Gift Horses

by Riley Cannon

"Gift Horses"

He was strapped down to the table, Dr. Nathan trying not to look at him as she prepared the injection that would end his life. He turned his head, saw McManus standing over by the phone, looking like he was trying to will it to ring and bring a reprieve. Minutes ticked by, though, and there was only silence, McManus shaking his head and giving Dr. Nathan a look of mournful resignation. She looked at him then, apology, sympathy in her eyes even as the needle plunged into his flesh, the drug coursing through his body. He turned his head again, already feeling himself drifting away, saw Sister Pete and Father Ray, his brother, tried to open his mouth to speak but it was too late. The darkness was closing over him, pulling him down into its embrace...

What the fuck?! Toby sat up on the couch, glancing around the room without comprehension for long moments, the tendrils of the dream still wrapped tight around him. As it began to dim and fade away, he blinked, everything coming into focus once more: the living room lights turned low, his shoes kicked off and one of the loafers lying on its side on the luxurious carpet; his briefcase open on the big coffee table and papers and file folders scattered across the gleaming wood.

He was home, safe, where he belonged, and he leaned forward, knuckling the sleep out of his eyes and feeling the last of the dream - nightmare? - ebb away. In another moment he got up and walked over to the floor-to-ceiling window with its panoramic view of the city, a lot of it dark now but plenty of lights still gleaming through the softly falling snow. He shivered, feeling a chill for a moment, but it vanished just as quickly as two strong arms encircled his waist and warm lips brushed the back of his neck.

"It's three in the morning, Toby, come to bed."

"Actually I think I dozed off for a while already," he said, turning to face Elliot and finding such a wealth of comfort as he gazed into those blue eyes. Arms wrapped tight around him, Toby ran one hand up his lover's back, caressing the back of his neck, ruffling the short dark hair. "I had a ... a funny dream," he said, rubbing his cheek against Elliot's shoulder, the skin soft and warm.

"Funny how?" Elliot held him just as tight, long fingers carding through his hair.

"Funny ... strange." He shook his head, brows drawn together as he tried to pin down some lingering image. "I don't know," he stepped back, shaking his head, "there was ... something, something scary, but ..." He shook his head again, sighed. "It's gone now."

Elliot stroked his knuckles along Toby's cheek, giving him a worried look. "Don't like the thought of you having bad dreams," he said, leaning in to kiss his forehead as if to chase the frown away.

Toby smiled at him, curving a hand around his neck to draw him close enough for a kiss, soft and easy. "The only thing that would scare me is not having you in my life, and," he drew back again, hands rubbing over Elliot's bare chest, fingers snagging in the waist band of his boxers and giving them a tug, "since there is not the slightest possibility of that happening, I think everything's okay."

"You sure?" Elliot tugged Toby's necktie loose, tossing it over at the couch before going to work on the buttons of his dress shirt. "You wouldn't like some special reassurance?"

"Well," Toby shivered again, this time with anticipation, as his shirt was worked off his shoulders and down his arms, "I suppose if you absolutely felt the need to provide me with some comfort, I wouldn't object."

Elliot flashed him a smile, letting the shirt drop to the floor. "You know," long fingers traced a line down Toby's sternum, up again and brushing along his collarbone, "I had a hunch you'd say that."

"You saying I'm predictable?"

"Nah," Elliot winked, "just easy."

Laughing, Toby hauled him in for another kiss, longer and deeper this time, the kind that left him needing oxygen afterwards. "How about you go get the bed warmed up again," he said as they parted for that air, "and I'll be with you in a sec."


"Cross my heart."

Elliot nodded, head tilted just a bit as he looked at him, a look in his eyes that Toby could only describe as solemn reverence. He slid a hand along Toby's shoulder, around the back of his neck, massaging lightly. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm..." Oh, that was strange, that sense of dj vu, as if they had stood like this before. "...fine. I'll be even better in a few minutes."

The serious look in those blue eyes vanished, replaced by something far more smug and seductive. "Count on it," Elliot whispered, leaning close to breathe the words against his cheek before snatching another kiss and turning to head back to their bedroom.

Watching him, Toby smiled at that easy, confident walk - no, that swagger, that strut; so much more than mere forward movement in that prowling proclamation of sexual desirability. Toby's smile wavered, though, he fumbled the papers he was stuffing back in the briefcase, that sense of dislocation stronger now as a thousand images flashed through his head in a split second, all of it embodied in that walk, in a name.

Toby looked at him, the line of his back and the set of his shoulders, and whispered the name - "Chris."

He wavered, stopped, turned part way back.

Toby repeated it, stronger this time. "Chris?"

He looked at him, something haunted now in the depths of his eyes. "Toby... Remember what they say about gift horses?"

Gift horses? Toby grasped after that, catching it. Don't look them in the mouth, just be grateful for the gift.

Elliot looked away, out at the snow-cloaked city and the lights, and then back again, nothing but warmth and love in his eyes now. "Come to bed," he urged, holding out his hand.

Toby went over to him, grasped the outstretched hand and looked into his face, something skittering along the back of his mind, words someone had said once upon a time - *"You and me together? God doesn't have the balls to keep us out."* - and he smiled as even that danced away out of reach and he burrowed into his lover's embrace, feeling like he had finally found his way home after being so long out in the cold.


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