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boys, what you're hopin' for will come true

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Tina and Farah pick the agency theme.

Well, Tina picks it, but it's not like Farah ever really disagrees with Tina, when it comes to recreation. None of them do – she is the expert in partying among them. (Todd disagrees, but he's become boring and lazy in his age, so it's not like he has any room to argue with her decision.)

"We need a group costume," Tina says, leaning close to the camera and pointing menacingly at all three of the folks on the Seattle end. "If I'm flying all the way out to you guys for one lousy party, we need a theme."

"Muppets?" Dirk suggests. He'd just discovered them a few weeks earlier, and feels very confident in his ability to sew felt.

"No," Farah says. "Absolutely not."

"Characters played by Nicolas Cage?" Todd offers. "We do have a lot of leather jackets."

Farah doesn't even deign to give that one a response.

"Detectives," Tina says. "We're going to be detectives."

"We're, um, already detectives, sweetie," Farah says. "I mean, you're a police officer, but the rest of us are."

"Not like, real ones," Tina says scornfully. "Fictional detectives!"

"The Scooby gang?" Todd tries, suddenly extremely interested in the proceedings. "I could be Shaggy."

"You'd be Velma, don't even pretend you wouldn't be," Tina says. "And no. We'll all be from like, different movies and books and shit!"

And that's the plan, apparently.

They're all to keep their individual costumes a secret from the others, which is extremely inconvenient for Todd, who has no idea how to dress up as anything other than 'aging punk with dried out nail polish from the back of his dresser' (his Halloween costume for the last four years running). He texts Amanda and bugs her for two weeks until she sends him a single screenshot with the caption 'wear this and I'll come to the party'.

And well, it's not like he'll pass that up for anything. Even the stupidest costume ever.

 


 

"Open up, loser!" Amanda raps on the door a few times and then, when Todd doesn't immediately open the door, knocks again. Hammerhead hisses and dives for his bedroom, furious in her timidity.

"I'm coming, I'm coming," he calls, picking his way through the whirlwind of a mess that Dirk had left in the living room before swanning off to the office to get dressed. He throws the deadbolt and turns the knob, and Amanda bursts in with a backpack and a duffle bag.

"I'm crashing here after," she tells him, brushing past and throwing both bags down on the couch. "The boys dropped me off and won't be back until tomorrow."

"Gee, Amanda, thank you so much for letting me know in advance; that was really helpful of you to give me time to get ready." Todd closes and locks the door behind her and starts picking up the trail of Dirk's clothes, shooting each one towards the hamper in the hallway, and missing the basket on half the shots. Amanda unzips her backpack and rummages around, then pulls out an electric trimmer.

"It's not like you're gonna bring anyone home anyway," she says dryly. "My presence isn't going to change much. Now, buzz my head?" She waggles the trimmer in front of his face. He sputters a complete non-response, but follows her to the bathroom anyway, picking up the last few items of clothing that had missed the hamper, and shoving them in as he passed.

"What're we doing?" Todd asks, as Amanda pulls off her jacket and shirt and sits on the edge of the tub. He grabs the towel he'd used that morning, mostly dry now, and drapes it around her shoulders; she clutches the front closed and reaches up to pull out her ponytail, finger combs it down.

"Can you give me a 'hawk? It's still growing out in the back, but I kept up the side shave. I just can't shape it on my own."

"You're telling me that Gripps can paint your nails, but he can't shave your head?" He picks up the buzzer from where Amanda had dropped it on top of her shirt and turns to plug it into the outlet by the sink.

"He doesn't like the vibration," she explained. "And everyone else fucks up the edges."

"Fair enough." Todd rests the trimmer on the edge of the tub and finger combs through her hair as well, takes the hair elastic from her fingers, starts separating out the bits that need to go.

This is a familiar experience. When Amanda had been in high school Todd had been in college, and then dropped out of college, pretending he had Pararibulitis. But each time he drove home for winter and spring breaks, Thanksgiving, long weekends, whenever, Amanda would drag him into the bathroom and he'd cut her hair in whatever design she wanted that month. Chelseas and 'hawks, undercuts and mullets… He got pretty good at it. Even ended up doing his roommate's hair in college, and then all of his bandmates, too.

Her hair is as fine as his, black where his is dark brown, but he remembers matching undercuts, teaching her how to gel spikes, spraying in the temporary color that she couldn't wear to school. This is familiar and soothing. Even when he was at his admitted shittiest – bleeding his parents dry, lying to everyone, lying to Amanda – he still took the time to do her hair when he was home.

"Last chance to have a normal hair-do," Todd offers Amanda, hefting the buzzer in his right hand.

She scoffs. "Chop it off, dude."

He doesn't bother starting with scissors, just thumbs the switch and starts taking hair off the sides. It falls on to her shoulders and into the tub, and he brushes it off the base of the trimmer, focuses on the fiddly bits near the nape of her neck. He has a good idea what costume she's going for, given the agency theme and the haircut, and makes sure to keep the line from neck to forehead smooth.

It only takes a few minutes to turn her undercut into a 'hawk, and he runs his fingers through her hair again to make sure he hasn't missed any bits. The sides of her head are lizard-rough, and he pulls the hair up to judge the length, hums contemplatively. "I'm guessing you need a trim, too?"

"I didn't bring scissors, but yeah," Amanda admits, and he turns to the drawer under the sink, grabs the scissors he uses to cut Dirk's hair. That only takes a few more minutes, and then they're working together to brush up the piles of hair, scoop them into the small trashcan next to the toilet. "I'm gonna take a quick shower before I bleach it," she tells Todd, shoving him out the door.

"Now I know what you're dressing up as," he laughs, and she shuts the bathroom door behind him. The water turns on soon after, and Todd turns back to the living room to clean up Dirk's mess.

 


 

Once Amanda is bleached, showered again, and is laying on the living room floor to gel her hair, Todd makes his own way to the bathroom. He showers, then stands in front of the bathroom mirror, razor in one hand. He meets his own eyes.

"Am I seriously doing this?" he mutters to himself. But it's not like he has time to change his mind now; the Halloween party starts in less than an hour, and he told Amanda he'd do it. Plus, he has the rest of the costume laid out on his bed. "Fuck it." He tugs the knot on his towel to make sure it won't slip down, and sets to shaving off most of his facial hair.

It comes off more smoothly than he'd expected, after just trimming it occasionally for the last year, and only gives himself two tiny nicks under his chin. He dabs them with the styptic stick, hisses at the sting, then wipes his face off with the towel by the sink.

When he steps out into the hallway, Amanda laughs until she cries.

 


 

There's cold pizza in the fridge, and they both chow down on a slice or two while they finish getting dressed. Hammerhead scampers out from under the bed and tangles herself in Amanda's bootlaces, purring; Todd feeds her a bit of greasy cheese from the bottom of the pizza box while figuring out how to make his hat sit straight. He's squinting down at his lapels, sliding in the last safety pin to transform the jacket from a modified bellhop uniform to a costume, when Amanda poked her head into his bedroom and lifts one unimpressed eyebrow at him. "So, what're you moping about today?"

He stabs himself in the thumb and hisses in pain, then sticks the prick against his tongue. "What are you talking about?" he asks, once he's licked the blood away.

"You're not blasting music, you're not pre-gaming, and you haven't said anything about Dirk since I got here. Ergo, moping."

"When the fuck did you start saying 'ergo'?" he grumbles, opting to finish pinning the lapel and ignore the blood. It's not like it will show up on the dark polyester, anyway.

"Since forever," she says. "And don't change the topic. Why're you moping?"

"I'm not… moping exactly," he says carefully.

"Sure, whatever." Amanda rolls her eyes and leans against the doorframe. "I assume it's about Dirk."

"What, uh – why would you assume that?"

She gives him a pointed look.

"…okay, fair."

She waits for several long moments, expecting him to fill the silence; she knows him well, because he does. Shit.

"I just. You know. I have the stupid thing for him, which is fine…" she nods, probably intending to look encouraging, but just looks impatient. He winces. "It was fine! Like, I know I'm not his type, but I could keep… I dunno. Thinking that I could be?"

"…but," she prompts.

"But last week he said something about not being into relationships. Like, at all. And I know I was holding on to hope without much cause, but it just stings to know that, y'know?" Todd scrubs one hand over his face and tries not to look in the mirror. It would be a double punch to experience vulnerability and look stupid.

"Not really," Amanda admits. "I never really had time for this shit. But like, I hear you. Does that ruin your crush, or whatever?"

"It's not a crush," he says, but there's no heat behind the words. "But also… yes? Like, I know he used to hook up with people back in college. So even if he wanted to hook up with me, I don't think I could do that without a relationship. Not that I assume he'd want one with me, anyway."

"But he definitely loves you, dude," Amanda says, puzzled. "Like, you live together. You spend every single day together. You're kind of made for each other, in a wacky supernatural way."

"That's different than romance," Todd says, and this is just getting to be way too awkward. "I looked it up. It's like… it's an orientation, or something? Aromantic? So like, I don't think he does romantic love. And again, that's fine," he adds. "I'm just… not moping. I'm just bummed, or whatever."

"Well, this is great news, then!"

He squints at her. "…is it?"

"Yeah, now you can finally date someone." Amanda steps into the bedroom and claps him on the shoulder. "I bet you haven't gotten laid in, what, years? What happened to my rock star brother who got 'mad pussy, yo'?" She sticks her hands in his face to make sure he sees her finger quotes.

"I have literally never said that," Todd says, grimacing, and Amanda laughs.

"No, but seriously. You have game. I know people want you. Now you can let yourself, like… want them back. "

Todd frowns and shrugs. "I guess it's… worth considering?"

"That's all I ask, dude."

 


 

The party is in full swing by the time they arrive, and the club is crowded enough that Todd can't see anyone else from the agency yet, if they're even here already. His gaze is caught by vampires, ghosts, sexy firefighters, steampunk inventors, and dozens other costumes that he can't figure out at a glance. Amanda pulls her phone out of her back pocket to see if she has any messages, but the only notification is still from Farah, letting them know that she and Tina are running late, but on their way.

"Todd!" a voice shouts, close enough to his ear to make him wince. "What happened to your face?"

He pulls his hand up automatically to stroke his chin and feel the freshly-shaved skin, and turns to see their host, Deja. She's dressed as an old-timey circus strong-man, complete with a cartoonishly-round set of barbells propped over one shoulder and a striped bathing suit... thing... that shows off, well – everything.

"Wow," he says, in lieu of answering her question. "You look amazing!"

"Thank you," Deja preens, posing and making a muscle. "And who's this?"

"This is my sister, Amanda. Amanda, this is Deja." Amanda sticks out her hand to shake hands with Deja, who ignores it and swoops in to kiss her on the cheek.

"Oh my god, you guys are almost identical," Deja exclaims, pulling back to take them both in. "I love this." Amanda and Todd both roll their eyes, used to it.

"Have you seen Dirk?" Todd asks. "I don't know if he's here yet – he got dressed at the office."

Deja beams at him and nods, her eyes sparkling mischievously. "Yeah," she says. "He's somewhere around. You'll find him eventually." She laughs. "I hope I'm there when you do."

Well, that isn't ominous at all.

"Anyway," Deja continues. "I've got to keep making the rounds, but remind Ramon that your drinks are on the house tonight." She brushes off his stammered thanks and flicks an overly-familiar finger down his face, dragging against the smooth skin, then sashays away with a wink.

"Cool," he says to no one. "That was cool." Amanda cackles.

The club is Deja's. Three weeks ago, she'd stormed into the agency office dragging Ramon (one of her bartenders) behind her, and demanded that Dirk clear his name and stop the club from being shut down by Licensing and Inspections. It ended up taking them a trip through several city landfills, an altercation with a retired K9 officer, an investigation into an illegal raw milk smuggling operation, and several meetings with an amateur origami-enthusiasts club to discover that the Ramon's presumed-deceased ex(?)-wife was, in fact, not deceased, and that she had been living in the basement of the neighboring bakery for going on seven months. They'd solved it just in time to avoid the club's annual Halloween party from being cancelled, and in addition to their going rate, they'd scored a group-invitation to what promised to be an actually decent party.

"Cool," Todd says again, and he turns in a slow circle. The dance floor is full, and folks are enjoying everything from the usual Saturday night bump-and-grind, to some swing dancing in one corner, to a group of friends circled up in some kind of interpretive dance situation. There's a short line for the bar, and a roar from one of the back rooms suggests a performance or game going on.

"Let's get drinks," Amanda says, tugging his elbow. "Deja said they're on the house? That's way cool." Todd nods yes, it is pretty cool. "So no reason to not get trashed! We're taking a cab home, yeah?" He shuffles his feet for one indecisive moment, but she's right. There isn't actually any reason to not take advantage of the generous hospitality.

They join the line for the bar and chat easily with the couple standing in front of him, both dressed as Ghostbusters, until it's the couples' turn to order drinks. Todd's phone buzzes in his pocket and he pulls it out quickly enough to fumble it.

Farah: We managed to get a Lyft - be there in 10! (8:17PM)

Todd: Cool, ok! (8:18PM)

He tilts the screen to show Amanda, and then they're at the front of the line. Ramon – divorced, not arrested, and shaking cocktails – shoots them a pair of finger guns. "Sidekick! Nice mustache! What're you having? Who's this?"

"Uh," Todd says, not sure which of those to respond to. "This is my sister, Amanda."

"Damn," Ramon says. "You have a sister?"

"No, I have a brother," Amanda says, shoving her shoulder in front of Todd's. "And I'll take a margarita, no salt." She turns to Todd and raises one perfect eyebrow. "Sidekick?"

"He… there was a case," Todd says lamely, and Ramon and Amanda both laugh at him.

Ramon pours the ingredients for a margarita into the shaker and smacks a pint glass on top, flips the whole contraption upside down, and shakes it for several seconds, before pouring the drink into a broad glass. "Give that a taste, badass lady." Amanda takes an indelicate slurp and pronounces it perfect. Ramon grins, and turns to Todd. "What're you having?"

"Whatever IPA you've got on tap," Todd says, feeling strangely like he doesn't want to waste the bartender's time with anything more complicated than that. "And um, Deja said that, my – my drinks are –"

"On the house, hell yeah, man," Ramon says. "All of y'all's are on us tonight. And for a while, I'd say." He grabs a pint glass and fills it expertly, slowly tilting the glass up as it fills, and presses back the lever precisely when the foam hits the rim. Before he sets it in front of Todd, though, he also fills a shot glass from a bottle of Buffalo Trace, and slides them both over.

"First drink of the night," Ramon says. "And if you want to keep 'em coming, just let me know if you need a cab later. Or somewhere to crash." He grins, white teeth flashing against his dark skin, and Todd's eyes widen a bit. Amanda kicks him in the ankle.

"Wow," Todd says. "Thanks so much." He grabs the shot and mimes a 'cheers' motion towards Ramon, and tosses it back. It burns going down, hits his stomach pretty quickly, and his eyes water enough that he blinks rapidly.

"No, Sidekick – thank you." Ramon winks. "Enjoy."

Todd would very much like to know if Ramon is flirting with him or just being bartender-friendly, but the line behind him is growing, so he just grins shakily, shoves a five in the tip jar and grabs his glass in one hand and Amanda's jacket in the other.

"Oh my god," Amanda hisses as they walk away. "Oh my god, oh my god. He was totally flirting with you."

"D'you think?" Todd asks uncertainly. He takes a sip of his beer to make it easier to move with, and Amanda follows suit with her margarita.

Once she's swallowed, she says, "Um, yeah. He just gave you an extra drink and basically said that you could spend the night with him."

"I… guess that did really just happen," Todd agrees. "Wow."

"Are you gonna tap that? This could be your thing, your post-Dirk thing! Or like, your not-worried-about-Dirk-at-all thing!"

"I –" Todd stops himself from saying 'no' right away. "I don't actually know. He is pretty cute."

"Hell yeah he is," Amanda says. "Fuck, if you don't want to jump him, I'll fall on that sword for you."

He elbows her and she elbows him back, both snickering, and for a moment it feels like it's years ago. Like she doesn't yet know about his lie, and he's taken her to a party, and he's just her big brother, and she's just his little sister. But then she steps away and stands tall and bold, gelled mohawk and leather vest with chains at the shoulders, and he's reminded that she's not his little sister anymore. Or like, not just his little sister anymore. Amanda may not look up to him now, and it sucks, but she doesn't need to any more. And that's pretty cool, actually. She's independent and powerful, and never questions herself. It's kind of awe inspiring, to be honest. She's really great.

So Todd tells her, "you're really great," and from Amanda's quizzical look, it clearly feels out of the blue. But then her gaze softens and she punches him on the shoulder.

"Yeah, I am," she says, and takes another long drink. They stand there in a not-quite awkward silence for a while and each work on their drinks, then Amanda says, "Listen, I know you're kind of a wet blanket, but I want to dance. You in?"

"Nah," he says casually. "I want to find Dirk before I decide what to do next."

Amanda raises one eyebrow at him. How does she do that? "Dude," she says. "We just agreed that you don't need to moon around after him."

"I don't know what you're talking about," he grumbles. But of course, he does. She nudges him again and hands him the last inch of her margarita, then strides past the bar and onto the dance floor, where she's soon lost in the crowd.

––––––––––––––––––––––

Now he would really like to find Dirk. Deja said that he was here already, and he's got a drink, and there is no reason to not find Dirk. To find him, and see what he's dressed as, and to show off his own costume. His dumb costume, and his dumb mustache.

Goddammit, this was a terrible idea.

He wanders into one of the back rooms of the club, where the crowd is quieter, to see if he can find Dirk. There's a handful of tables with board games scattered among them, a healthy group of people cheering around a game of bobbing for apples, and a photo booth. There are even a few little carnival game stations. He's kind of shocked at the huge variation in crowd; drunken dancing and board games feels like a pretty big split. He's spent a lot of his life at one kind of party or the other, but the ability to combine them both, and at a public event, is honestly pretty impressive.

All of the board game tables are occupied, so he turns to watch the circle of folks bobbing for apples. It's as absurd a game as ever, but he catches himself snickering when a person in a bobby sweater and poodle skirt comes up gasping for air, hair dripping wet, and a shiny apple clenched in their teeth.

"That looks remarkably unhygienic," a voice says in his ear, and then says, "and yet, I want to try it anyway."

"Dirk!" Todd says, and spins to see –

– oh.

Dirk has a wide-brimmed fedora, and his hair is slicked down below it with something pungent. He's wearing a tan trench coat, tightly belted at the waist, and seems to be wearing a fairly conservative button-down and brown tie beneath. The shirt is a little more old-fashioned than his usual, though, with a wide, crisp collar, and his tie is the exact shade of brown as his shoes. Todd squints and leans in a bit, and realizes that the tie has tiny gold magnifying glasses picked out in gold thread.

It's hardly that different from what Dirk wears on the regular - he's rarely seen without a collared shirt and tie, at least – but the trench coat is well-fitted and worn, and he looks remarkably like the hero in all of those film noir mysteries that they've been watching over the last few weeks. It's an incredibly good look for him, and Todd is suddenly glad that it's at least a bit dim in the club, and that Dirk probably won't be able to tell if he's flushed.

"Maltese Falcon?" Todd asks faintly, and Dirk gives him one of those wry smiles, tucked in the corner of his mouth.

"That was the original idea," he says, fidgeting with the jacket's lapel. "But now I'm skewing somewhat toward Norton Folgate."

Todd blinks. "Um. Who?"

Dirk raises one eyebrow, still cool, still arch. "Norton Folgate," he says again, as if repeating himself is going to change something.

Todd shakes his head.

"Oh, honestly," Dirk bursts out, and now he looks like himself, petulant and pouting. "Do none of you know about bloody Torchwood?"

Todd shrugs guiltily. It's been years since he watched any Doctor Who or Torchwood, and he doesn't want to admit that he'd missed a character. "Sorry, man," he says. "Never seen it."

"No fucking culture," Dirk mutters, and then he blinks and stares at Todd. He blinks again.

"Did you just process the mustache?" Todd asks, and Dirk nods, astonished.

Todd is almost entirely clean shaven, with a pencil mustache capping his thin lips. (It is not a good look on him.) He's taken his bellhop hat and made it a bit taller using felt and poster board, his bellhop uniform into a black police inspector's uniform, and an ostentatious medal of honor hangs around his neck, special ordered from Etsy.

Dirk is gaping, and it takes him several long moments to actually shut his jaw and form words. He begins with "mustache," moves through "but," and ends on "mustache??" again.

"You're doing great," Todd says dryly, taking a long swallow from his beer. If the gulp lasts longer, so he can avoid making eye contact with Dirk, that's just a coincidence. But it soon ends, and then he's just standing in front of Dirk while he sputters and peers far, far too close at Todd's face. Eventually, he starts poking and stroking Todd's smooth chin, petting his wiry mustache, and okay, that's even friendlier than Deja had been, too close now.

Todd bats Dirk's hands away and takes a step back, mouth twisted in annoyance. "Okay," he says, "that's enough of that. I need another drink if this is how tonight's going."

Dirk snatches his hands back and looks somewhat guilty, though not very. "I just wasn't expecting it," he explains. "I thought you'd be one of the Sherlocks Holmes, or – or Batman. Someone a little more, er – dashing?"

"Yeah, because dashing is the first word that comes to mind when you think Todd Brotzman," Todd snorts. Dirk looks ready to protest, but Todd plunges on. "Anyway, Amanda picked this one out for me, and I had most of the pieces already. I didn't turn in my Perriman Grand uniform when they fired me, so – " he plucks at the lapel of the policeman's uniform and shrugs.

"She made you dress up as the Pink Panther?" Dirk asks in mingled fascination and horror.

"Dirk, that's not the – that's not his name. The main character is called Inspector Clouseau. The diamond is the Pink Panther."

"Pish tosh," Dirk says breezily. "And that is marvelously cruel of Amanda. Very inventive. I wish I'd thought of it myself." Todd kicks him in the ankle and Dirk shoots him a wounded look and crosses his arms. "Anyway, it's a good thing that you didn't dress up as one of the Sherlocks Holmes," he says, nose in the air, "as that's what Mona's chosen as her costume tonight, and she's pulling it off rather better than you could."

Todd blinks and looks over Dirk's shoulder, and then over his own. "Where's Mona?" She could be any of the people at the party tonight, but none of them appear to be dressed as any of the iterations of Sherlock Holmes that he can recall. No deerstalkers, no fancy suits, no swishy overcoat.

Dirk gives a smug little smile and reaches one hand into a pocket. Todd's eyes widen as Dirk slowly pulls out –

"Holy shit," Todd hisses, and he's barely stifling hysterical laughter.

Mona is Basil of Baker Street. The cartoon mouse. She's become an actual mouse, if a little large, but she's wearing a purple dressing gown over a collar and tie, and she has on little shoes. She even has a tiny pipe held in her paws.

"I can't – I just – she's –" Todd covers his face and breaks down into unexpected giggles. Dirk's smile grows as he looks down at Todd, bent slightly with the force of his laughter, and then he's laughing as well. Even Mona squeaks, whiskers twitching with mousey glee. It's a long, bubbling moment, the three of them giggling in the corner of the bar, and when Todd straightens up and drops his hands, his cheeks and lashes are wet.

"I take it you've seen the movie?" Dirk asks, aiming for casual, but he's still shaking with his own suppressed titters, and Mona baps him on the heel of his hand with her tail.

"Amanda and I watched it every time she was sick, when she was really little," Todd says. "It got to the point where she would say the lines along with the little girl mouse." He shakes his head, briefly nostalgic, then bends to peer closer at Mona. "You look perfect," he tells her admiringly. She puffs proudly on her tiny pipe, and blows a smoke ring smaller than Dirk's pinkie nail. Todd holds out his hand for Mona and she sniffs his fingers contemplatively for a moment, then steps delicately from Dirk's hand to his. The motion brushes his fingers against Dirk's, and he stifles a tiny shiver as she patters across his palm and up his arm.

They chat about nothing for a few minutes and let Mona scamper across both of their shoulders to look around the room until a loud burst of laughter sends her scurrying up Dirk's sleeve.

"She's still a bit nervous around crowds," Dirk explains, patting his chest comfortingly. "She wanted to come tonight, but said she'd be my tie clip when she wasn't Basil-ing."

"That's fair," Todd says absently, looking over Dirk's shoulders. "I'm glad you guys made a plan." There's a crowd of folks gathering in one of the doorways, and they're chattering excitedly about something or another. He squints a bit at a flash of gold, and then his jaw drops.

"Todd?" Dirk asks, and he looks just a bit concerned when Todd points over his shoulder, not bothering to try and even articulate what he's seeing.

Dirk spins around and gapes unattractively. Farah and Tina are posed next to the bar together, and other people – strangers – are taking pictures of them. Tina is in a heavily beaded gold gown with a deep red fur coat draped over her shoulders, with lipstick to match the coat, and a gold and black feathered hair piece tucked over one ear. Farah's outfit is as crisp as Tina's is lavish - she's wearing a cream pinstripe three-piece summer suit with a matching bow tie, and dark tan gloves and hat. She's also got a small cane in one hand and a – a little – a stick? in the other.

Todd peers more closely at the thing she's holding and then bursts out laughing. Tina hears it and cranes her neck to spot him, then tugs on Farah's sleeve and points the boys to her.

"There you are!" she announces happily, pushing through the crowd to Dirk and Todd, towing Farah behind. "This place is packed! Damn!"

"Farah?" Dirk gapes. "Oh my god, I didn't know Janelle Monae was a detective."

"She's not Janelle Monae," Todd says, still laughing. "Look, she's got a mustache."

Farah beams and holds up her handlebar mustache on a stick, and inclines her head towards Todd and Dirk. "Hercule Poirot, at your service," she says, in a terrible French accent. "And my companion, Miss Phryne Fisher. It is a pleasure to make of your acquaintance, gentlemen."

Tina looks Dirk and Todd over and bursts into a cackle when she gets up to the mustache. He smiles wryly, far less annoyed at Tina's response than Dirk's (for some reason that he's choosing to not analyze at this time), and tips his police inspector's hat to her. "Madam," he says, his French accent even more horrendous than Farah's. "Monsieur," he directs to Farah.

"Oh my god," Tina wheezes, entirely inelegant. "Say the thing, say the thing!"

"I am sure I 'ave no idea what you are talking about," Todd manages, before he too is overcome by giggles. She badgers him into saying lines from the film while he unashamedly admires her outfit, and they compare beers.

"You both look amazing," Farah says to Dirk, ignoring the two shorter members of their quartet. "I'm guessing Amanda blackmailed Todd into the little hat?" Dirk nods, and she grins viciously. "I love that girl," she declares.

"Farah, you look incredible," Dirk says, stepping into her personal bubble and poking at the stitching on her suit. "I assume you got these made?"

She looks mildly abashed, but nods. "It seemed like a waste of money, but Tina hasn't been to Seattle for a few months, and I wanted her to feel nice at the party."

"Tina seems the sort to feel nice at any party," Dirk points out, "regardless of the theme. Not that you oughtn't've gotten these made," he adds. "You are both stunning examples of sartorially-savvy sleuths. Honestly, I think Miss Fisher and Mr. Poirot are both fairly rubbish detectives, given that neither of them is really ready to flee down an alley at a moment's notice, but I suppose they're acceptable at what they do, in their own ways." He shrugs, and flicks his hat a bit. "Some detectives focus a little more on style over substance, but the two of you are precisely attractive enough to focus on that category of fictional investigators. Todd and I will take the hard-boiled, physically active ones."

"Thank you, Dirk," she says, trying to work out whether she's supposed to be flattered or annoyed. He pats her on the shoulder before she figures it out, and she sighs, giving it up for a lost cause.

From off to the side, Todd says, "Ah would like twa buy a 'ambergehr," to Tina's shrieks of laughter, and Dirk and Farah both turn to look at them, eyebrows raised in the same posh expression. Todd only laughs along with Tina, and they clink glasses and down the ends of their respective beers.

"Babe!" Tina says gleefully, setting her glass down on a nearby high top. "Dance with me, yeah?"

"No," Farah says. "Dance with Dirk. He dances. I don't dance. I stand. I occasionally run, and I frequently fight. I don't dance, though."

"I'm not dating Dirk," Tina says scornfully. "I wanna make out with you on the dance floor!"

Farah covers her face.

They walk together to the dance floor.

"So. What are you drinking?" Dirk asks, filching the empty glass from Todd and sniffing at it. He flicks his tongue out to lick the inside of the rim, and Todd's eyes widen before he hastily averts his gaze. Dirk sputters, then glares at Todd like it's his fault that he tasted something unpleasant. "Well, this won't do the trick," he declares. "If we're drinking on Deja's dime, you'll need something stronger than this. Shall I get us both cocktails?"

"I don't drink cocktails," Todd tries, and Dirk shakes his head immediately.

"Unacceptable," he says. "Let's fix that." He grabs Todd's sleeve and tows him back into the main room, towards Ramon's bar. There's an unexpected lack of line, and Dirk presents them both with a grin. "Ramon," he says brightly. "What kind of drink can you make for Todd, who says he doesn't like cocktails, but absolutely would if you made him the right one?"

Ramon raises an eyebrow at Todd and looks him up and down, and Todd feels strangely warm, and like he wants to squirm away. "I think I can find something that will do the trick," he eventually declares, and winks at Todd. "How do you feel about a whiskey sour?" He grabs the bottles of simple syrup and whiskey in one hand, and an egg and half a lemon in the other. Todd blinks – he was honestly expecting sour mix for a night as busy as Halloween – but then Ramon is mixing up the drink so smoothly that Todd can't help but to enjoy the process. He has one of those fancy over-the-shoulder shaking techniques that probably doesn't actually do anything special, but looks delightful, and he garnishes the low ball glass with a twist of lemon peel. Todd suddenly notices that his sleeves are cuffed to the elbow, and that his forearms are – well – they're really nice.

"Give that a taste, Sidekick," Ramon says warmly, and now Todd knows that he's red.

Todd takes a distracted sip of his whiskey sour, then blinks, and takes another sip. It's... it's honestly incredible. It tastes nothing like sour mix and whiskey, and seems to be both smokey and sour and bright and – he blinks – almost as strong as his earlier shot, to be honest.

"Hoo boy," he says, surprised. "It's not going to take too many of these to do the trick." Ramon and Dirk both smile at him, with similar degrees of warmth, and Todd feels a bit pinned in place.

"I'll take a cosmopolitan," Dirk says, and Ramon turns his gaze to Dirk and grabs the cranberry juice. Todd fancies that his smile is a bit less warm and a bit more professional, but he honestly isn't sure which of them he'd be jealous of if that weren't the case.

Dirk takes a sip of his drink, and gives an impassioned "oh!" once he swallows. "Todd, you have to try this," he declares. Todd obligingly takes the cocktail glass from his hand, their fingers brushing on the cold glass, and takes a sip.

"This is really good," he admits. "Do you want a sip of mine?"

"No thank you," Dirk says, smiling sweetly. "Whiskey does my head in, and I'd like to remember tonight."

"Everything does your head in," Todd says, less snide than fond, and Dirk steps on his foot.

"Thank you so much," Dirk gushes to Ramon, taking his glass back from Todd. "Everything you make is perfect, and I look forward to coming back for many more drinks tonight."

"You don't need to rush away just yet," Ramon says casually. "I can chat and mix, if you don't mind hanging around."

"Not in the slightest!" Dirk says, and elbows Todd until he agrees that yes, he'd be happy to hang around the bar as well. And he would, really. He's feeling loose and warm from his first two drinks, and Dirk and Ramon both seem delighted to keep the conversation going.

"So, have you had any cases since, uh, my –"

"Since Veronica?" Dirk asks brightly, and now it's Todd who's stepping on Dirk's foot.

"Sorry for him," he apologizes. "And yeah, we're actually in the middle of another case right now." He describes the bare bones of the mystery to Ramon, who listens attentively between other customers.

"Damn," he says finally. "That sounds like a doozy. And you guys don't have any more clues?"

"Did you learn nothing from our case with you?" Dirk asks, just a bit snide. "We don't find clues. I just go where I want to, and the universe provides us with the correct steps to take."

"Kind of," Todd adds. "It's not like we can just sit around and ignore stuff. We're going to a few petting zoos on Saturday to see if we recognize any of the goats."

"That's adorable," Ramon says. "You guys are hilarious."

He goes on to ask Todd about his costume, where he got it from ("did you make that yourself?" "I altered it a bit, but I'm not good enough at sewing to make it from scratch." "damn, still impressive!"); he also takes an order for some folks standing next to them, and effortlessly mixes up three cocktails at once, pours a beer, and takes payment. It's almost a dance, working, weaving around the bar back and another bartender, and Todd finds himself somewhat entranced by the man's movements. He's broad and muscular, but clearly hasn't sacrificed skill for strength, and he has the ability to chat with one customer while mixing up the drinks of another, and to remember the cost of every drink.

As they talk, Dirk looks like he could be ready to head back into the party, but Todd leans up against the bar, tries to feign casualness, asks him about his afternoon. Ramon is taking more orders and chatting with other customers, but he keeps coming back to the spot where Dirk and Todd are hanging, asking them questions about being detectives. Todd doesn't mind the view, Ramon doesn't seem to mind him (or his mustache) hanging around, and Dirk doesn't mind talking about himself, so it's a win-win-win situation.

If he's being entirely truthful, Todd is enjoying the precise sensation of being slightly buzzed while admiring two attractive men who are both paying attention to him. It's not something he's gotten to do since his band days, when he was a lot more of a hot commodity, and it sends a little frisson of excitement up his spine to move his gaze from enthusiastic blue eyes to warm brown eyes, and back.

"What do you think, Sidekick?" Ramon asks, and Todd suddenly realizes that he's missed part of the conversation, and that he's expected to give some kind of input.

"Uh," he begins, wracking his memory for the contents of the last few sentences, but Dirk swoops to the rescue. Kind of.

He frowns and sets down his mostly empty cocktail glass on the bar. "His name is Todd," Dirk says, turning to face Ramon squarely, who is pouring three beers for a giggling trio of young men.

"What?" Ramon and Todd both say.

"You keep calling him 'Sidekick'," Dirk explains. "That's not his name. He has a name already, and it's Todd. Todd Broztman," he adds, as if there were any ambiguity.

"Dirk," Todd says, setting his hand on his friend's sleeve. "It's just a nickname. He's just calling me 'Sidekick' because it's funny."

"It's your job, not your name," Dirk says, impassioned, and then freezes.

Todd raises his eyebrows. "My job, huh? My job is 'sidekick'?"

"I didn't mean – I mean, I meant to say – " Dirk blusters, looking at Ramon for an out, but the bartender doesn't give him one.

"That's what I heard too," Ramon says, nodding seriously. "Sidekick. You might need that on a business card," he adds to Todd, who nods along with him.

"Guess that's true," Todd agrees, and Dirk stammers, hands fluttering just below the bar. "I thought I was going to get partner printed on my name plate, but sidekick might have to do."

"It's a good job," Ramon says.

"An important one, yeah," Todd says. "Dirk's the boss. He needs someone to run around behind him, doing useful things."

Dirk looks like he's ready to cry, or maybe shout at them for teasing him, but Ramon breaks and lets out a guffaw. "To be fair," he says, his eyes crinkling, "that kind of is what you were doing on Deja's case."

"Hence the – the nickname," Dirk realizes, and then Ramon and Todd are both laughing at him.

"Yes, Dirk," Todd says, not unkindly, and he finishes the last generous swallow of his whiskey sour. "It's not a mean nickname."

"But I'd stop if you told me to," Ramon says earnestly, fixing his gaze on Todd. "I'd happily call you 'Todd', Todd."

Todd – ridiculous in his costume, self-conscious of his mustache, short and tipsy – looks up at Ramon through his lashes and he smiles. "I don't mind either way," he says, voice just a little soft in the crowded club. "I'll answer to whatever you want to call me."

Ramon grins broadly and winks at Todd, keeps his eyes on him for just a moment longer until he drags them to another customer, and he keeps flicking his attention back to Todd while he's serving the next crowd of drunk or desiring-to-be-drunk folks.

"He seems to rather like you," Dirk says, right into Todd's ear, and Todd jumps with a curse, spins around to face Dirk.

"What are you talking about," Todd says, startled into a glare. "Of course he likes us, we got all of the charges dropped against him."

"No, I mean, he seems to rather like you," Dirk says, but his tone isn't particularly accusing. It's not cold or snide, either. Todd gives him a closer look and realizes that, while Dirk doesn't look exactly thrilled, it's not a goading statement, or a petty one. Dirk is simply making an observation.

Todd pauses before responding. He isn't really sure what to say, to be honest. Should he admit to Dirk (and to himself) that yes, Ramon probably is flirting with him? Should he tell Dirk about Ramon's offer to let Todd crash at his place? Does he want to turn this unexpected interaction into something to – to talk about with Dirk? He tells Dirk just about everything, but he's strangely reluctant to share this one.

What compounds the issue is that, as Dirk drinks, he moves closer to Todd to be heard over the noise of the party. He's flushed pink and warm, and Todd can smell the faint mixture of hair pomade and sweat. It's exactly as enthralling as Ramon's warm smile and his large hands. But Todd's been carrying a torch for Dirk for two years now, and he's never had any reason to think that it might be reciprocated. If he had to choose between the two men – both tall and gorgeous, both with cute accents, both funny and unexpected – he'd always choose Dirk, would do so in a heartbeat. Dirk is his best friend, his boss, his roommate, and he'll always come first to Todd. (Well, after Amanda.)

But the thing is –

It's just that –

Dirk doesn't – doesn't want Todd in the same way Todd wants him.

He wants to spend all of his free time with Todd, and to boss him around, and to have dinner with him every night. He wants to watch movies with Todd, and to watch Todd clean the kitchen, and to sit all night on stakeouts with him, and to feed their cat together. It's wonderful.

But he doesn't want to kiss Todd. He doesn't want to hold Todd all night (except when he passes out on Todd on the couch, or in the car). He doesn't want to share his air and his bed and his soft touches with Todd. Todd watches him pet Hammerhead every evening, and wishes that Dirk would run long fingers over his head, caress his neck. But Dirk doesn't want anyone in that way. Dirk will never want him in that way.

Todd wants Dirk, not in an active, pining kind of way – that would be exhausting, by this point – but in the same way Todd will always want a cigarette, even eight years after quitting. His blood thrums for it and his fingers itch for it, and whenever he catches the scent of smoke, his lungs ache with wanting, just for a second, until he can turn it off.

So, if he had to choose someone, he'd choose Dirk. But Dirk doesn't want him, not like that, so the binary decision is moot. It's nonexistent.

But he's – he's still not quite ready to put it down yet.

"Ramon's a nice guy," Todd says finally. "He's really nice to everyone he talks to."

Dirk looks down his nose at Todd for a long moment, but whatever opinions he's got about that statement, he holds back, and allows them to melt away with a shrug. "Well, that's true," he says simply.

"My friends, your drinks have been finished!" Ramon says, gravitating back to them in a rare moment between customers. "What will you have next?"

"Surprise me," Dirk says boldly. Todd shrugs and jerks his chin towards Dirk, the same.

Ramon grins. "Excellent. Any allergies?" he asks them, and they both shake their heads. And then he's reaching under the bar, pulls a few containers out of the mini fridge, takes down a couple of bottles from the shelves behind him. The drinks are more complicated than the cosmopolitan, but don't involve any raw eggs, so Todd doesn't really know where they fall on the scale of drink-difficulty. One he's finished mixing both drinks – a shaker in each hand, his shirt straining a bit over his chest – he pours them each into a margarita glass. They're both pink, though slightly different shades, and Ramon is careful to slide the darker one in front of Dirk. instructs them to drink.

Todd's margarita is less sour than he's used to, and has a soft, almost starchy flavor on the tip of his tongue. He swallows the first taste, his forehead scrunching up in curiosity, and takes a second, larger sip. Next to him, Dirk is doing the same with his drink, and he hums in contemplation, trying to figure out the flavor.

"I have no idea," Todd admits, and hands his drink to Dirk to try. Dirk swaps their glasses and Todd drinks from Dirk's. This one is sharper, more familiar, and both men chorus "strawberry" when Ramon points to Dirk's drink. Todd takes his beverage back from Dirk and takes a third sip, and then a forth. "Yeah, no," he finally says, shaking his head. "No clue."

"Prickly pear margarita, for a prickly fellow," Ramon says, and Todd gives a surprised laugh.

"Thank you, Ramon," he says, and Ramon winks at him, then turns to the next customer. Dirk frowns, and Todd isn't quite sure why.

"I'm just going to step to the toilet," Dirk says, and clicks his still full glass down on the counter. "Watch this for me?"

"Sure," Todd says, but he says it to Dirk's retreating back. And then he's standing by himself. "Welp," he mutters, and pulls his phone out of his pocket. Because he's a masochist, he clicks on his chat with Dirk, and scrolls back to the other day.

Dirk: r we still doing movie night 2nite?? (7:02PM)

Todd: Yes, I don't think I'll be here for too much longer. Peters is running out of steam, and the canaries aren't coming back. (7:05PM)

Dirk: did he no where they went?? (7:013PM)

Todd: Nope, dead end. (7:14PM)

Dirk: wtf (7:17PM)

Dirk: NEway (7:19PM)

Dirk: movies! pizza! (7:19PM)

Todd: I'm on the way home now, I'll stop at Cicero's. The usual? (7:32PM)

Dirk: yes plz (7:35PM)

Dirk: what movie 2nite? (7:36PM)

Todd: We've done horror, action, comedy - want to try romance? (7:36PM)

Dirk: i don't do romance (7:39PM)

Todd: … (7:39PM)

Todd: the genre? (7:41PM)

Dirk: categorically not interested (7:46PM)

Dirk: do u mind? (7:52PM)

Dirk: *side-eye.emoji* (7:52PM)

Todd: No! (7:53PM)

Todd: I'm fine with whatever. (7:53PM)

Todd: I mean (7:55PM)

Todd: Whatever you want, it's cool. (7:56PM)

Todd: *grin.emoji* *thumbs-up.emoji* (7:56PM)

"Hey Sidekick." Ramon is back in front of him, and he's assembling a few complicated cocktails at once. "Lose your boss?"

"He's not my boss," Todd grumbles. "Don't be a dick, man."

Ramon laughs and slides two drinks to a woman standing next to Todd, gives her change for the money she hands him. "So 'sidekick' is fine, but saying he's in charge isn't, hm?" His eyes glint with something between humor and snark, and Todd opts to take a sip from his drink instead of responding. Ramon laughs again, knowing he's won, and steps away to slide glasses to two more customers. When he steps back, he eyes Todd up and down and drops his elbows to the bar, leans unexpectedly close to Todd's face.

"Can I help you?" Todd says, raising his eyebrows and trying not to feel too struck by Ramon's nearness.

"I already have your number yeah? How would you feel if I used it sometime?"

Todd blinks.

Ramon grins charmingly.

Todd thinks about it. Ramon does have his number – they'd traded during the case, to keep in contact during the whole city-landfill portion of the week. And there… there isn't really any other way to interpret that question. He's absolutely flirting with Todd. Like, definitively. Todd bites his lip for a second and realizes that he actually feels kind of okay about this whole situation? Dirk is 'categorically not interested' in romance, and Todd – Todd is pretty interested in romance. Contrary to what he's told everyone who flirts with him since meeting Dirk, Todd is kind of a secret romantic. And not that Ramon is proposing, or even asking to date, Todd thinks that it could feel pretty nice to spend time with someone who wants him back in the same way.

"I would feel, uh, pretty good about that," Todd admits, blues eyes fixed to brown. "Like, really good, actually."

Ramon grins and ducks his head. A shock of black hair falls across his eyes, and he brushes it back, tucks it behind his ear. "That's awesome. That's pretty fuckin' awesome."

"What's awesome?" Dirk asks, appearing behind Todd's elbow, and Ramon and Todd both start at the suddenness of his arrival. Ramon stands up straight again, and looks to Todd for his cue, for what Dirk knows of this, or should know of this. Todd colors and takes another sip of his drink.

"Ramon and I are going to, um. Catch a movie sometime next week?" He looks up weakly, and is relieved to see Ramon twinkling down at him.

"There's a new romantic comedy coming out that I think we'd both enjoy, quite a lot," Ramon says wisely, and Todd chokes on his next swallow. Dirk looks back and forth between them, sure that he's missed something but unsure as to what it is, and finally makes a scoffing noise, reaching for his own drink.

"Well, I don't like that kind of content at all," he says, "so I'm glad you two fellows can support the local cinema on your own."

Yeah. Todd knows that Dirk doesn't like that kind of content at all. He shakes his head, huffing out a laugh, and looks at Ramon again to see him being flagged over by the other bartender.

"Okay," Ramon says. "As much as I'd like it if you hung around my bar all night, Deja would kill me if I didn't encourage you both to have some fun."

"We're having fun here," Todd protests, but Dirk smiles at Ramon and takes Todd by the elbow.

"You're so right," he says genially. "Todd and I haven't even tried out any of the games yet! I've never played a Halloween game, before."

"You're neglecting your man, Sidekick," Ramon says, feigning shock and reproval. "Show him some games!"

"My man, right," Todd says, and can't quite find it in him to resist Dirk's tug towards the back room. "We'll be back!" he calls to Ramon as they turn the corner. Ramon salutes them with a glass, then fills it for another customer.

"Now," Dirk says to Todd, once he's turned to face where they're going, "I was thinking bobbing for apples, but I really can't decide if it seems more fun or more unhygienic, and then I was thinking about the donut on a string situation, but I don't really want any more donuts today –"

"How many donuts did you have at the office?" Todd asks, but isn't particularly looking for a reply.

– and then," Dirk adds, pointedly not answering Todd's question, "I saw that there are puzzles to solve, and a dancing game and –"

"I'm not dancing," Todd says immediately.

"– and then I saw that there's a game you play blindfolded, and with my superior sense of intuition –"

"Psychic powers."

"– my superior sense of intuition, I assume that I'll be absolutely aces at that one."

Todd stops and blinks. "You want to play 'pin the tail of the donkey'?"

"There's no donkey, Todd," Dirk says scornfully. "It's a black cat. It's Halloween today, remember? Now come on!" Todd lets himself be tugged farther from Ramon and closer to drunk people playing games, and he doesn't have to try to find a smile tucked into the corner of his mouth.

They wind up in the small crowd of folks watching a game of 'pin the tail on the black cat', and Dirk guffaws loudly when a vampire who's been spun a bit too much wobbles on his way to the board, and stick the tail to the cat's forehead. The next person (a giant vulva) makes a pretty good go at it, but the person after them (a... werewolf? A furry?) staggers off in entirely the wrong direction and bangs into a dancing couple, who gamely catch the fellow.

There doesn't seem to be a line to play, but Todd has the sinking sensation that they'll be picked to play soon, so he takes another deep swallow of his margarita. It really is a fascinating flavor, and he closes his eyes for just one second to savor the taste, and the memory of Ramon's eyes while he was shaking it. It's a pleasant, quiet moment in the middle of the crowded room, and then Dirk elbows him, and he opens his eyes again to find Dirk bare inches from his face.

"Whoah! Can I get, like, a solid 12 inches of personal space?" he sputters. Dirk shrugs and apologizes, entirely unconvincingly. He doesn't move further back.

"I'm going to try the game now, Todd. I need you to hold my drink."

"Just finish it," Todd sputters.

"Todd, this drink is too good to shoot back like some kind of cheap malt liquor – not that I'd know anything about cheap malt liquor," Dirk lies." I need to savor it."

"Savor it."

"Your friend Ramon made it especially for me," Dirk says earnestly.

"Look, I – I'm not going to – I mean, I only have one free hand, so I'm supposed to hold your drink?"

Dirk nods. Todd scowls and takes Dirk's strawberry margarita from his hand, and takes a pointed sip while locking eyes with Dirk. Dirk smiles.

They watch one more partier (dressed as avocado toast, fucking Capitol Hill) stick the tail somewhere in the vicinity of the cat's feet, and then the man running the game snags Dirk's wrist, tows him to the clearing in the center of the crowd, and holds up the blindfold. "I'll blindfold you and spin you, and then you're off. Any questions?"

Dirk just turns back to Todd and mouths "superior sense of intuition," and then allows the game runner to blindfold him and hand him a tail on a tack. He's grinning cheerfully as he's spun once, twice, thrice, and then he's free. "I've got this," Dirk says confidently, and staggers towards the left. The crowd giggles and he frowns and reorients himself... directly towards Todd. He takes two strides in that direction, tail held forward, and Todd yelps, backing up a step and eyeing the tack nervously.

"Todd?" Dirk says, confused. "This isn't right." He spins again, and moves more slowly, both hands groping out in front of him. Now, with a snail's sense of timing, he shuffles somewhat in the right direction, steered by the laughter of a few folks in the small crowd. His left hand just clips the edge of the board, and with a triumphant yell, Dirk forcefully pins the tail to the poster and rips the blindfold off his face to observe his triumphant success.

"Nice one," Todd says mildly, admiring the way Dirk's stuck the tail to the haunted house in the background of the picture.

"You're very cordially invited to shut up," Dirk says, reclaiming his drink from Todd's hand and taking a dignified slurp. "Anyway, I'd like to see you do better."

Todd shrugs. "I never said I would." He takes the last sip from his margarita and sets the empty glass on a high top nearby, then steps forward to claim the blindfold. The rules are explained to him, and then he's blindfolded, handed the cat's tail, and spun a few times.

He takes a moment to wobble, to regret the speed at which he'd consumed his fourth drink, and then he carefully steps forward, tack pointed firmly towards the floor. It's extremely disorienting. The cheers and laughter of the people surrounding the board go from jovial and companionate to overwhelming and confusing, and he no longer has any idea which way he's facing. He takes another tentative step, and another one, feeling his way forward with one hand and shuffling along the floor.

"Dirk?" Todd asks, because he suddenly hears Dirk's distinctive accent cutting through the noise.

"This way!" he's calling. "Todd! Todd!"

Todd spares a thought to wonder why Dirk would call him away from the board, back towards where they were standing, but he follows Dirk's voice anyway. He knows he always will.

"Come on!" Dirk shouts, and Todd takes a few more steps, free hand reaching and waving, until – at last! – he feels the cool glossy surface of the board. Now, where would that cat be? In the middle and down a bit... There!

He steps back and tugs off the blindfold to find that he's stuck the tail less than an inch from the end of the cat, and the crowd is cheering. Not loudly – it's a game at a bar, not any kind of important competition – but it feels really nice. He turns to look for Dirk, to thumb his nose at him, but laughter spins him back towards the board. Dirk is standing right next to it, and he's laughing so hard that his hat is tipped over one eye. "Did that help?" he asks, delighted and enthusiastic, and Todd beams softly.

"Yes, Dirk. It did."

He hasn't stuck the cat quite close enough to get one of the prize bags, but the game runner sticks an orange jack o' lantern sticker to his hat, and Todd thanks him in an outrageously bad French accent, pretending to not see Dirk's wince. And then Dirk seizes his elbow again and tugs him away from the game.

"You were quite good," Dirk says admiringly.

"You weren't," Todd says, unrepentant to Dirk's shout of indignation. "What happened to your 'superior sense of intuition'?"

"Lost, along with your manners," Dirk sniffs, and finishes his own drink. The two of them wander the room a bit more, stopping to observe games and laugh at uncoordinated and drunk guests, and then Todd spots Farah and Tina at the 'pick a ducky' game.

"Hey!" he shouts to Tina, and then tugs on Dirk's lapel. "Let's try that one," he suggests, just inebriated enough to forget about dignity.

"That's silly," Dirk says. "That's a game of luck. There's no sense of skill – we'll never win the prizes."

"Sure, but Farah." That seems to be the extent of Todd's logic, but it's enough to make Dirk sigh and allow himself to be steered to their erstwhile friends. "Farah!" Todd enthuses when they're closer to the couple. "We found you!"

"You found us!" Tina is even more soused than Dirk and Todd are, but Farah looks at her fondly, allowing Tina to lean on her arm. "They've got, like, spooky Halloween duckies! Look, they have hats!"

Todd and Dirk obediently coo over the little duckies, dressed as witches and werewolves and skeletons, and the game runner points a finger at Dirk. "You there!" she declares, dressed as an old-timey carnival barker. "Try your luck, eh? Pick a ducky! Ones, twos, and threes are a loss, fours and fives get you another try, and stars are a prize."

"No, no thank you," Dirk says, grimacing. "I don't do, er, games of luck. I'm terribly unlucky, you see, and I'm likely to do something absurd, like fall into your small children's pool, or start a fire out of ducks, or accidentally flood the club."

The woman squints at him.

"You try it, Todd," Dirk suggests, and Todd shrugs gamely. He doesn't need to push Dirk tonight. Besides, Dirk is right – he really might set the rubber duckies on fire.

Todd leans over the pool and twiddles his fingers indecisively, then grabs a small skeleton rubber ducky. There's a one on the bottom, and he shrugs again to Tina's call of "shitty luck, dude!" The game runner puts the skeleton back in the pool and swishes the ducks around again, and then Tina goes. She crouches carefully, unsteady in her heels and desperate to not dip her red fur stole in the pool, and picks another skeleton ducky. It's a five, and she crows in delight, picks a second five, and then a two. "Damn," she cackles, but it's delighted, and she allows Farah to pick her back up and prop her against the wall.

Then Farah goes, and it takes her three pulls to get a star. "Babe!" Tina shrieks, and the entire agency plus a few watchers applaud. Farah accepts her prize – a sticker – with aplomb, and carefully smooths it on to her lapel. Tina kisses her cheek noisily, and a pleased blush rises to her cheeks.

"Now you, young man," says the seated woman. "I'm sure you won't fall in, if your friend keeps you up. Give it a try!"

Dirk looks unexpectedly pale, but also like he doesn't want a fuss, and he sinks slowly to his knees. He holds his hands over the water for several long moments, takes a deep breath, then picks up one ducky. He looks incredibly relieved when it's a four. He hands it to the woman and grabs another one, which is also a four. The third one is, too, and Dirk's eyes start to narrow. The fourth and fifth duckies are also fours, and now the woman is starting to look at Dirk with her eyes narrowed as well.

Finally, the sixth ducky is a five, and everyone lets out a relieved sigh. The seventh, eighth and ninth duckies are fours again, though, and when the tenth ducky is a four as well, Dirk wrenches himself back from the kiddie pool and looks at his hands with dismay.

"Jesus, what are you, psychic?" asks an on-looker, mouth agape.

"Not psychic," chorus Todd, Farah, and Tina, and Dirk looks almost pathetically grateful.

"I think I'm, er, finished with this game," he says shakily, and Farah and Todd both reach forward to pull him to his feet.

"Come on, man," Tina says, and the four of them walk away from the game, back towards the room with the dance floor and tables. Mona pokes her mouse nose out of Dirk's collar and snuffles in his ear, and Dirk smiles weakly. They pile into a booth in the corner of the room, just to the side of an amp blasting a bass beat, and Tina and Todd shove up close on either side of Dirk. Farah nudges his shin with the toe of her shoe from across the table.

"Such a weird coincidence," Farah says mildly, and Tina nods enthusiastically.

"Yeah, what a crazy random happenstance!"

Dirk gives a shaky smile. "Random," he says. "Mmhm."

"Hey, don't like, stress," Todd says, and then holds his hands up defensively when Farah shoots him a glare. "No, I don't mean like, stop worrying. He's gonna worry if he's gonna worry! Feelings are valid, and all that shit. I just mean, these things happen. Maybe they only happen to you, but that's okay. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong, or bad about you."

"Doesn't it," Dirk says quietly, but Todd hears him and nudges him with a shoulder.

"No," he says. "It doesn't. We know you're not psychic, but you are something. Weird coincidences are your shit. This is a weird coincidence."

Farah and Tina nod earnestly, and Dirk smiles again, but with a smidge more strength this time. "Thanks, guys," he says. And if his voice is quiet, none of them make any mention of it.

–––––-

It's twenty minutes later and Tina starts to look a bit green around the gills. "I maybe shouldn't have cross-faded," she admits, and Farah shakes her head.

"I told you that there would be a bar here, Tina," she says, but her tone isn't especially reproachful.

"I didn't not believe you," Tina says. "I just couldn't turn down weed when it's legal, y'know? I'm an officer of the law!" She tries for a winning smile, but it ends up resembling a grimace.

"Because that stops you at home, I'm sure." Farah peers at Tina's face for a long moment, concern growing, and asks, "do you want to get some air? It is kind of hot in here."

It isn't, not particularly, but Tina nods gratefully, "Yeah, that'd be great, babe." Todd and Dirk tumble out of the booth to let Tina out, and then they slide back in, still on the same side. Tina waves weakly to them, then turns and lets Farah guide her towards the front door with an arm around her shoulder.

"Poor Tina," Dirk says, forehead creased in dramatic concern. "Are alcohol and marijuana contraindicated? Will she be alright?" Dirk has indulged in edibles a few times since they came back to Seattle, and drinks a few nights a week, but hasn't ever tried them both at the same time. When he's high, he gets extremely touchy. Well, touchier. He tends to curl up on the couch with Hammerhead, or stand extremely close to Todd when he's cooking or playing guitar, and play with the hem of his shirt. Todd may deliberately wear his softest shirts when Dirk gets high, but would never admit to it.

"She'll be fine Dirk," Todd says, stifling laughter. "I used to do that all the time when we were touring. If you're careful, it just means you get drunker with less booze. Which was... kind of the idea, back then."

"But what if you're not careful?" Dirk looks less worried, but still looks over his shoulder in the direction that the two women had vanished. Todd presses the flat of his hand to Dirk's thigh, touches the fabric of the trench coat, and squeezes comfortingly.

"Then you feel sick until you drink some water and wait it out. Tina's done it before, and Farah will take care of her. She'll be fine."

"Oh." Dirk looks down briefly, then up at the dance floor, where dozens of people in costumes from elaborate to stupid are jumping and spinning and grinding, and focuses on something there. Todd glances over to see what it is that's catching Dirk's eye, but doesn't see anything exceptional, so he looks back at the side of Dirk's face.

He's not frowning anymore, which is nice. Dirk is such a perfect example of grinning, bubbling energy, but he's often hit with moments of quietude, or fear, or misery, and Todd worries for him every time. It should seem foreign to his face, but instead the frowns fit right into the lines at his mouth and brow, like he's far too used to being scared.

Todd notices this. Todd notices because he always has his eyes fixed on Dirk. It's to the point where he's certain that Tina's picked up on it. If Farah hasn't, it's only because she's not great at reading emotions, but Todd wouldn't be surprised if she has. He knows Amanda has, as of this evening. Everyone knows that Todd watches Dirk. It's just what he does.

He's surprised that Dirk himself hasn't noticed, but there's also no way that he has. Dirk can't do subtle to save his life, and there's no way he wouldn't stammeringly tell Todd that he's flattered, truly, but that he would prefer that Todd give him a little more space, and to kindly keep his eyes to himself, if he wouldn't mind.

Todd would mind. Watching Dirk is... it's sometimes the only thing that he can focus on.

Where Farah and Dirk carry all of their worries in manic anxiety, and express it through pacing and frenetic muttering (or shouting, sometimes), Todd's all sit in the pit of his stomach. When he's overwhelmed, he feels sick and slow, like he's walking through syrup or tied to the couch. Anger comes and goes in a flash, but the weight of – of everything sits heavy in his gut. When he gets that way, he looks to Dirk. He lets himself be carried by the swell of Dirk's waves. He follows Dirk down alleys, up staircases, into Chinese food restaurants and out museum emergency exits. Todd is never so saccharine as to say that his compass is oriented by Dirk, but he's certainly drawn to him. He always will be.

So Todd watches Dirk.

The club is dark and the fedora is casting a shadow on Dirk's face, but his profile is backlit by fairy lights and strobes, and his lips are just slightly parted. He's, well... He's beautiful. "Are you okay?" Todd asks, careful not to let any weight sit heavy on his tone. "Like, Tina will be fine, but are you..." he trails off, not even sure where he's going with the question.

Dirk turns his face to look at Todd, and now he's smiling. "I am," he says. "I am, actually."

"Good, uh. That's good."

There's a long pause, and Dirk shifts in his seat slightly, crosses his ankles. The muscle of his leg shifts under Todd's fingers, and he unconsciously presses down, calming, comforting. And then suddenly, it's not unconscious. Todd realizes, to his sudden horror, that his hand is still on Dirk's thigh. He freezes as Dirk shifts again, his muscle moves again, and then Todd yanks his hand away and shoots to his feet, immediately several feet away. Fuck. How long had that been? Did Dirk think he'd been perving on him? Or fuck, groping his leg. Why didn't Dirk say anything? Is he going to say something now?

"I need," Todd says, and then clears his throat, tries to will away the strangled feeling. "I need another drink. I'm, uh. I'm thirsty. Do you want anything? Can I get you a drink?"

Dirk frowns and skootches out of the booth as well, stands in a gangle of limbs. Todd takes half a step back. "Are you okay, Todd?"

"Yes! Of course I – of course I'm okay! I'm just, um, I'm just craving another drink! Maybe another pink cocktail, yeah?"

Dirk tilts his head to one side and peers at Todd, puzzled. "You just said that four was enough," he says.

"Well, y'know, that was like ten minutes ago! Maybe I should at least swing by the bar and – "

"– and see Ramon?" Dirk finishes dryly.

"No, to get a – what?"

"You want to go see Ramon again," Dirk says, nodding reasonably. "And you'd rather do it without me this time, I assume."

"That's – " Todd stares at Dirk, mouth agape, and isn't quite sure how to respond. "That's not what I... mean?"

"Well, he was flirting with you. And I'm pretty sure you were flirting back, though I can't be entirely certainly. I'm reasonably certain, though." He adopts a pensive look and takes a moment to think, then goes on. "You have a tendency to hit on young men that we come across during cases, and older women at bars, but it's more casual complimentary conversation than anything you're actively pursuing. I assume so, at least, because as soon as I walk over, you're done chatting with them." Todd snaps his jaw shut, thankful beyond belief that Dirk has misattributed his behavior to lack of interest, rather than just a focus on Dirk.

Dirk continues. "You haven't dated anyone since just before Amanda's diagnosis, so it's possibly that you're just rusty at flirting, and haven't figured out how to capture anyone's attention, but from the trail of phone numbers slipped in your pocket and written on your hands, arms and – that one time – back, lack of attention from others isn't the problem. So it's possible that you're just being friendly to Ramon, as your conversations with him seem rather similar to your conversations with, say, me for example, but the eye contact, the 'eye fucking', as Tina might say, is a bit of a giveaway that there's a little more than friendship intended here. So I assume that you'd like to go back to Ramon's bar to chat him up again, maybe get his phone number, and engage in a successful romantic liaison with him." Dirk holds up one hand and begins ticking off fingers. "He's younger than you, extremely muscular, skilled at his very specific career, potentially besotted with you, and – as of two weeks ago – legally single, so there's no adultery to worry about." He shrugs. "So while I'm not sure what changed from when you told David Posner that you weren't looking for a relationship two weeks ago, it seems like the timing might be just right for Mister Ramon Navarro."

"I didn't realize you heard me talking to David," Todd says weakly, in lieu of processing anything that Dirk has just said.

"He wasn't exactly quiet about it," Dirk says, looking unimpressed. "He sang you a song, and followed you around the park the whole day we were looking for the racoons."

"He did help with the racoons, to be fair." Todd's eyes automatically flick to the side, assessing a way out, and it takes great effort to keep his feet still and his face tilted up to Dirk. Running isn't actually going to make his reactions seem less suspicious.

"He did," Dirk allows. "And Ramon has now made you four fine drinks, and you seem receptive to the whole eye contact thing he has going on with you. I am curious though," he continues, "about what's changed. Even if David wasn't your type, you've turned down sixteen people in the two years that I've known you, and have told several of them that you weren't looking for a relationship. What's different about Ramon?" He sounds, for reasons Todd can't quite pinpoint, almost plaintive, and Todd instinctively steps forward.

"I don't know," he says, and when Dirk's eyes snap to his, realizes the mistake he's made. "I mean, not that there is anything different about Ramon. He's just as, uh, just as nice as David Posner. And I don't even know if I was flirting with him! Well, I mean. Okay, I know that I was. But I don't know if I was going anywhere with it! I don't even know if he was going anywhere with it!"

"Oh, he was," Dirk says with assurance. "As I said. Eye fucking."

"Don't – don't say that," Todd says weakly. "Please."

"Fine," Dirk says. "But still." He's pinning Todd with an inquisitive gaze and Todd finds the truth – or at least, part of the truth – pouring out of his mouth.

"I just... I realized that it could be nice," Todd says, digging his fingers into his palms. The nails on his right hand are long enough to finger pick his new guitar, and he can feel them marking little crescent moons in his skin. "To... make eye contact with someone who... likes that sort of thing."

"Did none of the others like eye contact?" Dirk asks, puzzled.

Todd winces. He never thought that, when this conversation happened, he'd be dressed in a terrible costume, with a terrible mustache. "No, I just... realized that I couldn't wait around for someone who wanted to be with me in the exact way I wanted to be with them. That I can just... like people, and that it doesn't have to be a huge deal. Look, Dirk, this is... this is kind of weird to talk about in the middle of a party, okay?" Todd can see a lump moving under the lapel of Dirk's coat and wonders what Mona is doing under there, and if she's a mouse, a tie pin, or something entirely different.

"When would you want to talk about it?" Dirk crosses his arms, and then uncrosses them, and then crosses them again. He looks like he isn't quite sure what he's supposed to be doing with his body, other than gangling and looking unfairly attractive in a well-fitted trench coat. "You've gone from being entirely unreceptive to romantic liaisons to being fully interested, and I'm not quite sure I've identified the transitional point. And I just – I just don't know how I could have missed that?"

"You didn't, really," Todd says. "Or like. I don't think there was anything to miss, specifically." Other than a text conversation between the two of them, where Dirk had unintentionally shot down Todd's secret fantasy of dating his best friend. But he wasn't about to say that. "This wasn't, like, a huge decision that I made? I just… talked with Amanda earlier, and she gave me some things to think about."

Dirk looks down at Todd, presses his lips together, and takes a half step forward. They're quite close to each other now, and Todd shoves his own hands in the pockets of his awful polyester pants.

"Does that mean that you're open to romantic connections now?" He sounds nervous, and Todd –

Todd finally gets it.

"Dirk, oh shit," he says. "Dirk. You don't have anything to worry about."

"I… I don't?" Dirk's eyes widen and he gapes down at Todd. Todd puts one hand on Dirk's elbow and smiles reassuringly.

"No, man. Absolutely not. You are my best friend. You're my co-worker, or boss, or whatever. Hell, we live together!"

"We do," Dirk agrees, nodding like a marionette.

"I will never stop spending time with you," Todd promises. "Whether I date Ramon, or – or anyone else. David, Viola, Matthews… whoever. You are seriously my best friend. I love you, I really do, and you're so important to me, and no relationship would ever get between us. Seriously. You will never lose me as a friend, or an assis-friend, or a roommate. I'm like, here for you, Dirk."

Dirk freezes and blinks several times in rapid succession.

"I promise," Todd adds, in case that wasn't enough.

"That's… I'm so, um. I'm pleased to hear that," Dirk says, and he looks filled with emotion. Todd is so, so glad that he said something. He squeezes Dirk's elbow reassuringly, and then he's being shoved from behind, and staggers into Dirk's chest.

"Hey," Todd snaps, pushing off of Dirk (don't notice his pecs, don't notice his pecs) and turns to find Amanda, arms crossed and grinning smugly.

"Amanda!" he and Dirk chorus, both a bit snappishly.

And then she’s between them, one arm slung around each of their shoulders, her chest heaving from exertion. "Dirk! Holy shit, dude, you look wild!"

Dirk looks pleased to see Amanda, but maybe... not thrilled? Like he's unhappy about something? Maybe about having their awesome friend-moment interrupted. "Thank you, Amanda," Dirk exclaims, rallying some excitement. His hands gravitate to the shaved sides of her head like magnets. "Oh my god, your head feels so funny. When did you do this?"

"Todd did it for me," she says, tilting her chin down obligingly to let Dirk feel the back of her head, and her spiked tips. "He used to do my hair when I was a teenager, so I made him do it again."

"I love it," Dirk gushes. "Who are you meant to be? Are you a punk detective?"

"I mean, whenever I work with you guys, I'm a punk detective," Amanda says smugly, and then laughs. Her eyeliner is smudged with sweat and she smells of a sharper drink than her first margarita, so she's clearly having a fantastic time. "But I'm Sharon Ford."

Dirk blinks politely.

"Damn, has Todd not broken out his old comics for you?" Amanda shakes her head in disappointment, pulling her arms off of their shoulders and giving them some space. "There's some cool comic issues from like, the eighties, where Sherlock Holmes is a punk chick. Sharon Ford. Todd let me read them when I was in, like, middle school. Mom was not happy," she adds pointedly, kicking Todd's ankle.

"A punk detective? That's so cool!" Dirk enthuses. "Todd, why haven't you shown me any of your old comics? Do you only have old ones? Do you have new comics? Can I read the punk detective comics?"

"Okay, okay, yes," Todd says, holding up his hands. "You can read 'Baker Street,' you can look at the rest of my comics, and screw you." This last imperative is directed at Amanda, and she shrugs, amused.

"So who are you dressed as?" Amanda asks, tugging familiarly on Dirk's lapels. Todd tries not to frown.

"I'm Norton Folgate," Dirk says, lifting his nose into the air. "Detective and Torchwood agent."

"Oh shit, that's that Doctor Who spin-off, yeah?" Amanda looks very interested. "I never got into those, but Todd was nuts for them."

Dirk slowly turns and raises one eyebrow at Todd. "Oh, was he?" he asks, but it's not really a question. And now Todd is flushing and doing his best to look anywhere but Dirk's far-too-knowledgeable expression, and thank fuck, because –

"Amanda!" crows Tina, dragging Farah behind her. "Shit girl, you look amazing!"

"Um, you do too," Amanda says, grabbing Tina by the shoulders and looking her up and down. "Oh my god, you are such a babe." And then she turns to look at Farah and her eyes widen. "Oh my god, Tina, your girlfriend is so hot."

"Right?!" the two of them casually ogle Farah for a few moments, who blushes but obligingly holds up her mustache on a stick, and Amanda cackles delightedly.

"Okay, so you're Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries," she says to Tina. "And you're... the stuffy French guy?"

Farah laughs. "Close enough. I have no idea who you're supposed to be, but either way, I love the hair."

"Todd did it," Amanda shares again, and Tina and Farah both make admiring noises towards him and pet the sides of Amanda's skull.

There's an unexpected distance between Todd and Dirk. Usually in group settings, they gravitate towards each other, bumping elbows and shoulders as they move through crowds, but Dirk seems to be consciously keeping a friend between them as the five of them (six, with Mona sitting on Dirk's shoulder again) chat. They've all been together for a few cases in the last six months, but it feels joyful and new every time. This time, though, Todd can sense that something feels strangely fragile between him and Dirk.

He isn't entirely sure what to do about it. Clearly, it's come from Todd's admission that he finds Ramon attractive, or that he's planning to go out with him, but he was sure that telling Dirk that he'd be around for him would be the trick to reassuring him. Then again, it's not like he can control Dirk's worries, or whatever. Maybe it's just his responsibility to keep being a good friend, no matter what else, to prove to Dirk that he's not going to vanish on him.

On a deeper layer, Todd wonders if he should tell Dirk that he changed his mind, that he doesn't want to date Ramon after all. That he'd rather keep Dirk feeling happy and secure than risk Dirk's comfort on some hot bartender. But that doesn't seem realistic, and he knows that Amanda will chew him out if he tries that. So he just tries to immerse himself in the chatter, and to catch Dirk's eye and smile reassuringly whenever he can.

He'll be a good friend, no matter what. He's got to be. Dirk is the best person he knows.

After another few songs drift out from the amp next to them, Farah tugs on Dirk's sleeve. "I actually want another drink," she says. "I think Tina's done for the night –" she shoots a look at Tina, who nods sheepishly "– but I could use another glass of wine. Want to come with me?"

Dirk swallows, and finally looks over at Todd. "Take Todd," he says delicately. "I'm sure he'd like another drink from the bar."

Farah looks back and forth between them, confused, but when Todd nods carefully, she shrugs and steps closer to him. "Works for me," she says. "Tina? Amanda?"

Tina has her eyes narrowed, and she takes Farah's spot by Dirk's side, grabs his bicep in both of her hands. "We're gonna dance," she says firmly. "Me an' Dirk an' Amanda." Her firm tone brooks no arguments, and Amanda jumps up and down, pumps her fist enthusiastically.

Dirk nods tentatively. "I think I could really use that," he says, then lets out a long breath and smiles shakily at Todd. "I could also use another drink," he admits. "Meet me by the door after a few songs?"

Todd nods, and watches Tina drag his roommate and his sister into the crowd, then looks up at Farah. "Shall we?" he quips, and lets her lead the way back to the main bar.

He really is pretty tipsy, and isn't sure he actually needs another drink. On the other hand, Dirk encouraged him to go with Farah, and they are still drinking for free. Maybe it's worth it to slide from tipsy to drunk. Hell, maybe he can even take Ramon up on that offer to stay over (not that he'd been planning to drive either way).

"So what did Dirk mean by that?" Farah asks, once they're standing in line. "Like, that was kind of weird of him, right? I'm not imagining Dirk being weird, am I?" She tilts her head to one side, and reconsiders. "Well, it's Dirk. It would be weird if he weren't weird, I think. But maybe this was weirder than usual?"

Todd snorts. "Uh, yeah, kind of. I mean, no, you're not imagining it. I think he was being nice to me?"

"By... asking you to get him a drink?"

"By letting me talk to Ramon again, I think," Todd admits, and they shuffle forward one place in line.

"The bartender from the other week?" she looks puzzled, and glances up at the bar to see Ramon pouring three beers in quick succession. "Why would Dirk want you to talk to him? Is the case not over? Did we miss something?"

"No, no," Todd reassures her. "Totally social. The case is done. Dirk just knows that I, uh... I mean, that Ramon is, um." He stammers to finish the sentence, and is beyond grateful to reach the bar before he manages to finish the sentence.

"Sidekick!" Ramon says, and the familiar tease already settles comfortably under Todd's skin. "And the formidable Ms. Black, glad to see you're here tonight as well." Without even being asked, he fills two pint glasses with water and slides them over. Todd picks his up and drinks gratefully.

"Thank you, Ramon," Farah says, taking a long swallow from her glass. "And we'd love another few drinks; for us, and for Dirk, and a water for my girlfriend."

"Different person than your sister?"

Todd and Farah both snort, and Farah explains Tina as Todd gulps down the whole glass of water. He finishes with a noisy gasp and Ramon's eyes crinkle as he takes the empty glass back, places it in a dish bin.

"So, what can I get you guys?" Ramon says. "I'd love to chat more, but I don't want to overwhelm Kevin." He jerks his thumb towards the other bartender handling orders.

"I'll take another one of those cactus things," Todd says quickly. "And I think Dirk would enjoy a, uh – " He's not actually sure. "Something sweet?"

"I'll make him a sunrise," Ramon says, wisely taking over. "And for you?"

"I'll just take the house red," Farah says.

"You got it," Ramon says to her, and then he's mixing two drinks, pouring Farah's wine, and flirting with Todd all at the same time. It's kind of brilliant, and Todd flushes to realize that Farah notices. Of course she notices. She may not be great at reading emotions, but Todd isn't exactly being subtle. Ramon certainly isn't. Ugh, eye-fucking indeed.

When Ramon is finished, Farah grabs her wine in one hand and her waters in the other. She looks helplessly at Tina's water and Todd and Dirk's cocktails, but Todd smiles reassuringly.

"Four years a waiter," he reminds her. "I've got this." He grabs the two margarita glasses in one hand and the water in the other, and Ramon smirks.

"Careful with that," he says, and taps the heel of Todd's hand with his index finger. "Come back if you drop them; I'll make you another."

"I won't drop them," Todd says boldly. "But I will be back." And then he and Farah step back into the crowd.

"What the hell was that?" Farah asks, once they're half a room away.

"Flirting," Todd says, raising his eyebrows. "Have you never heard of it?"

"Shut up." She rolls her eyes and steers them towards a high top near the door, where they can put down the extra drinks and start on their own. "Obviously. Even I could see that. I mean, has he been doing that all night? Have you been doing that with him all night?"

Todd blinks, suddenly wrong-footed. Farah sounds almost... upset. "Yes?"

"While Dirk was right there? Are you insane? Or just an asshole?"

Ah. This again. "I told him he doesn't have anything to worry about," Todd says soothingly. "He seemed upset too. I figured he was worried about like, losing me as a friend, or something. I promised him that's never going to happen."

For some reason, though, Farah doesn't look reassured. She looks, in fact, even more ticked off. "So insane and an asshole," she says grimly, and takes a large swallow from her wine. "Or just an idiot."

Todd blinks. "Am I... missing something?"

"I don't know, Theodore, are you?" She takes another swallow from her wine, and then a third, and then her glass is empty. She looks angrily at the bottom of her glass, and then frowns up at Todd. "I need a stronger drink. I didn't realize that I needed a stronger drink, but I can already tell that my week is going to suck. Stay here," she adds firmly. "I'll be back." Before Todd can do anything, or say anything, she's gone.

"That was... unexpected," Todd says to the empty air. And then he's alone again.

He takes a sip from his pink margarita, admitting to himself that he may, in fact, be a cocktail person, and sets his phone on the table. The lock screen is a photo of him, Dirk and Farah making silly faces while sitting on the fire escape. It was from the end of a case in July, where the building's power had gone out and the fire escape was the only place with a breeze, and they're all hot-faced and laughing. Todd presses his lips together in a smile, and unlocks the phone. It opens to the same place he locked it.

Dirk: categorically not interested (7:46PM)

Dirk: do u mind? (7:52PM)

Todd doesn't mind. Or like, he does, but not in a way that would ever cause him to hurt Dirk. Whether Dirk's just happy being single, or "aromantic", or whatever. It sucks for Todd, but it's fine. It's good. It's whatever Dirk is, and that's good, because Dirk is so good and Todd will be happy with him, however he chooses to be. However he is.

And now he can let go of his crush, and think about dating someone new, and really focus on being a good friend to Dirk. Because that's what Dirk wants. That's what he needs. He takes another careful swallow from his drink and rereads the conversation.

And then he hears, "hey asshole." Todd jumps and hastily locks his phone, and Amanda and Tina are crowded up next to him, both looking unimpressed. Amanda reaches around him to grab Tina's water, and passes it over. They step back and now Dirk is between them, and he looks, well –

Still unsettled. Still unsure. But there's something about the set of his jaw that gives Todd pause.

"Hey guys," he says cautiously, slipping his phone in his pocket. They all know the unlock pattern for his phone, and he doesn't need any of them to know what he's been mooning over.

"You got this, Dirk?" Tina says, and Dirk steps forward, nods.

"Yes," he says, and briefly puts his hand on Amanda's shoulder. Mona skitters out of his sleeve and into Amanda's collar, and then the two ladies take their drinks and are gone.

And then it's just Todd and Dirk standing at the table with their drinks, and Todd is more confused that he's been all night. "Are you, um, okay?" he asks Dirk, who is still looking determined while avoiding Todd's gaze.

"Yes," Dirk says. And then he says, "no," and he seizes his drink in one hand and drinks it down so quickly and so desperately that Todd is startled.

"Dirk!" he says, and reaches towards him with useless fingers. "What are you – what are you doing? What did they – are you – " he stammers uselessly while Dirk swallows and swallows, and Todd can do nothing but watch his adam's apple move under his pale skin. Then it's empty and he pulls off the glass with a gasp, sets it down with an audible thump, even under the music.

Todd swallows the last small bit of his pink drink, baffled but along for the ride, and then Dirk steps close to him, and then closer. He reaches out towards Todd, his hands fluttering in the air between them, and then he pats Todd's chest, rests his palms just under his collarbones.

"Todd, I... I have to try this. I'm so sorry, but if you're about to – with, you know, and I never, I'd just… I don't know if I could… And maybe this is entirely stupid, or maybe it's just a bit stupid, but I – "

"Dirk, what are you talking about?" Todd says, running a soothing hand from Dirk's shoulder to his elbow. "What happened?"

"I'm sorry," Dirk blurts, and then he's kissing Todd.

He's – he's kissing Todd.

It's better than anything Todd has imagined, and Todd has imagined this many, many times. Dirk's lips are still damp, still taste like orange juice and grenadine, and he's pressed so closely to Todd that Todd can feel his heartbeat thundering against Dirk's hands. He still has one hand on Dirk's arm, so he lifts the other one as well and clutches the fabric, holds him firmly, and he kisses Dirk back.

And then it's a mutual connection, and they both shiver in tandem.

Dirk is an incredible kisser and Todd isn't even surprised. His lips are lush, and they press against Todd's gently, coaxing him in small movements. He's making tiny, unconscious noises, and Todd can feel the vibration against his mouth. It's a long, still kiss for a long, still moment, and then Dirk tilts his head to the side, just a bit, and it's like a key turning in a lock. They click. He presses up on his toes, just a bit, and can feel the warmth of Dirk's face.

It's the first time Todd's been clean-shaven in almost two years, and the feeling of Dirk's smooth skin against his own is so overwhelming that he can barely concentrate on anything else for a moment. The texture is soft and distinct, all at once, and he inhales sharply. His mouth slackens, and Dirk takes the opportunity to dart the tip of his tongue against Todd's bottom lip, to taste him.

And that's the moment when Todd realizes what he's doing.

"Fuck," Todd gasps, and pulls back. It would successfully separate them, except he's still gripping Dirk's upper arms, and he can't seem to convince his fingers to let go. "What the – what the fuck, Dirk?"

"I'm sorry," Dirk babbles, but his hands twist into fists, grab Todd's lapels tightly. "I shouldn't have, I just – I couldn't not, and I was afraid that you might not, but then you did, and I'm not sure what that means, but I needed to and – shit," he swears, and he looks very, very frightened.

"Dirk," Todd says. "I don't know why you just did that." His heart is thundering, and he's trying to convince his lungs to process oxygen in the manner that they've successfully been doing for the last thirty-six years, but they seem unconvinced.

"You're going to date Ramon!" Dirk cries, and then he blanches.

And now Todd really does step back. He forces his hands open, and lets Dirk go, and gently detangles Dirk's hands from his jacket. Dirk's skin is so warm, and it's horrible to let him go, but he does. "Dirk," Todd says, and his heart aches worse than he can remember it doing. "That's – that's a terrible reason to kiss me. I mean, you can't – you can't do that to me."

"I don't understand!" Dirk is pale and trembling, and he grabs the front of his own coat for want of something to do with his hands. "You didn't want to date anyone, and I was fine, but why do you want to date him?"

"Do you… dislike Ramon?" Todd can't follow the train of the conversation, at all. "I – I didn't realize; I thought you liked him."

"No!" Dirk says, almost shouting, and then he says, "or yes? I don't want to use a double negative. Ramon is fine, I just don't know what happened this week."

Todd knows that he's probably as red in the face as Dirk is pale, but Dirk looks on the verge of panic. His face is screwed up and his eyes are damp, and it's incongruous with his sharp hat and bold outfit. No matter how much Todd's heart hurts, he's never going to leave Dirk like that. "Dirk," Todd says, and he deliberately pitches his voice more quietly, gives Dirk permission to lean closer again. "Can you tell me what you're confused about right now? Or like, why you're upset?"

"You kissed me," Dirk says. "You kissed me back. But now you're going to kiss Ramon. And I don't know why you want to kiss him, if you could just kiss me."

Todd winces. This is almost the worst case scenario he could have imagined. This is like, the worst way any of this could have played out. "Dirk, I –" he starts, and he scrubs his hands over his face. He's tipsy enough that closing his eyes gives him a brief sense of vertigo, and he opens them again as quickly as he can. "I can't kiss you just to… kiss. I don't like to do much of anything, if there isn't emotion there."

"Do you think I don't have emotions?" Dirk says, and Todd shakes his head immediately.

"No, no, of course I don't think that," he says quickly. " I just mean, – " he grimaces. It takes him several deep breaths to start again, and all the while, Dirk is watching him with an anguished expression. "We were talking the other week, and you – you told me that you don't do, uh. Romance? And I know that's a thing. Or like, I looked it up, and now I know it is. But I – I can't do this –" he gestures between them "– without the feelings part. The, uh. Romance. And Dirk I – you – you should know that I like you too much to be able to do this casually. I've wanted this for a, um. A long time. And that's why I kissed you back," he ends lamely, and fixes his gaze firmly over Dirk's left shoulder.

Here's where it ends. Here is where Dirk says it to him. That he's flattered, but that he isn't interested. Or maybe, that he'd be down for some casual hooking up, but that he doesn't want to date Todd, and now it's too awkward.

But instead, Dirk sputters, "What the shit makes you think I don't do romance?"

Todd blinks.

"And while we're at it, why the shit have you told every person who's wanted to take you home that you're not looking for a relationship, if that's apparently the only circumstance under which you're willing to shag someone, and you're not actually opposed to being in one?"

"I – what?"

Dirk narrows his eyes, and now he's the one leaning in towards Todd. "I have been pining over you like a goddamn evergreen," he hisses. "And you have told seven people in my hearing alone that you are not looking for a relationship. And I have respected that, and I have made sure to not assume that you'd be interested in me even if you were looking for someone to date – which you said you were not – and now I find out that you are not only interested in dating, but that you are also interested in kissing me, at the very least, and this is confusing and somewhat infuriating, and I just want to understand what the hell is going on."

"I – I didn't want to date them," Todd stammers. Dirk looks somewhere between curious and deeply suspicious, and Todd feels very unsteady. "I didn't want to say, like, 'sorry, I'm fucking gone for my roommate, thanks for trying'. You just, you let people down gently, you tell them that you're not interested in dating anyone. That's a thing!"

"So why didn't you tell me that you were 'gone on me'," Dirk asks.

"Why didn't you tell me that you wanted to kiss me?" Todd counters.

"Because you said, in my bloody hearing, that you weren't looking for a relationship!"

Todd stares at him. "…oh."

"And I ask again," Dirk says dangerously, "what made you think I'm aromantic?"

"That's the word," Todd mutters. But to this, he actually has a good answer, and he fumbles to pull his phone out of his pocket. He unlocks the screen and wordlessly holds it up to Dirk's face. Dirk reads the conversation on the screen, then reaches one long finger forward to scroll around a bit, and rereads the chunk that Todd's read a dozen times in the last few days. Then he carefully takes the phone out of Todd's hand, reads the whole conversation once more, and then hits the power button. He tucks the phone into his own breast pocket and looks back at Todd.

"You idiot," Dirk says, and Todd can't tell if he's angry or fond. Possibly both. "I said 'categorically not interested' as in 'not interested in that category of movie'! I couldn't have been more clear!"

"You said," Todd begins weakly. "I mean, I asked if you meant the genre."

"And I agreed. Romance movies, categorically, don't interest me at all. I don't like watching actors pretend to fall in love, because it never looks genuine."

"Then why did you ask if I minded?"

"Because you and Farah are always watching those films where the tragic Edwardian lovers have misunderstandings and cast each other longing looks from across the room! I didn't want you to be upset that I don't like them!" He frowns thoughtfully. "Although I now admit that they're possibly more realistic than I'd previously thought."

"I – oh," Todd says. "Fuck."

"Fuck," Dirk agrees.

Todd is honestly not sure what emotion he's supposed to be feeling right now; whether it's guilt or excitement or defensiveness. This has all been a huge mess, mostly of his doing, and he has no idea what the next step is supposed to be. From the expression on Dirk's face, it looks like he isn't really sure what to do either.

"Why didn't you tell me that you wanted to, um. Kiss me?" Dirk tries.

Todd winces. "I just assumed you didn't want to, and I didn't want to make things weird."

"Like this isn't weird enough?"

"No, I mean, it is. I just didn't think this would happen," Todd says, unexpectedly raw. "I was also kind of, uh – pining?

"So," Dirk begins, and then winces, shuffles his feet. It makes him look unexpectedly vulnerable, but Todd is sure he looks a sight as well. All red-faced and tipsy, clutching the table for support. "So," Dirk tries again, and then he continues, "are we both, er, idiots then?"

"I don't think you did anything particularly stupid," Todd admits. "But I think that we both, uh, missed something." He makes a face. "I kind of thought you knew already, to be honest. And that you were just being, um, being polite?"

"When have you ever known me to be polite, Todd?" Dirk rolls his eyes, and Todd bites down on a laugh. If it weren't for the feeling shitty and both of them getting upset and it being who-knows-how-long of a misunderstanding, this would actually be kind of funny. Dirk catches his chuckle, though, and spends a moment clearly trying to figure out if he wants to be annoyed or amused. Thankfully, he settles on amused, and snickers as well.

Soon, both of them are laughing. Todd is relying on the table for some semblance of balance, and Dirk's face is crinkled with emotion, his eyes shining. It's a weird catharsis, and both of them are drunk enough that their laughter is out of proportion with the moment, but it also feels necessary. Their laughter lasts through most of the next song, and both of them only settle back down when they've been reduced to gasping breaths.

There's a long moment of silence between them – not awkward, but tentative – and then Dirk asks, "So, is this... is this a thing?"

Todd doesn't want to assume he knows what Dirk is asking, but he's hopeful. "If you, uh, if you want it to be, dude. And that would be – that would be pretty cool."

"Oh thank god," Dirk blurts, and then he's crowded up against Todd and he twines his fingers in the polyester of his lapels again. "Can I –" he breathes, and Todd responds by tilting his chin up and kissing Dirk.

It's even better than their last kiss. Their first kiss. Their last kiss, which was their first kiss. That one was frantic and baffling and overwhelming, and Todd had barely been able to parse what was happening, so distracted and over-stimulated that he wasn't fully present. Now, he's the one kissing Dirk, and he knows exactly what he's doing. They're still for several heart beats, just exploring pressure and presence, and then Todd deepens the kiss. He lets his lips part enough to breathe Dirk in, and Dirk makes the tiniest noise of surprise, clutches Todd more closely to him.

"Oh," he murmurs, into Todd's mouth.

"Mm," Todd agrees.

And then they hear, "are you kidding me?" and they rip apart like a snapped rubber band. Todd spins around to see Farah standing behind them, clutching a glass of what looks like half a Long Island iced tea, and her eyes almost comically wide.

"Farah!" Dirk says, hands flapping down by his thighs. "Todd! He kissed me!"

"Dirk, you kissed me," Todd says.

"I don't give a crap who kissed whom," Farah says, unexpectedly acerbic. "I have spent the last six months hearing Dirk moon over you, Todd, and then you started hitting on the bartender, who until last week was a client, and I have spent the last fifteen minutes freaking out in the bathroom that I was going to have to spend another six months hearing Dirk be miserable, or that this was going to turn into some kind of high school drama bullshit that I was going to be in the middle of, and like – I spent all of actual high school successfully avoiding drama by not having any friends at all, and I was genuinely concerned that by having you guys as friends, this whole Dirk-crushing-on-Todd thing was going to be so weird, and I was going to have to deal with it, but the second I turn my back you guys end up making out? Did I just freak out for nothing?"

"Holy fuck!" Tina crows, and then she's at the table as well, and she's dragged Amanda behind her, and both of them are sweating and out of breath. "They made out? That's awesome!"

"Todd, shit, what'd you say to him?" Amanda asks, and she punches his shoulder a few times with her enthusiasm. He winces.

"What did Todd say to Dirk?" Farah asks disbelievingly.

"Yeah," Amanda says, like it's obvious. "Todd's been crushing on Dirk for like, ever, and he was too much of a wimp to say anything."

"Todd's been crushing on Dirk?" Farah looks like she's about to blow a gasket. "That can't be possible. Because if that were true, then the last six months of my existence will have all been because of poor communication, and I refuse to accept that."

"It's, uh. It's true," Todd admits. He feels Dirk's hand on his shoulder, and he soldiers on. "I didn't say anything because I was a wuss, but I was – I was like, too hung up on him to do anything with anyone else. And then he, um, he kissed me. So I figured out that maybe he was into me?"

"How could you have not known?" Farah takes another desperate gulp from her drink, and Todd notices Tina snickering from out of the corner of his eye. He's glad someone finds all of this funny.

"If you hadn't noticed, Todd doesn't have the most robust sense of self-esteem," Amanda shares.

"Thanks," Todd says, tannin-dry, but it's not really a disagreement.

"Let me get this straight," Farah says. "Dirk, you've been into Todd, but you thought he didn't do romance. And Todd, you've been into Dirk, but you assumed he wasn't into you?"

Dirk makes a rocking motion with one hand, but Todd bats it out of the air and says, "close enough."

"This is a rom com," Tina crows. "This is the best fuckin' thing ever, I can't believe this is real life. It's like a movie, or like, a fanfic."

"Okay," Todd says, "cool, I'm glad we've formed the entertainment portion of this evening, but I would be pretty into not comparing my love life to that kind of shit."

"I just call 'em like I see 'em," Tina retorts, unconcerned.

"Anyway," Amanda interjects. "This is rad. You're both into each other, we're all drunk, and it isn't even one am. Come on — executive decision, we are all dancing now."

Farah and Todd both try to argue, but are silenced and yanked away by Tina and Amanda respectively, and Dirk follows the four of them with a slightly manic grin plastered to his face. They cram their way into what is currently a very crowded dance floor, and none of them but Amanda moves with any kind of grace, but it's incredible. There's no tension among them – except the longing glances that Todd and Dirk keep shooting each other – just laughter, and some genuinely awful attempts at the Thriller dance. Todd gets to sling his arm over Amanda's shoulders and jump to some terrible German synth pop, and Farah and Tina try to slow dance to a top-40 bop that's way too quick for swaying.

They hop and move and thrash until even Farah is panting, and then they drag themselves to the side of the dance floor. Todd's hat is askew and he takes a moment to try and fix it, and Tina drapes her fur stole over Dirk's shoulders while she fans herself frantically.

"We need to hydrate," Farah says responsibly, though there's a flush to her cheeks, and Amanda tucks her hand in Todd's elbow.

"We've got it," she says. "You guys hang here, and we'll bring water, yeah?"

"Why don't we all –" Tina starts, but Amanda flaps a hand in Tina's direction.

"Make out with your girlfriend, yeah? Todd and I will be back." And Amanda pulls him out of the room without a second word, tows him towards the bar.

"Why aren't we all just going together?" Todd asks once they're in line.

Amanda elbows him in the side. "Oh my god, you are an idiot. You just spent the whole evening flirting with the bartender – he told me when I got some shots earlier. You have to tell him that you're gonna fuck Dirk, instead."

"Amanda!" Todd squawks. "I – I don't know if we're going to – it's not instead, Amanda, and I – how – wh–"

"You can't leave Ramon hanging," she says. "I know you, it's not like you're going to hook up with both of them, and Dirk is like, your whole thing. World. Whatever. So you have to apologize to Ramon."

"What a night to try dating," Todd grumbles. "If I had just waited..."

"Then Dirk would have never kissed you, and you would have been sad and pathetic forever," Amanda says sensibly. "Now, use your goddamn words." And they're at the front of the line, and she shoves him forward.

"Sidekick!" Ramon says, and fuck, his eyes are really warm, and they crinkle at the corners when he smiles at Todd. "You brought your sister to me! Are you still drinking?"

"Just uh, just water," he says. "Five of them, please."

"Ah, the whole group," he says, pleased, and lines up five glasses on the bar, fills them with ice.

"Listen, uh," Todd begins, and he trails off.

Ramon looks at him intently, smiles reassuringly. "You alright?"

"Yeah, I just – I. Earlier, you asked if you could call me, or like, uh – text me? And I said yes. But I – that wasn't actually true. I mean, I wasn't lying, I just didn't know that it wasn't true. I thought you could. Or like, I mean, you can text me, but I can't, uh – I can't text you... back?" He briefly closes his eyes, curses his complete lack of chill and ability to communicate like a reasonable human being, and then opens them again. "I mean, I can't – I'm not. I'm not actually as... available as I thought I was, when I said yes. I think. I mean, I don't know what I am, but I think at least part of it is, um. Unavailable."

"Hm," Ramon says, pulling up the nozzle to fill all of the glasses in front of him. "Well, that kind of sucks, but I appreciate you not, like, ghosting me."

"I wouldn't do that!" Todd blurts, and then bites his lip. "I don't think I would, at least. But I'm kind of an asshole, actually. So, I'm just glad I'm not going to, I guess."

Ramon nods. "I just want to know – is it me, or is it Dirk?"

"Huh?" Todd blinks.

"Just that like, if you suddenly realized that you're not into me, I'll be honest, that stings a little. But if you suddenly realized that you're into him, well, finally."

"I didn't just realize," Todd grumbles half-heartedly. "I just didn't realize he was into me."

"Damn, and here I thought I had a thing for smart guys," Ramon teases, and Todd looks up at him, startled. Ramon laughs. "Did you think I'd be pissed, or something?"

"I don't – I don't really know what I thought," Todd admits.

"Well, you're real cute, so I'm a little bummed. But that guy looks at you like you're the only one in the room, and that's pretty great. I'm glad you get that." He shrugs and smiles, and slides all of the water glasses over the bar. Amanda reaches past Todd to shove a ten in the tip jar.

"Thank you, Ramon," she says. "I'm sorry my brother's an idiot, but you're a real stellar guy."

"Thanks," he says, and grins at her. "Guess I dodged a bullet, huh?"

"You have no idea," Amanda says.

Todd and Amanda manage to grab all five glasses between them, and Ramon shoots finger guns at them. "I'm still gonna text you, Sidekick," he says. "Just, for like, video games, yeah?"

"Yeah," Todd says, relieved, and then they're on their way back to the group.

"Everything good?" Farah asks when they get back, and Todd notices Dirk shooting him a worried look as well.

"Yeah," he says. "It's uh, it's all really good, actually."

"Good," Farah says, and Tina nods firmly as well.

Amanda and Todd pass out the glasses, and they all five of them lean up against the wall and gulp down their water. Todd ends up next to Dirk, and their shoulders brush, and it's honestly one of the most exciting things he's felt all night.

The evening doesn't last much longer after that. Tina takes Amanda to try out one or two of the carnival games, and Dirk and Todd squeeze into a corner by the back door to trade more soft kisses, but all of them end up just outside the front door before half an hour has passed. Tina and Todd both pull up rideshare apps, and they huddle together for warmth while they wait.

"Ugh, I always forget how long a wait it is on holidays," Tina says, crossing her arms and taking her stole back from Dirk. "Why didn't we pick a DD?"

"Because we drank for free," Amanda reminds her. She's flushed and grinning, clearly having succeeded at finding the right balance of marijuana-to-alcohol use. "Would you want to pass that up?"

"I guess not," Tina says, making a face. "Ugh, also, I'm starving. Is there anywhere we can get pancakes at two am?"

"We've got leftovers at home," Farah reminds her.

"Yeah. but they aren't pancakes," Tina whines.

"Let's do pancakes for breakfast," Todd suggests. "Or like — fuck, it's late — for brunch. Lunch. I don't know. Whenever we get up."

"Not before noon," Tina says, and Dirk nods emphatically in agreement.

"Okay, but we're going out," Amanda says. "Because I want an omelette, and Todd always wants bacon when he's hungover, and none of us want to do that much cooking tomorrow, I guarantee it."

"Text the group chat when you're up, and once we're all awake, I'll call in a table at Five Points," Farah says and all heads nod in agreement.

Tina and Farah's Lyft shows up a few minutes after that, and they all hug goodnight. "Drink another glass of water!" Farah calls as Tina slides into the back seat after her. "And take an Advil!"

Amanda eyes Dirk and Todd, crowded together against the wall of the bar, and she pulls a cigarette out of her back pocket. "I still have a few minutes, right?"

Todd checks his app and nods. "Yeah, 'Avi' is still eight minutes away."

"Cool, yell when he's here." She saunters over to another group of people, one of whom presumably has a lighter. And then it's just Dirk and Todd, and they're caught in the quiet of the fall night together.

Dirk reaches down and touches two fingers to the inside of Todd's wrist, and Todd's breath catches in his throat. "Hey," he says softly. Dirk's hat casts a shadow over the top half of his face, and his pale blue eyes glint in the darkness. It's a good look for him, highlighting the fine lines at the corners of his mouth, and Todd's heart jumps in his chest.

"Hi," Dirk says, equally soft, and leans down to kiss Todd again, dry and gentle.

"I can't believe this happened tonight," Todd mutters when Dirk straightens back up, leaving the skin on Todd's face cold. "I look like an idiot."

"Yes, but you're my idiot," Dirk says fondly, and Todd huffs out a laugh.

"That's usually my line," he says, and then they're both laughing together. It's crisp and dark, and their buzz is quickly fading into exhaustion, but it doesn't feel unreal. It feels very real, very true, and neither of them thinks it's too good to be true. "Thank you," Todd adds, and doesn't explain further.

"Thank you, Todd," Dirk says, his laughter fading. He noses into Todd's temple, inhales the sweat and exertion on his skin, and smiles into his hair. "This is a very good night."

"Happy Halloween, Detective," Todd says, and Dirk grins. And then he gasps and pulls back and says, "Oi! Why did you tell me you didn't know about Torchwood?"

"Er," Todd says, and looks down at his phone. "Oh, look at that! Ride's here. Amanda!"

"I'll get you later for that," Dirk warns, but he's laughing again, and Todd can't help but smile. He's tired and joyful, and he's got his sister and his best friend slash… boyfriend? by his side, and it's very good.

"Happy Halloween," he says again. And he means it.