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A Cold and Broken Hallelujah

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A car blasts its horn down on the street and a group of clubbers are singing out an off key anthem below the cracked window. There's a baby crying down the hallway. The couple in the apartment above is arguing about bills. Someone's tea kettle whistles.

"I'm not very good at this," Javier says into the loud city quiet.

"Oh, I don't know," Kevin says, rolling up onto his elbow. He's little more than a shadow in the dark; just enough light sneaks in through the curtains to paint the lean slope of his shoulders a pale pink. Javier hears more than sees the quirk of his smile when he runs his hand up Javier's chest, his fingers coming to rest at the hollow of his throat. "I'd say you're pretty damn good at that."

Javier rolls his eyes and tilts his head back into the pillow. "Not exactly what I meant."

The mattress dips when Kevin shifts. His lips are a featherlight tease at the crook of Javier's elbow, the blade of his collarbone, the rise of his cheekbone. Javier relaxes into the touch. Loops an arm up around Kevin's shoulders and pulls him down until they're chest to chest, Kevin's hips cradled between Javier's thighs and his nose nuzzling into the sensitive skin behind Javier's ear.

"I know," he says. His teeth scrape over Javier's earlobe, the sting chased away by a sweep of his tongue. Javier runs his knuckles up and down the line of Kevin's back. He counts the bumps of his spine twice before Kevin continues, his voice low and soft. "I'm not either, you know."

Javier huffs out a laugh and drops his hand to Kevin's hip, squeezing lightly.

"So we fuck it up together, then," he says, and turns to catch Kevin's lips with his own.

Outside, there's the muffled crash of someone stumbling into a dumpster.

Things change in little ways. Fingers brush and linger a second too long when passing a file. A smile is a little softer than it used to be. The jokes and mild insults are colored with a hint more affection.

They've always had a partnership made easy by near effortless understanding, but now it's possible to read entire novels in a single exchanged look.

No one notices, and things change.

They're theoretically supposed to be practicing sparring, but something shifted somewhere between the first warning jab of Javier's knuckles under Kevin's ribs and Kevin catching him in a choke hold that's just a little too easy to break out of. The gym is dank with the smell of mold and old sweat, so Javier presses his face tighter against the curve of Kevin's neck, licking up the sharp taste of clean, damp salt and the chemical bite of fading cologne. Kevin's shirt is rucked up under his armpits, the thin white cotton nearly transparent in places with sweat, and when Javier roughly thumbs at a nipple, Kevin's legs tighten where they're locked around Javier's waist.

He rocks into all of that heat and hardness, desperate for more-not even sure what exactly he wants more of, just that he wants more-and one of them lets out a strangled moan that seems to echo off of the cinder block walls.

Javier grinds down harder, pinpricks of pain at his shoulders where Kevin's nails are biting into his skin, and bites at Kevin's jaw to stifle the whine he can feel building in his throat.

There's a laugh out in the hallway and something clatters, and they spring apart moments before the door swings open and a couple of rookies walk in.

They're flushed and sweaty, clothes in a complete disarray, and there are mouth and finger shaped marks blossoming red and purple on their exposed skin.

The rookies barely spar them a glance and respectful acknowledging nods on their way to the weights, and there's something wicked in the glint in Kevin's eyes and the twist of his lips when he lowers his center of gravity and lunges forward to strike.

They don't talk about whatever it is they're doing. There are no promises, no plans.

But, little by little, Kevin's clothes find their way into Javier's dresser. Bit by bit, their dvd and game collections merge into one. At least a few nights a week, Javier drapes a tea towel over his shoulder and cobbles together bastardizations of the traditional meals his mother used to make while Kevin sits on the counter, heels thumping against the crooked cabinets, and talks about growing up in the midwest.

Javier only sleeps on the right side of his bed now, because Kevin can only sleep on the left. There's shampoo he never bought in the shower and a percentage of milk that he hates in the fridge next to his skim. When the radiator acts up, Kevin knows the trick about kicking it in just the right spot to make it hum back to life.

At some point, Javier realizes that Kevin's slept at his apartment every night for the past month and a half.

Something tightens in his chest, a little like panic and a lot like an emotion it's better not to give name to, and he dumps an extra scoop of grounds into the coffee maker, because Kevin can't function in the mornings if his coffee isn't as thick as sludge.

Kevin's shot.

It's just two words, two little words, but they cycle through Javier's mind on an endless loop, drowning out everything around him. He should be at the hospital, but instead he's stuck at the precinct, finishing up paperwork for the case. The black type swims in front of his eyes, but his fingers come back dry when he presses them to the bruised hollows above his cheeks. It takes two days-two long, endless days of staring down stacks of documents and only seeing red ripping out of Kevin's torso, spattering the floor and the wall behind him-before Beckett manages to pry him away from his desk long enough to go home and collapse into bed.

The milk in the fridge is starting to go sour, but Javier doesn't throw it out. Instead, he curls up on the right side of the bed in his rumpled, stained clothes and tries to remember if the mattress was always this wide across.

Kevin's parents fly into town and take him back to his apartment.

They don't take him home, because they don't know where home is.

Sitting alone, surrounded by Kevin's change on the bedside table and Kevin's scent on the sheets and Kevin's dirty socks on the floor, Javier wonders if Kevin knows either.

The milk is well and truly curdled when Javier hears Kevin's key turn in the lock.

They've texted a few times, but between work and Kevin's parents, it's the first time they've seen each other since they were both stained with blood and wild eyed with panic.

Kevin slumps into a kitchen chair instead of jumping onto the counter, rests his stubbled cheek in his palm, and silently watches as Javier fumbles his way through making stuffed poblanos.

Things change in little ways.

Smiles are a little too tight and brittle around the edges. A bite works its way into the jokes and barbs they toss back and forth. There are minute flinches when skin brushes skin.

A car backfires and Javier immediately reaches out to yank Kevin toward him, slopping hot coffee down both their fronts. Beckett laughs and wanders off to find some paper towels for them.

"I can take care of myself, you know," Kevin grinds out, his usually gentle eyes hard.

"I know that," Javier says, not quite able to keep from glancing around for potential threats. When he looks back at Kevin, there's a peculiar look on his face that Javier can't read.

"Do you really?"

Things change, and no one notices.

Kevin sleeps on the left side of the bed.

It still feels too damn big.

"My parent's friend's daughter is moving into the city. Her name's Jamie or Jenny or something."

Kevin's hip is propped up against the side of Javier's desk, close enough that he can feel the heat of it on the back of his hand, but he doesn't look up from the report he's going over, just makes a small, noncommittal sound.

Kevin shifts, says, "I'm going to help her with apartment hunting. As a favor to my parents. I think we'll probably get dinner afterward. According to my mom, we got along really well when we were little."

Javier's fingers tighten around his pen until the grip makes his knuckles hurt. The computer monitor is angled in just the right way that he can make out Kevin's reflection. There are new lines around his eyes and a tightness in his jaw that Javier doesn't recognize, and he wonders how long it's been since he really looked at the other man. He glances up then, and without the blur of the glass screen, he can see how wary Kevin looks.

How tired.

He nods once, forces his lips into something that resembles a smile.

"Okay. Have fun, bro."

They don't talk about whatever it is they're doing.

Javier starts ordering more and more take out.

Kevin's shampoo runs out and never gets replaced.

There's only skim milk in the fridge, even though Javier's gotten used to the thick taste of 1%.

He spends ten minutes trying to find the copy of Shaun of the Dead, before remembering with a sickening lurch that it was Kevin's.

One day, Javier opens a dresser drawer and realizes his boxers have migrated back into the space Kevin's t-shirts used to fill.

He starts picking up coffee at a stand outside his building, because he can't remember how to make it the way he likes anymore.

Laughter and organ music drifts through the closed door, drowning out the sound of the city streets that are only a wall away.

Kevin fiddles with his bow tie, straightening it for the seventh time in three minutes, and says, "I'm not going to be good at this."

Javier looks up from fastening the boutonnière that Jenny picked out to match the purple of her bridesmaid's dresses, his eyes locking with Kevin's in the mirror, and says nothing.

He can see the bob of Kevin's Adam's apple when he swallows. Hears the almost unnoticeable crack in his voice when he says, "Javier."

There's a question there, a plea that's impossible to misread, but Javier shakes his head, pretends to not understand, and says with a smile that's only slightly broken, "Don't be stupid, Kev. You're going to be great."