Warm Up
by Synchronik

Tim can't watch the game from the stands. Not many people come out for the fall league but there are enough, and if word gets to the internet, the place will be swarmed in fifteen minutes. Tim learned that lesson the hard way when he tried to go to Best Buy on his own in July. But Tim knows one of the pitching coaches who lets him sit in the dugout as long as he doesn't cause a scene. "Just keep your jacket on, huh Timmy," the coach says, slapping him on the shoulder.

"Sure, man, of course." Tim nods. The coach, a younger guy named Emanuel, looks at him for a long minute. He wants to ask what the players asked when they saw him at the park--"what are you doing here?"--but unlike the players, Emanuel has been around for awhile and knows better than to ask questions he doesn't want the answers to.

"Alright," Emanuel says. "Good to see you."

Tim smiles, and heads down the narrow hallway to the dugout. The team is all on the field doing warm-ups, so Tim finds a corner out of the way, sort of behind the water cooler without blocking it, and takes a seat, pulling his hat down so it shades his eyes. He loves this place. He's never been here in the fall before, but in just under four months he and the rest of the team will be here for spring training; this will be his home. Right now, though, it's not his park, but Brandon's.

Crawford's out on the grass, stretching with the rest of the team. From his position on the bench, Tim can barely see him, but that's okay. He knows he's out there.

That's always the hardest part of the season, the not knowing. Even after last year, after the glory and the triumph and the parade, there was still the melancholy task of cleaning out his locker and walking away from the team knowing that it would never be the same again. Guys would get traded, guys would retire, guys would just fade away until Tim would have to rack his brain to remember--"Bowker? Yeah, I played with him"--how a guy wore his hat or tossed his warm-up throws. There was always the feeling of loss.

He'd been in San Francisco packing up the remainder of his apartment before heading back to Seattle when he'd felt the sudden pang. I wonder what he's doing right now. That had been the thought that pushed him to his car, the GPS already programmed with the Scottsdale Stadium address from last year.

It was a little stupid, Tim knew that. Crawford should be focusing on righting his swing, getting his shit together for spring training next year. He didn't need the distraction. And to drive all that way to see him?...it meant something that Tim wasn't sure he wanted to say. That Brandon wasn't just convenient. He was...more.

Tim had called his dad from the road and gave him some excuse for not showing up for a week, then he'd turned off the phone and turned up the music. Except for snacks and bathroom breaks, he'd stopped just once, in Blythe, California, at four in the morning. He was only two or three hours away at that point, and had hoped to gut it out, but the Mercedes had skidded in the dust along the side of the highway and woke him out of a doze and wouldn't that be priceless if they found him dead in a ditch in the Middle of Nowhere, California, so he'd stopped at a Quality Inn and slept for four or five hours, showered, ate, and got to the stadium just as the Scorpions game had been letting out. Like it was fate.

Since he got to Arizona, Tim hasn't done much except sleep and fuck and eat and sleep some more. It's the life of a pet cat. Brandon had to get up and go to practice, and for the first two days, Tim had stayed behind in the hotel, watching the door shut, feeling a little bit like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman except "I'm the one who's paying," he'd said out loud to an empty room.

After that, he got off his ass and found the hotel gym, which was deserted in the middle of the day except for the pimply kid guarding the towels, and had a good and mostly untouched set of weights and a sauna.

This morning, when Brandon crawled back into bed after his morning piss, Tim had rolled over and looked at him. "I'm thinking about coming to the game," he'd said.

Crawford's eyes had widened and he'd flushed in a way that made Tim want to pin him to the bed. "Yeah?" he'd said. "Want to see me strike out in person?"

Tim ignored the self-deprecation. He used that strategy too often himself, when he didn't want to show how much he wanted something. "Would you care? If I showed up?"

Brandon shrugged and closed his eyes. "No, that'd be cool."

"Cool," Tim had said and then stretched, arching his back and lifting his arms over his head. When he'd finished, sagging back to the mattress, Brandon's eyes were open.

Now, he's standing at the edge of dugout, looking in, smiling, his eyes masked by the orange glare of his sunglasses. "You made it, huh?"

Tim squints up at him. "Eventually."

"Awesome," Brandon says. He glances over his shoulder, but no one's really around. "I want to say something," he says, his voice low.

"Yeah?" Tim asks. His heart is beating fast, even though there's no reason for it.

"Yeah," Brandon says, but then instead of saying anything else, he smiles, a big smile, sincere and happy. "Gotta go," he says, and jogs out onto the field.

Tim drives back to the hotel alone after the Scorpions win. He wanted to hang in the clubhouse and wait for Crawford and listen to the other guys bullshit, but he's not on this team. It wouldn't be right. So he goes back to the hotel and turns on the television and pretends he's not waiting at all.

"Your hitting's looking good," he says, when Brandon comes in about half an hour later.


Tim glances up at him. "I mean it," he says. "You're hitting, what, .344? .345?"

Brandon shakes his head. Freed from the baseball cap, his hair curls crazily at the back of his neck in giant loops. Tim wants to curl them around his fingers. "It's not enough," Brandon says. "I know that."

"What do you mean?" Tim asks. "It's .344."

"Yeah, in Arizona," Brandon says. "It's not the same."

"No," Tim admits. "But it's better than .244, right?"


"Okay, then," Tim says. "Learn to take a compliment."

"I don't want you to compliment me," Brandon says. "It's like you're my coach or something. Like you're trying to make me feel better."

Tim chuckles. "That's only cause it's about your hitting. If I complimented you on other things, I bet you wouldn't care."

"Like what?" Brandon sits on the edge of the bed. He's wearing jeans and a button down shirt, blue. The clothes make him look like someone's hot older brother, home from college.

"Like..." Tim considers him. Crawford is maybe the best looking guy Tim has ever seen close up, movie star attractive, but Brandon's immune to compliments about his looks; he's gotten too many of them to believe them anymore. "You have really nice hands."

"Tim," Brandon rolls his eyes, but it takes a second before Tim realizes that Crawford thinks he's complimenting his defensive skills.

"No, not like that," he says. He takes Brandon's hand and lines it up with his own, palm to palm. Brandon's fingers extend almost an inch past his. "Like this," he says. "They're always warm. Don't you ever get cold hands?"

Brandon's looking at their hands pressed together. "I don't know," he says. "Not really."

"And you're funny," Tim says, leaning in so he's almost whispering in Brandon's ear. Brandon closes his eyes.

"I am?"

"Hilarious," Tim says, although really Brandon's only moderately funny. Wilson's hilarious, but truth isn't really the point of this little exercise. Tim rubs his cheek lightly against Brandon's. "And you have great facial hair."

Brandon smiles, but doesn't open his eyes. "You're just jealous."

Tim shifts his weight and throws his leg over both of Brandon's, settling in his lap. Immediately, Brandon's arms are around his waist, holding him steady, his warm hands sliding up the back of Tim's shirt. He can feel Brandon's hard on bumping against his, Brandon's heart thudding against his own chest. "Totally," he whispers against Brandon's mouth, and then the talking is over.

The End

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