“So, how does it feel?” Denny asked, as he set the bottle of scotch and the two glasses he'd been carrying down in the middle of the table.
Alan leaned back into the cushions of the over-sized chair, recently installed on their new balcony. He puffed cigar smoke into the night sky. “A bit softer than I'm used to, but no doubt I'll get used to it.”
Pausing in the midst of filling their glasses, Denny snorted. “Not what I meant.” He took his own seat then finished doling out the scotch. “And if your ass was a few years older, you'd appreciate the cushions.” Denny passed one of the glasses to Alan. “How does it feel to win your first case as Alan Crane, of Crane and Crane?”
“Soon to be Crane, Crane and Schmidt.”
“Thanks to you. Brilliant work, by the way.” Denny raised his glass in salute.
“Thank you. Rather proud of it, myself.” Alan considered Denny's question. Winning as Alan Crane rather than Alan Shore meant little to him; it was Denny who had the love affair with the sound of his own name. Alan had taken the Crane name and allowed Denny to make him a named partner because it mattered to Denny, not because it was important to him. Their commitment to one another ran far deeper than a shared name. That was also why having his name on the wall didn't matter. He knew Denny would allow him to take the cases that he felt were important, regardless.
It was, ultimately, the nature of this particular case that made the win so satisfying. It had taken some time and a fair bit of underhanded maneuvering, but he had finally wrested Shirley's name and services away from the Chinese. Chang, Poole and Schmidt would be no more. Back at their old offices, workers would be busy taking down signs and disposing of obsolete stationery and business cards. The icing on the cake was that he'd gone up against Paul Lewiston and won. Alan swirled his glass, watching the way the lights of the city bounced off the amber liquid. “It feels good.”
“Damn straight,” Denny agreed. “They thought they could hold Shirley hostage and keep her away from me. They should have known better.”
“Away from you, did you say? Should Carl be worried?" He sipped his scotch. "More importantly, should I be jealous?” Alan punctuated the question with a wave of his cigar.
Denny's gaze cut sharply toward him, and he harrumphed when he saw Alan's expression. “You have nothing to worry about.”
“What about Carl?” Alan couldn't resist a bit more teasing.
“Is it my fault that the woman still wants me?” Denny waved off whatever reply Alan might have been about to make. “I suppose I'll have to remind her again that I'm happily married.”
While Denny's perception of Shirley's attraction to him would always be a bit skewed, Alan knew that contrary to all logic, Denny was telling the truth about being happy in their marriage. Initially, Alan had expected it to be only a marriage of convenience. Denny had, after all, proposed by billing it as a way to transfer wealth without paying taxes and to ensure Alan's ability to make medical decisions on Denny's behalf.
It wasn't until late on their wedding night—or perhaps more accurately, early the next morning—that Alan had learned that Denny intended no such thing. Instead, it had been an eye-opening night of cuddling and hesitant touches, a night of exploring the boundaries of their evolving relationship.
Denny still professed that he was straight, and Alan supposed that for the most part, that was true. If everyone was on a sliding scale ranging between gay and straight, Denny was most definitely far toward the straight end, while Alan pictured himself somewhere in the middle. For Denny, what went on between the two of them was surely an exception. Alan tried not to analyze it too much. The important thing was that it worked, and it was comfortable in a way that even his marriage never had been.
“What do you think they're doing?” Denny's words interrupted Alan's thoughts.
“Shirley and Carl? Probably out celebrating.” Or perhaps staying in and celebrating.
A shake of Denny's head. “I meant Chang and his lackeys. Think they regret pissing us off yet?”
Alan laughed. “Probably not. They had to know that Shirley wouldn't willingly stay. I'm sure they were prepared.”
“Not just Shirley, though. Carl, Hands, Katie. They'll all with us, now. Who's left? Edwin can't even manage to keep his pants on, and you just handed Paul his ass.”
“True. They might be in a bit of trouble. Especially if they go up against us again.” Alan allowed the slightest of smiles. He had to admit, at least to himself, that he relished the idea of another confrontation. He was certain that in time it would come.
“Nothing they didn't bring on themselves.” Denny rose and crossed to stand before the railing at the edge of the balcony. “We've got better lawyers. And a better view.”
Alan joined Denny, standing beside him as he looked out over the city. Denny was right, their new offices did afford a better view than those of Chang, Poole and Schmidt. Or more precisely—effective immediately—those of Chang and Poole. He finished the last of his scotch.
“Refill?” Denny asked.
“No, thank you.” He was still enjoying the victory and had no desire for that feeling to be muted by alcohol.
Denny edged closer until their shoulders were touching, his bulk a warm and companionable presence. “Movie night tonight? Twelve Angry Men, perhaps?”
“Something lighter, I think, and less litigious. A romantic comedy? How about Pretty Woman?” Alan suggested.
Turing his head, Denny eyed him. “You just want to get me in bed watching a hooker movie with you. Don't think I don't know what you're planning.” He was definitely more amused than upset. “No spilling popcorn in the bed. Damn hulls end up everywhere and the sheets get greasy.”
“I won't if you don't. Ready to go?”
Denny hefted the bottle of scotch. “I'll drop this in my office on the way out. Not about to leave the good stuff out for the cleaning staff.”
Alan laughed. “Come on, let's get out of here.” It had been a good day. Alan was certain it would be an even better night.