Normally, Buster likes Pittsburgh. The park is right on the river, which reminds him of AT&T, and the whole town has a casual and open feel, like it would be easy to walk into a bar and sit down and make some friends. Some places he doesn't like to play--New York, Cincinnati, Houston--but he always looks forward to Pittsburgh.
He would like it more if they weren't so fucking good right now. Pittsburgh, bottom of the barrel Pittsburgh, is kicking ass and taking names this season. And not in a flukey "this could change in a minute" way, but in a serious way, like they're making a concerted effort to go the distance. The whole league seems to be in a shake-up, really: Pittsburgh winning, and the Nationals, and Boston and the Phillies in the basement, and fucking Tampa Bay making a run at the Yankees. Tampa Bay. It's all in upheaval.
But they won the first game of the series, and the loss this afternoon was just a loss, and now they've got the whole evening off in comfortable, casual Pittsburgh, before a day game tomorrow, last game before the All-Star Break.
"What do you want to do?" he asks Tim, once they're back at the hotel. "We could go with Vogey." Vogelsong lived here for a long time, so him and his wife are going out with friends and invited people along. "Cool friends," Vogelsong had said on the bus. "Like, they won't freak out, no pun intended, Timmy." And the idea appeals to Buster, hanging out with normal people with normal lives, having some beers, eating some dinner.
But Tim shakes his head. "Not right now," he says, and pulls off his shirt.
"You pitch tomorrow," Buster says, but his hands are already on Tim's bare arms, sliding up over his shoulders.
Tim smiles at him, a wide and happy smile. "So make it worth my while," he says.
"Oh, fuck you," Buster breathes.
The first kiss is slow and soft, and during it Tim melts into him, the way he does, sagging his body against Buster's, his breath when they pull back hot on Buster's throat. Buster braces both hands around Tim's waist and lifts and Tim is there, his legs clamped around Buster's hips, his arms around Buster's shoulders. He's not light, but he settles nicely, his weight balanced against Buster's comfortably, his erection pressed against Buster's belly through a layer of jeans and t-shirts.
Tim looks down at him, his hair falling into his face, brushing across his cheek. His mercurial eyes are dark and liquid, his mouth serious for a moment. He's beautiful, and before Buster walks them both across the room to the bed, he takes a moment to look at Tim, really look at him. They have all night to fuck around, and the rest of the season to figure out whatever there is to figure out about this; right now, he just wants to make sure he sees Tim.
Tim looks back, silent, open, and doesn't close his eyes until Buster lowers him onto the bed.
One of the things Tim likes about Buster, whether he knows it or not, is that Buster is bigger than him. Even when Buster comes out to the mound, Tim will turn inward, towards Buster's body, begging for a hand on his back or his shoulder. In bed, the preference is even more pronounced, and Buster takes full advantage of it, lying Tim down and pushing his arms over his head, holding them there so he can kiss Tim while he writhes, panting for Buster to take off his clothes.
Tim's pitching, though, so Buster doesn't pin him down the way he might otherwise, but just leans forward, his fingers loose on Tim's forearms, until they slip up over the slopes of his palms and weave in with Tim's fingers. Tim sighs into Buster's mouth, his eyes closed.
Afterwards, Buster lies back, one arm folded behind his head, the other hand tangled in Tim's hair where it fans across his belly. Tim's got his cheek on Buster's hip, just inches away from where his mouth was until a few moments ago. Every few moments, he turns and kisses Buster's hip, or his stomach, or the trail of hair right below Buster's belly button, not sexual kisses, not anymore, just...kisses.
"When's your flight?" Tim asks, in between the kisses.
"Just before yours," Buster says. "I'm taking the team bus."
"Cool." Another kiss. "I think that fate is conspiring to keep us both out of the All-Star Game at the same time."
Buster chuckles. "Why would fate care about that?"
Kiss. "Too much awesome in the same place at once, obviously," Tim says. "The universe would collapse."
"Obviously." Buster strokes Tim's hair back, revealing the nape of his neck. "I wish you were going."
"Me, too," Tim says, and laughs. Since the time Buster asked about Chris Stewart, they haven't talked about Tim's performance much. He doesn't seem to want to and Buster doesn't press. He presses enough on the field. "Kristen going?"
"She's meeting me there," Buster says.
"Tell her I say hi," Tim says. Buster listens carefully, the way he always does when his wife comes up, but Tim sounds fine. Comfortable. Happy.
"I will." He curls his hand around the base of Tim's neck and leaves it there. It's still early, only a little after ten o'clock, but he could sleep like this, Tim curled up on him like a cat.
Tim shifts suddenly, rolls off the mattress to his feet. For a second, Buster thinks he's going to the bathroom, but then Tim leans over and fishes for his underwear next to the bed.
"What?" Buster says. "Where are you going?"
"You were right," Tim says. "We should go out."
"Huh? No," Buster says, pushing up to his elbows. "We shouldn't."
Tim pulls his shirt over his head. On the buses and the planes, he wears button downs because the dress rules say that his shirts have to have collars, but in the hotels he wears the same pullovers that he wears at home, soft and expensive and well-fitting. This one is dark blue and long-sleeved, even though it's high summer in Pittsburgh and was over a hundred degrees at the park. Tim almost always wears long sleeves.
"Sure," he says, flipping his hair back. "C'mon."
"Tim." Buster catches Tim's wrist, trying to slow him down. It's not that he doesn't want to go out, but he doesn't understand why Tim would. Not after they're already naked and settled in for the night. "What's up?"
"Nothing," Tim says, and when Buster makes a skeptical face, Tim crawls back onto the bed laughing. "No, really," he says. "Nothing. I just thought maybe we could meet up with some people or something." He's braced over Buster's face, grinning down at him. It doesn't seem like there's anything wrong.
"Okay," Buster says, releasing Tim's wrist.
"Okay." Tim leans down and kisses him again. He's got his underwear on, but no pants yet, so his bare legs slide along Buster's. Buster curves one hand over the slope of Tim's ass, slipping over the material of the briefs, his fingernails grazing the back of Tim's thigh where the elastic hits. Tim flinches and presses harder against him. "C'mon," he whispers against Buster's mouth. "Let's go."
Tim can't get ahold of Vogelsong, but some of the guys have holed up in the bar attached to the hotel--Pagan, Burriss, Blanco, Crawford--and wave them over from the lobby.
"The dynamic duo comes out," Pagan says, hooking one arm over Tim's shoulders. Buster tries not to flinch. He knows that's not what Pagan meant, but the team has noticed that he and Tim spend time together. They're going to have to be a little more careful for a while, although Buster can't think of what else they can do, how much more careful they can be.
His phone buzzes in his pocket. Kristen. He waves an "excuse me" gesture at the guys and heads to a dark corner.
"Hey, baby," he says.
Kristen's crying, her breath coming in little gasps.
"What's wrong?" he asks. He can feel the adrenaline surging in the pit of his stomach. Not the babies, he thinks. Not them. When he speaks again, his voice is stern. "Honey, what is wrong?"
"I'm tryin' to pack," Kristen sobs. "And the twins won't go down for momma, and Lee's gotta cold, and I don't know what the hell I'm gonna wear, and I haven't seen you in ten days, Buster. This is a fucking nightmare."
"Okay, okay, okay, shhhh." In other words, nothing is seriously wrong, except that Kristen's having a total meltdown. He glances up and catches Tim's eye. Points at the phone and then out into the lobby. Tim lifts his chin in acknowledgement.
But he can't stay in the lobby: even at midnight there are fans. They can't approach him-- hotel rules--but he doesn't want to have a conversation with Kristen where other people can overhear. "I'm going up to my room," he tells her, pressing the button for the elevator. "I might lose you in the elevator, but if I do, I will call you right back, okay?"
She sniffles. "Okay." She sounds small and tired, two words he would normally never associate with his wife. She must be exhausted.
"Okay. Now, what happened?"
Kristen sighs. "Oh, nothing, you know," she says. He does. One of the advantages, if you could call it that, of the Ankle, was that he spent so much time at home when the twins were first born. He knows how one thing happens and then another and another and you're left shivering with exhaustion in the middle of the living room, holding a dirty diaper and smelling like spoiled milk. "I just couldn't take it anymore. And I'm seeing you tomorrow, so I thought I could wait, but--" her breath catches in a fresh sob. "--I couldn't. Sorry."
"Hey,no," Buster says. "You don't have to wait, honey. Why would you wait to call me?"
He knows the answer as soon as the words come out of his mouth.
"I'm okay," she says, collecting herself again. "Really. I just got taken over for a second, there. I'm okay."
"Tell me what happened." He steps out of the elevator and pulls his key out of his back pocket, slotting it in the lock.
"You're gonna think it's stupid," she says, but it's not a stupid story, it's just an everyday story of the life she lives when he's not there. He settles back on the roughed up bed and listens. Sometimes, when he catches glimpses of her private life, he wishes he could see it, that he could watch her being her when he's not around.
"And that's when I called you and ruined your whole evening," she says.
"You calling never ruins my evening," he tells her. At some point in the conversation, he's curled into the pillows, and closed his eyes so that all he can see is his imagination of her words.
She laughs, a real laugh. "I bet Timmy feels differently."
"Nah. He's at the bar." Buster opens one eye and looks at the bedside clock. 1:21 am. Tim might be in by now, actually.
"Well, tell him I say hi," she says.
"I will. You alright?"
"Yeah." She sighs, and it's a tired sigh but not a sad one. "I'll let you get some sleep."
"Love you, darlin' Kristen," he says softly.
"Love you right back," she answers. "See you tomorrow."
For a minute after he presses END, Buster looks at the phone. Tim might be downstairs still. Or he might be up in his room. He hasn't called or texted. Buster touches the screen.
>>sorry, had to take it. Where r u?
There's no answer for a minute, then two, then five. Buster thinks about calling, but it's late. Or early. Whatever Tim's doing, he should just keep doing it.
Buster sets the phone on the bed table and turns off the light. He's asleep almost instantly.