"It's too soon. First of all, I can't be out in that kind of sunlight all day, and besides..."
Tim shot a dirty look over at Mulder, effectively cutting off the other man's comment. "Besides what, Mulder? Besides you can't stand the thought of being around a bunch of queers?"
"It's not that, Tim. DC is where I work. It's enough that Scully knows and now Skinner. I can't risk more people knowing. It's hard for me that way. I can't fight Stonewall and Stonehenge at the same time."
"It's hard for me too, Mulder. God, do you realize the shit I put up with at work sometimes? I could use something other than your sarcasm for once."
Mulder sighed and turned back to his file. Things had been strained since the accident that blinded him and his recovery, but this was more than he could do for Tim.
"I'm going. I don't care what the hell you say or think," Tim said, getting up off the stool next to the breakfast bar and heading for their room to change.
"Have a good time," Mulder muttered as he sipped from his steaming cup of coffee.
Why was it so easy for Mulder to deny what was going on between them? Or more importantly, why was it so damn important that he, Tim Bayliss, go out in public and proclaim to the world that he was queer? He mulled this over as we walked past the groups of families from the Midwest visiting the capital intermingling with the leather dykes, the queens, the transvestites and other men and women like himself. Nothing brought a mixed group out like a gay pride parade.
He had first seen the ad several weeks before. He had picked up a copy of the Washington Blade to read while he waited during one of Mulder's many opthamology appointments in DC. Mulder couldn't see well enough to drive yet and it had fallen on Tim to chauffeur -- not that he minded doing these things for Mulder. He loved him . . right? Some days it was easier to remember that then others. The recovery had been . . . well, it had been difficult, for both of them. Mulder was frustrated. Tim was frustrated. And to some extent, they were scared. Scared that Mulder wouldn't regain his sight completely, scared that he wouldn't be able to regain his field agent status, scared that their relationship would never be the same again. It probably wasn't the time to bring up touchy subjects like the profile of their relationship. Even in the best of times, it was hard for Tim to talk about these things with Mulder.
"Hey! Watch where you're going!"
Tim pulled back. He had walked right into a short, well-endowed blonde woman.
"I'm terribly sorry. I was-I was thinking. Please, are you okay?" he asked, solicitously, looking her over to make sure she wasn't hurt.
"Yeah, I'm just-well, watch where you're going next time."
Tim nodded and continued on his way to the registration tent by the Washington Monument.
"Hey, Clumsy," the woman called to him. Tim stopped and turned to look at her. She made her way back to him. "You know where this thing starts?"
Tim looked at her with a bemused grin. "The parade?"
She nodded. "I drove all the way here from Winnipeg, but hell if I know where anything is going on."
Tim looked at her again. She seemed harmless enough. After Mulder turned him down he hadn't imagined sharing the day with anyone else, but maybe this was fate.
"It starts down by the monument."
"Great! So, you a fag?"
Her name was Lana. He couldn't quite figure out what her deal was. She didn't appear to be a lesbian, or bi for that matter. She just seemed to be obsessed with gay people.
"So, you drove here from Canada for this? Why? Don't they do it up there or at least in Minneapolis?" Tim asked as they moved through the throngs past the National Gallery and onto the wide gravel path along the Mall.
"It just seemed like if I was going to do this Pride thing, I might as well do it at the biggest one I could go to," she replied, taking a swig out of her flask.
"So, why didn't you go to San Francisco?" he asked. He eyed the flask closely. Was it water? The day was hot.
"Is that the biggest one? I just figured DC would be the biggest one," she replied.
He looked at her carefully. Was she serious? It appeared so. "No, actually with the large gay population in San Francisco they tend to have the biggest celebration."
"Really? San Francisco? Well, I guess you would know about that. I mean, I guess you gay guys talk about that kind of stuff. So, are you a hairdresser?"
Tim shook his head and laughed. *What had he gotten himself into?*
He managed to finally ditch her when he stopped to use the men's room in the Museum of Natural History. Her incessant chatter while they waited to register had amused him, but now Tim wanted a little peace. He made his way onto the Mall where the crowd was starting to thicken. The march would start down by the White House and end up near the Capitol where a stage was set up. He decided that it would be better to just hang out and have the parade find him. This way he would be well positioned to hear the speeches. He scoped the area out, finally picking out a bench in the shade.
There were so many people there. Tim smiled as he watched a couple in their late thirties walk by. The men were holding hands and looked so comfortable. Tim would give anything to have that kind of a relationship with Mulder. They had done a little of it, when they were out of town like the trip to New Orleans, but on a daily basis, in their neighborhood...they might as well be roommates. Tim knew that to have it any differently would mean fundamental changes in their lives. Quitting their jobs, maybe even moving away. For better or worse, being a gay homicide detective was not easy. Mulder had not been totally off the mark when he said they had too many other battles to fight but, the thing was, this secret was starting to wear on him.
"May I join you?" a man said.
Tim looked up and smiled, gesturing to the bench. "Sure."
"I'm John," the man said as he sat down. "You from DC?"
"Baltimore," Tim replied. "You?"
"Yeah, I mean I was. I'm up in New York now. My partner and I, we lived down here, but after he died, I took a new job in the City."
Tim nodded, not quite sure what to say.
"He had AIDS, I didn't. I guess I'm lucky, but sometimes it doesn't always feel that way. Brad used to really dig the Pride parade. He'd get his leather out. I was...I was never as into it, but now, coming here, it's kind of like he's here with me again."
They both sat silently for a couple moments. Then John turned to Tim.
"I'm sorry, that was probably more than you wanted to know. I don't know what it is. I get here and I just open my mouth and..."
"No, it was...I'm sorry," Tim said. "How long ago?"
"Three years. It was just when the medications were changing and it's been great for a lot of our friends, but it was too late for him. I know I should be happy for the people who are living more normal lives, but I just can't help feeling like I got cheated somehow, that Brad got screwed."
"Yeah," Tim said, leaning back against the bench again.
"You here with anyone?" John asked.
Tim shot him a look.
"No, I mean, I'm not..." John stumbled over his words.
"Sorry," Tim replied. "I'm not...hell, this is my first time and my boyfriend wouldn't even come with me. Quite frankly, he would probably have a stroke if he heard me call him my boyfriend. He's...well, he's out to me, his boss and his best friend, but the rest of the world doesn't have a clue and he would love to keep it that way."
"That's really hard," John said. "I lived that way for a long time and it's a heavy burden to keep that secret."
"The thing is, I would love for us to be out. I would do whatever is necessary to make that happen, even quit my job, but he's not willing to do that. I try to not take it as an indictment of his commitment to our relationship, but it's hard not to."
"I was like that," John said, quietly. "I was never able to give Brad what I think he wanted, not until it was too late. Now, I moved to a new city, have made new friends and I'm not going to keep that secret anymore. I hope that can work for you, too." John looked down at his watch. "Hey, I need to go. I'm meeting some friends up at the Act Up! booth at noon. It was very nice to meet you." He stood up and held his hand out to Tim. Tim stood up and shook it, pulling John into a hug after a moment.
"Thanks," Tim said as they pulled apart.
"Any time," John responded, then turned and headed up the Mall toward the gleaming capital building.
Tim spent the next hour watching other groups walk by. A lesbian couple with a set of twins in a stroller stopped and shared his bench for a few minutes while they changed the babies' diapers. He smiled as one of the babies lay on the ground, her outfit pulled down around her feet. He loved kids. They were so innocent. They had no idea.
He missed Mulder but, he was glad Mulder wasn't there. Today was a day about celebrating gay life and that was something he was ready to do. Mulder wasn't. In some ways, it was a lot easier to not have him there, but in other ways it made the whole experience pretty bittersweet.
Tim continued to mull that over as the cellular phone in his pocket started to ring. He pulled it out. Mulder had asked him to take it with him. Tim knew that Mulder was still a little uptight about staying home alone.
"Hello," Tim said into the phone.
"Tim," Scully's voice came through the receiver.
"Hey, Scully. Were you looking for Mulder? He's at home. I have his phone today," Tim explained.
"No, I was looking for you. Where are you?" she asked.
Tim explained his location, not sure why Scully would need to find him. Before he could ask for an explanation Scully hung up. Tim leaned back against the bench, stretching his legs out. He dropped his head back and closed his eyes.
"Is this spot taken?"
Tim pulled himself up, shading his eyes as he looked up at the tall man standing next to him.
"Is this some kind of joke?" Tim asked as Mulder sat down next to him. "You look pretty ridiculous."
Mulder reached up to touch the wide-brimmed hat he had placed firmly on his head. His eyes were covered with dark glasses.
"Is this some kind of costume?" Tim asked.
"Scully said it would provide enough protection from the sun, and well, if no one knows it's me, well, that's okay too," Mulder said. Tim looked over and saw Scully standing about 50 feet in the distance. He smiled and she waved.
"You make her go all the way up to Baltimore to fetch you?" Tim asked.
"No, just get me from the train so I could find you," Mulder answered.
Tim nodded and slid a little bit closer to Mulder. He slipped his arm around Mulder and pulled him snug. "Thanks."
Mulder dropped his head close to Tim, his hat bending against Tim's head. "I'm sorry I didn't come sooner, come with you."
Tim started to laugh.
"What?" Mulder asked, turning to look at Tim. "What's so funny about that?"
"Nothing," Tim said. "I just...I met a real headcase on the way over here." He decided to keep his experience with John to himself for a little while longer.
"Really?" Mulder asked. "Transsexual? Cross-dresser?"
"Nah, I mean a real headcase...Canadian. She...I think she was just getting off on the spectacle."
"Ah, a fag hag," Mulder replied.
"Agent Mulder...such language," Tim teased leaning over to kiss Mulder gently on the lips. "Anyway, it's good to have you here, to share this with you."
"Tim, you know I'm not..." Mulder's voice trailed off.
"I know," Tim replied. "But, we're getting there. Hey, you want to go get temporary tattoos with our names in a heart?"
Mulder laughed as he stood up. He held his hand out to Tim. "You aren't going to go all Pamela Lee on me, are you?"
"Actually I was thinking more of Angelina Jolie," Tim said as they started walking toward the concession area.
"My tattooed lover," Mulder replied.
"Anyway you want me," Tim answered as he stopped to kiss the other man.