When Tim's car stops in front of a house, Buster frowns and turns in his seat, giving the pitcher a hard look. Tim holds up his hands, shaking his head. “Look, I know what you're thinking, but trust me... okay?”
He's irritated but he complies. He climbs out of the car, following Tim to the door and looking around them to make sure nothing will jump out of the bushes. It's been known to happen. He thinks that traveling with the Doctor has made him paranoid. Catastrophically so. He made peace with that about four months in.
The house looks like he remembers Tim's last rental house looking. There's bits and pieces of Tim all over but you can tell it's not really home. He shoves his hands in his pockets and follows Tim to the kitchen, not sitting down until Tim practically orders him to.
“I know what you're thinking.” Tim repeats. “But this isn't what you think it is. Yeah, we're at my house and yeah, I'm going to cook you dinner... don't look at me like that, I've been learning. But while I'm doing that, you're going to read.”
“Read?” Buster blinks. Apparently he was wrong. It's been known to happen.
Tim doesn't say anything, just leaves the kitchen. Buster can hear him through an open door down the hall, cussing and muttering as he searches for something. He comes back with two thick scrapbooks and dumps them on the table in front of Buster. It's on the tip of Buster's tongue to crack a joke about Tim being as bad as his mother but the look on Tim's face makes him think twice.
“Read. Don't say anything, just read it. Dinner won't take long.”
There's something about his tone, quiet and pensive, that makes Buster's heart ache. He knows that whatever it is inside, it won't be anything good.
The first page says it all.
GIANTS STAR CATCHER STILL MISSING, POLICE BAFFLED.
He looks up at Tim. The pitcher's back is to him and his shoulders are tense. Buster starts reading.
It's painful. The article was written over a month after he'd ran away with the Doctor. It covers how he'd last been seen leaving a convenience store the day his divorce was finalized... the corners of his lips turn down as he reads how carefully they note that he'd bought nothing but booze. That's not true... there'd been several bags of M&Ms and a few boxes of Ding Dongs. The last person to see him was the cashier. The last teammate to see him in person was Wilson... who had been questioned multiple times by the police and was considered a suspect. He remembers that the last time they'd seen each other, they'd been playfully yelling. A witness had twisted it into outraged screaming.
No wonder Weezy was afraid to let Buster out of his sight.
The articles are sloppily arranged, just thrown in slapdash, but it seems to follow a timeline. They cover all the possible angles and suspects. Interviews with people he knows and loves and people that he doesn't know at all. The first few months of articles comprise of speculation, repeating the facts of the case and the lack of progress. The heartache and despair not just of his teammates and family but of the city that lost him.
”He's just a f***ing baseball player. I don't see why the whole f***ing Bay Area acts like it's imploding without him.”
That quote makes him snort. There's always at least one and usually several. The next several pages contain articles referencing the quote, accompanied by righteous indignation from various members of the team, the league and the city government. A quote from his mother saying that she hasn't given up hope and never will makes him bury his face in his hands and cry. The Doctor had always told him that he'd probably be able to get him back in a reasonable enough time frame that people wouldn't realize he'd ever been gone.
He wants to hate the Doctor but really he hates himself. He was courting adventure and danger through time and space while all of the people he loved and cared for most were suffering, wondering where he was or if he was even still alive. He wants to get up and run away but he's done enough running the past two years. He forces himself to finish reading the scrapbooks.
Tim says nothing, just moves them aside and starts setting the table. He gives Buster a beer, quietly asking him to eat. Buster grabs his fork, his movements mechanical. He's not sure what he's eating... it might be good but everything in his mouth tastes like it might as well be sawdust.
“I worked hard on that, you dick.”
Buster blinks and stares at his plate. “It's fish and steamed vegetables.”
“And it took a week of Chelsea's help before I could accomplish that much. Eat.”
“I'm eating.” Buster sighs. Mostly he's herding his vegetables back and forth.
Tim watches Buster closely before putting his fork down. “The first article in the book was about a month and a half after you went missing. It was the first one I had the sense of mind to keep. Too... too messed up, before that. After that I couldn't stop. I was obsessed. I thought it was my fault... that what I did that night made you want to leave.”
“Weezy blamed himself. He thought since he was the last one of us to see you that maybe he should have known.” Tim continues as though he hadn't heard anything. He won't look away, has his eyes trained straight on Buster and Buster's never hated himself more. “It took three months before they'd finally really look into his alibi. He sued a couple tabloids after the police cleared him. Got a tidy sum... put it straight into a reward fund. We all contributed. Half a mil. The money would have went to whoever gave a tip that led to bringing you home. But nobody's gotten to claim it yet. After a year the tips stopped coming. They'd check into it every now and again but it was a cold case already.”
“Everybody gave up.”
“Your mom never did. I didn't. Most of the team didn't. The dugouts emptied three times over you... against the Dodgers every time, actually. Motherfuckers. We got fined big time. Sabean was pissed but Bochy only pretended to be mad.”
Buster just buries his face in his arms and doesn't bother trying to hide the sobs. He wishes so badly that he could tell Tim the truth but it would only make it worse. Tim would never forgive him for putting them through all that just so Buster would have to face the reality that he was divorced. When he feels Tim's hand in his hair, just looks up. He knows he looks awful, face red and tears streaming down his cheeks.
“I don't blame you for it. There's... you had a lot going on. Your brain had to deal with it somehow. And if you got overloaded... I'm sorry. I'm sorry for the part I played in it, Posey. Because I wasn't angry at you, I was scared and angry at myself. I wish this had never happened.”
Buster shudders, using his shirt to wipe his face. “Yeah... me too. I uh, I should probably leave.”
Tim squares his shoulders, looking resolute. “Or you could stay.”
“I really couldn't.”
The TARDIS will forgive him for the way he storms in and slams the doors. She will forgive him for punching the panels and throwing spare parts around the control room, just like she will forgive him for throwing up on the floor. The Doctor just watches through it all, cleaning up the mess without a word before standing Buster up and gently guiding him up the steps. He pushes Buster into the jumpseat and looks down at him.
“This is my fault. I was selfish... and reckless. I wanted to give you an adventure. I wanted to show you everything.”
Buster snorts, staring at his bloody and shredded knuckles. “I'm not mad at you. It was... a miscalculation. They happen all the time. And after we came back now, we couldn't have gone to the right time. Amy explained it to me. We didn't argue every time we saw eachother. Besides. I knew better... I didn't know if I could come back to the right time at all. I just knew I wanted to leave. Without you, I might have done something incredibly stupid.”
“You've done plenty of stupid things with me.”
“And I loved every moment of it, even the zombie planet.”
“You have nightmares about that one still.”
“It was a rush.”
For several minutes there's nothing but the sounds of the TARDIS, whirring and clanking and that weird flushing noise that Buster has on countless night tried fruitlessly to locate. He moves into the floor, sitting next to the Doctor and resting his head on the Gallifreyan's shoulder.
“I don't know if I can do this. If I stay, what's left? They let me practice but what if they don't let me play?”
“I watched your practice. And I've watched your games. You could do it. You were amazing... and you'll do even more amazing things.”
“I'm not ready to leave you.”
“And I don't want you to. But it's what's best.”