Kevin Richardson groaned as he saw the file that D.A. Pearlman put in front of him.
At first sight, it was just a simple case. A man was accused of rape, without any real evidence against him but with a terrible family history, no alibi and a good description by the victim and other witnesses. Sure, there was no DNA, as the rapist had used a condom, but still, an easy win.
Except that they were in Wright's jury. And the rapist's attorney was Christopher Kirkpatrick.
He had known that this would happen sooner or later, but he had wished it was later, a lot later. They had only been dating for two weeks, and so far, they had only one rule: No work during dates. None of them talked about the cases they had picked, or about how the other was wrong in their way of tackling law. Kevin didn't tell Chris that most of his clients -if not all- were guilty as hell, while Chris managed -barely- to stop himself from ranting against the evils of the system and how most of the DA office's attorneys were only looking at numbers and not as people.
The only reason why Kevin knew about those rants was because the second night of their new relationship he had made the mistake of asking Chris why he stayed in the public defendant office.
But now he had to face his lover on the stand, try as hard as he could to destroy his client and put a criminal in jail. The worst part was that if he tried to keep things civil, agree to a nice agreement with Chris, Wright wouldn't allow it. Judge Wright was the meanest judge in the city, and he never allowed an attorney to make a deal on a rape case, unless the agreement included the defendant agreeing to the death penalty.
"Is there any trouble, Mr. Richardson?" Pearlman asked, not raising his eyes away from the next file in his huge pile.
"Isn't there anyone else who can take this case?" Kevin hoped that his voice was firm enough. The truth was that, even as he loved his job, he loved to put criminals behind bars and prove that the system worked, his boss always made him feel intimidated. As if he was still a teenager waiting outside the principal's office.
"You're my best lawyer, Richardson," Pearlman grunted, still not looking at Kevin. "And I want you in that case. If you won't take it, clear your desk and never bother me again."
Kevin sighed and left the room. There was no talking with Pearlman, so he could only hope that Chris would be more understanding.
* * *
"Lonnie is innocent." Chris didn't even say hi when Kevin walked up to him in court. "The cop led the victim into identifying him just because he had a chip on his shoulder. You know it, I know it, and Det. Crazypants knows it, so we are losing our time here."
"Chris... there were a lot of witnesses around who say that your client was stalking the victim," Kevin was starting to feel a headache coming. There was no way he could actually work against Chris and salvage their relationship. And he wasn't going to lose his job over a two week old relationship. "It's not the fault of Detective Stabler. And when your client was arrested he was carrying a concealed knife. That alone is a punishable offense."
"That, I can work with," Chris nodded, still not smiling. It was making Kevin nervous. "We will plead guilty to possession for three years, as long as the rape charge is dismissed."
"Three years?" Kevin frowned. Lonnie Jones had been in jail waiting for his trial for two years and a half.
"With time served, and a reduction for good behavior," Chris was smiling now, and Kevin had to bite his tongue not to answer. In court, those small moments could be seen as if he was collaborating with the enemy. In fact, outside the golden defenders and Kevin's friends, no one knew that they were together. "What do you say?"
"I say we can work with it," Kevin answered, in his most professional tone. "I'll start the paperwork, and we can finish this before noon."
The 'And maybe have an early dinner at my place' was unspoken, but Kevin knew that Chris had heard it.
* * *
Unfortunately, things didn't work the way that Kevin had planned. Judge Wright dismissed the appeal, ordered a full trial, and by the time they had finished choosing the jury, Chris had managed to insult the judge five times, which of course earned him a stint in the security cells, held in contempt.
And thus, instead of having a beer with his lover and his friends, Kevin was sitting alone in his apartment, feeding his cat.
“It’s going to get better,” Kevin told Quincy, as the cat licked his paw apparently in preparation for his feast. “I just have to get used to Chris’s temper and try and avoid those traps.”
Quincy just glared at him, with a look that clearly read ‘You aren’t even fooling yourself, human. Now go and open a can of tuna instead of this nasty dry food, will you?’ and Kevin sighed.
Things were a bit easier when he wasn’t dating the enemy.
* * *
Lonnie Jones was found innocent, in great part thanks to Chris’s efforts and the fact that he had managed to prove that Det. Stabler had a huge personal problem with the man, and Kevin could feel his life going back to track. He was not opposite Chris in his next case, so he could even breathe easier. And so, for his first month anniversary he planned a special dinner at their favorite restaurant, made the reservations and just crossed his fingers hoping for the best.
But when AJ sat down in front of him looking as if he had just run over a puppy, Kevin knew his plans had to change.
“Whatever you’re thinking, I need to tell you that it was not my fault,” AJ said, before Kevin could ask anything. “It’s just that Wright has something against Kirkpatrick and there’s no way to control your man when he has a stick up his ass about something.”
“What did Chris do?” Kevin asked, trying not to sound disappointed.
“Called Wright a heartless sadistic bastard,” AJ even laughed a little, and Kevin couldn’t hate him. Even if he hated the fact that now he had a reservation for two to cancel, and that he probably wouldn’t see Chris in at least two more days.
When he arrived home to feed Quincy, he couldn’t help to think that maybe his life was less lonely when he didn’t have a boyfriend.
“I’ve got this all planned,” Kevin was telling Joshua at the bar, where they were waiting for the others. Since Kevin and Chris started dating, both groups had reached a cease fire agreement. Even if they were in opposite sides of a case, once they got to the Last Call bar they were friends. Or at least civil to each other. Of course, there were still arguments, especially when AJ and Justin started discussing the concept of innocent until proven guilty, but it was not the open hostility of the past. “I’m going to pick Chris at your office, so he can’t say that he has more work to do, and we’re going to go to my apartment to have a romantic candle light dinner. Nothing can go wrong.”
“You know that Chris is working with the Burrow appeal, right?” Joshua asked, sipping his beer. “That’s why he’s not here.”
“I know, he sent me a text message,” Kevin smiled. There was nothing that could ruin his mood today, because he knew the Burrow case. The man was homeless and had been arrested for breaking and entering a small store to sleep in, but the owner of the store had changed his story so many times, even Pearlman would’ve found it hard to make the charges stick. Burrow had only had the bad luck of getting a judge that tended to only take in account the first evidence presented. Sometimes that happened. Still, the appeal shouldn’t take much longer to write and present to the court, so Kevin counted on Chris being free around eleven. Plenty of time for a late dinner.
Of course, he should have known better than to expect things to go on without any problem. From the first time he had realized he liked Chris, his whole life seemed to be living on the Murphy’s Law dimension. If something could go wrong, it would go wrong. So yeah, when Howie came in looking guilty, he should’ve figured something was up.
“I’m sorry, Kevin,” Howie began saying, only to be interrupted by Kevin.
“Don’t.” Kevin raised his hand, in objection. “Please don’t tell me Chris is being held in contempt again.”
“Sorry.” Howie sat down, looking honestly regretful. “He and Judge Rourke butted heads over the Burrow appeal, and now both Burrow and Chris are in the holding cells. Burrow leaves for Rikers in the morning, but Chris will either make bail or he’ll be forced to apologize, but he might be out tomorrow morning.”
“And what are the chances of Chris actually apologizing?” Joshua asked before Kevin could.
“None at all,” Howie answered. The clerk looked really guilty, as if it had been his fault. Kevin wanted to blame him, but he also knew Chris. Whatever had happened, it wouldn’t have happened if Chris wasn’t the most dedicated defense lawyer in the city, so unless Howie had been egging him on—something that was so ridiculous that Kevin had to stop himself from laughing at the mere idea—it couldn’t be Howie’s fault. “In fact, I wouldn’t let Chris near Judge Rourke again, if I were your boss. At least not until she cools down.”
“What did Chris do?” Kevin finally asked. He didn’t want to know, but at the same time, he was curious.
“Judge Rourke dismissed Burrow’s appeal and then said that it was for the better since that way at least Burrow would have a roof under his head and could learn to be a productive member of society,” Howie explained, and Joshua snorted.
“Gets worse,” Howie said, as the others started arriving. “Turns out, Burrow only broke into that house to get his dog a warm place to sleep. When Burrow asked what would happen to it, Rourke said that it would be better to put it to sleep, if Burrow was going to keep using it as an excuse.”
“Which was about the point where Chris lost his temper, right?” Kevin couldn’t blame his lover. After all, Kevin was already thinking he wouldn’t have been able to keep himself from insulting the judge either.
“Are we talking about Kirkpatrick vs. Rourke?” Joey asked, shaking his head. “Word around the court says that he called her the Wicked Witch of the West, before threatening to call PETA to her courtroom.”
“It wasn’t exactly like that, but pretty close.” Howie called the nearest waitress so they all could order their drinks.
“Wait, what were you doing at Rourke’s court, you’re Wright’s clerk, aren’t you?” Kevin asked, trying to grasp the one possible clue that maybe they all were trying to play a very elaborate prank on him.
“Jessica was sick today, so she asked me to take her place,” Howie explained. “To be honest, now I wish I hadn’t. I hate to bring bad news to my friends , and as bad as Wright is, he is not as heartless as Rourke can be at times.”
“Oh, no, don’t you go thinking that the defense is always right!” Nick complained. Kevin couldn’t help but agree. Sure, most of Chris’s clients of late had been either innocent or deserved some sympathy, but there were still a lot of people who did deserve to be in jail. They didn’t need a judge who automatically sided with the defense no matter what.
“Not always,” Howie admitted. “In fact, I’ve seen far more guilty men on the stand than innocent men. But there are criminals, and there are criminals, and Rourke will measure someone who jaywalks with the same stick as she measures someone who robs a store, so… yeah, I’ll call her heartless if I want to.”
“I’m still going to keep an eye on you, Dorough,” Nick joked, stealing some chips from Howie’s plate. “So what was the final damage?”
“Chris is filling a complaint against Rourke, and I think he was also muttering something about a lawsuit against the city on behalf of Mr. Burrow,” Joey said. “And I guess he’ll make bail tomorrow. Not sure.”
Kevin didn’t follow the conversation past that. He just lost himself on thoughts, realizing that he would be spending yet another night completely alone.
* * *
Three months passed and Kevin could only see Chris at short moments when they crossed paths before a case. Every time they made plans to see each other off work something happened and they had to cancel plans.
Of course, it was not always Chris’s fault. Kevin had also a couple of hard cases that demanded his full attention. Pearlman seemed to enjoy loading him with work every time Kevin looked happy.
To add insult to injury, he kept facing off Chris’s friends. If Kevin didn’t know better, he would’ve sworn that Pearlman knew about their relationship. Not that it was forbidden in itself. Kevin knew more than a couple of district attorney/defense lawyer marriages and with the exception of the Selwyns, they were quite happy (of course, Jerry Selwyn was in jail, accused of murdering the guy he had hired to help him frame his wife for his own murder, but that was besides the point). He and Chris could be out and proud and Pearlman couldn’t punish him for that.
Except that both Kevin and Chris had decided to wait until they were sure of their relationship before making any announcements outside their group of friends, and Pearlman was a bastard, but he wasn’t that big of a bastard.
Still, he had cases against JC and Lance, and neither were very happy when Kevin had managed to outmaneuver them. Lance in particular had been quite angry at Kevin, refusing to talk to him for a week just because Kevin had proved beyond reasonable doubt that Lance’s client was a danger to herself and to society and that it was better if she was committed to a psychiatric hospital for the rest of her life, despite Lance’s best efforts to keep her as an outside patient.
He had learned to be afraid every time his boss came up with a new folder, even as he was trying to keep his own caseload Chris-free.
But as the third month was turning into a fourth and he still went to sleep with only Quincy for company, Kevin realized that it was time to face the fact that something needed to change.
* * *
Chris was sitting on the holding cell floor, wondering exactly what had gone wrong this time. He had been working the Greaves case, a nasty situation to all involved. Michael Greaves had stolen property from the jewelry store where he worked, and that alone was enough for a Grand Larceny on the Third degree sentencing. They had all they needed, including camera footage of Michael stealing the goods, a confession and the fact that Michael had been caught when trying to sell the jewels to an undercover cop. That meant that Michael was looking at seven years in prison, at the very least. However, there were extenuating circumstances. Michael had no previous record, was considered a great employee by his boss who had been shocked at Michael’s guilt and the only reason why Greaves had tried to steal the jewelry store was because he had been blackmailed by an adoption lawyer who was using his office to run a very complicated scam.
In Chris’s opinion, that alone was enough to shave at least four years off Michael’s sentence. Even Wright seemed to agree at first, and that in itself was notable. But then Pearlman had taken over the case, and if Wright was a heartless bastard, D.A. Lou Pearlman was evil incarnate. His only concern was a good conviction rate and if in the process he trampled a couple of innocent people, or people who didn’t deserve to be treated like hardened criminals, he didn’t care.
And Pearlman knew how to manipulate judges. The one reason why Chris hated that Kevin (well, yes, and Brian, AJ and Nick too, if he had to be honest) worked with the amoral bastard was that he always feared that they would get influenced by him. No matter how much he joked about it, he knew that the Golden Defenders were ethical and had their heads and hearts in the right place. They didn’t play nasty tricks like hiding evidence or pulling out surprise witnesses at the very last possible moment.
Pearlman did every single dirty trick in the book that he could get away with, and Chris was sure that under the table, there were deals Chris wasn’t supposed to know.
That was the only reason why Chris had lost his temper when Pearlman had decided that the only pertinent part of Michael Greaves’s confession was when he said that he had taken the jewels with intent to sell them to a third party and keep the money, so the jury would never get to hear why Greaves had done such a thing.
And Wright, the bastard, had agreed to it.
In retrospect, Chris knew that he should’ve kept his mouth shut. He still could maneuver one of Lou’s witnesses to say something that would get the whole confession back on the table. Even the arresting officers had been sympathetic to Michael’s cause. But Chris had been past caring since his whole defense hinged on the full confession and losing it had made him lose it.
Of course, he should’ve never accused Wright of corruption. Not even hypothetically. After that, he doubted Novak, the Public Defenders’ boss, would be able to get him out without Chris apologizing to Wright. And Chris knew that no matter how hard he tried, he had never been good at apologizing when he didn’t really mean it.
And then there was Kevin. If there was anyone Chris needed to apologize to, it was Kevin. Because due to his temper, Chris had managed to ruin every single chance they had to be together since practically day one. At this point, Chris wouldn’t have been surprised if Kevin decided to break things up.
“Kirkpatrick! You’ve got a visitor!”
Chris got up from the floor, frowning. There were only two people who could’ve visiting him. Casey, to try and convince him to apologize to Wright, and Howie, for exactly the same reasons. And they both knew it was useless to try before Chris had had a chance to calm down a little, so it couldn’t be them.
He was very surprised to see D.A. Kevin Richardson standing in front of him, holding two bags from McDonalds.
“So, I figured it all out, you know?” Kevin said, before Chris could ask what he was doing there. “The problem was that I forgot for a moment that you are the famous Contempt Kirkpatrick and you need to get your desk down here.”
“Trust me, I’ve tried,” Chris joked, not sure of where Kevin was going. “But they kept telling me that it would set a bad precedent.”
“But then, we wouldn’t need to sit on the floor to eat.” Kevin held the bags up. “I was going to bring up Chinese food, but the guards told me that I couldn’t give you chopsticks.”
As he spoke, he handed Chris one of the bags. Inside, there was a Big Mac box, big fries, a cheese pie, a bacon wrap and a bottle of coke.
“A man after my own heart,” Chris muttered. “Why are you here, Kevin?”
“I told you. I figured it all out.” Kevin sat on the floor, next to the bars. “You’ve missed our last ten dates, you know?”
“Not on purpose,” Chris answered, sitting next to Kevin. He still felt very confused, he had been sure that Kevin would rather break things up since Chris missed so many of their dates. But if the D.A was there, it maybe meant he was not giving up so easily. Chris hoped he wasn’t.
“I know.” Kevin nodded, opening up his salad. “It’s the way you are, and I don’t think you’ll change. Hell, I don’t want you to change that. We need defenders that will go all out for their clients, no matter what.”
“Even if we end up having picnics in the holding cells more often than dinners in fancy restaurants?” Chris joked, before offering Kevin a fry. “Not exactly what you’re used to, right?”
“How do you know what I’m used to?” Kevin asked, looking intrigued. It made Chris laugh, and almost choke on his big Mac.
“You think you’re the only one who went around gathering intel?” Chris managed to say after he had managed to regain his breath. “When I figured out that you were borderline stalking me, I decided to return the favor. Your cousin is a fountain of embarrassing information, you know?”
“It’s one of the reasons why I’ll never run for office,” Kevin answered in complete seriousness. “So, besides my taste in restaurants, what else did you manage to find out?”
“That your batting average is worse than mine, something I didn’t believe possible,” Chris said, putting his hand through the bars to steal a piece of tomato from Kevin’s salad. “You play the piano, you almost got married to your high school sweetheart before you decided you liked men better, and you think your cat can talk.”
“Remind me never to joke around Nick again,” Kevin said, looking up to the ceiling. “For the record, I said that once, when I was drunk out of my head, I thought that Quincy’s meowing sounded like words. That doesn’t mean he can talk.”
“Oh, that explains why he never gives you my phone messages, then.” Chris was so serious that for one moment, Kevin thought he actually meant that he had left messages to Quincy. But soon he saw the glint on Chris’s eyes and he couldn’t stop himself from laughing.
So maybe it wasn’t a candlelight dinner in one of the city’s most expensive restaurants. It wasn’t very private, even if Chris had his own cell and was friends with everyone so there was little risk of anyone tattling about Kevin’s friendly banter, but they still had to be careful. Pearlman wouldn’t take well any evidence of one of his lawyers consorting with the enemy.
And even so, Kevin couldn’t find it in himself to care or be worried about it. He had finally figured out that as long as he and Chris made a little effort, things would work out just fine.