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The Great J&J Cohabitation Situation

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It's only a few days into what they like to call The Great Josh-Julian Cohabitation Situation (or as Julian insists, the Julian-Josh--they've yet to work that one out) when Josh wakes up to the sound of clattering and banging and Julian swearing in a stream.

Josh is on his feet and out his bedroom door before he knows it. "Julian? Julian!"

"It's fine," Julian says in a strangled, not-fine-sounding-at-all voice. "Shiiit," he adds, not making his point particularly well.

"I'm coming in," Josh announces, and Julian shouts, "Wait!", but Josh has already opened the bathroom door.

Julian looks back at Josh in surprise, surrounded by floating bottles of shampoo and body wash and deodorant, which Josh assumes were the source of the crash--and also the reason Julian hasn't yet slammed the door in his face given he's buck naked and dripping wet.

"Jesus," Josh says, leaning against the doorframe. "You fell in the fucking shower? You clumsy asshole, you had me worried--oh."

Julian also has a raging boner, he now realizes. Just as Josh sees, Julian's hand guiltily flies away from himself so fast it almost nails him in the face.

"Oh. I see." Josh crosses his arms and tries (not very hard) to stifle a spreading grin. "The big bad telekinetic can't catch shit because he's too busy with his hand on his dick."

Julian turns bright red. "Fuck you," he hisses. He crosses his arms back. "I'm having trouble today, if you must know."

"Yeah, I'd imagine," Josh says, stepping forward to tweak one of Julian's gauntlets. Julian's so surprised that Josh is able to pluck it out of the air entirely. "Were you really trying to get off with these?"

Julian narrows his eyes and rips back the gauntlet, making Josh stagger forward. "Yeah yeah, make fun of the cripple falling down time is over, fuck off."

He's pissed. Josh starts feeling something unexpected--something he can't place, and then also he feels--bad. "Shit, man," he says, scratching his head. "Like. Sorry, I guess."

Julian looks at him, finally taken off guard. "Oh." His stance becomes less defensive and closed off. "Uh."

Silence stretches in the foot and a half between them. Josh should do something to make it up, probably. But more than that, he senses an opportunity--to change something. To almost create something, or regain something, something genuine between them they may have had a long time ago.

And then that sounds too sappy, so instead he says, "Maybe I can help you out."

"What?" Julian has just finished busying himself with putting away the body washes in their proper place. He blinks at Josh, and his eyes are terribly blank for actually having irises and pupils.

"I'm a biokinetic, dude," Josh says quickly. "You know I've got--if you're having trouble with that thing, I could just, y'know--my powers could help you out."

Julian's been flaccid for a bit, but he doesn't look completely disgusted or anything. "What, you want to jerk me off or something?"

Josh--well, Josh had meant getting him started or something, giving a little hormone boost, but Julian is looking at him, inquisitive--curious, even--and when Josh's mouth opens the correcting words don't come.

"It's gotta be better than getting yourself pinched in your gauntlets," is what he actually ends up saying.

Julian's eyes go wide in horror and he looks at his gauntlets. "Oh god. I never thought of that."

Josh laughs, just softly, and Julian looks at him thoughtfully before he shrugs. "Why the hell not. We're roommates, you're going to have to get used to hearing my sex noises sooner or later."

"Only if you wake me up every time you jerk off by knocking everything over at six a.m." Josh strips off his socks so he doesn't get them wet stepping into the shower, and then reconsiders and strips off his boxers too. He doesn't want to get them wet either, and when in Rome, right?

"Fuck you, I'll get a girl over here to fuck sooner or later." Julian turns his back toward him as Josh steps in.

"Sure you will, Casanova." Josh glances at the shower head as Julian rolls his neck. "If you turn the water on, I'll kill you," he warns.

"Uh-huh," Julian says absently, stretching his spine until it pops and moaning in relief. "I was already clean, honestly, I just needed to get off."

"Right. You want soap?" Josh asks, reaching for the bottle in question, eyes following a trail of water on its way down from Julian's hair and down his back.

"What?" says Julian. "Oh, for the--oh. No." He glances back, his face turning self-consciously pink. "I like the, uh--well, y'know. Don't like it too smooth."

"All right," says Josh, who frankly didn't expect any less. His hand trails down over Julian's hip and pubes and takes hold of his cock.

Julian sighs immediately and actually leans back against Josh, who is grateful he got his clothes off to keep them dry. “Shit," Julian mumbles, arching his back against Josh’s chest like a cat stretching. "Oh, shit."

"You okay?" says Josh, who hasn't actually done anything but lightly stroke his thumb back and forth.

"Yeah." Julian flicks his head, setting off a stripe of water from his hair. "Shit, man, that feels good."

"I'm not trying to use my powers," Josh says self-consciously, resting his left hand on Julian's hip and feeling his cock fill in his right.

"Yeah," Julian says, tilting his head back against Josh's shoulder. He opens his eyes and looks up at him, blue under eyelashes. "It's just been a while. Since I've had a real hand touch me."

Josh feels back and forth along the line of Julian's pelvic girdle--he's never seen such a defined V-shape in anyone before. "Right," he says, the room suddenly seeming stiflingly warm to him. "Yeah. I'm turning the powers on now."

He boosts Hellion's libido through the light touch at his hip, and Julian moans obscenely and nearly buckles at the knees. Josh can feel his dick throb in his palm. "Fucking shit," Julian groans, bracing his elbow on the side of the shower, moaning again, and panting.

"Whoops," Josh says, stricken. "May have overdone it."

"Shit. It's okay," Julian says, thrusting up into Josh's hand. "I got it. Fuck. Whew."

"You okay?" Josh asks, tightening his hand and pumping, gently just in case.

"Yeah. Uh huh." Julian's whole body relaxes as dead weight against Josh, except his hips, which still move with him. "Mmm. Shit, no wonder girls love you."

Josh blinks. "W-what?"

Julian's wrist finds Josh's hip behind him to brace their bodies against each other, having the effect that he rolls against Josh's hips slightly. Josh bites down a gasp. "Yeah. Remember when you--god--fucked a teacher in school and I was like, damn, you're a--mmmm--stud--Jesus, Foley--"

"I never fucked Rahne!" Josh gathers himself enough to say, stopping his hand. Julian actually grabs his wrist and keeps him going.

"You should have," Julian gasps. "She wouldn't have left you--if you'd fucked her--like this." Julian actually keens, and Josh feels his own groin stir in response, much more powerfully than it had been from the physical stimulation alone.

Julian tilts his head back against Josh's shoulder again, chest heaving. "Fuck me--this is--wow." His free arm reaches back around Josh's shoulders. "Too good," he breathes. "Too much. I'm gonna come--gonna come so hard--"

He does, and Josh was expecting a shout, in as much as he realizes he was expecting anything at all, but instead Julian just whines, and god, it's the sexiest thing Josh has ever heard.

"Christ, Julian," Josh whispers. "I hardly did anything."

"Those powers," Julian pants after what seems like an age of getting his breath back, "are fucking dangerous." He flicks his head again. "The gold ones even more than the black ones. Fucking seriously."

There's a moment of silence, except for their breathing, which is a little labored for both of them. Then Julian is straightening up and shucking the water from his body telekinetically. He shakes himself like a dog, cracks his neck, and yawns. "Well," he says, "I'm going back to fucking bed. See you in a fucking week when I wake up."

Julian tips his gauntlets to make sure all the water got out, grabs his clothes, and leaves, and this time it's Josh left alone in the shower figuring out how to deal with an erection.

Chapter Text

Josh closes the door after Julian and then turns the shower on--he has to have some excuse for not leaving right away and going to bed. Shit. Shit. That was so weird. What just happened? What is going on?

He shakes his head vigorously to clear it, an incredibly biologically unfounded trick but a habit he has anyway. He's got to put it out of his mind--seems Julian had no difficulty doing the same.

So Josh got a boner. So what? Physical stimulation will do that. He's a young adult, of course he's going to respond to someone practically grinding against him, moaning to wake the dead, hips rolling under his hands, one metal hand covering Josh's fingers and the other on Josh's hip, not even noticing as the grip slips back onto his ass--

Wow.

Okay. Out of mind. This hard-on isn't going away any time soon, so while Josh is here he may as well work with it. That is, not with that, hell no. He has other fantasies, obviously. Not of Laurie, never of Laurie, she was so young and innocent and if he thinks about her too long blood pools into the image. Maybe Rahne--yes, her thick red hair, her accent--but then he cringes away from the memory of how things ended. She had been so harsh and he'd almost ruined so many friendships by being with her, especially Laurie, there she is again and he should just--

He can still feel the weight of Julian's head on his shoulder.

Where was he?

The Cuckoos! Yeah, the Cuckoos, now there was a good time. They'd had so much... they'd had....

Maybe it's just the steam, but Josh could swear he feels Julian's heavy breath on his neck and jaw.

...Cold shower it is.
---
Josh gets up first for the actual day, not a surprise given the usual schedule and Julian's promise to sleep possibly forever. Josh has tried to encourage Julian to be more of a morning person, but mostly given up on that upon finding out that Julian is more or less fine being up early--he just likes to sleep in, and very much dislikes the specific 'being woken' bit.

Josh has time to go for a run, actually: an effort to get rid of all that, well, excess energy. He's eating breakfast, just scrambled eggs, when Julian wanders out, looking bleary and messy-haired yet anything but cranky. Josh stops and lowers his fork, watching Hellion warily. Awkwardness or an uncomfortable conversation or anything in between might be ahead, given the events of this morning--Josh can hardly see Julian past the fucking elephant in the room.

Julian's laptop (same make as Josh's, distinguished by an Aperture Science sticker on the back) picks itself up in a green haze and floats past Josh into Julian's hands. He sits and goes to open it, then pauses, catching the smell of the eggs. He places the computer on the couch and goes into the kitchen to finish off what's left of the eggs in the pan.

Josh freezes as Julian brushes past him and comes to a stop mere feet away, but for all that he strains to listen with his biokinesis, he senses nothing. No crackle of electricity, no tension, nothing to indicate anything has changed from their familiar, comfortable setup.

Julian puts the fork in the sink, yawns, and treads back to the couch. He turns on his laptop and begins going about his usual business, arms folded in his lap, disembodied hands propping up his chin while the keys busily clack of their own accord.

Josh finishes his own eggs and puts the dish in the sink. The whole time, he watches Julian. Floating earbuds twist into his ears, then a green glow smooths and works through his hair in an attempt to fix it for the day. He never even looks away from the screen. All of it is bizarre of course, but it's bizarre in an everyday, domestic way. Josh can't quite make sense of it.

Maybe he just thinks too much. Certainly he worries too much.

At any rate, Josh is now at a loss for what to spend his time on. He's off work today, which is usually a shift at Planned Parenthood--supposedly janitorial work, but everyone in the place knows he sometimes helps out with the patients. As for here, the place is pretty bare. They're banking on the idea that household articles will just sort of accumulate the longer they live here. It's between his own laptop and the TV, but really he needs the couch for those, and he's still a little unsure about sitting thigh-to-thigh with Julian when he's still worried an elephant may be lurking somewhere.

He's about to decide fuck it, he's going out, when Julian looks up, the keys still going. It's amazing how he can do that. Josh thinks he must be the most talented telekinetic in the world. "Josh?"

Josh tries not to feel nervous, hovering in the endless abyss between Julian and the door. "Yeah?"

Julian slings his arm over the back of the couch and lolls his head back to look backwards at Elixir. "Why're you all sweaty?"

"What?" Josh blusters in surprise. Is he that obvious? Does he really look as much of a nervous wreck as he's felt since getting up? "Am not!"

The keyboard stops as the laptop puts itself aside and Julian rolls over to look at Josh accusingly. "You're totally sweaty. I can practically smell it."

Elixir is lost for a defense. Here it comes, the elephant in the room, and it's a fucking bull elephant about to run him down. No-strings fooling around is a myth and a lie and they can never be roommates or friends again, he may as well pack his shit now--

"You were training without me, you ass."

Josh blinks at Julian, then looks down at his clothes. His running clothes. Oh. Fucking duh. "Just a run," he says, feeling himself relax. "You were asleep."

"Is that so?" Julian narrows his eyes. "Just a run, in no way an effort to get one up on me or weasel out of training?"

Josh blinks again. "What? Of course not, Julian, you just hate running. And mornings."

Julian points a metal finger accusingly. "You think I’m lazy." Josh opens his mouth and Julian cuts him off: "No, don’t deny it. You’re always on my ass for health stuff. 'Ooh, Julian ordered a hamburger, time to nag him to death about getting fucking heart disease'." His Josh impression is high-pitched but the Queens accent is annoyingly accurate.

Josh is supposed to be a nervous wreck right now, but he can’t keep himself from bickering. "A burger at a diner would be fine, Julian. A burger at McDonald's is one burger closer to death."

Julian closes his laptop angrily. "Unbelievable! It’s like living with Alton Brown! The Good Eats version, not the Cutthroat Kitchen version!"

"Says Paula Deen," Josh huffs.

Julian’s mouth open and closes. "You know what?" he says. "You know what? Fuck you! Fuck you, let’s go, you and me." He climbs over the back of the couch and puts up his fists. "No powers. Right now. Come at me."

"What? No. We are not going to fist fight," Josh says incredulously. "We're supposed to be adults."

"I'll never be too old to kick your ass." Julian rolls his neck. "It’s sparring. Think of it as making up for the training sesh you dumped me for."

"Fuck no!" Josh says, backing away. "Definitely not here! This is our house!"

"It's not like we have no room," Hellion says, and telekinetically pushes the couch to the wall to make his point. "Come on, you fucking sissy." He goes through the fruitless motion of cracking metal knuckles.

"No powers means no hands," Josh argues, a bit petulant at this point in the argument.

Julian's face sours for a moment, but then his gauntlets clatter to the floor. Josh is about to backpedal and say he didn't really mean it when Julian pounces.

They go rolling and Josh kicks Julian up and off--Hellion lands with a roll and is back up on his forearms and knees, grinning. "There's Elixir," he says in a low, dangerous purr that for some reason makes Josh's stomach twist. He doesn't have time to think about it because Julian rolls again and gets a leg around Josh's shoulders and slings him to the floor, knocking the wind out of him as Julian twists and lands seated on his chest.

Josh growls and struggles but Julian leans forward and pins Josh's hands with his arms. "Don't come in here with that weak-ass shit, 'Lix," he says triumphantly.

"I don't want to fight you," Josh reminds him, and Julian's knees dig in the floor to keep him stable as Josh strains against him.

"You're just mad you got beat by a cripple," Julian teases. He's got a lopsided grin on his face, stretching just his left cheek, which is funny because he only has a dimple on that side; his hair dangles, long enough that just the tips brush Josh's cheeks. His eyes shine with victory and mischief, and they are so deep blue, like those morpho butterflies, or lapis lazuli, or--

What were they arguing about?

"Josh?"

Josh's mouth opens and closes. "Get a haircut, you hippie," he finally mumbles, brushing Julian's hair out of his face.

Julian for some reason finds this uproariously funny, so much so that he lets Josh get out from under him while he roars with laughter. Josh rolls his eyes, fights a smile threatening to infect him from Julian's mirth, and gets up to drag the couch back into place.

"Come on, asshole," he says, finally feeling that things might really be as they should be. "Let's put on Cutthroat Kitchen.”

Chapter Text

“What in God's green, mutant-hating Earth is that?" Josh asks when Julian walks in, spinning a greyish orb on his finger like a basketball and whistling.

“It’s called an iHome," Julian explains cheerily, unplugging the microwave and inserting the device’s plug in its place. “It’s a music speaker. With lights," he adds, pressing a button and making most of it light up red, complete with a flourish of his own hands.

“Oh," Josh says, almost disappointed at the mundane explanation.

“Don’t sound like that, its awesome,” Julian says, pouting. “Look." He plugs in his phone and skips to halfway through some EDM song, and the lights start pulsing different colors to the beat.

“Okay?" says Josh. “Pretty cool I guess, but it's not exactly StarkTech, Julian."

“Doesn't need to be! As if I could afford that shit anyway. All I need is something to play music. The flashing," he adds, sagely tapping the top of it, "is a bonus."

“You’re not going to play your shitty dad rock all the time, are you?” Josh asks warily.

“No such thing, my friend," says Julian, but he lets the slight roll off his back for once. "I'm making a dance party playlist. We're having a dance party."

"We are?" Josh asks skeptically. Nobody has convinced him to attend anything, and that's going to be a sticking point if he can help it.

“All of us. Academy X.” Julian wrinkles his nose. “You know, give or take." He smooths over that dark thought by continuing,
“It’s going to be like the shit we listened to as kids, fucking 2005 dance trash music. Look, hand me your phone."

Josh unlocks his phone as if Julian doesn’t know the passcode (he does, but it helps Josh's ego to pretend) and tosses it over. Julian taps on it furiously, then tosses it back.

“Something like this," he explains, as Josh looks in growing confusion at an 8tracks post on Julian's blog labelled ‘I like crazy people who don’t give a fuck'--a list of the girliest pop music Josh could possibly think of, none of it past maybe 2007. Above it is a graphic of a redheaded guy with a background of roses. “Just dancier," Julian finishes.

“Who's the guy?” Josh demands, pushing the screen back at Julian.

“Doesn't matter. The point is, playlist, dance, early oh ohs. Awesome."

“Oh ohs?” Josh echoes.

Julian rolls his eyes and starts tapping on his own phone, still plugged in. “Like the early two thousands? Double zeroes? Two kay? Keep up, man."

The song changes to the unmistakeable first line of ‘Wannabe'. Josh’s eyes widen, as does Julian’s grin. “No way,” Josh says.

“Yes way," Julian says with relish. Before Josh knows what’s happening, Julian’s hands zoom over and grab Josh’s hands, tugging him up out of his seat—Josh has to tilt his hips to guide his laptop safely down to the couch. “What the fuck, Keller!"

“We gotta test it out!” Julian shouts, dragging Josh over in his direction, his hips already in motion. “See if it's dancey enough!"

“No fucking chance,” Josh says, pulling fruitlessly against the gauntlets and probably giving himself friction burn. “Not to this."

“Look, Foley, I don’t care what you have to imbibe before you are willing to dance holes in your socks here in the kitchen with me, but do it, because we are going to find out whether we can dance to my playlist whether you like it or not!"

Josh stares at him, shaking his wrists free. “I’m not taking substances for this."

Julian shrugs and plants handless wrists on his hips. “Then you better dance sober, mister.” His face spreads into a broad, evil grin as 'Unwritten' comes on. Julian hops over practically into Josh and points triumphantly at the iHome. “There’s no way you can’t dance to this!" he cries, and spins away again.

"Wow, look at me, motionless," Josh says dryly.

"Not for long," Julian insists. "Come on!" He puts his arms up and nudges Josh telekinetically—Josh just stumbles forward and crosses his arms.

“Staring at the blank page before you, open up the dirty window—"

"Julian, I swear to god," Josh says warningly, pushing off Julian’s hands from his hips.

"--That you could not find--Reaching! For something in the distance!"

"Julian...!"

"Release your inhibitions!"

Josh gives up and finally shouts, half in frustration, half in the giddy release of joining in, and half in the pure joy that can only come from singing along to Natasha Bedingfield's 'Unwritten': "Feel the rain on your skin!"

The look of delight on Julian's face is worth the thought that their neighbors may have heard. And then Julian is twirling around and waving his arms to what he seems to think is the beat, laughing his gleeful way through the chorus, and Josh is helpless to do anything but join.

By the time 'Every Time We Touch' by Cascada comes on--Julian whoops when he hears it start--the lights are off, leaving them in the light of the pulsing speaker, which goes wild with the bass of the song. Josh can feel the endorphins in himself and practically smell them on Julian, but he doesn't care, not as long as it's him and his ridiculous roommate dancing in a way that might have been embarrassing with anyone else in their tiny kitchen.

They finally settle down at the less energetic start of ‘Bailamos', but Julian’s eyes are glinting and suddenly he has a hold of Josh’s hands and is purposefully leading him in--a salsa maybe? Some kind of ballroom dance. Josh doesn’t know any of the steps, but Julian is nudging him along with his telekinesis, like shoes to step in.

“Julian?"

"Quédate conmigo," Julian whispers instead, then bursts into a grin. "I was rich, remember? You think they didn't teach me to ballroom dance?"

"Not the salsa, Julian."

"Little bit of salsa, little bit of tango, little bit of whatever the hell I remember." Julian throws in a spin, holds Josh tight to steady him when he stumbles against Hellion's shoulder.

"Really? Your family? You're not Latino."

"I'm half Chinese! Doesn't that count a little bit?"

"Not even close!"

"I took Spanish?"

“Say one sentence to me in Spanish, just one—"

“Bailamoooos," Julian sings loudly over him. “Let the rhythm take you over, bailamooos--" He breaks off as Josh starts laughing, finally having forgotten to look at his feet and anchoring himself instead on Julian's radiant smile.

"We can't put this one on the playlist though," Josh says. “Nobody but you will be able to dance it!"

“Noooo," says Julian, putting on a sad puppy face. “Everybody loves Enrique Iglesias!"

“That’s true," Josh says, still unable to completely get rid of his smile. “I had such a man crush on him when we were teenagers."

Julian gives him a look Josh can’t quite figure out. “Seriously?"

“Yeah,” Josh says, getting a self conscious glow in the cheeks. “What?"

Julian looks at him very seriously and Josh's heart sinks. Then Julian breaks into a grin. "Me too!"

Josh starts laughing almost too hard to continue dancing, and Julian has to reel him in by the waist. Josh is clutching Julian's shoulders just laughing his ass off, half from the ridiculousness of it and half out of some kind of relief. Julian grabs one of his hands and laces their fingers together and adjusts their stance into something approaching proper while Josh collects himself, wiping his eyes on his shirt sleeve.

"Come on," Julian urges. "Best part here in a second." Josh looks at him questioningly and Julian counts through a few more steps and then dips Josh over his knee, something managed almost entirely through telekinesis but still honestly impressive.

"I can be your hero, baby,” Julian serenades Josh, waggling his eyebrows.

Josh laughs breathlessly. “Wrong song.”

“So you don't want me to kiss away your pain?” Julian's telekinesis allows him to keep a hold while one hand brushes metal fingers teasingly against Josh's cheek.

Josh is about to say no, but the simple word just doesn’t fit right in his mouth. "Learn some real Spanish and we'll talk," he says instead, and Julian laughs and pulls him back up.

The song changes, and Julian lets go, but somehow Josh can't get back into dancing without metal hands leading him, warm from his own body heat. They decide it must be the song; 'Independent Woman' by Destiny's Child isn't properly dancey enough, so they remove it. "We still have 'Survivor' on here, so it's okay," Julian reasons.

They take the break from physically dancing as an opportunity to look over the tracklist. Julian is a bit cagey about sharing it at first, but Josh says, “Look, we danced together to fucking 'Butterfly' by smile.dk, not on DDR. There is no greater embarrassment than that," and Hellion hands it over.

“It needs Avril Lavigne,” is Josh's first thought.

Julian nods seriously. “What’s her danciest song? 'Happy Ending'?”

“How about 'Sk8r Boi'?"

“Genius!"

Josh gets the phone from then on for review duty since Julian made the playlist. "Why is 'Shake It' by Metro Station on here? Isn’t that like 2011?"

“Hell if I know," says Julian, taking up the whole couch to rest on. “I just love that song and put it on every playlist I ever make.” Josh gives him a look and Julian sighs, picks up Josh's phone, and punches it in. “2007," he says, dropping the phone on his own face. “Totally legit."

Josh studies the list again, frowning in thought. “There’s too much Cascada."

Julian looks at Josh until he looks up to see Julian's unreadable expression. There’s a beat, and then Julian says, “You're dead to me, Foley.”

“What? You have four fucking songs of hers on here—"

“Fucking dead to me,” Julian enunciates. “Cascada is perfect. 'Listen to Your Heart' wasn’t even on Spotify," he adds grumpily.

“Why all the others then?"

“Who the fuck knows?” Julian sighs. "I probably shouldn’t complain about Spotify since it's free, but I really had my heart set on ‘Hey Juliet' by LMNT and you can’t find that anywhere. Not even on iTunes. Did I just hallucinate that song? Swear I sung it to Sofia at one point.”

"I wish I could unhear that,” Josh groans, putting his hands over his face.

“Don’t be afraid of true love, Josh!” Julian croons, his gauntlets going over and clasping themselves to Josh’s heart, making him stumble back a few steps. "True 2005 love, Joshua."

“Whatever you say, studmuffin," Josh mutters. “'Potential Breakup Song', when was that?"

Julian searches it and pumps his fist. "2007! I love you, 2007! My playlist is legit as fuck oh ohs music!"

"You sure that’s not too late?" Josh asks teasingly, and Julian waggles a finger in front of his face, still on the couch five feet away.

"It’s the perfect boundary," Julian says. “Perfectly captures the genre. That was when ‘See You Again' came out, and we can’t not have ‘See You Again'. Any more suggestions?"

“Are you sure ‘The Tide Is High’ is dancey enough?” Josh asks thoughtfully.

"Pretty sure," says Julian. "But if the rest looks good we can try it out."

"Not sure about 'Hollaback Girl', either."

Julian jumps up and crawls over the back of the couch. "Say that to my fucking face."

"It’s a good song, just might not be dancey enough," Josh says, ignoring him and swatting away his fists. "We’ll try that one too."

"It doesn’t fucking matter if it’s dancey enough, it’s fucking 'Hollaback Girl'—"

“What’s that song Lindsay Lohan did?” Josh says loudly over him. “In 'Freaky Friday'?”

“Oh, shit. Uhmm. Ultimate,” Julian says, making the click with his mouth that he does since he can’t snap his fingers. “Put it on there.” He hums a few notes to himself.

“And if we’re doing Hilary Duff, maybe ‘Coming Clean'?"

“Fuck no. How about ‘Why Not’?" Julian suggests, going over and resting his arms on Josh’s shoulder to look down at the phone screen.

“You really liked that movie, huh?” Josh says, smirking over his shoulder at Julian.

“Lizzie McGuire is the voice of our generation," Julian replies impassively. “You done yet?"

"I’m putting 'Break Even' on there, and then we can—"

"Noooo. NO," Julian hisses, grabbing Josh’s wrists with his hands and tugging at the phone telekinetically. “That’s not dancey and it’s complete soft emo bullshit—"

“Come on, I like this song and put it on every playlist, it’s the same thing you were saying with ‘Shake It’," Josh insists, turning away. Julian follows around him.

“Not my playlist, fuck you—"

“Oh, look,” says Josh innocently, “There it is, playing, what do you know."

“I’m going to fucking kill you—“ Josh lifts the phone over his head and spins around again, gets his other wrist free and grabs Julian’s hand in his so it can’t drag him around. He’s laughing, and when Julian spins with him again he starts laughing too despite himself. He tries climbing on Josh to get it and Josh cinches his arm around him to hold him still, still clutching one of his hands.

“Fuck you, oh my god—fuck you so much—" Julian snickers, and Josh finally just cracks up, succumbs to laughter with Julian still halfway up onto his shoulders. He drops the hand with the phone to normal arm’s range, and Julian grabs it with his free hand and holds it triumphantly up and away. “Gotcha!"

They’re both still in fits of laughter, and then the phone above them plays out and there’s a moment of silence as they collect themselves. There’s a moment of silence between songs as Julian wipes his eyes on Josh’s shirt in the fading giggles. Then a soft guitar plays, much too soft for the playlist they’re working on. “Did you get this from your own playlist?” Julian asks, and then the words start and he laughs breathlessly. "Oh shit, I love this song."

“Lifehouse isn’t too soft emo for you?” Josh says, lowering Julian an inch so his feet brush the floor again. The hand still holding Julian’s across his back loosens, but Julian doesn’t seem to feel it, keeping the hold.

"Not this one. Haven’t you ever seen 'Enchanted’?—‘Cause it’s youuu, and me, and all of the people, and nothing to do, and nothing to lose," he sings, dropping back onto his feet so his arms slip lower around Josh’s neck.

Hellion sways with the song, and Josh can peripherally see his hand above them doing the same, but he doesn’t look up at it, too stuck on Julian’s face as he follows the notes so effortlessly. “I didn’t know you could sing,” he manages.

"I know it’s hard to believe anybody has ever been able to carry a tune besides you and fucking Songbird Guthrie," Julian teases, "but I can hold a note.--I'm tripping on words, you got my head spinning--" He lifts Josh’s hand above them and spins him, like a literal dance spin, and then pulls him close, looping an arm around his waist.

“Are we slow dancing now?” Josh asks incredulously, his open hand tentatively settling itself on Julian’s shoulder.

“Shhh, just go with it. Fucking ‘Enchanted' was so good," Julian sighs, putting his head on Josh’s shoulder. “You got ‘Open Arms' on this playlist?"

Josh can’t do anything but sigh and settle into it, let Julian have his one arm and use the other to get that stupid loose lock of hair behind Julian’s ear. “You and your fucking dad rock."

“'Open Arms' is beloved by non-parents everywhere," Julian mumbles, looking up at Josh with azure eyes Josh is starting to hate. “It’s youuuu, and me, and all of the people…"

Josh sighs. “And I don’t know why I can’t keep my eyes off of you," he continues gently, and Julian’s eyes go wide in delighted surprise.

“Something about you now,” they sing together, Julian straightening up and singing a little too excitedly; “I can’t quite figure out—“ Josh trails off and watches Julian eagerly continue, “Everything she does is beautiful; everything she does is—hey, you stopped.”

“Yeah,” Josh says, offering no explanation, because he has none. Julian tilts his head at him like he’s trying to figure him out, then shrugs.

“Well, okay,” Julian says, pulling away and clicking off the song. “We need to dance, for real this time.” He points directly at Josh. “I’ll show you how you dance to Hollaback Girl, just watch."

“Yeah,” Josh says, but somehow he doesn’t feel like going back to that playlist. “You know what? I’ll make another playlist, in case you decide you want slow dances in yours," he offers, going to retrieve his phone.

“Doubt it,” Julian snorts, "but go ahead." He waves his hand. “You’re too stuck on mushy songs now to dance, I get it, it’s fine. We’ll catch up at the Academy X dance."

“Yeah,” Josh says, and goes into his room and closes the door. The Academy X dance, he thinks. With him, and Julian, and all of the people. And he doesn’t know why…

Maybe he should just go to bed.

Chapter Text

The next mornings go without incident, though Josh is quite sure it wouldn't kill Julian to make breakfast once or twice. Or get a job. That would be nice, though Julian swears he's working on it and Josh suspects he may be sneaking out some nights for vigilante work.

Last night may have been one of them--Julian's cranky and out of sorts. He's even forgotten his gauntlets, but hasn't seemed to notice.

"You okay?" Josh finally says after Julian has made his way through breakfast, two games of Mario Kart, and a shower without actually touching anything.

Julian grunts and waves an arm in his direction.

Silence for a moment. Josh ventures to break it: "You forgot your hands is all."

Julian seems mildly surprised at the realization, and then sinks back into the couch mumbling something about how Josh is lucky he has no middle fingers right now.

Josh looks him up and down. Julian has decided on a hoodie today, which isn’t odd on its own, but with everything else--well, it's just that he usually wouldn't bother with any bulky or unnecessary clothing in a mood like this, certainly not on a sweltering day like today. Josh doesn’t even have a shirt on, though that’s nothing out of the ordinary; Julian’s accused him of having a shirt allergy.

Josh goes over to the back of the couch and flips down Julian's hood. He groans in complaint.

"Were you drinking?" Josh asks first, softly. He hates alcohol, himself--he tolerates a lot of unhealthy consumption, but literal toxins? No thanks.

Julian looks up at him, eyes calculating. "Might have had one or two," he says warily.

Josh sighs and brushes Julian's hair out of his eyes. "You don't have to hide from me, Julian." He pauses--all the energy inside him is pointing in one direction, toward Julian's forearm. Bruised. Like a defensive wound. So he was right.

Josh comes around to sit on the couch. "I'm going to leave you the hangover, which you deserve," he says carefully. "But that--" he points to Julian's arm. "Lemme help."

"I fell," says Julian in a hard voice.

"Sure," Josh says gently.

“I seriously fell."

"Okay."

"Foley--"

"I just want to heal it for you, Julian. Aren't you hot in that thing?" Josh says, tugging at Julian's other sleeve.

Julian sucks air through his teeth, then takes off the hoodie. "Fine."

Josh leans over him and gratefully puts his hands on the wound. Spilled blood swirls back into blue blood vessels. Josh rubs his thumb hard over it to make sure theres no tenderness. He lets the vigilantism go for today, and if he does clear up the hangover just a little, well, that's perfectly accidental.

Josh smiles brightly at Julian, who looks in a better mood despite himself.

"Yeah. Well." Julian snuggles into the couch, crossing his arms. "I'm going to rewatch Orange Is the New Black if you want." The remote gives itself a little waggle as if to make the offer.

"You know that's my jam," Josh replies, nudging Julian with his elbow and grinning.

They're halfway through the first scene with Alex in the prison, which is just when it gets really good in Josh’s opinion, so of course it’s just then that Julian gets a nosebleed.

“Fuck!" he squawks, going to stem the bleeding but of course having no gauntlets. Josh bounds over the back of the sofa and into the kitchen and runs back with a washcloth.

“Tissues. Going on the grocery list,” Josh says. “Hold still."

Julian makes a noise of protest but Josh touches his nose and heals the blood vessel that burst, then grabs his chin and wipes the blood off his face.

"There," Josh says, settling on his haunches on the floor in front of Julian. "That should--"

Oh. Julian got an erection watching the women having sex on the show at the same time as the nosebleed.

Josh starts laughing. “Oh my god. Julian, you—“ he starts fucking cackling and Julian turns red to his ears, angrily pulls his knees up to his chest to cover himself. “I’m pretty sure that’s not biologically--Jesus Christ, you’re a fucking anime—"

"Fuck you, okay!" Julian says, going shrill. "Fuck you, fuck you, this doesn't usually--they were fucking onscreen okay don't--stop fucking laughing--like you aren't hot for lesbians--"

“No no," Josh says, finally settling down and wiping his eyes. "I’m just laughing at the nosebleed thing—it’s just a coincidence you got one, but holy fucking shit. But no, I've totally jacked it to this show before."

Julian pauses for a moment, cogs going in his head. "Really?" He releases his legs when Josh nods.

Josh climbs back onto the couch and pauses the show, then looks critically at the screen. Julian shifts in place uncomfortably beside him while he contemplates.

Josh hands the remote to Julian, meaning he holds it out and then drops it so Julian catches it. "You can rewatch it if you want."

Julian blinks blankly at him. "Uhm?"

Josh shrugs awkwardly. "So you can--I could go to my room and, you know--" he glances at the TV and determinedly away again. "Listen to music or whatever." He forcibly tones down the glow spreading across his face to his ears. The room was already too warm for comfort, honestly.

"I don’t have my gauntlets," Julian says, blinking slowly. "Not like they’re any help anyway."

"Don’t you have real-hand types?"

Julian scoffs. "Yeah, but they’re even worse than the metal ones."

"How could they possibly be worse? Have you been giving sad handies to ghost peppers with them?"

"Hey, fuck you," Julian says with sudden ferocity.

Josh holds his hands up. “Whoa, okay. Sad pepper handjobs hit a nerve I guess. Sorry I spoke badly of your spicy boyfriend."

“Did you not hear the fuck you the first time?" Julian asks in a mockery of a curious tone. “Are you facing some hearing loss that you should go get checked out by yourself, possibly while going and fucking yourself?"

“Dude." Josh puts his hands down. “Whatever I did, I’m sorry. Look. Julian, come on." He puts his hand on his shoulder, and at least Julian doesn't flinch away. “We're friends, remember? We get along now. We're supposed to, anyway."

Julian tilts his head, somewhere between suspicious and curious. "What are you getting at?"

Getting at? What is Josh getting at?

He hasn't gotten off in a week. And cold showers suck.

He tells Julian as much, and Julian huffs a laugh. “True. I couldn't ever have shower sex with Nori because she had to take cold ones to keep her dye."

“Fucking gross," Josh says, and Julian cackles. Josh smiles despite himself, and from then it's simple. Julian spreads his legs and Josh climbs up onto them--not on his lap, certainly, and not straddling him either, just, you know, situated over his knees.

Their gazes both slide downward, not necessarily in an avoidant way, just--attentive. Julian's breath comes unsteady as he slips his boxers downwards over himself, hitching slightly as the waistband half snags on his foreskin. Josh feels a little weird about how much of an affair that was, like a presentation. He's still flaccid himself, so he practically rips his own boxers downwards, gets them down over one knee and calls that good enough.

God, it’s so hot today. Josh wipes his hair away from his forehead, plants a hand on the couch by Julian’s face for balance as he leans forward. He slides his other hand from the seat cushion up over Julian’s thigh and onto his cock, thumb coming under it and fingers around.

Julian sighs. He glances up at Josh's face, but when Josh looks up Julian’s eyes have already flicked back down. His inhale when Josh circles his thumb around the head comes in shuddery. He tilts his head back and then pauses and sits up. “Aren’t you going to do you?" he asks, nodding toward Josh’s cock, Jesus Christ.

Josh shifts the hand on the back of the sofa to call attention to it. “Can’t balance, dingus."

Julian rolls his eyes. “You don't need to sit on the freaking edge. Come here.” That’s the only warning Josh has before Julian telekinetically drags him forward onto his lap.

Josh blinks in surprise, nearly smacks both of them in his face with how fast he retracts the hand on the back cushion. He gets his bearings, rises a little to shift position, a movement that accidentally drags his dick against Julian's. Before Josh can even think to move back to a more appropriate distance, Julian goes "Oh," and, well.

Then Julian has his arms around Josh's neck and is half lifting himself, half dragging Josh down, sliding their rapidly hardening dicks against each other again before he catches himself. “Fuck," he says, drawing back. “God, sorry. Got, uhm--carried away."

“No, it's okay," Josh says, maybe a bit too quickly. He amends, “It's--if you want to--we can do it that way."

“Really, is that okay?” If he completely tightened his arms, Julian would pretty much shove Josh into his shoulder, but now he just has them artificially at eye level, making up for the height difference and their positions.

Josh’s eyes follow Julian’s tongue as it passes slowly over his lips. “Yeah. Yes. Good."

He looks up to find Julian making careful eye contact, gauging Josh's reaction and going slowly as he takes Josh's hand and leads it to their groins together. The telekinesis dissipates and Josh takes the hint and takes their dicks both in hand. Julian sighs loudly and buries his face in Josh's shoulder, his hips beginning to rock back and forth.

“Julian?” Josh checks. His other hand traces up Julian's back to draw his hair behind his ear—Julian inhales sharply--but then Josh stops the motion, deciding he likes the hair pooling on his shoulder.

“It's just, your powers," Julian breathes, nuzzling Josh's neck. Josh has never done anything quite like this before but he half expects, and more than half wants, Julian to turn his lips and tongue onto his throat. "Something about--you feel really fucking good, man. Touching you is like--fuck. You touching me," he mumbles, and Josh can't be sure if he's correcting himself or just stuck on the idea.

Julian's panting by now, thrusting up into Josh's hand and against his cock, holding onto him like a lifeline. Elixir feels fingertips rake down his back and startles, but realizes Julian's merely filling gauntlets he doesn't have with the shape of his telekinesis. Julian’s too distracted to think to apologize for the surprise, if he even realizes he’s done it. His teeth graze Josh’s shoulder and Josh jerks again; his dick twitches in almost painful desire.

“Good ffffucking lord,” Julian hisses. “Sorry. Fuck!" He tosses his head and digs green pinpoints of energy deeper into Josh's back, then practically cries out when Josh brushes his spine in return.

“Oughta fuckin' gag me--gonna bug the fuckin' neighbors,” Julian gasps. Josh's head goes spinning with the image before he realizes it was a joke. Part of him wants to comply right now--the other part wouldn't dream of stifling these noises.

"Are you--uh--you on? Right now? Your powers?" Julian clarifies with difficulty.

Josh shakes his head and bites his lip. "I’m not, but it, uh--" It doesn’t look like you need them, he decides not to say.

"Okay." Julian nods. "Right. It just—I—I’m not sure where I was, uhm, going with that."

"I could," Josh says. "Use them. But I think--am starting to think--they have an effect whether I’m conscious--actually trying or not."

Julian snorts. "Yeah, no shit," he says, continuing to grind on Josh like it's his life mission and making conversation quite difficult. "That's why it's so--fucking—good.” He keeps hanging his head and Josh wishes he would look up and they would be face to face.

On a theory he purposefully draws fingertips down Julian's spine, and Julian shudders so violently he almost dislodges Josh. "You like that?" Josh asks. The "Fuck!" he gets in reply is answer enough, he supposes.

Now that's a new thought. Julian has kinks, and sensitive areas, and shit Josh can exploit to make him enjoy it more when he gets him off. He feels down the bumps and spaces of his vertebrae and Julian trembles and whimpers.

If Josh focuses closely with his biokinesis he can sense the activity of the pleasure centers in Julian's brain, the adrenaline in his veins, the oxytocin and endorphins--and of course he doesn’t need to be a biokinetic to feel the sticky sweat on his skin, today’s got to be the hottest fucking day--

Oh god, Julian’s arms are traveling down to cinch around his waist and pull them flush together, and Julian’s eyelashes brush Josh’s cheek and his nose tilts in toward his ear and he sighs so softly and oh god. There’s the brief thought that this is not at all what Josh had bargained for, today or a month and a half ago in the shower or the day he moved in or ever, but he can feel the shift of every muscle in Julian’s whole fucking body so who cares, who fucking cares--

“Josh," Julian says urgently. “W--fuck--washcloth—"

‘You’re the telekinetic,' is what Josh would have said if he could have brought himself to give a single shit about anything at the moment except the way Julian's abdominal muscles tighten in sequence with his orgasm. It's enrapturing. It's hypnotizing.

"Josh," Julian says breathlessly--Josh is still focusing on his aftershocks, fingertips lingering on his abdomen. "Fuck, you haven't--"

Oh. Josh just shakes his head and touches his fingers to his hip and initiates the orgasm, which is good enough but that doesn't matter, he can do that any time--the real thing is the oxytocin going off like fireworks in Julian’s brain, the way he relaxes against Josh, his whole biology singing with satisfaction.

But then Julian sits back and blinks. “Did you just make yourself come with your powers?"

"Yeah," Josh says dismissively. Why the absolute fuck would anyone be fussed about that in a world where he can make Julian whine just touching his spine--

“You didn't tell me you could do that."

Josh blinks at Julian, and hears the implicit question: 'why didn't you do that to me?'

“This way is more fun," is all he can think to say.

Julian looks entirely confused for a moment, but then he grins, and his smile puts the whole universe right into place.

Chapter Text

Josh sits at the kitchen counter, toying with his glass. He had come back from work and gotten a glass to get some water, or fuck it maybe some of Julian's alcohol, but then he caught his reflection in it and got distracted staring at himself.

The thing is, he really fucked up, or Julian did, or something. There was some kind of--well. It had been fine until the aftermath, when Julian had started up conversation again after the soft wonderful silence while he telekinetically used the washcloth to clean them up a bit.

“So, fuckbuddies, huh? Is that it now?” Julian had said playfully, a grin on his face, giving his hips a little wiggle under Josh even as he pulls his boxers back up his legs.

Josh had been honestly surprised. “We haven’t fucked, though. Just a handjob and some frotting."

Julian blinked. “Right," he said uncertainly, then more confidently, “Right. Yeah. Just messing around, of course. Because we’re chill like that." He nudged Josh with his elbow. “Us fucking would be weird," he resolved, nodding wisely, "because we’re not, like, boyfriends or anything. So it’s really a relief, because if you hook up with a roommate then it’s super awkward, and if you date it’s even worse because you break up and you still live together and augh. Awful."

Josh had suddenly felt incredibly tired looking at him. “Yeah," he’d said, climbing off Julian and pulling his own boxers back on. “That would be pretty bad. Do you want your gauntlets?"

“Nah,” Julian had said, splaying himself over the couch. “I’ll get 'em in a minute. And try not to fucking burn myself on them, sheesh, it’s fucking a million degrees in here."

And then, well, it was time for Josh to go to work, and afterward he hadn’t wanted to come home. He decided to visit David, who didn't live so far, since he’d found the place Josh and Julian live in. Josh had wanted to talk to someone about all this, which he didn’t end up doing at all. He couldn’t find the words or the courage, so instead he’d let David’s stupid boyfriend talk his ear off at a million miles an hour all night—Julian was out or asleep when he came home. Then it was work again in the morning, and now he’s back and moping.

What the hell went wrong? What did he say? They were getting on so well and then Julian comes out of nowhere with 'I'm so glad we don’t date, we would never be good together'. What the hell?

That is, not that Josh wants to date. Like, it’s not as if Julian is wrong that dating would be weird, it’s just did he have to say it like that? Be so on the nose about it? You don’t have to flippantly tell your close friends you’d be a horrible couple, that’s just mean.

“Hey!" Josh looks up as Julian comes in the front door, grinning. “Haven’t seen you in an age, you busy asshole.” He holds up a plastic bag. “I picked up the Gatsby movie so we can do something other than cards and Mario Kart together."

“Gatsby?” Josh asks incredulously.

“Yeah,” Julian says, pulling the movie out and tearing off the plastic. “Was going to get Mad Max because that was fucking awesome, but I saw this and I don't think you've seen it, and you've got to, man, it's so good."

“The Great Gatsby," Josh repeats. “Like the high school English class book."

Julian frowns. “Hey, fuck you man, it’s good stuff. The book was awesome and this version is so good, their Jordan is perfect and it’s gorgeous and there’s that Florence and the Machine song they wrote just for this—“ He notices Josh’s skeptical look and waves the case angrily. “And it has Leo DiCaprio and he’s perfect, end of story! Get over here."

Josh sighs. “Let me do popcorn. You set it up."

Julian bounces over to the TV while Josh checks the cabinets. There’s no popcorn as it turns out, so Josh settles for a bowl of Goldfish crackers.

“Got the Blu-ray combo pack,” Julian says cheerily. “I know we don’t have a player for it right now but it’ll be so worth it when we do."

Josh rolls his eyes and sits with the bowl. He offers it to Julian, who waves a hand for him to keep it in his lap. Julian puts one arm on Josh's shoulder and starts the movie. Then his other arm habitually follows behind its gauntlet as it picks up individual Goldfish and pops them in his mouth.

The movie starts in the wintertime, in some little cabin, which Josh doesn't remember from English class at all. Julian is rapt, though, and refuses to explain anything, just keeps nudging Josh and saying, "Just watch," like that'll explain everything. The hypocrite keeps making comments of his own, which is unfair but he seems to think it makes sense just because he knows more of what he's talking about.

Ten minutes in, Julian has forgotten to use his hand. The Goldfish are just floating up to his mouth and feeding themselves to him, an oddly graceful suicide parade swimming through the air. The hand he was using is sitting on Josh's leg, while its corresponding arm rests in Julian's own lap.

The movie continues. Josh supposes Julian has a point about the movie being beautiful when they show this huge stretch of grass people are playing polo on stretching up to a mansion--he can feel Julian skip a breath and press closer when he sees it.

"Oh," Julian says softly moments later at a scene with curtains, his head plopping down on his arm on Josh's shoulder. "Shit, I love this part. It looks just like what I had in my head when I read this--"

“Have I been rooming with some kind of Skrull Julian?” Josh interrupts, and Julian sits up a little straighter and blinks.

"What?" Julian says. "A Skrull? Skrulls don't have tee kay, dude," he says, tapping his gauntlet against Josh’s leg.

"Well, you're acting weird. For one thing, you're creaming yourself over some American classic from the fucking 20s--"

“I’m allowed to like smart people things," says Julian, turning pink. “I read books." He turns his face into the arm on Josh so they don’t make eye contact.

"And that, that right there," says Josh, turning his body to face Julian. "You've been like--touchy. You hate being touched."
"I don't mind being touched when it's you doing it," Julian protests. There’s a pause, then Julian catches the implication of what he just said and hastily continues, "You know, it’s just—we’re bros, it’s—we’ve just been so close lately. Close enough that I am okay with the cuddly bullshit."

Josh blinks slowly. Julian frowns. He looks down at himself and fists his hand in the hem of Josh's shirt. "It’s just been… nice, okay? And it wouldn’t be like this, with just the two of us, if David had moved in here like he was supposed to. It's, like, comfortable. We've got enough space for the two of us with it still being cozy. You know?" He looks up at Josh, his expression almost helpless.

"Cozy's one way to describe it," Josh says with more venom than he had expected.

Julian lets go as if burned, with hands that wouldn't have felt it even if he was. Josh can see himself turning black and doesn't quite understand why, but Julian pulls his arm away regardless.

“Josh?" Julian asks, some mix of surprise-fear-confusion on his face.

Josh stands up and Julian's gauntlet falls out of his lap and clanks to the floor. Julian winces. “You know what, Julian? You have no concept of how intimate touch is for me. I can sense your heartbeat from here, if I really focus I can map your brainwaves, when you’re right up against me I can feel your fucking cells work—"

"What are you saying?" It's odd, Julian has never balked at an argument before, but here he is, going pale and looking like his defiance is forced.

"I'm saying I hate it! You're feeling all cuddly, which is great for you, but for me, it's torture, because I can't--you won't even--watching fucking movies I don't understand--" Josh breaks off and puts his head in his hands.

"Josh..." Julian stands up and hovers, like he's considering going for the Hulk-style cooldown hug. Not a good idea for Josh's black form, but more than that, Josh doesn't want to feel every molecule of Julian's biology up against him--he doesn't want to feel.

"Just watch your dumb fucking movie," he mutters. He kicks the fallen gauntlet out of his path and storms into his room.

As soon as Josh closes (slams) the door behind him, he slides against it down to the floor. He can already feel the realization that he's a fucking idiot coming on. He'll have to apologize, or something, but right now he just wants to listen to emo music and never think about touching Julian ever again and just die maybe.

The one thing he can do is definitely not listen to fucking Lifehouse, at least.
--
"Do you have room at your place?" Julian asks miserably before Cessily even has the chance to say hello. "For me to stay forever?"

"What happened?" she asks sympathetically, apparently sensing the distress behind the question in that she doesn’t hang up immediately.

"Josh is mad at me," Julian moans, squishing his face against his phone. "I don't know what to do."

"Josh is mad?" Cessily asks, faintly puzzled. "For real mad?"

"He said he hates touching me," Julian says, staring at the one gauntlet he had brought back with him to his room, the one he had been wearing. "Which is not what I thought."

"What did you think?"

"I thought--I thought we were friends! Like, best friends!" Julian throws himself back on his bed. "I thought he was a cuddly dude, way more than me, and I thought we were getting along great and maybe if a guy wanted to get his snuggle on during the Gatsby movie he should just go for it."

"Not Gatsby," Cessily sighs.

"Fuck you, Cess, Gatsby is a work of art."

"Sure it is, hon. I thought Josh was a cuddly guy too, though," Cessily muses. "He really said he hates touching you?"

"Torture was the word he used," says Julian, his head lolling over to try to find his gauntlet to make air quotes with it, then failing and giving up.

"Hmm," Cessily says.

"I hate when people hmm, Cessily, they always have more than hmm."

"Have you been smoking?"

"With Joshua Foley for a roommate? That's a real laugh. He'd fucking kick me out and make me third wheel at David's place." As opposed to David third wheeling at our place like he was supposed to, he thinks, which is a random thought that doesn’t make sense at all.

"Well, you're pretty healthy otherwise. I don't see why touching you would be torture."

"It's the hands," Julian realizes, sitting up. "Fuck me, it's my hands!"

"Oh, Julian," Cessily says sorrowfully, "that can't be it."

"No, fuck, I've got it. It all makes sense! It's not that my biology is bad, it's that it's not enough."

"Julian..."

"No, this is good, don't worry--this is something I can fix! I know what to do now! Thanks, Cess," Julian half shouts into the receiver, and almost hangs up. Then he hesitates. "Do blowjobs count as sex?"

Chapter Text

Julian finds Josh in the bathroom getting ready for bed, which is perfect. “Hey, Josh," he begins, loitering in the doorway. “I figured out why you were upset."

Josh looks over his shoulder, calculating. “Did you."

Julian nods and hovers until Josh frowns and goes back to readying his toothbrush.

Julian takes a couple steps up behind Josh and wraps his arms around his chest. His hands leave, traveling down and farther down. Julian hums with intent and palms Josh through his pants, making him jump.

"J-Julian?"

"Mm-hmm?" Julian gently kneads his dick, putting his chin on his shoulder. The other hand rubs circles into Josh's hipbone with the thumb and then pulls Josh’s hips back into himself and begins oscillating against Josh’s ass.

“Julian, wh--what—?"

“I wanted to make it up to you,” Julian purrs. “It’s not a bad time, is it?"

“I—I was going to brush my teeth—“ Josh relaxes backwards into Julian’s arms. "…No. Not a bad time at all."

Julian nuzzles against his jaw, pleased. “Okay," he says. He looks carefully at Josh’s face in the mirror—buttering him up was the easy part. “I figured out why you were upset," he says again. “It’s the gauntlets, right? They’re just not enough, especially when I get these off—“ He flicks undone a button of Josh’s pants, and Josh swallows, shifts to lean his weight forward onto the sink.

“Julian, I didn’t want—I didn’t want you to feel like you’re not—"

“No, I get it,” Julian insists, tapping one hand on the sink to make a clanking noise. “Nobody would want these on them even without your mutation, where you need the biological connection. That’s what the problem has been! But I was thinking"—he changes his tone back to low and smooth—"they’re not all I can use, you know?”

Josh turns his head a little to the side toward Julian, but can’t quite see him from that angle, and is a little distracted anyway by the sight of his hands, still moving enticingly. “Uhm."

“Like my own body,” Julian prompts.

One of Josh’s hands comes up to hold one of Julian’s arms. “What do you wanna…? I mean…"

Julian takes a deep breath he hopes Josh doesn’t take too much notice of—of course he’s going to notice, he’s a biokinetic and pressed right up against him, but hopefully he won’t think anything of it—and puts on his most enchanting tone. “Would you like me to blow you, Josh?" He rubs his hand up and down his hip, one finger or two casually trailing back onto his ass.

Josh’s whole body shudders, but then he’s trying to turn around in Julian’s arms. "Julian, what—? I mean—not that I don’t—really?"

Julian doesn’t let him turn all the way, tucks his nose into Josh’s shoulder to mask his expression. “I told you, I can tell the hands aren’t doing it for you, so—and if we keep doing this on a basis of I’m a sadsack with a boner and no way to get off—“ He shakes his head. “I don’t want to do that. It’s depressing. I figure we should have some fun, real fun, without the stupid hands. And we shouldn’t have to rely on stupid accidental boners that you’ll never get because your powers give you a freaky amount of control over your dick. It’s unfair."

“Fun," Josh echoes. "Okay. Not here though, you’ll, like—it’s gross. And you’ll fuck up your knees. Let me brush my teeth."

"Implying I’m not gonna make you taste your own spunk," Julian mutters. He laughs when Josh practically swallows his toothbrush. "I’m joking, I’m joking!"

He pauses in the doorway on his way out, looks into the living room, and considers. "Your room okay?" he asks.

"By roob ib great," Josh says through a mouthful of toothpaste. Julian stops to imagine the reverse--Josh on his bed, crouching to suck him off--and can definitely understand his enthusiasm.

When Julian gets there Josh is still in the bathroom, probably washing his face, fixing his hair, whatever Josh does before sex—not sex, he thinks sternly to himself, just a blowjob. Julian already fixed himself up before approaching Josh, he’s not an idiot; his hair is perfect and he brushed his teeth but long enough ago that he doesn’t just taste like mint.

But now he’s got a few moments before Josh comes in, so what should he do? He climbs onto the bed—over covers? under covers? Over. He can work up an erection before Josh comes in, probably--yes, he'd roll to the perfect angle to show off his full cock and say 'I've been waiting' or 'I've been thinking about you'--no, but then Josh might walk in early and see Julian's hand on his dick, and that would be weird. Damn, he should have thought about this! He just wants—he wants this to be perfect, and then Josh will know everything is fine.

Finally he decides on a very casual 'draw me like your French girls' type lounge, pretending to pick disinterestedly at the covers. The door opens, and he takes a long look up over Josh's body, as if he's seeing it for the first time, then licks his lips and meets Josh's eyes.

Josh takes Julian in himself and bites his lip. "Julian, I."

Julian smiles and rolls onto his stomach, aiming for playful yet dangerous, like some kind of sexy cat. "Yeah?" he asks, folding his hands under his chin.

Josh shakes his head and drops it down to the side to rub his face in his hand. "Maybe we should talk."

"Talk?" Julian asks, trying not to seem nervous. He forces a laugh. "We don't need to talk. That shit from earlier is water under the bridge, right?"

"Is it?"

The space stretches between them. Julian doesn't feel quite so sexy anymore.

"Julian, I... you know I don't really hate touching you, right?" Josh says, moving in and tilting his head sympathetically.
Julian hesitates. "Yeah," he says cautiously. "I mean, my biology is okay, right? Just incomplete."

"No, Julian--" Josh actually moves forward and sits on the bed next to Julian, like an equal, which is completely veering off the course of what Julian wanted. He saw himself, fuck, he doesn't know, grabbing Josh by the waistband and tugging him in, pushing him down on the bed, something sexy and not seriously communicative. “You’re not incomplete. I don’t think that."

Julian desperately undoes a button of his shirt, the button-up shirt that he had put on specifically so that Josh could unbutton it. Josh’s eyes follow the movement but move immediately back to Julian’s face. Josh catches a gauntlet in his hand--no, no, this is all wrong--

“I don't care about them, Julian. I don’t."

“Josh—“ Julian's voice comes out high pitched and nervous. He tugs his gauntlet back and forces a laugh, but Josh won't let go.

“I like your biology the way it is, Julian," Josh insists, leaning in so Julian feels breathless and trapped. Josh pulls back against the resistance Julian is putting on his gauntlets and drags them all the way to himself, one on his cheek and one on his heart. “The gauntlets are a part of you, and I—"

“Stop it.” Julian rips his gauntlets back and throws them to the floor. “Fucking stop it, all right? They're not fucking part of me, that's the point!"

"Julian," Josh says, surprised but speaking with the same horrible sad tone Cessily had used. "That's not what--I don't want us to do this with you thinking--"

"Don't want to do this, huh?" Julian echoes, his voice sounding hysterical even to him. "Wow, I knew I was goddamn unfuckable, but would it fucking kill you to pretend?"

Silence stretches. That wasn't what Julian had meant to say at all. "Not that we'd be fucking," he begins, "and besides--I mean--" More silence. He shakes his head. "You know what. Fuck it. Fucking whatever. I’m going out."

"Julian," Josh says, and he reaches out to grab Julian's hand, but of course there is nothing there to grab. Julian looks back with an expression so harsh Josh just shrinks back and lets him go.

Julian leaves his gauntlets on the floor as he stomps back to his own room, because he doesn't want to fucking deal with them right now. He takes off the stupid fucking button up shirt over his head without unbuttoning it and throws it on the bed, pulls on a T-shirt, and then pauses at his red hoodie. Fuck it. He said he was going out, so he may as well go out.

Julian goes out through the window and takes his battle gauntlets with him. Maybe he can help someone and they'll be so grateful they won't even care he's a cripple. Maybe he can do something worthwhile with his stupid damn life for once.

Chapter Text

Julian fucks up. Julian gets fucked up.

He usually comes back from patrol by climbing in his own window, but going around the corner of the building is just an extra too many yards he can't afford wounded all to fuck. So he climbs in the living room window, only to find Josh asleep on the couch. He's facing the door and has a light on, apparently having stayed up to wait for Julian. Which is just as well, Julian supposes, because the cat’s out of the bag now; he really needs a healing job and it’s not like Josh wouldn't notice or ask where he got wrecked this bad.

Julian whimpers when he catches his ankle on the windowsill and Josh fucking bolts awake at the noise, nearly surprising Julian into falling. Josh’s saving-people-thing is absurd, Julian thinks; he'd sleep through a stampede but the second someone makes the smallest sound of pain he's awake and ready.

“Julian?" Josh asks, already sounding quite alert, and then he pauses like a dog sniffing the air. “God, that's not--tell me that's not you bleeding like that.” He stumbles up off the couch. “Tell me you brought someone else into our house to me through the window and it's not you half dead in my living room—"

“Fucking shut up,” Julian says, drags his leg another step and collapses into Josh's arms.

“Shit, fucking hell," Josh mumbles, holding Julian and going into a kneel. “Oh fuck," Josh continues, his hands moving indecisively, apparently trying to decide where the worst of the damage is. “Shit, you were stabbed?"

“Mutant haters," Julian mutters. Josh hisses angrily. Between the pain and the exhaustion and the cloth sticking in the blood and wounds, it’s a significant affair for him to remove both Julian’s hoodie and his shirt. Julian curls up into Josh in the cold that’s left. He really looks fucked up now; it might be even worse than it feels.

“I think I can move you,” Josh says. “Fuck, I haven’t had to do anything like this since—" He stops before he says it, but they both know. Since his X-Men days.

Josh heaves Julian up into his arms and carries him to the couch. It’s a slow, painful ordeal for only being a few yards. Julian helps with what telekinetic energy he has left, but it flickers out every time he jolts or aches, and Josh has to struggle to keep him steady. “They’re baiting vigilantes," Julian explains through his teeth, "and I fell for it. I'm such a fucking idiot.” He gives his battle gauntlets over to the floor; it’s too much effort to drag them along.

Josh settles Julian on the couch and kneels over him. “Oh, fuck, um. I’ve been—I’m a vigilante," Julian explains, remembering he’d been hiding it from Josh. He’d wanted to tell him differently, have a big case behind him or something, but the words and justifications all dry up on the spot. He winces as Josh’s fingers carefully probe his worst wound.

“Yeah, I know,” Josh sighs. “We’ll need to talk about that."

“You knew?” Julian sputters, and Josh just fixes him with sharp white eyes, then turns his face away again.

“Of course I knew. You’re the worst liar in the world."

“Am not," Julian mutters. Josh's fingers leave the wound and Julian gasps.

“Those fuckers put an anticoagulant on the knife," Josh growls, fingers tightening into fists against Julian's skin. "You'd have fucking bled out--how did you get away? No," he decides as Julian opens his mouth to explain. "Tell me in a second." He sucks in a breath through his teeth. "Let's see if I still have my touch," he says, and starts healing.

“Is that a fucking jo--jjjjj--mother fuck," Julian whispers as pleasure floods into him. He hasn’t felt anything this good since Josh healed him of the fucking Legacy Virus--god, surely there’s been non-Josh-related pleasure of this caliber, at some point, but he's hard put to think of it. "Joke," he pants.

Josh takes a moment to give any kind of response. Strain is apparent on his face; he does actually look like he's been worried half to death, woken at four in the morning, worried almost the other half to death, and then forced to expend power to a level he hasn't used in years. His hands trace down Julian's side and stomach, as if to make sure they came together properly. The contact is warm in the cold room, but Julian still shivers.

"Josh?"

"I had a lecture," Josh says, and one hand strays to Julian's face, probably smearing blood the whole way up even as gentle as it is. "About how irresponsible it is to fight crime in fucking New York, and how much I hate you doing it because I have to be responsible for you, and I always hated that life and I don't want you to do it alone but I also don't want you to... don't want me to be in a position to..."

Josh sits up on his knees and pulls Julian to a sitting position. Julian blinks. They're face to face, Josh's free hand coming to rest on Julian's thigh. "Um. Earth to Foley?"

Josh blinks back. "Sorry. Hell. I just don't want to fucking hurt people, Julian," he says, but then loses track of that thought. "God, I'm so glad you're safe," he whispers, and then Julian's being hugged like he's never been hugged before, pulled right off the couch into Josh's arms. He makes a noise of complaint, expecting it to hurt all over, but that's ridiculous, he's just been healed and if anything it's Josh who should be sore.

"You are being super weird right now," Julian mumbles, but he wraps his arms around Josh in return anyway. "I should have told you," he admits. "I know you hate this kind of thing. I didn't want you to worry like the big fucking nag you are. I... I fucked up." It's about as close as he ever gets to a real heartfelt apology with anyone but Cessily.

Josh doesn’t say anything, just rubs Julian’s back. Julian offers, "It would have been pretty bad if you hadn’t been out here and I bled out on the floor in our living room with you a room away. So—thanks?"

"Never leave my sight again," Josh says, so softly Julian's not even sure he meant for him to hear. He nuzzles into Julian's bare shoulder.

"You fucking mother hen," Julian mutters, making a handless effort to pat Josh's back. "I'm the one keeping other people safe, I've got my goddamn healer roommate--"

"I'm so sorry I said those things, Julian," Josh interrupts, his voice breaking with oh god oh no please not tears. He squeezes Julian tighter. "God, Julian, I'm sorry I said touching you was torture and I'm sorry I ever made you feel like your gauntlets made you anything less than--than--than everything you are. Fuck, I'll watch Gatsby as many times as you want and I'll dance to your stupid music, just don't leave me."

"I didn't leave you," Julian says after a moment, trying to make his voice soft and soothing like Josh's goes easy as second nature. He wants to squeeze his hand or something, but he left his gauntlets on the floor somewhere. Instead he just puts his head on Josh's shoulder and strokes his back with his arm. "I'm safe." He hopes that's good enough for now, because it's all he has to offer. Josh just nuzzles into him and Julian figures it's close enough.

--

They stay up til morning together. Josh makes Julian coffee and they sit on opposite sides of the counter. Josh clenches his fists and listens to how they had baited Julian by staging a mugging, how they had ambushed and hurt him before he got away. He wishes so badly Julian had a hand for him to take hold of, but he's hiding his hands under the counter anyway because they're swirling, shiny black.

Joshua Foley is in love with his roommate. He knows this by now. He figured it out between trying to stay awake staring at the door waiting for Julian to come home, wondering what he would say when he did, if they could still be roommates or friends or whatever they were--well, between that and what it had been like when Julian did come home, Josh's heart seizing with fear and the need to fix and the knowledge that Julian had only left that night because he was so upset with Josh.

"You're staring," Julian says. "Did you leave me a black eye? Do I have blood in my teeth?"

"You have blood everywhere," Josh says.

"Yeah, well." Julian's stance and gauntlets fold around his coffee. "I don't want to take a shower just yet."

"Yeah," says Josh. "I don't really want you to either." It might have been a weird thing to say, but Julian seems to understand. Josh takes a deep breath and ventures to try again. "Julian," he says, looking at his gauntlets, the normal ones, fresh from Josh's floor. They fidget under his gaze.

"Yeah?" Julian's heart rate goes up, and it feels like snooping that Josh knows that, but it's impossible not to notice, and Julian's full of nervous tells anyway.

"I really meant it about the gauntlets." Josh looks Julian in the eye. "They don't make any difference to me. I like who you are. The way you are." When Julian wavers as if he's about to flee or freak out or any Julian-like response to sincerity, Josh adds, "Assholery and all."

All the worried tension leaves Julian immediately. "Fuck you," he says, but Josh suspects he's hiding a relieved expression behind his next sip of coffee.

"Do you want to sit and watch some TV?" Josh offers, finally feeling that he can let it pass, for now at least. "I can rub your back and maybe stimulate hemoglobin production in your marrow. You lost a lot of blood."

"Really?" Julian gives him this hopeful but apologetic look as if to say, 'Really, I didn't fuck up everything forever?'
Josh gives him a look in return to say 'If I didn't manage to fuck up everything forever, you sure as hell didn't', and Julian seems to be satisfied.

He goes and sits on the couch, fingers absently combing through bloody mats in his hair. He scoots forward and indicates the spot behind him to sit, which actually Josh had been expecting Julian to sit on the floor in front of him, but hell if he's going to correct Julian and embarrass them both.

Julian grabs the remote and starts surfing channels while Josh gets started rubbing his back, suppressing instincts to work through the tension in his muscles in what might be mistaken for an intimate massage and instead just directing a gentle flow of energy to stimulate Julian's bones.

Soon Julian gets quite distracted from the TV and starts slithering down into a blissful slump on the couch. Josh tries not to laugh as Julian slings one leg down over the front of the couch, reminding himself that Julian must be almost as tired as he is. Josh really should be conserving his powers, come to that.

"I'll take the day off today," Josh decides aloud.

"You don't gotta do that," Julian mumbles, nuzzling his head into the arm of the couch. "I mean, not that I'd stop you if you wanted to do this all day--ohh fuck, right there, yessss."

Josh bumps Julian with his knee, feeling faintly dirty. "Don't say shit like that."

"Can't help it," Julian murmurs, a flash of green tucking his hair out of the way so he can look back at Josh. "Magic hands. Hasn't this come up with anyone else?"

"Not really," says Josh, his hands slowing thoughtfully. "It must just be you because there's a little less of you for the powers to diffuse through. Or you're especially receptive for some reason. Maybe being an energy manipulator makes you more attuned to--"

"You're boring me," says Julian sleepily. "Go fucking run some experiments, nerd. Mmm, fuck, do that again."

"I'm going to stop if you don't," Josh warns.

"Fuck off," Julian mutters, and promptly begins to snore.

Josh blinks and leans off. He shakes Julian's shoulder gently, but he seems to be out. Josh sighs and gives up on it for now; Julian has certainly earned a nap. He gets up, turns off the TV, and calls in sick to work--well, not sick, he has to explain, but using a vacation day at any rate. The people at the clinic are as wonderful and tolerant as always, promising him all the time he needs.

Josh finds a spare blanket in a closet and tucks Julian in with it, feeling simultaneously awkward and tender. He takes the gauntlets carefully away from his face and puts them on the floor, brushes his hair back so it's not fucking everywhere, and pauses for a moment to take in Julian, his face peaceful and one arm stretched out at random. He's drooling and looks faintly idiotic. It makes Josh's heart clench.

Josh goes back to his room and pulls out a scientific paper from under his bed that he's been meaning to work on. He can't figure out how to put the abstract in a way that will make people actually recognize it as new information to the medical community and read it. He's terrible at abstracts.

Josh shortly finds, though, that not only can he not stop thinking about Julian under him and moaning, but he doesn't want to stop. He wants to think about turning Julian around and crawling over him to kiss him, letting his hands trace Julian's body with his powers still on so he keeps groaning in pleasure.

Josh sinks back into the bed, sighing. He definitely wants to think about kissing Julian. Sure, they've messed around, but kissing has so far seemed too--intimate. Too sincere and unambiguously romantic. A line not to be crossed. But now he wants more than anything else to cross it, to tangle his hand in Julian's stupid long hair and pull him close and just taste him, to feel his breath the right way, to whisper his name against him and let him know how he feels.

There's already a bulge in Josh's pajama pants begging for attention, and he was just thinking about kissing the guy, Christ. As embarrassing as it is, he puts his paper aside and tentatively grips through his pants, and it feels so nice doing that with Julian's face in his mind. The only thing that doesn't feel one hundred per cent right about it is that he just wishes the hand on him were hard and steely. The very fucking thought of it sends heat down his spine. God, when did those awful unyielding gauntlets become so sexy?

He shakes his head and squirms out of his pants. He left the door unlocked, yeah, but he doesn't even fucking care right now if Julian walks in--hell, maybe that would be good, maybe Julian would want to help out like he was talking about last night, and when he got close Josh would just grab him and kiss him and throw him down on the bed and--

"Fuck," Josh mutters as he wets the front of his boxers with pre-cum. He discards his boxers quickly and leans back into the bed, his hand around himself, feeling perfectly, wonderfully exposed. Fuck, he wants Julian so much. He wants Julian every way he could have him, every way he can think of. Josh thinks of using his powers to make Julian moan and stutter and say things like 'more' and 'don't stop' and 'Josh', and Josh has to bite his knuckles because he doesn't want Julian to hear him--unless he does.

That's a thought. Josh squeezes his eyes shut, digs in his heels, adds some twist to his wrist and whispers, "Julian." Josh takes his hand away from his mouth and pictures Julian between his legs, his eyes glowing green and dangerous like they do when the two of them spar, and groans, "Julian." Josh pretends he can feel Julian's lips on his skin and mouth, imagines Julian whispering "I love you" against Josh's lips.

Julian.

Josh sighs. He knows he's stupid for having masturbation fantasies about someone he's already gotten off with, has offered to get him off, could probably get off with whenever he wants; but it's not that part that really gets him. It's the part where they would mean it. It's the part where Julian would be doing it because they like and care about each other, not because they both happen to be around and it's convenient.

He could be making Julian happy instead of just fulfilling a base need because he happens to have hands. They could touch and it would be satisfying instead of driving Josh half crazy with longing. He loves the feeling of oxytocin in Julian's head; he could stimulate it sexually and then just sit there with him and bask in the feeling all day.

Josh lets himself go, frowning in dissatisfaction, his boner failing. He doesn't really want to get off so much anymore. He's starting to find there are more important things.

Chapter Text

Julian ends up not even waking up until Josh starts fiddling with the lock to get in at—Julian squints over at the time display on the microwave--1pm. He would have preferred to sleep longer, which he communicates with a heartfelt groan. He rubs his face with his arm, his gauntlets being MIA for the moment, and blinks in surprise to find his motion somewhat hindered by their threadbare old blanket, which is now sliding down over his shoulder.

Josh must have put it on him, Julian realizes, and feels a little spreading of warmth in his chest at the thought of Josh searching out the blanket and carefully putting it over him without waking him up.

“Hey, Josh," Julian says, feeling decidedly affectionate now, rubbing his eyes and sitting up.

“Hey, Julian. I’ve, uh, got something to tell you," Josh says, and even as soft as Julian is feeling, he freezes apprehensively at the tone of guilt in Josh’s voice.

“What did you do?” Julian asks, pulling the blanket off. He leans up and looks toward the doorway to find Josh shuffling nervously, while in his arms happily lolls the most uncannily cat-shaped pile of mud to ever exist.

“Holy fuck," Julian says, climbing to his feet and discarding his blanket. He locates his gauntlets and swings them up to gesture his protest more emphatically. “No. Holy shit, no. I’m getting Lyme Disease just looking at it."

“No diseases!” Josh protests. “I made sure. Cured her of a few. She's safe, just needs a bath."

“I am not losing more of my arms in the effort to put a cat in water. Get rid of it."

"You haven't had a bath either since you got bloodied up and I'm keeping you," Josh scoffs. "Least you can do is give her a chance."

Julian sighs and runs his hands back through his hair. "This is so stupid I’d ask if you’re drunk, but I know you don't drink, so I must accept this tragically in-character disaster. Come on, we can at least clean it up. It's dripping mud on our floors."

A certain bounce has returned to Josh’s step as he follows quickly to the bathroom. “You should have seen her face, Julian," he babbles, "her little baby face. She needed me, she really did, you could tell, I just couldn’t say no."

“Clearly," Julian grumbles, closing the door behind them. “What were you out for anyway, scrounging around a muddy fucking alleyway?"

“I was cutting to the shopping center to get you--well—" Josh shifts nervously so maybe it’s the sun from the window catching his face, but Julian could swear he starts up with that stupid glow blush of his. “Just some feel-better stuff. But I found her instead and I thought, hey, emotional support animals are great for that! She's your recovery buddy!"

“I’m recovered,” Julian deadpans. “That thing is recovered. You’re a healer."

He watches as Josh starts stripping down around the cat in his arms, flinging his mud-slathered shirt on the floor once he finally wriggles out of it. Julian frowns at the idea of cleaning up and probably ruining their few precious towels. He sets his own clothes in the sink to keep them clean, and crosses his arms as Josh climbs in.

Josh looks expectantly at Julian, and he shakes his head and mutters something about needing body armor, but gets in after him nonetheless. Julian presses himself to the side with the faucet, as far as he can get from the cat herself, and takes it gingerly out of Josh’s hands into his gauntlets. It attempts to lick one of them.

"Support her hind legs,” Josh reminds him.

"Fuck you," Julian says, nevertheless shifting his grip to under her hindquarters. He vaguely remembers seeing a video of cats having some sort of ‘off button’, but his sense of self-preservation, which has gotten him through all these years, tells him not to start pinching a cat at random with metal hands. "You ready?" he says, telekinetically taking hold of the knobs and the shower head.

"Just make sure she doesn’t get under it until it’s warm," says Josh, protectively putting his arms over his face. “I’ll calm her if I have to, but let’s make it as easy as possible. I’m not as good with animals."

Julian holds the cat up, still purring absurdly, and turns on the water. Josh holds his hands under the spray for a minute like a mom checking the temperature of baby formula, then nods at Julian.

Julian flattens himself to the wall as much as possible and brings the cat down into the water. It squirms a little bit, and then, miraculously, settles again. Josh and Julian blink at each other, then Josh shrugs and pours his shampoo onto his hand and starts rubbing the cat down.

“This is absurd," Julian says. “Do you hear that? It's purring! In the water! Instead of clawing our faces off! Are you seeing this RiverClan bullshit? This is not a real cat."

"Gift horses, mouths," Josh mutters, busily scrubbing at mats and working his fingers through mud, thankfully not yet dried.

"It’s not a gift, it’s a filthy animal you took home that we’re about as well-equipped to care for as we would be a horse," Julian grumbles.

Josh rolls his eyes and, when he gets more shampoo, scrubs it into Julian’s hair, making him squawk. "You’re still dirty as hell too."

"Yeah, well, I’d work on that except for my hands being busy restraining this disgusting creature you brought into our home."

"Really, Julian, pots and kettles. I'll get to you in a sec." The mud begins to give way on the cat's belly, being closest to the water since it has more or less gone ragdoll in Julian’s hands.

"It’s white," Julian says incredulously.

"She’s just got white spots," Josh disagrees. "See? On her back she’s black. What an odd pattern. Are you a mutant, kitty? Are you a kitty mutant?" The cat wiggles and meows.

Julian just squints skeptically at the water flowing brown as Josh works, still chatting to the rather responsive cat. "Aw look, Julian, she’s got little white socks too! How gorgeous," Josh coos. "What a pretty girl."

"Get a room," Julian groans.
--
Finally, just after the third time Julian has expressed concern about their drains, Josh decides they can let the cat go. “We need a blow-drier,” he muses as Julian distrustfully sets her on the floor.

"You can towel it off if you like," says Julian, nevertheless appearing relieved, relaxing a little now that the dubious danger of being clawed has passed.

Josh clicks his tongue. "Maybe in a second--I finally have the chance to wash your hair." Julian shrugs and closes the shower door, opening the bathroom door at the same time so the cat can mosey outside. Josh decides to keep using his own shampoo since he already put some in Julian's hair, and the thought of Julian smelling like him gives him shivers.

Julian makes a little pleased noise as he works his hands against his scalp, and that is absolutely it. He has to kiss him, Josh decides. Josh is going to kiss Julian, right now, for real. He takes a breath as the water carries away the last of the bubbles. He slips his hands back out of Julian's hair.

"Hey Julian? I've been thinking."

"Not hard enough to hurt yourself I hope," says Julian, turning to face Josh and wiping water away from his eyes.

Josh scoffs, which actually makes it easier; he feels himself relax a bit. "You fucking prick."

"No, seriously, what were you thinking about?" Julian, lacking nails, scratches his face with the edge of a metal knuckle. His eyes are blue like they always say the ocean is but never has been in Josh's experience because he lives in New York and not fucking Jamaica. Water is streaming down Julian's now-shiny black hair; he hasn't had the chance to shave yet, and his jaw is lightly shadowed.

Josh's diaphragm forgets how to pull air into his lungs. "Do you," Josh begins with all the air he can manage. "Maybe we should. Can I kiss you?"

"Oh. Is that all? Okay." Julian laughs and tucks his hair behind his ear. "Sure. I thought you were like, afraid of kissing, honestly."

Josh's brain was already shorted out and not particularly prepared for this. "What?"

"I mean, I never saw you do it with any of your girlfriends--not that we were too close back then--and you apparently found it easier getting off with me than kissing me, so—"

"I'm not--Jesus, Julian, it just--I just wasn't sure about it because it always felt so--intimate," Josh exhales.

"Intimate?" Julian tilts his head. His wrists find Josh's sides and trace along up them over his chest to link around his neck. "It's just me, Josh."

On the one hand, there is nothing 'just' about Julian; Josh has never felt so strongly about anyone he wasn't already kissing. On the other hand, he's right of course; it's just Julian. It's just Julian, his roommate who likes supernatural teen tv shows too much and thinks Lizzie McGuire is the voice of any generation, let alone theirs.

"Yeah," Josh says softly. "Just you, and me."

Julian is beautiful and perfectly at ease; he leans up and closes his eyes, and from there all Josh has to do is close the distance and put them together, which goes as easy as fitting the right key into a lock. Josh's hands automatically curve around Julian and his eyes slip closed and he just feels the warm water and Julian's body and his warm gauntlets laid flat against his back. Julian exhales and Josh can finally feel it, not from a distance, not in the movement of muscle and lung and diaphragm but in his skin against Josh's and the breath on his lips.

It’s amazing how they fit together. It’s so comfortable and easy and Josh has no idea why he was so scared of this when it’s the simplest thing in the world. There’s the ghost of a smile on Julian’s face, just enough not to interfere, but just enough to let Josh know Julian’s enjoying it as much as he is, if that’s even possible. Julian feels so good wrapped in his arms; Josh will have to be more liberal with hugs.

Julian’s hands slip a little farther down Josh's back, then farther. Julian breathes nice and slow into Josh's mouth, curling in closer. “You're really good at this,” Julian murmurs, his register going low and rough. His arms follow his hands down and tighten around Josh's waist.

Josh stops Julian's hand as it traces down and inside his thigh from the back. Julian pulls away enough to look at him questioningly. “I just want to kiss right now, honestly,” Josh admits.

He's worried Julian might take offense like he did last night, but Julian just laughs. “Wow, if you like kissing so much why didn't you ask sooner?" he says, and Josh gets the unsettling sensation that some of the significance Josh assigned to this went over Julian's head entirely.

Josh doesn't want this to end like the last couple times, though, so he just keeps going, tugs Julian back into him and kisses up his jawline, making him laugh. Josh has never felt stubble on his lips before; he finds he really likes it. Julian’s hands go back up and stroke Josh’s back, which is nice; he has to remind himself not to do the same, in case Julian gets ideas.

The kissing alternates between casually fun and slightly heated. Josh will find a spot that Julian especially likes and work at it, making Julian hiss and moan and press into him, the temperature in the hot shower somehow rising a couple degrees further. But then Josh will move on, satisfied that he's left his mark, and Julian will take Josh's head in his hands and lick up his jawline and Josh will giggle ticklishly or say “What the hell was that?" and Julian will just laugh agreeably and say he doesn't know, asshole, just roll with it.

All in all, they're both in a terribly good mood when they can finally bring themselves to stop. Julian smiles at Josh and their fingers brush on the way out, which Julian probably doesn't even notice but sets off an army of butterflies in Josh's stomach. As he turns off the water he reflects that he's never been so moonstruck.
--
Josh does find the towel, but apparently they spent enough time in the shower and cleaning up the mud for the cat to have licked herself dry. They both have a hard time feeling bad about their time usage. Josh tucks into one half of the couch with the cat curled up in his arms, and Julian flops on the other half, pulling his computer into his lap.

“Look at her little feets,” Josh implores. “Look at the toe beans. She’s so precious."

“Literally shut the fuck up,” Julian says, not looking up from the computer. “I’ve gotten fucking soft. You made me fucking soft."

“Let’s name her Laurie,” Josh says sentimentally, playing with said white paws.

“What, the cat? Fuck no." Julian shakes his head violently over the top of the laptop. “You are not bringing dead girlfriends issues into this, that’s so unhealthy."

“It’s not unhealthy, it’s a tribute."

“It’s depressing is what it is,” Julian scoffs, shooting Josh a look and then turning back to his screen and typing away. “Think of something else."

Josh takes a thoughtful moment, still spreading her toes apart gently, before answering. “How about Abby?"

“Abby? Do we have any dead friends named Abby?" Julian asks scornfully.

“No, it’s just—like tabby, without the t. Get it?" Josh seems pretty pleased with his pun.

“It’s not even a tabby,” Julian says skeptically, but then he catches sight of Josh’s face and realizes he may have been unusually cranky on the topic, especially considering he’s been doing it to a guy who saved his life yesterday. “Yeah," he relents. “She looks like an Abby."

"Hey, Julian," Josh says, singsong, like he’s teasing, but he sounds too happy for that. "You called her a she rather than an it!"

Julian blinks in realization. "Yeah, well," he says, blushing and tucking back into his laptop. “Like I said. You made me fucking soft."

Josh just smiles at him, so genuine and bright and happy that Julian forgets why he was ever upset at all. Until Abby puts her foot in his face, that is.

Chapter Text

In the following days Josh and Julian go shopping for pet supplies, complete with arguing and Googling of nutritional quality and even a little bit of gleeful crinkling of those foil cat toys. On their meager budget they manage food, a couple of mouse toys, a brush, some litter that will be going in a tray, and a cat bed. Josh manages to make a scratching post of rope wrapped around a couple of wooden planks nailed together in light of the frankly criminal cost of the cat tree Julian had to tear him away from.

Abby, they discover, is an incredibly agreeable pet. She doesn't scratch or bite anything but the toys and post, she's cuddly, she doesn't meow like she's dying when she has no food--she even seems to actually enjoy being held. All in all, she's much better-behaved and friendlier than either of them had any reason to expect--Josh has only ever had dogs, and Julian has never had a pet of any sort. "Not even one of those fancy Persian purebred types growing up?" Josh asks, and Julian makes a face at the reminder of his parents' household.

"Dad was allergic," he says, and drops the subject.

Meanwhile, in the spaces between watching Abby discover the catnip in her toys--usually being while she naps--they find themselves making out. Somehow their eyes just keep meeting and their hands untangle from whatever they're doing to find each other, and then it carries on from there. It's too pleasant a setup for even Josh to be heartsick over it.

That's how they end up on the couch, laptop discarded, TV hastily turned off, Josh moving over Julian's body. They're both faintly giggly as Josh presses kisses everywhere he can find and Julian rubs his wrists over him in return, snuggles into his hair and holds them together.

Julian is pleasantly flushed all over from Josh's attention when he gives up trying to playfully nip Josh back and merely relaxes between the couch and Elixir's body, sighing in pleasure. "Josh," he murmurs blissfully, and Josh hums in equally contented assent at his neck.

Maybe Julian’s guard is down or something. Maybe it’s just the heat of the moment loosening his tongue. Maybe, just maybe, he really means it. Either way, when their eyes next meet and Josh gives a broad, warm smile, Julian whispers, "We should go all the way."

Josh stares at him. Julian's eyes are so dark and focused. Josh opens his mouth and closes it. "What?"

Julian fades a deeper shade of red as he seems to realize what he's said, almost looks away but gets drawn somehow back into Josh's blank eyes. "Yeah," he says. "I just mean--maybe it wouldn't be so weird and all that. You know? Maybe it would be just us, and it would be okay." He rubs Josh's elbow in what might be muted affection.

“That sounds—“ Josh wants to say that sounds gay, you know that right, that sounds really super gay in the no-turning-back, not-messing-around-anymore kind of way, but he doesn’t say that because he doesn't want to scare Julian off. "Really?" is all he does say.

Julian looks nervous, but still he nods. He traces his hands up Josh's sides. "Maybe it would be nice."

"I mean--" Josh laughs, an involuntary response that has nothing to do with humor and everything to do with the nervous flutters in his stomach. "Shit. If you mean it." His mouth twists as he reconsiders. "Actually, maybe we should sleep on it."

Julian grins and waggles his eyebrows. "Sleep together on it?" Once he gets the requisite snort from Josh, though, he turns to a frown. "I don't really want to. You'd get all in your head about it and start a fucking pros and cons list, I don't want it to be about that. I just want something physical and nice. No, not physical--like, sensual," he corrects himself, which is much appreciated, because the phrase 'I just want something physical' had made Josh's heart drop.

"What do you think?" Julian urges, his hands heavy at the small of Josh's back. "If you're into it I think--I mean, I don't want to be skeevy or pressure you or anything, but if you ask me we shouldn't overthink it. See if it works, and if not, no big deal."

Josh is a little surprised at how this conversation managed to turn into Julian being concerned he's pressuring Josh instead of being a matter of Josh pouncing on the opportunity. He certainly knows how he feels about the idea--he doesn't know how to say that his reservations were more a worry that Julian might regret this, that he had just blurted out a suggestion he didn't really mean and couldn't go back on. But he seems so sure...

Josh's hand travels up to Julian's shoulder, then, tentatively, his face. "Yeah. Yes. I want to," he says. Somehow Julian's smiles have become something Josh could anchor his whole world on, and this one is no exception.

"Whose room?" Julian asks, sitting up and brushing hair from his face.

"Well, do you have condoms? Lube?"

"We legitimately do not need condoms. Neither of us has anything and you're a healer. Besides, that ship's kinda sailed, don't you think?"

"You should really have condoms anyway," Josh says, clucking his tongue in concern. He pushes away the thought that ideally, Julian won't need them at all because he won't be using them with anybody else.

"Well, Mr. Safety Dance, as a matter of fact I do, and lube too. I assume you do too with how more-protected-than-thou you're being, so it's your choice."

Josh considers it. "My room's cleaner."

"Not for long," says Julian with a wicked grin.

"I meant like neater, but fair enough." Josh climbs off Julian and stretches. "Do you want to go grab your flesh gauntlets?"

Julian immediately goes tense. "Hell no."

Josh blinks, thoughts already ahead to the more technical bits of intercourse. "But if we--"

"You heard me. Hell. No."

Josh frowns, concerned. He really wants to get to the bottom of that--among other things--but he doesn't want to continue this trend of Julian becoming closed off right when they had something going. Instead he rubs his hand over Julian's back until he feels him relax a little. "Well, how about plastic instead of metal then? You've got some like that, right?"

"My battle gauntlets, yeah," Julian says, becoming distracted by his own amusement at the idea. "For sexy battles now, I guess." The vigilante thing was one of those things Josh wanted to talk about, but for now he just laughs and squeezes Julian's shoulder before letting him fetch them, not quite confident enough to send him off with a kiss.

Josh fixes his hair in his mirror to kill time until Julian returns, taking the opportunity to take a deep breath and look himself in the eye and try to give himself some sort of internal pep talk, which quickly dissolves into the attempt to process that this is really happening. Then Julian returns and goes to sit on the bed, apparently a lot more at ease than the last time they were here (though that's hardly saying much). Josh crosses by him, going to the door to lock the cat out, then turns back to Hellion to find him looking expectant.

Josh is nervous to talk about this any more than they already have. He's afraid he'll break the spell or something and they'll come to their senses, realize they're just not cut out to do this kind of thing, certainly not in a relationship like, well, whatever the fuck theirs is. But he has to ask; there's at least one thing to figure out. "Which way--I mean, would you want to...?" He makes a vague yet appropriately lewd gesture.

But Julian just turns it around on him with, "Would you?" and the fear is realized: they're stuck facing each other, jittery and awkward.

"Well, maybe we should--it'd be easier if--I mean, I've never received anal before," Josh manages. "Just given. Cuckoos," he adds in the interest of clarifying and being honest and definitely not bragging a little.

Julian had his mouth open to respond, but then it drops further at the last bit. "Which one?"

"They'd kill me if I told," Josh hedges.

"Was it Phoebe?"

"No comment."

"Fuck, I knew she'd be into something like that!"

Josh laughs. Some of the tension in his shoulders fades. Still Julian. He can deal with this if it's Julian. "What about you? Ever talked anyone into it?"

Julian fades red and becomes very interested in the alignment of the sheets.

Josh feels his eyebrows rise progressively higher. "What?"

"Well, I wasn't doing much of the convincing."

Josh pauses to adjust. "You're saying you...?"

"I've done both ways," Julian admits. "Noriko," he adds in the interest of clarifying and being honest and sincerely not bragging.

Josh gives a low whistle. "Damn, Nori."

Julian nods, then thinks on it for a moment. "Seems fairer to me, then, if we do what we're both going to be somewhat familiar with."

"You're volunteering?"

"Don't say it like that, it makes it sound like a big sacrifice or something," Julian says, making a face. "Bottoming's not bad, I'm just saying, you know, comfort zone. Just for this time."

This time. Josh's heart flutters. Any arrangement sounds pretty damn agreeable with a 'this time' at the end of it.

"So, now that that's settled." Julian urges Josh up onto the bed he's been leaning on with a telekinetic nudge against his ass. When Josh climbs up, Julian tugs him in toward himself and grins, sliding a plastic red finger under his chin. "Where were we?"