The first time Kelly goes back west without him, Nick finds himself surprisingly – shockingly – lost.
It’s not like he’s never lived alone; it’s not even like he and Kelly hadn’t been doing the long-distance thing before they’d finally settled down, half the year in Colorado, the other half in Massachusetts. But really living together, sharing the same space all the time – it’s not until Kelly’s gone, helping the camp out with their yearly wilderness trek, that Nick realizes that his world has kind of constricted to just him and Kelly and not much else. The realization nags at him, especially at night, when he lies in their cold bed alone, unable to sleep.
Now it’s three nights in and Nick’s getting better but still not really sleeping, still not really settled. He’s got the game on, but the Sox are losing, badly, bad enough that he flips over to ESPN to check the other scores. The Monday night game of the week is the Yankees but they’re playing the Orioles; in Baltimore, Nick notices immediately, the shape of Camden Yards distinct in the takeaway shots.
Nick pauses, drops the remote to his lap.
He looks up at the wall, at the collage of Sidewinder pictures there, his focus coming to rest on one of the newest additions: him and Ty on Opening Day at Fenway, right before their Eli trip. Ty may have only been there because of a fight with Kelly, but Nick can’t help but remember the visit fondly, because it’s that visit that rekindled his hope that he and Ty could – would – find their friendship again, that natural, unquestioned bond between them that had been almost lost for so many years.
He drums a finger against his lip. It had been a while since he’d seen Ty. And with Kelly gone…
The remote clatters to the table as he jumps up to pack.
He lucks out; the roads are clear, even in the city, and he finds a parking spot with relative ease. Baltimore is balmy and bright, and Nick hits the cobblestone streets of Fells Point in just a t-shirt and jeans, smiling when he sees the bookstore sign swaying in the light breeze.
The store is busy but he’s greeted immediately by a deep voice from below the counter. “Welcome to Brick and Mortar,” it calls as he rises, “how can I – oh, shit!”
“Nice to see you too, Garrett,” Nick laughs, and Zane smiles apologetically to a nearby group of old ladies as he drops his handful of paperbacks and flies around the counter.
“Nick, holy shit.” Zane pulls him into a tight hug, grinning as he slaps a broad hand against his back. “It’s good to see you, man. But what the hell are you doing here?”
Nick shrugs. Now that he’s here, there’s a tiny part of him suddenly worried that he’s dropped himself into their lives without warning. “Kelly’s out west. Got bored, decided to cruise on down and bother you two.”
Zane’s grin grows even wider. “Oh, man, Ty is gonna flip, you don’t even know,” he exclaims, and Nick breathes out in happy relief. Zane flicks his gaze towards the back of the store. “We got a…delivery last night,” he says lowly, and Nick feels a spark of adrenaline. “Ty’s down there now sorting it out.”
“Am I allowed to join him?” he asks, and Zane snorts.
“Allowed? No. But what you do when I’m helping a customer…” He shrugs. “I mean, you could get lost on the way to the bathroom and I’d never know.”
“Totally legitimate,” Nick agrees, gives Zane’s shoulder a smack before he makes for the back of the store, finding his way into the tiny elevator that takes him down below to the cool, quiet basement. It’s not the first time he’s been there since they rebuilt but it’s still a little eerie, still makes him think of smoke and gunpowder and crumbling concrete.
Somewhere deep down the hall, Ty’s voice carries, clear but calm, a counterpoint to the animated yelling of whatever baby agent the Company has sent to them. A light flicks on the security panel; it must alert Ty to a new body, because his voice gets louder as he yells, “Lone Star?”
“Jehovah’s Witness,” Nick calls back. “Do you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?”
There’s a thump – Ty dropping the agent, or maybe himself, out of a chair – and then the door flies open and he’s there, wild-eyed in shock. “Irish?” he yelps as the door slams behind him. Nick grins.
“Irish!” Ty yells, and then he’s body-slamming Nick into a giant hug. Nick stumbles but keeps his feet as he laughs and hugs Ty back.
“Shit, man,” he says, and breathes deep. Ty smells like Old Spice and motor oil and Ty. “It’s good to see you.”
“So good,” Ty responds, his voice muffled against Nick’s shoulder. “But what are you doing here?”
“Kelly’s out west with the camp,” he says, and Ty makes a little oh, yeah noise. “And I thought – why not drive on down. See if you wanted to hang out for a couple days or something." He grins. "O's have a day game today.”
“Fuck, yes,” Ty cries. He finally releases Nick, starts patting his pockets down. “Just lemme get my stuff and we’ll take off.”
Nick blinks. “Uh, Ty?”
“Zane can call in Janie, she helps on the weekends,” Ty says as he pulls his wallet out a desk drawer and stuffs it in his back pocket. “He’ll be fine.”
“Tyler,” Nick says, louder, and Ty finally stops. “Baby agent?” Nick asks. Ty glances down the hall, then scoffs.
“He’s not going anywhere,” he says dismissively. “He’s fine.”
“I am not fine,” the voice screeches through the barred window in the door.
“You’ve got water and a blanket and a pot to piss in,” Ty hollers back. “Trust me, you’re fine.”
“Goddamnit, you can’t just leave me –”
“I’ll ask my partner to come check on you in a while, if I happen to see him,” Ty calls. Nick presses his hand to his mouth, tries not to laugh. The agent squawks his dissent but Ty just grins at Nick, waves a hand towards the elevator. “Shall we?”
“So this is what the CIA pays for you for,” Nick says in response, shaking his head. Ty gives that you can take it or you can’t shrug he used to give the new recruits.
“They love it,” he counters as he weaves them through the stockroom and into the stacks. “Saves them on all sort of psychological testing.”
Up front, Zane is ringing up a mousy-looking teen, and her eyes go wide when she sees them, grinning stupidly, arms slung over each other’s shoulders. “I see you found the bathroom,” Zane says innocently.
“Found something,” Nick says, jabbing his thumb towards Ty. Zane snorts.
“Listen, Zane –”
“Jane’ll be here in a few minutes. If you hurry for the ferry, you can probably still catch the first pitch.”
“Fuck, I love you,” Ty breathes, yanks Zane down into a loud, wet kiss. “Have I told you lately that you’re the most wonderful husband in the world?”
“Never hurts to hear it again,” Zane says dryly, and smacks Ty on the ass. “Now go.”
“You’re the best, Garrett,” Nick calls over his shoulder as Ty drags him out of the store. “We’ll think of you from the cheap seats!”
“Bring me back some food,” Zane yells back, and Nick flashes him a thumbs up.
They miss the first to the concession lines but are in their seats by the bottom of the second, surrounded by cardboard food trays and oversized drinks. The crowd is sparse but rowdy for a weekday day game; the Orioles are on a streak and their fans are ready to taunt the Yankees at every opportunity. The stadium itself is intimate, deliberately modelled after the older stadiums like Fenway, and Nick finds himself feeling remarkably at home.
“I can’t fucking believe this,” Ty says, and when Nick looks up, he finds Ty grinning over at him. “You don’t know how happy I am right now, man.”
Nick feels himself blush a little, not because he’s embarrassed, but because he’s relieved that Ty feels the same way he does. “Me too, Six,” he says. It’s been so long since he’s felt this way with Ty, open and unguarded, and he realizes it might be the first time neither of them has to worry about tripping on the secrets between them. They’ve finally cleaned them all away. “I’m glad I did this. I’m glad…” He looks away at the field for a few seconds before he turns back to Ty. “I’m glad we can do this again.”
Ty nods solemnly, his eyes just the slightly bit wet. He blinks it away, then grins, and holds out a tray. “Hot dog?” he offers, and Nick laughs.
“Fuck that. Gimme that pulled pork sandwich I know you got hidden away.”
“Oh, I ate it already,” Ty says blandly, but his foot shifts over, blocking something from Nick’s view. Nick stares him down for a few seconds before he darts a hand out, snatches the foil-wrapped sandwich from the box under Ty’s seat. “Hey! Get your own, you fucker!” Ty hollers, batting at his hands, but Nick curls in on himself, clutching the sandwich like a football.
“Greedy bastard! I know your mama taught you to share!”
“Not my barbeque,” Ty counters, dead serious, and Nick cracks and laughs, because, yeah, he can kind of see Mara saying that.
“Just a bite,” he pleads, and Ty huffs but acquiesces. Nick unwraps the sandwich, then shoves it into his mouth as far as it will go, meat spilled out over the edges onto his hands.
“Wha - hey!” Ty howls, and he pins Nick down with his shoulder and thigh, wrestling the sandwich away. “Hey! You’re spilling it everywhere, O’Flaherty, where is your respect!”
Nick’s entire body vibrates, the laughter caught behind a mouthful of pulled pork. He manages to swallow before he starts coughing, and barbeque sauce smears everywhere as he tries to cover his mouth.
“Good, you deserve that, wasting perfectly good pork product,” Ty whines, but he’s laughing too, his shoulders shaking. He shoves a handful of napkins at Nick but the action tips the sandwich in his lap, spilling it all over his jeans. “Oh for the love of – you’re doing my laundry now, goddamnit.”
“Worth it,” Nick wheezes. He wipes at his hands but the flimsy napkin just curls into a tight wad, so he licks his fingers instead. “Totally worth it.”
“S’why we’re friends,” Nick agrees cheerfully. Ty shakes his head, but he’s smiling, so relaxed and honest that Nick feels it in his gut, pleasant and warm and, God help him, a little fuzzy. He ducks his head, blinks a few times to clear the wetness there, then turns back to the game. “The O’s look good this year,” he offers, and Ty snickers a little at his clumsy segue but takes mercy.
“They could use some pitching on the back end,” he says. “Bullpen’s pretty damn thin.”
Nick hums his agreement and they fall quiet and watch the game, Ty’s arm around the back of Nick’s chair, their knees knocking each time one of them shifts. It’s halfway through the sixth when Nick feels something vibrate, and realizes it’s his phone. He manages to dislodge it from where it’s wedged deep in his jeans pocket and is surprised to see the display reads FaceTime Request: Kels. Kelly had told him his cell service would be sketchy at best, that he wasn’t even sure he’d be able to call Nick, let alone video chat him. He swipes over to answer it.
“Babe! Everything all right?”
“Everything’s fine!” Kelly’s face fills the screen and Nick feels the familiar twinge in his chest, wonders for the thousandth time how just seeing the man could fill him with such love. Kelly’s voice echoes, the wall behind him a thick brick. “We were packing up our campground when I saw I had decent service and escaped to the bathrooms to call you.”
“Ooh, sexy,” Nick teases, and Kelly laughs.
“Are you at Fenway?” he asks, squinting at the stands behind Nick.
“Camden Yards, actually,” Nick says. “Decided to drive on down and check in on Ty and Zane for a few days.”
“Hey, Doc,” Ty yells obnoxiously, right in Nick’s ear, and shoves his face into the picture. Nick shoves him back out. When he focuses back on Kelly, he sees his boyfriend has gone still, surprised.
“You’re in Baltimore?” Kelly asks. His voice is hopeful. “With Ty?”
“Yeah,” Nick says. He ducks his head down to see and hear Kelly better, maybe block Ty out a little. “Just thought it would be a good time to catch up.”
“Nick,” Kelly breathes, and Nick flushes, because Kelly’s giving him that look, sweet and loving, like Nick’s the key to it all. “That’s awesome, Nicko. I’m glad. I’m so glad.”
“Yeah, me too. I need to –” Nick pauses. He feels a little guilty, about to Kelly he needs to get away from him more, but he figures he should stick to the truth. “I should do this more often,” he says finally.
“Yes, you should,” Kelly says firmly, and Nick breathes a little easier. “Just ‘cause we’re us doesn’t mean you and Ty shouldn’t be you.” Nick squints a little, makes a face like he’s trying to parse that out, and Kelly chuckles. “You know what I mean, you dick.”
“You love this dick,” Nick says without even thinking.
“Damn right I do,” Kelly agrees, “and the rest of you too.” Something off-screen distracts him and he scowls. “Okay. I gotta go. Hey, Ty!”
Ty shoulders in again, and Nick holds the phone out farther so they both fit. “Why’re you in a bathroom?” he asks.
“Ask Nick,” Kelly says. “Say hey to Garrett for me. And try to keep each other out of jail, huh?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Ty says haughtily, and Kelly rolls his eyes. “Ah, fine. You hook up with Irish and suddenly you’re no fun, I see how it goes.”
“I just don’t want to miss out on bailing you out,” Kelly admits with a grin, but there’s a teenager yelling in the background. “Ah, shit. Okay. I really gotta go. I love you.”
“I love you, babe,” Nick says. “Be safe.”
“I love you too,” Ty calls, and Nick elbows him. Ty elbows him back, jostling the phone.
“Idiots,” Kelly mutters affectionately. “Have fun for me. I’ll talk to you soon.” Then the phone disconnects.
“Can’t even go a full conversation without talking about your dick,” Ty tsks. Nick jerks around to see Ty’s trying to look stern but failing miserably. “Shameful, Nicholas. Shameful.”
Nick eyes him, hard. “What’s shameful is you can’t mind your own fucking business.”
“That should not come as a surprise to you,” Ty retorts, and Nick has to concede that point because no, it shouldn’t. “But he’s right, you know. About us being us. About us doing this more often.”
Nick squints down at the field. “Yeah, he was.” He turns back to meet Ty’s eyes. “But that means you hauling yourself up to Boston every once in a while, too.”
“I accept those terms,” Ty says amicably. Then his face turns serious. “We spent so many years with shit between us, O. I don’t want – I can’t go back to that again.”
Nick feels the words acutely, like a hand around his heart, and he nods sharply. “Yeah,” he whispers. He clears his throat and tries again, a little louder. “Yeah. I can’t either.”
“Okay,” Ty says quietly. He clasps a hand around the nape of Nick’s neck and gives him a squeeze. “Okay. We got a plan, then." He gives Nick a little grin, mischievous and sly, and Nick can’t help but match it with his own. “What do you say, you wanna blow this place and go pick on that baby agent some more?”
“Hell, yes,” Nick says, laughing. He drapes an arm around Ty’s shoulders. “Come on, brother.”
Ty’s smile is blinding, bright and wide. “Brother,” he echoes, and Nick grins right back. “Always, Nick.”
Nick nods. “Always, Ty.”