The fourth Friday of every month was a sacred night. It was the one night that everyone in Curahee gathered in one of the apartments for a verocious game of poker. Everyone came and those who didn't play poker found other ways to occupy themselves, such as participating in the impromptu flash-dances that Luz started whenever he had more than three shots.
Since half the inhabitants of Curahee were broke as all hell, the games included what they had dubbed 'Open Betting'. It was a concept that one could throw into the pot whatever they wanted, from sweaters to tasks that they would have to complete. This often made for very strange and very funny winnings to whoever was taking it all home that night.
Tonight, the game was taking place in Nixon's apartment, since he had the most alcohol and the least amount of breakable things. Buck and Dick had shown up early, as they always did to help things get prepared (especially when Nix was hosting).
"Okay, so we've got booze, snacks, and enough toilet paper to help a whole army of hot pocket eaters," Nixon ticked things off on his fingers, looking at the pile of supplies on his kitchen table. Buck raised his eyebrows at the last thing. Nixon shrugged. "What? Everytime these guys are over I end up out of toilet paper. Although, that last time was 'cause Babe and Bill went downstairs and strung it up all aroung Leibgott's apartment."
"Poor Web," Dick muttered, remembering how horrified Webster was when he had to clean the whole mess up. He lectured the two for nearly ten minutes on how that was a waste of supplies and they were contributing to the death of the planet with their mindless waste. That had somehow turned into a lecture on the decline of the ocean and then finning. Babe was asleep by the end of it all.
"So, are we ready for the invasion, then?" Buck asked, crossing his arms and leaning back against Nixon's counter. He had yet to change out of his suit and was planning on stepping across the hall to his apartment for a moment to slip into something else.
"As ready as anyone can be," Nixon spoke like it was a great tragedy, before turning back to the cabinets and beginning to pull out bowls for all the snacks. Buck was always amazed that Nixon felt the need to throw things in proper containers. Lewis had explained that it was habit from all the dinner parties he was forced into when he was with his ex-wife.
While Nixon and Dick got things ready, Buck walked across the hall and threw his door open, going into his bedroom to tug off his suit. He pulled on a pair of jeans and an old t-shirt with his baseball team number from college on the back. He always felt a little pride that he could still fit into it.
When he got back across the hall, Carwood Lipton and Ronald Spiers had joined in them, the pair engaging in a quiet conversation. Spiers had his head tilted to the side and let his gaze slide over Carwood's form every so often, something wanting in his eyes. Buck had the urge to roll his eyes. Spiers was never one for lovesickness, but that didn't mean he wasn't obvious with the way he stared at Carwood like he wanted to either eat him or bundle him up in a blanket and watch Grey's Anatomy with him.
Buck came further into Nixon's apartment, leaving the door open for anyone else to entered. He nudged the Yale graduate and nodded his head to where Carwood and Lipton were, seeing Nixon smirk at the pair and go back to dumping salsa into a blue bowl.
Twenty minutes later that apartment was completely full and they were getting ready to start their first game. Buck stayed back for the first round. Dick got into the game, wanting to get it out of the way while he could. He always prefered to look over Nixon's shoulder instead of actually playing himself. The other players consisted of Spiers, Nixon, Johnny Martin, Bull Randalman, and Harry Welsh.
On the other side of the room, Leibgott was sitting on the couch, arguing with Perconte over his taste in music. It seemed that even after the war ended nearly two weeks ago, Leibgott still had to get in his shots over the dubstep. Webster was laying comfortably over his lap, deep into his own conversation with Doc Roe, who looked as tired as he always did. Occasionally, the doctor would throw fond looks at Babe, who was across the room getting his fighting stance corrected by an ever-grumpy looking Toye. Luz was bartending for the first part of the evening. Surrounding him was Bill, Muck, Penkala, and Spina, all shouting what they wanted at Luz. Carwood was sitting in the armchair, Malarkey sitting on the coffee table across from him while they discussed some of the new flowers that Malarkey's work was getting in.
Buck had eavesdropped on that conversation just a little bit. He was always surprised to find that Malarkey enjoyed working at the flower shop as much as he did. It didn't pay a lot, but Buck had been told by Muck that Malarkey got extra income by dealing weed. As an assistant district attorney, Buck turned a blind eye to that and pretended he had no idea what when on in apartment 2C.
Still, he liked Malarkey, illegal activity or not. He was easy-going and down-right adorable, especially when he wore his beanie. Buck was sure he wasn't the first man to want to throw Malarkey on a bed and see just how hard it would be to get the man worked up. But those were thoughts usually brushed aside.
"Buck, I'm startin' to think you're tryin' to help someone cheat," Bull stated, watching as Buck circled the table again, peering at everyone's cards over their shoulders.
"Please," Buck scoffed, taking a drink of the scotch he had poured by himself, manuvering around Luz to get it. "No one here needs me to cheat for them. Well, maybe Harry."
"Hey!" Harry protested, shooting Buck a half-hearted glare.
Buck watched two more hands passed and waited until Dick had requested to be dealt out before he took his place in the game. They never bet large amounts of money. It was supposed to be a way for everyone to bond and have fun, not go bankrupt. By the end of the next three rounds, Buck had won fifteen dollars.
For the next hour, spots at the table were left and taken by various individuals. Activity around them shifted and a karaoke machine was brought from Malarkey's apartment. Almost everyone had played at least one hand in the game, save for Doc Roe, who insisted he wasn't much of a gambler.
At this point, the game consisted of Nixon, Toye, Buck, Spiers, and Muck. Behind them, the party raged on, the music loud and the laughter even louder. Babe was asking Roe and Spina a series of rapid-fire medical questions, seeing who could answer fastest with their alcohol-addled brains. Next to him, Webster was on his phone fact-checking to see which one was right. Leibgott was in a heated debate with Bill over hockey. Johnny and Bull had taken over the bar, mostly to keep everyone from getting too wasted. Luz was on the karaoke machine, Penkala and Perco twerking next to him while Carwood and Dick watched it all like a mother and father watching their mis-behaving children. Malarkey was the only one not in the fray or the poker game, sitting behind Muck on a stool and nursing a beer, his eyes on his friends cards.
"I love my ass, I wanna shake it! You can thank my mama, cause she made it," Luz belted out, shaking his hips with as much enthusiasm as a drunk man could muster, which was apparently, quite a lot. "Don't you waste your breath, tryna change it! Just mind your own and I'll keep ownin' it!"
"Toye!" Nixon called, watching the way Joe was leaning back on the back two legs of his chair, not-so-discreetly watching Luz sing and dance, a sort of fondness in his eyes. The boxer snapped back to the game when his friend called him, earning smirks and chuckles from everyone at the table. "Think you can focus on the game and not on Luz's ass for two minutes, buddy?"
"I wasn't-" Joe started, only to earn snorts from most of the table.
"Oh, but you were," Spiers interjected with a straight face, one eyebrow raised at Toye.
"He does have a nice ass," Muck conceded, pursing his lips and nodding. The whole table turned to him with various levels of interest, though Joe was looking at him like he might snap his neck. "What? I may be one of the few straight men in this complex, but I can appreciate a nice ass, regardless of gender."
"I'm gonna try to wipe that information from my brain," Nixon snorted.
"I'm not," Malarkey smirked. "I'll be able to lord his admiration of Luz's ass over his head for months."
"Just make the bets," Joe glared at them all, putting in his own bet, which was five dollars.
Muck groaned, throwing back his head. It was a drawn out and dramatic sound. "I don't have anything to bet. I'm broke as shit!"
"You can throw something else in the pot," Buck reminded him.
"I don't have any-" Muck looked around, stopping mid-sentence when his eyes landed on Malarkey. A malicious grin took over his features and he turned back to the others. "Malarkey! I'll throw Don in. He can be my bet. I bet Don!"
"What?!" Malarkey practically shrieked. "He can't do that!"
Nixon took a sip of his Vat 69 and cleared his throat. "This just got interesting. As commissioner of these monthly poker games, I'll allow it."
"You can't bet a person!" Malarkey continued to protest.
"Fine, how 'bout whoever wins gets Malarkey all to himself for one night?" Muck tried, looking to Nixon for comfirmation.
"Sounds reasonable," Nixon agreed.
"Not to me!"
"Hush, Malark," Muck rolled his eyes. "This doesn't concern you."
"I'm out," Joe laid his cards down with a grimace. "No offense, Malark, but you're not my type."
"No, that's just a certain 'Georgie' we know," Babe remarked as he walked by, overhearing a bit of the conversation while on his way to grab a beer. He dodged the half-hearted punch that Toye threw at his thigh, cackling as he walked away.
Spiers grunted and laid his own cards down. "I'm out too. I'd rather not, Don."
"That's fair," Malarkey nodded, thanking his stars that Spiers wouldn't get to kidnap him for a night. God knows that the NSA agent would force him to do, like be a decoy for a hitman or something.
"Yeah, I'll pass," Nixon took another drink, laying down his cards. "He's not the redhead I want."
"I'm still in," Buck grinned, putting in his bet and throwing Malarkey a wink. The redhead flushed almost as bright as his hair.
"Let's see what you got boys," Nixon challenged, watching as the two laid their cards down for everyone to see. Muck sat down four of a kind, a great hand, if it wasn't beaten by the royal flush that Buck laid down.
"So close and yet so far," Buck mocked, watching as Muck groaned and laid his head down on the table. Buck stood from the table, stretching before grabbing all his winnings. He looked up into the even redder face of Malarkey, shooting the younger man a grin. "Well, boys, I think I've won all there is to have here tonight. I'm gonna head out. Don, I will see you tomorrow night. Be ready by seven. Wear something nice."
Buck strode from the apartment then, leaving behind a table full of stunned poker players and one blushing redhead.
The next night came too slow for Buck's taste. He came home from work, showered, and scrounged through his closet for something decent to wear. He settled for his best jeans, the kind that hugged his thighs, and a deep blue, silk button-up. After making sure to put on his best cologne, he checked his wallet, grabbed his phone and went downstairs to Malarkey's apartment.
It was Penkala who answered the door, a sly smirk on his face and humor in his eyes. "Right on time. Punctuality is something I want my sons date to have."
Penkala stepped aside, allowing Buck to come into the apartment. Buck could count on one hand the amount of times that he'd been inside their apartment. It was always the same, a little messy, chips on the coffee table and a pile of gardening books next to it. The distinct smell of weed was always in the air, but Buck chose to ignore that.
At the moment, Muck was sitting on the counter, legs swinging and a smug look on his face. He turned to the room that Buck knew to be Malarkey's and cupped his hands around his mouth. "Malark! There's a boy here for you!"
"Piss off!" Malarkey called from the room before emerging a few moments later. He was clad in a pair of dark jeans and a grey henley, a slight smile on his face when he saw Buck. "Hey, Buck."
"You look real nice, Malark," Buck grinned, crossing his arms and allowed his gaze to drag so obviously over the redheads form. Malarkey flashed a small smile, rubbing the back of his neck.
"You don't look so bad yourself, Buck," Malarkey replied.
"Aww!" Muck crooned, breaking the moment, as per usual. "Aren't they adorable?"
"Cute as shit," Penkala agreed. "Alright," He moved behind Malarkey and began herding him towards the front door, grabbing Buck and pushing him along as well. "Get going, you crazy kids."
"Be back by midnight," Muck warned in a mock-parental tone. "And don't do anything I wouldn't do!"
"Do you mean tonight or is that just general life advice?" Malarkey asked, raising an eyebrow as he opened the front door.
Penkala scoffed and went to to the couch, flopping down on it while grabbing the remote. "It's general life advice. I mean, we all remember the whole tie-up and TV incident, right?"
"That was one time! Let it go!" Muck groaned, slipping off the counter and crossing his arms petulantly.
"It only has to happen one fucking time, man!"
Malarkey began pushing Buck out of the front door, urging him to get out wile he still had the chance. They both made it into the hallway, closing the door behind them and starting their walk towards the stairwell.
Buck cleared his throat and looked over at Malarkey. "You know, if you don't want to go out tonight, then you don't have to. I'm not kidnapping you and I know that Muck sprung that whole thing on you."
Malarkey made a dismissive noise and waved his hand. "Don't worry about it, Buck. I'm happy to be along. You just better make it worth my while."
"Oh, you'll be amazed," Buck assured, placing a hand on the small of Don's back and leading him towards the stairwell.
"Do you're best."
Buck's best turned out to be fairly interesting. They had gotten in his car and drove across town to some hole-in-the-wall bar. When they got inside, it was like stepping back in time. The waitresses had their hair pinned in curls, wearing the stereo-typical clothing of the 40's while swing music was played by a band on stage.
"What the hell is this place?" Malarkey asked, and the broad grin on his face told Buck that he had done well.
"I prosecuted a guy who had robbed this place once. The owner told me to come check it out and I found I actually appreciated the aesthetic," Buck shrugged as if it were completely normal to frequent old 40 style bars.
"Aw, Buck, you've been cheating on Toccoa 506 for this place," Don looked at him with mock-disapproval. "Nix would be so disappointed."
"I live to disappoint," Buck smiled and put his hands on Malarkey's shoulders to lead him into the crowd. "But, I didn't bring you here to look at the decorations or to disappoint Nixon."
"So what did you bring me here for?"
Buck answered with a smile and pushed Malarkey onto the dancefloor. He quickly grabbed the man's hands and dragged him into something close to a swing dance. Malarky barked a laugh and allowed himself to be pulled around the dancefloor.
The band played loud and the people around them laughed. Buck and Malarkey spent nearly half an hour swinging around the dancefloor, Buck taking the lead. Don was sure that he heard a few women giggle at him when Buck tried to teach him how to jitterbug.
An hour into it and Don and Compton had retired to the bar, throwing back beers and joking over the latest antics of Curahee's inhabitants. After about three shots of whiskey, Malarkey slid off of his barstool and insisted that they get back out on the dancefloor.
"And here I was thinking you were gonna take me to some boring lawyer restaurant," Malarkey snarked as Buck put his hands on Don's hips. The music had shifted, a slower song coming on as couples huddled together. Buck hadn't wasted the opportunity to press Malarkey flush against him and he heard no complaints from the other man, only getting a grin in return.
"Excuse me," Buck feigned offense. "I am an assistant district attorney, there is a huge difference. Don't lump me in with those boring, balding guys. I still have lush blonde hair and devastating good looks, thank you very much."
"Devestating good looks? That's reaching," Don recieved a step on his foot for his snark, watching Buck roll his eyes in an exaggerated motion. "I'm kidding, Buck! You're hot. Relax."
Buck snorted and Don reached his arms around the man's broad shoulders, running one hand over the muscle before clasping his hands together behind the blonde's neck. His fingers moved up to toy with the short hairs at the nape of his neck, a smile on his face while he looked up into Buck's startlingly blue eyes.
Don could feel it before it happened, the tension in the air as Buck's eyes slipped to his lips. His own lips parted in anticipation, waiting in delicious agony as the older man leaned down. Buck had barely brushed his lips against Don's when the music shifted and people around them got riled again, the moment broken.
Don internally groaned and moved his hands from Buck's shoulders. He cleared his throat and looked over to the bar. "I'm gonna go grab another shot."
"Hey, watch it," Buck warned, watching the redhead move through the crowd. "I don't wanna have to carry your ass out of here."
"Please, you wish you could get close to this ass," Don gestured to his behind and turned back to the crowd, ready to get another drink and keep partying. Buck couldn't help but think how spot on Don's words were.
Nearly two hours later, they were both all partied out. They had some food at the bar and some water to sober up. Neither really wanted to spend the next morning with a hangover. They weren't college students anymore, that was more Babe's area.
Buck drove them back to Curahee Complex. They could see that the lights were still on in apartments 2B, 2D, and 2F. Along with apartment 3D, but that was expected with Nixon on a saturday night.
They went up the stairwell and towards Malarkey's apartment. Both walked at a snails pace, neither really wanting to end the evening.
"So, we could do this again, without it being part of a bet," Buck shrugged. "Might be nice."
"Yeah, but you know what might be nicer?" Malarkey asked, turning to raise an eyebrow at Buck. He knew what he was going to do, this talking was a lead-up. He had always been a bit of a talker. Not nearly as bad as George, but no one could compete with that man. Buck shrugged in reply. "Ending the night like this."
It was a quick movement, Don reaching up to grab the back of Buck's neck and tug him down into a kiss. Their teeth clacked for a moment before they righted themselves, softening the kiss. Buck's arms wrapped around Don's waist, pressing him flush against the taller man. Their bodies were pressed head to toe, heat pooling between them while their lips moved expertly together, like they had done it a hundred times together.
Don pulled back first, moving towards his apartment door and turning the knob. (They never locked it.) "Maybe, if you ask me nicely about that second date, you might get more at the end of it."
Malarkey smirked and shot Buck one final wink before going inside his apartment, leaving the lawyer stunned and happy in the middle of the hallway. Yeah, Buck didn't think he would ever win anything as fantastic as that in another poker game. No contest.
(It was even worth the annoying amount of times Muck would grin at him and say "Compton, you dog" over the course of the next week. Christ, those guys.)