So sorry for the day delay on Bauer’s Bytes! I have been under the weather, and yesterday, I just couldn’t beat back this flu enough to get the Bytes up. So sorry!
This week, I tackled one of Charlotte’s prompts. Charlotte wanted to know what the first impressions of some of her favorite characters were upon meeting. This week, Mike and Tom from Hush. Next week, characters from the Executive Office series! 🙂 Thanks for a great prompt, Charlotte!
“Here’s another one.” Winters dropped a thick binder on Mike’s desk. It was bigger than the other binders Winters had dropped off over the years, much bigger. “Tom Brewer. Former AUSA. The Senate confirmed him as the newest DC federal judge. I don’t think you ever crossed his path when he was AUSA. Here’s his background investigation.”
Mike pulled Tom Brewer’s binder across the desk. It felt like a brick. “Why is his background so huge? Does he have a colorful past?”
A colorful past. A polite euphemism for a fucked-up history, a professional past littered with complaints, sexual harassment issues, covered-up affairs, and more. DUIs that had been wiped by the DC police. Former staffers that had quietly been moved across the country.
“Exactly the opposite. He’s squeaky clean. Too clean. Made people nervous.”
Mike flipped open the binder, flicking through pages and pages of cleared background forms, endless “no” answers to all the bad questions, explanation sheets that said “not applicable” over and over again. No experimentation with drugs. No run ins with the law. No DUIs. No affairs. No tricky finances. No secret babies. No proverbial dead bodies. “Huh. We don’t see this often.”
“Not from a male judge. It’s the women who are perfect.”
“Hopefully he’s as easy to manage as this was.” Mike shut Tom’s binder with a quick snap.
Winters snorted. “That was a shitshow to assemble, Lucciano. No one believes that’s all there is to Judge Brewer. You might be in for a surprise with this one. Keep your eyes open.”
“Will do.” Mike filed Tom’s binder on the shelf over his file cabinet. He turned back to his computer, to the recent threat briefing, and pushed Judge Tom Brewer from his mind.
* * *
“Your Honor?” Mike waited a polite ten and a half minutes after Tom Brewer, newest federal judge to the DC bench, began his first day. He stood in the doorway to Tom’s chambers, waiting.
Tom was circling his tiny office, running one hand over the polished Cherrywood desk. His eyes bounced over the empty bookcases behind the desk, the wood paneled walls, the bare floor. Was he mentally decorating? Planning to put his mark on the office? Preparing to order brand new everything? How difficult was Judge Tom Brewer going to be? Mike could foretell the entire future in the next minute.
Tom turned to Mike, smiling ear to ear. “Hi, sorry, I didn’t see you there. Please, come in.” He beckoned Mike into his office and waved him to one of the leather club chairs in front of the bare cherrywood desk. “This is amazing. Just amazing.” Tom leaned one hip against his desk and gazed at his office again.
He wasn’t redecorating. He was admiring. Taking in the tiny walls and the wood paneling with all of its nail holes, the scuffed floorboards, the cherrywood desk with the worn spots on the corners. Tom looked at his new office like he’d walked into a surprise party.
Mike almost didn’t want to interrupt Tom Brewer’s boyish adoration of his new space. “Your Honor, welcome to the DC federal bench.”
Tom’s full-watt smile turned to Mike. He chuckled, almost giddy-like, under his breath. “I don’t think I’ll ever be used to this.”
Damn it, this was cute. Mike had never dealt with a judge who was adorable before. They were arrogant, uppity, entitled, or far, far too busy for the mere mortals around them. They never took the time to indulge in the moment, grin with excitement over their new office, or giggle, embarrassed and thrilled at the same time.
This was exactly the kind of guy that would have a completely boring background investigation. Maybe Tom Brewer had been too busy aw-shucksing his way through life to get into trouble.
Thought, it would have been easy for him to fall into a love affair. He probably had to fend off attractions and invites for dates from all the ladies. Tom Brewer was attractive, in that career-DC way. A politician’s patrician face, dark hair combed to the side, a body made for a slender suit. He had kind eyes, though, and that stood out. In the ocean of DC politics, the eyes said it all about the person. Hard eyes, cold eyed, lying eyes, dead eyes. They were a dime a dozen. But, kind eyes? Those were special.
He smiled back at Tom. So far, awesome. Judge Tom Brewer seemed like a decent guy. This should be an easy assignment, at least as far as personality went. There would be hard cases, and there would be threats – there always was, with everyone – but if Tom Brewer was as awesome professionally as he was personally, working with him would be a breeze.
“Your Honor, I am Inspector Mike Lucciano, Deputy US Marshal, and I am in charge of your security here at the courthouse. Are you ready for your first security briefing?”
* * *
“Are you ready for your first security briefing?”
Jesus, he was going to be spending more time with this man? Inspector Mike Lucciano, Deputy US Marshal?
His mouth was dry. His tongue was heavy. He glanced back to his bare bookshelves, trying to recapture the awe he’d felt striding into his very own judge’s chambers. Him, a judge! Unbelievable. Inconceivable. His heart had beat too fast, a pitter patter that left him breathless as he circled the desk.
And then a man had appeared at his doorway.
Tall. Almost six feet. Muscular. He filled out his suit in all the right ways. Thick shoulders. Trim hips.
Blue eyes, the color of a perfect September sky. Golden blond hair, combed into a swept and carefree pompadour, like waves of sand tumbling toward an ocean. Dimples in his cheeks when he smiled.
His suit was too stylish for DC. On the slender, form-fitting side, like the Europeans liked it, and a lighter blue than what crammed the halls of bureaucracy in the federal government. The fabric clung close to his legs, almost curving around the shape of his muscles.
His heart pitter-pattered for a whole different reason.
Damn it, stop. He’d put this away, long, long ago. He’d stopped seeing men who could take his breath away, had stopped looking for men who burned the blood in his veins. He’d built a safe world at the United States Attorney’s office, tunnel-visioned on his professional life. There was no one who made his heart go crazy, made his palms sweat until he thought beads would drip from his fingertips.
Tom folded his arms, clenching his sweaty palms in the bunched fabric at his elbows.
New job. New role. New people in his life. He’d done this before, built up his walls and shored up his barricades. He would do so again. Twenty-four years he’d kept his own secret, and look at the life he’d managed to build. If that wasn’t proof that he’d done the right thing, made the right choice, then he didn’t know what was.
He turned back to Mike, his polite smile pasted on his face. “Yes, Deputy Marshal— Inspector—Uh…”
“Inspector is the correct title, Your Honor. But, please. You’re more than welcome to call me Mike.”
There was that smile again. Tom’s bones turned to jelly, and a thousand fire ants seemed to be racing up the insides of his skin. He nodded, tried to smile, and scooted the chair beside the desk a little farther away from Mike. Tried to hide it as he pretended to turn the chair more to face him. Was this better or worse? He wasn’t next to Mike, but now he was looking right at him, looking right at a man that could have stepped out of his fantasies, out of his deepest, deepest dreams.
Maybe Mike would be an asshole. That would be perfect, actually. If Mike was an asshole, then he’d be cured of his fascination, lickety split.
God, he wanted to lick Mike’s chest—
Jesus. Stop. Stop.
Mike passed over a binder with another heart-melting smile. The front read: Security Procedures for Judges.
“This is your security manual. Please, Your Honor, take the time to read it. I know it’s dry, but the procedures in here are important. My job is to keep you and your courtroom safe and secure at all times. Mostly, this will be behind the scenes for you. I will be monitoring all threats made against the bench, and if any come specifically against you. I’ll investigate any and all threats made to ensure your complete safety. Also, for any high-risk trial that you preside over, I will be creating a security plan for both your protection and for the courtroom during the trial.”
“I used to see Villegas, and another guy before him, when I was an AUSA.”
Mike nodded. “Villegas is the other Inspector here. Before him, it was Edwards. We all have slightly different styles to our protections. I’m a little more hands-on than Villegas. I like to be thorough. Better safe than sorry.”
“But, don’t worry, Your Honor. Your first year or two, you shouldn’t get very many high-risk trials. The other judges are figuring out which cases to offload to you to build your book. Unfortunately, you might be stuck with the boring ones.” Mike winked. “Which means you definitely won’t be seeing me at all.”
Tom chuckled, almost breathless. Mike wasn’t an asshole. He was funny, and kind, and seemed oh-so-competent. Tom had always had a weak spot for people who were deliciously smart. And who made him laugh.
If he got a load of boring cases, then he wouldn’t be seeing Mike, though.
That was good. He could build his walls higher, take time to re-center himself. Dig a deeper ditch around his heart and soul’s hideout.
Mike spoke some more, rehashing courthouse security procedures, which he already knew, and going over the special judges-only information he needed to know now. He listened, nodded along, and watched Mike’s Adam’s apple work up and down, watched the vein on the side of his neck slowly pulse.
“If you have any questions, Your Honor, my office is right down the hall. I’m here if you need anything. Please, read your manual. If you need something to put you to sleep, that’s the thing.” Mike grinned.
“I will read it. I promise.” Tom stood and held out his hand. It only trembled slightly.
Mike didn’t seem to notice. He clasped Tom in a firm handshake, pumped once, and then started for the door.
The zing from Mike’s touch went from the bottom of Tom’s feet to the tips of his hair. Handshakes were the only touches he allowed himself with another man. The only male contact he ever received. Fingers on the back of his hand, a warm palm resting in his own. He closed his eyes, exhaling softly. Mike’s touch, as brief as it had been, was like lightning.
His eyes snapped open. Mike was waiting in the doorway, his perfect body cased in light from the hall. His golden hair gleamed, and his blue eyes sparkled, laughter and gentleness mixing in their glow.
“Welcome, again, to the DC federal bench. Congratulations. I think you’re going to do great here.” Mike smiled again and disappeared down the hallway.
Tom turned away from the door and gripped the edge of his desk. He closed his eyes and breathed, in and out, slowly.
In his mind, he imagined himself putting bricks up, stacking them higher, building his wall taller, stronger. Building his wall against the man with the perfect smile and beautiful eyes.
Building his wall against Mike.
Timestamp: One year prior to Hush, when Mike and Tom first meet.