Written by Rachel and Marti
AUTHORS' NOTES: This story, which takes place somewhere far, far away from the Exaiphnes universe, is the first slash we ever wrote. Marti started it as a joke after the Miami episode aired. It was originally meant as a parody of the genre, but it didn't really turn out that way.
"Man, it's hot!" Tim Bayliss exclaimed as he walked back into the hotel room, still trying to let his eyes adjust to the dim light after being out in the blinding sun. He and Mike Giardello had been in Miami, out of their element, trailing a fugitive for four days, but had managed to put the case down. Now they had twelve hours to kill before their flight back to Baltimore.
"Yeah, and it's not even a dry heat. I'm used to that from Arizona, but this is ridiculous."
Giardello, his de facto partner for the week, followed him into the room.
They had just returned from a harrowing day of filling out paperwork at the police station, where the air conditioner seemed to have no effect on the humidity; walking back outside into the afternoon had felt like diving into a pool and swimming through jello. Now all Mike wanted to do was stretch out on his bed, in the dark, with the air from the room air conditioner blasting across his face. As he flopped down, Tim picked up the ice bucket off the dresser and frowned. Nothing there but a pool of water with two small lumps of ice. "I'll be right back," he said.
A moment after Tim shut the door, leaving the room in total darkness, Mike felt himself dozing off, his hands behind his head and feet hanging off the bed. He awoke with a start not five minutes later when something hit the pillow above his head: a soda can, dripping with condensation, which Tim had tossed there after returning from the vending area.
"Hey, sorry, I didn't know you'd be asleep."
"No problem; this is just what I needed anyway." Mike moved up to a sitting position, propping some pillows against the headboard, and Tim did the same as he turned on the TV and started flipping through the channels.
"Well, it looks like _The Wedding Singer_ is the pay-per-view movie tonight," Tim announced. "Otherwise, well..._Rock and Roll Jeopardy_?" He grinned wryly.
"Not sure either of those is to my taste. I brought some reading material along, though, so you go ahead and watch whatever you want," Mike responded, reaching over for his book.
"Are you going to read through dinner?" Tim asked, looking over at the title. Grisham's latest. Not Tim's taste.
"Did we have dinner plans? I haven't even thought about eating for the last four days. I think the last thing I ate was one of those cellophane-wrapped danishes from the coffee room at the police station, about 20 hours ago.
How did the hotel restaurant look?"
"The usual. Doubt they have seafood or anything like that."
"Did you want seafood?" Mike asked, setting the book down.
"Hmm...I'm not sure what I want. I do know I don't want to see _The Wedding Singer_ -- again." Tim smiled a sheepish half-smile. "We are in a fairly colorful city, after all. Miles of beaches, palm trees, art deco architecture, and we haven't seen any of it all week. There must be some good restaurants somewhere." Tim sat up, clearly warming to the idea. "I mean, we have to spend all day tomorrow on a plane, and then it's back to the daily grind. Why don't we have a little fun while we're here?" Mike always seemed so serious, Tim thought. He needs to relax and get out of this hotel room.
"I don't know, Tim; the thought of just sacking out early appeals to me, and I don't think I can bear to go back out in that heat again."
"Yeah, but it'll be getting dark soon, so it's bound to cool off. I bought a newspaper this morning -- let's see what's going on." He shuffled through a stack of papers and manila folders which he had tossed on one of the chairs by the door. "Here it is." He flipped through it. "Here's a place, the Binacle, that claims to have the best crabs in Miami. I bet they're nothing compared to Baltimore, but we should check out the competition. How does that sound?"
"Would I have to walk very far to get there? And is it air-conditioned?"
"It's only about three blocks away, I think; if I remember right, we drove by it when Knoll dropped us off. Yeah! Let's go. I'm getting hungry." Tim suddenly felt like he was trapped in that "he said, she said" episode of the X-Files. Next thing he knew Mike was going to start asking for the "Magic Fingers."
"Okay, I'll go, but I do want to shower first. I am totally soaked with sweat."
"No problem. I'll just get changed and be ready when you are." He headed toward his suitcase as Mike went into the bathroom.
Mike emerged twenty minutes later, towelling his hair, to find Bayliss sitting in a chair by the window, wearing a very *unfortunate* shirt.
Hawaiian print, very out of character. Mike wasn't sure he knew Tim well enough to ask, but gave in to temptation. "So, man, where did that come from?"
Tim grinned. "A store on the corner. Believe me, this was the best one they had. I discovered I had nothing left in my suitcase that hadn't already been drenched."
"Well, you'll fit right in...although I'm not sure with whom." Mike tried to keep from snickering. He also tried to brush away some distracting thoughts that were starting to flicker through his mind. He found himself noticing strange things, like the late afternoon sun streaming through the window on Bayliss' light brown hair, and the curve of his collarbone, which was usually hidden under a dress shirt and tie, but was now revealed by the open-collar shirt. What is going on here? Where did that come from?
Besides, how could somebody in THAT SHIRT be attractive?
Fortunately, Tim stood up just then, moving out of the light to flick the TV off and open the door. "We ready?"
The restaurant was in fact air-conditioned, and they were able to sit inside, but the maitre d' put them next to a window so at least they could see the waves rolling into shore and the sun becoming more and more burnished orange as it dipped toward the horizon. They settled in and ordered two beers as they checked out the seafood selections. It had to be crab, they decided. After they ordered, Tim picked up his beer bottle and leaned back in his chair.
"So, how are you liking Baltimore? We've been so busy the last few weeks, I haven't had a chance to ask."
"Good, so far, I guess. It's a little strange to be back here. I'm living in my cousin's house, you know, and I hadn't been there since I was a kid.
I'm trying to do some remodeling." Mike reached over for his drink, wiping the condensation off the edge of the glass.
"You do that sort of thing yourself?"
"More or less successfully. I did come home the other day to find a newly-laid floor buckling all the way across, so I have to start over on that." He smiled. "Nothing like learning from your mistakes."
"Wow. I've never even tried anything like that. Did you have your own house in Phoenix?" Tim asked, leaning forward toward Mike.
"Sort of. I was renting one with the woman I was seeing, so I couldn't really call it mine, on either count." The waitress came over with their salads, setting them down without interrupting the conversation.
"So what's it like being on your own now?" Tim asked, bringing a forkful of the greens to his mouth.
"Okay. I'm not home that much, so it's hard to tell."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. I spend about 16 hours a day at the office or on the street, so I sometimes forget where my apartment is and what it looks like."
"No roommate?" Mike asked, picking the cucumber off the plate and laying it aside.
"No. I don't even have any houseplants!"
By this time, the food had arrived, so there were a few moments of silence while they went to work on the crab legs.
"I really missed eating seafood when I was in New Mexico," Mike commented.
"Yeah, but southwestern food is great, too. Nothing quite that spicy in Baltimore. But there is a good Mexican place, Lista's, just a block or two from the stationhouse. We should get lunch there sometime."
Mike looked up quickly, but Tim was concentrating on pulling the last bit of crabmeat out of its shell. Did he mean the two of us should go? Did he mean we should get takeout for the whole shift? That must be it; just last week he was going to get something for lunch and asked us all if we wanted any. That's it. Again, Mike wasn't sure why it mattered so much, or which scenario he wanted to turn out to be true. He decided the best response was a non-committal "Hmm-hmm," and took another swig of his beer. "Say, do you want another drink?"
"Sure, why not?" Tim upended his bottle and drank the last swallow.
When they exited the restaurant, they were pleased to discover the air was now breathable; there was even a light breeze coming off the water. "So, do you still want to turn in early, or should we see what else there is to do?" Tim asked as they stood on the sidewalk. He so rarely took a night off to go out that he was luxuriating in the feeling of being away from home. He had also discovered during dinner that he enjoyed Giardello's company; the other man was soft-spoken but open and easy to talk to, and Tim had not had much chance to find this out in the squadroom back home, or even during the earlier part of their trip, since they'd been so focused on work.
Mike, however, was torn. On the one hand, the events of the last four days were catching up with him, he was tired, and they had to get up at 6:00 to collect the perp and catch their flight. On the other, it was only 8:30, and this was the first time since he'd left Arizona that he'd really had fun. "Well, let's walk down a few blocks and see what there is." Something in the salt air, or the second bottle of beer, was relaxing and invigorating him at the same time.
"Great!" Tim was pleased that Mike was getting into the spirit of the evening. Baltimore seemed very far away as they strolled past palm trees and stucco buildings painted pink and yellow. After a couple of blocks, Tim stopped short in front of a bar which had its door open, and they could hear electronic music coming from the darkness inside. "This looks promising. What do you think?"
Mike examined the Christmas lights strung around the door, the pink flamingo stuck in an urn on the sidewalk. "Well, their taste is certainly eclectic," he commented. Normally, he would have passed it by without a thought, but since Tim suggested it, he was willing to give it a try, so they went in. A long narrow hallway led in from the street, so it was impossible to tell what was going on inside until they were there. The main room had a bar at the far end, with a dance floor in front of it, and tables scattered around the sides. Not too many people were there yet, just a few men drinking at the bar, all about their age. The room was dark except for candles on the tables, and music was pounding even though there was no one dancing.
Mike followed Tim toward one of the tables, where they ordered another round of beers. They sat, surveying the area in silence for a little while.
Mike tried to identify the song that was pulsing through the speakers behind them, but he'd never heard it. He wondered, absently, when the dancing usually started, though he was not in the habit of dancing himself.
It was almost too loud to hear anyone talking, but people sitting at the bar were chatting. Suddenly a thought struck him, which he thought he'd pass off as a casual observation. "Funny, there are no women here," he shouted into Tim's ear.
"Yeah, strange..." Tim replied indifferently.
"Knoll would be disappointed. That seemed to be his whole raison d'etre in Miami. He was scoping the whole time we were canvassing the beach."
Mike wasn't sure why he had brought this up in the first place, but he began to realize that he was trying to confirm some rumors he had heard about Tim in the squad room. Ballard had mentioned that Tim had some sort of relationship with a male restaurant owner he'd met on a case. But, then, hadn't someone else told him Tim and Laura themselves had gone out? He was too new to the group to have sorted out all the gossip, but for some reason he was beginning to be desperately curious about Tim. He had the impression that Tim was a lot more complex than his fairly even-tempered outward demeanor might suggest.
Why did it matter, though?
Suddenly he realized Tim had said something and was smiling at him, waiting on a reply. "Sorry, what? Couldn't hear you."
Tim leaned in closer and repeated, "This isn't much like the Waterfront, huh? Maybe we should add a dance floor."
Mike heard himself reply, "Yeah," but it was involuntary. His mind, suddenly, was not on the conversation, but on how Tim's skin looked in the semi-darkness as he leaned in. It was smooth, creamy, almost luminescent, not marred by stubble or any other imperfections. He was also acutely aware of how Tim's breath brushed across his ear as he spoke.
For his part, Tim was getting a little antsy sitting on the sidelines. If they were going to be *out*, shouldn't they be doing something? They couldn't talk easily, so maybe they should get the dancing going. Normally he wasn't much of a dancer either, but when in Miami...
When he noticed a few other people heading onto the dance floor, he jerked his head in that direction. "Should we test it out?" They were both a little surprised when Mike said yes, his brown eyes shining. The music was pulsing. Mike could feel it throughout his body, and Tim was pleasantly surprised at how agile a dancer Mike was, since he hadn't expected him to dance at all. Tim began to move a little more deliberately when he realized what song was playing and started mouthing the words. "Broke my heart, and now I'm aching for you..."
"What?" Mike asked, thinking Bayliss was talking to him.
"My favorite. Erasure. 'Oh L'Amour!'" Tim said, trying to shout over the synthesized dance beat.
Mike nodded. He wasn't sure if maybe this was further proof of his suspicions about his companion or not. They continued dancing as the music changed from disco to techno back to disco. Mike couldn't remember when he had heard so much ABBA in one evening. As he looked around, watching other couples dance, he was once more acutely aware that there were only men in the bar, though Tim seemed oblivious. Finally his discomfort got the better of him and he gestured toward the door. Tim nodded and they made their way out of the club back onto the street.
"So, you're a good dancer," Tim said, wiping the sweat from his brow onto his new shirt. Mike shrugged back into the suit coat he had stripped off before the dancing began. The night was pleasant, a cool breeze coming off the ocean. They could hear the surf crashing in the distance.
"I'm not sure where that came from. Jackie used to always beg me to go, but I never would. She always ended up going with girlfriends. Actually, that's where she . . . " Mike's voice trailed off.
"She what?" Tim asked.
"Let's not get into it," Mike said, turning to head back to their hotel.
"Hey,you don't have to talk about it unless you want to, but let's not waste this beautiful night. Why don't we walk down to the beach?" Tim asked. He still couldn't bear to go back to the stuffy hotel room, which would make him feel that much closer to the flight home and the inevitable return to work. Mike nodded in agreement and followed the tall man towards the sand. They walked silently for several minutes until Tim stopped near a picnic table and sat on the top, his feet resting on the seat. Mike sat down next to him.
"You know, it's nights like tonight that make a man really glad to be alive," Tim said, looking up into the sky. The moon had been new only a few nights before and the sky was filled with stars.
"So, Falsone said something about a near-death experience," Mike said.
Something about the remote location, the stars, made it seem like there wasn't any topic out of their range of discussion.
"Yeah, I mean I don't know what it was, but I found myself in a tunnel with the lights and this feeling like everything would be okay. But, you know what dragged me back? Frank. He was shouting and begging me, calling me baby. I couldn't leave him like that. So what happens? I wake up and find out he's the one who left. I mean, he was around. He came to the hospital so many times people asked if we were related and nobody's making that mistake! He definitely helped me get back on my feet, learn to walk again, all to come back to work without him. It's weird. I've never been in Homicide without Pembleton."
"Yeah, I never met him but, he seems to leave a pretty big hole," Mike answered.
"We never really socialized much -- I think I was only at Frank's house once or twice -- but you get so bonded to your partner, you know? More so than even to a spouse or best friend. It's hard to lose that. And now, with this rotation thing, we change around so much that there's not much chance to develop a fit with anyone."
"And of course, there's not much time to socialize outside work, so I haven't met too many new people in Baltimore." Mike wasn't sure where he was going with this, but he sensed that he and Tim were feeling the same disconnected emptiness. He realized that he'd enjoyed partnering up with Bayliss, even if only for four days. It was so much better to have someone to bounce ideas off of, to joke with while sitting in a sweltering car during a stakeout.
They'd both been staring out to sea rather than each other, and just then their attention was drawn by two men making their way onto the beachfront.
They were holding hands, pausing to kiss every couple steps. Mike wasn't sure whether Tim had noticed, but a surreptitious sidelong glance confirmed that he was looking in the same direction. Mike couldn't have known it, but at that moment Tim found himself thinking back to his brief attachment to Chris Rawls. There had never been any public displays of affection between them, but suddenly Tim was wistful, wishing there had been. What must it be like to live in a place like this, where men danced together and kissed each other without worry, he wondered. It seemed so unspeakable in the context of his life in Baltimore.
Just then Bayliss turned to look at Mike and was surprised to find him looking back. Then, without warning, their lips met. Neither was sure who started it, but both were glad that they had. At first, the kiss was gentle, tentative, exploratory, as if neither was quite ready to commit to it. Then, Mike found that its intensity was increasing and he gave himself over to it, turning his body to face Bayliss more directly. He realized that he had been wanting this to happen all evening.
Tim was pleasantly surprised at Mike's reaction. He had forgotten what it was like to touch someone with rough masculine skin, and was glad to be reminded. He moved his hand up to touch the back of the other man's neck and pull him closer. He was a little startled when Mike resisted and pulled back, but then felt a surge of electricity running through him when he realized why. Mike was saying, urgently, with a hand pressed against Tim's leg, "I think we ought to go back to the hotel."
Mike glanced up at the indicator. The elevator sat on floor fourteen. He cast a sidelong glance at Bayliss, who seemed entranced in the argument going on between the two night desk clerks. He looked up again. It was on floor twelve. It had better get there soon, he thought, or he would lose his nerve. He reached past Bayliss to press the call button again.
"You know, they don't come any faster when you press it again." Tim grinned wickedly.
But just then, the elevator completed its painfully slow descent and the doors opened. Mike was relieved to see that there was no one inside, since it seemed that all the emotions he was feeling -- and there were a myriad of them -- were betrayed on his face. Tim walked in first and stood near the rear of the car. Mike followed, and as he leaned forward to press the "eleven" button, he felt the other man's hand on his back. He turned, not sure what to expect, and closed his eyes.
Mike stood unmoved as he sensed Tim coming closer. His lips were softer than Mike expected, but he was aware of the roughness of Tim's cheek, 11 hours away from his last shave. He opened his lips slightly as Tim probed gently with his tongue. It tasted sweet.
All of a sudden the door clanged and opened. Tim and Mike pulled apart quickly, but not before Glen Wilkerson of Pocatello, Idaho, saw more than he expected on his trip to Florida. He dropped the ice bucket formerly clutched in his hands and tried to pull together the robe covering the beer belly that had draped over his boxer shorts. "I'll catch the next one, boys," he said, walking quickly back to the room where his wife of 36 years waited for a cold iced tea.
As the door closed, Tim grinned and leaned casually against the back of the elevator. He wouldn't have expected it, but something about this situation thrilled him. Mike also was leaning against one of the cold metal walls, but there was nothing casual about it. He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. He felt like he might throw up, but was totally exhilarated at the same time, whether from the fear those opening doors had struck into him or from the excitement of touching this man he had been desiring since...well, when had it begun? Before the trip to Miami, he thought. He remembered feeling a little twinge of anticipation when the elder Giardello suggested that Bayliss accompany him to Miami, so it had to have been before that. When, exactly? He realized that Tim was still staring at him, smiling. He smiled back as the doors opened on their floor.
Tim closed the door of the room and moved over to the window. He pulled the curtains closed, looking once again over the city, its lights twinkling like a fairyland. Fairyland, he thought. That's funny. It had been almost a year since he had met Chris Rawls, three months since he'd last gone out with him. Chris had told him to get his act together, figure out what he wanted. Was this what he wanted? Was Mike what he wanted or was he just a creative diversion? Was it just the effect of the strange, surreal city?
The sound of the toilet flushing pulled him out of his head and back into the room.
Mike put his hands under the running water. This was the point of no return. He either went out there and did what had only a few hours earlier seemed unthinkable, or he went out and told Tim. . . . Told Tim what? He had a sense he could go out there and say he had changed his mind and it would be okay, but that was just it. Did he want to change his mind? He rubbed the towel over his hands and moved to the door. It was now or never.
Tim was seated on the bed next to the window, Mike's bed. He had taken off that horrible shirt and was sitting in his tan pants, his chest bare. Mike sat down next to him. He didn't want to stare, but he was acutely aware that Tim's skin was beautiful all over, smooth and creamy.
"So, we're doing this? What are we doing?" he asked, reaching his hand out for Tim's.
"We're only doing what you want. There's no pressure here," Tim answered, taking the dark hand in his larger one. "It's a big decision, but we're not doing anything you don't want."
"All I know is...I want to feel your lips again." He pulled Bayliss near to him. They began slowly, exploring within each other's mouths. Tim's hands moved over Mike's white dress shirt, across his muscular back, moving lower and lower until he was rubbing the other man's backside. He pulled the shirttails from the pants.
They lay down alongside one another, Mike's hands now touring across Bayliss' body as well, until his hand felt a depression in Tim's back and he froze. Tim's hand quickly grasped his and they sat up. The look in Tim's eyes confirmed Mike's suspicion, but neither said anything. Their eyes locked for moment, the world standing still, then suddenly everything shifted. Mike slid out of his shirt while Tim pulled off his pants. They had not spoken for several minutes as words had become unnecessary.
Mike turned to notice Tim was struggling with his shoe, so he knelt down to loosen the lace and pull it off. He slid the thin socks off, first the right and then the left foot. He ran his hand up Tim's calf, smoothing the hair as he went. As his exploration continued, he noticed how thin Tim's legs were. He could only imagine how muscular they had been before the shooting. His hands moved higher as he heard Tim's breath quicken. He noted Tim's arousal under his cotton boxers, as Tim reached out and pulled Mike up on the bed.
Mike awoke slowly, before the wake-up call, trying to figure out why he was so cold, when he'd been hot all day yesterday. Then he realized that the room air conditioner was on high, he was shirtless, and he couldn't seem to find any blankets. He didn't usually sleep shirtless. What the...?
He flopped his arm over to turn off the alarm clock, connecting with a solid mass. He pushed up to reveal his bed companion, the cause of the blanket situation. Tim Bayliss. What had he been thinking? Tim seemed so foreign all of a sudden, not sitting across a desk or a dinner table, but *right there*, his glasses off, his mouth open slightly, the blankets bunched up under his chin.
Mike crawled out of bed, being careful not to disturb the sleeping detective. He grabbed his bag and moved quickly to the bathroom. Closing the door he leaned up against it and ran his hand over his hair. Six months ago he had been living a relatively normal life in New Mexico. Things were good with Jackie, things were good at work, how had it all changed so radically? He pulled the tube of toothpaste from his dop kit and began to scrub his teeth. What was he trying to scrub away? Tim? His sweet taste? He looked up into the large mirror, staring at the face he didn't recognize any longer. The thing was, being with Tim, it felt good. It was surprising, but their love-making was gentler, more fulfilling than any he had experienced in a long time.
There was a quiet tap at the door. Mike turned and opened it to reveal his partner. "Morning," Tim said, brushing the sleep from his eyes. "So, in the light of day, are we still okay?"
"Yeah, I think so," Mike answered, looking down at the floor. Seeing Tim standing there in his boxers, with his hair rumpled, suggested a kind of intimacy between them that caused the attraction he'd felt last night to start stirring again. "Actually, you look pretty good in the light of day." He was staring at Tim's lower lip, fixated on how full it was, and leaned forward to touch it with his lips.
Tim tasted the mint of Mike's toothpaste. Their arms went around each other. Mike was again struck by the strange sensation of their bare chests touching as he slid his hand inside the waistband of Tim's boxers to pull him closer. Neither cared that they were in the bathroom and that the bed was only a few steps away; Tim pressed Mike back into the sink and then felt him slide down onto his knees, leaving a trail of kisses along Tim's chest and stomach as he descended. Man, he'd forgotten how good that could feel. He was a little surprised that Mike was going that route, but he seemed to have learned something from their encounter the night before.
Tim found himself grabbing hold of the edges of the sink as his knees went weak.
Afterwards they lay on the tile, trying to catch their breath.
Mike spoke first. "Suddenly this floor doesn't feel so cold anymore..."
"So, I guess that means no regrets," Tim said, rolling onto his side so he could face Mike.
"Yeah, I'd say so. But, we're going to need a few ground rules here. First of all, not a word of this at work, and second and most importantly, we never discuss my father while we're in bed."
Tim flopped on his back, laughing. "Fine by me, fine by me."