High Quality Stuff
by Synchronik

No one expects much of Vogelsong--he's just a warm body to slot into the rotation until Zito is back on both feet--so his first outing is a nice surprise for the whole team. "Nice job," Nate says as he brushes by Vogelsong on his way to the plate in the top of the seventh. He's being subbed in for him.

"Thanks, man," Vogelsong says. "This is my old team."

Nate pauses. "What?"

Vogelsong nods, his eyes focusing past Nate to the field. "Yeah," he says. "Before I got sent down."

"For real?"

Vogelsong looks up at him, smiling a small and lopsided smile. "Yeah," he says again.

"Fuck, dude," Nate says.

"SCHIERHOLTZ," BamBam yells from the dugout steps.

Nate hustles out to the on deck circle. While he's taking his warm up swings, watching the Pirates pitcher who is not Ryan Vogelsong, Nate has a thought: "I'm gonna get a hit for Vogey," he thinks.

He does.

"He used to play here," Nate hears himself saying over dinner. There's maybe fifteen of them crammed into the back room of some Italian place Nate found on Yelp. It looks like a dive, but the food is fantastic, if Nate's lasagna is anything to go by.

"No shit!" Wilson says. He's got an eggplant parmesan sandwich dripping in one hand and sauce in his beard; he looks like he murdered the sandwich by biting off its head. "For the Pirates?"

Nate nods.

"Hey Vogey?" Wilson shouts down to the end of the table, where Vogelsong is sitting between Affeldt and Lopez. "You played here?"

Vogelsong looks up from his plate of carbonara, swallowing. "2006," he says.

"Shut the fuck up!" Wilson says. He tosses his sandwich back onto his plate and crosses his arms over his chest. "Shut the fuck up!" he says again, a little quieter but still loud enough that an elderly woman sitting on the other side of the room sniffs angrily. "Hey, I bet they're sad they let you go now, huh?"

Vogelsong smiles at his plate. "I'm better now," he says, and the table erupts in laughter. Nate laughs, too, but he keeps his eyes on Vogelsong while he does, sees how he picks up his fork and goes back to eating before anyone can ask him another question. Vogey's better now, Nate thinks, but there might still be some bruises.

Vogelsong doesn't say much, not after that first win in Pittsburgh, or the no-decision in New York, or the second win at home in front of an exhuberant AT&T crowd.

"It must feel good," Nate says to him in the clubhouse afterwards.

"Huh?" Vogelsong looks up from his duffel. He's packed almost everything up, Nate sees--his gloves, his spikes, his deoderant, everything but his uniforms--even though he's going to be back tomorrow.

"It must feel good, to be doing so well."

"Oh. Yeah." Vogelsong straightens up. "It's, you know. I didn't expect it, so. I haven't really had time to think about it."

"Don't," Nate says. "You'll just jinx it."

Vogelsong shrugs. "Probably." He looks unconcerned, like so many things have been ruined for him that it wouldn't be a surprise if his latest start for a World Champion baseball team was just another thing that went wrong.

"You busy?" Nate says. He doesn't know why he asks--he's supposed to be meeting some friends at a bar--but he doesn't feel right about letting Vogelsong leave on this note. He won. He's supposed to be happy.

"Um. Not really?"

"Come out with me. I'm meeting some guys at Brennan's, not players. You wanna?"

Vogelsong looks confused for a second, like he's not sure what Nate's just asked him. "Brennan's?"

"It's low key," Nate says. "No one will bug us. And there's a kick ass patio. You should come."

"Is this, can I wear this?" Vogelsong holds out the corner of his shirt. It's a heinous shirt, a grey and black vertical-striped shiny button down that looks like Vogelsong should be in a bad movie about gangsters, but Brennan's isn't the type of place where your ugly shirt matters.

"Don't worry, it's low key, like I said. No one will care."

"So you like my shirt," Vogelsong says.

Nate is surprised by his own laugh.

The guys he's meeting at Brennan's aren't ball players, which makes Nate feel more...real or something, the fact that he has friends who don't play. A lot of the guys do, of course, people that they knew from before they went to the majors, but Nate met Andrew in the laundry room at his old apartment complex (before it became clear that his promotion to the bigs would stick and he bought his condo). Andrew is a friend from after. He's an engineer, and so are most of his friends. Nate isn't sure what engineers do all day, except that it seems to involve computers and "load testing," but they're pretty cool guys who can talk about almost anything. Best of all, none of them are big baseball fans. They were impressed by him when Nate showed up to one of Andrew's barbecues, but not that impressed.

"Nathaniel, you lazy motherfucker," Andrew says, when they come out onto the back patio at Brennan's. "You call that baserunning?"

"Nathaniel?" Vogelsong mutters behind him, sounding amused.

"It's Nathan," Nate says. "And I'd like to see you haul your skinny ass 90 feet without passing out." He leans down and slaps Andrew's hand. Andrew weighs maybe 150. He's even smaller than Timmy, and a hundred times as loud. "This is Ryan."

"Hey Ryan." Andrew leans up and shakes Vogelsong's hand. "Andrew. You need a beer?"

"Sure." Vogelsong says.

Andrew waves his hand at the waitress, flashing her two fingers. "So how do you know Nathaniel?"

"Um..." Vogelsong says.

"Dude, he's the pitcher," Jason says, slugging Andrew in the shoulder. "The new one. Weren't you watching?"

"Ehh." Andrew shrugs. "Sorry, man, I only watch for Nathaniel. Sit down." He slaps the chair next to him. Vogelsong glances at Nate and takes the chair. Nate sits in the other empty seat, on the other side of the table, greeting the guys on either side of him. He sort of wants to move his chair over next to Vogelsong's, just to make sure the guy is okay, but Andrew's already monopolizing him, talking with his hands, and Vogelsong seems to be interested, so he doesn't. Andrew's a good guy; Vogelsong'll be okay.

His spot from across the table means that Nate can't really hear what Vogelsong is saying, but he can watch him, see how intently he listens to everything Andrew is saying, eyes focused, brow furrowed. When he laughs, his face opens up, eyes, mouth, suddenly, but then he's back to intent, just as quick. Pitching focus, Nate thinks. Vogelsong is a big guy, bigger than Nate, even, but he hunches over listening to Andrew, making it seem like Vogelsong is looking up at him, even though he's not. Andrew says something that's obviously about Nate, gesturing across the table, and Vogelsong looks over at him and smiles a slanted half-smile, nodding in agreement. Nate smiles back. He's glad he invited him.

By the time he's four beers in, watching across the table as Vogelsong demonstrates the difference between a fastball grip and a curveball grip on Andrew's closed fist, Nate is no longer glad; he's horny.

When the patio lights flicker--fifteen minutes until close--Nate is surprised. He's been watching Vogelsong's hands, the way they hardly moved when he spoke, except sometimes to come up and rub the back of his neck, and thinking about how he'd seen Vogelsong squeeze a ball between them, his eyes on the mound, before he threw. Nate wished he had a ball with him right then, because he bet if he tossed it to Vogelsong, Vogelsong would catch it and squeeze it that same way, as unconciously as breathing.

"Nathaniel!" Andrew shouted, snapping his fingers. "Back to earth, man."

Nate blinked. "Yeah?"

"Tell Ryan he should come back to my place."

"Uh." Nate stammered. Andrew? And Vogel--

"Not like that, you fag!" Andrew rolled his eyes. "You're coming back with us for more drinks, right? Or are you a lameass like your friend here?"

Of course. Drinks. Back at Andrew's place, the way they did every night he made it out to Brennan's. "You wanna go?" he asked.

Vogelsong shrugged. "I can."

"We're in," Nate said.

Andrew slapped Vogelsong on the back. "Right on!"

Nate catches up to Vogelsong on the walk out to the parking lot. He curves one arm around Vogelsong's back, not really touching him, just enough to let Vogelsong know he's there. "We don't have to if you don't want to," he murmurs.

"No, it's cool," Vogelsong says. "These guys are cool."

"Okay." Nate smiles and tries not to be disappointed. They take Nate's car, because the neighborhood isn't the greatest and there's hardly any parking at the building. "I'll bring you back," he tells Vogelsong, who shrugs (he does that a lot, Nate thinks) and slides into the passenger seat. The apartment building is only three minutes down the road, but it takes another ten for Nate to find a spot and squeak into it. He's not going to be surprised if there's a scrape on his door tomorrow.

You used to live here?" Vogelsong asks.

Nate nods. "For the first year or so."

Vogelsong looks around. It's one of those marginal neighborhoods, half recently remodeled apartments and upscale soffee shops and half dirty bodegas and duplexes with rusting Fords parked in front of them. Nate had liked living there, but it felt like an act after a while, like he was playing at being normal.

The stairs are still as narrow and run down as Nate remembers them, and the walk up to Andrew's six floor apartment (Nate had lived on the second floor) is like a walk down memory lane. Andrew is already up there, pouring Scotch into glasses and handing them around. The building is old, but the apartments are modern, and Andrew has a view out the large windows in his living room, lights stretching away into the distance. Many of the guys are already sitting down on the couches, feet up, sipping scotch and talking about things that happened at work or to their kids or their boats.

"Where's the bathroom?" Vogelsong murmurs.

"I'll show you." Nate leads him down a narrow hallway. It's dark, but Nate doesn't turn on the light. He hasn't been to Andrew's apartment in a couple of months, but he still knows it from the hours and hours he's sat on those couches and watched football or played videogames. The bathroom is the furthest room on the left, next to Andrew's bedroom. Vogelsong goes in and closes the door. Nate sees the light come on under the door. Nate leans back against the wall, and takes a sip of scotch. He doesn't know much about it, but it seems like high quality stuff.

He hears the faucet go on, then off, the light goes off, and the door opens.

"You waited?" Vogelsong says.

"Yep," Nate says, although he hadn't really thought about it.


Nate steps forward. Up close, Vogelsong is definitely taller them him, and looks down at him, his expression unreadable in the dark hallway.

"What are you doing?" he asks, but his voice isn't angry and it isn't loud.

"This," Nate says, and presses his mouth against Vogelsong's.

It's strange, Nate thinks, reaching up to kiss someone, someone who tastes of scotch and beer and whose hands on his biceps are large and powerful. He figures he's only got a second before Vogelsong shoves him away and he's got to make up some shit about how he's drunk or something, but that doesn't happen. Vogelsong's hands flex on his arms, and his mouth opens a little bit and he leans into the kiss, his mouth on Nate's even as Nate has to take a step back to keep his balance. He grabs Vogelsong's waist with the hand not holding the drink, and that's when Vogey's hands move, from Nate's arms to his ass, pulling him forward so that they're pressed together, chest, belly, hips, thighs. His kissing is still gentle, though, and the contrast of Vogelsong's soft mouth and his strong hands makes Nate a little dizzy. He pulls back.


"Ryan. Call me Ryan," Vogelsong says and kisses him again.

This time the only reason Nate stops is because he hears a wave of laughter from the living room. They are in Andrew's apartment. Making out.

"Vogel--Ryan," he says, ducking another kiss. "We gotta get out of here."

"What?" Vogelsong is staring at him, his eyes intense and unfocused. "Why?"

Nate laughs. "Because someone is going to see us, you ass. Let's go."

Vogelsong stares at him a moment longer. Nate wonders if he's going to have to strongarm Vogey to get himself free. He wonders if he can take him. Vogelsong leans in one more time, kisses him, and releases him. "One for the road," he says, before heading back down the hall.

Nate follows. As he walks, he imagines he can still feel Vogelsong's hands on his ass.

"Sorry, man, I gotta bail," he tells Andrew. "I'm probably in the line up tomorrow and I didn't realize how late it was."

"That's cool." Andrew gets up and slaps his hand. "What about you, Ryan? You staying?"

"I'm his ride," Nate blurts.

"He's my ride," Vogelsong says. "But nice to meet you." He shakes Andrew's hand.

"'Nice to meet you'?" Nate teases, when they're out on the sidewalk. "He's not my mother."

"Sorry. I have manners," Vogelsong says. He's got his hands in his pockets and his head down, so he almost walks right by the car. Nate inches out of the parking spot and down the street to the bar. Vogey's SUV is still there and appears undamaged.

"Here you go, man," Nate says.

"Okay. Um. Thanks, I guess?" Vogelsong pulls on the door handle.

Nate grabs his wrist before he can get out of the car. "Thanks you guess?"

Vogelsong falls back into the seat. "Yeah. I mean. What did you want me to say? Thanks for the ride. And, whatever."

"You don't...you're not coming back to my place?"

Vogelsong--Ryan--blinks, once, twice, three times. "You're inviting me back--"

"Or your place, if you want. It's not--"

"No," Ryan says, making a face. "I'm staying with Affeldt."

"Oh, wow," Nate says.

Ryan nods. "Yeah."

"So." He turns Ryan's hand over in his, stroking the calluses with his other hand. "My place, then."

Ryan is staring at their hands. "Yeah," he says, dizzily. "I wish you still lived here."

For a minute, Nate wishes the same thing.

The drive takes way too long and gives Nate way too much time to think. His primary thought is "this is stupid." The beer and scotch are wearing off, and as the streetlights flip past, they seem to tick off the reasons why making out with Ryan Vogelsong is the worst possible move he could make at this point: He's still not, after four years, an everyday player. Vogelsong is having a charmed moment and this could ruin it. Making out with another guy is just a bad move, career-wise. He hardly knows the guy. He's not even sure he wants to fuck a guy at all, ever again; it wasn't that great the last time. Vogelsong seems a little nervous.

Oh God, is he a virgin?

That one almost makes Nate stop the car in the middle of the street.

He doesn't, and they make it to Nate's condo and pull into his sloped driveway, Vogelsong's SUV up close against his bumper. Vogelsong's already standing outside by the time Nate gets his seatbelt off. He's got his hands in this pockets again and his shoulders hunched.

"Hey," Nate says. He feels awful, making Vogelsong come all the way out here just to be turned down, but really, it's such a bad idea that Nate doesn't know how it could have turned out any other--

"I'm dying to suck your dick," Vogelsong says. "I've been thinking about it the whole way over here."

Nate is speechless. He opens his mouth, but nothing happens, so he shuts it again. His dick, though, his dick has something to say about Vogelsong's offer and nudges at the fly of his jeans.

"This is your place?" Vogelsong says, coming up the driveway, looking up at the condo.

"uhh," Nate says.

"It looks nice." He steps past Nate and onto the walkway, glancing back over his shoulder to see if Nate's following. "Someday, I'm going to buy a place."

"Yeah, I, um--" This is a BAD IDEA, his brain says, but his feet follow Vogelsong up the steps. Vogelsong has wide shoulders, wider even than Nate's, and Nate finds himself watching them move against the fabric of Vogelsong's ugly shirt. He opens the door and types in the security code as Vogelsong comes into the entryway. "Ryan--" he says, but Vogelsong is pushing the door shut with one hand and crowding him back against the door.

Is this how girls feel? Nate wonders, looking up at Vogelsong's mouth.

"Where's the bed?" Vogelsong asks, his lips so close that the words are almost kisses.

"Upstairs," Nate says. Vogelsong smiles.

"Let's go," he says.

The walk up the stairs feels like a walk to the electric chair, if that walk involved someone's hand on your ass. Nate keeps thinking he should say something, put a stop to it, but then Vogelsong touches him and all thoughts go out of his head. He leads Vogelsong up the stairs and into the master bedroom, a gigantic open room. It only has a bed in it. Nate's been meaning to get other furniture for a year and a half, now, but he hasn't found anything he likes and the walk-in closet is way too big for his meager wardrobe anyways, so it hasn't been much of a priority. He's embarrassed now, though: the lone presence of the California king bed makes it seem like he was laying a trap for unsuspecting visitors.

"Nice!" Vogelsong brushes past him and flops down backwards on the bed. "This is huge! Affeldt's guest room only has a queen. I feel like I'm going to fall off it."

Vogey's arms are up over his head; Nate can see the line of dark hair on his belly and the waistband of his boxers--plaid--above his belt. Vogelsong sees him looking and smiles. "You should come over here."

Nate goes.

Vogelsong wastes no time. He sits up as Nate approaches and pulls him close so that Nate's standing between his knees. Before Nate can take a deep breath, his jeans are open and pushed down his thighs along with his own boxers, and Vogelsong has his mouth on Nate's stomach and his hand, his pitching hand, on Nate's balls.

"Oh jesus," Nate breathes.

Vogelsong is emphatically not a virgin, but he is a tease, alternating firm contact with Nate's cock with delicate touches, hands and mouth. Nate makes a point of not grabbing onto people who are kind enough to suck his dick--it seems rude--but it doesn't take more than five minutes of Ryan's mouth and fingers before Nate's thighs are trembling and he's gripping Ryan's broad shoulders just to stay upright. He sways on his feet, the room swirling around him. He may actually faint.

"Ryan," he says. "I have to sit down."

Vogelsong lifts his mouth off of Nate's cock and looks up at him. His lips are wet and swollen and can still feel his breath on--

Vogelsong hooks one strong arm around both of Nate's thighs and pulls, and suddenly Nate is on his back on the mattress, the blankets flying up around him like he's in a laundry commercial. He hears Vogelsong's laugh high above his head. Then Vogelsong is tugging off Nate's hiking boots and sliding his jeans and boxers down his shins and throwing them on the floor. Their positions are reversed now--Vogelsong is in between his thighs--but before Nate sit up and maybe offer to return the favor, Vogelsong grabs Nate's ankle and crawls up onto the bed, hooking Nate's knees over his impossibly thick shoulders and closing his mouth over Nate's dick.

Nate doesn't know how long it goes on, Ryan's mouth on his cock, Ryan's arm looped around his thigh holding him place, one of Ryan's fingers pressed suggestively against the sensitive skin underneath his balls. Not long, probably, before his hands are fists in the sheets and he's thrusting up, up, up, the soft silky fabric of Ryan's ugly shirt sliding beneath his calves as he tries to get purchase. "oh god," he mutters as Ryan yanks him closer. He doesn't know if it's actually deep throating, but Ryan's got his whole cock somewhere warm and wet and "oh god" his fingers on the underneath of--and "oh god" cool air and Ryan's tongue on the very tip of his--

"Don't!" Nate gasps, his eyes flying open. "Don't stop."

And Ryan's wet hand around him followed by his wet mouth and that's it, that's all, Nate presses upward his mouth open and his eyes closed, not recognizing the words coming out of his own throat.

He loses a little time, somehow, and when he comes back to himself, it's also to Ryan--who is still lying between his legs and still has Nate's knees hooked over his shoulders and is still wearing all of his clothes, including his shoes, which Nate can see because Ryan has his feet up in the air behind him, waving lazily back and forth--licking smooth paths up the ridges of Nate's abdomen.

"Your shoes," he says, but his voice comes out as a hoarse croak. Ryan looks up at him and smiles. He's got the sweetest smile, crooked and eager. It completely destroys his otherwise intense expression.


Nate clears his throat. "You're still wearing your shoes."

"Don't worry, I didn't get them on the bed," Ryan says, which is maybe the most endearingly clueless thing said by anyone who's ever sucked Nate's dick. Nate reaches down and pats Ryan on the cheek.

"No, I was just wondering if you wanted to take them off."

"Oh! Sure." Ryan sits up, untangling himself from Nate's legs and yanks off his shoes. He pulls his the striped monstrosity of his shirt over his head without unbuttoning it, but leaves the grey t-shirt he's wearing underneath on. Then he lies back down, next to Nate this time, running his hand up under Nate's shirt. He strokes Nate's stomach. "How many fucking crunches do you do a day?"

"Too many," Nate says. He runs a hand over Ryan's hair. He's exhausted -- it must be almost four in the morning -- but it doesn't seem cool to fall asleep after what Ryan just did for him. "Come up here."

Ryan crawls up the mattress until he's lying on his side with his head curled on his arm. He's smiling sort of secretly to himself, his eyes half-closed. Nate gathers all his energy and rolls over, pushing Ryan onto his back and settling on top of him. It's an unfamiliar sensation, lying on top of someone who isn't dwarfed by his size, but Nate likes it. He also likes the faintly rough sensation of Ryan's jeans against his bare cock, the hint of Ryan's skin where his t-shirt has ridden up against Nate's bare belly. Not enough to get it up, he doesn't think, not after what Ryan did to him, but enough to make his grind against Ryan's thigh, just a little bit. "Why are you wearing so many clothes?" he asks.

Ryan smiles as Nate slips his hands into the waistband of Ryan's jeans and lifts his hips obligingly once Nate gets them open. His pants and boxers come off in one smooth motion, landing in a heap at the side of the mattress. Ryan crosses his arms and peels his shirt off and Nate does the same and then they're just there, naked, two guys with baseball tans and erections and Nate sort of wants to laugh and sort of wants to turn off the light, but instead he crawls on top of Ryan, one hand on either side of his body, and kisses him.

Ryan moans beneath him, his hands sliding roughly over Nate's shoulders and down his back. He's moving, writhing, slowly under Nate's weight, like he's trying not to, but can't stop himself. Nate can feel Ryan's cock prodding his abdomen, hot and slick. He reaches down with one hand and squeezes it and Ryan groans again.

"What can I do for you?" he whispers in Ryan's ear.

Ryan shakes his head, his eyes screwed shut, his lips pressed tight. It's obvious there's something. Nate kisses his closed mouth. "C'mon," he says. "You can tell me."

"Just..." Ryan thrusts into Nate's hand. "I want to, um..."

"C'mon," Nate murmurs, wondering if Ryan's saying that he's close. He's turned on, sure, but he doesn't seem on the verge. "Say it, Ryan," he says and squeezes again.

"Okay," Ryan moans. "Okay. Let me come on you."

Nate smiles. That's what he didn't want to say? "You got it, baby," he says. Ryan pulls him close and kisses him, open-mouthed and hot, his hips quickening. He moves, suddenly, another one of those startlingly quick moves, and then Nate is on his back again and Ryan is on top of him, straddling him, hands on either side of his head.

"You mean it?" he asks.

Nate laughs. "Dude, of course. It's not--" the rest of his sentence is swallowed by a kiss and Ryan is moving against him, humping him, dragging his cock over Nate's stomach. Nate detaches from Ryan's mouth and licks his own palm. He slides it over his chest while Ryan watches, down over Ryan's erection, holding it firm against the ridges of his stomach. How many crunches does he do a day? Two thousand. And Ryan's about to enjoy every one of them. "Is this want you want?" He asks, rubbing Ryan's cock against his skin.

Ryan shudders and collapses onto his elbows, his head hanging between his shoulders, his mouth against Nate's neck. Nate glides his other hand down Ryan's broad back and over the curve of his ass, pulling him closer, urging him forward. Ryan's cock is slipping back and forth between his hand and his stomach faster and faster, slick with pre-ejaculate, slippery with sweat.

"Come on me," Nate whispers in Ryan's ear. Ryan's arms are trembling; his face is red with effort. His hair is starting to darken with perspiration. "Come on, Ryan," Nate murmurs, squeezing his ass and his dick in unison, squeeze and release, squeeze and release. "Come on."

And Ryan's breath becomes a tornado in Nate's ear, his body an earthquake against Nate's chest, his come a flood under Nate's palm and over his stomach.

It lasts only a moment and then Ryan collapses on top of him, shaking and panting. One of Nate's hands is trapped between them, but he runs the other one over Ryan's back, pausing to squeeze the back of his neck. They stay that way for a little while, until Ryan's breathing slows to normal and he pulls back a little, rolling onto the mattress. Nate curls his arm around Ryan's shoulders--or tries anyways, the guy is huge--and wipes his other hand on the bedspread. His stomach is a mess--wet and sticky, the thin covering of hair twisted into new and interesting shapes--but Nate doesn't mind, especially when Ryan reaches for something past his shoulder--Ryan's t-shirt--and uses it to wipe away the remnants.

"Sorry," Ryan says, tossing the t-shirt off the side of the bed.

"You can make it up to me," Nate answers, closing his eyes. Ryan's head is on his shoulder, and one of Ryan's heavy legs is covering one of his. He won't be able to stay awake much longer. "You okay?" he mutters into Ryan's hairline.

"mmm," Ryan says. Nate assumes that means yes.

He wakes up curled against Ryan's back, knees drawn up behind Ryan's. Sun is streaming through the blinds. Ryan sighs suddenly, a huge intake of breath, and shifts until he's on his back and can see Nate. "Morning," he mumbles.

Nate hadn't really thought about what he was going to say this morning, there hadn't been time between the drinking and the blowjob and the handjob, but he's relieved to realize that he's happy that Vogelsong is here, that he still likes him and wants to kiss him. He does, closed mouthed, because of morning breath. "Morning."

"Time is it?" Ryan asks.

Nate cranes his neck to see the alarm clock on the far table. "12:30, almost. When do you have to be there?"

"Two thirty." He makes a face. "Conditioning."

"Two," Nate says. "Dibs on the shower."

"It's your house," Ryan points out.

"Still." Nate lies there a minute more, just looking at Ryan and being looked at back. "Can I ask you something?"

Ryan nods. His expression is strangely naked and vulnerable and Nate thinks for a second that maybe he won't ask, maybe he'll just let it go. But he really wants to know.

"You pack up all your stuff every night?"

Ryan nods. "Yeah," he says. "A couple times I lost some stuff in a move, so..."

A move. He means one of the several times that he got sent down or released.

"You're pitching great," Nate says. "That's not going to happen anytime soon."

Ryan smiles the knowing smile of a veteran. It's a bit of a shock, seeing such a cynical expression on Ryan's face. It's easy to forget how long he's been around. "You only have to screw up once."

Nate sighs. He doesn't want to think about it. He's been hoping for a little security for years now. He's pretty sure he's not going to Fresno anytime soon, but he's also pretty sure he's not going to be in the line up every day for the next week. It's not the same as what Vogey's talking about, but it's a taste.

Ryan leans in and kisses him once more, sliding his mouth to the lobe of Nate's ear. "It's okay," he whispers. Nate shivers at the vibration of his breath. "You can't fix it."

"I know," Nate says. He wants to say something reassuring, but Ryan's mouth is on his throat now, sucking gently at his pulse, and he can't think of anything besides "please."

Ryan strokes a warm hand down Nate's side. "You better get out of here," he murmurs. "Or you're gonna be late."

Nate is tempted, really tempted, to say "fuck late" and push Ryan onto his back and suck his dick, Ryan's right, you only have to fuck up once, and Bochy might bench him if he fucks up something easy like the call time. He groans and rolls to his feet. "You owe me," he says over his shoulder.

"Deal," Ryan says.

"Hey," Ryan says after they've both showered and are in the process of getting dressed. Nate looks up from his sock drawer. Ryan's got his hands in his pockets again and he's wearing his striped dress shirt, but not his t-shirt (for obvious reasons) and he hasn't buttoned it yet. Between that and his bare feet and his wet hair, he looks like a fucking Armani ad, if Armani only made really ugly shirts. "That, last night, that was really okay with you?"

"Hell, yeah," Nate says. "Why wouldn't it be?"

"The, um." Ryan sighs. "The last guy didn't like it."

Really? Nate's heard of a lot of things, but he doesn't understand why someone wouldn't want Ryan Vogelsong jacking off on him. It seems like a pretty awesome thing to have. "That guy's an idiot."

Ryan bobs his head. "It was Brian Wilson," he says.

Nate's whole world stops. Brian. Brian Wilson. Vogelsong fucked Brian Wil--

And then he notices Ryan's smirk, his eyes crinkled into little half moons. "You are not fucking funny!"

Ryan rears back laughing, covering his face with both hands. At one point, he laughs so hard he snorts, which makes him laugh some more.

"Fuck you, dude," Nate tells him after he calms down. "I thought I was going to have to fight Willy for your honor."

Ryan chuckles. "I'd pay to see that," he says. "The last guy didn't like it, though, for real. He thought it was gross."

"I don't," Nate says. "I think it's hot."

Ryan smiles at his shoes. "Awesome," he says.

Affeldt makes a beeline for them the minute they open the clubhouse door. "Vogey, what the eff, man? I sent you, like, six texts?"

Vogelsong fishes his phone out of his pocket. "Sorry, Jer. I had it on vibrate." He holds it out, like Affeldt can somehow verify that Ryan didn't get his messages by looking at the lock screen.

"I took him out with some friends of mine," Nate says. "It was too late for him to drive home."

"What?" Wilson says. "You and Vogey partied until dawn and did not invite your good friend Brian?"

Nate coughs to hide his laugh. Ryan is trying not to grin at the carpeting. "Sorry man," Nate says.

"Maybe next time," Ryan chokes out, and that's it, Nate's gone, over the edge picturing Brian walking into the room, his insane spandex tuxedo on, holding a cat-o-nine tails. He collapses on the couch, knees up, holding his stomach. Ryan's in a chair, hands over his mouth, tears squirting from his eyes. Lincecum walks in, headphones on, and stops at the sight of them.

"What the fuck?" he says.

Wilson shrugs. "It's official," he says. "Vogey and Nate have lost it. They have gone over the edge." Wilson makes like his hand is diving off the edge of a table. "Kersplash!"

Nate looks over at Vogelsong, who's tilted back in the chair, still laughing, his face red, his legs apart. Kersplash! he thinks.

"Hey," Lincecum says to Vogelsong. "Didn't you wear that shirt yesterday?"

The End

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