“I think I have a crush on Kirkpatrick.”
Kevin regretted the words as soon as he said them out loud. He had spent two days thinking about how he could break the news to his cousin Brian, practiced in front of a mirror, even written a seven page deposition to explain that he was sound of mind when he had come to that particular conclusion, but instead of using any of those approaches he had ended up blurting it out during their weekly pub crawl.
And his cousin was looking at him as if he had lost his mind.
“THE Christopher Kirkpatrick?” Brian asked, after a very long pause in which Kevin could have taken back his words, say it was a stupid joke, or even get away running like the coward he felt he was.
“Do we know any other Kirkpatrick?” he asked back, trying to sound natural.
“You realize that he’s not gay, and that he works for the enemy?” Brian raised his eyebrows questioningly.
“I know,” Kevin answered, slumping his shoulders sadly. Those two facts made the whole thing a lot harder.
* * *
It had all started two months ago when Brian had a very late night preparing a case, so Kevin had the choice to either go straight to his empty apartment and have an early night or go alone to a bar. As the first possibility really didn’t appeal to him that much, he had ended up going out and that had taken him to the Winchester, the bar where he knew some of the other DA’s sometimes went for a few drinks after work.
In the table nearest to the bar he could see the public defense’s so called gold team drinking. He could only see four heads, so he guessed the fifth one had to be either at the bathroom or at the bar and sneered.
It was not that he hated the public defenders. They were, after all, part of what made the system great. Everyone had the right to a lawyer, and without the ones who volunteered and got only whatever the government paid some people would never be able to afford one. But at the same time, he couldn’t believe some of the cases those guys took. Drug addicts who killed their own kids to get their next fix, prostitutes who seemed to like playing the system just to get back on the streets as soon as they could, homeless bums who mugged whoever came handy. And while some public defenders only went through the motions, the gold team gave their all. Most were just a couple of years fresh from college, and Kevin guessed that in a year or so, they would understand that not everyone who pled innocent was to be believed, but in the meantime though, they were incredibly self righteous about it.
The worst part was that they were good lawyers. Kevin had gone face to face with them all and the score was pretty much tied. He had won cases against Fatone, who excelled in family cases, but wasn’t as good with anything else, and against Timberlake, the youngest of the group, the proclaimed genius kid of lawschool who had passed his bar exam at 23, but lost against Chasez in a very complicated case of murder, and against Bass, the only lawyer Kevin knew who wasn’t cowed in Judge Wright’s court. And of course, there was their ring leader, the one who was missing from the table, who was the worst of the lot.
He walked towards the bar, intent on asking for his beer and ignoring the golden defenders, when he caught sight of the man he had just been thinking about: Christopher Kirkpatrick, leaning against the bar, trying to catch the bartender ‘s attention with little success.
It amused Kevin, even if he felt bad about it. Kirkpatrick was a short man, the shortest in the public defense office, and some of the less polite members of the DA office made a lot of jokes at his expenses. Kevin had never joined in those jokes, but now, as he saw the attorney trying to get noticed in the middle of all the patrons, he couldn't stop the chuckle from leaving his throat.
But as he raised his hand to cover his mouth, he realized a couple of things he had never noticed.
Kirkpatrick had long hair. That was not a new thing. He had seen the other attorney arriving at court, his ponytail swishing as the man ran through the aisle to get to his table in time, while he tried to keep the papers he carried in his hands from falling to the floor. Many judges and a couple of other lawyers had told Kevin that Kirkpatrick would never be taken seriously unless he cut the damn thing off. So yes, Kevin knew that Kirkpatrick had long hair, it was common knowledge. However, Kevin couldn't remember seeing him with his hair down, free from the ever present ponytail. It was longer than he had expected, reaching Kirkpatrick's back, forming curls between his shoulder blades and Kevin found himself yearning to touch it, just to see if it was as soft as it seemed.
And before he could recover from that particular revelation, Kirkpatrick turned around, triumphant, holding five bottles of Corona in his hands and Kevin was completely lost.
He had never seen Kirkpatrick smile as brightly as he was at the moment. His teeth were perfectly white, shining just like his eyes and Kevin had to lower his head not to be caught staring. And then Kirkpatrick saw him.
"Oh, hey, Richardson!" Kirkpatrick greeted him, still smiling. His voice, that Brian had once described as high-pitched, and Judge Wright called 'girly' when he had more than three drinks, made Kevin feel funny again, and he berated himself for acting so foolishly. It was only Kirkpatrick. Sure, he had a nice smile, and great hair, and now that he was looking at him he had to admit that his eyes were gorgeous, and he realized that he had to stop that particular train of thought before he started thinking like a fifteen year old girl squealing over a celebrity. "Got out early from the den of evil? I thought you had a big case coming tomorrow. Mother of a two year old wrongly accused of possession with intent to distribute?"
"Very funny, Kirkpatrick," he managed to mutter, hoping it sounded more like a growl and less like a whimper. "But for your information, it's Brian Littrell who has that case."
"Right, the other Southern minion," Kirkpatrick shrugged and Kevin berated himself. He shouldn't be thinking that he looked good. "So, you're alone or can I convince you to join us so you can see how the white hats behave in their natural habit?"
"As much as I would love to spend a couple hours hearing how my office is going to bring upon us society's ruin," Kevin said, trying to keep his voice even despite the stupid little jumps his stomach was doing and that part of his brain was insisting on cataloging every single detail he hadn't noticed of Kirkpatrick's face before. "My friends are here too."
Without waiting for an answer, Kevin turned around and walked towards another table where he had seen his office co-workers a bit earlier. The exact opposite to the Golden Defenders, the District Attorney’s Boys. Even if Brian wasn't there, he hoped his friends would help him to forget the last moments of madness his brain had cooked up.
Two months later, the temporary moment of madness didn’t disappeared, and Kevin had to admit that it wasn’t temporary even if the jury was still out on the madness part of the equation.
Three days after his epiphany, he had to face Kirkpatrick on court. The ponytail was back, and so was the permanent scowl that the public defender always had when he thought an injustice was being done. The case was an open and shut case, in Kevin’s opinion: Kirkpatrick’s client had been identified by six people as the hooded hoodlum that had broken into a 7-11, stole what little cash was on the register and killed the night clerk. But the kid was only sixteen, and had somehow convinced Kirkpatrick that he had stolen the money but hadn’t killed the clerk and no matter how obvious it was that the kid was just trying to get out from the murder conviction, Kirkpatrick was hell bent on getting a deal for just the robbery.
Kevin had refused, but later on he had gone to DA Pearlman to see if he could cut the deal; something that he would’ve never done before he had been distracted by the idea of seeing Kirkpatrick smile again. Pearlman had obviously refused, and that had only meant that for weeks, Kevin had to see Kirkpatrick twice a day, always scowling, always demanding for Kevin to show he had a heart, that he could do the right thing, that he had to think about justice and not about a conviction.
And even if he still thought it was incredibly self righteous, Kevin also found Kirkpatrick’s determination a bit charming.
When Kirkpatrick actually found a small piece of evidence that proved that someone else could have been at the 7-11, Kevin actually felt relieved that the other lawyer’s stubbornness had paid off. And that night, he had his first dream about the public defender.
After waking up and washing his sheets, Kevin decided that it was time to speak to someone about it. And as every time he had a problem he couldn’t solve on his own, he went to talk with Brian.
“I still don’t see what the big deal is,” Brian muttered, the night after Kevin had told him about his feelings for the public defender. “I mean… he’s kinda average, don’t you think? Not exactly an underwear model.”
“Thank you, Brian,” Kevin took a sip of his beer, trying to watch the Golden Defenders’ table without being too obvious. Fatone and Kirkpatrick had worked together on a case against AJ McLean, one of Kevin’s co-workers and best friends, and the Defenders were celebrating loudly. Chris had taken off his jacket and tie, and Kevin was trying his best not to ogle. “It’s good to know that you think I’m shallow.”
“Who’s not an underwear model?” AJ asked, sitting down with a coke in his hands. AJ had been sober for a year, ever since he had almost ruined a case by missing a court date because he had been too hung over to get out of his house, and they all had promised they would help him to stay on the wagon.
“And why is Kevin shallow?” Nicholas Carter, the fourth and last member of the DA Boys, sat next to AJ, handing Kevin and Brian their beers.
“My cousin has been eyeing the competition,” Brian explained, pointing towards the Golden Defenders’ table. Kevin didn’t even bother denying it. Although he wasn’t openly out of the closet yet, after his failed engagement with his college girlfriend he had also decided he wasn’t going to lie to the people that really mattered in his life. And his college roommate, his cousin and his best friend counted in that reduced number. “Can you guess who stole his libido this time?”
“Not Timberlake,” AJ shook his head looking at the young lawyer raise his beer in a toast. “We would have to try him for child molestation.”
“Not funny, AJ, Timberlake is just a year younger than me,” Nick laughed, punching AJ on the shoulder. “Fatone is married, and we know that Kevin doesn’t go for the straight and married type.”
Brian choked on his beer at Nick’s words, and Kevin started wondering if he could convince a jury that killing his cousin had been an act of self defense.
“Bass is way too serious, even for you,” AJ continued, not noticing Brian’s reaction. “You would kill each other out of boredom in the first date. And Chasez is a little too odd for anyone. I’m still waiting for him to snap and end up being the defendant instead of the defender.”
“Which leaves us with Kirkpatrick,” Nick guessed, nodding in approval. “I don’t know, Brian. Kevin could do a lot worse.”
“If by worse you mean he could pick an oompa loompa, I guess you’re right.” Brian laughed at his own joke, and Kevin tried not to feel offended on Kirkpatrick’s behalf. Brian had never liked him, not since their first case against each other, the very first job of Brian’s law career, when Kirkpatrick had won the trial by sheer determination and luck that Brian had been overconfident. So Kevin could forgive his cousin a couple of snide remarks, as long as they were only a couple.
“No, seriously, he’s a great guy,” Nick insisted trying to call the attention of a waitress so they could get more snacks on their table. “Most popular at the public defense office, and all that.”
“Since when you know so much about what’s going on in the public defense office, Nick?” AJ, Kevin and Brian asked at the same time. Kevin knew they were being a little overprotective, but they had lost a couple of lawyers to the defense office, like Alecia Moore who now worked family court, and Marshal Mathers who had been a great ADA for the special crime unit, both excellent lawyers. Another reason why he guessed his cousin hadn’t been happy to hear about his little crush on Kirkpatrick.
“Since my brother Aaron got caught yet again driving without a license, breaking his probation and Mom refused to let me pay a lawyer for him,” Nick sighed. His brother was a constant cause of worry for him, as it seemed that there was no way to keep the kid out of juvie. “Chris is his lawyer, so I’m getting to know him. He’s cool.”
“Oh, so now he’s Chris,” Brian joked, only to be interrupted by AJ.
“He might be cool, but you’ve got to pray that Aaron gets a judge that doesn’t hate Kirkpatrick’s guts.” AJ put down his coke to lit up a cigarette. “Which means his only chance is a change of venue because he might be the favorite defender of the destitute, but there’s no judge in New York that likes him.”
“Aaron got Wright to preside over his case,” Nick confessed and everyone on the table winced. Judge Wright was probably the most severe of all judges they had to work with, and everyone knew that Wright couldn’t stand Kirkpatrick. In Kevin’s professional opinion, Aaron was toast.
“Well, at least you will have an ally in that court,” Brian suddenly said, sounding quite optimistic. “Howie Dorough is Judge Wright’s law clerk! And he was our friend back in college. I bet he could talk the Judge into being a little lenient with Aaron.”
“And he was Chris’s roommate!” Nick piped up, sounding a bit more animated. “Yeah, if anyone could find a way to make Chris not get my little brother behind bars, it’s Howie. And that also helps with your problem, Kevin!”
“It does?” Kevin asked, frowning. He had been sure that they had drifted safely away from the subject of his crush on Kirkpatrick.
“Yeah,” Nick insisted, leaning to touch Kevin’s shoulder. “Howie is Chris’s friend. You could talk to him, find if you have a chance. Hell, figure out if you can be friends, even if there’s nothing more.”
“I hope you’re not here about the Carter case,” Howie said, opening the door to his office to let Kevin in. “You know I can’t discuss cases until we’ve got a conviction.”
“I’m not here about Aaron,” Kevin smiled, offering the hot tea he had bought on the Starbucks below his office. “But I hope you can discuss Aaron’s lawyer, because I need a favor.”
“Chris Kirkpatrick is a great lawyer, Nick has nothing to worry about.” Howie answered the smile, taking the tea. “But since you remembered I love a good chai, you’ve got five minutes.”
“Oh, already timing the prosecutors?” Kevin laughed, sitting down. “You’re going to be a great judge one day.”
“I hope so,” Howie laughed, sipping his tea. “So, what do you want to know about Chris?”
Kevin took a deep breath. He had promised himself he was going to be honest about everything.
“Is he single? Is he willing to experiment?” Kevin asked first, and then closed his eyes as he really didn’t want to see Howie’s face when he heard the last question. “Do I have a chance?”
There was a long silence and Kevin started wondering if there was something seriously wrong with Kirkpatrick, since everyone reacted shocked when he said he was interested.
“You want to know if Chris is available?” Howie repeated. When Kevin opened his eyes, he saw that the cup of tea had been placed to one side. “Chris Kirkpatrick, the infamous ‘Contempt’ Kirkpatrick? Are you sure?”
“Why does everyone ask me that?” Kevin was starting to feel frustrated, and it showed when his usually calm and collected voice cracked. “It’s not as if he’s the most hideous person on earth! If anything his court record should be enough to nominate him for sainthood!”
“His court record, yeah, as long as you don’t ask a judge or a prosecutor.” Howie nodded. “And you’re a prosecutor, last time I checked. And since you have never even crossed more than two sentences with him, you can’t blame me for being surprised.”
Kevin didn’t answer, just nodded. It was true. Besides the sudden physical attraction, that was now a lot easier to explain, now that he had been watching Chris, there was nothing to explain why he was so obsessed with the other man. Sure, he had great eyes, a smile to die for, and, as he had discovered one day when the other attorney had ended up going to court in just jeans and a tshirt, an incredible ass; but personality wise the only thing he knew was that Chris was devoted to his cause and would never betray a client no matter what. He knew Chris was a great lawyer, and that was it. And now that Howie had pointed it out, Kevin had to admit that was true.
“So what do you want me to say?” Howie asked, breaking the silence. “You look as if I just ruined your favorite suit.”
“I was just figuring out you’re right, I really don’t know much about him to be asking if he’s available. I should just forget about the whole thing,” Kevin laughed. “Thanks Howie, you helped me a lot.”
“If you say so,” Howie laughed although he didn’t sound very convinced. “However, if you let me say something… You should try to get to know him instead of forgetting the whole thing. He’s more than just ‘Contempt’ Kirkpatrick, you know?”
* * *
Kevin always prided himself on being thorough. After talking to Howie he still had dreams starring Chris Kirkpatrick: the expected ones, where that little talk in the bar turned into something more physical, some very obvious ones like getting Chris to give him a blow job in one of the holding cells at the court house, and one very surprising one where he and Chris had a very long and involved lovemaking session in Judge Wright’s chambers. So he had to admit that his libido was not going to let the issue go, and that his best course of action was to listen to Howie’s advice and try to get to know Chris better.
He could still hope that Chris was a despicable human being outside court, and maybe that would put a stop to his dreams.
However he still wanted to be prepared before talking with Chris face to face.
Just as he did when he prepared himself for a case, Kevin decided to amass all the information he could about the public defender. That meant not only knowing Chris’s record in court, that was pretty impressive in itself, but also finding out about his friends, his habits, little things that wouldn’t be written on his record.
Thanks to Lonnie and Dre, the two court guards who were appointed to Judge Wright’s court, he found out that Chris had a habit of paying his clients’ bail out of his own pocket, but never paid his own bail whenever he was thrown in for contempt. Lonnie also told Kevin that Chris often showed up with sandwiches not only for his clients, but also for the guards and court secretaries. It seemed that Chris was a very friendly guy.
He also learned from Mandy the court secretary that Chris had four sisters. They sometimes came over to have lunch with the man, as long as Chris didn’t had a pressing case, and were very polite to everyone even if Taylor, the youngest, sometimes flinched when she saw uniformed cops. The reason behind this was a mystery, although Mr. Williams from the bail office figured it had something to do with the reason why Mrs. Kirkpatrick, Chris’s mother, always came over to see her son every time he ended up locked up again even if Chris was more than thirty years old.
And still, Kevin didn’t feel confident enough to talk to Chris directly.
But he was running out of office gossip, so he decided to go with those closest to his secret crush.
Meeting Joseph Fatone at the park had been a stroke of luck. The other lawyer had been taking his daughter for a walk, and Kevin was there walking his neighbour’s dog, which meant he could approach him without looking too creepy.
“Nice day for a walk, right?” he asked, trying to sound natural. He was trying to get to know Chris through his friends, not to get information about a suspect.
“DA Richardson, what a surprise,” Fatone smiled, not really looking at Kevin as he kept a close eye on his daughter as she petted Chewie, Mrs. Ciccone’s friendly retriever. “Please tell me you don’t want to talk to me about a deal. I’m pretty sure we’re not working on the same cases this week.”
“Nothing like that,” Kevin answered the smile, feeling a bit more confident. Although he had never spent any time with anyone at the public defenders’ office, he had been thinking that could change. After all, just because they worked in opposite sides of the bench that didn’t mean that they all weren’t passionate about justice. “I just saw you and decided to say hello.”
“I’ve never seen you around here,” Fatone answered, obviously not convinced. “And I bring Briahna to this park every Sunday.”
“I plead the fifth,” Kevin joked, not feeling offended. “Would you believe that I decided that there’s no reason for prosecutors and defense to keep that rivalry outside the court?”
“That I’ll buy,” Fatone laughed, amused. “But I’d like to put on record that we aren’t the one who snub you guys at the Winchester.”
“Daddy, can we go to see the ducks now?” The little girl asked, interrupting the conversation.
“Sure thing, Princess,” Fatone said before turning his attention to Kevin. “Look, as you can see, I’m with my most important client right now, but what do you say if next time we coincide at the Winchester, we take one table instead of two? Bring everyone in your little project?”
“That sounds good,” Kevin agreed. Sure, he hadn’t managed to get any information on Chris, but he had gotten an open invitation to hang out with his friends. All in all, it wasn’t that bad.
After talking to Fatone, he convinced his friends to accept the invitation to have a beer with the defense team. Brian and AJ weren’t very convinced at first but even so accepted for Kevin’s sake.
And that was how Kevin found himself sitting next to Chris and Lance Bass, hearing Joshua Chasez tell a very amusing anecdote about a the time he had somehow managed to save his client’s marriage when the case had been her husband suing her for custody. Kevin didn’t know what was more surprising, Joshua’s story or the fact that they were all now on first name basis with the Golden Defenders.
“I still can’t believe you pulled that off,” Chris laughed when Joshua finished, even if Kevin was sure that he had heard the same story a hundred times before. “You really need to teach me your secret.”
“Not pissing off the judges could help you,” Nick suggested. For one moment, Kevin worried that Chris would take offense at that, but to his surprise the man started laughing.
“If I did that, they would think I’d gone insane,” Chris shrugged. “Someone has to keep them in line and remind them that they’re not infallible.”
“Also, you get free dinners, so I guess that’s how your system works,” AJ commented, as he got up to get a new round of drinks. “People are starting to suggest you put your desk in the holding cell to save time.”
“That could work,” Lance spoke for the first time in the evening. “At least it would cut down your travel time.”
“But then we would never see you at the office, and things would get boring.” Joey finished his beer, laughing out loud. “It’s not fair that only the DA gets to have fun with you, right Kevin?”
Kevin was caught unaware by the question and he choked on his beer. He knew he was blushing, he could feel the heat on his face, but he hoped the others wouldn’t notice. It was just that Joey’s words were too close to one of his now many fantasies about Chris, and he really didn’t want the reminder being so close to the guy.
Especially now that he was seeing that Chris’s personality was as wonderful as he had imagined. Even if they had had a small debate about the evils of prosecution against the lack of morals of the defense at the beginning of the night, when Justin had raised his beer and declared that as long as Chris was Carter’s lawyer, no one could really talk about lack of morals because they all knew Aaron’s rap sheet and everyone in the DA’s team would’ve jumped to the kid’s defense if Nick had asked. Words of wisdom from the city’s youngest public attorney that had seemed to magically fix years of rivalry. Kevin knew that the following day they would be at each other’s throats again, but in the meantime it was a nice truce.
Kevin didn’t need to ruin it by suddenly confessing his lust for Chris.
It was around midnight when everyone decided to call it a night. Brian and AJ had to be at court early, while Joshua and Joey had to meet with a client around ten, so it was better if everyone had at least a few hours sleep. As everyone left for their different cars, Chris held up Kevin, touching his shoulder.
“Walk you home? I’ve noticed you don’t drive,” Chris said, and he looked so earnest that Kevin couldn’t bring himself to say no even if his conscience was screaming at him that being alone with Chris was a really, really bad idea.
It was a cold night, and cars passed them by as they walked towards Kevin’s apartment. It wasn’t too far away, but Kevin found himself wishing that it was a longer walk even if they were silent. He didn’t know how to start a conversation, not now that he was actually alone with Chris for the first time since his epiphany.
“This is my building,” he said when he couldn’t stall any longer.
“Conveniently close to the DA office,” Chris commented looking up at the dark windows. “You must be the first there every morning.”
“Nah, we think AJ sleeps there.” Kevin laughed, nervously. He didn’t want to say good bye, but he didn’t know what else to say.
After a short awkward silence, Kevin started moving towards the door of the building. “Well, I better let you go. I bet you too have an early start tomorrow.”
“Actually, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about,” Chris said, so casually that suddenly Kevin found himself trying to remember if there were any open cases where he and Chris were on different sides. A deal that had to be discussed, or anything that would make Chris want to talk with him a bit longer. “You know Howie Dorough was my best friend in college, right?”
“Yes,” Kevin answered, feeling a weigh in the bottom of his stomach. There weren’t many ways in which this conversation could end well. “Look, I’m sorry if I…”
“Let me finish.” Chris raised his hand in a gesture that made Kevin shut up immediately. He had seen it in court a couple of times, every time Chris got interrupted in the middle of a speech. “See, he and I still keep in contact, and we share a beer whenever he’s not held up in court. He was very surprised when I told him you’ve been stalking me.”
“I haven’t been stalking you.” Kevin denied it immediately, even if he knew it was technically true. He hadn’t followed Chris around or left weird messages in his answering machine, but he had been making inquires about the other man.
“Yeah, that’s what he said,” Chris smiled, making Kevin feel a bit better. “He said that you were not the type to go all Patrick Bateman on your co-workers either and that I was just imagining things; however that doesn’t explain why you interrogated everyone I know about me and my family.”
Kevin had the good sense to stay silent. He was a good prosecutor because he could see the holes in the defense story. His defense had enough holes to drive a truck through it, so he wasn’t going to bother with a weak excuse.
“But still, Howie told me you were probably not going to kill me or blackmail me next time I kick your ass in court, so that left me with two possibilities as to why you’ve been poking around my personal life.” Chris paused, as if he was waiting for Kevin to add something.
“Blackmail you?” Kevin asked, confused. Sometimes following Chris’s arguments was a bit challenging.
“I was a male cheerleader in high school and paid my way through law school singing at Universal Studios. And that’s the two least embarrassing things I’ve done in my life, so I figure someone sooner or later is going to try and blackmail me.” Chris shrugged as he explained. “But I had already figured you were not going to do that. So we get to the two possibilities: either you are really weird when you want to change jobs and were looking for a way to get in the public defense office, or trying to find a way to ask me out. So, was I close?”
Kevin blinked, opened his mouth and closed it again when he realized he had nothing to say to that; but as Chris seemed to be waiting for an answer, he forced himself to say something.
“I’m sorry?” he said, after finding he really had no words to answer Chris. In his craziest dreams he had never expected that Chris would realize what he wanted, much less talk about it so casually.
“Because I’m really flattered if it’s the latter, but I can’t figure out how inviting seven chaperones was part of your plan.”
“You’re straight,” Kevin finally managed to say, still confused. He was mentally counting how many beers Chris had drunk, but he couldn’t remember seeing Chris with more than one bottle all night. “Everyone knows you’re straight.”
“I’m willing to bet that if I held a poll in the court house, most people would say the same about you.” Chris smiled, walking closer. “You know, at first, I was a bit creeped out. You might think you were being subtle, but after the seventh time I caught you sitting in on one of my cases I was quick to figure it out. “
“So if I asked you to dinner…?” Kevin ventured, offering Chris his most sincere and seductive smile.
“I might be talked into cutting a deal to join you for breakfast, counselor,” Chris answered with a mischievous glint in his eyes.
Kevin started laughing. Suddenly, negotiating with the defense didn’t sound like a bad way to spend the night.