Disclaimer: I don't own 'em, I just love 'em! Thank you, Mr. Wolf!!
A/N: May contain spoilers - Season 5, Episode 14 'Performance' As always reviews are welcome and greatly appreciated!
Times Like These
Jack McCoy sat at the bar of the Stone Fox Pub. It wasn't his usual haunt, but it was close to home and he was in serious need of a drink. It was busier than the places he liked to go. The crowd, though varied, consisted mostly of thirty-somethings.
He was on his second scotch and still felt the burden of the long day. He knew the minute he met him that Mike Cutter would be the death of him. It was always one thing after another with him. At times it felt as if he were trying to get fired. And now, another contempt notice, another shouting match with cops and a murderer set free.
I was never this much of a pain in the ass for Adam.
He chuckled at the thought. Of course he was. Probably more. He'd have to discipline him. Not that it would matter. Times like these were why he hated his job.
I'm too old for this….
The young woman sat at the end of the bar waiting patiently for her party to arrive. She sipped her whiskey sour while glancing around the bar - careful not to make eye contact with anyone. The last thing she needed tonight was some suit putting the moves on her. Her friends were late, but she didn't mind. She enjoyed spending time alone in busy places. She'd watch the people and wonder about their lives. Sometimes she even made up stories about them.
As she looked around the busy bar her gaze fell on a man sitting alone at the other end of the counter. He was nursing what she would guess to be his second or third scotch. His long day was etched over every inch of his face. She looked harder. There was a familiarity about him.
Surely not. It couldn't be.
His hair was silver now. Just a touch of the dark it used to be still remained. His face was more haggard, tired. Why wouldn't it be? Prosecuting criminals was a difficult job. If he even still did that. A small smile fell on her face.
I can't believe it…. It's him.
Jack was just about to finish the last of his scotch when the bartender approached him with another drink. He looked up at him with surprise.
"Well that's what I call service." His voice was husky and fatigued.
The bartender smiled, "From the lady." He motioned towards the end of the bar to a young woman watching the exchange.
She smiled and held up her drink. He nodded in return. Sighing heavily he slid the drink back towards the bartender.
"I'm sure I will hate myself for this in the morning…" he smiled at the shocked young man, "Tell her I'm flattered, but no thank you." She was far too young and he was far too tired.
Jack finished off his drink and paid his tab. As he started to get up from his seat the brunette from the end of the bar sat the refused drink in front of him. He looked at her, a defeated look in his eye.
"I know when a man refuses a drink it's a good sign he wants to be alone…." She smiled shyly at him, "But I'm a persistent one."
Jack smiled kindly and patiently.
"You're Jack McCoy, aren't you?"
She narrowed her gaze and smiled. "You don't remember me, do you?"
Jack was suddenly filled with the horror that followed such statements.
Do I know her? Who is she? Where do I know her from? Who is she?
He gave up, besides he was too tired for games. "I'm sorry. I don't."
His look was apologetic. It didn't bother her that he didn't remember her. In fact she took pride in it. She held her head high, smiled, and offered her hand to McCoy. "Cory Russell."
Jack reflexively took her hand and smiled.
Cory Russell. I know that name. Where from? Cory Russ-
"Cory Russell?" His expression softened to a more sincere smile of acknowledgement. "Cory Russell and The Mac Rangers."
"One in the same. May I?" she asked as she motioned to the seat next to him.
She didn't mind the reference to her former classmates, understanding that must be the way he remembered her. The scared, hopeless teen raped by the over-privileged juvenile delinquents commonly known as The Mac Rangers by her and her schoolmates.
Jack could hardly believe his eyes. Cory Russell had grown into a fine, beautiful woman. She seemed to bare no scars from the horrific incidents of her past. Though he knew all too well that scars like those aren't superficial ones visible to the naked eye.
"How have you been? You moved to your father's after the trial… Michigan wasn't it?"
"Yeah," she was surprised he'd remembered, "I came back to the city after high school. I'm doing good. I went to City. I'm a teacher now." She felt awkward listing her meager accomplishments to a man like Jack McCoy.
"A teacher? That's great. What grade?"
"Fifth." She shrugged, "It's a good age. They're not quite teenagers yet, but you don't have to wipe their noses either."
They chuckled. Jack became more impressed with her each second.
"How about you? Still fighting the good fight at district attorney's office?"
"Well," Jack raised his expressive eyebrows, "I am the D.A. now. So I guess the answer is yes. Just in a different aspect."
"No kidding! The D.A.!" She reached over and patted his arm casually. "Good for you!" Her smile faded to a sheepish one. "I guess I don't watch the news as often as I should."
"Nah, I don't blame you."
"And what about Ms. Kincade? Is she still working there or has she moved on?"
The irony of the young woman's statement washed over Jack. "No." He strived to compose himself as he always did in this situation. "Ms. Kincade was killed by a drunk driver a year or so after we handled your case."
"Oh god. I'm sorry." She could tell it was a painful subject for him. "She seemed like a good person."
They talked idly for a few more minutes before they were interrupted by a young blond.
"There you are! This place is too crowded. We're gonna head over to Hunter's." Her friend looked at her expectantly. She looked back and forth between McCoy and Cory and smiled. "I'll wait for you outside?"
"Yeah. I'll be right there." Cory rolled her eyes at her friend's assumption. "Well, I guess I should go." She slowly rose from the bar stool.
"It was good to see you again, Ms. Russell. And thank you for the drink." His smile touched his eyes with candor.
"You're welcome." Cory turned to walk away, but stopped.
You've waited all this time. You may never get this opportunity again.
"Mr. McCoy…" She turned back to face him. "I just wanted to say 'thank you.'"
Jack's smiling eyes turned somber.
"I was in a very bad place back then. I had no hope." Her eyes began to moisten with tears. "You, and Ms. Kincade, were kind and understanding. You never judged me. I'm afraid to think of what I would have become, had you not fought for me." She reached out and grasped Jack's hand in hers. "I don't know why you do what you do. Whether it's justice for justice's sake or the victim's sake…. Either way, I'm better for it."
"Thank you, Cory." Jack's voice wavered. "You know, seeing you now, beautiful, confident, thriving. That's…" Jack's voice trailed and he was at a loss for words.
He smiled the kind smile Cory remembered. She squeezed his hand and reached up and kissed him on the cheek and whispered a quiet 'thank you' in his ear.
Jack turned and watched Cory Russell walk out and meet her friends on the sidewalk. They talked casually as the headed west. No idea of the rewarding conversation their friend had just had with him.
Jack drained his scotch and got up to leave the bar. He pulled his coat's collar up around his neck as the cold night air hit him. As he walked the few blocks to his place he thought about Cory Russell about the child she was and the woman she had become and smiled.
Times like these are why I love my job.