Hello guys! Once again, sorry for the long break between chapters. I feel especially bad, because this story is actually finished except for some edits. (EDIT: THIS IS NOT THE LAST CHAPTER. I MEANT: I HAVE ALREADY WRITTEN ALL THE CHAPTERS, BUT THEY STILL NEED TO BE EDITED. People were misunderstanding in the comments...)

If you're still around, hope you enjoy. (And sorry this chapter is such a downer.)

much love, doze


Next day at the office, Arthur could not concentrate for the life of him. Knowing that Alfred was sitting so accessible. Just outside his office door. And he needed to concentrate. There was a back log of work on his desk, missed calls, missed messages, missed emails. At this rate, you'd think he'd been away for years.

Marlene had chewed the both of them out as soon as they'd exited the lift together. Saying next time they decided to do an office-wide vacation day they should inform her.

"I've got things I could do," she told Arthur with a finger to his chest. Feeling guilty and irritable because of it, he'd allowed her the day off and now he and Alfred were buried in all his client matters. Last time anybody, period, took a day off around here.

"Arthur?" Alfred knocked on his door and stuck his head in, looking frazzled. "I'm trying to transfer this call to you. Are you going to pick it up?"

"I'm on the phone already, you idiot." Arthur snapped, covering the mic of his mobile with one hand. "Just tell them to wait."

"They've been on hold for fifteen minutes!"

"Grow a thicker skin and tell them I'm busy!"

Alfred scowled in disgust. "Mr. Heighn is in the waiting room."

"Well, he can bloody well wait till Christ comes back. Do you want me to finish this call? Go get out the coffee and biscuits or something. Fucking hell."

Alfred sighed, "Yes, Your Highness."

"Alfred…"

Alfred winced. "Sorry."

The rest of the morning continued much on the same course, with Arthur having no time for anything besides phone calls and breathing. People were furious and grouchy. God forbid their lawyer was out of commission one day. The world would fall apart if they'd had to wait one day longer to consult him. More than half were just whining about their cases. Sometimes being a defense attorney was the equivalent of being an over glorified counselor. Arthur thanked the good lord that he didn't work divorce cases.

He was just wrapping up the last call on his agenda, boatloads of court forms marooning him at his desk. When Alfred knocked lightly, bringing with him the most heavenly scent.

"Brought lunch," Alfred announced cheerfully. "Did you know that Indian place you liked does to-go orders? I used your credit card. I hope you don't mind, but I can't afford a napkin at that place."

"You're a blessing in disguise, Alfred. You really are." He grabbed a pile of papers from his desk and dropped them uncaringly on the floor.

They split the food between them. Alfred had gone overboard with the array, but after a morning like today's, Arthur considered the splurge well worth it. He ate until he was lazy and full and work once again seemed like a bother rather than the thing he lived for. He had eaten at his desk, and Alfred on the couch. Now he watched Alfred work his way contentedly through the last few bites of his curry.

"I suppose that took some awkwardness out of it," Arthur remarked.

"What do you mean?"

"I was wondering how I was going to stand working with you all day, but the busyness left me with no time to remember you were there."

Alfred stuck out his tongue childishly. "Oh ha ha. I didn't forget about you. How could I forget? Slavedriver Arthur Kirkland. Just grow a thicker skin." He mimicked Arthur's accent terribly. "That guy was about to crawl through the phone line and knife me. I know it. He knows where I work, Arthur."

Arthur rolled his eyes. "And if he knifed you, I suppose I would still be his defense attorney at the court case."

Alfred scowled. "You wouldn't."

"I would, indeed. Mr. Galar pays like a prince."

"Well, I would get Francis then," Alfred retorted so quickly that Arthur scowled.

"If you're willing to take the risk."

"What risk?" Alfred smirked.

"Were you not there when I decimated him for Mr. Yoo?"

Alfred shrugged, "You were trying to impress me. You got lucky."

"Oh i-impress you," Arthur sputtered. "I could impress you with a paper bag. Give over, Alfred."

Alfred laughed then, throwing the empty takeaway into the bin and sprawling backwards on Arthur's couch. "I think I'm going to take a nap."

"I think you had better get back to your desk before you regret it."

"I think you should join me."

"I think…" Arthur fell off. He thought that was a wonderful idea, but letting Alfred manipulate him that easily would be bad for business. He couldn't let the boy onto how much power he had.

"I know, I know." Alfred interrupted before he had to say it. He got to his feet with a groan, pausing at the door. "Just one kiss?" He asked mischievously.

Arthur merely raised an eyebrow.

"For the road," Alfred pleaded winsomely.

Arthur rolled his eyes. "Only because you asked so nicely." With a grunt, he made it to his feet. Alfred wrapped his arms confidently around Arthur's waist, leaning into him.

Alfred paused before he brought their lips together, genuine warmth sparkling in his eyes. "Thank you for believing in me, Arthur."

Arthur groaned and tried to weasel out, but Alfred's arms only tightened.

"Let me thank you," Alfred insisted. "It'll be sour at first, but it'll get sweet." He smirked suggestively.

Arthur feigned irritation. "Get on with it."

"Thank you, Arthur," Alfred continued, looking downright amused by how uncomfortable this was making him. He couldn't even say why exactly it made him uncomfortable. He just didn't share his feelings. Arthur Kirkland didn't believe in people. He tore them apart in court. This was bound to end in disaster, anyway.

"I know I get on your nerves," Alfred murmured, dropping his chin to the top of Arthur's head. "But you have been extraordinarily patient. I honestly couldn't have asked for a better attorney. And that's not because I think you're undeniably the most attractive person in this office."

Arthur sighed. "You said there was a sweet part to this?"

Alfred pulled back, faking a pout. "You're ridiculous." But then he leaned forward and put their lips together. Like a puzzle piece slipping into place, the kiss made Alfred's thank-you physical and Arthur's heart felt like it was pressing down onto his lungs. He swallowed nervously, searching for a way to put his thoughts into words. Was it too early to ask Alfred to stick around? To really stick around? He didn't know where this was going, but he didn't want it to end.

He opened his mouth, because if he didn't the whole moment would slip away from him. And he might never get it back.

The sudden buzzing of his phone interrupted them, and Alfred groaned good-naturedly. "Duty calls, I guess. God, Arthur, I would be attracted to the busiest man in the universe. Call me when you have the time." Teasing, he pressed a quick kiss to the top of Arthur's head. "I suppose I have email or something to check."

Arthur sighed. "Get back to work, idiot."

0 0 0

Another few hours spent drowning in calls and forms had Arthur dreaming of the end of the work day. He hoped he would be able to convince Alfred to spend the night with him again. This time he would make sure Alfred was awake to see the full moon through the skylight. He was just wrapping up a closing argument for his case later in the week, when a light knock interrupted him.

"Come in."

It was strange of Alfred to enter so quietly. He didn't say anything at all, at first. Settling down on Arthur's couch with a strange expression.

"Francis left a message."

Arthur's lip curled and he returned to typing. "Did he?"

"Yes, he's looking to settle out of court for the Schwabner trial. When you get the chance, he wants to speak with you."

"Hopefully, I won't be getting the chance for a very long time yet," Arthur grumbled under his breath. "Anything else?"

"No, I'm… finished for the day." Alfred frowned. "I'm going to head out."

Arthur's fingers slipped on the keys, but he covered masterfully. Left his mistake. Just kept typing. "Well, I'm about to head out as well. Perhaps we'll walk together."

Alfred bit his lip at Arthur's veiled proposal. "I should get back. My roommate didn't know where I was. I'll see you tomorrow." He left with stiff shoulders, and Arthur wondered, bewildered, if he had done something wrong.

Arthur's walk home was a lonely one. He considered stopping by the bar on 32nd, but part of him just wanted to go home. The flat was overwhelmingly quiet. He made it about two seconds lying in his bed, trying to sleep at a decent time, before he gave it up.

Francis wanted an out of court settlement on the Schwabner trial. Well, there was that to work on. Arthur slipped down the ladder to his desk below the bed. To his right, the city winked coyly, a mass of lights and noises. He fished his usual bottle of whiskey from the drawer, flipped the desk light on and set to work.

He was a third of a bottle deep before the work stopped making sense to him. He was half a bottle deep before he gave it up for bollocks. And he was a full bottle deep when he woke up with his head on the toilet bowl the next morning. Two hours late for work.

He really shouldn't keep alcohol in his bedroom. Like he was just trying to torture himself.

Arthur made it to the office about half an hour later, hiding a pulsing headache and a splotchy bruise. He was all set to walk straight past Marlene without so much as a good morning, but she reached out and touched his arm.

"Mr. Kirkland?"

"Yes?" He hissed through his teeth. There was only one imbecile who could possibly make him feel better right now, and she wasn't it.

"Mr. Bonnefoy is in the waiting area." She hesitated.

"Is that all?"

"He has just been… waiting for awhile. Alfred is in there with him."

"Fucking fantastic," Arthur rolled his eyes, not bothering to watch his language. She gave him an affronted look, and he laughed in exasperation. "This isn't a church, Marlene!"

"When you talk like that, sometimes I think you deserve a fallout," She muttered just loud enough for him to hear as he stormed away.

"Trust me, Marlene," he said to himself as he unlocked his office door. "I couldn't give less than a fuck about what you think."

The last thing he wanted to do was go out and confront Francis Bonnefoy. Couldn't the man have waited at least a couple days? The Schwabner case wasn't for awhile. He couldn't seriously expect Arthur to drop everything just to talk with him. He didn't even have an appointment.

Grumbling to himself, Arthur headed to the waiting room, determined to send Francis packing. To his chagrin, he found Alfred and Francis together sitting on the waiting room couch, engaged in some kind of buoyant discussion.

"The Schwabner case isn't until next week, frog. Did you have to come today?" Arthur asked wearily, collapsing into one of the arm chairs. "I haven't even had the chance to propose it to my client."

"I am afraid that is not the business for which I am here," Francis said brightly.

"In that case, schedule an appointment." Arthur grumbled. "You're not the exception to the rule, Francis."

"And neither, so it seems, are you." Francis raised an eyebrow. "Mr. Jones, would you like to tell Arthur what we have been discussing?"

Arthur blinked, before his features set into a vicious scowl. "Yes, Mr. Jones, I am all ears for what you've been wasting company time discussing with Francis."

Alfred frowned and there was genuine anger in his eyes. Arthur's expression wavered, and he searched for a way to soften his tone.

"Don't worry, Arthur," Alfred said before he could think of anything. "I won't be wasting company time anymore."

"Good. Now what is it you have to say? I want to show you how I draft my statements."

"Riveting."

"Shut up, frog."

"No," Alfred said slowly and Arthur saw his hands clench into fists. Something was wrong. Francis had done something. Francis said something. It didn't take a good listener to realize that Alfred was angry. Francis had—

It dawned on Arthur suddenly and he turned his gaze on the sniveling frog with as much ferocity as he could manage. Francis only shrugged.

"I'm going to work for the DA's office."

"Alfred," Arthur sat up straight in argument mode. "There is nothing at the DA's office that I can't teach you here. It is unnecessary to consider working both places at once. I have impeccable—

"I'm not considering working both places at once."

Arthur hesitated, "Alfred, I'm not sure I know what you mean. Perhaps you want to give this a little more thought. This is a big decision."

"You know what I mean, Arthur," Alfred said in annoyance. "I'm going to work for the DA's office. Only the DA's office."

"Only the DA's office." His mind felt horrifyingly blank. "Why?"

"You lied to me," Alfred said and a hint of bitterness crept into his tone.

Arthur frowned. "I didn't lie to you, Alfred. It just… It…"

"Slipped your mind?" Alfred laughed, hard and grating. "You lied to me, Arthur. You said you were betting on me."

Arthur opened and closed his mouth. He hated having this conversation in front of Francis. The frog had no right to hear this. It was personal. Unfortunately, Alfred saw him looking at Francis and took it the wrong way.

"Wow, that's tremendous, Arthur." Alfred laughed again, getting to his feet. "You won't even admit to believing in me in front of Francis? I guess that means I'm making the right decision."

"Alfred, no," Arthur frowned, shaking his head back and forth. The rejection was beginning to set in. He could feel himself panicking. "Of course, I meant what I said. I am. I—

"You can't even imagine how big a deal this is to me, can you? I get it. You're so far removed. You've reached success, Arthur. But do you know what kind of doors having the DA's office on your resume can do for a young criminal lawyer? If I somehow managed to have both Thompson Lang and the DA on my resume, I could go anywhere. But you don't care about that, do you?"

"Alfred, that isn't true," Arthur said quickly. "You can work at the DA's if you want to, and you can work here. I'll figure out the schedule. I just… I wanted you to get the full value of being here. Splitting your time wouldn't have worked so well. You can understand why I didn't tell you."

Alfred shook his head. "No, Arthur. It wasn't your decision. You don't get to decide where I work. Fine. If working both places wouldn't have worked, you could have told me to choose. But I should have been told. I can't believe how arrogant you are! You're not even sorry."

"I'm sorry, Alfred." Arthur said, nearly tripping over his words. "I am sorry. Let's… let's reach a settlement, shall we?" He offered a weak smile, fiddling with the hem of his jacket. "You and I always seem to be talking settlements."

"I don't want to settle, Arthur." Alfred said coldly. "I've already worked here half the summer. I think I've seen everything there is to see." He paused before adding with a heartless snort, "Or at least everything worth seeing."

Arthur swallowed. "Are you… You're sure?"

"One hundred percent. I gave Marlene my termination paperwork." Alfred stood, glancing at Francis. "I'll be in the lobby."

Arthur felt his heart skip a beat. This was it? This was all that became of his infatuation with his summer associate? Alfred was walking out like none of it had happened. All for the fucking DA's office. He turned on Francis furiously. No matter how he tried to hide it, he was angry and his heart was on his sleeve.

"What the hell?" He demanded when he was certain Alfred was out of earshot.

"I merely told him what you didn't." Francis shrugged. "The DA's office made an offer. We're interested in him."

"Oh yeah, right," Arthur sneered, taking a step forward and jabbing Francis in the chest with his finger. "This is just fucking hilarious. You've never swooped in here and stolen my associates before, you bastard. And when I happen to find one I like, you just have to insert your goddamn nose in it. The DA's office has never bothered Thompson Lang about summer associates before. Never. Well, you've gone one step too far. I will make you regret this."

Francis just stared at him for a moment. "Do you know who that kid is?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Alfred, your summer associate. I did my research. Don't kid me."

"What about him?" Arthur asked in frustration.

Francis laughed. "Are you really so out of it? Do you know anything about your summer associates? Alfred Jones goes to Columbia Law School. He's ranked in the top ten of his class, and his parents are both famous prosecutors in the state of California. Alfred has been groomed to be a prosecutor practically since he was born. Why he wanted to work for a defense attorney is beyond me. Unless, he was just casing you." Francis smirked.

"You… Alfred is…" Arthur fell quiet, his thoughts flying ahead of him. How did he not know this? Well, he didn't look at Alfred's papers. He never bothered to look at his associates papers. He didn't care if they came from state school or Ivy league. He was only interested in the person, but at the same time… well, it was negligence on his part. Laziness. He just couldn't be bothered.

But surely it would have come up in conversation. Alfred should have mentioned… But they hadn't really talked much about Alfred, had they? They talked about Arthur. Arthur's work, Arthur's house, Arthur's enemy the DA. What did he know about Alfred? Only that he was a third year law student, that he wanted to work criminal law. The rest was a mystery.

How could… How could he have been so… self-centered? He didn't even ask Alfred what university he attended.

"I see," Francis remarked and then shrugged. "I am sure you will see him in court at the Schwabner case. Never mind about that settlement." He winked, smiling irritatingly before strutting away.

0 0 0

There were two things Arthur did immediately and one he did after some consideration. First, he researched Alfred Jones and educated himself. Unfortunately, it was just as Francis had said. Alfred attended Columbia, and he was incredibly bright.

Alfred was a child prodigy in high school mock court. As far as local newspapers were concerned, Alfred had never lost a case. There were pictures of him with his parents. A man with strikingly similar glasses and a woman with replica 100 watt smile. Alfred stood between the two of them holding a plaque and giving the camera a peace sign.

As a high schooler, Alfred had been chubbier. Boyish and bubbly, judging by the picture. Arthur almost couldn't believe this was taken when Alfred was 18.

He found out that Alfred had majored in Political Science and Drama, of all things. He reigned as the king of mock court in college as well. A graduate of UCLA, a tan and all the perks of beachside living. From an article on Washington Post, Arthur found out that Alfred had taken time off between college and law school. Time which he had dedicated to helping his cousin start a restaurant in LA.

Arthur found articles that Alfred had written for the Columbia Law Review on juvenile delinquency and other criminal justice topics. Alfred was in panels and Alfred was in clubs. It almost seemed to Arthur that there was nothing Alfred hadn't done. In an interview for Columbia's website, Alfred had been asked what sort of law he wanted to practice.

0 0 0

"Criminal law without a doubt," Alfred smiled. "I have never wanted to do anything else."

"And are you with the prosecution or…" I asked.

He laughed again. "That remains to be decided, doesn't it? I'm not sure yet. This summer I'm hoping to shadow a defense attorney and find out a bit more. I think they get a bad rap, but without them prosecutors would only be one half of a whole."

"Do you feel pressure to follow in your parents' footsteps?"

"Honestly? No." Alfred shrugged. "They say I would be a good prosecutor, but I think it would be terrible fun to face my parents in court as a defense attorney. We always joke about it."

0 0 0

Arthur read until his eyes were dry and itchy, then he leaned back with a mighty sigh. So Alfred was as good as Francis said. There was a real loss on his part. Chances are Alfred would be somebody in the legal world.

Refusing to think about the implications of what happened, Arthur moved onto the second thing. He searched Alfred's name in the firm directory and scrawled down the accompanying number. He would call Alfred later. See if they couldn't work this out. He was an attorney. Sometimes all it took was a little tenacity, but he wasn't hopeful.

After spending about an hour just staring at nothing, Arthur gave the day up for bollocks. He wasn't getting anything done. His concentration was shot. It was depressing to be the only one in the office, Alfred and Marlene gone.

The bar on 32nd received Arthur's business again. Heavily.

The reality of it all was beginning to set in. Alfred had left. Left for the DAs. Discarded their experience together like it was worthless. He had been foolish to assume that his attention meant anything to Alfred. It was all just a game. For good or for ill, Arthur was a fabulously wealthy defense attorney with reputation. Alfred could say all he wanted that he didn't care about salary, but that didn't make it true.

The bartender sent him another double whiskey with a frown. "Where's your buddy?"

Arthur resented the question, but he found himself answering. No one else was going to ask. "Working somewhere else now."

"Ah, I'm sorry, man."

"I'm not all that surprised. It was… kind of my fault, anyhow."

The bartender whistled, giving him a half-hearted smile. "Must have been pretty bad to drive that man away."

Arthur shrugged, feeling surly. The bartender had no right to be judging him on matters of conscience. "I think he overreacted, but it doesn't matter what I think. It's never mattered what I think. Client's guilty, I'll defend them. Client's innocent, I'll defend them. Same scenario over and over again. I don't know why I bother."

The bartender appeared to regret asking, as Arthur was only getting started on his rant.

"And you know, I hope he becomes a prosecutor. Just so I can show him how I got my reputation." He abruptly lost patience, tossing a handful of bills on the counter.

"Mister, wait, I can't let you leave like that. Let me call the cabbie."

"I'm not even drunk," Arthur said angrily. "I… I'm not even…"

Down with his dignity and all that, because he ended up with his ass in a cab and as soon as he got out, he puked on his loafers. As he searched for his keys in his pocket, his fingers brushed a slip of paper. In the dim light of the street lamp, he made out the number he had written down for Alfred earlier.

He laughed, crumpled it in his fist, and tossed it away.

And that was the last year Arthur Kirkland hosted summer associates.