by Synchronik

"Heartbreaker," Stewart says as they're boarding the bus to head to Detroit.

Tim bobs his head. "Yeah." He doesn't want to talk about it. A 2-1 loss to the Cubs isn't something he wants to relive over and over again. He loves being a Giant, loves his teammates, and he's mostly resigned himself to the fact that the offense is not going to be there for him most days, but he can't really discuss it. Especially not with a member of said offense who is batting under .200.

"Sorry about the sixth," Stewart says. He means the pitch that got past him, that gave the Cubs a runner on third base.

"It's alright, man. We got out of it." Tim tosses his bag onto a seat. He's surprised Stewart's even thinking about that: it wasn't like anyone scored.

"Yeah, well. Can I talk to you about something?"

Tim hesitates. He was planning on sleeping all the way to Detroit--Burrell says got some crazy shit set up for them at Greek Town--but Stewart's voice is earnest and low and he's a good guy, and an excellent defensive player, and maybe it'll be an easy question.

"Sure," he says, and shoves his bag to the floor, so he can slide into the window seat and Stewart can sit next to him.

"What did Posey use to let you know he was gonna throw?"

Tim exhales. Easy question.

Tim is brought out of his doze by the flicker of sunlight on his eyelids. He opens them slowly, blinking a little, not sure if he actually wants to be awake. The bus is still moving; they're not there yet. Above him, far above him like a statue, Tim can see Stewart's jawline, shadowed with stubble. He's looking across the aisle and as Tim watches, he smiles and murmurs something. It must be Stewart's leg that Tim is resting his head on, although he doesn't actually remember doing that. And the warmth on his ribs just under his pec? Yes. Stewart's hand.

He must have moved or made a sound or something because Stewart looks down at him and smiles. He's got an interesting smile--his teeth seem pointy, somehow, like a friendly vampire's teeth--and Tim can't stop looking at it. "Morning, sunshine," Stewart says.

Tim sits up, dizzy from something besides the sudden rush of blood out of his head. "Sorry," he mutters.

Stewart bumps his shoulder with his own. "No worries," he says, and turns back to his conversation with Affeldt, across the row.

Tim slumps against the window, watching the telephone poles go by. He feels ill. This has happened before, this sudden lurch of affection.

With Buster.

After five to seven drinks, Lincecum is convinced that Burrell is either a complete genius or the sickest fucker who's ever listed. Maybe both.

All he knows is that the private room Burrell has at the casino is full of scantily clad women, and the more drinks he has, the fewer clothes they seem to be wearing. When a blond girl he's been eyeing reaches down and grabs the hem of her dress and pulls it over her head, Tim heads for the door. There is no way that he can handle varsity level escorts, not tonight.

He runs into Stewart at the VIP exit.

"You leaving?" Stewart asks, his hand finding the small of Lincecum's back, the same way that it does on the mound.

"I'm afraid what'll happen if I don't," Lincecum admits.

Stewart laughs. "Good move, man."

They walk through the casino in companionable silence, the same way they walk from the bullpen to the dugout. A couple of people turn and look at them as they pass by- -a side effect of the hair, Tim thinks. No one looked at him when it was short-- but no one approaches, even for an autograph.

"You gentlemen need a cab?" the doorman asks, holding the door for them.

Stewart glances at him. "Yeah?"

"It's just right over there, right?" Tim nods at the bright sign of the hotel, visible a few blocks away.

"We'll walk," Stewart says, slipping some money into the doorman's hand anyway.

Outside the casino, the streets of Detroit are surprisingly dark and abandoned. Tim puts his hands in his pockets and walks and tries not to think of Stewart's fingers flashing signs, or his strange sharp-toothed smile, or the low murmur of his voice.

He'd thought it was only Buster, was the thing. Buster, with his southern drawl and his pretty blue eyes and his way of leaning in when he came out to the mound that made Tim think about him at night, back in the hotel room, his pajama pants down around his knees.

That had been hard to get through, but he'd done it, worked through the unrequited crush and came out on the other side of it with a real love for Buster that Buster reciprocated in kind. When Buster had gone down, it had been like someone punched Tim in the heart.

This was more like a punch in the gut.

Will it happen with everyone? Tim thought desperately, wondering how many catchers he was doomed to fall in love with over the course of his career. But that couldn't be right. It hadn't happened with Bengie, or with any of the guys who caught for him in college (except Josh, but that had been different, that had been boyfriends).

"You okay, man?" Stewart asks. "You seem quiet. Quieter."

"Yeah, I'm cool. I'm fine," Tim says, because "I think I'm falling in love with you" seems like a little too much too soon.

"Okay," Stewart says and drapes his arm over Tim's shoulders.

Tim stumbles a little, playing it off as a rough patch in the sidewalk. He can hardly breathe. This close, Stewart smells of laundry detergent and some sort of perfume, like an escort got too close. He moves easily, sauntering practically, completely comfortable in his own skin.

Tim slips his arm around Stewart's waist, trying to act like it's no big deal, like his heart isn't palpitating in his chest. Stewart squeezes his shoulder.

They separate when they get to the hotel, Stewart ushering him first through the revolving door. It's too late for fans, so they walk through the lobby unmolested and get to the elevator. Stewart presses the button for ten and looks at him.

"Um, twelve," Tim says.

Stewart presses that button, too, and leans back against the wall, his hands on the railing.

This is it, Tim thinks as the elevator ascends. This is the last minute he has to say whatever he wants to say, do whatever he's gonna do. Any second the elevator door is going to open and Stewart's gonna say goodnight and that will be it.

Tim weaves on his feet, playing more drunk than he really is, and ends up against Stewart, his hand on Stewart's stomach.

"Hey, man," Stewart says, catching him, always catching him, arm around him, hand on his shoulder. "You okay?"

Tim goes up on his tiptoes and presses his mouth against Stewart's and for a moment, it's perfect, Stewart's lips, Stewart's hands on him, and Tim closes his eyes and hopes.

And Stewart steps back.

They're still touching, but Stewart's hands are holding him off now, instead of bringing him close. "Hey," he says. His voice is gentle, but unmistakable. "Hey. Timmy."

"Sorry." Tim tries to laugh, but it feels like he's being strangled. What was he thinking? What was he doing? "Sorry. I'm pretty drunk."

"Yeah," Stewart says. The elevator stops; the doors open. "Of course."

Tim looks everywhere but at Stewart's face. He only has to avoid him for the next three seconds and tomorrow he can pretend he doesn't remember. He can do it. He's done it before.

But Stewart pauses, one hand against the doorframe to prevent the elevator from shutting on him. The other hand cups Tim's jaw, making him look up. It's awful. Stewart has brown eyes; Tim tries to focus on the color and not on the pity he sees in them.

"I'll see you tomorrow, okay?" Stewart says.

"Sure. Yeah, sure." Tim nods frantically.

Stewart grabs him and pulls him in with one arm, holding him close, squeezing him tight. Tim's nose is pressed into his chest so hard it's almost painful, but Tim doesn't care.

In another world, the elevator door starts to beep.

Stewart steps back, over the elevator threshold. "I'll see you tomorrow," he says again as the door shuts between them.

Tim sags back against the wall. The feeling of the floor moving beneath him is both unnerving and expected.

The End

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