STANDARD DISCLAIMER: The Law and Order characters belong to Dick Wolf and NBC television. I'm just playing with them in between writing Doctor Who/Law and Order crossover fics (which can be found here on FFN under my screen name if anyone's interested). I'm not making any money from this, either.
"Sure you don't want to join us, Jack?" Serena asked, stuffing files into her briefcase. "Arthur said they have really great steaks."
"Nah. I'm just going to grab a quick bite and head on home," he replied. She watched him pull on his coat.
"Coming, Jack?" Arthur asked, walking into Jack's office. The ADA shook his head.
"Not tonight, thanks."
"We did good today," Arthur said. "Another bad guy off the streets."
"Yep," Jack replied. Arthur and Serena watched him leave.
"Should've known he wouldn't come," she finally said. "It's Wednesday. He never comes with us on Wednesdays."
"Yeah," Arthur replied thoughtfully. "Wonder where he goes every week."
"We could get Briscoe and Green to follow him," she suggested jokingly.
They left the office, laughing together.
The street was quiet, tree-lined, suburban. Boys on skateboards zoomed up the sidewalks as Jack carefully maneuvered his car around the corner, passing a small mom-and-pop convenience store, a newsstand, and a little sandwich shop. Residential was giving way to commercial, and soon he saw the building that he'd visited faithfully every Wednesday for what seemed like decades. He turned into the parking lot and found a space, his usual space. It was Wednesday; somehow the other regulars knew to keep this space open for him, just as he knew not to park in the one over by the side door, because that one was unofficially reserved for Mrs. Sachs with the bad hip. He reached across the front seat for the book.
"Hey, Jack, how's it going?"
He returned their greetings as he made his way up the hallway to the room at the very end, the one with the view of the woods behind the building. This room cost extra, and Jack happily paid the difference that insurance didn't cover. It was, he thought, the least he could do. At last he reached the end of the hall and pushed the door open.
"Hello, Jack," she said, rising to her feet. "We've been waiting for you all day! Why, I even did her hair. I know she likes to look pretty for you."
"Thanks," he said quietly. She gave his hand a squeeze as she passed him on her way to the door. When the nurse had gone, he walked over and sat in the chair she had just vacated, the one by the bed.
"Hello, Claire," he said, taking her hand. Her eyes were open today, staring ahead blankly at nothing. He remembered the first time her eyes had opened after the accident, how he and her parents had raced up the hallway to the nurses' station, yelling for the doctor. They had been so foolish, so full of hope.
That had been more years ago than he cared to remember.
The nurses here in this Long Island hospice where her parents had finally put her treated her a bit like a life-sized Barbie doll. She was young, she was pretty. Not like their other patients, the old, the cancer-stricken. They delighted in taking time to make her look nice for Jack, fixing her hair, applying make-up, even dressing her and sitting her up in bed for his visits. He never told them that it only made it worse for him. She looked almost as she always had before the accident; he always half-expected her to return his greeting when he walked through the door. But he never complained, never told them how he felt. The idea struck him as ungracious, ungrateful.
So now he sat at her bedside, holding her hand and telling her about their most recent case, about the most recent bad guy they'd managed to put behind bars. When he was satisfied that she was caught up on the goings on in the DA's Office, he picked up the book he'd brought in from the car.
"Now, where were we?" he asked, thumbing through it until he found the correct spot. He began to read:
He went on farther, and in the great hall he saw the whole of the court lying asleep, and up by the throne lay the King and Queen.
Then he went on still farther, and all was so quiet that a breath could be heard, and at last he came to the tower, and opened the door into the little room where Briar-Rose was sleeping. There she lay, so beautiful that he could not turn his eyes away; and he stooped down and gave her a kiss. But as soon as he kissed her, Briar-Rose opened her eyes and awoke, and looked at him quite sweetly.
Then they went down together, and the King awoke, and the Queen, and the whole court, and looked at each other in great astonishment. And the horses in the court-yard stood up and shook themselves; the hounds jumped up and wagged their tails; the pigeons upon the roof pulled out their heads from under their wings, looked round, and flew into the open country; the flies on the wall crept again; the fire in the kitchen burned up and flickered and cooked the meat; the joint began to turn and frizzle again, and the cook gave the boy such a box on the ear that he screamed, and the maid plucked the fowl ready for the spit.
And then the marriage of the King's son with Briar-Rose was celebrated with all splendour, and they lived contented to the end of their days.
His voice broke on the last word. He shut the book and sat there for a very long time, holding her hand and staring out the window.
ADDITIONAL: Excerpt from Briar-Rose is taken from Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Household Tales, translated by Margaret Hunt (London: George Bell, 1884).