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look at you, strawberry blond

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“I don’t hate this,” Todd admits, propping his laptop on the coffee table and leaning back into the couch. He tugs a blanket over his legs and wiggles until comfortable. “It’s quiet, no one is trying to kill us, and I’ve played more guitar in the last month than I have since like, undergrad.”

I hate this,” Dirk says, leaning over until he’s visible on the screen as well. “I'm bored and we have no cases.”

“But no one is trying to kill us,” Todd reminds him. “That part is good.”

“And you get to listen to the Todd Brotzman play guitar, all the time,” Tina laughs, toasting them through the screen with a can of La Croix.

The Todd Brotzman,” Dirk echoes her, turning a teasing smile to Todd. Todd wrinkles his nose in dismay, but Dirk bops forward to press a kiss to his cheek, and Todd blushes.

 They’ve barely left the apartment in months, and weekly video calls with Tina are one of the highlights at this point. The universe seems to have gotten the picture that running around is a terrible idea, and has responded by putting a complete hold on all cases. All of them. The agency is closed, but Dirk isn’t even accidentally running into baffling situations that only he can solve. No dragons, no wormholes, no taxidermied ducks. He hasn’t even found any lost cats or missing heiresses, which is frankly uncanny.

He’s honestly driving Todd up the wall – Dirk is far too used to dashing around, jumping into danger, and making trouble to adapt easily to living in quarantine – but it does help that he’s found something new to distract him.

“You guys are sickening,” Tina says, as Dirk peppers more kisses onto Todd’s face. Todd raises a hand to shove his face away, and Dirk makes a wounded noise and clutches his smushed nose.

“Ugh, you’re a rotten boyfriend,” he informs Todd, and flounces off the couch to get something from the kitchen and pretends he isn’t still listening to the video call.

“I can’t believe you guys are finally dating,” Tina says. “Like, I kinda assumed you were when we met, and then you weren’t, so I figured there was a reason?”

Todd’s eyebrows snap together. “Like what?”

“I dunno,” she shrugs. “Like, you already dated and gave up, or he was straight, or you’d sworn a life of celibacy, or something.”

“You thought he was straight?” Todd asks, incredulous. “or that – that swore to be celibate?” He scrubs a hand over his face, half offended and half laughing. “I thought you were a fan, Jesus, Tina.”

“Hey, don’t blame me,” Tina says, holding her hands up in defense. “You guys were the one with the whole ‘friends-to-lovers-to-friends’ vibe going on, long term.”

“…I don’t even have a response to that,” Todd says, and twists to call into the kitchen. “Hey, grab me a drink?” He turns back to Tina. “In the spirit of not being able to throw something at you through the computer, I’m just going to switch topics. How’s work this week?”

Tina and Hobbs are doing their best to keep the peace in Bergsberg, but it’s tough enough to stop teenagers from drag racing, let alone to get people to wear their masks while at the farmer’s market. “Bunch'a shits,” Tina mutters. “Joren Stone keeps calling us when someone asks him to wear a mask while shopping, and I had to literally shut down a barbecue yesterday. There were, like, forty people there.”

“Jesus,” Todd grimaces.

“That's awful,” Dirk says, sitting back down and handing Todd a glass of water, gulping from his own. They tend to drink beer (Todd) or wine (Dirk) while hanging out in the evenings, but it feels wrong to drink in front of Tina when she’s just earned her one year chip.

“You’re telling me,” Tina says. “I got into this whole thing for Hobbs, and it’s not really feeling worth it right now.”

“I can imagine,” Dirk says sympathetically. He’s pressed up against Todd’s side, and he’s warm and solid. The AC in the apartment leaves the place freezing, even at the beginning of August – it’s a good excuse to cuddle up, to share blankets, to sleep in overlapping piles of limbs and breath. “Are you still staying on his couch?”

Tina nods and twists away from the screen for a second to show off Hobbs’ living room behind her. “It makes sense – we’re both on shift pretty much non-stop lately, and someone’s gotta watch Mustard.” The cat in question chirps at the sound of her name, and Dirk instantly makes a cooing sound and leans way up close to the laptop.

Sweetie!” he croons, setting down his glass and wiggling his fingers at the screen. “Oh sweet Mustard girl, come say hello to Uncle Dirk.”

Mustard chirps again, then scrambles up onto Tina’s lap; if Tina’s grimace is any indication, she doesn’t skimp on the claws. Mustard headbutts the laptop screen, to Dirk’s delight, and purrs loudly enough to be heard through the built-in mic.

“Oh my darling,” Dirk says. “You perfect creature, you lovely honey girl, I miss you. You are a perfect, faultless being, and I hope that Tina is treating you like a princess.”

“She’s a barn cat, Gently,” Tina says flatly, and Dirk sniffs.

On Farah’s last trip to Bergsberg, Dirk had tagged along. He’d assumed he’d also be staying at Tina’s apartment, and it took no small amount of explaining to get him to understand that this was a romantic weekend for Farah and Tina, he would not be staying with the two of them, and he was welcome to sleep on Hobbs’ couch. He was soundly adopted by the orange critter, and still refuses to believe that she isn’t a pampered housecat instead of a scraggly mouser with a predilection for sleeping on faces.

Mustard gives one final purr at the screen and hops back off Tina’s lap, leaving a drift of orange fur in her wake. Tina sighs tolerantly.

“Anyway,” Todd says, giving Dirk some serious side-eye. “Cat aside, that super sucks, and I’m sorry things are tough right now. And especially sorry that people are being such idiots, and it’s your problem.”

“Eh.” Tina shrugs. “At least I have a job that lets me out of the house. I think I’d fall back off the wagon if I were stuck at home.”

“I don’t know,” Todd says, nudging Dirk. “It has its perks.”

“No, it’s awful,” Dirk says, and huffs when Todd nudges him again. “Unremittingly terrible.”

“Really?” Todd presses teasingly. “Not one single good thing about being at home with me all of the time?”

“Not a thing,” Dirk says, trying his hardest to keep a disdainful expression on his face.

“So finally admitting that you love me –”

Excuse me,” Dirk sputters, “but I am pretty sure that you told me first that you love me.”

“Didn’t happen,” Todd says, and almost drops his water when Dirk shoves against him, wriggles a hand under his elbow to poke at his side. “Didn’t happen!” he yells to Tina, trying to squirm away without making a mess. “You said it first! You did!”

“You’re a liar, Todd Brotzman,” Dirk laughs, and it could sting, it could be a prick into the wound of years of guilt, but it’s nothing but fond and loving and light, and Todd feels nothing but good and loved and safe.