|On Hold |
They've seen each other. They saw each other a hundred times in the clubhouse before the end of the last season. They saw each other at press conferences, at team gatherings, at Fan Fest, where Tim could feel himself vibrating with energy just knowing that he and Buster were sharing a stage. He wondered if Huff, perched on a stool in between them, had felt warm and wondered why.
And, of course, there had been that one time, at Buster's house when he still had the cast on.
But they haven't seen each other, seen each other, since that afternoon. Months ago. Buster has kids, now, plural, and a platoon of trainers talking about the potential move to first base (the idea of which makes Tim feel nauseous. How is he supposed to throw to someone else with Buster standing just behind his left shoulder?), and Tim thinks
maybe I should just let it go
maybe too many things have changed for him and Posey to pick up where they left off, no matter what was said that afternoon.
"We'll just be on hold," Tim had said, his hands on Buster's knees. "You know, until you're back on your feet."
Buster shook his head. "We don't have to," he'd said. "Kristen, she gets it, it's fine--"
Then Tim was shaking his own head, because it wasn't fine. He couldn't spend the next four or five or six months on Buster's floor among the baby toys listening with one ear for the sound of Buster's wife's car in the driveway, no matter how fine she was with that. He just couldn't. That was her place.
And this, Arizona, the ballpark, this is his. Maybe.
The first day is a familiar blur, seeing the old guys, the new guys, getting back into the groove of things. Buster is just another player out there in his uniform, and sure, it's good to see him, just like it had been good to see him every other time, walking around, playing catch, his gum hanging out of his mouth all the fucking time in a way that should be disgusting but somehow isn't. Tim feels like a bird in the bullpen, arms flying through the air like wings. Stew stands up after their session shaking his glove hand and grinning. "On fire Timmy," he calls. "You are on fire."
But when he wakes up on day two, it's Tim's back that's on fire, low across his hips, making him wince when he rolls over.
"Fuck," he mutters to the ceiling of the rental condo. Rags is going to kill him.
"It's fine," he says, trying to look comfortable in the folding chair in Bochy's office. "It's just a little tight."
"Get him on the table," Boch tells Mark, picking up a pencil and sticking the eraser end in his mouth. "Stretch him out. Tell Rags to cross him off the 'pen list."
They make him go for tests anyways--"just to be on the safe side, Timmy," Rags says, clapping him on the shoulder--which come back negative, just like he knew they would. His back hurts a little, but it's not serious. He's just overdone it. Got too carried away with the joy of being back and overextended a little. He feels better after he's stretched and Mark has rubbed him down for twenty minutes, loose limbed and sleepy, despite the low ache in the hollow of his spine.
"Go home, get some rest," Mark says. "Stretch it out again tonight. You'll be good as new tomorrow or the next day."
"Yeah," Tim says, and tries to stifle a yawn.
He's on the couch when the doorbell rings, startling him out of a doze. For a second, he's confused--did he order food?--and the bell echoes strangely in the mostly empty house. Tim mutes the television and goes to the door. If it's a neighbor wanting him to move his car or something, he's--
Tim can tell from the blurry shape in the frosted glass. He pauses with his hand on the door handle, trying to calm the sudden throbbing of his heart.
"Hey, Buster," he says, swinging the door open.
"Hey, man." Buster runs his hand over his hair. "I heard you left early. You okay?"
"It's just my back," Tim says. "Overdid it yesterday, you know. Excited to be back."
"Yeah, yeah," Buster says. "Nothing serious, I hope."
"No, not serious."
Tim stares at Buster's shoes. Brown, battered lace ups. Shoes he's seen a thousand times, Buster's go-to shoes. He knows he should say something else, but his mind is blank except for this: kiss me.
"Okay, well," Buster says, and Tim finally has a thought.
"Oh, shit! You wanna come in?" He such a fucking dork sometimes. "I got, um, beer I think. Or Red Bull."
"It's a little late for Red Bull," Buster says, but he comes in anyway.
"What time is it?" Tim looks around, but there's no clock in view and his watch is still in his bag.
"Like, ten thirty."
"Oh." Another silence. "So, um. How're things?"
"Good. Busy. You know."
"Sure." Tim nods. He has no idea. But he doesn't want to talk about Buster's wife or his kids. He doesn't want to know too much.
"Do you, um." Buster clears his throat. "Should I go?"
"Okay. You know." Tim tucks his hair behind his ears, trying not to react. "If you have to."
"I got time."
"Oh. Um, that's--" Tim wants to laugh with relief, but he can't, because Buster's hand is on his neck and Buster's mouth is on his mouth. The kiss is strange at first, heavy and cautious and not how Tim remembers Buster kissing, not how he remembers himself kissing, but then Buster steps forward, his hand slipping around Tim's waist, drawing him in.
"Does this hurt?" Buster asks. His fingers press into the small of Tim's back, under his shirt.
"No." Tim mumbles against his mouth.
Buster's left hand joins his right, firm pressure on the muscles alongside Tim's spine. "How 'bout this?"
Tim slumps against Buster's chest, his forehead falling to Buster's shoulder. It's the opposite of hurt; it's heaven. He makes a sound, but he's not sure it's a word. Buster's hands move rhythmically over the tender muscles and Tim finds himself breathing in time with the motion, his ribs rising and falling against Buster's. When Buster's hand slides down under the loose waistband of his sweatpants and cups his ass, Tim sighs.
"You're better than the trainers," he murmurs into the curve of Buster's throat.
Buster chuckles. "I hope so," he says. "Mark's handjobs suck."
Tim's laughter is cut off by a kiss.
They make it back to Tim's rented bed, a mattress that is too soft for Tim, usually, but tonight feels like he's being embraced by a cloud, floated above the bed, anchored only by Buster's hands. After he comes in Buster's mouth, he lies back, his hands over his head, and watches Buster jack off on his stomach, and curls his arm around Buster's shoulders after he collapses on top of him, kissing his forehead and listening to his heavy breath.
"Jesus, this is a mess," Buster says after a minute. Tim tightens his arm and doesn't say anything. He doesn't care about the mess, he just cares about making this last as long as possible. But Buster is a good boy who does care about messes, and after another minute, he gets up and goes to the bathroom, whistling in appreciation at Tim's deluxe bathroom. The real estate agent had been really excited about it as well--something about inlaid marble in the tub, Tim recalls, stretching--but Tim just uses the shower.
"It's like the Taj Majal in there," Buster says. He swipes a warm washcloth across Tim's stomach.
Tim smiles, keeping his eyes closed, but he can feel himself bracing for the sound of Buster putting on his pants. When Buster takes the washcloth back into the bathroom, Tim rolls onto his side, curling his knees into his chest. His back feels better. He wonders if this counts as fulfilling Mark's instruction to "stretch it out." He'll be back to sleep a minute or two after Buster leaves, he thinks.
Buster slips in behind him, his weight on the mattress making Tim sink into the curve of his body. Buster puts an arm around Tim's waist and pulls him in they're pressed skin to skin. Buster slides his hand up, over Tim's chest, under his arm, and hooks one of his hands over Tim's shoulder, like a harness on a roller coaster. He buries his head in the crook of Tim's neck, not kissing, just resting his mouth on Tim's skin, steaming it up with his breath. His heat rolls over Tim in waves, relaxing him.
For a second, Tim thinks about not saying anything, about keeping his mouth shut and falling asleep just like this. Then he thinks about waking up alone, and speaks.
"Don't you have to get back?"
Buster's mouth moves against his neck. "No, not tonight," he says, shifting to bring Tim in closer, as if that was even possible.