As Ke$ha shrieks about love being her drug of choice and a fifty-year-old woman stuffs a handful of bills in his dark blue thong ("police" stitched across the front in white thread), Kevin Ryan wonders for the millionth time if maybe he should quit his job. But then a strong hand grips his arm and hauls him up, and he finds himself face-to-face (and body-to-body) with his dance partner, and receives a sudden, visceral reminder as to why he won't—no matter how much he hates the copious amount of glitter his job requires.
There are very few things in life worth washing glitter off your balls on a daily basis, but Javier Esposito? He's definitely one of those things.
Javier pulls Kevin flush against his body, face quirking in a grin, and Kevin realizes he spaced out for a quick second. Instantly he finds the rhythm of the song and falls back into the routine. Well. "Routine" might be generous: he's essentially grinding against any part of Javier's body that he can reach, their oiled skin slipping with smooth almost-friction, lights glinting off their muscles and creating a very pretty picture for the customers watching.
Kevin knows, aesthetically, they make a good team: Javier dark and intense, himself light and a little submissive. They're a study in opposites, and they've been partners for so long that they can anticipate what the other wants and go with it—a little press here, pull there, leading each other in a dance so fluid it seems choreographed—a kind of chemistry that can't be faked.
He'd been so mortified the first time he'd gotten hard on-stage. Blushing like a tomato, he'd tried to stammer out an apology to Javier afterward, using words like unprofessional and deeply sorry and involuntary reaction. Javier had patiently sat through the entire apology with a growing look of disbelief, then laughed for about ten minutes, smacked Kevin's ass with a rolled-up towel, and told him not to worry about it.
"It happens, bro." As Javier had headed back for his solo routine, cackling with glee the whole way, he'd called over his shoulder, "Let me know if you ever want a hand taking care of it afterward!"
And, seriously, who jokes about that shit? It's entirely Javier's fault that Kevin'd started thinking about what it would be like to call his bluff. It's also somehow Javier's fault that once he'd started, he'd found he couldn't stop.
The men's dressing room is out of makeup-removing wipes and Kevin wants the glitter on his face gone, like, yesterday, so he bangs on the door that connects to the women's dressing room.
"NYPD Booty Inspector, open up!" he yells, and waits about half a second before turning the knob. It isn't locked; it's supposed to be, but never is. Kate and Lanie are both inside, dressed in matching slutty cop outfits: unbuttoned police shirts tied under their busts (lacy black bras very visible), black leather booty shorts over fishnets and kinky boots, and a jaunty little hat to top it all off. Lanie's helping Kate pin a fake badge to her shirt, but Kevin isn't sure why they bother when everyone knows the shirt's coming off in the first twenty seconds of "Mr. Saxobeat."
"Sorry," Kevin apologizes. "We're out of wipes. Fucking glitter."
"One of these days we need to get you into a vampire getup and just cover you in the stuff," Kate tells him with barely-contained amusement, and Lanie bursts out laughing. Kevin throws a bedazzled denim bra at Kate, glaring darkly, but she ducks out of the way with ease.
"I'm serious!" she protests, aiming for an innocent tone and missing by a mile. "And then you could interrupt Espo's A-Rod routine and bite him! Just sink your teeth into his neck and bite and suck until you leave a nice mark..." Kevin's not listening. He's really not. He's very focused on cleaning his face. But he pauses in his vigorous scrubbing long enough to glare at the girls' reflections anyway.
"I don't know," Lanie demurs, choking back giggles. "He might like that a little too much, you know? But it would probably be good for business."
"Yeah, yeah," Kevin says, rolling his eyes as he crumples the wipe and tosses it in the wastebasket. "Sounds like a real crowd-pleaser. Quality entertainment every Tuesday through Saturday night, here at the Precinct," he quips.
"Trust me, hot stuff, if I would want to watch it, I can guarantee the crowd will too." Lanie winks. "And speaking of Javier, did you jump his bones in the costume closet yet? I thought that was the plan."
"Can't," Kevin answers, glancing side to side. "Iron Gates is everywhere tonight. She'd catch us, kill us, and then skin us alive."
"Skin you alive after you're dead, huh?" Kate asks, trying not to laugh. "And it's got nothing to do with the fact that you're too scared to make a move."
Lanie warns, "I'm telling you, Kevin Ryan, if you don't tap that soon: I will."
"What? That man is fine. All strong and silent, and that body... don't even try to tell me you don't have wet dreams about oiling up those muscles every shift, because you'd be a god-damn liar."
"I can personally vouch that he's fantastic in bed, if that's what you're worried about," Kate puts in, and her eyes widen when Kevin and Lanie both just stare at her. "Don't either of you look at me like that—it was one time, just after Ike quit. Kev wasn't even working here then. And nothing since, I swear! He's all yours, tiger."
"I'm all his," Kevin corrects, under his breath. "That doesn't make him all mine." Noting an absence, he furrows his brow. "Hey, where's—" making an obscene gesture with his hips— "Gyrating Jenny?"
"She has the night off, Mr. Ryan," comes a stern voice at the door, and Kevin jumps out of his skin while the girls fall all over themselves laughing at his misfortune. Face burning, he turns around to face Gates, who's studying her clipboard—for christ's sake, she's not even looking at him and still somehow manages to make the full extent of her displeasure known. "Kate, Lanie, you're on in two. All set?"
"Yes, sir," Lanie answers cheerfully.
"Wonderful. Mr. Ryan, I suggest you return to the men's dressing room, unless you want me to start ordering your costumes from the women's section of the catalog."
Kevin nods once, feeling like he's back in middle school and Sister Mary Catherine just whacked him with a ruler for talking in class. He can almost feel the burn on his knuckles. "You got it," he mumbles, still blushing. Gates ducks out of the room, presumably off to harass the rest of her charges into submission.
"Well, that's our cue," Lanie says, and the two girls link arms. "Now, if you'll excuse us, we're off to torture Castle for three minutes and fifteen seconds."
"Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" he hollers at their retreating backs. He doesn't catch Kate's retort, but he'd bet all the sweaty, crumpled dollar bills in his underwear that it's something along the lines of that's not much of a restriction.
When he heads back into the men's dressing room, Javier isn't there, but Tom Demming is, fussing with the suspenders on a pair of yellow firefighter's pants.
"Hey, man. You seen Javi? We're supposed to join you after the first song."
Tom shrugs. "Think he went to watch Castle and the girls."
There's a little alcove just off the stage from which one or two people can watch what's going on in the club, and Kevin finds Javier there, eyes focused on the scene in front of him.
"Hey, shove over," Kevin says, and Javier wordlessly steps aside to accommodate him.
Onstage, Kate and Lanie are alternating between crawling all over Castle and completely ignoring him to dance with each other, and all three of them are shedding clothing as they go. Kevin's got to hand it to Gates—she came up with a great routine. It's more or less how the girls treat Castle anyway (they seem to live to tease and torture him) so their routine flows naturally, little more than reality minus some clothes and plus some grinding. Each night it's a bit different, but the undertone of genuine affection and fun is always there, and it shows.
"I swear," Javier comments after a minute, "I will never get tired of watching Kate and Lanie do their thing."
"What I want to know is how they can, in those shoes. But don't even try to front, bro, I know you've got a thing for Castle."
"Why you gotta be like that, baby?" Javier answers, feigning hurt. "You know you're the only man for me."
It takes Kevin a few seconds to come back from that, unable to formulate a response while he's overcome with a truly ridiculous bout of if-only. "Don't worry, I pinky promise I won't tell him," he replies, but his voice sounds a little shaky. "I won't even write Javi loves Ricky on the stalls in the men's room unless you do something to deserve it."
Javier hip-checks him lightly. "Shut up, man." They watch in comfortable silence, shoulders touching, for another minute before Javier sighs. "We should probably get dressed before Gates has our balls on a plate, huh?"
"Yeah, you're probably right." As they turn to leave, they're greeted by the sight of Tom strolling toward the stage with a smile, looking for all the world like the sluttiest fireman Kevin's ever seen. Gates isn't far behind him, but she looks less pleased.
Javier gropes Tom's ass as heads by them. "Shake it like a Polaroid picture, man," he says, and Tom turns around, giving them a big grin and a little shimmy before he heads onstage.
Gates comes to a stop when she reaches them. "You two should be getting dressed," she orders, pointing a finger at them.
Kevin salutes her. "Ma'am, yes, ma'am."
Gates smacks Kevin's ass with her clipboard. "What did I tell you about calling me that? A madam runs a different kind of house."
"He called you ma'am, though," Javier points out with a smirk and holds his fist out for a bump, which Kevin obliges. Gates just fixes her icy glare on him next.
"Which is short for madam, genius. Now get your tight asses into some firefighter gear before I split the two of you up for sassing the management."
"Night, bro," Javier says, and Kevin turns, yanking his t-shirt on.
It is a criminal offense, he thinks, that Javier looks just as good in a black henley and blue jeans as he does in a red g-string and fake fireman helmet. But he keeps such thoughts to himself and instead forces his voice into a casual tone.
"Hey, uh, I was wondering if you up for some Madden tonight?"
Javier looks torn. He rubs the back of his head. "I don't know, man. I was kind of looking forward to some sleep..."
"Come on," he cajoles, hoping he sounds convincing rather than needy. "We don't have work tomorrow, and I feel like we haven't hung out in ages," which isn't strictly true but probably doesn't matter.
"Yeah, okay, but only if I can crash at your place," Javier concedes. "If you think I'm hauling my ass across the city at four in the morning, you've got another thing coming."
"Dude, the invitation to stay over was kind of implied. It's rude to invite someone over, thoroughly kick their ass, and then send them home crying."
"Just for that, I'm showing no mercy tonight."
"Is that a fact?"
Javier steps forward into his personal space, running a finger down Kevin's chest. "That's a promise, my friend," he says, and his low tone send shivers down Kevin's spine. It may also short-circuit his brain, which is the only possible explanation for what he says next:
"Put your money where your mouth is, big shot. Loser gives the winner a lapdance."
If he wasn't looking directly into Javier's eyes, he might have missed the way they darken with interest. But he was, so he doesn't. "You're on, Irish."
Javier makes the requisite snide comment about the couch while Kevin's pulling out his xbox, but Kevin just chucks a controller at Javier's stomach, hard, and it shuts him up quick. They each grab a beer from the fridge and settle into a familiar rhythm of mashing buttons and talking shit. Kevin manages a decent lead early on, but as the hours pass and Javier gets closer to him on the couch, his attention wanders. It isn't long before Javier catches up to him and hits pause so he can gloat.
"Losing your touch there, bro," he taunts.
"Fuck you," Kevin retorts good-naturedly. "I'll have you know I put in a long, hard night of taking my clothes off for money."
"Yeah, I'll bet it was hard," Javier answers, stifling a yawn. "After all, you were grinding up against my sweet ass the whole time."
"Don't act like it wasn't a fucking privilege for you to put your hands all over me, bitch." He gets up from the couch, heading into the kitchen. "Want another beer?"
"I'm good," Javier calls back. "I'm pretty sure you put Valium in mine so you'd win by default when I fell asleep."
"Nah, I just slipped in a little love potion, but I guess I didn't read the side effects that closely?" He grabs a bottle of water out of the fridge and shuts it with his hip. "Turns out one of them is drowsiness."
"That's not a love potion, bro, that's a roofie."
"Six of one, half a dozen of the other. Hey Javi, is my love your drug?" he asks, batting his eyelashes, and Javier glares at him as he walks back into the room.
"I thought we agreed, no Ke$ha outside of work."
Kevin shrugs. "What are you going to do about it?"
"Don't make come over there and beat your ass."
"Bring it on, old man," Kevin taunts, arms outstretched, and dodges when Javier chucks a pillow at him. "That was weak. Get up and fight me like a man."
"Yeah, I'll show you what it means to be a man," Javier mutters, but he just closes his eyes and settles back into the couch cushions. He yawns. "Tomorrow morning."
Kevin rolls his eyes and goes over, grabbing Javier by the arm. "Come on, if you're going to fall asleep on me, at least do it in a bed." He winces at the unintentional double entendre, but oh well. Too late to take it back now.
Javier cracks one eye open. "Why Kevin Ryan," he drawls, "if I didn't know any better I'd think you were trying to get me into bed so you could take advantage of me."
"Think you're already dreaming there, bro," he answers, tugging. Javier doesn't budge. "Seriously, get up. I don't want to listen to you bitch about your back tomorrow morning."
"Go'way," Javier mutters.
"If you don't get off this couch right now, I'm going to touch you in some really inappropriate places," Kevin threatens. "Like, straight-up bad touch you."
"Go ahead. You owe me a lapdance anyway."
"The score's tied!"
"Yeah, well, I was going to win and we both know it. Let's just skip to my reward and save us both some time."
Kevin makes a frustrated noise, capitulating. "Fine, but you're not going to like it."
"That remains to be seen," Javier tells him, shrugging. "Besides, you drugged me. Even if I don't like it I'm not going to remember in the morning."
"I'm going to put on really stupid music for it," Kevin warns, crossing to the stereo and rummaging through his CDs until he finds the right one. "And I'm going to get allll up in your business."
He knows the exact moment Javier recognizes the song, because that's when he groans theatrically and sinks his head into his hands. "I swear to god, Kev, if you got any gayer a little purse would fall out of your mouth every time you spoke."
"What are you talking about? George Michael is a pillar of the heterosexual community."
"Yeah, and I'm Queen Latifah."
Kevin hmms, bopping his hips a little to the beat as he psychs himself up for what's about to happen. "That explains all those awkward dreams I've been having about you, at least," he comments lightly, and peels his shirt over his head to avoid seeing Javier's reaction. Because, yeah, he's about to give him a lapdance but heaven forbid Javier realize he actually wants him. But when the shirt's off, Javier's just watching him, something undefinable on his face alongside the small grin, gaze traveling down to focus on the inch of Kevin's boxer-briefs showing above his jeans.
Before he can lose his nerve, Kevin starts singing, picking up the thread of the song: "...know all the games you play / because I play them too," and slinks his way across the living room toward the couch. "O-oh but I need some time off from that emotion / time to pick my heart up off the floor—" settling himself on Javier's lap, maintaining eye contact the entire time— "and when that love comes down without de-vo-tion / well it takes a strong man, baby—" tugging Javier's shirt off, a little surprised when Javier lets it happen— "but I'm showing you the door..."
Javier's hands settle on his hips, hands warm on his skin and through the waistband of his underwear. A cautious brush of his thumbs against Kevin's hipbones, coupled with the heat in his eyes, is enough to make Kevin throw caution to the wind—just for a second.
"'Cause I gotta have faith—" he finishes softly, and presses his lips against Javier's.
Javier just wraps a hand around Kevin's neck and pulls him closer, deepening the kiss, and because it's exactly the reaction Kevin hadn't dared to hope for, he finds himself at a loss. He doesn't know what to do other than press harder against Javier's bare skin, tongue his mouth open—go faster, more demanding, try to take as much as he can before he wakes up and finds it's all been a dream.
And Javier smiles against his mouth, sliding his other hand up Kevin's back to ease some of the tension in his shoulders. All of Kevin's muscles are tight with anxiety, a studied contrast to the way Javier's so relaxed against him, kissing him like they've got all the time in the world. Javier's hands are warm and sure, moving against his skin with a confidence Kevin can't understand, and it's so easy for him to hand over the control and stop thinking.
He lets Javier lead him, give him cues, and just like on the dance floor they find the perfect rhythm, slipping into something that's at once brand-new and dizzyingly familiar. It's great while it lasts, and it lasts until the song changes: "Whatta man, whatta man, whatta man / whatta mighty good man, a mighty-mighty good man," and Javier breaks the kiss, laughing.
"Kev, is this...? I mean, could you be any gayer if you tried?"
"It's, uh." He blushes pink. "It's the mix my sister made for me when I came out." He's staring, a little wide-eyed, at the way Javier can just slip back into the friendship they carved out, how natural and effortless it all seems. For just a minute, he allows himself to think this is how it could be, forever.
Javier pushes at Kevin's chest, yawning. "Come on. Turn this shit off and let's go to bed."
And, well, Kevin really doesn't need to be told twice. He pops up off the couch, turning off the stereo, the tv, the xbox and all the lights before taking a deep breath and heading into the bedroom. What he sees, though, surprises him in a way he wasn't prepared for: the lights are off and Javier's curled up on his side, facing the center of the bed but every line in his body screaming sleep, not sex.
Kevin shuts the door with his foot, allowing himself half a minute of feeling like a fool for completely misreading the situation, and joins Javier on the bed after kicking off his jeans. Lying on his back, carefully staying to his own side of the bed, Kevin wonders how he could have gotten it all quite so wrong. He knows he didn't imagine what just happened in the living room, but this is just like every other night Javier's stayed over (ever since he found out where Kevin got his couch and flat-out refused to sleep on it, anyway). Finally he ventures, "Javi?"
"Not that I'm complaining, but..."
"Why aren't we all over each other like white on rice?"
Javier chuckles, low and sweet. "I wasn't lying about being tired, bro, or did you not notice how I almost passed out on your nasty-ass roadkill couch?" He reaches over and squeezes Kevin's thigh. "First thing tomorrow, I'll fuck you so hard you'll walk funny for a week. I promise."
And Kevin's grinning like an idiot, but it's dark, so who's going to notice? "I'll hold you to that."
Another laugh, tired but fond. "Anyone ever tell you that puns aren't funny? Like, ever?"
"Yeah, well, I'm a little special for wanting to be with you in the first place, so I don't count." He says it like it's no big deal, like it's so obvious that he wants Kevin, and Kevin's left wondering how he never noticed until it was spelled out for him.
And then Javier pulls Kevin a little closer, bodies inches from each other but not quite touching. His arm, which he leaves slung across Kevin's torso, is a warm weight grounding him; a tangible reminder that tonight actually happened. Javier kisses his shoulder, just a quick, chaste press of lips on skin, but he feels it long after it's over.
"Hey, Kev?" Javier's voice is sleepy and serious, and Kevin raises his head a little to look at him, heart beating a little faster.
"I just want you to know..." Javier begins, sounding unsure. Then: "You've got some glitter on you," he finishes, smirking, and Kevin groans and slams his head against the pillow. He needs to quit his job, stat. He's so convinced of it this time that he spends the next ten minutes mentally composing a letter of resignation.
But then Javier starts to snore softly, and Kevin remembers why he's not going anywhere.