Title: The biggest room in the world
Author: marcicat

Rating: T (language, themes, violence)
Word Count: 9600

Author’s Note: Post-Season 1 finale fix-it fic. OnStar is like magic, Katrina actually is magic, and George Washington was the President of the United States, dammit. Someone must know something. (Title comes from the question: “What’s the biggest room in the world?” “Room for improvement.”)

Summary: Hell’s forces expect the game to last seven years. The internet generation begs to differ.

Characters: Jenny Mills, Abbie Mills, Ichabod Crane, Katrina Crane, Frank Irving, Cynthia Irving, Macey Irving, Luke Morales, Jeremy Crane, Yolanda

Warnings: The characters begin in the same peril they were in for the season 1 finale: car accident, arrested, abducted, buried alive, and trapped in Purgatory.

Tags: switching POVs, happy ending, everyone’s fine, OnStar, magic powers, family, First Lady’s tech-savvy fighters of evil, cats, unlikely rescues, platonic sleeping together, Katrina is a Disney princess, awkward conversations, welcome to the future, crows, roses, magical tattoos



JENNY MILLS

“…with OnStar…airbag deployment…assistance?”

Someone was talking. There was a question. She couldn’t — but they sounded worried. She managed to get out a rough, “What?” Close enough, anyway, because the voice sounded relieved when it came back.

“You’ve been in an accident. Emergency services are on their way. If you can hear me, please let me know.”

It came back to her all at once — the church, the Horseman, flipping the truck — Abbie. She was in danger. “What time is it?” she said. She tried to turn her head, remembered she was upside down, and flinched. Yeah, she was going to be feeling this one for a while. Thank god for seatbelts, at least, and for whatever the Horseman had to do that was more important than finishing the job. Then she thought about what might have drawn it away, and wanted to take it back.

“It’s four o’clock in the afternoon. You’ve been in an accident; emergency services are on their way. What’s your name?”

Four. She tried to tell herself it wasn’t too late, but the sinking feeling in her chest said otherwise. Maybe if she could get there, get up, get out — but her hands were shaking and her eyes weren’t quite focusing. She closed them tight, tried to take a deep breath. Felt the pain all up and down her ribcage. “Jenny,” she said finally.

“Jenny, this is Yolanda, with OnStar; I’m glad you’re awake. Is there anyone else in the vehicle with you?”

“No,” she said.

“Good, that’s good. Are you in immediate danger? Can you smell gas? Smoke?”

Jenny closed her eyes again; it was getting dark anyway. That’s what Corbin always said when she called in. ‘Are you in immediate danger?’ he’d ask, and she’d say no, and then he’d talk about nothing like they had all the time in the world. “Why do you always ask that?” she murmured.

“Jenny? Are you still awake? Can you hear me?”

She tried to swallow, and it turned into a cough. “Sure,” she said finally.

“Try to stay awake, okay? You want me to keep talking, or do you want to answer questions?”

Well, at least that was an easy one, head injury or not. “You talk,” she said, and tried to sound like she wasn’t about to lose consciousness. Which she wasn’t. Hopefully.

“Well, your GPS says you’re in a town called Sleepy Hollow. Last time I got a call from there I’d just broken up with someone. Not my best day, but the caller was a real gentleman. He didn’t seem to know much about cars, though.”

Wait. Yolanda. OnStar. She’d heard that story. What were the odds of that, she wondered. “Ichabod Crane,” she said, just to check.

“Yes! You know him?”

The guy had taken her sister to Purgatory; he wasn’t exactly her favorite person at the moment. But she could hear sirens in the distance, and she could see how this was going to go. She was going to pass out, and she was going to wake up in custody. The pieces lined up too easy — former mental patient, Abbie missing, speeding out of town — it looked bad.

“Yolanda,” she said, interrupting the flow of words. “I need you to call someone for me.”

“Emergency personnel are almost to your location; they’ll take over from there. You’re going to be okay.”

The sirens were getting closer. She was running out of time. “Look, I’m going to give you the number, okay? She’s not my emergency contact; no one will think to call her. It’s important. Please.”

If they made it through, she thought, Irving was going to kill her for this.


KATRINA CRANE

She had imagined leaving Purgatory a hundred thousand times. More, most likely. Time moved oddly, in the space between living and death. Never in her imaginings had she considered Abraham — headless, no less — carting her through the forest like a sack of grain. How was he managing to navigate the terrain, with neither eyes nor ears?

She took a breath, and she could feel the earth reaching out, brushing up against the edges of her awareness. Curious, inviting, welcoming — always welcoming. There had been a time when she left her magic wide open to it, could feel trees rooting and rocks creaking and knew every being that approached her long before her eyes could see them. Back when she still trusted. Before she felt Ichabod fall, before she found herself cast out — before Purgatory.

The earth was a power unlike any other. But Purgatory had its own sort of magic, an ancient twisting weight that beckoned as enticingly as food or drink, and just as dangerous. So she had turned inward, looping and tweaking and tucking her magic around itself, keeping it contained.

It wasn’t a process she ever thought she might need to repeat. And yet.

Ichabod was still alive. Abigail was still awaiting their return. And their son. She dragged her thoughts away from Jeremy. She could — and would — worry about him later.

In the meantime, she could do nothing for any of them until she escaped from Abraham.

So she reached within, and teased out the curling tips of her magic. She touched the earth.


FRANK IRVING

When the second guard entered the room, he started paying attention. The first one he’d ignored. He’d been ignoring most things since he handed in his badge; he’d made his choice, there was no reason to fight it.

So he’d admit that it hadn’t registered much when the guards had switched, when he’d been moved upstate in the middle of the night, when his standard-issue cuffs were replaced by something lighter. But the second guard — he wasn’t an officer, he was an agent. The Secret Service had a look, and this guy was it, right down to the sunglasses.

Guard number one was sent on his way with a nod, and number two took his sunglasses off. “We’re good in here,” he said. “He’s clean.”

The door opened again. He blinked. He briefly had the urge to stand up, then thought he might get shot if he tried. Was there an official form of address for this? There probably was. “Ma’am,” he said finally.

“Captain Irving.” The First Lady of the United States stood in front of him, looking composed. “I apologize for the secrecy. And the lack of hospitality.”

She must have made some kind of gesture, because yet another agent was entering the room, this time coming to unlock his cuffs. “I’m not sure I understand what’s happening here,” he said. He wasn’t going to comment on the use of his former title.

She smiled. “If you’ll follow me, I think we can clarify things for you.”

He cast a wary glance at the agents before standing up, but the one with the cuffs ignored him completely and the one by the door just raised an eyebrow. The First Lady led the way down a brightly-lit corridor and through a set of double doors. It looked like a command center, filled with the buzz of organized chaos. No one announced her when they entered, and he almost asked about it. Thought the better of it.

But she must have noticed his curiosity, or maybe it was a common question, because she said, “It gets old quickly, the announcing. We’ve come to an agreement.”

Their destination was, apparently, a conference room. It looked perfectly normal. Certainly more comfortable than the interrogation room, at least. Everyone sat down. He was relatively sure he wasn’t supposed to be the one to break the silence, but really, he was already facing life in prison. So he said, “Why am I here?”

“You’re here, Captain Irving, because this is where we monitor the supernatural.”

“Excuse me?”

“You thought George Washington was the only president to battle the forces of evil? We typically would have been in touch as soon as you became involved, but our former contact in the area was — deeply traditional. More of a by-the-Book mentality than myself. We didn’t always see eye to eye, and it wasn’t unusual for reports to be filed late. By the time someone looked into it, he was gone and you’d already confessed to two murders committed by a demon. We had to do some inter-agency maneuvering to sort it all out.”

He tried to parse that into something that made sense. “Sort it out,” he repeated.

The First Lady leaned in. “You’re not going to jail. Let us give you the full briefing; you can decide where to go from there. You can still get out of this if you want, and your family. If not, we can offer you significantly more support.”

He took a breath. Six months ago? No question. But his family was a lot bigger now than it was then. “I’m going back,” he said.

That got another smile. “Captain, that’s exactly what I was hoping to hear.”


ICHABOD CRANE

There were, perhaps, more than a few moments of panic, that no one would ever need to find out about. Being entombed in darkness brought back more than a few memories he would prefer to repress.

And then the ringing in his ears subsided. He knew, without even a fraction of doubt, that he could not be stopped by this. Abigail was awaiting his return. And Katrina — he had already left her behind once. It would not happen again.

Also, there was one thing Jeremy seemed to have forgotten. He thought Ichabod was alone; as he had been. Which was — not exactly true, anymore. There were plenty of things he had yet to comprehend about the future in which he found himself, but Abigail’s singular rule was perfectly clear: never, ever be out of contact.

He had to twist uncomfortably to retrieve it from his pocket, but his phone lit up with a reassuring full charge. The question then became who to call. Abigail was in Purgatory; Henry was no longer an option, for obvious reasons. Captain Irving was out as well.

His first call was to Jenny, but there was no answer, simply an automated voice inviting him to leave a message. Courteous, but unhelpful. He had been warned off calling the citizens emergency number early on — “not unless someone’s dying.” Which left one choice.

“Sleepy Hollow Police Department.”

“Yes, this is Ichabod Crane. Would you please connect me to Detective Morales’ desk?”

“Please hold.”

He reached a count of 18 before the line was picked up. “Morales.”

“Detective Morales. This is Ichabod Crane. I find myself somewhat in need of your assistance.”

“You’re kidding.”

He stayed silent.

“You’re not kidding. Where’s your keeper?”

“Lieutenant Mills is — currently unavailable.”

“Unavailable. Is she okay?”

Did ‘unavailable’ had some type of secondary meaning of which he was unaware? “I believe so, yes.”

“You believe so. Right.” There was a long pause. Long enough that he began to wonder if he would have to call the emergency number after all. But finally he heard a sigh. And then, “All right. What do you need?”

He was attempting to come up with an adequate explanation when Morales said, “You’re using the phone Abbie registered with the station, right? Your GPS data is loading now. And — okay, you’re less than a quarter of a mile from the road, due east.”

He was perfectly aware of that. “I’m sure that information would be quite the comfort to me, were I lost, and not trapped in a wooden box beneath six feet of dirt.”

“You’re — what? Shit, hang on. Give me ten minutes. What happened? I’m definitely not going to believe accident, either.”

“No. Not an accident.” He would never have believed it if he hadn’t seen it, could barely believe it now that he had.

“Crane. I’m going to get an actual explanation, right? You, Abbie, the Captain — someone’s going to tell me what the hell is going on around here lately.”

“I am certain there will be time for explanations once everyone is —“ He stumbled over word choice. Rescued? Back? “Available,” he finally settled on.

Detective Morales sounded unimpressed. “I’ll hold you to that. Anything else you want to tell me right now?”

What was he meant to say to that? Make haste? He pushed the panic away again. “You should bring a shovel.”


ABBIE MILLS

The plan had failed spectacularly before they even began — there was no way Katrina’s powers could bind a Horseman that had already been raised. They had given Molloch exactly what he wanted; the witnesses separated, everyone off-balance. How had he gotten so far ahead of them? She ignored the trickling doubts — that it had been too long, no one was coming back for her, she’d been forgotten.

“You should stay inside.” Memory-Abbie stepped up to stand next to her in the doorway, seemingly unintimidated by the creepy enormous forest outside. “It’s not safe out there.”

Memory-Jenny walked around the corner holding a cat. “Besides, Jeremy will be here soon,” she said.

She stared. They had never had a cat. “We never had a cat,” she said finally.

“Rosco’s one of Jeremy’s,” memory-Jenny told her. “He sends them ahead when he’s visiting. So we don’t get scared. That’s important.”

They also had never known anyone named Jeremy. She didn’t even try to convince herself the name was a coincidence.

A figure blurred into existence outside the door. He was surrounded by cats. Memory-Abbie ushered them all inside. “This is Jeremy,” she said.

“Hi,” he said, sticking his hands in his pockets. He looked all awkward teen, but she was pretty sure it was at least fifty percent an act. “You must be Abbie.”

She narrowed her eyes. So far her experiences of Purgatory had been uniformly disturbing, and she wasn’t convinced this one was going to be any different. “Yeah, that’s me,” she said. Jeremy moved without tripping over a single cat, which was actually sort of impressive. “Nice cats.”

He blushed. “They find me. I can’t — they don’t need much.” A kitten climbed up his pant leg, and he plucked it off, handing it to memory-Abbie before turning back to look at her. “I’m Jeremy Crane. Sort of. You know my parents. I can — you must have questions?”

The first thing out of her mouth wasn’t anywhere near the most important question. Or the most polite. “I thought you were dead. How come you don’t talk like you’re from 200 years ago?”

Jeremy didn’t look offended. He shrugged. “I talk like you and Jenny. We showed up here together; we’ve spent a lot of time talking since then. You got your memory back, right?” She nodded. “Short version — I didn’t die, that was me you saw Molloch pulling out of the ground, he took all of my good memories and stuck them here, along with your memory and Jenny’s.”

She’d gotten used to having backup for conversations like this. She missed Crane standing at her shoulder, and Jenny offering sarcastic commentary, and even Captain Irving’s ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ expression. “I think I’m going to need the long version.”

The long version felt like it took hours — hours of talking, trying to find shared points of reference, occasionally including diagrams, frequently including cats climbing into her lap. Finally, Jeremy said, “We’re not whole people, not like you. We’re just bits. Memory theft isn’t one of Molloch’s usual powers, so it’s possible he doesn’t even know we’re still here. I don’t think he understands how Purgatory works, not really.”

“But you do,” she said. And then, “Why doesn’t Katrina know you’re here?”

Jeremy hesitated. Memory-Jenny made a face. “You can tell her. It’s Abbie.”

“Purgatory is a transitional space,” Jeremy said. She nodded. (They’d been over that part. Twice.) “You’re not supposed to be able to go back, just — on. But she wants to, and everyone knows she could do it. She’s been so careful, for so long; she’s not tied to this place.” He waved a hand around the room, wound up patting a cat instead. “Stuff like us, we can’t go back. We’re not even really here. We could go on, but Abbie wanted to give your memories back, and we all agreed we’d stay till it was over.”

He looked at the cat instead of her when he added, “If she knew I was here, she would stay. And I couldn’t leave her here, and they wouldn’t leave me, and we’d all just be — stuck. For a lot longer than seven years. So it’s selfish, but that’s why.”

“Hey,” she said gently. “It makes sense to me, okay? You get what you want, she gets what she wants — that sounds smart to me, not selfish.” She turned to look at her memory-self. “Thank you,” she told her.

“I think we can get what you want too,” Jeremy said, sounding thoughtful.

“I thought I couldn’t leave without causing chaos.” There had definitely been a diagram about chaos.

“That’s what I meant about Molloch not understanding how everything works. The rules say someone has to stay, but part of you is already here twice.”

She was going to need at least a week to recover from this day. “You’re saying the rules of Purgatory have a loophole.”

He grinned at her. “Let’s find out.”


JENNY MILLS

No one believed her when she said she was fine, despite the x-rays backing her up. And so far it had been all the usual questions, but they hadn’t given her any of her stuff back yet, and the last nurse hinted that the police were asking for a statement. She needed to make a plan, but she was still having trouble focusing — probably a toss-up whether that was the worry or the head injury.

She was still working on sitting up when the door opened and Macey rolled in. She had a phone in one hand. “Yeah, I found her,” Macey was saying. “You want to talk with her?”

Thankfully, the answer must have been no, because Macey didn’t hand her the phone. She just said, “I know, Mom. We’ll see you soon.” Then she dropped the phone in her lap and gave Jenny a considering look. “Hey,” she said.

“Hey.”

“Mom’s pretty angry,” Macey said.

Jenny could imagine. She made a face that hopefully conveyed some kind of apology. “Yeah, sorry about that. With the call.” She had at least a dozen numbers memorized for emergency situations, but once she’d taken out all the ones she didn’t trust not to screw her over, she’d been left with a short list of zero. Macey’s was the only other number she’d known.

Macey rolled her eyes. “Not that. She’s pissed you didn’t call sooner. What happened to keeping us in the loop?”

They hadn’t gotten around to all of the explanations that probably should have happened between exorcising the demon and Captain Irving turning himself in. They’d all thought there would be more time. Still, hospitals were far from the best place to have that kind of discussion. “Can we talk about it later?” she said.

“I kind of doubt you’ll be able to get out of it,” Macey said. “Anyway, I have your care package. That’s why Mom let me tag along.” She pulled a backpack off the back of her chair and into her lap. “Water first?”

Jenny felt like she’d missed some crucial part of the conversation. “Care package?”

“Yeah, we spent a lot of time at hospitals after the accident. We got pretty good at this part, at least.” Macey handed her a bottle of water, and then ripped open a pack of wet wipes and passed those over too. Next was a packet of crackers — “Do you eat crackers?”

“Who doesn’t eat crackers?”

“Never mind,” Macey said, and Jenny shrugged. She actually did feel a little better once she’d managed to get rid of some of the dirt and eat something.

“Thanks,” she said. “I’m getting out of here now, right?” They needed to find Abbie, and figure out what the hell had happened. The feeling that she was forgetting something important suddenly clarified, and she said, “Don’t trust Henry.”

The door swung open. “Why does that not surprise me?” Cynthia stepped through the door first, but it was Captain Irving who’d spoken, and he was right behind her.

“Dad!” Macey said. Jenny looked away while they hugged, and accidentally met Cynthia’s eyes.

“He just got back,” Cynthia said quietly. “The charges have been dropped; something about George Washington setting a precedent. Are you all right?”

“I’m fine.” She fiddled with the water bottle, but it probably needed saying, and she might as well get it out of the way. “Thank you, for coming. I wasn’t sure you would.”

“You couldn’t keep us away if you tried. Call anytime. Though — maybe my number first, next time.”


KATRINA CRANE

The earth was more than willing to help, but even its power was limited. Abraham was twisted, somehow — overlaid with something not of the earthly plane at all. The very stones beneath the soil shivered out of his path when they could. From the horse, she could sense nothing, as if it wasn’t even there, though she could feel it and hear it and see it wherever moonlight filtered through the trees.

They were still moving, and she wasn’t entirely sure what Abraham was hoping to accomplish, as he had already proved unwilling to kill her outright. Obtaining her while unconscious was a far different thing than maintaining possession once she was fully awake.

When the earth tugged at her in alarm and she felt the energies of Purgatory rising, she wondered if she had been overly hopeful. If Molloch was involved — if he transported them into Purgatory — Abraham would be able to change his appearance at will, while she would be near-powerless again.

To her amazement, it was not Molloch who emerged from the portal, but Abigail. The horse pulled up short, and she felt Abraham’s grip loosen. “Katrina, it’s me,” Abigail said. Some sort of miniature lantern came to life in her hand. “I’ll explain everything later. Can you turn this light into sunlight?”

Abraham wavered between her and his weapon, and she kicked free, scrambling towards Abigail as the horse reared. The earth leaped to her request, and the light flared up, blinding. Abraham’s horse stumbled, and as she blinked her eyes to speed their adjustment, it appeared that Abraham himself was starting to smoke around the edges.

“Your plan failed. Scram,” Abigail said. Horse and rider disappeared into the forest.

“How are you here?” she asked.

“You’re welcome,” Abigail said. Then she shook her head. “It’s a long story, and I’d rather not tell it here.” She stepped closer and met her eyes without fear or doubt. “I promise I didn’t sell my soul or do anything that will rip apart the barriers between here and Purgatory. Okay? I’m here, and you’re here, and we’re all staying put.”

Katrina could feel the certainty in the words, and something let go inside of her. She flung her arms around Abigail and held on, like the relief was a flood that would sweep her away if she released her grip. After a moment, she realized Abigail was talking, the words all strung together in a soothing murmur.

“Hey, you’re all right, it’s going to be okay, you must be freezing in that dress, I’m going to give you my jacket, okay? Come on, you kept it together for 200 years, you can do this, we’ve got to find the others, and then we can all have a good cry and a hot shower, all right?”

It sank in, slowly. The others. Ichabod. She pulled back reluctantly. “I — apologize, Miss Mills,” she said carefully.

“No need. And it’s Abbie, please. I think we can go straight to a first name basis, considering the circumstances. Anyway, here.” She shrugged off her outer layer and held it out. The cut was odd, but it was warm when she slipped it on, and she shivered.

“Ichabod is this way,” she said.

Abigail held up a hand. “Hang on. You know that how? And I don’t want to hear anything about Masons, either.”

“Not Masons. Magic.” She hesitated. Ichabod had been surprisingly accepting of her gifts, and Abigail clearly had more than a touch of ability herself, untrained though it was. “I could show you,” she offered.

Abigail studied her for a long minute. Then — “Sure.”

Katrina touched her wrist, sharing the sight of a line of light leading back the way she’d come. “Huh,” Abigail said. “That’s — handy. Nice job with the flashlight too, by the way.”

She nodded, then frowned. “The what?”


FRANK IRVING

He expected to sincerely regret the entire trip before it was over. They had no idea what they were driving into, but when you couldn’t rule out the answer ‘a showdown with two horsemen of the apocalypse,’ he thought that automatically made it a bad idea. And if they found nothing, what would that even mean?

But for better or worse, it quickly became clear they were going to find something.  Parked tail-in next to Mills' SUV was a police cruiser.  Between the two vehicles, illuminated in a small pool of light, was Crane. And next to him, looking completely unsurprised to see them, was Detective Morales. Conspicuously absent were Lieutenant Mills and any woman who might be Katrina Crane.

He pulled over.  Jenny was out of the car before the engine stopped, limping towards Crane. He took a deep breath and followed. He could handle this. Right?

“Morales.” Close up, Crane looked like he’d gone ten rounds and lost; Morales not much better. They were both covered in dirt.

“Captain. Good to see you. You’re not a fugitive, right, sir?”

He shook his head. “Fully cleared. I’ll tell you the official story later. What happened?”

“Well.” Morales looked at Crane. Crane ignored him, apparently one hundred percent focused on picking glass shards out of the hood of Jenny’s sweatshirt. “Short version — he got buried alive; I dug him up.”

“And the long version?”

Morales eyed Crane again. “We had a chance to talk some. I’m guessing these names will make more sense to you than me?”

He nodded. Morales sighed. “Remember, you asked. According to Crane, Abbie stayed in Purgatory so that Katrina could come here, but Katrina’s spell didn’t work because the horseman was already free.” Morales recited the words like he’d memorized them, but didn’t really understand what he was saying. The audible air quotes around ‘Purgatory’ and ‘spell’ would have been funny if he wasn’t approaching 24 hours without sleep.

Of course, that’s when he dropped the real news. “Also, Henry turned out to be Jeremy, who turned out to be War, which was —“

“What?” That, he had not been expecting. “Definitely bad,” he confirmed.

Morales nodded, but there was a good portion of ‘humor the crazy people’ in it. “Crane said the other horseman — the headless one — kidnapped Katrina and that Jeremy buried him using magic. There was no one else here when I showed up.”

He tried to clear a space in his head to figure out a plan. They would need to — what? Set up a search grid? Crane stepped forward, one hand on Jenny’s shoulder. “We must locate Katrina so that she can return to Purgatory and release Lieutenant Mills. I fear it has already been far longer than we had planned.”

“Captain.” Morales pointed into the forest. There was a light visible through the trees. “Are you expecting anyone else?”

“No,” Jenny said, pulling a gun from — somewhere.

It looked suspiciously familiar. “Did you take that from my car?”

“I thought you were loaning it to me,” she said. “Thanks, by the way.”

“It was in a locked box!” If he hadn’t noticed Jenny picking locks when she was sitting right next to him, he was probably in no shape to be handling a gun himself, so he let it go. Morales looked at him like he was (even more) crazy.

“Sir, it’s probably just some hikers, or something.”

He didn’t bother responding, and eventually Morales unholstered his weapon as well. They all watched the light get closer.

And then — “Abigail! Katrina!” He was pretty sure Crane couldn’t have sounded more delighted if he’d been told the entire Apocalypse had been called off.

The next few minutes were a blur of exclamations and introductions, and it was possible he dozed off leaning against the car, because Jenny was standing next to him when he jolted awake. “We’re all meeting back at your house,” she said. “I’m driving. You can sleep in the car.”

She dangled the keys in front of his face, and he frowned. “Weren’t those in my pocket?”


ICHABOD CRANE

It had been deemed too much trouble to go their separate ways once explanations had been exchanged. Therefore, they were all spending the night — what was left of it — at Captain Irving’s house. It was a remarkably large, and remarkably empty, house.

He scanned the virtually empty room again and bit back a sigh before it could become audible. Katrina had not objected to leaving a small light on through the night, but it only served to highlight the lack of any welcoming amenities in what was supposedly the “guest room.”

It was a shame that the Captain did not possess a library. Reading was an excellent diversion for the mind when one couldn’t sleep. Which he most certainly could; he was simply choosing to forgo it. Though his body was weary, each time he closed his eyes he was transported back to that wooden box. It was as if he could feel the dirt pressing in again.

He tensed at the sound of a floorboard creaking in the stairwell. He slipped out of bed as quietly as possible and made his way to the door. In theory, it was unlikely anything with ill intent would have made it this far into the house without raising some type of alarm. However, thus far theory had not been particularly dependable.

When he cracked open the door to look out, it was Abigail, carrying a glass of water down the hallway. She startled, and for a moment he thought he was going to need to dodge the glass, but then she relaxed. “Trouble sleeping?” she said quietly.

“Yes,” he admitted. “You?”

She shrugged. “Bad dreams. I’d say I was worried about waking Jenny with them, but she and Luke are playing poker down in the living room. How’s Katrina?”

“Sleeping.” There was a noise from the behind him, and he glanced back towards the bed. “Not sleeping,” he corrected.

“Who’s there?” Katrina said.

“It’s Abigail,” he told her, because somehow ‘Lieutenant Mills’ didn’t fit the night at all.

“Abbie!” Katrina said warmly. “Come in if you like; we can all be awake together.”

Abigail met his eyes and gave him a questioning look. Truly, though, they had all seen and done stranger things. He held the door open and she ducked under his arm. Katrina had already rearranged the bedclothes so that she was sitting on top of them. She patted the pillows next to her. “I’ve slept all I can, I think. Will you tell me more about this time? Women wear trousers now, I see.” She plucked at the fabric of her borrowed sleep pants. “An improvement in both comfort and practicality.”

Abigail laughed. “I take it we’ll have an easier time updating your wardrobe than Crane’s.”

“My wardrobe is perfectly acceptable,” he replied. As he settled on the edge of the bed, it was impossible to deny that the night felt lighter, somehow. Easier, perhaps, to face it together.


ABBIE MILLS

“You have got to see this.”

She couldn’t identify the note in Jenny’s voice, but she didn’t sound worried, exactly. Abbie wrapped her hands around her coffee and carried it with her to the window. “What am I looking at?” she asked.

She could see Katrina out there, in the yard with Crane. Still in her borrowed pajamas, topped with the Captain’s parka, she could probably pass for a grad student at any campus in the northeast. Call her an exchange student — it could work, especially if she was as willing as she seemed to make the jump to modern clothing. Crane looked besotted, which was kind of cute, actually.

Jenny turned to her with an unimpressed expression. “Really? There are robins out there. In January.”

She looked more carefully. Sure enough, a pair of robins was fluttering around the shrubs near Katrina and Crane. And there was a little group of squirrels gathered around Katrina’s feet. As she watched, an honest-to-god rabbit hopped out from under the nearest bush.

Abbie groaned. “Fine. She’s a damn Disney princess. Maybe it will ease up once she’s gotten used to being back.” If not, they could always blame global warming, she guessed. And it would hardly be the weirdest thing the people of Sleepy Hollow had seen.

She turned back for the table, and finally realized Jenny was standing at the sink because she was washing dishes. She blinked. “There’s a dishwasher right there, you know.”

Jenny flicked a soap bubble in her direction. “Yeah, but Captain America doesn’t have any dishwasher soap. So it’s hand wash or make a trip to the store, and, well.”

Right. The truck. She nodded. “The station will know where the truck got towed, after. We can take a look at it, see what’s salvageable.”

Jenny sat down across from her. “Great. So, are we talking about it?”

“About what?” The truck? Did anything else need to be said? They’d done the ‘I’m okay, you’re okay, glad you’re not dead’ talk the night before. They’d even covered the basics of Purgatory, and she didn’t think either of them wanted to pick at the details.

Jenny raised her eyebrows. “About whose room you came out of this morning,” she said. “And how it wasn’t the one you started in.”

“Okay, no.” She held up both hands. “There is nothing to talk about. We talked, we fell asleep. That’s it.”

“That’s it,” Jenny repeated.

“Come on, she was alone for two hundred years.”

If anything, Jenny’s eyebrows got higher. “Yeah, and if she wants to have a sleepover instead of going batshit insane and trying to kill us, I’m all for it. I’m just saying that’s not how I expected her reunion night with Mister Devoted Husband to go.”

She had mostly been trying not to think about it, actually. She was saved from having to come up with a reply by Cynthia’s entrance. “Good morning.” She stopped at the window, did a double take. “Is that a deer?”

Abbie put her head down on the table.


JENNY MILLS

She stuck around because she didn't have anywhere to go.  It was Abbie's apartment listed on her official paperwork, but it wasn't home and she didn't want it to be. Abbie had been politely ignoring the fact that she'd basically been living out of her truck. Now she was without transportation and without most of her things.  Not that she had that much to begin with, but less was still less.

"Hey."  Morales headed for the refrigerator.  "Did the Captain already leave?"

"Hours ago," she confirmed, watching him carefully.

"Everyone else?" he asked.  He did hold up the juice with a questioning look in her direction, and it wasn't like Irving hadn't mentioned this specifically, though he’d stopped short of an actual request.

She shook her head no on the juice, and ticked off the rest of the group on her fingers.  "Abbie, Crane, and Katrina are all upstairs.  Cynthia's in the office, working.  You're the last up."

"Where's Macey?"

"Right here," Macey called, entering the kitchen from the door closest to the office.

Jenny swallowed.  She hadn't realized just how uncomfortable it would feel, all three of them in a room together.

She looked at Macey, who shrugged.  "Well, this is awkward," Macey said.  "Let's talk about anything other than how we've all been possessed by the same demon."

Morales actually laughed, though it was strained.  "Sure," he said.

There was a moment of silence that felt longer than it probably was.  The list of safe conversational topics was beyond short.  More like nonexistent.

Macey said, "On the other hand, I do have a question."  

She fidgeted, and Jenny held back a sigh. "As the one who's been possessed way more than either of you, I say go for it."

Morales winced, but Macey squared her shoulders and met her eyes easily.  "Dad says I can switch to a therapist who knows about this stuff — he got a list.  Will you come with me?  At least the first time?  I don't want to be alone, with someone new."

"And you want me there?"  She wasn't sure whether to be honored or suspicious.

"I trust you," Macey said.

Morales shifted and looked away, and Jenny stared him down.  "What, you want me to come to your appointment too?"

"I doubt you'll need to," he said.  It looked like he was choosing his words carefully.  He pressed both hands flat on the table and didn’t meet their eyes. “I mean, it's not that finding out the Apocalypse is happening wasn't a relief, because — seriously, my boss was murdered, my partner's dead, the guy who always thought Abbie was too good for me is also dead and yet still cornering me in alleys to make threats...  I was thinking psychotic break, so this is actually better.”

He frowned. “I guess. But I’m the spare.  There's absolutely no reason for me to still be here except that the bad guys are fucking with me.  Sorry," he added, glancing at Macey.

Macey shrugged.  "It's fine.  My dad's a cop and my mom's a lawyer; I'm aware of profanity."

Jenny just nodded. “You figured it out too, huh?"

“Wait, what?” Macey looked back and forth between them.

It seemed like a twist of the knife to be dumping all of this on a teenager. Again. But it was too tidy to be a coincidence, and it wasn’t like withholding knowledge would help anyone in the long run. So she said, “The Apocalypse — it’s not about the endgame. If the demons were actually focused on the destruction of humanity, we wouldn’t stand a chance. Death alone could probably take out hundreds of people a day; he doesn’t eat, doesn’t sleep, can’t be killed. It wouldn’t be hard to start mass panic; so why aren’t they doing it?”

“They’re stupid?” Macey guessed. She joined them at the table.

“Or it’s fun. For them, I mean. The seven-year apocalypse — it’s different people every time for the mortals, but the bad guys do it over and over. And they lose every time, because they have to lose so they can play again.”

“They want us to hurt,” Morales said, and she nodded. She’d had years to think about it; come at it from every possible angle. It was the only explanation that made sense.

“I think that’s the point — how much damage they can cause along the way. How far we’re willing to go to stop them.”

Macey looked back and forth between them. “This is maybe the most depressing conversation I’ve ever been a part of,” she said.

“Sorry,” Jenny offered, and Macey shook her head.

“No, it’s good. Everything on the table, right? I’d rather know now.”

She thought about lying. Decided against it. “If it helps, I think you have a good shot.”

“Better than you, you mean,” Macey said. “No way. We’re sticking together; all three of us. And we’re going to sit at a table together in seven years, and I’m going to remind you of this conversation.”

Morales actually smiled, and it was hard not to feel a little optimism in the face of Macey’s conviction. “Hey,” she said, catching his attention. “You saved Crane's life, you know.  He takes that kind of thing seriously.  Also, you still owe me fifty bucks from last night.  Pay me back in seven years."


KATRINA CRANE

She woke up slowly, and the calm drift from sleep to wakefulness was a reassuring change from her earlier panic. Purgatory was not a place known for restful sleep — after a time, she’d learned how to avoid it for as long as possible. Once Ichabod and the Horseman arose, she’d forgone it entirely.

The transition back to the physical world was proving more unsettling than she’d imagined. She had awoken early, convinced she was in another false reality, some new torment visited upon her by Molloch. Ichabod had humored her request to see for certain; they’d gone outdoors so she could feel the earth, touch the energies that told her she was here, that this was real.

Abigail had directed both of them back to bed as soon as they returned inside. She remembered returning to the guest room, and then —

“Katrina,” she heard Ichabod saying. “You are safe. You are out of Purgatory; you are currently in Captain Irving’s guest room, along with myself and Lieutenant Mills.”

Her sense of time was surely skewed after so long in Purgatory, but it felt like it had been a span of hours since she last awoke. Had something gone wrong, that required two people to attend her? She opened her eyes. Yes, they were both there; Ichabod on her left and Abigail on her right. The bed was surrounded by a soft glow.

Abigail cleared her throat, and when Katrina looked at her, carefully reached a hand towards the light and poked it. It appeared to be some sort of barrier. Abigail let her hand fall. She said, “Maybe we should have that talk about boundaries now.”

She could feel Ichabod nodding at her shoulder, and she looked over to see him poke at the light as well. “You think I am responsible for this?” she said. She couldn’t remember ever doing something similar, though it was not out of the realm of possibility.

“Well, it started when you fell asleep,” Abigail said. “And you’re a witch. So yeah, the facts seemed to point in that direction.”

She stared at the light. It didn’t feel malevolent. She sat up and leaned over Ichabod to touch it, and they both startled when it dissolved to nothing under her fingertip. “Do you think you could do that when you’re awake?” Abigail said. “Because that would be — well, an impenetrable shield that obscures what’s inside it? Would have come in handy more than once.”

It was strange, she thought. To have the magic questioned but to have her use of it be accepted without hesitation. “Possibly?” she guessed. “How do you know its properties?”

Abigail held up a small rectangle. “It didn’t block cell signals. Jenny was outside for a while; we did the usual tests. She didn’t try shooting it, for obvious reasons.”

“Or poison gas,” Ichabod added, though he remained focused on his own rectangle.

Abigail rolled her eyes. “Or poison gas. Again, for obvious reasons.”

She understood the sentiment, if not the details. It had the sound of an repeated argument. “How long was I asleep?” she asked.

“Four hours,” Abigail said.

“And thirteen minutes,” Ichabod added, smiling. He had changed so much. He had always trusted easily — too easily, most likely. She had kept secrets from him and told herself everyone had hidden aspects, only to learn centuries too late that Ichabod, of all people, did not. And yet here — so far from everything they had known together, he seemed at ease. Comfortable in a way she could not ever remember seeing him.

She nodded, and wondered if she too would find a home in this new reality. “You mentioned boundaries,” she said finally, when the silence seemed to stretch.

Abigail and Ichabod exchanged a glance. “Right. Crane didn’t exactly get the soft intro to this century, but we’re going to try to do a little better this time around. We have a list. Let’s start there.”


FRANK IRVING

He was hiding in his office. That was the thing they never told you, when you did the whole ‘head held high, led from your workplace in handcuffs’ walk — sometimes, you came back. He probably should have waited, but his house was full of people invading his space and eating his food, and the awkwardness of work had seemed preferable over the awkwardness of family.

There was a knock at the door. “It’s open,” he called.

On a list of the top five people he was expecting, Jenny Mills would have been maybe fourth. But she was the one who walked in. “Are you even supposed to be here?” she asked.

Technically, no. Instead of admitting that, he said, “The office still has my name on it, doesn’t it?” She shrugged. (It did, though. He had checked.) “How did you get here?”

She nudged one of the chairs with her foot, but didn’t sit down. “Hitched a ride with Luke. Figured I’d better bring your gun back.”

“Again,” he added, because he figured that would get a smile. “Actually, I have something for you too.”

He handed her the box, and she turned it over in her hands warily. “Really. Entrapment is illegal, you know.”

He wondered what she thought might be in there, and decided he didn’t want to know. “It’s from the First Lady,” he said. “I asked for six; they had three ready to go. There’s more on the way.”

Jenny held up the box and shook it a little. Since he had seen here go through the same process with Christmas gifts the month before, he ignored it. “Are they up yet?” he asked instead.

“They were,” Jenny said dryly. “And then they went back to bed.” She rolled her eyes when he circled his hand for more details. “Yes, together. Mr. and Mrs. went outside to commune with nature, Abbie had coffee, and they all disappeared back to the guest room. Thanks for sticking me with dish duty, by the way.”

“I cooked,” he said. “Besides, I have a dishwasher.”

“You’re out of soap,” Jenny told him. She finally opened the box. “What am I looking at?”

“You’re now the proud owner of sunglasses than can detect evil, courtesy of the US government.” Jenny poked at the sunglasses with a dubious expression. He added, “They don’t expect them back in one piece, but if you try to sell them on eBay you’ll have very unhappy agents at your doorstep. Apparently.”

“We’ll keep that as plan C, then,” she said. She hesitated, still looking down at the sunglasses. “Sorry, for calling Macey yesterday.”

(Cynthia had called him with the news while Macey was packing for the hospital. It would be a long time before hearing ‘car accident’ and ‘hospital’ in the same sentence would inspire anything but panic, and he’d had to run through all of his family-counseling breathing exercises before he could regroup enough to drive there himself.) Regardless. “It was good thinking. Macey’s smart; she’s proud you trusted her.” Since it was true, he added, “You’re a good influence, you know.”

Jenny looked at him like he’d just said something — well, even more unbelievable than what they were dealing with every day. “Me. A good influence. You must be nuts.”

He smiled. “I don’t have a problem with crazy.”


ICHABOD CRANE

Nothing seemed amiss when they arrived at the cabin. “Seems quiet,” Detective Morales offered, looking out the windshield with a dubious expression. They were only planning a brief stop — as Jeremy certainly knew the cabin’s location, it seemed prudent to check it for damage or unwanted visitors before returning the next day with Katrina.

“Yes.” As he stepped out of the vehicle, though, there was an unmistakeable rustling from the surrounding trees. He turned in a slow circle, noting far too many occupied branches. The crows had returned.

Detective Morales moved to stand beside him. “That is seriously creepy,” he said. “What did you do to them?”

He shook his head. “Nothing, I assure you. We believe they may be controlled by Molloch, for surveillance, or for more — esoteric purposes.”

“‘Esoteric purposes,’” the detective repeated. “Why did I think I wanted to know what was going on around here?” He started walking towards the door. “Look, the captain’s magic sunglasses say they’re not evil. And crows have pretty good memories, but not that great. Especially when Henry was on your side up until yesterday. Do you have any peanuts?”

“What?” He fumbled with the glasses Detective Morales tossed in his direction. He was unclear as to what they would show if something was being influenced by otherworldly forces, but the birds looked no different than the trees, or his own hands.

“Peanuts. Crows like peanuts. You didn’t learn that at Oxford?” Detective Morales had his weapon out of its holster and was circling the cabin as he spoke. When he reached the door, he paused. “Did you leave this locked?”

That seemed to be invitation enough to join him on the small porch. “No. The lock proved little deterrent when we first visited.” And everyone who had attacked the cabin thus far had done so from a distance. Locks meant nothing when bullets could fly through the windows and walls with such ease.

Detective Morales eyed him carefully. “Okay, see, this is one of those times when I think I know what you’re saying, but I’m having trouble believing it. You’re telling me you picked this lock?”

“No.” It was a good memory. “Lieutenant Mills did the honors. I — kept watch.”

That got him quick glance, but no comment. They entered the cabin. Everything looked as he had left it, and he let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “Are those bullet holes?” Detective Morales asked.

To be fair, some of them had already been there. And they had patched some of them. It seemed simpler to say yes than to explain, so he did. The whole place could do with a bit of tidying, and he would need to prevail upon someone to take him back to a grocery store at some point in the future, but it was more than habitable. He turned to give the glasses back, and Detective Morales caught his eye.

“How are you not completely wigged out by all this?” His tone sounded serious. “I feel like I’m freaking Twilight Zone, and I’ve known about this for less than a day.”

It was a conversation he’d already had, several times, and with various people. For all the advances two hundred years had wrought, battlefield coping strategies had changed very little. “We take turns,” he said simply.

Detective Morales stared at him. “You take turns.”

He began gathering up the items he would need for an additional night spent at Captain Irving’s residence. “Yes.” In the kitchen, he found an unopened container that also answered one of the detective’s previous questions. “And yes,” he said. “Peanuts.” He held up the container.

Detective Morales laughed. “Abbie bought those, didn’t she? She loves the bulk club. Never could figure that one out.”

“Do you plan to fling them at the crows?” He had passable aim with a slingshot, but it seemed an odd choice of ammunition.

“More like fling them to the crows,” Detective Morales said, breaking the seal on the container. “We did this at summer camp all the time. Like I said, crows are pretty smart. Enough to recognize people, at least. Keep feeding them peanuts, they’ll be nice to you.”

He weighed the likelihood that Detective Morales was playing him for a fool, taking into consideration that the loss of a food he would not eat himself wasn’t much of a loss at all. “Unless Molloch is also plying the birds with —“ he read the package label carefully. “— Jumbo Circus Peanuts.”

Detective Morales shrugged. “Well, you’ve got more experience with him than me, but he doesn’t sound like the type to try a friendly overture as a first attempt. Or ever.” His voice turned serious again. “Look, maybe it’ll work; maybe it won’t. Consider it a sanity break, okay? Ten minutes feeding the birds, and then we can get back to whatever crazy plan the others have come up with while we’re gone.”

Ten minutes. Ten minutes to toss peanuts on the ground and not think. “It does have the added benefit of eliminating this food from the pantry without having to actually consume it,” he offered. “I believe we have an agreement.”


ABBIE MILLS

They were all supposed to be meeting back at the Captain’s house for dinner, which left an uncomfortably large span of time in which she and Katrina were supposed to be — something. Bonding? Negotiating? Gossiping? It wasn’t like she had a lot of female friends to base a comparison on.

So far they’d spent nearly forty minutes rambling up and down Sleepy Hollow’s main streets. She taught Katrina ‘unusual or not,’ the time traveler’s version of twenty questions. (Paying for water: not unusual. Warm spring breeze following them around town: unusual.) “Seriously, this is not subtle. How did you keep this a secret?”

It was a dicey subject. But the alternative was to delve into a lot of things she had gratefully skipped when Crane was a devoted widower, and which were now suddenly back on the table. Compared to that, magic was simple.

Besides, Katrina didn’t look uncomfortable. She said, “Ichabod is — very courteous. And the most honest person I have ever met. He did not look for deception, and so he never saw it. In many ways he was safer for it, or at least that is what I was told by the coven. And my strength was less, then.”

She was no judge of magic, so she said, “And now?”

Katrina gave the impression of shrugging, without actually moving her shoulders. “Strength is perhaps the wrong word to use. Power is less about innate resources and more about the ability to convince your chosen allies to assist. That ability tends to increase with time and mental discipline. Purgatory provided me with a great deal of both.”

Translating that into a short answer was surprisingly easy. “So — very strong, is what you’re saying.”

Katrina smiled. “Essentially, yes.”

“Can I ask a question that’s none of my business?” She turned slightly to the right to see Katrina still smiling.

“You released me from Purgatory, facilitated my rescue from Abraham, and purchased me this delicious beverage. I would say the scales are tipped quite significantly in your favor at the moment.”

It wasn’t exactly a yes, but she figured it was close enough. “Were you ever going to tell him?” she said. “About the magic?”

“Yes.” Katrina paused, then shook her head. “No. I convinced myself it was better that if he was unaware, and had no plans to tell him until it was too late. Even then I thought I would raise our child and live out my life, and it would be the choice of several generations later to tell or not tell. In truth, it wasn’t until the coven turned on me that I changed my mind. And now —” She spread her hands out in a sort of ‘what you see is what you get’ gesture.

It was certainly a feeling she was familiar with. “Yeah. Honesty hour. It’s been a theme.”

Katrina stopped, but she wasn’t looking at Abbie. She was staring at the ground. “To change the subject?” she asked.

Abbie nodded. “Sure, yeah. Please do.”

“This is the ninth rosebush we have passed.”

“They’re everywhere, I know. The city had them planted back when there was a big push for urban beautification. They don’t look like much now, but it’s not bad when they’re all in bloom.”

Katrina reached out a hand and touched the bush. The air seemed to warm up a few degrees. “Seven years ago?”

“Maybe. You think it’s connected?” After all, it seemed like every other authority figure knew about the apocalypse. Why not the council too?

“Roses — the flower of love. It would be a natural deterrent to the influence of the horseman War, particularly if they were given time to take root.”

It was far from the strangest thing she’d heard in the last six months. And she was willing to accept help from any direction it came, even plants. “So roses are to War like sunlight is to Death?”

“Not exactly. Each horseman has an influence, beyond their physical threat. Malaise, anger, sickness, dissatisfaction. You didn’t notice?”

She shrugged. “Mostly we just thought the apocalypse was depressing. It didn’t seem unusual.”

Katrina studied her carefully. Then she held out her hand. “May I?”

It was going to be one leap of faith after another, wasn’t it. Without any real idea what Katrina was asking, she reached out and took her hand. “I trust you,” she told her.

There was a tingling along her forearm, and she pulled her sleeve back to reveal what looked very much like a tattoo, that very definitely hadn’t been there when she’d gotten dressed that morning. Katrina said, “It’s hypericum. It should help.”

She looked at her arm, then back at Katrina. “I don’t feel any different.”

“Well. It’s magic, not sorcery.” It took her a beat to realize Katrina was making a witch joke, and the sheer surprise of it made her laugh. “It’s a subtle protection,” Katrina explained more seriously. “But effective. Given time, I can probably create one for each of the horsemen, for any of your group who wants them.”

“Thank you,” she said. And then, “Our group.”

“Our group,” Katrina repeated, smiling. “Shall we join them?”

She held out her arm and they linked elbows, turning to head back the way they’d come. “Yes. We shall.”
.

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