Disclaimer: If Castle were mine, I'd have seen ep 3x13 already and I'd be a super happy shipper. Sadly, I'm still waiting in suspense. (see profile for a real disclaimer)

A/N: Written for LJ user,evraealtana, who requested- "Hurt/comfort. I'm usually a fan of hurting!Ryan (I'm such an awful person, I know) but if you can make it better the other way around, go for it." It's not my best (the muse refused to put down the fruity umbrella drinks and work), but I hope you like it, hun!

Detective Javier Esposito hated crying. It was ugly and messy, and usually only complicated things. But, today? Well, today was the one exception that he was willing to make.

Javier sat back in his chair at the precinct, unaware of the hustle and bustle around him as his throat tightened and a tear slid down his cheek. One phone call had been all it took. He knew that something was wrong the second he heard his sister's voice. She'd been a total mess, sobbing through bits of broken Spanish, and the only words he'd been able to make out were, "Mom," "stroke," and, "dead."

And, just like that, his world completely shattered.

Twenty minutes later, Esposito didn't bother looking up when he heard someone sit down next to him, figuring that whoever it was would go away when he ignored them. What he hadn't counted on was feeling Ryan's hand rest tentatively on his back, strong and comforting. Just knowing that he was there, waiting for him to use his shoulder to lean on, completely shattered the already cracked walls he had built around himself.

She was dead. His poor, beautiful, sacrificing Madre had died, and he hadn't been there for her.

Another wave of sobs began building up, and he suddenly found himself cradled in familiar arms, rigtht there in the middle of the bullpen.

"It's okay, Javi," Ryan whispered, "It's gonna be okay."

He shook his head and burrowed into the other man's shoulder, holding onto him as tightly as he dared. It wasn't going to be alright. Nothing ever would be again.


Esposito blinked heavily, disoriented as he woke. All he could see in the early morning light was a faint outline of his partner hovering next to him, in an unfamiliar bed, in an equally unfamiliar room.


He should have been more concerned that he didn't remember how he got there or where he was, but nothing really seemed to matter.

"We're supposed to be at work in an hour," he hesitated, "I was gonna go in and tell the Captain that you were sick and let you sleep, but I didn't want to leave without saying something."

His eyes began welling with moisture, a storm brewing just beneath the surface. He had no idea why he was on the verge of crying again, but the idea of Ryan leaving him alone terrified him and a few seconds later, without warning, the dam broke. Esposito rolled away from him, onto his side, unsuccessfully trying to hide his face as one fat tear after another silently sent streamed down his cheeks. It didn't work.

"Hey, hey," Ryan soothed, crawling onto the bed behind him, "It's okay."

A smaller arm startled him as it slid around his waist, followed by a strong chest pressed against his back. He shuddered at the contact, warmth seeping into him like a salve, wrapping around his body, holding him tight. It was calming, a touchstone, exactly what he needed.

Javier sniffled, his tense muscles quaking with relief as he tried to relax into the mattress beneath him. Never in a million years did he think that he'd end up in his partner's bed, let alone with the man's arms around him, but at the moment it was the only thing keeping him sane. So, without thinking, he reached down and took Ryan's hand in his own, wrapping it more securely around him. Instead of the protest that he'd expected, Javi was surprised to feel him lean more fully into him, sighing heavily against the back of his neck.

Minutes, maybe an hour ticked by as his face cooled and the rhythmic sound of Ryan breathing lulling him into slumber. The last thing he registered was the welcome dig of a police badge pressing against the small of his back.

The next time he came to, he knew immediately that he was alone in bed. Javier reached behind him, sighing softly when he felt that the sheets were just starting to cool. Ryan hadn't been gone long. Rolling onto his back, he let the midmorning sun warm his skin, basking and soaking it in. Forcing his mind to stay pleasantly blank for just a few more minutes.

He must have dozed off at some point though, because when he heard the front door shut and the sound of his partner shuffling around in the kitchen his heart nearly leaped out of his chest. Opening his eyes, he squinted against the brightness, trying to ignore the throbbing in his head as he took in his surroundings. The room was furnished with a dresser and two side tables, all in tasteful, darkly stained wood, the walls however had been left white, nicely contrasted by the midnight blue comforter that he was under and the matching drapes covering the windows.

Groaning, he stumbled out of bed on shaky legs, and made his way toward the bathroom. The only thing he needed more desperately than to take a leak, was some water and a few ibuprofen. There was nothing worse than having cottonmouth and a blinding headache. A few minutes later, after rummaging through the medicine cabinet and splashing some water on his face, he ventured out into the hallway intent on apologizing to his best friend for not explaining his semi-catatonic state, but what he heard just before he rounded the corner made him pause.

"...Yeah, I'm sorry I didn't call in sooner, but I couldn't just leave him like that... No, I have no idea what happened. He hasn't said anything yet... I hope not. I've never seen him cry like that before. I'm worried about him... Thank you. Will do. See you in a few days, Captain."

Kevin shut his cell and turned just as he took a few tentative steps forward, clearly surprised to see him up, "Hey, I didn't know you were awake. Feeling any better?"

Esposito shrugged and rubbed the back of his neck, "Exhausted, and a bit embarrassed. I'm sorry you had to see that, bro."

"It's not a problem," he said, laying a hand on his forearm briefly as he ushered him toward the kitchen, "That's what partners are for, right?"

Looking up, Javier's heart was heavy with guilt, but the tenderness in Ryan's smile quickly soothed it away.


Ryan silently poured them both a cup of coffee before passing him a box of donuts from the bakery down the street, and they both made themselves comfortable on the roadkill couch in the living room. Silence settled heavily around them, and he was halfway into his second pastry before it finally broke.

"So, uh- I don't know how to ask this," Ryan started, "and don't think that I'm pressuring you into talking about it, but what exactly was that yesterday?"

Javier froze, a glob of raspberry jelly falling unnoticed onto his shirt. He could feel the back of his throat tightening up again with emotion and the frantic beat of his pulse, but he was determined to tell him what was going on. Ryan deserved that much.

"It's my Madre," he whispered.

Kevin visibly deflated next to him. Esposito had happily invited him to family events on more than one occasion. Hell, Ryan had probably been to more holiday dinners and birthday parties with him than he'd been to with his own family in Jersey over the last handful of years. But, out of every relative that he had, his mother had taken a liking to Ryan the most, and the feeling had been mutual. Javier hated being the one to break the news to him.

"Oh, Javi. I'm so sorry."

Before he realized what was happening, Kevin had tugged him into another comforting hug. Without caring where his donut landed, Esposito dropped it onto the floor and wrapped his arms around him. Clinging to him as he nuzzled his chin against the neck of Ryan's linen shirt, soft skin against his cheek and the scent of aftershave tickling his senses. He breathed in deeply, just barely able to curb the urge to cry.

At least it was a start.

"Jules, you know that Ma would want to be buried in her purple dress. Don't you dare put her in some frilly white thing just 'cause you think it'll look better."

Javier was pacing back and forth in Ryan's dining room with his cell pressed to his ear. After breakfast that morning it hadn't taken long for him to realize that his siblings would need help arranging the funeral, and he'd spent the entire afternoon organizing things over the phone. He hoped that he never had to do it again. He was already at the end of his rope.

"Alright, alright, Javi. Fine. I'll get the purple dress dry cleaned and take it down to the funeral home tomorrow morning."

He sighed, mentally thanking his sister for finally giving in, "Good. Now all we have to do is take care of the obituary."

"Michael said he'd have it typed up and e-mailed to the newspaper by the deadline tonight. Don't worry so much, Javi," she chided, much like she used to when he was just a boy, "Thank you for helping as much as you did. I couldn't have gotten through this without you."

Esposito sighed and leaned against the nearest wall, watching Ryan stir something on the stove, "Do you think she went peacefully?"

Julia was silent on the other end for a moment, "The EMT's said she didn't feel any pain. I pray that they're right. I couldn't bear the thought of Mom suffering like that."

Ryan turned to toss the salad and caught his gaze, sending him a small smile before going back to what he was doing. It made him melt a little, his eyes lingering on him as he set out a cucumber and diced a tomato.

"I hope you're right. Love you, sis."

"I love you too, Javi. You tell that boy Kevin to take care of my little brother, alright? "

A faint smile flickered across the corners of his mouth, "Will do."

Later that night when they both crawled into Ryan's bed, he desperately wanted to feel those arms around him again. He needed the contact, anything to keep his mind from wandering, and the only thing that had worked so far had stubbornly passed out facing the opposite direction. In the end, he was reluctantly forced to keep to his side of the bed, letting the gentle sound of his partner's snores lull him to sleep.

The next morning, Beckett called to give him her condolences and asked Ryan to come down to the precinct for a few hours to fill out some paperwork on their last case. So, while he was away, Javier made the five block trek back to his apartment to grab a bag of civilian clothes and something to wear to the funeral.

One thing led to another- cleaning the up the kitchen, doing a load of laundry- and by the time he showered and dressed it was nearly midday. Not wanting to be stuck inside for the rest of the afternoon, he dropped his bags off at Ryan's place and set off for the farmer's market. What started out as a good idea, a pleasant distraction, took a turn for the worse when he walked past the flower stand and spotted a display of white tulips.

He stopped. Hovering over them for a moment, before slowly bringing a bouquet up to his nose. A traitorous tear slid down his face. They'd been his mother's favorite. She always called them, 'forgive and forget' flowers, God's little way of telling us that none of us were perfect, even Him.

The vendor was a kindly old woman, with long, gray hair and a sweet smile. She didn't say a word to him as he paid for the flowers. Simply choosing to lay her frail hands over his for a moment, patting him comfortingly, before sending him on his way.

Javier wandered aimlessly from stall to stall for nearly an hour, searching for something to take home for dinner.

He came home empty handed.

The week passed by slowly.

They went through the motions- running errands, doing paperwork during lunch or dinner, playing video games, doing laundry, etcetera. But, nothing seemed to drag on more then going to bed at night.

Somehow, they'd migrate toward each other, without fail, and Javier would wake up in the morning just barely able to feel the heat radiating off of Kevin's body only a few inches away, wishing that he had the balls to roll over and curl up into his side. They hadn't talked about their recent bout of cuddling, or brought up the fact that neither of them had opted to take the couch after that first night. It seemed unnecessary, but at the same time it was getting harder and harder for him to ignore.

On Tuesday, Esposito groggily scooted himself back a few inches, fitting his back against Ryan's chest once again. He hadn't been there for more than two seconds before the other man woke and immediately rolled out of bed. Wednesday morning proved to be only a little more fruitful. That time, after laying there for nearly ten minutes, he gave in and somehow managed to get Ryan's arm around his waist for a whole five minutes, finally relaxing in a sea of calm. When Ryan startled awake not long after and carefully disentangled himself from Javi's body, he was careful to control his breathing, pretending that he was still asleep.

But, everything changed Thursday night.

They decided to watch a movie in the bedroom, piling all of the pillows up at by the headboard before settling in under the covers for the night. About halfway through Iron Man, Esposito was surprised to feel Ryan lean into his side, a mop of unruly light brown hair resting on his shoulder. With wide eyes, he looked down at his partner's sleeping face, careful not to jar him. Esposito rarely got to observe him like this. Ryan was a fairly open guy, but when he was asleep and all of the walls fell, it was like seeing a whole other person. He seemed younger, peaceful almost.

In the background, the movie blared on, but Javier ignored it. Instead, he slid down into a more comfortable position and decided try one more time. He hated himself for feeling so needy, and for taking advantage of his best friend while he was asleep, but he didn't want to chance asking this of him in the light of day. Straight guys didn't ask other straight guys to hold them. It was too risky. He didn't want to lose Ryan.

So, with great care, he managed to wriggle around until Kevin's arm was securely around his waist and he was sighing happily into his pillow.

Finally. A wave of contentment washed over him.


His eyes flew open in horror.

When a few seconds ticked by and Ryan didn't move, Javier dared to tighten his fingers around Kevin's wrist, pulling him flush against his back, "Please?"

It came out sounding far more desperate than he wanted, but it seemed to spark something in his partner. The next thing he knew, there was a palm pressed against the middle of his chest, and a pair of soft lips grazing the back of his neck as Ryan spoke.

"All you had to do was ask."

Esposito almost let out a sob of relief.

When the alarm went off the next morning, he didn't want to get up, he was too comfortable.

They laid there for a few minutes, hovering on the brink between slumber and consciousness. Ryan eventually grumbled something behind him, stretching like a cat, and that's when he felt it- something hard pressing against his lower back. At first, he didn't realize what it was, his sleepy body automatically shifting subtly backward in response. It was only when Ryan moaned softly that he froze.

Esposito should have been disgusted. Everything that he ever felt or believed told him just that. Here, in this bed, though? With his best friend? He was surprised to find that he really wasn't disgusted at all. A little embarrassed, yes, but definitely not disgusted.

Ryan's hand squeezed his, returning the press of his own hips, just enough so that he knew the motion was done purposely, "We need to get up, Javi."

He groaned, "I know."

Neither of them moved.

Esposito's body warmed, his own morning arousal making itself known, goosebumps rising over his skin from where Ryan's thumb was caressing circles on his stomach.

Sighing, he rolled over and licked his lips, watching as Kevin's deep blue eyes followed the motion. That was the last straw.

"Fuck it."

Hesitating for only a moment, Javier closed the gap between them, catching the other man's lips in a lingering kiss. When he pulled back a few seconds later Ryan followed him, reengaging the kiss before he had a chance to question his actions, deepening it, mouth slanting across his own until he shivered and parted his lips in response. They met in the middle, tongues shyly flicking over one another, a game of give and take. Then he felt Ryan's hand at his hip, urging him forward until their pelvises ground together, and that was the last clear thing that he'd remember.

Their kiss caught and all he could feel were hands, fingers, mouths, a caress here and bare skin there, rubbing against one another until they each cried out in completion.

It was almost noon when Julia woke them up with a worried phone call, wondering why they were so late.

The service had been lovely.

The priest from his Mother's church had conducted the ceremony and all of Javier's extended family and friends stood in a large circle around her grave. One by one, they each approached the casket to say their goodbyes, laying trinkets, flowers, and sometimes even pictures on top of the shiny lid. When Javier's turn came though, he turned to Ryan and held out his hand, hoping that he would take it and join him. He did, twining their fingers together with a sad smile.

Esposito gingerly laid four of the white tulips that he'd bought earlier that week on top of his Madre's coffin, one for each of her children, and one for the husband she'd lost nearly a decade ago, while Ryan quietly told her that he'd miss her.

When they returned back to their spots, and they started lowering her into the ground, that's when Javi finally broke. Silent tears wet his cheeks as he watched her slowly disappear. Ryan simply leaned into him, and he was thankful that he didn't let go of his hand, not even when the rest of the family came by to give him their condolences.

Javier had never felt so cared for.

"Do you think she'd be happy for us?"

Nearly three weeks had passed since his Mother's funeral, and Javier had only been back to his place once.

Ryan shifted in his arms and looked up at him in the dark, "Us? I don't know. I'd like to think she would be."

"Yeah," Javier pressed a quick kiss to his upturned lips, "Me too."

He fell asleep that night with a grin on his face.