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Thanks to siberian_skys for the confidence booster, and for assassinofjoy for the stalking.

A Smile That Settles (The Smile Series, Part 10)

by RhymePhile

Set shortly after the SVU episode "Cage," in which Det. Dani Beck goes back to Warrants

Elliot grabbed another dented, beat-up cardboard box from the trunk of Tobias's car and hefted it to his waist. Awkwardly he shut the trunk lid and quickly glanced around in the back seat to see if had missed anything.

It wasn't taking long at all to move Tobias into the house, due mainly to the fact that he barely owned anything. Three boxes, two suitcases, and a few large garbage bags held all that Tobias owned in the world. Elliot guessed it was a result of having to move around so much, but just looking at the pathetic heap of Tobias's existence made him hurt.

The box he was carrying contained letters and photos, along with old court papers and official documents. This was the written evidence of Tobias's history stuffed into a cardboard coffin: a life of wealth and privilege that had devolved into the hell that was Oz, and his slow return to humanity.

Elliot struggled as he walked up the steps of the porch, and one of the flaps on the box ripped, causing it to tumble from his hands.

"Shit," he cursed, snatching at the papers and photos that threatened to blow across the yard.

He began to stuff the material back down into the box, but paused at the sight of a photo album that had opened.

Tobias was young in the first photo of the album, clean-cut, standing in front of a richly-appointed house with his parents on one side and his brother on the other. Next he was posing in front of a new blue Mercedes convertible; then there was a shot of him along with his father holding golf clubs. In another snapshot he was wearing a rich scarlet cap and gown on what Elliot guessed was his college graduation day. Later photos showed Genevieve with the kids; scenes of Holly on her bicycle; little Harrison in his crib; and Gary and Tobias poking their heads out from inside a snow fort. Elliot grinned at that one. Tobias looked so happy.

There were also shots of what looked like the attorney's office where Tobias had worked, based on the men in suits giving him congratulatory handshakes. Tobias looked different here -- poised, proper, and very, very serious -- in stark contrast to the lighthearted family photos.

Tobias wasn't smiling in any of the photos taken at the office. His face was stony, a mask of pained indifference that stood out from the warm, friendly faces of those around him. The album seemed to end with these pictures, until Elliot flipped to the very back and found a small color photo stuffed into the seam of the book.

A mug shot.

Tobias stood against the typical white height measurement background, holding the Oswald State Penitentiary identifier tile that listed his name and prison number. With its placement on the very last page, it was as if Tobias had meant for the photo to close the chapter on his previous life.

Elliot studied it for some time, trying hard to ignore the fear evident in Tobias's eyes, and then returned it to where it had been hidden.

Picking up the box again, he climbed the steps and opened the front door. He placed the box next to the stack in the living room with the rest of Tobias's things.

A small pile, sure, but at least Tobias was finally here.

It had taken over six weeks of constant visits to the Departments of Parole and Corrections to get the paperwork necessary to allow Tobias to move in. Elliot had a difficult time trying to explain why he wanted an ex-con living with him, since he was still keeping their relationship quiet. Although he had admitted it to Olivia, he wasn't quite prepared to have the entire detective bureau of the NYPD discovering that Tobias was living at his house.

Tobias understood -- up to a point -- and took it upon himself to complete and submit most of the paperwork. He made sure, however, to remind Elliot that there was going to come a time when their relationship would be made public.

"Elliot," Tobias had said, "once I move in there's going to be nowhere to hide me."

"I'm not hiding you," Elliot had protested.

"Then you need to realize that your life is going to change."

"I know," was all Elliot could say, because he couldn't think of anything better.

Tobias was right all those weeks ago when he brought up the obvious difficulties they were going to encounter when he moved in. Elliot had dismissed it at the time, but now the reality of the situation was becoming more apparent. How was he going to balance his love for Tobias with the realities of a job that still discriminated against those who were different, no matter the "official" NYPD stance on the matter?

And then there was Kathy, and the kids, and his colleagues. They were far from his mind when he and Tobias lay in bed wrapped in each other's arms; he could focus on the here and now and ignore what was to come.

Those doubts, though, were beginning to gnaw on his conscience.

He began to grow angry at himself and his indecisiveness when it came to something that should be simple. He loved him, right? He loved Tobias and the way he felt when they were together. So why was he scared at this next step?

On top of Elliot feeling guilty over keeping the application process quiet and sensing he was letting Tobias down by not "coming out" as it were, there was the partner reassignment.

Elliot never told Tobias about Dani because initially he thought it would be a short-term placement. By the time Elliot realized Olivia was going to be away longer than he anticipated -- although he was merely guessing since no one gave him any information about her whereabouts -- a month had passed since Dani had joined the squad.

With Tobias concentrated on the bureaucracy of getting approval to move in, Elliot didn't feel it necessary to burden him with what he was going through.

He was still smarting from Liv's sudden departure after she had promised him things were going to change after the Gitano case. Angry, hurt, and confused, Elliot discovered Cragen didn't help matters by being purposely evasive when it came to Liv's assignment. His harboring resentment over the whole mess was starting to reach irreparable levels when Dani came into the squad.

He didn't want to like her. She was brazen, brash, and hot-headed, a lethal combination for detective work, especially with the SVU. She had problems connecting with the victims, and she had a tendency to act first and ask questions later.

It took Elliot a while to realize she was just like him when he first started with SVU all those years ago. Funny how time can change things.

Eventually, with a steady hand and a lot of reassurance, Dani came into her own. She impressed Elliot with her dedication and fortitude, and goddamn she could kick some ass when necessary.

They fell into a comfortable rhythm he hadn't experienced since his early days with Olivia. It felt good to have her at his back, knowing he could count on her in a rough spot or when they were tag-teaming a suspect. He found himself calmer for some reason, too, discovering that their moments spent together on stakeouts or just chatting in the coffee room left him feeling centered and less on edge.

So, of course, it took one night at a bar and a single beer to send his whole life spiraling out of control again.

He kissed her.

She kissed back.

And he knew he was royally fucked.

Now he sat in his living room -- surrounded by the stuff of the man he loved so damn much it hurt -- and he didn't know what to tell him. He put his head in his hands and stared at the tiny pile of Tobias's things.

Reaching into the top box, he plucked the mug shot from the back of Tobias's album again and stared at it.

Hell, Elliot didn't even know why he kissed Dani. His life was finally getting back on track. He was content. He had Tobias. Why was he willing to risk months of happiness over one stupid, impulsive kiss? He and Dani definitely shared a connection, but how much of that was the coming together of two broken souls, and how much was pure lust? That's the part that worried him. Was he simply taking comfort in the fact that he had another woman in his life again?

The progress of their relationship was moot, however. Dani had already returned to Warrants, and he was flung back into the fray with Olivia.

While Elliot was deliberating how he was going to explain Tobias's role in his life to those around him, suddenly there was the very real possibility he could lose him because of some spur-of-the-moment attack of hormones.

There was so much was going on, and Tobias knew none of it. At first Elliot didn't want to burden him with the difficulties he was having in work. Now it might cost him everything by keeping quiet.

What the hell was he going to do?

"Ell? Ell! Elllllll! Elliot!"

Elliot shoved the photo into his shirt pocket and walked over to the foot of the stairs. "Whatcha yellin' about, bud?"

"Oh, sorry, I thought you were outside." Tobias bent forward so Elliot could see him from below. "I need hangers."

"There are tons of them in the closet."

"I'm not talking about the wire ones from the cleaners."

"What other kind are there?"

Tobias sighed audibly. "Wooden ones, Ell. The ones you're supposed to use for $50 dress shirts."

"Does it matter?"

"Does it matter he asks...Elliot, how did I ever fall in love with a man who doesn't feel the need to own wooden hangers?"

"Because the man you fell in love with figures the free ones he gets from the cleaners are just as good and didn't even know they made wooden hangers?"

Tobias huffed and shook his head.

Elliot watched this from where he stood, taking in Tobias's pert, upturned nose, the way his curls bounced as his head moved, and how his voice always caught in his throat when he was annoyed.

It was hard to contemplate how much his life had truly changed since he first met Tobias. Not even a year had gone by, and here he was, about to spend Christmas with the man who had literally made him a different person.

Looking back, it was impossible to fathom that a night he fully intended to spend drunk in a bar had turned into something as life-altering as meeting Tobias. All this time he thought that nothing could change his life more than getting married and having children. Then he marveled at getting on the police force. Then it was making detective.

Now he was about to share his home and his bed with the man who not only loved him, but above all trusted him. Elliot couldn't help but smile at the sight of the beautiful man -- no, his partner, his lover -- standing there above him.

At that moment Elliot vowed to tell Tobias everything about Dani, regardless of the repercussions. He owed him that. He just wasn't sure how to go about it.

"What's funny?"

"Nothing," Elliot answered, hoping Tobias couldn't see his eyes welling with tears.


"I just love you, that's all."

Tobias gave him a curious look. "I love you too, but if I meet another blue-eyed cop who owns wooden hangers, you're dead to me."

Elliot laughed out loud at that, his anguish momentarily forgotten thanks to Tobias's goofy charm. "You're so cute when you're being gay."

"I am not! Wait, am I?"

"Cute? Hell yes."

"No, being gay."

"When you're complaining about hangers? Yeah."

Tobias sat down on the top step and looked at him with a grin. "What about when I'm sucking your cock?"


"That wasn't rhetorical, detective."

Elliot climbed a few steps and sat, putting his head on Tobias's knee. "All man."

"You sure?"

He kissed a kneecap. "Uh-huh."

"Damn right," Tobias answered, playfully running his fingers over the back of Elliot's neck. "Now are you going to sit there all day or help me move my worldly possessions into the bedroom?"

"I guess you had to keep it simple after O-- after prison," Elliot said, glad he could broach the subject.

"The lack of knickknacks was obvious, huh?"

"Kinda," Elliot answered.

"Ohh," Tobias said, nodding, "now I see."


"It was bothering you, but you didn't know how to ask me."

"I..." Damn if Tobias still had a talent for knowing exactly what Elliot was thinking. A sinking feeling reached his stomach. "Tobias, I..."

"What, Ell?"

His mind raced, and he wanted to blurt out a hundred things at once.

"I found your mug shot hidden in the back of your photo album," he finally mumbled, cursing his fucking pathetic answer.


"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, I just..."

"It's all right," Tobias interrupted, waving Elliot's concern away. "It wasn't exactly hidden. It's there to remind me."

"Of all the painful memories? Why would you want that?"

"Maybe some part of me hasn't been able to let them go just yet." Tobias reached out to stroke Elliot's hair.

Elliot swallowed the nausea rising within him. He wasn't going to fuck this up. Not with Tobias. He just needed to fucking say it.


"I guess it's like that box of Kathy's stuff in the closet."

Elliot paused and looked up at him. "What? What box?"

"In the back of the closet you cleared out for me. There's a box of stuff that looked like it belonged to Kathy."

"Show me."

* * *

Tobias pointed. "Behind the boots."

Elliot bent down and found a shoebox with its lid askew, held on by pieces of ancient, curling masking tape.

At one time, many years ago, the box held his Converse sneakers. To make better use of it, he filled it with little notes and love letters he wrote -- every day for a year -- decorated the box, and presented it to Kathy on her 18th birthday.

When he and Kathy had first separated, Elliot gathered everything she had left behind and emptied it from the master bedroom. She left because he was angry all the time? He'd show her how angry he could get. He fully intended to burn the whole pile, until common sense took hold and he tossed her clothes into the basement instead.

But he couldn't throw away that box. He stared at it for days afterward, its awkwardly doodled hearts and flowers hiding the lovestruck teenager he used to be within. He eventually shoved it into the back of his closet and forgot about it.

"I guess you read some of these," Elliot remarked, sitting on the bed with the box in his lap.

"I didn't mean to pry, Elliot," the other man said, sitting down next to him. "I was just wondering what it was."

"No, it's okay." He looked into Tobias's eyes. "You're the only one I would want reading what was here."

"You're the only one I would want looking at my mug shot."

Elliot swallowed. "Tobias..."

"Dahil, what's wrong? There's something going on. I can see it in your eyes."

The other man smiled sadly. "You can always see it, Tobias. I'm like an open book with you."

"But you're not telling me what it is," Tobias said, touching his hand.

"I know. I haven't been telling you much of anything lately."

"What do you mean?"

"It's because of all the shit you've been going through with the Boards. I didn't want to burden you with what was happening in the squad..."

"Listen," Tobias said firmly, "you should know by now that we can tell each other anything. I made the mistake of not telling you about my HIV test -- which I still regret -- and we got through it. I don't want anything like that to happen to us again."

"I know, but..."

"Don't feel the need to shield me from what's happening around you at work, Ell. I know you need to talk about that stuff. I'm always here for you."

"I know, Tobias. I should have mentioned it, but you were under so much stress and I didn't want to add to it."

"Well, it's obviously bothering you even more now."

"Yeah," Elliot nodded, steeling himself. "It is."

"Tell me."

Elliot went into the whole complicated story, explaining how Olivia had been yanked away for another assignment, basically leaving Elliot alone without explanation. When Tobias protested the developments, Elliot told him he eventually learned from an uncooperative Captain Cragen that she was working with the Feds, but that it didn't lessen his feelings of anger or betrayal after what had happened in the Gitano case.

"I can't believe you were letting all of this fester by worrying about me," Tobias said.

Elliot exhaled deeply, feeling his insides roil. "There's more."

Then he related how Dani Beck came to the squad, of how she was dedicated but untested, and that Elliot had slowly established a very close working relationship with her.

Elliot's voice wavered. "She and I had this kind of...connection."

Tobias frowned at that, a pained look crossing his face. "What are you telling me, Elliot?"

"Tobias, I'm sorry, I don't know what I was thinking."

"You're making this worse," Tobias said, running his hand nervously through his hair. "God, if you fucked her, just tell me. I can't bear to hear you stumble through some half-assed apology."

"What? No! I didn't...Tobias, no, I didn't fuck her."

Tobias looked at him, confused. "You didn't?"


"Then what the hell..."

"I kissed her."

"You kissed her. Your new partner. "

Elliot nodded, watching Tobias's reaction.

"But you didn't fuck her. The only parts of her that came into contact with parts of you were her lips. Right?"

"Yeah, and..."

"But there was no fucking?"

"No, Tobias."

Tobias let out a deep breath. "How did this happen?"

Elliot had to stop and think about the moment. "Well, we were drinking, so..."

"You were drinking? Why?"

This wasn't how Elliot anticipated this was going to go. "Uh, we closed a case, and we went out to celebrate."

Tobias sighed. "Were you too drunk to remember why you kissed her?"

"Tobias, I..."

"I'm more disappointed you were drinking than about the kiss at this point."

"I wasn't drunk, Tobias." Elliot fidgeted on the bed nervously. "I had a beer and offered to drive her home. You know I stopped drinking."

"Do I?"

Elliot looked into his eyes. "Yes."

Tobias nodded. "Yeah, I know. So if you weren't drunk, tell me what happened."

"I don't know what happened...I walked her outside, and suddenly I'm kissing her and she's kissing me back."

The other man was quiet next to him on the bed. Elliot was staring at him, waiting for him to react, or punch him, or get angry. Instead Tobias sat there, his eyes focused on the floor. Just as Elliot began to worry, Tobias spoke.

"What were you thinking about when you kissed her?"

What was he thinking about? Did it all happen too fast for his brain to process what he was actually feeling in those tense few moments he was pressed close to Dani? He remembered the feel of her lips -- how they were slight and delicate -- and then thinking to himself that it felt really strange kissing a woman after experiencing Tobias's stubble brush his cheek every time. He recalled wrapping his arms around Dani and being disappointed to feel her slender waist and arms, instead of the taut, tight muscles of Tobias's chest. And he also could remember thinking Dani didn't thread her fingers through the close-cropped hair on the back of Elliot's head the way Tobias did. The realization about the kiss finally sunk in, and Elliot turned to Tobias.

"I was thinking about you," he said, almost surprised at the answer.

"Should I be grateful?"

Elliot looked down, his anxiety growing. "No, Tobias. What I mean is that...well, she wasn't you."

"She wasn't me."

"I was thinking about you because I love you. I wasn't kissing the person I loved." He shook his head. "It all happened so fast and then when I realized what I had done...Christ, this is killing me, Tobias. I can't explain to you why. I don't know! Maybe I'm a complete shit and I simply let my fuckin' hormones get the better of me that night."

Elliot waited, and when Tobias didn't answer, he reached for his hand.

"Please don't leave me, Tobias."

Tobias brought Elliot's hand to his lips and kissed it. "I'm not going anywhere, Dahúil. You're stuck with me."

Elliot smiled and released a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. "You're angry though, right? I deserve it. I'm pathetic."

"Well, I can't say that I'm happy, because you hurt me."

"I know, bud. I'm so sorry."

"But knowing the position you're in...I can understand it."

Elliot blinked. "You can?"

"You love me, Ell. I see it every day, and there's no doubt in my mind that you're dedicated to this relationship." Tobias paused, and cupped Elliot's cheek. "I also know that coming to terms with loving another man isn't something that changes overnight. I admit I faced doubts about loving Chris because falling in love with him wasn't something I intentionally sought out. We just...happened, and I embraced it after I finally realized what I felt for him really was love."

"I guess that's sort of what I've been going through," Elliot admitted. "I feel like I'm battling myself."

"Most people believe you're born gay. I get that. But they never talk about those of us who have our lives completely altered by love when we aren't looking for it. They don't understand that it's possible to love a person, not just a man or woman. This has been difficult for you, Ell, and chances are it's going to get more confusing as time goes on."

Elliot simply nodded.

"You're probably at the point right now where this is all sinking in. Now that I've moved in with you, your life is going to change again. I know you've been thinking about it."


"Maybe you're holding onto the man you were the way you're holding onto remnants of your old life," Tobias said, nodding in reference to the old shoebox filled with love letters.

Elliot stared down at the box and had a feeling Tobias was right.

Tobias then moved closer to Elliot on the bed so he could wrap his arm around the other man. "Is that why you kissed Dani?" Tobias asked softly.

Elliot considered it, wondering if the reason he put his entire future with Tobias in jeopardy was over some misplaced fear he was losing his heterosexuality. He shuffled his hand through the paper in the shoebox and then replaced the lid. Standing, he hurled the box out of the room and down the stairs, causing it to explode and shower the living room with over three hundred 22-year-old love notes.

"I hurt you, Tobias, that's all that matters," he said angrily, panting with effort. "You're right; I don't want to hold onto the past. I want to move ahead with you. I completely fucked this up, but I can promise you this won't happen again. I love you too damn much."

"It's okay, Ell," Tobias whispered, trying to soothe him.

"It was a one-time thing, and Dani's not even in the squad anymore. She went back to Warrants after the case with Eden." Elliot waved his hand weakly. "I had a feeling she was ready to go after the stabbing anyway."

"What stabbing?"

"Oh, some disturbed kid grabbed Huang's pen and jabbed me in the..."

"What?" Tobias exclaimed, getting to his feet with an alarmed look on his face. "You were stabbed and didn't tell me?"

"It was a pen. It didn't go in that far..."

"Elliot, what the fuck?!"


"Elliot, you're my life . Do you get that yet, you dumb shit? If you hurt, I hurt. I love you and I want you to share everything with me, no matter if you trip walking up the stairs or if you're stabbed by a fucking pen. Jesus! I want you to complain to me. I want you to whine about the Yankees. I want you to bitch and moan when you have to work midnights, okay? I don't want you to keep anything inside or hidden or worry about how it might affect me. For fuck's sake, who do you think I am?"

"What do you mean?"

"Answer the question. Who am I to you?"

"My..." Elliot winced at the pain in Tobias's eyes. "You're my lover, Tobias."

"And your friend, Elliot. Friends don't keep shit like this from each other."

"I didn't mean to."

Tobias sighed and sat down again. "We'll work through the kissing thing, but you need to open up to me. I know you were used to not worrying Kathy and holding the pain in, but I'm different, all right? Our life together is different. "

Elliot met his eyes. "I'm trying."

"I know."

Elliot put his head into his hands, and when he did so Tobias's mug shot fluttered from his shirt pocket onto the floor.

Tobias picked it up and studied it. "Maybe we both need to try harder to put the past behind us."

"You look so damn frightened in that photo," Elliot said quietly, catching the dark look that passed over Tobias's face.

"Yeah," he whispered, staring down at himself. Suddenly he ripped the photo in half, folded it, and tore it again.

"Why did..."

Tobias quieted him with a kiss. "We're starting over. Here, now, for Christmas. We've got a whole new year ahead of us, Dahúil, and we're going to make new memories. That means we tell each other everything -- how we're feeling, our fears, our hopes, and our dreams."

Elliot nuzzled against his neck and kissed him back. "Think you can put up with me for a whole year?"

Tobias chuckled. "You plan on kissing anyone else besides me?"

"No," Elliot said seriously. "I love you, Tobias."

"I know you do, Ell. And do you think you can get around to picking up the phone the next time you get stabbed with a goddamned pen?"

"Shit, I hope not. Getting stabbed again, I mean," Elliot smiled. "But yeah, I think I can remember to tell the most important person in my life how I'm feeling from time to time."

"That's all I ask." Tobias got up from the bed and pulled at Elliot's hand. "Now c'mon, I have something for you."

Elliot's eyebrow rose. "We're already in the bedroom."

"Your Christmas present, smart ass. Hopefully you won't get stabbed by a pen or anything else if you wear it."

"A bulletproof tie?" Elliot quipped, getting up.

"No," he said, walking down the stairs, "because if I didn't dress you you'd never wear the damn thing."

They walked together into the living room, around Tobias's pile of boxes, and sat down on the floor next to the tree.

"I can't believe you talked me into getting a live tree," Elliot said, watching Tobias rummage around the brightly decorated packages Maureen, Kathleen, and the twins had yet to pick up.

"Our first Christmas together deserved one," Tobias said, handing Elliot a small box.

"What's this?"

"A pony. I bought him on the installment plan." Tobias rolled his eyes and sat down. "Open it, ya dumb Mick."

Elliot smiled and unwrapped the package, revealing a small velvet box. "A box! You shouldn't have."

"You drive me crazy."

"You love it," Elliot laughed, lifting the lid. Inside was a gold medal of St. Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of police. The angel stood next to a police officer in bas relief, with the words "Saint Michael Protect Us" around the edge. He gasped when he saw it. "Tobias..."

The other man was grinning from ear to ear. "I know it seems a little extravagant, but if it keeps you safe..."

Elliot pulled Tobias into a strong embrace and kissed him deeply. "It's beautiful, thank you."

"Um, I wasn't exactly clear on the rules and regulations of giving something like this. I did a little research on the net."

"It's okay."

"Well, I asked at the place I bought it and they suggested I should have it blessed before I gave it to you, so..."

"You went and had it blessed?"

"At St. Virgilius."

"Tobias, that's..." Elliot could only smile. "Help me put it on."

Tobias lifted it from the box and unclasped the chain. He was about to put it over Elliot's head when Elliot stopped him.

"Wait a minute..."

Elliot took the medal in his hand and kissed it, and recited a prayer from memory.

"St. Michael, Heaven's glorious Commissioner of Police, who once so neatly and successfully cleared God's premises of all undesirables, look with a kindly and professional eye on your earthly force. Give us cool heads, stout hearts, hard punches, an uncanny flair for investigation, and wise judgment. Make us the terror of burglars, the friend of children and law-abiding citizens, kind to strangers, polite to bores, strict with law-breakers, and impervious to temptations.

You know, St. Michael, from your own experiences with the devil, that the policeman's lot on Earth is not always a happy one; but your sense of duty that so pleased God, your hard knocks that so surprised the devil, and your angelic self-control give us inspiration. And when we lay down our night sticks, enroll us in your Heavenly Force, where we will be as proud to guard the throne of God as we have been to guard the city of men. Amen."

Tobias put it over Elliot's head. "Being a Catholic is a lot of work."

Elliot laughed. "Sometimes. This means so much to me, Tobias. It's beautiful. I won't take it off."

"Good. I want it to bring you home safe to me each night."

Elliot got up from where he was sitting and found a flat package standing to the side of the tree. "Here's yours. It's, uh, not quite as fancy as gold."

"You know that doesn't matter to me Ell," he said, tearing the paper. Underneath he found an antique silver frame with the word "Daddy" inscribed in script at the top. Tobias turned it over in his hands, looking at it strangely. Then his eyes focused on the two children in the photo, both blonde, blue-eyed, and gorgeous like their father. Holly and Harrison sat posed together in the photo, smiling from beneath a large, elaborate Christmas tree.

He looked up at Elliot, his eyes filled with tears.

"I might have used my connections at the squad to find out your mother's address in Connecticut," Elliot admitted. "I wrote her a letter."

Tobias swallowed a few times before he could speak. "What did you tell her?" he whispered, his voice filled with emotion.

"That I was a friend of yours and that she should be proud of how well you were doing. I also mentioned that Holly and Harrison's daddy missed them."

"Elliot...thank you. Thank you so much. It's b-better than gold."

"Merry Christmas, bud."

Tobias put his head on Elliot's shoulder. "I miss them."

"You can put the frame on your side of the bed."

"I don't even think Harrison would recognize me," Tobias mumbled, still staring at the photo.

"You need to see them, Tobias. They need their daddy."

"It's been so long..."

"There's a new year coming up," he said, kissing Tobias's hair.


"Time to make changes, right? We both can."

"Would you come with me if I went up there?" Tobias asked.

"You know I would, baby."

Tobias laced his fingers with Elliot's. "You're definitely stuck with me now."

"I am. Just the way I like it."

"Does this mean you'll buy me wooden hangers?" Tobias asked with a grin.

Elliot laughed and kissed him on the mouth. "I love you."

"Now you can tell me that every morning, Ell."

"I will," he smiled, hugging Tobias close. "I can't wait."

-- End of Part 10 --

To Be Continued, of course...

December 26, 2006

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