"Look at this crazy motherfucker," Huff says, standing in the aisle of the team plane. Buster, a few rows up, turns his head, but he can't see what Huff's talking about. Sandoval pops up out of his seat to look, then sits back down shaking his head and laughing. Schierholtz looks down on his way past and also smiles. Buster's sure it's not worth standing up and walking over for, so he waits until after Huff goes back to his seat then gets up and stretches, and heads back to the john like he was going there anyway (he was). On his way, he glances over to the space Huff was talking about and almost runs into a row of seats.
It's Lincecum. Tim.
"So," Kristen says, poking him gently in the ribs. "How is he in the sack?"
Buster blinks. "What?"
They're lying in bed on a Saturday morning, peaceful after early morning sex, his wife's head on his chest. He'd been expecting a question about breakfast.
"Don't 'what' me, Buster Posey." Her poke is decidedly less gentle this time. "You know what I mean."
Buster swallows. "I, um."
She props herself up on one elbow, looking disturbed. "You're not about to lie to me, are you? Because it seems like you're gettin' ready to lie, Buster, and I--"
"We haven't," Buster blurts, just to stop her from talking. "We aren't."
Buster nods eagerly. "Yeah. About, um. Three weeks ago. We stopped."
"Yep. Stopped. We aren't, you know--" Buster pauses. His wife has pushed away from him and is sitting upright, her arms folded over her beautiful chest, her eyebrows crinkled together. This is not a good expression.
"You stopped," she says again.
Buster nods mutely.
"Why?" Kristin asks.
The seats on the team plane are wider and better padded than normal airplane seats, and there are only two of them on each side of the aisle. Lincecum is curled up across his two seats, his bare feet pressed against the armrest that borders the aisle, his knees almost touching his nose.
It reminds Buster of that first night in Chicago, when Lincecum fell asleep on his bed. That was how the whole thing started, by accident. If that hadn't happened, then they never would have...done any of the other things they'd done, and then stopped doing.
You stopped doing them, Buster thinks. He never stopped anything.
"We should call him Gumby," Huff says, from behind him. Huff has the seats across the aisle.
Buster fakes a chuckle and drags himself back to the bathroom.
"Why?" Buster repeats, trying to stall for time.
His wife leans forward, her eyes narrow. "Yes, Buster. Why?"
The truth. That's the rule. "He thought we were dating," he says, closing his eyes. He doesn't want to see her reaction.
"Well, weren't you?"
On his way back to his row from the bathroom, Buster stops to talk to Wilson. It has nothing to do with the fact that Wilson is in the row behind Lincecum and that, by stopping there, Buster can see the fall of Lincecum's hair over his face and the impossible curve of his back. It's also completely irrelevant that by stopping to talk to Wilson, he can lean casually on the armrest of Lincecum's row, barely two inches from where Lincecum's feet are, practically touching him.
"Good game tonight," Wilson says.
"I was surprised."
Buster blinks, surprised himself. Wilson doesn't talk smack about guys on the team, and especially doesn't talk smack about the other pitchers. "Why?"
Wilson shrugs. "He's been going through some stuff."
Kristen bops him on the stomach. "You need to learn a different word. Weren't you dating?"
"You were hanging out. You were making out. He gave you a blow job you've been trying to describe to me for a week." She ticks these off on her fingers, one by one, like a grocery list. "How is this not dating?"
"I...would you be okay with that? With me dating?"
"What stuff?" Buster asks, trying to seem nonchalant. "It didn't seem like he was going through anything tonight."
Wilson shrugs. "Not game shit. Personal shit."
No, Buster thinks. No, he wouldn't have told Wilson. And if he did...
Buster doesn't even finish the thought. Because if Lincecum had told Wilson that Buster was jerking him around, Buster was pretty sure his head would be in a dumpster behind Wilson's apartment building right now, Rookie of the Year or not. Lincecum inspires that kind of loyalty in his teammates.
"You don't know?" he asks.
Wilson makes a face. "You know how closed-mouthed he is," he says. "Fuckin' introverts, am I right?"
"Sure," Buster says, even though he has no idea what Wilson means.
"At least it's not affecting his game," Wilson says. "Ninety nine problems--"
"But a pitch ain't one," Buster replies automatically. Wilson laughs; he loves that cheesy line.
"Right on, Buster Brown." He holds up a hand for Buster to slap, which Buster does. He turns, meaning to head back to his own row, feeling reassured somehow, but when he glances down at Tim (one for the road, he thinks as he does it), Lincecum's eyes are open and he's looking right at him.
Kristin looks at him like he just grew a third eye. "Not dating? Buster, how many times do we have to have this conversation? Didn't I tell you--"
"No." Buster shakes his head. "That's fucking. This is different."
"Men," Kristin says, and the disgust in her voice is the kind she usually reserves for shower fungus or his dirty underwear on the floor. "Honey, if you're fucking someone you like, that is dating. Buster, do you still love me?"
Buster freezes for a second, thinking that maybe this is just one of those waking moments that happen when someone turns over or something, that if he stays still enough, Tim will fall back to sleep, but Tim's eyes stay open and stay focused on him.
"Hey," Buster says, finally.
"Hey." Tim's voice is barely a whisper, clogged with sleep.
"We didn't mean to wake you." Buster gestures at Wilson, but Wilson has his headphones on now, his head titled back, his eyes closed.
"You didn't. Not really."
Buster glances around. Besides Wilson, there's really no one else who can see him. The aisle across from Tim is empty, Huff gone up front to sleep on Burrell's shoulder (they are the two of the straightest guys Buster Posey has ever known, and apparently that gives them license to cuddle at every opportunity. It seems a little ironic, when Buster thinks about it). Most of the other guys are asleep as well, or zoned out on their computers. Sandoval, in the aisle in front of Tim, has his face pressed against the window and is snoring.
On impulse, Buster crouches down, one hand on Lincecum's thigh. "Can I see you? Later?"
Tim's eyes widen. "Why?"
That hurts, but it's a fair question. "To apologize."
Now Lincecum closes his eyes. "Apology accepted. Fuck off."
Buster feels like he got whiplash from the change of topic. Does he love her? What kind of ridiculous -- "Yes! Of course, bab--"
She holds up a hand, silencing him. "And do you like spending time with him?"
"Yes. I mean, he's--"
"And you like touching him?"
Buster feels himself blush. That blowjob. "Yes."
"And has he said 'oh Buster, leave your wife and we'll come out of the closet together and adopt a dog'?"
"He already has a dog, so--"
"No. No, he's not saying that."
"So, if by 'dating' he means hanging out and spending time together and messin' around and not leaving your wife, then what's wrong with that?"
"Hey," Buster murmurs, shaking Tim's leg. "Come on."
Tim opens his eyes. "This isn't fair," he whispers. "You don't get to do this here."
"Then say yes. Say I can see you later."
Tim's whole expression narrows, his eyelids, his lips pressed together, his brows drawn in--but Buster has him in a corner and they both know it. Finally, Tim relents.
"Fine," he says. "Yes, whatever. Just leave me alone."
"That's my boy," Buster says, slapping him on the thigh. Tim grimaces, but Buster doesn't care. He can't say what he wants to say, do what he wants to do, here. But Tim will see him alone. Later. He can fix it then.
What's wrong with that?
Buster blinks. When did he become the bad guy here? "It was for you!" he blurts. "Out of respect for our marriage!"
Kristin's face softens and she slides her naked self up against him, kissing him. "Oh, honey, I know. And that's sweet of you, and I love you for it, I do." She kisses him again, her hair falling over his face, and he feels his dick twitch. She feels it, too, and smiles against his mouth. "You're gonna apologize to him, right?" Her hand glides over his stomach, slowly.
"Sure." Buster closes his eyes. "Whatever you want."
"I do want," Kristen murmurs against his lips, sliding her hand down between his legs. "And you do, too."