Disclaimer: I don't own Law and Order.

Author's Note: Just a first time for a Law and Order fan for only 3 some years. I've been so used to writing animated characters in the Teen Titans and Pokemon animated forums, writing actual people gives me pause. What can I say? Just want to give a pairing I love a much needed nudge.

Timeline: Two days after "Ain't No Love."

Beta: H.Moth. Give her free scotch.

Ready Go!

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Jack finally dragged himself to the One Police Plaza today, his hangover looming over him. News like Serena's departure hits him to where he used to live: the scotch bottle. Arthur in his magnanimity allowed Jack the day off yesterday for after all, it is rare his top assistant D.A. to lose his assistant of three years, for Arthur anyway. Jack sadly knew how common such an occurrence it was—as seen by Diana and her messy departure, Claire's desire to quit right before her fatal accident, Jamie's priorities (which were more than he could ever hope for himself), Abbie's departure for a better job, and finally Serena's opinionated liberal attitudes (and a well executed job staying in the closet). He knew that A.D.A.s come and go, so why bother caring anymore?

'So which number is this one going to be? Five? Six? Or lucky Seven?' He trudged himself to the elevator.

'I always dread this part. The part before the realization sinks in and the truth is right in my face. That…Serena is gone.'

The doors opened in the same ominous tone they always had whenever he and his assistants closed a case. He attempted not to choke on the irony.

'And here I thought I was finally getting accustomed to her and her…puppy dog approach, an interesting change of pace from the hardasses of the past three. And I can't deny a certain beauty with her either but after…Claire, I thought it best to drop it.' He walked to his office, noting the old office of Jamie's and before hers, Claire's.

'Serendipity strikes again, just thought her name once again and here I am to her old office. How many times have I debated with her on the feminist issues, the death penalty? And again with her successor. More of that cosmic irony? I better move on before I start to obsess.'

He lumbered across another office. 'Abbie's.' Abbie's office was different from the other A.D.A.'s in that of she had a private office—a reward for her time in Narcotics perhaps. Jack never knew Adam's logic at times but he still regarded the former D.A. as wise as Solomon himself.

'I could use some of that homespun wisdom now. With Adam or her. I always did enjoy her way about things.'

He checked his watch and had time to kill. He entered the office and noted file cabinets and boxes everywhere.

'Must have used her office as file storage, unlike the other D.A.s—their offices just were passed on, unless this is…pettiness for her departure. I did think her leaving was…bittersweet. She's still in the city, just…not here.' He found a nearby chair and sat down, and left his helmet and briefcase on the floor. 'Just as I asked myself about how many times I debated with Claire and Jamie in that office, how many times have I debated with Abbie about the ethics of the game, the death penalty, and even a joke or two in this one?' He just sighed.

'I wonder what she is doing now—fighting for the greater good, for truth and justice and the American way. She was a true believer.' He recollected when he first stepped into the office and reprimanded her on being so unorthodox by not informing him about her plans to arrest the attachment disorder child Nicholas Waring.

'It felt just yesterday that she said she was going off to the U.S. Attorney Southern District and here we are. Another assistant later.' Jack finally realized that he was supposed to mourn for Serena.

'And now she's gone and soon another, and another. I pity this replacement, for I'll spare the usual attachments, hell, I didn't want to feel anything for Serena but I did.' He felt the walls closing in on him.

'Just like I have been for the past three. I best to get to work.' He was about to get up when two assistants entered the office.

"Oh, sorry, Mr. McCoy. We're just here to get something from the Mendoza trial," a female assistant with striking onyx hair squeaked.

"Oh, not a problem, I was just leaving," he had a sign of recognition in his head, as if he had seen her from somewhere before, from the courtroom.

"It's fine, sir, we heard about Ms. Southerlyn's departure. We're sorry for your loss," a male assistant chimed in.

"Thank you." Jack could smell the insincerity dripping off the man.

"We are sorry, three and a half years is certainly a good run for an A.D.A." She walked by to an old file cabinet.

"Hard to believe this is been here for so long. I think it's been here since the Carter administration." She pulled at a drawer and found it stuck.

"Great, this is stuck." She exerted herself as she pulled. "Why is the file you need is in a stuck drawer?"

"Here, let me try." Jack went over and helped her and the drawer nearly catapulted out, with papers flying everywhere.

"That drawer always did stick," he said in his notoriously light tone as he retrieved some of the fallen papers.

"Thank you, sir." She assisted him, and then rummaged and grabbed her file.

"I'll put them away," Jack offered. The assistant placed the reduced files on top of the pile he was holding.

"Thank you very much. I appreciate that because I have to go to trial with this in my brief in…ack! In a half hour. Oh God, oh God," the woman sounded like she was going to hyperventilate.

"Calm down." Jack actually enjoyed the change of pace from the gloom he was just experiencing.

"I can't, I'm new and I…oh God."

"You'll have to forgive Alex, she just started from major felonies," the male assistant cut in.

"I can see to that, I'll clean, and you go." Jack almost admonished himself—usually he didn't care for the minor assistants and would have rather let them clean up their own messes but time eroded his arrogance.

"Thank you very much, sir. I shall find a way to repay, oh God, I'm late, and I'll think about it and get back to you. Oh God…" She bolted from the room; the male assistant simply walked away and followed her.

'I hope that wasn't my new assistant. Although I've been with worse. Jamie's first days on the job…oh my.'

He arranged the files on the chair and was ready to put them back in the cabinet when he noticed an edge of an envelope sticking out on the right side of the drawer.

'What the?' He pulled the envelope out of the drawer. He glanced at the front of the envelope, and the name "Jack" written on the front. He particularly noted the handwriting, the calligraphy of a female hand.

'This is Abbie's handwriting, with a letter with my name on it? Curious. And more curious to the fact that the envelope feels old, how long has this been here? And to the point, should I open it?' He peered at his watch.

'I don't have time to think about this, I have to get dressed and get to court. And then I can fiddle with the ethics of it.'

Jack slipped the envelope in his briefcase, cleaned up the office, dashed to his, and slipped out of his jeans and to his suit pants behind the side door.

'Wonder what that letter could be? Recommendation? A letter of withdrawal? What? And What was it doing there? Did she forget it or…was it supposed to be hidden?'

Jack finished dressing himself. 'I hope today will go by fast. My curiosity will eat me alive.'

A knock at the door disrupted his thoughts. "Yes?"

A secretary popped her head in. "Sir, Mr. Branch would like to see you."

'Speaking of things would eat me alive.'

"Right, thank you."

'Now what does he want? Hasn't he done enough already?' He walked to Branch's office and found the District Attorney sitting down at his desk.

"Yes, Arthur?"

"Oh Jack," he said in that infamous tone right before he would unleash his gutterderang. "I wanted to tell you personally that I have found Serena's replacement. A new gal named Alexandra Borgia. A up and comer; she's tried major felonies and would be an asset to you."

'Yet another woman. Is this trend ever going to end?' "I don't know, Arthur. Is it rather soon to line up a replacement already? Serena's office hasn't even been cold yet." 'While I ignore the irony of not even bothering to go into her office.'

"Jack, I know you and Serena were close but we can't afford to slow down just because you have issues to resolve with your attachments. Do them on your own time. Criminals don't exactly stop for broken feelings."

"I know that, Arthur but…"

"No buts. A day off was all I can afford to you. And that was because you're my top gun. Sorry, Jack but that's the way it is."

'The infuriating part is that he is right, but it doesn't mean I have to sit back and take it either.' "Fine, is there anything you needed me for?"

"Now don't go in a huff. Come see me after work and then we can go at it with the scotch battle."

"What happened to 'Do it on your own time?'" he smirked.

"After work is your own time, doesn't mean you have to deal with it alone."

Jack had the faintest smile. The man wasn't Adam but he could still note some passed on admirable traits. "I'm not sure of my plans tonight but I'll definitely take you up on it."

"Deal. Now get back to work," Branch barbed.

The E.A.D.A. traipsed out of Branch's office with his thoughts shifting back to the letter.

'And now back to the question. Should I read it? Or shouldn't I? She did go and hide it, didn't she? I hate proving a negative.' He passed Serena's office on the way; he stopped for a few minutes.

'One issue at a time. Stupid obsessions.' He slogged to his office to get ready for his day of court.

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A mistrial, an appeal, and one guilty verdict later, Jack sashayed back to his office. He noticed the time; 5 o'clock could not have come too soon for him.

'So, finally deal with the letter or get stinking drunk in the boss' office? Which A.D.A. should I feel loss for first?' He opened the briefcase and clutched at the letter.

'I should get drunk and wax about Serena. I mean Abbie was here one day and gone the day, why should I bother with this?' He continued staring at the letter.

'Because I didn't care about this, I wouldn't be obsessing and watching the clock every five seconds waiting for 5. Couldn't even think about it, I was so busy. Stupid criminals and timing of the law. Can't either one take the day off?' He gave off a hard sign and undressed back to his casual clothes.

'Well, this letter obviously has been here for a long time, it won't be the end of the world if I wait an hour.'

By the time he emerged from his office, most of the lower level A.D.A.s, assistants, and secretaries have left. It was a ghost town. 'There we go, less intrusion now.'

He ventured to Serena's vacant office and sat down in her chair. 'Well, Serena, I hope you are in a better place. I hope you find a job to make use of your many talents, your passion.' He felt off putted by using one of the terms Arthur put to fire her.

'I just wished you could have contained your passion more.' Jack remembered when she questioned about the Iraq war earlier this year when they tried Nadira Harrington and just recently with the case of Stephen Foreman.

'At least you're free of dealing with the cold blooded part of the law now. The part where you can't be yourself, Liberalism and all,' he chuckled ruefully. Serena's liberalism was amusing in its own right, but with the Iraq War, Branch's renegade rules, and the various social cases she faced with Jack, she couldn't suppress herself any longer.

'And look where it got you. Knowledge of how cold the world works and the possible irony of me facing against you in court as a defense lawyer. I love irony.' He couldn't help but smirk: it was all too amusing for him.

"I think I know that type of smirk—the 'Jack McCoy is bemused' look," Branch's voice interrupted his rumination, with a scotch bottle in hand, and two glasses.

"You should see me when I'm amused." Branch sat down next to him.

"I'm sure I'll be seeing that in due course, but for right now, I'll settle for a drunken grin." He poured off the scotch into the glasses.

"More scotch? I think I already had my fill on my free time."

"Yeah but this is the good stuff, worth dousing over when you lose a good assistant and an attractive woman." Branch offered a glass. Jack raised one of his unique eyebrows as he reached and grabbed the glass.

"You trying to tell me something, Arthur?"

"Well, your checkered past with your assistants does make for nice bedtime reading but no, just commenting our loss of just such beauty against two old men like us."

He snorted. "She certainly balanced us off, didn't she?"

"In many ways, plus some seniority as a bonus—I think she was the longest assistant you had since your promotion to E.A.D.A., isn't she?"

'He's right, Claire was two. Same with Jamie, Abbie was closest with three. Until Serena.' "Never thought about it, but yeah."

"You sound like this is the first time you thought of such a thing."

"No, just been so busy, no time to dwell on it, you get acquainted with one, and then pffft, they're gone. You almost wonder…why bother knowing them," the E.A.D.A. stated darkly as he sipped the scotch.

"True but it depends on the person, are they memorable enough to make an impression? Serena did, as I'm sure about the others. Just like the ones that I replaced."

"Yeah. I missed them in their own way," Jack hesitated for a minute. "But it doesn't mean I can't appreciate the new people either." He lifted his glass in a toast.

"Just wishing this elimination tournament would stop long enough so everyone could catch up and slow down." Branch clunked his glass to Jack's and both drank.

"It has its lulls. Just been Detective Briscoe and her, been a harsh and fast year."

"I know. I know you and Detective Briscoe have even more history together."

"More than I thought possible." He tried his best not to open the Pandora's Box of emotions that came with Briscoe's departure.

"I'm sorry, one issue at a time, right?"

"Yes." He had another swig.

"Where do you think she is?" Branch asked as he imbibed another sip.

"Doesn't matter; She's away from here."

"Jack, you knew it had to happen."

"I know." Jack thought he could feel himself get numb. He wasn't sure if it was the scotch or his own feelings responsible.

"You know, she was interesting in her way. Although I have to admit, she did remind me of a puppy dog following me around when I first met her, and then…she took off on her own," the E.A.D.A. mused idly.

"I'll say. Personally I always thought…never mind."

"What?" He was getting amused.

"Nothing."

"You thought I was sleeping with her, weren't you?" he joked.

"Given your history, the thought crossed my mind, yeah."

"Well, given Serena's…revelation, hard chance at that anyway but no, never thought about it." 'After Claire, that was all I needed to stop mixing business and pleasure. So to speak.'

"Never?" Branch arched an eyebrow.

"Never. Learned my lesson, so to speak. But it doesn't mean I can't miss her on a platonic level."

Branch chuckled. "You're right. And that irony will eat at you later on."

"So is the irony of giving me another woman assistant. If you're such the expert of my habits, why keep repeating the pattern?"

The D.A. finished off his glass. "Because, Jack, you're a male, and with that comes a male ego, and locking two males in a competition like a prosecution, all that is spelling a pissing contest and a disaster. And you're one hell of a male. You wouldn't be happy with another male invading your turf and you know it."

The exposition gave Jack pause. "Can't argue with that."

"Besides, at least with a woman, you won't be turning on that ego so much on her. You'll just focus it on the criminals, as well you should," he quipped.

"Yeah." 'I wonder if Ben and Paul ever had this type of problem back when they were D.A.s.'

"Well, that's enough scotch for me, I got some papers to sign and I'm heading home." Branch got up.

"Arthur…thanks."

"Anytime and I hope we don't do again for a real long time either. Enjoy the rest of the scotch."

"I will. How did you know I would be in here?"

"Because you're one of those anniversaries, full circle type of men, I sensed that from day one actually. It's almost predictable—good predictable. Makes helping you easier. Night." With that, Branch left the office.

"Night."

Jack lingered, glaring at the glass. 'That's enough one night. Except…' He poured off a dram and carried the bottle and glass as he walked to the door. He lifted up the glass in a toast.

"To you, Serena—a change of pace in many ways. You will be missed." He drank, lingered for a minute, and headed to Branch's office to drop off the bottle and glass and then returned to his office.

'And now with that out of the way, I get to worry about the letter. Wonderful.'

He sat down and held up the letter. 'So…should I open it? Considering it was hidden, it was no doubt not meant for my eyes. Then why did she put my name on it? Inevitably, because of that, I was no doubt bound to open it at some future date. It's just now.' He evoked another hard sigh. 'I hate when I can't turn off my lawyer part of my brain. Sorry, Abbie, but you've been gone so long, I don't think anything matters anymore.'

He fished out his letter opener and hesitantly opened the letter.

I'm wondering why I am bothering with this letter. I have written so many drafts over the past year, I can't even count which take this is, number 200? What's the point? I can't even tell him the truth—the truth that I've felt for the better part of the year, but I'm sure I felt it for much longer and just never acted on it or even realized it. The fact that I'm in…love? Or am I attracted to him? Intoxicated by him? What word fits to what I feel for this man?

I wonder if he even suspects anything with me so far, he shouldn't, as I've been extra cautious. One hint could undo everything for him besides myself, such as his job, which he already was admonished for with his relationship with that Diana Hawthorne and one of my predecessors, Claire Kincaid, although at least she was lucky—she could have expressed her feelings, I'm sure. At least I think that. I don't have that luxury, nor will I.

I can't even go one day without thinking about his charm, his razor sharp mind, his deep gazing eyes: I could get lost forever in them, or even his salt and pepper hair. All it took me was a day to see why he had all those affairs with those women, who fell for such a…I don't even have the words, that's how much of a void I am with him around. However, with the barriers around, the job issues, our age difference, the man himself, would it be worth it? To gamble my career and his for something that could be pie in the sky or something I never thought that could be possible, E.A.D.A. to A.D.A. or a man to a woman? I need to decide soon, my resistance of him is lowering and lowering the more I know him.

Could he want to love or would it be just a torrid fling to him? I don't know what I want, but it isn't the latter. I wish Kincaid was alive so I could ask her if he's capable of love, although if she was alive, I wouldn't be here…taking her place in many respects, so I suppose I should count my blessings. I don't know and now the U.S. Attorney's Southern District is after me and part of me thinks go for it while the other part wants to stay, not just because of the job but same old song and dance by now.

The question now being if I can get away, hopefully I can drop this and not jeopardize our careers but I'll be miserable. If I don't get away, I'll lose it all, and he might not have cared anyway but he's not as arrogant as I heard him out to be—he's softer, less harsh, perhaps I could have that opening yet. I am tired now, tired of myself, tired of my emotions and tired of him doing all these things to me. I got trial in the morning, so I'll just hide this, look at it when I spring clean and laugh. That I could be such a schoolgirl about this, or such a coward.

Jack blinked in disbelief. 'A love letter? Hardass Abbie Carmichael wrote this as a love letter?' He re-read the letter. 'Although love venting sounds more fitting.'

He re-read it again. 'I don't know what's more disconcerting: seeing Abbie Carmichael like this or the fact that I didn't see it in her. I think I would have picked up the signs. Unless she's that good at hiding herself. Although if that were true, she wouldn't have been so passionate against the criminals—maybe that was her way to focus off the tension. I just…why didn't I see this?

'I've been with four assistants; I would have found out. Would I have been looking for it though? I don't know, after Claire, I thought it was time to stop, then Jamie with all her baggage, just easier to stop it completely. By the time Abbie came aboard, the feeling to try again was dead.

'How ironic—the one time I didn't want to, the woman did or could have wanted to, but she's right: too much to lose. Particularly for her and her job but she seemed to put much concern over my job first. How touching. But seriously, Abbie and me? Could that even work, then or now? Well, she's passionate, no doubt about that, with her pushes for the death penalty and to charge as much as possible on the defendants, she almost puts "Hang em High" McCoy to shame.

'Given her letter, I definitely sense that there, if not frustration from all that passion. That is not a bad trait to have, if…she was a lover. Another irony I don't even think about anymore. I wonder if that's age or just wisdom talking. God knows I already had that with Claire.

'Speaking of which, I wonder what Claire would have said about this. The greatest irony of all, particularly when compared to Abbie's stringent views on things, no wonder she thinks I'm softer—she's far harsher in and out of the game, as if she reminds me of myself. Could that be it? I know we clashed but we've more or less had the same views and some of the same actions. No wonder I felt so at ease yet so infuriated with her at times. No wonder she had such an impression on me—I never had that similarity before. Claire in her views were so feministic—always challenging me constantly, while Jamie, a non-romantic entity because of her baggage, did challenge me with her softer views. Nevertheless, Abbie, she challenged me with similarity. I never thought it possible that could happen to me.

'I always enjoyed our debates, and her need to top me. I think given how events have changed for me over the short time she left, things feel hollow and nothing is the same. With Serena's " follow the leader" approach, I wasn't challenged and then with her budding liberalism, I was, but it wasn't the same, as I thought it was so stereotypical. Abbie was more genuine in her issues.' He sucked in a breath. His mind started to think about her manners, her harshness, her sarcasm, even her Texas drawl.

'I can't deny she and I had a genuine, albeit, unique chemistry—more than I have usually with a woman. I can't explain that. But could it work on an actual relationship level and not a "torrid affair" as she claimed? Could I be capable of that anymore?

'I think anymore, sex and all the male pleasures are slowly getting away from me, and I need more companionship that won't bore me five minutes into a conversation. Usually I don't have that on my mind, but time does change things. I think…I need something in my life, some kind of constant, and I can't get it from the job or anyone locally anymore as it's all hollow now. I need something filling. Something deeper. Something like…her and her similarities to me?

'I guess I missed her more than I realized. More than I…oh McCoy, give it up: you're starting to fall for her badly. Since so much time has passed, would she bother to feel the same way? She no doubt would have crushed her feelings since she moved out of my life.' Jack felt rather disconcerted by that. 'Besides, even if she wouldn't reject me, would it work? Would we clash too much?

'No. Hell, Claire was so ornery and I made it work, given our similarity, I don't think it would be a problem. Although with her job and future encounters with the Southern District, could prove entangling later on. Unless we're careful, providing if she would wants to do that.' The E.A.D.A. furnished a hard sigh.

'Probably not. Claire didn't like the secrecy, and I'm sure Abbie wouldn't, but either way, I can't ignore this anymore. I need something to fill me again, and if we actually fall in love, well, that is a bonus, isn't it? Jack McCoy in love: hasn't there been enough irony tonight?'

He eyed the phone. 'I could sit on this and let it and her go and simply move on throughout life thinking of what might have been.' He clenched the letter.

'Although, since things have been so hollow with…everything so far, what do I have left to lose?' He rummaged for his phone book and called the U.S. Attorney Southern District's office.

"U.S. Attorney Southern District's office," a secretary answered.

"Yes, I need Abbie Carmichael's work phone number please. It's E.A.D.A. Jack McCoy; I need to leave her a message."

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Sorry, Serena fans, just needed her departure to make my point. Leave a review if you wish, see you in the funny papers.