Side Bar

Disclaimer:  NBC, MCA/Universal and Wolf Films owns them.
Rating:  PG13
Summary:   Part 1. Jack McCoy has a very bad few weeks and goes looking for relief. He finds something completely unexpected.
Copyright June 2002 Cassatt

It had been a particularly grueling trial. Not that each one didn't have its share of obstacles to overcome. This was the law. Not that each one didn't have its share of late nights and bleary eyes and belligerent defense attorneys. This was the game, after all.

As Jack McCoy drove his motorcycle through the streets of New York, he imagined the stresses of the trial peeling away from him in the purity of the wind. Sloughing off his shoulders. Lessening the burden. He needed this - to be riding free, with the hum of an engine between his legs, his clothes billowing away from his back. He needed this.

He parked in an alley he occasioned only a few times a year. He took off his helmet and locked the bike. He ran a hand through his hair and straightened his leather jacket. Routine actions that didn't soothe, but instead heightened his sense of anticipation, and excitement. The soon to be experienced deviation from the norm that was his life.

Walking into the club, he took an uncharacteristic deep breath. Music with a steady beat assaulted his ears. His pulse responded. Carrying his helmet, he made his way to an empty stool at the bar, on the side, facing the room and, more importantly, the door.

After ordering, he finally let his glance drift over the crowd, taking it all in. His heartbeat, which had been racing along since he'd left the office, skipped. The place was nearly wall to wall men. He needed this, too.

Every three or four months, he needed the feel of muscles pressing up against his own, of strong hands clutching his hips, of hot, hard kisses. Testosterone-driven madness. Release that was unique, and necessary for his sanity.

He sipped the drink placed in front of him and continued to survey the room. He was anonymous here, though not exactly unknown. No details of his life were shared, no names other than his given one were spoken, no phone numbers exchanged when the encounter was finished. It had worked that way for two years, ever since he'd found this place. Tonight, he didn't feel quite as picky as in times past. Didn't feel that he had to find the perfect man. Tonight, he only wanted to be taken somewhere and given some peace.

The man sitting next to him seemed like a good prospect. Jack knew the difference in their ages would not be so relevant, for he kept himself in good shape and didn't wear his years as poorly as many men. The flirting was making his hands tingle. The open collar of the man's shirt was doing the same.

Then his eyes shifted to the doorway and his heart simply stopped. In walked Ed Green, with two other men, laughing and greeting a few others as they entered the club. The detective looked like anything but a police officer. Instead of his usual suit and overcoat, he wore a V-neck sweater with a pair of jeans, and even across the murky club Jack could see the gleam of his teeth as he smiled.

Ed hadn't noticed him, but Jack couldn't make himself follow suit. Couldn't make himself drag his attention back to the man he was trying to pick up. Couldn't make himself stand and work them both out the back door, retaining his anonymity. His eyes stayed on Ed, until the inevitable happened. The other man's eyes drifted away from his friends' and found Jack's.

Jack had to hand it to him, he was cool. Shock barely registered. He wondered why he'd even let it happen. He should have been trotting out of this place. Yet, he'd become lodged on his stool. He picked up his glass and took a much needed swallow. The reality of what he'd done was hitting him. Hard.

The man next to him made some excuses and left, but Jack couldn't blame him. Whatever might have happened between them wasn't going to, and they both knew it. That was one thing about this place that he'd always been grateful for. No pretenses. No games.

He turned to face the bar again and finished his drink, waving to the bartender for a refill. Closing his eyes, he tried to decide what to do. His blood was still humming; the need was still there. But without evidence, the detective couldn't necessarily make any assumption about him. Jack could simply get up and go home. Alone.

"I'll take care of that," the smooth voice at his elbow said, startling him. His heart thudded against his ribs. He looked to his right, not needing confirmation that Ed was now standing next to him, fishing money out of his pocket, paying the bartender for the drink.

"That's not necessary," Jack said, taking bills out of his own pocket.

Ed grinned and sat on the empty stool. "Hey, consider it a congratulatory gesture. For a job well done." He picked up his own glass and raised it. "Cheers."

His heart still pounding away, he did the same. "Cheers." They drank.

"So, I guess I could say something ridiculous like I can't remember ever seeing you here before, or small world isn't it. But I won't."

"I appreciate that." Jack wasn't immune to the man's gentle smile, or the shine of his eyes, or the chest clearly delineated by the lightweight sweater. He nearly groaned out loud. But this was Detective Green. Bad, bad choice, very bad choice. Then he chuckled to himself. As if this young man would even be interested.

"What's so funny?" Ed sipped his beer.

Jack raised his hand. "It's just the absurdity of this situation." He gave up another pretense. "Neither of us can speak the truth. I know we've only worked together for about a year, but we're both grown men. And I, for one, talk for a living..." He chuckled again and took another swallow.

"And what is the truth?"

But Jack didn't share all of it, he couldn't, not that part, anyway. "That we've found each other in a gay club, and by inference therefore we're either gay, or bisexual, or at the very least, curious. That it's a surprise. No, not a surprise, a shock. I confess, Detective, you are the very last person I expected to come through that door."

"Ed," he stated.

Jack looked at him closely. "Ed," he conceded.

"Well, I confess, Jack, that I never expected to see you here tonight, either." Ed paused, fiddling with his glass. "I come here regularly. I trust that will remain between the two of us."

"It will."

Ed drank more beer. "You know, it was hard enough making detective being Afro-American, much less being out. I play the game. This place, and my friends, have saved my sanity."

"I understand, believe me."

Ed smiled again, and Jack watched a dimple appear. To cover up his reaction to it, he studied the amber liquid in his glass.

"So," said Ed, still smiling, "do you want to dance?"

His heart rate started to rise again. "I don't dance," he answered quickly.

The smile vanished.

"Really, Ed - I don't dance. Two left feet. I'm hopeless."

"Well - what do you want?"

The question hung in the air between them. Dark eyes burned into his and he'd clearly felt the hitch in his breathing. He hoped it hadn't been noticeable. It was inconceivable to him that Ed was making a pass. Inconceivable. He decided to tell another truth, thinking it would make it easier for the cop to return to his friends.

"I'm just here to find someone, to forget the trial for one night. Or a few hours."

Now it was the answer that remained suspended. Waiting for a response. Ed merely nodded and drank more beer, but didn't make a move to leave.

Jack suddenly felt antsy, and needed to pee. He stood, swaying unexpectedly. Ed put a hand on his waist at the same time Jack made a grab for the man's shoulder. He was embarrassed; he could hold his liquor better than this.

"You okay?" Ed asked, not moving his hand.

"Yeah - just too many nights without sleep and no dinner before I came here." He didn't move his hand, either, though he was steady and the bar had stopped tilting. Just as he'd imagined, Ed's muscles were hard, and as that thought registered he pulled away sharply. Too sharply. Embarrassed again and getting pissed at himself for it, he moved, saying he was taking a bathroom break. He left his helmet on the bar.

Washing his hands, he made another decision. He was going to have to get out of this place. The need he felt had not diminished - if anything, Ed Green's close proximity had only intensified it. His skin felt too tight and even with the alcohol, his blood was hot, and pulsating. But anonymity was paramount, absolutely paramount. He closed his eyes and leaned on the sink, making a plan for finding yet another club. One that was safe, and clean.

Two arms snaked around his waist and he nearly jumped. But he recognized the scent, and the hands pulling him back against a strong chest, and the face that looked over his shoulder in the mirror. Then Ed dipped his head and pressed warm lips to Jack's neck. He couldn't stop the small moan that came up from his gut as his pulse took off.

"I live eight blocks from here," said Ed into his ear, "I'd love a ride home."

Jack tried to think, but the feel of the body contact was overwhelming him. Anonymity, he told himself, you'll pay for this somehow. The words rang hollow in his mind. Ed gently thrust his hips and that did it. He nodded. Ed released his hold, and picked up the helmet from the floor. Jack took it and the pact was sealed.

Driving his bike, he did his best to keep his brain engaged in the task of getting them to Ed's building. But the man behind him had worked his hands under the leather jacket, and was trailing fingers across his chest, and belly. Blood was now pooling below his waist. He didn't stop the exploration, however. Wouldn't have stopped it for anything.

Ed unlocked the door to his apartment and led the way in. The moment Jack closed the door behind them, the other man turned and pushed him back against it. Firmly and still gently, Ed held his shoulders, made clear, intense eye contact, then took his mouth in a hot, hungry kiss. Jack groaned. This was what he'd been needing, and craving. He returned the kisses just as hungrily until his head was swimming.

He pulled at the bottom of Ed's sweater, finding soft skin over a hard back, clutching at him, tasting him, succumbing to him. Giving to him.

Ed moved enough to take his sweater up and off, tossing it somewhere on the floor of the hallway. Their eyes locked again. Jack removed his jacket and dropped it over the helmet that had landed with the first contact of their lips. His heart was thudding so loudly he could hear it. Ed put out his hand and he took it. The man led him to the bedroom.

Jack woke for the second time because of his bladder. Warm skin was under his cheek, leg and arm. Ed was sleeping soundly on his stomach, and he was half-sprawled on the man's back. Not the usual position he found himself in after one of his encounters. Usually, he never let himself sleep at all. He got up after seeing the time, thinking the few hours before he was due at the office could be spent at home: showering, eating, relaxing.

After relieving himself, he pulled on his clothes as quietly as he could. He didn't want to leave without saying anything, but also didn't want an awkward moment. He was loathe to have an awkward moment with this man. He went looking for a piece of paper.

Ed's apartment was something of a surprise to Jack. The living room was comfortably furnished and nearly meticulous. Lived in, certainly, but neat. It was the number of books that was the surprise. He spent some quiet minutes reading titles. Ed had an eclectic mix, many of which were hardcover, some of which looked to be first editions. His eyes traveled down a few shelves to the CD collection, and again, he found a wide range of taste. Jack reassessed his characterization of the man.

He also studied the framed photos around the room, seeing what appeared to be a large family. A happy one, not like his own. At the desk, he wrote a note and when he signed it, had the fleeting urge to sign his full name. Just as a reminder that he was not anonymous, and only 'Jack.' He grinned to himself, leaving the note on the bedside table. Slipping on his shoes, he took one last look at Detective Ed Green, still sleeping soundly.

At the front door, after putting on his jacket, he picked up Ed's sweater. He shook it out, folded it neatly, and placed it on the living room couch. He closed the door softly behind him.

Jack leaned back in his desk chair and stretched. He'd spent the morning reading case files. Trying not to think about the night before, yet many times finding his mind wandering to what he and Ed had done. Usually, he never thought about it on the day after. Once it was over, it was over. Until the next time the intense need would hit, and his motorcycle would wind its way to the club.

He looked at the phone, then spun his chair and looked out the window. The sun was bright, glinting off windows across the street. Shining in an almost cloudless sky. Jack stood and opened his own window, watching the people below hurrying in one direction or another. Seeing the bright umbrellas of the street vendors. The cars and taxis vying for road space. He turned and looked at the phone again.

Before he could reconsider one more time, he picked up the receiver and dialed.

"Detective Green."

His heart skipped. He could hear the noises of the precinct in the background. "Ed, it's Jack."

"Hey - how are you?"

"Good. I think I owe you a meal - are you free for dinner tonight?" He picked up a pen and started tapping the desk with it.

Ed laughed. "So you know of some place that serves cheese and crackers, do you?"

He laughed, too, and it felt good to do it. "Don't forget the grapes."

"True. Sure, I'm free. What time and where? Excuse me a sec..." There was the muffled sound of Ed telling Lennie he'd be off and ready to go in a minute.

The door to Jack's office opened and Serena walked in. He waved her to sit. He finalized the dinner plans and ended the conversation, his heart beating faster as he hung up, his pen still tapping the edge of the desk.

Serena was grinning at him when he finally met her eyes.

"What," he said.

"Nice to hear you have a date. Here's the appeals motion in the Perry case." She handed him the papers.

He looked at the document, but didn't see the words. A date? Did he have a date? He felt a slow smile spread across his face as the realization hit him. His first date with a man would be that night. He raised his glance to hers.

"It's nice to know that I have one, too," he said. He put the pen down, and still smiling, read the motion.

End part 1

On to Part 2, "Search and Seizure"

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