Jack McCoy, 2 am.

I own nothing.


after-effect


She's not Claire.

The way she touches him isn't the way Claire did, and her mouth doesn't taste like Claire's did, and the smell of her skin is nothing like Claire's.

Jack turns on his side and looks across at the woman sleeping next to him. At Not Claire.

It was time to move on, he tells himself. People were starting to talk. Adam, Jamie – Liz Olivet. You only get so much time before they let you know, it's time to get over it. Time to move on.

He'd forced himself to date.

The first time he'd looked at a woman and felt a twinge of desire, the guilt had been unbearable. But he'd learnt to live with the guilt. He'd learnt to meet a woman and look at her for who she was, not who she could never be. He'd learnt not to compare.

And he'd pulled it off. No-one, looking at him now, would shake their heads and think Poor Jack McCoy. Tragic, how he never got over her.

He'd pulled it off, mostly. During daylight, it was easy. No-one could have guessed. Not Adam, perceptive as he was. Not Jamie, pleased that all her efforts to set him up had finally paid off. Not even the woman lying next to him, sleeping on her back the way Claire never did.

Jack gets quietly out of bed, careful not to wake Not Claire, and pads barefoot to the living room. He pours himself a whiskey. As he sips, he reaches to the back of the bookcase for a framed picture tucked away behind the others.

Claire looks out at him. She's laughing, her hair blown over her face by a gust of wind. He can't remember the day he took the photo, where they were, what they'd been doing, what he'd said to make her laugh like that. There's nothing in the world he wants more than to remember what he'd said to make her laugh like that.

One thing.

Jack runs his fingers over the cold glass.

Then he puts the picture back behind his wedding photos and goes back to bed to lie awake beside Not Claire until dawn.