Second Chance
By Jenna

Pain. Blinding, screaming pain. Claire moaned and tried to shake her head. That didn't seem to work. Her head felt very heavy. She was conscious of lying in a bed, of the beeping of various machines. She opened her eyes and just saw white. "Hospital," she registered before she passed out again.
Lennie sat outside in the hall with his head in his hands. Claire -- sweet, innocent Claire was lying in there battered and bloody while he sat out here. They say it's harder to get injured when you are drunk, that your body just goes limp. Maybe that's why he'd been the one unhurt. The one who walked around to the other side of the car and saw her slumped over covered in blood. He knew the memory would haunt him for the rest of his life. It had been his fault. He was one who needed a ride home because he couldn't drive. It was on their way to his place that the accident had happened. At least he'd been able to call an ambulance. The paramedics had said it was touch and go. But they made it to the hospital and now she lay hooked up to countless machines all beeping and whirring. She looked so young and so frail. Lennie gave himself one more minute to sit here and pray, one more minute of looking at her through the window of her room. Then he'd have to get back on the phone. There were people who needed to know what had happened.
On her hospital bed Claire woke up again. Sort of work up, that is. She wasn't fully conscious, but she could think. She could remember. She remembered the horrific noise of the crash, the screeching metal. She remembered the rest of the day before the accident -- a good talk with the Captain, dropping in at the law school, and the execution. Jack.
It hadn't been just about the execution. That had been horrible, awful, agonizing, but they both knew it was about more than that. It was about them. Their relationship. Her world had started to revolve around him. Work and home. Boss and lover. Somehow, without ever discussing what they were doing it had come to the point some decision needed to be made. People were beginning to suspect. Neither one of them really cared about that. Still, they seemed to reach this crossroads. Were they in love? Was it going to become a serious thing? Claire cared deeply for Jack. He was a good man, a good prosecutor. Things had been tense between them at first but eventually she came to respect him, then to feel more. She knew he cared about her, that it was more than just sex for him. Jack lived for his work, though. Did he really respect her -- her opinions and beliefs? Was he capable of giving her the kind of relationship she needed? The family she craved? Did she love him? Or was she still pining for someone else? Those were the questions she had wrestled with all day.
He felt like he'd been blindsided by a car himself when he got Lennie's call. Lennie wasn't supposed to know about what had happened between he and Claire. It was obvious from the tone of the call, however, that Lennie knew. "Never underestimate a good cop," he thought as he raced to the hospital.
Answers to her questions had eluded Claire before the accident. This brush with death had sharpened her perceptions, showed her what she truly wanted, who she really needed in her life. She heard his voice coming down the hall. That voice, damn, she loved his voice. She always had from the first day they worked together. He was her white knight and always would be. She started the long struggle back towards consciousness...
She lay there on the hospital bed. Deep down he felt responsible. This was the woman he loved. He should have been with her. He sat next to her bedside gripping her hand. She was so young, God, she was much too young for him. He'd always known that. For a while it hadn't mattered, though. He had simply needed her too badly. If she came back nothing would matter but the tremendous love he felt for her. Claire had known that he always held back a little, never fully committed himself. With her lying on what could become her deathbed, he vowed that other people's opinions, the differences in their ages could never tear them apart. Claire wanted a family and he would give it to her. If only she came back to him, he'd never let her go. Never again. He sat there rubbing her hand against his cheek, drinking in her scent, the smoothness of her skin. He remembered the feel of her lips on his, the utterly unique taste of her. "Come back to me, Claire," he breathed.
Claire heard the voice of the man she loved begging her to come back. That voice she had begun to fear she'd never hear again. Telling her he loved her. Telling her he couldn't possibly live without her. Apologizing for not being with her. Promising everything she'd ever wanted and never really dreamed she could have. She smiled and opened her eyes to see the man she loved, the only man she'd ever truly loved.
Ben Stone.


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