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by my side for the climb

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“It’s not fair we couldn’t bring Kojo,” Lucy grumbles. Tim just nods in agreement in front of her. “He loves hikes.”

It’s a rare day off for all of them and they’re hiking a new challenging trail, hence why Lucy and Tim had been outvoted by the rest of the gang that Kojo couldn’t come along on new terrain.

“3-2, you lose,” Angela says with a huff as she maneuvers ahead of them, eyeing Tim with a smirk on her face. “Don’t sulk all day, Chen.”

“I just- it’s our day off, he’s gonna think we abandoned him,” she whines. She makes to climb over a large rock distractedly, almost stumbling when her sneaker slides. But Tim’s right there, at her side, hand on her shoulder holding her still, grabbing her hand to pull her over.

She gives him a soft smile, stepping in closer to his side and dropping a kiss over the scruff of his beard that he hasn’t shaved over their long weekend off. They’d gone to the range and made a wager- Lucy had won, so the scruff had to stay until Monday morning. She’d mostly been curious what he looked look like with some hair on his face since he’s always so perfectly clean shaven, but if last night in bed had been any indication, she doesn’t mind the new texture at all. She wouldn’t be able to handle that level of sensation every night though, so she’s more than ready to see the familiar line of his jaw again in just two more days.

For now, he leans down into her, nuzzling into the hand she’s placed on his cheek. His hand brushes the curve of her back, no doubt tempted lower by the way she looks in her workout leggings.

“That’s five!” Jackson yells from behind them with a laugh and a shake of his head. “You guys are gross.”

“That doesn’t count!” Lucy argues, “There was no lip to lip contact.”

“Your lips, his face, it counts,” Jackson argues back as he barrels around them to get ahead, glancing at his watch to see how they’re doing on time.

“Well, fine, if it’s gonna count, I’m gonna make it count!” she argues emphatically. She’s barely turned back to Tim, determination written all over her face to combat their friends’ “7 kisses and you’re paying for brunch, chenford” rule, but he’s already meeting her lips with his. She squeaks in surprise before she wraps her arms around his neck, her body naturally falling into him, sighing as he adjusts his position to hold onto her more fully. 

The height difference, she thinks dreamily, she’ll never be over the height difference. Or the way his lips claim hers, so commanding yet gentle. She slowly opens her eyes when he’s pulled his lips away from hers, seeing the spectacular view of him smiling fondly down at her.

“Hi,” she whispers with a smile.

“Hello,” he whispers back, that half smirk on his face that she wants to desperately kiss off. So, because she now can, she leans in to do just that.

“We’re gonna have to pay for lunch,” she tells him.

He just shrugs, grabbing her hand and pulling her along. “I figured. You can’t keep your hands off me,” he teases.

She scoffs in faux outrage and attempts to pull her hand out of his grasp, pleased when he only holds on tighter and tugs her closer. “Um, excuse you! Who’s the one who came along on this hike even when they weren’t officially invited? It was an all girls thing, and Jackson,” she adds.

“It’s a group hang. I can hang with the group,” he tells her.

Lucy just laughs. “Oh, yeah, you’re a big ‘long hikes with his work friends on his day off’ kinda guy. Just a regular social butterfly.” She uses air quotes and pokes at him in good humor, remembering how he’d changed and packed his backpack with snacks and supplies, told her he’d come with her before she could even argue.

“I am now,” he says, looking at her so sincerely that she stops in her tracks.

“Aww,” she begins, even as he moves closer to her, looping his arms around her waist and bending down so their faces are closer because once again, height difference. “That’s so sweet-“

“I’m also a ‘don’t want to spend half the day away from my hot girlfriend when we’re supposed to be spending a long weekend off together’ kinda guy.” He winks at her.

She beams at him, melting at his sweetness. The little pockets of his romantic side she’s been discovering include saying the right words to make her feel special, surprise massages on the couch after a long shift, having her favorite snacks and wine stocked in his kitchen, and holding her through any nightmares. These are the glimpses of Tim she has been cherishing and holding close over the last few months of their budding relationship.

“Not sick of me yet?” she asks, unaware of the chord of vulnerability in her voice. She hasn’t been in too many serious relationships, something always turning them sour just when she thinks she’s got the hang of it. If it isn’t a boyfriend cheating on her with a friend, or Nolan breaking up with her before she could beat him to it, it’s some other vague reason that she never could quite get an honest answer about.

And Tim, well, Tim is someone who commits. He’d been married for a long, long time, he’s not a man who makes light about the time he’s dedicating to a woman he’s seeing. The depth of his devotion takes her breath away, makes her heart stumble in humility at the thought that he could focus it on her.

“I guess I really hypnotized you with those books on tape,” she jokes, trying to cover up her question and the way her body subconsciously freezes as she waits for his answer.

But he knows her, of course he does, so he just runs a hand through her hair, resting it at the back of her neck and squeezing in that oh so comforting way he does. It’s reassuring but also demands her attention, that what he’s about to say is important and he wants her to listen closely, take notes, memorize his answer, recall it for the future. It’s boyfriend-Tim with the right dose of TO-Tim mixed in. 

When she meets his gaze, he says, “Nope, not sick of you. Totally into you.” When she beams that radiant smile at him, her eyes shining with happiness, he bends to kiss her again. “What about you, you sick of me?”

Lucy knows there’s some insecurities he hides away too, hidden behind the baggage of a torpedoed marriage, so she squeezes his broad shoulders, shakes her head even as she continues to kiss him. “Nope. Just wish you weren’t so ugly.”

He snorts a hum of amusement, shaking his head at her as he breaks the kiss, nuzzling her forehead and finally dropping his hands to squeeze her ass like he’s wanted to for oh, about 4.3 miles uphill. “Shut up.”

“I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, Tim, but the things people say about your face when you aren’t listening, it’s downright mean-“

“I said shut it.” His hands graze up the sides of her torso, knowing exactly how sensitive she is to tickling even through the layer of her athletic top. He smirks when she tries to capture his hands, and gently pushes her a couple steps backward against the the side of whatever large mountain he’d agreed to climb just to spend time with his new girlfriend.

“Mean!” she scolds, but she’s smiling at him, the word coming out as harmless when it comes from that lovestruck face of hers. “Now what? You gonna seduce me in full view of our friends and all of California right here on this trail?”

“Oh, this is just foreplay, Boot,” he promises, inching closer, torsos brushing, smirking at the way her breathing quickens. “That part’s gonna happen the second we get into the house after brunch.”

She maybe whimpers. Maybe. Or maybe she definitely does because he rests his forehead against hers, hands so tight on her hips that maybe his fingertips are leaving a mark but she definitely doesn’t mind. “Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah. Eat fast,” he orders, that TO voice sneaking in and making her warm and wet in all the right places. This time she definitely whimpers, leaning up to capture his lips, trying to get out a, “yes, sir,” but not sure if she managed to or not. He groans, a low guttural sound, his hips pushing against hers, mouth firm against hers, the slide of their tongues meeting, and yeah, actually, she’s pretty sure he did hear it and it does things to him too.

“God, you’re so hot,” he murmurs against her lips, hands firm on her jaw as he tilts her face up for better access, lips moving over hers again before she can reply and return the sentiment, or maybe she’ll just call him hideous again, she loves the amusement and flustered look in his eyes when she continues that running joke-

“Gross, they are literally about to do it on the side of the mountain.” Nyla’s voice from behind breaks them apart. They jump in shock and quickly are away from each other, panting a little too obviously to even bother making a denial. “I should arrest you both.”

“Just you try it,” Tim challenges with an arch of his eyebrow.

Before Nyla can reply, because she surely will, Angela’s voice intervenes.

“You guys are disgusting. Keep it in your pants for a little longer. I told Wes I’d be back by two. Another hour, brunch, then you can do it in your truck for all I care.” She notices Lucy’s burgeoning blush at the comment. She’ll have to interrogate her about that later. Or maybe not. Tim being like her brother is really putting a damper on getting any rated R details. “Let’s break up Romeo and Juliet here. Chen, you’re with me, Tim, you stay behind with Jackson.”

“Actually, Romeo and Juliet both died. It’s a tragic tale, not the big love story example we like to use it as in modern times,” Lucy says as she joins Angela at the front of the line.

Tim snorts at the not amused look on Angela’s face at his girlfriend’s literary explanation, and Jackson just laughs, used to Lucy’s nerdy commentary by now.

“You’re a closeted nerd, Chen, we know that already, keep walking.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Lucy says, giving one last look to Tim before she’s forced to face forward. He winks at her and she flushes, hiding her smile as best as she can.

“Ugh, gross!” Jackson calls out with an exaggerated eyeroll. “You’re definitely paying for brunch and I’m ordering pancakes, and waffles to go for Sterling.”

“We haven’t hit seven kisses yet,” Lucy begins, quieting immediately as the other three begin to yell at her loudly in exasperation.

“Don’t you even-“ Angela says with a growl.

“You shut your mouth,” Jackson orders firmly, shaking his head at his roommate.

“Fine!” she says with a laugh, hands up in surrender as she meets Tim’s eyes at the back of the line. “Fine. Sergeant Bradford is a Sergeant now and got a raise, so he’s paying.” She blows a kiss at him, winking when he pretends to scowl at her, but she sees the amusement written all over his face.

“Okay, let’s keep moving, people. You heard Mama Lopez, two hours left.”