It's pretty straightfoward, as the author points out: This is "a love story about Jack and Claire and what might have happened between them before Claire's premature death." Sometimes, a letter can mean everything.

What Might Have Been
By Clare Bautista
 

Jack McCoy stared at the immobile body of Claire Kincaid. His eyes felt very heavy and he could feel the start of stubble starting to form in his cheeks and chin. He had been in and out of this room for the last ten hours. Every 15 minutes on the hour -- that was the longest the doctors allowed him to stay.
The machines attached to her frightened him. But at the same time, they offered him unspoken comfort for they told him that she was still alive, still with him.
Last night, he had been roused from a very drunken slumber by District Attorney Adam Schiff's phone call. Adam had called his second in command to inform him that Claire Kincaid and Detective Lennie Briscoe of the 27th precinct had figured in a car accident. Lennie Briscoe was bruised but fine. Claire, however, was another story....
Jack had rushed to Hudson Medical Center where Adam said they had brought her. When he arrived, he found that Claire's stepfather, Mac Geller and her mother, Janine were already there. Janine embraced Jack and cried in his arms when she saw him. Jack held her stiffly; very aware and ashamed that he still smelled strongly of the scotch he had consumed. After Janine had composed herself, they led him to the ICU room where Clare was. They had informed him that though she was stable for now, she was still touch and go. A nurse saw the three of them gathered in the room and gently informed them that only one person was allowed in the room at a time. Janine and Mac had graciously left the room to give him time with her.
The moment they left, Jack expected his tears to fall. But they didn't. He just stared numbly at Claire. His thoughts were racing....'This is all my fault...my fault...the hell with her...the hell with her...the hell...' those were the last words he had uttered before he left the bar, too impatient to wait for her after he had paged her.
Now ten hours later, guilt was still raging within Jack and still no tears to relieve him of the very heavy feeling in his chest. He could only stare at Claire, not hearing or having any awareness of his surroundings. Then suddenly, "Jack." It was a single soft word. He leaned forward, hoping against hope. But then he realized, as he focused back to reality that it was only Janine. She was beside him.
Jack looked so helpless and Janine's heart went out to him. Once more, she hugged him. Jack clung to her like a drowning man. "You can cry...it's okay..." But as much as he wanted to, he couldn't. Finally, he pulled away from Janine and looked down on his toes, unable to meet her eyes.
Janine pulled another chair, sat and faced him. "Jack." she spoke up. "They gave us Claire's belongings sometime this morning. And this was among them." Janine held up a solitaire diamond ring that was hanging from a simple gold necklace. "I thought you'd like to keep it for the meantime." She tried to smile and failed miserably. "I thought that...maybe you'd like to keep it until she's.... better."
Jack lifted his head up and blinked once, his gaze riveted to the necklace with the ring dangling from Janine's grasp. But, he didn't move a single inch.
Seeing that he was incapable of taking them from her, Janine gently took Jack's hand, laid the necklace with the ring on his palm, and then closed his fingers over them. She attempted to smile again and was more successful this time. "Jack, you are the one...you do know that, right? You make her so happy...you make my baby girl so happy...."
Jack looked at Janine, and his eyes were that of a haunted man. "Yeah..." he finally croaked out, "Yeah, I'm the one...I'm the one to blame for all of this..." He buried his head in his hands.
"Jack, listen to me." Janine told him in a commanding voice. "It's not your fault. It was an accident! She was at the wrong place at the wrong time."
Jack didn't reply. He couldn't reply.
Janine looked at the man her daughter loved and sighed. "Jack, look...you've been here a long while...why don't you go home for awhile and come back later. You're tired and I'm here...I'll call you...if...anything..."
Jack started shaking his head. "No." His tone left no room for arguments.
Janine nodded slowly, understanding. "All right. You can stay, if you really want to. But why don't you get yourself a cup of coffee first...and maybe freshen up. It'll do you some good."
Jack stood up. "Okay, " he complied, not having the strength to argue for once. "I'll be right back."
Before he left, he went to Claire's bedside, bent down and kissed her softly on her lips. "I'll be back in a moment, Claire."
He glanced at Janine one last time before he walked out of the room.
Jack walked to the coffee machine. As he got change from his pocket he realized that he still had the necklace and ring clasped in his hand. He opened his hand and looked at them. Memories flooded back and he couldn't believe where he was right now, where Claire was right now....when only a week ago, they had been so happy....



Jack McCoy had been having a frustrating day.... the Scott case kept rearing its ugly head, especially between him and Claire. Just before they parted after lunch, they had another one of their fights. Both had prior engagements to rush to and they hadn't resolved their argument before going their separate ways.
Thus, as Jack made his way back to his office later that afternoon, he wasn't really sure if he wanted to face Claire right then. He knew by now, she'd be there. However, he still felt a little ticked off from their lunch time argument. After the hell he had gone through that afternoon, he definitely didn't have it in him to debate capital punishment with her for the nth time.
He slowed down his steps as he approached her cubicle. He needn't have worried if he had wanted to avoid her. She didn't even hear him or look up as he approached. She was fully concentrated on the brief she was reading. However, he also noticed that she looked very tired, one hand holding her head as she read. At that moment, Jack's anger vanished and he knocked on the glass 'window' of the cubicle. Claire immediately looked up. He smiled as he walked in and stood by her desk. Claire remained silent. Jack sighed and said, "I take it, you're not planning on making this easy, are you?"
"No," she replied.
"I figured." Jack shoved his hands into his trouser pockets.
Once again, Claire didn't say a word.
He ran his fingers through his salt and pepper hair, trying to control his frustration and sighed for a second time. "Look, Claire, I'm sorry about earlier, I was a total ass."
There was a slight tug on the corners of Claire's lips but she tried to suppress it. "Yes, you were."
Jack smiled crookedly, silently acknowledging her unspoken acceptance of his apology. Looking around to make sure no one else was there, he said, "That's why you love me - right?"
Claire made a face. Jack checked around once more and satisfied that no one else was around, he took her hand and gave it a little squeeze. Claire smiled and doesn't let go. Instead, she pulled his hand to caress her cheek for a moment, before she finally released it.
Jack smiled. "So, are you gonna be here much longer, Kincaid?"
Claire shrugged her slender shoulders in a seemingly helpless fashion and deadpanned, "I don't know. It really depends on my boss...he can be a real tyrant...who knows what time he'll release me..."
"I love it how you're not scared of me in the least," Jack laughed.
Claire couldn't take it anymore and laughed with him. "Well, am I paroled, Mr. McCoy?"
"Of course you are, Miss Kincaid. Just give me the files and briefs you worked on today before you leave, okay?"
"Yes, Sir!" Claire replied, giving him a mock salute.
Jack arched one eyebrow. "So, it's sir now?"
"Well, what would you like to be called? Your highness? Your grace? Or perhaps, your majesty?"
"I don't know...but I'm very partial to babe, honey, sweetheart, darling, lover...take your pick."
Claire chuckled and told him, "Go on to your office and I'll be in there in a moment with those files and briefs..." she paused for a moment and then, ".... lover."
Jack grinned and then obediently went to his office.
From his office, Jack looked at Claire as she finished the file that she was working on and started to pack up for the day. Damn, she looked good. It was still amazing to him that she loved him. Claire Kincaid loved Jack McCoy, how could he be so blessed? And as if sensing his stare, Claire glanced towards him and blew him a kiss. Jack smiled from ear to ear. 'I love her so much,' he thought. 'And she loves me.' The thought kept him smiling as he bent over to get his briefcase from the floor.
When he straightened up again in his seat, he found Claire standing in front of his desk. She put some folders on top of it. "Here you go, Jack."
"Thanks," Jack replied. "You heading home?"
"Yeah, unless you wanna get a drink or dinner or something..." Claire told him.
Regretfully, Jack shook his head. "I can't. I'm sorry. Damn, I can't even take you home. I'm so bushed and I still have several files to go through tonight. I'm really sorry, Claire. But I'll call you tonight?"
Claire smiled. "I understand."
"Thanks. And I'm also really sorry for earlier today."
"It's over. Don't think about it anymore...well, I'm gonna go." She leaned over and gave him a quick kiss on the lips.
"That's it?" Jack asked, disbelievingly.
"Well," Claire replied, a bit coyly, "we wouldn't want to start something we can't exactly finish right now, babe."
Jack grinned rakishly, "That's true...all right. Well, I'll call you later, honey."
Her eyes twinkling, Claire replied, "You better."
Clare started to leave then but Jack suddenly spoke up once more. "Hey, Claire, hold on one minute."
Claire paused in her tracks, a wary look on her face. "What is it? Did I forget something?"
Jack chuckled. "Don't want to work anymore tonight, eh?"
Claire made a face and admitted, "Not really."
"No, it's not work."
"So what is it?"
"Look we've both overdoing it in terms of work lately and this Scott execution thing is getting to both of us..."
Claire walked back to his desk, silently, an eyebrow raised in inquiry.
Jack continued, "Anyway, I was thinking we could use a little break from all of this."
"That would be great, Jack." Claire agreed. "But I'm not sure we have time for it. Our calendars are really full. We're swamped."
"Frankly, I don't care, and I know you're probably shocked to hear that. But, it's true. We need a break from all of this, even just for one night. Just one night of being just a regular, normal couple -- out for a night of fun."
Despite herself, Clare began to feel excited. "I can't think of anything I'd like more, Jack." She grinned. "So, what do you propose we do, babe?"
"Well, I've been contemplating this for awhile and so I know exactly what I'm going to do tomorrow. Let me work out the details tonight and I'll let you know the final plans tomorrow morning."
"All right. But what do you have in mind?"
"That -- is a surprise." Jack told her. "But I promise you a very special night, sweetheart."
"Are you sure it's gonna be worth the day's backlog when we get to work the next morning?" Claire asked jokingly.
"Definitely. It'll be worth 3 days of backlog." There was mischievous glint in Jack's eyes. "So what do you say, sweetheart?"
"Huh," Claire remarked, smiling. "3 days, eh?"
"Is that a yes?"
Claire leaned into his table so that their faces were almost touching, "Almost, I just have one last question, Mr. McCoy."
"And what is that?" He looked directly into her eyes.
Smiling, she asked, "What do I wear?"
Jack laughed out loud and kissed her. "Hmmm...your best and sexiest dress. We're going all out tomorrow night!"
"Whatever you say, lover. Gotta go, call me tonight. 'Bye." She kissed him one last time and then, with a wave, she left.



After he got back from a motions hearing, at around 11 am the next day, Jack stopped by Claire's cubicle. "Claire, could you come into my office, please?"
Claire immediately got up from her desk and followed him to his office.
"So what's up?" Claire asked, closing the door behind her.
"What's up, " Jack told her, smiling broadly, "is our 'meeting' tonight."
A twinkle appeared in Claire's eyes as she said, "Tell me, Jack, you've been so mysterious about this, what exactly is up tonight, anyways?"
"Straight to the point, as usual."
"Well, Counselor, as you may notice, I am a female. And being one, I need to know what kind of dress this special event entails."
"I already told you, Claire. Your best dress." Jack reiterated, smiling, dragging it out.
"Yeah, but which best dress?"
Jack couldn't resist chuckling. "All right, I've tortured you enough...I'll tell you. After this little talk of ours, I am going off to a lunch and then a short meeting with Adam. I won't be coming back here after that. So, why don't you meet me at the Plaza lobby, oh say.... around 8 pm?"
Claire's jaw practically dropped at his words. And Jack's heart soared at the look of surprised, well, actually shocked pleasure on her face. She didn't see that one coming. "The Plaza? As in the Plaza Hotel? Jack, you're kidding, right? It's too much..."
"No, it's not Claire. I really want this night to be special and unforgettable for you, for both of us." Jack told her affectionately.
A dazzling smile appeared on Claire's face and she replied, "Okay. I won't argue anymore. The Plaza Hotel at 8 pm."
"Great, now I gotta run." Jack grabbed his briefcase and started towards the door.
He stopped in his tracks however, when he heard Claire inquire jokingly, "Hey, by the way, if you're going all out tonight, why aren't you picking me up?"
"I would. However, I don't know how short this short meeting is gonna be exactly. So as to not waste anytime, I'll just meet you there. Our punctuality is of utter importance. " Jack explained to her. "Besides, I have a feeling that what you'll be wearing tonight won't go over well with my motorcycle."
Claire laughed. "Probably not, " she admitted.
"Hey, I'll make it up to you." Jack promised.
"Jack, it was just a joke. You don't have to make anything up to me. I'll see you at the Plaza lobby at 8 pm. Now, go before Adam gets mad at you for being late."
"Okay." He started for the door again.
Once more, he is stopped momentarily from leaving as Claire spoke up again. "And, oh, hey Jack?"
Jack turned and asked, "Yes, Claire?"
"If I forget to tell you later tonight, I had a really great time."
Jack broke into a smile and simply said, "Thank you. I'll see you at 8."
When Jack was out of his office, Claire gave a little squeal of excitement. The next moment, she felt silly. This was silly. It was like she was in high school again. She sighed happily. Then, with an even sillier smile on her face, she went back to her cubicle.



Claire nervously stepped out her cab in front of the Plaza Hotel. It was exactly 8 pm and Jack should already be there waiting for her. The doorman held the door open for her and she stepped into the lobby of the Plaza Hotel.
Jack had arrived ten minutes earlier. He stood in an unobtrusive corner of the lobby, waiting for Claire. He saw her the moment she walked in. His mouth dropped open as he saw the vision of her. She was stunning. He saw her looking around the lobby for him and he knew he should just go to her. But he just wanted, for one moment, to take in the sight of her. Dressed in an ankle length, off-white halter dress, her hair pinned up in a chignon, her make-up light and wearing only the simplest of jewelry, she was breathtaking. This was the woman he loved. This was the woman who loved him right back. He was truly a lucky man.
Finally, he started towards Claire; his face lit up in a gentle smile. At that moment, Claire saw him, too. Taking in Jack in his double-breasted dark gray suit, his maroon tie and shiny black leather patent shoes; Claire had to suck in a deep breath, as he approached her.
Claire was so busy looking at this dapper Jack McCoy, that she didn't notice that one of his hands were held behind his back. So, it came as a total surprise when he held out a bouquet of long-stemmed pink roses as he stood before her.
Pleasure flooded into Claire and it showed clearly on her face. She looked at Jack, as she smelled the roses. Then grinning she said, "Thank you, Jack. They're beautiful."
"They don't hold a candle to you, Miss Kincaid," he replied, in a mock formal tone.
Claire blushed and Jack laughed heartily. "Oh my, God. You actually blushed!"
Claire turned even redder and gently chided him. "Stop it, Jack."
Jack's laughter faded into a tender smile. "Seriously, Claire, you look sensational tonight."
"Thank you, Mr. McCoy. And you certainly look very dashing."
"I know." Jack told her in jest.
Claire playfully punched him in the arm and then said, "Aren't you forgetting something, Mr. McCoy? You've given me roses...you've told me I'm beautiful, but you've forgotten one thing."
She was grinning flirtatiously but Jack remained puzzled. "What did I forget?"
Claire took a step forward, closing the gap between them and in a husky voice replied, "This." At that, she kissed him tenderly on the lips. It was a short kiss - but it held the promise of something more later.
When they pulled apart, Jack gave her a crooked sort of smile. "Oh, that! How could I have forgotten?"
Claire chuckled in response.
"Well, Ms. Kincaid, it's 8:15 and we better walk on over, before we lose our reservations."
"Reservations for where exactly? You haven't told where we are going yet."
"We're in the Plaza --- the Palm Court, of course. We have reservations for 8:30."
Claire cocoa-colored eyes widened. "The Palm Court?"
A grin appeared on Jack's face again. "Yes, the Palm Court."
Claire smiled back. Jack offered his arm and asked, "Shall we?"
Nodding in happiness, she took his arm and turned towards the famous restaurant.



As they waited for dessert, Claire sighed contentedly. She was dining with the man she loved in one of New York City's premiere restaurants. She was in heaven.
"I heard the creme brulee here in sinful." Jack informed her.
"Yup. I've heard rave reviews about that tiramisu you ordered as well," Claire returned.
"Well, neither of them can be as sinfully tasty as you..." Jack teased, mischief and flirtation in his eyes.
Claire giggled girlishly. "Very funny, Jack. Thank you, I guess."
"You are beautiful tonight, Claire." Jack wasn't exaggerating. She was positively glowing and he couldn't take his eyes off her.
"Enough already, Jack!" Claire exclaimed in protest. But she was beaming with pleasure. "If you don't stop it soon, I won't be able to walk out the door of this restaurant -- my head will be so big!"
"I can't help it. It's true. You are." He reached out and took her hand in his. "I love you, Claire Kincaid."
Claire squeezed his hand affectionately. "I love you too, John James McCoy."
The waiter came back with their desserts then. After he had left, they dug in eagerly, curious to find out whether or not the desserts lived up to their hype.
"Hmmm...this is fabulous." Claire remarked.
"So is this...wanna try?" Jack asked. Claire nodded in acquiescence and Jack cut her a piece of his tiramisu. He held it out to Claire, who playfully opened her mouth to receive the tiramisu.
"That is good." Claire confirmed. "Your turn." She scooped a portion of her creme brulee and held out the spoon. Jack opened his mouth as Claire fed him the creme brulee.
"Yup, you're right. That's good too." Jack commented. "Well, this place does live up to its reputation."
"It better..." Claire pronounced. "For the price they ask here, they certainly better have damn good food."
Jack grinned at her audacity.
Just then, the violin player and the piano player who were on for that night began to play Nat King Cole's classic "When I Fall In Love". Claire smiled affectionately at Jack as she heard the first notes of the song. Jack smiled back and they kissed. As they broke apart, they looked into each other's eyes, their love for each other clearly reflecting. But the magic was shattered momentarily when Jack uttered, "Damn it."
A little upset but concerned as well, Claire asked, "What's wrong? What's the matter?"
"Nothing. I'm sorry, Claire. It's just the damn box of something I picked up, it's in my pocket and it just poked me for the nth time tonight."
"Well, give it to me. If it fits in your pocket, I'm sure it'll fit in my bag. No need to ruin our night because of a damn box." Claire told him. "Here, come on, give it to me."
Claire held out her hand as she looked down and opened her bag with the other one. Jack took a ring box out of his coat pocket and placed it on her hand. The moment he did, Claire looks up at the box he had given her and froze. She gazed at Jack with an expression of awe, pleasure and shock in her face. "Jack?" It was almost a whisper. She gazed back and forth between him and the box.
"Open it," Jack told her, looking at her tenderly.
Slowly, carefully, Claire opened the navy velvet box. She gasped out loud when she saw what was inside. It was solitaire diamond set in a simple gold band. It was beautiful in its simplicity, just like Claire. The lights above the restaurant made the diamond sparkle. Suddenly, Claire felt her eyes beginning to feel with tears of happiness. "Jack..." she couldn't speak.
Then, Jack got up from his seat and made his way to her. Claire turned in her chair to face him as he stood next to her. His eyes and face full of his love for her, he took her hand and knelt down and asked, "Claire Kincaid, will you do me the honor of being my wife?"
Claire gazed into his eyes lovingly, tears streaming down her face now, as Jack continued, "Will you marry me, Claire?"
Still holding the ring in its box, Claire threw her arms around him and declared, "Yes, Jack, oh yes! I'll marry you." She pulled away then, but only so that she could kiss him. She kissed him with all the passion and love she felt for him, not caring that they were in a very public place. She wanted to kiss him forever, to show him that she loved him with all of heart, mind and soul.
The other patrons of the restaurant had observed what was going on and suddenly, they broke into spontaneous cheers and applause for the happy couple. Both of them turned a little red, but they were too happy to really care. Their faces were flushed and both had ridiculous grins on their faces. Jack then took the box from her and took out the ring. For a brief moment, he held it out to her, before he slipped in on her right hand.
Once more, the other patrons erupted in cheers. Shouts of "Way to go, man!" and plenty of "Kiss her!" echoed all around the room. They laughed as they stood up. Then, they glanced at each other and indulged their audience with a kiss.
Finally, their well wishers quieted down and the two retreated to their seats again. Claire was quiet, admiring her engagement ring. "Oh, Jack, this ring is perfect. It's exactly what I've always my engagement ring to look like."
"Well, it's not as perfect as you.." Jack riposted, smiling from ear to ear.
"Jack McCoy, you make me the happiest woman in the world." Clare declared.
"And you Claire Kincaid, make me the happiest man and the luckiest, as well." Jack pronounced. "I love you very much."
"I love you so much, too."
They were silent then, just gazing into each other, Jack holding Claire's hand. And at that moment both of them knew, they were loved.
Then, Jack spoke up. "What do you say we finish this dessert, so that we can privately celebrate our engagement in our suite upstairs?"
Claire shook her head in amazement and tenderly said, "Jack, you amaze me. I love you."
"I love you more." Jack replied.
After that, they quickly finished their dessert. Jack informed the waiter then to charge their meal to their suite and they went up. They spent the entire night making love and by the time they went to sleep, the New York City skyline was lightening with the coming dawn.
The last thing Jack recalled before falling asleep was Claire snuggling up to him as he thought that everything in his world was perfect and as it should be.



They slept until they heard a beeper go off. It was Jack's beeper. He called in to check the voice mail and found that it was Adam demanding to know where he and Miss Kincaid were. The second he told Claire this, Claire jumped out of bed and exclaimed, "Oh, my God! Adam is going to kill us! How are we going to explain this one to him? Both of us, not there, both of us, not calling in!"
Jack began to laugh at Claire's panic.
Claire looked at him balefully, as she frantically got dressed. "It's not funny, Jack."
"Come here." Jack said.
Still troubled, Claire went up to him somewhat reluctantly. He kissed her passionately. "Don't I even get a good morning?"
Claire straightened up and told him, "Good morning. What are we going to do about Adam?"
"Well, I thought since we are getting married, it doesn't really matter much now."
Claire nodded slowly and said, "I suppose that's true..."
"I hear a but in there."
Claire sighed, nodding. "Yes, but well, you know we're under so much pressure, especially about this whole Scott execution thing and..." Claire's voice faded in hesitation.
Jack sat up, his body was stiff with the displeasure he felt at their conversation's turn. "And?"
"And well, I just don't want to drop it on him right now, that we've been lovers all this time and now we're getting married...I don't think it's the proper moment..."
"Why not?" Jack countered.
"Come on, Jack, you know what the consequence of my marrying you will be. I won't be able to be your assistant anymore. Not as your wife. There might be conflict of interest."
Jack looked at her, his face clearly showing his distress and unhappiness at this fact. Finally, though, he nodded. Unfortunately, all that Claire had just said was true.
Claire sat down beside him and took his hand in hers. "Jack, you know I love you. And believe me if it was the right thing to do --- God knows I want to shout it out to the whole world that you and I are getting married! But...until this whole execution hoopla is over, let's keep it under wraps from the office."
Jack was still silent, though Claire noticed that he was beginning to relax, the rigidity in his body beginning to fade.
"Look, we can tell my mom and Mac. And you can tell your sister! They're not from the office. In fact, if you want, I'll call my mother and Mac right now and tell them."
She reached for the phone on the nightstand. Jack couldn't take it anymore and he laughed. He grabbed her and kissed her. "No need for that, Claire. I know you will. Don't do it now and just have a rushed conversation with them. Do it when you have the time to really talk to them...and set the date."
Claire laughed, relieved. "Okay, Jack. I'll call her this evening. And we'll set a date."
"Great. Love you, Claire." He kissed her quickly.
"Love you, too, Jack."
"By the way, what about the ring? People in the office are bound to notice it." Jack asked her casually.
"No problem, lover. I won't wear it on my finger, but I'll wear it as pendant to this necklace." She picked up the necklace she was wearing the night before, unclasped it and threaded the ring through it. "There you go. Now can you please put it on me?"
Jack grinned as he put the necklace with the ring around her lovely, slender neck. "There. All done." Jack said.
"Thanks. Well, you better get dressed. We don't want Adam to kill us too much, do we?"
"Now that I'm marrying you? No way!"
And with that, Jack got up and began to dress up.



The next week had been magical and at the same time, hectic for both of them. Claire had not only spoken to her mother, but Claire had arranged for Jack and her to have dinner with her mom and stepfather. It was during that dinner that Claire had broken the news of her marriage to Jack. They had been so thrilled. Janine had embraced and kissed Jack in her excitement and Mac enthusiastically shook his hand. Over after dinner drinks, the four decided to have the wedding during the summer. Janine had always envisioned a June wedding for Claire.
On Jack's part, he had called his sister, Becky, one night while he and Claire were working late in the office and told her. Claire heard Becky's squeal of delight as Jack held the phone away from his ear. Upon discovery that Claire was with him then, she asked to speak to her. Becky congratulated her and told her to make sure to keep a tight leash on her brother. Chuckling warmly, Claire had promised her that she would and then handed the phone back to Jack.
Now that both their families have been told and given them their blessings, it was getting harder and harder for them to hide their relationship from the office. Especially from Adam Schiff. They didn't like keeping it from him for they truly not only respected him in his capacity as the New York county District Attorney, but a person and friend. Keeping this from him, made them feel really guilty.
However, they also knew that they were doing the right thing. It wasn't the right time. After the execution, they would tell him. But still it didn't make them feel good. They barely were able to convince him of the reasons of their being late after that night at the Plaza. To make sure he didn't suspect, they even came to the office 15 minutes apart. And after a morning of explanations to him, he finally let it go....after all, they were a dedicated team. Workaholics actually, both of them almost always burned the midnight oil.
The days in the DA's office were hectic. But their nights were blissful. Not one night passed that Jack and Claire didn't spend together. They would trade nights. One night at Claire's and one night at Jack's. It was inevitable though, that Claire complained when they would stay at Jack's. Jack was such a slob -- a trait of his that Claire vowed to be rid off once they were married.
Everything was going well until the day before the execution. Everyone in the DA's office felt the palpable tension. Even those advocating the death penalty in the office were quiet and subdued. Death after all, vicious criminal or not, was not a reason to celebrate.
It was towards the end of the day that Jack and Claire had an argument. Thankfully, Adam was no longer there. He had gone to a meeting with the mayor and then said he was gonna head home for the day because he knew that tomorrow it would be a long day. He needed to face the press tomorrow afternoon after the execution. While Claire and Jack would be witnessing the execution of Scott just a little past midnight.
It was actually a small thing. But the tension of the impending execution got to them. It was a simple matter of Claire forgetting to give Jack a brief on another case of theirs. Jack made a snide remark and that snowballed into a big argument.
After their argument, Claire told Jack, "I think it's best that we go home to our own apartments tonight -- at least until later. I'll just pick you up to go to the execution at around 11, all right?"
"But..." Jack started to protest.
Claire sighed and said, "Look, Jack, I can't help my beliefs as much as you can't help yours. I just need a few hours to myself to process this. But I promise you, tomorrow after all this is over, things will be much better. I promise. I still love you, okay?
Jack McCoy, one of the best prosecutors that Manhattan has had in years, was now at a loss for words in front of his fiancee. He simply nodded. And then after a moment's hesitation, he said, "Okay. I understand."
Quietly, Claire replied, "Thank you. Now if you don't mind, I'll go home now. I'll see you later, Jack." The execution was scheduled for just after midnight.
Jack nodded again and then, "I love you, Claire."
At that Claire smiled, albeit a little sadly, walked over to him and gave him a chaste kiss on the lips before walking out the door.



Claire picked Jack up at 11 pm and they drove to the execution together. There wasn't much conversation during the ride. In a way, it made the two of them sad that they couldn't talk about their feelings about this. But on the other hand, they were both grateful to be left alone with their thoughts for the moment.
They sat next to each other. On Jack's left side, Det. Rey Curtis and Det. Lennie Briscoe sat. They were there to also witness the execution. As the curtains to room where they had Scott strapped down to receive his lethal injection drew apart, Jack could see Claire trying to desperately remain calm and stoic. She wasn't doing succeeding too well. He knew that inside, she was crumbling to pieces and screaming denouncements at the inhumanity of capital punishment. He wished that he could just wrap his arms around her, kiss her and tell her that everything would be fine. But he knew he couldn't. And even if he could, he was quite sure that his gesture wouldn't be welcome right now.
After the curtains were drawn, the execution took on a fast pace. Scott told his executioners to just do it and that they did. As soon as the injections had been pumped into his bloodstream, it took less than a minute for him to flat line. When the heart monitor told them he was dead, they closed the curtains once again. It was done. Another criminal brought to justice. Another criminal off the streets of the city of New York.
As Claire drove them out of the prison, Jack could see the shock still registered on her face. He could see the guilt that she harbored at the part she played in sending a man, as violent as he was, to his death. Jack was concerned. "Claire? Are you okay, sweetheart? It's over."
Claire looked at him, her eyes twinkling with unshed tears and replied, "Yeah, that's the thing. I am. I'm alive and he's not."
"Claire, it's the law. He committed a crime and he paid for it." Jack said.
"Is this what the law is all about Jack? If it is, I don't know if I can be a part of it." Claire sighed.
Jack couldn't muster an answer and Claire just shook her head. "Look, I'm sorry. I'll be fine."
The rest of the ride to his apartment, they spent in silence. And for the first time, even as they shared the same bed, Claire slept away from him.



Claire and Jack drove to the office later that morning, together. However, halfway to the office, stuck in horrendous Manhattan rush hour traffic, Claire had asked Jack if she could take the day off. She was feeling under the weather she said. Thinking that a day off would do her good and make her feel better about what she had witnessed during the wee hours of the morning, he agreed. She offered to drop him off at the office, but Jack said she didn't need to. He got out of the car and told her he'd call her later.
That was the last he saw of her that day. When he got to the office he tried to do some work. But even after a lunch with Elizabeth Olivet, he found that the execution had gotten to him, too. He left work early and headed for a nearby bar where he stayed practically most of the night. Then he had paged Claire to pick him up, for he was too drunk to go home by himself.
As he waited for Claire, Lennie Briscoe had come in and joined him. The two of them sat together and talked, him, drinking more Scotch and Lennie, downing the club sodas. He had asked Lennie what time it was and Lennie told him, the time meant that she wasn't coming. He had been a little dumbstruck, drunk as he was, at Lennie's response. Then, realizing Lennie was right in his assumption, he got into his coat and started walking away, only to turn back to Lennie and tell him, "To hell with her" before he left the bar. They were words that he would come to regret sooner than he thought.
Jack stumbled into his apartment and immediately fell into bed, drunk. He slept dreamlessly until the persistent shrill ringing of his phone woke him up. It was 1 in the morning and he had a massive headache from all the Scotch he had consumed in the bar earlier. Who the hell could be calling him at this hour? One name popped into his head. Claire. He answered the phone. "Hello?"
It was Adam Schiff. "Jack, I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this. But you gotta get yourself to Hudson right now. Claire's been in an accident and it looks pretty bad..."
Jack woke up fully right then and there and he jumped up. He ran to the garage of his building, got on his bike and sped to the hospital.



Jack didn't realize he had been standing with a cold cup of coffee in his hand until Janine's voice shattered his reverie..."Jack, Jack...I've been looking for you."
"What is it Janine, is she okay? Is she awake?" Jack asked.
At that Janine, broke down and started to cry. "Jack!" she exclaimed, flinging her arms around him, "She's gone.... she's gone."
Unthinkingly, Jack pulled away from her embrace and looked into her eyes. And then all at once, Jack McCoy, one of the most feared men in New York, began to cry like a little boy.



Epilogue

It'd been a week since Claire's funeral. Jack held a picture of the two of them taken at a party last year in his hands. He missed her so much. On his desk were the necklace and their engagement ring. They had so many plans together. Damn. He buried his head in his hands.
This was how Adam Schiff found him. Adam sat on the chair across him. "Jack."
Jack looked up. "Adam."
"You miss her don't you?" He looked down on the picture he held and then his gaze shifted to the ring on the necklace.
Jack nodded. And then said, "We were going to..."
"...Get married. I know." Adam told him.
"How did you know?" Jack asked.
"I saw how you two were, I saw how you guys looked so happy that last week before she died and most of all, as much as she tried to hide it, I saw her love for you in her eyes every time she looked at you and vice versa. ....and I saw the ring strung through the necklace. I'm not the DA for nothing." Adam paused. Then he continued. "She loved you, Jack."
"And I love her, too." Jack replied.
"I know. " Adam stood up then, and said, "And, Jack? If you need to take some time off, just say the word?"
Jack nodded and Adam left.
Jack looked at the picture again and then pulled out his desk drawer to put it there. As he did, he noticed a little pink piece of paper there and he opened it. The writing was Claire's and it was written during that hellish day before the execution. It read:

Dear Jack,

I know this hasn't been the easiest day. Thank you for your understanding my feelings about this whole thing. Don't worry my love, I know you and I will get through this. Always remember - I love you so very much and I am looking forward to spending my life with you.

Yours forever,
Claire

Jack felt his eyes begin to water, He read the note again and finally allowed the tears to spill. After he had done so, he felt better and lighter. He also felt as if Claire was with him. She may be gone, but he felt her spirit. She was there with him, loving him. He pulled the drawer open again and looked at the picture one more time. Then he placed the note and the picture on top of each other and put them inside the drawer again. He closed the drawer and as he stood up, he smiled a little and looked heavenward. He could almost feel and see Claire looking down at him and he whispered, "I love you so very much too, Claire."
 

end

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