Chapter 2: Don't Let it Get to You
9:51. Jesus. Oliver hadn't slept so late or so soundly for as long as he could remember. His sense of peace and well being wobbled a little when he reached over to find Connor's side of the bed empty and cold. He wasn't worried, just a little disappointed to realize that he'd been alone during some of that long, delicious sleep – that it hadn't been quite the perfect experience that it might have been. "Get a grip," he thought. "Connor's the best thing that ever happened to you. And you're complaining that it's not 'perfect'?"
He made his way to the bathroom and then to the kitchen, where he found half a pot of coffee and a post-it note: "It's 9:15, and you're still deep under, which is great. Going out for a run. Love –C." Their post-it messages were getting longer and more grammatical, which made him happy for some reason. Maybe things were pretty perfect after all.
He was drinking coffee and reading email on the couch when Connor burst into the apartment about half an hour later. Exertion and cold weather had made the younger man rosy-cheeked, sweaty, and totally irresistible. The first time Oliver had referred to them as a "couple" invaded both their minds simultaneously, and they leered at each other. "Take off your pajamas," Connor said while stripping off his running gear.
The living-room couch was not their usual spot for morning sex, and, truth be told, it wasn't exactly fit for purpose. Connor bumped his knee into the coffee table, spilling Oliver's forgotten but half-full cup. Fortunately, Oliver was still coherent enough to pull his laptop out of the path of the cold coffee; he had forgiven Connor for destroying one laptop in a technically clueless effort to hide their illegal activity, but destruction of two machines in one week would have strained even the deepest love.
After that close call, they moved to the living-room floor, unable to resist rolling around like little kids for a few seconds before focusing on the very adult task at hand. Making love at home with the blinds drawn lacked the novelty of doing so on the table behind which Annalise held forth each week on the fine points of Criminal Law, but the privacy of today's venue had its pluses. For the next half hour, they took full advantage of the freedom to be as noisy and as messy as they pleased. Afterwards, they lay peacefully beside each other, happy not to have to clean up after themselves right away.
"I'm starting to get cold," Connor said eventually. "Let's take a shower."
"Just what I was about to do before you got home. Glad I procrastinated."
They took turns standing under the faucet, because Connor liked scalding water that Oliver found intolerable. Perhaps that would be a reason not to shower together in the long run but not at this point when their love was still new. While getting dressed, they resumed the conversation they'd started the night before.
"This isn't the job I signed up for," Connor said while zipping his jeans. "Sure, a great criminal-defense lawyer has to bend some of the rules some of the time, but Annalise has us going way too far." He went back into the bathroom and began his grooming routine, which Oliver often teased him about but actually loved to watch. "And now we've got you going way too far. This craziness has to stop. We're both going to wind up in jail or in an emergency room or both."
Oliver could not agree more. "I know I said `I can make my own decisions' when we were arguing at Annalise's place, but that was before my close encounter with that creep Phillip." Connor winced at the reminder that a probable killer had been in their home. He took Oliver's hand in his and kissed it, then moved closer but didn't speak. He wanted Oliver to feel that they were together and safe, but he really didn't want any more talk about Phillip, who had already caused them enough anxiety.
"In my own kitchen, no less!," Oliver continued. "You were right. I'm not cut out for a life of mano a mano hacking with World-of-Warcraft fanatics. I think I'll go back to my boring-ass job in the IT department now, thank you very much."
Connor fervently hoped that his boyfriend meant that literally. He squeezed Oliver's shoulders and said, "Speaking of kitchens, let's make some brunch. I'm famished after all that fresh air and strenuous activity."
They moved comfortably around each other, scrambling eggs and brewing fresh coffee, aware and relieved that the Keating craziness hadn't penetrated every nook and cranny of their life together. After they sat down, Connor ate slowly and gracefully, despite being famished. Perfect table manners were such an integral part of his classy upbringing that he never put any conscious effort into them, but Oliver always noticed such things. Connor effortlessly expressed complete thoughts between small bites, never uttering a word with his mouth full but never having to pause the conversation while he chewed and swallowed either.
"Like that psycho-killer college girl who stabbed her old best friend to death and bragged to her new best friends about how she was going to kill again," he said. "Annalise wanted to destroy the video so that that monster could walk. How can she look herself in the mirror?"
"You know, Con, defending guilty people is most of what criminal-defense lawyers do. If that feels like something you can't do, maybe you're on the wrong career path."
Just a few months ago, Connor would have dismissed such a suggestion – or argued about it. Now he took another sip of coffee and sat quietly, letting the familiar wave of gratitude wash over him once again. He desperately needed to talk about whether to continue pursuing the career he'd wanted since he'd become addicted to The Practice when he was eight years old. And here was his Oliver – brilliant, loving, trustworthy, and a great listener – wanting to have precisely the conversation Connor needed to have. When had he become so lucky?
"I guess I could look for a summer internship at another firm. Not one that specializes in criminal defense." The prospect was interesting – actually sort of fun – to think about and brought a smirk to Connor's face. "Do you have any suggestions?"
"Have you ever considered intellectual property?," Oliver asked. "I hear it's one of the few practice areas in which there's actually a shortage of lawyers."
"Honestly, no, it never occurred to me," Connor said. "Are you serious? Patents or copyrights?"
"There probably isn't much of either in Philly. Do you want to wind up in Silicon Valley or Hollywood?"
Connor's phone rang before he could wrap his head around that question. "Hi, Michaela." He listened for a few seconds. "Stop. You're not making any sense. The Hapstall case is over. We won yesterday."
Oliver started clearing the table, ready to hear the same thing he usually heard when he and Connor were supposed to have an afternoon off together.
"No," Connor pleaded with Michaela. "Don't tell me that. It's Saturday. Oliver and I need some time."
"Con, it's ok. I have to …"
"Hold on," Connor said to Michaela and muted his phone. "It is not ok. You said it yourself last night: These people are going to be the death of me. I need a day off."
"It sounds as though Michaela's in trouble and needs your help. I'm sure she'd help you if you needed her. Go see what the problem is."
Connor rolled his eyes and looked at Oliver as if to say "not you, too." But he un-muted and got back to Michaela. "Ok, ok. Oliver can't seem to say no to you, and he can't seem to let me say it, either. I'll be there as soon as I can."
More eye rolling. "Do you happen to know whom I slept with last night? Whoever he was had a very different view of my working on Saturday afternoons," Connor said sarcastically. "He was really cute, too."
Oliver closed the dishwasher and pulled Connor in for a quick kiss. "Actually, I can't take this afternoon off. Now that I've decided to stick with my boring-ass job in IT, I have to catch up on all the work email that accumulated while I was off playing secret-agent man."
Connor put on his shoes and jacket and started heading out. "I'm assuming you don't need the car this afternoon. You're going to be dealing with your email at home, right?"
"Yeah, sure, take it," Oliver said. He put a hand on Connor's shoulder, and Connor turned around. They kissed again, more slowly this time. "Listen, try to stay calm today, ok? It's just an internship."
"Ollie, you saw what goes on in that office …"
"Yeah, I know, but you don't have to let it get to you all the time. Just see what Michaela needs and then get out of there. Text me when you know your schedule, and I'll have dinner ready when you get home."
Connor nodded and walked out the door. "Don't let it get to me?," he thought. "You have no idea, babe, no idea." And he hoped with all his heart that Ollie never would.