Tony pulled up to the YMCA on a Sunday morning, hoping the basketball court didn't have a ton of teenagers already there. He was pretty sure he would never truly be comfortable around kids, let alone rowdy teenage boys, and after the last few weeks being run ragged by his boss, he just wanted some down time. He figured he could shoot a few hoops, maybe get in a pick-up game or even one-on-one if there were any adults playing and maybe forget for a while how empty his life was. It didn't bother him as much during the week because work filled the gap, but the weekends, especially the ones when he wasn't on call, were more difficult. The silence of his apartment had been too much that morning. He needed to be around people, even if it was just a pickup game of basketball at the Y.
He grabbed his duffel bag and headed around back to the basketball court, relieved that there were no teenagers in sight. Well, okay, there had been that one that was walking inside as he walked out back but he wasn't going to the court. In fact, there was only one guy there shooting hoops, and he was obviously an adult. He hadn't expected the court to be quite that empty, but it probably wouldn't last too long.
As he got closer, he took a good look at the guy already there. He was tall, lanky, wore a simple pair of gray shorts, and a dark-gray t-shirt. He had long arms that while not ripped, he could see muscles rippling under the skin. He didn't look like an athlete, but he was fit. He dribbled the ball a few times before shooting another hoop. He missed but when he got the ball and made another shot, he got it in that time.
As Tony got closer, the guy turned and looked at him, nodded politely in greeting. Tony noticed he was better than average looking, had a geek-ish look about him, but also that the guy hadn't shaved that morning, so not exactly a geek either. He was nearly embarrassed to realize they had just stood there looking at each other slightly longer than they should've and Tony smiled a little self-deprecatingly. Despite that, he didn't pick up a vibe that this guy was any threat to him and seemed friendly in manner. He set his bag down near the rules sign on the fence and approached him.
"Morning," Tony said.
"Uh, good morning."
Tony noted the slight stammer and smiled, noting the shyness. "Just shooting hoops, huh? Wanna do a little one-on-one?" A split second too late, especially after his realization, he realized how dirty that could be construed and quickly nodded toward the basketball in the other guy's hand.
The guy hesitated a moment, then smiled a little bashfully. "Uh, I…I've never played one-on-one before to be honest. I…uh, just like to shoot hoops."
Tony blinked in surprise. "Never? Really?"
The guy smiled again and looked down and Tony saw he really was a little shy and he felt himself warm to the guy.
"It's easy. I can teach you."
Tim looked up in surprise. "Yeah?"
"Yeah, nothing to it."
Tim snorted. "Okay, sure. Why not?"
Tony grinned. "Actually, I prefer Tony."
Tim did a double take. "What?"
"Ynot is Tony spelled backward."
It only took Tim a second to think about it and his grin lit up his face. "That's good! I like it. I'm Tim." He held out his hand to shake.
Tony took it with enthusiasm and was pleasantly surprised by Tim's strong but easy grip. "Nice to meet ya, Tim. Okay, you ready?"
"Always," Tim said.
Tony blinked as he registered the word. Something about the way he said it made Tony feel like he was talking about much more than learning how to play one-on-one, but he wasn't sure what to make of it. He needed more information. There had been that extra-long look as they checked each other out, but the sun was bright, so that could be explained away.
Tony started dribbling and explained the basic rule set he liked to played by. Tim was smart, picked it up easy, but Tony noticed he practiced a few times before he moved confidently. Definitely not a natural athlete, but he tried. Tony could tell that Tim knew the basics of the game, but guessed no one had spent any time with him to teach him more. Tony leaped up and made a basket. "Don't be afraid to psyche out your opponent. Feint one way, then go the other. They should be expecting it, but sometimes that extra second throws them."
Tim nodded, dribbled the ball, went left, when Tony went left, he turned, went right and shot the ball. It sailed into the hoop as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
"That was great!" Tony called to him as Tim smiled, grabbed the ball and dribbled.
Tony tried to steal the ball from him but Tim turned at the last second, evading Tony's grasp and feinted again. Tony was ready for it this time and he moved at the same time as Tim did and crashed into his chest, sending Tim sprawling backward and landing on his backside with an oomph.
"Oh, shit!" Tony said as the ball rolled away, forgotten. "You okay, man?"
Tim laid there a second, the wind knocked out of him.
"Hey, Tim?" Tony kneeled down.
Tim looked over at him. "I'm…okay," he said slowly. "Lost my breath for a sec."
With him lying like that and the sun above them instead of in their faces, Tony got a close look at Tim's face to realize it was probably two or three days worth of stubble, not just one and he had bright green eyes that seemed to pierce his soul when he looked into them. Tim was actually better looking than Tony had realized with the sun in his face, and he seemed like a nice guy. He had listened when Tony was teaching him about the game, and he inexplicably felt drawn to him in a way he hadn't felt drawn to a guy before. In the past, it was all about a hard body against his. The thought of this man's body against his was appealing, but there was something else, he couldn't quite figure out what, but Tony was fascinated.
Tony stood up and held out his hand. "Come on. Ground can't be comfortable."
Tim took a deep breath and accepted the outstretched hand and let Tony help him gain his feet. Once Tim was standing, Tony held on a moment to make sure he was steady.
"Uh, yeah, good. Think I need to sit down a minute though."
"Absolutely," Tony agreed letting go, but not before he noted just how well his hand fit around Tim's forearm. He never had much reason to touch anyone except for sex, but Tim's skin had been warm, not overly sweaty despite their game and Tony remembered how long it had been since he'd messed around with another guy. Not since before Wendy, he realized. Since becoming a cop and now a NCIS agent, he hadn't indulged that proclivity in a while, not wanting it to get around that he was bisexual, but Tim…well, if he wasn't misreading everything, he'd consider it.
They sat on the bench for a minute. "Sorry about that, Tim. Wasn't trying to kill you on your first game."
Tim smiled. "Was an accident. I knew it could happen. Used to watch it happen in games on TV."
"So what's your favorite team?"
Tim's face seem to color and he looked away and suddenly uncomfortable. "Uh…well, don't really have one. I…I'm not really a fan."
Tony must've looked confused; he wasn't sure but Tim smiled a little at him, as if understanding. "I'm not really a sports guy, I guess. I prefer computers and books over sports. But uh, my dad was always bugging me to go outside and do stuff that normal boys did." He made air quotes when he said the word normal. "I didn't like playing football or soccer or anything like that, but shooting hoops, that was okay. I liked doing that and if he saw me outside shooting hoops or watching a basketball game on TV, he usually left me alone. Got out of the habit of doing it while in college, but now, it's kind of relaxing and it's exercise so yeah." He held up a hand as if to say, "Here I am," and smiled a little self-deprecatingly.
Tony snorted at this. Life was funny sometimes. His dad wanted him to be the uptight, wheeling and dealing businessman who never saw the light of day, and here this guy's dad practically pushed him into doing sports even though he wasn't into it at all. Tony felt like he might have found a kindred spirit in this guy.
"Your dad thought playing sports was normal?"
"Oh yeah. He didn't like having a geek for a son."
"My dad probably would've loved you."
"Really?" Tim didn't buy that.
"Yeah, he wanted me to take over the family business. I wanted to play pro ball. He wasn't happy when I chose sports over a business degree."
"And I thought every dad wanted his kid to play sports. 'What are you going to do, Tim? Sit on the sidelines and be a pussy cheerleader? Get off your ass and on the gridiron.'" Tony sensed Tim's gruff imitation was probably pretty close to what Tim had listened to his whole life. It just sounded so unlike the tall, lanky man sitting beside him.
Tony smiled and decided to reciprocate. "For me it was, 'Junior, when are you going to stop messing around and actually do something with your life? At this rate, you're going to end up in the gutter.'"
Tony expected Tim to laugh. Instead, Tim just looked at Tony, a look of disgust on his face. "He really said that?"
"More times than I can count."
Tim blinked. "Damn, and I thought my dad was a hard-ass," he muttered.
Tony smiled. "Sounds like he was." Tony jerked his head over toward the basketball hoop. "You want to try again?"
"Uh…yeah," Tim said standing up. "Just go a little easy on me, huh?"
"You got it!" Tony said with a grin, and Tony shot the ball at Tim to give him another go.
The game progressed uneventfully except Tim missed six hoops, made three, and Tony only missed two. Finally, both men wiped sweat from their foreheads and called a time-out.
Tim walked over to his duffel bag and pulled out a bottle of water and drank some of it down. "That was fun," he said when he was done. "We should play again sometime…if you want to, that is."
"Yeah! A little more practice and you'll be able to hold your own against me."
Tim smiled but it was clear he didn't believe a word Tony said. "I doubt that, but thanks."
"No, seriously. You just need some practice."
"I doubt I'll ever beat you."
"Who said anything about beating me? I just said you could hold your own."
Tim laughed. "I really just like to shoot hoops really, playing for real wasn't my thing."
"I played basketball in college. Loved it. Was a lot of fun."
Tim nodded and tossed him the ball back. "So, I take it you never went pro?"
Tony shrugged but the smile faded. "Nah, broke my leg in a football game in college. That ended my pro ball dreams."
"Ouch," Tim empathized with a wince. "That sucks."
"Yeah, it did."
"So what'd you end up doing instead?"
"I…uh…became a cop."
"You're a cop?" Tim didn't seem to believe it.
"Was, yeah. Now, I'm a federal agent."
"Really?" Tim gazed at him in disbelief.
Tony laughed. "Yeah. I work for NCIS, that's the…"
"Naval Criminal Investigative Service," Tim finished.
Tony blinked in surprise. "How do you know that? Most people have never heard of it."
Tim grinned. "My dad is an admiral. He wanted me to join the Navy but I get seasick just looking at a ship. I thought by being an NCIS agent, I could still be involved with the Navy and make him proud of me."
"So what happened?"
Tim sighed. "I applied, but that was right around the time of the government hiring freeze - no one could get a job at the time. I needed a job and couldn't wait until the freeze lifted so I had to find something else."
"I hear that, man. That sucks. So what'd you end up doing?"
Tim smiled. "I work for a company that designs software used by law enforcement. Figured it was the next best thing to working in law enforcement and the military."
"Yeah? What kind of software?"
"Well, we have a team that works on facial recognition software. That's no longer classified so I can talk about that. I work on a different team but I can't talk about what I'm working on, but it's going to be a boon for law enforcement. That's all I can say."
"Sounds like it pays big bucks," Tony said with a grin.
"Not bad," Tim said. "I enjoy it and it still will end up helping a lot of people."
"Well, the facial recognition software has caught lots of criminals so yeah, it does help a lot of people."
Tim smiled at this and Tony noted how proud that smile was.
"You lied, you did work on that software."
"I didn't lie. I said I worked on a different team. I never said I didn't work on the facial recognition software. I'm just doing something different now."
Tony laughed. For a second, he thought about mentioning Abby and how much she loved playing with software, tweaking it and trying to make it work better, but he was really starting to like this guy and he wasn't about to introduce competition until he knew for sure if Tim might be interested in him unless he already had someone. Even if he was spoken for, he had to admit it was nice to just hang out and at least this guy wasn't a taciturn bastard like his boss.
A couple voices filled the air and both men turned toward the direction of the parking lot. Two men, one of them with a basketball in their hands were headed in their direction. Tony stood up. "You want to play again? If so, we better claim this hoop."
Tim grinned. "Sure, Ynot."
Tony did a double take at the way Tim made Ynot sound like a name rather than a question. Tim's grin caught him off guard. There was warmth in his eyes and smile that Tony hadn't had directed at him by anyone in a long time, and being teased about the Tony/Ynot pun was a pleasant surprise. He wasn't used to being teased except by Abby, and while Abby could be a lot of fun, this was different and it made him like Tim a little bit more.
Tony grinned back, glad Tim accepted the offer, because he wanted to hang out with him longer. When Tim turned away to shoot the ball, Tony took a second to check him out again. He could see his muscles ripple a little under his skin; he kept fit and he looked good. The shadow of stubble on his chin and lower jaw only added to his attractiveness and saved him from a full-on geek look. The stubble on his jaw and chin was doing something for him that he hadn't reacted to in any guy ever. It was messing with his head.
"Heads up!" Tim said a second before the ball sailed through the air and Tony reached out and caught it automatically. Tony grinned a little sheepishly, knowing by the almost-but-not-quite smug look on Tim's face that he'd been caught, but he started dribbling and got back into what they were there for. For the next half-hour he and Tim played, Tony occasionally offering pointers and after a few misses, Tim stole the ball from him and made a basket.
"Great job! Now do it again!"
They played for almost an hour before Tim called for a time-out and drained the rest of his water bottle. "Man, I think that's it for me."
Tony chucked. "We gotta work on your stamina. I still have another game or two in me."
Tim laughed. "Nothing wrong with my stamina, I just need a breather."
"Uh huh, suuuure," Tony teased, shoulder bumping him good naturedly. "Lightweight," Tony teased.
Tim shoulder bumped him right back and chuckled. "The heavier they are, the harder they fall."
"I'm not the one who took a spill earlier," Tony pointed out with a grin.
"That was your fault!"
Tony laughed but didn't refute the claim. They were silent for a few seconds and it was just long enough for Tony's stomach to growl rather loudly.
"Oh damn, what time is it?" Tony asked, going over to his bag to check his phone, happy there were no messages. "Huh, it's almost one. I'm starving. Guess I better go feed the beast," he said with a grin, referring to his stomach.
"Yeah, I'm hungry too. Could go for a burger right now."
"And a beer," Tony added and inspiration struck. "Hey, I know a great bar with awesome burgers and imported beers, it's not too far away. They should be open now. Man, the burgers are to die for. You want in?"
Tim hesitated only a moment before he grinned. "Sounds good, Ynot."
Tony glared sideways but there was no heat in it. "You really like that, don't you?"
"I like word games and puns are awesome." Tim's grin was unabashed and Tony felt his heart skip a beat. Damn, when he smiled like that, Tony almost forgot he was a geek.
Tony stepped closer and grinned back deciding to push a little since he could feel the interest between them. "That mean you're going to subject me to pun-ishment?" Tony asked with a smirk, hesitating a second after pun.
Tim raised an eyebrow with curiosity. "I don't know, Tony. You like being pun-ished?" he asked using 'pun' the same way but the intense gaze in Tim's eyes suggested a whole lot more than was being said.
The warmth coupled with the playfulness compelled Tony to grin and he looked him up and down. "And if I do? What are you going to do about it?"
Tim grinned and cleared his throat. "I like to take my time and make sure my pun-ishment fits. How about we start with lunch and go from there?"
If not for the other two guys on the court playing one-on-one and laughing with each other, Tony might've forgot they were in public. The shy, almost bashful guy he met not even two hours ago had suddenly morphed into a confident, sexy man whose focus was completely on him. Tony realized Tim had just needed some encouragement and God, he would definitely encourage him. Sexual tension circled the atmosphere around them and Tim held his gaze waiting for an answer. As Tim's words registered, he realized this wasn't just about sex. He looked in Tim's eyes and something there called out to the loneliness he felt and he wondered if Tim was as lonely as he was.
A nearby shout from one of the guys at the other hoop made him jump and their gaze broke and Tony looked around startled. The two guys were immersed in their game and teasing each other and Tony turned back to Tim. Tim was smiling a little now, seemed completely unperturbed by the interruption but waiting.
"Okay," Tony said and in a hoarse voice told him how to get to the bar. "Meet you there?"
Tim smiled and nodded and they grabbed their bags and their basketballs and walked toward the parking lot. They reached Tony's car first and Tim stopped with him. He stood in front of Tony and his eyes flitted to Tony's lips and back up to his eyes. "Just so you know, we're going to be playing a lot of one-on-one in the future."
Tony's mouth went dry and he shivered as the words washed over him. The double entendre was sexy and for a second, Tony ached to lean in and kiss him, feel that stubble that was still messing with his head. He suddenly felt like the player who had been outplayed. He'd taught Tim how to play one-on-one but he had a sudden thought that maybe Tim could teach him a lot more. He swallowed hard. "Yeah," he said with a hoarse voice. "Why not?"
Tim's answering smile said it all and he watched Tim walk to his car before he realized how dumb he must look standing there staring at the guy and he turned and got in his own car. He had never considered having more than a one-night-stand with a guy before, but Tim wasn't anything like the guys he used to pick up way back when. He was different, better, and…why not indeed?