|Called Up |
Tim is coming out of the shower, a towel around his waist and another over his dripping hair, when he sees Crawford hanging stuff up in an empty locker. He's obviously just arrived--he's got the rumpled, slightly dirty look of someone who's been in a car for too long--but seeing him is like the first sip of a cool drink on a hot day.
"Hey," Tim says.
Brandon turns, smiles. "Hey."
He probably smells, Tim thinks, like old coffee and gasoline and a little bit of sweat. Somehow, that thought makes Tim want to touch him more. "You just get here?"
"STAMOS!" Huff shouts, bounding into the clubhouse and hooking an arm around Brandon's neck. "How you been, baby?"
Brandon laughs, trying to pull away, but Huff just squeezes and noogies him. Brandon's yelp sounds like happy yips Tim's dogs make when they want him to throw the ball.
"BURRELL!" Huff shouts. "Stamos is back!" He releases Brandon's neck and pulls him into a bear hug, his arms around Brandon's biceps, his face so close to Brandon's that their noses are touching. "We missed you, angelface," he says, kissing Brandon on the mouth with a giant smacking noise.
Tim turns away, rubbing his towel over his damp hair, listening as Burrell comes in and slaps Brandon on the ass. It's stupid to be jealous, he knows--Burrell and Huff aren't flirting with Crawford; they're hazing him--but that doesn't mean he can stop.
They go out after the win against the Dbacks, everyone, even the married guys, descending on the bars in the Marina like an overpaid plague. Brandon is thrilled to go with them, not only because he missed them, but also because he's hoping that he'll be able to talk to Lincecum alone. Just for a second. Tim's pitching tomorrow, so there's no chance for anything beyond talking (maybe a small chance, Brandon thinks and quashes that thought immediately), but talking, talking would be good.
The last time they spoke was the night Tim had gotten shut out by the Cubs, 7-0, and Brandon thought that maybe Tim would want to talk to someone, but he'd been wrong about that. Tim had answered on the fourth ring, just before Brandon was going to give up.
"I can't talk right now, okay?" Tim had said before Brandon could even say hello.
"Oh, um." Even thinking about it now, a week later, Brandon feels his face flush with embarrassment. He shouldn't have called. At the time, he'd managed to squeak out an "okay" before Lincecum had hung up.
Lincecum had apologized later, via text message, but Brandon had learned the lesson and hadn't called in the intervening week. Texts were safer. Less risky, for more than one reason.
Now they're crowded into too few tables at the back of one of the higher priced Marina gastro pubs, all shouting and laughing and full of hectic energy. Brandon's sitting next to Brett Pill, who's rubbing the cloth napkin between his thumb and forefinger like it's a security blanket. Brett's terrified, Brandon knows, which is why he sat next to him, even though Brandon would much rather be at the end of the table next to Lincecum. But this is Pill's first call-up, even though he's older than Brandon, and he's freaking out about failing and about people not liking him. If Brandon hadn't been called up in the middle of the Posey thing, he would have felt the same way.
Brandon glances down to the end of the table. Buster's there, holding a beer casually in one hand like a poster for something wholesome and American. He shouldn't even be here--he's on the DL and his wife had twins not too long ago--but he'd showed up in the clubhouse that afternoon muttering about his in-laws and had stayed through the whole game and now, there he is, his arm slung casually over the back of Tim's chair.
Brandon doesn't want to be jealous. It's dumb, especially when the guy you're jealous of has a wife and babies, but Brandon sees Posey touch Tim's shoulder then lean forward and say something in Tim's ear and Tim's resulting smile makes Brandon want to throw up. Punch something, then throw up. A little more than a month ago, he and Tim were making out in his apartment, and now he couldn't be farther away.
Tim counts to twenty after he sees Brandon push his chair back from the table, then follows him down the narrow hallway to the bathroom. When he pushes open the door, Brandon is splashing water on his face, something Tim only thought people did in movies.
"I didn't know people really did that," he says, and Brandon's head jerks up so quickly that Tim actually gets splashed with a few drops.
"Jesus!" Brandon says, bracing himself on the sink. "You scared the shit outta me."
"Nice to see you, too," Lincecum says. It is nice to see Brandon, though. So nice that Tim doesn't know how to express in words how nice it is.
Brandon wipes his face with one of the thick paper towels, but Tim still catches a glimpse of his smile. "Thanks."
"Your hair's getting long," Tim says. It's only been a month or so, Tim knows, but Brandon's hair loops in big curls around his face and falls into his blue blue eyes. He looks like one of those Italian paintings of angels.
"You should talk," Brandon teases. He doesn't turn to look at Tim, but instead uses the mirror to meet Tim's gaze. It makes Tim feel like he's standing farther away than just a few feet. "I missed you," Brandon says, and no wonder he used the mirror. Who wants to say something like that face to face?
Tim sighs. "I pitch tomorrow," he says. "Sorry."
Brandon shrugs, and pushes away from the sink. "I get it," he says.
But he doesn't, Tim can see that in his face. And Tim doesn't want to get it, either. He doesn't want to be responsible. He wants to grab Brandon around the waist and take him back to his shitty apartment and climb on top of him. Hell, he'd even be willing to settle for some elementary school cuddling, if he weren't afraid that it would turn into fucking before either of the blinked.
"Sorry," Tim repeats. He reaches for Brandon's shoulder, but just before he touches it the bathroom door is pushes open and a guy in a Giants jersey walks in, talking on his phone. Brandon duck his head and Tim turns the other way and the guy strolls right past them saying
"--right behind the dugout, man. You would not believe how awesome--"
and goes into a stall. Tim yanks the door open and he and Brandon flee down the hallway, laughing at the bathroom guy. Tim's smiling when they come back to the table, but when he glances over his shoulder, he sees that Brandon isn't.
The game against Atlanta is a disaster. It starts well, but then Tim's control goes to shit and he can't get it back. Brandon watches from the back of the dugout as Tim and Stew come in from the top of the fifth, their faces grim. They take up spots next to each other, Stew murmuring something, Tim's mouth a grim line. After a minute, Stew claps Tim on the knee and walks away. Tim says nothing, does nothing.
So does Brandon.
Bochy pulls him out in the sixth, after an off-speed pitch hangs too high and gives the Snakes another run. Tim slips through the dugout, ignoring the calls of support from his teammates, and into the clubhouse. They mean those words, he knows--the offense never judges him for his bad nights because he never blames them to the press for theirs--but he can't listen to them, not tonight.
He goes and sits down in front of his locker, elbows on his knees. He can't shower-- that's a slap in the face to the team--and he doesn't feel like digging his iPod out of his bag, and he isn't hungry, and he really only has a few minutes before he should get his ass back out to --
Tim looks over his shoulder. Crawford. Brandon. Standing just at the end of the long hallway that dumps into the clubhouse, like he's not sure he should be there at all. He's got his hands in his back pockets.
"You okay?" Brandon asks.
Tim closes his eyes and sighs. "Yeah," he says. "Sorry about..." He waves his hand at the door. "I fucked it up."
Brandon shrugs. "It happens."
"I'll be back out there in a minute," Tim says.
"Okay." Brandon turns to go, his hands in his back pockets. The batting gloves that are already there make it look like he has four hands instead of two.
"It's just--" Tim says, then stops.
Brandon has turned back, eyebrows up, waiting.
"Never mind," Tim says, but before Brandon can move Tim opens his mouth again, and says the thing he's been thinking since Bochy took the ball away. "I should have come to your place last night," he blurts. "You know, if this was the way it was going to turn out."
Brandon's smile is broad and bright. Sometimes Tim cannot believe that someone so fucking good looking even wants to spend time with him. "You couldn't know in advance."
"Thanks," Tim says. "You know, for..." Another wave of the hand. He doesn't know why he's thanking Brandon for nothing, really, but it seems like the right thing to say, and he wants to say the right things to Brandon. Maybe if he says enough right things, he'll be able to fix whatever it is that went wrong between the end of July and the beginning of September.
"Anytime," Brandon says, and starts back down the hallway.
"So maybe I can tonight," Tim calls after him on impulse. "You know. Come over."
Brandon turns. He appears to be considering Tim's offer like it was a price on a used car. "Sure," he says. "Yeah. My place?"
Tim nods. He suddenly can't swallow.
"Cool," Brandon says. "Meet you there."
Tim watches as Brandon walks away, the batting gloves in Brandon's back pockets waving at him. He wouldn't say he feels better, exactly, but something in his has shifted. Maybe it's because he's stopped looking backwards and starting looking forwards.
The knock on the door is so soft that Brandon isn't even sure that he heard it at first, that it's not just a figment of his overly active and optimistic imagination. He looks through the peephole.
Brandon is suddenly acutely aware of his hands, his palms blooming with sweat, his fingers trembling just a little. He fumbles the chain, struggling to unlatch it and turn the knob on the deadbolt.
He barely gets it turned when the door flies open, banging against the chipped white wall, and then his hands are full, his arms are full, his eyes are full of Lincecum, and he's staggering backwards, trying to keep his balance and catch a grip on Lincecum's thighs.
"I'm so glad you're back," Tim murmurs against his throat. The words stop time for a second. Brandon is no longer struggling for balance, Tim isn't heavy, the door isn't open for the whole world to see. It's just him and Tim, together.
They fuck on top of Brandon's fluffy white comforter, face to face, kissing the entire time. When Brandon presses his face into Tim's neck, panting just before he comes, Tim smells of clean sweat and the soap they use in the clubhouse showers. It's the smell of home.
They take off all of their clothes afterwards, dropping them in a single mingled heap on the floor next to the bed, and Brandon draws the blankets over them both while Tim collapses against Brandon's chest, his hair fanning out over Brandon's shoulder. Brandon rests one hand on the small of Tim's back at the base of his spine, stroking the soft skin there, feeling the world slip away.
He's called back to consciousness by Lincecum's voice. "Hey, B?"
"Hmm?" Brandon says. He hopes Tim doesn't want to talk too much. He's too tired and happy to have an actual conversation about anything.
"I missed you, too," Tim murmurs. This must be what winning the World Series feels like, Brandon thinks, and smiles up into the beautiful dark.