WaterWitch is one of the newest writers to join the fanfiction genre, but she has a clever, fluid way with words that makes her story one of our favorites. (Check out Jack's daughter's name if you don't believe us.) Reaching back into true Law & Order apocrypha, she makes the mysterious and elusive Sally Bell come to life -- and makes us want to hear much, much more.
"More coffee, Jack?" Sally Bell indicated the empty cup on the table beside her boss, Senior Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy. "Or I have Scotch, if you'd rather."
"No thanks to both, Sally. It's been a long, tough week. I'd better get out of here and let you get some sleep." McCoy stood up, matching action to words as he reached for his suit coat resting on the arm of the couch.
Sally managed to hide her disappointment during the time he was concentrating on the activity. Going to bed alone - more specifically without Jack McCoy - was not what she'd had in mind. This was perhaps the dozenth time he'd come up to her apartment for coffee after they'd ended the work week with a drink or two and a sandwich at Mulligan's. They'd discovered the neighborhood tavern in January, when they'd left the office intending a celebratory drink after McCoy's closing argument in the Lewis Darnell case. A vicious wind had steered them away from Archie's, standard after-work meeting place for members of the District Attorney's Office. Since that time, they'd returned to Mulligan's occasionally, and Sally had come to think of it as "their" place. It was where they went when only the two of them from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office were going out, when no plans had been formed to meet with one of the city's defense attorneys who also frequented Archie's.
"I'll see you Monday, boss." The title re-established the formality that had separated them since her first day in the office, more than a year ago.
She returned the wish, closed the door on his words, stood leaning her head against the painted wood dejectedly before engaging the three locks. Life in New York. Picking up the cups, she paused to run a finger over the rim where McCoy's mouth had rested as he drank, shrugged angrily to herself and carried them to the kitchen.
Showered and resting in her bed, she wished once again that she'd never begun calling him "boss." He had made her angry with his insistence on the charge of first degree murder for Madeline Chase, had arrogantly insisted on denying any mitigating factors. That the charge was later reduced did not matter. Quick to find sympathy for the long-abused killer, Sally had been less than gracious when he pointed out the merits of his position. From that mental jumping-off place, she flashed back to her start at the DA's office, her admiration from afar of McCoy, the bit of luck that let her know a position was opening in his department, early application for the slot, Rob Clark's decision not only to transfer her, but to make her McCoy's first assistant, something even her fantasies had not allowed her to anticipate. The action had catapulted her from tentative crush to full-blown desire.
There had been a period when he was seeing someone, a woman Sally had met during the Hector Brown trial. The affair had ended abruptly before Labor Day, as far as Sally could tell. That it had not been McCoy's choice was apparent by his obvious distress, despite his efforts to keep it private from prying office gossips. He functioned, he prosecuted, but there was a flat place in his eyes, altered only when he stared at the model sailboat that appeared in his office sometime during the winter. Eventually, he looked at it less often, began returning to a more normal self, if still slightly reserved.
About six weeks previously, his ex-wife and her new husband had moved to California, taking McCoy's daughter out of his reach. The story was well known in legal circles and left no unanswered questions about the situation, unlike the affair about which Sally had been able to learn little. She decided she knew all she needed to know: it was over, and not likely to resume.
"Time to move on, boss," she said to the empty room, knowing she was going to do everything she could to be sure she helped him on his way. Occasionally she felt slightly foolish, carrying a torch for a man who seemed not to notice her except in her professional capacity, but knew, too, that it was impossible to direct one's emotions.
The past properly reviewed, Sally restlessly reshaped her pillow, changed position and jump-started her fantasy of the future. Eventually she fell asleep, lulled by the imaginary warmth and comfort of the man she knew she was hopelessly in love with.
"You're not going to the Bar Association picnic?" Sally indicated the invitation thumbtacked to the bulletin board behind McCoy's desk.
"I forgot to RSVP, so I guess not."
"I responded. I was going to take my cousin, but he had to cancel. Why don't you go, boss? A little fun never hurt anybody."
" 'All work and no play,' Sally?"
"I'm not saying you're a dull boy, Jack, but you do work too hard. You can hang out with a bunch of lawyers outdoors for a change."
"Sure, why not?" McCoy answered impetuously. The thought of another weekend in the city was suddenly oppressive. Going to his family in Boston would generate too many bad memories. The distance separation of Allie-Kate, his only child, was a wound that would not soon heal. He'd not been able to generate the energy to take the new bike on weekend tours as he'd planned. More Saturdays than not had been spent in the office, its sole occupant, devoting himself to putting criminals in prison. Sundays had become half of a lost weekend, his only companion the too-frequently reached for Scotch.
Adept at hiding her disappointment, Sally was not nearly as competent at hiding her pleasure. Smiling broadly, she could not keep the eager satisfaction from her voice when she answered, "Great! And I have my own helmet if you want to take your bike."
McCoy lifted his eyebrows in surprise, then wondered at his reaction. That he and Sally had something in common aside from their profession had not occurred to him. The ritual drinks they'd shared had been wrapped in conversations about the cases they were working on.
"Why not?" A smile, the first genuine one Sally had seen in a long time, crossed his face, softened the lines of fatigue and unhappiness, made him look younger, as attractive as he had been when she'd first observed him in court two years before. They settled the details for meeting prior to the event still three days away, then turned their attention to the business of prosecution. If Sally was slightly distracted, McCoy did not notice, or if he noticed, he did not comment.
Saturday, August 13
Sally almost regretted her offer to ride the bike. The helmet would flatten her hair, maybe even make her scalp itch if it became hot. The tradeoff was being much closer to McCoy physically than she would be in his car. She glanced at the clock again, willing the hands to move faster. Fifty-nine minutes remained before McCoy's expected arrival. The apartment was spotless, not an unusual condition given Sally's need for order and cleanliness. Fresh sheets were on the bed, there was plenty of Scotch in the small cabinet, she'd tried on the new shortie nightgown - more expensive than she usually bought even on sale - and knew she looked good in it.
The phone rang, freezing her in place. Don't let it be Jack calling to cancel, she wished silently. It wasn't. The caller was her mother, and Sally settled in for an extended chat, glad of the diversion's ability to keep her mind off the waiting, ticking off half the remaining minutes.
The buzz of the intercom followed closely upon her good-bye to her mother. Sally answered the familiar voice, saying she would be right down. A quick, self-assuring glance around told her all was as she wished in her home. Helmet and small bag containing her beach wear over her arm, she pressed the elevator button, entered, rode to the lobby where McCoy waited.
"Looks like we have a great day for it, Jack."
"It's going to be hot, though."
They stepped onto the sidewalk, McCoy steering her toward the waiting bike. Deftly Sally buckled her helmet, swung a leg over the seat. She settled her hands firmly on McCoy's waist, felt him stiffen, relax, before he shifted and they tilted into the mid-morning traffic. Deliberately she blanked her mind, gave herself over to the sensations of motion, vibration and touching McCoy, relishing them individually and in combination.
The lengthy trip to Sunken Meadow State Park was over much too quickly for Sally's fantasies, generated as soon as Manhattan proper had been left behind, despite her self admonitions. Dream world evaporated as the bike coasted to a stop. McCoy held it upright while she climbed off, set the kickstand, dismounted. Gratefully, Sally handed him her helmet, shook out her hair, gave a quick, small smile when she saw McCoy do the same, then finger-brush it back from his face.
"Let's party, Sally Bell," he offered with a grin. They moved toward the assembled group, moderately sized, certain to grow as the day advanced.
It had been a perfect day, in Sally's mind. Easy association with their fellow attorneys and their families, excellent catering, the warmth, the water, the play time. If McCoy had been slightly less attentive than a date might have been, neither did he abandon her to her own devices. And there had been times when just the two of them sat talking, the subject matter at last not work-related. Sally encouraged him to talk about sailing, not as easy as she had anticipated given the model in his office, but eventually he fell into the rhythm of storytelling, days on Lake Michigan during college where he first fell in love with the sport, some races he had entered (only one first-place to his credit), a few from more recent times. Chronologically, though, they stopped with his divorce and subsequent move into the city apartment. A nagging concern - that McCoy might drink too much to safely drive her home - had not materialized. He'd stopped drinking alcohol late in the afternoon, had eaten a substantial dinner, followed by coffee.
"Nightcap?" Sally offered in the lobby, determined not to let the day end. "I have Scotch."
"Sure. I could handle one, I guess."
Silent elevator ride, over before it became actually awkward. Secure inside, Sally's helmet stored, excusing herself to "do something" with her hair while McCoy measured out the drinks.
That he had taken one end of the couch instead of his usual chair gave Sally a quick spurt of pleasurable anticipation. She flicked on the prepared stereo, settled on the opposite end, facing him, one leg tucked beneath her, drink in hand.
"Well, are you glad you went?" she asked.
"It was worth it if only to see a couple of these guys - like Madison - out of suits. When you see him in court he's so stiff you'd think he was born in a necktie. Nice to know he can kick back a little."
"Kicking back doesn't hurt anyone. Not even you, Jack."
Surprised, he gave her a raised eyebrow, quizzical look.
"I'm out of my suit and into jeans as soon as possible, Sally. You know that."
"Well, for a while the suit was still invisibly there." Probing gently.
"It's been a pretty bad year for me, Sally. I thought about relocating to California when Sheila took Allie-Kate, but New York is in my blood. It gets to some people that way. I'd be miserable on the West Coast, even if it meant being closer to my daughter, and eventually I'd resent it, the resentment would have to show, or come out in some way."
"I was really sorry that happened. At the time you were pretty unapproachable; made it kind of hard to offer any sympathy."
McCoy shrugged, but she knew the subject had not been dismissed. Without asking, she took his now empty glass, her fingers lingering briefly on his, refilled it, sat on the middle cushion before handing it to him.
"I'm flying out there for Labor Day; taking her to Disney Land." The first spontaneous offering he'd made about his personal life.
"She'll love it! I was there a couple of years ago with my sister and her kids. What a time we had." Recitation of a happy event, warming the atmosphere, easy chatter filling the space between them, lifting him from rueful regret to joyful anticipation. Eventually, a second drink for Sally, brief hesitation before McCoy accepted a third.
This time the lingering touch could not be called accidental. The look McCoy added made Sally's heart accelerate. Dark eyes questioned, read the answer, accepted it. A new level had been approached and reached, aided by mellower music, dimmer lights, the day of relaxation, the Scotch. A tentative first kiss, ascertaining by Sally's enthusiastic response that it was not unwelcome.
McCoy broke away, held Sally's shoulders.
"This isn't a good idea, Sally. The last time I got involved with someone in the office, it ended pretty badly."
"We're not 'involved,' Jack." Yet.
"We're two consenting adults who happen to work in the same place." She stroked the hands that held her shoulders, waited.
"And I can always resign," she said lightly.
McCoy gave a short laugh in response. The second kiss contained far more passion, questions answered, reassurances given. Mutual agreement, acceleration. Beginning exploration by anxious fingers, breaking away, starting again, excited breathing, muffled sounds of pleasure before Sally pulled back, stood, led the way into the darkened bedroom. Slow, sensual undressing before tumbling onto the crisp sheets.
"It's all right, Jack," she reassured, no disappointment allowed to show.
"This has never happened to me before." He sounded miserable, sat with arms dangling over bent knees.
Sally sat up, moved behind him, massaged the taut muscles at the back of his neck, over his shoulders.
"Long day, lots to drink," she excused.
"I'd better go."
"You don't have to."
"Yes. I do." He moved away, off the bed, searched blindly for his clothes. Soft rustlings told her he was dressing, leaving. Sally groped for her shirt and panties, matched her actions to his.
"Don't get up," he offered.
"I need to let you out and lock up. This is New York, Jack, even if I am on the twentieth floor."
In the dark she felt him go rigid, heard a sharp indrawn breath. His voice was tense, hoarse, as he replied.
"At least nobody can get in through the windows. Yeah, you better lock up, Sally. I'm sorry."
"Don't be, Jack. Please."
The breath that answered was more like a snort, but he didn't argue.
Forehead pressed against the painted wood once again, Sally stood for a few seconds before engaging the locks. Disappointed as she was, she knew there would be other chances. McCoy might not be in love with her - might never be. But he would be back. If only as a salve to his ego, to redeem himself, he would be back. She would direct things from that point on, if indeed they needed directing. Somehow, she intuited that direction would not be needed; McCoy had finally seen her as a woman, been attracted to her. Had he not, they would never have entered the bedroom, she was sure.
"'Til next time, Jack," she said softly, turning out the final light.