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honey, the look of it was as sweet as the sound

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It's nine months after they open the agency before Todd finally plucks up his courage and kisses Dirk during a tipsy and jubilant post-case bar night, and Dirk smugly kisses him back. Amanda rolls her eyes and passes a folded twenty to Farah, and Todd – Todd can't believe his luck.

Dating Dirk is like no other relationship he's ever been in. He had a few girlfriends in high school and his brief stint in college, one quick fling with his bandmate Mikey, and a larger-than-he-wants-to-admit pool of folks that he's had one night stands with while on tour with Mexican Funeral. None of them even come close to comparing.

They hold hands while walking to the office together, they text each other on the rare occasions that they aren't in the same building, they argue fondly over the right way to brew coffee (Todd, dark roast and strong as fuck; Dirk, blonde and smooth, with cinnamon in the grounds).

Dirk immediately takes their relationship as a sign that he never again has to go down to the laundromat, and Todd grumbles far less than expected, though he refuses to hang Dirk's shirts up in his closet. In return, Dirk changes the duvet cover on Todd's bed each week; Todd hadn't known that duvets needed covers and is frankly still not sold.

Dirk begins to treat Todd as a second pair of hands that just happen to be located slightly to the left of his main pair. He hands Todd pens that he's finished using, his wallet after paying for coffees, his toothbrush; Todd tolerantly places the pens back in the cup on the desk, slips his wallet back into his pocket, takes his toothbrush back to the bathroom.

They kiss… a lot.

It starts with firm, careful presses, bodies held safely a few inches apart, and fingers cautiously intertwined, but quickly progresses into joyful, wondering, exploratory kisses. They watch movies together and miss the second half. They run down suspects and laughingly hide in alleys on the way back to the office, still panting. They doze off on the couch and wake up gently nosing at each other's cheeks. Todd is sure that his glow of satisfaction must be visible from the ISS.

Every time Dirk's eyes sparkle and he leans down to kiss Todd, Todd's heart picks up. It continues to feel too good to be true: impossible or a dream.

Todd is an asshole, he knows this about himself – even with Dirk's pep talk in the woods more than a year ago, all he can do is to try his best to suppress his natural asshole-ish instincts. He knows he's going to fuck up eventually, and hates that he knows that Dirk will forgive him when he does. His first response to every tough situation is to lash out or walk away; it's only with great effort that he makes the right decision, continues to support Dirk, works the cases until their close. He's an asshole.

Dirk knows this about Todd, and knows that it makes Todd an incredibly good and brave person.

 


 

They return to the house one evening, mid-case, and Todd is filthy. Dirk had somehow avoided the mess of a chicken coop, but Todd has dust caking his hair, unmentionable muck under his fingernails, and more than a few feathers stuck throughout his clothes. He throws his phone to Dirk to be plugged in, and sheds his itchy clothes as he walks down the hall to the bathroom, jumping in the shower with a yell before the water even gets warm.

When he finally emerges from the hall, he's clean and cozy in pajamas and the detective is on the couch, watching an episode of The Bachelorette with horrified fascination.

“Todd, why are all of these men competing over a woman that they’ve never met before? How on earth do all twenty of them think that they’re compatible with the same woman to such a degree that they get into fights over it? Who is she?” Dirk gasps dramatically. “Wait, what if she’s cast some kind of spell on them? Is it possible that she’s bewitched all of the contestants? And the studio, I suppose. And crew. And the producers…" He frowns. "Okay, perhaps not.”

Todd throws himself onto the other side of the couch and takes the remote away from Dirk, clicking them back to the Netflix home screen and shoving his toes under Dirk's thighs without a second thought. “The plot is mostly fake,” he says absently, scrolling through their watchlist. “Plus, there’s no one else to have sex with in the house, so they all want to have sex with her.”

Dirk wrinkles his face, stealing the remote back from Todd and selecting the Great British Baking Show. “They want to have sex so badly that they’ll live in a house with cameras and jerks and try to sleep with a stranger? That sounds — well. Honestly, that sounds terrible.”

Todd shifts his gaze over at Dirk, who is already focused on Mel and Sue’s opening gag. “It’s mostly about fame,” he explains, feeling more awkward than the question warrants. “They want to be on TV, or to get famous after they get kicked off. It’s not just about the sex.”

“Everything is about sex, Todd,” Dirk says dismissively. “You can’t escape it. Every show is actually about sex.” His eyes flick to Todd, then back to the screen. “Well, maybe not this one. It’s just chelsea buns and sponge. Unless Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood… No. God no. It’s too terrible to contemplate.” He tips his head back dramatically, then pops back up and turns to focus on Todd.

Todd chuckles awkwardly and shrugs. “I mean, you’re not wrong. Sex sells. Everyone who isn’t having sex wants to be having sex, everyone who’s having it wants everyone else to know. People like thinking about it, so they spend their money on products that advertise with sex.” He shrugs again, not really sure what Dirk is looking for. “It’s become really commodified, but that doesn’t stop people from wanting it.”

“I don’t,” Dirk says very casually, though Todd can see an undercurrent of tension belying his easy tone.

“Huh. Never?”

Dirk pauses and opens his mouth to make a small sound, closes it again, then shakes his head. “No. Never.”

Todd swallows and breathes out. “That’s… that’s totally okay, Dirk. And uh. Thanks for telling me that. I appreciate your honesty and trust.” He locks eyes with Dirk and aims to communicate maximum sincerity.

There’s a moment of silence which is broken by the hosts of the baking show shouting ‘On your marks – get set – bake!’ and both men turn with some relief and some disappointment back to the television.

 


 

Todd spends a lot of time during their next case frantically googling, and hiding his phone when Dirk or Farah come in the room.

what if my boyfriend doesn't want sex

never wants sex

never had sex?

boyfriend never wants sex

is it healthy to never want sex

asexual

asexuality

asexual and gay?

what if I want sex and my boyfriend doesn't

how to not pressure asexual boyfriend into sex

asexual and kissing

how to masturbate more quietly

 


 

Todd appreciates the many, many web pages detailing what asexuality does and does not mean, but it doesn't stop him from absolutely freaking out at the idea that he might accidentally pressure Dirk into anything sexual. He feels confident that Dirk at least likes kissing, holding hands, and back rubs (my god does Dirk like back rubs; his eyes glaze over and he makes tiny hitching moans that do absolutely everything for Todd's libido and absolutely nothing for his sense of chill), but doesn't know where the line falls. Would Dirk like making out? Licking? Biting? Some kinds of sexual activities? One website said that asexual people can enjoy sex, even if they don't feel sexual attraction. Would Dirk enjoy it if Todd went down on him? Would he like it if Todd ate him out?

Hnf.

Todd quickly shuts down that line of thinking (though it occasionally pops back up when he's completely alone, in bed or the shower). He does not want to get into the habit of thinking about Dirk in ways that might accidentally affect his behavior towards him. He will be respectful and careful and not pushy. He has been a pushy boyfriend in the past, and he is not going to do that again.

Todd's watchword is 'restrained' – he doesn’t move forward with any kinds of intimacy beyond carefully pressing their lips together whenever he gets a chance. If anything, he's more careful with the placement of his hands – never a hair below the waist or above the knee, gentle in Dirk's hair. But Dirk can sense a thrum of electricity beneath Todd's skin when they're pressed up against each other. And Dirk –

Dirk presses. Just a little.

He sneaks small sips of Todd. When Farah ducks out of the office to pick up lunch, Dirk drags his lips against Todd's jaw, breathing deeply against his ear. When he wakes up in the morning, he hops into Todd’s bed, nuzzles his neck and shoulders. They sit in the backseat of the car overnight for a stakeout and Dirk rubs the stiffness from Todd's neck, lingering longer than he needs to on Todd's collarbone.

He wouldn't recognize it if it were pointed out, but Dirk is testing Todd's boundaries, checking for a failsafe. At what point will Todd snap, refuse the cold showers and long walks, take his pleasure from Dirk's body? He knows logically that the answer is 'never', but each time Todd's breath stutters and a moan catches in his throat and he still maintains his gentle behavior, Dirk feels another knot of tension fade.

Todd is… Todd is good to him.

Which isn't to say that he's soft and sweet at all times; he's still quite capable of menacing threatening characters, cracking ribald jokes with Amanda, and yelling at Dirk when he's done something stupid. He wouldn't be Dirk's favorite hot head if he'd lost that. But his contended demeanor when he's with Dirk outside of work is –

"Frankly, freaking me out," Amanda says over her second beer.

Todd is waiting in the absurd line for the men's room at the bar around the corner from the office. It's busy on Thursday evenings and usually not worth the crowd, but Amanda is in town, and Todd wants to show off the hipster beer that this place brews.

"What do you mean by that?" Dirk asks, still sipping gamely at his first beer.

"He seems really, like… chill? He's never chill in relationships. Todd is always a fucking mess."

"I mean, Todd is a mess. But, you know. In a Todd-ly kind of way."

"No yeah, sure! I just mean…" she shrugs and tosses back the best of her drink. "He's really insecure, you know that."

Dirk does.

"So usually when he's dating someone, it fucks him up. He freaks out about every little thing until he sabotages his own relationships. To be honest, it's the fucking worst. He hasn't dated anyone since like, college."

Dirk frowns a bit. "Not to pry – okay, that's a lie, definitely to pry – but he mentioned to me that he's slept with people as recently as last year. How does that track?"

"Not that he talks to me about his sex life – and thank god, because I don't want to know – but I think he was super anti-relationship for a while. He'd just pick people up after gigs or at bars and hook up and then never see them again." She thinks about it for a moment, chewing on her lip. "Well, not quite. There was this one guy who stuck around for a couple of weeks, and a few chicks he saw more than once. But other than that –" she shrugs again. "I think just thinking about long term relationships gave him hives."

Dirk’s fingers worry at the label on the glass bottle and looks up at Amanda through his lashes. "Do you think – I mean. Do you think that this relationship is giving Todd hives?"

"Whoah, no dude, no! That's the opposite of what I'm trying to say. Super sorry, definitely didn't mean to freak you out. I mean, Todd is so confident with you, in a way he has literally never been with any of his partners in the past. It's really cool to see him so happy. I forgot what he looked like when he was happy." She tries to keep her fond smile hidden, but Dirk can see it peeking through. It's been more than a year since the siblings reconciled in Wendimoor, and while there will always be an undercurrent of tension running through their interactions, they're learning to feel comfortable around each other again. Todd doesn't constantly walk on eggshells around Amanda, and she engages with him emotionally, sometimes. They even text each other almost every day – not with words, generally, but picture messages and emojis. "So yeah. It's freaky-deaky, but good."

"Freaky-deaky, but good," Dirk repeats.

"What's freaky-deaky?" Todd asks, sliding into the booth next to Dirk. He ends up closer to Dirk than is necessary, their thighs pressed together, and he reaches out for Dirk's beer and drains it.

"Hey!"

"You don't like this kind." Todd instead slides over a glass filled with a violently pink liquid; Dirk's eyes light up, and he seizes the glass and takes a slurp.

"Oh! Oh my god, this is heaven! Have you been holding out on me? What kind of drink is this?!"

"No idea – I asked the bartender to make me something she'd make for a bachelorette party that wasn't a Long Island."

"I don't know where Long Island is or what it has to do with getting drunk, but I must find out what this is called before we go. Oh my god, I want twelve." He takes another loud sip and Todd fondly rolls his eyes. He anticipates soon having to forcibly keep Dirk from jumping up to dance, an impracticality in a bar this crowded.

When he turns his gaze from Dirk to Amanda, he sees Amanda smirking at both of them. He narrows his eyes at her and she laughs at him, reaching out for one of the two beers that he'd also brought to the table.

"What were you guys talking about?" he asks suspiciously, and both of them shrug so quickly and in tandem that he knows he's missed something.

 


 

Amanda's reassurance goes quite far for Dirk – he feels more relaxed exploring intimacy for Todd. And he does enjoy being physical with Todd. He runs so warm, he makes such satisfying sounds under Dirk's hands, and he sends a spark through Dirk's skin at each point they touch. So Dirk ramps up the touching.

Down time in their apartment in the evenings sometimes doesn't feel like enough – they separate for bed later and later each night, unwilling to detangle their legs and fingers and get up from the couch. It's honestly hard to resist touching him during cases, but Farah made a list of rules and tacked them up next to the coffee machine in the office, and rule # 6 is "no schmoopy or couple-y stuff on agency time" (okay, Dirk made the list, but only because Farah made him).

Dirk pushes the boundaries, to no one's surprise.

"If we're supposed to be adopting this baby together, Todd, we should hold hands. Otherwise it will look suspicious,"

and

"My hands are also tied! Maybe I could use my teeth to open your shirt and retrieve the ransom note?"

and even

"It's freezing in here, Todd. If you sit on me and share my jacket, we might make it through the night."

It would be laughable, but Todd has to admit that Dirk is… at least close-to-right every time, and he certainly doesn't mind the excuses to be near to him. He's not much for PDA, but wants to try sometimes, for Dirk. He knows that Dirk knows that his lack of physical affection in public doesn't reflect negatively on their relationship, but it's good to have a tangible reason, a reminder to touch him in public. To make it clear that he's not embarrassed or ashamed of their relationship, of Dirk. He's just not much for being mushy where other people can see.

He's working on it, okay?

The day before Thanksgiving, Dirk, Todd, and Farah are undercover at a gay bar. They're keeping an eye on the DJ and a bartender, one of whom is involved in a gerbil smuggling ring and the other of whom is involved in an arms smuggling operation (the two have strangely similar paper trails and, surprisingly, are easy to confuse even while eavesdropping). They suspect the DJ of being involved with the gerbil situation and the bartender of the guns, so they divvy up surveillance responsibilities according to their respective skills at staying alive. Farah gets the bartender; Todd and Dirk get the DJ. They can't even argue about that.

Farah goes off to lean casually on the bar; she attracts an absolute horde of posturing butch women who hope they can impress her by talking about their skills at repairing cars, or whatever it is that sapphics find sexy these days. Dirk and Todd find themselves in the middle of the dance floor, to most easily be able to keep an eye on the DJ.

"It's the busiest night of the year," Todd yells into Dirk's ear, pausing from his awkward emo-teen two-step to move closer to Dirk in order to be heard over the music.

"What?!"

"The night before Thanksgiving! Everyone's off tomorrow, people are back home with their parents and miserable about it, so they come out and party! That's why it's so busy tonight!"

"Oh!" Dirk shouts back.

Todd hasn't spent much time on the dance floor of clubs in the last decade. At the height of the Mexican Funeral tours, they were playing three or four gigs a week; on nights off, they didn't have the energy, let alone the inclination, to go out. After the band broke up – after he destroyed the band, and lied, and lost all of his friends – he'd been too broke to pay bar prices for his shitty beers. It was easier to just buy bottom shelf liquor and get drunk in the peace and quiet of his apartment, or share a beer with Amanda on the rare occasions she could crack a smile out of him.

Ugh.

He shakes his head. That isn't where his brain needs to be tonight. They're on a case. There is no space for distraction when he's supposed to be keeping an eye on the DJ, who could at any moment leave the booth and meet up with his illicit gerbil-trading contact. It's time for focused Todd. Professional Todd. Detective's assistant Todd. Alert and competent –

"Todd."

Dirk somehow isn't shouting, but can still be heard. Almost like he's… right next to Todd's ear?

Todd turns to find Dirk, but barely moves before he bonks his head into Dirk's chin. "Ow," Dirk says, definitely in no pain at all.

Dirk is standing behind Todd. Right behind Todd. Like, very much within his personal bubble. He's stooped just a bit so his mouth can hover next to Todd's ear, and he gently places his hands on Todd's shoulders. "This makes more sense than trying to face each other," Dirk says, breath tickling the shell of Todd's ear. "This way, we can both watch the DJ."

"Why can't you stand next to me?" Todd asks more loudly, as if he in any universe wants Dirk to move farther away.

"Then you couldn't hear me speak. If I'm not facing you and I can't see your lips move, there's no hope to communicate. I just need to be close enough to you that we can hear each other speak," he says. "About the case."

"About the case," Todd agrees.

There's a beat, and then both men realize that they are a stationary island in the middle of a sea of moving bodies. Very much suspicious and not blending in. They take a step away from each other, then over correct and move in the opposite directions, again pulling apart. Dirk giggles and tugs on Todd's shoulders, bringing him back directly in front of him. He exerts a small amount of pressure to move them both to the right, and then they're suddenly dancing to the music.

As a bassist, Todd's sense of rhythm is solid, but Dirk is unexpectedly fluid and tuned into the beat for such an awkward muppet of a man. His fingers press carefully into Todd's shoulders and Todd feels the beat there too, thudding under his skin.

The DJ-and-possible-smuggler, a narrow man with a dark beard, is grinning wildly at the crowd. It's clear that he feels the energy of the room, and he spins it up in the thud of the bass and releases it across the floor. They're surrounded by exuberant dancers of all genders, sizes, and colors, all moving to the same underlying pulse. There are couples writhing, solo dancers taking space and making space, groups of friends creating clumps of laughter and breath. It's honestly exhilarating to be surrounded by such happy people.

Todd realizes that he's happy, too. The music is good, the atmosphere is euphoric and sharp, and he's dancing with Dirk. He's dancing with Dirk. It feels incredible. He lifts his right hand to cover Dirk's left and daringly reaches up to slide the left into Dirk's hair. He can feel Dirk's breath pick up, heavy on the side of his face. They sway like that for a full song and a half, touching in those spots alone. Then –

"Hm," Dirk says suddenly. The beat picks up, and he takes half a step forward and pulls Todd back until they're flush. He slides his hands off of Todd's shoulders and down his back, his sides, his waist. They settle gently there for a moment, cautious, before he huffs a determined breath and digs his fingertips into Todd's hips.

"Fuck," Todd chokes, dropping his hands. "Oh, fuck."

Dirk is pressed firmly against his ass and he's still moving fluidly to the beat, grinding his body against Todd's, fingers the only solid point of contact between them. He's grateful for the hold on his hips, spots of unrelenting pressure as counterpoint against the overwhelming sensation of Dirk rubbing up to him, panting in his ear, moving him along with the music. Dirk unselfconsciously writhes against Todd and he thinks he's about to die.

Todd's brain goes offline for a moment as he tries to process, to categorize this experience. It defies delineation, so after a panicked thirty seconds he gives in and throws himself into the sensation, into the dance, into the feeling of being pressed into Dirk. He tries to keep his eyes on the DJ, to make sure the case doesn't fall by the wayside, but that's the most he can manage. Surveillance and staying upright, and the latter only barely. It's a damn good thing Dirk is holding him up, if you can even call it that.

Jesus, where the fuck had Dirk learned to do this?

Todd cautiously lowers his own hands to his hips and lays them on top of Dirk's, gently interlacing their fingers. Dirk's breath evens out and he hums with satisfaction in Todd's ear, a soft puff of breath tickling his skin. He hums again, vaguely along with the music, vaguely along with the way he's moving his body, moving Todd's body. They look like any couple on the dance floor, overwhelmed with freedom and with a night out and with each other. It's jubilant, it's exultant.

They dance there, in the middle of the floor, for song after song. The DJ plays the crowd as easily as he spins together pop track after synth after darkwave, and Todd can feel his blood simmering in his veins as he memorizes the sensations he's experiencing. The music, the flashing lights, the smell of sweat, the pressure of Dirk against him – even the lingering taste of his single beer is suddenly a punch to the senses.

It's almost too much to process, so it takes him a moment to realize what he's seeing when he sees it: the person in the DJ booth suddenly isn't the guy they're surveilling, it's a tall person with long dreads and blue lipstick who's spinning. Todd gapes for a moment, then springs out of his slouched stance, looking frantically around the dance floor until he sees – thank god – the DJ against the back wall of the club, turning into a hall.

Todd grabs Dirks hand off his hip and drags him forward with a startled yelp, making a beeline for the hallway where the DJ had vanished. They dodge through the crowd of dancing, joyous people and he catches a glimpse of Dirk's face as they move; he's almost relieved to see that Dirk, too, is sporting color high on his cheeks, not unaffected by the interaction. They're both panting when they reach the edge of the dance floor, possibly for the same reason.

"Did you see him?" Dirk flutters. "Did he go this way?"

"Yeah," Todd says, and pulls Dirk into the hall – short and dim, with two doors. One on the end, which leads to the emergency exit, and one on the right, leading to a storage room for equipment (they'd done their research – this time). Both doors are closed, and there are a few people hanging out in the hall, either chatting quietly or checking their phones.

"Fuck," Todd says quietly. "Where did he go?" They attract a few curious looks, so Dirk steps forward and wraps his arms around Todd's shoulders. Nothing suspicious here! Just some partners being physically affectionate!

"No, no. Not fuck. Un-fuck. There is no problem here." Dirk leads them over to the door on the right and slouches against it, Todd still held to his chest. "He couldn't have gone out the emergency exit – the alarm would have gone off." He gestures to the sign on the door that indicates exactly that.

"Those signs are bullshit," Todd says pessimistically. "They're never actually alarmed."

"Well, er. Maybe he's in the storage room?"

"We've probably lost him."

"Not necessarily! In fact, I'll bet he's in here!"

"Yeah? Why would he be in there?"

Dirk flails around. "Because I… think I can hear him?"

Todd twitches and cocks his ear towards the door to the storage room, where – yes, in fact – they can hear the sound of one voice talking loudly and angrily, like he's on a very tense phone call.

"Lucky guess."

"It's never luck with me, Todd."

Todd opens his mouth to respond, something sarcastic or sneering, he's sure, when the voice suddenly gets louder, and he shoves his hand over Dirk's mouth.

" – don't know who you think you're talking to," the DJ says. "But I will walk back out of here. I don't need shit from you."

There's a quiet mumble, and Todd and Dirk exchange a wide-eyed glance. Someone else is in there with the DJ. Does he have the gerbils with him? Is the storage room full of fluffy rodents, or are they just nearby?

"Excuse me? You don't want to mess with me, asshole." The DJ sounds... pretty pissed off, and Dirk gently peels Todd's hand off his mouth and leans closer. Todd presses his ear up against the wood, strains to listen.

"– not risking federal prison for half the agreed price," says the other voice, a steely alto. "I have buyers that can take –" and then Dirk hisses in his ear, "What are they saying? I can't hear them."

"Neither can I," Todd snaps, careful to keep his voice down. "Shut up."

The DJ is speaking again. "– that isn't what we agreed on. What am I going to do with – "

"Now what's happening?" Dirk's voice is quiet, but it's right in Todd's ear, and it's very distracting. Todd doesn't bother answering him again, just shakes his head, and focuses again. The other voice is talking, but he can't quite make it out, until –

"I'm out. I have no confidence in this deal, and I'm taking my stock elsewhere."

"Don't you dare," snaps the DJ. "You're not leaving the room until I get the key."

"Don't presume to tell me what I can and cannot do." The other voice is suddenly a lot louder, and then the DJ curses, and then there's a bang from behind the door that sends Todd stumbling backwards, into Dirk, both of their eyes wide and horrified.

"That wasn't a gerbil!" Dirk says, far too loudly, and they hear two voices say, "What?"

Todd yanks Dirk away from the door in horror. None of the other folks in the hallways are paying them any mind, but at this point of their investigative partnership, they know the lead-up to being discovered, and Todd is not in the mood to be caught by angry people smuggling anything, let alone guns. He is so fucking sick of guns.

"Come on," he snaps, and grabs Dirk's wrist, yanks him bodily towards the emergency exit. He shoulders the fire door open and staggers into the alley, sends a momentary prayer of thanks for the lack of alarm, and slams it shut behind them, though not before seeing the storage room door open.

Fuck, fuck. Had either people (smuggling guns, not gerbils) seen them dash out of the hall? There are a handful of people in the alley, either smoking or talking quietly, and Todd has no idea if they'd been spotted well enough to be identified out here, but there isn't any time to figure that out, the alley is too long and bare to try and make it out or hide, what the fuck are they supposed to –

"Todd," snaps Dirk, and Todd spins around to see what he wants, what his plan is, and then Dirk crowds him up against the alley wall, pins his chest and shoulders with one solid forearm, and kisses him.

About two heartbeats go by, and Todd is completely frozen. "Hold me," Dirk mutters against Todd's lips, and Todd, baffled and entirely overwhelmed, obeys. He doesn't feel capable of anything other than grabbing the back of Dirk's shirt, clutching fistfuls of fabric, but if Dirk's satisfied hum indicates anything, it's enough for whatever is going on.

"What?" Todd tries to say, but when he opens his mouth, Dirk slips his tongue between Todd's lips and then Todd's chest feels like it's seizing.

It's not like he's thirteen and making out with Danica Schwartz for the first time, he has kissed with tongue before. Just, not with Dirk. The electric glow that settled under his skin while they were dancing is suddenly present again, and Dirk is pressing him against the brick; he can feel the tense strength of his arm, and Dirk's other hand is sliding into his hair.

Todd's heart is pounding, it's been about seven seconds since they slammed into the alley, and he's pretty sure they should be running, but his legs are jelly and he's about ninety-six percent sure that he'd slither to the ground if Dirk's arm weren't bodily holding him up.

What the fuck.

The door crashes open and Todd stiffens in terror, but Dirk kisses him all the more deeply, licks into his mouth, searing and deep. He can see out of the corner of his eye, the DJ and a tiny woman skid into the alley, her with one hand shoved into the pocket of a jacket (holding a gun? Is there a fucking gun in there?), and him with both fists raised, but they – they bafflingly don't immediately turn to Todd and Dirk? They spin to look at all of the occupants of the alley – smoking, chatting, making out – and don't seem to realize which of them have been there since time immemorial, and which have just appeared and are pretending to kiss each other in order to avoid suspicion.

Well. Are actually kissing each other to avoid suspicion.

Dirk grunts meaningfully, presses closer, and Todd realizes that he's been frozen for several long seconds, staring obviously at the two new(er)comers, not doing his part in this, er, this disguise effort. He tentatively closes his eyes (as much as his instincts are screaming at him to not look away from the people with motivation to hurt them) and deepens the kiss, opens his mouth further; Dirk hums in satisfaction and tightens his fist in Todd's hair, and without intending to, Todd moans.

"Mm," Dirk says, into his mouth, and he does it again, and then Todd is basically incapable of doing anything but letting Dirk kiss him, plunder his mouth like they're in a romance novel, and clutching Dirk tightly, desperately. He's making tiny, helpless noises in the back of his throat, and his heart is pounding, and he doesn't think he's ever been kissed so thoroughly, even by people he was actively fucking at the time. Dirk's lips are so lush and his tongue is doing some shockingly filthy things to his, and Todd is just genuinely glad that there are at least a few inches of space between their hips because he's sure he would thoroughly embarrass himself otherwise.

Damn.

Todd has literally no idea how long they kiss there, crushed against the cold exterior wall of a gay bar in downtown Seattle, but when Dirk finally releases him, the two terrifying individuals are both gone.

"Perfect," Dirk murmurs against Todd's lips, and then he straightens up.

There's a flop of dark hair over his forehead, but he looks otherwise entirely unbothered. Maybe a bit pink in the cheeks, but that could be explained by the heart-pounding terror, or the cold November air. Todd, on the other hand, is still leaning against the wall so he doesn't collapse to the ground, he's panting, his pupils are blown, and he's somewhere between half-hard and ready to pound nails.

"What."

"Oh, very good, Todd," Dirk says brightly. "I was worried you wouldn't catch on quickly enough, but that was an excellent disguise. Wonderful assisting."

"What."

"I discovered that trick a few years ago! Most people assume that couples kissing are entirely engaged with their amorous pursuits, and couldn't possibly be a person of interest. It's a brilliant method of shifting suspicion or avoiding capture. You did very well," he adds admiringly. "The little noise things you were doing? A perfect touch. I was worried they might be a bit much, but I think you really sold it."

Todd blinks at Dirk a few times, then clears his throat and shoves himself to standing. He holds on to the wall for a few seconds until he's sure that staying upright is within his capabilities, and then tries to very casually tug his jacket down a few, but incredibly significant, inches. "Right," he says finally. "Yes. That's, um. Definitely what just happened."

Dirk beams at him.

"Should we, uh. Go tell Farah what just happened?"

"Oh!" exclaims Dirk. "Yes! You really are on a roll tonight, Todd." He spins like he's going to walk back into the club, back through the fire door, then he turns back to Todd for a moment, a glowing smile tucked into the corner of his lips. "And I liked it a lot, too." He leans in just long enough to kiss Todd again, to slip him the tiniest bit of tongue, and then he's halfway to the door.

"Shit," swears Todd, and follows his boyfriend, his boss, and the man that just sent him into a fucking eighth grade tizzy back into the case.

 


 

Once they break up the gerbil smuggling ring (and they call the police on the DJ and the woman selling him guns), Todd carefully doesn't mention the alley at all. He almost manages to tuck the memory away, file it carefully next to the sounds that Dirk makes when he gets a backrub and the look on Dirk's face when he bites into a chocolate croissant, but Dirk won't stop kissing him.

Or like, won't stop kissing him like that.

Todd has developed coping mechanisms to handle getting turned on while looking at Dirk, and cuddling him, and smooching him. But now when they kiss, Dirk will sometimes nip at his lip, slide his tongue into Todd's mouth, or run his long fingers through Todd's hair and pull.

Todd should really ask him to stop. It's getting difficult to casually hide his erections every time.

But, well – no one’s ever accused Todd of making good decisions.

It becomes a perfectly manageable balance. Todd still runs after Dirk all day, and ravenously, glowingly kisses him all evening. He keeps his heart rate slow and his hands above the waist, and they always separate to their own bedrooms at the end of the night. Once in bed, he leisurely jerks off, one hand sliding over his dick and the other pressed to his mouth in an imitation of the pressure of Dirk's lips.

 


 

It's a few weeks later and they're spending a lazy Saturday morning at home, curled up on the couch. It doesn't take very long before the sleepy cuddles turn to careful kisses, gentle but sure.

Todd kneels over Dirk, his forearms propped on the arm of the couch, framing Dirk's face. Dirk is flushed and each time Todd presses a kiss to his cheek, his eyebrow, his ear, he makes a small sighing sound that Todd devotes no small amount of brainpower to memorizing. Dirk startles Todd by sliding one hand under the hem of Todd's shirt, and the feeling of cool fingers on his hot skin is enough to pull a gasp from his throat.

"Did you just –" Dirk stills his hand, delight lighting up his gaze. "Did I tickle you?"

"What? No."

"Are you ticklish, Todd?"

"Oh my god, no, Dirk. I'm not ticklish." He pulls his gaze with effort to meet Dirk's, and Dirk notes with glee that Todd is red, his chest heaving lightly.

"So what was that noise?" Dirk moves his fingers again, running them gently down Todd's side, and then sweeps his hand forward, towards Todd's stomach. Todd makes a noise again, unable to catch it before it comes out. "Are you ticklish? Should I not touch you there?"

Todd shakes his head, remaining still with supreme effort as Dirk brushes his knuckles over Todd's lower stomach, but he makes yet another small noise, his hips twitching minutely.

Dirk narrows his eyes. "Should I… yes touch you there?"

Todd inhales sharply and bites his lip. He swallows. "It feels… it feels really good," he admits. "I like feeling you touch my – my skin."

Dirk's eyebrows move inwards in some confusion. "Is that… new information?" he asks, puzzled. "I like when you touch my skin, too." He brushes his nose against Todd's, then presses their cheeks together. Todd closes his eyes and nuzzles into Dirk's face.

They get lost in the sensation for a few moments and Dirk almost forgets his question. He mouths at Todd's cheek and chin, then drags his lips down Todd's stubble to his neck, pressing an exploratory kiss to his pulse point. Todd is too well prepared to make another noise, but Dirk can feel his muscles tense, keeping himself still with great effort.

"Okay, hold on," Dirk says, pulling his hand out from under Todd's shirt to push gently at his chest, to back him up a few inches. Todd moves back with reluctance, shifting his weight to his palms to give Dirk more space. "Why are you so stressed? Do you not like this? Todd, I don't want to do anything you don't like – you can't let me bully you into anything." Todd snorts, so Dirk amends his statement. "In our relationship, I mean. Besides — in the field I am your boss, so it's orders, not bullying. But I don't want to push you, Todd. Do you not like this?"

"I do!" Todd insists quickly, and some of the worry in Dirk's brow fades to confusion.

"Then why does it seem like you don't want me to touch you, right when I can tell you're feeling good?"

"I don't want to push you," Todd explains awkwardly. He shoves himself back to sit on his heels and runs a hand through his hair, leaving it stuck up and mussed in the most adorable way.

"Push me?" Dirk asks, puzzled.

"You said – you said back in October. You said you don't want to – you know," Todd says, waving his hands aimlessly. "I – I googled it! I looked it up!"

"You looked what up, Todd?"

"You're – I mean, I think you are. I don't know. You're, um. You're asexual?" Todd's face is even redder, and it's not from arousal. He covers his eyes briefly and grimaces. "I didn't want to push you into telling me that. Or to feel like you had to label yourself. Or to tell me anything! But I – I looked it up, to make sure I understood." He keeps his eyes covered for a minute but Dirk doesn't say anything in reply and he soon drops his hand to squint open his eyes, concerned at the silence.

Dirk's eyes are wide and his lips are parted in surprise and awe. "Wow," he says, looking strangely moved.

"What?"

Dirk struggles to push himself up and wraps his arms around Todd's waist. He presses his face into Todd's chest, stifling slightly hysterical giggles. "Todd!" he says, muffled into Todd's shirt.

"…Dirk?"

Dirk takes a minute to get his giggles out, shaking slightly more than his laughter would warrant, before he's able to take a deep, gasping breath and wipe his eyes on Todd's shirt. He breathes a few more times before pulling his face out of Todd's chest and looks up at him. "Todd," he says wetly, unbearably fond.

Todd runs his fingers through Dirk's hair, petting him gently and enjoying the soft texture.

"You –" Dirk swallows. "You care a lot about me," he begins hesitantly, and Todd nods quickly, decisively, before Dirk can even finish his sentence. Dirk beams. "You looked it up. You – you researched asexuality, because you… care about me."

Todd nods encouragingly, still playing with Dirk's hair.

"No one's ever done that before," Dirk admits, and then hastens to add, "cared enough to know, I mean. I don't mean anyone ever – they never. You know."

Todd isn't quite sure that he does know, but he nods again anyway, gives Dirk space to continue.

Dirk hides his face in Todd's shirt again, as if covering his face will mean that Todd can't see him at all. When he speaks, it's quieter. "I am asexual," he explains. "I didn't know what it was called, but a friend in university had a book, and zie lent it to me. It… it explained a lot, honestly?" He squeezes Todd more tightly, curling his fingers into the soft fabric of his shirt. "I'd thought that Blackwing – that they — they broke me, or something. All of my classmates were going on and on about sex, and I kept coming back to a — a sock on the door handle when I just wanted to sleep, and I thought Blackwing took that out of me. I just didn't understand."

Todd keeps quiet.

"But I'm – I'm not broken. Sage, my friend Sage told me that I'm asexual, and that it's okay, and I don't actually ever want to have sex. And that's okay," he repeats. He pauses suddenly, and looks up at Todd, his eyes wide and fearful. "That is okay, right? I mean – is that okay?"

"Yes! Yes, Dirk, holy shit, yes. It's absolutely okay, It's one-hundred percent okay." Todd squeezes Dirk to his chest and pets his hair for several minutes, both of their hearts slowing from frantic to calm, until Dirk protests softly, his back and neck unhappy with the position.

They take a moment to rearrange themselves, Todd pressing a reassuring kiss to Dirk's hair, and end up on the couch next to each other. He's content to try and pick up the plot of the movie they've been ignoring for the last half hour, but Dirk clings to him, even more tactile than usual. He buries himself half behind Todd's shoulder and back, like he'd try to hide there if he weren't half a head taller than Todd. Todd soothingly pets Dirk's thighs, running his fingers over the soft cotton pajama pants that Dirk will only wear out of his bedroom on days when no one else is coming over.

It feels good. It feels, Todd suspects, an awful lot like something he might call "love" if he weren't such a wimp.

 


 

There's an honestly terrifying week in March where Dirk flickers in and out of existence every few hours – when he's gone, no one but Todd and Amanda remember who he is. They discover that their ability to remember Dirk is connected to their Pararibulitis medication (a woman taking it for seizures screams when he vanishes in the middle of the slushy sidewalk), and trace it to the lab where a) the Promadivan is manufactured, and b) some sleep-deprived grad student is trying to map the interconnectedness of the universe, accidentally coding Dirk himself into her dissertation project.

The day after the case, Todd and Dirk move with their fingers intertwined, unwilling to contemplate the prospect of separating while they're in the same state of existence. They doze off on the couch, and Todd whines in genuine fear when he feels Dirk pull away from him.

"I can't sleep out here," Dirk admits, awkwardly massaging his neck with one hand; without saying a word, Todd stands up and marches them both to his room, nudging the door open with his bare toes. They burrow timidly under the comforter (with a fresh duvet cover), giving each other space, but it hardly takes five minutes for the tension to bleed out of Dirk's frame, and to shift closer and closer to Todd until he's drooling on Todd's collarbone. Todd honestly thinks he could die happy at this moment.

They don't even bother pretending they're going to separate for bed the following night.

Almost every night, they end up in Dirk's bed; he has a firmer mattress, his sheets have a higher thread count, and he has actual windows. Todd is still sleeping on the slightly busted bed frame that the Rowdy 3 had trashed more than a year ago, and his mattress is, well – lumpy is the nicest word for it.

There are occasional nights where Dirk can see a fragile set in Todd's shoulders (though he'd snap and grump and yell if anyone pointed it out to him). On those nights, they sleep in Todd's glorified closet, and Todd drifts off with Dirk watching over him.

Co-sleeping works incredibly well for them both. Dirk is all elbows and knees in sleep, and moves several times per night to hold Todd more closely, or to flop all over him, or to take some space on the other side of the bed and splay his limbs. Todd half-wakes each time, and makes sure that at least one small part of him is touching Dirk, no matter how big Dirk's bed is.

 


 

Todd slowly blinks to wakefulness, stirred from sleep by the sharp angle of a chin against his shoulder. He squeezes his eyes shut again, sniffling a few times to clear his nose, and feels the warm vibration of a chuckle pressed into the crook of his neck.

"I know you're awake," says Dirk, wriggling himself closer to Todd and petting enthusiastically at his chest.

"No I'm not," Todd mumbles tolerantly. He belies this by sliding his arm around Dirk's slim waist and holding him more tightly, trying to eke out a few more minutes in bed.

One of the drawbacks of Dirk's holistic existence is that even on days when they don't have a case for a client, cases often find Dirk. They can be out getting coffee or wandering the park, shopping for more brightly colored leather jackets (why does he need more? He has more than a full rainbow, at this point) or just picking up groceries, and something strange, unusual, or downright unbelievable will come across their path. Todd has long since resigned himself to the fact that he needs to be wearing shoes he can run in every single day, but he still tries to push it off until afternoons.

"Don't you want coffee?" Dirk wheedles, not trying to escape Todd's grasp. "I bought some while I was grocery shopping yesterday. I got two bags, actually. One of the bags said 'Seattle's Best', so I had to try it, because I think we should have the very best coffee in Seattle, but I also got a bag of the kind we usually get in case you didn't actually want to drink the best coffee in the city. I don't know why you wouldn't, but I do know that you like consistency and mmph–!" Todd shifts his arm upwards and pins Dirk's face to his chest, cutting off his words.

"Shut up," Todd mumbles sleepily, a laugh coloring his voice as Dirk squawks into his threadbare pajama shirt and struggles to get away. Dirk's protests turn to laughter as well and he thrashes against Todd, trying to free himself with no real amount of effort. When he realizes that Todd's core strength can't be beat with random flailing, he flings himself more bodily towards Todd, and attempts to wrest his arms away and pin them to the bed.

The two men tussle for a few minutes, giggling sleepily and trying to gain the upper hand. Todd gets his right hip jammed under Dirk's and is about to twist him off, freeing himself, when Dirk does some kind of freaky ninja twist situation and pins Todd thoroughly, hands curled tightly around Todd's wrists and kneeling on his thighs, pinning them to the mattress. Todd cackles and thrashes wildly to try and buck Dirk off, and Dirk smugly leans down, lowering his center of gravity and refusing to let Todd up.

"Say uncle," he says brightly.

"Never," Todd laughs, and Dirk joins in. He lets Todd's giggles run through his stomach and up into his chest, filling his lungs with the joy of their interaction. They're both panting and laughing and their chests are an inch apart, and Dirk flops down onto Todd, pressing their lips together at the same time.

Todd grins into Dirk's mouth, flopping his head back down to the pillow and reveling in the sensation of Dirk's hands on his wrists, their lips pressed soft and warm and pliant together. There's a moment of sheer sunshine joy in their contact, and then Dirk readjusts his legs, one thigh slipping between Todd's and pressing firmly, warmly against Todd's hard dick.

Todd jolts and whines, instinctively grinding up into Dirk for one electric moment, before he realizes what he's done. "I'm sorry," he gasps, trying to shrink down through the mattress. "I'm sorry!"

Dirk freezes, brow furrowed in confusion, before he works out what's happened. His lips part in shock and he stares down at Todd. "Are you – is that – did I do that? Did I do that to you?"

Todd's expression is torn between arousal, horror, and apology, and he shakes his head quickly. "No, no – this isn't your fault. It's mine. I'm sorry!" He shudders a breath in and out, and locks eyes with Dirk. "I didn't mean to. I know you don't want this, it's just… my body does what it wants sometimes, but I didn't mean to – " he trails off, unable to finish the sentence. "I'm sorry."

"Todd," Dirk says, eyes beginning to narrow in something resembling comprehension. "Does this… does this feel good to you?"

"Yes." Todd's voice is small but clear.

"Even though we're not having sex."

"Yes." Todd is almost whispering, strangely ashamed.

"But — " Dirk blinks. "Wait a moment. This feels good for you, and we aren't having sex."

"…yes?"

Dirk shakes his head, then sits up a bit to get a clearer view of Todd, pressing his thigh back into Todd's erection again with the movement. Todd's breath catches in his throat, and he's frozen beneath Dirk.

"I didn't realize that you would feel good – er, you know – sexually, if we weren't actively involved in intercourse."

Now Todd's eyes are narrowing, and he stares up at Dirk like he's not speaking English. "You're on top of me," he says slowly. "And I am very, very attracted to you. You feel incredible, and I am, um. Basically always turned on by you? We don't need to ever have, uh, intercourse for that to be true." Dirk's fingers flex into Todd's wrists, and Todd finds himself stifling another whine. "Any way that you touch my body feels good, but this is, um. Like, really hot?” He grimaces. “You should probably stop, though." He's clearly reluctant to lose the contact, but is so focused on Dirk's confusion and comfort that it comes a complete surprise when Dirk –

Dirk grinds into him again. And then again and again, and throws himself back down on top of Todd, lips moving frantically over Todd's lips, his cheek, his ear. "Oh my god, Todd," he murmurs. "Oh my god, I had no idea."

Todd thrusts helplessly against Dirk's thigh, soft whines tearing from his throat, inflecting upwards in confusion and bafflement. "Wh-what? Dirk, what?" He gasps and tries to still his hips, but Dirk's movement is merciless. "Dirk, you can, you can stop – you don't have to, unh. Dirk, I – fuck, fuck."

"I know I don't have to," Dirk said with equal parts delight and wonder. "I don't have to do anything I don't want to do! I am exceedingly enthusiastic about what is happening right now." He moves his lips from Todd's ears to his throat and then, almost bashfully, flicks his tongue against Todd's pulse point.

Todd grunts like it's being torn from him, and opts to stop trying to question what's happening.

He gives himself over to sensation, writhing where Dirk has him pinned by the wrists and the hips. Dirk beams and sets to mapping Todd's neck and shoulders with his tongue. Todd is moving frantically, and whines with each new point of slick contact against his skin. He prickles with sweat and his chest heaves, and Dirk delights in the scent and flavor and sensation of Todd's arousal beneath him.

It doesn't take more than a few minutes of desperate rutting for Todd's whines to catch in his throat, and a fierce pressure builds in his gut. "Dirk," he chokes out, trying to warn him, and Dirk delicately sinks his teeth into the juncture of Todd's shoulder and his neck.

Todd thrusts against Dirk's thigh, a rough cry bursting out of his mouth as he grinds upwards, hips twitching. The electric sensation builds and crests and finally breaks, and he comes with a hoarse moan and bright lights behind his eyes. He's bow-string taut against Dirk for one long, tense moment, and then he sags back down against the mattress, chest heaving.

"Dirk," he gasps. "Dirk, what the fuck. Oh my god. Shit."

Dirk's eyes are bright and interested as he gazes down at Todd. "That was wonderful! Was that what's called 'frottage'? Were we frotting, Todd?"

"Wh-what?"

"Frottage. I believe that's what one calls sexual stimulation through rubbing, as opposed to penetration. It may even specifically refer to said stimulation through clothes, and between two men." He thinks for a moment, then nods divisively. "Yes, I think that's what we were just doing. Frotting. I liked it!"

Todd is panting, his eyes wild, and lays under Dirk in stunned silence for long enough that Dirk becomes concerned.

"Was that… was that okay?"

"Was – was that okay? Dirk, that felt amazing, but I don't know what the fuck just happened. Don't you not ever want to have – to have sex?"

"Not really," Dirk allows.

"So what was that?!"

"Well, I don't think of it so much as 'we had sex,' and more that you had sex with… my leg?"

Todd groans and throws one arm dramatically over his eyes. "Oh, great; I had sex with my boyfriend's leg."

Dirk's eyebrows snap together and he opens his mouth to respond when his cellphone begins playing 'Single Ladies.' The two men silently wait it out, the air between them awkward.

When the phone goes silent, Dirk opens his mouth again; that's when Todd's phone, plugged in on the nightstand, begins to vibrate. Todd grumbles, gropes for it with his free hand and brings it to his ear.

"Todd, where's Dirk? He didn't pick up his phone – is he okay?" Farah asks without preamble.

"He's fine. He's right here."

"Great, I'm glad he didn't go into the office yet. I need you both to meet me at Peter's ASAP – I just got a call from the client's sister-in-law, and this whole mess just got a lot more complicated."

"How fast is ASAP?" Todd asks, resigned.

"I'll be there in half an hour," she says firmly.

Todd does some quick mental math – if they leave the apartment in ten minutes, they'll still make it within five of Farah's arrival. "Pick up coffee," he begs, and Farah makes an affirming noise and then hangs up.

He drops the phone on the pillow next to his head and moves his arm to look up at Dirk. "We're talking about this later," he says. Dirk nods sheepishly and climbs off the bed, and Todd suddenly feels exactly as sticky as a thirty-two year old man who's just come in his boxers. "Shower's mine."

 


 

The next thirty-six hours are a whirlwind of activity. Dirk shoves a phone charger into Todd's pocket as they run out the door which makes no sense until Todd ends up stuck in a suspected murderer's attic all night at 6% battery and can keep in contact with Dirk and Farah ("It was a hunch!"). Dirk and Farah chase after someone who seems to be able to teleport until Dirk realizes that there are identical triplets trying to fool them. There's an honest-to-fuck car chase and the person they're chasing drives into Puget Sound.

It's a lot.

Two of the triplets end up in handcuffs, the suspected murderer ends up feeding Todd a fantastic breakfast, and Farah ends up getting to shoot someone in the kneecap, which is honestly one of her favorite ways to spend a Tuesday.

They stumble back to the agency and stay just long enough to debrief and bandage a cut on Dirk's cheek, then Farah orders them back home to sleep.

Dirk's steps slow as they enter the apartment, and he looks nervously between his bedroom door and Todd's, wondering if Todd will want to sleep separately until they get a chance to Talk. He's not sure he knows how to sleep solo at this point. Todd solves the dilemma by tangling his fingers in Dirk's and towing him to the larger bedroom, then toes off his shoes and drops his jeans in a pile directly in front of Dirk's laundry basket. Dirk's lips twitch in suppressed amusement. He is so fond of Todd that it's almost physically unbearable.

They drift off facing each other like empty parentheses, knees and fingers tangled; they wake up even closer. Todd's head is tucked under Dirk's chin, and Dirk can smell his shampoo. He spends a few indulgent minutes running his nose through Todd's soft hair before Todd sleepily grumbles at the motion and burrows more deeply in between the pillows.

Dirk is too awake to settle back down, so he carefully disentangles himself from Todd, leaves a soft kiss on his forehead, and slips out of bed. He takes a detour by the bathroom to brush his teeth and relieve himself, then pads into the kitchen where he dumps out the stale water from the electric kettle, refills it and clicks it on before perching on the counter. When Todd is awake, sitting on the counter makes Dirk too tall to kiss, so he keeps his feet firmly on the floor. On early mornings, though, it feels a treat to drink his first cup of tea up here, cold toes dangling and fingers laced around the hot ceramic.

He's still up there, dregs of a second cup forgotten by his thigh, when Todd comes stumbling from the hallway. He's got a smear of toothpaste on his lip and Dirk bends almost in half to kiss it away before sliding to the floor and kissing him again.

"Good morning, Todd." He gestures proudly to the coffee machine, just sputtering to a full pot, and Todd kisses him a third time, grateful, before turning to fill a mug that says 'Drink Spokane,' for reasons neither of them quite remembers. Dirk makes a third cup of tea, and the two end up facing each other on the couch, each tucking his toes under the other for warmth.

Dirk is fully awake, but it takes a good ten minutes before Todd has had enough coffee to make eye contact; he looks up for only a split second before intently going back to studying the carpet. "Dirk, I –" he begins, then swallows and tries again. "I'm really sorry."

Dirk blinks. That was not what he'd expected to hear. "…what?"

"I'm really sorry about the other day. I shouldn't've done that. That wasn't okay of me." Dirk opens and closes his mouth a few times, looking for the right words to reply, but Todd continues on. "I – I didn't mean to, to pressure you into anything you're not comfortable with. Anything sexual, I mean. Me being, like, horny isn't an excuse, and I worry that I – I violated your consent, or something. I wasn't thinking and, uh. I'm really sorry."

"I think you've got this whole situation backwards," Dirk says, puzzled. "I'm pretty sure that I pressured you into sex."

"How could you have – I don't think that's even possible?"

"Todd, you're so determined to think the worst of yourself that you seem to think you forced me into doing something that I initiated."

"No I'm the one that – " Todd blinks, then looks up at Dirk again, astounded. "You – you did, didn't you?"

Dirk nods.

"I… I did kind of forget that. I freaked out when I realized what was happening."

"You are very good at freaking out," Dirk reasons, and Todd scowls at him.

"Okay, but then, like – what was that? Why did you, y'know?"

"Engage in frottage?" Dirk supplies helpfully, then winces when Todd raises his eyebrows at him.

"Yeah. That."

"It seemed like you liked it!"

"That's a terrible reason to do something, Dirk. You can't just do things because I like them, if you don't."

"You come clothes shopping with me, and you hate it. And you get pizza with onions on top, even though you have to pick them off of your slices!"

"That's not the same thing," Todd protests, putting his empty mug on the coffee table with a click. "That's pizza, and shopping. That's just, like, stuff. That's not, you know. That's not sex."

"Todd," Dirk says patiently, placing his own mug on the table and lacing his fingers together. "I'm asexual. That doesn't inherently mean that I find the concept of sex repulsive. It means that – to me, at least – I care about as much about sex as you do about going shopping with me. It's not your preferred activity for an afternoon, but you come with me because you like making me happy."

"It's not just for you," Todd counters. "I like looking at you try on clothes."

"And I liked watching you feel pleasure," Dirk parries. Todd opens his mouth again, but Dirk raises one hand. "Listen, if you didn't like it, that's one thing. I'm sorry that I didn't ask first, and that wasn't okay of me. But if you're protesting because you think I should feel uncomfortable engaging with you erotically, well, that's not your decision to make, is it?"

"I… I guess not?" Todd frets it over for a few minutes, picking at his cuticles. Dirk tries to project patience and calm from the other side of the couch, but wouldn't be surprised if he were vibrating with suppressed nerves. He's grateful that they still have the sustained contact of sitting on each other's feet; it helps to feel connected while each of them is worrying.

"I guess I feel," Todd starts carefully, "concerned that you felt pressure to get me off, just because I was hard. I know that being asexual isn't a one-size-fits-all experience, but I've been really, um, really careful to not interact with you, uh, sexually without thinking about it, or like, talking about it with you first."

Dirk nods encouragingly.

Todd rubs the scruff on his cheeks, and says, "I really like all of the ways we've touched, and I like how you make me feel. I like everything we already do. But that was really, um. Really unexpected? When I imagined us ever having sex, I imagined it taking a lot of conversations and – and, uh. Negotiations? And not just coming, um, out of the blue?"

Dirk seizes on that eagerly. "You imagined us having sex?"

Todd pales and says nothing else.

"Todd, the reason I was so excited the other day is that I am delighted at the idea of bringing you pleasure. When I've imagined us having sex, I thought about how awkward it would be." Todd makes a protesting noise, but Dirk continues. "That you'd touch my body, and I wouldn't be hard, and you'd be disappointed, or I wouldn't know how to touch you in ways that made you feel good. When I realized you were turned on, I got excited that I could make you feel good without disappointing you. I'm not horrified by sex, I'm just not interested in erotic stimulation on my own body. I'm very interested in it on yours."

Todd is gaping now, like the wheels in his head are finally spinning and reaching the right answer but that he can't quite bring himself to believe it yet. "You said – you said that you'd never wanted sex. What's different about this? I mean –" he stops, his brow furrowed, scraping deeper to look for the right words. It takes him a good thirty seconds to start again, and he exerts a palpable amount of effort to maintain eye contact with Dirk. "What do you want? And, even more, what don't you want? What are your – your boundaries?"

Dirk beams. This is the conversation he wants to be having.

"I don't want you to touch my penis. I don't want you to try and penetrate my arse. Or to, er, spend any significant amount of time down there. I don't like having my nipples stimulated." He hums thoughtfully and wiggles his feet, making Todd jump a bit. "I like when you touch me, but I don't want you to ever do it with the intention of eliciting an aroused response from my body. I like kissing you. I like when you lick me and hold me and grab me." He beams. "I like licking you and holding you and grabbing you. I liked biting you. I like tasting you, and hearing you, and smelling you."

Todd's eyes are getting somewhat glazed, as if he's categorizing each of Dirk's wants in vivid technicolor.

"I liked feeling that you were hard against me. It was incredibly satisfying to know that I'd been the cause of that physical response."

Todd bites his lip, then seems to realize he's done it and flushes. Dirk is extremely pleased to note the faint color splash his cheeks and resolves to catch Todd out blushing more in the future. After this very important conversation.

"This is, uh. This is great, Dirk! I mean – shit. I mean, thank you for sharing this. This is really helpful." Todd's brain is in obvious overload this early in the morning. Dirk wonders if he should have saved this conversation for later in the day, but supposes it can't be helped now. He nods encouragingly at Todd.

"So! That's settled, then. I can touch your body and give you orgasms, and you won't freak out and blame yourself for feeling good?"

"Oh, wow. Okay. Um.” Todd blinks repeatedly. “That's moving a little fast, Dirk. Tuesday was moving a little fast."

"Oh." Dirk looks down. "I… I thought it felt good to you. Was I… did it not?"

"Oh my god, Dirk, no. It felt amazing. I – " Todd laughs nervously and rubs his hands over his face, leaning forward. "It felt incredible. I just don't know if I'm ready for that with you quite yet. It felt like a huge jump – from getting to make out, and then suddenly, uh, humping you in your bed?"

"I guess I was under the impression that Todd Brotzman of Mexican Funeral was a bit of a faster mover than that," Dirk says archly, then almost immediately regrets it when Todd's gaze snaps to his, his expression bordering on hurt. Before Dirk can walk back his words, Todd's face shutters.

"Yeah, that's the problem," he mutters.

"No, no wait – hey, I'm sorry," Dirk says rapidly, reaching forward to grab Todd's hands, to clutch them with his own. "That wasn't what I meant."

But Todd shakes his head. "I was a real slut when we were touring. I'm – I'm trying to treat you better than that." He looks away from Dirk, but holds his hands with a fierceness that belies his disconnection. "I've had sex with… with a lot of people. And I was selfish with most of them.

“So I – I hear you telling me that you like making me feel good, and you don't want me to try and get you off. I believe you, and I know that's normal and okay for you. I just… I feel uncomfortable with that dynamic, right now. Not like, forever, probably. But it makes me feel sick to think that I'd be using you to get off, and you'd just be touching me because that's what I wanted."

Dirk only manages to avoid rolling his eyes because Todd might look back up at him and think that the eye-rolling was because he was being stupid-stupid, as opposed to being lovely-stupid. So instead he says, "you're being lovely-stupid."

"I'm being what now?"

"Todd. Okay. Wait. Todd. Todd."

"Yes, Dirk. What."

"Imagine, for a moment, that I wasn't asexual. That having my penis touched caused me pleasure instead of mild anxiety and frustration. Would you want to touch it?"

"Would I want to – what? I mean, yes! God, of course I would. But you are asexual, that's the problem." He winces. "No, shit. Shit, sorry. Not problem. That's the – the – that's the situation."

"Why would you want to touch my penis, if I liked it?"

"Because you – hypothetically, in this very specific and confusing scenario – liked it."

"Not just because it might allow you to reach an orgasm of your own at some point?"

"No! I would just want to make you feel good! It's not about my dick, it's about what you'd want!"

Dirk pauses, smug.

Todd processes the words he's just said and sputters, holding up one hand. "No, no wait, that's not what I –"

"I believe the phrase here is, 'check and mate'?" Dirk smirks, but then softens his smile, grabbing Todd's hand back out of the air. "Todd. Todd. If you don't want me to touch you in ways that make you whimper and shudder, I won't. I swear. But if there's any chance that I could make you feel good, I'd like that."

"You already make me feel good," Todd assured him. "I don't want you to think that I have expectations, or that I'm in any way not okay with the way you feel about sex."

"I've never… I've never had a partner who was okay with the fact that I wasn't aroused by them. It was always fine for a few weeks, they took the kisses, and said that they didn't want to fuck me. But they always, always changed their minds." Todd wants to have some strong words with Dirk's exes. He disentangles their hands and Dirk winces, but Todd just reverses the hold and strokes Dirk's knuckles softly, listening openly. "They always eventually got upset or hurt that I wasn't hard or didn't want to fuck."

"I don't need us to have sex at all," Todd reassured him. "Not any kind."

"I know," Dirk beams. "That's what's so wonderful. But you want it, don't you?"

"Sure – but not so much that it would ever, ever be worth making you uncomfortable."

Dirk smiles even more. "Then you're already far and away a better person than any of my previous partners."

"Yeah, well, your ex-boyfriends all sound like a bunch of dicks," Todd says grimly, mentally revising the strong words to a possible physical altercation.

The two men hold hands in silence while Todd visibly turns words over in his head. He chews on a bit of dry skin on his lower lip, and taps one thoughtful finger against the back of Dirk's palm. Todd isn't the quickest, when it comes to communication. He needs time to mull things over, and decide how he actually feels. Dirk expects him to take a few days to think over the conversation, so it comes as a bit of a surprise when, ten minutes later, Todd squeezes his fingers to grab his attention, and bravely says, "okay, um. Okay."

"Okay?" Dirk asks.

"I understand what you're saying. And I think if I just say 'no' because I'm scared to hurt you that it would be, uh, like – infantilizing you? I need to trust you to know what you're comfortable with, and what you want."

Dirk beams. "Yes, yes that's exactly what I'm asking from you."

"But the ball is in your court," Todd says, and then adds, "that's a sports metaphor." Dirk sneers dramatically at him, and Todd chuckles, but meets Dirk's eyes seriously. "I don't want to push you, even by accident, so I'm following your lead."

"Well, it's a good thing that I'm a natural leader, then," Dirk says smugly.

 


 

Despite his bold words, Dirk doesn't do any leading any time quickly. At least, not in that particular sense. He certainly drags Todd around Seattle and Portland and, on one memorable occasion, Los Angeles, over the next few cases that cross their path.

"Where do you find these people?" Farah asks as their latest client leaves through the front door, pocketbook filled with several apparently priceless sets of dentures which Dirk had found sewn within a series of teddy bears, all owned by children who visited a particular playground downtown.

"He found me," Dirk protests. "He walked up to me at Starbucks last week and told me that he needed help!"

"I meant that more rhetorically," Farah says. "These cases just keep getting more and more absurd."

"Absurd is my middle name," Dirk declares, and Todd and Farah exchange a glance.

"Do you even have a middle name?" Todd asks. Dirk shrugs, unconcerned.

 


 

They burst back into the apartment after a solid twenty minutes of sprinting, chests heaving and hair drenched with sweat. "Do you think they followed us?" Todd pants, bending down and propping his hands on his knees.

"They must have," Dirk says. "We couldn't have been more obvious." He staggers to the kitchen and fills a glass with water, downs it in between gasping breaths. He fills it again and carries it back to Todd, and drops onto the arm of the couch to try and regain his composure while Todd gratefully drinks.

Todd tilts his head back and gulps, then finishes the glass with a noisy gasp and leans up against the door, chest still heaving. "How long do you think we have?" he asks. "They were still at the school when we ran past, so it'll be at least – I dunno, half an hour?"

"I'd say twenty minutes, to be safe," Dirk says. "And if they don't get here in an hour, then we have to go out again, and be even more obvious."

Todd groans at the prospect. "I can't do that again. They'd better show up."

"I'll bet you could," Dirk says confidently. He tries to stand again and his knees wobble, but he walks over to Todd anyway, leans up against his front. They're both flushed and radiating heat, and Dirk noses into Todd's sweat-dark hair, hums in deep satisfaction at the scent of him. "But I think they'll show up anyway. We were pretty obvious." He looks for a moment like he's going to say something else, but gets distracted by the pulse hammering in Todd's neck, presses his lips to it.

"Twenty minutes, hm?" Todd says, a glint in his eye. He strokes a finger under Dirk's chin then tips it up, raises Dirk's mouth to his own, kisses him deeply and warmly. They're both still breathing hard, and Todd slides his arms down Dirk's and around his back, clutches their hot bodies together. "I think we can pass twenty minutes without getting too bored." Dirk grins in return, and licks into Todd's mouth, scorching and close. He presses against Todd with even more of his weight, rises on to his tip toes enough to pin Todd to the door with his chest, and strokes his sides up and down, up and down.

Todd makes a tiny, silly noise in the back of his throat, and Dirk responds by tugging at the hem of his shirt, pulls it out of his jeans, sneaks his fingers into the gap.

"Hey," Todd laughs, trying to shiver away. "That tickles." He can't move, he's trapped by Dirk's bulk, and it feels delightfully overwhelming.

"I thought you said you weren’t ticklish,” Dirk reminds him, batting his eyelashes. “And I like doing it." He brushes his thumbs against Todd's sides, teases his fingernails against the smooth skin of his hips, and Todd shivers again. Dirk slips his fingers a bit further, tucks them down against Todd's hip bones, and Todd actually giggles, squirms in place.

"Stop," he laughs, and Dirk doesn't, but he does firm his touch, takes it from a too-gentle stroke to a deep press, and suddenly Todd’s laughter catches in his throat, and he says, "oh."

"Oh, what?" Dirk says. He digs his thumbs in deeper, and Todd whines, high and tight in the back of his throat.

"Dirk," Todd says plaintively, but he doesn't know what he's hoping for. His breath seems to have transitioned smoothly from the panting of their dash to the deep, shuddering breaths of arousal, and he knows that Dirk can see it in his expression, can smell it on his skin.

Dirk takes a moment to crane his head around and look at the clock by the window – gift from a client, neither of them owned a clock previously – before turning back to Todd, a mischievous shine to his eyes. "We have fifteen minutes," he says. "At a minimum. That seems like a generous amount of time, hm?"

"For what?" Todd asks. Or, starts to ask, because as soon as he opens his mouth, Dirk slides to his knees. "Ohgod," Todd says instead, eyes incredibly wide.

"You just, you just smell amazing," Dirk says, dragging his fingers to the button of Todd's jeans. "Do you know the chemical composition of sweat?"

"No?" Todd says, still leaning up against the front door, almost afraid to move. He's not hard, not yet, but his heart is pounding and Dirk is – Dirk is on his knees in front of him. Oh fuck. "Is that a trick question?"

"Probably," Dirk admits, and then he says, "ah-ha!" when he manages to flick open the button and slide down Todd's fly in one quick motion. He doesn't linger on it, doesn't give it any ceremony, and shimmies Todd's jeans down to his thighs with just as much speed and enthusiasm.

Todd says nothing, not sure where this is going, but beginning to clue in. Or at least, to hope.

It had been several weeks since their conversation on the couch, and Dirk hadn't pressed anything further with Todd. It was almost a relief, to be honest – Todd had spent so much time constructing a particular picture of what their relationship would look like, that having it flipped on its head in a matter of days was a little overwhelming. He was a slow processor, and Dirk loved him despite it (maybe even because of it?), but he had a small worry that Dirk would immediately, well –

Do what he's doing right now.

But it's been weeks now – weeks of sleeping in the same bed as Dirk, and kissing him passionately, and allowing himself to slowly, carefully start fantasizing about Dirk again. He's jerked off in the shower almost every morning, clearly able to picture the delighted smirk on Dirk's face as he thrust against Todd, bringing him to a startlingly sharp orgasm. He has no expectations that Dirk is going to follow up on that, as they'd discussed, but he certainly does think about it. And now…

Well now, Dirk leans in and presses his face into the hollow of Todd's hip, inhales deeply, and makes a satisfied noise in the back of his throat. "Todd," he says, and looks up at him through his eyelashes. It's hardly the most erotic thing that's happened in the last five minutes, but it sparks something in Todd, deep in his stomach, and it takes a palpable effort to keep his knees locked, to not slide to the floor next to Dirk. He's certainly well on his way to hard now, and he tries to bring himself back to the current moment.

"Uh-huh?" he manages.

"I know we're short on time, but would you mind terribly if I were to suck you off?"

Todd's lips part and he realizes that he's breathing loudly, that it's drowning out the thumping of his heart, and he closes his mouth and swallows with some difficulty. "Uh," he says. "No?"

"Oh, wonderful," Dirk says, and then Todd's boxers are around his thighs as well, and the air of the apartment feels cool on the flushed skin of his dick. Dirk's expression is cautious but pleased, and a little bit curious. He leans forward and swipes the flat of his tongue over the head, and Todd makes a choked noise that he knows he has no hope of stifling. "Fuck," he gasps, and Dirk pulls back, beams up at him.

"That's the idea," he says pleasantly. He runs gentle fingers over the soft skin, brushes the pad of his thumb over the faint circumcision scar, and then wraps his fingers firmly around the base of Todd's dick. He looks up once more and says, "I do wish we had more time; I don't want to get in the habit of rushing this, but –" he shrugs, almost rueful in his movement, and then smoothly slides his lips over the head and down the shaft, all the way to where his long fingers are curled.

Todd makes a sound that he can't even identify, wouldn't be able to pick out in a line-up, and he throws his head back to thump against the door before immediately pulling it back to look down and watch what's happening. Dirk's mouth is so hot, it's searing, and he's enveloped Todd in tight, wet sensation. It's incredible, and not just because it's been almost two years since the last time he's gotten his dick sucked. It feels like his skin is tingling, like it's too tight for his body, and he chokes out "fuck" again. Dirk gives him one long moment to acclimatize to the heat and the suction, and then he pulls off just long enough to lick his lips, gets them shiny and wet, before sliding them back down Todd's dick, and then off again. "Fuck," Todd says, once more.

"Yes, we've established that," Dirk says, and Todd snorts out a laugh that's immediately twisted into a grunt when Dirk swallows him once more, and now he's finished with his exploration and sets to moving in earnest, to bobbing his head with enthusiasm and an unexpected amount of skill, never once letting up the smooth motion of his fucking mouth on Todd's fucking dick, and holy shit, this is actually happening.

He doesn't realize that last part had been out loud until Dirk hums, "mmhm," and the vibration melts through Todd's skin and bones and he can feel it deep in his gut, where a knife-sharp pressure is already building.

"Oh," he gasps, and his hands are drawn like magnets towards Dirk, towards his sweat-damp hair, now sticking to his forehead and temples. He brushes away the fringe, makes sure it's out of Dirk's eyes, and feels the twitching desire in his fingers to bury themselves deep in Dirk's hair, to stroke and grab and pull, but fuck, fuck, they haven't talked about that. He has no idea if Dirk would want that, so he pulls his hands back, slams them against the door by his thighs, presses his fingers uselessly against the painted wood.

Dirk sees, Dirk knows, and he bafflingly manages to convey fond appreciation with his eyebrows while he's sucking Todd off, and it's somehow incongruous and so perfectly Dirk that Todd can hardly stand it. "Dirk," he whispers, tongue thick in his mouth, and everything is intense and incredible and overwhelming. Dirk is still flushed, and his eyes are blue and locked with Todd's, and his lips are shiny with spit where they're stretched around Todd's dick. His right hand encircles the base, squeezing gently, and his left hand is twisted in the soft cotton of Todd's boxers, absently petting his thigh. But now he slowly, firmly, drags his hand up Todd’s hip and side, slides it into the sparse hairs between his naval and his pubic bone. It doesn't seem to be conscious or with any specific aim, but his hand is firm against Todd's lower stomach, and it feels grounding and solid.

He pulls off just long enough to lick his right palm, to leave a sloppy trail of spit across his fingers, and then that hand is moving on Todd's dick as well, and it's so much, it's just so much.

Now Todd can feel Dirk's palm against his abs, the pressure familiar and comforting, and his mouth and fingers slick and tight around his dick, and suddenly this wildly overwhelming experience has merged with the familiar touch and comfort that he is so used to, and everything is heightened and good and right and Todd's thighs are trembling and his knees are locked and he's panting and sobbing and saying "oh, oh, oh," as Dirk swiftly brings him to higher and higher peaks.

"That's it," Dirk says, pulling off once more, letting his fingers glide and squeeze and pull. "That's it Todd. I know you're close." He dives back in, and Todd moans, his stomach tense against Dirk's left hand.

"I am," he babbles. "I'm close, fuck Dirk, fuck, I'm so close, oh god, oh shit, fuck, fuck."

It's another minute, two at most, before he's not even capable of babbling, and he's just making hoarse noises, using all of his willpower to stop himself from thrusting into Dirk's mouth, and he can feel Dirk's tongue against the most sensitive spot under the head of his dick, and he can feel both of Dirk's hands, one driving him wild and the other grounding him, and then he's coming, he's coming deep into Dirk's mouth, grunting like it's being torn from him, and Dirk is humming with encouragement, swallows around his dick, wrings shivers of pleasures from his body over long, drawn out seconds.

"Fuck," Todd wheezes when he's able to suck in a breath again. Dirk responds by letting Todd's softening dick slip from his mouth; he's licked it clean, swallowed his come, beams up at Todd with nothing but delight in his gaze.

"Perfect," he declares. "That was perfect." He busily tucks Todd away, pulls up his boxers and jeans, and rises to his feet while Todd is still panting and leaning up against the door. He leans in for a kiss, and then pauses, his eyebrows scrunching together for the first time since they'd come home. "Er. I should, um. Mouthwash?"

"What?" Todd blinks stupidly for a moment, and then realizes Dirk's concern, shakes his head vehemently. "No!" he says. "Or, I mean. Only if you want to." He pushes himself to standing, a bit shaky, and presses his lips firmly to Dirk's with no hesitation. Dirk makes a pleased noise, and Todd pushes a bit further, slips his tongue into Dirk's welcoming mouth, can taste himself. "Wow," he says, after a moment, presses one last kiss to the crease by Dirk's lips.

"That was rather fun," Dirk says, then looks to the window and says, "ah!"

"Ah?"

"They're coming!"

"Ah!"

 


 

On a cold Thursday, Dirk declares that he absolutely must pet some goats. "I have a hunch," he insists to a skeptical Farah and Todd. "Something about petting goats is necessary to this case." Given that the case currently only involves some miffed string theorists, the missing president of the Seattle Plumbers & Pipefitters union, and a series of seemingly unconnected small coffee shop fires, Dirk's insistence on the goats seems unlikely.

"I'm out," Farah says immediately. "I don't do farms. Todd will go with you."

"What?" Todd spins around, hands raised defensively. "No, wait. I don't do farms either."

"Well, he can't go on his own, so you have to go with him." Farah raises one cool eyebrow.

"Why me? Like, why are you automatically the one that gets to say 'not it'?"

"He listens better to you," Farah says. "You can keep an eye on him."

"Um, 'him' is standing right here," Dirk says, arms crossed. "I most certainly can go on my own. I don't need supervision to pet goats."

"Fuck," Todd says. "I do need to go, don't I."

Todd does some googling – "do they need to be specific goats?" "no, any goats will do." – and they end up at a petting farm almost two hours outside of the city. The afternoon tour group is Dirk and Todd, a gaggle of elementary schoolers and their teachers, and one au pair-and-toddler combo. Dirk bounces along with the group, chatting with the students and concerning their teachers, while Todd lags behind with one of the field-trip parent volunteers, both especially Not Here for This Shit.

"Which one is yours?" asks the conscripted mother. She's been sneaking fun-sized Snickers from her pocket while the children (and Dirk) are engaged with the chickens. Dirk is crouched next to a small girl with pigtail puffs, and is allowing himself to be goaded into trying to pick up a particularly resistant hen.

"The one in the jacket," Todd says.

"The one in the – oh." She winces and offers one of the Snickers to Todd. He takes it gratefully.

Dirk manages to create some kind of trouble with the pigs, gets bowled over by a mild pony, and even ends up chasing after one of the alpacas, shouting, "I'll get it, don't worry! I've almost – oof! Almost got it!" By the time they make it to the goats, Todd has passed annoyed, zoomed by surly, and has clipped pissed off on his way to resigned acceptance. There's a spot to lean against the fence, and he stays well away from the crowd of goats hoping for pellets and just watches Dirk.

Despite his chaotic journey through the rest of the farm, visiting the goats inspires something resembling quietude in Dirk. He seats himself on an overturned milk crate and doles out his fistful of pellets a bit more slowly than the children, so he still has some left over by the time the goats have lipped clean all of the tinier hands. He ends up in the center of about eight of them, gently chiding the nudgier ones, and makes sure that all of them get an equal number of treats. By the time his are gone, he's made fast friends with a few of the goats, and they gently butt at his arms and chest for attention.

Todd laughs when one of them tries to nibble Dirk's hair – his squawk is audible from across the enclosure – and then his expression softens to one of fond amusement as Dirk scratches under their chins, rubs their ears, and largely makes himself indispensable to the affectionate creatures. The elementary school students crowd around the goat-circle area, pet the goats' flanks and backs, but their attention is on the lanky man staring deep into their demonic eyes.

After a few more minutes, the group leader calls the students back together, but says to Todd out of the side of his mouth, "you and your friend can stay here a little longer, if you want. The next station is just arts and crafts, and Luis is in the barn if you need anything."

"Thank you," Todd says, surprised. He'd expected more supervision, not less, after the alpacas, but he isn't stupid enough to question it.

With the students and the teachers and the toddler and the au pair all gone (Todd's mom-friend gives him one last piece of candy and a sympathetic pat on the arm), it's just Todd and Dirk and the goats.

Todd… really isn't sure why they're here. The whole drive over, Dirk had theorized a connection between the string theorists and the particular way that goat pupils absorb light, and how their ability to eat any kind of trash meant that that plumbers would need their cooperation during some kind of… intra-union negotiation? (Todd still isn't clear on how the coffee shops fit into all of this, but he's resigned to finding out eventually.) But finally here, Dirk looks absurdly happy. Todd finds it surprisingly sweet, even if the air smells and his sneakers are gross and the toddler wiped her sticky fingers on his jeans twice. Dirk is practically snuggling a few of them, and he pops his head up to beam in Todd's direction after about a quarter hour.

"Come pet them," he exclaims. "They love it!"

"No," Todd says.

"Okay, but. Hear me out."

"Mm?"

"What if you did pet them."

"Nope." Todd shrugs, leaning even more firmly against the fence. "Not happening."

Dirk grumbles indignantly until one of the goats nudges his shoulder, eager to take back his attention, and he busily switches back to scratching and petting and squeezing the affectionate ungulates. He giggles when one of them shoves her head under his armpit, and coos at them in a high-pitched voice and tells them how good and sweet and brilliant and excellent they are, all the way until the next tour group shows up at the enclosure. The goats break off from their new best friend to greet the next batch of sticky humans with fists full of tasty pellets, and Dirk pushes himself to standing and brushes off his trousers and jacket as he walks back over to Todd.

"I love goats," Dirk says. "I didn't know that before today, but now I want one. I want twelve."

"No," Todd says, stretching his shoulders out and opening the gate for both of them. He waves a grateful goodbye to the staff member and walks towards the gravel parking lot, Dirk trailing behind him like a particularly ungainly duckling.

"But we have an extra room in the apartment now," Dirk says reasonably. "And they make mini goats. I'll bet we have room for a mini goat."

"No," Todd says again, and several more times on the drive back home.

When they get back to the apartment, quite a while later (Dirk exclaims "oh. Oh!" almost as soon as they enter the city, and drags Todd to a halal butcher shop, where they bargain for a quantity of goat meat that Todd is, frankly, shocked that Dirk is willing to look at, let alone eat), Todd claims the first shower. By the time he's out, Dirk has already packed the goat meat into the freezer, placed the order for delivery, and he vanishes into the bathroom for a shower that takes him all the way up until the food is delivered.

"Thank you," Dirk says, after they've devoured two dishes (pad thai and drunken noodles) and are slowly picking their way into the rest (green curry and pad see ew), which will be their lunch the next day.

(What? They have a routine.)

"Hm?" Todd asks, wiping some curry sauce out of his beard.

"For, y'know. For today. I know that you didn't really want to come with me." Dirk slurps a noodle and reaches for his mug of tea to wash it down, and frowns upon finding it empty.

"It wasn't a problem," Todd says, taking Dirk's mug away from him and standing to click on the electric kettle, to pull out a fresh tea bag. "Like, it wasn't my favorite thing to do, but you looked really happy with the, uh, with the goats."

"We had a connection," Dirk declares. "An instantaneous bond, undeniable by anyone present."

"Uh-huh. And that had nothing to do with the carrots you shoved in your pockets before we left." Todd leans casually against the counter, waiting for the water to boil, and raises an amused eyebrow at Dirk's forays into an innocent expression.

"That had nothing to do with it! Those carrots were just, er, just social lubricant!"

Todd snorts and pours hot water into Dirk's mug, carries it back to the table where the spoon and honey jar sit. It's an incongruous setting – grease stained takeout bags next to local honey and fancy tea – but it's dinner every Thursday night, and it works for them. Dirk accepts the mug with thanks, and then they're sitting across from each other again, feet tangled under the table.

"Seriously, though," Todd says, picking bits of broccoli out of the takeout dish and nibbling them thoughtfully. "Today didn't suck."

"High praise," Dirk teases.

"No, I mean. I like hanging out with you when you're happy. I like when I get to make you happy."

"You always make me happy," Dirk says, and the crinkles next to his eyes are so fixed and so fond that Todd can't help but to believe him.

 


 

Dirk wakes Todd up one morning with small, sharp kisses against the side of his neck.

"Wha-?" Todd says muzzily, and then sighs in sleepy pleasure when Dirk slides a hand up his bare chest, strokes a gentle finger against one of his nipples.

"Good morning," Dirk says quietly, and pulls his face up to lick Todd's ear, tastes the spot where he used to have an earring, two whole lives ago. And then he says, "no, no, don't move," when Todd tries to twist around to face him. "Stay like this."

Todd's forehead wrinkles for a moment, like he's trying to decide if he's going to listen to Dirk or not, but Dirk brushes against his nipple again, licks his neck, and he melts back into the pillow with a sleep-hoarse "oh."

He's not fully asleep, but he's not really awake either, and the unconscious movement of his hips mirrors the rhythm of Dirk's fingers. Dirk is spooned up behind him, chin hooked over his shoulder and lush thighs pressed against his ass, and he has one arm tucked under Todd's neck, just below the pillow. They usually sleep apart but touching, and whichever of them wakes up first takes the opportunity to curl around his lover.

Dirk plays him like an instrument, pulls forth unselfconscious groans with each hot bruise sucked into his neck, each brush and pinch against his chest. They've ventured into heavy petting a few times in the months since the case with the plumbers, and Dirk has discovered that Todd is marvelously responsive when Dirk pulls his nipples to hard nubs, licks or scratches or bites them. This is softer – it doesn't yank him from his dozy haze – and swaps out the electric bolts of arousal for a slow swell, though no less intense in its gentleness. Dirk is careful to keep his motions slow, careful, and relentless, and soon Todd is whining and writhing against Dirk in a manner that he never would allow himself when fully present.

"Am I dreaming?" Todd mumbles, voice unexpectedly high, when Dirk slips his hand under his boxers and gently strokes his dick, coaxes it from half-hard to straining at the fabric.

"Yes, darling," Dirk murmurs, and bites another red spot into the juncture between his shoulder and his neck.

"Okay," Todd says, and then "oh, oh god," as Dirk tightens his hand, begins to stroke in earnest. He twitches and gasps for a few moments, and then he heaves in a deep, shaky breath when Dirk pulls his hand back out of his boxers, holds it up to Todd's face.

"Lick, darling," Dirk says, and Todd allows his mouth to fall open, laves his tongue across Dirk's palm, his fingers, frantic in a way that he won't be able to explain later. He gets Dirk's hand sloppy and wet, then pauses and draws his eyebrows together, and seems to come to a decision. He cranes his neck forward a smidge, captures Dirk's middle and ring fingers between his lips, and then he's sucking them into his hot mouth, a reedy moan mumbled around them as he hollows his cheeks.

"Oh," Dirk says, wonder and delight coloring his voice. It's an unexpected sensation, but the wet suction twists something in his chest, inspires him to nip and bite at Todd's neck with more vigor, more pressure. Todd squeaks, and then he's whimpering and writhing and sucking, and uses his tongue like he wants to know Dirk's fingers in every possible way. "Todd," Dirk says, nosing at his ear. "Do you like my fingers in your –"

"Uh-huh," Todd says, sounding wrecked, sounding like he has a mouthful of long, elegant fingers stroking his tongue. His body is still sleep-lax and warm, but he's trembling with need. Dirk slides them deep enough to make Todd gurgle, then pauses, unsure if he’s gone too far, but Todd begs, "more."

Dirk experiments with thrusting his fingers further, then drawing them out, and the experience feels startlingly intimate in its penetration. He does it again and Todd moans, low and helpless. Dirk tucks his thumb under Todd's chin, and fucks his mouth in earnest.

Todd's mouth is tight and sloppily wet and he's so deep that he can feel Todd swallow. "Oh," Dirk says softly, and laves Todd's neck as hot and wet as he can.

Dirk allows this to continue until Todd is sobbing an unrelenting "uh, uh, uh," deep in his throat, where Dirk can feel it, and then he regretfully draws his fingers out, nips Todd's shoulder in gentle reproach when he strains to follow, babbling, "no, please, please."

"Hush," Dirk said, trailing warm, wet fingers down Todd's bare chest. "I have you. I have you." He slips his hand back into Todd's boxers and finds him still hard, leaking a sticky spot into the fabric, and doesn't hesitate to wrap his slick hand around the shaft. Todd makes a broken sound, and Dirk bites him, satisfied, then proceeds to stroke him mercilessly.

Todd is panting hoarsely and tears are painting his cheeks, dripping damp and salty where Dirk is busily making sure Todd will have to wear a scarf for the next week. The sensation rises and rises, and Todd can hardly contain it, feels like he's filling up with it, feels like it will leak from under his skin. "Please," he babbles. "I don't – I – I – oh, please." Dirk shifts to awkwardly bend his left elbow, and manages to pinch Todd's nipples uncoordinatedly while he's pulling him off, and then Todd is there, sobbing his release while thrusting messily into Dirk's grip.

"Yes," Dirk murmurs, stroking him through it, "yes, that's it."

"Dirk," Todd pants. "Dirk." He's come and come, and Dirk slips his sticky hand back out from his boxers, gropes for a nearby towel, but Todd is still trembling, still leaking tears. "Dirk," he says again.

"Shh," Dirk says. "I've got you. Come here."

Todd tumbles around, doesn't even grimace at the mess coating his dick and thighs, and grabs onto Dirk with both arms, presses his damp face against Dirk's shoulder, shivers close enough that Dirk can feel his heartbeats, tangles their legs together. Dirk… Dirk isn't actually sure that Todd is fully awake, even after all of that, and he strokes Todd's back, combs fingers through his messy hair, presses kisses to the top of his head.

Soon enough, Todd's trembling subsides, though Dirk can still feel the hitching breaths catch in his throat. And then even those calm, and Todd is lax in sleep again. Dirk beams fondly down at him, rests his lips in his hair, and waits for the alarm to come, to start their day.

 


 

The next case takes them to Colorado, where they're sitting in on classes with the University of Denver Department of Anthropology in between stopping at every bakery that Dirk feels pulled towards (which is most of them). They've been there for a week and a half when Farah suggests taking a hike.

"There aren't any classes tomorrow, we've hit up all of the regular bakeries, and the vegan ones are all closed tomorrow." Farah pauses and looks puzzled. "Actually, why are all of the vegan bakeries closed on a Friday? That seems suspicious. Is that suspicious? Should we be concerned?"

"Hike," Todd reminds her.

"Right," Farah says. "It's just, we are in an entirely different biome from Seattle. I can't pass up the opportunity to check out some of the highest-rated trails in the southwest. And I think that you guys should come with me!"

"Yes!" says Dirk, peering up from his dill pickle donut.

"What? No," says Todd, looking at Dirk. Farah and Dirk both stare at him.

"Uh, Todd, I love hiking," Dirk says. "Why wouldn't we go with Farah?"

"No, you like walking. Farah hikes hard core, and you don't even have boots," Todd says reasonably. "You don't even have sneakers."

"I can hike in these shoes," Dirk protests. "I've run away from people in them plenty of times."

"Remember that time with the mimes?" Farah volunteers, picking in the pastry box to see if there are any normal-flavored donuts left (there aren't). "And then with the guys with spears?" Dirk and Todd both wince. "See? He'll be fine."

Todd takes the box away from Farah, pulls out a raspberry habanero donut, and takes a cautious nibble. "I'm just saying," he says, once he's gone through a series of horrified facial expressions, and then swallows. "I don't know if Dirk is up to your level of hiking, Farah."

"Oh, and you are?" Dirk asks snidely, and Todd immediately snorts.

"Hell no, I'm not. I just figured that was obvious."

"You're both coming with me," Farah says. And that's that.

 


 

"You should have stopped me," Dirk says snippily. Or, as snippily as he can manage; he's soaked with sweat, covered in grime, and he's limping a bit. He follows Todd into their hotel room and tries to slam the door behind them, but the swing slows as soon as it leaves his hand, and the door shuts with a gentle click.

"You're right, Dirk," Todd says, rolling his eyes. "I should have told you that you weren't cut out for hiking." He kicks off his sneakers and sits on the edge of the bed, pulls out his phone,

"That's all that I want, Todd. Just a little bit of support from my boyfriend." Dirk curls a finger under the knot of his tie and tugs it out, then pulls the tail all the way through his collar and steps over to Todd to drape it around his neck. "Hold this," he says tetchily. Todd nods, a smirk tucked into the corner of his mouth, and looks up from his phone to watch Dirk unbuttons his shirt. He drops that on Todd as well, and lifts first one foot and then the other to untie the laces and pull the shoes off.

"You wanna sit down while doing that?" Todd tries, when Dirk begins the whole foot-lifting process, but Dirk hisses at him, so Todd quickly shuts his mouth, just watches in bemused silence as the shoes come off and are tossed under the desk.

It's not that the hike had actually been that bad. Farah, conscious of the boys' physical limitations, had picked a trail of fairly low difficulty. It was warmer than the forecast had, er, forecasted, but Todd, a not unintelligent man, had run down to the lobby and stepped outside before coming back up to their room and picking shorts and a tee-shirt. Dirk, however, had insisted that he needed to be wearing trousers and a jacket. ("What if we run into a prospective client, Todd? I need to look like a professional!") Once they were on the trail, he'd become blotchy and clearly overheated, and yet stubbornly refused to take the jacket off and shove it into Todd's backpack until Farah said that she was worried about heat exhaustion. ("He's actually fine, I just can't stand to watch him be this miserable for a single second longer.") He'd also run squarely into a tree, slid down a bit of the trail on his backside, and twisted his ankle stepping from the end of the trail back onto the parking lot. Even their lunch break hadn't been kind to Dirk – he'd sat on a particularly pointy rock and jumped up with a shriek, then refused to sit down for the duration of their rest. ("I'm not hurt, I just don't feel like sitting down any more.")

Dirk loops his belt around Todd's neck with a bit more force than seems strictly warranted, and gets tangled in his undershirt when he tries to pull it off. Once he manages it, he drops the undershirt in Todd's hands and turns his back on him. His shoulder is a bit scraped up, and as he slides his trousers and briefs down in one smooth motion, Todd can see a red spot on the bottom of his ass that looks like it wasn't very comfortable to sit on during the drive home. Todd's sympathy grows, and so does his amusement.

"Poor detective," he says, audibly stifling laughter, and Dirk shoots a glare over his shoulder. He throws his trousers and underwear at Todd to join the rest of his clothes and marches to the en suite.

"I'm taking a shower," Dirk says primly, now completely naked, and stomps into the bathroom. Todd can hear the tap squeak and the water start running, and he waits a full ten seconds before Dirk pokes his head back into the bedroom, a scowl still pinching his lips. "Coming?"

He's already in the shower by the time Todd undresses and joins him, and he doesn't leave much room for Todd to step in behind him, busy shampooing his hair. Todd carefully pulls the shower curtain closed and leans forward just long enough to grab the bottle of shampoo, before pulling back again. He's cramped into one corner of the shower, and he gently nudges Dirk's ribs with his knuckles.

"Come on," Todd says, stroking Dirk's wet skin. "Just lemme get wet. Then you can have all of the water back." Dirk sniffs and pretends to ignore him, but he moves forward anyway and Todd gratefully steps into the water. He gets his whole body wet as quickly as possible then steps back again, as promised, and starts scrubbing at his hair.

They shower in silence for a few minutes, aside from splashing and scrubbing sounds, but when Dirk reaches his hand past Todd to grab the soap, Todd instead snatches it and the washcloth, and lathers up the washcloth. "Let me," he murmurs, and wraps two fingers around Dirk's wrist, tugs him out of the spray. Dirk lets himself be pulled, and Todd starts to wash Dirk's body.

He scrubs Dirk's chest and shoulders, cleans the fine, soft hairs on his stomach, picks up first one elbow and then the other to wash his arms, his hands, in between his fingers. He patiently scrubs at Dirk's fingernails, washing the embedded dirt beneath, and lathers up the swirl of hair in his armpits.

By now, Dirk's eyebrows have softened from their frown, and his lips, while not quite smiling, have lost their moue.

Todd swishes the soap bar across the washcloth again, then spins Dirk around to scrub at his shoulder blades, his back, replaces the grime and sweat with clean foam. He kneels to wash each of Dirk's legs and his ass, then gently turns him again to wash his dick and thighs. He's gentle and practical, and Dirk doesn't tense up or pull away. Todd can't ask for anything more than that.

"Put your hands on my shoulders," Todd says, voice still soft, and when Dirk does so, picks up each of his feet to wash them, scrubbing firmly enough to avoid being ticklish.

When he's finished, when Dirk is clean and smells of soap, Todd stands back up and ducks forward to press a chaste kiss to Dirk's lips, now soft and tender, then rinses out the washcloth. He lathers it up again and turns away to scrub his chest, when Dirk snaps "excuse me."

Todd grimaces, turning back to see what he'd missed, and Dirk snatches the washcloth from his hands. "It's my turn," he says, and he's not frowning at all. He's got a mischievous glint to his eyes and his lips are only pressed together to hide a pleased look.

"It is," Todd says, and now they're both smiling.

Dirk washes Todd's body with the same firm touch, cleaning the sweat from his shoulders, his chest, his sides. He scrubs Todd's back and presses a wet, sharp kiss to the nape of his neck, the crook of his shoulder, each of his collarbones. The grime comes off his waist and thighs and feet, and Todd looks down at Dirk kneeling in front of him and feels remarkably tender and powerful, all at once.

He's half hard – it would be impossible for him not to be – and Dirk doesn't shy away from scrubbing every inch of him clean, even when it pulls a hitch from Todd's throat, or a soft "oh".

They towel each other dry, and then they're kneeling on the bed together, hair damp and curling, hands mapping soft skin and warm muscles. Dirk presses a kiss to one spot on Todd's jaw again and again, brushing his lips against the rough bit of stubble.

"I'm sorry today was so rotten," Todd says, and kneads his fingers into Dirk's shoulders, coaxing forth a whimper when he hits a particularly tight bit of muscle.

"It wasn't all rotten," Dirk admits, then hisses in pain when Todd digs two fingers into it. "I didn't like feeling foolish, is all."

"I know." Todd works at the knot for a few minutes, Dirk gasping and whimpering into Todd's ear, fingers dug into his waist, until Dirk finally moans "uh," and the tension melts out of his shoulders. Todd doesn't let him go, though; he digs out another tense spot under his shoulder blade and a bit of crunch near the spine, and Dirk is draped against his chest, mouthing helplessly at his ear, and he's just sighing in pleasure.

"Thank you," Dirk says, deeply content, as Todd moves from massage into gentle petting, stroking callused fingers down Dirk's back and ass, up his hips and sides. They linger there for long minutes, petting and sighing, until Dirk digs his fingers into Todd's waist for leverage and pushes himself up again. "You're a marvel," he informs Todd, and shuffles forward enough to feel that Todd is entirely hard, pressing against Dirk's hip.

Todd flushes, and Dirk raises one pleased eyebrow. "You just, you just sounded really, um. Really hot," Todd says, and bites his lip. Dirk grins to see it, and looks smug.

"Well, I am pretty hot," he says, "and you elicit such sounds from me, I can hardly blame you for being so affected." Dirk trails his hand up Todd's back, into his hair, and gives it an experimental tug.

When Todd sighs out a moan, Dirk does it again, and pulls far enough away to slip a hand in between their bodies, strokes Todd's erection with gentle, exploring fingers. Todd's breath catches in his throat and he tilts his head back, exposing the long line of his throat to Dirk's lips and tongue. Dirk is still relaxed and warm, and he's lazy and sweet with his fingers and mouth, strokes and licks and pulls in gentle, coaxing motions. Todd is suspended between Dirk's hands, tugging his hair and petting his dick without any specific goal.

"You're so beautiful," Dirk murmurs, and Todd is too relaxed and aroused to look ashamed at the compliment (Dirk resolves to try this method of getting him to accept a compliment with more regularity). He's not panting or writhing, no overwhelmed state of excitement – he's a beautiful combination of lax and taut, soft whimpers and relaxed sighs, and he's stunning in the late afternoon light.

Dirk holds Todd here, long fingers playing him gently, until the strain of leaning over Todd’s body becomes a bit much for Dirk's thighs. "How can I make you feel good," he asks, and Todd's eyes flutter open, and he gazes up at Dirk with heady adoration.

"Come here," he says firmly, and wraps his fingers around Dirk's wrists, tugs them both towards his chest, and rests them there, holds Dirk's hands firmly to his warm skin. He leans forward, tilts his chin up, and then they're mouthing messily at each other, not frantic, but lazy.

"What do you want," Dirk asks into Todd's mouth, sucks Todd's lower lip between his teeth, swallows the groan that results. "My hands? My mouth?"

"No," Todd says, squeezing Dirk's hands with a shiver. "Just this."

Dirk laughs and rubs his nose into Todd's scruff. "This isn't going to get you off," he says, digging his fingers into Todd's pecs and enjoying the way his pulse jumps. "I mean, how do you want to come?"

"I don't," Todd explains, pulling back a bit. Dirk whines at the loss, tries to follow him, but Todd nudges him far enough that they can make eye contact. "I don't need to come. I don't – I don't want to right now. I just want this."

"I don't understand." Dirk shakes his head a bit. "You're hard, and I want to make you feel good. You know I don't mind. I mean – you know I like it." He tries to move one of his hands a bit, to graze Todd's nipple, make him squirm, but Todd tightens his grasp and holds him still.

"I know," Todd says, and he's still smiling lightly. "And I'm grateful, and I love when you touch me and get me off. But like, that's not where I am right now. I just like being here, kissing you. I don't want to get all ramped up and squirmy. We're both tired, and we have a few hours until dinner, and I like what we're doing."

There's a long pause, and Dirk squints at Todd, visibly processing. Eventually, though, he says "…why?"

Instead of answering, Todd asks him, "remember, when we first started dating, and you told me that you were asexual? But before the whole, uh, 'sex with your leg' thing?" Dirk huffs out a soft laugh, and nods. "I liked that," Todd says. "I wasn't, like, wishing we were fucking. I liked making out with you, and kissing for ages, even if you made me horny. I like that now. That's what happens a lot of the times we hook up, I'm just usually not naked, so maybe you didn't know how turned on I was."

Dirk hadn't known.

"I don't want you to feel neglected, though," Dirk explains, and Todd darts forward to kiss him quickly before leaning back again.

"I don't," he promises. "And if it ever happened that I was, like, unbearably horny and you didn't want to touch me, I'd take a quick shower and take care of it, and then come back to you." Dirk privately thinks that he wouldn't mind if Todd 'took care of it' in the same room, even, but now hardly seems like the right time to make that point. "But right now," Todd continues, "I just want to kiss you. I just want this." He reaches forward to tug Dirk towards him again, and then pulls him further, slowly lays them both down on the cool, crisp sheets, legs tangled. He's still hard, Dirk can feel the smooth heat sliding against his abdomen, but both of his hands are on Dirk's arms, his back, and he's mouthing focused kisses down the side of Dirk's neck.

They're both on their sides. Dirk strokes his free hand down Todd's side and thigh and pulls Todd's knee up onto his hip, squirms a little bit closer. They're pressed together from chest to groin, and Dirk is so happy that his ribs feel tight, that his lungs have trouble pulling in enough air. It's overwhelming, how happy he feels. "This is real," he murmurs, and he can feel Todd laugh against the juncture of his neck and his shoulder.

"This is real," Todd agrees.

 


 

Later – much later, weeks later – it's movie night, and the couch is full. Dirk is sitting in the middle, cross-legged and clutching Mona, who is currently a large stuffed wombat. Todd and Farah are on either side of him, feet tucked under his thighs, and they're ignoring the new Ghostbusters movie in favor of arguing about ghosts.

"I refuse to accept it," Farah says, gesturing animatedly. "Holistic powers are one thing, but the actual spirit of a human being, lingering on earth after they've died? With some connection to the intelligence or will of the deceased? Simply unacceptable."

"You've met aliens," Dirk tries. "You've met people from three – three! – different dimensions, over the last year and a half. You've even met a bloody werewolf. Why are ghosts where you draw the line?" He's compulsively stroking Mona's fur, plucking at her rounded ears, and he looks somewhere between delighted and mildly (though genuinely) distressed at Farah's refusal to accept logic.

"It just feels different. Like, the other beings are entities in their own right. Ghosts would imply something about the way that we as humans interact with our current universe that just doesn't match what I know. That would imply that I, an entirely human, non-powered individual, could at some point become a ghost." Farah shakes her head. "I just don't buy it."

"Have you ever seen a ghost?" Todd asks Dirk. Dirk shakes his head. "Then why do you believe in them?"

"I've never seen a uterus, but I believe that they exist," Dirk says triumphantly, like he's won.

"Why did you say that?" Todd wonders, scrubbing his hands over his face. "Why was that your example? That was so weird of you."

"We – I – science knows that uteruses exist, Dirk," Farah sputters, throwing her hands up. "I have one! I literally have one! Of course they exist!"

"So maybe ghosts exist, I'm just saying." He jabs a finger towards the screen, where Kate McKinnon is busy making sapphics worldwide recommit to their sexual orientation. "Humans have thousands upon thousands of stories about ghosts. They've got to be based on something."

"I'll believe it when I see it," Farah says, crossing her arms.

Dirk whips around to look at Todd, who shrugs guiltily. "I'm not ruling it out, man," he says weakly. "I'm just – I'm with Farah. It seems a step too far."

"I'll find you ghosts," Dirk mutters. "I'll find you both ghosts. Hell, I'll find me ghosts."

"You don't need to do that any time soon," Todd says hastily. On screen, a swarm of spirits are destroying Manhattan. "Like, this can be an 'eventually' kind of goal. And, maybe not in our apartment?"

"You wouldn't say that if you didn't believe, to some extent, that ghosts could exist," Dirk says smugly, and Todd holds his hands up in surrender. Farah looks entirely unsatisfied with the conclusion of the conversation, but the doorbell rings before she can goad Dirk into attempting a séance before the end of movie night. "Food!" Dirk crows, and looks imploringly at Todd, who is already swinging his legs off the couch.

"Be right back," he says, shoving his feet into his still-laced sneakers, and letting himself out the front door.

"So," Farah says, approximately .6 seconds after Todd's left the apartment. "How are, um. Things between you guys?"

Dirk blinks. "Well, I would have said they were great, but now that you've asked, I'm suddenly worried that they aren't great. Do you know something I don't? Why do you ask?"

"No, no, no," Farah says quickly, uncrossing her arms and awkwardly patting Dirk's knee. "Sorry, sorry. I don't know anything. I mean, I know that you both seem really happy. I just wanted to, um. Check, I guess."

"I'm very happy," Dirk confirms. "And I think that Todd is. I mean, he says that he is, to me, but it's always possible that he's just saying that to make me happy, and he's actually unhappy. But I, er. I don't actually think that's the case?"

Farah smiles. "I don't think that's the case either," she says, as reassuringly as she can manage. "He seems like a completely different person than he was when we met. Like, a better person."

"That's all him," Dirk says, and his voice is unbearably fond. "He hasn't become anything because I love him; I love him because of who he's become." He gazes off into the middle distance for a moment, lost in thought, and then he realizes that Farah hasn't said anything in response. He blinks to recalibrate and turns to face her; she's got both of her hands clapped over her mouth and her eyes are wide. "What?" he says.

She peels her hands away from her mouth and hisses, "did you just say that you love Todd?"

"Oh my god," he says faintly. "Did I say that??"

"You did!"

"Shh, shhhh," he says, and frantically waves his hands near her mouth. "I didn't mean to, be quiet!"

"You just said it," she whispers, still loud. "You love him, oh my god." She blinks, and grabs his hands, squeezes them firmly. "You have to tell him," she says solemnly, eyes still wide.

"I can't do that!" Dirk shrieks, then grimaces broadly and shushes himself. "I can't do that," he says again, a shade quieter. "That's too fast – we haven't even been dating for a year. He's a flighty fellow! What if he panics? He could panic, Farah!!"

"You're panicking, Dirk."

"I'm not panicking!" he yelps, then claps both of his hands over his own mouth. "I think I'm panicking," he says a moment later, muttered between his fingers.

"Don't panic," she says.

"Too late."

"No, I mean, calm down."

"How can I calm down, Farah?"

"Dirk, I can hear –"

"This is entirely unacceptable. This is – this is overwhelming. This is a brand new situation that I've never experienced before and I fear that it will go terribly, horribly wrong, and I'll ruin everything that I actually quite like, because either he'll panic or I'll continue to panic, and then the agency will be dissolved and Mona and I will have to live in Vancouver, and Farah – I hate Vancouver."

"Why would you have to move to Vancouver?" Todd asks, and Dirk squeaks. Todd is standing just inside the doorway and he kicks off his shoes, then places the pizza boxes on the coffee table. "I don't really want to move to Vancouver, either. Can we not?" Dirk makes a sound like a tea kettle and nods, and Todd drops a kiss to the top of his head on the way to grab plates and paper towels from the kitchen. "Good," Todd says. "Farah, you want another beer?"

"Mmhm," she responds, and her voice is really quite high, and she and Dirk exchange a wide-eyed glance.

Todd comes back to the couch and puts down the plates, passes Farah her beer, and cracks open his own. He takes a long swallow, a small satisfied noise catching in the back of his throat when he finishes, and he sets it down before turning to look at his best friends. He blinks. "Are you guys, um. Okay?"

"Mmhm," they both say.

Todd squints suspiciously at them. "Uh-huh," he says, nodding skeptically. "I'm just going to choose to believe that, because the alternative is that there is some kind of mystery that I probably don't want to know about." He takes another sip of his beer, then opens the box closest to him. "Shit," he says. "They left on the onions."

"This is the third time they've done that," Dirk says indignantly, regaining the ability to converse like a normal human being. He kisses Mona on top of her fuzzy, inanimate head and puts her on the floor in front of him, then drags the pizza box onto his knees.

"What are you – careful, it's hot," Todd says, eyebrows snapped together in confusion. And then, when Dirk starts to pick off and eat all of the onions, says, "if you eat those, I'm not going to kiss you later."

"Yes you will," Dirk says confidently, nibbling a bit of onion and licking his thumb clean.

"Only if you brush your teeth," Todd tries.

"He'll eat some of our pizza, and you'll drink enough beer to stop caring, and then you'll kiss him," Farah predicts, and Todd laughs, caught out.

"Fine," he says, and reaches for a slice of veggie pizza that Dirk has picked free of onions. "And thank you." He ducks forward to kiss Dirk's shoulder before leaning back and starting in on the slice. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Farah mouthing something at Dirk, but he conspicuously ignores them, too focused on his dinner to want to know.

Ghostbusters spins to a satisfying ending, and they get most of the way through the 1995 Sense and Sensibility (they're taking turns to pick films, and Dirk is trying to catch up on classic-classics) before there's a faint snoring sound in between Todd and Farah. Dirk's head is tilted back and his arms are wrapped around Mona again, and he's undeniably asleep.

Todd laughs. "I should get him to bed," he says, carefully wiping a napkin across Dirk's chin to catch a bit of pizza sauce. "He'll fuck up his neck if he stays like this too long."

Farah leans forward to pause the movie and says, "you guys can finish it tomorrow. I've seen this one a million times." When Todd raises his eyebrows at her, she defensively reminds him, "I helped raise a teenage girl! They go crazy for this shit."

"Amanda never did," he counters, pushing himself to standing. He shuts the pizza boxes, brings the plates to the sink, and gathers up all of the empties.

"Whatever," Farah says. "Thanks for having me over."

"Um, of course? It's Thursday, and there's no emergency."

"No, I just mean." She stops and bites her lip, then meets his eyes with a small but genuine smile. "I'm just really glad that I get to know you guys."

"I'm glad about that, too," Todd says, confused but sincere. "And like, thanks for coming over. And hanging out with us."

"You got it," she says, and then she's in the doorway. "I'll see you at work tomorrow?"

"Wouldn't miss it," he promises her, and then he's alone with Dirk (and Mona).

He tidies up the living room a bit more, washes the plates and rinses out the beer cans, and then he climbs onto the couch and leans close to Dirk's face. "Dirk," he says quietly, into his hair. Dirk keeps snoring. "Dirk," Todd says again, and presses a kiss to the corner of Dirk's jaw. Dirk sighs, but doesn't open his eyes. Todd kisses him again, and again, and again, until Dirk's eyelids flutter, and he makes a muzzy, confused sound.

"Todd?" he asks, and his voice is high and sleepy. Todd presses his lips together to stifle a very unmanly giggle, and strokes a gentle hand down the side of Dirk's face.

"Mmhm," he says. "You're asleep on the couch."

"That's not the bed."

Now Todd does giggle, and it's soft. "No, it's not," he agrees. "Come to bed, yeah?"

Dirk grumbles quietly, but he slits open his eyes to look around, arms drawing tighter around Mona. "Did Farah go to bed?" he asks as Todd tucks a hand under his arm and carefully draws him to his feet.

"Mmhm," Todd says, and pulls him around the couch and toward the hall. They skip Todd's bedroom door, and at the bathroom, he carefully pulls Mona from Dirk's arms and pushes him forward. "Brush teeth," he says. "I'll meet you in the bedroom." He can hear Dirk use the toilet and run the sink, and he takes off his jeans and shirt and has Mona tucked into Dirk's side of the bed by the time Dirk comes back. Dirk's eyes are more open, and he can focus on Todd's face, but his movements are still sluggish and heavy. He climbs into bed without ceremony and flops on top of the covers.

"Help," he says, tongue thick, and Todd grins, divests him of his belt and trousers, socks and shirt. He tugs the duvet out from under Dirk and pulls it up to his shoulders, and presses another kiss to his cheek.

"I'll be right back," he says, and Dirk nods, eyelids already drooping again.

Todd brushes his teeth and splashes water on his face, relieves himself, washes his hands. He takes a quick circuit through the main room, shutting off all of the lights, and predictably finds Dirk fast asleep when he makes it back to bed. Dirk is curled around Mona-as-wombat, taking up more than half of the bed, and Todd takes a minute to just gaze adoringly down at him. His hair is mussed in sleep and his face is lax, and Todd thinks Dirk is the most beautiful person he's ever seen.

He steps on the toes of each of his socks to pull them off, then slides under the covers behind Dirk and shuts off the small lamp on his nightstand. There's enough of a glow coming in from the window to highlight Dirk's jawline and nose, and Todd folds him into his arms, tucks his knees behind Dirk's knees, his nose into the nape of Dirk's neck.

"Goodnight," he says softly, and Dirk sighs in sleep. "I love you," he says, and Dirk murmurs nonsense.

And then they're both asleep, breathing in tandem.