May is for Maudlin… and Mike


Welcome to Bauer’s Bytes!

I’ve moved to an every other week format for now, as I’m trying to wrap up Whisper and launch it soon. 🙂

And, in that vein, here is a Byte about how Mike & Kris met, courtesy of Gloria! Happy Reading!



Kris spotted him the moment he walked into the bar.


Everyone saw him enter. Head turned, men craning to catch sight of what had stopped their friend or their partner or their conquest in mid-sentence.


Sandy hair, swept back in a soft pompadour. Broad shoulders, wrapped in a tight t-shirt, a breezy button down open on top. Khaki shorts, and long, tan legs, corded with muscle. He was folding his sunglasses, dark aviators, and hunt them from his neckline.


Good. Not swung around the back of his head like an animal. Kris smiled and swirled his Cosmo. Fresh meat didn’t walk through the doors that often. This would be hilarious.


From his perch at one of the tables near the back of the Tap Room, Kris watched men fall over themselves at the bar top, making room for the blond stranger. Two twiggy men bracketed him immediately, coy smiles and cocked head and jutting hips.


Blond Stranger smiled. Thanked them. God, he had dimples, two perfect indentations in his cheeks. Perfect teeth, too. Kris saw one man at the bar bite his fist, another turn away.


He rolled his eyes. Let the feeding frenzy begin.



He’d reeled in and then cut loose a lobbyist, a silver fox who worked for a sustainable development and humanitarian aid organization. He was cute, and charming, and he wanted to take Kris home and devour him, he’d said, spend an hour with his face between Kris’s legs before working his way north.


Tempting. Very tempting.


But, he wasn’t feeling it. It was May, and he was always more maudlin in May. More cutting, more distant. More everything.


More alone, most especially.


He didn’t want the lobbyist to spend an hour between his legs, make him moan and writhe and scream. He wanted to drink, and he wanted to go home and sit in the dark. Look out his windows at the Capitol, revisit old ghosts.


He’d let loose the lobbyist, demurring and demurring until he finally had to push, telling him no, it was a definite no.


There was no pouting like gay pouting, especially a man denied what he thought was a closed deal. The lobbyist flounced off with a blistering insult. Kris toasted his back as he stalked away.


“I was hoping he’d leave.”


Kris whirled. Somehow, Blond Stranger was playing darts, alone, at a board hanging on the back wall. Where were his admirers, the twinks to hang off his sculpted biceps? The bees flocking to his honey, sitting like a peanut gallery or a personal applause section? Kris’s gaze darted around the bar. A few older men were still watching Blondie, but the flocks of admirers had waned.


“Where’s your entourage?”


Blondie frowned. “What entourage?” He threw a dart at the board. Almost dead center. He took a pull from his beer, effortlessly masculine chic.


Kris’s stomach clenched. “You cause quite a stir when you walked in. I thought some of the guys at the bar were going to come in their pants.”


Blondie laughed, ducked his head. A blush stained his temples, the edge of his cheekbones. “Everyone here has been very nice.”


“Mmmhmm.” Kris sipped his Cosmo. “How many BJs have you been offered?”


“Four.” The blush was growing. Blondie gave him a side eye, lining up for his next dart.


“I am not offering you a blow job.” Kris snorted. Blondie laughed, pulled back to throw. “You can offer me one, though.”


And, miss. The dart embedded in the dark wood of the bar, three feet off the board. And further, and he would have git the glass window.


Kris arched both eyebrows sky high. He smirked.


Blondie laughed, hard, and grabbed his beer. He sauntered to Kris’s table, all confidence and golden skin and tight muscles. Held out one hand. “I’m Mike. I’m new in town.”


“I know you’re new in town.” Kris sipped his Cosmo. He didn’t shake Mike’s hand.


“Are you the resident fairy godmother? Know everyone in the land?” Mike’s eyes twinkled, even though he pulled back his hand.


“More like the wise old hag,” Kris purred. “I’m not one’s fairy anything. But I do know everyone that is anyone in Gay DC, and you, honey, are not on my lists.”


“I would not call you old.” Mike leaned against the tabletop, smiling a mile wide. God, he was good. He was smooth. He was already at Kris’s table, already bantering, and Kris was smiling back at him, like a God damn fool. “So, list keeper. What do I need to do to get admitted to the Gay DC scene?”


“Your little entrance today made a splash. People will be talking about you for at least a day, maybe a day and a half.”


“A full day and a half?” Mike choked back high laughter as he drained his beer. He stared at Kris, smiling wide. Damn it, but those dimples were back. Something fluttered in Kris’s chest, something he once called his heart, or his feelings. Once, he’d had a man look at him like that, and his entire soul had come undone.


Kris’s stomach twisted, yanked. Echoes of the past blurred with the present. Mike, smiling at Kris, and then in a blink, there was another man standing in the same spot, his smile just as beautiful, just as perfectly tuned to Kris. Darker, with brown hair instead of blond.


Echoes. They were just echoes. Kris down the rest of his Cosmo, one long drag, and set down his Martini glass. Tome to go.


“Can I buy you another?” Mike, again, smiling at him. “I’d love to know what it would take to get into your scene.” He grinned, irrepressible, and bit the corner of his lower lip.


“Oh God.” Kris groaned. “Honey, this scene is closed.”


Mike’s wild flirtation dimmed. “Married? Partnered?” He backed up, respectfully.


Kris swallowed, slowly. The tan line on his ring finger had disappeared. “No,” he said softly. “Neither. Not anymore.”


Mike stared him down, looking at Kris as if he was peering over glasses perched on his nose.


“You’re too young for me, sweetie.” Kris grabbed his jacket.


“One drink. Just one.” Mike held up his hands. “This is the best conversation I’ve had all evening here. Can I buy you one drink and just chat?” He shrugged. “Maybe you can give me some pointers about DC?” He bit his lip again.


Kris sighed. He wilted. Dropped his jacket. “One. A Cosmo. Grey Goose.”


Nodding, Mike scampered off to the bar. The bartender almost broke a leg hurrying to fill his order, and he craned his neck to try and see who Mike was ordering for. His jaw dropped when he saw Kris.


Kris pulled out a cigarette and lit it, blowing smoke over his head. Something was shaking inside of him, something trembling that he wanted to stop. It was May. He was supposed to go home, be alone.


Sure, there were similarities. A few on the surface.


More, inside. If he dug, he could find them, he was sure. The echoes were there. He closed his eyes. David. I miss you every single day.


“One Cosmo, as requested.” Mike set his Martini down in front of him, grabbed a seat and slid it beside Kris. He sat with his beer and held his drink out for a toast.


True to his word, Mike kept the conversation to questions about DC, about the gay life in the capital, about Kris’s friends and who were good people versus people to avoid. One drink turned into two, and Kris’s cutting sarcasm and hot takes turned into open laughter, especially after he asked Mike about his past, where he’d come from. How had someone like him appeared in DC? Mike kept him laughing about West Virginia, moonshine, and the tribulations of a gay boy in rural America, trying to read signs in between shotguns and rattlesnakes, sneaking kisses in the back of bars and sneaking out of hotel rooms in nothing but a cowboy hat.


The crowds thinned, dwindled. Midnight turned to one AM. Kris stared at Mike’s profile, sucking down his third beer. Could he—


“Can I take you to brunch tomorrow?” Mike smiled, again, God, he was always smiling. Did anything get him down?  




“I’ve got to start making friends somewhere.” Mike shrugged. “I like you. I like this. I want to see you again.” This time, his smile was different, more hopeful.


He took his time answering, spinning his empty Martini glass. “I don’t date. Ever.”


Mike blinked.


“I fuck.” He shrugged. “You’re too young to be my type though, hon. And you…” He sighed. “You’re looking for someone, aren’t you?”


Mike nodded. He was quiet, for a moment. “I’ve done my share of one nights and sneaking around. I want something real.”


“I’m not the man for you, then.”


Mike smiled. “But can I still take you to brunch? If you’re free?”


Kris chuckled, shaking his head. “You are impossible.”


“I like to be with friends. Eleven AM work for you? You can pick the place?”


He shook his head. No one had worked this hard to connect with him, not in years. Most men ran at the third slicing insult. His one-night stands felt the door hit them on the way out, for the most part. Only one man had worked his way past Kris’s armor, since David’s—


It was May. And he was supposed to be alone. But…


“I’ll meet you at Café Alexander at eleven.”


Maybe one friend wouldn’t hurt.


Mike beamed.


Timestamp: May 2013. Five years after David’s death.


I Want it To Be Me – Mike’s POV from Hush, Ch. 14


Welcome to Bauer’s Bytes!

This week, I’m writing a Byte from Hush that Maria requested: Can we see what was going on with Mike during Chapter 14 in Hush? Why did he push Tom away? What was going through his mind?

Great prompt, Maria! <3


Mike stared at his coffeemaker. Each dark drop dribbled into the carafe, steam and gurgles belching from the dingy white plastic machine. He’d carted it from the Navy to West Virginia to DC. It was a piece of shit, nothing fancy like Silvio’s chrome and stainless steel espresso maker, but it was reliable.


God, he needed coffee. After being up the entire night, tossing and turning, he wasn’t going to get through the day.


Thoughts of Tom consumed him.


He should never, ever have said yes to dinner.


Damn his curiosity. Damn him for wondering. Damn him for wanting. Damn him for even getting friendly with the man. He’d been distant for months. Judge Brewer was just a judge. Why did he even have to go there? Why did he have to get friendly? Dinner… drinks… What the hell had he been thinking?


Damn Kris, too. How dare Kris push him toward Tom, when he didn’t even have the guts to follow through on his own love life. How dare Kris push him to seek his happiness, the man of his dreams, his prince charming, when Kris slept his way through half of DC, and ignored the one man who actually wanted something more with him. If Kris was exempt from the game of love, then why wasn’t Mike? Why couldn’t he go just back to his carousel of men, his night after night of GrindMe and bars?


Exhaling, he rested his forehead on his arms, closing his eyes as the coffeemaker gurgled.


And, God damn Silvio, too, for fucking a man in his kitchen and making him rip it all out. Making him brew his coffee in his bathroom, like a fucking Neanderthal.


Why did he even care about Silvio’s betrayal that much? They’d barely been a couple, in hindsight. Silvio working so much, dashing around the country and spending the night in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans. How long had he been cheating, really? Had he ever been faithful?


Damn it. That’s why he cared.


That’s why he wanted to get off the carousel of ass.


He wanted that one man, that one special man. Someone he could cherish, and who cherished him.


He wanted Prince Charming.


Why did he have to be Tom Brewer?


Tom fucking Brewer, with his cute smiles and his self-deprecating chuckle and his earnest, almost painful desire to be just and fair. With his lean swimmer’s body, and the way he’d just melted into Mike’s hold, like he’d waited his whole life to be in Mike’s arms. With the way they fit together, so perfectly. From holding him in his arms to holding him in his heart, imagining mornings and evenings together. Shared coffee and playing with Etta Mae.


He could be so happy holding Tom on the couch, hands laced together, wiling away the hours talking about their day, about plans for the weekend, or a thousand other things.


It only took one weekend to see, to know, deep down inside of him, how they fit together. One dinner. One kiss. One brunch, and one afternoon.


The second dinner was a mistake. He’d already known, he’d known Saturday night that they couldn’t pursue this. Why punish himself? Why spend Sunday with Tom? Why take him to his romantic dinner spot, why imagine more? Why kiss him, and kiss him, and feel Tom’s body surge against his own?


They just couldn’t do this. They couldn’t start a relationship. He wasn’t going to start anything that would only end in disaster, again. No matter how amazing Tom was, he couldn’t go through with that. Better to have loved and lost, Shakespeare said. But Shakespeare didn’t have to work with the man of his dreams, didn’t have to face him day in and day out.


What would happen, if they tried? Tom would blossom. He would bloom, a rose in mid-summer bursting with glory. He would find himself, and all the joy he’d denied himself for years.


That would take him away from Mike.


Why would he want to tie down with Mike, who’d done all that, who’d had the gay twenties, the rollicking great times that single gayhood could be? Why wouldn’t Tom want to experience that freedom, that pride that shot straight to your veins, that joy that you could live your life, love anyone? Why would he want to be tied to Mike through all of that?


So, Mike would be left. Tom would grow distant. He’d want more. They’d fight. Tom would want to go out, flirt, get attention. Like from that guy, that asshole at the bar who had slipped Tom his business card. Jesus, Tom was probably going to call him, probably going to end up kissing him, too.


His hands clenched, arms shaking. Christ, he didn’t want to think about Tom with another man.


But it was bound to happen. It was just bound to happen.


Better to never start something than watch it slowly die, watch him lose the man of his dreams inch by inch.



Hey you. 🙂 Haven’t seen you yet today. Miss you.


He knew the text would come eventually. He just didn’t think it would feel like a punch to his gut.


Mike chewed his lip as he stared at the screen, struggling for something to say back to Tom. He was in the stacks, in the rows and rows of case files and folders at US Marshals headquarters, chasing old threats and going over long-dead prison chatter. Hiding, that’s what he was doing. He was hiding.


He had to kill this with Tom. He had to kill it before it got out of control, grew a life of it’s own. Before he fell any harder for the man.


[At headquarters. Reviewing threat assessments.]


Cold. Nothing like their old texts, when he worried about whether one or two exclamation points was the suave thing to do, to show just enough interest, but not too much.


Everything all right?


[Yep. Routine stuff.]


He waited, and waited, and waited. Waited for what felt like an hour, begging Tom to message back. It wasn’t through, please, not yet. Even though it had to be, God, he didn’t want it to end. He wanted to be in Tom’s office that moment, leaning over his desk, catching his eye, inviting him to lunch. Maybe just shut the door and kiss him all the way through lunch, never let go of his lips. Never stop gazing into those eyes.


No. It had to be this way.


It could hurt now, or it could hurt so much worse, in the future. When Tom decided to leave him.


What did that song say? Had to leave before he got left.


The singer made it sound easy.


He stared at his silent phone.


It wasn’t fair.



Tuesday evening, he finally headed back to the courthouse. Thank God it was a week he could avoid his office, and didn’t have trial. But he had trial prep, and a thousand other things to do, so he needed to put some hours in at his desk.


Just, not around Tom.


Tuesdays, Tom taught at Georgetown, so he was guaranteed to not see him.


Or so he thought.


Tom silhouetted his door, a portrait of practiced neutrality, a lawyer’s perfect poise. Save for those eyes. Pools of burnt hurt, the color of coffee they could have brewed together on lazy weekends, the color of Rock Creek Park and the dirt beneath Etta Mae’s paws. A life he could have had.


“What are you doing here? I thought you were teaching?”


Tom almost hid his flinch. “Left my phone on accident. Thought it might be important that I had it.”


He heard what Tom didn’t say. He was waiting for texts. Hoping for texts. From Mike? Or from someone else? Had he already moved on?


He couldn’t do this. “I’ll drive you home,” he growled.


Tom followed him out to the front of the courthouse. Silence wreathed him, a shadow that Mike couldn’t go near. Tom was untouchable now. He didn’t have a right to his thoughts. To his feelings.


The drive was excruciating. If only he had a teleporter. His neck locked, eyes fixed to the road. Don’t look. Don’t look. Temptation sat beside him. He wanted to collapse at every red light, fall sideways into Tom’s lap, tell him he made a mistake, tell him he wanted Tom, even if it was only for a short time. He didn’t want to let him go. He didn’t want to lose Tom. He wanted him back, wanted that weekend to replay, a Groundhog Day weekend for eternity. His fingers clenched his steering wheel, so hard, so tight, he nearly tore the leather.


He pulled up to the curb at Tom’s house.


“I’d invite you in, but…”


I want to come into your life, Tom. I want to be your partner. I want to be your everything. I do.


“But I take it that’s not going to happen again. Ever.”


He looked away. Stared across the street. If he looked at Tom, if he looked at him even from the corner of his eye, he’d collapse.


“Whatever happened, I’m sorry, Mike. I honestly never expected anything. I knew I wasn’t your type. I shouldn’t have…” Tom sighed.  


You are everything I want. Everything, Tom. 


“I’m sorry this has ended our friendship. I really, really do think you’re great.” Tom’s voice went tight. “You’re going to make some guy the happiest man on the planet someday. He’s a lucky man.”


Mike nearly tore his steering wheel off. I want him to be you.


Tom slid from the car. He turned back to Mike—


No, he couldn’t look.


Mike slammed on the gas and squealed away, up the block.


Someday, you’re going to give some man your heart, Tom. I’m already jealous of him. And I want to be him, so fucking much.  


He got three blocks before he collapsed against the steering wheel at the red light, and the sobs he’d pushed back since Sunday night finally burst free.


He sat in the wash of red light and fought against turning around, rushing back, pounding on Tom’s door until he opened, and Mike could hold him, kiss him again. Even if it was just for one more time.


No. Tom needed this. He needed to be free. He needed to live. He needed to be proud, and open. Not tied to Mike like an anchor.


The light changed to green.


Mike drove forward.


Timestamp: Hush, Chapter 14, Mike’s POV