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How Not to Date: A How-To Guide by Dirk Gently

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Todd is easily the most fascinating person Dirk's ever met. Possibly this is because Todd's the only person who's ever stuck around long enough for Dirk to get to know them, but mostly he suspects it's because Todd is an endless fount of intrigue.

In the scarce year they've known each other--not including the three terrifying weeks he spent in CIA custody--Dirk has taken to keeping two lists. The list of things he doesn't know about Todd, and the list of things he does. The second is infinitely shorter than the first.

This, in itself, is not intriguing so much as it is interesting. What is intriguing are the frankly shocking occasions when something moves from one list to the other. They defy prediction, and for someone like Dirk who often has a vague sense of the universe's direction, the decided lack of interconnectedness where Todd's concerned is, frankly, baffling.

For example, one of the items on the list of things he knows about Todd reads as follows:

Todd enjoys music.

This is rather obvious. For one thing, Todd's a musician. It's one of the first things Dirk learned about Todd. He knows about the band and the electric guitar and the electrocutions. He knows that Todd writes--or rather used to write--a lot of his own music. He knows that Todd, when given the occasion, will gladly pull out his slightly damaged guitar and play. Dirk himself is quite fond of these occasions. Todd is, as one would expect, an excellent guitar player.

He also knows that Todd possesses an extensive and somewhat admirable record collection--though certainly not as admirable as it was before his introduction to the Rowdy 3. And that he can converse for hours on the subject. Also, Todd has told him as much.

So it stands to reason that music would be something Todd would enjoy outside of the frenzied routine of their everyday existence. Dirk is therefore quite proud of himself when he presents Todd with two tickets to a show at a local venue that Amanda has verified plays the sort of music Todd is likely to appreciate.

Todd's reaction, then, throws him for of a loop.

"You don't have to take me," Dirk assures him, though he'd rather hoped that's exactly what Todd would do. "If you're worried about having an attack, you could always invite one of the Rowdies. Or if you want I can get more tickets and we can all go. I just thought..."

What had he thought? That the last six months had seen them running from case to case without a moment's rest? That Todd was managing his pararibultis well and could probably do with a bit of fun? That Dirk wanted to spend time with Todd outside of case solving? That he was hoping a night with just the two of them might facilitate bonding?

That Todd's the first friend he's ever had and he still doesn't know to thank Todd for... well, existing really.

"What? No, that's not..." Todd says, earning Dirk's full attention. A year into their friendship and he's still expecting Todd to leave. That he hasn't already is somewhat incomprehensible. Still, Dirk does his best to appear merely curious instead of desperately afraid.

Todd, for his part, sighs. He glances briefly to the tickets in his hand. In hindsight, Dirk ought to have waited until they were seated on the couch instead of springing them on Todd the second he came through the door. Sometimes Dirk's excitement gets the better of him.

"I know the lead singer," Todd eventually says. Some of Dirk's panic subsides. Of course, he thinks. Stupid Dirk.

"Ah, he's one of your ex-bandmates," Dirk says, not bothering to hide his relief. And really, he should have known. Seattle's a small city, after all. He should have considered this before purchasing the tickets. He should have let Amanda choose the band.

Todd glances up at that, clearly startled, but also unaccountably nervous. Dirk braces himself.

"No, that's not... Look, can we just forget about this?" Todd says, already moving. Dirk watches him gather his things--his coat, his bag, his keys--well aware that Todd is seconds away from leaving, possibly to never return and really it's the last thought that has him reaching out, hand latching onto Todd's elbow just as Todd reaches for the doorknob.

Todd shoots him a look. Dirk chooses to interpret it as fond amusement.

"We can turn them in for something else. I chose by hunch, but you're right, they probably suck. Or, if you're not interested in music, we could do something else. A movie? A club?"

Up until now, Dirk's life has pretty much consisted of him latching desperately onto the next passing thing in hopes of it taking him where he needs to go. This feels somewhat similar. He still has no idea what he's trying to accomplish.

Whatever it is, it works. Todd relaxes, anyway. He's still wearing his coat, and his bag is still slung over his shoulder, but he's let go of the knob and is looking less like he means to bolt and more like he's trying to figure Dirk out so that has to mean something. Dirk offers him an encouraging smile.

"You know, forget it, it's not that big of a deal. We should go," Todd says.

And just like that Dirk has a date. Or a something, anyway.

"Are you sure?" he still asks, because Todd is sometimes... well, Todd.

"Yes," Todd says, sounding surprisingly certain. Dirk's not sure he believes him. Todd scrambles to explain.

"Coincidence doesn't happen with you, so now I feel like we have to go. Also, I'm curious to see what'll happen."

It's an explanation Dirk finds he can live with, even if he's not entirely sure the universe had a hand in any of it. Regardless, it's a night he gets to spend with Todd, just the two of them, no cases, no distractions, and if he's honest with himself that was sort of the point.

"Good," Dirk still says, in part because it is good, but in part because Todd's doing that smiling thing again, the smile that always robs Dirk of his words; the one that makes him do rash, ill-thought-out things like buy tickets for random shows that may or may not feature Todd's ex-bandmates.

Anyway, he's sure it'll all turn out just fine.

~*~

The show is on Saturday. Dirk has it circled in his calendar. Actually, he doesn't have a calendar, per se. What he does have is a post-it note stuck to his fridge and on that he's written Saturday and circled it in bold red.

"Today's Thursday, right?" he asks. Seated behind the steering column, Todd shoots him a look.

"You've asked me that like ten times today," he says.

Dirk fiddles with the violin currently cradled in his lap.

"Well, yes. I'm just excited about our... outing, and was wondering if we'd manage to tie up this case before then. I've never actually been out to see live music. Hear live music? Experience live music? Anyway, I'm a bit worried about missing it is all."

"It's listen to, and really?" Todd asks. He takes the turn-off for the Washington Park Arboretum, where, if Dirk's hunch is anything to go by, they'll find a very angry man in a very bushy squirrel costume who may or may not be central to them solving this case.

"Well," Dirk says, feeling a tad bit defensive. "It's not like I get out much."

Todd smiles at that. He smiles at a lot of things Dirk says. It makes Dirk want to say things constantly. Or rather, more than he currently does, which might actually be impossible now that Dirk thinks about it. He has to breathe, doesn't he? And sleep. And eat. He certainly can't be talking during any of those activities. Except maybe breathing. Yes, he's sure he could talk and breathe at the same time.

On his left, Todd has fallen strangely quiet.

"Is it the squirrel-man?" Dirk asks. Todd seems to have a particularly odd hangup when it comes to men in animal costumes. Dirk for the life of him can't figure out why.

"What? Oh, no," Todd says, and then releases a breath. Ah. They're having that conversation then. Dirk's been wondering when Todd would get around to starting it. Not that he has any idea what the conversation will entail. He just knew it was coming, or something like it, anyway. Whatever it is, it doesn't take a psychic--which Dirk is not--to know Todd had something on his mind.

Dirk waits.

Todd clears his throat.

"There's something I need to tell you," he says, pulling into the Arboretum parking lot.

Dirk waits for him to park before offering a suitable, "hmmm?"

Todd clears his throat a second time.

"You're... my best friend," he says, hands still wrapped around the steering wheel. Dirk takes a moment to bask in his words. "And I don't want to keep things from you," Todd continues, Dirk deflating, although he probably deserved that.

"The thing is, when I said I knew the lead singer, I meant he was my ex."

"Your ex-bandmate, yes, I know, I already worked that bit out."

"No, Dirk. Not ex-bandmate, just ex. He's..."

Todd abruptly stops speaking. It's as though he's just realized what he's said and regrets it immensely. Dirk can commiserate. Ninety percent of the things that come out of his mouth he regrets immensely. So he should probably say something. Reassure Todd in some way. Possibly express his interest. Or rather the absence of a lack of interest. Instead, he stares. Possibly he gapes. This is not something he expected to learn, the shock of having something move from one Todd list to the other rendering him momentarily speechless.

Todd Brotzman isn't straight.

And okay, he's surmised as much. No, that's not entirely true. He's fantasized as much, though only because sometimes when Todd is smiling Dirk is thinking about kissing him and really working up the nerve to kiss someone is so much easier when there's a chance they might kiss you back.

Or so theory would indicate.

"Do you want to cancel?" he hears himself ask. Todd shoots him a look. Stupid Dirk.

"I should clarify," Dirk hurries to explain. "I don't want to cancel. But if you're uncomfortable with the idea then we can find something else to do. I'm not really sure what the protocol here is. I don't exactly have... well, exes."

That, apparently, gets Todd's attention, the look Dirk receives the same mix of confusion and wonder that Todd used to wear in their early days, back when the interconnectedness of the universe still caught him off guard, Todd existing in a near constant state of surprise.

Dirk gives him a moment.

"We should still go," Todd says. "Besides, it was a really long time ago. He probably won't even remember me."

That, Dirk thinks, is highly unlikely. He can't imagine anyone forgetting Todd. Still, he forgoes saying as much, instead offering what he hopes is a reassuring smile. Too late he realizes Todd is no longer paying attention. Not that Dirk can blame him. There is, after all, a man in a squirrel costume running towards them, sawed-off shotgun in hand.

~*~

"So, um... Is this a date?" Farah asks, sounding somewhat confused.

"No," Todd says before Dirk has a chance to answer. It rather saves him from the embarrassing yes that would have slipped past his tongue. He hasn't exactly been thinking clearly lately. Not since Todd isn't straight appeared on his list.

"It's a hunch," Dirk manages, covering, he thinks, quite nicely. Todd, who smiles brightly, seems to agree.

They haven't really talked about Todd's admission, not since the squirrel-man, anyway--though technically that was only two days ago, but still. It's now just something that's out there, something Dirk knows in the same way that he knows Todd likes music.

"A hunch as in I should cancel my plans hunch, or a hunch as in you'll probably be fine on your own hunch?" Farah asks. Despite her initial protests, and her complaints about the convolutedness of their organizational structure, and her extreme dislike of squirrels, she does take her job very, very seriously.

"I'm sure we can manage it," Dirk tells her, which was possibly the wrong thing to say given the way her eyebrows go up. Todd steps in to relieve him.

"We don't even know what we're looking for, so for now this is surveillance only. Just... Keep your phone on. We'll call you if we need you."

The ability to spot connections others miss has done nothing to help him parse the finer nuances of human conversation. He can't, for example, tell if Todd legitimately thinks they might need Farah's help, or if he's placating her in order to spend an evening alone with Dirk. Dirk would like to think it's the latter. Experience has taught him it's usually the former.

Either way they leave a vaguely suspicious Farah behind, Todd driving because he still doesn't trust Dirk behind the wheel of a car. He's wearing his most serious expression, the one he reserves for when they're out on a case. The one he thinks makes him look just a tad bit intimidating, as though he somehow needs to compensate for Dirk's... well, for Dirk, probably. Dirk can't decide if he finds it insulting or endearing. Mostly it just makes Todd look like he's brassed off and not entirely sure what to do about it.

This is not at all how he envisioned the night going.

"So, this should be fun," he says while Todd circles the block, looking for a vacant parking space.

"Define fun," Todd shoots back, though he is smiling, so it is possible the night won't be a total write-off.

Still, it's fairly obvious Todd's uncomfortable, and that he's only here because he's expecting some.... thing. Dirk doesn't have a feel for it one way or the other. He mostly just wants to spend time with Todd. Granted, there is a small part of him that's curious to see the kind of person Todd would go out with. Past relationships are tremendously informative. Also, it should give him some indication as to whether or not he stands a chance.

The venue, when they finally do make it inside, is nothing Dirk is even remotely prepared for. He meant it when he said he didn't get out much. Oh, the universe will drag him all over the place, but very rarely does he end up inside a tightly packed, dingy club with too loud music and even worse ventilation.

Todd, on the other hand, seems completely in his element. He leads them to a vacant table just outside of the stage's line of sight. There's no band yet, but there is atrociously loud music coming over the club's PA.

"Stay here," Todd shouts. He deposits Dirk into one of the chairs and then disappears. Dirk can do little but wait.

This, he realizes, is the kind of place Todd's band likely played. He tries to picture Todd on stage, guitar in hand, looking somewhat like he did the first time Dirk saw him play back in Amanda's garage. Back then he'd been preoccupied by the promise of friendship, but looking back on it the only word that comes to mind is sexy. He wonders how many women--or men for that matter--approached Todd after his shows. He wonders how many Todd took home.

While perhaps not the most appropriate line of inquiry, it occupies his attention until Todd returns, two plastic red cups in hand. They contain, Dirk is disappointed to learn, piss-warm American beer. He's honestly not sure what he's meant to gain from the experience.

"Is it always this loud?" he asks, or rather, tries to. Across the table, Todd mimes not being able to hear. Dirk lets the question drop.

They spend about ten minutes that way. It is by far the longest ten minutes of Dirk's life. Todd spends most of that time scoping out the room, undoubtedly searching for some random, out of place event, the kind of thing that tends to precipitate most of their cases. It leaves Dirk with very little to do, so he watches Todd watching others and wonders just when he started thinking of Todd as something other than his best friend.

"I don't think," Dirk says just as the overhead music cuts short. The result being that his words end up echoing around the room, drawing more than one set of eyes. Gritting his teeth, Dirk leans across the table.

"I don't think this is a case," he says, quieter this time. He doesn't mention the part where he didn't ever think this was a case; the part where he really just wanted to spend time with his friend-slash-something and thought Todd might appreciate the gesture.

Todd, who's watching him closely, shakes his head. He's wearing that smile again.

"We'll see," he says, like he knows something Dirk doesn't. Whatever it is, the corners of his mouth curl into a grin. Dirk gives up. He turns his attention to the stage.

Despite buying the tickets, he knows next to nothing about the band they've come to see. Not their name. Not their comprised membership. Not even the kind of music they play. He knows only that the lead singer is a man Todd used to date and hence has probably slept with. Dirk dislikes him already. The feeling is amplified when a quartet emerges from stage-right, instruments in hand. The man who approaches the microphone is undoubtedly Todd's ex.

He's not at all what Dirk was expecting.

For starters, there's nothing particularly attractive about him. He's tall, though no more-so than Dirk, impossibly thin, with jutting cheekbones and a wild mop of hair that Dirk suspects may be a wig. Todd stiffens the second he appears.

This, Dirk thinks, was a very, very bad idea.

~*~

They last through the first set. It's longer, perhaps, than Dirk would have stayed on his own, but Todd seemed content to sip at his beer and watch the band. Dirk honestly can't tell if he was simply enjoying the music or if bringing Todd here triggered something Dirk would rather not think about.

He's relieved then when the band takes a break and Todd suggests they leave.

"That wasn't so bad," Dirk says when they make it outside. It's not a genuine comment. He's most definitely fishing.

"Yeah," Todd says, laughing. "They were terrible."

Oh, good, Dirk thinks, relieved. He'd hated every minute of the set, but as Todd's music isn't exactly his music, he honestly couldn't tell if the band was any good. Also, it's nice to be able to identify Todd's expression as smug pettiness instead of the nostalgia Dirk was dreading.

"Also," Todd says, stopping them just inside the alley that runs along the side of the club. "There was no case."

Dirk has never, not once in the time he's known Todd, lied to him. Truth avoidance, on the other hand...

"To be fair, I never said there was," Dirk says, feeling unaccountably defensive. Todd shoots him a look. To Dirk's surprise, it's not chastising. Nor are there undercurrents of hurt. If anything Todd's expression conveys faint amusement. Dirk is momentarily taken aback.

"You're not mad," he says after a moment.

"That you asked me out to see a show?" Todd asks. He's wearing that smile again. The one that tends to see Dirk stumbling over his words.

"I..."

It's as far as he gets before a loud clattering from the far end of the alley draws their attention. Not now, Dirk thinks as he and Todd turn in unison. And, of course, because the universe hates him, the clattering turns out to be a back door to the club opening and closing, two people stepping outside, cigarettes in hand. The taller of the two is instantly recognizable.

"Todd?" the man says the second he spots them. He seems rather dazed, though not particularly disappointed. Dirk is really beginning to hate him.

"Hey, Adam, hi," Todd says, and Dirk wants nothing more than to grab Todd by the wrist and drag him from the scene. Unfortunately the man--Adam--has already waved off his companion and is coming into the alley to meet them.

His only consolation is the way Todd stiffens.

Not that it stops Adam from drawing Todd into a one-armed hug the second he reaches them. Dirk gets a momentary flash of the two of them in a much different embrace and has to grit his teeth to keep from saying something scathing.

Well, something really, really mean, anyway.

"You here to see the show?" Adam asks when he's done draping himself all over Todd. Todd, Dirk is pleased to note, takes an intentional step back.

"Actually, we caught the first set. You guys are... good. You're good," Todd says. Dirk takes perverse pleasure in knowing that Todd's lying. Adam doesn't seem to notice.

"It's so good to see you. I mean, you look good, man," he says, far too friendly for Dirk's liking. And really, where is a man in a squirrel costume when you need one. Dirk could use the distraction.

"Thanks," Todd says, glancing briefly in Dirk's direction. There's apology there, but also, or so Dirk would like to imagine, a silent plea for help. Adam follows his gaze.

"Oh, sorry, is this a friend of yours?" he asks.

"Dirk Gently," Dirk says before he can stop himself, his hand hovering in the air between them. And then, because he's an idiot and has never been very good at impulse control, adds, "I'm Todd's boyfriend."

He's well aware Todd is staring at him. Adam, too. After a moment of indecision, Dirk drops his hand, offering what he hopes is a bright and convincing smile. Adam blinks. He glances to Todd.

"Sorry," Todd says, still looking a little shell-shocked. "Adam, this is Dirk. Dirk, this is Adam." Dirk cannot help but notice that Todd doesn't correct Dirk's use of the term boyfriend.

"It's nice to meet you," Adam says, this time reaching for Dirk's hand. Dirk's tempted to leave him hanging--payback and all--but Todd's still watching him intently so instead he takes Adam's hand and gives it a firm shake. Adam doesn't seem quite so sure of himself anymore.

"Anyway," Todd says, staring between them like he's half expecting the universe to reveal some bigger plot. Dirk really just wants for them to leave.

"We really have to go," Todd continues, as though he's read Dirk's mind. "But it was good to see you again. Good luck with the second set."

He doesn't wait for Adam's reply, Dirk momentarily startled--and then immensely pleased--when Todd's hand slips into his, Todd tugging him in the direction of the car. He waits until they're well out of sight before he lets go of Dirk's hand, Dirk immediately missing the connection.

"So, that was..." is as far as Dirk gets before he realizes something is wrong.

He recognizes an attack almost immediately--wonders how long Todd has been suppressing it, if it was that that sent them running for the car. Moving slowly around so that they're standing face to face, Dirk gently takes hold of Todd's shaking hands.

"What's happening?" he asks.

"C...Cold," Todd manages.

Dirk has, to date, been present for seventeen of Todd's attacks. If the Rowdies were here, they'd simply gather around him and drain whatever energy was causing the hallucination. As they're not, the next course of treatment is medication and time. Todd, Dirk knows, keeps a spare bottle of pills in the glovebox.

"Come on, let's get you to the car," he says, and then, in a move he'll question much later, he strips off his leather jacket and drapes it over Todd's shoulders.

The look Todd shoots him is pure gratitude.

~*~

The advantage of sharing an apartment building if not an apartment is that Dirk never really has far to go. Not that he plans on leaving Todd any time soon, but it's nice to know he won't have to go back outside.

"I feel like I should apologize," he says. Todd's squished into the corner of his couch, his knees drawn into his chest, a mug of tea cupped in his hands. He's still wearing Dirk's jacket. Yellow is really not his colour. Dirk thinks he looks amazing in it.

"For what?" Todd asks. The attack, for the most part, has subsided, though experience has taught Dirk that Todd often needs quiet and rest after everything has subsided.

"I thought..."

Dirk is a person with a lot of excess energy, and he often doesn't know where to channel that energy. Right now he's half-standing, half-hovering next to where Todd's seated on the couch. This, he thinks, is a conversation they ought to have face to face, and since he doesn't want to jostle Todd, he opts to swivel around the chair that Todd uses at the piano and sit on that.

"There wasn't a case," Dirk says, echoing Todd's earlier words. "I just thought it would be nice to do something... not case related. Together. Amanda suggested the venue, but I chose the band at random and then the lead singer ended up being your ex, and before that I didn't know that you were interested in men and then they ended up being horrible and...

"I screwed it up, is what I mean."

Todd, who continues to be an endless fount of intrigue, doesn't appear at all upset. Instead he's smiling, fond amusement reflected in his gaze. Dirk has no idea what he's meant to say.

"It's all connected," Todd says, sounding utterly certain. Dirk doesn't bother trying to hide his confusion.

"I mean, you could have just asked me out. Told me you were interested. Somehow all of this seems more fitting. It's more you, anyway. You are interested, aren't you?"

The last bit sounds more like a statement than a question, but Dirk still nods.

"Very," he manages, realizing that it's true. He has, if he's honest with himself, been interested for a very long time.

"Gotta say," Todd says, pausing only to sip from his tea. Dirk knows him well enough to know he doesn't particularly like tea, but he drinks a cup every time Dirk makes him one, so he's starting to think there's a good chance Todd's interested too.

"I'm a terrible boyfriend," Todd continues.

"Adam didn't seem to think so," Dirk can't help but point out. He regrets it almost immediately. Of all the people he didn't want to bring up...

"Adam is also painfully nice to a fault," Todd tells him.

"Maybe I am, too," Dirk says. Todd certainly wouldn't be the first person to say as much. Personally, he doesn't know what's wrong with being nice. The world would be a much better place if people strove to be a little nicer.

Still curled into a ball on the couch, Todd's expression grows soft.

"I know you are. That's what I'm trying to avoid taking advantage of."

He's been trying, in recent months, since he got back from the CIA if he's honest, to give his brain a chance to catch up with his mouth, to think things through before he says them. Apparently all of that flies right out the window. Todd is, he suspects, letting him down easy, but Dirk still feels a desperate need to convince him otherwise.

"Maybe it's not taking advantage. Maybe you just have a thing for nice guys. Maybe..."

Todd stops him with a look. Without really meaning to, Dirk deflates. He knew this was a bad idea, and now he's probably gone and ruined their friendship and...

"Here's the thing," Todd says, interrupting the thought and sounding very much like he'd rather not have this conversation. Dirk forces himself to sit very still.

"I liked Adam, but mostly he was just really close to getting his band a record deal and I wanted access to his contacts. I took advantage of his niceness to try and further the interests of my band. So then, when my band broke up, because I sold all of our equipment and pretended it was stolen, I didn't really see the point in continuing our relationship. Adam thinks we broke up because I wasn't ready to come out. And now he thinks I've come out for someone else and..."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean," Dirk interjects. He doesn't mean to, it just comes out, Dirk waving aside the words almost as soon as they leave his mouth.

"It's fine," Todd says. "And to be honest, I didn't want him to think I was there to see him, or for him to think there was a chance we'd... It's just... You're really important to me, and I don't want to screw that up."

"I understand," Dirk says, and he does, except for the part where he really, really doesn't.

Still, Todd's looking increasingly exhausted, and Dirk's been doing a very good job of not crying in Todd's presence, so instead of staying, instead of begging and pleading because, damn it, this isn't how the universe is supposed to work, Dirk rises from his chair and starts for the door.

"Will you be alright?" he asks, because, as Todd pointed out, he's still a nice guy.

"Dirk, don't..."

"It's quite alright. No, really," Dirk says. "You're the most important person in my life, and I don't want to do anything to jeopardize our friendship."

And he doesn't, he realizes. He really, really doesn't.

"Dirk, I'm not saying..."

"It's fine, Todd. It really is. And I think, either way, we should probably sleep on it. Are you sure you're okay?"

Todd doesn't answer right away. He's still staring at Dirk like he's hoping the universe will unfold and show him what to do. Dirk doesn't bother telling him it doesn't work that way. Eventually, Todd offers a curt nod. He doesn't move from his place on the couch, still curled inside Dirk's jacket. Dirk leaves him there and tries to remember how to breathe.

~*~

Todd, Dirk decides, is full of bullshit. He makes excuses for everything, but they all amount to the same thing. He's scared. Scared of living. Scared of taking risks. Scared of putting himself out there. Quite frankly, Dirk's sick of it.

He comes to this conclusion after a sleepless night spent staring at the floor-slash-ceiling that separates his apartment from Todd's.

"What can I do to convince you?" he asks the second Todd opens the door. He's brought nothing with him, not even a jacket. Todd blinks at him like he honestly wasn't expecting Dirk to show up outside his apartment at 6:03 am.

"What?" Todd manages. If Dirk had to guess, he'd say Todd's had, if possible, even less sleep.

"To convince you," Dirk repeats. "I want..." He gestures. "Us."

And he does, he realizes. Almost as much as he wanted Todd's friendship: almost as much as he wanted his help on that first case. He might even go so far as to say he loves Todd, and he suspects Todd probably loves him as well. There's too much between them for anything less.

"Dirk," Todd says, but Dirk's not about to let Todd deride them with more of his excuses.

"I asked you out, but you agreed to go out with me, and while that wasn't perhaps the first date either of us intended, it was still a date, and now I'm standing here before you, in my slippers, because I think we're worth fighting for, and I think you think we're worth fighting for and also, you are nothing like the Todd that hurt Adam. People change, Todd. You've changed. And whether you like it or not you deserve happiness. We both do."

It's not, perhaps, the longest speech he's ever given, but it certainly rivals his most passionate. Todd, who's no longer wearing Dirk's jacket, clad only in a Mexican Funeral t-shirt and a pair of boxers, shakes his head.

"Aha," Dirk says, pointing to Todd's smile. Still shaking his head, Todd gestures Dirk inside.

"You know," he says, retrieving Dirk's jacket from where it's draped across the back of the couch. He thrusts it into Dirk's arms. Dirk can't help but notice that it now smells like Todd. He sets it aside before he can do something stupid like bury his nose in it.

"I wasn't rejecting you last night. I'm... interested too."

Of all the things he was expecting Todd to say, that wasn't it. Dirk fights very hard to keep from pumping his fist into the air. Mentally, he adds another item to his list.

Todd Brotzman is interested in Dirk Gently.

"What I was trying to say was that if---if--we're going to do this, I think we should probably establish some ground rules, because if we screw this up, I need to know that we can still be friends. That we can still be..." He gestures between them. "Us."

Dirk's nodding before Todd's finished speaking, somewhat enthusiastically. It earns him another of Todd's smiles, the one he reserves exclusively for Dirk. The one that tends to render Dirk speechless. The one that Dirk can now safely say he understands.

"Because the thing is, I'm gonna be bad at this. And I'm probably going to screw stuff up at some point. Possibly sooner rather than later. And the last thing I want to do is hurt you because you're pretty much my life at this point and...

"You're not even listening anymore, are you?"

He was--of course he was--but it's a little hard to listen to Todd when he's going on and on about what a terrible person he is. Dirk had thought them past this point. Also, Todd's interested, which means they're going to do this, which means he probably has permission to kiss Todd and it's really hard to focus on anything Todd's saying when it's Todd's lips that are moving and Dirk would now really like to know what they feel like pressed against his own.

Somewhere in all of that, he has, without actually realizing it, moved almost completely into Todd's space. Todd stares up at him, his obvious exasperation tempered by what Dirk now suspects is growing affection. There's something else there, too, a hint of mischief that has him narrowing his gaze, plans for kissing put temporarily on hold.

"You knew it was a date," he says, the obvious slipping into place. Todd smiles.

"Yeah, I did."

"Why didn't you say anything?"

His hands, of their own accord, have somehow found their way onto Todd's hips. Todd has very nice hips.

"I didn't think you knew it was a date," Todd tells him, swaying closer as he speaks, his hands sliding up around Dirk's waist. The contact--not to mention the closeness--momentarily short-circuits Dirk's brain.

"I didn't," he manages. "Not at first, anyway."

"When did you figure it out?" Todd asks, so close now Dirk can easily make out the flecks of colour in his irises.

"When I called you my boyfriend and you didn't correct me," he says, his gaze dropping from Todd's eyes to his lips just in time to watch Todd wet them with the tip of his tongue. Dirk's beginning to feel a little like he might spontaneously combust.

Todd smiles at that. At least, he thinks Todd smiles at that. It's kind of hard to tell from this close up, Todd an indistinct blur that vanishes behind Dirk's closed eyelids. It's still an eternity before the warm tingle of Todd's breath against his lips resolves into anything tangible, but then, the first press of their lips is more than worth the wait.

It's funny, he thinks, deepening the kiss and feeling intrinsically connected to Todd. He always ends up exactly where he's meant to be, even if the path he takes isn't always the one he intended. He's beginning to think this was a case. Or perhaps just the universe's way of pointing him in the right direction. Either way, he has a good feeling about this.

Then again, that might just be his proximity to Todd.

End