They never talk about it, this thing between them. The unspoken truths and ignored glances hang like a thick fog around them, almost choking them at times. It’s not that they don't talk, it's not that they don't look; it’s just that they don't talk about that, don't look at each other the way they did that night. That one night, seven years ago, when Wes was just a rookie and Travis was just another patron in a dusty bar.
Wes had been tapped to go undercover in the bar, keeping an eye out for one of the suspects on a case some detectives had been working. Wes hadn't been happy about the job, but he figured it was a step in the right direction if he didn't want to be a rookie forever. Besides, being paid to sip tepid light beer for 4hrs every night wasn't all that bad. And the patrons kept it interesting to say the least.
There was Marcie, the bartender. She'd wrangled Wes' life story out of him in less than an hour, something Dr. Ryan might find pretty interesting if he ever felt compelled to tell her. Bob and Riley were two of the regulars from what Wes could see, and by all accounts they hated each other, though they had each other's back whenever they felt someone was encroaching on their territory. And by territory, Wes meant the two barstools at the far end of the bar, the ones closest to the restrooms and farthest away from the ruckus over at the pool table.
It was Wes' last night on this assignment, his superiors planning to pull him out after his fourth and final night if the suspect failed to show, and he was really looking forward to the end of this little stint. He didn't particularly care for some of the degrading jobs he had to do as a rookie, but it beat the tedium of his current assignment.
He'd just signaled to Marcie for his usual when he heard the soft chimes indicating someone was entering the bar. The man seemed somewhat out of place in a bar like this. Most of the people that visited were in business attire, having come off a long days work and looking for a way to unwind. Those that weren't were so damn young it made Wes' teeth itch just to look at them, though it gave him a small chuckle each time a 'new' young bird would try to wheedle Marcie into giving them a beer with some ridiculously obvious fake ID, only to be shut down and served root beer instead.
This guy though, he was neither. He wasn't old by any stretch of the imagination, but he wasn’t so young that Wes felt dirty taking note of the other man's amazing eyes or delectable lips. His worn leather jacket and comfortable jeans and tee indicated he wasn't a part of the suit and tie crowd either, and by the looks he got as he sauntered up to the bar, he definitely wasn't a regular.
Wes tried not to stare, though it was hard not to as he watched the other man easily charm a smile out of Marcie within minutes of meeting her. As nice as Marcie was, Wes had yet to make her smile in the four days he'd been coming here, yet in less than four minutes this mystery man had made her not only smile, but actually laugh.
Wes was intrigued to say the least.
Turning his attention back to the bar at large, Wes scanned the faces of the patrons to see if their suspect had arrived during his visual inspection of the newcomer. The guy was still a no show, but the night was young so Wes just settled more comfortably into his stool and continued sipping at his beer, contemplating whether or not it was too early to order another.
He was more than a little shocked when a glass of dark amber liquid appeared in front of him. Noticing the dark hand that was wrapped around the glass, Wes looked up and found himself looking into those amazing eyes from earlier.
"I thought you might enjoy this a bit better than that swill you’re drinking."
It was true, Wes didn’t care for light beer all that much and after four days he was pretty sure he was starting to hate it. And he certainly didn't mind a nice, smooth brandy on occasion. But he was on a job, and he couldn't risk having his judgment clouded. Smiling as politely as he could, Wes declined the drink. "I really appreciate it. But I have an early day tomorrow. Light beer is all I can risk tonight."
The other man's smile faltered just a bit, but he covered smoothly. He took the brandy back, took a healthy swig before leaning his hip casually against the bar. Wes watched as he signaled to Marcie for another. Marcie came right over, plopping a fresh bottle in front of Wes and taking his empty away. Wes took the beer with a smile.
“You’re welcome. Name’s Travis. Travis Marks.”
“Really? James Bond?”
Wes watched as the lines at the corners of Travis’ eyes crinkled as he smiled, “I couldn’t resist; though it might’ve sounded less cheesy if I had on a tux. I’m killer in a tux.”
“I’m sure you are, but I don’t think anything could’ve made that less cheesy.” Wes held out his hand, “Wesley Mi-Matthews. Thanks again for the drink.”
Travis quirked a brow, and somehow Wes knew that he didn't quite buy that Matthews was his last name, but he didn't call him on it either so Wes counted that as a win.
"So Wesley, are you from around here? I've never seen you."
Wes could've countered with the same line, but didn't want to give too much away about himself. "It's Wes. And no. Not really. I'm in town on business. What about you?"
"In town on business too, though I'm kinda more in the mood for pleasure right about now. It’s been a long day."
Wes wasn't an idiot, he knew when a man was hitting on him. And really, this Travis guy wasn't all that subtle. But Wes had a job to do, and he was nothing if not the ultimate professional. So he tried to play it cool and let the guy down easily.
"As much as I'd like to help you with that, I'm afraid I have an early day tomorrow. Can't afford the distraction."
Once again Travis' smile faltered, but he didn't recover quite as quickly this time around. And though Wes could tell that this guy was of the love-them-and-leave-them sort, he still felt bad. Glad that they'd forgone the wire, relying on a the use of text messages instead, Wes was able to speak freely without the fear of being overheard. "But, I'll be back tomorrow before I head home. Just, you know, in case you haven't found that pleasure just yet."
Travis' smile was blinding.
They spent the rest of the evening chatting each other up, Travis being flirty and almost obnoxiously charming. But Wes hadn't been hit on so shamelessly in a long time, and he was in what he hoped to be a temporary split from his girlfriend Alex, so he didn't mind too much. It was nice to be wanted. Besides, he knew he'd never see Travis again, no matter what promises he'd made about showing up tomorrow. Travis might be disappointed when he didn't show tomorrow, but that was then. Wes was more than willing to bask in the outrageous flirting of the now.
The suspect never showed up at the bar. Wes went back to his regular beat as a rookie. And he tried his best to put one Travis Marks out of his mind. He tried to forget the way Travis' large hands had lingered on his as he handed Wes a slip of paper with his number scribbled on it, or the way Travis' tongue had wet full lips as he'd looked at Wes' with those sinful eyes, every sordid thing Travis was imagining doing to Wes as clear as if he'd said them aloud.
Wes never went back to that bar again. He put Marcie, Bob, Riley and everything about that bar out of his mind. Everything, with the exception of Travis Marks. He didn't think about the other man often, tried not to think of him at all, but every once in a while the other man's face would spring up in his mind.
He'd wonder about the strength of those hands, the mischievous twinkle in the other man's eyes, or what Travis' lips might have felt like against Wes' own. But he didn't let the thoughts linger for too long. It felt wrong somehow, like he was being unfaithful to Alex, even if it was only in his mind; he sometimes wondered if Alex could look at him and see what he was thinking; somehow figuring out that it wasn't her, but some mysterious stranger, that made his lips quirk in a thoughtful smile.
But as the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, Wes stopped dwelling on it so much. Wes supposed it didn't hurt to wonder 'what if' on occasion, it was highly likely that everyone did it, even Alex. And he loved his new fiancé more than he’d ever imagined possible. He would never throw that away over a 'what if'.
Two months later when Wes made detective and met his new partner, the very Travis Marks that he'd met that fateful night long ago, he started to wonder if that 'what if' had been a 'maybe' all along.