've seen it happen with Adam and countless others, so you know what to expect. I'd vote for you, naturally."

"Goes without saying. Do you think I can win?"

"Anything is possible in New York City." She angled away. "Are you alright, Jack?"

His pupils dilated. "Why wouldn't I be?"

"Because, I'm not detecting your usual amount of self-confidence — what happened to the cocky S.O.B. I used to know?"

"He got beat up by wisdom and old age."

She unbuttoned her black suit jacket. "It's beats running headstrong. You should calculate your odds, before you do anything else."

"I have my work cut out, depending on what I do."

"Or, what Mike does, if you want to be honest with yourself."

His jaw drooped slightly. "Don't tell me you're psychic."

"I'm not psychic if I'm reading an open book. I don't know Mike, beyond what you've said about him. I'm sure if you tell him to tone it down, he would understand. Remember when Adam told you to knock it off during his elections?" She gesticulated with her free hand.

He veered off. "Sometimes, I did; sometimes, I didn't."

"At least, you tried. All you can do is to convey your concern to Mike. If you can't, then you'll have to be crystal clear. You're definitely not afraid of disciplining people."

"It's my specialty."

"Good, now eat your sandwich." She returned to her provision, chewing away.

"Yes, dear." Jack consumed his in a smirk.

"Since we're talking about your replacement so much, why did you pick him?"

"He made a good argument. Now that I'm thinking about it, I suppose the similarities appealed me, even if I didn't know it."

"It's not a wrong reason — we got along because of our similarities. For an ex-hippie and a Texas conservative, that's amazing." Abbie flipped her long, straight hair rearward.

"Oh, no question." He had his final morsel, licking his lips. "I just realized that we've basically talked about me and my griping about Mike."

"You needed to vent. You somewhat brought him up, last time, but it clearly wasn't enough. So, I decided to do my own preemptive strike and clear the air. It's all fine with me, as I don't like it whenever you close yourself off."

He scratched his right earlobe. "You're not the only one that has made the assertion. I hope Mike's ears aren't burning."

"I'm sure he's probably said the same about you. We've all done it, at some point in our lives. In my case, I dished it out directly to you, which probably wasn't my shining hour." She gazed downward and devoured her remaining fare in one last bite.

"Now that you mentioned it, yeah, you did. I gave it right back, in my own inimitable fashion."

"It's human nature."

"It is, including equal measures. I assume we'll be talking about you and your problems, next week?"

"Fair is fair."

"I can't wait." He peered at his timepiece. "Speaking of which, it's time to go. Wish we didn't have to."

She sighed. "I hate whenever we run out of time. Same time and place for next week?"

"Looking forward to it. I'll bring some of my mother's famous corned beef."

"My mouth's already watering. Should you need some help in organizing a campaign, I know a few people."

"I may take you up on that, whenever I'm ready." He grinned.

"Jack, take care of yourself." She kissed him on the cheek. "Things will work out with Mike. After all, we ended up in sync, didn't we?"

"Don't tell me that Abbie Carmichael has become an optimist."

"You did manage to kill my cynicism."

"It's a murder I can cop to." He broadened his shoulders.

She arose, clutching her case. "If only Adam could see you, at this moment. He'd say to you, 'It's not easy being the clown, when you have to run the circus.' Bye, Jack."

"Bye, Abbie."

She sauntered across the now vacant road. He stared into space, his fingers toying with the abandoned bag.

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