Disclaimer: Shark does not belong to me, nor does anything related to it.
A.N. This is set just after the season two episode Burning Sensation. Since there really isn't enough Shark fanficton on the site I just had to add some of my own! Enjoy!
Once Burned, Twice Shy
Overall the case was a success; a win. But, like most cases that they dealt with, it had brought skeletons out of closets and unburied some truths that may have been better left buried. However that was not for them to decide. They only searched for the truth – it was not for them to deliver justice or decide on what was fair. As Jess had stated earlier, sometimes this job really sucked.
The case may be won, but the job wasn't over. Statements had to be filed and briefs had to be written. The curse called paperwork awaited.
Raina and Isaac had already left, Stark had disappeared to God knows where, leaving Danny, Madeleine and Jessica with stacks of paper and inevitable hand cramps.
Danny looked up from the seemingly infinite lines of text when Jessica stood up and began to cram papers into their respective files and leave them in her office.
"Got somewhere you need to be?" he enquired slyly, eliciting a glare from the older woman. He knew damn well where she was going, and more importantly, who she was going with. Madeleine seemed to have picked up on the gossip chain too as she raised her blond head to show them both a wicked grin.
"Got another date with your boyfriend?" she raised an eyebrow appraisingly. She glanced across the room at Danny, still grinning. Teasing Jess may be childish, but it was fun, something they had seen precious little of on this case.
A slight scowl graced Jess's face though it didn't reach her eyes. She was enjoying the light hearted banter too. "Oh, trust me, it's not a date. Tonight, while you're wrapped up in this cosy little office, I have to sit through a meal, which I'm paying for by the way, and pretend to be interested in whatever Peter decides classifies as interesting conversation," sarcasm dripped from her voice as she shook her head. "You see what I go through to get information for you people!"
Madeleine and Danny gave each other an amused look before turning back to Jessica. "That sounds like a date to me," said Danny smugly.
"Who's dating whom?" The voice came from the doorway and startled the room's occupants into turning around to face Sebastian Stark.
Madeleine was only too happy to answer his question. "Jess is dating Peter Rhodes," she replied quickly, leaning back in her chair.
Stark stared at Jessica with a look that was somewhere between amusement and disgust, though it went unnoticed. Jess was too busy glaring at Madeleine and Danny. All she received for her efforts, however, was an almost angelic look of innocence from Madeleine and hands raised in surrender from Danny. The expression on his face clearly said, 'Don't look at me. It wasn't me who told him.'
Eventually Jess turned away in defeat and began to walk out the door with a wave back at her colleagues. Stark, however, was not so easily deterred. He followed her down the hallway and when the door slammed behind him any conversation that was to follow was cut off to the occupants of the room.
"What would you do," Danny drawled, "to be a fly on that wall?" He gestured to the door as Madeleine bit back a laugh.
"You're dating that guy?" Stark was staring at her with look something akin to amusement on his face as they strode down the hallway.
"Dated," Jessica injected. "Past tense. Agreeing to have dinner with him was my payment for his information on Alston!" She glared at him, shaking her head, "You always say, 'Do whatever it takes,' when it comes to winning cases."
"This wasn't exactly what I had in mind. Seriously Jess, Rhodes?" Stark almost seemed disappointed. "I honestly thought you had better taste in men."
"Just because I won't jump into bed with you, Sebastian," Jessica scoffed, "does not mean I have bad taste in men." She looked at him out of the corner of her eye and caught the dubious look he was giving her. "If it's any consolation," she relented, "I was the one that ended it and that," she added a note of finality to her voice, "was over three years ago." She waved a hand at him to make her point.
Stark snorted, "I can't imagine why," he stated sarcastically. "After all, he has such a winning personality."
"Takes one to know one, I suppose," she shot back at him, smirking.
Sebastian enjoyed this gentle ribbing. With the rest of his team there was a certain cautiousness, but with Jess he knew the limits to which he could push her and somewhere in the past fifteen years, where they had gone from fierce rivals to close friends, she had found his limits too.
"Touché," he grinned. He decided to pry a little deeper, "So if it wasn't his personality, could it be that he was bad in bed?" He threw a scandalised look her way when she let out a short bark of laughter.
Jess's reply was salacious, "Nope, definitely not bad in bed," she raised an eyebrow wickedly, "or anywhere else."
"In that case, I give up!" Sebastian came to a halt beside his companion as they reached the elevators. As Jessica turned away from him and reached out to press the call button with one delicate finger he asked, "So why did you dump him? Not that I'm complaining, mind you."
Jessica's shoulders straightened and her arm dropped to her side. She took a breath as she turned back towards Stark, and he instantly knew that all joking, all teasing, had ceased. The upward curvature that had graced Jess's lips before slowly fell and the glint that had been in her eyes faded and died. He didn't realise it but his own facade changed to mimic hers. He had now broached into her personal territory.
"Because that's all it was, in the end. Meaningless sex," she took another breath, bracing herself. "Plus, I wasn't being fair to him."
"What?" Sebastian's eyes narrowed as he tried, and failed, to comprehend what she was trying to tell him.
She smiled sadly at him. Behind her there was a short 'ping' and the doors of the elevator slid open. Before she stepped in she answered his question. "No one wants to compete with a dead man, Sebastian." She shrugged, "He didn't deserve to. See you tomorrow."
Before the doors closed behind her he managed to utter a farewell with a smile then headed back in the direction of the office at a considerably slower pace.
The difference between their marriages, he mused, was that while his had been a bit of a disaster (fine, a complete disaster) that had ended in divorce, Jessica's marriage to Ben had been happy until it had come to an early end with his illness and death. When he dated now or, more often than nought, had quick flings and one night stands, he knew that if he were to compare any woman to Claire it would never work out. Yes, it could be fun, but eventually it would end the same way their marriage had and that was an experience he didn't want to revisit. For Jessica, on the other hand, things were very different. While nine years had passed since her marriage had come to an abrupt end, it had been through no fault of either her or Ben. With Ben, she had something that worked, something that she was happy with. It was only natural to compare any man she dated to him.
She wasn't over him. And Sebastian doubted a part of her ever would be.
Still, a small grin played on his lips; he wasn't going to let this revelation change a good thing. He and Jess would still trade barbs, they would still flirt and he would continue to proposition her at every chance he got.
No, he thought as his imagination once again kicked into overdrive, there was no need to change a good thing.
A.N. Hope you all enjoyed it! Let me know what you think! Any reviews will be greatly appreciated!