It wasn’t like Tim hadn’t had friends before Tony. He’d always had friends, even when Jimmy was the only one. He’d never had a friend quite like Tony though.
It felt weird to call Tony his friend, even to himself. Tony was totally different from Tim; he was lazy and popular and kind of mean, but he was also loyal as hell and didn’t seem to have a problem hanging out a high school kid.
If Tim didn’t call Tony for a day or two, Tony was straight on the phone to him, asking when Tim’s car would be free to hang out.
Predictably, Tim’s parents weren’t pleased.
“You need to study,” his dad told Tim, a couple of times a day, “Annapolis won’t take slackers.”
Tim bit his tongue hard so he wouldn’t tell his dad that he was not a fucking slacker. He could have graduated high school with his eyes shut by now. The Annapolis thing, he wasn’t touching.
“It’s not like I’ve changed my mind,” Tim explained, lying on Tony’s bed and pontificating at his ceiling. “No one’s ever asked if I want to join the damn Navy.”
“And you don’t?” Tony was sitting at his desk, finishing up a paper. They were supposed to have been driving tonight but apparently Tony did occasionally have to do some work.
“I don’t.” Tim rolled over onto his stomach and sighed. “I got into Johns Hopkins,” he admitted. He hadn’t told anyone that yet. He probably wouldn’t have told Tony, if he’d thought Tony had been listening.
“Dude,” Tony said, spinning around in his chair. “Dude, that’s awesome. Congrats.” Apparently Tony was listening.
Tim grinned. He’d been fighting not to do a victory dance since the acceptance letter had arrived. “Thanks.”
“Right,” Tony shoved away from his desk. “I am done, done, done.” He glanced out the window where it was pouring with rain. “Want to stay in?”
“All right,” Tim agreed, wondering if that meant he should actually stay or was a nice way of telling him to go home.
Tony thumped his stereo, Usher blaring from the speakers. He threw himself down onto the bed next to Tim and oh, okay, apparently Tim was supposed to stay.
“You’re way too young to have to pick your future, anyway,” Tony told him, like that was that, Tony DiNozzo had spoken.
“What about your future?” Tim asked. Tony was graduating this summer and Tim had no idea what he planned to do after. Tim didn’t let himself think about how, if he went to Johns Hopkins, he’d been leaving behind every person he’d ever convinced to like him.
Tony shrugged, looking away. “Yeah, I don’t know. I want to do something worthwhile, you know? My dad’s kind of-.” He waved a hand. “We don’t really talk.”
Tim sat up and folded his legs in front of himself. “I can’t wait to be an adult,” he admitted.
Tony made a face. “It’s not that great.”
“Yeah,” Tim told him, laughing, “It’s cute that you think you’re adult.”
Tony made an incoherent sound, grabbing Tim by the shoulders and wrestling him down onto the bed. “You little punk,” he laughed, rolling on top of Tim and pinning him.
Now, Tim was wrestling champion for his school, he could easily have flipped Tony off. He wasn’t that good a person though; Tony’s thighs were solid and tight around Tim’s hips.
“Ha!” Tony scoffed. “Now who’s the man?”
Tim wasn’t sure who was the man. He was definitely something though, something that he really hoped Tony wouldn’t shift forward any and notice.
“You’re the man, Tony,” Tim told him deadpan. Sincerity apparently didn’t matter though because Tony let go of Tim long enough to pump his arms in the air in victory. Tim decided he should probably take the opportunity to flip him over.
“Huh,” Tony said, blinking up at Tim from his new place on the mattress. “Hey!”
Tim grinned down at him and told himself he didn’t miss the weight and heat of Tony on top of him at all. Tony’s window was open and Tim blamed that for why he shivered suddenly.
“Cold?” Tony asked with a really significant look at Tim’s chest.
“What?” Tim folded his arms defensively over his chest.
Tim grinned. ‘Those are mighty perky nipples you got there,” he said and actually reached up to poke.
“Tony,” Tim protested, feeling himself blush and swatting Tony’s finger away.
Tony sat up under him, grabbing Tim around the back of his neck to knuckle Tim’s hair. Tim squirmed but, while he was defending himself, Tony apparently grew another two hands because he managed to tweak Tim’s nipples.
Tim knew it was supposed to be fun, that it was a game; he’d seen how Tony’s frat brothers are together and he knew it was nothing more than that. That didn’t stop a noise (a deeply embarrassingly, deeply needy noise) from coming out of his throat.
Tony let go instantly. “Woah,” he said, holding up his hands, “Shit, sorry, that was kind of inappropriate, huh?”
“Yeah,” Tim agreed except what he wanted to say was no, no it was fine, great, please do it again because Tony’s hands on him had felt far too good.
Tony’s adams apple jumped as he swallowed nervously. Tim watched him lick his lips and it was way too much to resist.
He leaned in and kissed Tony, a firm press of his mouth against Tony’s. He felt like he was watching himself like some kind of out of body experience.
Then he stopped, rewound that moment and realised that, shit, it had actually happened.
“I’m sorry,” he said, immediately starting to scramble away.
“No,” Tony said, he caught Tim’s wrist and pulled him back down onto the bed before Tim had really found his feet. Tim landed awkwardly and fell half onto Tony. Tony was warm and solid and he wrapped one firm arm around Tim’s shoulders, drawing him close.
“Is this-?” Tim asked breathlessly, no idea what he was trying to say.
“Yeah,” Tony agreed and then his mouth was back on Tim’s, all soft lips and warm breath and Tim forgot to think for a little while.
Somehow, Tim’s t-shirt ended up rucked up under his armpits and Ton’s hands were on his shoulders, his chest, his hips. Tim tried to suck in his breath when Tony’s hands smoothed over his stomach but it turned out to be impossible to hold your breath and kiss at the same time so he gave up on that.
Tim gripped Tony’s shoulders, held on while Tony kissed his throat, the soft place just below his ears, making these soft little sounds in his throat like he was pleased about something; it made Tim feel wanted.
“Tony,” Tim groaned, asking for things he couldn’t even put into words, wanting Tony to never stop touching him. “Tony, please, I-.”
Nowhere in there did he say stop, but apparently that was what Tony heard because he pulled back, sitting up, dragging in huge breaths and looking down at Tim with dark, blown eyes. "No," he said slowly and Tim's heart sank. "No, fuck, okay, this is not good."
“Why?” Tim asked. He knew he sounded plaintive but he couldn’t help it. He didn’t mean why, he meant what? He meant what did I do wrong? but he managed not to be needy enough to say that out loud.
Tony scrubbed a hand through his hair and smiled insincerely at something in the middle distance, something that definitely wasn’t Tim. “We can’t,” he said.
Tim blinked, feeling frustrated, embarrassment licking at the edges. “Tony?” he asked, hating how young he sounded.
Tony stood up. “We can’t,” he repeated. He wasn’t even pretending to look at Tim now.
And okay, maybe Tim was kind of a high school looser but he wasn’t going to beg Tony to want him. “Whatever,” he snapped, hoping he sounded mad, not defensive and climbed off the bed. He was still hard and it ached to move, but he ignored that, walked to the end of the bed, tugging his shirt back down and toeing his shoes on in silence.
Tony touched his back hesitantly while Tim bent over to tighten his laces. "Hey," he said, "You don't have to go. We can, you know. Do something else."
"Something that's not making out," Tim clarified, making a face when Tony nodded. "Yeah, no. Thanks, but I've got things to do."
He had to fight not to let himself slam the front door as he left and pretended not to care that Tony didn’t come after him.
Tim spent the next day, hell the next week berating himself for being such an idiot. He really should have learned after the Cecile debacle that life was much, much better when his crushes stayed theoretical.
At school, he asked for and was given extra credit work in the computer science lab and he threw himself into that, writing and rewriting the programme, pulling it to pieces once he was sure it was as good as it could get, just to make it better still.
“Timmy,” Abby said one evening, appearing in the doorway. Tim didn’t know what time it was but it was late, the janitor had already arrived and swept around him.
“Hey, Abby,” Tim said without looking up. He’d known it was too good to be true that she hadn’t cornered him yet.
Abby came into the room and swung herself up to sit on the corner of his bench. She put sharp nails against the underside of his chin and tipped his head up. “Something happened and now you’re sad. Did you fight with your dad?”
“It’s nothing,” Tim said and then, “No, I didn’t fight with my dad,” because he had to give her something and he wasn’t talking about the fool he’d made of himself with Tony.
Abby sat in silence for a while, kicking her heels and watching him. “That doesn’t go there,” she said eventually, poking at the back of his hand. Tim sighed but moved over, giving her space so she could drag a second stool up to the bench.
“I’m not talking about it,” Tim told her.
Abby grabbed the mouse from his hands. He let her. “Fine,” she said, “I don’t care. Anyway, I came to talk to you about something totally different.”
“What?” Tim asked cautiously.
“Prom!” Abby said brightly, while Tim choked and spun to face her.
“No way,” he said. He held his hands up, trying to deflect what he’d just heard then realised that was one of Tony’s mannerisms and dropped his hands into his lap immediately.
“Come on,” Abby said, leaning forward to give him her best pleading eyes. “Please, Tim?”
“Why would I want to go?” He’d known he wasn’t going to a prom since he’d known what one was.
She put her foot on his chair and spun him a little until he stopped himself with a hand against the side of the desk. “Because I want to go,” she told him. “And you want to come with me.”
“Why do you want to go?” Proms really weren’t Abby’s thing either.
Abby shrugged. “I think it’d be fun. And it’s our last chance.” She looked about ten seconds from fluttering her eyelashes. Tim knew it was hopeless; he couldn’t resist Abby when she really wanted something.
“Fine,” he said, bracing himself against the bench just in time when she launched herself on him. Oh well, he thought, at least it would be something else to distract himself with.
When Tim got home that evening, there was a message scribbled by the phone in his mom’s sloping handwriting.
Tim – Tony called.
Tim stared at it for endless moments then picked up the note and slowly, carefully crushed it in his fist. Every time he closed his eyes, he could still picture Tony’s face closing down, the way he’d backed away from kissing Tim and hadn’t been able to look him in the eye.
Tim didn’t want to call Tony and have to listen to Tony tell him he wasn’t interested too.
Tim’s mom was delighted that he and Abby were going to prom together. No, really, delighted.
“Mom, Abby and I aren’t dating,” Tim told her for the hundredth time while struggling into his tux. It wasn’t even rented; the combination of Tim voluntarily going to a social function and having a ‘date’ for it was apparently enough to warrant his parents buying him his own tux.
His mom just snapped another picture.
“Can I do your hair?” Sarah asked, appearing in Tim’s bedroom doorway as soon as their mom had hurried off to find more film for the camera.
“No,” Tim said firmly, giving her his I mean it face in the mirror. She was wearing her pajamas but had Tim’s discarded cummerbund tied firmly around her waist. Tim did not think she was cute.
“Please?” She wandered into his room and climbed up to bounce on the bed. “You don’t want to look like a dork for Abby, do you?”
“I’m not dating Abby,” Tim said tiredly. He was seriously thinking about getting it tattooed on his head.
“Well, duh,” Sarah said, landing on her butt with an extra big bounce. “You’re dating that boy you talk to on the phone.”
Tim dropped the comb he’d been futzing with and spun around, mouth open. “I-. No. What?”
Sarah just looked at him. It was really unfair how his six year old sister had a better cool face than he did. “I didn’t tell anyone,” she said like that was the important part.
“I’m not-.” Tim had managed not to think about Tony for at least the last hour. It was surprising how much it hurt to think about him again. “I’m not dating him either.”
“Right,” said Sarah, obviously not believing him. She reached out towards Tim’s head. “Let me do your hair.”
Because it was easier than explaining all the ways that Tony really was not his boyfriend, Tim sighed and knelt on the floor so she could reach his hair.
“Wow, Tim, you look hot,” was the first thing Abby said after she’d flung her front door open.
Tim didn’t say a word, too busy being tongue-tied because wow, no, he was not the one who looked hot. All the time he’d known Abby, she’d worn heavy-duty boots and clothes in various shades of dark. Even in the summer, she wore black.
Tonight she was wearing a white low cut Marilyn Monroe dress with a floaty skirt and her hair hanging in soft ringlets. She looked like a whole new girl. Not a better girl, obviously, because there was no better girl than Abby, but she looked like a stranger and Tim wasn’t sure how to speak to her.
“Timmy?” Abby clicked her fingers in front of his face. “Is it the breasts? Have I blinded you?”
Tim cleared his throat and managed to find words. “You look nice,” he mumbled, which was the understatement of the decade. He remembered he was holding a corsage and thrust it at her sort of awkwardly. “Here.”
Abby laughed. “Why thank you,” she said, and offered her wrist for him to fasten it.
Abby’s mom signed that she wanted one more photo before they left and Tim awkwardly agreed, standing at the foot of the stairs while Abby stood a couple of steps higher and wrapped her arms around him from behind.
“Smile, Timmy,” she ordered after her mom signed something else.
Tim tried to oblige, but he thought it probably looked more like a grimace.
“Timmy?” Abby asked once she’d pulled up outside school. She reached across for him and pulled him into a hug. “I know you don’t want to talk about it, but it’s going to be okay, all right?”
Tim nodded. How had he ever thought that a new dress made her anyone but his Abby? Her hair smelled familiar, Abby-like and he thought it might be okay to hide his face in it for a little while longer.
They did eventually have to get out of the car and Abby tucked her hand through Tim’s arm, making it look like he was walking her inside, when really she was dragging him.
“This is hell,” he muttered, as soon as they were in the hall, looking up and up at all the taffeta and lace. Blue lace, pink lace, it was like Cinderella had exploded all over this place.
Abby turned around and beamed at him. “I know, right? Isn’t it epic?” She leaned forward on her toes suddenly, waving across the room. “Jimmy!”
“Hey, guys,” Jimmy said, materialising in front of them, looking just as awkward and out of place as Tim felt. He was beaming though.
“What are you doing here?” Tim asked. Jimmy was a sophomore; he shouldn’t be here.
“Oh, well.” Jimmy bounced his feet, bashful but pleased all at once. “Michelle invited me.”
“Michelle?” Tim asked, at the same time that Abby said, “Michelle Lee?”
Jimmy went red but he waved his hands suddenly like he’d thought of something even more amazing than Michelle Lee who he’d had a crush on forever inviting him to prom. “I spoke to Dr. Mallard today,” he said, letting it out all in one breath like he’d been dying to say it for hours now.
“Dr. Mallard in Scotland?” Tim asked.
Jimmy just smiled wider. “He called me. I emailed him about his latest article and apparently I have interesting ideas. He asked if I’d thought about going to Edinburgh for med school.”
“That’s great, Jimmy,” Tim said while Abby hugged Jimmy until he squeaked.
“Yeah,” Tim echoed and tried not to feel jealous that Jimmy had another two years before he had to break his life plans to his parents.
Overall, the prom was fine. It… happened. And eventually it ended. Tim wasn’t really in the mood, but then he hadn’t expected to be. What mattered was that Abby had a great time. He watched her dance with Jimmy and various teachers, danced with her himself a couple of times and helped her stick sad face stickers on the backs of the people she didn’t like and smiley faces on the backs of people she did. Prom was worth it for that.
Afterwards, when people started to filter out to after parties and Michelle Lee had dragged off a stunned but delighted looking Jimmy, Tim and Abby sat on the hood of her hearse and kicked their heels.
“I’m going to miss you,” Abby said, resting her head on Tim’s shoulder with a sigh.
He’d already given her his jacket but now he wrapped an arm around her too, giving her a hug. “Yes,” he agreed then thought that might not be an effusive enough response. “I’ll miss you too.”
Abby laughed. “Wow, Tim, don’t overdo it,” she said, but snuggled closer all the same.
After a while longer of sitting together, staring up at the sky, Abby sat up and folded her arms. “Okay, you’re going to tell me what’s up with you now,” she said firmly.
Tim knew it was no good really trying to argue with Abby so he prevaricated for a bit instead.
She just looked unimpressed. “You’re not okay,” she said, like that was his fault and he’d be fine once he told her about it.
“Yeah,” Tim said, shaking his head. “No.” He wasn’t any good at lying to Abby.
“You had a fight with Tony,” Abby said and Tim gaped at her. She made a face. “Oh come on, that was an easy one. I didn’t even have to use my Special Powers of Abby Awesome to work that one out. You spent a couple of months talking about him all the time and now you haven’t mentioned him for days. What happened?”
Tim blew out a breath. “He kissed me,” he said quietly, “Or maybe I kissed him?”
“Tim!” Abby said, and he thought for a minute that he’d really shocked her. Then she started smacking his arm. Hard. “And you freaked out? How could you? Tony’s so into you.”
“How do you know? You’ve never met him. And no,” Tim said, backing up hurriedly, “No, I didn’t freak out; he did. And ow. And what, no, Tony’s not into me. And, also, ow.”
Abby stopped hitting him, frowning instead. “What are you talking about? Of course he’s into you. Why else would he hang out with you so much? But he freaked out when you kissed him?”
Tim shrugged, still embarrassed by the whole thing. “We were, you know.” He made a hand movement, realised that that meant something totally different, and sat on his hands. “We were making out and suddenly he said he didn’t want to.”
“Huh,” Abby said, frowning.
Exactly! Tim thought, feeling vindicated. “Exactly,” he said.
“It is.” It really was. Tim was sure that Tony had been into the kissing and then suddenly he… hadn’t been. And Tim hadn’t realised how disappointed he was going to be about that until it had happened.
“We need to go see him. There has to be more to it than that,” Abby said determinedly and what? No, no, absolutely not.
“Abby, no,” Tim said but she was already climbing into the driver’s seat and god, oh god, this was going to be embarrassing.
It started to rain on the way to Berkeley - of course it did, it wouldn’t have been a Lifetime movie dénouement without a little rain – and by the time they pulled up outside Tony’s frat house, Tim was beginning to wish he’d lied and told Abby that Tony lived somewhere completely different.
Abby all but shoved Tim out of the car and sat with the passenger door open, watching while he ducked under the front porch and rang the doorbell.
For a frat house at midnight, it was really dark and quiet.
Eventually, some guy Tim didn’t recognise flung the door open and waved Tim in before wondering off, scratching his ass and closing the TV room door on Tim.
Tim blinked. He turned around and raised his eyebrows at Abby. She signed something at him which he didn’t understand but he guessed was either encouragement or a death threat, so he pushed the front door closed and made his way upstairs.
It was quiet up here too, but there was a light shining from under Tony’s bedroom door. Tim swallowed hard then told himself not to be such a coward.
“Yup!” Tony yelled when Tim knocked and Tim knew that that meant he should open the door, that Tony had given him permission to open the door. Except Tony hadn’t given Tim permission, he’d given it to his anonymous doorknocker and Tim was suddenly frozen because what if Tony didn’t want to see him?
The door flew open and “What?” died half way out of Tony’s lips. “Tim,” he said, not Frosh, not McGee, not McAnything, just Tim’s name.
“Hi,” Tim said with an awkward little wave that he immediately hated himself for.
Tony stuffed his hands in his pockets, rocking a little on his toes. “What are you doing here?”
That was a good question, Tim thought. “Wishing I was somewhere else?” Tim said and relaxed a little when Tony smiled.
“Yeah, I guess you’d better come in,” he said and stood back to let Tim move past him into the room. Tim was careful not to let his arm brush Tony’s chest. He wasn’t sure how either of them would take that.
“Is this the part where we talk?” Tony asked after he’d closed the door. He sounded like he was trying to be flippant but it wasn’t quite working.
“Yes?” Tim said. He had no idea. He wished he’d brought Abby in with him.
“Look,” Tony said then trailed off. He rubbed the back of his neck, a nervous habit that Tim had only seen before when he was talking about his exams or his father.
“I’m sorry about the kissing thing,” Tim said. There, he’d acknowledged it.
Tony’s eyebrows shot up. “You’re sorry?”
“Yes,” Tim said then, “No. Not really.” He wasn’t sorry about the kissing. He was sorry he’d freaked Tony out though.
Tony sighed once Tim had told him that. “Crap,” he said, sitting down on his bed. He jerked his chin and Tim followed him, sitting on the same edge of the mattress but at a respectable distance away. “You didn’t freak me out with the kissing.” His lips quirked. “You think you’re the first person to kiss me or something?”
Tim rolled his eyes. “Yeah, Tony, that’s what I think.” His sarcasm didn’t really take him anywhere though and he trailed off, rubbing his palms over his suit pants where they stretched across his thighs. “So what?”
Tony was quiet for so long that Tim didn’t think he was going to get an answer. “I guess I like you?” Tony admitted at last.
Tim felt his heart try to soar but he told it to quit that. There was no way there wasn’t a but coming.
“But.” There it was. “You’re really young, McGee. A regular McJailbait.”
Tim couldn’t help it; he made a face. “I’m not that much younger than you.” He wasn’t. In ten years time, five years would be nothing. “Besides, I’m way more mature.”
Tony laughed sharply, some of the missing spark returning to his eyes. Tim was pleased he’d done that at least. “That’s debatable,” he said. Tim chose to believe he wasn’t really disagreeing.
Feeling ridiculously buoyed by Tony’s smile, Tim put his hand on Tony’s wrist. “You like me?” he asked, just to check. “I like you.” Those words were way scarier than they should have been.
Tony didn’t throw Tim’s hand off, which Tim chose to take as a good sign. “It’s not that easy.”
“Why not?” Tim asked, lifting his chin. He could be just as stubborn as Tony; just watch him.
Tony’s other hand lifted, his thumb stroking the back of Tim’s hand, both of them watching it like neither of them were controlling it. “I’m not the guy you think I am,” Tony said, his voice gone quiet, serious. “I’m not that good a guy.”
“Tony,” Tim protested.
Tony waved him quiet. “No, listen. Wait ‘til you get to college, okay? You can have your pick of guys or girls or whatever. None of them will be as hot as me, obviously, but they’ll probably be better for you.”
“Everyone always tries to tell me what’s good for me,” Tim said because it was better than the instinctive reply he wanted to give, that Tony was the guy he wanted, no one else. He wasn’t feeling brave enough to put himself out there quite that much. “I think you’re a better guy that you think you are.”
Tony opened his mouth – presumably to argue, but Tim shook his head. He made himself laugh a little, like he was surer about this than he felt. “It’s not like I’m saying I want to be soul mates or whatever. I can always dump your ass if you’re a sucky boyfriend, right?”
“Don’t say boyfriend, Frosh,” Tony said, sounding pained. He was smiling though and Tim thought he might have gotten somewhere.
“Can I kiss you?” he asked and hoped he was letting on just how important Tony’s answer was.
Tony laughed again, the last bit of strain leaving his face. “I’m pretty sure I should be asking you that.”
Tim raised his eyebrows. “So ask.”
“Tim,” Tony said but then he didn’t ask, he just kissed and that was fine with Tim. Tony’s hands curled tight in the collar of Tim’s shirt, reeling him in and keeping him there, their lips smushed hard together like maybe Tim wasn’t the only one who’d been stupidly lonely these last couple of days.
Experimentally, Tim licked Tony’s bottom lip and Tony drew back a little, sucking in a gasp.
“Was that-?” Tim started to ask but Tony was kissing him again before he could check whether it had been okay, which Tim took as evidence that it had. Tony tilted his head a little, lining their mouths up, both sets of their lips slightly parted.
It wasn’t Tim’s first kiss, that had been the disaster from the other day, but it was his second and Tim could already see why people did this over and over again. Already he was feeling kind of lost, drunk on Tony’s mouth, but a good kind of drunk, one that he didn’t want to end.
Eventually, the kiss broke naturally and Tony paused to straighten Tim’s collar rather than pulling all the way back. “You look awesome,” he told him, looking Tim up and down and smiling a smile that made Tim’s blood feel hot.
Tim shrugged awkwardly. “Prom,” he said.
Tony’s eyebrows shot up. “You skipped prom for me?” he asked, sounding impressed.
“No, because this is not a teen drama,” Tim told him, maybe a little snappishly. “I went to prom, then I came here.” He didn’t tell Tony that he would happily have skipped prom if that had been what he’d needed to do to get Tony to kiss him. Then he remembered Abby.
“What?” Tony asked when Tim swore, but Tim waved him quiet, hurrying to the window to lean out. The hearse was still sitting on the street.
“Is that a hearse?” Tony asked, pressing up against Tim to see what he was looking at.
Tim reached back and found the first thing on Tony’s bed that would work, an old rubber ball. It bounced off the roof of the hearse with a really unexpectedly loud thump and it only took a second for Abby to appear out of the sky light, looking up at him in alarm while rain poured down onto her, soaking her dress.
“Wow, who’s your friend?” Tony asked.
He sounded far too appreciative, so Tim ignored him.
“Timothy,” Abby shouted, “I thought someone was shooting at me!”
“Sorry,” Tim called back.
“Hi,” Tony added, leaning out until there was rain soaking his collar. “I’m Tony.”
Abby waved, frowning from him to Tim and back. “Good,” she said seriously, “Are you done upsetting Tim?”
“Oh god,” Tim muttered, covering his face with his hands.
“I am,” Tony told her and he sounded like he was laughing at her but he always sounded like he was laughing at everyone. Underneath it, he sounded serious.
Tim risked a quick look at him. He looked serious, too.
“Good,” Abby said again. “Tim, do you need to me stay?” and Tim knew that she’d stay all night if he asked her too; he was really glad he had her as a friend.
“You can go,” Tony said. His arm had somehow found its way around Tim’s waist, squeezing and stroking his hip. “Right, Tim?”
“I, um, yes?” Tim stammered, completely distracted by Tony’s hand on him. Abby beamed at them, making the shape of a heart with her hands, before disappearing back into the car.
She drove off a minute later and Tim watched until she was gone, then he ducked back into the room and closed the window.
He didn’t realise that his hair was wet until Tony’s hands slid through it.
“Sticky,” Tony said, stroking Tim’s temples with his thumbs. “How much product did you use?”
“Not that much,” Tim told him defensively, but then it didn’t matter because Tony was kissing him again. It was ridiculous how that was enough to make Tim relax.
“Sorry,” Tony said when they were sitting on the bed again, Tony’s chin on Tim’s shoulder. “I kind of sent away your ride, huh?”
Tim shrugged. “I can get a cab,” he said, because as awesome as this was, he thought that maybe if he stayed and if they slept together too soon it might make Tony freak out about again.
Tony nodded. “I’ll get you one,” he promised. He stroked his hand up Tim’s arm to the open V of his shirt. “You should have a bowtie,” he murmured and, “You don’t want to go yet, right?”
“I don’t want to go yet,” Tim agreed and tipped his head back to give Tony more room when Tony pressed his mouth to the place where Tim’s hypothetical bowtie should have been.
Tim woke up with sunlight burning his eyelids and a crick in his neck.
Blearily, he groped out toward where he expected his bedside clock to be, except it wasn’t; his bedside table wasn’t there either and he ended up smacking something soft but not particularly yielding instead.
What the hell? he thought finally getting his eyes to focus and oh, okay, that would explain it; he wasn’t in his bedroom. He wasn’t even in bed. He was lying on top of the comforter, Tony’s arm around his shoulders and his head on Tony’s chest.
Humming sleepily, he settled back down. This was definitely a good way to wake up. He remembered swapping kisses long into the night until Tony’s lips had been swollen red and his own hadn’t felt any better, he remembered getting sleepy and Tony laughing at him, lying down with him and promising not to let him sleep too long and he remembered knowing that that wouldn’t happen, that Tony was on the brink of sleep too and not caring. It wasn’t until right now that he remembered that he hadn’t called home. Crap, he was going to be in so much trouble.
With a reluctant groan, Tim carefully untangled himself from Tony and rolled out of bed. He was still dressed, right down to his dress shirt but one glance in the bathroom mirror showed that he looked a rumbled mess. He tried to comb his fingers through his hair but it was pretty much a lost cause.
Back in the bedroom, Tony’s head had tipped back against the headboard and he was snoring softly. “Hey,” Tim said, kneeling by Tony’s side of the bed. “Hey, I’ve got to go.”
Tony’s eyes fluttered open, soft green and smiling at Tim. “Hey,” he said, reaching out clumsily. His fingers hit Tim’s collar and he frowned. “You’re going.”
“I’ve got to.” Tim really didn’t want to. “My parents are going to kill me of staying out all night.”
“Yeah, okay,” Tony struggled to sit up. “Give me a minute and I’ll walk you to the bus stop.”
Tim smiled. “You don’t have to-.”
Tony held up a hand. “Uhuh, Frosh, you spend a night with me, you get a proper morning after experience.” His smile turned wicked. “So to speak of course.”
Sneaking home at ten o’clock in the morning was actually more fun than Tim had anticipated. He waved at Mrs. Crosby who was tending her garden then jogged up to his front door.
Okay, maybe Abby had had a point about Tim having bounce.
“Where were you?” Sarah whispered from the foot of the stairs when Tim let himself in. She pointed toward the living room and put her finger to her lips.
Tim can’t control his smile. “Can you keep a secret?” he asked. Sarah nodded even though they both knew she really couldn’t. Tim didn’t care; he was going to have to tell him parents eventually and he wasn’t ashamed. “I was with my friend, that boy I talk to on the phone.”
Sarah grinned. “He is your boyfriend,” she said, like she’d never doubted it.
Tim ducked his head. “Yeah, maybe,” he said, and grinned when she giggled, putting a finger to his lips.
Sarah’s expression went wicked. “Mom!” she yelled, laughing at him and Tim had no other option; he had to grab her and give her the world’s biggest noogie.
She was dangling upside down over Tim’s lap, gone silent with convulsive laughter by the time their mom reached them.
“Timothy,” she said, hands on her hips. Reluctantly, Tim set Sarah back onto her feet and prodded her toward the kitchen.
They both waited for Sarah to disappear from sight before Tim’s mom arched her eyebrows at him. “I know it was prom night, Tim, but I always thought you were my sensible boy.”
“Yeah,” Tim said, drawing his shoulders up, “I’m really sorry I didn’t call.”
His mom waved that away. “With the state Abby said you were in, I think I’m glad you didn’t try. Honestly, you know the punch is always spiked at these things.”
“I-. Abby?” Tim asked cautiously.
For the first time, his mom’s lips twitched. Tim suspected that he was missing something important. And that he might not be in the same level of trouble as he’d been expecting. “She called me once she’d put you to bed. You’re lucky to have a friend like her.”
‘’I’m. Yes.” Tim needed to do something big for Abby, like go to the next Plastic Death concert she invited him to. “Sorry, mom.”
“Oh, go sleep it off,” his mom said and she was definitely trying not to smile now.
Upstairs, Tim dived under the comforter, phone already in hand to call Abby. “Thank you,” he said when she answered.
The noise she made wasn’t entirely human, but the, “Oh my god, Tim, I want details,” definitely was.
Having a boyfriend was kind of weird. Not that Tim was allowed to use the word ‘boyfriend’ because it made Tony go strange and call him stupid nicknames in random accents until Tim was laughing and complete forgot what he’d been saying.
It was a bad weird though; it was a really good one. Especially when they spent a lot of their time inducting Tim in what Tony called ‘the ways of the passion’ and everyone else just called sex.
Tony had just finished his last exam so they’d been indulging in some of those ways of passion all afternoon, which meant that Tim was late home to dinner.
“Were you with your boyfriend?” Sarah asked after he skidded in late to the dinner table, her voice a teasing sing-song. Tim’s heart stopped. Sarah’s eyes went wide and she slapped a hand over her mouth, looking so genuinely upset that he knew she hadn’t done it deliberately.
“It’s okay,” Tim told her quietly. “It’s fine.”
“Timothy?” his dad asked, putting down his knife and looking up. “What does she mean by that?”
It would have been so easy to lie. His dad trusted him; he’d believe that Sarah was just being a brat, but lying about Tony felt like all kinds of wrong.
“She means was I with my boyfriend,” Tim told him, tipping his chin up. “I was.”
Tim’s dad was career Navy, he knew how not to react to bad news. It didn’t occur to Tim that his dad will take this as anything but the worst possible news.
His dad though, he didn’t say anything for a minute, then all he did say was, “What about the Navy?” And it wasn’t like Tim had expected his dad would scream at him or anything, but he’d sort of expected more of a reaction. Maybe he just wasn’t surprised.
This shouldn’t have been harder to say than coming out was, but it was. “I’m not going into the Navy,” Tim told him. “I applied to Johns Hopkins for Biomedical Engineering and they accepted me. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Tim’s dad’s fork joined his knife on his plate with a clatter. Tim’s mom put down her glass with a thud. Sarah’s hand slipped into Tim’s.
“I see,” his dad said. He stood up. “Excuse me.”
Tim watched him go, feeling helpless, but not wanting to take it back.
“He didn’t disown you, right?” Tony asked. They were sharing a slushee at the diner, Jimmy and Abby and Michelle crammed together on the other side of the table.
“What, no.” Tim said. He made himself smile. “People don’t actually do that, Tony.”
“Yeah,” Tony muttered, looking away.
“So what happened?” Abby asked.
Tim shrugged. “He just went really quiet. The rest of the evening was pretty awkward but he didn’t yell. He’s just… disappointed, I guess.” Tim hated that he’d done that, that he’d disappointed his dad. Under the table, Tony squeezed his knee.
“He’ll get over it,” Abby promised him. “Your dad loves you. Right, Jimmy?” She elbowed him hard in the arm.
“What?” Jimmy jumped. He’d pretty much done nothing but stare at Michelle since they’d sat down. “Oh, right.”
Tony knocked his knee against Tim’s. “Can I borrow you a minute, Frosh?”
“Sure?” Confused, Tim followed Tony out of their booth and outside into the California summer sun.
“Tony?” Tim asked. He was pretty sure Tony was not about to break up with him but, still, he couldn’t help being a little apprehensive.
Tony pulled Tim down so they were sitting on a far wall, sunlight spilling over them. Tim squinted then laughed when Tony produced some shades, sliding them up Tim’s nose. He squeezed Tim’s shoulder after, then tripped his fingers down Tim’s arm, ending with his hand curled around Tim’s wrist.
“So,” Tony said, “Baltimore. That’s interesting.”
“Interesting?” Tim echoed. “What does that mean?”
Tony shrugged. “Nothing. Just that I happen to have here something that might be interesting to you.” He pulled out a few sheaves of paper from his pocket and handed them to Tim.
Quickly, Tim skim read the pages then stopped, went back, read them again. “Baltimore Police Academy?” he read, voice rising in disbelief at the end there. He dropped the papers into his lap. “Tony, what did you do?”
“I told you,” Tony said, “I was looking for something meaningful to do and what’s more meaningful than being a cop?”
Tim could see it actually, not Tony as a beat cop, but a slick detective in a really cool suit, yeah, he could see that. “But Baltimore?” he asked.
This time, Tony looked away. “Got to do it somewhere, right? And California was getting boring.”
“You love California,” Tim said before he could think better of it. He knew what Tony was doing here, knew this was a way bigger gesture than anyone had ever done for him before.
Tony tipped his head, looking at Tim over the top of his sunglasses. “I just might,” he agreed and Tim had a moment of insane lightheadedness where he suspected that Tony might not actually be talking about California at all.
Epilogue: September – Johns Hopkins, Baltimore
Tim had a red plastic cup in his hand and the beginnings of a nice, comfortable buzz going on. He’d been in college for two whole weeks now; he was starting to learn how to drink.
“Hey, so Tim, right?” a guy Tim had definitely never met before leaned his hand against the wall by Tim’s head.
“Yeah?” Tim asked cautiously. People kept hitting on him here; it was weird. Apparently geek was sexy in college.
“I’m Craig, I’m in your geometry class.”
“Oh, hey, man,” Tim said, trying not to sound too encouraging. He finished his drink and waved it awkwardly in Craig’s face. “I’m just going to-.”
“Hey, I’ll come with. I’m out, too.”
“Right,” Tim agreed. There was no harm in being friendly. College was cool but it was also huge and full of people; Abby and Jimmy had never felt so far.
Before he could get to the keg though, someone else was catching his wrist and wow, this was getting ridiculous.
He turned around, wondering where he could find a sign that said thanks, but I have a boyfriend, but instead of another guy or girl from one of his classes, it was his actual boyfriend.
“Hey,” he said, forgetting all about the keg or anything else.
Tony grinned. “Hey, college kid.”
“Hey, creepy older guy,” Tim said, feeling himself gravitate toward Tony in a really embarrassingly obvious way.
Tony laughed. He reached out and fingered the collar of Tim’s leather jacket. “Looking good, McFashionable.”
Tim could easily have said the same thing. The Academy had made Tony cut his hair above his ears, out of his eyes and he’d stopped using product. Every time Tim saw him lately, he was grinning wider. Apparently the Academy had been the right choice for him.
Tim felt brave all of a sudden. He had no interest in staying in the closet; if he couldn’t be open in college, where could he be? He tugged his sleeve from between Tony’s fingers and put his hand in Tony’s instead.
“Hey,” he said again and kissed him. Over Tony’s shoulder, he caught Craig watching them. He didn’t seem mad, just raised his cup to Tim like he approved of Tim’s taste. Tim grinned then turned that grin on Tony. “Drive me home?” he asked.
“Hmm, I don’t know.” Tony took the empty - empty, it was totally empty - cup from Tim and chucked it somewhere over his shoulder. “Not sure I let drunken freshman in my ride.”
“Jerk,” Tim said, slapping him on the shoulder with the back of one hand, “That’s my ride. Car,” - it had to be ‘car’; Tim couldn’t pull off ‘ride’ - “That’s my car.”
“Yeah.” Tony jiggled the keys, bouncing them from hand to hand, once, twice, before shoving them back in his pocket and taking hold of Tim’s wrist instead. Tim thought about making a token protest but he really didn’t mind being led wherever Tony wanted him to go. “We’ll see about that.”
Thank you for reading. All feedback gleefully received ♥