By The Sentinel
He looked peaceful and relaxed, more so than he had earlier that day. Asleep on the leather couch, one arm lazily tossed over his face, he looked comfortable. She wondered how long he had been asleep. Her pager had gone off the first time about two hours ago. She had not responded; she had known it was him and could not bring herself to respond. The second page had come about thirty minutes after the first. This time she called back and he had said he was on his way back to the office, on foot, to go over some case files. Almost another hour had passed before she even left her apartment. She arrived at the building and rode the usual elevator to the usual floor; sometimes even the most mundane tasks could take on a less-than-pleasant feel after dark. The hallway lights were dim as she approached the half-closed door. True to his word, he had returned to the office.
She watched the shallow rise and fall of his chest as he breathed. He was so calm. Earlier, he had not been; the execution was pulling at all of them, but he was the only one who had actually witnessed it. He had requested to go, had wanted her and Briscoe and Curtis to go too, but his was the only request made. Of course, her decision not to go had spurned an argument, one that Briscoe and Curtis, fortunately, were not a part of, though their opinions might have been helpful. The argument, it had lasted nearly an hour, forced a rift between them. She was adamant; he was stubborn. She refused to be a witness to the execution; he felt a pressing need to attend. She had waited though; waited for him outside, to offer him a ride home. He was still angry and said he wanted to walk. Walk? All the way back to Manhattan? Her logic finally persuaded him to accept her offer, but she was forced, reluctantly, to drop him at his favorite bar. Damn him and his Irish stubbornness! He wanted her to have one drink with him. She refused, not wanting to watch him drink himself into a stupor. From the doorway of the office, she could not determine if he was drunk and had passed out, or if he was just asleep.
"Come on in, Claire," his sleepy voice spoke from beneath his arm.
A little startled, she thought he was asleep, she crossed the plush office. "I didn't mean to wake you."
Gently, he waved her off; he was not upset about that. He was not even sure if he was upset at all. He had been here, on the couch in his office, for the last, well, exactly how long he did not know either, thinking about the day. Why did she not want to go? Why did her decision bother him so much? He was unable to answer these questions, and others, pressing at his mind. Finally, he had succumbed to his exhausted state and fallen asleep, though not for very long, not nearly long enough to feel rested.
"I can go if you want." She indicated the door, took half a step.
He sat up, swinging his long legs to the floor. "No. Please." He motioned to the empty side of the couch.
Silently, she slid onto the couch, meeting his unreadable gaze with her own. She opened her mouth to speak, but a slender finger to her lips stopped her.
"I didn't call you for a ride home. I haven't had anything to drink." The surprise in her face amused him. "I entered the bar, stood in the doorway for a long time before I decided to page you. You didn't return my call, and I almost didn't page you the second time." He looked at her, then answered the question in her eyes; she seemed a little impatient, "I called you here to say I'm sorry for not respecting your decision. I guess I just felt you and Briscoe and Curtis were abandoning me."
Claire shook her head. Her first thought was to ask why he felt the need to witness the execution, but opted to avoid another argument. "No. Jack, we weren't abandoning you. We were trying to make you understand, but you're just so damned stubborn."
"Yeah, I know." He lowered his eyes to the floor. She was right; he was stubborn, all his life. He liked it that way, a reminder of his heritage.
"Hey. Come on, Jack." She placed a hand on his arm. "We're friends." She saw him smile. "I saw that, Jack," she prodded, knowing he would turn and smile at her. Waiting only a second, she was not disappointed, a flash of white teeth arrived with the turn of his head.
"Thank you," he said.
He took her hand and pulled her back to the couch when she tried to stand. "Hold on." She looked at him confused. "Are we okay?" The pause in his voice was strong, he saw her lean slightly forward in anticipation of the rest. "I mean, the argument."
Claire nodded. "Yeah, we're okay, Jack." He was waiting for a kiss, she knew it, but could not give it, not right now; too much had happened today; the timing was just not right. "Can we go now? I'm tired."
A short nod and he pushed himself from the couch, stretching his tired limbs. He collected his jacket and briefcase, followed his assistant from the office, pushing the door closed behind him.