New fandom for me, but after the season two finale I just had to. Much as I loved it, I wanted Ichabod and Abbie to have a more significant interaction once she returned to the proper time.
Ichabod Crane woke from a dream of a day he never lived. Instead of facing the Hessian he'd been seeking he was pulled from the battlefield by a summons from a seemingly unhinged woman – one his former self didn't recognize but his present self certainly did. Twas like watching one of this century's moving pictures – for as much as he shouted at the scene before him those depicted could not hear him, and he could no more alter those events than he could wake himself from the nightmare.
For Abigail had needed him, and he had not believed her.
He recoiled at the callousness of his former self, his dismissive superiority. He was cognizant of the subtleties of her behavior that Captain Crane was not trained to realize. Her repressed devastation each time he abandoned her. Her desperation to save his life and set the timeline to rights. Her inner conflict about revealing that it was his beloved wife that threatened them both. But her unflagging fortitude was apparent to all versions of himself, even if he thought it driven by madness. He'd surrounded himself with great men who harnessed such fortitude to build a nation. She used hers to assure that nation's survival.
It was a cruel truth that as a landowning white male he fared better in her century than she did in his. He was repulsed when Sutton spoke of the slave auction; even more so when his former self did not flinch. It had taken their nation too long to right that egregious wrong. The idea that his Abigail might have belonged to another if she was born in a different time was abhorrent. She was fiercely independent, high-strung and spirited. Franklin had been right in describing her as the American dream. She could never be anything less.
Perhaps it was counterintuitive to refer to her as his Abigail when he railed so strongly against anything that would restrict her. But he used it not as a pronoun of possession, but one of familiarity, implying a close bond. Just as he might refer to his father or his sister. She was his …
There was not a singular word he could choose to describe her. Colleague was too formal, friend not formal enough. She was comrade, confidante, the only constant in her unfathomable world. Partner, perhaps, came closest to the bond they shared, but it could never encompass the layers to their relationship.
She had saved him again, even as he refused to acknowledge that he needed saving, blinded by anger and uncomprehending loss at Franklin's death. She had freed herself, immobilizing Sutton before he could unlock the video that would make him come to his senses. And then she had saved them all by reversing the spell and returning to the proper time. The Horseman's blade has been centimeters from his neck, so close he could feel the heat of the steel, but he woke safe in his bed in the cabin.
But his shame from the dream mixed with the shame from what had come after, and he felt parched and ill. Back home he would have kept a canteen within reach but here he could access an endless supply of chilled water if he could only drag himself to the kitchen. So much that his generation would have considered magic was commonplace now, but he could not argue with the convenience of these amenities.
The cabin had become so familiar to him that he traversed it without light. But not, apparently, without sound.
The unexpected voice from the couch startled him. He had forgotten that Abbie had accompanied him to his abode. "Lieutenant." He had tried to offer her his bed but of course she had refused. She was always particular about chivalry. Although she gladly received his offerings of confections or coffee she rejected any attempt to put her physical comforts before his own.
"I'm sorry to have disturbed you. I forgot that I was not alone."
"It's okay. I wasn't sleeping anyway." She reached out and lit the lamp, casting his living area in a dim glow. He used the opportunity to study her. Her legs were covered by a flannel blanket but the camisole she wore exposed her arms to his view. He would have been scandalized by this not so long ago, but he was growing accustomed to this generation's devolved standards of modesty.
That was not what was important anyway. He studied her face, searching for some remnant of her ordeal. There was a sallowness beneath her eyes that spoke of exhaustion, and her claim that she had not been sleeping despite living two days in the course of one was troublesome. But she stared back at him without any trace of malice or disapproval, as if what had occurred today had not broken them beyond repair.
He must have looked too long, because she tilted her head and squinted at him. "Are you okay?"
The instinctive confirmation rose to his lips, but he found he could not voice it. He would not lie to her tonight. He would endeavor never to lie to her, even when the truth was painful.
"It would seem that I am not."
"I'd be more worried if you were." She swung her legs off the couch and patted the cushion beside her. "Come 'ere."
He sat gingerly beside her, but when she offered him a corner of her blanket he refused.
"Nightmare?" she asked.
"Of sorts. Though I believe memory might be the more proper term. I dreamt of your visit to the past."
"That's impossible. I reversed the spell. That day never happened. I googled Franklin's death when you were in the shower. He definitely wasn't beheaded."
"And yet my mind provided me a recounting of our second meeting, and since you were sparse on the details I do not believe I would have conjectured such an elaborate tale."
He was desperately afraid she would look away from him. Tonight of all nights he could not handle her rejection on top of all his other sins, as much as he may have deserved it. But her sharp brown eyes stayed locked on his, and the corner of her lip twitched upward as she said with great seriousness, "Waffle selfie video."
"Yes," he confirmed. "Though I fail to understand why of all our significant moments together it is that triviality that you have preserved."
She chuckled. "Just be grateful that I did. Twenty-first century narcissism has some uses after all."
She had used such phrasing in their video. It had been taken more than a year ago, a few months after his arrival in her time, and before the traveler spell he had forgotten its existence. "I can only assume that I was given illumination into our encounter so I can use the knowledge forlearned to better fulfill my role as Witness."
She narrowed her eyes. "Are you gonna use that excuse every time we run into something we can't explain?"
"It has worked so far," he said wryly.
"That it has." Her smile was a balm to his soul. He had noticed such in 1781, and found it disconcerting that every kind glance from this raving madwoman affected him strangely. He understood now that on some level their bond had remained even while he was unaware of it.
"I fear I must apologize for my actions."
"You don't—" she interrupted.
"Yes. I must. I was not kind to you, and my reluctance to accept the truth put you in danger and nearly kept you from reversing the spell." There had been so much shame tonight, but as he sat beside this strong, resourceful woman who had risked her life and freedom for their mission his failure towards her was suffocating.
"Stop it. I won't listen to you blame yourself." Her words were sharp, but when she reached out and grasped his hand there was something soothing in the action. "It wasn't fun, watching you look at me like a stranger, but you had no reason to believe me. I thought you were crazy when we first met. Makes me wish I'd been a little more understanding. But it all worked out, then and now. You came around eventually." She squeezed his hand, but something in him wanted to rebel against her offered comfort as something else wanted to cling to it desperately.
"Because of your infinite resourcefulness."
"I am pretty good in a crisis," she boasted, and despite himself her tone wrung a chuckle from his lips.
"Narcissism and humility."
She flashed him a warming smile. "This from the man who name drops every significant figure and event in Revolutionary history on a nearly daily basis."
"I was extraordinarily well connected."
"That you were." Her levity faltered. "I knew you were a captain in the army, but I never really understood what that meant. I guess I've gotten used to us going rouge when we need to. Forgot that you had people to answer to and others under your command. You risked that all for me."
In truth he too had forgotten the trials and responsibilities of authority. And also the prejudices his peers had operated under which he had never stood to oppose.
"I did not risk enough." He swallowed the lump in his throat, for as uncomfortable as this confession made him he felt the need for it strongly. "I am deeply repulsed at the treatment you received because of the color of your skin."
She flinched, and then her body stiffened in determination. "I try not to think too much about what my ancestors had to endure. To experience it firsthand – it was awful. I'm not sure I'll ever forget the way everyone looked at me. But it wasn't your fault."
"Yet I did nothing to stop it."
"Please, Ichabod. If you want my approval, let yourself off the hook for this."
The sound of his given name from her lips gave him pause. He was always "Crane" to her, its original formalness given way to what he'd long ago assumed was affection. She did not call him Ichabod, but there were others who had. Suddenly he was reminded that even if he'd earned her forgiveness there was still much he had lost.
That part of him desperate for her comfort won out against his good sense.
"You told my alternate self that we 'hug it out.' We did not do so when you returned."
"Wasn't sure you'd be willing, considering."
"I think I would be very willing, if you don't mind." He did not wish to admit how afraid he was that she would. But she surged forward and wrapped her arms around him. This time he did not stand stiffly in her embrace but returned the gesture, his arms coming around her slight form in a way that may have not been entirely proper, but somehow quieted the panic and recrimination that had been swirling through him since they left the town hall. His chin rested on her bare shoulder, and she squeezed him tighter just as she had in Frederick's Manor, but this time he did not flinch. Somehow her embrace seemed to hold his misery at bay.
When she finally pulled away he was reluctant to let her go. "I know this sucks right now," she said softly. "If there's anything you need just say the word. You're not alone."
"Thank you, Lieutenant."
He could sense that they'd come to the natural conclusion of their conversation, but the thought of parting with her filled him with dread. Though he did not deserve the comfort she could provide, he was not sure he could bear on without it. "I do have one request, though I confess it is not entirely proper."
She did not flinch from this, as he feared she might. "Spit it out, Captain."
"I believe I would sleep more soundly if you were close by."
She raised one eyebrow. "Closer than the couch?"
He nodded before he could find his voice. Her familiar jesting tone put him at ease. "Yes."
He was not used to feeling so vulnerable, as if he had given her a glimpse into his raw, aching soul. Her rejection was to be expected, propriety demanded as much, and just because he was desperate to cling to the goodness and stability she provided did not mean she had such need of him.
She nodded. There was something entrancing about the way the light caught the flecks of gold in her brown eyes and made them sparkle.
(He wouldn't realize until much later that they might have been bright with tears.)
"Okay." She stood, leaving the blanket draped across his couch.
"If you are uncomfortable with this arrangement …" He was not sure why he was trying to talk her out of his request, but the prospect of being so close to her for more than the length of an embrace now seemed daunting.
"I said anything you need." Her tone refuted any further argument before he voiced it, so he nodded once before following her into his bedroom.
They entered upon opposite sides of the bed. He expected her to keep her distance as much as space allowed, so he was shocked when she scooted toward him and rested her head upon his chest.
"This all right?" she whispered.
"Yes," he whispered in return, unsure of how the weight on his chest could possibly make him feel so much lighter.
Objectively speaking he had not shared a bed with another for over 200 years. Katrina's return had been so strained and fractured that they had never regained that level of intimacy. Though guilt churned as he thought of his deceased wife with another in his arms, he could not deny there was immense comfort in having another so close.
Not just anyone. But someone who he trusted so entirely. Someone who apparently returned that trust.
He had wanted to trust Katrina so desperately that he had blinded himself to her true nature, and nearly damned them all.
In the end, it was only her that he damned.
He needed to focus on the woman beside him, because otherwise when he closed his eyes he saw the light leaving Katrina's, felt the warm stickiness of her blood on his hands as she died with their son's name on her lips, no remorse or betrayal or acknowledgement of the bond they had shared. Ichabod had loved her and killed her, and she had left this earth as if he had never even mattered.
"I'm sorry." Abigail's voice broke him from his thoughts.
"For killing Henry."
He looked down at her. Her eyes were closed and she sounded timid, an adjective he'd never before used to describe her. "There's no reason to apologize for that. We had an accord. It was I who determined Henry was mortal. We decided together that shooting him might be the only way to stop the awakening."
Her eyes burst open as she looked up at him. "It's one thing to talk in hypotheticals. But he was your son."
Only then did he realize she was carrying her own guilt, and he would not allow it. "No he was not. Jeremy died in that coffin two hundred years ago. Henry Parish was not my son. He was a creature of Moloch's design—hatred and uncompromising ire. War incarnate. I wished to believe differently once. Katrina could not see past that desire. But he never gave any indication that he could be redeemed. What he did make clear was that he wanted to plunge this town into chaos, and you were right to stop him from that."
One of her hands found his in the dark, her fingers interlocking with his. "It's okay to mourn, you know."
"I never had a chance to be a father. Henry's death robbed me of that possibility. But it was a fool's hope. I can't miss him. I never had a chance to know him. His loss is just a bitter reminder of what had already been taken from me."
"I'm sorry about Katrina too."
He did not want to talk about her. But perhaps if he did he could lance this poison from his soul.
"I cannot come to terms with that, because I do not know how I feel. She betrayed me over and over again with her constant secrets, and yet I never could have expected that she would try not only to kill us both but to undo all we have striven for. She is the one who recruited me into this war. She is the one who sent me here to this future. She had saved both our lives, offered guidance and assistance and yet today she strove to prevent my resurrection and even murder me herself. Yet how can I forget that I swore to love and care for her for an eternity when she died by my very hands."
"That was an accident. You never intended for her to be hurt."
"No, Abigail. As I said this evening, I made a choice. She was determined to do you harm, and I chose to protect you."
Her eyes widened at his confession but she didn't remain speechless for long. "It's like you said. We'd just agreed that we weren't going to let anything get in the way of our role as Witnesses."
"In that moment our mission was the furthest thing from my mind. I recognized only that you were in danger."
He would have to live with that truth for the rest of his life. In a moment of crisis, he had chosen another woman instead of his wife.
Decency said that it shouldn't have mattered that Katrina was fickle while Abigail was steadfast, because he had sworn vows before God that he would honor Katrina until his dying breath. Yet today he had watched her dissolve into ash, and some terribly wicked corner of his heart had been relieved.
"At Frederick Manor you went out to face the Horseman, and I wanted to follow you. Grace told me it didn't matter because the reversal spell would undo everything that happened, but I couldn't stand the thought of him beheading you, even if it wouldn't stick. I almost risked our mission because I wanted to keep you safe."
His heart stuttered at the very thought. She had clung to him quite desperately. But he would not allow himself to consider what that might mean. Not on the night that his wife had died. "Perhaps we both need to remember the task we are sworn to."
"It's not the task that will see us through. It's our bond. And that's still intact—isn't it?"
It was the only thing he was still certain of—he could not lose her.
"Good. Look, I don't know what happened with Katrina. But guilt can do funny things to a person. All that time in Purgatory, wondering what happened to her son, and then to find out the horrible truth. I was only there a few hours and it nearly unhinged me. After two hundred years it's kinda a miracle she held it together as long as she did. But her actions and intentions were all beyond your control. This is not your fault, Ichabod. None of it. It's okay to mourn. To get angry. Cry if you have to. But please don't let guilt consume you the way it did her. I can't do this alone."
"I shall never abandon you again, Abigail," he swore, affected by her uncustomary display of dependence. It all still hurt, and he could not make sense of it. But he would pull himself together because she needed him.
"I wanted to tell you about Katrina sooner. When I was in the 1700s, I mean. I didn't like keeping that from you, but I was afraid you would freak out."
"I was not the man then that I am now."
"No. But now that we're back to our proper selves I swear to you, no more secrets. And no lies. You deserve to know the truth."
He had to clear his throat to push the words through his thickening esophagus. "That means a great deal to me."
"I know." She yawned, and shifted against him. When she spoke again he could hear the sleep in her tone. "I called off for the next few days. Unless the next big bad shows up tomorrow I think we should get away for a while. We could go to DC. See whether you approve of the nation's capital."
Under different circumstances he would have liked that very much, but he doubted he'd be able to appreciate it properly in his current state.
"What if I'd prefer to stay here and indulge in pizza and Netflix?"
She smiled at his exaggerated pronunciation. She always appreciated when he made a proper modern reference – or when he mangled them terribly. "We can wallow if you want. But not too long. A trip might help you take your mind off things. We can go someplace new if you prefer."
She yawned again, which sparked an answering tiredness in him. He closed his eyes, but he was not transported back to that cursed hall. Abbie smelled of his soap, and his mind replayed their embrace in the manor and her playful grin when he had come to save her and found she'd already saved herself.
"Someplace warm, maybe. Miami. Vegas. Disneyworld."
"Whatever is a 'world of Disney'?"
She laughed. "American excess and escapism at its finest. Now that would be some trip."
"I still fail to understand."
"The happiest place on earth." At his furrowed brow she abandoned her cryptic attempts at explanation. "We'll google it in the morning."
Though he suspected that was an advertising slogan rather than a promise, the prospect was certainly appealing. "I will follow wherever you lead."
As the exhaustion crept upon him he did not attempt to fight it. His mind had stilled, and though he still had much to atone for it was easier to bear knowing Abigail bore him no ill will. Whatever trials were to come he would face them by her side. She would be his strength when his reserves ran dry.
He waited until he was certain she must be asleep before leaning forward to press his lips fleetingly against her forehead. "Thank you, Lieutenant," he whispered.