A/N found this lurking on the hard drive of an old computer. Angsty little Jack/Claire thing, inspired by something I read where Dick Wolfe's original plan was to have Clare be in a coma before Jill Hennessy decided to walk entirely from the show.


"Joe Strummer came out with a new album. He's got a new band and everything. The Mescaleros. They're really not bad-not as good as The Clash were, but it's not bad." He drops a tape into the stereo, listening as the familiar tunes play between them.

He listens, half paying attention to the music, half paying attention to the steady beeping across the room. "There was a case that got decided today. I could've-should've-gone for capitol punishment." He pauses, wrapping his hand into a limp one next to his. "I didn't." He pauses again, looking at the closed eyes that would never stare into his again, the limp hand that he would never feel give him a reassuring squeeze in return. "I couldn't."

The nurse peeks in, leaving as soon as she sees him. He's a familiar sight here. Once upon a time-a year and a half ago, right after the accident, he had come and sat vigil next to her-but now, now he only staggered in here, they let him stay well past when visiting hours were over. Even when he reeked of alcohol and stale smoke, even when he could barely hold himself upright, they let him up to where she was on the fifth floor, letting him stay as long as he needed to, before calling him a cab and pouring him into it.

"I think Jamie was disappointed when I pulled the death penalty off the table. She's a good person-not as good as you-but I think she thought that it would leverage us against them. But I-I couldn't. Not after-" He chokes on his words and grasps the limp hand in front of him tighter. "You'd like her. She's tenacious, just like you. But not like you-no one is like you-" He frowns, and pulls a pint out of the briefcase that he found himself unwilling to leave with his bike, and unsure of what else to do with it. He takes a long gulp, never breaking his grip with the limp one next to his.

"I wish you could see her. You two would be great together. You wouldn't even need me. I could just sit in my office and drink and-" He trails off, taking another long pull off the bottle. "Jamie's-a great prosecutor. But she's not you." He brushes the hair out of a pale, unmoving, face. "you-you-" He trails off again, unsure of what else to say. "The Mescaleros are pretty good, aren't they?" He asks, filling in the silence.

"I learned how to play some Tom Petty. It's as easy as you said it was. I still have your guitar, if you want it back." The nurse that comes in to take the vitals is used to this. Is used to the man sitting there taking long swigs off of a bottle of Jim Beam. Is used to seeing him there, making all sorts of inane and banal commentary-it happens a lot on her ward. She's learned to tune it out-if she didn't, she's sure she'd be crazy.

She isn't surprised, however, when the man that sits there, gripping on to that hand as though it was a lifeline is nowhere to be found when, at the twenty four month mark the mother of the girl in the bed decides to pull the plug. Two years with no change in condition is enough for the girl's parents to realize that things are never going to change. She knows he knows, because he shows up later that night, drunkenly asking to be seen down to the morgue-and he asks for the morgue specifically. He knows she's gone and didn't make any effort to show up like the parents had when the plug was pulled. She pulls the body out of the vault, and he frowns, grasping the cold, limp, hand like he has a million times before.

She leaves, giving them privacy, but she knows the sort of things he'll talk about. She's seen it enough with different people, different patients. She knows he knows, when he looks down, brushes long brown hair off of a peaceful face, and refuses to let go of the grasp he holds. "I still have the guitar you left at my place." Is the only snippet of conversation she hears-that she pays attention to, and it's enough to make her wonder why she sticks with this. She's always thought she was strong enough to handle coma patients, those that would never respond to the voices talking to them, those that would never laugh, or smile, or play guitar again.

The ones that were in the fateful void between the living and the dead, the ones who had relatives that held out hope long after hope was gone. The ones who had people pretending that everything was just fine. She was strong enough to tune it out, to be a sympathetic, stoic figure. But it's moments like this – watching as a strong, stoic man silently shatter – that she remembers she's human, and wonders how she can do this day after day.