Disclaimer: Law and Order belongs to Dick Wolf. The lyrics to 'Dirty Little Secret' belong to Sarah McLachlan. I'm just borrowing them for a little while; I promise to return them in good shape.

A/N: I know even less about the characters from the original Law and Order than I do about the characters from SVU, but I was tempted by the story of Jack and Claire. I apologize in advance for any details I get wrong. In this story, Jack's ex-wife's name is Kate, although I don't know if that's right.


If I had the chance, love

I would not hesitate


I can feel his presence behind me, but I don't look up. I haven't left the hospital in four days. Not since he called to tell me what had happened to her. I got here as fast as I could, but I was hours too late to prevent this tragedy. A tragedy of my own making, since it was my fault she was driving that night.

Now all I can do is hold her delicate, unmoving hand as I watch her suffer the consequences of my drunken foolishness. If I'd waited, if I'd been at the bar when she arrived, I could have stopped this. She would be awake right now, as vibrant and alive as she has been for as long as I've known her. She could be curling up in my arms on the couch to watch a movie, or maybe enticing me to come to bed with that sexy come-hither smile that never fails to make my heart skip a beat. She wouldn't be lying here, frighteningly pale against the white hospital linens, her slim figure painfully and irreparably still.

"Go home, Jack."

His voice is tired. I'm tired too, in a distant sort of manner. It doesn't matter. Nothing matters now except the slow rise and fall of her chest and the weak but steady pulse that I can feel under my fingertips. While she's still breathing, while her heart is still beating, I can't give up on her. I can't leave her.

"I can't."

His hand rests on my shoulder, just for a moment. I flinch. She's my whole world now, the only thing I care about, and his intrusion into that world is unwelcome.

"Jack." He hesitates. "I'm sorry."

"So am I, Adam."

He nods, taking one last look at her before exiting the room. His absence leaves me alone with her, the only woman I've ever truly loved, and with my grief, which in the artificial quiet of the room is almost a living entity. I squeeze her hand, feeling tears prick at my eyes when she doesn't respond in kind.

"Oh, Claire," I whisper, my heart breaking. "Oh, God, sweetheart. Please wake up. You can't die on me now. Come on, Claire."

She doesn't answer.


to tell you all the things I've never said before

don't tell me it's too late


"Remember that time we went to see the Christmas lights in the suburbs?" I smile at the memory. It's one of the best ones I have. "I thought it was a silly idea, but you were so excited that I couldn't say no. You made me drive so that you could watch out the window while we passed the houses. There was this one neighborhood, with lights so bright you could see them from the freeway. We parked a block away so that we could walk through it.

"It started to snow, just a little bit, and you made me stop so you could try and catch snowflakes in your mouth. You tilted your head back and stuck out your tongue, and in that instant I loved you so much my heart nearly split in two. Your cheeks were pink from the cold and the glow of the colored lights made you shimmer. You looked so beautiful, Claire. Just when I thought I couldn't be any more in love with you, you looked up and smiled at me. I saw our life together in that smile. Suddenly I had this image of you playing in the snow with our kids: a little boy with hazel eyes and a girl with your sweet smile.

"That's the life I always wanted for myself, Claire. A loving wife, a couple of adorable kids, and a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence. I thought I could have that with Kate, but it wasn't right. We weren't right. Wrong people, wrong time. You and I are the right people at the right time, Claire. You're the best thing in my life, and I love you more than I thought I could love anyone. I didn't think I had that kind of warmth inside me. I didn't know I was capable of feeling this much of anything. You made me this way, Claire. I'm only like this with you.

"I should have told you all of this before, but I'm a coward. I've always been afraid of admitting my feelings. Even after you were asleep at night, when I'd stay up late just to watch you breathe and wonder how an old reprobate like me could have gotten so damn lucky, I still couldn't make the words come. I'm ready now, though. There's so much I want to tell you, sweetheart, but you have to wake up first. Please, Claire, open your eyes. Give me one of those beautiful smiles. I love you. Please?"

I wait a moment, then another, and then turn away. She can't see me, but I'm still not willing to cry in front of her.


I've been up all night drinking

to drown my sorrow down


I used to think that I'd lived a hard life, that I'd done my share of suffering, but I was wrong. Watching my brilliant, vivacious Claire lying motionless in that bed is the most painful experience of my life. I still do it, though. As awful as it is to see her like that, picturing her all alone in the hospital would be worse. I've been to see her every day in the three weeks since the accident, both at lunch and after work. Sometimes I sit next to her and think out loud about cases I'm working on. Other times I take the opportunity to remember the good times we've had. In the evenings, I bring a book and read to her. Usually it's Shakespeare or Oscar Wilde, but once I brought her favorite book of sonnets by Neruda. That day was particularly hard for me; she read the same book of sonnets to me in bed on a lazy Sunday afternoon a few months ago. I could almost hear her voice speaking right along with mine.

Every night, when I leave the hospital, I go straight to the nearest bar. It's become my pattern over the last three weeks. Today I need the comfort of my old friend Jack Daniels more than ever. Today Claire's mother told me they're going to find a long-term care facility for her.

'She can't stay in the hospital forever,' her mother's voice echoes in my mind. The words leave a hollow feeling in my chest. She won't be like this forever. She can't be. I need her to wake up and come back to me.

"Hey, Jack."

I turn around slowly, already well on my way to being inebriated.


He sits down on the bar stool next to mine, and I notice he's drinking soda tonight. Come to think of it, I haven't seen him drink alcohol since the accident.

"No change, huh?"

I close my eyes, covering my face with my hands.

"I talked to her parents tonight."

"Oh." His voice is quiet. "How are they doing?"

"As well as can be expected. They've decided it's time to look into finding a facility for Claire."

"Aw, Jack." He claps me on the shoulder, awkwardly. "I'm sorry."

"How can it end like this?" I ask no one in particular, hearing the raw anguish in my own voice. "We never got a real chance to be together. This isn't supposed to be happening. I can't lose her yet."

I'm shaking with the effort it takes not to break down and cry right here in the middle of the bar. Lennie's hand is firm on my shoulder now.

"Come on, Jack," he says, and I can hear the sorrow in his voice. "I'll take you home."

"It's not home," I mutter, setting down enough money to pay my tab and using the motion to cover up a surreptitious swipe at my watering eyes. "Not anymore. Not without her."


but nothing seems to help me since you went away

I'm so tired of this town


I want to leave New York. The torture of living here now is too much to bear. I can't walk down the street without seeing something that reminds me of her. The coffee shops and diners where we used to grab quick meals before court, or the little Italian restaurant that's always been her favorite place for a celebration after a tough win. The office is the worst, though. I have to walk by her desk every day and know it belongs to someone else now. Even though Adam promised me that Claire will be welcomed back to the DA's office with open arms if she wakes up, it still feels like a slap in the face every time I see Jamie Ross sitting where Claire belongs.

I wish I could leave – I think about it every day – but Claire is still here. With every day that passes, the chance that she'll wake up becomes smaller and smaller, but I can't give up. I cling to the hope, however far-fetched, that she'll come back to me. I'd give anything to walk in the door to her hospital room today and find her awake and alert, smiling warmly at me like she always used to.


'cause I've relied on my illusions

to keep me warm at night


The nights are the worst part. I close my eyes, lying in the bed we shared, and I can almost feel her next to me. In my mind, her delicate hand rests on my chest, her palm over my heart. She sighs contentedly and I can feel her breath caress my cheek. She moves in her sleep, one of her legs inching across the mattress to tangle between mine. I inhale deeply, the rose-and-vanilla scent of her assailing my senses and sending a thrill through my body. I brush my lips against her shoulder, letting the soft, even sound of her breathing lull me to sleep.

In the morning, I always wake up clutching her pillow to my chest, feeling cheated. If this isn't cruel and unusual punishment, I don't know what is.


and I denied in my capacity to love

but I am willing to give up this fight


It's been a month since the accident. This is Claire's last night in Manhattan; tomorrow her parents are moving her to a home for disabled adults in Westchester. I kneel next to her bed, closing my eyes as I take her hand in mine and pray harder than I ever have in my life. I'm not sure I believe in God, and if he is up there somewhere I know I'm not on His top ten list, but I'm not praying for me. I'm praying for her.

"Please," I whisper, not bothering to wipe away the tears coursing down my cheeks. "Please. I know I'm not a religious man, but I try to do the best I can. I put murderers and felons in prison. I keep dangerous criminals off the streets to protect the public good. I've made my share of mistakes in my life, but I've done my best, and I like to think I've made a difference in the lives of some of my fellow men.

"I've never asked you for anything before, and I'm not asking for myself now. It's Claire. She needs your help. She's a strong woman, but she can't do this by herself anymore. If you can just get her to wake up, I'll take it from there, I swear. I'll love her and cherish her and take care of her for the rest of our lives. You just have to make her wake up. I want to see her smile at me again. I want to watch her twirl her hair around her finger when she's so absorbed in what she's reading that she doesn't even know she's doing it. I want to be working on a brief at my desk late at night and look up to find that she's gotten so bored waiting for me that she's fallen asleep on my couch. I want to hear her laugh at me because I can't get my tie to hang straight in the morning.

"I want her to live her life again, but she can't do it from a hospital bed. So I'm asking you to help her. If there's any justice, any fairness, in the world, you'll help her wake up. I can't lose her like this. She's too important to me. Please bring her home."

I open my eyes, obscurely disappointed to find that Claire's condition hasn't changed. Silly to hope that a single prayer could change things, especially from a lapsed Catholic like me, but I'm grasping at straws now. Tomorrow they're moving her and I'm going to have to accept that she's probably never going to wake up. Tonight is my last chance.

I look at her prone form, smiling weakly. Even unconscious, she's lovely. I can't fool myself into thinking that she's just sleeping, although I wish I could. She never sleeps on her back. She's been lying that way for a month and it still looks unnatural to me. When we're together, she usually sleeps on her side. She likes to snuggle up against me in bed, her body acting as my own personal heater. An ache settles deep in my chest as I remember what it felt like to hold her in my arms. I may never get to hold her like that again.

Knowing it's technically against hospital policy and not caring, I kick off my shoes and tug back the covers on her bed. I'm more careful with her than I've ever been in my life, shifting her onto her side and slipping my arm around her waist as I get into bed with her and curl up against her back. Immediately I start to feel warmer, both inside and out. While I'm holding her like this it's easy to believe that things are normal, that she'll wake up tomorrow morning and make us breakfast before work. She'll get up before me, like always, toying with my hair and laying gentle kisses on my face until I give in and open my eyes. The first thing I'll see is her smile, and she'll giggle as I run my hand across her abdomen. She's extremely ticklish, and even though she complains when I tickle her, I never get tired of doing it. She's gloriously beautiful when she laughs.

I take a deep breath and my eyes start to water. She still smells the same as she always has, the scent of roses mixed with soft vanilla.

"I love you, Claire," I whisper into her ear. I kiss the top of her head, nuzzling her hair and wishing she would wake up, even for a moment, so that she could hear me say the words. It's the last thing I remember thinking before my eyes finally fall shut and I lose myself in dreams of her.