A missive from beyond the grave proves to be the medium through which Claire has a short talk with Jack about the law, life, death and love.
 
 
Dear Jack
By June Avila
"I'm sorry it took so long," Mac was saying quietly. "But with the hospital and the funeral and everything, her mother and I just couldn't bring ourselves to go through the apartment until last week. It was particularly hard on Violet, especially since she felt bad that she and Claire didn't have the picture perfect mother-daughter relationship as it was." He paused and looked away, his voice cracking slightly. "Anyway, we found that letter in her desk and we thought you'd want to have it."
Jack stared down at the small envelope in his hand. He recognized the heavy, pale ivory paper and the black ink spelling out his name in her precise, strong hand. If he turned it over, he knew there would be a simple, elegant gold "K" on the flap.
Claire'd been gone for almost a year and yet the pain was almost as fresh as when the telephone call from Mac had finally roused him from his drunken sleep that horrible night. Not knowing it was his fault, Mac and Violet had let him sit with her, helplessly holding her hand as her life dribbled away. Even after the story came to light, they hadn't said anything; they'd allowed him to come to the funeral, kiss her goodbye, cry in their house afterward.
Tonight, he'd been sitting on the sofa, drinking his dinner, when unexpectedly, the doorbell had rung. Jack'd been embarrassed for Claire's stepfather to find him slightly disheveled and smelling of Scotch, but Mac hadn't seemed to notice, stepping into the foyer, saying only that he couldn't stay and producing the letter.
"Well," Mac said finally, "I've got to get home so I'll say good night." He put out his hand.
"Thank you," Jack managed to croak, taking the other man's hand. "It was very...very kind of you." He looked into Mac's eyes, feeling the tears in his own. "I'm so sorry."
The older man pulled Jack to him and they shared a warm embrace. "It wasn't your doing, Jack," he whispered hoarsely, "or Lennie's either. It just...just happened. She'd been upset and unhappy about a lot of things; the execution just brought them into focus. Hell, she came to me that day and God knows, I wasn't much help either." His voice cracked again, he shut his eyes and held Jack more tightly.
"If I hadn't been drunk...hadn't called her..." Jack held on to the other man like a small boy clinging to his father.
"And if Lennie hadn't been in that particular bar or hadn't chosen that particular night to fall off the wagon or lived in another part of the City or they'd been two minutes sooner or two minutes later..." He sighed heavily. "If things had been different, they wouldn't be the same."
Jack pulled away and Mac saw the tears on his face, knowing his own were very close. "Claire loved you. Her mother and I saw it in her face when she looked at you, talked about you, about your future together. You made her very happy. Those are the important things, the things you should remember."
But Jack shook his head. "I talked her into staying with the office when she wanted to resign. Because I wanted her with me. I knew how she felt. I should have made her stay away from the execution. I should have known what it would do to her."
"You know as well as I do that you couldn't make Claire do anything she didn't want to. And how could you have known what it would do to her? You didn't even know what it would do to you."
"She was angry and upset with me. You know what the last thing I said about her before she died was? 'The hell with her.'" Fresh tears flowed and he was racked with sobs. "I never got to tell her I was sorry. That I loved her."
"Don't do this, Jack," Mac told him softly. "She knew you loved her. Carry her in your heart, not on your shoulders." He embraced Jack again, knowing there was nothing he could say or do to ease his pain. "When you're feeling up to it, Violet and I would love to see you. Maybe come by some night after Moot Court. You don't know how much I appreciate you volunteering. It makes a world of difference to my students to have the Manhattan EADA sit in with us. Good bye, Jack."
"Thanks," he answered, running the back of his hand across his wet cheek. "Good bye, Mac"
When Mac was gone, Jack settled back on the sofa, finished his drink in one long gulp, poured himself another and considered the envelope.
Part of him desperately wanted to rip it open, read her words, hear her voice in his head, see her again, if only in his mind's eye. He could picture Claire at her desk, her hair pulled back in a pony tail or falling loose around her face as she bent slightly over the paper, picking each word carefully, thoughtfully.
But part of him was terrified. What if his stupidity, his Mick macho, his overweening need to always be right had finally pushed her away? What if she'd never wanted to see him, be with him again? What if the words told him she'd died hating him, that she'd only answered his page out of pity, to reinforce her decision not to have anything more to do with this pathetic, drunken, twice-her-age loser? The thought was like a physical pain, a punch in the stomach.
Turning the envelope over finally, he slowly, carefully pushed his thumb under the flap and slid it open. As he pulled out the sheets and unfolded them, he realized his hands were shaking.

Dear Jack:

As I write this, I can hear my beeper going off in the next room and I know it's you. I've been listening to it all day. There are some things I have to tell you, that I've needed to say for a while now, but whenever I look into those beautiful brown eyes of yours, I never seem to be able to get them out. So this time, I'm going to write them down.
I've just finished my letter of resignation. Tomorrow, I'll print it out and give it to Adam. I just can't do this anymore, Jack. It's not just the DA's office either. I'm not sure I even want to be a lawyer at all. It seems like we're fighting a losing battle; for every bad guy we put away, three more take his place. We're supposed to be the good guys. But we plea out a junkie to get a pusher. Plea bargain a pusher to get a supplier. We make deals with child molesters and rapists and murderers because the court calendars are full and it's cheaper than a trial and the prisons are overflowing as it is. We say that it's wrong to kill people and then we kill people for killing people. It just doesn't make any sense.
I don't know what I'm going to do about the law or my career. After today I know I'm never going to feel the same way about either of them again. Seeing that man, horrible and evil as I knew he was, die in front of me and knowing I was partly responsible, just cut too close to the bone. Maybe it's a failing on my part, a weakness that makes me unfit for this job. All I know is that I'll hear the squeal of that heart monitor going flat in my nightmares for as I long I live. And I can't be a party to that again, ever!
Remember when we first got together and we promised we'd never let our personal relationship interfere with our professional relationship? Why didn't it ever occur to us that the opposite was going to happen? That we'd always be dragging our work home and dumping it in our bed. That like most other couples, inevitably, no matter how much we cared for each other, we were going to disagree, especially about the law. That whatever else we might be to each other, you were always going to be 'The Boss' and that even unconsciously, that title was going to slop over into our life outside the office. It seems like we always spend our 'quiet' lunches together discussing a case. And our 'dinner dates' invariably end up in court. There never seems to be any time, any place for us to be able to take off our lawyer suits and just be Jack and Claire. Even as wonderful as our lovemaking is, sometimes even that's not enough.
Then there's you, Jack. You're a selfish, arrogant, stubborn, cold blooded, win-at-any-cost, bastard. You're also the gentlest, kindest, most tender, loving human being I've ever known. You wear your sonofabitch reputation like a suit of armor. You use your hardass persona to keep people at arm's length so no one can get close enough to hurt you like you've been hurt before. Sometimes, when I realize how much you must love me to let me in, let me get close enough to see the soft little boy you can be, it almost overwhelms me. And knowing you love me that much, makes my loving you just that much more precious because I know I don't ever have to have any doubts about that love, no matter what else may be happening in our lives.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, I want you in my bed and my life and my heart forever and whatever there is after that. And I know that tonight or tomorrow or whenever, we'll work this out because our love is stronger than anything the world or fate or God or even your Jesuit Devil could possibly ever throw at us. Know for certain that regardless of the bumps in the road, you and I are meant to be together and no matter what things, big or small, may separate us, you'll always be mine and I'll always be yours.
My beeper's going off again. I think I'll go down to the 2-7 now and see if I can hook up with Lennie. I don't want to be alone but I'm just not quite up to facing you yet. I think we both still need a little more time apart to decompress and sort things out. But don't worry, I'll always be there when you really need me.

Love,
Claire

Overwhelmed with tears, Jack laid his head on the back of the sofa and wept openly, the sound of his sobs rattled through the quiet apartment. He clutched her letter like a drowning man with a life preserver and almost automatically reached for his glass.
Scotch. Always his friend and faithful companion, they'd become inseparable since Claire's death. At solitary dinners of Chinese take-out in his deserted office. Through empty, aimless, solo weekends. Endless, unbearably lonely nights. Solace. Pain killer. Antidepressant. Crutch.
Love, Claire.
The words were like cool, soothing lotion on a raw, open wound. They comforted him, eased his breathing and relaxed his tense body. It was like a boulder rolling slowly off his chest.
Without taking a drink, Jack put the glass down and slow re-read Claire's letter, letting her words soak into him life soft spring rain into the parched earth.
When she'd been with him, she'd grounded him, centered him. Given him something besides the law to fill his life. She'd intoxicated him simply by being Claire.
But he'd lost her and with her, himself. There'd been nothing in the black, guilty void to keep him going but Scotch --glasses and bottles and buckets of it. Now though, he had her back; at least the knowledge that she'd loved him too, wanted to build a life with him.
After a few more moments, Jack stood up and stretched, feeling suddenly bone weary. Pickup up the glass and bottle, he took them into the kitchen. Pausing for an uncertain moment, he finally poured the Scotch down the sink, rinsed the glass, put the bottle back in the cabinet by the 'fridge and shut off the light.
In his bed, naked, his pillow propped up against the headboard, he red the letter once more, barely able to keep his eyes open. It felt surprisingly good to be in bed, tired, not drunk and to know that tomorrow he'd be able to work without that little man and his sledgehammer banging away in his skull.
Gently folding the letter, he laid it on the nightstand, snapped off the lamp and gazed into the familiar darkness around him. Now that he had Claire's words for comfort and support, perhaps he could put away his other crutch and try moving forward. Or at least not lean so heavily on it.
Tomorrow he'd call Lennie, maybe have lunch. If nothing else, they could talk. After all, more than anyone else, Lennie understood. About everything.
Sleep was quickly overtaking him and gratefully, he closed his eyes, slipping into a welcome, non-alcoholic sleep. And as he drifted off, he felt a kind of peace settle over him. "Love you too, Claire," he whispered. "Love you too."
 

end

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