Written by Pamela Rose
"I don't know if you've noticed this, Frank, but I haven't really been happy for a long time."
Frank Pembleton turned over and kicked at the bed covers, cursing under his breath. Tim's
flat statement repeated in his mind like a mental acid reflux. He didn't want to think about it, didn't
want to remember the sadness of Tim's puppy-dog eyes. Eyes that had always been too innocent,
lacking guile or protective barriers.
"Frank?" Mary's sleepy voice spoke from the bundle of quilts beside him. "What's wrong?"
"It's too hot in here," he grumbled. "What's the thermostat set on, 90?"
"It's January and it's freezing. You set it at 65, remember." She rolled over and touched his
arm. "Do you have a fever, Frank?"
"I don't have a fever," he replied grumpily.
"Then what's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong. Why does something have to be wrong just cause I say it's hot in here?"
She sighed and rolled over.
"Bayliss had a date tonight," Frank said abruptly, with an air of announcement.
"That's nice. And I should care because . . .?"
"He had a date with a man."
A moment of puzzled silence, then, "Really? What do you mean, a date?"
Frank sat up, rubbing his hand over his bare head. "A date, Mary. You know, a date. Dinner
. . .hell, dancing for all I know."
There was another silence. "I didn't know Tim was--"
Mary sat up and switched on the light. "You're really bothered about this, aren't you?"
Frank blinked in the light, then glared. "Me? Why should it bother me?" He relented under
Mary's calm expression. "Okay, I just don't think he knows what he's doing, that's all."
"But Tim knows this man is gay?"
"Of course he knows. He's ingenuous, not stupid."
"So you're worried about him?" Her pleased expression set his teeth on edge.
He started to deny it out of habit, but realized that was pointless. Mary knew him too well.
He should've followed his first instinct and kept his mouth shut. He took a sip of water from the glass
on the bedstand, trying to decide how much he wanted Mary to know. It was potentially dangerous
ground. "Maybe I'm a little uneasy about this," he admitted reluctantly. "Christ, Mary, this is Tim
Bayliss we're talking about. Look in the dictionary under naive; there's his mugshot."
"Frank, he's a homicide cop. I hardly think he's . . . well, unsophisticated."
Frank shook his head. "You're wrong. That's exactly what he is. You have no conception
of how ill-equipped he is to deal with something like this. I mean, a year ago he was one step away
from being a homophobe."
"Then you should be glad he's past that. What exactly are you worried about? That this man
will make a pass? Come on, Frank, Tim is a big, strong guy. Not to mention the fact he carries a gun.
He can say no."
Frank didn't answer, remembering what happened nearly a year ago. It was nothing he could
explain to Mary, but the responsibility weighed on him. He'd regretted that impulse a thousand times,
mostly because of the distance in Tim's eyes; the careful, almost rigid avoidance of anything personal
between them. Not that Tim had ever mentioned that one strange night; it could have been a dream
for all the reaction either of them allowed to show by expression or touch. In fact, the distance
became physical as well. From the Bayliss who touched, patted, invaded personal space, he withdrew
into a man who kept secrets. Even after Frank discovered Tim was taking care of that bastard uncle,
the walls remained up. While this had improved since their return from three months in the Robbery
Unit, Tim still kept himself very private. It rankled that he hadn't even caught a hint of Tim's
relationship with Julianna Cox.
I don't tell you everything, Frank.
He wasn't sure why that bothered him, except that after all those years of being compelled to
hear the minutiae of Bayliss' life, from his whim of learning Spanish to his favored brand of
toothpaste, Frank suddenly felt cheated. Like someone was withholding the seminal chapter of a
He couldn't remember the last time Tim had touched him.
Even after Frank, Jr. was born, Tim had been there for him, supporting him, waiting with him,
but only gave him a hearty handshake and a pat on the arm after the birth was announced. In contrast,
when Olivia was born, Frank had to practically pry Tim's arms off him, and for days afterwards, Tim
kept hugging him at odd moments in a flurry of happiness.
It surprised him to realize he missed it. That he missed Tim's impulsive, sometimes clumsy
"He's a grown man, Frank," Mary said. "I can't pretend I know Tim as well as you, but I think
you underestimate him. He can take care of himself. I'm sure he just likes the man as a friend.
He settled back in the bed. "Yeah, sure." He laughed darkly. "What am I doing? I'm not
his mother. What am I doing wasting my time worrying about his sex life? He's just somebody I have
to work with."
Mary touched his arm. "That's not what I meant. I'm glad you're interested. He's your
partner, your best friend. Of course you should worry--"
"No, no, NO!" Frank pulled away. "You're absolutely right. He's an adult. What he does
is none of my damn business."
She hesitated, wondering whether she should push the issue. Frank loved Tim, but getting him
to admit it was more of an effort than she wanted to make at 10:45 on a Wednesday night.
She switched off the light with a sigh. "Good night, Frank."
Frank stared up into the darkness, trying not to imagine what Tim was doing or what was
being done to him.
* * *
"Ummm, very good."
"You like it?"
"I love it. I could take a lot more of this."
"That's good. I have a lot more."
"Umm, I could get addicted."
Chris Rawls poured more red wine in Tim's glass, finishing up the bottle. "I'm counting on
"This stuff could be dangerous."
"But you like a little danger, don't you? I do. That's why I asked you out."
Tim set down the wine glass and looked into the wide, green eyes, giving a mental critique of
that gaze as if it were the wine 'buoyant but modestly hopeful, with an electric power that zings
through the nerve ends; not pushy but obvious in its tasteful yet sensual intent.' Whoa.
He licked his lips, and smiled shyly, feeling awkward and bashful. "Why was asking me out
so dangerous?" An obvious question, but he was curious.
"You're a dangerous man, Tim Bayliss."
Tim knew he was blushing, both from the effect of the wine and the flattering expression in
the steady, long-lashed green eyes. He couldn't remember anyone looking at him like that before.
He laughed uneasily. "Me? You've got to be kidding."
"Straight guys can be easily offended. I'm not so much of a coward that I would do it over
the phone, but I'm not stupid either. I figured you probably wouldn't slug me in the middle of the
squad room; that's why I came there to ask you out. But you could have been insulted that I even
dared to ask. A lot of straight guys would be. It was a risk."
"So why risk it?"
"I like you." Chris paused, lashes flickering, eyes closing for a second as he took a deep breath
and plunged on. "And maybe you don't want to hear it, but because I'm attracted to you. You knew
Tim looked down. "I kinda thought . . . I figured you might . . . it seemed . . . uh . . . yeah,
"But you still came. Takes a lot of guts, Tim. It makes me like you even more."
Tim didn't know what to say. He took another sip of the wine. "This really is excellent." He
lifted the glass, smiling weakly, "The wine, I mean."
Chris smiled back. "I've made you uncomfortable. I'm sorry."
"No, no, not at all--" Unsurprisingly, he ended up spilling the wine; a purple slash across the
snowy tablecloth. "Sorry. I'm a klutz."
Chris touched his wrist, sliding over it gently, cupping it with soft warmth. "It's okay, Tim.
We can change the subject if you want."
Tim looked up, meeting the eyes again, captured by the sincere, open gaze; direct, unguarded,
the unabashed pleasure at their physical contact. It was so rare in his world. Tim's own self-honesty
made him admit, "I like you, too, Chris. A lot. Because you weren't afraid to ask. And because . . .
something about you made me able to say yes."
Chris' smile widened, his eyes sparkling. "Wow."
Tim felt the charged current through the touch, through the expressive look. He put down the
wine glass and turned his hand so their fingers could thread together and hold tight. He couldn't
remember holding hands with another man before. It felt good. The hand was nearly as large as his
own, as powerful, as warm, and the grip felt comforting; it was good to connect to another human
being in a tangible, physical way. It didn't happen often. In the last year, it had happened less and
less. He didn't count any of his sexual gymnastics with Julianna Cox in that category. She was
hungry, but detached, almost cold outside the throes of passion. He hadn't been really sorry when
they ended it. All he had felt was a profound relief, like he had escaped something perniciously
unhealthy. This felt very different, strangely wholesome and pleasing.
"You have beautiful hands," Chris said softly.
The sensation radiated up Tim's arm and down to the pit of his stomach, to an empty place;
to a place he had long needed filled. For some reason he felt accepted, approved of.
Unwilling to let go of that warmth, Tim still felt obligated to say, "I'm straight, Chris. I've
never . . . I mean, it's not something I've--"
"I know." Chris smiled and tightened the grip. "I know. I'm not pushing. Or at least I'm
trying like hell not to. It's not easy." He shrugged sheepishly. "One doesn't meet the man of his
dreams every day."
Chris didn't try to hold on as Tim reflexively jerked away. Chris added ruefully, "I've got this
problem about being bluntly honest. I can't seem to help it. But I guess it's best you know anyway.
The first time I saw you-- I know you're straight, I know you don't feel the same, but I can't pretend.
I won't lie or hide how I feel."
Tim stared at him. He had no idea how to respond.
Chris shook his head. "I probably should have been more discreet about this; maybe just said
I wanted to be your friend first. And I do want to be your friend. But that's not all I want, and I can't
lie about it. I had to take a chance."
He reached out for Tim's hand again, asking this time, hesitant. Tim let him take it, stunned
at the openness. Maybe he had been with Frank too long; a man who could never admit what he
wanted or needed, let alone that he needed at all. Not that he was much better, for that matter. Tim
was well aware of his own cowardice in that area; the fear of rejection had kept him silent and alone
most of his life. But Chris wasn't afraid of being hurt or rejected; he was willing, even eager, to put
himself out, to lay himself open to possible pain.
What was even more stunning was that Chris was saying that the risk was worth it. He was
Tim offered more enthusiasm to the hand clasp, totally thrilled at the notion. When had
anyone believed he was worth taking a risk?
"You're a beautiful man," Chris said softly, the green eyes so wide and intense Tim felt he
would drown in them. "Do you know how attractive you are?"
"Uh. . . no. I never thought . . . it's not something . . . I mean, no . . . no one's ever said . . ."
he finally trailed off, realizing he was babbling. He always babbled when he was nervous, particularly
if it had anything to do with matters sexual.
It was Chris who gently released the grip and pulled back. "Believe it or not, I'm not trying
to crowd you. I only wanted to be clear about what I felt; I'm not expecting anything."
Part of Tim was a little disappointed. He wanted Chris to press the point, to do something
extreme enough where he would have to make a decision. It was uncomfortable to realize he actively
wanted Chris to make a pass. He still wasn't positive how he would respond, but he was frustrated
that Chris wasn't going to do it. It was hard to test your limits when you weren't even asked.
In fact, Chris had changed the subject and was discussing restaurants. It was something they
had in common since Tim was a part owner in the Waterfront, although the bar could hardly be put
in the same category as the Zodiac. Chris talked about his own restaurants (in the plural) and it took
a minute before Tim clued into what it meant.
"So you own others like the Zodiac?"
"Yes. One in Aspen, one in Seattle and one in San Francisco."
"Are they all this successful?"
"Actually, this is the least successful. That's why I've been here so much the last few months.
My family was from Baltimore, so I'd hate for this one to go under. It's a tough business, though.
You know that."
"I'm just an amateur. The first year was awful. We were losing our shirts. But it's gradually
getting better. This year we even made a modest profit."
"The first year is the worst. You'll do fine now."
"Is this your first year here?"
"Yes, and there are problems. It's barely breaking even."
"And if it doesn't?"
Chris smiled. "I can float it for a while. You've figured out I'm not too worried. I'm well
off financially. Family money. Is that a problem?"
"No. In fact, I wish it was my problem."
The rest of the evening passed very quickly. Tim discovered he was very comfortable with
Chris. They looked at a lot of things the same way. They discussed everything from politics to books
Tim finally glanced at his watch, amazed to see it was after eleven. "Gee, wow, it's late. I've
got to get going. Work tomorrow."
Chris stood with him. "Thanks for coming. I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed this."
Tim located his coat and put it on, suddenly feeling awkward again. "Yeah, me, too, Chris.
We'll have to do this again--"
"How about Friday?"
Tim froze in the process of buttoning his overcoat, meeting the expectant eyes. Chris hadn't
He felt a strange flutter in his stomach, the warm tingle of excitement that the opportunity to
walk on the wild side was still open.
He belatedly realized he hadn't answered yet. "Uh . . . Friday, I . . . yes, Friday. That's good.
"Maybe you'd like to go somewhere else. Some place nicer--"
"Nicer?" His mind was blank.
"Would you like some other kind of food? French, Chinese--?"
"Oh. No, this is great. It was wonderful."
Chris looked pleased. "Well, we didn't get through many of those wines I promised you.
There are a couple that I've been saving I'd love you to try."
"To be honest, it'll probably be wasted on me. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I'm more used
to stuff with screw tops."
Chris had walked him to the door, now he stopped and touched Tim's lapel, then looked up
through his lashes. "It won't be wasted. Even if you don't like it, you'll never know until you taste
Tim's mouth was suddenly dry. He stuck out his hand awkwardly. "Uh, Friday then, right?"
Chris shook his hand, holding it between both of his. "Same time?"
"I . . . I'll call you. In case something comes up. You know, in my job, it's hard to make solid
"Sure, I understand. Good night, Tim."
"Good night, and thanks again for dinner."
Tim made it to his car and leaned against it, looking up at the sky. What the hell was he doing?
Did he really want to see Chris Rawls again? Well, that answer was easy. Yes. He liked Chris a hell
of a lot. Whether it was fair to Chris was something else again. The man was refreshingly direct on
how he felt; agreeing to see him again was what? Leading him on?
Tim laughed out loud, then put his hands over his face, rubbing his eyes. It was too late to
think about this. He'd had a lot of wine. He was tired.
But as he unlocked his car door he realized he was happy, too.
* * *
Pembleton peered back through the diner window, watching as Laura Ballard was charmed
and disarmed by Tim's boyish smile. Frank shook his head and grinned in amazement as he walked
away. He had always been a little puzzled that Bayliss didn't score more often. He was a good-looking guy, smart and often funny. More importantly, he was gentle, honest, and probably the most
fundamentally decent man Frank knew. What was not to like? But somehow even Munch had more
notches on his bedpost.
Then again, women tended to be attracted to bastards for some bizarre reason. Witness his
marriage to Mary.
Tim was just too damn nice, that was his problem. A dim memory of a conversation between
them returned. It was after the Emma Zoole fiasco; the dragon lady who had thoroughly stomped on
Tim's heart. The kind of tiny, exotic beauty that a man should always wear a protective cup when
approaching. Bayliss, romantic fool that he was, damn near offered her his testicles as a trophy.
Pulling his gun on an unsympathetic convenience store clerk over eleven cents hadn't made Tim feel
better. And neither, Frank suspected, had his own cynical observations on falling in love, true as they
might have been.
"Most of the time it's just sheer, dumb luck and you, my friend, are just not lucky."
Frank walked up the long flight of steps to the squad room, wishing he'd been a little
more -- he grimaced wryly at the thought -- sensitive. Tim could use a little encouragement, a bit of
ego-building. After all, Tim was his partner and all right, he might as well admit it, at least to
himself his best friend. It couldn't hurt to be a tad more supportive. Maybe ask him home to dinner
Christ, if Tim was accepting dinner invitations from . . . well, from some guy who was
practically drooling over him, then he obviously needed some personal attention, maybe even
affection. Bayliss was a pretty lonely guy, after all.
Frank waved a casual greeting to Munch who was chomping on a huge donut, and sat down
at his desk.
He recalled what Tim had said just before Ballard had entered the diner this morning.
"It was just dinner, Frank. You and me have had dinner before."
There had been a subtle emphasis, both in Tim's eyes and in his voice. Very much the same
as when he'd been talking about going out with Chris Rawls. He'd leaned forward, holding Frank's
gaze with a heavy intensity, "We're going to drink some wine, and we're going to laugh, talk, enjoy
ourselves. Be happy. Is there something wrong with that? Hmm?"
Frank hadn't wanted to believe Tim was implying anything about what had happened between
them, but that night almost a year ago had leapt to the front of his mind both times. Something about
the pensive tone of Tim's voice, the not-quite-accusing expression in the brown eyes that flipped on
a guilt reflex.
On the other hand, Tim was a master at manipulating him; God knows he'd successfully done
it several times in the past (the infamous cheese sandwich battle sprang to mind), but he couldn't
believe Tim would be playing with this. It was too potentially destructive. And why would he wait
this long to drag the subject up?
Frank jumped, realizing he'd been staring blankly at his desk blotter, almost trancing.
Giardello's booming voice often reminded him of a very pissed off God.
"He was having breakfast at Jimmy's, Gee. He'll be here in a few minutes."
"He'd better be. We need to clear up this vehicular homicide before the press gets hold of it
and turns it into more than it is."
"We're on it, Gee. Traffic Investigation is checking out the car now. Maybe we'll get lucky
and they'll come up with something mechanical to explain the accident."
"Let's hope so. Dragging a sweet old lady away in handcuffs doesn't look good on the
evening news. Haven't you read the memos? We're now to be the kinder, gentler BCPD. We find
lost puppies, we assist little old ladies with their groceries. We don't throw them in the slammer.
Have Bayliss see me when he gets in." He glanced at his watch. "He's late." He glared at Pembleton
as if it was Frank's personal responsibility to make sure his partner was awake and dressed, with his
shoes tied and zipper up. Knowing Gee, that's probably exactly what he thought. "He's twenty
Frank nodded happily. "Yes, he is. He must be enjoying himself."
"On my time? Nobody enjoys himself on my time. It doesn't please me at all. Ten more
minutes and it's coming out of his paycheck. Ten after that and it's coming out of his hide!"
"Anything you say, Gee," Frank replied, knowing the Lieutenant was blowing smoke. Bayliss
put in so much of his own time unauthorized and unpaid on cases, Gee wouldn't report it if Tim
didn't show up til noon.
Frank couldn't stop grinning, hoping that would be the case. Tim Bayliss and Laura Ballard;
they would make a very nice couple actually. The more he thought of it, the more he approved. She
was a good cop, he was a great cop. They were both smart, close enough in age; she obviously liked
him. He didn't know Ballard that well, but what he did know he cautiously respected. She didn't take
a lot of bullshit, but she wasn't as hard and defiant as some women cops. She didn't overcompensate
or apologize for being female.
"Hi, Frank. Is the report in yet?"
He was so involved in his fantasy matchmaking, he just nodded absently, "Tim." Then he did
a double take. "Tim. What are you doing here?"
Bayliss raised his eyebrows as he removed his overcoat. "I work here, remember? Did the
report on Mrs. Nichols' car come back?"
"Uh . . . no. Not yet."
"Too bad. I don't really want to do anything until we have some facts on that. She seemed
like a nice lady."
"I didn't expect you to finish breakfast this quick," Frank commented, fishing to discover how
Tim looked puzzled. He opened his mouth to answer when Gee bellowed out, "Bayliss!"
"You're not coming, you're going, Bayliss! You and Pembleton, get down to the City garage
and hurry up those brazzoles. We need answers. I want that report. Now!"
When Giardello roared, no one was brave enough to argue. Bayliss and Pembleton grabbed
their coats and hopped to it.
* * *
Lost in apparent fascination with his empty desk top, Tim reviewed the conversation in the
"Who aren't you attracted to?"
Now what was that supposed to mean? Tim wondered, feeling annoyed. Of course he knew
exactly what Frank meant. But in true Pembleton style, he'd skipped over what he didn't want to deal
with; moving from Julianna to Laura without a pause or hint of Chris, even though Chris was the pink
elephant in the conversation. In fact, the conversation would never have taken place at all if Chris
Rawls hadn't existed. Or if Chris hadn't been homosexual. Frank had never given a flying fuck about
his personal life before. Whenever Tim had offered to tell him, Frank had usually looked bored,
barely even politely interested until now. Now, all of sudden, he wanted details.
Tim had tried very hard not to feel resentful. He'd hinted to Frank many times that he'd like
them to have more involvement in each other's lives; that it was something he missed. Frank, in his
usual, incisive, brilliant manner had dashed his reasoning on the family feeling Tim found lacking in
the Homicide unit.
"We're a family, but we're like a real family."
Well, Frank didn't have to tell him anything about families. His family hadn't given a damn
about what he was doing, let alone what he felt. He loved his mother, but she was a gentle, ineffectual
woman, who disapproved of what her son did for a living, but wasn't strong enough to object in
anything but the most sadly wistful terms. Just enough to make him feel inadequate to expectations,
but not enough to enable him to make a vocal stand defending his choice of career. Don't make
waves, don't cause trouble. Even his cousin, Jim, the only person in his family he felt close to at all,
didn't want to hear about Tim's life; he was too involved in his own.
Tim chewed on the end of a pen, trying to imagine how Jim would react if he knew about
Chris, even disregarding the fact he was considering . . . well, he didn't know what he was
considering, except that he wasn't willing to close himself off to the possibilities just yet. He should
be grateful that Frank was so self-consciously liberal that he merely preferred to ignore it.
"How was the nosh at the Zodiac, Tim?"
Bayliss swung around in his chair, startled. Luckily, Munch was half-engrossed in his
newspaper and didn't notice the nearly-guilty reaction.
Before he could answer, Frank jumped in, "I hear it's pretty good. Sorry I couldn't make it.
We don't often get gratitude dinners for solving crimes."
Tim turned his head, staring at Frank with narrowed eyes.
"Yeah, that's one of the great things about queers; they have impeccable manners," Munch
commented, glancing up from the News of the World. "So how was it, Tim? What did you have?
Pasta Primavera? Calamari? Chicken Alfredo?"
Tim was still looking at Frank, his irritation level rising. He wasn't sure he liked the way Frank
smoothly implied the invitation had been for both of them, obviously trying to tone down possible
speculation. Tim was nettled (conveniently ignoring the jolt of adrenaline he'd experienced himself
at the unexpected question). He didn't need Frank's protection. He wasn't ashamed of having dinner
with Chris Rawls; he didn't give a damn what anyone thought.
"Rigatoni. The food is fantastic. The best in town," Tim replied with enthusiasm and a hint
of defiance. "In fact, it was the best dinner I've had in months. And the wine list is something else.
Chris insists on serving only the best. Maybe we should think about something like that for the bar."
Munch shook his head. "Too pricey. We'd better stick to beer. Don't want to turn it into
some kind of frou-frou wine bar."
Munch returned to his paper, oblivious to the crackle of tension grounding between the other
two. Tim turned his back pointedly to Frank, staring at his desk, eyeing the phone and considering
calling Chris to confirm their date. What was he waiting for? He wanted to go, didn't he? He
reached for the receiver, then stopped. It was only Thursday; it was too soon. It made him seem too
eager. He realized what he was thinking and grinned to himself. God, he was an idiot.
"Listen to this," Munch said gleefully and read aloud, "From the Modesto Bee: 'Steven
Richard King, 22, was arrested for trying to hold up a Bank of America branch in Modesto, California
without a weapon. He used his thumb and finger to simulate a gun, but unlike most robbers who use
this tactic, poor Steven forgot to put his hand in his pocket.' You just gotta love feebleminded felons.
Where would we be without them?"
"You'd be livin' off foodstamps, Munchkin," Meldrick commented as he sauntered past.
"Anybody seen my comic book?"
Munch shot back sarcastically, "I'm sure it's with your copy of Nietzche's Thus Spake
* * *
It was early afternoon and Tim was struggling miserably over his time sheet, trying to
remember when and if he could report any overtime. It was a tricky dance, and even after six years,
he couldn't get all the steps down.
Frank sat on the edge of his desk.
"Oh, hi, Frank. What's up?"
"I was thinking, why don't you come over for dinner tonight. I think Mary's making pasta and
I know you love her sauce."
Tim's smile was instinctive, joyful. Frank's invitations were too scarce to take for granted.
"That's gre-- Oh, geez, I can't. Laura and I are going to a gallery tonight. Contemporary primitive
or something like that. What is it with women and art galleries anyhow?"
"Laura?" Frank's face perked up. "Laura Ballard?"
"Yeah. We were talking this morning at breakfast--"
"So you and Ballard have a date, huh?"
"Well, it's not exactly a date. I mean, she was telling me about it and it sounded interesting."
"Interesting, yeah." Frank's grin was teasing.
Tim regarded him blandly. "I like art, Frank."
"Contemporary primitive? What exactly is that?"
"I--" he faltered, then admitted, "Okay, so I don't have a clue. But I'm trying new things,
Frank. I'm open to new experiences." And he was recalling that he was irked at Frank. "Besides,
I had pasta last night," he added pointedly.
Frank held up his hands. "No problem. So how about tomorrow?"
"Yeah, dinner, remember? You haven't seen Frank, Jr. since New Year's and I think Olivia
misses her Uncle Tim. At least she misses his toys. And don't you dare bring another one; Mary's
getting tired of picking them all up."
Tim stared at him, relenting. Seeing the babies was hard to turn down. "Tomorrow's Friday,
"Well, yes. Since today's Thursday, I guess that makes sense. What, do you have another
date with Ballard?"
"Friday's not good for me, Frank. How about this weekend? Maybe we could take Mary and
the kids out, give her a break, yes? I'm sure she'd appreciate not having to cook--"
"What's wrong with Friday?" Frank demanded suspiciously. "If you don't have a date--"
"I didn't say I didn't have a date," Tim cut in, then fell silent, wondering why he suddenly
didn't want to tell him.
"So . . . what? You do have a date?"
Tim's jaw clenched and he tossed the pencil down and stood.
"I'm going to dinner with Chris, okay?"
It was almost a repeat of yesterday, with Frank pursuing him into the coffee room. "Another
Tim poured his coffee and sat down at one of the tables, grabbing a newspaper and leafing
through it, quietly fuming. "We're having dinner together again. If you want to call that a date, I
guess it is."
Frank hesitated then poured a cup of hot water and joined him. "Food must be good at the
Tim turned the page, pretending to focus on a story about a new sewer system. "Just like I
"Tim . . ."
Bayliss put the paper down and met Frank's eyes, his suspicions confirmed. "Is that why you
asked me to your home? To keep me busy? What do you want to know, Frank? Just ask me."
"Okay, what's going on?"
"With you and this . . . Rawls guy."
"Why do you care, Frank? You've never been interested before."
"Of course I have. Don't be ridiculous."
"No, no you haven't. So don't start now. Not with this. Just drop it, Frank."
Pembleton stood up abruptly. "You're right, it's none of my business."
"Frank!" Tim called after him, then put his hands over his face and let out his breath in a long
sigh. Someone had left a garish comic book on the table, and Tim picked it up and started to read.
* * *
The next day, Pembleton very carefully and pointedly didn't ask about the gallery visit with
Ballard. Nor did he feel it necessary to inform Bayliss of that asshole Gharty's attempt to spread
rumors. He was still indignant about it, surprised and irritated that his partner's private life was station
house gossip so quickly. He thought he had managed to shut Gharty up for the moment, but if Tim
insisted on continuing this . . . socializing with a very prominent gay man, it was going to have some
nasty repercussions sooner or later. He didn't understand why Tim couldn't see that.
More importantly, he couldn't conceive of why Tim was doing it at all. This Jung shadow-self
crap he'd been spouting didn't explain it. And whatever Tim said, he was trying to lay it on him, on
something he'd blathered about four years ago. He'd probably just been trying to knock some of the
green off Tim who'd been the most naive homicide cop he'd ever known. The Tim Bayliss who'd
started on the squad six years ago might as well have grown up in Podunk, Nebraska instead of a
lower-middle class neighborhood in Baltimore. Forget the fact he'd been on the SWAT team, was
a Class A marksman, and a clever, sharp-eyed detective; the aura of naivete surrounded him like the
cloud of dust around Charlie Brown's pal Pigpen.
The more Frank pondered, however, the more he wondered if Tim did perceive the
consequences. Maybe Tim was trying so hard to overcome his homophobia, he just didn't realize
how it might appear to other people. People who weren't quite as enlightened as his partner.
Frank nodded to himself, sure he'd figured it out. The best thing he could do was to gently
explain the situation to Tim. Let him understand that it wasn't necessary to go quite so far to prove
his lack of prejudice particularly when he was dealing with a man who openly had the hots for him.
Christ, Tim's tie was the last thing Rawls had been admiring.
Feeling better, Frank went in search of Tim and found him in the coffee room still poring over
the asinine comic book that he found yesterday.
Bayliss glanced up. "Hey Frank."
Frank sat down, steepling his hands in front of him, waiting to get Tim's full attention.
"Listen, this thing with Chris Rawls--"
"What thing is that?" Tim slapped the comic book on the table with the air of throwing down
Frank held his hands up, making a calming gesture. "I know there's nothing going on, but not
everyone . . . I mean there are some people who might think . . ." he trailed off, seeing by the
expression on Bayliss' face that he was treading on precarious ground.
Tim waited a moment, very obviously holding on to his temper by sheer force of will. "Chris
was a complete gentleman, Frank. If that's what you're asking."
Frank laughed uncomfortably. "Come on, that's not what--"
Something about Tim's feral smile shut Frank up. Tim leaned forward until they were almost
nose to nose and said in a soft but menacing voice, "Chris was a gentleman -- maybe I wasn't. Did
you ever think of that?"
Before Frank came up with any sort of reply, Tim grabbed his coffee mug and comic book
and disappeared into the squad room.
* * *
Tim was so furious, he didn't think twice about picking up the phone and dialing Chris'
number. He didn't stop to consider it was odd that he'd memorized it by heart.
"Tim! I was hoping you'd call."
"Just checking that we're still on for tonight."
"I'll start lining up the wines," Chris replied happily. "Are you off tomorrow?"
"Definitely. I need a break."
"Bad day at work?"
"Difficult co-workers. But I want to forget all that tonight."
"Sounds great. Eight again?"
"Let's make it seven."
Chris laughed. "Even better. I'll see you then."
"Yeah, see you. Bye." He hung up and stared at the phone, taking a deep, cleansing breath.
Even the sound of Chris' voice had created a reaction in the pit of his stomach. A tension. A good
tension, but tension nonetheless.
Last night at the Gallery with Laura, he had kept thinking of Chris. As he had looked at the
ceramic masks, it had occurred to him that Chris Rawls was the only person he knew who refused to
wear a disguise, who wasn't afraid to show his true face. It was discomforting to recognize that he,
himself, was more guilty than most.
It had been obvious that Laura had at least expected a good night kiss, and he had obliged with
a brotherly version, all the time wondering what it would be like to kiss Chris. Talk about masks.
Focused deeply on nothing, he jumped when Frank spoke at his elbow.
"Tim, I don't know what you're thinking--"
"Shut up while you're ahead, Frank."
Frank stared down at him for a second, then spun on his heels and walked away.
* * *
The food was just as good the second time, and the wines, as promised, were even better. As
was the camaraderie between them. Tim felt he could ask anything, even if he hadn't quite reached
the stage where he wanted to tell everything.
"Did you go to Larchfield Prep?" Tim asked suddenly.
Chris looked surprised, "Yes, why?"
Tim shook his head and laughed softly. "Nothing, it's just we might've been in school
together, if my family had been rich. Or if I'd been smarter. No, even that wouldn't have cut it,
because my cousin Jim couldn't get in and he was a hell of a lot smarter than me."
"Does it help to know I went through school with a permanent wedgie?"
Tim grinned, "Yeah, that helps."
"The Academy wasn't so great, trust me. At times it was sheer hell."
Hearing the inflection in Chris' voice, Tim asked, "Did you know you were gay even then?"
The smile evaporated and Chris looked away. "Oh yes, I knew."
"That must have been difficult. I mean, I can imagine how--"
"No, you can't," Chris interrupted darkly. "You don't have a clue."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to--"