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Title: Reach Out and Touch Someone
Author: jedibuttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not
Rating: PG-13
Prompt/Prompter: maevebran, who asked for: "I'll speak up for more Temporally Displaced Americans."
Spoilers: Just post-Season 2 for Sleepy Hollow; MCU post-"Captain America: Winter Soldier"
Notes: Fourth in the Temporally Displaced Americans series. Title from the AT&T jingle. Angstier than I originally intended for this fic given recent canon developments, but think of it as a jumping-off point for a 'They All Deserve Better' AU.

Summary: Crane left Abbie with penpal custody of a certain supersoldier when he took off to 'clear his head'. 2100w.



It wasn't until Abbie thought to check the PO box she'd set up for Crane, two weeks after he took off to 'clear his head', that she realized she wasn't the only one he'd left behind with no word of when he'd return. He'd left her with penpal custody of a certain supersoldier, too.

She pursed her mouth in momentary hesitation as she retrieved three envelopes and a stack of advertising circulars from the mailbox, then sighed and tucked the letters in her pocket before roundfiling the ads. If Captain America was expecting an answer, it would be rude to leave him hanging until Crane got his act together; there was a time to respect boundaries, and a time that good fences did not, in fact, make good neighbors. Aside from his recent decision to try the walkabout cure for grief, the concept of boundaries was usually a little shaky in their case anyway.

She turned the latest letter over, meaning to get the most urgent one out of the way first, and slipped a fingernail under the flap to free it. Then she slid out the sheet of heavy, unruled paper tucked inside. The outside was carefully addressed to Captain Ichabod Crane as usual, but there was no 'Dear' line inside, and it was a lot shorter than their usual gossipy exchanges; Ichabod had read several of them to her, when he wasn't living at the cabin with Katrina. She frowned at the date on the envelope again-- a full week after Henry and Katrina had attempted to use a magically attuned copy of the Liberty Bell to turn thousands of innocent, unsuspecting people into witches, and the fallout had led to her killing Henry, and Crane killing his wife-- and then turned her attention to the rest of the contents.

"From the recent lack of letters in my mailbox," she read aloud, scanning down the page, "and the reports of strange hallucinations that briefly struck several thousand people in an area centered on Sleepy Hollow last week, I gather that the situation you talked about in your last message didn't resolve according to plan."

Abbie winced. The words were formally phrased, and a lot of thought had obviously gone into them, but she'd encountered Steve Rogers in person, and she could almost hear the acidly dry tone of voice... and the worry underneath it.

"JARVIS said he saw you on the security footage of the nearest airport a few days ago, so I know you survived whatever did go down, and there's been no word of anything happening to any of the Sherriff's deputies in Sleepy Hollow. While I'm relieved, it's obvious something must have gone drastically wrong for you and Miss Mills to have gone your separate ways.

"I'll save the rest of my questions for when you return, or update me with a new address-- or better yet, call from wherever you end up next. If you need me, I'll be there.

"In the meantime, Sam and I will be spending a lot more time in the field with the Avengers over the next several months, hitting the active Hydra facilities we uncovered in our search for Bucky. There don't appear to be any near Sleepy Hollow after all; they must have still been in the preliminary stages of assessing it for possible exploitation when we rooted them out of SHIELD. Hopefully, it'll stay that way.

"I wish you good luck on your journey, as I hope for good luck on mine.

"Sincerely, Steve Rogers."

Abbie frowned, wondering just how much Crane had told his friend about what was going on, then carefully opened the other two letters, swiftly skimming them for clues. She found what she was looking for in the earliest one: aghast sympathy at the news that Katrina had joined Henry's cause-- Ichabod must have found a moment to write between the first rash of incidents around the replica bell, and their initial attempt to blow it up-- and a lot of rambling that maybe it was better he hadn't read. Steve had gone on for more than a page about the Bucky he'd mentioned in the last letter, how his enemies had brainwashed him into a weapon whose name Abbie also recognized from her history books, and how Steve would never give up on him.

She wondered briefly how he'd deal if Bucky tried to kill somebody equally important to Steve; maybe his new friend Sam, or Crane himself, or that older woman he occasionally wrote about who'd also known him before his ice nap. But Abbie banished that thought just as quickly; he was obviously trying to come off as optimistic, both for his own sake and for Crane's, and it wasn't her place to judge, anyway.

How pathetic did it make her, taking out her own angst on an imaginary straw version of Captain America? Pretty damn pathetic. So Ichabod had left them both behind without any word of when he'd return; so what? So Katrina had let her jealousy over having to share her husband's attention with Abbie, her dislike of the modern world, and her attachment to all those old daydreams about her son turn her into a caricature of herself; did that mean Abbie's life had to go on hold, too?

No. She might have given up her best chance to escape this place when he'd fallen into her life, but that didn't mean other chances wouldn't come. She'd been thinking about applying to Quantico again, if they'd take her application after she'd withdrawn it once before. But reading Steve's letters had reminded her that she had other options, too; ones she thought Sherriff Corbin might have approved of more than he had 'running away' to DC.

Director Fury had passed through right after they'd broken Katrina out of Purgatory, to rough out protocols for how to deal with the varying levels of threat in Sleepy Hollow; he'd left her a contact card for whoever currently held the strings of SHIELD. And several of the Avengers' backup singers had called when weirdness had either spilled out of the Hudson Valley to affect the rest of the state, or vice versa. The Orion Incident had been the biggest of those-- one of Rogers' letters had contained a fairly hysterical account of Thor's encounter with the winged dick, after the supposed Angel of Justice had tried to turn Sleepy Hollow into the next Sodom and Gomorrah-- but not the only one. They'd left a standing invitation for Abbie and her partner to join up as well, if they ever managed to stop the prophesied apocalypse.

Abbie was pretty sure what was left of SHIELD had already absorbed Hawley, from the cryptic note he'd sent after disappearing to hunt down his evil foster mom, and she'd met enough of the Avengers' support crew to know she'd have friends there, as well. From where Abbie currently stood, the Bible might have specified a seven year duration for the apocalypse, but since Moloch's own Horseman of War had cut him down, it seemed like the only loose thread still galloping around was the Headless one. Last Abbie knew, Abraham van Brunt was still minding his own business waiting for Katrina to figure out how to turn him back into a man; if he ever found out what had happened to her he might make a try at Crane again, but in the meantime, embodiment of Death or not, he'd more or less defanged himself as a threat.

She bit her lip, worrying it slightly as she thought through the possibilities, then hunted up a legal pad and a pen.

"Dear Captain Rogers," she wrote back, the better to start out on a respectful footing.

"I apologize for opening your personal correspondence with Ichabod, but I thought you'd appreciate an update on what's been going on here.

"The hallucinations that you wrote about should have no lasting effect. As you gathered, we weren't able to stop the Awakening spell from being cast, but we did manage to stop the caster before it could become permanent. Anyone who heard the bell ringing or whose eyes turned white can probably trace their blood back to one or more witches from the two covens who once lived in this area, but if they weren't magically powerful before, that's not likely to change now. I'll let you judge whether it would be helpful to pass that information on to those who were affected outside Sleepy Hollow.

"I'm not sure how to say this next part, or if it would be more appropriate to wait for Crane to pick up his pen again, but I'm sure you'd find out the rough details soon enough anyway from JARVIS or one of your other sources, so I'm just going to be straight with you. Henry caught us trying to destroy the bell and it narrowed down to a 'him or the world' scenario. So I killed him. And Crane had to kill Katrina to stop her from killing me in retaliation. That's why he's gone walkabout; he's not talking to me right now, either. Though he did assure me he'd be back... eventually.

"I wish you better success on your journey, on both our behalf.

"And in the meantime, could you put me in touch with whoever's in charge of recruiting for the Avengers Initiative these days? I'm a little at loose ends now that the apocalypse is over and my partner is elsewhere, and I could use something meaningful to do to get away from all the bad memories around here.

"Thanks, and good luck,

"Abigail Mills.

"P.S. I know Ichabod usually adds a moment of modern culture to these, for both of you to marvel over. Have you learned the art of the vacation selfie yet? I think Ichabod still has his phone with him, though he claimed he wouldn't be answering it. You might be able to get him to respond in kind, though, if you send him pictures from your travels. The non-classified parts of it, of course. And I wouldn't say no to a friendly update or two, either, even if the offer to join the support crew isn't open anymore. Crane worries about you a lot, and I suppose it's up to me to pick up the slack while he's gone.

Abbie tore the pages out of the notepad, folded them up in an envelope before she could think better of it, and sent it off to the return address from the letters to Ichabod. Rogers apparently picked up his mail at Stark Tower these days; or Avengers Tower, or whatever they were calling it now.

It wasn't that far away, really. If she did go to work there, it wouldn't take long to get back if Jenny needed her, or even Joe; he was almost done with his EMT training, and chomping at the bit to get more involved. Even if the apocalypse was over, there were still plenty of supernatural artifacts out there, and ghoulies and ghosties that hadn't got the memo they weren't welcome anymore; she wouldn't give it long before one or both of them knocked into something too big to handle alone.

One way or the other, she'd find something to do.

One way or the other... she'd be okay.



Three days later, a twenty-first century phone buzzed in the pocket of an eighteenth century coat. Ichabod Crane retrieved it with a frown forming between his brows, for he had not expected to receive any correspondence short of emergency-- and blinked in surprise at the ID on his lock screen.

Captain America had sent him... an image of his face, posed in front of a sign for that most egregious example of historical American tourism that Abbie had promised to drag him to one day: Colonial Williamsburg.

He knew whence the missive must have spiritually originated; the odds of it having occurred to Rogers to send a fellow temporally displaced American such a 'selfie' were only slightly higher than those of Ichabod having thought of it first. This, despite her having promised to let him have 'space'. And yet... the reminder that he was not entirely alone in this century was timely, and cast his own self-focused motives for requesting that 'space' in the shade.

He sent back an image of himself, nose appropriately aloft, in front of the London pub he'd favored with his commerce that particular evening, revisiting old 'stomping grounds'.

And on the "To:" line, he added a second recipient: Lieutenant Mills.

-x-

Comments

( 2 appreciated — appreciate )
avamclean
Aug. 18th, 2016 02:52 am (UTC)
Crane is so very lucky to have Abbie in his temporally displaced life. There's something so nice(because I can't think of a descriptive word) about stories where Abbie and Crane have each other's backs.

Also the vacation selfie? *snort*

P.S. I want Abbie as Avengers support crew. Stat.

Edited at 2016-08-18 02:52 am (UTC)
jedibuttercup
Aug. 18th, 2016 04:59 pm (UTC)
Yeah. The show always worked best when their friendship chemistry was at its highest. :)

Glad you enjoyed the story! And yeah, if I write more in the future of this 'verse that's definitely going to be what happens. (Forget the Pandora arc of Season 3 SH, we can just say the Avengers detected somebody moving around with a powerful artifact, insert more interesting plot after that!)
( 2 appreciated — appreciate )

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