An exchange between theslashbunny and me that I feel perfectly sums up my experience in the Castle fandom.
coffeebuddha: But seriously, it feels like everyone else is all 'gonna write a LOVE STORY for Ryan and Esposito' while I'm sitting in my corner twiddling my thumbs and daydreaming about Javier and Kevin fisting each other or being crime fighting lemurs.
theslashbunny: You're just branching out the fandom! Cuz every fandom needs more
So that's what I'm doing with this fic. I'm not writing ridiculous crack. I'm branching out the fandom, guys.
Javier doesn't know how his life turned out this way. Okay, no, that's a lie. He knows exactly how this happened, he's just a little confused as to why he let it. There had been a plan. It was a damn good plan, starting with going into the army after high school. Huge chunks of his senior year had been sacrificed to bulking up and getting into the kind of shape that would keep basic training from kicking his ass, and he'd never regretted that, not even when Gwen had broken up with him right before prom for ignoring her. He'd do it again in a heartbeat, because Gwen was great, but she wasn't forever, and the degree in criminology that the government paid for once he got out was. After that, it was straight into the police academy, then long days and nights busting his ass on homicide cases that made his adrenaline race and his heart sink.
Honestly, the two months of medical leave the station forced on him after getting shot was the closest he'd been to a vacation in years. It was supposed to just be a break, some time to heal up, get his head on straight, and maybe try watching some daytime television. Only, a few days in, his sister Carla and her husband Jonathan had closed on an apartment that she decided needed to be completely gutted and redecorated.
"I don't know what to do," Jonathan hissed into the phone, late one night. "Look, you and I both know I'm not exactly Martha Stewart. Fuck, you saw my disaster of a bachelor pad, but all this stuff she's picking out is so bad. I really don't think I can live in this apartment if she does it the way she's talking about."
Javier frowned and struggled to get his takeout open without dropping the phone wedged between his cheek and shoulder. "Isn't this something you should be talking to her about?"
"Since when does she ever listen to me about stuff like this? You owe me for having your back in that bar fight last fall, Javier, and I'm collecting. Get over here and do something to save me!"
Javier had figured that at the most he'd be vetoing some questionable paint choices or steering Carla away from buying any furniture with an animal print, but then they got to the paint store and he couldn't help but notice that a soft buttercup yellow would look really warm and inviting with the polished hardwood floors and big windows in the front room. At the furniture store, he pointed out that the ultra modern dining room table she'd spent a solid ten minutes cooing over would look horrible with the antique chairs she'd picked up for cheap at a thrift store and steered her toward a colonial inspired piece that went beautifully with them once they'd been refinished to match. By the time they got to curtains, Carla was just nodding along to everything he said while he took the lead. A week into the project, Javier found himself standing completely alone in the middle of Moods with a handful of swatches and the kind of horror that can only come from realizing you actually know what swatches are.
Another week later at the house warming party, Carla was dragging him around by the wrist and reintroducing him to everyone as 'my brother Javier, the closet designer' no matter how many times he glared at her and told her not to mention it. He was plotting his escape when one of Jonathan's cousins gave the room an appraising once over, tapped a nail against her chin, and said that she was looking for someone to redo her kitchen and would even pay him. The no was right there ready to drop heavy and final from his lips, but then his mama was at his elbow giving him the look that said, 'Family is important and I have enough dirt on you to blackmail you for ten lifetimes, not that I'd ever need it since I am a master of emotional manipulation,' and Javier had sighed and said, "Sure, I'll drop by tomorrow and you can tell me your ideas while I take a look."
The kitchen took another couple of weeks, and Sarah--the cousin--was thrilled with it. In fact, she was so thrilled that she snapped pictures and showed them to everyone at her office. It turned out her boss was looking to renovate his bathroom. Sarah slipped him Javier's number and left a message on his machine that he could probably get away with charging the guy twice as much as he had her.
He charged triple and somehow still ended up with a handful of voice mails from people saying the boss had referred him to them, and maybe he was supposed to be on vacation, but it turned out that vacations were pretty boring after the first few days of doing nothing, so he said yes. Somewhere along the line, he even started enjoying himself.
By the time his two months were over, he'd completed five jobs and had another four lined up. There'd been a plan, one he'd spent the last several years shaping his life around, and the end game had always been to be a homicide detective in New York City. It was a damn good plan. Well, while it lasted, anyway.
Javier still thinks swatch is a fucking stupid word though.
"I'm serious, Jen. I don't want some strange guy poking around my apartment, telling me why everything in it is wrong." Kevin restraightens the stack of old magazines threatening to tumble off the edge of his coffee table, pauses, picks them up to toss them in the garbage, notices the water rings distorting the wood underneath, and drops them back down with a sigh. "And who actually hires people to redecorate their friends' apartments? Seriously, who does that?"
"Someone who doesn't want to sit on a dumpster couch during movie nights anymore," Jenny says without missing a beat. There's a quiet, unintelligible voice saying something in the background, then a soft rustling and Jenny's muffled answer that signifies she's pressed the phone against her chest.
Kevin glares around his perfectly serviceable, if somewhat small and messy, apartment. If this guy tries to make him get rid of his vintage Godzilla movie poster, there will be words.
"Sorry, I'm back," Jenny says, the click clack of her machine gun typing traveling easily down the line. "Heath needed the numbers for this thing we're doing next week. Very boring, you wouldn't be interested. Where was I?"
"Dumpster couch," Kevin says as he flops down onto it. "I don't get why you suddenly hate the thing. You didn't have a problem with it before, and it's not like I didn't clean it when I brought it home."
"One, I don't care what the commercials say, Febreezing something doesn't make it automatically clean. Two, I only pretended to like it so as to spare your sad, delicate feelings. The thing is an ugly piece of crap that belongs in a low class pimp's apartment, not a hotshot young detective's. Three, consider this my present to you for becoming a hotshot young detective and quit your whining or I'll tell your ma you're being ungrateful when I see her at church on Sunday. Four-"
"Exactly how many points do you have," Kevin asks, twisting so that his knees are swung over the armrest and his head is dangling off the side of the middle cushion.
"Four," Jenny repeats, "Come to church on Sunday so I can stop telling made up excuses about where you are to your ma. I swear I age ten years every time she fixes me with that glare."
"You don't look a day over twenty-five," Kevin says dutifully, just as his buzzer goes off. He grimaces, but rolls onto his feet and shuffles to the intercom.
"Liar," Jenny says, but he can hear the smile in her voice. "It ages me on the inside. My soul looks like a shriveled up old crone, Kevin Ryan, and it wouldn't if you'd stop breaking your mother's heart. All you'd have to do is put on a suit and sleep through a mass once a week."
"The incense makes my eyes water. I always look like a pothead by the time I get out of that place. Hang on a sec." Kevin holds his cellphone away from his face and punches the intercom button with his thumb. "Yeah?"
"Espo Designs." There's too much static to place it, but the voice that filters through the crackling is oddly familiar in a way that niggles disconcertingly down Kevin's spine.
"Come on up. It'll be open," he says, wondering if it would be paranoid to grab his gun out of the lock box in his bedroom. Probably. Possibly. Maybe. He brings his phone back up to his ear and eyes the door distrustfully. "Where'd you say you found this guy again?"
"Kate recommended him when I went into the station to pick you up for lunch the other day."
Kevin rolls his eyes, but flips the locks open and leaves his gun where it is. There's a beer bottle on top of his bookshelf that he'd somehow missed in his pre-consultation cleaning sweep. "Stop sucking up to my boss," he orders her, crossing the room to grab the bottle and toss it in the recycling bin.
"Somebody has to," she says, but her tone has gone slightly distant, and when he focuses he can hear a couple of other people speaking low in the background. "I don't care what you think, there's a certain amount of networking you need to do regardless of what your job is. Nobody wants to promote someone they don't like."
"People like me," he says, a little wounded, and he's about to follow up with examples when there's a low whistle behind him and a very familiar voice saying, "Well, this is different."
He manages to fumble his phone without actually even doing anything, because apparently he lives in some kind of mortifying romcom now. There's no way it's him, there's no way it's him, there's no way it's him, he chants silently to himself as he drops to his knees to dig the phone out from where it's skidded under his tiny dining table. His fingers slip on the hard plastic case and there's an almost palpable feeling of amusement drifting over from the guy who can't possible be that guy, but eventually he manages to snag a hold of it. He makes the mistake of glancing up through his eyelashes as he's straightening up, and nearly gives himself a concussion by slamming his head against the underside of the table when he sees Javier Esposito standing in the section of his apartment that serves as his living room.
"You okay, man?" Javier asks, his eyebrows steadily climbing up his forehead and not a lick of recognition on his face.
"Uh," Kevin says, because he's just witty and clever like that. In all fairness, Javier is in his apartment, which is grounds for at least a minor meltdown, and appears to have no idea who he is, which is grounds for at least a few hours worth of sulking. The back of his head is starting to throb and he can feel the flush creeping up his neck. It's probably covered by his collar, which is one good thing about today, and if he's extremely lucky, Javier will never figure out exactly how much he's freaking the fuck out right now. He can't do this. He can't.
"Yeah." He rubs at the knot he can already feel rising up under his hair as he tries to arrange his face into something that doesn't scream that he's a little bit of an obsessive, pining creeper--because the least he can do is be honest and own his less than appealing faults in the security of his own mind--and says, "I'm good."
If Kevin's going to get through this, then he's pretty sure he needs a minute--not even a minute, really; he's been trained to deal with high pressure situation and he should be able to pull himself together in less time than that--where he can focus on something other than the way that Javier's shirt is stretched tight over his shoulders. They're really very nice shoulders. They're really nice shoulders that he needs to stop thinking about.
His fingers tighten around his phone and he has a brief spiritual moment where he thanks God and every saint he can remember as he lifts one finger at Javier in the universal 'give me a second' gesture and brings the phone back to his ear. "Jen?"
"Kevin! Are you okay? I heard a lot of crashing. What happened?" Jenny's a lovely woman with many, many good qualities, but her ability to go shrill to a level where only dolphins and dogs can truly understand her is not one of them, especially when combined with the headache Kevin can feel growing with every passing second.
"I'm fine, Hot Lips," he says, the nickname slipping out automatically. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Javier smirk and arch an eyebrow at him. "I just dropped my phone. I need to go, the decorator's here."
"And he made you drop your phone? Is he that hot? Quick, take a picture with your phone and send it to me. I'm your friend, you should do nice things for me."
"Yes, yes, no, and I'm always nice to you. You have a work to do and I need to not be one of those assholes who can't even get off their phones for five minutes."
"Forget about getting off your phone. Go get off with your decorator. And put your phone on speaker so I can listen in and give you tips. God knows how long it's been since you got laid last. Do you even remember how everything works down there?"
"You're a highly disturbing individual and I don't know why everyone thinks you're so sweet and innocent. Have fun making Heath cry." He flips the phone closed before she can respond and drops it, this time on top of the table. He's in, if not a good place, then at least a slightly better one when he turns back to Javier. "She, uh, kind of has this obsession with M*A*S*H that's completely spiraled out of control," he starts, but Javier shrugs and says, "Hey, man, it's none of my business what you want to call her."
"Right," he says, scratching at the back of his neck. "I'm Kevin. This is my apartment."
Oh, he's smooth alright.
Javier full on laughs at that. Kevin's fairly certain his face is doing a better than fair impression of a tomato right now, but the laugh doesn't sound malicious, just amused, which takes some of the sting out of it. "I'm Javier Esposito," he says, taking a couple steps closer and sticking a strong, broad hand out for Kevin to shake. "I'm your decorator."
"I know," Kevin says as he clasps his fingers around Javier's. "We've actually already met."
The curl of Javier's fingers tenses at the back of Kevin's hand and his friendly, open expression shutters just a hair. "Have we now," he asks, his vocal register dropping barely enough to be noticeable, but enough that it would probably be disconcerting to someone who didn't know what he was doing. Kevin's hidden out behind enough mirrors watching the man work over a suspect that he knows how to spot when he's uncomfortable, when he's trying to be intimidating. "You'll have to refresh my memory."
"Yeah." There is clearly a problem with Kevin's libido, because it's choosing to interpret 'intimidating' as 'sexy' if the dark tangle of heat unfurling in his stomach is anything to go by. He clears his throat and tries to ignore how the calluses on Javier's palm feel against his skin. He definitely doesn't imagine how they would feel dragging over his ribs or up the inside of his upper thigh. Fuck, he is so screwed. And now he's thinking about fucking. Awesome. "I didn't transfer to homicide until after you'd already left and we were only there at the station during same time for about six months, but we ran into each other a few times. I used to work narcotics under Braxton."
The change is instantaneous. Javier visibly eases and his grin somehow manages to got even wider and friendlier. There's still no real recognition there, but he's nodding and cuffs Kevin's shoulder with his free hand. "God, you worked for that asshole and escaped without killing him? You have my sympathies, bro."
"Well, you know," Kevin says vaguely, finally pulling away before he can do something too embarrassing like stroke his thumb over the thin skin of Javier's inner wrist. "Should I be showing you around or something?"
"I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get lost in this place." Javier shoves his hands in his pockets and rocks back on his heels as he runs a critical eye over the main living area, taking it in like a crime scene. "It's very dorm room chic, right down to the size."
Kevin huffs out a laugh and goes to grab a couple of beers from the fridge. He pauses with the door open, tilting one toward Javier in silent invitation, then tosses it to him when he holds out a hand and nods his thanks. "'Dorm room chic'? It's nice to know that your masculinity hasn't suffered at all from your career change."
Javier twists off the beer top before Kevin can hand him the bottle opener and quirks an eyebrow at him. "Says the guy who looks like he should be teaching a business class. Seriously? You hunt down killers wearing a vest?"
"It's a waistcoat and I'll have you know it's very manly," Kevin says, flopping down on his couch. His Godzilla poster has caught Javier's eye. "The poster stays. A lot of this stuff can go, but that's not negotiable."
"Are you kidding me?" Javier asks, but he sounds more amused than dismayed. "This thing is perfect. I say we build the entire room around it. I can make you a bookshelf that looks like that overgrown lizard's taken a bite out of it and everything!"
And then he's off, the color wheel out of his pocket and in his hand as he paces around, pointing at different things and shooting out ideas too fast for Kevin to get a word in. Kevin ends up sprawling backing against the armrest, just nodding and trying to hide his laughter behind his beer as Javier gets more and more animated. Okay, maybe this won't be so bad after all. He might have to send Jen a thank you card.
Jenny is so not getting a thank you card. In fact, there's a very good chance that Jenny isn't getting squat from him for the rest of their lives.
The problem is that Javier's always there. Which, okay, in a perfect world, that wouldn't be a problem. That would be the very opposite of a problem, but this isn't a perfect world. Wandering into his kitchen first thing in the morning when he's still bleary eyed with sleep and half hard--because he isn't even coordinated enough to deal with an erection before his first cup of coffee--only to find a shirtless Javier pulling his cabinets and knowing that he isn't allowed to reach out and touch any of that smooth, tempting skin is a sharp, sweet torture. Getting home from work hours after his shift was supposed to have ended and having Javier automatically pass him a beer and a slice of leftover pizza pretty much the instant he's through the door and inviting him to complain about the case he's working while Javier stencils a huge lizard towering over a city skyline on the 'accent wall' is a cruel mockery of domesticity. Sometimes he'll look up and catch Javier looking at him, really looking, in a way that makes it far too easy to forget that Javier still has a reputation for being a total lady's man around the station and has probably never had a gay thought in his life.
The problem is that Kevin had a crush on the man when he'd barely even spoken to him. Having him around all the time, seeing up close and personal the way he talks with his mouth full and cracks bad jokes about worse movies and his eyes go soft when he's talking about his family, Kevin's finally getting the chance to get to know him. Javier isn't the first guy he's gotten interested in from a distance, but he's the first guy he's ever stayed interested in after having a few conversations more complex than 'Pass the creamer'.
The problem is that the job's probably only going to last for about another week and he doesn't want Javier to leave.
"It must suck, you not being able to see Jenny that often. Do your schedules just clash that badly or what?"
The hands on the clock are edging steadily closer to midnight and Kevin's stretched out face down on his new, distressed leather couch. He'd finally pulled himself away from his desk about half an hour ago. His waistcoat is tossed haphazardly over the table by the front door and his tie is hanging loose around his unbuttoned collar, but he's otherwise made no effort to get comfortable. Javier's sanding something, the soft scritch of the paper in his hand against wood the loudest sound in the room, and all of his attention appears to be focused on his task when Kevin props himself up on an elbow to look at him.
"I guess. We talk on the phone a lot, so that helps, but I'm pretty much at the station or sleeping and she practically has two full time jobs what with planning the wedding herself."
That makes Javier look up at him, eyes wide and hand stalling halfway through a sweep. "Wedding? Shit, you guys are getting married? Shouldn't she have a say in the apartment then? Bro, I know I've only talked to her on the phone a couple times, but Jenny seems like the kind of woman to have opinions about things like lizard murals."
"Javi." Kevin blinks slowly, caught between what Javier's saying and the pinched, unhappy look around his eyes and the corners of his mouth. "Jen and I aren't together. We grew up in the same apartment complex so we've been friends forever, but there's no way it would ever go further than that. I mean, even if she wasn't way too good for me, the fact that I came out to her when I was fifteen would put a big strain on any kind of romantic relationship."
"Oh," Javier says. He's looking again, his expression too complicated for Kevin to read, but there's something in it that makes his toes curl in anticipation. "Oh," Javier says again, and it's like something silently locks into place, an almost unnoticeable shift in the currents running between them. "I didn't know. I just assumed."
"Well, now you do," Kevin says. He's pretty sure neither of them are talking about Jenny anymore. Javier's eyes are darker than he's ever seen them, intense and interested, and Kevin wonders exactly how many of those rumors about him and Lanie from the morgue are true.
"Yeah." Javier tilts his head thoughtfully and gives him a slow once over that he can practically feel. "Good to know."
"Of course," Javier says, and his eyes are still a shade too hot to pass for completely uninterested, but there's a teasing hint in the curve of his smile. "How do you feel about rainbows, because I saw the best afghan the other day that would be just fabulous for throwing over the back of your couch and displaying your pride."
The throw pillow catches him in the side of the head and Kevin's scrambling for a second, but Javier's just laughing and laughing, barely able to choke out a suggestion for a dildo wall mural in the bedroom.
"What about you," Kevin asks later once they've both settled back down. "Are you and Lanie still together?"
Javier chuckles and shakes his head. He's stretched out on the floor with his feet propped up next to Kevin's on the couch. When he shifts a little, Kevin can feel the toe of Javier's shoe brush against his ankle, and when Javier doesn't pull away, he stays there, keeping that small point of contact between them.
"Nah, man. Don't get me wrong, Lanie's amazing and all, but we never dated or anything. We were both coming out of relationships and it was just nice to have someone to be with, you know? The woman's amazing in the sack, but I'm pretty sure she would eat me alive if we ever tried to date." Javier points his toe and stretches, his foot slipping up under the curve of the back of Kevin's ankle. "I haven't been seeing anyone since I broke up with this guy from my gym that I had a casual thing with a few months ago."
"You, uh," Kevin swallows, pressing down a little into the arch of Javier's foot. "You ever interested in trying something that's not casual?"
The silence stretches and Kevin can't quite bring himself to look at Javier, but he needs to know, has to be certain before he lets himself fall any deeper. When he makes himself look, Javier's staring back up at him, lips parted and eyes half lidded, his expression a confusing jumble of surprise, want, and hope.
"Yeah," he says roughly. "Lately I've been thinking that I would."
Javier doesn't know how his life turned out this way. Okay, no, that's a lie. He knows exactly how this happened, and he's fucking thankful that it did. So maybe Kevin isn't exactly what he pictured when he imagined his future. He's loud and sarcastic and talks too much about science fiction, but he's also smart and sweet and sexy as hell, so if pillow talk contains a little more Orson Welles than he'd thought it might, Javier's more than willing to deal with that.
There had been a plan, one that involved a whole lot more guns than swatches, and sometimes Javier wonders what would have happened if he'd stuck with it. Sure, he'd still know Kevin, maybe would have gotten friendly with him a whole lot sooner than he did, but what are the chances that things would have turned out this good? Would he still be waking up to the cackling of Kevin's Joker alarm clock? Would he still fall asleep on their couch after a marathon session of Madden, only to blink back into consciousness in the middle of the night with Kevin draped on top of him, mumbling incoherently into the crook of his neck? Would he know Kevin's scent, the way he goes completely pliant when Javier nips the inside of his elbow, the quiet whimpering sounds he makes when he comes?
There was a plan and, okay, maybe it had been a damn good one, but knowing what he knows now, he wouldn't stick with it for the world. Because Kevin? Well, Javier's pretty damn sure Kevin is forever. At the very least, he's really hoping he is. And it's true that maybe things would have worked out fine if he'd kept working as a detective and he'd still get to put up with Kevin's so-strong-it's-practically-solid coffee and the fact that he's incapable of picking up his socks, but that's not really a chance Javier's willing to take. So really, thank God for interior design and sisters with bad taste.
(Javier still thinks swatch is a fucking stupid word though. Kevin agrees.)