Divide & conquer, p.8
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       Divide & Conquer, p.8

         Part #4 of Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux
Page 8


  Ty winced and looked down at his finger, his other hand settling on his sore ribs.

  “Ty, look at me,” Zane requested.

  Ty looked up at him obediently, unable to wipe the frown off his face. “If youre hurting, take the pills. You dont stress over drinking beer in front of me anymore. Why stress over this?” He was using logic, and he didnt sound upset.

  “Are you sure?” Ty asked anyway. He didnt feel right waving prescription drugs in Zanes face. “Maybe I can just sit the game out. Its not like the world will end if I dont play or anything. ”

  “Like thatll happen. ” Zane shook his head as he chuckled. He snagged a pair of jeans that lay folded on the dresser and walked over to stand in front of him. They were Tys favorite pair, stolen from their last UC operation. They would fit Zane okay; his two to three inches of extra height were mostly in the torso anyway. After a smile, he leaned down to kiss the corner of Tys mouth. “Thank you. For caring enough to worry about it. Now go take the damn pill. Or half of it. A whole will put you back on your ass. Theyre on the bathroom counter. ”

  Ty muttered as he turned and headed for the bathroom. If he took a half now and another half in a few hours, that would get him through the game, and then hed have the rest of the day to sleep it off before work Monday morning. If he didnt take them, he might be able to gut out the game, but his bruised ribcage was already screaming just from rolling out of bed.

  He stood looking at the little packet indecisively for a long moment before reaching for the pills and pouring them out into his hand. He plucked one from the pile, scooped the rest back up in the packet, and then pulled at the pill to try to break it in half. He cursed when he couldnt get the thing to snap in two like it was supposed to, and he pulled out another one and tried to snap it instead.

  After trying each of the pills and failing to snap any of them on the line, he growled quietly and cursed. His fingers werent working like they were supposed to.

  Instead of asking Zane to deal with it, he popped a whole pill into his mouth and swallowed with a wince at the bitter taste. One every six hours was the same as a half every three, right?

  Not really, but it would do.

  He continued to mumble to himself as he hurried to get ready for the game. After a few more minutes, he joined Zane downstairs. “Need any help?” Zane asked.

  “You think you can find my cleats?” Ty requested as he buttoned the gray Feds jersey with fingers that felt too thick.

  “Sure,” Zane said amiably, and he headed for the front door. Ty was still tucking the jersey in and adjusting the Under Armour shirt he wore beneath it when Zane brought his dirty cleats to him. Ty could feel that pill beginning to work already. Now he questioned the wisdom of taking it, and he wondered if it was too late to go throw it back up. They usually took longer to hit him.

  Zane looked him up and down with a small smirk before gesturing with one finger for Ty to turn in a circle. “What?” Ty frowned at him suspiciously, but he held his hands out to his sides and turned in a slow circle as requested. When he completed the movement to face Zane again, he saw Zane watching him, biting his lower lip.

  “Well, itll do for a ballgame,” Zane murmured as he stood. Ty huffed at him and inexplicably found himself blushing under the scrutiny. “Youre a dick, Garrett,” he muttered as he moved to grab his cleats.

  “So says the ass in very tight pants,” Zane said, half laughing as he grabbed his wallet and keys. “Cmon. Food, then ball field. ” T HE SUV idled near First Maryland Bank. Pierce checked his watch. The first game was set to start in ten minutes. If he had planned it right, and he had, the explosion would take out at least half of the crowd and players. He smiled. Most of them were cops, and any of the others— firefighters, EMTs, or regular spectators—were just collateral damage. It served them right for playing with the pigs or buying into that spectacle. Besides, the more deaths there were, the less likely it was anyone would pay attention to the bank robbery on the other side of town. He hoped someone stepped on the plate during the national anthem. Chaos, panic, disorder, all of the above.

  It would be brilliant. He turned up the police band radio, waiting for the inevitable calls for ambulances, fire trucks, and bomb squads. He only wished he could be there to see it explode.

  T HE number of vehicles clogging the parking lots, streets, and even browned grassy areas around the playing fields surprised Zane. Sure, it was a softball tournament on a Sunday afternoon, but wow. There were people everywhere, in various states of winter dress. It reminded him of a county fair with all the fund-raising vendors set up. He almost expected to smell barbecue, but that would have been Texas. Here in Baltimore it would be the sweet scent of fried crabcakes.

  “Whered you leave the Bronco?” Zane asked. “In the far corner over there,” Ty answered immediately, pointing toward the edge of the lot where several large trees with spindly bare branches loomed over the cars parked on the crunchy dormant grass.

  Zane tried to find a space near it but ended up going in the opposite direction to park closer to the field so Ty wouldnt have to walk so far. “Let me guess. Shes away from the foul balls. ”

  Ty looked across the lot at the Ford affectionately. Zane had never seen anything special about the old SUV except for the fact that Ty loved her, and Ty was adamant that the vehicle was a her. She was an 88 Ford Bronco, green with a tan underbelly, and every inch of her was lovingly cared for, if not pristine. From what Tys brother, Deuce, had told Zane, Tyd had the Bronco since he was in high school. Hed rescued it from a scrap yard and rebuilt it himself. The front windshield was scarred with the sticky remains of old entry decals, some of them retaining the shape of their former stickers from the Marine base at Camp Lejeune. Decals littered the edges of the back and side windows. Zane had never taken the time to stop and look at them all, but he guessed that there were dozens altogether.

  There was one very prominent white sticker in the rear window that said “Semper Fidelis” beneath the USMC eagle, globe, and anchor. There were several smaller decals scattered around that commemorated certain stretches of the Appalachian Trail. A yellow square with a familiar curled snake and the words “Dont Tread On Me. ” An old peeling sticker that had seen better days was what Zane had been told was a nautical star. There was a Smith & Wesson logo. In various places he could see a New Orleans Saints fleur de lis, an Atlanta Braves tomahawk, a faded Grateful Dead “steal your face” sticker, and a very old M with a circle over it that Zane knew stood for an Ironman Triathlon. A newer decal sported stylized Arabic writing that spelled out “Infidel” with an assault rifle used as the capital I. In direct contrast, on the opposite window, was the Om symbol. By itself in the center of one of the back windows was a black POW/MIA sticker.

  The Bronco and its dressings told the tale of Tys life and offered glimpses into his heart and soul, whether Ty meant it to or not. Zane knew it had traveled with Ty nearly everywhere hed been, even serving as his home a few times when Ty was transitioning between lives.

  “People have gotten to where they aim at her. Try to hit her with foul balls,” Ty complained.

  It drew a smile out of Zane, and he chuckled. “Thats awful,” he commiserated. “I know!” Ty exclaimed with complete sincerity. He leaned forward in his seat, digging through the duffel bag in the floorboard, and pulled out his cleats, which hed refused to put on before getting into the car.

  Zane shrugged, though he was amused by Tys utter seriousness. “If somebody threw a softball at the Valkyrie, Id have to clobber them. ”

  “Throwing is different. A foul ball has gravity on its side,” Ty explained as he popped open the passenger-side door and tried to swing his legs out before unbuckling his seatbelt. He grunted as the belt tightened, then reached behind him to fumble with the mechanism briefly before it released and he slid out of the truck in a tumble of shoes and equipment, disappearing from sight. “Im okay,” Zane heard him say.

  “Hes okay,” Zane muttered as he grabbed the ball cap off the floorboard, snagged the keys, and got out of the truck as well. He walked around to the passenger side, half expecting to see Ty on the ground.

  Hed managed to get himself together, though, and he was bent over, pushing his feet into his cleats. His equipment bag was over one shoulder, the handle of the bat hanging near the back of his head. He tied his shoe tight before standing and giving Zane a crooked smile.

  Zane held out the navy blue FBI ball cap. “Youll need this. ” Ty took it and put it on, shaking his head. “Ive never actually worn it in a game. Facemask,” he told Zane. He nodded toward the field and started walking. “You dont have to stay, you know. Theres a lot of news cameras here. ”

  Zane frowned as he followed, checking out the press. “I know. Do you want me to go?” he asked tentatively. Ty could be difficult to read, and since throwing the whole declaration of love into the mix, dealing with him was like navigating a minefield for Zane. They hadnt done the traditional yours vs. ours kind of distinctions, and sharing still wasnt a strong skill for either of them. This was Tys scene, and Zane wasn't sure he was welcome here.

  “No,” Ty answered easily. He turned and looked at Zane, then reached up and took his ball cap off again, handing it back to Zane as if hed forgotten hed just put it on. “I just dont want you getting bored. Put this on so peoplell know youre one of the bad guys. ”

  “One of the bad guys?” Zane laughed as he settled the cap comfortably on his head. It smelled just enough like Ty to make it worth wearing.

  “Well, the other teams love to hate us. ” Tys cleats clicked on the concrete as he walked, and even though Zane knew hed taken more medication earlier, he didnt seem overly uncoordinated or goofy.

  They threaded through a crowd of fans and various teams, including local law enforcement, a couple of insurance companies, and an area hospital before they turned the corner of the concession stand and saw the FBI team. Again, Zane was surprised by the number of people involved, especially out here in the cold in mid-February. Hed heard through the grapevine that Ty had been partially responsible for the league organization, calling in favors, reaching out to contacts in various fields around the city. Seeing the spectacle now, Zane had to wonder just how connected his partner really was.

  They were suddenly assaulted from the side by a perky young reporter blurting questions and her hulking cameraman. Ty just smiled and waved her off, telling her, “After the game, okay?”

  “Jesus, you werent kidding when you said this had gotten big,” Zane murmured as he stuck to Ty for protection from the mob. “Why havent I heard more about it?”

  “Because you work for a living,” Ty responded as he messed with the neck of his Under Armour shirt. He was getting twitchier as they moved, though that didnt strike Zane as particularly unusual. He was about to respond to Tys gentle dig when someone else spoke up to get Tys attention.

  “We were starting to wonder if you were gonna make it, Grady. You missed the national anthem,” Scott Alston said as he walked up to them. He was wearing the same uniform as Ty, but his jersey was tucked in and buttoned and his belt wasnt unbuckled. Zane had heard that all of the teams had given their players nicknames, like Tys “Bulldog. ” Some were more interesting than others. From the side, Zane could see Alstons was “Tinman. ” There had to be a story there.

  Alston looked at Zane and held out his hand, clearly surprised to see him there. “Not a big deal unless youre slated to fucking sing it, right? Garrett, good to see you. ”

  “Thanks,” Zane said as he shook Alstons hand. “Thought Id cheer for the team. He was supposed to sing?”

  “Right. ” Alston nodded slowly and looked between them knowingly. “Hes too drugged to drive, isnt he?”

  “Grady? Drugged? Would never happen,” Zane answered, meeting Alstons eyes straight on without blinking. “Sure it wouldnt,” Alston said with a laugh. He reached out and took Tys hand in his, lifting it to look at the tape Ty had wrapped around his fingers. “I see you have a lefty glove today. Broken or just bent?”

  Ty took a step closer and yanked his hand away. “Sit on it and spin, Scott,” he muttered as he walked past him toward the larger group of players.

  Alston laughed heartily and looked back at Zane with a raised eyebrow.

  Zane shrugged helplessly. “He said he wanted to play. ” “He always wants to play,” Alston assured him. “Thats what he was saying last night when we peeled him out of the dirt. ”

  “Been there, done that,” Zane said drily. “Ty can sing?” Alston just laughed like Zane was joking, and Zane let it go, feeling stupid for not knowing something like that about his partner. His lover. He glanced around, recognizing some other team members and spectators.

  “Im just going to hang out and relax. ” He paused, peering after Ty. “I should probably ask where the EMTs are. Just in case. ” “Dont worry. One of them has the hots for Grady. Shell be all over it if hes hurt,” Alston told him as he turned, waving over his shoulder. “Thanks for bringing him!”

  Zane waved him off and turned to survey the bleachers now that the team had cleared out. Close to full, but hed have room to stretch out his legs if he was careful. He had just started toward them when he heard the clacking of cleats behind him.

  Ty grabbed his elbow to stop him; Zane turned in place to look at his partner. Tys hazel eyes were shining in the sunlight, and he smiled crookedly as he let his hand slide away from Zanes arm. “Thanks for bringing me, Zane,” he said with an affectionate pat to Zanes belly, and then he turned away and jogged back toward the dugout on the other side of the field without waiting for Zane to respond.
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