“So," Dean said, "first off, they wouldn’t have hired you if you weren’t smart. Also, no one wants to join the force if they don’t care about people and stopping criminals. Ergo, smart and caring.”
Kirby nodded. “I suppose so. What about the ‘strong’ part?”
“Doesn’t that go without saying for a cop?”
“Not really. Sure, we have to be fit, but strength isn’t a prerequisite. A lot of being an officer is up here'—Kirby tapped his forehead—“as much as in how well we can control a suspect by force or whatever else needs doing on a physical level.”
“All right, that makes sense.”
“Now, your turn. I remember you telling me you went off to college to study art. Why the switch to theater?”
“One of my professors gave us an assignment to design some costumes for an upcoming show at the university’s theater. I discovered I had a flair for it, and the rest, to use the cliché, was history.”
“Much to your father’s disgust I’m sure. Damn. Sorry. That’s a dropped subject.”
Dean nodded. “It’s okay, and you hit it on the head. But by then I was of age and had decided he was not going to control my life any more.”
“So you wound up here with Carrie in tow.”
“More like I was the one in tow. She got hired, heard they also needed a new costumer, since the old one got pregnant and decided to devote herself to her soon-to-be growing family. Carrie suggested me, I sent Frank some of my designs, and he hired me.”
Kirby smiled, saying softly, “I’m glad he did.”
Dean scanned his face before replying, “So am I… now.”
“You weren’t before?” Kirby asked in surprise.
“Oh yeah, I like my job—a lot—and the city. But… well… there’s…” He almost reached for Kirby’s hand which was resting on the table, but didn’t when he realized where they were.
Something must have shown in Dean’s face because Kirby told him, “We’re just two men having dinner together, as far as anyone watching is concerned. It happens all the time, believe it or not.”
Dean sighed, running a hand through his hair. “Yeah, I know. I’m just… I always have my guard up. Sorry.”
“There is nothing to be sorry about. Believe me I understand.”
The waitress returned at that moment with their meals, setting them down before asking if there was anything else they needed. By the time she left, having been told there wasn’t, the mood had been broken.
“That looks good,” Dean said, eyeing what Kirby had ordered.
“Then maybe you should have ordered it instead of half-raw steak,” Kirby replied with a grin.
“Steak isn’t any good if it’s too cooked. You loose the flavor.”
They continued on in that vein as they ate, bantering about their choices and what other types of food and drink they preferred. Finally Kirby leaned back with a sigh of satisfaction. “I’m so stuffed I might explode.”
No way am I touching that one. Then Dean saw the twinkle of amusement it Kirby’s eyes and laughed. “Maybe you should walk it off?”
“Walk or work?” Kirby asked with a straight face.
“Walk,” Dean replied quickly, dropping his napkin on the table beside his plate.
“Walk it is then.” Kirby felt a rush of disappointment but quashed it quickly. Hell, I was lucky he was willing to come to supper with me. Don’t push his limits until he’s ready. He took out his wallet and, despite Dean’s protests, paid for both their meals. “Ready?” he asked, getting up.