Part of being a rookie is the hazing, and Brandon has been a rookie often enough to know that he's a particularly ripe target.
"It's your face, dude," Alan Richer says to him when they both get called up to Fresno. "You're a chick's fuckin' wet dream. Why do you have to look like that?"
Brandon isn't sure what to say in response--besides an industrial accident, he can't really do anything about his face--so he says nothing, and when the other guys at Fresno leave mash notes and pink construction paper hearts that say "suck my dick, Crawford" in his locker, he tapes them to the wall, because another part of being a rookie is being a good sport about the hazing.
The call comes on a Wednesday, and Brandon is too shocked and dismayed and surprised and secretly thrilled to spend any time worrying about something as minor as hazing. As it turns out, the team is too fucked up by the loss of Buster Posey to do anything to the new guys anyway, so it's almost a week before Aubrey Huff calls him "John Stamos" and the video tapes of Full House start showing up in his locker, first one, then four, then so many that they spill onto the floor in a heap. Brandon's a little worried about who has that many tapes of Full House--it seems like a sign of mental illness, for sure--but then he pops one into the clubhouse VCR and realizes that the Full House label has been glued over the real name of the video, which is Big Booties IV. The Roman numeral is a nice touch, Brandon thinks as he ejects the tape. Extra classy.
But that's really it. No one threatens him. No one backs him into a corner. No one teases him any more than they tease anyone else. The veterans seem like good guys, guys who legitimately like each other, and who legitimately like him. Even Miguel Tejada, who Brandon has basically been appointed to replace as soon as Sandoval is healthy, shakes his hand and says "welcome up," which is just a cool thing to say.
So Brandon's not at all suspicious when Lincecum starts touching him.
He's not actually sure when Lincecum starts touching him, because there's so much touching that's normal in baseball: people slapping your back, and your ass, and your head, guys hugging and jumping on each other, even some more...Brandon would call it "personal" stuff, the way that some guys have of snuggling up to other guys and just being there. Not everyone can get away with that--the Hispanic guys do it more, for some reason--but it happens a lot, and it's not odd. It's just part of the normal ebb and flow of life in the game. So Lincecum's increased closeness doesn't really register with Brandon at first.
But then, for some reason, it does.
He's sitting on the bench watching the game, toying with the strings on his glove. He wasn't in the starting line up, but it's a close game and there's a good chance Bochy'll switch him in at the bottom of the inning.
Lincecum hops up on the bench next to him, not sitting but squatting in that strange way he has, his knees practically up around his ears, one hand on Brandon's shoulder for balance. "Hey," he says.
"Hey." This is about the extent of the conversation he's had with Lincecum in the few weeks that he's been up. Lincecum seems nice, a cool guy, friendly, but they've never really spoken. Brandon hasn't figured out what to say to him, yet, beyond "hey."
"He's releasing early," Lincecum says, nodding at the pitcher, a righty who's squeezing a fresh ball in his hands. "His fastball is rising. Watch."
Brandon watches, focusing as the righty sets up, rears back.
Lincecum's voice is suddenly in his ear, more a whisper than a word. "Right...there," he says, his arm around Brandon's shoulders, and the ball is gone, hit hard by Burrell, who apparently saw the same thing that Lincecum did and turns it into a double.
"Wow," Brandon murmurs.
"If he can't bring it down, we got him," Lincecum says.
Brandon nods. Lincecum stays like that, perched next to him, arm around him, until Sandoval turns Burrell's double into a run and everyone hops up to give the congratulatory slaps and when Brandon comes back to his spot on the bench and realizes that Lincecum's not coming back to sit by him, he feels a little disappointed.
After that, he starts noticing.
Lincecum hugs a lot. Not every minute or anything--he's not the Panda, who will walk up to you, arms open, and demand a hug just because he feels like it--but every time it could go either way and a hug seems feasible, Tim goes with the hug. Good hit, good play, end of the game, Lincecum will put his arm out and slap you on the ribs.
And he sits close. Not just with Brandon, but with everyone, shoulder to shoulder, sometimes slumping into the other guys, almost resting his cheek on their arms but not quite. Once, in the clubhouse, Brandon watched as Lincecum walked up to Huff while Huff was talking to someone else. At first, it looked like nothing, like Lincecum just joining in the conversation. But Tim didn't actually say anything, Brandon noticed, and kept getting closer and closer, almost bumping Huff's arm, the way a cat will bump your hand when it wants you to pet it. After a minute or two, Huff's arm was up around Tim's shoulders. Brandon wondered if Huff even realized it happened.
Now, he wonders if he can get it to happen with him. He thinks he can.
One day, Brandon manages to sit next to Lincecum on the grass while they're waiting for BP to start. Lincecum's not pitching, but he's been taking more BP lately. It's Vogelsong, Brandon thinks. Vogey can actually hit, better than some of the regular lineup, even, and it's sparked something in Timmy. Vogelsong's not a scary guy personality-wise, but his presence and his performance...if Brandon were a pitcher, he might be a little scared, even if he were Lincecum. If Zito can go down, anyone can.
But anyway, Brandon's sitting next to him when Lincecum spreads his legs into a wide V, leans over his left leg and hooks his hands around the bottom of his shoe.
Brandon can't help but comment. "That's fucking ridiculous," he says.
Tim smiles up at him through a curtain of hair. "You can do it."
Brandon snorts. "Yeah, with somebody else's legs."
"I could arrange that," Tim murmurs.
Brandon stares at him. Lincecum stares back, his eyes clear and mild, until Brandon has to duck his head over his own knees. That can't mean what it sounds like, right? He wasn't just propositioned by Tim Lincecum. That's impossible.
But it's not impossible at all, apparently, because two days later, back in their home clubhouse, Lincecum comes in from the showers, his hair wet, wearing only shorts and shower shoes and a towel around his neck. He walks over to the couch and flops down next to Brandon.
"Phillies and Braves."
"Halladay?" Tim asks, hopefully.
Tim makes a face. "Move your hand," he says.
"Your hand." Tim gestures to Brandon's hand, which is resting on his thigh. "Move it."
Brandon lifts his hand, confused, and watches as Tim lies down, his damp hair spreading across Brandon's thigh, almost immediately soaking through the thin material of Brandon's shorts.
"Breakin' in the rook, Timmy?" Burrell asks, also coming in from the showers. Brandon has a sudden awful thought: what were they doing in there?
"You know it," Lincecum says. He smiles up at Brandon, a secret smile that says that they have a secret that Burrell doesn't know about. Brandon isn't sure whether he should smile back.
"Timmy's got a new boyfriend," Burrell says to the room. No one pays him much mind.
Tim rolls his eyes in a way that says he's not even really annoyed. "Shut up."
"Or what? Your boyfriend will beat me up?"
Brandon feels his face get hot, but Tim doesn't lift his head, doesn't shift his eyes away from Brandon's. "You're just jealous you didn't get to him first."
Burrell laughs. "Ain't that the truth," he says. Brandon's face could not get any hotter if he were actually on fire.
Tim reaches up and pats Brandon's cheek. "They don't understand our love," he says, and he rolls to his feet in one smooth motion, heading for his locker. Brandon doesn't watch him go.
After that, Tim is always on him, touching him, bumping into him, leaning up against him. Brandon should be grateful that it's so easy; he's heard stories about the shouting matches that followed Buster's rise to the bigs. If Lincecum doesn't like you, your life in the Giants organization is painful and probably short, unless you can turn him around like Buster did. Fortunately, Lincecum likes almost everyone.
And really seems to like Brandon.
It happens after Lincecum gets taken out of the game against Minnesota in the seventh, having killed on the mound. Brandon is watching the game, and for a change doesn't realize that Lincecum is even near him until he feels someone's hand on his stomach.
Brandon's heart leaps, literally leaps, into his throat, and he covers Tim's hand with his, turns his head.
Tim's not looking at him, but his hand is warm and firm, not incidental or accidental. "Wait for me," he murmurs. "After."
Brandon doesn't say anything, doesn't do anything, except press Tim's hand tighter to his stomach, and then Lincecum's gone, reaching past him for a drink like the whole thing didn't happen.
"After" takes a long time. There's showers, of course, and interviews for some of the guys (especially Lincecum, who dominated the Twins in a way he hasn't dominated since Buster went down), and then there's general hanging out and bullshitting, although the family guys do clear out early since they're at home and can actually go spend time with their families.
Brandon waits through all of it, reorganizing the gear in his locker like it matters, wandering the halls like he's going some place or another, nibbling at the remains of the catering table. Trying not to look like he's waiting.
Finally, it's just him and Lincecum and Wilson and Burrell. He's sitting on the couch pretending to be involved in SportsCenter when Burrell and Wilson corner Lincecum at his locker.
"Come on, Timmy," Wilson is saying, looming over him. "Big victory tonight means what? Big celebration."
"Huge," Burrell says. "We're going to shut the marina down."
Tim smiles and shakes his head and says something Brandon can't hear over the commercials on the television. This is how Tim does it. He's not loud, like Wilson, but he's just as powerful. Maybe more.
"You sure, man? It's gonna be awesome."
"You'll get free drinks all night," Burrell adds.
This time there's a pause in the sound and Brandon hears Lincecum's response. "No, man, I can't. Righetti wants me to come in early tomorrow to watch tape and find out what happened."
"I know what happened," Wilson says. "Ownage happened. What's the question?"
"Sorry, man. Have fun."
"Kids today," Wilson says, even though he's only two years older than Lincecum.
"Use it or lose it," Burrell says, but he slaps Tim on the back and heads for the door. If that's true, Burrell's in no danger of losing it for the next fifty years.
Brandon stays on the couch after they're gone, remote in hand, not turning around, not saying anything. Finally, Tim leans over the back of the couch, his elbow next to Brandon's ear.
"Ready?" he says.
"Sure." Brandon nods.
"Follow me to my house?"
Brandon nods again, wondering if it's possible that Tim heard him swallow.
They walk out to the parking lot in silence. Brandon waves to security at the gate and pulls out into the street behind Tim. He's easy to follow: he doesn't drive too fast, and he stops at all the yellow lights, and he uses his blinkers for every turn and lane change. At a four story condominium on a quiet upscale street, Lincecum pulls into a drive and rolls down his window to have a few words with the attendant, who waves Brandon in without even making him stop or show ID.
After that, there's more silence in the parking garage, in the elevator, in the surprisingly narrow hallway that leads to Tim's door. When Tim opens the door, he's greeted by two wiggling and happy (but surprisingly quiet) dogs. Tim picks the white one, Cy, up, and laughs as the dog licks him. Brandon, who is a dog person, picks up the other one, whose name he forgets. The dog is brown and adorable and pants in his face.
"Okay, guys," Tim says, setting Cy back on the floor. "Time for bed."
Brandon returns his dog to the floor and watches as they both trot obediently after Lincecum to a room with a tile floor and a couple of gigantic pillows on the floor.
"They're really good," Brandon says as Tim shuts them in.
Tim grins, a real grin that makes his eyes crinkle up. "Thanks." He leans back against the door and puts a hand on Brandon's waist just above his belt. "How good are you?"
"I, um," Brandon stutters. He has no idea how to answer that question.
Fortunately, he doesn't have to, because Tim pushes off the door and into his space. He slides his hands into Brandon's hair and kisses him without preamble, licking into his mouth, pressing his body close. Brandon feels like he's coming up to the surface after a long time under water, like he can breathe for the first time in days. Finally, he thinks.
They move to Tim's bedroom immediately, Tim pulling off his shirt as they go. He's smaller than Brandon, but his shoulders flex impressively, and his back is like an anatomy poster. Brandon can't help but put his hands on it. Tim chuckles.
Tim's bedroom is virtually empty except for the bed, a wide expanse of pricey sheets and pillows, and the flat screen hanging on the far wall. Tim sits on the mattress and pulls Brandon between his knees, untucking his shirt and tugging at his belt. Brandon watches, wanting to touch Tim's hair and wondering if he has the same complex about it that so many girls have. Finally, he risks it, sliding his hands through Tim's still damp hair, and Tim looks up at him and smiles.
That's the last coherent thing Brandon remembers. They don't fuck--although they don't actually talk about not fucking, someone how it's mutually understood that they won't be--but they do end up naked on top of Tim's plush comforter, Brandon on his back and Tim on top of him, jerking them both off, his rough pitcher's hands smoothed out by copious amounts of lube that Tim produced like a magic trick from the table next to the bed. Brandon's thisclose, his eyes closed, his mouth open, when Tim bends down, pressing their groins even tighter together, and slips his tongue into Brandon's mouth, and they both come like that, locked together, gasping each other's breath.
Afterwards, Tim shoves himself off the bed and returns with a warm washcloth before stretching out next to him, one arm behind his head, and clicking on the flatscreen. He's got the baseball player tan, his forearms dark, but the rest of him pale in the glow of the television set. He looks like a marble statue.
Brandon cleans himself up, but he doesn't know what to do now, what to say. "So, um."
Tim lifts an eyebrow at him. Then he takes the washcloth from Brandon's hand and drops it on the side of the bed. "Come here." He pats his chest.
It's strange, he's never done it like this before, but Brandon goes, turning on his side and resting his cheek on Tim's ribs. Tim's arm comes around his shoulders, his hand toys with Brandon's hair, and that's how Brandon falls asleep, listening to the slow steady beat of Lincecum's athletic heart.
He finds Tim in the living room eating cereal the next morning, the dogs curled up on the rug beneath his feet. "Help yourself," Lincecum says, nodding at the counter.
Brandon gets his own bowl of cereal--Honey Nut Cheerios, which he finds reassuring for some reason--and sits down at the other end of the couch. Tim's watching some crime show rerun on cable. When he's done with his cereal, Tim puts his bowl on the floor so the dogs can have the milk. Brandon eats quietly and tries to suppress the trepidation that has been building since he woke up alone in Tim's expanse of a bed.
When he sits back from setting his own cereal bowl on the coffee table--putting it on the floor for the dogs seems too familiar, somehow, even though he's had his mouth on Lincecum's dick--Tim crawls into his lap, hands on his face. "How can you fucking look this good?" he asks, running his fingers over Brandon's stubble.
Brandon doesn't have an answer. "I don't know?" he says.
Lincecum laughs, tossing his head back, so that Brandon has to wrap his arms around him to keep him from cracking his skull open on the coffee table. He looks pretty good himself, his eyes sleepy, his smile wide, his hair falling around his face. When they kiss, his mouth tastes like milk.
"So, obviously, keep this to yourself," Lincecum says as they head for the door, both showered and dressed.
"No shit," Brandon says. He wants to say something else. "Call me," maybe. Or "I would love to do this again." But Lincecum renders him mute on stuff like that.
Lincecum turns right before he opens the door and slides his arm around Brandon's waist, pulling him in. "I can't fucking stand your face," he says, nuzzling Brandon's cheek. "It's ridiculous."
Brandon can't help but grin. He's never been so grateful for genetics in his entire life.
They drive in separately--Crawford makes an effort to circle the park once so that he's coming in from the right direction and everything--but once they're inside, Lincecum doesn't seem to be making an effort to really keep it to himself at all. He comes over and sits next to Brandon on the couch during the team meeting, practically on top of him, and kicks his foot playfully. He calls Brandon over to his locker in front of the whole room by saying "Crawford, get your sweet ass over here," and then doesn't have anything to say when Brandon slouches over, red-faced, trying to ignore the hoots of the other guys, except "you came!" his smile big and goofy. And he sneaks up behind Brandon before BP, one hand on the small of his back, and murmurs "you're not busy later, right?" in his ear even though a bunch of people are standing right there.
When Brandon chokes out a "no," Lincecum slaps him on the ass approvingly.
He's sure that he's making a bigger deal about it than it is, that no one else sees that Lincecum is marking him the same way a seventh grade girl will mark her boyfriend. He's making too much of it, he thinks, although he can't help but be thrilled that Tim has asked him to come over, that it's going to happen again.
Then Buster says, "hey Crawford, got a minute?"
"Sure." Brandon heads over to where Buster is perched on his scooter. He gets around pretty good on that thing and seeing him at the park makes Brandon feel a little bit better about the fact that Buster's injury led directly to his call up. He slaps Buster on the shoulder and sits down so that they're basically eye level. "What's up?"
"Hey." Buster clears his throat. "Um. You know it's a joke."
Brandon blanks for a second, at a loss for what Buster could mean. "Huh?"
"The, um. Timmy. He does it to someone every year. A rookie. It's a joke."
The ground dips away from Brandon. He can't see anything but one of the wheels on Buster's scooter and he focuses on it diligently, fighting against gravity to keep his feet. "Did he do it to you?" he asks, and he's surprised to find that his voice sounds totally normal.
Buster's hand lands on his shoulder like a sledgehammer. "Yeah, you know, snuggling up to him, bein' sweet to him, like he's doing to you. It's...I don't know. How he gets his thrills."
Thrills, Brandon thinks. That's one way to put it.
"I figured," he says.
Buster blows out his breath in a relieved gust. "Good, man. Good. I just wanted to make sure you weren't, you know. Misunderstanding."
Brandon chokes out a laugh. "I'm not like that. Come on."
"Of course not," Buster says. "Alright, I gotta get to Matt to stretch this out." He taps his thigh.
"Later, man," Brandon says. He makes it to the bathroom and fumbles the door closed before he loses it.
He still goes, though. He doesn't want to. He even goes home after the game, to his own apartment, and gets all the way into changing into his pajamas--a pair of soft cotton pants and a shirt from his high school baseball team--before he gives up and gets his car keys out of the bowl on the table.
At the entrance to Lincecum's parking garage, the guy waves him through again, and Tim buzzes him in the second he dials the number.
"I thought you were blowing me off," Lincecum says as he opens the door. "The Foothill Falcons? Really?"
Brandon looks down at his shirt. "What were you?"
"Oh." Brandon wishes he had a comeback for that, but this is so far afield from what he thought he would happen that he doesn't know what to say, so he blurts out the only thing he can think of. "Did you fuck Bumgarner?"
Brandon closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. "Did you fuck Madison? Last year. Or, this year, I guess. Did you?"
"No." Lincecum shakes his head. "Dude. Madison is married."
"Does that matter to you? When you pick your rookie?"
Lincecum has both hands in his hair, pushing it back from his face. "What are you talking about?"
Somewhere in the back of the apartment, Brandon can hear Cy and Tim's other dog barking, high distressed yelps. He wonders if he did made them sound that way. "You're hazing me," he mutters. "That's what this is, right? You breakin' in the rook, just like Burrell said."
"Oh god." Lincecum's expression is horrified. "You think...oh god. Because of Burrell?"
Brandon shakes his head. "Because of Posey."
"Posey?" Tim laughs out loud, a harsh sound. "What the fuck does Posey know about hazing? Come on, man, come sit down." Tim tugs on his wrist.
"Answer the question," Brandon says. He feels like a little kid, an idiot, but he can't let himself be taken in again. If it is true, it's true and there's nothing he can do about it now, except stop it from happening again.
"I told you," Tim says. "I didn't fuck Madison."
"But did you want to?" Brandon shakes his head. "No, that's not--I mean, is this a thing with you? You and rookies?"
"I don't know what to tell you, dude," Tim says. The lack of a "no" makes Brandon's stomach turn. "It's, like, you do it one time, and suddenly that's what you're about."
"One time, with who?"
Tim makes a face. "Travis."
Brandon draws a blank. "Travis."
"Ishikawa," Lincecum says.
Brandon stares at him. "Travis," he says again. He knows Travis; he played with Travis in minor league ball. He's had dinner with Travis and Travis' wife-- "he's married," he says.
"Which is why I don't do that any more," Tim says. "You're not secretly married, are you?"
He's joking, but Brandon can't find it in him to laugh. "I don't." He pauses. Swallows. Wonders if he's really going to say this. "I don't want to be a...I don't know. A prank. Or whatever."
"No," Tim says. "I get that. You're not, man. It's not like that."
Brandon squints at him, but Lincecum seems serious and earnest. He doesn't seem like he's kidding. For him to be kidding now would have to be so cruel--Brandon can't imagine that Lincecum has it in him.
"Hey, Brandon," Tim says. He steps into Brandon's space, his hands finding Brandon's ribs. "You're not a prank," he murmurs, pressing his mouth to Brandon's throat, just above the collar of his t-shirt. "You're not a joke."
Brandon lets his hands drift to Lincecum's waist, up his back. "Okay," he says and closes his eyes. "Okay."
Afterwards, Tim sprawls underneath him, one leg still hooked around Brandon's thigh (and how hot was that, Brandon thinks, trying to catch his breath, Tim rubbing himself off on Brandon's thigh, his hands flexing on Brandon's ass), and laughs.
"What?" Brandon asks.
"Madison," Tim says. "Madison of all people."
Brandon pulls Tim's wrists up above his head and pins him to the bed. "I was misinformed!"
"No shit," Tim says. He isn't struggling against Brandon's grip so much as he is wriggling in it, squirming against Brandon's body. "Madison! Can't I even be nice to a guy?"
"Talk to Posey--he's the one who told me." Brandon slides down just a bit and kisses the pale skin over Tim's breastbone.
Tim snorts. "I think Posey wants a piece of those Dumbo ears and he's putting it on me." He sighs, his hips pulsing against Brandon's stomach. "And you believed him."
Brandon inches down a little further, his hands slipping over Lincecum's firm chest, his tongue sliding over Lincecum's smooth stomach. He pauses for a second, smiling up at Tim. "Cut me some slack, man," he says. "I'm just a rook."
Tim laughs, rolling Brandon like he's on the ocean. "You're just nothing," he says, running his fingers through Brandon's hair. "You really thought I was hazing you?"
His voice is low, and Brandon kisses Tim's stomach, once, twice, three times, just so he doesn't have to meet Tim's eyes. "Sorry," he mumbles, between kisses.
"Hey," Tim says. His fingers curl around the outside of Brandon's ear, trail across his cheek. "Since I'm not hazing you, can have my porn tapes back?"
Brandon snorts, burying his face in Tim's stomach. "You're a sick motherfucker."
Tim tugs Brandon's hair gently and smiles when Brandon meets his eyes. "Get used to it," he says.