She had left the window open slightly and the curtain moved in the breeze. The city was never so quiet as in the hours just before the drawn, when the sunlight crept through the darkened streets and illuminated events of the night before. New York was not a safe place for those left outside warm homes. It was in these hours of darkness that so many crimes were committed, that created the volume of caseload that crossed her desk. Claire had always been content in the darkness, but then she had never been afraid. The air was cool and she breathed it in, basking in the lingering remnants of sleep; she turned beneath the blankets and brought her arms above her head. The movement would have awakened him, had he been there, but the pillow was empty. There was still an indentation where his head had fallen, but it was cool to the touch.
Brushing the hair from her eyes, Claire lifted herself enough to survey the room and turned her head toward the kitchen, listening. There was faint movement beyond, evidence that he had not left her. Relaxing, for in that terrible instant she believed he had gone, she covered her eyes with her arm and attempted to lure herself from the depths of sleep. Her other lover had not been so considerate. There were numerous mornings when she would awaken to find him gone, without a note, without waking her; he had simply taken his things and left. The memory was unpleasant for her, humiliating when it had all come out. It had resulted in her quitting, and it was only through Ben Stone that she had been persuaded to come back. There were so many times when she wanted to quit, when she was on the verge of walking out of the office for the last time, but always something drew her back. Until now, she had not known what it was.
She turned against the pillow and attempted to blot it out, listening to the faint sounds of the city awakening. She should have known Jack would be up. It was rare she went to the office before he was there, bent over his desk, collar undone, working through case files. It was his energy, his relentless desire to make a difference that kept him so focused. She knew that he would be thinking over his case, over the final closing arguments he would have to make. He was always so articulate on the floor, so utterly calm except when a ribbon of emotion would invade his tone and grant him passion. Jack was careful not to allow the others to see the tremor of his hand as it left the desk, the infrequent anxiety in his eyes when a case truly mattered. Not that they did not all matter, but some were more personal than others.
The mood of the apartment was so quiet that he could hear her stirring in the bedroom, and came to check on her. Her face was covered when he came in, but she felt the mattress dip as he sat down beside her, the warmth of his hand as it fell on her arm. He caressed her skin thoughtfully, focusing on the face that turned to examine him. He was dressed but the top button of his shirt was undone, and his hair slightly unruly. "Good morning," he said softly, and she smiled. It was nice to have him here, rather than making the tedious drive to the office alone. Somehow she had known nothing would change, and it didn't. The instant they set foot out the door, it resumed all business between them.
She felt uneasy entering Schiff's offices a step ahead of him and accepting her messages, wondering if anyone could tell. But the faces around her remained unassuming, her boss' good morning responded to with a smile. Jack vanished into his office to look over his closing arguments one more time, and she did not see him again until it was time for trial. Then they walked together down the hall, Jack drawing open the door for her and allowing her into court. The judge would not be in attendance for a few moments yet and they settled behind the desk, acknowledging the defense when it entered. The trial proceeded as usual, but she found it difficult to concentrate, her eyes constantly wandering to the slender figure beside her.
When McCoy arose to give his closing argument, she watched the jury's faces. Their eyes remained on the immaculate figure before them, only occasionally shifting to the defense, as if attempting to determine if the decent-looking young man seated there was truly responsible for the heinous crime being outlined for them. He finished and returned to her side, catching her gaze and holding it for a long moment before he was seated. Claire looked at the jury and found one of the women watching them. There was something of dawning understanding on her face that brought a slight smile to her lips. The jurors resigned to chambers to debate and the officials spilled out into the hall. They withdrew to their customary alcove to await the verdict, and maintained silence for a time, until she said, "I think one of the jurors knows. Jack, if we cannot even keep it from a complete stranger, how can we keep it from Adam?"
"Complete strangers have better instincts than coworkers, and what's more, they don't care. Are you really that concerned?"
She wasn't. That's what troubled her the most. That one look into his glorious chocolate eyes, one mild remembrance of what they shared in darkness, made it all seem all right. It didn't matter that they worked together, that his word in the office was higher than hers. It didn't matter that they occasionally disagreed, that their initial cases together had been fraught with tension. She had known the moment she set foot in his office on that first day, when he had looked at her with such teasing ambition and interest. He had asked for her. Requested that she work with him, because of Ben. It had not been simply because she was without a colleague, but because he was intrigued. Interested. Fascinated. She had seen it in his eyes that morning when she had warned him it would never become personal.
Personal. Is that what it had become? It had been personal long ago, the first time he had invited her to dinner and she had said yes. Even though everything went against it, though logic cautioned her to be careful, though she had sworn she would never fall for it again, not another powerful, seductive older man. Jack McCoy was safe, but he was also dangerous. She read it in his eyes as he looked at her, that tempting little smile tugging at the corner of his lips. He wanted to see if she was up for it, this grand, secretive little game they would play, one of indifference in the office, and passion outside it.
It took her a moment to speak, but there was no doubt in her voice when she did.
No, she was not concerned. No, she did not have qualms about convention. No, she was not willing to give him up.
The light came on above their heads.
It was time for the verdict.