Kevin Ryan stood in the elevator, arguing with himself.
He's my best friend. My partner. Of course I was going to offer to take him in. We look out for each other. It's what we do.
Yeah. And clearly he had no ulterior motives at all. No desire to spend more time with the man outside of work. No pleasant thoughts of sleeping under the same roof, of living in close proximity for days...
It's not like anything is going to happen. I'm not going to jump him or anything. So it doesn't matter. What he doesn't know can't hurt either of us.
That was weak. He was pretty sure a person deserved to know if the friend offering to let him sleep on his couch wanted to jump him. And yet here he was, conspicuously not saying anything.
It would just make things awkward. He'd probably leave and wind up staying in a hotel, which is what we're trying to avoid. I wouldn't be much of a friend if I drove him away in his time of need...
The elevator dinged, thankfully interrupting his thoughts.
Javier glanced at him as they walked down the hallway. "Thanks for this, man. I really appreciate it."
Kevin managed a smile, firmly telling both internal voices to shut up. "Hey, you'd do the same for me, right?" He shifted the box he was carrying to one arm, unlocking the door with the other hand.
Javier followed him inside. "Yeah. If I still had a couch to let you sleep on."
Kevin winced. "Yeah."
The two boxes they set down by the couch, plus the duffel bag on Javier's shoulder, were basically all he had left. Fire and smoke had destroyed everything else. Javier hadn't said much, but Kevin could tell he was still shaken up. Losing all your stuff -- that had to be rough.
So Kevin said what any good friend would say. "Just don't burn down my place, too, or we'll both be looking for a hotel."
Javier scowled at him. "I did not burn down my place."
"I wasn't even there!"
"Right. Of course not."
Javier pointed a finger at him, shaking his head. "You're heartless, man. Heartless."
"Yep. And you're stuck with me." He flashed a grin and headed to the closet to get sheets for the couch.
See, he could do this. No sweat. It'd be great.
Javier lay awake on the couch that night, staring up at the unfamiliar ceiling. Not totally unfamiliar; he'd been to Ryan's apartment plenty of times, he just hadn't slept there before. Or not-slept there.
This wasn't exactly how he'd expected it to happen, either. Sleeping or not-sleeping. He'd come up with a few scenarios, sure, but those tended to involve alcohol, a shared bed, and a significant lack of clothing. Not... this.
Not sleeping on Ryan’s couch because his own place had been destroyed.
He closed his eyes, seeing again the wreck of his apartment. He'd seen a hell of a lot since he became a cop. That included a lot of fire damage – electrical failures, gas leaks, arson, bombs. He'd seen Beckett's apartment when hers had gone boom last year. Funny how none of it prepared him for seeing his own life in ashes.
It wasn't as bad as it could have been. He wasn't the type to get attached to things too much. There were things that had been lost that couldn't be replaced, and those stung – awards from school and the academy, pictures of his family, things like that. Memories. He had them in his head too, though. He'd survive the loss of the physical reminders.
No, it wasn't the specific things that were lost that got to him. It was the... violation. He'd lost a piece of himself. He'd lost home. Home mattered, doing a job like this. It gave you a place to run to after a bad day. Gave you a place to celebrate after a good one. The team was home in a way, sure, like any good family, but a cop still had to have his own sanctuary. Had to have it, or the job would drive you nuts.
He'd had that sanctuary. Now, thanks to some fucking faulty wiring, all he had was a borrowed couch in someone else's home.
He could have gone to a hotel, gotten a real bed and space of his own. Somehow that seemed worse, though. If this wasn't his home, it was still a home. What was more, it was Ryan's home – his friend, his partner. That was something.
Maybe it'd be enough. For a little while, at least.
Javier discovered one perk of sleeping on this couch the next morning: getting to see Ryan first thing out of bed. The man was fucking adorable. He padded out looking still half-asleep, wearing nothing but a pair of rumpled sweatpants. No shirt, nothing on his feet, hair still sticking up all over the place. Javier grinned to himself, feeling not the slightest twinge of guilt at letting his eyes roam freely. Wasn't like Ryan noticed, anyway, as he stumbled towards the kitchen.
Javier turned over onto his stomach, getting a good look from the back. Only once he'd gotten his fill – and once Ryan had gotten the coffee started brewing – did he rouse himself to say, “Morning.”
Ryan rubbed a hand over his face. “Morning,” he muttered. Instead of saying anything else, though, he leaned up against the refrigerator. By the looks of it, he fell asleep again standing there.
Javier chuckled. He shoved himself up off the couch and sauntered towards the kitchen. “You look like crap,” he said cheerfully. “Trouble sleeping or something? Didn't drink your honey milk last night?”
“Bite me,” Ryan grumbled without moving.
“No thanks.” He clapped his partner on the shoulder. “Mind if I hop in the shower?”
“Be my guest. Towels are in the cabinet in the bathroom.” The last couple words were broken by a massive yawn.
Javier chuckled again, patting Ryan on the back. “Coffee, dude,” he said, heading out of the kitchen.
“Working on it,” came the mumbled reply.
“Try not to pass out on the floor while you wait.” He grinned over his shoulder before going into the bedroom.
He'd been through there before – the apartment only had the one bathroom, and the only way to get to it was through the bedroom. Could get awkward, sometimes. At least Kevin was neat. No underwear or other personal items laying around for him to step on. No clutter or mess. Hell, this was the first time he'd seen the bed unmade.
And yeah, he eyed it for a second before going into the bathroom. Seemed a shame only the one side was rumpled.
Kevin listened to the sounds from the other room. When the shower started, his sleepy brain supplied the appropriate image – Javier getting in, getting wet... himself following, on the theory that there were way better ways to wake up than coffee...
He blinked his eyes open, pushing that thought away. Jesus. He did need coffee.
By the time Javier came back out – fully clothed – the coffee was done and Kevin was munching on a slice of toast. Javier came towards him, eyeing the toast with interest. Kevin waved a hand at the toaster, mumbling, “Be my guest.”
“What, I can't have yours?”
Kevin popped the rest of the slice into his mouth. “No.”
Javier snorted. “Classy, bro.”
Kevin chewed, swallowed. “Man's gotta do what a man's gotta do to protect his food.” He smirked.
“That would work better if you weren't feeding me anyway.”
“Point. Maybe I'm just being a good host by letting you have fresh toast.”
“Yeah, you're a sweetheart. Now go get dressed or we're gonna be late for work.”
Kevin glanced at the clock and grimaced. “We're going to have to work on this,” he said, heading for the bedroom.
“You're the one who set the alarm!” Javier called after him.
“You're the one who spent half an hour in the shower!”
“Dude, it was like ten minutes.”
“Uh-huh. I'm getting you a watch!”
“Maybe later,” Kevin muttered to himself, grinning a little, and reached for a shirt.
Rushed morning aside, things went pretty well that day. Kevin laid in bed that night, running it through his mind. They'd only been a few minutes late, so that wasn't too bad. It was a little weird to make the commute together. Thankfully, the fact that they showed up to work together hadn't been commented on. It happened sometimes, either by chance or because they met up for coffee beforehand. It wasn't a thing.
He had a bad feeling there were going to be rumors. A few people knew what was up – Beckett and Castle, of course, and the Captain. Probably a few others had overheard them talking about it, too. And that was fine. It wasn't like they had anything to hide. There was nothing wrong with him letting his partner crash at his place at a time like this.
Except that it was them. There were a few people who already gave them sideways looks. Hell, even Beckett and Castle teased them a little about how close they were. This arrangement would give everyone more fodder.
Kevin blew out a breath, closing his eyes. It didn't matter, right? This was only going to be for a few days, anyway. It wasn't like Javier had moved in permanently or anything. He'd find his own place and things would go back to normal before they even knew it.
Javier came home from work a few days later and found himself assaulted by some truly awesome smells coming from the kitchen. He shucked his jacket, peering around the corner as he hung it up in the hall closet. “Man, something smells good.”
Ryan grinned at him from where he stood at the stove. “Thanks.”
“Spaghetti and meatballs. My mom's recipe.”
“It smells amazing.” Javier moved closer, peering over Ryan's shoulder into the pan where the sauce was going.
“You have a date I didn't know about?” He stepped back, running his eyes over Ryan. He'd changed out of his work clothes into t-shirt and jeans – not really date wear, but the casual look could work. Did work, on him.
“No, no date.” Ryan shrugged, his attention on the pan in front of him. “Just had time to cook, since I got home early. I figured, why not?”
“Oh yeah, how'd the dentist appointment go?”
“Good. Dental health is important,” he informed his partner seriously, reaching for the fridge door. “Want a beer?”
Javier grabbed two from the shelf, then paused. “I think I doubt your commitment to continued good dental health.”
“Chocolate pie?” He let the fridge door swing shut.
Ryan shrugged. “Dessert.”
“Hey, when I do dinner, I do it right.”
“Really? It's a store-bought pie. You're slacking.”
“Bite me,” Ryan invited him cheerfully. “If you want to help, go set the table."
Javier set the beers on the counter. “I guess I can do that.” He went to grab silverware and paused. “Just to be clear, it's just the two of us, right?”
“Right.” Ryan glanced over his shoulder at him. “That a problem?”
The question was bland, but there was something in his look that sent a spark of heat through him. Javier licked his lips and shook his head slightly, hoping Ryan hadn't caught his hesitation. “No, no problem at all.”
“Good,” he said and turned back to the stove.
By the end of dinner, Javier was a lot of things: pleasantly stuffed, in moderate awe of Ryan's cooking (and his mother's recipe), confused, and frustrated. The whole dinner had been nice. Great food, good company, shared laughter, the whole bit. There was no candle in the middle of the table, no slow music, and no dimmed lights, but ambiance aside... it felt like a date.
It felt a lot like a date.
A lot of that was probably because he wanted it to be a date. He'd been dealing with a low-level... attraction, infatuation, crush, whatever you wanted to call it, on his partner for years now. Turned out it was easier to live with that when he wasn't also living with the man. With the close quarters, it was getting harder to ignore. So the date thing – wishful thinking. Right?
It killed him that he wasn't sure that was all it was. The thing was, if Ryan was a woman, or if he knew that Ryan was definitely into him, then it wouldn't even be a question; this thing would be a date. It felt that much like one. The problem was, as far as he knew, Ryan was straight. By definition, not into him. So the flirting and looks and everything had to just be in his imagination – unless there was a big something his partner wasn't telling him.
Which was possible, given what he himself wasn't telling Ryan.
He sat on the couch mulling it over, waiting for Ryan to come in with dessert. For a minute, he considered making a move, see what happened. Or he could just ask, point blank, if there was something going on here. It was tempting. Get things out in the open, right? Maybe push them past friendship to something else.
Or maybe he'd get his ass kicked out and lose his partner and best friend in the process.
A plate with chocolate pie got shoved under his nose. “Earth to Esposito.”
He grabbed it, frowning at his partner. “What?”
“You were staring off into space. Did you sneak another beer or two when I wasn't looking?” Ryan plopped himself down on the other end of the couch, kicking his heels up onto the coffee table.
“No.” Somehow he couldn't come up with a better retort than that. He looked at Ryan for a second – casual, relaxed, giving off no vibes at all. Grimacing, he picked up his fork. “Just thinking.”
“Yeah? Don't hurt yourself.” Ryan popped a bite of pie into his mouth, smirking at him around it.
Javier scowled at him. “I'll try.”
Ryan chewed, swallowed. “Anything you want to talk about?” His glance was a little more serious this time.
Still too damn hard to read, though. Javier considered it for another second – here was an opening if he ever saw one. But...
He shook his head, cutting a bite of pie. “Nah, it's alright. Thanks.”
Ryan watched him for a second, then shrugged. “Anything on TV?”
“Remote's by your foot.”
Ryan grabbed it, flicking the set on. Javier leaned back into the couch cushions with his pie, trying not to feel disappointed.
A week into the shared living arrangements, the novelty had started to wear off. It was downright weird to go back to having a roommate after living alone. It wasn't all bad – it was cool to have someone to talk to in the evenings without having to pick up the phone or go out. Nice to have someone else help with the dishes and things like that. And of course, pretty nice to have Javier there at all.
It was weird, though. They'd had to adjust their schedules so they could both get into the bathroom in the mornings. He couldn't use his own living room at night, if Javier wanted to go to bed earlier than he did, or in the morning, if Javier slept in. Food went faster, and dishes, and everything else. It was an adjustment all around.
And then there was the stuff in the living room. It wasn't messy, but it wasn't neat, either. Linens folded up by the end of the couch. Clothes folded up by the wall – well, mostly folded. Shoes under the end table. Throw pillows disarrayed; bed pillow still in place on the couch. A couple magazines, a plate and a glass on the coffee table.
Kevin grimaced and grabbed the plate and glass, taking them into the kitchen. “Forgot these.”
“Sorry, man.” Javier finished rinsing the knife he'd used for toast and reached for the plate. He winced, rubbing his neck with his other hand.
Kevin frowned. “You okay?”
“Yeah.” Javier shrugged, letting his hand fall. He put the plate and glass in the sink.
“Your neck's bothering you.”
“It's fine. Just a little crick.”
“Uh-huh.” He kept frowning. “Your back's been bothering you, too.” At Javier's questioning glance, he shrugged a little. “You've been holding yourself a little stiff the last couple days.”
Javier looked at him for a second. “You pay entirely too much attention.”
“I'm your partner. It's my job to notice things like that.” Kevin went to the coffee maker, pouring coffee into a couple of travel cups. “So?”
“It's nothing. I'm fine.”
“Come on --” He paused, glancing towards the living room. “Wait, is it the couch?”
Javier kept his back to him. “I don't know. Maybe.”
Javier sighed, half-turning. “I've been sleeping on the couch for a week. I guess maybe it's not good for my back.”
“Why didn't you say something?”
“You're putting me up out of the goodness of your heart. I'm not gonna complain about the accommodations.” He shrugged again, turning back to the sink. “I'll be alright.”
Kevin watched him for a long moment. It sucked, he decided. A man's options shouldn't be limited to either paying for a hotel or sleeping on a couch after his place gets trashed. He wished briefly that he had a two-bedroom place, or at least a pull-out sofa. Some option for his friend that included a bed.
Involuntarily, his eyes went to the bedroom door.
He turned around, buying himself time to think while he found the lids to the travel cups. It was a terrible idea. Right? They were living in close enough quarters already. Sharing a bed would probably be pushing it.
On the other hand, he argued with himself, it was probably the best solution. Javier would get to sleep in an actual bed without paying for a hotel. And again, it wouldn't be for all that long; he'd find a place eventually and Kevin would get his bed back. In the meantime, he'd get his living room back, and that was a definite plus.
He took a deep breath and turned back around. “I have an idea. You might hate it,” he qualified quickly. “And you'll probably think it's weird.”
Javier's expression was interested but slightly wary. “Okay...”
Kevin waved a hand at the bedroom door. “I have a perfectly good bed. It's more than big enough for two.”
It took his partner what felt like a long time to respond with more than a frown. “You're suggesting we sleep together?”
“As in, sharing a bed, yes.” Kevin shoved a hand in his pocket, shifting his feet. “Just that. It gets you off the couch. That's all I'm thinking.”
“Huh.” Javier's gaze went to the bedroom door. His face was hard to read. After a moment he glanced back at Kevin. “That is a little weird.”
“I know.” Kevin sighed. “It's the best I can offer.”
Javier shook his head. “I don't need to put you out, man. I'm --”
“You're not, I swear. It'd be fine. Hey, I wouldn't offer if I didn't mean it.” He waited, nerves making him want to bounce on the balls of his feet. What if he said no? What if he said yes? It was stupid to be nervous about it, he told himself; neither answer would mean anything. Other than that he'd get to sleep next to Javier, which was possibly both a good thing and a bad idea...
“It'd get you out of the living room,” he added suddenly, realizing he needed to mention something he was getting out of it. Selflessness was all well and good, but it could make things awkward. So he told him, “I wouldn't mind getting my couch back, you know? So it's a win for both of us.”
“I guess that makes sense.” Javier's shoulders shifted. “Sure, alright. We can give it a shot, at least. See if we kill each other.”
Butterflies settled into his stomach, making themselves at home for a long stay. Kevin grinned anyway, the relief at not having been turned down momentarily outweighing the nerves. “Can't hurt, right?”
“Depends.” Javier frowned at him without a hint of seriousness. “You're not a kicker, are you?”
Kevin smiled cheerfully at him, handing him one of the cups of coffee. “Only if you steal the covers.”
The new arrangement was weird. Going into the bedroom that night instead of staying out in the living room was kind of jarring. It made him a little nervous – not that he'd admit that to anyone. It was just that sleeping on the couch was one thing, and sleeping in another man's bed was another thing entirely. Even if it was sleeping as in sleeping, chastely, no touching or anything.
What it was, was an exercise in frustration. A test to see how much he could take. He wasn't about to jump his best friend in his own bed, but damn. The thoughts that were put into his head by sliding under the covers with him – not good. Well, good thoughts, but not good to be having them here and now.
There was some fidgeting at first on both their parts, trying to get settled. Javier tugged on the covers; Ryan tugged back. They both made sure there was plenty of room in the middle – not that there was a lot of that in a queen-sized bed, but Javier scooted close to the edge to be sure. It was stupid, sure, but he didn't want to wake up with an elbow in his face – or with his arms wrapped around his partner because his sleeping brain thought cuddling was a good idea.
Even with the wriggling and scooting and arranging, he got comfortable fast. Oh yeah, this was way better than the couch. “Nice bed,” he muttered into his pillow.
“Thanks,” came the equally muffled reply from behind him.
He felt himself relax more into the mattress as sleep crept up on him. “Good night,” he mumbled, barely hearing Ryan's response before he was out cold.
Despite the initial awkwardness, after the change, things started feeling more normal than they had been. The routine they'd tentatively settled into got more solid. The living room went back to just being a living room, which was good for Kevin's peace of mind. Even the bed situation was only awkward for the first night or two. After that, they both relaxed. They were just a couple of guys – roommates. No sexual tension or anything. Really. It was all good.
What wasn't all good, Kevin thought as he stood in the doorway, was the state of his bedroom. Their bedroom. Whatever.
His side was still neat – mostly. Javier's side, the one closer to the bathroom door, was... not neat. There were clothes on the floor, scattered around like they'd just been flung there. A bath towel was draped across the corner of the bed, too. At least the bed was made – mostly. Oh, and there was a glass on the nightstand, from last night.
“Something wrong?” Javier came up behind him, looking over his shoulder into the room.
Kevin glanced at him. “You're kind of a slob.”
Both of Javier's eyebrows shot up. “Excuse me?”
“There are clothes all over the floor. We have a perfectly good laundry hamper, you know.”
Javier paused, not saying anything for a long moment. “Sorry. I'll take care of it.” He slipped past Ryan, going to pick up the clothes. Shaking his head, he said, “You're such a neat freak. These are just yesterday's clothes.”
Javier bundled up the clothes and sent them sailing into the hamper. “What I don't get,” he said conversationally, “is how you're so neat and tidy about the whole apartment, but you leave your cabinet doors open.”
“I do what?”
“Leave the cabinets open. In the kitchen.” Javier came up to face him. “See this?” He pointed to his forehead, where Kevin saw... nothing. Javier scowled at him. “I got caught in the head by the edge of one of those cabinet doors, because you'd just left it open. I know I'm a guest here, but come on. Those things have doors for a reason.”
“Yeah,” Kevin said, unable to fight back a grin. “Apparently to hit you in the head.”
“Funny. Very funny.”
“I thought so.”
“Can we have a truce or something? I'll make you a deal: I'll stop leaving clothes on the floor if you stop leaving the cabinets open.”
Kevin considered it. “Fair enough. How about for putting your glasses and dishes in the sink?” He nodded towards the glass on the nightstand. “What do you want for that?”
Javier glanced back, then looked at Kevin. “I'm sure I'll come up with something.” His eyes locked with Kevin's for just a moment. Then he turned and went to get the glass.
Kevin licked his lips, reaching out to steady himself on the door jam. He wasn't sure what that look had been. Was pretty sure the hint of promise he'd seen in it was his own imagination. Had to be.
He huffed out a quiet laugh at himself and went out into the living room. No sexual tension at all. Right.
“Why are we having this here instead of Castle's place?” Beckett asked Kevin as they went into the kitchen.
“His mother is having a party,” he replied.
“I needed to get out,” Castle explained from where he sat in the living room. “To escape. Movie night sounded like the perfect opportunity, especially since these two had already suggested it.”
“Bad cop movie night.” Beckett shot Kevin an amused look. “I don't know how I got talked into this.”
He held up his hands. “Hey, don't look at me. I had nothing to do with it. My partner came up with the idea and your partner dragged you in.”
“Your partner – your roommate, you mean.” She grinned at him.
“Ah, yes, how is the roommate situation going?” Castle asked. “How long has it been now? Two weeks?”
Kevin turned his back on the living room, leaving it to Javier to answer while Kevin worked around the kitchen.
“Two and a half, I guess,” Javier said. “Going fine.”
“Yeah? I wanted to kick my mother out after just a week.”
“Why didn't you?”
“She's my mother! Besides, she has her own room. It's not that bad, most of the time. Speaking of which – this place is a one-bedroom, right? Where do you sleep?”
Kevin's hand paused in the act of pulling a plate from the cabinet.
“Couch,” Javier replied easily.
Kevin blinked. Huh.
“There's no sign of you out here...”
“Ryan's a neat freak. I clean up, make sure everything's tidy, or he goes nuts.”
“Aww, are you a slob?”
“According to him, sure.”
Kevin blinked again and belatedly finished pulling out plates. The clatter they made helped block out the conversation, letting him get his head back on straight.
Or would have, if not for Beckett sliding up beside him. She reached up into the cabinet for napkins. Softly, she asked, “He's not really sleeping on the couch, is he?”
The question took him off-guard. He knew his surprise was damning – or would be, if the pause earlier hadn't given him away. Swearing internally, he muttered, “It's not what you're thinking.”
“No?” she murmured back. Turning, she met his gaze briefly, directly. “Then why'd he lie?”
He didn't have a ready answer. After a moment, she smiled – sympathetically, he thought – and patted his shoulder. Then she slipped past him, heading into the living room and leaving him alone with his thoughts.
Javier laid in bed that night, pleasantly buzzed from the beer and good company. Well, Castle and Beckett had been good company. Ryan hadn't been bad company, but he'd been a little off. Javier didn't know why or what was up, and he hadn't wanted to ask while the others were there. Now he was almost too tired to.
Still, he could tell Ryan was awake on the other side of the bed. He'd almost worked up the energy to ask when Ryan spoke first. “You awake?”
He felt the bed shift. “Why'd you lie to Castle?”
His eyes blinked open. “What?”
“Why'd you lie? To Castle, earlier tonight.” A pause. “About where you sleep.”
Crap. He swallowed, licked his lips. “I didn't want to deal with the questions, you know? Figured what they don't know, they can't bug us about.”
Quiet. “Right. That makes sense.” More quiet, then a sigh. “Except...”
“You know as well as I do, lying just makes you look more guilty.”
Guilty? He scowled, shifting in bed. “Only if they catch you in the lie.”
It was his turn to be silent. “You think Castle did, too?”
He let out a breath, ending with a quiet, “Damn.”
After a minute, Ryan offered, “It's not like we're doing anything wrong.”
“No. I know. It's just --”
He closed his eyes. “Yeah.”
The bed shifted again; he felt Ryan roll away from him. “It doesn't matter.”
“Right.” Of course it didn't matter. Didn't matter if their friends thought they were getting it on; didn't matter that they weren't. He sighed, pressing his face into the pillow, while a lead weight settled into his chest.
Kevin came home, groceries in hand, to find Javier on the phone. “... at gmail dot com. Yeah.” He shot Kevin a glance and a little smile in greeting before moving away, farther into the living room.
Kevin set the groceries on the kitchen counter, wondering. Who would he be giving his email address to over the phone? Weird. He started putting things in the fridge while shamelessly listening for the rest of the conversation.
“Tomorrow,” he heard Javier say. “Great. I'll see you then. Okay, bye.”
Kevin shot him a look over his shoulder, making sure he had the phone away from his ear before asking, “Date?”
“Nah.” Javier went over to where his laptop was set up on the raised counter. Without looking at Kevin, he said, “Apartment hunter.”
Kevin froze for a split second, then very carefully closed the fridge door. “Apartment hunter?”
“Yeah. Figured it was time, you know? She's gonna send me some info, then show me some places tomorrow.”
“Oh.” He turned, leaning a hip against the counter. “You don't have to leave, you know.”
Javier didn't look up from the computer. “I'm sure I'm cramping your style, being here.”
Kevin shrugged that off. “I'm serious.” He hesitated. “I like having you here.”
His partner finally looked up at that. After a second, he smiled a little. “Thanks, bro. I like being here.”
“So why leave?”
Javier lifted a shoulder. “It's been almost a month. I need to stop living off your hospitality.” He left the computer, heading for the bedroom.
Kevin turned around, reaching for groceries without really seeing them. Javier was moving out. He should have seen it coming. The situation was supposed to be temporary. Javier probably should have started looking for a place weeks ago. But he hadn't, and they'd both had time to get used to living together.
Or at least Kevin had.
He put both hands on the counter, leaning into it. Dammit. Could he really go back to living alone? Quiet apartment, no mess, no worrying about someone else... No having Javier around all the time.
He heard Javier come back into the room behind him. “Hey, you okay?”
Blinking, he pulled himself up straighter. “Yeah.” He tried to shake it off, started to put the bag of coffee away – and stopped, setting it back down with a thud. “No. I'm not okay.” He took a deep breath, heart thumping in his chest. “I don't want you to leave.”
He turned around then, meeting Javier's eyes. “I want you to stay.”
Javier gave him a puzzled frown.
He licked his lips, searching for something to say. Something to make it clear. “You know the rumors about us? What people think about us living together?” At Javier's hesitant nod, he said, “You know what bothers me most about them?”
Javier shifted on his feet, crossing his arms. “No, what?”
“That they're not true.” He waved a hand, grimacing. “That – that we're not --” He pushed out a breath. “I want that.”
Javier stared at him, understanding dawning. “You want – us. Together.”
“Yeah.” His throat closed up, like it was belatedly trying to keep the words in. Too late. He swallowed against it, saying, “I know you probably don't, and that's fine. I just – I needed to put it out there, finally.”
Javier's face gave him no clue what was going on in his head, besides general shock at the admission. Kevin took a moment to pray that he'd react okay – if not with open arms, so to speak, then at least in a this is awkward but let's still be friends and partners kind of way. He could only hope.
After a long silence, Javier finally spoke. “So basically... you want me.”
Kevin blinked at him, frowned, then glared. “If you laugh at me about this, I swear to God, I will kill you and no one will ever find the body.”
Both of Javier's eyebrows shot up. So did the corner of his mouth, into a grin that came with a sound a lot like a snicker.
Kevin scowled. “Aw, man, come on.”
Javier lifted his hands, a chuckle escaping. “I'm not laughing at you, I swear.”
“That sounded like a laugh.”
“But not at you.” He moved then, walking into the kitchen and not stopping until he was in front of Kevin. “Why didn't you say something?”
“Right. What should I have said? 'Hi, my name is Kevin Ryan and I'm in love with my partner'?” He stumbled over the last words, realizing what he'd said. In for a penny, right? he thought to himself, wincing. But there was a light in Javier's eyes, a quality to the smile on his face – it gave him hope, and hope could make you say crazy things.
And then Javier did something just as crazy. He reached up and caught Kevin's face between his hands, his palms warm on his skin. He murmured, “It'd be a start” – and then he kissed him.
They laid in bed later that night, taking up a lot less space than usual. Kevin's back was to Javier's chest, the little spoon to his big spoon. Javier smiled into his partner's bare shoulder, pressing a kiss there. “We should have figured this out weeks ago.”
Kevin murmured sleepy assent. “I'm just glad we have it right now.”
“Yeah.” Javier ran a hand over Kevin's stomach. “You know, this doesn't mean I'm not moving out.”
There was a moment of silence. Kevin shifted, rolling onto his back to frown at Javier. “Why? Or – why not? You know what I mean.”
Javier propped his head up on one hand, the other still tracing circles on Kevin's stomach. “Regardless of how much or how little clothing we wear to bed, it's still not my place. I'm still a guest.”
Kevin frowned, then nodded. “Okay, so we make it your place. Start paying rent.”
“I'm serious, though,” he said, shrugging a shoulder. “I can give up room in the dresser and closet. You've already half taken over the bathroom. Let's just... make it official. Make this place be ours instead of just mine.”
Javier's hand stilled. He frowned down at his partner. “Are you asking me to move in with you?”
“Yes,” Kevin said readily, his gaze not wavering. “And I'm not taking no for an answer.”
Javier gave him a minute to sweat. Then he smiled, lowering his head. “Yes,” he murmured, and kissed him again.