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[personal profile] velvetfiction
Title: De Jure
Recipient: [livejournal.com profile] technosage
Fandom: Law & Order
Characters: Claire Kincaid/Jack McCoy
Rating: PG for kissing
Word Count: ~1300
Summary: This job got more interesting all the time.
Notes: Written for Yuletide 2012. Many thanks to greenlily for the beta!

-----

"I'm taking a walk," Claire announced, and was out the door before Jack could do more than grunt in acknowledgement.

She paused at the bottom of the courthouse steps and shivered, despite the warmth of the sun. The drenching spring rain that had plagued her morning commute had given way to clear blue skies and the deep breath she took was about as fresh it ever got in Manhattan.

Automatically, she turned left to head down to the park, but after a few steps she stopped and reversed course. In Foley Square, and to a lesser extent, City Hall Park, she was sure to run into people she knew - friends, co-workers, colleagues. All people with whom she would have to smile and chat, people with whom her ADA mask had to be firmly in place. She didn't have the energy for that right now.

Instead, she wandered north, losing herself in the anonymity of the streets of Chinatown and Little Italy. The sidewalk displays and gaudy windows allowed her the illusion of distraction, even though she never really saw half of the things her hands touched.

Jack found her twenty minutes later, sitting in a sidewalk cafe, staring at her bowl of gelato like it held the answers to the universe. Claire tensed for a moment when she registered someone sitting down next to her, but a familiar whiff of cologne and an undeniably familiar sense of presence allowed her to relax. They sat in a comfortable silence.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Jack eventually asked. His voice was soft and held a trace of roughness that was always smoothed out when he spoke in the courtroom.

Claire shivered. "What, you're not going to demand that I tell you?" she retorted lightly, in an effort to distract herself from exactly why this man - her boss, thankyouverymuch - could send a ripple down her spine with just a few words.

Jack snorted inelegantly. "I am, as everyone up to and including Adam Schiff will tell you, the last person to demand anyone talk about feelings." He paused. "Personally, anyway. In the course of an investigation, that's another matter entirely."

Claire smiled half-heartedly and began drawing designs in the gelato with her spoon. "I can't get Jepson's face out of my head. Even his lawyer wanted him to plead out, but no. He was determined to have his day in court. No one wanted to put him on the stand, but he wouldn't be denied. And when he got up there, he didn't even try to refute or explain away the confession. He affirmed it! Jack, he truly saw nothing wrong with what he did. There was no remorse, no inkling that he wasn't within his god-given rights."

"And?" Jack prompted, when she fell silent.

"And it makes me wonder if we did the right thing. Should I have pushed for a psych eval? Should I have recommended he be remanded to Bellevue? Are we serving anyone by locking this guy up for twenty-five years? Jail time is supposed to be punishment, isn't it? But how can there be punishment if the person truly doesn't feel they did anything wrong?"

Her stomach twisted at the memory and she shuddered again, not daring to look up at Jack. She knew they frequently disagreed on the philosophy behind jurisprudence, and was preparing herself for a scathing rebuttal. Instead, she heard the scrape of a chair sliding along the sidewalk and felt his arm slip around her shoulder. She leaned back into his warmth, and stoically ignored the voice in the back of her head that said in no uncertain terms that this was a bad idea.

She knew it was a bad idea. First, she had done the whole "relationship with an older colleague" thing before. She knew how badly it could (and likely would) go. Second, nearly everyone in the whole damned courthouse - including Jack McCoy himself - had all but flat out said it would be a bad idea.

Neither of which changed the fact that for the first time in a week, the knot of tension in her stomach began to uncoil.

His fingers played idly, perhaps unconsciously, with her hair, and she felt herself relaxing further.

"I'm sorry, Claire," he said eventually. "I didn't know this case was going to be so fraught. It seemed like such a simple thing. We had all the evidence of fraud and grand larceny. We had the damned confession. It should have been a slam dunk."

"Legally, it was. The jury was out for less than half an hour. I'm sorry, I don't know why this one is getting to me so much. It's not like we haven't had much worse."

"Maybe that's it - we're used to seeing this kind of pathological lack of empathy in the context of violent crimes. You, of necessity, become somewhat inured to it. But seeing it displayed so blatantly in the context of bloodless crimes, there are no gory details to hide behind. Yes, people's lives were ruined, lifetime savings were wiped out, but no one was killed, or even injured. So Jepson's lack of empathy and sense of entitlement are all the more shocking."

"So you're saying that if this had been a murder trial, it wouldn't have bothered me so much because I would have been expecting it on some level?"

Jack smirked. "If this had been a murder trial, you and I would be fighting it out over the death penalty right about now."

Before Claire could respond, he deftly plucked the spoon out of her fingers and swiped a bite of gelato. The impish look on his face took at least a decade off his age, and Claire felt her chest tighten.

"Hey! Give!" She tried to grab the spoon back, but he held it out of reach. She pouted playfully, but rather than surrender, he merely scooped up some of the gelato and held it out to her.

Claire knew a challenge when she saw one, and deliberately took her time with the bite, licking the spoon clean.

"Feeling better?" Jack asked lightly, but his eyes were locked on hers.

She smiled slowly and licked her lips. "Yeah, I am."

"Good," was all he said before he pulled her towards him and then his mouth was on hers.

The knot in Claire's stomach that had dissipated earlier was back in full force, but in a delicious new way. She lost herself in the sensation of kissing him for a few moments before the warning klaxons in the back of her mind became too much to ignore.

Reluctantly, she pulled back a little. "We can't," she started.

"I think we just did."

"We shouldn't," she clarified impatiently. Honestly, lawyers.

Jack sat up straighter and gently brushed a lock of hair out of her face. "Do you not want to? Tell me no, and I will walk away right now."

"Jack, I - "

"That's what I thought," he said, and pulled her in for another kiss.

"We really shouldn't," she repeated several minutes later.

"Since when have you ever known me to follow the rules?"

Claire huffed and rolled her eyes, but couldn't keep the smile from hovering around the edges of her lips. "We'll have to be careful," she cautioned.

"I know how the game is played," he chided. "And so do you, if I recall correctly."

"I do," she admitted. "And I know how ugly it can get."

"It won't," he said, and stood, the picture of confidence. He leaned over and kissed her one more time, briefly but soundly. "See you back at the office."

Claire shook her head as she allowed herself the luxury of simply watching him walk away. She knew when she took the job that it wouldn't be dull. Now, it seemed, it was going to get that much more interesting.
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