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Between the Lines

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It has been another in a series of endlessly wearying days, but as she walks with Kurt to dinner it all begins to melt away. He has been particularly attentive since Will’s death and the turmoil at the firm that followed. He has listened to her rant, held her at night, and not least of all always seen to dinner. She senses he feels he doesn’t know what to do for her, that he doesn’t quite realize that’s everything. She slips her fingers between his, squeezing his hand. She will have to make sure he understands this. It will be rough for a while yet, but he makes everything a little easier to bear.

They are about to turn a corner when a voice coming from the other direction rises above the traffic. "Diane Lockhart."

Diane’s eyebrows shoot up. She would know that voice anywhere. Suave, bemused, with a way of making every word sound like a double-entendre. Thickly Australian.

She whirls around. “Jack?”

The other man approaches them, grinning. “You’re a sight for sore eyes,” he says, boldly grabbing her hand and kissing it. He notices her wedding band immediately. “And taken now, I see.”

Diane’s smile is forced as she pulls her hand back, gently reaching out for Kurt. “Jack, this is Kurt. My husband.” She intends to say it matter-of factly, but she can’t help but look over at him, beaming. She has not managed to introduce him this way with a straight face yet.

Kurt, however, does not look amused. He tends to size people up quickly and he has already decided this man falls short.

She knows this is uncomfortable for him and tries to keep things light, laughing as she explains, “Jack and I met when he was serving me with a subpoena.”

"Ah," Kurt acknowledges, extending his hand as a mere formality.

Jack shakes it jovially, apparently unaware of any tension. “Nice  to meet you, Kurt. Lucky man,” he smirks, then turns his attention back to her. “How long has it been, Diane — two years?”

She notices Kurt’s eyes narrow slightly — perhaps doing the math.

"I guess it has been, yes."

"Busy two years," he laughs, looking at Kurt meaningfully.

She can feel Kurt becoming more tense every moment now, withdrawing into that quiet place he goes to when he is trying not to say exactly what he’s thinking for her sake. It’s sweet of him when he does it to keep the peace with her friends or colleagues. But it isn’t worth it for Jack.

"Yes, busy tonight, too, I’m afraid — we’d better run if we’re going to make our dinner reservation."

Jack shrugs, his smile a knowing one. “I won’t keep you. Good to see you, Diane. Kurt.”

"You too. Goodbye, Jack."

She slips her arm around Kurt’s as they walk away, conscious that he hasn’t completely relaxed, but he has taken on a wry smile.

"What?" she prompts him, knowing he’s just dying to say something.

"That's the guy you threw me over for two years ago?"

She laughs lightly, shaking her head. “It wasn’t like that.”

"No, I get it, he’s a colorful guy, handsome, charming — I guess the accent goes a long way. Doesn’t seem like your type, though."

She looks at him sideways, teasing him back. “Kurt, are you jealous?"

"Any reason I should be?"

"Of course not!"

"Then I’m not."

"You are jealous!" She pauses, almost amazed. "I have to admit, that makes me feel better."

He scoffs as if he hasn’t accepted the premise yet, but asks, “Why?”

"I felt so silly after the way I reacted when you introduced me to your friends. I was jealous, Kurt, or just afraid — I don’t know why. It’s comforting to think you could be so silly over me, too, that’s all."

He takes a sharp breath as if he’s about to protest, but lets it out slowly, acknowledging some truth in this. “I don’t know if ‘jealous’ is the right word…”

She stops walking suddenly, pulling him into a closed storefront. She looks at him seriously — they don’t need to dwell on it, but he should know this. “I went on a couple dates with him. It was never going to be anything.”

He looks at her for a long time as if trying to read her. He is still looking for something else. It finally occurs to her that it isn’t Jack in particular that bothered him. After the way they drifted apart two years ago, perhaps he has always wondered if there was a Jack, and why she preferred him.

"It really wasn’t like that, Kurt. Work got in the way, and my own… issues. It was never him."

"Okay," he says simply, but she can tell he has accepted it. She can feel he has finally relaxed.

All in all he has handled this more gracefully than she did that night he pulled his truck over and told her, in fewer words, roughly the same thing. But they have both come a long way together since that night. There is a core of trust and certainty between them now. There would be no more running away.

She leans over to kiss him, a tender gesture that gradually deepens and for a moment she forgets everything, as she always does.

He pulls back finally with a regretful smile. “We really will be late for dinner.”

"Yeah." When he starts to turn back to the sidewalk, she grabs his arm, holding him there for a moment longer. The thought has come into her mind again suddenly: all the things he does, large and small, that make her life easier, happier, fuller. And bringing up the past has reminded her how close she came to missing all of it. "Thank you," she says, and she hopes he knows what she means. "For everything."

He smiles, offering his hand to her. She takes it, returning his smile. They walk off, arm in arm again, leaving the rest behind.