(Um…I just noticed after re-reading the first part…I put a baseball game in the first week of January…oops. I'm not correcting it right now so hope ya'll can forgive the mistake.)

Detective Javier Esposito walked up to the front door of Richard Castle's place. From the looks of it, it was big. And expensive. You could forget about Kevin's roadkill theory in this place. Javier guessed it was filled with only the finest and highest priced furnishings.

In his hands sat a large paper bag with those painful biting twine handles and in that rested Christmas gifts for Kate Becket, Lani Parish, Alexis Castle, Richard Castle and Miss Rodgers. Rapping three short times on the door, he waited for Castle to answer, expecting something like a Santa hat, reindeer antlers or…all right, a full Santa suit. Yes, that was definitely Richard Castle for you.

"Esposito!" Rick said splaying his arms outward in greeting and letting a smile just as wide spread over his face. "You're the last one, now we can really get started." He pulled the door open more and Javier moved into the apartment.

His lightly-creamed-coffee eyes moved around the place and he stifled a gag of slight shock. It looked as expensive as he thought it would. "Sorry I'm so late. Missed the first train…" he glanced to the kitchen where Alexis, Kevin, Kate and Martha all stood, little plates and tiny appetizers taking up their hand space. "Where do I put these?" he asked turning his eyes back to Castle.

"Oh, table over there, by the living room." Castle jabbed a finger in the direction he was looking then jogged into the kitchen to stand behind Alexis.

Javier briefly watched him snatch a snack off of her plate and her fight back with a light slap on Rick's hand. He smiled and then caught movement a little off to the side. Kevin was standing there with a big grin, blue eyes sparkling with his enjoyment of the father/daughter fight scene. A little grin flicked its way into the corner of Javier's mouth as he watched the man. He felt heat enter his cheeks as he realized what the man was wearing. The shirt and vest Javier had bought him for Christmas. He was wearing Javier's gift.

Now, they'd certainly talked a bit about the kiss they'd shared at their own gift exchange, and that had been followed up with even more kissing, but that was it. Neither were sure where they were at with one another other than having some strong feelings that included the physical attraction. They were partners, ready to give their lives for one another. They were best friends, sharing many off days together doing something fun. Could they possibly be lovers? Javier certainly hoped so. This was the first they'd seen each other after Kevin had decided it best that he leave for the night so things didn't go further than they needed them to go. It had been a good idea on the detective's part even though that night Javier had spent some time with Kevin painted on the back of his eyelids and his hand getting very intimate with another part of himself. His leaving that night had been for the best.

Shaking his head slightly to clear his thoughts and land himself in the present, Javier walked over to the already filled table and found room for his gifts. He wasn't sure why he wasn't worried about this gift exchange when he had Castle to go up against, but he wasn't. His fear had been about Kevin and he knew this group would understand his pay limitations.

Moving from the table he looked back at the group and paused a few steps from the little island of snacks. "Where's Lani? I thought you said I was the last one to show."

"I'm right here, thanks for asking. Can't a woman get a little breathing room?" she asked stepping up and nudging into Javier's shoulder. "You're looking pretty fine this mornin' detective." She smiled brightly, looking Javier up and down.

Javier Esposito had to admit, were he not totally digging that blue eyed Irishman just on the other side of the kitchen, he'd have been all over Lani in a heartbeat. He cocked a side smile and laughed a little. "Thanks; you're looking pretty good yourself, Lani."

"Don't I always?" She laughed and headed over to Kate. "Hey sweetheart, tell that fine gentleman over yonder that a woman like me always looks good."

Kate laughed along with her friend before pegging a sharp look at Javier. "And don't you forget to tell her she's looking good. You know she'll be all over you if you don't. And not in a good way."

Javier saw Kevin, grin on face, moving over to Alexis. He was obviously trying to keep out of the tight spot Javier had found himself in with the girls. "Hey, partner, aren't you supposed to be back me up, not backing up out of this?" Javier asked reaching onto the island and grabbing a cracker with some cheese piled on it. He glanced at it and saw something in the cheese marking it one of those fancy cheeses with say horseradish or peppers in it. He shrugged and popped it in his mouth while he awaited Kevin's answer.

"Dude, the deal was till the wheels fall off, not for you to drive the car into a lake…" he grinned and ducked around Castle to stand by Alexis. "Save me. How's school going? Still seeing that one guy…um, Ashley?"

Javier was about to round on him when Martha screeched, dropped her plate of food and ran for her purse that was emitting some show tunes tune. Javier couldn't place the song, but then, he'd never really been a theater kind of guy. He wondered briefly if Kevin was. He guessed there had to be something he'd be willing to see with his partner. Not Cats. Anything but that. He looked over with the rest of the shocked group as Martha pulled the phone from her bag, jabbed at the buttons and smushed it to her ear. She was across the room enough that all they heard were indistinct mumbles. A few moments in, she literally punched the air and jumped up and down in a very school-girl manner. Apparently she'd gotten the perfect date to the prom.

"I got the part!" Martha turned and yelled from across the room. She was looking at Alexis who gasped and clasped her hand to her mouth.

Castle moved out from the island and Ho Ho Ho'd his way over to her. Javier couldn't help but laugh when he picked up a protesting Martha and spun her around. "So, you're going to Broadway, getting rich and famous and you'll need help with picking out a new apartment for yourself right?" he asked grinning and kissing her cheek.

"Don't count on it, bub. The one woman you'll be stuck with forever is Martha Rodgers. Hey, that sound kinda nice doesn't it? Can you see it up in lights?" She asked slapping Richard's shoulder until he put her on her own feet. "Martha Rodgers, Broadway star!"

The group chuckled together and congratulated her en masse. After the din had died down, the group moved into the living room and gathered around the gifts. They were handed out in no real order, Castle grabbing boxes and bags, checking the tags and sometimes quite literally throwing them to their soon-to-be owners.

Javier was seated next to Kevin and he could smell that wonderful cologne again. Amidst the noise and multiple conversations, Javier spoke up to his partner in a low tone. "Nice shirt. Looks great on you," he grinned.

"Oh thanks. Got it from this guy, kinda cute. The guy and the outfit." Kevin's grin was ridiculously cute. "So, how was your uh, night the other night?" he asked.

Javier notice the subtle lean of Kevin's leg into his own. He felt the warmth of the closeness between the two of them. He saw the very interested look in Kevin's eyes. "I think we made the right choice, in you heading back. I'd have loved it had you stayed, but…" Javier made a quick glance up to make sure no one was listening to the two of them on the love seat. That thought amused him greatly as he looked back at his partner. The two of them, on a love seat, having this conversation- perfection. "I wasn't going to be thinking straight, or repercussions or what ever, man. I don't think this is something we can just jump into, ya know?" Javier had found Kevin's very blue eyes again and he suddenly felt enraptured, frozen in their gaze.

"Yeah, I feel the same way." Kevin shifted but didn't break the entrancing stare. "We should talk, tonight, after the party." His tone was slightly questioning so Javier knew it wasn't just a statement. Kevin wanted them both on the same page and both making the decisions.

Kevin nodded and smiled. "Sure yeah. Yours or mine?" he asked easing back into the couch seat.

"Mine's closer." Kevin shrugged and shifted as well, getting a better view of the rest of the room.

Javier opened his mouth to agree with the idea when he felt something mush over his head. It was soft and something red flapped over his face. Looking up he caught sight of a white and red Santa hat and Alexis standing behind him. She moved to Kevin next and he got reindeer antlers planted on his head. Looking at the rest of the group, they were all donning their own festive hats and Detective Esposito grinned.

"I'm going to get my violin. Then we can sing some Christmas carols!" Alexis bounded away, nearly missing steps in her excitement. It was that excitement that kept Javier from protesting. He'd just sing very low, so no one could hear. He didn't think he was terrible, but after a rendition of Piano Man with the crew, he'd had enough random bouts of singing in front of people. With the thought of Piano Man he also thought of Kevin's voice. The man had done very well and Javier liked his voice quite a bit. It would be nice to hear him sing again.

Alexis came back with her violin and enough song booklets for everyone. "Here," she smiled handing them out.

Javier did a quick flip through of his and sighed. There was nothing out of the ordinary- Silent Night, Little Town of Bethlehem, even Feliz Navidad and the like. He did cringe at Joy to the World though. It wasn't really one of his favorites.

The group all looked up at Alexis and waited for her to start playing. She looked and smiled to her father then set the instrument under her chin and poised her bow tip at the strings. Pushing it across and pulling it back on another she began the first song. Javier noted she'd gotten very good from the last time he'd heard her play. Castle did love to show case her talents every now and again.

Singing lightly, his deep voice adding a light hum to the rest of the group's song, Javier mostly listened to Kevin. He had a terrific voice that even Christmas Carols suited. After a few long minutes, Javier realized he was staring maybe a bit too intently at Kevin. Looking around he noted no one else seemed to catch that fact. They were watching Alexis play or nudging one another playfully. At Joy to the World, Javier had cut out his singing all together and just watched between Alexis and Kevin. He barely noticed Kevin's hand brushing along his leg, gripping now and again at his pocket or giving him a light squeeze.


"Yep, Merry Christmas! See you guys later," Castle said from the doorway. Alexis was leaning under his arm, waving to Kevin and Javier.

Javier watched Kevin wave back then called out his own goodbyes, "Merry Christmas. Happy New Year," he added as it was now December 31st. It was the 31st only on the grounds that it was 2a.m. and technicalities had it the morning of the thirty-first not the night of the thirtieth anymore. With that complicated thinking, Javier realized he must be pretty tired. Maybe he wasn't in the right frame of mind to be talking with Kevin about a possible relationship.

Watching Kevin hail a cab, Javier followed after and waited. It didn't take long for the one driving down the road to stop for them. There wasn't much competition at this time of the morning. Kevin gave the woman his address and they were there in just a few minutes. Though the ride was taken in silence, it didn't feel awkward. They were in their own thoughts, sorting them out to share once they were comfortable in the apartment.

Due to the tiredness of both men, it took a few minutes to get up the apartment and settled on the couch. Kevin had brought out decaf coffee for them both and Javier accepted it, liking the warmth it brought his hands. He felt his heartbeat kicking up as they drew nearer their conversation and was again glad for the coffee. It provided a calming warmth to the rest of his body as he drank it. "So…merry Christmas," he offered with a crooked grin.

Kevin smiled back, that boyish smile that put attractive crow's feet in the corners of his eyes. "Merry Christmas, Javi." Kevin took a quick drink and set his cup down.

Javier's eyes followed it and he felt tense all of a sudden, waiting for what was about to happen. He watched Kevin's hands move out to take a hold of his cup and set it aside, too.

"I know you wanted to talk," Kevin started, moving a little closer to an ever-panicking Javier. "But there is something I've been wanting to do all day."

Javier held still, mouth pursed and brows furrowed as he watched Kevin. The man leaned in and smoothed out the frown on Javier's face with a kiss. The Hispanic's eyebrows shot up and he went tense for a moment before slowly relaxing and kissing back. Javier's arms slid around Kevin, pulling him close to Javier's chest and holding him there, as they tasted one another. Kevin's soft lips, quick tongue and light teething drew a soft moan from Javier and he didn't really care too much about diving into conversation. This felt good.

No, this felt good but they couldn't start off with physicality. There had to be something substantial with them. Javier's attraction to Kevin lay in more than just sexual attraction and he wanted his partner to know that. Javier wasn't about to take a bullet for just any pretty boy with a badge.

Pulling back, Javier put a hand on Kevin's chest, to keep them separated for more than just two heated seconds. "Kev, man. We do need to talk though."

He watched Kevin suck in a deep breath and sit back a little, just enough for breathing room but not enough for them to stop touching. Kevin's leg was perched half-atop Javier's, and Javier's other arm was still wrapped around Kevin's waist. "Yeah, I know. That went a bit farther than I'd intended." He chuckled nervously. "So, talk."

Javier smiled and moved his still outstretched hand up to run over Kevin's cheekbone again. Kevin was certainly a pretty boy, though. "I just want us at an understanding."

"Yeah, of course." Kevin's smile may have faded but his look was calm, open.

"I'm not just into you for this, you know, the uh," Javier was searching for the right words to describe what he meant without being offensive.

"The sex," Kevin grinned.

Javier gave a look that seemed a pout when he'd really been going for a glare. It seemed to work anyway though and Kevin put up his hands defensively.

"Just being blunt. Might as well." Kevin shrugged his shoulders and let his hands fall to Javier's legs. "And, good."

"Good?" Javier asked not following the thread of thought.

"Yeah, good. Good that you're not just in this for the physical. I mean, I know I'm pretty great looking but I didn't figure you the shallow type." Kevin's easy joking tone was taking Javier's nerves down about twenty pegs at a time.

"Mm, so you'd be happy to hear that my attraction towards you has a lot to do with your wit? Your goofiness? And your brains?" Javier asked, pausing slightly between each part.

It was Kevin's turn to pout and boy did he do it well. Those blue eyes looked gray, his brow low and casting slightly shadow, and those lips! Puckered and turned downwards, drawing little frown lines at the ends. Javier had to mentally ground himself to keep from leaning in and kissing him again. "Goofy?"

Javier chuckled and nodded. "Yeah, you're a goof and you know it. It's cute though."

"What about hot? Can't you describe me as hot?" he asked, eyebrows jutting back up and a hopeful look turning his eyes to a crystalline blue.

"You leave being hot to the Hispanic," Javier grinned. He murmured something in Spanish and grinned wickedly, knowing his partner probably wouldn't understand the dirty little compliment he'd given.

"Mm, it's a good thing you've got smarts, you know. A hot guy without a brain is a turn off." Kevin punched Javier's shoulder playfully and sagged back against the arm of the couch. He let out a large yawn and stretched, ignoring that Javier was at the other end of the couch.

Getting knocked around a bit by his partner had Javier moving himself. He pushed himself up and loomed over the top of Kevin, easing down to find their bodies melded wonderfully and their lips were like magnets. "What else do you like about me?" Javier asked against Kevin's lips. Perhaps this bit was more personal satisfaction, getting reassurance about himself, but he needed it. He needed to know from Kevin what it was he actually had to offer his partner.

"Your dedication," Kevin kissed Javier's lips between speaking. "To the job…to us…" He kissed him deeper. "To me."

Javier grinned and pushed an arm between the couch cushions and Kevin's back, hugging him tight. "Yeah?" he asked with that crooked grin again.

"Mhm, and your style. It's not as finely tuned as mine, granted, but you're getting there." Kevin laughed against Javier's lips. It was oddly erotic, feeling Kevin's breath vibrating over his mouth.

Javier could imagine that somewhere else. "Yeah, you top us all on style." Javier went back for yet another long kiss, a mess of tongue and teeth, battling for control and mocking their word-play. "Your trust," Javier said when he pulled up for a breath. "Your trust in me is a major turn on."

Watching something light up in Kevin's eyes, Javier became suddenly interested. "You trust me?" Kevin asked.

Pulling back a little, Javier looked stunned. "Yes, of course."

Suddenly they were on the ground, Kevin a top of Javier and grinning madly. He had a fire in his blue eyes that made Javier surprised they weren't turning scarlet. Kevin's hands were becoming quick, needing, and fierce in their tending of ridding the two of them clothing.

"Well, Merry Christmas-" Javier started to say.

"And a Happy New Year," Kevin finished in a sexy growl.

(Didn't send this to my beta and it's finished at…2:26 A.M. so here's to hoping for few mistakes. I'm sure she'll red-pen me in a comment!)