Chapter 2

Tony had left Autopsy as quickly as his legs would carry him, tossing a flippant goodbye over his shoulder, using the only defense that he had: humor.

It was crass, and he realized that the instant that he stepped into the elevator and headed to the parking garage. As he stepped into the garage, he was barely aware of the fact that he was walking to his car, his feet taking him automatic. However, when he found himself sitting in the driver's seat, the key in the ignition, but not turned, he realized what had happened…and just how distracted he truly was by the whole incident.

He had kissed Palmer. Well, it was more like Palmer had kissed him, but he hadn't pushed him away.

Why hadn't he?

Realizing that sitting in his car all night wasn't going to solve anything, he started up the engine and left the parking garage, making his way home.

As soon as he arrived home, he tossed his keys in the direction of his dining room table, threw his coat over a chair and a tie over the arm of the same chair, and then made his way into his kitchen, wondering if he actually had any food in the house or if he would have to order out, yet again.

He opened the door to his fridge and stared…and soon became aware of the fact that he wasn't actually noticing what was in his refrigerator as his mind was still back on the kiss that he'd shared with the coroner's assistant. Oh, who was he kidding, it hadn't just been a kiss, it had been a full-blown make-out session, and most likely would have turned into something more had Ducky not arrived when he had.

He slammed the refrigerator door closed, wincing slightly when it shook a bit, and then stormed into his living room, throwing himself onto the couch, kicking off his shoes.

Tony then leaned back and slid his hands over his face and then through his hair.

He took a deep breath, trying to calm his unsettled nerves, and vaguely became aware of the fact that something was different.

He sat there for a long moment, trying to figure out just what it was that was different. There was something…and he couldn't seem to put his finger on it. After a couple of minutes of thinking about it, he took another deep breath and then it hit him.

He smelled like Jimmy.

It wasn't an autopsy smell, like formaldehyde or anything as disgusting as that…it was pure Jimmy.

He then looked down at his shirt.

That's where it was coming from; from where he had pressed up against the man while they had made out, his torso bare of any covering. The man's scent had permeated his shirt, and he had to admit that he liked it.

He continued to stare at his shirt, and then absently ran a hand over it, briefly wondering what it would be like to have the man's scent on his sheets…and then he became aware of where his thoughts were heading, and he quickly cut them off before they went any further. Jimmy Palmer already had a girlfriend; what had happened between the two of them had been a mistake. But at that thought, Tony found himself wishing that it hadn't been. That there was something more to it than just…hormones.

But who was he kidding? As far as everyone knew, and as far as Tony knew, he was a ladies man, and what had happened had simply been a one-off, an accident. They had been put into a slightly personal position and things had simply…well, happened.

And that was all there was to it.

Letting out a groan frustration, he thought back to what he'd remembered seeing in his refrigerator and decided he should go out and pick something up.

Thai sounded good.

He quickly stood and grabbed his other pair of shoes, old hiking boots, and snagged his aviator jacket from his closet. He made sure his wallet was in his back pocket, and that he had his keys, and then left, trying vainly not to think about the fact that the last time he'd had Thai, he'd been with Jimmy.

Yeah…fat chance.

Palmer walked into his apartment and was met with a warm hug from Breena, which he gently reciprocated, but he could feel the guilt of his earlier actions settling in the back of his mind.

Should he tell her? Should he tell her about what had happened between him and Tony, or should he simply let it slide and have it be an accident that he never spoke of again? But just as he thought this, he felt that it was something more than just a crush and an impulse that had made him kiss the man.

"Hey, sweetie," she said as she bustled around his apartment. "What do you want for dinner tonight? I was thinking we could get some takeout from that Thai place you like so much."

She was talking, but Jimmy wasn't entirely healing her…until she'd mentioned the Thai restaurant. That was where he and Tony had ordered from the few times that they'd hung out and watched movies together.

To order that food with her and eat it with her…well, it felt like a betrayal of some kind. And that was when he knew.


She looked up from the menu that she'd pulled off of the fridge, smiling.

"Yeah, Jimmy?"

He'd decided. He'd finally decided and he knew that he had to say the words, but they simply wouldn't come. It felt as though they were lodged in his throat, attempting to cut off his breath, trying to make him feel more guilty then he already did by choking him with it.

Breena stared at him, obviously confused by the conflicted expression on her boyfriend's face.

"Jimmy? Are you okay?"

He let out a long sigh, his eyes soft and apologetic…and finally the words came, falling effortlessly from his lips, as though he'd known the entire time that he would say them.

"Breena…I'm sorry."

Her expression became even more confused, and he swallowed back the lump that had appeared in his throat after saying the words. He hated himself for doing it, but at the same time knew that it was the only thing that he could do.

"What are you talking about, Jimmy?"

Palmer was scared to tell, as he no idea as to how she would react. He didn't know if she would yell, go deathly quiet, or simply storm out of the room. But he'd already said the words and he couldn't take them back, so he had to explain himself.

"Breena…I…I can't…" He felt his words start to dry up and his mind raced, trying to find them, and then he suddenly blurted out, "I'm in love with someone else."

Oh God…had he really just said that? Had he actually said those words? He hadn't meant to say the, he'd meant to say something entirely different. Not…that. He'd meant to say that it was him, not her, and that perhaps they should separate.

She stared at him in shock, her brown eyes wide, her lips slightly parted as though she'd started to say something.

Palmer then tried to recover. In vain, it seemed.

"Breena, I'm…I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to say it like that, I didn't mean to-"

She cut him off.

"Yes, you did, Jimmy. Otherwise…you wouldn't have said it." He felt the corner of his eyes burning as she spoke and he couldn't figure out why, but she continued. "I know you, remember? And you never say anything you don't mean."

His chest tightened in shame and he dropped his eyes, unable to withstand the sad look that she sent in his direction. He would have rather dealt with an accusatory glare and screaming and yelling than the look and the silence that she was giving him.

Slowly, she approached him and placed a hand on his upper arm, gently squeezing it and then letting her fingers linger.

"Who is it?"

Oh God. The one question that he least wanted to answer.

He hesitated a moment and then said, "I…I don't…" He then stopped, trying to gather his courage, but it wouldn't come. Knowing himself, he was fairly certain that it was hiding under the blankets in his bedroom, disappearing beneath the sheets, abandoning him.

He fell silent.

Her hand slipped from his arm.

"I guess...I should go," she said quietly, and he watched as she grabbed her purse and coat and then walked out the door. But just before the door closed, he heard her whisper…

"I love you."

…and his heart ached. He didn't want to hurt her, but he couldn't lie to her just to make himself feel better; she deserved better.

His apartment was strangely quiet.

After a few long, silent moments, he stomach growled and he realized that he was hungry. His thoughts went back to what Breena had suggested, and he decided that he could go there on his own. Thai sounded good. It sounded great, even.

Thai it was.

Part 2/?