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Breathing On His Own (or Five Times Carlton Slept With Buzz...and One Time He Didn't)

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He wasn't exactly sure when things had changed, but at one time, Carlton Lassiter had been the go-to-guy to have a good time. He'd been the guy to plan the cookouts, the poker nights, the bachelor parties. But some time after his marriage, he'd just stopped having fun. He could blame it on his wife, but he had a feeling it was his own fault he'd made life so serious.

Either way he was pretty surprised when, a few years after the last time he'd truly had fun, a bright-eyed rookie asked him along to the bar with the other detectives and officers for the kids 'initiation'. He'd seen two of the other officers trying to talk the rookie out of asking, and he made the decision to surprise them all (and maybe scare them) by accepting the invitation.

At the very least, he'd save himself the trip when he got called to handle the group of rowdy cops attempting to destroy the bar (as had happened the last time the department had taken a rookie out).

"What's your name, anyway, kid?" he asked the latest rookie as he pulled on his jacket to follow them out the door.

"Buzz, sir," he said brightly. "Buzz McNab." Carlton wanted to rag on the kid for having a stupid name, but there was something so…eager in the young man's expression he just couldn't find the heart to.

He'd tell himself later it was the eager look that did it; the way the kid just reminded him of better times: before his marriage, before the separation. There was hope in his eyes; something that hadn't been in Carlton's for so long…

Whatever it was, after too few beers, Carlton found himself in the alley behind the bar with a very young and eager tongue pushing hopefully down his throat.

------

Carlton was fully aware the rookie was avoiding him. The Head Detective understood (kind of). He'd never woken up in the bed of a superior (let a lone a male one) but he figured the kid was probably worried there'd be official consequences.

But two weeks had passed and the young officer's awkward behavior was starting to edge toward annoying. Carlton managed to corner him in a deserted gun range after most of the station had emptied for the night. Buzz looked away (awkwardly of course) and Carlton sighed.

"Look McNab," he began. "What happened between us…we were drunk…" Or at least not fully sober, Carlton thought. "You don't have to worry about there being any ramifications for you. It was a one-time thing and you really need to stop running every time you see me."

They stood in silence for several long moments. Just when Carlton was getting ready to move away, Buzz spoke.

"What if I don't want it to be?" the younger man asked quietly. Carlton looked at him in confusion as their gazes met.

"Huh?" he asked dumbly.

Buzz rolled his eyes before grabbing the detective by the back of the neck and pulling him toward him for a totally sober kiss.

------

Carlton wouldn't exactly call it an arrangement, but he had the feeling he probably should.

There was an unspoken agreement between the two men that somehow meant one man would show up at the other's place if the other man had let their first name slip at the station. Carlton didn't fail to notice Buzz showed up on his doorstep a lot more than he ever ended up at the younger man's apartment. There was a distance the younger man kept that Carlton was struggling to uphold.

Carlton liked their arrangement. It was rarely anything more than sex, but every so often found them sharing the occasional meal, whether it be dinner or breakfast, or sometimes catching half of a sporting event together, and the older man felt a little less lonely than he had since his wife had moved out.

"You didn't shower after the gym," Carlton murmured into the other man's skin as he tasted the sweat between the kisses he was applying to Buzz's neck and shoulders.

"You upset I didn't take longer to get here?" Buzz asked distractedly, running a hand down Carlton's bare back. Carlton chuckled softly before kissing along the other man's jawline. "I met a girl tonight." Carlton stopped suddenly and sat back, bewildered. "Got me a date Saturday."

Buzz was grinning; Carlton was wondering why the hell the younger man thought he wanted to hear about his potential for an extra-non-relationship affair. Carlton slid off the other man's lap to sit near the foot of the bed. Buzz frowned.

"What's wrong?" the younger man asked in genuine confusion.

"You have a date Saturday?"

"Yeah… Is that a problem? I mean…I didn't think we were making this mean…anything."

Carlton felt his mind racing. They'd never said anything, but after two months of sleeping together, Carlton didn't think he was fully at fault for assuming there was the potential for more than just sex. He hadn't meant to develop feelings for his young lover, but he couldn't help but realize they were there.

"Carlton?" Buzz was looking at him in concern now and the older man shook his head slightly.

"No. It's fine," Carlton heard himself say. He wanted to be upset; he wanted to be angry, but a voice in his head told him it was his own damn fault. He'd pulled the emotions out of thin air.

Buzz smiled tentatively and Carlton groaned to himself before lurching forward again to reclaim the other man's lips. He knew he was losing his lover and he wanted to make the most of what was left.

------

He wasn't expecting the knock on his door that night. He doubted it was Lucinda coming to say she'd changed her mind: rumors be damned, she wanted to be with him. No one wanted to be with him (at least not long term). It was a fact of his life he'd managed to (mostly) accept.

He was definitely surprised to open his door to find Buzz McNab standing on his porch, looking less ridiculous in his street clothes. (There was something about his height that always just made the police uniform look like a costume…) Buzz smiled and held up a 12-pack of beer.

"I thought you could use some company," he said. He moved around Carlton while the older man was still speechless, going for the kitchen like it hadn't been six months since his last visit.

Carlton's brain finally caught up with him as he heard the refrigerator door open and close. He moved toward the other room just as Buzz came out of it, holding two open beers. Carlton accepted one before he spoke.

"What makes you think I need company McNab?" The young officer smiled a bit.

"Don't act like you don't know the entire station is talking about it, sir. I gave the transfer papers to the Chief myself." Carlton took a deep drink of his beer as he moved back to his sofa, knowing Buzz would follow.

"I'm sorry, you know?" the younger man asked after he'd taken a seat next to the detective. "I didn't like her much…but I think she was good for you…in her own way."

Carlton smiled sadly and shook his head before taking another drink.

"She was a bitch, Buzz," he admitted. "Way too much like my wife. A little less of a personality, actually." Buzz frowned.

"Then why are you so attached to her?" Carlton sighed as he stared down at his carpet. It was an ugly green color Victoria had thought would be perfect in the room. Sometimes he found enjoyment in dragging muddy shoes across it, just because.

"She was there," he said quietly. "At least for awhile. She wanted to spend time with me. Wanted to find out what kind of bed I slept in." Buzz grinned suddenly and Carlton felt the muscles in his abdomen tighten involuntarily.

"Well I can't fault her there. That is one amazing mattress!" Carlton fought the smile Buzz caused. This could only lead to bad things: for both of them. The younger man was getting married.

"Why are you here Buzz?" he asked very quietly. The other man sighed as he set his beer on the coffee table. He leaned in to kiss Carlton on the lips lightly.

"To let you know not everyone is talking behind your back," he breathed against Carlton's cheek before moving his lips to the older man's throat.

"To say Lucinda really is a bitch to leave you." He lifted his head to look into Carlton's eyes. Carlton had missed seeing the depth in Buzz's eyes.

"And because you have an incredible mattress." The young man grinned and, this time, Carlton failed not to answer with his own.

------

Carlton had told himself it was never going to happen again. The kid was getting married for Christ's sake. But he knew there was no way he could legitimately avoid the bachelor party. Every male employee of the station was going, including the cleaning crew, and everyone knew Carlton well enough to know he had no social life outside of work to use as an excuse.

He hated strip clubs. Not that he minded the scantily clad women, but there was something about the atmosphere that just made him want to gag. He knew too many of them were desperate women: single moms with mouths to feed, battered girlfriends trying to support their abusive boyfriends. It was rare to find a stripper who actually enjoyed her job.

Carlton kept to a back corner, figuring if he stayed an hour, it'd be good enough. He groaned inwardly after only fifteen minutes as Shawn Spencer dropped into the chair next to his.

"What do you want Spencer?" he asked in annoyance. Shawn had a smirk on his face Carlton knew couldn't mean anything good.

"It's great to see you too Lassie!" he said brightly. Carlton groaned at the nickname. It brought back way too many memories of junior high.

"Can't you find someone else to pester?"

"Pester? Who says that?" Carlton sighed wearily and took a breath.

"I do apparently," he muttered. Carlton tried to let his gaze wander up to the busty blonde on the pole a few feet away, but he couldn't fail to notice the fading bruises around her wrists.

"Her boyfriend just got out of prison," Shawn commented absently, following Carlton's line of sight. "She meant to be out of town before he got back." Carlton looked at him in amazement. Shawn smirked as he looked back at him. "It's a gift and a curse. Aside from her shitty life, I'm also seeing the way a certain groom-to-be keeps looking your way…"

Carlton looked over at Buzz quickly in time to catch the younger man looking away. For being at his own bachelor party, the man seemed to be ignoring the women around him.

Carlton beat back a blush and sipped his beer. "I don't know what you're talking about Spencer," he mumbled. He tried to ignore the knowing grin that appeared on the psychic's face.

"Whatever Lassie. Just don't be surprised when he comes over here in ten minutes and convinces you to sneak out with him." Shawn finished the rest of his own beer as he stood.

Carlton felt little relief that Shawn's prediction didn't come true: it took Buzz fifteen minutes to make it over to his table. He wanted to say no; wanted to remind the man he was getting married in two days. But he couldn't stop thinking about the bruises on the stripper and the way relationships hurt, no matter the kind, and how amazing it'd been just to feel something again not two weeks before.

Buzz wasn't his to keep, but he was offering himself on loan and Carlton found himself leading the way out of the club.

------

It'd been a bad week that'd ended with one cop dead and another in the hospital. Carlton had been on the case, and though the glaring ends had been tied, he knew this one would be keeping him up for a few nights.

He was on his way to the exit, thinking about where he could find the cheapest bottle of scotch, when a massive hand shot out of the supply closet he was passing and yanked him inside.

"What the f…!?" he was halfway through demanding when a pair of strong, familiar lips covered his. He knew he should be struggling, but it'd been too long and he'd had a hell of a day.

Carlton let himself sag against Buzz, tongues sliding against each other as he felt the younger man's hands begin to wander.

This isn't right! a voice in his head screamed. As Carlton felt Buzz's hand reach the front of his pants he wanted to tell that voice to shut the hell up. But he couldn't.

Carlton pulled back first, gasping a little. "What about your wife?" he questioned the younger man. Buzz frowned and leaned in closer to the Head Detective.

"You gonna tell her, sir?" he asked lightly, smiling in a way Carlton recognized all too well. He felt a groan build in the back of his throat but he held the other man back as Buzz tried to kiss him again.

"My wife cheated on me," Carlton revealed quietly, bringing McNab's eyes to his. "I can't put someone else through that." Buzz's expression softened and he rested his forehead against Carlton's.

"I miss you," he whispered. Carlton closed his eyes as he smiled sadly. He wondered if the younger man could possibly understand how hard this was for him.

"You see me every day at work…"

"You think that makes it easier?" Carlton opened his eyes and looked up at Buzz. There was honesty in the younger man's eyes that made Carlton wonder if he really had been more than just a fuck to him.

They shared a soft laugh and Carlton couldn't resist the urge to tilt his head enough to kiss the other man lightly. Buzz cupped a hand to his jaw.

"Do you love your wife?" Carlton asked quickly before Buzz could kiss him again. Buzz sighed and let his hand drop.

"I could've loved you, you know?" Carlton smiled sadly and shook his head a bit.

"I'm an asshole, Buzz. I was built to be hated. Go home to your wife. Forget we ever had anything." Carlton took a step away from the other man and dropped his eyes to the floor of the closet. He could tell Buzz wanted to argue; could see it in his body language. A part of him wanted Buzz to argue. For Buzz to say he didn't care, he loved Carlton; he'd leave his wife, they could move in together. Live happily ever after.

But the logical part of Carlton, the part that ruled his life, told him that wouldn't happen; couldn't happen. The younger man was meant to be married…meant to have a family. And Carlton was meant to be alone.

He noticed when the younger man stepped out of the closet (and couldn't help but laugh at the bitter irony of that) before he took a deep breath and waited a minute to step out himself. He barely made it three feet.

"Hey Lassie!" a voice called out from behind him. Carlton closed his eyes and let out the breath he'd been holding. Just what he needed.

"What do you want, Spencer?" he asked tiredly. Shawn was too happy and bright and hopeful that Carlton really didn't think he could stand to be around him after such a day.

Carlton jumped and turned as a hand smacked him on the rear. Shawn gave him a wink as he moved out of harm's way.

"Think I just marked it," Shawn said with a grin before disappearing down the hall.

Carlton stood still, staring after him in shook for a long moment as he tried to process what had happened. Then, very slowly, a smile crept across his face.

/end