Disclaimers and warnings: These characters are not mine; they belong to Dick Wolf and I am only using them for fun, not for profit. Please don't hurt me. This story is rated NC-17 for m/m sexual content. Parts of the series also touch lightly on child abuse and its potential aftermaths, so please take that into consideration before reading if this makes you uncomfortable.

The "By the Light of the Moon" series is set in the Law & Order universe, and has relationships including Logan/Stone, Logan/McCoy, and (I apologize for anyone made queasy by the idea of heterosexual relationships) a bit of McCoy/Kincaid.

For this series, I am altering the timeline just a bit, as a warning. The events that led to Mike getting sent away from the 27th are not going to happen, so Logan will continue to be Briscoe's partner for the duration. I apologize to all Rey Curtis fanatics (which I happen to be one of, as well), but I just need more time with Logan.

This first story takes place right between the end of 4th season and the beginning of 5th, right after Ben Stone's departure, as Jack McCoy is moving into his place.

Permission granted to archive at http://members.tripod.com/wtnsslist

Any comments, questions, or criticism can be sent to bwebb@frontierz.com

Prelude -- Mare Imbrium

The Sea of Rains

by Barbara J. Webb


The bar wasn't loud enough; Mike Logan could still hear himself think from his table along the wall. He sipped at the remains of a Vodka Collins - not his usual drink, but tonight he needed something different, something that wouldn't remind him of soft blue eyes, that gentle smile, a voice that washed over him with all the warmth of a summer's day.

That's just great, Logan. He's gone for three days and already you're composing bad poetry to him. Out of the inside pocket of his coat, Mike pulled a worn-looking piece of paper, creased and re-creased from constant readings.

Mike,

I'm sorry I had to leave like this, but we've talked and talked

about this, and I couldn't see how one more conversation would change

anything. One more death. That's all it is: one more death. Nothing and

everything. I couldn't stay.

I'll call you when I've settled in someplace. I know it's too much

to ask for forgiveness, but maybe we can talk about it. I'm sorry. A

thousand times over, I'm sorry. I didn't love you enough.

Yours,

Ben

One little note - the only warning Mike had received of Ben Stone's sudden absence from his life. Gentle, sweet Ben who cared so much - too much. It had broken him.

Claire came back over from the bar, a drink in each hand. The left she set down in front of Mike - another Collins. They had come here together in the wake of the loss of Claire's friend and mentor, Mike's lover, the eloquent, astute, urbane Executive Assistant District Attorney Benjamin Stone.

"How are you holding up?" Claire's tone was soft, compassionate, the only one of his friends, besides Lennie, who had known about Mike and Ben. Public image had been important to Ben Stone, and he had felt like both his and Mike's might suffer if their relationship became public. Mike had occasionally fought him on that, but at the heart of it, Ben had probably been right: too many potential problems associated with it becoming common knowledge the EADA was screwing one of New York's finest. And Ben didn't like people to know he was gay - really, that he was sexual in any way. He'd kept his personal life wrapped carefully around him, offering brief glances to few, inviting in even fewer. Mike and Claire had both been members of that small group allowed inside Ben's boundaries, allowed to get to know the real man.

And now he was gone. "I don't know. I'm not about to go take a leap off the bridge, if that's what you mean."

That sad, wry Claire smile. She was too young to smile like that. Hell, they both were. But that was life in the criminal justice system - too many bad people set free; too many good people dead or gone. "No, I wasn't asking if you were suicidal, just how you're doing. If you don't want to talk about it, I understand."

"I don't. Not really. Maybe later."

Two years of association with Mike Logan had taught Claire that, when he didn't want to talk, there was no point in pushing the issue. He was much more stubborn than she was determined. "Okay, fine." She took a sip of her own drink - a martini - probably in deference to Ben. Mike couldn't remember ever having seen Claire drink a martini before, or anything for that matter. Not that Mike was much of a drinker either, but tonight had been a special occasion.

"I met with the EADA I'll be working with now. He's getting all of Ben's cases, and Adam wants me to stay on as his assistant, help him catch up."

"So who's our lucky candidate?" Mike hadn't given any thought yet to the new EADA. Ben Stone had been one of the few lawyers Mike had ever met that had come across as being a worthwhile human being. He'd managed to find good people to assist him as well - Paul, Claire - but Mike couldn't imagine he'd ever be so fortunate as to get two EADAs in a row who were tolerable to work with.

Claire rolled her eyes. "I don't know if you know him or not: Jack McCoy."

There were very few people who worked closely with Adam Schiff's office who hadn't heard of EADA McCoy. "His reputation precedes him," Mike said drily. "What did you do to Adam to make him stick you working for that guy? What are you, one of the last two people in the building he hasn't screwed?"

"Yep. Me and Adam, I think. He's got a great record for cases won, Mike. He's just...well...he's nothing like our Ben." Claire shrugged, a clear what can you do?

And the answer, of course, was nothing. Mike Logan couldn't make Ben come back, couldn't save Claire the annoyance of her lecherous boss, couldn't make the room so loud his brain stopped hurting, couldn't do a damn thing.

Except drink. And so that was what he did, he and Claire both, knowing that the sun would come up tomorrow and life would go on, because it always did. People came and went, but in the end, nothing changed.



A weight was on top of him, pressing him down, and Mike had to struggle for breath. The air around him was hot, thick, and he could barely work it in and out of his lungs. He had no control over his body; he couldn't move - couldn't feel his arms and legs. He was suffocating, drowning, gasping.

And the voices. Laughing, screaming, yelling. Pounding against his ears, driving all rational thoughts from his head. Darkness. Lights. Flashing.

A hand groping. A fist nailed into his back. Terror and pain. Flashing again. An explosion of noise....

Mike awoke just barely before he hit the floor. He wasn't sure what had torn him from the nightmare - either the storm outside, or the fact that his restless tossing had rolled him off the side of the bed. The sheet had been pulled completely from the bottom of the bed and was tangled between Mike's sweaty thighs.

For a good ten minutes, according to the bedside clock, he simply sat on the floor, breathing, letting the racket of the storm wash over him. The crashing thunder and driving rain were soothing - familiar sounds of New York in Spring - and the close, humid warmth helped him sweat out the remaining images from the dream.

The glowing LED display of his clock reported four thirty-seven: late enough that there was very little point in going back to sleep. It would take him too long to get settled back into something resembling relaxation, and not quite an hour and a half before he had to get up for the morning. He left the bed in disarray - no one but him was going to see it any time in the near future - stood, and gave a long stretch. Slowly, his muscles were unknotting.

He padded into the living room of his small apartment, his footsteps noiseless beneath the endless tapping of rain on the windows. It took a moment of searching to find the remote for the TV; it had fallen between the cushions of the couch. Once located, it was set to its most popular purpose - channel surfing.

There was absolutely nothing on TV at this time of the morning. Infomercials, Nick at Nite reruns, and what looked to be a Gilligan's Island marathon. The second time through the channels looked exactly the same. And the third time - still, nothing in the way of entertainment had miraculously appeared on Mike's set. Still, he kept going, not so much out of any blind faith that decent programming was going to suddenly appear, but more because the flashing white-noise was soothing and kept the clock creeping forward to daylight.

At this precise moment, Mike was just as glad that Ben was gone. He'd never understood these late-night rambles, provoked by half-remembered images Mike couldn't quite banish at night. Although the simple fact of Ben's presence had been almost enough to drive them away completely, the few episodes Mike had experienced while in Ben's company had almost always led to the tense, passive-aggressive give and take that was arguing with Ben Stone. The ADA had never understood why Mike hadn't wanted to talk about it, or had coldly refused his offers to sit up with Mike and keep him company. At times like this, Mike just needed to be alone, and Ben hadn't been able to grasp that concept.

But in so many other ways, Mike did miss Ben. He didn't even try to stop his thoughts from wandering into nostalgia over Ben's absence - it was better than thinking about the dreams.

Nineteen times through the channels, and the early morning news programs started in earnest. Mike settled in on NBC Sunrise on channel 4, and began the slow countdown to 6 am when his alarm would go off and he could start the day for real. One part of his brain absorbed the idle banter of the newscasters, while another part entirely wandered to familiar, worn memories of his absent lover.

Ben eased the door of his apartment shut behind Mike, as though fearful that any sudden movements might spook the detective. "Would you like a drink?"

"No thank you." Mike's eyes wandered around Ben's place, taking in the lay of the land. Like Ben himself, it was subtly fashionable, with a refined and urbane decor. Dark mahogany and understated elegance, crystal and satin, warmth and beauty - these were the trappings with which Ben surrounded himself.

Ben's hands slid lightly up Mike's shoulders. "What do you think?"

"It's nice." Mike leaned back against Ben, pulling Ben's hands down and around his chest. "Very nice."

Ben kissed Mike's ear lightly, then released him. "Would you like a tour?"

"Nope." Mike turned to face Ben, stepping up so his chest was pressing against the EADA's. "Just one room I'm interested in right now."

Ben leaned his head forward slowly, easing into a kiss . Tilting his head, Mike kissed back, pressing his tongue against lips that opened to receive it. "Would you like-"

"Ben." Mike took Ben's face in his hands, smiling at him. "You know exactly what I want." He pressed his lips once more against Ben's, pulling him into a deep, passionate kiss. "So stop asking me what I would like. I promise, if I need anything I'll ask."

Another kiss. Ben's arms were around Mike, his hands stroking gently down Mike's back. He gave a low chuckle at Mike's words, reached up to brush his fingers through Mike's hair. "I do know what you want."

Mike ran his hands down Ben's back, over his ass, down the back of his thighs. "Then what are you waiting for?"

Another gentle laugh from Ben; his lips brushed Mike's. "Patience, Michael." Taking Mike's arm, he led Mike through the house, and back to his bedroom. "All things in their time."

Like the rest of the house, this room gave off the sense of alluded opulence: a lush blue carpet on the floor, thick curtains cascading from the windows, an enormous four-poster bed. Lightly, Ben trailed his fingers down Mike's arm, caught Mike's wrist and brought his hand up to Ben's lips. Mike closed his eyes as his fingers were enveloped in the warmth of Ben's mouth.

The hand on his wrist tightened, and another clamped over his mouth. He tried to pull away, to ask Ben what he was doing, but he was held tight. He struggled, tried to open his eyes, but he couldn't - or maybe he could, and it was simply too dark to see. The hand on his wrist hurt; his arm was wrenched around sending explosive pain through his shoulder, but he knew he shouldn't cry out, couldn't make any noise. The beating would only be worse if he woke his father with his screams.

The sharp buzz of the alarm mercifully ended the dream before it went any further. Mike rubbed his eyes, and then his shoulder, only half aware of what he was doing, then stumbled in to turn off the clock.



EADA Jack McCoy eased himself into the large chair behind his desk. His old one had been getting pretty worn, and he'd managed to con Adam into giving him the recently vacated chair to make up for his sudden caseload increase - one could hardly tell that it had once belonged to St. Benjamin Stone. It wasn't still warm from exposure to the heavenly fire that had burned inside the former EADA - burned out, Jack reminded himself gleefully. It didn't glow with the halo of an object once touched by the pure, cleansing touch of goodness that had just radiated from Stone.

And it didn't burn Jack's skin with residual holiness when he ran his defiling hands across the leather armrests. So far, so good.

Stone was gone - for good, it looked like. Jack thought the office - his office was better off without the self-righteous, pompous refugee from an Esquire layout. It was only fitting that after years of seething under Ben's disdain, Jack now cheerfully took over his cases, with absolutely no intention of giving up any of the behaviors of which Ben had been so disapproving, even if it did bring a bit of dirt to the reputation of the DA's office. It was about time the secretaries had something to talk about around the coffee cart.

Along with Stone's work, it seemed Jack had also inherited his assistant. Kincaid had already given Jack her 'Miss Manners' presentation, but Jack had utter confidence she was already weakening to his charm. And then there were the detectives, Briscoe and Logan, who also seemed wrapped up in Jack's new deal. One big happy family.

Of special interest was Detective Logan. McCoy made a policy of keeping a close eye on his surroundings, and he'd been fairly certain that Stone and Logan had been involved in a way that was somewhat at odds with Stone's facade of purity. He had no physical evidence, but no one was that discreet, and he was fairly certain, on this, he could have gotten a conviction with his entirely circumstantial case. At any rate, the thought of getting to dirty Stone's boy toy with Jack McCoy's brand of fun made Logan an incredibly appealing target, without even taking into account his good looks and I dare you attitude.

Jack McCoy could only hope that Mike Logan was one of the perks of a now Stone-less office.

 

"Ben, you don't understand, I can't."

"You're right, I don't understand, Mike." The hour was late, and Ben was the last remaining member of the DA's office still in the building. Mike had been helping him sort through his and Lennie's notes on a case, but now he was just sitting on the edge of Ben's desk, where the EADA was leaning back in his thick leather chair and listening to the gentle sounds of rain on the window. Somehow, the conversation in the last few minutes had skipped from the trial to the prospect of Mike going home with Ben - a second date. "I thought...did something happen that I'm not aware of?"

"A lot, yeah," Mike mumbled.

Ben rested a light hand on Mike's knee. "What's wrong?" His voice was soft, smooth, sending small ripples of warmth through Mike. Ben could talk the moon out of the sky when he took that intense but compassionate tone.

"I just - I just don't do second dates." He shouldn't have agreed to a first date with Ben. A mistake in judgement, but one Mike was determined not to repeat. He like Ben way too much for anything good to come of this.

"Not ever?" Ben looked genuinely curious, his keen eyes taking that interested look that said Ben's brain had just engaged and was trying to solve a mystery - Mike wasn't sure he cared for being the focus of Ben's problem solving intelligence.

"I don't want to talk about it."

Another man might have gotten angry, tried to tell Mike he was owed an explanation, demanded...something, but Ben simply shrugged and patted Mike's knee before withdrawing his hand. "You're my friend, Mike, and I want what's best for you, and you probably have a better idea than I do what that is. But if you ever want to talk, I'm right here."

"I know, Ben." Mike stood up, his entire body feeling tired and heavy. "I just can't."

"And you can't tell me why?"

"Look, I should never have gone home with you the first time." And Mike still wasn't sure why he had. But Ben was so soft, and kind, and polite - a perfect gentleman who somehow drove away the horrors that Mike had come to accept as a part of life. "I'm sorry."

Ben deserved a much less fucked up lover than Mike Logan. "Is this because I'm a DA and you're an officer?"

"No," Mike jumped in quickly. "It's not that at all. It's not about you." It sounded completely lame, the 'it's not you, it's me' defense. Ben deserved.... "I made a mistake...it's going to sound crazy."

Ben spread his hands, his expression open. "I'm not going to call you crazy. I see too many genuine lunatics in here day after day to every accuse you of being crazy."

Mike responded to that with a sharp laugh. "No, this is - this is pretty crazy. See, I don't usually date people I like. Well, usually meaning ever. I just don't."

"I see." Just like that. Ben didn't even ask for an explanation, simply nodded at the statement. Didn't look upset, didn't argue, just accepted. "Well, if you ever want to talk...."

"You already said that."

That elicited a genuine smile, touching at the EADA's subdued, wry sense of humor. "I'm a lawyer; I tend to repeat myself a lot."

And it was that simple, no pressure. Ben was there for Mike, but was making no demands, and thought he probably was crazy for letting his own personal darkness push away this caring, thoughtful friend. Lover.

"Mike?" Lennie's voice sent the memories scurrying back into the dark recesses of his brain. "You done with those phone records?"

"Yeah, Lennie." Mike pushed the stack of papers across his desk at his partner. "There were several calls made to the victim's number from Donovan's phone. I highlighted em."

"Wow. Pretty. You get a gold star, Mikey." Logan rolled his eyes and threw his pencil at Briscoe.

He also observed that a solid rain had started while his mind had been wandering -- spring weather. "It's getting late."

"Yeah, but McCoy's going to have our hairpieces if these aren't on his desk tomorrow morning."

Mike stood up, grabbing his suit jacket from the back of his chair. It was far too warm inside the station to be wearing it. Humid and sweltering as they crept towards summer. "I'll run them over to Claire on my way home, if you want."

"Sure. Knock yourself out."

There was a light on in Claire's office, but she wasn't there when Mike poked in his head. Stopping to listen, he head voices coming from the office of Jack McCoy.

"Ah, detective Logan. Just the man we were hoping to see."

"Hi, Mike." Claire gave him a half apologetic smile, her eyes flickering over to McCoy. She often looked that way around the new EADA, as though there were something she could actually do to turn him into a decent human being, but had just been slacking off. "Those our phone records?"

"Yeah." Mike had a real smile for her. "And you'll be happy to know we've got calls between Donovan and Purcell."

Jack reached over his assistant to snatch the files from Mike's hand. "Thank you, detective." Mike didn't miss the way Jack's hand brushed Claire's shoulder as he sat back again, but neither was he going to say anything. Claire could take care of herself, even around the new hound dog EADA. "Have you managed to locate Harrison yet?"

"You'll be the first to know."

For the first time since he'd walked in the room, Jack actually looked up at him, looking half startled at the cold tone of Mike's voice. "You know this is all just entertaining bedtime stories without our witness." His expression was one of amusement, half-mocking superiority. "I know it's a lot to ask, Logan, but since you people lost him, I thought you might do me the favor of finding him again." Jack's attention went back to the papers scattered in front of him. "If you've got nothing better to do."

"We'll get right on that, Jack. Thanks." Mike utterly refused to let himself be goaded into losing his temper in front of Jack McCoy. "Anything else?"

Jack simply waved his hand in a dismissing gesture. Mike leaned down and gave Claire a quick kiss on the cheek. "Give me a call later."

Claire waited until the door was firmly shut behind the detective to speak. "You know, Jack, you're job's only going to get more difficult if you make enemies out of Briscoe and Logan."

"All I want is for them to do their jobs. Is that so wrong?"

"No, but you don't have to be as offensive as possible when you tell them that."

Jack smiled up at her; his face had that charming, gleeful look that Claire was learning to recognize as Jack McCoy at his most playful - and most wicked. "Do you think I'm offensive, Miz Kinkaid?"

"Often," she grinned, breaking into laughter when Jack gave her his wide-eyed innocent look.

"Honestly, Claire, I don't know where you get these ideas."

"The secretary pool? Most of them can elaborate at length about your evil nature."

Jack leaned back in his chair, stretching his arms above his head. "You been asking about me?"

"Like someone has to ask." Claire also leaned back. They'd been pouring over depositions for hours, and if Jack was ready to take a break, she certainly wasn't going to fight him on it.

"As long as we're on the subject of asking-" Claire groaned, but Jack didn't say what she was expecting him to. "Tell me about detective Mike Logan."

"What?"

"Mike Logan - tall, brunette, was just in here a moment ago."

Claire gave Jack a sharp look. "I know who he is."

"So tell me. You're his friend - what makes him go?"

Claire knew enough about Jack's sexual history to realize exactly where this was going. "No, Jack. Huh-uh. I refuse to participate in this."

"What?"

"Don't give me that look. If you want to chase Mike, fine, that's none of my business, but you're just going to get shot down. Mike Logan would never date you."

Jack got up from his chair, moved over to stretch out on the couch. "And what makes you say that?"

"Well, for starters, because he hates your guts. Besides," she continued as Jack opened his mouth to respond to that, "You aren't his type."

"And who is - you?"

"You'd like to know, wouldn't you?" Claire mentally slapped herself. She was flirting with Jack again, and she'd been trying her hardest to keep from doing that. The last thing Jack McCoy needed was encouragement from her. He was just so damned irresistibly charming sometimes.

But for once, he didn't rise to the bait. Instead, he rested his arm across his eyes, leaning his head back against the arm of the couch. "It's late. Why don't you go on home?"

"I'm fine." Claire was exhausted and her eyes hurt, but there was no way she was admitting that to Jack. "You want me to Xerox the phone records so we can send those over to the defense attorney in the morning?"

"Sure." And they were back to work, focused once again on the case. Claire had noticed, for all Jack's love of fun, it was difficult to distract him for long when they had actual business to complete. Just random moments of play in the midst of piles and piles of work. But there'd been a hungry look in his eye when he asked about Mike, and Claire was suspicious that once this case was over, his name would be cropping up again.



Mike caught Stone as he was waiting for the elevator. "You leaving for the day?"

"Just on my way out." Mike could feel his breathing go shallow when Ben smiled at him like that.

"Got any plans?"

Ben's gaze rested on Mike, considering. "No, no I don't. Would you like to join me for dinner?"

"Yeah." Mike stepped into the elevator beside Ben, and they rode quietly to the ground floor. A dining establishment was easily agreed upon.

All through dinner, Mike managed somehow to keep up his end of the conversation. If Ben noticed he was a bit more distracted than usual, he didn't say anything. Mike simply kept having to tell himself over and over again that this was indeed what he wanted.

When the waiter brought the dessert menu, Ben studied it with an equal level of seriousness as he would a legal brief. "How do you feel about creme brle, Mike? It's truly excellent here, but I'm not sure I could finish the entire thing."

"Sounds great." Mike only had a vague idea of what it was, but he thought it was some member of the custard family, which was fine with him. Ben gave his order to the waiter, folded his hands before him on the table, and turned his attention to Mike.

"So tell me: what's on your mind, detective?"

He should have known he wouldn't be able to sneak anything past Ben. "A lot of things," he answered truthfully.

Ben nodded. "That can sometimes be difficult. You want to talk about it?"

"Yeah." Mike was surprised at how quickly and easily the affirmative answer came out of his mouth. "I do, actually. Sometimes it's just hard to know where to start."

Ben accepted this quietly and slipped gracefully back into the conversation when Mike changed the subject. He didn't push anything, acted as though there were no hurry in the world. There was no tension, no demand for more, and Mike found himself relaxing in the calming presence of the EADA.

 

"Detective Logan!" Jack broke into a trot down the courthouse steps to catch up with the dark haired man further down. Logan turned his head around, located Jack. "Just the man I was looking for."

Logan, on the other hand, looked something less than enthused about seeing Jack. "What do you want?"

Jack pulled out his most charming smile, stopping two steps above the detective. "I just wanted to thank you for the testimony today. It was very helpful."

"Just doing my job." Logan's voice was icy as the turned away from Jack to continue his descent.

That was unacceptable. Jack put a hand on Mike's arm to regain his attention. "Is there a problem, detective?"

"No, you're just an asshole, McCoy." Mike mimicked Jack's solicitous tone, twisting it into sharpness as he spoke. He jerked his arm away and kept walking.

"Are you still upset over that business with Van Buren? You know I was just doing my job." Jack refused to chase after Mike, so was stuck standing on the steps calling after him.

Mike didn't even turn. Jack watched him go, then climbed back up to wait for Claire to catch up. "What's with that guy?"

"What guy?" Claire, just coming out the door, had not seen the interaction between the lawyer and detective.

"Logan. He seems to have me confused with someone else."

Claire's automatically scanned up and down the street for her friend. "Who's that?"

"Satan." Jack took Claire's arm as they walked down the steps, noticed her roll her eyes. "What?"

"Nothing. I just think you should leave him alone. He's not going to go out with you, so get over it. Don't you have anything better to do than chase after reluctant cops?" Claire gave him a light, playful shove when he just grinned at her.

"You gonna make me a better offer?"

Claire gave a long-suffering sigh. "You never give up, do you?"

"Never. You wanna go for a drink?"

"Sure."

But Jack couldn't put Logan out of his mind completely. The detective was attractive, young, energetic - all traits Jack looked for in a companion - and on top of that, he was determined to ignore Jack's advances. That only made him more eager to bag Mike. Jack didn't like it when people told him no, especially when the person in question had a reputation for philandering almost as gossip-worthy as his own. On top of that, Jack couldn't honestly deny that the idea of touching Stone's pet cop still made Mike Logan the most tempting dish on the buffet.

"What am I doing wrong?"

"That's an awfully open-ended question; you should probably either get a bit more specific, or get me some water so I can talk for a while."

Instead, Jack flagged down the bartender for another Scotch. "Come on, Claire, if you're going to work for me, you're going to have to start reading my mind. Keep up."

"Jack, the last thing I want is to be privy to your thoughts. I think I'd just end up feeling dirty." Claire took a sip of her own drink, waited for Jack to explain.

Which Jack did, after swirling his drink and listening to the ice clink off the edges. "Your friend, Logan."

"Why can't you just leave him alone?"

"Why do you keep leaping in to protect him? Are you his guardian angel or something?"

"No, I'm his friend." Claire had that hard look on her face, a look Jack was coming to recognize as her digging in her heels - the point at which not charm, cajoling, nor browbeating could get her to budge.

So he backed down, softened his tone. "Do you really feel like I'm that much of a threat to him?"

Claire didn't answer immediately; Jack could feel tension radiating off her. "Look, I don't know what your game is here, but it really needs to stop. Six million people in the city: surely you can find a date without harassing Mike. He's not - it's just not a good time."

"What's wrong? The moon not in the right phase?"

"Okay, fine. I'm going to tell you this, but I swear to God, Jack, if you use this as fuel for whatever weird game of one-upmanship you've been playing against Ben, I will never speak to you again."

Jack shrugged. "Sure. Go ahead."

"Mike and Ben were close - very close. Very, very close." Claire leaned down over her drink, her eyes locked on the counter top. "They were together before I even started working with Ben. Quite a while. When Ben left," Claire sighed, took a sip. "When Ben left, it really cut into Mike."

She looked back up at Jack, her eyes flashing. "And I'm not going to sit here and let you use him for your own selfish gains - to score you more points against Ben. Leave. Him. Alone."

Jack had never heard Claire this adamant about anything, and after brief consideration, he couldn't justify a cheap fling with Logan being worth a long, drawn out argument with his assistant. But it went against his nature to just give in. "What's in it for me if I listen to you?"

He'd said it as a joke, but Claire seemed to take him seriously. "I can't believe you sometimes."

"Aw, come on, Claire. Lighten up." His most charming grin.

That got her to relax; he even saw her lips twitch slightly as she fought back her own smile. "Look, if you really need incentive...."

"Certainly never hurts."

And then Claire managed to completely surprise him. She leaned over and kissed Jack, her lips pressing firmly against his. "How about me?"

Jack was momentarily speechless. "Claire? What?"

"Come on, Jack, let's get out of here." Jack certainly wasn't going to argue with her. He dropped money on the counter - enough for a sizeable tip - and followed his assistant out into the misty New York night.



"So what changed your mind?" Ben's hand rested lightly on Mike's back as he escorted the detective over to his couch. The carpet felt soft and lush under Mike's bare feet. They had both shed their shoes and socks along with their coats at the door - their exit from the restaurant had been greeted with a downpour, and both men were nearly soaked to the skin.

Mike shrugged. "I don't know. Guess I just really like you." His tone was distracted; he still didn't feel entirely comfortable with the situation, but for once it seemed preferable to distance. For the first time in Mike's life, he was standing beside a lover that made him feel better when they were close than when they were apart. Mike still wasn't sure why, but he wasn't going to spend too much time arguing with himself over it.

"Why, thank you Mike. That's lovely." Ben had a tendency to take Mike's non-answers and twist them into meaningful compliments. It was such a Ben thing to do, and Mike found it exasperatingly charming.

"You sure you want me on your couch? I'm dripping."

Ben seemed unconcerned. "A little water won't hurt it." He gestured for Mike to sit down. "I'll get us a couple towels."

Mike watched Ben leave the room, then quickly stripped off his wet clothes, dropping them in a heap on the floor. Stretching out on the couch, he crossed his ankles over one arm and rested his head back against the opposite side. Ben returned, but was stopped in the doorway by the sight of Mike. His lips softened into a warm smile, and he set the fluffy towels he was carrying down beside the sofa. "You're so lovely."

"Talk's cheap, counselor."

"A bad habit of mine, I'm afraid." But Ben knelt down beside Mike, laying a hand on his chest and leaning in to kiss the detective. The kiss was slow, gentle, but deep. Mike opened his lips to Ben's tongue as it pressed against them with understated urgency, leaned further into the kiss as Ben's other hand slid around behind his neck to pull his head closer. A tingling warmth began in his lips and spread throughout Mike's body as the EADA's mouth claimed his with polite exigence. Mike wrapped his arms around Ben, gasping at the feel of the fabric of Ben's shirt brushing against his own bare flesh. Ben's hand moved soothingly over Mike's chest, his fingers just grazing Mike's already hard nipples.

"Mike," Ben murmured against Mike's lips. "Oh, Mike."

The low, sensuous tone only awakened Mike's arousal further. He angled his body so that his semi-hard cock rubbed against Ben's hips, flinching back slightly at the feel of the cool, wet clothing, and then pressing even closer. Releasing Ben's mouth, Mike brushed his lips against Ben's chin, flicked his tongue across Ben's jaw, and sucked on the sensitive spot over Ben's jugular.

Mike began working at the buttons of Ben's shirt; Ben's newly exposed skin was cool from the chill of the rain. "You cold?"

"I'm warming up quickly."

Mike moved both hands over Ben's stomach and up his chest. "I bet." His hands moved behind Ben, maneuvering the prosecutor so that Mike could tilt his head down to lick at Ben's right nipple where the shirt had fallen away. "This help any?"

Ben's answer was a groan as both his hands buried themselves in Mike's hair. With just a fleeting touch, Mike touched his lips to the nipple, then breathed warm air over the spot. Ben was arching his back, trying to press into Mike's mouth, but Mike pulled his head back. "Ben?"

"What is it Mike?" His voice was steady and calm, full of lawyerly control, but his breathing was heavy. His soft blue eyes focused on Mike, full of gentle concern. "Is something wrong?"

"Only that this couch is going to get a bit cramped. How about we move to the bed - have some room to stretch out?"

"Yes." One more kiss dropped onto Mike's lips, and then he stood, taking a hold of Mike's hand. Mike allowed Ben to pull him to his feet.

Grabbing the towels, Mike dragged Ben into the bedroom. As they moved, he worked on removing the rest of Ben's clothing, causing Ben to almost trip several times. "Mike," Ben scolded, with more laughter than annoyance in his voice. Mike backed Ben against the bed, causing the attorney to overbalance and fall backwards, pulling Mike with him.

Mike's head was spinning. This was quickly becoming overwhelming - Ben's touch, his warmth, his affection were all closing in around Mike like a net trap on an otherwise harmless path. But he couldn't stop, couldn't even work himself into a state of panic. This was Ben Stone, soft, passionate, unthreatening, running his hands over Mike with a gentle possessiveness and barely suppressed desire from which Mike couldn't turn away.

So he kissed Ben deeply, trying to communicate every bit of his desperation, every bit of his passion, every word he couldn't say. Reaching out blindly, Ben grabbed one of the huge fluffy towels, wrapping it around them both. Ben's hard cock was between Mike's legs, and Mike squeezed them together, then released. The prosecutor's hips lifted off the bed, pushing against Mike.

Mike's patience was quickly evaporating under the heat of his arousal. "God, Ben, do something."

Against his, Mike could feel Ben's lips curl up into a smile. "We are doing something."

"Do something more."

"More, hmm?" Ben reached down to wrap warm fingers around Mike's cock, circling his thumb around the head, making it slick with pre-cum. "Is this better?"

"Yes, yes, much."

Ben chuckled at Mike's gasped reply and rolled Mike over onto his back. His head dipped down and his tongue traced the small crevasses formed by the muscles of Mike's torso as his hand began slowly stroking. "You are exquisite, Michael." His lips found a nipple, sucked on it lightly. "And beautiful." He sucked harder, increasing the speed of his hand. "So wonderful."

The velvety sounds of Ben's voice only heightened the pleasure he was getting from Ben's touch. Mike moaned, reaching out blindly for where Ben's erection was pressing against his thigh. Ben flinched at the unexpected touch, his teeth pressing lightly against Mike's skin. "Sorry."

"Don't be." Mike began moving his hand over Ben's cock at the same pace Ben was stroking him. Wrapping an arm under Mike's shoulder, Ben leaned up to kiss him some more. Mike put his free arm around Ben, and they held each other close, shoulder to shoulder, tongue to tongue, thigh to thigh. Mike felt himself approaching the edge, and increased the pace of his hand on Ben, so they climaxed together, both gasping for whatever air they could swallow without releasing each other's lips.

Finally, Mike pulled his head back, brushing his fingers through the thin hair at Ben's temple. The attorney's eyes were closed, but he was smiling. "I do hope you'll stay here tonight." His eyes opened, catching and holding Mike in their clear blue radiance. How could he say no?

"Okay." Another light kiss, and Mike took up the abandoned towel to wipe them both dry. Ben turned out the lights, and climbed into bed. Mike crawled in behind him, wrapping an arm around Ben, across his chest. Ben's back was pressed warmly against Mike's chest, and Ben settled his head against Mike's shoulder. They drifted off to sleep.



"You did what?" Mike shoved a piece of pizza as far as it would go into his mouth, waving the remains at Claire. "How could you do that?"

"I just had sex, Mike; it isn't quite the end of the world."

"With Jack McCoy?"

Claire shrugged, taking a somewhat less aggressive bite of her own slice of pizza. "Why not?"

"Not a week ago, you could have answered that question for me." Mike snagged a second piece from the box on the coffee table, leaning back against the arm of his couch so he was facing Claire on the other end. "Like because he's an arrogant, conniving bastard. Or maybe because he's a lech who seems to make a hobby of seducing his female assistants."

"It isn't like that. He didn't seduce me. It was all my idea."

Mike wasn't sure he believed that. "Are you sure he didn't just make you think that?"

Claire rolled her eyes at him. "Come on, Mike. I'm not exactly just in off the farm. I can take care of myself."

"He's a lech."

"So are you," Claire argued matter-of-factly.

"Hey, you know I would never take advantage-"

Claire reached over and patted his leg. "I know, Mike, I know. But you have to admit your reputation isn't really any better than his, so maybe he's really a nice guy deep down too."

"Doubtful."

But Claire wasn't easy to fool. "What's this really about, Mike? Is it that you don't like Jack, or because you feel like it's a betrayal of Ben?"

"A betrayal of Ben? That's crazy. Just because you're cheerfully sleeping with the man who took over his job, who he considered the worst thing to happen to the DA's office since defense lawyers-"

"Come off it, Mike." Claire's voice was compassionate, but firm. "I loved Ben too, but I think he was a bit...biased. They're so different." Mike started to argue, but Claire's sharp look cut him off. "Jack's a hell of a prosecutor, and at least as good in court as Ben was. And I like him, Mike. I'm sorry, but I do."

Mike slapped his hand on the couch. "Why? He's an asshole, Claire."

"Yeah, sometimes, but so are you." Her tone softened. "I just like him. He's fun to be with, and funny and charming - he's interesting to talk to and awfully sexy and I just like him. It has nothing to do with Ben."

"I just think he deserves a bit more loyalty-"

"He's gone, Mike!" The adamance of Claire's words seemed to surprise her as much as it did Mike. "He left us," she continued a bit more calmly. "We haven't heard a thing from him, and I'm not sure when he's planning to come back. I'm not putting my life on hold because it might upset Ben that I like his successor."

"But Jack McCoy?"

Claire shrugged. "You don't even know the guy."

"But-"

"Stop it. I'm not talking any more about it."

And no matter how Mike tried, Claire refused to discuss her relationship with Jack any further, effectively killing the conversation. When Mike wouldn't let it drop, she threw up her hands in frustration and went home, leaving the pizza only half eaten, and Mike Logan once more alone with his thoughts.

And outside, a light rain was starting to fall.