Harry had been watching Dan all night, and had just about had enough. If he didn't know Dan, he'd think he was a sex-starved man desperate for someone to take to a cheap motel after the session. But he knew Dan. And so he knew he actually was desperate for someone to take to a cheap motel after the session. And that made it even worse.
"Mr. Prosecutor? My chambers, now?"
Dan turned away from the woman who'd captured his interest. She wore a dress cut so low that Harry wondered how she kept her rather impressive bosom inside the thing, especially the way she leaned over the barrier toward Dan. Harry imagined that her perfume was something strong and overpowering, and that she wore too much of it. She was a definite type—Dan's type. Or so everyone thought.
He threw himself into his chair and tried not to pout while waiting for Dan, who took just long enough to get there that Harry wanted to shout at him when he did arrive. But he managed not to.
"Have a seat, Dan."
Dan plopped onto the leather couch and sighed. "Something wrong?"
Harry looked at him for a moment, expressionless. "What was going on in there tonight?"
"Going on?" Dan frowned for a moment, then shook his head. "Justice was served, bad guys went to jail, no one puked on my shoes. Pretty good night, overall. Are we done here?" he asked, putting his hands on his thighs and leaning forward. Dan grinned and raised his eyebrows, then pointed at the door. "I've got a hot one lined up, and I don't want her to cool off, if you know—"
"Knock it off!"
Dan's smile faded.
"Just . . . knock it off," Harry said, much softer.
Dan's face was all concern now. And Harry really didn't know what to say. Dan had done absolutely nothing wrong as far as court procedure or his job; there was no reason to pull him into his chambers, except the reason he wasn't sure they could discuss.
It was always there, between them, though they'd never spoken of it. But they both knew it, and Harry was tired of pretending that he and Dan didn't care for each other more than most people thought. He was tired of seeing Dan drool over that woman, and the string of them that he always seemed to have within arm's reach.
Harry sighed, unsure of himself now. "So, she's a hot one, huh? I gathered that, Dan, from the way you were practically dry humping the rail every time you turned to talk to her. That's really not appropriate for a courtroom. You know that."
"Dry hump—come on, Harry. I didn't do anything I don't . . . always do."
Yes, exactly, Harry thought. But he only stared at Dan.
Dan leaned back against the couch and sighed, his shoulders dropping a little. "Harry," he started, his voice soft and, if Harry wasn't mistaken, a little shaky, "don't make this about something it's not. Just don't."
"Don't what?" Harry got up and walked around his desk to sit on the corner of it. "What should I not do, Dan? Watch you flirt with these women and make a spectacle of yourself when I know it's just for show? I know I'm not imagining what's between us here. I—"
"Do not!" Dan said, standing, waving his finger at Harry. "You will not do this to me."
"You make it sound like I'm going to tar and feather you, when all I really want is for us to—"
"Damn it, Harry!" He put his hands on his hips, then he smiled and shook his head. "You don't have the right to put me in this position. You have no idea what it's like to be me."
"No, you don't," Dan said, finger up again. "You sit there, wanting to discuss this as if I'm the one in denial and pretending to be something I'm not. But you're the expert at hiding--behind the bench, behind your robe, behind your quirks and your jokes and your goofy magic tricks. You surround yourself with these things. They're your buffer, and that makes it all right for you, don't you see?"
Harry stood, a little stung by what Dan said, even though he knew, in a way, Dan was right.
"But I'm out there with none of that to protect me." He pointed at the door. "And it's . . . it's just not the same. If you walked in here one night with a man on your arm, you're still Judge Harold T. Stone. How much respect do you really think I get as the Assistant D.A.? Where's my buffer, Harry?"
Harry held both his hands up for a moment, then he put them on Dan's shoulders. "Dan, we both know how we feel. I don't think it's as difficult as all that."
Dan laughed, but he didn't move away. "No? Your parents weren't Ma and Pa Kettle. You didn't grow up in a town with a population of 75, including the livestock. And you weren't a gay kid who had the unholy misfortune of being named Reinhold. The god who thought all that was hilarious, fortunately for me, must have been out of the room taking a leak when someone suggested a lisp and a love of glitter to round out the package."
Harry smiled and tilted his head, kneaded Dan's shoulders a bit.
"Besides," Dan said, sounding calmer now, "not only would it be a breach of workplace etiquette if anyone found out, Harry, but it could . . . ruin me."
"No one would find out, Dan. Nothing would be different than it is now, at work, at least. And it wouldn't ruin you."
"It could. If I'm not the Dan Fielding everyone knows . . . ."
Harry took a step closer. "Then you'll be the Dan Fielding I know. Can't you try that, for a while?"
Dan leaned toward him, his mouth moved as if he might speak, or—
"Harry, you just don't get it." He pulled away from the hands on his shoulders. "You go ahead and be what you want to be, and just leave me to my life. Is that so hard?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, it is."
Dan took a step back. "I'm sorry. I really am. But you don't deserve the kind of life where you wait for something that just can't happen. You deserve better than that, Harry."
Harry spun and stomped back behind his desk, whipping his robe off before he plopped in the chair. "Yes, I do deserve better than that. And what I can't understand, Dan, what I really can't grasp, is why you think you don't." He waved his hand dismissively at Dan, not wanting the conversation to end this way, but far too tired and hurt to continue it right now. "Your flavor of the day is waiting for you, isn't she? Don't let me keep you."
"Hey, buddy, you've made yourself clear," Harry said with fake cheer. "I'm sorry I brought it up."
Dan turned to go.
"No, Dan, wait--I'm sorry I said that," he said quickly before Dan could leave. "I'm sorry for . . . many things. I'm sorry they named you Reinhold. But I'll never be sorry for bringing it up."
Dan stood outside Harry's door, leaning against the wall, trying not to look at anyone who walked by. He knew Charlene was waiting for him, and while she'd never been particularly appealing from the start, she seemed less so now. In fact, the idea of spending a night with her or any of the women he'd been with lately seemed like a torture, all because of Harry.
That's what he didn't want Harry to do—make it clear that it was possible between them. Because just knowing that made it too hard, maybe impossible, for Dan to go with the Charlenes and the Debbies and the Sheilas that people expected of him. And if he didn't do what people expected . . . they might look a little closer and wonder why.
I'll never be sorry for bringing it up
Dan realized he wasn't sorry that Harry brought it up, either. And while he had no intention of spending the night with Charlene, he also knew that what he wanted most wasn't going to happen either, at least not today. But tomorrow, next week . . . who knew? The only thing he needed to decide tonight—and he felt that he had to decide now because he didn't think he could go on quite the same way as before—was whether or not he had the guts to try.
Dan knocked only lightly, unsure if Harry was even still in his chambers. Dan had gone to get some coffee to help him think, and was actually on his way out when he realized that he just couldn't leave it like this. He wanted something more, now that he knew it was truly an option. He pushed the door open when Harry softly said, "Come in."
Harry turned to look at him only long enough to see that it was him, then looked back out the window where he stood.
Dan walked over to the window, but stayed a few steps away. He put his hands in his pockets and cleared his throat. "Watching the thieves break into cars? Yesterday, I watched some poor bastard steal a stereo, then a hooker hit him over the head with her purse and ran off with it just before the cops showed up. I’m pretty sure they were too busy pointing and laughing to arrest him."
Harry hmphed and continued to stare outside.
Dan took a deep breath and stepped up behind Harry, close enough that their bodies touched. He put a hand on the wall next to the window and leaned forward to make even more contact. "Counting the bricks on the wall across the street? Or thinking about how pissed off you are at me?" Dan rested his chin lightly on Harry's shoulder, and found that the light scent of his cologne was just right.
Harry sighed and leaned back. "So, what is this? Is this just Dan making sure that the judge isn't pissed at him? Or is it something else?"
Dan turned his head just enough to brush his nose against Harry's neck, his hair. "I don't know what it is, Harry. But I'm willing to try to figure it out . . . if you are." He put his other arm around Harry's waist and pressed his cheek against Harry's neck.
"Okay? That's really all you have to say?"
Dan chuckled, and straightened a little as Harry turned to face him.
"Seriously, Dan. Yay."
Dan nodded, then closed his eyes when Harry's fingers brushed down the side of his face, and his neck. When Dan opened his eyes, Harry was smiling. Harry held up each hand in turn and hooked a finger in the sleeve, pulling it open. "Nothing up my sleeve, Dan. No magic. You'll have to settle for plain old Harry, without the buffer."
"I can do that."
Harry stepped forward. Dan held his breath.
"Do you really think my magic's goofy?"
Dan exhaled with a little laugh. "Yes. And occasionally dangerous. Don't look at me that way. Your exploding-card-deck trick would have caught Bull's hair on fire, if he had any. I also don't like Mel Tormé. Are those deal breakers?"
Harry put his hand over his heart, looking affronted for a moment. "Well, we all must make sacrifices. I think Mel would understand." Then he smiled and leaned forward enough to kiss Dan, his arms winding around Dan's waist. It was a simple kiss, tentative and almost chaste, moreso than any kiss Dan had gotten from a woman in the last 20 years. And it was the best kiss he thought he'd ever had.
Harry leaned back. "Dan, I know you're used to . . . moving quite a bit faster. Is this enough, for now?"
Dan put his hand on Harry's chest, then brushed the backs of his fingers against Harry's cheek. "For now, it's perfect."