Allison Lacy hummed softly to herself as she pulled another batch of cookies from the oven and slipped the tray into the cooling rack. She glanced up as the back door opened, offering a quick smile to the bakery's owner as she walked in, her arms full of bags from the grocery store.
"I think I have everything we'll need for that special order," Maura Sullivan declared, slightly out of breath as she dumped the bags on the counter. "Did I miss anything?"
Allison shook her head. "Not much. Your daughter called, said to remind you that Sammy has a soccer game at four today, and you promised him that you'd be there."
"Damn it," Maura muttered, glancing around the bakery. "There's no way, not with the Richardson wedding cake due tomorrow and the special order cookies being up tonight."
"I can handle it, Maura," Allison assured her. "Go to your grandson's game."
"Oh, I couldn't leave you with all this work. It'll never get done in time with two of us working on it as it is."
Allison laughed and shook her head. It seemed that they'd had this conversation nearly every week since Allison has started working at Maura's bakery nearly five years earlier.
"Maura, a soccer game is what, two hours out of your day? Go, have fun, come back when you're done and you can tell me all about it while we finish decorating the cake. Deal?"
Maura sighed and nodded. "Fine." She reached into the bag and started pulling out ingredients.
"Hey, Allison? There's some guy here to see you."
Both women looked up as Lisa, the teenager they'd recently hired to work the front of the bakery during morning rush hour, poked her head back into the kitchen.
"Don't even say it," Allison said quickly, catching the look that crossed Maura's face.
"What?" she asked innocently. "I didn't say a word. Not one word."
"You didn't have to, I can see the smirk in your eyes. Whatever you're thinking, forget it."
"All I'm thinking is that I've known you almost five years now, Allison, and you haven't so much as looked at a man. It's about time you crawled out from under that rock you're hiding under and rejoined the world."
Allison shook her head and offered a half-smile to her boss. "It's the twenty-first century, Maura. Not everyone needs a man to be happy these days." She quickly untied her apron and hung it on a hook by the door. "I'm taking my lunch now. I'll be back in half an hour."
Allison was silent as she pulled open the front passenger door of the dark sedan parked across the street from the bakery and slipped into the seat.
The driver glanced over at her and nodded briefly, licking icing from two of his fingers as he popped a piece of a cinnamon roll in his mouth.
"These cinnamon rolls are out of this world" he commented, his mouth half-full. "You make these, Al?"
"How many times have I asked you not to call me that, Tim?"
Tim shrugged. "Maybe a couple dozen over the years."
"Maybe someday it'll sink in."
"I wouldn't bet on it."
"What are you doing here, anyway?" Allison asked impatiently. "I have a lot to do today, so whatever it is, let's get it over with."
"You're no fun, you know that?"
"I don't have to sit here," Allison said, reaching for the door handle.
"Felix Mariano is dead."
Allison withdrew her hand and sank back in the seat. "You're sure?"
Tim nodded. "I've confirmed it with both CPD and the FBI. Rumor has it one of the Calderon boys did him in, same as they did Luis last year."
"So what does this mean?"
"Felix was killed four months ago," Tim said, holding up a hand to silence the indignant protest he knew was coming. "I didn't tell you then because it wouldn't have meant anything at that point. The FBI and CPD organized crime units have spent the last four months confirming that the Calderons and the other families have soaked up all the Marianos' holdings, and that they haven't also absorbed any of their outstanding orders."
"And they've confirmed it?"
"So what happens now?" Allison asked anxiously.
"That's entirely up to you. Your agreement with us is good for life, Allison. As long as you want to, you can stay here in Denver, keep your job, your apartment, everything you've established here. All you have to do is keep following the rules of the program."
"And if I don't want to follow the rules anymore?"
"There's no longer a legitimate threat against you," Tim conceded. "In recognition of the significant sacrifice you've made, the FBI has offered to financially assist you in reestablishing yourself if that's the route you choose to take."
"You don't want to think about it first?"
"I've been waiting five years to go home, Tim," Allison said. "Give me whatever I need to sign and get me the hell out of here."
Two days later, Allison stood on the tarmac at the foot of a set of stairs leading to a private jet. She held a clipboard in her hand, and quickly scratched out her signature on one final set of paperwork before handing it back to Tim.
"So, that's it, then. As soon as you get on that plane, Allison Lacy will cease to exist." Tim slipped the clipboard into his briefcase and pulled out a manila envelope. "I think you'll need these, though."
Breaking the seal, she glanced into the envelope, grinning widely as she pulled out a passport and a driver's license.
"Welcome back, Abby," Tim said, extending his hand to her.
Abby smiled and shook it. "Thank you, Tim. For everything. I know I've been a pain the last few years, but I do appreciate it."
Tim shook his head and smiled. "There's an FBI agent waiting on the plane to escort you to Chicago. He'll help you out with any paperwork they need you to fill out, anything you might need to get settled back in."
"All I'm going to need is a cab to my parents' house when we land."
"I'm pretty sure that can be arranged," Tim said, offering her a final nod before she ascended the stairs.
Stepping into their aircraft, Abby looked around and smiled. Leather seats, what appeared to be a stocked mini bar, plush carpet on the floor…someone at the FBI was definitely feeling guilty.
"Well don't just stand there, make yourself comfortable."
Abby turned around and smiled even wider when she saw the man coming out of the cockpit.
"You're supposed to be retired," she said.
Matt Sinclair smiled and shrugged nonchalantly. "Yeah, well, I had a case to wrap up first."
"For five years?"
"What can I say? My wife is a very patient woman."
Abby laughed and hugged her former handler. "Well, I'm just glad it's you here to take me home and not Jen."
Matt shook his head and scoffed slightly as he sat down in a chair and motioned for Abby to do the same. "What? Her royal highness, the deputy director? Nah, she couldn't be bothered with something as simple as a witness transport these days."
"Deputy director, huh? She sure shot up the ladder pretty quickly."
Matt nodded. "She may be insufferable to work with, but she knows agency politics and she's still amazing at what she does. I'm happy for her…plus, now I only have to see her once a year when she flies in on her broomstick for our regional review."
Abby laughed. "Well, I guess everyone got what they wanted after all, then."
Matt looked up from his magazine a few hours later. "What's up?"
"When is Kat coming home?"
Matt frowned and hesitated for a moment. "She's not."
"What do you mean, she's not? Of course she's coming home. If the hit on me is null and void, so is the one on her."
Matt nodded. "That's true. And Kat was given the same choice you were, Abby. She's opted to remain in the witness protection program and keep her new identity."
"No way." Abby shook her head. "Why would she do that? Can I talk to her?"
Matt sighed and shook his head apologetically. "You know the rules of the program, Abby. She can't have contact with anyone from her previous life if she wants to stay in the program." Matt hesitated for a moment before reaching into his jacket pocket and pulling out a thin envelope. "Her handler did give me this. She asked that it get to you."
Abby reached out and took the envelope, quickly tearing it open and pulling out a single sheet of paper and a small photograph. Unfolding the page, she took a deep breath and leaned back in her chair to read it.
If you're reading this letter, I guess that they've told you that I have decided not to return to Chicago. I wish I could be there in person to tell you all of this myself, so that you could see that I mean it when I say that I'm okay. I'm happy here, Abby, in a way that I never was before.
I wasn't unhappy as Katrina Roberts, don't misunderstand me. But I never had what you have - you've got your parents, your brothers, Brody, this whole life full of people who love you and are waiting for you back in Chicago. My parents were the only family I had, and they died when I was nineteen.
Being relocated, being away from the only place I'd ever known as home, was hard at first…but after a while I started to see it as a fresh start for me. And when I did, it got so much better. I started getting involved, making friends…and then I met someone really amazing. We've been married for a little over two years now. Crazy, right? I was so convinced I'd be alone the rest of my life, but now I have a husband. And he came with a stepson and brothers and a sister and nieces and nephews - and last month, we even added a daughter of our own to the mix. I have a family now, Abby, and as much as I would love to see you again, I wouldn't leave them for anything in the world.
I hope you can understand that, and I hope that whatever happiness you were looking for, you find it when you get back to Chicago.
Abby stared at the letter for a minutes before shaking her head with a smile and looking over at the picture Kat had included. A tiny baby's face with bright blue eyes that perfectly matched her old friend's stared back at Abby as she looked at it. Flipping the image over, she frowned at the words written on the back.
Abigail Louise - for the last friend Katrina Roberts ever had
"So what happens when I get off the plane?" Abby asked anxiously, clutching her duffel bag as she waited for the pilots to come out of the cockpit and unlock the plane's door after they had touched down.
"I've been told we're being met by two detectives from the CPD organized crime unit," Matt said. "They've been pretty active in bringing down the last remaining parts of the Mariano organization. I took care of a few arrangements, but for the most part, they'll be in charge of helping you settle back into life as Abby Kowalski. Your family has been notified that you're arriving, and they're all waiting for you at your parents' house. The detectives will take you there."
"You're not sticking around?"
Matt shook his head. "I'm wrapping up a case, remember? As of Friday, my FBI career is done and you're someone else's problem, Kowalski. I'm taking my wife to Hawaii."
Abby smiled, turning around as the pilots lowered the steps. "Does she know you're going?"
Matt nodded as he and Abby began to exit the airplane. "She does, but she still thinks something's going to come up like it always does."
"Well, I…" Abby's voice trailed off as she spotted the two people standing just a few feet away. "Oh my God."
Matt smiled as Abby's duffel bag slipped off her shoulder and she ran across the tarmac, practically throwing herself into the open arms of one of the detectives.
"Brody," she whispered, kissing him softly, almost reverently, her hands resting on the sides of his face as though she needed the contact to convince herself he was really there.
"Missed me, did you?" Brody asked with a smile, leaning down to kiss her. "That'll teach you to run off and join witness protection while I'm in the hospital."
"But…" Abby looked around in confusion. "I thought Matt said the detectives from organized crime were the only ones meeting me."
Abby turned and pulled back from Brody at the sound of the woman's voice from beside him. "Lina," she said with a smile, quickly hugging her former partner. "Wait, you transferred out of I.A.?"
"Well, I couldn't very well trust those idiots in organized crime to bring you back while I sat on my thumbs and did nothing, could I?"
Abby laughed and shook her head before turning back to Brody. "But you…"
Brody pulled a badge from his jacket pocket and flashed it for Abby. "Detective John Brody, at your service."
"But you love working patrol," Abby protested.
Brody shrugged. "I love you more. And Lina's not the only one who wasn't going to sit around and wait for someone else to bring you home. I started studying for the detectives' exam almost as soon as I got out of the hospital. Had to pull a few strings to get an opening in organized crime, but here I am."
Abby shook her head in disbelief as the tears welled up in her eyes. "You waited for me?"
"I meant it when I told you I wouldn't give up on us, Abby. In fact…I think I have something that belongs to you." Abby furrowed her brow in confusion as Brody reached into his back pocket and pulled out his mother's ring, holding it up for her to see before he slowly dropped to one knee and grabbed her hand. "Abby Kowalksi, will you marry me?"
"Yes," Abby whispered as he slipped the ring onto her finger. "Yes, I'll marry you."
Abby laughed as Brody let out a whoop, scooping her up and spinning her around in celebration before setting her back on her feet and kissing her deeply.
"Welcome home, Abby."
A/N: Well, there you have it! To everyone who showed interest in this story, through signing up for alerts or writing reviews (and even those of you who just read without leaving a way for me to thank you), I truly appreciate all of your feedback and your support for the story! I had a blast writing it and hearing your thoughts every time a new chapter went up.
And, of course, I'm not done with Against the Wall fiction…I have several new stories in the works, and will probably start posting at least one of them within the next week or so. Three already have working titles, while the fourth is still spinning around in my head without a name yet. Because you have all have been so great with this story, I thought I'd give you a little preview of what's to come (in no particular order...but if there's one you'd really love to see more than the others, let me know!):
Déjà Vu All Over Again - Sometimes, the right choice doesn't reveal itself until it's too late. One mistake sends Abby down a twisted, painful path that is all too familiar to certain members of the Kowalski family. (Longer story, 10+ chapters)
The Better Man - It's only when faced with tragedy that some people show their true colors. Suffering a devastating loss turns Abby's world upside down and makes her choices painfully clear. (Actually began as the same story as Déjà Vu, but quickly spun in a different direction; 2-4 chapters)
The Magic of Christmas- Abby makes it her mission to learn the real reason that Brody hates Christmas, and is taken aback by what that knowledge helps her realize about her own feelings. (3-5 chapters)
I have a fourth, as-yet-unnamed, story in the works as well. I don't have a cohesive summary for it yet, but basically, it focuses on Donnie, his relationship with Abby (and, to some extent, the rest of the family as well), and his continued struggle with the news of his adoption. While he seems to have taken it remarkably well on the show, I think that's not the sort of news you find out without long-term emotional repercussions.