Travis knew it was a bad idea the second his knuckles brushed across the door. The second the sight of Wes opening the door tied his stomach into a thousand miniscule knots, he knew it was a truly terrible idea. But what could he do? Injured Wes was apparently his Kryptonite.
"Thank God," Wes said, his sigh of relief shifting into something bordering on a smile, "I've been going out of my mind. Please tell me you brought distraction."
Travis grinned. "How does beer and a movie grab you?" he asked, brandishing a six pack in his left hand and a DVD in his left.
"With the mental state I'm in? It 'grabs me' in all the right places." Wes stepped aside so Travis could enter the hotel room. Before Travis could stop himself, he had sent his partner an extremely suggestive look, causing Wes to blush and mutter, "Not like that..."
"Hey, if I'd been cooped up with a hotel room for a week, I'd definitely be trolling for some grabbing, baby," Travis said, accompanying his words with a strange laugh he barely recognized as his own. God, why was he talking like a tipsy frat boy? Travis Marks was not obvious. Travis Marks did not stumble over his words.
"Not your first six-pack of the night, buddy?" Wes asked, crossing his arms at Travis, a skeptical look on his face.
"No, man, I'm not drunk," Travis said with a nervous laugh, "I'm just, you know, excited...for the movie...woo!" Oh perfect, now he'd graduated from tipsy frat boy to plastered sorority girl. Who was he even kidding? Travis Marks was seriously screwed.
It had been almost exactly a week since the beach volleyball game, Wes' back injury, the massage...and Travis' unwelcome realization that he was having more than just partnerly feelings toward Wes.
Wes had been spending the time on mandatory bed rest - the hotel doctor had confirmed Travis' diagnosis of a back spasm and insisted that he take a week's leave to recover - leaving Travis alone to catch up on the mountain of paperwork the two of them had backlogged over the past couple months.
It should have been a relief, not having to see Wes every day...and for the first couple of days, it was. Travis could actually go whole minutes on end without being forced to fixate on the annoyance of his inconvenient feelings for an inappropriate guy.
By the third day, however, something thoroughly unprecedented had happened: he missed Wes. He missed the way his desk would mysteriously become neater whenever he re-entered the room. He missed the way Wes would start humming along under his breath with whatever song was playing on Travis' iPod.
Most of all, he missed the subconscious rhythm that he and Wes always seemed to be falling into lately - passing files back and forth, sharing bags of chips and packages of gummi worms, swapping pens for highlighters and back again, all without uttering a word.
When Wes had called him a few hours earlier, with a thinly disguised request to come relieve him of his boredom, Travis had nearly jumped at the chance. So here he was, tripping over his words, not to mention the edge of Wes' coffee table, as he tried to salvage what was left of his customary cool.
"Well, then," Wes said, positioning himself on the couch with only a slight grimace, "It must be one hell of a movie. What's it called, anyway?"
"Hot Fuzz," Travis said, turning the DVD case over in his hands. "I remembered how Dr. Ryan kept saying how we should watch it, how we could learn a thing or two from it, so I figured, why the hell not? Gotta say, I'd been thinking it was some kind of indie movie about laundry, but stuff's exploding all over the place on the cover, so I'm hoping if there are any washers and dryers, they'll be blown sky high before too long."
Wes laughed - a short sound, but one that went straight to Travis' gut. It had been too long since he'd heard Wes really laugh, and not just because of the sick leave.
"Even if it's a hundred and twenty minutes of the permanent press cycle, I'm still in," Wes said, retrieving one of the beers and carefully removing its cap with a bottle opener. "I've watched all the movies on the hotel's pay-per-view list at least four times apiece, and if I have to see Eddie Murphy battle a magical tree one more time, I swear I'll discharge my sidearm directly into my skull."
"Can't have that happen," Travis said, instinctively reaching over to mess up Wes' meticulously arranged hair. "Not to such a nice skull."
"Shut up," Wes said - though he swatted Travis' hands away, a smile played around his lips. "You keep that up, and I'm not giving you any of the chicken parm."
Though Travis had begun to shift his attention to opening his own beer, his head whipped around at the mention of Wes' specialty. "You made...your chicken parm?" Travis knew his attempt to keep his voice casual had failed utterly, but compared to the possibility of tasting Wes' Italian food, it hardly mattered.
"Maybe," Wes hedged, tilting his body away from Travis, "but only for people who are nice to me and only if they help clean up."
"Hey, for that chicken parm," Travis said, leaning over and placing his hands on Wes' shoulders, "I will be sugar and spice and everything nice, baby."
"I'll believe that when I see it," Wes said, skeptically crossing his arms.
"Oh please, Wes," Travis said, using Wes' shoulders as leverage to lean forward and show Wes his puppy face. "Please? Please?"
"Get off me!" Wes said, giving Travis a shove, which had the unintended side effect of knocking him into Wes' lap.
Travis couldn't help it - the sudden flush of embarrassment on Wes' face had him letting out a peal of laughter and saying teasingly, "Gosh, Wes, when you said I had to be nice to you, I didn't think you meant that nice! I am simply not that kind of girl!"
Though a deeper blush momentarily darkened his cheeks, Wes recovered quickly enough, shoving Travis back into a sitting position and propelling himself off the couch in one surprisingly fluid motion.
"I knew I should have called somebody else," he grumbled, shuffling into the kitchen.
"Like who?" Travis countered. "Alex is the only other person who cares enough about your sorry ass to come, and you know that she'd be bringing tea, not action movies."
"At least she'd help me clean up," Wes said, leaning around the corner of the kitchen to look pointedly at Travis.
"Are you seriously going back to that again?" Travis asked in exasperation. "Fine, I, Travis Marks, do hereby swear to do any and all kitchen clean-up asked of me in exchange for delicious Italian cooking. Happy?"
"Not until I see a cabinet full of sparkling clean dishes, no," Wes said, returning to the living room with a tray in each hand, "but I suppose it's enough to get you a probationary serving of parmegiana."
"Oh, you are a beautiful, beautiful man," Travis said, rubbing his hands together in anticipation before reaching out to grab the tray, "A pain in the ass, but beautiful."
"And you said you weren't that kind of girl," Wes muttered under his breath. When Travis glanced at him in surprise, Wes responded with a brief flash of shockingly wicked smile before returning his expression to its default setting of 'annoyed.' "Well," he said, carefully positioning his plate on his lap, "is there really a movie in that DVD case, or was it all just a plan to get my food?"
"Wesley Margaret Mitchell, I am hurt," Travis said, reluctantly putting aside his tray and getting up to pop the disc into Wes' sleek DVD player.
"Margaret Mitchell?" Wes asked incredulously, "Like author of Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell? That's the level of coolness you think I'm at?"
"Okay, hot shot, who would you have picked?" Travis shot back, crossing his arms.
"Umm, how about fighter pilot Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, a handsome rogue who flies by his own rules?" Wes suggested, as if it were the most obvious idea in the world.
Travis arched an amused eyebrow in Wes' direction. "Unless I'm remembering Top Gun incorrectly and 'his own rules' happened to coincide exactly with official Air Force guidelines, pretty sure you two don't have a lot in common."
"Oh, just press play already," Wes said, taking a large bite of chicken and sinking back into the couch in a silk.
"As you wish, Miss Scarlett," Travis said, affecting a light Southern accent which he was forced to abandon to burst out laughing at the horrified look on Wes' face.
Any reply Wes might have made was silenced by the sudden sound of footsteps echoing loudly in an empty hallway.
As the two of them watched a shockingly competent police officer plow his way through a series of training exercises and challenges, Travis absently let his feet drift up to rest on Wes' coffee table. Wes, meanwhile, just as absently gave a swift kick to Travis' ankles to dislodge them, his eyes never leaving the screen.
Travis quickly raised his beer to his lips to hide the smile that was instinctively creeping across them. God help him, twisted as it was, he'd missed this.
"Well, that's typical," Wes exclaimed after ten minutes or so, gesturing at the television in annoyance, "That's just typical."
"What's typical?" Travis tried to ask, although the fact that he had just taken another bite of chicken parmesan made it come out more like, "Mwha tipirul?"
"He's just trying to follow the rules, to be a good cop, and they hate him for it!" Wes said, the annoyance in his voice veering into genuine anger before he finished more quietly, "They all hate him for it..."
The look on Wes' face made it abundantly clear that they weren't talking about the movie anymore. God, was that really how he thought the guys saw him?
"Hey," Travis said, brushing his thumb over the pause button so Wes would turn to look at him. "They don't hate him, man. I think they just...don't quite get him sometimes."
Wes shifted his gaze to the ground for a few moments, as if deep in thought, before returning it to Travis as he asked, uncertain, "And you? Do you...get him?"
"Yeah, I think I do," Travis said. "I mean, he may not do things the way I would, but he could never do anything he didn't believe was right."
"Or so I would assume," Travis continued with a little cough, conscious of the silence that his words had brought into the room, "We've still got a lot more movie to watch."
"Right," Wes said, letting out a nervous laugh, "the movie. Let's get back to it, then!"
Travis obliged him and pressed play, but let his gaze linger on his partner's face until he was satisfied that the haunted look which had passed over it moments before had departed.
From that point onward, he couldn't look at Nicholas Angel without seeing Wes' face instead, couldn't watch his seemingly misguided attempts at maintaining constant order without thinking of his partner's similarly deluded efforts.
Travis assumed this was why Dr. Ryan recommended the film - a way of showing Wes his tendencies through a filter...that is, until they got to the scene.
Angel and his less capable, but better adjusted partner (who Travis might have admitted under duress shared one or two characteristics with himself) were sitting on the couch after a night of swapping beers and stories.
One second they were just a couple of guys hanging out, the next they were inches apart, staring into each other's eyes. Travis saw it - what Dr. Ryan had clearly wanted him to see: two guys who complemented one another's differences; who managed to find something good amidst chaos and carnage; most of all, who cared about one another more than anyone else, far past the point of mere partnership.
Travis couldn't believe he'd been so stupid. Looking at the two men on the screen, their feelings were obvious. And judging from the way everyone from their boss to their sandwich guy looked at them, Travis was realizing with blinding clarity that he and Wes must have been just as obvious...to everyone except themselves.
This disquieting thought quickly led him to an even more disturbing one - up until this moment, he'd been so preoccupied with his own startling feelings that it hadn't even occurred to him to wonder about Wes'. On some level, could he possibly feel the same way? And if he did...
Travis knew he shouldn't sneak another glance at Wes - he'd already been looking over at him once every couple of minutes, as it was - but his gaze was there before he could will it away. To his surprise, he found that his eyes were staring directly into his partner's.
God. Shit. Fuck. When his thoughts had finally progressed past the monosyllabic, it occurred to Travis that the parallel with their movie counterparts was now ludicrously complete. If he ever got out of this emotionally charged staring contest, he and Dr. Ryan were going to have a little chat about her choices in cinema.
As it was, what the hell was he supposed to do now? Say something? Do something? They definitely hadn't covered anything like this in therapy - the downside to everyone else there being preformed couples.
After continuing to ponder the impossibility of the situation - and occasionally how he had never previously noticed how goddamn blue Wes' eyes were - for a few awkward minutes, Travis found himself unexpectedly saved by an explosion on the screen, which gave him an excuse to snap his attention back to it.
Though he mentally pledged to keep his eyes directly on the film for the rest of the evening, Travis was happy to discover the plot of the movie seemed to have become intricate enough to command his focus all by itself.
As the better part of an hour passed, this single-minded focus was the only explanation he could think of for why he didn't notice that his partner had fallen asleep until he was already half-lying in Travis' lap.
His instinctual reaction was to reach down and shake Wes awake - he definitely didn't want a repeat of what had happened the last time the two of them were in such close physical proximity - but one look at the expression of contentedness on his partner's face had him reconsidering. Wes so seldom let his guard down enough to relax, even when he wasn't recovering from a back spasm; the last thing Travis wanted to do was spoil it for him.
Instead, he reached over his sleeping partner to grab one of the throw pillows someone - undoubtedly Alex - had given him for the couch, before sliding it carefully under Wes' head. Travis' breath caught when Wes stirred, but he merely shifted position a little and went immediately back to sleep.
Travis felt a smile spread across his face. He was sure Wes would be utterly mortified if he could see himself right now; he had the rest of the movie to decide how much shit he would be giving him when he woke up.
With the issue of having a lapful of his sleeping partner at least momentarily taken care of, Travis returned his focus to the movie, which he found himself becoming more invested in by the minute.
It was not until Angel began trying to convince the police of Sanford that a fifth brutal murder was not, in fact, an extremely unlucky accident that his attention was once again drawn away by the man in his lap. Wes' breathing had become erratic, and his formerly peaceful expression was now one of deep disquiet...whether from pain, fear, or something else, Travis was not entirely sure.
He remembered what Wes had admitted during the massage, about all those nights he spent alone and in pain, unable to bring himself to share it with even his wife. It made Travis wonder what else Wes had been keeping hidden inside himself all these years.
When Wes' erratic breathing segued into a low groan, Travis indulged his initial instinct to run his fingers lightly through his hair. To his surprise, Wes not only leaned into the touch, but seemed to relax significantly. Overcome with a wave of unprecedented tenderness, he continued the gesture, long past Wes' return to a seemingly dreamless sleep.
He wished he could see Wes like this when he was awake - happy, untroubled, all shields down. He knew Wes better than almost anybody, yet it was only in the past few weeks that he realized the extent to which even he was kept at arm's length. A need to change this troubling status quo burned new and bright within him, though he had no clue how he would even begin such a campaign.
No sooner had Travis finished managing the fallout from real life Wes's issues than his fictional counterpart was exhibiting some of his own, in as idiotic a manner as was conceivable. Travis watched in alarm as Angel rushed into a crowd of homicidal maniacs, armed with nothing more than intense conviction.
"Come on, man, what are you doing?" Travis demanded of the man on the screen, gesturing despairingly toward the television with the hand not still tangled in Wes' hair. "You're going to get yourself killed acting like that!"
The horror he felt increased exponentially when Angel's partner Danny appeared among the attackers. Angel's anguished exclamation of, "Danny, no!" echoed his own sentiments exactly. How could he betray his own partner like that? His friend? His...though nothing had officially happened on screen, Travis was a good enough judge of people to have any doubt about what else Nicholas was to Danny.
So when Angel finally ran out of places to run, and it was Danny who dealt the fatal blow, it was the last straw. Travis had nearly finished mentally composing a strongly worded email to Dr. Ryan before it was revealed to have been a trick - Angel was fine, Danny had only been pretending.
Travis' instinctual reaction was one of intense relief, followed immediately by an equally intense feeling of foolishness. Why had he reacted so strongly? It was just a movie. Even if things had ended as darkly as he had originally thought, it wouldn't have mattered. These people didn't exist.
To you they do. The treacherous voice returned the second Travis looked down at Wes and saw that he had subconsciously curled his right arm protectively around his partner's still sleeping form. At this point, even if the evidence hadn't been so damning, he would have been too tired to keep fighting what was so obviously true.
He loved Wes. Not just attraction, or a fleeting crush, or even feelings of the unspecifiable sort. Love with a capital "L." The kind he'd spent a good part of his life running the other way from. The kind that made a normally sane person have a minor meltdown over the fate of a fictional character who shared some characteristics with the object of his (unwilling) affection.
And, of course, Travis just had to fall in love with a co-worker who was both emotionally unavailable and heterosexual. As far as bad decisions went, Nicholas Angel had nothing on him.