Written by Beth
"Okay. 3:30 then. Thanks very much," Stivers said, then
slowly put the phone down and looked around the squad room.
"Where's Bayliss?" she asked.
"He went outside as soon as I got him here," Falsone
said. "I think he wants to be alone."
"Yeah, well, I can't leave him alone. I've got
something to tell him," Terri said, and headed out of the
office. She found him exactly where she thought she would:
standing up on the roof, gazing out at the waterfront.
"Tim," she said softly.
He slowly turned to face her. His face was very red,
but that could have been from the cold. His swollen eyes
and the tear tracks on his cheeks confirmed it, however--he
was still deeply upset about this shooting.
"Gee asked me to get you an appointment with counseling
to talk this over," she said carefully. "You're supposed to
be there in fifteen minutes."
"Oh great," he said sarcastically, whipping off his
glasses and fiercely rubbing his eyes. "That's--that's just
exactly what I needed."
Terri stepped a little closer, her dark eyes
scrutinizing him. "You look pretty upset," she offered.
"It might help. They're trained to help police deal with
these types of situations."
"Trained to help," he said in disbelief, then slowly
put his glasses back on. There was a pause.
"I don't need help--there isn't help--" He broke off,
fumbling in his coat pocket for a handkerchief and wiping
his nose. "You don't *help* a man who's just killed
"It was a clean shooting," she said quietly, firmly.
"Gee thinks so, Falsone has proved it, and I think you know
it yourself, Tim. Look--just go to this counselor. Go
through the motions if you have to, but please. Do it."
He sighed, then ran a hand through his hair. "Okay,
okay," he said resignedly.
Tim sat uncomfortably in the waiting room to the counseling
office, glancing impatiently at the vinyl furniture and the
ads for various drugs. Paxil, BuSpar, Zoloft, Welbutrin,
these and other strange names, many of which he'd heard in
passing on television commercials but none of which he knew
much about. The posters read: "Depression: There Is Help,"
and "Don't Let Social Anxiety Disorder Ruin Your Life."
Tim felt sick. What he needed was "Childhood Trauma Wiped
Away in One Fell Swoop," or "Turn Back Time and Decide *Not*
to Shoot!" If there were pills like that, he'd gladly take
The shooting was still replaying itself in his mind, not so
much the events themselves as the feelings attached to them.
The fear and regret were still intense enough to make his
mouth dry up and his forehead break out in sweat.
Unbearably awful: this day was the worst he could remember
since . . . well, since the day he'd gotten shot himself.
Tim glanced impatiently at his watch. 3:40--the counselor
was late, and there was still a ton of paperwork to do for
the case. He sighed in annoyance as he realized that there
was no way he'd be leaving work on time tonight.
Finally, a small, plump man stepped into the waiting room.
"Detective, uh, Bayliss," he said.
The voice was tired, uninterested, unsurprised. Another
cop, another crisis, business as usual. Tim bristled with
dislike, nodded curtly.
Mid-fifties, he'd guess, if the lines in the face and
streaks of gray in the beard were any indication. But then
even his own beard had started to go gray, so it was
possible that this guy was younger. Fat belly, worn tweed
jacket and rumpled chinos. Obviously contracted from the
outside, obviously not a cop--the man seemed completely
divorced from the street, the police, anything at all that
informed this shooting or how Tim felt about it. Tim glared
at him, then stepped into the office.
"I'm Doctor Hurst," the man said, extending a hand to shake.
Tim brushed past him, sat down. The doctor slowly followed
"You were involved in a shooting a few hours ago," Dr. Hurst
said, staring at some notes he'd scribbled on a legal pad.
"I've talked briefly with your lieutenant, so I know the
basics, but it might be good for you to recount the events."
Tim sighed impatiently, shifted in his chair. The doctor
looked expectantly at him. He remained silent.
"Why did you shoot, detective?" Dr. Hurst finally asked, a
hint of annoyance in his voice.
"Because he'd shot at me once, and because he was going to
shoot me again, and I didn't want to die," Tim answered,
aggravated, and then frowned in surprise, uncomfortable with
the rationale he'd come up with.
"Your lieutenant says that you were pretty broken up at the
"I took a life. The sheer *loss* of that--the incredible
waste--yeah. It upset me."
Tim half expected to start to cry again, but found himself
numb, unable to summon up the energy.
The counselor gazed steadily at Tim with watery blue eyes.
"So what are you going to do about it? How are you going to
grieve this man?"
Tim looked at the floor. "I don't have a right to grieve for
him. I'm the one who killed him," he finally got out.
Dr. Hurst crossed his legs. "If you don't grieve, you're
not going to get past it."
"I don't *want* to get past it," Tim said sharply. "I don't
*want* to forget it, or come to terms with it, or diminish
the horror of what I've done in any way. To do any of that
cheapens that man's life."
"Oh, I'm not at all suggesting that you diminish what
happened," Dr Hurst said. "I agree--you did do an awful
Tim stared at him in shock.
"That man will never breathe again, never smile, never walk
the street, fall in love, laugh at a joke," the doctor
Tim stared in shock. "You think I don't *know* this?" he
finally got out, his voice shaking in anger. Calm, he
thought desperately, fighting the urge to get up and shake
the man into next week. Calm.
"You did an awful thing," the doctor repeated. "But--and
this is even more important, detective--I don't think that
you did the *wrong* thing. Do you hear me?"
Tim crossed and uncrossed his legs, tugged at his jacket.
"You've got to be able to feel sad that this happened--I
think I see evidence of that already," the doctor added, and
now his voice was oddly gentle.
Tim took a deep breath.
"But you've also got to give yourself a fair shake. This
was--it sounds like it was an impossible situation," the
doctor said grimly. "It's not fair, and it's not good, but
sometimes life ends up that way."
"I shouldn't have done it," Tim murmured. "I wish to god I
"But you did do it. You did it, and you're alive because of
it. And that is not a bad thing."
Dr. Hurst leaned forward, spoke urgently. "What you've got
to do, detective, is allow yourself to see both the tragedy
*and* the necessity of the event."
Tim shook his head. "No, see, you don't *get* it. I can't
see the necessity of it--I'm never going to see the
necessity of it. You don't-- Killing goes against
everything I hold dear in life."
Dr. Hurst frowned. "You say this as an officer of the law?"
Tim made a noise of frustration. "I say it as a Buddhist,
which I am. Or was. Until today." His voice trailed off
as he finished.
"But your job requires that you be able to kill if
necessary," Dr. Hurst said firmly.
"Well obviously I *can* do it, now can't I?" Tim shot back.
"Detective, if what you're telling me is that you can't
fulfill the responsibilities of your position, then maybe
you should be thinking about another career."
Tim threw up his hands. "Like I just said--when in the heat
of the moment, the cop in me took over, not the Buddhist.
So I guess I know which part of me is stronger."
"But what about the next time?" the doctor asked. "What if
you need to shoot someone and you can't? If you can't come
to terms with that part of the job, I'd strongly suggest a
leave of absence of some sort."
Tim glared at him. "What the hell kind of school did you go
to? Because this is just--this is--I get the feeling that
you're trying to make me feel *worse*!"
"That is not my intent, detective."
"Well, that's what you're doing," Tim said tightly, then
sighed. "Look," he said after a minute. "I can fulfill the
responsibilities of the job. The Buddhism . . . I see now
that it's probably not going to work for me, all right?"
Dr. Hurst stared at him for a while, then began to speak
And on it went: responsibility and sadness and giving
yourself a break--over and over again. At some point, Tim
stopped listening, began simply to nod, to look interested,
to say, "I see" here and there for effect. He was
exhausted, he was soul-weary, and he was sick of talking.
". . . finished here, then," Dr. Hurst finally said, and Tim
smiled in sheer relief, stood up, and shook the damn man's
"Detective," Dr. Hurst said in a loud and deliberate voice.
"Listen to me. I suggest that you seek further counseling
for this. Do you hear me?"
"I hear you," Tim said automatically.
"And one more thing. Try not to spend the evening alone,
all right? Find a friend, someone you trust, someone you
can talk to, and go out or something. Please."
Tim held back another smile. Who the fuck was he supposed
to do *that* with?
Tim stood outside the station, looking over at the
Waterfront. He knew they were all in there, and he knew
that they'd be glad to see him, but he just couldn't do it.
The last thing he wanted right now was to be around people
whose life's work would compel them to squash exactly what
was bothering him. "It was a clean shooting," they'd say, as
if that were enough, as if that would somehow help, would
get rid of the fact that a man was dead because of him. He
didn't want that kind of help--didn't need it.
He pulled his coat closer over his shoulders and began to
walk. "Don't be alone," the counselor had said to him this
afternoon. He'd been too embarrassed to say that he really
didn't have anyone he could stay with. Frank was in New
York, and he really didn't feel like calling him up--really
wasn't up to facing the unique brand of clarity Pembleton
brought to most issues. Besides, Frank was probably sound
asleep now. His mother? That was laughable. He was still
recovering from the time he'd spent with her last summer.
There were a few men he'd dated recently, but that didn't
feel right either, and since the whole Roger Fisk debacle,
he'd been extremely wary of bringing together his career and
his sexual orientation.
What he needed was someone who'd known him for a
while--someone who knew about all the sides of his life but
who wasn't too closely affiliated with the police.
He laughed out loud when the idea suggested itself to him.
"God," he said to himself. "You are so pathetic."
He hadn't seen Chris Rawls in several months. Chris didn't
know that he'd been shot; Chris didn't know that he'd lost
Frank; Chris didn't know about his conversion to Buddhism.
Chris didn't even know that he'd actually continued to date
men after their relationship had ended.
"Some relationship," he muttered as he got into his car. It
hadn't ever really taken off--he hadn't let it. He'd been
too paralyzed with fear, with the enormity of accepting his
attraction to men. It wasn't something that *could* happen
quickly for him, given his background and upbringing. There
had been too many taboos to confront, too many bouts with
Chris had been incredibly understanding and gentle with him.
There had been long conversations about how one *really
knew* when one was attracted to another man, about how
relationships between men were different, about what intense
emotional connections between men were like. Chris had also
introduced Tim to several of his friends, had given him
faces and names and personalities to illuminate the shadowy
construct of "gay man" that lurked in Tim's imagination.
And finally, Chris had begun, carefully, to initiate him in
the rites of intimate physical contact between men.
And Tim had freaked. He could kiss Chris, he could hug him,
he could even--one drunken night--allow Chris to bring him
to orgasm. But beyond that, he could not reciprocate; could
not even admit to himself that he *wanted* to. It had all
been too new, too intimidating. As the weeks went by, Chris
had been patient, and then less patient, and then, finally,
"It's not working," he'd said on the last night they'd seen
each other, his voice calm. "You're not ready."
Tim had wanted very much to be able to deny that and he'd
even opened his mouth to start, but Chris had raised a hand
to stop him.
"You're not, and you know it. You can't relax, Tim. You're
not open emotionally, and it's not happening physically.
I've tried--" He broke off, laughed a little. "I've tried
every trick in the book. But it's just not happening."
"So you're dumping me," Tim had said, amazed at the hurt he
Chris had smiled. "I never really had you, so I can't
exactly dump you, can I? Look at it that way if it makes you
And so it had ended. At first, Tim had felt liberated: his
experiment had gone so wrong that it seemed to have proved
something. Bi-curiousness had received a hetero-answer. Tim
had seen women for a while, and it had been fine. Just
But not exactly fulfilling, and in time, the same old
questions presented themselves to him. And he'd been able
to answer them with a little more success this second time
around. He could now definitely say that he lost some of
the inhibitions, had learned that sex with another man could
be--was--an incredible experience.
But as of late, his elation on that point had subsided. As
far as relationships went, he just hadn't been able to find
someone he felt right with--and since he still felt bruised
and unhappy about his interactions with Roger Fisk, and
about the furor his web site had raised, he wasn't going to
look around right now.
He parked on a side street near the Zodiac, and got out of
the car, disturbed by the feelings he'd just roused.
Suddenly, it seemed not such a good idea to go in. The
shooting had been bad enough--to confront Chris and the
whole sexuality thing as well seemed insane. He lowered his
head in the cold, kicked a stone across the street,
"Table for one?"
"Uh, yeah," Tim said, looking around. Thank god it wasn't
crowded--there were many nights when it was impossible to
get seated here without a reservation. The Zodiac looked
almost exactly how he'd remembered it; he found that
strangely comforting. He ordered some wine--now that the
Buddhist thing was shot, he might as well enjoy some of the
things he'd missed--and studied the menu, trying hard not to
look uptight He hadn't even seen Chris when he came
in--maybe it was owner's night off.
Tim rested his chin in his hand and looked with interest at
the other couples in the room. It was wonderful to see the
freedom with which hands were held, kisses were exchanged.
As the disapproving stares and looks of disgust he'd been
getting at the police station indicated, such acts were
forbidden in the places he spent most of his time. It was a
relief to escape to a more open environment, even if only
for a few hours.
He ate pasta primavera and sipped the wine, remembering the
night long ago when Chris had made this dish for him in his
very own apartment, laughing and complaining about Tim's
ill-equipped kitchen. Tonight's version of the dish had not
been as excellent as that one had been, but Tim consumed it
By the time he'd finished his meal, Tim was fairly convinced
that Chris must have the night off. Politely declining
dessert, he leaned back and waited for the check.
"He's ready for the check now," Noreen said.
Chris pretended to stare at the menu for tomorrow.
"I think you should go talk to him," Noreen softly added.
"I just--you'd really regret it if you didn't."
"Yeah, yeah," Chris said abstractedly. He was not at all
sure whether he had to strength to go out and confront The
One Who Got Away. The whole thing with Tim had affected him
a lot more deeply than he'd anticipated. Despite Tim's
anxieties, his hesitancy, and his inexperience, Chris had
felt something with him, something strong. And when it
finally became apparent that Tim was not going to stop
flipping out, was not going to be able to return the
feelings, Chris had ended up a lot more hurt than he thought
Stupid, stupid. Never bring anyone out: that was the
cardinal rule. He should have felt himself falling for Tim
early on and put an end to it then and there. Let the crush
Noreen gently placed Tim's check on the desk in front of
Chris. "Go talk to him," she said, and left.
Chris threw down his pencil, left the check where it was,
then headed to the bathroom. He sighed, ran fingers through
his hair, pronounced himself a thorough idiot, and then went
out onto the floor.
He approached Tim's table circuitously, not wanting to be
seen before he saw for himself. Chris caught his breath for
a moment as he watched Tim drink coffee, absently fiddle
with his spoon. The man was just incredibly lovely.
"I can't believe you didn't ask for me."
Tim looked up in shock. "Chris," he got out, looking
awkward and delighted all at once.
"Hey," Chris said, smiling, and pulled out a chair and sat
next to Tim. For a brief while, Chris let himself stare,
become acquainted once again with the lines and curves of
the face in front of him.
Something was different--in fact, a lot of things were. For
one thing, Tim was much thinner, and his face looked drawn
and almost haggard. He didn't look well--he didn't look
happy or relaxed or in any way content. And the eyes . . .
there was something in them, a deep emotion that Chris
wasn't sure he could read. He wasn't even sure that he
*wanted* to. Concern flooded him, and then regret. This
was not his problem--Tim was not his problem. Best to see
why the man had shown up and just get this thing over with.
And so Chris asked, "How are you?"
"How am I? Great! Really really great," Tim said, and then
smiled a little, looked down at his plate.
Such a liar. Such a liar, and he knew that Chris knew this,
and so he must want Chris to ask about it . . .
"You know, I get the feeling that you don't really mean
that, Tim," Chris said.
Hazel eyes met his. "You noticed," Tim said softly, and the
eagerness and the . . . gratefulness in his voice were
"Of course I did," Chris said softly.
What had happened? he wondered. How had Tim ended up so
alone that he'd come here? Chris was no one to Tim--he was
an ex-boyfriend, and only that if the term was drastically
"Well, it's been kind of a rough day," Tim said, then
laughed, shook his head. "And I--I needed to talk to
someone about it, you see, but then I realized that there
really wasn't anyone to talk to."
He looked quickly up at Chris, then away. "So I tried to
remember people who I've been able to talk to in the past,
and, well, you popped into my mind, and so here I am."
Chris sat very still, feeling torn. Was he ready for the
maelstrom of emotions that had attended his every
interaction with Tim Bayliss thus far? Was it really worth
risking getting hurt again just because Tim couldn't find
anyone else to talk to on this one night? Was it worth
getting caught up in yet another psychodrama?
"You can tell me anything you want, Tim," he finally said,
and Tim stared deep into his eyes before slowly turning away
in embarrassment as he began to tear up.
Oh god. Something really *was* wrong--something serious.
"Hey," Chris said gently. "Come on. What do you say we go
to my place and talk about all this? Just talk. Okay?"
"I haven't gotten my check yet," Tim said, roughly wiping
"No way I'm charging you for this," Chris said. "What'd you
have anyway--the primavera?"
Tim nodded, a little more in control of himself now. "I
liked it!" he added when Chris scowled.
"If you'd told me you were coming, I could have fixed you
something *really* good," Chris said. "Next time I
Christ. What the hell was he doing suggesting that there
might *be* a next time? This was just classic, and stupid,
and he was going to regret it tomorrow, he just knew it.
"That'd be great," Tim said uncomfortably, and then they
were both standing up, Tim getting into what looked like an
impossibly heavy coat and wrapping a scarf around his neck
and Chris wandering over to the bar to pick out a wine that
went well with sorrow.
And a while after that, they were in Chris's living room,
and in a strained voice, Tim told Chris about the murdered
monk, Larry Moss, and the shooting.
"So how does it feel to be drinking wine with a killer?" Tim
asked, voice full of self-loathing.
"I'm sorry, Tim," Chris sincerely said.
Tim sighed, shifted restlessly on the couch. "I
just--everything I *do,* Chris, everything I try to do, I
ruin. I'm so sick of it!"
"You're a good cop," Chris offered.
It was clearly the wrong thing to have said.
"Yeah, right. So I'm a good cop. That's all anyone knows,
that's all anyone says." Tim glared at Chris. "The problem
is, Chris, I want to be *more* than that, and I'm trying,
and it isn't working, and so I just keep staring at dead
bodies fifty hours a week."
"Well, what else do you want to be?" Chris asked.
"I wanted to be bisexual--I ruined that. I wanted to be a
Buddhist--no deal. I wanted to be a father, maybe a
husband, someone about whom other people *care,* someone
they depend on, and . . . Well, it's just not that way."
Jesus. There was a whole lot of stuff here, and Chris
couldn't--he wasn't a psychologist, for god's sake, and he
didn't know the right things to say to someone so depressed,
so unhappy. He'd just have to flounder around, hope he
didn't do more damage than help.
"Maybe you're giving up on yourself too soon," he carefully
said. "You say that you've failed at all these things like
it's something unique. Well, people fail at things every
day--they make mistakes, they screw up, they get it wrong.
The thing is, Tim, you have to keep going, to get up enough
courage to try again and not close down so quickly."
There was a long pause, during which Chris agonized. Fuck.
That was--that had been a *pep talk,* for god's sake, a
bunch of cliches.
And so he wasn't all that surprised to see Tim give him a
look of equal parts disgust and aggravation, although he was
a little shocked at what came out of Tim's mouth.
"Oh, that's beautiful, Chris," he said, his voice low and
mean. "Really. Straight from Hallmark cards. Never give
up--climb every mountain. These are words to live by.
You've really helped a lot, you know?"
Anger swept over Chris then, and hurt, but the anger was a
lot stronger, and so he struck back. "You're not happy
right now, and for that I really am sorry, Tim. And the
shooting thing really is awful, and I feel for you on that
count as well. But I am not going to sit here and take
abuse from you just because you don't feel good. So take it
down a notch, okay?"
"Oh, god." Tim sighed in resignation. "You know what? I--it
was stupid for me to come here, stupid for me to put you in
this situation. I'm unhappy, and I'm being a jerk, and you
don't need this. So let me just get the hell out of here
and let you go back to your life."
"Tim, wait--" Chris said, annoyed. God *damn* it was just
the same, it was always going to be the same...emotional
theatrics, and displays, and fundamental miscommunication,
and why the hell had Tim even bothered? Why had *he*?
He sat rigidly on the couch until he heard the front door
"Bayliss! In my office," Gee said.
Tim had known that this was coming--Gee had been darting
looks of concern at him all morning. He supposed it was
good of Gee--hell, it was *kind* even--to care about his
well being and to want to talk to him about the shooting on
this first day after it had happened. But for the life of
him, Tim didn't want to go in there, didn't want to have to
take part in yet another well-meaning but uncomprehending
person's attempt to make him feel better.
This was the lieutenant, however, and even on the best of
days, it wasn't possible to say thanks but no thanks to Gee.
So Tim was up on his feet and in Gee's office very soon
after receiving the summons.
Gee motioned for Tim to take a seat and then shut the door
behind them. Great--it was going to be a long talk.
As he looked across his desk at Tim, Giardello frowned. The
man hadn't been himself since he'd taken the bullet for
Frank--ever since then he'd seemed . . . pensive, too quiet,
not at all himself. Not only that, but he'd gotten
downright strange, what with the web site and the sexuality
thing and being the department spokesperson for Buddhism.
Sometimes Gee felt as if he didn't even know the man
Obviously, Tim missed Frank very much, but there was
something else, too--almost a sort of despair about him
these days. Giardello flashed back to Tim sobbing, rocking
back and forth in agony at the crime scene, and stifled a
"How are you holding up?" he asked.
"Fine Gee," Bayliss said, but the deep circles under his
eyes and the haggard look on his face told otherwise.
"You saw the counselor yesterday?"
Bayliss sighed. "It was helpful," he said as if by rote.
Giardello sat back, looked hard at Tim, hoping to jar some
sort of truth out of him, to make the man cough up something
"You know, I don't think anyone who hasn't gone through it
can understand quite what it's like to shoot someone in the
line of duty," he said.
Dim hallway, flash of light and stench of cordite, a body
crumpling and falling.
Howard had been so good to him that night, so sympathetic
and kind--but he hadn't been able to hear it, not really.
He'd been too wrapped up in grief, in the shame and the
horror. But that didn't mean that he wasn't grateful to Kay
for having tried--it didn't mean that the mere sound of her
voice hadn't been comforting on some level.
"I've known you for a lot of years, Tim, and as I've told
you before, I've seen you develop into a fine detective.
One of the best."
Bayliss straightened in his chair, a faint flush staining
his fair skin.
"Thank you," he said quietly.
Glad to see that praise from the lieutenant still meant
something to his detective, Gee went on. "So know this:
The shooting you were involved in was *clean.* Completely
above board, Tim."
Bayliss nodded dumbly, automatically.
"And so to the extent that you can, I want you to stop
torturing yourself about this--to move on. Do you hear me?"
This last was said sternly, in a command voice. Maybe if
ordered to do so, Bayliss would shape up.
"I hear you," Tim said, and by this time he'd had enough.
He wanted out of this office, needed to be away from Gee,
away from this damned conversation, and so he began to stand
up, to plan an escape. "Uh . . . was there anything else
you wanted to talk about?" he asked.
"As a matter of fact, there was," Gee said, and Tim sighed
and sat back down, not missing the wry look on the
"I was wondering what you decided to do about the web site
we discussed. The one Mrs. Gaffney was so upset about." Gee
was wearing his inscrutable smile.
Tim was indignant. Why bring this up now?
"I deleted it, sir," he said tightly. "But frankly, I have
to tell you that right now, I wish I wouldn't have."
"I see where you're coming from," Gee said.
"But ultimately, Bayliss, I think you did the right thing
for your career. Whether it's fair or not, I just don't
think people are ready to openly confront sexual orientation
in the police force at this time."
"Yeah, well, that stinks," Tim said fiercely. "I should be
able to be who I am and work this job at the same time."
"No one's saying that you can't be," Gee replied. "But you
have to face the consequences of the fact that you've chosen
a way of life that many people have strong objections to.
And so like it or not, if you let it be known, you're going
to take flack for it."
You're different and *you* have to pay the price for it.
Keep it under wraps. Don't rock the boat. Suppress who you
are to make their lies and lives easier.
"Know what? I should really be getting back out there.
Thank you, Gee, for the advice and for the . . . support,"
Tim said, then quickly stood up and left, not caring if he
was being rude, or abrupt, or improper, because he knew for
certain that if he stayed in there, he was going to blow up
at the lieutenant. And he wasn't quite ready to lose his
job over this. Not yet . . .
Why were the most horrible moments in his life always
piggybacked on *other* horrible moments? He'd lost control
during the Thompson case, told Frank about Uncle George, and
split up his and Frank's partnership all in the course of a
day. And a couple of years later, on another horrible day,
the squad room had become a war zone, he had gotten shot,
and Frank had left the force.
In a way, Tim thought, he should be grateful--he hadn't
killed Moss until at least a week after getting called
faggot by Fisk.
He cracked a humorless smile, then took a shot of scotch.
He'd been able to beg off working at the Waterfront
tonight--might as well take advantage of some of the useless
pity he'd been getting.
But now he wished that he hadn't done it, because being busy
at the bar was suddenly looking a hell of a lot better than
sitting at home alone and getting drunk, which was
Maybe he should just go to sleep. He consulted the clock.
10pm wasn't too early for bed, was it?
While he was undressing, the phone rang. Leave it--he
should just fucking leave it--but he knew that he wasn't
"Tim, this is Frank."
"Frank Pembleton. What's going on?" Tim asked flatly. There
really had to be only one reason for the call.
"I heard about the shooting," Frank said, and Tim laughed.
"Hey, great!" he said. "So, did Gee give you the good news,
or did you hear it on TV?"
"Look, Tim--I know what you're doing right now," Frank said.
"Oh you do, do you?" Tim said, annoyed.
"Of course," Frank said, completely confident, serene.
"You're sitting around the house getting drunk and blaming
yourself for the whole thing." He was quiet for a moment.
"Either that, or you just slept with someone you hardly
"I'm not that drunk," Tim said weakly.
Another pause. "But you're still feeling sorry for
"Frank, that man did not deserve to die," Tim said
vehemently. "I took his life--I *ruined* it--I destroyed
everything that he was."
His voice was shaking. Jesus.
Frank's voice softened just a bit. "Tim, you can't think
about it that way. The man was about to kill you and you
acted in self defense. It's a good shooting."
"What the hell do you know about it? You weren't even
there!" And as he said those words, the fact that Frank
wasn't ever going to be there again hit Tim with devastating
force. "You should have been there. I--I *needed* you,
He could hear Pembleton sigh on his end of the line.
"Know what, Frank? I just figured something out. You didn't
leave the force because of, of Kellerman, or Gee, or me, or
any of that. You left because you realized that you weren't
able to take a life. *That's* why you didn't shoot the guy
who was aiming at you. And so see, *I* don't come out so
well in the same situation, now do I? I just lifted the gun
and blew the guy's brains out."
"You're really in fine form tonight, aren't you?" Frank
asked, aggravation in every syllable he spoke.
"Admit it, Frank. The comparison stands. You wouldn't have
done what I did."
"What I would or wouldn't have done has no bearing on this.
We're talking about *you.* Tim Bayliss. And it was *all
right* for you to have saved your life, Tim!"
"I just--I wish it wouldn't have happened," Tim said very
quietly, very sadly.
"I know." Frank's voice was almost gentle.
Tim fought another wave of longing, then wondered for the
umpteenth time whether it would be easier for him just to
stop talking to Frank altogether. It was such a no-win
situation: although he was glad to hear his friend's voice,
talking to Frank only hammered home just how painful it was
to be without him. And each time Tim thought he'd come to
terms with the whole thing, something like this happened and
made the wound feel fresh. He regrouped.
"Know what? I'm going to be fine. I mean--this is
obviously a hard thing to deal with, but I'm gonna handle
it, okay? I can deal."
"You can deal. Well, all right then." Frank sounded
skeptical, but he didn't push it, and for that Tim was glad.
He really could deal . . . maybe.
Tim shifted uneasily in his chair, nervously stirring honey
into his tea. Chris was twenty minutes late now, and while
he knew on one level that when Chris said he was going to be
someplace he really was going to be there, Tim was
nonetheless starting to worry. He'd waited for Roger Fisk
for, what, forty minutes at least; had sat there playing
with the silverware, gulping down water, and trying to
ignore the pitying looks the waiter kept giving him. He'd
even gone to the pay phone and called Roger a couple of
times, thinking that maybe he'd forgotten the date, or that
he'd gotten the time wrong.
You had better not even fucking *do* this to me, Chris, Tim
In a way, it was funny--he had called up Chris and scheduled
this whole thing in order to apologize for his behavior last
week, to make amends, and now he was mad all over again
before even laying eyes on him.
Tim glanced out the window for the umpteenth time, then
sighed in relief as he caught a glimpse of Chris out on the
sidewalk, hurrying inside.
"Sorry I'm late," Chris said, taking off his black leather
jacket and draping it over the chair across from Tim's. He
didn't actually sound that sorry, though.
Tim registered again just how good looking Chris was.
Something about the thick, dark brows and the set of his
full mouth--or maybe it was his body, so tight and
well-formed and graceful. He'd been a fool--a complete and
utter fool--to hesitate with Chris, to panic like he did.
"--right back," Chris was saying, then heading for the
Tim snapped back to attention. He really had to get a grip.
He was here to apologize to Chris, not to lust after him or
beg him for a second chance. And besides, it was
presumptuous to think that Chris would even be interested in
another go-round. He probably had someone waiting at home
for him right now, in fact, someone handsome, rich, and well
adjusted, someone who never ruined anything and never wore
bad clothes. Oh, and who probably didn't kill people,
"Okay, Tim," Chris said, sitting back and crossing his legs.
So he *was* mad.
"Look, Chris, I'm really sorry about the other night," Tim
said. "I it was stupid for me to have dropped in on you
unannounced like that."
Chris looked steadily at him, his features unreadable, and
Tim began to feel awkward.
"You wanna give me some help here?" Tim asked.
Chris widened eyes. "Okay. Um . . . so apology accepted."
"Thank you," Tim said. "I really--I wasn't myself."
"You were really depressed, Tim."
Tim crossed his legs, looked at his shoelaces.
"Yeah, well, it's been that kind of year, you know?"
"Actually, I don't," Chris said slowly. "We haven't talked
in quite a while."
Tim took a deep breath, bit down on his lower lip, and Chris
had to look away, down at the table, at the sugar packets
he'd scattered around his coffee cup, the spoon Tim had used
to stir his tea. Anywhere but at that mouth.
Get a grip, he told himself fiercely.
"Well, a lot of bad things happened," Tim said slowly.
"What kinds of things?" Chris asked.
"Frank quit the force." It came out so forcefully that Tim
was taken aback for a moment, embarrassed at the intensity
of the pain in his voice.
"Uh, and that's been hard to deal with."
He looked at Chris for a response.
"I know you cared for him very much," Chris quietly said.
That made Tim feel awkward, so he forged on: "So that
was--that was painful. And then, and this was just a few
weeks ago, my sexuality became a topic of discussion and,
well, scorn around the department. And with all of this,
I--I've been kind of worried that I might not be able to
make any of that stuff work out at all."
"What do you mean not make it work?" Chris asked. "Your
sexuality? Is it--are you still nervous about the whole
Incredibly embarrassed by the gentle way Chris was speaking,
Tim looked out the window and at the cars parked in front of
the coffee shop.
"It--it's just very hard to, uh, sleep with men--to be in
relationships with them--and to do the job I do. Cops aren't
exactly open-minded about certain things."
"Well that's definitely true," Chris said immediately, and
fell silent. "So you--you're sleeping with men now?" he
"Um, yeah. Yeah," Tim said, ducking his head a little bit.
"Oh," Chris said noncommitally. "And how did--did you come
out at work, or what happened?"
Tim laughed. "Oh, this is good. See, I started this web
And out came the Fisk story.
Still so confused, and he was still so beautiful, and Chris
wanted very much to reach out to Tim. Problem was, he
couldn't decide whether he'd rather hit the man or caress
"I'd hate to see you give up part of yourself to fit in at
work," he finally said. "No job is worth that, Tim."
Easy for you to say, Tim thought. Chris controlled his own
workplace, a *gay* restaurant, for god's sake, and so he
probably wasn't all that up to date with homophobia on the
But at the same time, his words had a certain power to them,
and they made Tim feel better. And since nothing else had
done that for him as of late, this was not insignificant.
"It was really good to talk to you," Tim said as they
prepared to leave.
"Glad to hear it," Chris said, pulling on his jacket.
"We should do this again, you know? And next time, I
won't--the whole thing won't be all about my problems," Tim
There was a pause during which the two men looked uneasily
at each other.
"So, how about next week?" Chris finally said.
Chris drove home, body tense and mind still reeling from the
conversation he'd just had with Tim. If indeed they were
still going to see each other, if they were going to meet
every so often as "friends," he was going to have to do some
hard and fast adjusting.
Hearing Tim talk about sleeping with other men hadn't
helped. That was--that was just classic, and unfunny, in
the most painful of ways. If Chris had met Tim only a few
months--maybe even a few weeks--later, there would have been
a much better chance for the relationship between them to
broaden, to become strong, to actually work, for god's sake.
And of course there would have been sex. It seemed
Chris sneered at himself. Thirty-nine years old and still
mooning over men he couldn't talk into bed. It was better
just to forget that altogether, and to decide on the other
issue at hand: could he stand to be friends with Tim?
He wasn't feeling very friendly right now, not at all kind
or helpful or and disinterested. What Chris was feeling
were anger and lust, hard and pure. His body was aching and
he was tense, frustrated, miserable. Fuck. Fuck Tim
Bayliss, with his sexy mouth and messy problems and his
*need,* his uncanny ability to walk into the restaurant and
somehow recapture Chris in less than five minutes.
"Hi," Julian said, opening the door and letting Chris inside
Chris stood stock still, looked around to refamiliarize
himself. Julian was an untenured professor of English at
Johns Hopkins, and as always, his place was a chaos of
books, journals, papers, cigarette butts, and dirty dishes.
He and Chris had met about four years ago, and they'd dated
for a few months until it had become overwhelmingly obvious
that things between them were really not going to work out.
At base, Chris had found Julian exhausting: overly
analytical, almost pompous at times, and terminally
condescending, not to mention a truly disgusting slob, and
he supposed that in turn, Julian had found him pedantic,
closed-minded, anal retentive, and intellectually
uninteresting. Or boring. Boring was probably more the
Despite all this, however, it was--the sexual chemistry
between them had been incredible. And so in true
mother-nature-fucks-with-us-all fashion, Chris found himself
having the best sex of his life with someone he didn't even
really like all that well. In fact, he and Julian had
stayed together a lot longer than they should have as a
result. It was not until after they'd become absolutely
unable to tolerate each other that the two of them had
broken up and then arrived at their present . . .
arrangement, which was basically this: barring the presence
of a monogamous relationship in either man's life, the two
of them would at a moment's notice, if possible, get
together for sex when one of them needed it.
And in this capacity, Julian had been wonderful. Once the
pressure of a relationship had been removed, he'd loosened
up a bit, had become funny and kind. They didn't see each
other often--in fact, Chris hadn't seen Julian in several
months--but when they did get together, it was incredibly
satisfying for both. Julian's single-minded devotion to
Chris's body was very flattering, as was his, erm, talent
for enacting certain fantasies. And so.
"Wow. You look really wound up," Julian said, his voice low
Chris nodded. "I was hoping you could help," he got out.
Julian smiled, then stepped very close to Chris, wrapped
long arms around him. He was tall and thin--kind of like
Tim except more graceful, Chris thought meanly--and his
cheekbones stood out like angles in his narrow face. His
hair was gray; his eyes were steely blue; and his cock, if
Chris remembered correctly, and he knew that he did, was
thick and long. As always, Julian wore black: the man owned
only three pairs of black jeans and he wore them every
damned day, he put them on dirty or not and pretended that
he was the epitome of cool. It had annoyed Chris to no end
when they were still together, but in retrospect, the whole
thing was amusing. And today the jeans were clean, because
Julian smelled great, something clean and herbal in his
clothing, on his skin. Very nice.
"You look so hot," Julian murmured, and then slid large
hands down over Chris's ass.
"Oh god," Chris got out, and lifted his face and then they
were kissing hard, desire spreading through them both, their
breathing getting heavier, their bodies tensing, their
movements much more frenzied.
"What can I do for you, baby?" Julian whispered, his mouth
wet and hungry against Chris's neck. "What do you need?
It was always hard for Chris to talk at these moments,
always difficult for him to tell Julian the brutal truth of
whatever fantasy he happened to be having at the time. But
Julian had proved very persuasive and patient in this
regard; he loved to talk while fucking, loved to tease and
plead and worm secrets out of his partners. So Chris knew
that eventually, it would come out.
He reached over and slid hands under Julian's sweater,
across the warm skin and taut muscles of the man's chest,
then over the nipples, again and again, until they raised
into hard points under his fingertips, which made Julian
gasp. And the sound of that went straight to Chris's aching
cock, made him wild, and he--this had to happen *fast,* he
"I need you to fuck me," Chris said, and Julian nodded, and
then took Chris's mouth in another hungry kiss before
promising, "Oh yes."
And then they were in Julian's bedroom, and Chris pulled off
his clothes, then slid onto Julian's ridiculous silk
sheets--a stupid and useless luxury for someone who was so
slovenly--and Julian was undressing as well, and pulling out
condoms and lubricant from the bedside table, and his cock
was huge and hard and Chris wanted in the worst way to be
obliterated by it.
"Hurry," he whispered.
And Julian did, and so quite soon, Chris was gasping and
groaning and trying desperately to impale himself on
Julian's long, thin fingers as they moved deep inside of
"Who am I?" Julian whispered, leaning forward to kiss
Chris's stomach. "Who do you need me to be, baby?"
It was intolerable; he couldn't say it. Julian skillfully
angled his fingers and brushed deep inside of him and oh
Aching and longing and on the verge of insanity, Chris felt
like crying in relief when at long last Julian leaned in,
hot and eager and very ready, and buried his cock inside of
"Ohhh," Chris exhaled in delight, and Julian laughed fondly.
"So beautiful," Julian whispered. "So incredibly good."
And he began to move, long slow strokes right to Chris's
"Tell me, Chris," Julian murmured as he moved. "Who am I?
Tell me who's fucking you right now."
"Harder," Chris gasped, and Julian's eyes grew dark with
desire as he sped up a bit.
"Who's making you feel so good?" Julian implored. "Who are
you thinking about?"
"You don't--" Chris broke off, then caught his breath again.
"You don't even know him, so--"
Hips still moving, Julian leaned in to kiss Chris's neck,
and it was so goddamned good to be pounded into and worked
over like this.
Julian's lips touched his earlobe. "Let me make this good
for you, baby. Tell me whose cock is inside of you right
now, deep and hard, and I'm not going to stop, baby, don't
worry, just give me the name, Chris, and you won't *believe*
"Oh god," Chris whispered. "Ohmygod. Tim."
And Julian caught his breath and then cocked his head and
"Jesus, Julian. Yes!" Chris said, exasperated, and then it
was just insane, Julian going at him like mad and telling
him that Tim would love to see him like this, that Tim was
longing to be with him, that Tim was, wanted to, or would be
doing any number of things that simply weren't ever really
going to happen, but it was fine, it was just fine anyway.
And not long after that, Chris screamed and came hard and he
*was* obliterated, unable to think or move, and it was
exactly what he'd wanted.
"I won't be too late," Frank said, and Mary grinned, shook
"Nonsense. The two of you have lots and lots of catching up
to do and I'm going to fall right asleep anyway, so go on
and have a good time," she told Frank.
"All right, baby," Frank said softly, then leaned in and
gently kissed her.
"It's been so great to see you again," Tim said sincerely,
stepping forward and wrapping Mary in a huge embrace. "I
hope you have lots more conferences to go to in D.C."
"You take care of yourself--do you hear me?" Mary said in a
low, intense voice, then reached out to push Tim's hair out
of his eyes before letting him straighten up again. "And
Tim? A hair cut, all right?"
"I will," Tim said, chuckling.
"And keep Frank out of trouble tonight," Mary joked, and
then they were waving goodbye, and she was heading into the
elevator and up to the hotel room she and Frank had
"Well then," Tim said, rubbing his hands together. "It
seems we have the night to ourselves. What would you like
to do, Frank?"
"I should be up there with Mary," Frank grumbled, then
caught the look in Tim's eye and said, "Whatever you like,
"Come on," Tim said in disbelief. "Isn't there anything
about Baltimore that you've missed--a bar you'd like to go
to, or a restaurant?"
Frank thought for a second, narrowing his eyes and scowling.
"No," he said. "Not really, no."
Tim sighed, gave Frank a reproachful look. "You lived here
*how* long? And you can't remember a single good thing about
"I haven't been gone long enough to miss anything," Frank
said matter of factly.
"Okay, then," Tim said, trying to keep from sounding
injured. "How about the Waterfront? Hmm?"
Frank groaned. "Oh no. Not tonight. I don't want to have
to see Munch and Lewis or anyone else. I'm tired, and all I
really want to do is sit down and have a drink. With you,
Tim stared down at Frank, trying to regulate himself, not to
look too hungry, too excited. He was still hardly able to
believe that Frank was actually before him in the flesh.
"All right. We'll go to my place then," Tim said, and Frank
followed him out to his car.
"I'll take a scotch," Frank said from the living room.
Tim took out a carton of orange juice and poured some for
both of them.
"Have this instead," he said, handing the glass to Frank,
who looked at it with loathing and then sat it firmly down
on the coffee table.
"Scotch," Frank repeated. "Now, Tim."
Tim looked in consternation at Frank. "Do we even have to
"Not at all. You're going to get me a drink and bring it in
here. It's simple."
Tim sighed. "All right, but if anything happens to you . .
"Nothing's going to happen," Frank said confidently, then
got up and followed Tim into the kitchen.
"More," he commanded when he saw the measly amount Tim had
Tim set the bottle of scotch down hard on the counter,
stepped back. "Okay--fine. You know what? *You* pour it,"
he irritably said, gesturing at the bottle.
"All right, I will," Frank said, and then neatly poured
himself just a tiny bit more than Tim had given him before
picking up his glass and heading back to the living room.
Tim concealed a smile, then slowly put the bottle away and
went out to sit next to Frank on the couch.
"Mary's right about one thing--you *do* need a haircut,"
Frank said, looking critically at him.
"Yeah, well, I've had some other things on my mind recently,
Frank," Tim said stiffly, self-consciously running a hand
through his hair.
"Right," Frank said, leaning forward and resting his arms on
his knees. "So--are you starting to feel better about the
shooting thing now that a couple of weeks have passed?"
Tim made a face, sighed. "I don't know. Maybe. I mean,
I've stopped thinking about it constantly."
"You're not still thinking anything stupid like it was your
fault, are you?"
Tim laughed. "Some set-up you give me. So if I've been
thinking it, I'm stupid?"
"Well yeah," Frank said plainly. "To the degree that
you're agonizing over this thing needlessly, you're stupid."
"So is this how you talk to your students?" Tim goaded, and
Frank gave him a half smile.
"Naaah. They couldn't take it."
"You, uh, you're liking teaching?"
"So far," Frank said. "It's always hard at the beginning,
but I think it's going to work out."
Tim looked carefully at him. "Do you--have you found that
you still miss police work?"
Frank turned the full force of his gaze on Tim. "Yes, I
miss you, Tim," he said patiently.
"Oh," Tim said, restlessly shifting his long legs.
"But no, I'm not coming back," Frank added, then took a huge
swallow of his drink. Always, always he said that.
"I want you to," Tim said very quietly.
"I know," Frank answered, then sighed. "Tim--you know as
well as I do that this is how things have to be."
"Actually, Frank, no. I don't know that. Cause from where
I'm sitting, you left a perfectly good job, a good
partnership and a good life here, for little to no reason.
And I still--I just wish you wouldn't have."
"Come on," Frank chided.
"But I *can't* stop needing it--I can't stop needing you!"
Tim said fiercely.
"Well, you have to stop it," Frank replied, matching Tim's
tone. "In fact, you should have stopped it a long time ago.
And I'm talking years here."
"What the hell's that supposed to mean?" Tim asked, stung.
Frank shook his head in aggravation. "Exactly what I said.
You should have addressed this need in yourself a long time
ago. It's been there since the very first day I met you.
And it's eating you alive, and then you come to *me* about
it and make it my problem, and so it eats me, too. But it's
not my problem. It's just not. You need to find a way to
be yourself *without* being so dependent on other people. I
mean it, Tim."
It was a speech in the grand Pembletonian tradition, well
spoken, energetically delivered, and extremely painful to
hear. When Frank had stopped speaking, Tim felt a part
"So I shouldn't need anyone," he tiredly said.
"Not to the point where you're not yourself without them,"
Frank said cooly. "And isn't that precisely your problem
now? I go, you don't know who you are any more. Right?"
"You know, you really--you think you're pretty fucking
important, don't you?" Tim shot back.
"To you I am," Frank said plainly, and Tim had to cough,
look quickly away, because he was on the verge of tears. He
swallowed hard, then glared at Frank.
"You know, I think this conversation is over," he said
stonily, and Frank shrugged.
It wasn't a loud bar, for which Chris was grateful, although
he still would much rather have stuck to coffee shops. It
was too date-like to be meeting someone in a bar, and that
interfered with his carefully constructed persona as
Not that Tim didn't still make Chris's heart rate increase
when he stretched, or when he tilted back his head to drink,
and not that Chris still didn't feel a uniquely painful
longing after having spent time with Tim. It would be lying
to himself if he tried to claim that he'd completely
eradicated his feelings for Tim, and Chris didn't want to
fall into that trap right now, didn't want to convince
himself that he was over this and then get broadsided later
on when he remembered that he wasn't. But even with all
this in mind, it was getting increasingly easier to watch
Tim with more fond regret than anything else.
Tim came into the bar radiating energy. With a grin on his
face, he sat down and immediately began to regale Chris with
a tale about a strange case he'd just worked, something
about a murder in the morgue and a clueless suspect named
Clayton. Tim was in a good mood, laughing easily and often,
and it was infectious.
So when Tim's expression suddenly darkened as he gazed
across the room, Chris nervously turned around as well to
see who or what had provoked the response.
"Jesus Christ," Tim said in a low, furious voice.
"What is it?" Chris asked. There were a few couples at the
standing at the bar, but certainly nothing that seemed
"That's--I think I'm right--my god. That guy over there
talking to the bartender? That's Roger Fisk!" Tim hissed.
"You know, the guy who--"
"You told me," Chris said, and then quickly reached out and
put a hand on Tim's shoulder, because it really looked like
Tim was going to get up and go deck the guy.
"He has the right to go to bars," Chris said quietly.
"Fucking lowlife hypocrite," Tim spat, then turned angry
eyes to Chris. "How can he stand himself?"
"Fear makes people do a lot of strange things," Chris said.
"Who knows? If I were a cop, I might be closeted as well."
"No you wouldn't," Tim said. "And besides, being closeted
is one thing. But what he did to me, Chris--the way he
acted--that was something else altogether. Completely out
"I know," Chris said anxiously as Tim began to stand.
"You're exactly right, Tim. It was cowardice of the worst
kind. But going over there and hitting him isn't going undo
any of that, and it's not going to make either of you feel
better about what happened."
"Oh my *god,* Tim said, nauseated, and Chris looked again at
Fisk, who had just begun to passionately kiss the guy
standing next to him. Fisk really was kind of handsome,
Chris thought distractedly, almost a beefed-up Pembleton in
a way. He could see why Tim had initially been interested.
"You know, I think I am going to go talk to him," Tim said.
"Come on, Tim. I really--that is *such* a bad idea!" Chris
said urgently as Tim stood up.
"I'm not gonna punch the guy or anything, okay? I just . .
. I want him to see me here, and for him to know that I see
him. That's all."
"I still don't think--" Chris began, and then froze, because
suddenly Tim was leaning in very close and hugging him.
"I appreciate your concern, but it's okay, Chris," Tim said
gently, then slowly straightened up, leaving Chris's mind
jarred and his senses rioting.
Actually, he might well punch the motherfucker into next
week, but Chris didn't need to know that--he looked upset
enough as it was. And the small part of Tim not consumed by
rage felt good about that, glad to see that Chris cared.
He walked slowly toward the bar. Fisk was still sucking
face, thick forearms locked tight around the waist of his
companion. It seemed so damned unfair that Fisk was at
peace with himself like this--that he'd been living a life
that involved kissing, and a boyfriend. When Tim compared
this to how things had been for *him* since their last
encounter, he suddenly wanted to hurt the man very badly, to
make him suffer. And it would be incredibly easy to do: one
anonymous phone call, and Fisk would suddenly find that his
work buddies were just a little less friendly.
But there was just something so . . . petty about that, and
Tim groaned inwardly as he realized that in a way, he
sympathized with Fisk, or at least understood him. Letting
it be known that you were in sexual relationships with other
men really was frightening at times--and Tim knew that the
fear he had felt when he and Chris had been together was in
some ways only another verison of Roger's panic. And maybe
it was nothing but dumb luck that Tim hadn't, in his
confusion, taken someone else down with him. Someone else
besides Chris, that is. He grimaced.
But understanding Fisk didn't preclude being pissed off at
him, and as he came close, Tim again considered just taking
a swing, smashing the man's handsome face.
"Hi Roger," he said right into Fisk's ear. The couple
quickly separated, and two pairs of annoyed eyes met Tim's.
"How're you doing?" Tim asked, watching Fisk go blank with
"Great, great," Fisk said with forced joviality, obviously
"You remember me, don't you?" Tim asked.
"Uh, yeah. Sure!" Fisk awkwardly said. "Bayliss, right?"
"Right," Tim said darkly. "Although some days I just go by
faggot, don't I, Roger?"
"What the hell--" Fisk's partner began to say, but Fisk cut
him off with a gesture before turning to Tim.
"Look. I am *sorry* for what happened at the station."
"So tell me, Roger," Tim said as if he hadn't heard. "Did
you and your buddies laugh about how the faggot tried to
come on to you? Did you tell them what a freak I was, how
disgusted you were by what I'd done? Tell everyone you could
Fisk sighed, rubbed his eyes, and for a heartbeat Tim
thought he saw hesitation in the man's face. But then Fisk
shook it off and began to speak in a low, angry voice.
"What kind of idiot parades his sexuality all over the
fucking internet?" he asked incredulously. "And what kind
of idiot tries to discuss a date at the *police
Tim narrowed eyes but continued to listen.
"Like I tried to *tell* you, I've got to keep a low
profile," Fisk went on. "If I'm gonna survive as a cop, I
can't go around the station with all my laundry hanging out,
and you coming up to me all whiny and worried about a
fucking dinner date did not *work* for me, it did not
*help.* And I really don't think that it's my fault that
you were too stupid to see that."
"You wanna believe that's how things were, Roger, you go
right ahead," Tim said. "But I'm telling you right now that
what you did--how you called me out that day--it was wrong,
and it was cowardly, and it was--it was pathetic."
"Fuck you," said Fisk.
What was this, high school? Tim laughed a little bit in
amazement, then shook his head. "Yeah, well, fuck you too.
I'm out of here," he said, and then slowly headed back to
"You know, I really don't think it's fair that I had to come
in here again," Tim said, glaring at the crisis counselor.
"Especially when you're not even the person I talked to in
the first place."
Yet another satisfied customer. One day, she thought,
someone with a good attitude is going to walk through this
door, someone who really wants to see me, and I'll be so
damned shocked by it that I'll probably fall over dead.
"Unfortunately, Dr. Hurst wasn't available today, and it's
standard procedure to have a short follow-up visit," she
patiently said. "We just want to make sure you're not
suffering any aftereffects from the shooting."
"How could there *not* be aftereffects?" he asked, and not
"I'm talking about extreme reactions: panic attacks,
nightmares, an inability to keep food down."
"Well I'm not having any of those things. Okay, well,
nightmares, but then I always have those, so it's not really
She nodded, staring at the notes Hurst had given her. "You
spoke with Dr. Hurst about a crisis," she said. "The
conflict between Buddhism and police work. How are you
Tim rolled his eyes. "No more Buddhism," he said. "Lots
more police work."
"And are you okay with that? Is it working out?"
He groaned and crossed his legs, obviously now understanding
that he wasn't going to get out of here without having to
"Right now I don't have any other options. But I'm thinking
about, uh, other things I might want to do one day," he
"Are you feeling burned out?" she asked.
"No. Not like you mean, anyway. I can still do the job,
and I still care about doing it right."
"Okay. Good. Are you still feeling distanced from the
profession?" She frowned--Hurst's notes from the last
session had been cryptic.
"So who gets to see these notes you're looking at?" he
suddenly asked. "Did he write down stuff like 'subject
feels confused' or 'detective's heart isn't in the job'?
Cause I'm starting to feel a little bit uncomfortable about
all this right now. I mean, this is my career we're talking
"There's a record that you've been in for counseling in your
personnel file, but these notes are confidential. Nothing
you've said here can be used against you in any way."
"Until I'm rude to my boss and then he comes in here and
asks to see the file, right?"
"No," she said. "Really and truly no. This is a safe
space, and you can say whatever you want to without fear of
"Hmph," he said, but didn't see fit to elaborate. She
sighed, then went on.
"All right. I'm going to shift gears a little bit, go back
to the basics. What I want you to do is tell me how you
feel about the shooting right now. Today."
He looked reluctant.
"All right," she finally said when he continued his silence.
"Suppose that tomorrow you find yourself in a similar
situation to the one you were involved in before. What
would you do? How would you act?"
He gave her a look of incredulity.
"What I'm trying to get at is this: will you be able to use
your gun again if necessary?"
"I don't see how I can answer that," he said.
"This is *important,* detective," she said sternly. "Will
you be able to discharge your duties as an officer of the
law should you be in another situation involving gunfire?"
He nodded, finally understanding the official nature of the
question. "Yes. I can fulfill my responsibilities as an
officer of the law."
"Even if it involves shooting your weapon?" she insisted.
He sighed. "Even if it involves shooting my weapon."
"All right. I'm going to choose to believe that you're
serious, because I have a feeling I've gotten all I'm going
to get out of you on this matter." She began to gather her
papers, gestured to him to leave.
"Can I ask you something?" he asked.
She looked up at him. "Of course."
"This of course understanding the absolute confidential
nature of our discussion," he said.
She put her pen down, folded her hands together. "I won't
write a thing."
"All right. Good." He coughed, shifted uncomfortably.
"Go ahead," she prompted.
"Yeah. Uh . . . okay. And I don't want to get into any
details--just give me the short version. How exactly does a
person go about asking someone he hurt before to try a
She took a deep breath, then laughed out loud.
A drop of sweat rolled down his face. Chris brushed it away
with a shaking hand and then went back to chopping the
vegetables, trying to block out the impatient and angry
voices the people in the dining room were making. He was
alone in the kitchen tonight--no one else had shown up--and
his heart was pounding. He was filled with shame, with
panic, sweating like a pig inside this stupid chef's jacket,
unable to breathe right. In front of him on the counter was
a row of orders, but he'd somehow gotten them out of
sequence and he couldn't remember which one to work on
first. Moreover, he'd completely forgotten to do the prep
work last night, so he'd had to start everything from
"Chris," Noreen burst into the kitchen, breathing hard, her
voice high and scared. "There's someone in the dining room--
he's very, very upset, and--"
She made a noise of distress as a man dressed in an expertly
cut suit brushed angrily by her to glare at Chris.
"I have been waiting for my food for well over an hour now!"
the man bellowed, and Chris winced as he heard the noise in
the dining room subside as people listened. "What the hell
is wrong with you people?"
"You ordered the veal, right?" Chris asked, voice shaking,
trying desperately to remember whether he'd remembered to
put it in the oven.
The man shook his head in fury. "The duck, you idiot!" he
screamed. "The duck!"
"But that has to be marinated over night!" Chris said in
shock, and the man made a percussive noise of disgust before
striding angrily out of the kitchen.
"Please. . ." Chris called after him, but he was ignored.
Outside in the dining room, he heard the man complaining
loudly to the rest of the customers: "Never in my *life*
have I encountered *worse* . . . idiot in the kitchen has
absolutely no idea . . . food critic for the *New York
"I am so sorry," Noreen whispered, then quickly left the
Chris picked up the orders with a shaking hand and tried to
remember the one he'd been working on last, tried to arrange
them in some sort of coherent sequence, laying them on the
counter like playing cards.
"Hey," a soft voice said from behind him, and Chris snapped
his head around.
"In the flesh," Tim said, grinning and incredibly handsome,
laughing a little bit at him.
Chris flushed as he realized how stupid he looked in the
awful chef's uniform, then felt his face grow even hotter as
he realized that Tim was seeing exactly how pathetic he was,
how incapable of running his own restaurant.
"It's okay," Tim said in a gentle, low voice, and Chris
thrilled at the sound of it. "You're doing just fine,
Chris, you're going to be just fine."
"I'm kind of in trouble," Chris said and the panic began to
take over again.
Tim stepped behind him, then, watched as Chris began to sort
through the orders again. He smelled heavenly, like
sandalwood and leather, and Chris had to fight to keep his
"I want to help you, Chris," Tim said, and Chris held his
breath because Tim was kissing the side of his neck, sliding
arms around his waist, laughing a little into his skin.
"No!" Chris said, his voice a broken whisper. "I have--I
have to get this done, and . . ."
Tim was sliding large hands down over his ass, massaging him
through his clothing. Chris shook in excitement.
"Chris?" Noreen came into the kitchen again, furrowed her
brow, and then stared in fascination as Tim moved his hands
to the waist of Chris's pants, quickly, easily unbuttoning
and unzipping them.
"*Go,* Noreen!" Chris gasped as Tim began to ease the pants
down over his hips.
"I want you," Tim was murmuring.
"I'll be back in just a minute," Noreen said quickly, then
"But that's not enough--" Chris began, then groaned deep his
throat as Tim's large hand encircled his cock, began to
stroke it with hard, powerful movements. He leaned into Tim,
groaned again when he felt the outline of Tim's erection
against his bare ass.
"I'm going to fuck you, Chris," Tim said, and Chris
whispered "Yes, yes, please," thrusting desperately into his
hand, and Tim laughed again before slowly reaching over
Chris's shoulder to a dish of butter on the counter.
"Oh my god, my god," Chris said, then leaned over and rested
his arms and head on the counter, the smooth surface cool
against his cheek, and moaned in delight as Tim spread the
butter inside of him, and it was too good, so dirty and
greasy and sexy, and the people in the dining room were
furious, he was really fucking everything up, and Tim's
fingers were so strong, and Tim was going to fuck him like a
race horse, and Noreen was going to come back any minute--
Chris jerked in shock, then sat straight up in bed, groaning
as he felt the warm mess spreading over his groin and
stomach. He got out of the bed and stomped into the
bathroom, used a wet washcloth to clean himself off.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. He was supposed to be *over* this--
he was supposed to have *stopped* thinking about Tim in that
way, to have given up the fantasies, the longing.
Why in hell was it so hard to give up? Why couldn't he
reconcile himself to the fact that he simply wasn't going to
have Tim? And why did it still hurt so much to think about
He went back to his bedroom, glanced at the clock. 8:30
a.m.; that meant he'd had, what, six hours of sleep, not
nearly enough. He climbed back into bed, swore in
frustration as he realized that he was wide awake, then lay
Tim stretched, yawned, glanced over at his clock. 8:30 in
the morning. He lay flat on his back for a moment, then
groaned. Hard as a rock every day this week--it was like
being in his twenties again. What the hell was happening to
You know what--and why, a voice in the back of his head
said, and Tim sighed, then let his eyes fall shut.
Although he'd panicked at the time, Tim could still remember
some of what it had felt like to have Chris touch him, how
Chris had moaned quietly in the back of his throat, made
soft, reverent noises as he gently slid a warm hand down
over Tim's stomach. Tim moved his own hand there now,
rubbed his stomach in circles, moving slowly, steadily
downward until fingertips slid under the waistband of his
"May I?" Chris had whispered, voice low and vibrant, and Tim
moaned a little bit as he remembered, then gave them both
permission to move forward and wriggled out of his shorts.
Ah yes, and Chris had *known,* somehow, exactly how to move
and what Tim liked best, and Tim's entire body had been
rigid with panic, but it had still felt so goddamned good,
so incredibly intense and sweet. And Chris had stroked him
hard, and he hadn't stopped, not even when Tim had half-
heartedly asked him to, and somehow that had made it all the
better. Tim moaned out loud now, definitely not stopping,
his hand slick and moving fast, over and over again until he
exploded, he exploded and he hissed in pleasure and he
rocked his hips a little and then lay still, breathing hard.
Of course on the night in question, Tim had immediately
jumped out of bed and pulled on his clothes, ignoring
Chris's gentle, exasperated voice telling him to relax, that
it was all right, that he hadn't done anything wrong, that
it was good for him to let go like this. Tim had spoken
quickly, incoherently, something about having to get up
early the next morning, then had bolted out of the house and
hailed a taxi.
And one week later, Chris had ended the relationship, and
with good reason. Tim sat up, shaking the memory out of his
head, then headed for the shower. He had to be at work in
less than an hour.
It required some creative driving, but Tim made it to the
station in time, walked into the squad room with a few
minutes to spare, in fact. And this turned out to be a very
good thing, because something was up--people were milling
about, acting strangely, talking in hushed voices. Tim said
a quick hello to Munch, then sat at his own desk, pulled out
an ME report that had arrived too late to do any good. He
would look at it anyway until he figured out what was going
Suddenly, Gee broke forth from his office, his broad
features telegraphing intensity and annoyance. "Your
attention, people," he commanded, and the room fell
"As some of you have mentioned, today marks the one-year
anniversary of the shootout in the squad room," Gee said
darkly, shooting a formidable glance in Stu Gharty's
direction. "If any of you find yourselves . . .
uncomfortable being here today, come and talk to me and
we'll arrange for you to make up the hours at a later date.
The room remained silent until Gee disappeared back into his
lair, and then a sudden burst of chatter erupted. Still
staring at his report, Tim eavesdropped. They were talking
animatedly about cases, the coffee, the weather--anything
except the fact that only one year ago today, people had
died in this room, on their turf.
He'd died too, only not in this room. One year seemed both
too soon and too late for an anniversary celebration. Maybe
he should throw a party--the first annual Tim Bayliss
deathday celebration, complete with black streamers, black
balloons, a cake shaped like a tombstone. Instead of
presents, people could bring him funeral wreaths, flowers.
There had been so many fucking flowers in the hospital.
Lovely, bright--very kind gifts, of course--but Jesus
Christ, the smell. Too many perfumes in one small space,
too much sweetness--in the end, it had nauseated him. And
then, of course, the flowers had begun to die, all of them,
because his stay in the hospital had far exceeded the
average life span of the cut flower. His mother had
clucked, had gone around pruning, getting rid of the dead
and consolidating the living in a few smaller vases, but
after a day or two of this, Tim had insisted that she get
rid of them, all of them, get them the hell out of his
sight. What good were beautiful things that died so soon--
what was he supposed to think when they died like that?
The phone on his desk bleated and Tim started violently,
then slowly picked it up, listened to the familiar monotone
of the dispatcher's voice. Great--just great. Suicide. He
sighed heavily, stood up to leave.
Tim drove carefully through the heavy rain, both hands on
the wheel, carefully observing all the rules of the road.
He wasn't particularly in a hurry: the suicide wouldn't be a
clearance, it would not go on the board, it would not
provide any excitement or provoke any interest. The one
thing suicides did provide was an overwhelming sense of
loss, particularly if the deceased was survived by a
relative or spouse. And since this was a quiet neighborhood
street lined by family homes, Tim was certain that there
would in fact be grieving relatives at the scene.
He saw the ME's van in front of the house, slowly pulled
into the driveway, then sat quietly for a moment, unbuckling
his seat belt and looking around. Once he'd confirmed that
no one was watching him, Tim gingerly pulled open his coat,
then slid a hand over the soft cotton of his shirt to his
back until he felt the familiar ridge of raised skin through
the material. His scar, souvenir of a trip to hell and
back, permanent reminder of the day his world had exploded.
"Okay," he said, his voice loud in his own ears, then
withdrew his hand, opened the car door, and headed into the
"This is a bad one," a uniform quietly said as Tim entered
the home--that meant that it was a kid, probably. Tim wiped
the raindrops off of his glasses, squinting blindly at the
nondescript middle-class decor. He could hear anguished,
muffled crying from deep in the house: the parents.
"Michael Brunson. Sixteen years old," said Dr. Lausanne as
Tim entered a bedroom full of sports equipment and tennis
shoes and textbooks. It evoked almost visceral memories of
his own childhood, and Tim winced. Not easy years.
Certainly not easy for Michael Brunson, lying there with his
head in a plastic bag full of vomit and mucus. Tim pressed
lips into a thin line, leaned over to look more closely.
"Classic do-it-yourself hemlock society job," Dr. Lausanne
said. "Bottle of barbiturates from the mother's room,
alcohol from the liquor cabinet, bag from who knows where.
Death from lack of oxygen."
You idiot, Tim thought darkly as he looked at the kid, took
in the pale legs, the varsity softball tee shirt, the class
ring on his hand. Only a few more years and the kid could
have left home, could have made things better for himself .
He was assuming rather a lot. "He leave a note?" Tim asked,
and the uniform nodded, pointed to a piece of paper spread
out on the night stand.
Short and sweet: can't go on, life too much, love you mom
and dad. Meaningless cliches, shamefully inadequate in the
face of the very real despair they'd been meant to convey.
For a moment Tim wished desperately that the kid would have
been more articulate, that he could have communicated the
why of the matter more clearly, could have given himself and
his final act more meaning.
No sense here, though, only sadness and loneliness--teenage
angst turned way up, and with horrifying results. Poor
stupid fucked-up kid.
"Jesus," Tim murmured, then slowly left the room to talk to
"Chris? You down there?" Noreen called.
"Yes I am," Chris responded, trying to keep the annoyance
out of his voice. He'd *told* her he wanted time alone in
the wine cellar to do inventory--what the hell was she doing
bugging him after only fifteen minutes?
"Tim's here," she said. "Okay if I send him down?"
Tim?! Chris quickly scanned his memory. As far as he knew,
they hadn't planned anything, and besides, it was coming up
on 10:30 p.m.
"Sure," he called back, then squatted down to count a row of
bottles. When he heard Tim's feet on the stairs, he stood
up, looked expectantly at him.
Tim didn't look good. He was obviously under the influence
of some strong emotion, and his eyes were bright and hard.
"What's wrong?" Chris asked immediately, taking a few steps
"Everything," Tim said.
Chris frowned. "Did something in particular happen?"
Tim laughed a little bit, although it was completely without
conviction. He looked and spoke as if he were on autopilot.
"Yes, Chris, something happened. A lot of somethings
happened, and I cannot stand to be in my head for one more
minute--I can't stand my own fucking thoughts!"
He broke off as a wave of emotion swept over him, something
between despair and anger and sadness. Chris looked
intently at him, trying hard to figure out what in hell was
"Tim . . ." he said gently. "Maybe if you talked about it--"
All of a sudden, Tim stepped incredibly close to Chris,
close enough so that Chris could smell him, feel the warmth
of his body, see the pain in his eyes up close.
"Not now," Tim said quietly, then slowly reached out and
tenderly cupped the back of Chris's neck. Chris felt his
breathing quicken, stood stock still, eyes on Tim's, skin
tingling at the touch. Tim smiled once, then slowly drew
Chris in and kissed him deeply, hungrily, his tongue
sweeping into Chris's mouth in broad, desperate gestures,
seeking comfort, warmth, assurance. It was devastating, and
Chris wrapped arms around Tim and hugged him, trying to calm
him, to soothe him.
When Tim began to pull back, Chris tightened his arms,
looked into his eyes. "Which case is it?" Chris asked.
"Oh, a suicide," Tim flatly said, then leaned in, kissed
Chris's neck a few times, his mouth hot and wet. "Jesus--
I've wanted to do that forever," he said huskily, then
pulled back, breaking away.
Chris stared at him in amazement.
"Look--I'll call you tomorrow, all right?" Tim was saying.
"Maybe by then I'll--I'll just call you, okay?"
"All right," Chris said helplessly.
Tim smiled his ghost of a smile one more time, then slowly
headed up the stairs.
Chris walked out of the Zodiac just shy of midnight, still
vaguely irritated with the few lingering diners who'd kept
him there so late. Normally he wouldn't have cared--after
all, such people were his livelihood--but then normally he
wasn't insanely worried about Tim Bayliss.
Tim had looked so . . . desperate was the only word that
fit. Desperately sad, desperately angry, desperately
confused and reaching out for help. The kisses he'd given
Chris had felt so hungry, so sad; in retrospect it was very
obvious that Tim had been working mightily hard to distract
them both from whatever he'd been feeling. Not that Chris
hadn't enjoyed the contact, because God in heaven, it had
been a miracle, hadn't it, any number of unspoken prayers
answered all at once.
He had to keep in mind how confused Tim had been, however,
had to consider the very real possibility that Tim hadn't
really understood or meant what he was doing. He smiled
wryly. Some things just didn't seem to change. Anyway, the
important thing to discover was what had been bothering Tim,
not why he'd taken a second or two to kiss Chris Rawls.
Chris got into his car, then froze a moment, trying to
think. Was he really going to do this?
Tim answered the door to his apartment fairly soon after
Chris had knocked. A good sign--Chris may have disturbed
him, and was certainly intruding on his private space, but
at least he hadn't woken the man.
"Chris!" Tim said in surprise. He word navy blue sweats, a
gray tee shirt, and white socks that were falling down. He
looked more weary than desperate now, and really rather
cute, and Chris squirmed inwardly. This visit may well have
been a huge mistake.
"I . . . came to see how you were doing," Chris said in a
low voice. "You had me pretty worried back at the
"Yeah," Tim said slowly, then stepped back. "Come on in."
Tim brought Chris a glass of water and they sat together on
Chris studied the coffee table in front of them: on it was
a short history of the evening of Tim Bayliss. An empty bag
of pretzels, a couple of bottles of beer, a rumpled-through
magazine, and what appeared to be a journal, the pages
curved around a pen.
"You know, I'm not usually messy like this," Tim said
quickly. "I just--tonight I haven't felt very much like
cleaning up after myself."
"What's going on, Tim?" Chris asked.
Tim leaned back in the couch, rested his feet on the coffee
table, then slowly looked at Chris. "I thought I said I
didn't want to talk about it."
Chris felt his face begin to burn a little bit. "I'm
sorry," he said sincerely. "I shouldn't have bothered you
like this, shouldn't have barged in. If you want, I can
"No, no," Tim said. "Not now--I mean, you're here, right?
It's probably some sort of sign." He ran a hand through
already tousled hair.
"Look," Chris said plainly. "If I can help you, I will. If
you want to talk, I'm glad to listen. But I don't--I'm not
here to pull teeth, or to upset you further."
Tim put his feet down, then turned to face Chris. "I
appreciate that, I do," he said, then reached over, took a
long drink from Chris's water glass.
Chris watched with some amusement. "So," he said. "Let me
know. What do you want?"
Tim set the glass down, wiped his mouth, then sighed. And
before Chris had really registered what was happening, Tim
reached over and slowly took his hand, entwined their
fingers, used his thumb to trace circles into Chris's palm.
Chris looked closely at Tim, trying to figure out what was
going on in his mind, how to interpret the touch.
"I'm feeling death all around me, Chris. My own, the guy I
shot, this kid who killed himself today," Tim said quietly.
Chris nodded, urging him to go on.
"And it's suffocating me," Tim added, squeezing Chris's hand
"I can see how--I mean, I can imagine--" Chris began, then
broke off, embarrassed, when Tim said, "No you can't. Not
Tim moved closer to Chris on the couch.
"You can't understand because you haven't been through it,
haven't worked with death for years like I have. And I
don't expect you to," Tim said urgently, then lifted his
hand, began to slowly rub Chris's lower lip with his thumb.
Chris felt his breathing quicken as the warm pressure of
Tim's touch spread throughout his body.
"Okay Tim," he said, gently removing Tim's hand. "This
"I'm upset, Chris, and I'm stuck inside myself, and I'm
alone. And so let me do this, okay?" Tim said almost
petulantly, then slid a strong arm around Chris's waist,
moved in to kiss him.
Chris tensed as he felt the full force of Tim's hunger, his
need. Tim was kissing him furiously, his mouth demanding,
and his large hands were roughly pulling Chris's shirt up.
It was frenzied, unnerving.
"Tim," Chris said quickly when Tim stopped for a moment to
remove his own shirt. "Come on. I think we should stop
"No, no, no," Tim pleaded, chanted, and looked at Chris with
desire-filled eyes, his face a study in frustration,
He's not even seeing me, Chris realized, and annoyance and
pity filled him in equal measure.
Tim threw the tee shirt onto the floor and then began
kissing him again, and touching him, and it was not
affectionate; Tim was eating him up, moving with shattering
intensity and speed. Chris reached out to run a hand over
Tim's shoulder--it got batted away. He tried to move a bit;
Tim held him fast. This wasn't reciprocal; Tim wasn't
letting it be--he didn't even seem interested in that. The
whole thing was oddly impersonal and not particularly
exciting; Tim was obviously only going through the motions,
zoning out, trying to get away from things. And the longer
it went on, the more annoyed Chris became.
"That's enough," he finally said, breaking away from Tim,
then standing up to glare down at him. "Not like this. Not
Tim looked angrily up at him. "Goddammit, Chris! I *need*
"I'm here for you," Chris said. "Right here, Tim. But I am
not going to be your stand-in; am not going to have sex with
you just so you can forget about being upset."
Tim looked astonished. "But I just wanted . . ."
He fell silent, buried his face into his hands.
"I am so sorry," Tim muttered, embarrassed.
"It's okay," Chris said, feeling sad, and slowly sat down
again. "But really--if you could just face this instead of
Tim sighed heavily.
"Okay, okay." He bit his lower lip, then shook his head,
began to talk. "So the suicide today, right? It was a kid,
Chris, a seventeen-year-old boy. So I did that, and it's
making me think about all sorts of bad things, like the guy
I shot, and being alone, and how sad life can be. And on
*top* of it all--"
He broke off, laughed.
You know I got shot last year, right?"
"Yes," Chris said, looking down. "And I meant to come and
see you, but I heard that you were okay, and then--"
Tim brushed away the comment, frowned. "Don't worry about
it. We were completely out of touch at that time. And
anyway, the whole thing was--it ended up being-- See, I
"Oh my god," Chris whispered.
Tim smiled a little. "And while I don't remember it, it's
just--I can't even tell you what it's like to be ripped
apart like that, to know that you died, that you left your
Tim looked at the expression on Chris's face, then smiled a
little bit. "I didn't *feel* it or anything--it wasn't like
that. In a way, I'm more frightened by the fact that I came
back than I am that I died in the first place. Cause it's,
uh, it's kind of a lot of pressure. It's like I got the
biggest wake-up call in the universe, and I still have no
idea what to do about it."
Chris smiled a little.
"And I keep--my god, I just keep screwing it up," Tim said
"Where did you get shot?" Chris asked, looking for a scar on
"My back," Tim said, then slowly turned so Chris could see.
Chris gasped a little when he saw the jagged, angry finger
trailing down Tim's side. "Can I take a closer look?" he
Tim nodded, caught his breath as Chris slowly bent over,
then waited, feeling very vulnerable.
"I'm so sorry," Chris murmured, and then his fingers began
to gently brush over Tim's skin, to stroke the scar, each
movement of his hand sending waves of warmth through Tim's
body. Tim closed his eyes, held his breath, afraid to talk,
to move, for fear that Chris would stop. It felt so
When Chris finally withdrew his fingers. Tim opened his
mouth to say something, anything, to prevent him from
begging Chris for more. "Uh--" he began, but then broke off
in astonishment, because then Chris was tenderly pressing
lips to the scar, gently kissing it over and over, bathing
it with his soft tongue. Such kindness, such intense
emotion and affection in Chris's mouth, and Tim trembled in
the face of it. He'd felt alone for so long that even this
slightest of touches was like a gift, a benediction. It had
him on the verge of tears.
This was so much more intimate than the manhandling he'd
given Chris moments ago; so much more real. Shame consumed
him. He had used Chris, had come on to him in an effort to
distract himself from his own unhappiness, and you couldn't
*do* that, you couldn't treat people like extensions of
yourself or use them to stage your own sad dramas, because
the minute you did that, you eradicated them, wiped away
everything that they were. Just like I eradicated Moss, Tim
thought, and suddenly felt sick.
Chris closed eyes, breathed deeply, completely fixed on
comforting Tim, on making him feel calm and loved. Tim was
so sweet, so tense and uncertain, and Chris knew
instinctively that it had been a very long time since anyone
had touched him so tenderly. And Chris was enjoying very
much taking care of Tim, delighted to be allowed to do so.
It was so funny to be kissing a scar, a wound, because in a
way, it was exactly what all this was about: he wanted to
heal Tim, to make things better, didn't he? Good god--was
he becoming strange? Was he fixated on Tim's pain? Chris
opened lips, licked the path of the scar, rubbed swollen
lips over it one more time. Did it really matter at this
point? After all, it felt wonderful, and it was making Tim
feel good, too; Tim was radiating thanks and pleasure and
excitement all at once.
Finally, Chris gently patted Tim's lower back, then
straightened up. Tim slowly turned around to face him.
"I hope--I hope you didn't mind my kissing you," Chris said
"Oh no. It was . . . it was very nice," Tim quietly
"I want you to feel better," Chris said plainly, honestly.
"I want you to feel better about yourself, your life, your
"Thank you, Chris," Tim murmured. "I really--it's good to
know that someone cares."
Chris looked intently at him. "Well, I do. A lot,
"Do you have an extra tee shirt?" Chris asked, his voice
sounding incredibly loud in the darkness. They'd been up
talking until four in the morning, and he was tired and
"Mmmm. Yeah," Tim said, and swung his legs out of the bed.
He got up, pulled a shirt out of a dresser drawer and handed
it to Chris, then returned to bed.
"Thanks," Chris answered, then went into the bathroom.
Chris stared at Tim's toothbrush, noted the kind of
toothpaste he used, lightly touched a razor that he'd left
on the sink. And as he pulled on the tee shirt, he breathed
in deeply. It smelled like Tim, of course.
This was definitely one of the weirder nights he'd been
through, and Tim's invitation to sleep here had only made it
that much more strange. Because although they had both
agreed that the night would be platonic, Chris knew for a
fact that he was going to want more from Tim in the light of
day, knew that he was going to wake up, reach for Tim, and
just--start. And Tim apparently knew it, too: when Chris
had half-jokingly said, "You want a platonic night? Sure.
But I make no promises about the morning," Tim had lifted
brows, grinned a little, and then replied, "Yeah, well, I
was actually kind of counting on that." So it was--they had
agreed to something, possibly something very big, and if he
could just think clearly right now, Chris knew that he'd be
feeling a lot of things--he very much wanted to feel these
things, was worried a little bit that he *wasn't* worrying,
or feeling trepidation, or . . .
Stop. He was just too exhausted.
He splashed his face with water, brushed his teeth with his
finger, then returned to the bedroom very quietly. Tim was
breathing evenly, his eyes shut. Chris gingerly got into
the bed, sighing as he did so.
He closed his eyes, sank into the pillow, and lay on his
side. A soft breeze came in from a partially open window
above the bed, and he breathed in, enjoying the way it felt
on his skin.
The bed undulated as Tim moved, and Chris held his breath
for a moment. Tim was very close, and when he spoke, his
mouth was only inches from Chris's ear.
"I want to hold you. Is that okay?"
"It's okay," Chris said softly, shifting a little so Tim
could slide an arm around his waist, gently ease into him.
Chris could feel the warmth of Tim's chest against his back,
could feel his chin lightly resting against the back of his
head. Tim was trembling just a little bit, and he smelled
like toothpaste and sweat. It felt wonderful.
"It has been so long--" Tim murmured.
"I'm here," Chris said softly.
"Sleep well, Chris, okay?"
"Shhh," Chris answered, then closed eyes and listened to
Tim's deep, regular breathing.
And the next morning when Chris woke up Tim was looking
intently at him, breathing deep and fast, his eyes dark and
"You're up," Tim said softly, then reached out to stroke his
So it was going to happen. Or was it? Chris stretched a
little, looked closely at his soon-to-be lover, then spoke
"Just to be clear: I want to make love to you now," he said
without hesitation, and Tim grinned.
"I--want that too," he said, and Chris smiled, then slowly
closed the distance between them. Tim closed his eyes,
leaned back, and relished the contact.
And it was achingly slow and intense. Chris moved so
deliberately, so tenderly, so expertly that there was no
room for shyness; he insisted that they come together
openly, simply. And it was very frightening for Tim to let
himself be stripped down, to offer himself so nakedly, to
put his heart into each touch, every kiss. But Chris was
doing it, and it was so incredible, so wondrous to receive.
So Tim had to reciprocate: he wouldn't have been able to
forgive himself if he hadn't.
Chris was talking to him, very sweetly, so gently, and Tim
drank it in, reveled in it. He felt loved, felt exalted,
and it was heartbreaking to finally get that at last,
because with each passing moment, he realized exactly how
bereft he'd been before.
Physically, it broke down into the same components that made
up any sex act: mouths met, skin tingled, blood
redistributed itself in achingly sensitive areas. This was
all familiar to Tim, but nothing had prepared him for the
sheer terror and ecstasy he felt as Chris slid deep inside
of him for the first time ever. It was so much, it was
everything, and Tim let go, sobbing deeply in between moans
of pleasure and trembling hard as he met Chris, *really* met
him, over and over again.
When he opened his eyes again afterward, Chris was looking
deep into him; Chris *knew* him now, and it was devastating.
"I don't even know what to say, how to thank you," Tim
Chris nodded, then smiled, and Tim realized with
astonishment that Chris was still too overcome to talk.
Tim reached over, gathered Chris into his arms, and held him
Chris breathed in, drunk all over again with the proximity,
the sensation of Tim's naked body so close to his. It had
been such a long, strange trip getting here, and he was
scared, very scared, in fact, that things were going to
unravel, go bad, but there was nothing to be done about
that. He had to take this slowly, carefully, to appreciate
and honor each moment, because no matter what happened
afterward, he had this now, he had it, and he wasn't going
to waste it, not even a second.
"Let's just be still for a while, okay?" he got out, and
then closed his eyes.