In the end, the reasons, if they had ever been there in the first place, became lost in the moments between the thoughts and the deed.
Later, she tried to convince herself that there were reasons for what she had done.
Maybe it was nothing more complicated than lust, aided by too many drinks and the long-standing, albeit muted, chemistry that had always flared between them.
Perhaps it was fate, and they were simply meant to have come together, considering the statistical improbability of their seemingly random encounter in a city the size of Manhattan.
More likely, it was tied to the increasingly tangled skein of frustrated emotions that was her relationship with Jack, this small betrayal a thread she clutched in subconscious desperation as she struggled to hold onto herself even as his constant presence slowly consumed her.
But in the end the reasons, if they had ever been there in the first place, became lost in the moments between the thoughts and the deed, until the memory of the latter was all that remained.
The bar was a relatively upscale one that she frequented with friends on occasion. Though it was only a few blocks from her apartment, it wasn't any place she had ever taken Jack; she preferred to keep that aspect of her social life separate from the rest of it. She had come there that night, tired and mildly depressed, not sure if she wanted solitude or company. In her weary befuddlement, she did not notice Mike Logan at the bar until she was standing right beside him to order her drink.
She turned and saw him, the surprise on his face perfectly mirroring what she herself was feeling.
"Logan, what are you doing here?"
"Here in this bar, or here in Manhattan?"
Claire smiled wryly.
"I meant the bar," she said, taking the seat beside him.
Logan shrugged. "I was having dinner with a friend."
Claire raised her eyebrows in long-practiced skepticism.
"Hey, I do have a few, you know," Logan said, a little defensive.
Claire took her drink from the bartender, took a sip, and smiled at the former detective.
"I know. I'm just surprised you'd hang out here."
"It was a lady friend."
Claire grinned. "And you're here alone now?"
He rolled his eyes. "C'mon, Counselor. I don't go to bed with every woman I know."
"Yeah. I can be friends with a woman. Like...Liz Olivet."
"Wait. You mean you two never --"
"Now that," Logan whispered, leaning closer to her, "would be telling."
Claire inclined her head in acknowledgement and he sat back.
"What about you? Where's McCoy?"
"You think we're attached at the hip or something?" Claire said, frowning at the thought.
Now it was Logan's turn to look disbelieving.
"C'mon, Claire, we don't work together any more. You mean to tell me that you aren't --"
Claire looked around, as though to make sure no one was listening, and leaned towards the cop.
"Now that," she whispered, "would be telling."
They laughed, and Logan tipped his glass toward her.
"Touché," he said. He looked around them. "So you're here alone?"
Claire just shrugged. "So?"
"Want to have a drink with me?"
She grinned at him, feeling as though she had found whatever she'd come into the bar looking for. "Why not?"
Far too many drinks later, the pair stumbled out into the cold, leaning on each other and laughing. Mike offered to walk her home.
In the brief silence that followed his offer, Claire realized she was standing too close to a line she had never before desired to cross. She knew she should refuse, call him a cab, and walk home alone. Any other night, perhaps, she would have done just that. Instead, she took his arm and smiled, leading him down the street towards her apartment building.
When they reached her building, Mike held out his hand. "It was good seeing you again, Claire."
She the proffered hand, and the simple gesture turned into a caress. Neither spoke for a moment, then Claire drew a breath and said, "Do you want to come inside?"
Mike stepped closer to her. "What about McCoy?" he asked.
Claire stood perfectly still, watching Mike's breath puff into the chilly night air.
"McCoy isn't here," she replied finally, her voice husky -- from the cold, she told herself, ignoring the faint chill of guilt that stirred in her at the silent lie.
When he leaned in to kiss her, though, any thoughts of guilt she might have entertained were far too easily silenced.
Claire woke slowly, trying bring into focus the bleary red numbers of her digital alarm clock. A man's arm was draped loose across her waist, his hand resting lightly on her stomach.
Still half asleep, Claire mumbled, "Jack. Jack, wake up."
As soon as the words left her mouth, she realized her mistake and rolled over. Logan sighed softly in his sleep and followed suit, but did not wake.
"Oh, God," she whispered, gazing blindly at the ceiling as the events of the previous evening slid into stark focus, aided by the cold pre-dawn light filtering into the room.
She closed her eyes again, trying to block out the memory of Mike's attempt at post-coital conversation.
He had tried to talk about what they'd done, to ask her what she wanted.
"Go to sleep, Mike," she had said, a little surprised at what she found to be an uncharacteristic display of concern from him. "I'm tired. We can talk about this tomorrow."
Claire knew she couldn't face him; if he woke and saw her there, her already-fraying world would unravel beyond her control. So instead, she slipped out of the bed and gathered up her running clothes, dressing as quickly and quietly as she could.
She kept her shoes off until she got out to the hall, afraid of waking him, then closed the door softly behind her and locked it. Still treading lightly, she made her way out to the street and hailed a cab. Once safely away, following her usual running route, she concentrated on her own breathing and the sound of her feet pounding on the pavement, as though the harmonizing rhythms could somehow help her to make sense of the terrifying certainty of her thoughts.
There was no guilt. No regret. Not even doubt.
She stopped short, panting, and stared at the path ahead, wondering how she had come to this.
Mike rolled over and opened his eyes, surprised to find the bed empty.
"Hey, Claire?" he called.
There was no response. He sat up and reached for his boxers, pulling them on and peeking in the open bathroom. It was empty; so were the kitchen and living room when he looked.
"Well, this is a switch," he said softly.
For a moment, he thought about waiting until she came home from...wherever she had gone. But as he looked around her tiny apartment, noting a familiar-looking sweater tossed casually over the back of one chair, a photograph tacked to a bulletin board and half-hidden beneath a grocery list, he found he didn't have the heart to force his way into her life.
He didn't doubt that he could if he tried, but she had made it abundantly clear what exactly it was she wanted -- or needed -- from him. Whatever her relationship with McCoy, they clearly weren't over, and Mike couldn't stomach the thought of just being her Friday-night sympathy fuck. If he wanted a place in her life, it wasn't that one.
Determined not to analyze that feeling too closely, he went back to the bedroom and finished dressing. He hesitated for a moment, then pulled up the covers on her bed, tucking in the sheets and straightening the pillows.
When he left, there was scarcely a sign that he had been there at all.