Tyler's Lunch Break
Spoilers: Buffy 2.19 (I Only Have Eyes For You)
and CSI: Miami 3.1 (Lost Son)
. No particular spoilers for Jake 2.0.
Disclaimer: I am not Joss, Mutant Enemy, Jerry Bruckheimer, Anthony Zuiker, Alliance Atlantis, Silvio Horta or Roundtable. I therefore own none of the primary characters, worse luck. I've also borrowed heavily from the backgrounds for Speed and Tyler that Caroline Crane developed in her stories, and that's emphatically something that she should get the credit for, not me.
Notes: Christopher Gorham played both Jake Foley in Jake 2.0 and James Stanley (the ghost) in I Only Have Eyes For You
. The first kid that the ghost possesses is played by Brian Poth, who also played A/V tech Tyler Jensen in CSI: Miami
. That kid is never named...
Tyler Jensen sat out in the bright Miami sun, staring into his espresso as if he expected to read the future in its inky depths. Sometimes he wished he could, but all he saw in what had become this lunchtime ritual was the past. The contented past that ended one month and fourteen days earlier when Tim Speedle went into a jewelry store with his boss and came out in a body-bag. The past one month and six days ago when he couldn't force himself to attend Speed's funeral, because he could just imagine the looks of their colleagues and he couldn't stand that even in his imagination. And the past twenty seven days earlier when he realised he was functionally insane.
Tim shifted in his chair. "Brooding really isn't a good look on you," he said.
"Shut up." Tyler didn't look up from his coffee as he spoke. If he didn't look, he wasn't really imagining Tim sitting next to him. Plus it didn't seem so much like he was talking to himself.
"I mean it." Out of the corner of the eye that he wasn't keeping on Tim, really he wasn't, Tyler saw movement and he knew that if he did look he'd see concern on that normally guarded face. "You're a good actor and you've got the rest of the lab fooled, but I know you better than that."
There was no answer to that, really, Tyler thought. Speed did know -- had known -- Tyler better than that, and it looked like Tyler wasn't even allowed to lie to himself anymore.
Speed sighed. "Look, I've been where you are. You keep going the way you are right now, and all you'll do is let it consume you."
Tyler looked up, staring straight at Tim for once. "Like you did," he said trying to keep the hurt out of his voice. Did he really need to give himself this lecture?
"Yeah." Tim coloured and looked away. Tyler had to close his eyes for a moment, reminding himself that this was a figment of his imagination, that he couldn't hurt someone who wasn't really there. He felt guilty about it anyway.
When he looked back, Tim was still looking away. Tyler recognised the set of his jaw, though; apparently he was going to get the lecture anyway. "Yes," Speed said, "I spent years too scared that I'd get hurt again. I don't want you to have to go through that. The way I hear it, there's a shortage of good-looking A/V technicians available for pulling people's heads out of their asses."
Tyler did his best to ignore the typically indirect declaration of love, because it did hurt and it did make him scared for the future. Especially if that future included seeing his dead gay boyfriend everywhere he looked. But all the same it didn't hurt so much that he couldn't function, and in some ways seeing Speed all the time was a positive thing; when he finally stopped seeing Tim, he'd know that he was ready to move on.
That still left him sitting alone in a cafe struggling with the irrational urge to comfort a hallucination of his dead boyfriend.
"You were still a teenager when you lost David," he said, remembering to talk into his coffee cup so the other customers wouldn't think he was crazy. Even if he was.
"Sometimes I wonder if you've ever grown up," Speed told him.
"Which would make you a dirty old man," Tyler fired back. Tim didn't quite manage to suppress a smile at that, and Tyler didn't even try not to grin at him. "Seriously though, you were there when it happened. One moment everything was great, and the next he was in a coma and you barely had a scratch on you. That's one big load of survivor guilt to get over."
"And you're such an expert on survivor guilt."
"I could write the book." That got Tim's attention. Maybe he shouldn't have sounded so bitter that the real Tim would have noticed, but it wouldn't have mattered for this imaginary Tim anyway. He had never really told Tim much about his life before working for the Miami-Dade crime lab, just a few happy moments and some vague generalisations, a few bits and pieces about college and some of what he saw before he realised he wasn't destined for Broadway after all. Apparently his subconscious thought he should have told Tim more, because Tim was giving him that 'I want to know but I'm not going to push' look that Tyler knew so well that he had to swallow down the lump in his throat.
"I never lost anyone that close," he said as evenly as he could, "but a hell of a lot of friends of mine died over the years. Did you know my home town had a murder rate that makes Miami look like a particularly peaceful kindergarten? Graduating classes used to track their mortality rates like football results. So yes, I do know a little about survivor guilt."
Speed looked like Tyler had pole-axed him. He reached out as if to touch Tyler reassuringly on the shoulder, then hesitated and pulled back with a grimace. "That sucks, man," he said uncertainly, and Tyler knew him well enough to get the protectiveness and love under the awkward words. "How could something like that happen? Why wasn't it all over the papers?"
Tyler shrugged. "It doesn't really matter, the whole town fell into a sink-hole a year or two ago."
"I think I read about that," Speed said, frowning. "Wasn't it somewhere in California?"
"That's it. The article said something about the town being evacuated, so there were very few deaths. There must be people you grew up with all over the country by now."
"All over California maybe," Tyler snorted, "but it was only a small town, thirty-odd thousand population. Seriously, what are the chances that anyone I know is going to turn up in... Summers?"
"What?" Tim asked, but Tyler was ignoring him in favour of the small blonde woman that he remembered all too well from his school days. He hadn't meant to say her name quite so loudly, but evidently she'd heard him because she turned to face him across the cafe table.
"Uh, hello?" she said uncertainly. "I know your face, but I can't..."
"Tyler Jensen," Tyler said, standing and offering his hand. Experience had taught him that it paid to be polite to people like Summers -- OK, people who hit like Summers. "I was a year ahead of you at Sunnydale High."
Summers frowned, then smiled. "I think I remember you now. I'm just surprised you remember me."
Tyler smiled wryly, not sure that she wasn't just being polite. "It's hard to forget someone tossing you down a corridor," he told her. Which was true, even if he was rather hazy as to why she'd thrown him. There'd been something about a gun, but he'd never had one before starting work at the crime lab and he didn't carry the one he'd been issued even now if he could help it.
Tim must have stood up, he noted idly, since he was now staring at Summers at close range. "She tossed you down a corridor? Ty, I know you're not the heaviest guy in the world, but--"
"This was before the Sadie Hawkins Dance?" Buffy asked, interrupting him. Which was fair enough, Tyler couldn't expect her to be polite to his delusions after all. He nodded. "Wow. Um, I'm sorry about that. It was all... are you still with, uh..."
"Tracy?" Tyler offered, taking pity on her. He shook his head. "No, we broke up before I left for college. How about..." Tyler trailed off as he realised that all he knew about Summers's love-life at high school were vague rumours about her and an older man. "Would you like a coffee? This place does great cappuccinos, and I've still got twenty minutes of my lunch break left."
Summers hesitated, then smiled at him. "Sure, why not?" she said. "It's not like I'm in a super hurry to get somewhere."
While she busied herself with getting seated, flagging down a waiter and getting a drink, Tim fixed Tyler with one of those stares Tyler was never quite sure how to interpret. "Tracy?" Tim asked. "Do you have a thing for people whose names begin with a 'T'?"
He was probably being teased, Tyler decided. He threw a quick 'You're not helping' glare at Speed as he sat back down and paid attention to his guest. "So, what brings you to Miami?"
Summers made a face. "Work," she said. "I work for these experts on history and archaeology with a big side-order of folklore. They hear about something interesting, and send me off to investigate it for them."
"Oh yeah. It's to do with one of the, um, ethnic communities. It's kind of involved."
Tim was staring at her pretty hard, Tyler noticed out of the corner of his eye. "Nothing illegal I hope," he joked, wondering exactly what had caught his dead boyfriend's interest.
She gave him a strange look. "Believe it or not, I've been assured by a serious lawyer that if I stick to my job description, I can't technically do anything illegal. Only he used bigger words."
Tyler held up his hands in surrender. "Sorry, it's kind of a regulation bad joke. I work for the local crime lab."
"You're a criminalist?"
"Just a lowly technician. I get to sit in my nice, safe lab while the CSIs take the heat out on site." Summers gave him another odd look, but it wasn't until he noticed how awkwardly Tim was trying not to look at him that Tyler realised how bitter he must have sounded.
"Sounds like you want to get out there," Summers said.
"God, no! It's just..." Tyler looked at her again, and realised that she would understand. She'd survived Sunnydale. He took a deep breath. "We lost someone recently, shot in the line of duty. I miss him."
He just meant to say the words out loud, finally, to someone who would understand and didn't know Tim, because some crazy mixed-up portion of his hind-brain knew that Speed didn't like having his private life be public gossip and wouldn't let that happen even now. He just meant to say the words, but he could feel himself choking up as he said them. "Oh God, I miss him so much," he repeated, and the tears started.
The pain of loss, now that he stopped denying it, was overwhelming. It came crashing down on Tyler in a welter of images of Tim as he had been. Tim in the lab, concentrating so hard on the evidence in front of him that he didn't notice Tyler staring in at him; Tim in the kitchen, sharing his love of food and turning cookery into something even Tyler could manage; Tim smiling, something rare enough that Tyler would never forget the first time he made it happen; Tim relaxed, the way he never was with anyone else; Tim above him, around him, beneath him, in him, at a thousand different moments in a thousand different places. Inexplicably mixed in but no less painful were images of a young man, still a boy really, and a woman lying shot dead. There was no end to this pain, Tyler knew, and his hand tried to grasp the gun he should have been holding.
Then Summers' hand covered his, Summers' eyes echoed his grief, and somehow she gave him the strength to pull himself together. "Sorry," he said thickly, "I didn't mean to..."
"It's OK." She meant it, too. The words weren't just platitudes, they came from deep personal experience. "When you lose someone you love, it's OK to miss them. Just don't let it take over."
"What have I been telling you?" Speed sounded gruff, and Tyler risked a glance at him. His dead boyfriend looked sad and frustrated, reaching out tentatively towards Tyler but never actually touching him. Which just about summed up life for Tyler, really.
"Sorry," Tyler said again, to both of them this time. "When I left Sunnydale, I thought life wasn't going to suck like this again."
Summers nodded, grimacing. "If it's any consolation, Sunnydale sucked right up to the end."
Tim snapped his fingers. "That's where I recognised her from. She was on the last bus out, the one that nearly didn't make it."
"You were there?" Tyler asked.
"Yeah. Not everyone made it." Simple words that spoke volumes to Tyler, and it was his turn to cover her hand as she looked away, lost in memories.
"Aren't you going to ask her what happened?" Tim said after a few moments of awkward silence. Tyler shook his head slightly, careful to make sure that Summers wasn't looking at him. This was Sunnydale business, and Tim wouldn't understand. You didn't ask. Ever.
"So," Summers said eventually, "'him', huh?" She smiled.
Tyler laughed. "Oh yeah. I discovered the wonders of dating guys in college. That's probably why Tracy and I never really worked."
"You want to talk about him?"
"No," Tyler said quite definitely, apparently surprising Summers. "He was a very private guy," he found himself saying, "I don't think he'd want me to be extolling his virtues." Tim was indeed squirming, so at least his subconscious agreed with him. "Almost no one in the lab knew we were together."
"I know the type." Summers smiled at him again, then glanced down at her watch. "Oh crap," she said, eyes widening. "I've really got to run, and I've kept you from work too long too. Here." She fished around in her handbag for a moment before producing a business card. "Give me a call if you ever want to talk about old times, or just talk. I can always do the talking thing. Have a good time if I don't see you again, and remember to stop off in the bathroom before you go back to work, your eyes are all puffy. Nice to see you again, Tyler."
Tyler stood as she did, holding her card and not quite keeping up with the babble. "Nice to see you too, Buffy Summers," he said to her rapidly retreating back.
He felt rather than saw Speed move to stand next to him. "Wow. First date and already she's given you her number. It's good to see you're moving on."
"Shut up," Tyler told him.