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 adult themes and 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 is the second part of the series, and takes place several months after the end of "Mare Imbrium," roughly around the fifth season episode "Performance".
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Chapter One - Locus Smiorum
Lake of Dreams
by Barbara J. Webb
Jack rubbed his fists against his eyes, trying to regain some sort of focus. Despite the fact that he knew he had read them, he had no memory of the last two pages of the deposition that sat in front of him. He and Claire were both up far too late, trying to find some hole in the wall of silence created by Shane Sutter and his Mack Rangers. A few minutes ago, Claire had disappeared to her office to find a file Jack wanted, and Jack's mind had been wandering ever since she'd left.
After all these years of late nights and general workaholism, Jack had learned his limits. If his mind was wandering, he wouldn't be able to get anything productive done until he'd given it a break. Pushing the deposition away from him, Jack leaned back in his chair and pulled up the phone.
Before the first ring had finished, Claire had answered. "Yes, Jack?"
"What are you doing?"
"Looking for the police report you asked for." Claire didn't sound completely focused either. They both needed a break.
"Are you sitting or standing."
There was a pause on the other end: Claire trying to second-guess where he was going. "Sitting."
"At your desk?"
"Just answer me, Miss Kincaid."
Again there was a pause. This time when she spoke, there was a hint of annoyance in her tone. "Yes, I'm at my desk. I know I filed that here-"
"Stop looking for it."
"Jack." Now she sounded exasperated. "We need it."
"Later. Right this minute, I want you to stop looking and just lean back in your chair." Jack had his eyes closed; he could just imagine Claire sitting there with narrowed eyes, pinched lips - the look she got when she knew Jack was up to something, but couldn't quite predict what.
But for anyone who knew Jack McCoy as well as Claire did, it didn't take a lot of thinking to guess what track his thoughts were on. "This is hardly the time for games."
"Come on, Claire." Jack lowered his voice to a warm, intimate tone. "We're both exhausted, and neither of us are thinking clearly. I need a break, and so do you."
"So what are you suggesting?"
She still sounded wary, but interested. Jack chuckled. "Nothing you won't enjoy, my dear, I promise."
"Isn't that always the way?" Jack could hear the sounds of her shifting around. "You want me to come back in there?"
"No." Jack twisted a bit to find a completely comfortable position in his chair. "I want you to stay right there."
"Hmm, and here I thought you had sex on the brain."
Jack could hear the smile in her voice. He absolutely adored that sound. "Don't I always?"
"Going to be difficult with me here and you there."
"You've never heard of phone sex, Claire?"
"What, you getting bored with the regular way?"
That brought a smile to Jack's face. "Not a bit." And he wasn't - a fact that still surprised him a little. Jack still found her as delightful, as lovely, and as captivating as when they had first started sleeping together months ago. It was more than just the typical convenience of having his assistant at his every beck and call - Claire was special somehow. Jack cared about Claire a great deal - it wasn't true love, but for now it was all Jack could ask for.
More shifting on the other end of the phone: Claire was also searching for a comfortable position. "So what, do I ask you what you're wearing?"
"You know what I'm wearing."
"Off to a rough start, Jack - you sure you know what you're doing here?"
"Oh ye of little faith."
"I could just close my eyes and think of England."
"I was actually envisioning something more along the lines of closing your eyes and thinking of me."
There was a deep sigh from Claire's end of the phone. "I think if I close my eyes I'll fall asleep."
"You don't think I'll be able to keep you awake?"
A long pause. "You know, if we can just get one of them to testify to-"
"Stop it. I'm on a break. If you're going to insist on obsessing over your job, at least do it quietly."
"What, like you'd ever do the same for me?"
"Claire, I'm offended."
"You could never do anything quietly, and you know it, Jack."
It was so easy to just sit here and talk with Claire. The light banter came so effortlessly, and there was always a simmering undertone of sex to almost any interaction they had. While at first Claire had seemed quiet and uptight, Jack had quickly discovered her hidden layer of fun and wickedness, and enjoyed it all the more for the fact that she kept it hidden behind a layer of cool professionalism. Her dry - often dark - sense of humor could make him smile during even the most bothersome of cases, and her quiet confidence in both of them was a solid support in those rare times when Jack had a moment of doubt of his own correctness.
Not that Jack could remember the last time he'd actually had one of those, but it was a lovely theory. Just like this case. But no, Jack was taking a break and refused to let his mind go back to work just yet. "So what are you doing right now?"
"Sitting behind my desk, listening to you. What do you think?"
"I think you're showing a decided lack of creativity."
"I'm not all that creative, really." There was a tapping sound - Claire's fingers against the receiver, maybe. "I have to confess, I love the sound of your voice, Jack."
"Yeah, me too."
"You love my voice?"
Claire laughed. "Mike's right; you are a bastard."
"Yeah, but cute."
"Anyway, I'm not sure how comfortable I am with you listening to Logan's opinions of me."
"I take Mike's opinions for what they're worth." There was a moment of silence. "Do I need to tell you how much I adore you?"
"You know me and my fragile ego."
Claire started to respond, but was cut off by a yawn; it was getting near time to call it a night. The last thing they needed was to be half-asleep in court. "Find me that police report, and then I think we'll be about done. I'm ready for bed."
Once again, Claire's voice was all business. "I'll be there in a minute." Jack listened as the phone clicked silent, then cradled the receiver. Refocusing his attention on the deposition before him, Jack pushed everything from his mind but the case.
Mike slammed the door to Ben's apartment behind him, causing the EADA's head to snap up from the papers he had strewn about his dining room table. "What the hell did you do to Claire?"
"I will thank you not to throw juvenile tantrums in my house, Michael." Ben's attention returned to the documents before him. "And it's none of your concern at any rate."
"It is my concern. She's my friend."
"And my assistant. I'm sorry Mike, but I am going to draw this line. I don't have to explain my professional decisions to you: not because we're lovers, and not because the two of you are friends." Ben's voice was coldly professional, holding none of the usual warmth he reserved for Mike in their off hours. But then, as far as Ben was concerned, he was still at work, so they might as well have been sitting in Adam Schiff's office for all the personal treatment he was getting.
That strange back and forth between personal and professional had taken a while for Mike to get used to. In public, Ben was as politely aloof to Mike as he was to everyone else in the world - there was such a thick line between their professional relationship and personal they might as well be different men. Only in private did Ben loosen his tie, soften. And when a conversation or situation balanced on the edge between personal and professional, professional always won out.
And arguing with Ben when he was like this was somewhat akin to pounding your head against a brick wall. Mike went to the kitchen, grabbed a soda from the refrigerator, giving himself a few minutes to calm down. By the time he was through the can, he was ready to approach things from a somewhat calmer direction.
Ben was still at the table, hunched over his papers. Mike came up behind and began kneading the prosecutor's shoulders. "Tough case."
"It's taken a bad turn, but I'm fairly certain I can resuscitate it." Ben leaned back into Mike's hands. "The defense is putting him on the stand - I don't think Mr. C-Square will make a positive impression on our jury."
//a girl's screams - a gunshot//
"With you crossing him, they'll be convinced he's capable of raping his own mother."
"Thank you, Mike: your imagery was unnecessarily vivid, but all the same inspiring."
//No! Stop! Please!//
Mike pressed harder, fighting past the tension in Ben's shoulders. "So if I ask you nicely, you going to tell me what happened with you and Claire?"
The attorney let out a deep sigh. "Mike-"
"Please, Ben. She won't tell me anything."
//screams muffled by a pillow//
"-threatened to fire-"
"-didn't tell me about a witness" //won't tell won't tell can't tell// "can't trust her" //trust me//
Gunshots. Screaming. A teenage girl. A middle aged woman. A slap as loud as a gunshot. Held against the wall - fists against his back - tied to the bed - pillow over her face - gunshots and screaming.
Mike fought his way free of the covers, but the lingering images of the dream were not nearly so easy to get free of. That video - that girl - had wormed its way into his subconscious, destroying every attempt he made at peaceful slumber for the past few weeks.
It was almost two o'clock, and Mike had no desire to go back to sleep. The dreams would only return. They hadn't been this bad in a long time - even when Ben had left, Mike hadn't been haunted like this. He knew this would fade eventually, with the memory of the crime, but for now, he was living on three and four hours of sleep a night.
He realized he was still shaking as he lay in bed, staring at the dark ceiling. "Come on, Logan," he growled, "Pull yourself together." But his body was refusing to cooperate. The constant lack of sleep and mental strain were taking their toll.
And he was lonely. As obnoxious as it had been at the time, he even would have preferred having Ben here, insisting that he talk about it, than to be here alone. But Mike was back into one night only gigs, back to the way life had been like before Ben. And only now was he beginning to understand how solitary that life had been.
But Ben was gone, and there was no one like him. Not that Mike was so certain he wanted someone like Ben again - in the end, Ben had been too nice, to compassionate, had cared too much. And he'd broken. Maybe Mike needed something completely different.
Mike couldn't imagine letting anyone else that close. Ben had been special, and Mike couldn't imagine feeling that way about anyone else, anyone who wasn't Ben.
But right now, the emptiness of his apartment was oppressive. Without even being fully aware of what he was doing, Mike lifted the phone that was beside his bed and hit Claire's number on the speed dial.
The phone rang once...twice, and then there was Claire's mumbled "Hello?"
"Hi, Claire." Now that he'd waken her up, he wasn't sure what he wanted to say. He couldn't quite bring himself to confess the simple fact that he'd just needed to hear a friendly voice, to know he wasn't alone. "I know I probably woke you up, but I - could you maybe - would you-"
"Shh, go back to sleep." Claire's voice was faint, and Mike suspected she wasn't talking to him. In the background, he heard another voice.
"Is someone there with you?"
Again, the sound was faint. "I said go back to sleep." Then, more clearly - she must have been speaking into the phone this time. "No, it's just Jack."
"Just Jack. Great. Look, I'm sorry about waking you up - and if I didn't wake you up, I don't want to hear about it."
There was silence on the other end - Claire thinking, perhaps. "It's all right. And you did wake me up."
This was seeming like a worse and worse idea all the time to Mike. What had he been thinking? "I'm sorry."
"What's wrong?" Claire's voice was gentle, but firm.
"I don't know. I guess I just needed to talk to somebody."
"You know they have 900 numbers for this sort of thing."
"I haven't been getting much sleep lately."
"Me neither," Claire countered pointedly. "The Sutter trial -" she stopped, and when she spoke again, her voice was softer. "That one really got to you, didn't it?"
The advantage of friends - sometimes, you didn't have to explain. "Yeah, it did."
There was a long sigh on the other end of the phone. "Me too. That video...it was all pretty offensive. I can't even imagine - you been having nightmares?"
"You wanna tell me about them?"
"I don't really want to talk about it."
But that wasn't good enough for Claire. "Look, Mike, you woke me up in the middle of the night. You're the one who wanted to talk. So talk to me."
"But it's not like it used to be. They're different now. Ever since Ben left...." Everything was different.
"I'm worried about you."
"There's no need to be. I'll be fine - I'm always fine. It's just bad right now, you know? But I'll be back to fine in no time."
Disbelieving silence from the other end. "Claire, I promise."
"That's why you woke me up at 2:30 on a Wednesday morning, to tell me you were fine? Come on, Mike. Don't insult my intelligence."
"Tell me what it's like now, since Ben left."
That quiet stubbornness that Mike knew no amount of arguing could dissuade. Unlike McCoy, who tried to topple his opponents with sheer force of personality, Claire quietly wore away at resistance until it seemed the only reasonable choice was to give in to her. Once she took that tone, there were only two possible choices - give her what she wanted or get away. And Mike still didn't want to be by himself in the silence and darkness.
"All right." His feet were tangled in the covers again, and he kicked them hard enough they fell completely off the bed. "I'll tell you."
But how to begin. "You know the nightmares I've always had."
"Yeah. You've told me about them."
"And you know they mostly went away when I was with Ben."
"Mostly. But you said they were even worse when you did have them."
Entire nights when he couldn't sleep, couldn't even stand to be lying in the same bed as his lover. "Yeah. But they hardly ever happened. For the most part, everything was great."
"And then?" Claire prodded when the silence dragged on.
"Well, after he left, I started dreaming about Ben - about us - only then those dreams would turn into the nightmares. And now, I almost never even have the nightmares without Ben being in there somewhere. Sometimes, it'll just change - one minute I'm remembering Ben and I and then the next it's completely different. And sometime's it's Ben...doing things."
Claire was just listening, and Mike kept talking. "It's gotten really bad - since we saw that video, and this trial. And I'm-" he stopped.
"You're what, Mike?"
"Lonely." The word was incredibly hard to say, even in the dark, at nearly 3 in the morning, talking to Claire whom he loved and trusted. "And you know what else?"
"No, Mike, tell me."
"Hold on a moment, Mike." In the background, Mike heard a terse exchange between Claire and Jack, although she was covering the receiver and he couldn't make out the words. "Okay, I'm back."
Claire's calm sounded forced. "What did he want?"
"Nothing, don't worry about it. He's just feeling ignored."
"I still don't know what you see in him."
"No, you don't," Claire agreed simply. "And you probably never will."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Now Claire was sounding exasperated with him. "Just that you're determined not to like him at all. You're determined to be unreasonable, and it's not worth my time to argue with you."
"You don't know him, Mike, so don't try to tell me what he's like. And I'm tired of talking about it."
Another reason Mike had to dislike Jack - it seemed the more mention of his name was enough to drive a wedge between Mike and Claire. "You're right. Never mind. I'm tired of talking." He hung up the phone before she could respond and stalked into the living room, trying to find something that would help him pass the night.
The jangling of the phone forced Jack to surface from the exquisite dream he was having involving beautiful nude witnesses. In his half-awake state, he almost answered it, but then remembered he was in Claire's apartment, in Claire's bed, and tried to ignore it. Claire's arm reaching across him to answer it drew him even further back into consciousness, even if he wasn't quite awake yet to really care about her breast pressing against his cheek.
He did tilt his head slightly to drop a light kiss across her nipple as she mumbled a sleepy "Hello?" She ran fingers through his hair with simple affection as she listened to the voice on the other end of the phone.
Surrendering to consciousness, Jack looked over at the glowing red numbers of the clock. "Claire, who the hell is calling you at two-fifteen in the morning?"
"Shhh." Claire brushed her fingers down his cheek, then sat up. "Go back to sleep."
"What?" Jack lifted his head as she slid out of bed, reaching for a robe.
"I said go back to sleep. No, it's just Jack." The last was directed into the phone.
Jack was aware enough to be annoyed at the dismissal. "Just Jack? Who-"
"Shush." Claire made up for her sharp words by leaning down and kissing him briefly. Then she was gone, wandered out of the bedroom - Jack assumed for privacy.
He dozed a bit, but couldn't quite fall back into slumber; he was still trying to figure out what was going on with Claire and her mystery phone-friend. In the early morning silence, he could hear the murmured sound of her voice from what sounded like the living room - thank God for cordless phones - although he couldn't make out the words. The tone was recognizable: the silk over steel sound she often took with Jack when she was trying to persuade him away from a stance she disagreed with, but knew that simple argument wouldn't be able to make him budge. It was comforting to hear that she did that with other people.
On the other hand, Jack wasn't sure he much cared for Claire taking that very intimate tone with some anonymous person whom she obviously felt deserved her attention in the middle of the night, even after waking her up. He got up, stealthily moving towards the sound of her voice.
She was curled up on the couch in her living room, cradling the phone against her shoulder, softly illuminated by the light of New York at night coming through the filmy curtains. She was facing away from him and hadn't noticed him yet, and Jack couldn't help taking a moment to admire the sight. A finger of her free hand was twisting around in her hair; her knees were pulled up close to her body; she looked like a teenager sneaking a call to her boyfriend after curfew.
"No, Mike, tell me." So it was Logan who had woken Jack up this evening. Was there any part of Jack's life this man wasn't peripherally involved with?
Her head whipped around and she shot Jack an incredibly hostile look. "Hold on just a moment, Mike." She lowered the phone, holding her hand over the mouthpiece. "Jack," she hissed, "Go back to bed. Please," she added as an afterthought.
"What so important that couldn't wait till morning?"
"It's none of your business." All steel now, Claire's voice held no hint of silk.
Jack stood there a moment, his gaze locked with hers, trying to gauge his likelihood of being able to win a battle of will on this subject. But on those few times when Claire decided to plant her feet, she could be just as stubborn as Jack, and it looked like this was going to be one of those. "Fine." He stalked back into the bedroom, his anger and frustration with the situation guaranteeing that sleep would be a long time in coming.
He was angry at Mike for waking him up in the first place. He was angry at Claire for looking at him like that - as though he were a stranger trying to break his way in where he wasn't wanted. And he was frustrated with the fact that, no matter what he did, this entire side of Claire's life remained locked away from him. Her relationship with Mike was territory Jack was not allowed to tread upon, a private club that he was forever locked out of, a line he was forbidden to cross. Jack didn't have Claire's permission to play whatever reindeer games she and Mike did, and that rankled almost as much as the assumption that he needed permission to begin with.
Jack was still seething when Claire came back into the bedroom. As she came around to his side of the bed to hang the phone back up, she stopped to look down at him. "You're still awake."
"How very observant. Logan's detective skills must be rubbing off."
"Don't start, Jack."
"Fuck you, Claire."
"You know, you can always go home if me getting phone calls in my own apartment is that inconvenient to you." Claire was upset about something - even through his anger, Jack couldn't help but notice her tense stance, her pursed lips. "God, you're such a self-centered...." she trailed off, turning away from him. "I don't care what you do, just stop talking to me." She left the room once again, and after a minute he heard the sounds of her moving around in the kitchen, although no light came on.
Anger at this treatment warred with concern over Claire, and finally concern got the upper hand. He got up, snagging his jeans, still on the floor where they'd been discarded earlier that night, and went into the kitchen.
Claire was leaning back against a counter, staring out the window with a glass of what looked like chocolate milk in her hand. Her eyes flickered over to Jack as he came in, and then went back to the New York backdrop. Briefly, Jack considered apologizing, but decided the situation wasn't yet desperate enough to warrant something that drastic. He'd save it for an emergency.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"With you?" Like almost any good lawyer, Claire could express so much in only a few words. Frustration, annoyance, as much with Jack as with whatever situation existed with Mike. And, of course, that slight bitter twist of cynicism, Claire's "like you care" voice.
There were few things in life that Jack was not willing to risk to a good bout of self-righteous anger - especially when he knew he had every right to be angry - but Claire was one of those things. He held his temper in check, going over to stand next to Claire, close but not quite touching. "It has been known to happen, you talking to me." His voice was mellow, soothing, persuasive - his best win-over-the-hostile-jury voice.
"What's this about? Are you really interested, or just upset because you aren't getting your way?" Now her eyes turned on him, daring him to take offense.
Which would have given her far too much satisfaction for Jack to even consider it. "Come on, now, that's an awful thing to say."
"Don't bother sounding shocked. I know you too well." Claire swallowed the last bit of her chocolate milk, setting the glass down in the sink. "And I'm still not sure I believe you're here for any reasons other than because you don't like things going on you aren't involved with."
"How about a little reasonable doubt?" Jack wrapped his arm loosely around Claire's waist. "You're unhappy about something, and I'd like to help if I can."
Claire twisted away from his touch, moving closer to the window. "Pretty words, Jack, but even if I had complete faith in your sincerity, it still isn't my confidence to break."
"So what, you and Mike have little secret phone club meetings on alternating Saturdays? What's going on here?" Jack's voice was still mild, without a hint of the supreme annoyance he was feeling.
Not that he honestly believed he had Claire fooled - as she'd said, she knew him too well. But he was hoping he'd get points for effort. "I'm just worried about Mike. He's not going through an easy time, and there's not much I can do to help him."
"What's wrong with Mike?"
"I'm not going to tell you, so just give it up now."
Jack decided it was time for the big guns. He came up behind Claire, putting his arms around her shoulders. "I'm sorry." He kissed her on the cheek. "You're right: this is your apartment, and you have every right to get private phone calls, whether I'm here or not. Why don't we just go back to bed and forget about this?"
Claire allowed herself to be held, but still stood stiffly, without relaxing back against him. "It's not that easy."
"I've noticed that very few things involving your friend Logan are easy."
"Jack, please, don't."
"Don't what? Don't talk to you?"
Claire's hand moved up to rest on his arm where it was draped over her shoulder. "Just don't get obnoxious about Mike."
"I wasn't." Jack put his other hand over hers, squeezing it. "I promise I'm on my best behavior."
"He just won't listen to anyone. He's even worse than you are." Her fingers stroking his arm took any possible sting out of her statement. "He needs...I don't know. Something. Someone. I'd thought Ben helped, but now I have to wonder if he didn't do more harm than good, all things considered. Just leaving...."
Jack pressed his lips against her hair. "You're not going to solve anything tonight. Come back to bed, and worry about Mike when you're more awake."
This time, Claire gave in. "All right." They went back to bed, and Claire pressed tightly against him, her head pillowed on his chest. Jack put his arms around her, stroking her hair until her breathing slowed into the sounds of sleep.
"I have a present for you."
Mike looked up from the crime novel he was reading, sprawled out on Ben's bed, at the EADA in the bedroom doorway. "A present? What's the occasion?"
Ben came over to the bed, sat down on the edge. "Do I need one? Maybe I just saw this and thought of you." He offered a slim box out to Mike.
With a smile at his lover, Mike took the box and opened it to be greeted by the sight of a new tie - plaid - of soft wool. "Wow. Ben, you hate my ties."
"But you love them."
Mike grabbed Ben by the shirt, dragged him down to Mike's mouth. "You're too good to me."
"Nothing's too good for you." Ben's tongue caressed Mike's, and he sucked it further into his mouth, circling it with his own tongue suggestively.
"You definitely need some positive reinforcement for this one."
That earned Mike a low chuckle from the prosecutor. "Are you trying to make certain I'm trained properly?"
"Something like that." Mike dog-eared the page he was on and tossed the book on the floor.
"You shouldn't do that. I have bookmarks you're welcome to."
Mike set about unfastening Ben's pants. "If you want to go look for a bookmark, that's fine with me." He moved his hand inside the opening, brushing his fingers through Ben's pubic hair and across his cock.
"Maybe later." Ben leaned back on the bed as Mike pushed aside as much clothing as was necessary, then lowered his mouth over Ben's growing erection. "I love you, Mike."
Mike pulled his head up just long enough to smile at Ben. "I love you, too." Then he went back to deep throating the attorney. Mike knew just how to get Ben off, and it wasn't long before he was swallowing Ben's cum, listening to Ben's heavy breathing as he recovered from the intense blowjob.
"I'm beginning to feel like I should buy you ties more often."
"Then my plan is working." Mike moved up so that he was leaning over Ben, then kissed him again, letting Ben taste himself on Mike's tongue. "How was court today?"
"Not bad. How was our lovely city?"
Mike rolled off Ben, settling down on his back beside the EADA. "Pretty quiet. Nothing that you'll be seeing any time soon, at least."
"There's always something."
"Yeah." Ben reached over to slide his hand over Mike's chest. Mike closed his eyes, content to simply relax in his lover's presence.
"Roll over," Ben whispered. Mike complied, stretching his arms out to either side as Ben began rubbing Mike's back. The prosecutor's hands moved over his shoulder blades, down his spine, over the small of his back, massaging away all the day's lingering tension. "You're so beautiful, Mike. I just love getting to touch you like this."
Mike didn't say anything, lost in the relaxation. Ben's hands kept working at the small of his back, his fingers brushing across the waistband of his pants, slipping under his belt. "So nice. Such a good boy."
There was something wrong. Mike wasn't wearing clothes any more, and Ben was holding him down. "You want to be a good boy, don't you, Mike? You want to be good."
Mike struggled harder as Ben's hand moved over his ass, his fingers moving into the crack. "It's the right thing to do, Mike. You'll like it, I promise. It will feel so good - you'll love it."
Mike tried to scream as he felt something press against the entrance to his body, but the bedspread filled his mouth, cutting off his air. No, a pillow. "What's wrong, Mike? Don't you like this? Of course you do. You're a good boy, Mike."
Mike couldn't breathe, couldn't move. "Why can't you just do what you're told?" Still Ben's voice, but with the drunken venom of his mother. A fist hit his back, making him cough, but he couldn't get back any air. "Good for nothing." Mike kicked his feet, flailed his arms....
"Scotch - neat." Jack slid into the barstool, flashing his friendliest smile to the detective who looked up at the sound of his voice. "Hi. You come here often?"
Mike's eyes slid coldly away from McCoy and back to his beer. Just what he needed. Jack seemed in an unbearably perky mood; Mike was not. So he continued to stare at the bar and ignore the EADA - ignoring his lopsided smile, ignoring the sparkle in those piercing dark eyes, ignoring the way his body just seemed to wake up at Jack's nearness. "You know, I'm talking to you, Logan."
"You know, I don't give a damn, McCoy."
"C'mon, Mikey, you're being unfriendly." Mike shot Jack a black look. He tried again, more seriously. "Mike, look, I think somehow we got off on the wrong foot." More stony silence. "Dammit, Logan, I'm making an effort here."
"Well I'm not. Just leave me alone." Why wouldn't Jack just leave? Mike had come here to sit by himself and brood, not engage in the tense verbal sparring he and McCoy always fell into.
"Why? What did I ever do to you?" Logan shook his head, but said nothing. "Why all the hostility?"
Mike shrugged. "Maybe I just don't care for your cologne." That was the wrong thing to say - it only made Mike more aware of Jack's scent, his closeness, his presence.
"You should have said something. I could always shop somewhere else."
This sort of banter was exactly what Mike hadn't wanted. There was just something so annoyingly infectious about Jack when he was in a good mood. "Claire seems to like it just fine."
Mike's beer was nearing empty, and Jack signaled to the bartender to give the detective another. "Maybe a compromise. Alternating Thursdays."
It was time to put a stop to this. "What do you want, Jack?"
"I don't have any hidden agendas, if that's what you're asking. I just came in here for a drink."
"Plenty of other seats in here."
"I was trying to be sociable."
Mike was not. "There's no need."
"I would have to disagree with you there. Obviously there's all sorts of need - you don't seem to like me very much."
"Is that a crime, Counselor?"
Jack shrugged and downed the last of his scotch. "I just never felt like you gave me much of a chance before you decided I was the favored lieutenant of the prince of darkness."
"That's a horrible thing to say about Schiff." Jack's grin made Mike reconsider his words a moment too late. He gave Jack the most unfriendly look he could manage. "You think you deserve a chance?"
"I think you're just afraid you'll actually start to like me if you give yourself the opportunity."
This was all more than Mike wanted to deal with right now. No sleep, bad dreams, Claire angry with him - and Jack McCoy starting to worm his way through Mike's defenses. He pulled money from his wallet to cover his drinks and dropped it on the bar. "Good night, Jack."
He could feel Jack's eyes on his back all the way to the door.
"I just don't get it. Every time I think I'm getting somewhere, he just slams shut."
Claire looked up from the case file she was reading and over to the couch where the EADA was stretched out. "You don't look like you're working very hard."
"I'm not working at all." He held a hand out to his assistant. "It's Friday night, Claire. This will all still be here tomorrow; I'm tired of it."
"I'd just hate for my boss to think me less than industrious."
"I won't tell him if you don't." He pulled his feet up to give her a place to sit down, and she took it. "Besides, I feet too good about the way this trial is going to waste an entire Friday night on it."
Claire leaned her head back against the cushioned leather of the couch. "The defense hasn't finished presenting their case yet. They could still pull something unexpected."
"Doubtful. We have a tight case."
"You always think that." Claire rested her hand on his thigh without opening her eyes. It was always nice, these quiet moments with Jack. There were very few people in the world Claire felt comfortable enough around to completely relax, and with Mike as edgy as he had been lately, it was nice to have the something akin to stability that Jack offered.
They were good together. They worked well together, enjoyed each other's company, could talk about nearly anything. And yes, the incredible sex didn't hurt anything. But there was more than that, much more.
Not that it was true love - Claire was perfectly aware of that fact. But it was definitely true friendship, which she felt was almost as rare, and for now, a good relationship for both of them. She was sure that sooner or later she would meet someone, or Jack would meet someone, and they would move on, but she was pretty sure the closeness they shared would remain even after they were no longer sleeping together.
"Allow me to make a wild guess - you were talking about Mike."
Jack put his hand over hers. "That's what I love about you, Claire: I don't have to explain myself very often."
"I keep telling you it's a bad time for him."
"Is there ever a good time for Logan?"
Claire still wasn't sure why Jack was so intent on this thing with Mike. In the beginning, she'd thought it was simply because Mike had told him no, but since she'd gotten to know Jack better, she'd come to realize Jack didn't really waste a lot of his time on people who didn't like him. He got bored pretty quickly with those who didn't believe in the wonderfulness of Jack McCoy. There was always the Ben Stone angle, but Jack's fierce competitiveness towards his former associate had been fading as Stone's absence lengthened. It was still there, and could be awakened, but Claire didn't think it was enough to warrant the constant effort Jack put into trying to win over Mike.
If she was forced to hazard a guess, Claire might put it all down to curiosity. Mike was a puzzle, a part of Jack's surroundings that he didn't understand, couldn't predict or control. Jack didn't like things he didn't understand, and Mike was consistently putting him off, keeping him at a distance. Jack couldn't figure out how or why - or even what could make Mike want to try so hard.
Or maybe it was something so simple as Mike had gotten to Jack - lodged himself inside Jack's head the way Mike did with so many people. The same reason Mike's answering machine was always full of messages from women begging him for a second date, or that he could hardly walk out of the house without someone trying to pick him up. There was just something about him - some essential part of his Loganness that people responded to. Claire wouldn't have thought Jack the type to be sucked in that way, and it certainly hadn't grabbed him with the same force that it did most, but it was still something Claire wasn't ready to discount completely.
At any rate, she wasn't at all concerned about Jack's random attempts for Mike's attention the way she had been in the beginning. Jack wasn't quite the user people thought he was, and even if he had been, Claire was pretty sure that wasn't what he wanted out of Mike. If it was, he would have gotten bored and moved on months ago. She was more worried about Mike and the way he'd been acting lately. It would pass, she knew - it always did. But it would come back, maybe worse, maybe not as bad, but it would always come back. And Claire worried that one day it might get to be too much for Mike.
Not that she thought Mike was fragile or anything. If anything, he was too strong for his own good. Sure, he was about as dysfunctional in relationships as they came - excepting, of course, his time with the almost saintly Ben - but almost every other aspect of his life went along basically untouched by his inner darkness. Maybe if he'd been a little less able to handle everything, it wouldn't be so easy for him to believe he was fine just locking himself away from the world the way he did.
Jack's hand squeezing hers brought her attention back to him. "What do you say we get out of here?"
"Sounds good to me." Claire stood with Jack and stretched, making a small noise of surprise as Jack pulled her against him suddenly.
"You tired?" He had that familiar wicked gleam in his eyes. Claire knew what he wanted, knew Jack so very well.
"Let's go for a ride." Jack and his motorcycle. Boys and their toys. Not that Claire didn't love riding with Jack - the wind and the thrill, her arms around Jack, being a part of the motion of the bike. Speed and power, life with Jack.
Claire had no complaints.
Mike lounged in bed, sleepily aware of the soft morning light and the man lying awake reading a book beside him. He slid his hand across Ben's chest and was rewarded by a soft sigh. "Good morning, Michael."
As the EADA lay his book aside, Mike rolled on top of him. "Good morning." He touched his lips to Ben's, then moved to brush them over Ben's cheeks, forehead, and fluttering eyelids. "Do we have any plans for the day?"
"Not one." Ben's fingers lightly brushed through Mike's hair, gently guiding his mouth back to Ben's. "Just a quiet Sunday."
"Good." Mike had no desire to move from where he was as Ben's tongue probed his mouth, sending sparks of arousal through half-asleep limbs. He slid a leg between Ben's, rubbing it slowly against Ben's groin. "Although I'm not sure how I feel about the 'quiet' part."
Ben's lips spread into a smile beneath Mike's. "Perhaps quiet was a hasty assessment." Ben gasped as Mike's mouth latched on his throat, nibbling on the sensitive spot right below his chin. Mike sucked at the spot, then blew cool air across it, then bit teasingly at the skin again. "Oh yes, Mike."
"Yeah? You like that?"
"You have to ask?" Mike moved up again to kiss Ben, running his tongue over Ben's lips.
"Not really." Mike's hands were moving over Ben's arms, his shoulders, re-exploring the familiar body. "You gotta love Sundays."
Ben was starting to squirm beneath Mike, a growing erection pressing against Mike's leg. "I love the ones spent with you."
Every Sunday, practically. Mike would have had to try to remember the last Saturday night he hadn't spent with Ben, either at Ben's place or his own. Going on two years now they had been together, and they were practically living together.
Practically. That was the operative word. Ben thought it would cause too many problems for Mike to actually move in with him - and maybe he was even right, despite the fact that Mike couldn't imagine anything he wouldn't be willing to put up with. Ben kept saying maybe someday, but not now, no matter how much Mike wanted it. It was the only flawed facet of the otherwise perfect relationship.
And Mike wasn't going to let it spoil his Sunday. He slid down Ben's body so that his face was poised over one already erect nipple and his hand could easily grasp Ben's cock. Ben moaned as Mike flipped his tongue around the nub and rubbed his thumb over the head. Ben's hips bucked up against him as his hand slid down Ben's shaft and back up. Mike loved how responsive Ben was; Mike knew him so well, knew how to get any response out of Ben he wanted. Mike's lover - Mike's love.
Mike opened his eyes to darkness and the sounds of the city. No nightmares tonight, only warmly intimate dreams of Ben. More peaceful, maybe, but still leaving him painfully aware of the fact that he was the only person in his bed. He rolled over on his side, wrapping an arm under his pillow, trying to find a comfortable position to fall back asleep. His other arm was stretched out in front of him, draped over the empty side of the bed.
It had been over three weeks since he'd shared a bed with anyone - and he certainly hadn't lingered in her apartment long enough to sleep. Kasey with a K. But in addition to making him generally anti-social, Mike's dreams had cut down on his sleep enough that he hadn't felt like going out hunting.
And it didn't really help the loneliness anyway - not Kasey with a K, or Sharon, or Jessica, or any of the rest of the blurred faces and jumble of names. That was just sex, and would never be anything more than sex. The women Mike took home at night were not the type of people Mike wanted to have anything to do with during the day. But then Mike wasn't looking for relationship material, just a good lay. Pretty, easy, disposable.
Mike's love life, such as it was.
Except for Ben, Mike's first, last, and only long term relationship. One of the few times in his life he'd wanted to see someone past the first date. Not shocking - Mike didn't tend to date people he liked. But every other time, it had lasted no more than a week - well, maybe two. And then it had gotten to be too much. Sometimes Mike had left, but mostly they had, unable to deal with Mike's neurosis.
Ben had stayed. He had learned the rules necessary for life with Mike - not to touch him while he slept, not to hold him too tightly, to just leave him alone when he was pacing the floor after a nightmare. Ben had learned the rules and loved him despite that.
Now Ben was gone, and Mike had discovered he'd lost his taste for the fast-food, cheap motel, in and outs. Ben was gone, and Mike had learned to hate long nights alone. Ben was gone, and after eight months Mike was fairly certain he was never coming back.
Mike was still angry when he thought about it. Ben had dropped him like so much dirty laundry, and had never come back to clean up. So much for love and loyalty. Just words. In the end, Ben had proven himself to be as self-centered as McCoy kept saying he was.
Jack McCoy. How had he slipped into Mike's midnight mental ramblings? He'd been given Ben's cases, Ben's assistant, Ben's detectives, and so much that Ben was not. Aggressive where Ben was compromising, manipulative where Ben was direct, quarrelsome where Ben was gentle. But also fearless where Ben was cautious, flamboyant where Ben was reserved, witty where Ben was serious.
And all the ways they were alike that even Mike couldn't argue with - their passion, their eloquence, their dedication. Eight months of concerted effort couldn't blind Mike to the reasons why Claire liked Jack, even though he still refused to betray Ben's memory be becoming pals with the man Ben had so disdained. Maybe Claire was right and Jack wasn't half the bastard Ben and everyone else thought he was, but he was still enough of one for Mike to avoid.
Even if Jack was trying to be friendly. Even if that damn grin was occasionally infectious. Even if McCoy held the ten million dollar check from Ed McMahon, Mike would not be his friend.
Even if Jack turned him on so much he was surprised light wasn't shining out of his ears.
Mike flopped over onto his stomach. He was only keeping himself awake, the last thing he needed to be doing on a night with no bad dreams to set him pacing. He could spare the angst and self-examination for the next night when he was awake anyway. Tonight, he was going to sleep, dammit.
By sheer force of will, he kept his mind empty enough for sleep to return, and slept straight through till morning without any further disturbance.