All Hallow's Eve
"What are you doing?"
Wes rolled onto his side, watching Travis closely. Probably closer than necessary considering his partner-turned-lover was currently wearing nothing more than a pair of indecently tight black Levi's. The long line of his lean back captured and held his attention, causing him to miss his partner's response.
Travis tossed a smug look over his shoulder. "You were staring, weren't you?"
"I most certainly was not," Wes lied. "I was just… distracted."
"By my hot bod, you were."
"Travis, please. It's too early to deal with your mouth. Could you please just repeat what you said?"
He sat on the edge of his bed, pulling on a pair of white cotton socks. Wes hadn't ever paid all that much attention to Travis' feet before, but he found himself suddenly studying them intently. The curve of their arch, the roundness of his toes. Wes shook his head, attempting to clear the cobwebs and bring himself back to the present. Travis smiled and reached for the other sock, thankfully refraining from informing Wes that he'd been caught staring yet again.
It was beginning to get out of hand.
"I was saying that I was getting ready for work, something you might want to look into doing, too. I'm sure you want to stop by your place before we go in anyway."
He had a point. It was nearing seven o'clock and they should be at the station by at least eight-thirty. This was what he hated about crashing at Travis' and the biggest reason why he always tried to talk him out of it when it came up. It was much easier for Travis to stash clothes in his hotel room – and he had, all over from what Wes was discovering – than it was for Wes to stash suits anywhere. Suits, ties, shirts, shoes, belts – wait, Travis was talking to him again.
"…and I know how particular you are and," Travis paused, waiting to see if Wes would notice he'd been talking again.
"Right. Particular. That's me," he hedged.
"And you weren't paying attention again. Am I really that hot or are you still buzzed from last night?
That was the question, wasn't it? He hadn't had much to drink, but they hadn't bothered to eat, either, preferring to stagger their way into Travis' bed first and eat later. Much later.
"How about we call it a little of each and you stop harassing me?"
"I guess we could do that."
Travis pulled on a white dress shirt and began fastening the opalescent buttons. Once he'd secured them all, he tucked in his tails and fastened his jeans. Reaching for the nightstand, he retrieved a length of silvery-blue material that he looped around his neck.
Wes gaped. "Woah, wait. The collared shirt was enough of an anomaly for you, pal, but a tie too?" He pushed himself into a sitting position, the soft flannel sheet falling to his waist, giving Travis prime opportunity to gawk a bit in return.
"Yeah, a tie, too. And?"
Wes' eyes narrowed. "Isn't that one of my ties?"
Travis smirked and continued knotting the fine silk noose. "Are you going to get up or what?"
Grumbling, he levered himself out of his partner's cramped bed and began dressing in yesterday's clothes. Wes frowned at the state of his suit, between the wrinkles and the beer that had wound up down the front of him sometime after arriving, he looked like a transient in stolen clothes. But it would have to suffice until he could get to his own closet.
"I could loan you something cleaner," Travis offered.
He just shook his head. The sooner he got into a shower and some clean clothes, the better. Looking up to let the other man know he was ready to go, Wes stopped, speechless. While he'd been reluctantly dressing, Travis had donned a black leather duster and a matching Stetson.
"You can close your mouth anytime, sunshine. You're beginning to look like a trout."
His jaw snapped shut, but his eyes remained wide. "What the hell, Travis?"
"What? You have something against Wyatt Earp?"
"Not generally but still… what the hell? Why the hell might even be a better question."
Travis blinked and looked at his phone briefly. Nope, he hadn't gotten the day wrong, so why was Blondie being so weird? Well, weirder, he supposed.
"Why? Because it's Halloween, maybe?"
"Hallo—oooh, right. But seriously, you're dressing up? How old are you again?"
"Older than you," he teased.
Wes opened his mouth to argue until Travis began holstering a set of long barreled revolvers. The lamplight reflected off the polished wooden handles, mesmerizing the blonde momentarily.
"What? I try to be historically accurate. These are functional replicas of Earp's Buntline Special. Get with the program, cookie."
Wes grunted. "There's no solid evidence he carried anything like that."
"True," Travis agreed, turning one of the guns over in his hand, caressing the barrel with the tips of his fingers. "But who can resist a gun with a twelve-inch barrel?"
He had a valid point. "You never cease to amaze me, Marks. You know that?"
Travis just smiled.
Odd as it sounded, Wes had forgotten it was Halloween. Ever since he'd moved out of the house he'd shared with Alex, the holidays had a tendency of sneaking up on him. Mainly because he didn't have the advance warning of themed decorations dotting the landscape everywhere he looked. That said he shouldn't have ever been surprised that Travis would want to dress up.
Or that he'd be inclined to choose one of the most famous lawmen ever. Even if Doc Holliday was much more his style.
What wasn't so odd was that he couldn't get his mind off the fact he just might be having an illicit meeting with Wyatt Earp later that night. Who needed candy when you had a goofy, carefree partner dressed as a hero of the Old West? The thought of bedding Travis in all of his Tombstone-esque glory was more appealing than he let on.
It was a pleasant distraction from where his thoughts usually wandered on Halloween. Morbid memories lead to a miserable Wes which, in turn, led to a fidgety and unhappy Travis. And lord help anyone within a five mile radius of an unhappy Travis.
"C'mon, man, why are you being such a stick in the mud today?"
Travis had pulled a bag of mixed candy out of a dresser drawer before leaving his place this morning, intent on distributing it throughout the precinct before the end of the day. Not even the offer of a Blow Pop had made Wes smile, and that worried him.
"Am I allowed to not like something you like? Just because we're in something resembling a relationship doesn't mean I have to pander to your every whim."
"No, you don't," Travis conceded. "But, you don't have to be such a prick about it, either. Seriously, man. What the hell?"
Wes shook his head, waving his partner off. "You wouldn't understand," he muttered before walking off.
"What is wrong with him today," he asked the empty room around him.
"Hey Alex, thanks for returning my call."
"It's not a problem Travis. What was your question?"
He'd finally given up on trying to decipher Blondie's anger at the world and went right to his most reliable source. While he understood that going behind Wes' back and chatting up his ex-wife was likely to lead to the argument from hell, he couldn't help himself. Things had been so much better between them since The Incident a few months ago that he was unwilling to let this go and watch Wes throw it all in the trash again.
"Wes is in a pissy mood and I was wondering if it was just him, or possibly me. My bet is on the holiday though, because it couldn't possibly be me, right? Anyway, he was more than fine until he realized it was Halloween."
Silence stretched from the other end of the connection and Travis began to wonder if he'd lost her somewhere during his pacing. He was just outside the morgue, after all, and reception wasn't always the best down here.
"Sorry, Travis, I had to think for a minute. Get it all straight in my head. Think you can get away from Wes long enough to meet me for lunch?"
Travis sighed. Considering Wes was avoiding him at all costs this morning, it was easier than ever. "Yeah, let me know when and where, okay?"
Although lunch had been quite the eye-opening experience, Travis was still at a loss for what to do to help his partner. In leaving Alex behind at the restaurant, he found himself again cursing Wes' damn stubborn pride. Why was he so unable to ever ask for help?
Travis' phone rang and he glanced at the caller ID displayed on the screen. A picture of a black cat wearing a pointed hat smiled back at him. Somehow, she always knew when he needed an ear and never failed to be the first one to his rescue.
"Heyyy baby," he cooed into the phone. "What's new?"
A chuckle reached his ear, warming his troubled heart. "I had a feeling you needed me, so talk."
He always felt guilty bypassing the traditional courteous small talk, but with Rhiannon, he knew better than to press his luck. Travis didn't exactly believe in magic, but with as accurate as her intuition seemed to be, he wasn't about to take any chances on those half-joking curses she always threatened him with.
So he spilled it. All of it.
And at last, he had a plan.
"Where the hell have you been," Wes growled, seeing his partner had finally returned from lunch.
Travis winced, he was a bit late, but he couldn't return until he had everything he needed. Luckily, Rhiannon had all the supplies he would require and had left them on the steps to his trailer. All he had to do was go in and set it up.
"Sorry Wes, had something to take care of." He wasn't sorry in the least, but that was neither here nor there.
"Whatever. Jjust get back to work on that report. If the Captain comes back in here asking for it again, I'm going to shoot you."
Travis bent his head over the stupid report, unable to make any sense out of his notes. He gave up, knowing that concentrating on anything other than what he'd learned at lunch today was pointless. The idea that Wes had been carrying around that amount of pain all these years was eating at him. It had cleared up a lot of things for him, however, things he'd wondered about for years but hadn't ever had the nerve to ask Wes about directly.
"Travis," Wes said more loudly this time. "Earth to Travis."
He blinked, startled out of his thoughts. "Yeah?"
"It's five o'clock. I'm going home."
Travis stood, grasping Wes by the wrist. "Not alone you're not."
He shot his most annoyed look in Travis' direction. "Yes, I am. I want to be alone tonight."
Letting go of Wes' arm, he frowned. He really couldn't blame him, not really, but he also knew that Wes could not be alone tonight. Somehow, he needed to find some closure and Travis was intent on helping him do so. Tonight.
"Come back to my place and at least have dinner with me. Then, if you want, you can go hide in your sterile hotel room and sleep by yourself for all I care."
He did care, but telling Wes so wasn't normally a prudent thing to do.
"Please Wes? Humor, just this once."
Wes humored him more than either realized, but there was something about the look in the other's eyes that said he should run with it. So he did.
"Okay. Just dinner."
"Just dinner," Travis agreed. "Meet me at my place?"
Wes knocked on Travis' trailer door, waiting. He was about to knock a second time when the door opened and his lover joined him outside. The blonde's brows scrunched up in question, but he remained silent.
"Look, before we go inside, I need you to promise me you're not going to freak out on me, okay?"
"Why – what have you done?"
A ghost of a smile flitted across Travis' features before disappearing into the night. "Nothing horrible, but I know you and this is the kind of thing that might freak you out, okay?"
Wes sighed acknowledging the idea that anything Travis did was enough to freak him out.
Taking that as acquiescence, Travis continued, handing Wes a paper napkin and a pen. "I want you to – and no arguments, okay? – I want you to write a message to someone who has passed on onto this napkin, okay? And sorry, I lost my notepad."
"No questions. I promise I'll explain it all later, okay? Can you trust me for like, an hour?"
The earnestness on Travis' face shut down all of Wes' comebacks. He'd promised to start giving Travis more credit, to listen, and to trust him to do the right thing. Now seemed like the right moment to put his money where his mouth was.
"Okay. I'll try."
It was the hardest thing he'd ever been asked to do, but he had a feeling it would be important later. Staring at the blank napkin, he was at a loss for what to say. It took several minutes, but he finally had an idea and scratched a few words onto the paper before folding it and shoving it into Travis' hand.
"Thanks. Now, once we get inside, you have to promise me absolute silence until after we're done with dinner. It's imperative."
He figured he had to agree if Travis was pulling out what he was so fond of calling 'five dollar words' to use on him. Wes didn't understand, but he'd promised to trust Travis and this was just one more step in that direction. He nodded.
"Okay, come in then."
The interior of Travis' trailer was shrouded in shadow. A handful of candles – sugar cookie scented of all things – burned around the kitchenette casting a warm glow over the table and surrounding area. Wes blinked when he saw the plates, napkins, plastic silverware, and everything else on the table was all black.
He blinked again when he saw there were four places set for dinner.
But only two held food.
Wes opened his mouth to question Travis' ability to count when he remembered the one rule he'd been pressed to comply with: absolute silence. Instead of asking the obvious question, he closed his eyes and breathed deeply. When they opened again, Travis was beaming at him, blue-grey eyes glinting in the candlelight.
Travis drew out Wes' chair and motioned for him to sit. Once he was comfortable, Travis seated himself directly across from Wes, leaving empty place settings on either side of them both. Silently, he dished out the food he'd picked while he was out at lunch – some of Wes' favorites like that Greek couscous salad he liked so much from the Mediterranean shop down the road from the station – and handed a plate to his partner before filling one for himself.
Wes watched curiously, and tentatively began to eat once Travis had. It took only two bites before he dug in with gusto, only belatedly realizing the last time he'd eaten was yesterday at lunch. Travis' damn hormones had delayed dinner last night unto the point where neither had the strength to be bothered with it.
Watching while his partner cleaned the last bits of food off his plate, Travis held out the piece of paper Wes had given over to him before they'd come inside. With a look, Wes took it from him and waited, trusting in the other to give him some sort of direction. Travis procured a similar piece of napkin from a pocket somewhere out of sight and presented it so Wes could see what it was. Without a word, he dipped the edge of the paper into the flame of the candle at the center of the table, watching it burn until he could feel the warmth of the flames on his fingers. Before it could burn his skin, he dropped it into the ceramic ashtray he'd set beside candle.
Travis motioned for Wes to do the same and, after a slight hesitation, he caught the edge of his words to the beyond in the flame and watched his regrets burn before his eyes. He was so focused on the flickering flame that it scorched his skin lightly before he jerked his fingers back, dropping the remaining bit of paper into the ashtray alongside Travis'. Lifting his fingers to eye level, he scanned them for any sign of injury. A warm set of fingers grasped the palm of Wes' hand, pulling it across the table and pressing the singed tips to his partner's lips.
He let Wes' hand go, standing and pressing a finger to his lips. Wes remained silent while Travis moved systematically around the trailer snuffing each candle in succession. Only once the last candle had been extinguished did Wes hear Travis' voice. It was the barest of whispers against his neck, but it was enough.
He was absently tracing abstract designs in the sweat-soaked hair on his lover's chest. Their lovemaking had taken on a different mien tonight, trading passion for patience and exuberance for emotion. Not that Wes was complaining, not by a long shot, but it still left him confused. This whole damn day had left him confused.
"Are you going to explain any of this to me or am I to be left to wonder?"
A throaty laugh escaped Travis, rumbling up from deep within his chest. "Do you really want to know or should I make something up?"
Wes pushed up from his resting place in the crook of Travis' arm. "Is it that bad?"
"Naw man, not at all," he countered, pulling Wes back down against him.
The inevitable but. "But, you rely on cold hard facts and this was, well, not about anything close to facts."
Wes maneuvered so he could look into Travis' eyes. "So, explain it to me. Tonight's all about the unexplainable anyway, right?"
"Right," Travis agreed. "But I'm going to have to start at the beginning and you're going to get mad."
He exhaled, waiting. "I promise to try and hear you out before I throttle you."
"Well, that's something, I guess," Travis teased. "But see, you were fine this morning until you realized what day it was. And then you only got pissier as the day went on."
Wes' eyes narrowed in suspicion but he held his tongue.
"So, I got worried, okay? I mean, I care about you, about us and this thing that we have. We've been good, man, real good and I hated to see you so angry."
"Well, so, I called Alex."
"Oh Travis, you didn't." Wes rolled onto his stomach, burying his face in the pillow, horrified.
"I did, but I had reason. You were freaking me out."
"So she told you then."
Travis reached out and started rubbing slow circles into Wes' tense back. "Yeah, she told me, Wes. And I can't figure out for the life of me why you never did."
"Because it was in the past. Why bring it up over and over again?" His voice was muffled by the pillow, but the pain was evident even through all the poly fiber filling.
"Why? You mean other than because you're still suffering nineteen years later? It wasn't your fault, no matter how much you think it might be. You couldn't have saved him."
He looked up from the pillow and met his lover's blue eyes in the semi-dark. He saw nothing but sincerity etched in his expression, something unusual for Travis. "I could have tried."
Travis laid his head against the small of Wes' back, draping his arm across his partner's waist. "You might have tried, but you would have still failed. Everything Alex told me about Ethan convinced me that he was the only man on the planet even more stubborn than you are. There was nothing you could have said or done that would have kept him from getting into that car with those jerks that night. His death was because of his own stupidity, not because of any failure on your part."
Buried somewhere deep inside, he knew Travis was right. Alex had said the same thing many times over the years and yet, he wasn't able to believe her, either. Ethan had wanted so badly to be one of the cool boys, to fit in with the jocks and the cheerleaders that he'd have done anything to be popular. That one of the smartest people Wes had ever known had willingly gotten into the car of a drunken teenager confounded him to this day.
"So what was with the goth dinner then?"
"It's what a friend of mine calls a 'dumb supper'. A way of saying farewell, of letting go, and helping the spirits move on. What she gave to me was a very simplified, watered-down variation of her own ritual, but she figured it would work for what we needed it to do."
Wes quirked up an eyebrow. "Ritual? Should I ask?"
Travis laughed. "Yeah, she's a witch, but don't hold that against her, okay? I think you'd like her."
"Is that why there were two empty plates then? I thought maybe you'd forgotten how to count."
"Me? Forget how to count? Never. But yeah. You set a place for your missing loved ones. So, I set a place for Ethan."
"Who was the other for?"
He looked away, uncomfortable for the first time. "Someone I used to know, a long, long time ago."
Wes wanted to push him for more information, but he decided that, for now, Travis was allowed to have his secrets. It was the least he could do considering all that he'd done for him tonight already.
Travis pressed his lips against the warm, pale flesh of his lover's back. "Do you feel any better?"
"A little," he allowed.
"Good." He tightened his grip around Wes' middle, hugging him close. "Can I ask what you wrote on the napkin?"
"Yes, you can."
"You grammatically correct jerk. Will you tell me what you wrote?"
Wes laughed for the first time all evening. "Yes, if you must know, I wrote 'I miss you.' It was all I could think to say to him."
Fingers lightly trailed along the expanse of bare skin beneath him. Travis considered the words he'd written himself and compared them with Wes' sentiments and was amazed at how close they'd both been. He was surprised by how often they were so in tune with the other, but it made sense, too, that they were. Spending so much time together at work was enough to put them on the same wavelength, but when you added in all the post-work hours they spent in each other's company, how could they not be?
"I think it was all you needed to say to him, too."
"For once, Marks, you might be right."
"But of course I am, Mitchell," he retorted, nipping lightly at Wes's side. "Have you ever known me to be wrong?"
Wes wriggled onto his back and held his arms out to Travis. "Not very often, but you do have your moments."
Travis scooted up the length of his partner's body, lining up eye to eye, mouth to mouth with him. "I think I'm about to have another one of my 'moments'." He wriggled his eyebrows in a silly yet seductive manner. "You game?"
"For a 'moment' with you? Always."
"Good to know. Now promise me that, if your past ever decides to intercede on my having a good time, please let me know so we can fix it and proceed to party. Okay?"
Wes laughed. "Okay. I promise I'll try. It's the best I can do."
"And it's all I can ask. Now, kiss me, you fool."
Wes tangled his fingers in the dark hair on Travis' head, silently grateful he hadn't mentioned that haircut he'd been thinking he needed. He found it so much more satisfying if he could get a good fistful during those intense moments between them. Currently, he used that handful of hair to bring Travis' mouth to his, opening his lips to his lover and himself to the possibility of finally moving on.
Travis watched Wes sleeping beside him, chest rising and falling in a consistent, rhythmic pattern that signaled a worn out detective. Tomorrow he needed to ensure that Wes went back to his hotel – alone – and got a solid night of uninterrupted sleep for a change. He might be younger than Travis, but he was much more high-strung and that meant he needed his rest that much more.
He just couldn't bear to be without him by his side for one night.
They'd needed this, however. Wes had a bad habit of holding himself accountable for things he had no control over. It was human nature, he thought, to do this on occasion, but Wes went above and beyond the call of duty in this respect. It was part of the reason why his marriage had failed. It was also a good part of the reason why there was always so much tension between the two of them. Wes felt Travis took no responsibility while Travis believed Wes took on much more than he was expected to.
It left them at a rather nasty sort of impasse.
Ethan was but one of the many roadblocks standing in the way of their forming a true partnership, a real relationship. Now, there was one less roadblock. How many more stood in Travis' path, he had no idea. He was determined to tackle each one as they came, breaking them apart or at least wearing them down until they were manageable. There was so much more to tackle before Travis could even begin to be honest with Wes.
Before he could ever contemplate telling him the truth.
Sleepiness was beginning to tug at his eyelids so he settled down on the pillow beside his partner and lover. Travis snuggled as close to Wes as he could get without waking him, but still close enough that he could feel the steady puffs of heat as he quietly breathed. He blew the fairer man a kiss, reluctant to disturb him with a physical one to his cute little nose.
His eyes drifted closed and his body slowly relaxed. A suggestion of movement, followed by a brush of warmth, prodded at Travis' drowsy mind. Ignoring it in favor of some much-needed shut-eye, he snuggled down farther into the heat of Wes' body, never noticing that his lover had instinctively reached out to him in his sleep.
Taking his hand.