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*

One day Joe came in and told him - well, not just him - that Eiland had requested a personal leave of absence and would be gone until further notice. This statement was met by a number of different types of responses depending on the temperament of the person in question. There were questions, mostly, about what would happen in his place - Mike Harkey was the impromptu pitching coach, but this seemed extremely silly, and he was not really a pitching coach at all, sort of - at least, not to the starters, AJ thought, and it was all a bit unfair to give the relievers the guy they usually hung out with to be the pitching coach instead of the person that the starters preferred and knew rather well, mostly because the starters threw significantly more innings. Girardi assured them that things would remain as normal as possible, which was pretty fucking funny as far as AJ was concerned, because "normal as possible" did not usually entail "having no pitching coach”. AJ had been in a number of situations which were not normal, many of which he had dragged himself into, such as getting his ass fired from Florida and having way too much fucking sexual tension in the dugout. He liked to keep things exciting, admittedly, but that did not usually entail having the pitching coach just stop showing up one day. This probably meant that either Posada or Cervelli was going to be coaching him along, which made him feel even more unpleasant about the whole thing. Jorge basically hated him, though that was not that unusual - Jorge hated everyone besides Mo, Andy and Derek, though his hatred had different degrees (AJ was a very high degree), and Cervelli was - well, he was Cervelli. Cervelli was like a kid who tried to convince everyone he'd was soooooo drunk and had had so many beers and hooked up with a really hot girl when everyone knew he had been playing video games all night. Entertaining, but not the person you wanted guiding your hand. Pitchers were, as a whole, not a very bright bunch. AJ might have liked to be in control in most cases but pitching involved a lot of being told what to do, and with Eiland just magically going away for a while it made him a little confused and mostly grumpy.

These were all the kinds of thoughts that he had upon this announcement. He paused, ran his hand through his hair, and studied the rest of the staff. Andy and Mo were, of course, unperturbed by the whole matter. Joba was worried, but Joba seemed to worry about a lot of things. Boone was a nervous rookie. CC didn't seem to mind. Javy was looking about as sad as he always did. Phil looked probably the most worried. Phil was young and up-and-coming and doing perfectly amazing, so that made sense. A kid like him wouldn't like his routine being interrupted by sudden pitching coach disappearances.

He was sitting next to Dave at the time, who had looked at him at the same time he'd looked back at the kid. They were fucking pretty routinely now, and he'd learned to read the reliever pretty well. His feelings about the man, in particular, had gotten a little blurry, mostly because he was actually sure he was still in love with Roy at the time, but apparently he wasn't, because he was definitely feeling that odd warmth when he thought about the reliever. And Robertson couldn't be any less like Roy, really. Halladay was serious and intense and focused and all ambition. Dave was light and easy and soft, laughter and curveballs, and Roy was his furiously breaking cutter and the almost analytical way he would hold AJ down during sex.

Robertson liked his sex hard and controlling and had no need for an insane routine like a starter. He was clearly more concerned for Eiland for AJ than he was for himself, which fell right into his charming-southern-boy routine. AJ liked that about him, how genuinely nice he was. He said please and thank you and smiled when AJ nuzzled him and always said bless you when someone sneezed. Really great kid. AJ's season had been going pretty well so far and having his lean body to slam into the bed was a definite plus. Plus, Dave was agreeable and quiet, and did what AJ said, and he did have a little bit of a control kink growing. He had to take it out on someone or something with Cervelli calling the pitches, after all. It was either that or find himself "accidentally" punching the catcher in the head.

*

In June he lost.

It was not just a matter of losing, really. It was the endless, monotonous losses that happened. It was that the entire team seemed to storm ahead winning while he staggered back here, piling on L after L, until he felt like he could fucking drown in them. It was the way that he would always notice, even though he tried not to, that the stands seemed emptier when he came out, that there was this palpable dread, going from The Master Ace and Greatest of All Time CC Sabathia, to him, the next day. Everything just went, deserting him like some angry girl, stomping out of some metaphorical apartment door without even taking some of her things. He had nothing, no fastball, no curve, not even a third pitch that he could go out there and try to fool batters on. He would try for two innings before he just gave up and threw fastballs over the plate and let the opposing hitters shallack him until Joe took him out of the game to a screaming crowd of boos. Then he would mindlessly regurgitate the same shit to the media that things were off and he was trying and he would improve. Because, he would have liked to say, throwing a baseball to a fucking imaginary box is so goddamn easy. He would like to see any one of these fucking obnoxious prick fans do it or these asshole writers telling him to be released or these shitfuck internet celebrities that spoke like they knew even the first damn thing about pitching. Usually he came out of starts throwing too hard and thinking about every pitch and ready to kill someone, usually Cervelli, who, oblivious to his rage (unlike a decent catcher, even fucking Jose Molina), would pat him on the back and attempt to be encouraging. At some point he'd snapped, turned around in the clubhouse, and slammed the younger man against a locker. Cervelli stopped encouraging him after that, and quietly called his pitches. AJ didn't give him a chance to fistpump, which was one of the only good side effects of how much he outright sucked right now.

Usually he would go home and drink quietly, watch a replay of the game where Michael fucking Kay and Ken Singleton would break down how absolutely shitty he was. By the time he was positively fucked up, he would call Dave, who would show up on key. Then he would fuck the kid messily, get him moaning and crying out for him, get him all twisted up and sore, until he came. Dave was sweet and perfect and accepting and for the first two starts he tried to be encouraging about AJ's total lack of stuff.

Something about Robertson being encouraging made him unreasonably mad. He couldn't say what it was - jealousy, most likely, but what did this reliever even fucking know about pitching? He went out there and he faced three or four or, god for-fucking-bid, six batters. Six batters! That was a fucking maximum. On that day he had drank most of a bottle of whiskey and was wondering why he had an apartment in New York when he was a Toronto Blue Jay and screamed at Robertson until he passed out drunk. Dave had taken the abuse rather well, standing rigid with his eyes half-open and mouth pressed tightly shut and his fists clenched.

At this point, AJ had realized Dave was the perfect target for his rage. It'd been an accident, really, because he liked the kid a lot, maybe even loved him, how he pitched, how delicate he seemed everywhere but the mound, the way he moaned in bed, but somehow it seemed that Dave was also the perfect place for him to yell, because Dave never yelled back, just stood there with his quivering lip and his dark eyes and his face perfectly schooled. After AJ had thoroughly yelled at Dave, all that adrenaline would morph into testosterone-fueled power-crazy lust, because right now AJ was predominantly fucked up and couldn't control anything. And a guy like him, he needed a little control in his life. So after a thorough yelling session (sometimes preceded by drinking but not always), he would corner Dave up against a wall or on the kitchen table or lift him and throw him into bed and fuck him until they were both exhausted. Dave sounded so fucking good in bed, begging for him, his long eyelashes making him seem so fucking beautiful. Dave was always tight and wanting, digging his pitcher-short nails into AJ's shoulders, nowhere near as hard as AJ's fingers pressed into Dave's hips. The reliever had constant circular bruises where his fingers were, that eventually everyone stopped asking about. Dave didn't smile during sex, or laugh; he was loud and wanting and a bit slutty, and quite frankly at that point in time AJ couldn't have given two shits about whether Dave was smiling or not.

This went on for about three weeks in June, as AJ was busy losing at a pretty furious pace. He'd never lost like this before. In a way, it was a bit like having to get Tommy John surgery and watching everyone go on and win the World Series without him while undergoing rehab. Only about a fucking thousand times worse. After he would lose he would push Dave around and the man would quietly take it, despite that he probably threw more strikes to his four batters than AJ threw to the twenty or fifteen he faced.

On July 1st, after AJ hadn't won a game in the whole fucking month of June, he decided on shitty beer to commiserate the new month. There was something so fucking trite about it, drinking Coors until he was trashed and then calling Dave over to go crazy on him. That's what he liked to do, after all. He probably wasn't going to win another fucking game all season, so there wasn't really any reason to break the routine now.

His first game was a no decision and resulted in him tying Robertson's wrists to his bedposts until the man was crying and aching for him, flexing his hands and moaning. It might have been his fault, but AJ hadn't watched the rest of the game. He didn't care who's fault it had been. That it had happened at all was what got him. What a fucking unsympathetic thing to do for a starter. Fucking relievers. It made him feel better, at least, getting his revenge on the collective bullpen by getting Dave begging for him, screaming please and jerking his hips, his proud erection bobbing against his stomach and leaving a small wet spot.

Then Eiland came back. He was - well, he was just like he used to be, the same guy, doing whatever it is he did, with his instructions and his routines. AJ cut the beer from his usual postgame schedule and actually looked at Robertson when he fucked him.

He won a few times after that, too, and Dave grinned at him when they fucked, and he took the man out for nice expensive dinners and told him how great he was and how wonderful it was to be with him and how sorry he was for all the drunk fucks. But Dave always just shrugged him off, like they were just something that was part of his life, and part of their relationship.

He threw six shutout innings against Cleveland and then Kerry Wood showed up.

Kerry and Dave would sit next to each other in the bullpen and in the dugout. Kerry would lean over and talk to him about stuff, and Dave would keep his voice low and quietly mutter in Kerry's ear about things. Kerry would gesture as he spoke to Dave, even wrap his arm around the other reliever's shoulders, and Dave would look at him with this expression AJ hadn't seen in a long, long time - open willingness. When Dave was with him, the kid was subservient. he took the drunk fucks and the screaming quietly, with his head bowed, agreeing noncommittally to everything AJ would say. He never looked so interested. He never spoke so animatedly to AJ, not the way he spoke to Kerry. Or at least, he hadn't been that way in a long time. Not since April.

AJ lost and lost and lost, thinking about the way Kerry would talk to Dave and how Dave would laugh at his jokes and slap him across the shoulders so carelessly. AJ lost thinking about Kerry clapping for Dave's houdini acts out of the bullpen. AJ lost watching Dave wait by Kerry's locker as the latter tied his cleats. Meanwhile David Robertson became the fireman houdini and Kerry Wood maintained an ERA under one.

When Robertson would come over for his usual dickings, he would try to convince AJ things weren’t so bad. He would tell him to look on the bright side and that he was wonderful and he would improve and AJ would just laugh. Dave had to fucking face the facts. He was terrible and he lost. Dave would try to convince him until he was desperate and AJ was yelling at him to get the fuck out that he was terrible and Dave would beg for him to be optimistic and AJ would grab his mouth and kiss him and fuck him to tears.

Meanwhile, he lost and he lost. He became the disaster. He became the mess. He became an illness. He became the epidemic of everything wrong with the team. He drank cheap beer and fucked Dave and the man didn't even fucking look at him anymore, probably thinking of Kerry, his stupid little boyfriend, demoted from master starter to bullpen guy.

One day AJ called Dave and Dave said he was busy.

There was no way he could be busy. Not for AJ, of course. Dave was always there for him, always there to suck on his dick and take it up his ass and moan and beg for him. AJ insisted that Dave could not be busy.

Then, over the phone, Kerry insisted Dave was busy.

He had called Dave's home phone, which was his usual line. Kerry was at Dave's apartment and no one, not no one, especially not that fucking little shit Kerry fucking Wood got between him and his boy Dave. Robertson was (had always been) his. Thinking that man might have his hands on his Robertson, thinking about Kerry Wood spooning with his David Robertson, thinking about Kerry's spindly cock inside of him, and Robertson crying out for more ---

AJ committed significant damage to his apartment and his personal belongings, thinking about that. He woke up on his couch surrounded by the broken glass of his coffee table, which he did not remember breaking.

*

Kerry was extremely slow while dressing and undressing. He had a carefulness to it, like he was careful about each one of his articles of clothing. He was always one of the last to leave. Dave had, unsurprisingly, picked up this habit as well. AJ waited until everyone else was gone before he made it clear to Kerry that Dave was his, and that was that, and Kerry could take his jaded, injured, old, wry-humor flawless reliever head and shove it up his ass, and he told Kerry quite clearly that he shouldn't get on other people's property, and he was a little shit has-been, and Kerry slugged him.

The surprise hurt more than the actual punch. Dave's eyes had gone wide with fear; the young reliever had grabbed Kerry's arm and yanked him back, and they both bolted while AJ stood there, stunned, his face throbbing.

He didn't comment on it, nor did he tell Joe.

*

Dave came over to his apartment when he called.

He fucked Dave until Dave was screaming for him to stop, fucking him red and raw, punishing him. Dave looked at him with wide eyes when AJ came on him, splattering his chest, and AJ quirked an eyebrow. Dave said nothing so AJ left him there and Dave pulled himself off and left while AJ was in the shower.

After AJ lost again, Dave was busy. He had other plans.

He lost and he lost and he lost. Or, of course, he was pulled too quickly to take the L.

He won in Oakland, and when he went to call Dave to celebrate, he had a voicemail.

"Hi. It's me. AJ... it's over. Don't call me. Bye."

He called and nobody picked up. He called and he called. He called and he drank. He called and he drank and he lost.