Disclaimer: All rights belong to Wolf Films.
Author's Note: A present to Starfire for her awesome graphics and my first real stab of Jack/Claire. Besides, this plotbunny has been itching at me ever since I heard Jack say to Claire, "Can we get a drink, now?"
Timeline: Jack's first night within "Second Opinion."
A lanky, older gentleman and a striking young lady strolled into an active, nondescript bar. She rolled her eyes at the working-class locale. "From the descriptions I've heard about you, Jack, I never pictured you for a saloon type."
The elder in blue jeans pointed a finger at her dark business attire. "If you're going to walk the walk in here, Claire, a change of clothes at the office is a necessity."
She curled her lips. "I like to think I'm fine as I am."
"I'm only speaking from the vantage point of having both a blue and white collar — advice to be taken for what it's worth."
They sat on stools by the wooden counter. "You're just full of surprises, aren't you?"
Jack signaled the bartender. "It's part of my charm."
"I'm sure the phrase, 'tall, dark stranger,' was coined just for you."
"I'm not that old."
Claire cocked her head. "Did I say you were?"
He extended his left hand. "How about, for as long as we both shall live, no more age jokes?"
The two were then in a handshake. "Deal."
Suddenly, a middle-aged male sauntered over. "Good evening, folks, and what will you be having tonight?"
"Scotch, rocks. Claire?"
"Okay, two Scotch on the rocks." He returned to the tavern's other barflies.
"So, did I pass?" Jack blurted.
"Since we're going to be working together, we might as well air out all the rumors and descriptions now. By the way, I should say thanks to accepting my offer for a drink."
The woman's eyes widened. "You don't waste any time, do you? And you're welcome."
He toyed with his fingers. "It beats hidden nuances biting me in the ass."
"Let's just say the, uh, jury is still out on that."
"Besides age jokes, how about we ban lawyer jokes out of court, too?"
She arched an eyebrow. "Oh, you like to separate work and play, do you?"
"You bet. Shop talk has its place, but not here." He inhaled sharply. "However, as it's our first day together, there are exceptions."
She traced the starched collar of her dull peach blouse. "It seems like you have a rule for everything."
"Depends on context — I only seem anal retentive because that's what my job dictates."
"I'm glad I don't have your job, then."
He snorted. "That's the side-benefit of a lower rank: being capable of doling out the sass with possible impunity. Fortunately for you, I don't usually hold it against the user."
"What can I say; you obviously bring out something in me." Claire opened her palms.
"Oh, I'm sure of that, but I've been wondering if you were this… brazen to your previous boss." He eyed downward.
She veered away. "I can't say I was."
"No, no, it's fine."
Jack's hand meandered through his short graying hair. "Don't worry; Ben Stone's specter is everything it's reported to be."
He sighed. "Look, Claire, I'm not Ben Stone, and I don't plan to be — I only want to forge our own working relationship, if that's alright with you."
She pressed her lips together. "Jack, I'm not comfortable talking about this right now."
"Fine, but I just wanted to clear the air beforehand."
She smiled feebly. "I appreciate it, but I just need to sort out things for myself."
"Well, if you need me for anything, I'm right here, for whatever it's worth." He gently patted her shoulder.
"I will say, though, he was a good guy, or, uh, a real class act."
Her spine toughened. "Yeah, he was."
"Of course, I'm the total opposite of that, yet people find me charming, anyway." He broadened himself.
"Sorry, Jack, I don't dole out compliments until our fifth day together."
"You might as well wait until the seventh day, for all I care."
"I'll remember that."
"Where do you think he is by now?"
Claire's jaw tightened. "Adam said he left for Europe, but does it matter? He's still away from here."
He rubbed his earlobe. "He's earned the right to relax; I wish I could jet off to Europe like that."
The revisiting barkeep interrupted them. "Sorry for the wait, folks. The lady's is on the house, since I had to make her wait."
Her eyes narrowed as she gripped her awaiting scotch snifter. "Thanks."
Jack leaned toward her, both gawking at the retreating attendant. "I'm surprised you didn't read him the riot act over the 'lady' remark."
She scoffed. "What would be the point? I rather think the dogma of Betty Freidan would be lost on someone like that."
"Claire, there is a time and place for such things, and this isn't it. Or you have other things on your mind right now?"
She brushed backward her dangling brunette locks. "What would you have me say, Jack?"
He rubbed his chin. "I suppose we found another rule: you don't mention my ex-assistants again and I, in turn, won't mention Ben again."
"But…," he raised his glass. "We can still give the man a toast."
She copied his gesture. "To Ben Stone."
"To Ben Stone."
"Think I should top it off with a Bogie quote?" Jack waggled his wooly eyebrows.
She sipped her drink, smirking. "Quit while you're ahead, Counselor."
He downed a dram. "Yes, dear. So, do you think you can give me the abridged version of Betty Freidan's dogma tonight?"
She pulled back. "You serious?"
"It might clear my head with our present case, as it's turning both our takes on feminism on its ear."
Claire tipped forward. "Well, I don't know about that, but, sure. Where should I begin?"
He matched her pose. "How about the beginning?"
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