Search Engine |
Random Story |
A Smile That Agonizes (The Smile Series, Part 6)
Tobias sniffed audibly, and Elliot smiled and leaned in to kiss his forehead. "I'm not going anywhere."
"Except work," Tobias mumbled from Elliot's chest.
"Well, yeah," he chuckled in answer, steering Tobias to the kitchen chair. He kneeled down in front of Tobias and put his hands on the other man's thighs. "Eventually. But we have time to talk first."
Tobias ran his hand through his unkempt hair, loosening that stubborn strand again. He still looked dazed; Elliot wasn't sure if it was from the early hour or the life-altering words he'd just uttered moments ago.
He'd been dwelling on the nuances of their relationship ever since Tobias started staying the night, turning events over and over in his head, trying to understand what was happening. He was never one to be reckless. Life was full of planning and decision, and a man like Elliot never went into things without first thinking them through carefully. Embarking on a relationship with another man was definitely worthy of plenty of forethought. It also caused him to doubt himself, because he was confused by what he was feeling.
Weeks of togetherness had slowly begun to erode that niggling sense of uncertainty, however. He found himself regarding the mirror before Tobias was to visit. He tried to keep the bathroom tidy so Tobias would have enough space to store his razor and toothbrush. He even let his guard down and often acted goofy just to hear Tobias laugh, that snuffy, throaty sound that had a way of making his stomach quiver. And of course he suddenly discovered he felt incredibly empty when Tobias wasn't there. He'd gotten used to the loneliness after Kath and the kids left, but this...this was different.
It was like there was a piece of him missing. His soul ached.
That revelation finally silenced his apprehension. Elliot found he couldn't deny his feelings after that.
When he heard the fear in Tobias's voice after Liv saw them together, there was no mistaking the surge of heat and emotion that welled up within him in that moment. It was visceral, a gut reaction -- and Elliot knew that it was right.
They were right. Together.
He'd never been surer of anything in his life, and that made his protective instinct flare when Olivia saw Tobias. Rather than worry about himself, his immediate concern was for the man who was vulnerable under her scrutiny. The light material of his white boxer shorts left nothing to the imagination, and it made him angry that Tobias was put into that situation.
Elliot slid closer on the floor until he was touching Tobias's knees with his chest. "I'm sorry you got caught up in this, Tobias. I didn't know she was coming over. But I meant what I said about you leaving, all right? I love you."
Tobias put his hand on Elliot's chin. "What you said before about being able to feel after years of being dead inside...I think it goes for both of us, Ell. I shut myself off from everything after Chris died, even after I got out. I didn't want to let anyone else in again. My kids don't want to know me and my parents are supportive, but distant, because I fucked up my entire life and learning how to live again has been harder than I thought. Then you came into that bar that night and talked to me, and it was like I woke up."
"That was probably because I made you spill your drink all over yourself," Elliot grinned.
Tobias chuckled, and then sobered. "I wasn't planning on falling in love, Ell. For a long time I didn't think I deserved it. But you changed all that. Thanks for reminding me how good it can feel, and for making me love myself again." He reached down and took Elliot's hand. "I love you, Elliot."
Elliot shifted on his knees so that he could lay his head in Tobias's lap. "You didn't have to say it. I already know."
"I know you do," he answered, stroking the back of Elliot's head. "But knowing it is different from hearing it. Life is too short to fuck with those details."
Wrapping his arm around Tobias's knees, Elliot let out a breath of relief he didn't know he had been holding. "It feels strange to find something I wasn't even looking for."
"You mean you weren't planning on falling in love with a handsome former lawyer and ex-con with impeccable timing for walking into an awkward conversation with his cop boyfriend's female partner?"
"In your boxers."
"And it's 'detective' to you, Mr. Handsome Former Lawyer."
Tobias chuckled and patted Elliot playfully. "I wasn't really looking for it either, detective."
"But your reasons were different. I've been with the same woman for almost 20 years. I did the whole father, husband, provider thing. We got married at 18 when we found out Kathy was pregnant. I've never even considered a life that was any different from what I had, and now I have you."
"You never told me that about Kathy," Tobias said.
"And admit I'm even more inexperienced than I already am?" he scoffed in answer. "I didn't know how to bring it up."
"Well, I already knew you'd never been with men before, so how much more inexperienced can you be?"
When Elliot didn't answer, Tobias prodded him.
"Kathy was my first."
"You're a romantic. I always knew that," Tobias said, the smile in his voice obvious.
"I didn't know how to talk to girls, all right?" he groaned.
"It wasn't meant to be disparaging, Ell," the other man said, leaning down to kiss his head.
"Then you can understand how falling in love with you after growing up a good Catholic boy, getting married, having kids, and doing everything I was supposed to kind of threw me."
"Well, I grew up a good Episcopalian boy, got married, had kids, and did everything I was supposed to until I fucked everything up and went to prison, where I fell in love with Chris. It threw me too, when it happened."
Elliot slid his hand along Tobias's leg. "What did it feel like when you realized you were falling in love?"
Tobias was quiet, and Elliot let the silence stretch before he heard the answer. "That my life had changed forever."
"Yeah. I've been thinking about it a lot," Elliot admitted.
"Love. Us. How I've been feeling these past few months."
"Pretty damn good."
Tobias laughed softly, and Elliot felt it echo through his chest. "It's a nice change. For both of us."
"It is, and a little scary, too."
"I know," Tobias said, continuing to caress Elliot's close-cropped hair. "I haven't allowed myself to get this close to someone in years. It's hard to learn how to trust again after that place."
Oz had taken on other connotations whenever Tobias brought it up now. He never gave it a name; it was always "prison," or "that place" or "when I was inside." Elliot wasn't sure if that was how Tobias was dealing with the aftermath of Oz, or whether it was specifically for Elliot's benefit.
"I don't think my reasons for being scared are quite the same as prison," Elliot said quietly.
"I think you've been inside of a prison of your own for years, Ell," he said, meeting the eyes of the man on the floor. "The only difference is that mine was concrete and bars. Yours were the walls you put up around your emotions and feelings to keep all that shit you see every day from breaking you."
Elliot unconsciously flinched at the accuracy of Tobias's statement. After years of facing the worst humanity had to offer, especially the filth that hurt children, Elliot had learned how to take all of it -- his grief, despair, hopelessness -- and push it down and wrap it around himself so tightly that nothing could get through. The problem was that protecting himself from those emotions meant he had created barriers so strong that letting them down was next to impossible. Kathy realized as much and finally gave up on him.
He couldn't really make her understand that he had been shutting himself off since he was a kid, because he didn't have the words to try and explain it to her. It just was. She couldn't fathom why he never wanted to talk about how he was feeling, or what was bothering him. He didn't even know how to express it. The words wouldn't come. Only pansies talked about their feelings. Real men didn't cry -- they got angry.
He found that the rage came much more easily than any other sensation, and he fed on that instead. Sometimes it disturbed him how effortless it was to allow the anger to flow through him rather than to cry, or actually feel. It felt better to get mad than to focus on whatever fucked-up event it was that should have had him weeping.
And then, as his life continued to spiral out of control, he met Tobias.
Perhaps the fact that he could finally be honest and open with another man without feeling embarrassed was what did it. He'd tried to talk to Huang and Skoda before, but they were doctors first, seeking to judge and make comments on his actions. Tobias had provided nothing more than a friendly ear, and a comforting glance at first.
But Tobias was acutely aware of what made Elliot tick, oddly enough, so much so that he often had the words for exactly what Elliot was feeling. It was like he knew him, inside and out, without all the messy analyzing of emotions.
Tobias was able to break down the emotional barricades Elliot had erected and got him to express what he was feeling. It sounded simple, but Elliot prided himself on being able to shut off everything, even the small events that made him happy. Perhaps that was another reason he had gotten so out of touch with his wife and kids. Everything affected him, and yet nothing did.
Mostly all Tobias had to do was listen, because surprisingly Elliot found himself talking. Stranger still, they didn't have all that much in common, but spending time together became the highlight of his week. They shared more laughter in conversation than anything else. Elliot still didn't know the complete picture of Tobias's incarceration though, as much of the time the other man spent in Oz was painful. Sometimes Tobias would mention certain events, like how he learned how to wash his own laundry while inside, but it never went much farther than that.
Elliot, in turn, kept his descriptions of specific cases to a minimum. He wasn't sure how they would affect Tobias, and the last thing he wanted to do was spread more pain. Unfortunately, two of the horrors he dealt with most frequently -- rape, and violence against children -- touched Tobias's life as well. But through the somewhat convoluted ways in which they found to converse, it was easy to see they complemented each other. Elliot could be strong and supportive, yet soft and emotional in the safety of Tobias's arms. And Tobias had Elliot's absolute trust and understanding when it came to his past life, which allowed him to heal.
Once Elliot got over the initial shock of, well, lusting after another man, he found it easier to accept Tobias as a part of his life. The lusting part was still a tad confusing, but he knew he needed that blonde-haired head next to him when he woke up in the morning. The rest of it would probably -- most likely -- work its way out in time. Love was the most important thing right now. The sex would come later.
"You've got that hard-thinking cop stare, detective," Tobias said teasingly, bowing his head to catch the other man's look. His fingers gently brushed Elliot's neck. "Are you gonna share or am I going to have to kiss it out of you?"
"Just realizing how right you are. About a lot of things." He grinned. "But I wouldn't mind your form of interrogation."
"What's so funny?"
"Nothing...it's just that I'm still getting used to how much more comfortable you are with the physical aspects of our relationship."
Elliot tried not to let the thought that had just occurred to him show on his face, but Tobias was too quick.
"What? Did I say something wrong?"
"No," Elliot said, and fumbled with the explanation. "No, it's, uh..."
Elliot took a deep breath and sighed, drumming his fingers against his thigh.
"Elliot, are you blushing?"
"What the heck has you all..."
"Fucking!" he blurted out. "Fucking. You, me, us, together." He sighed again, and rubbed the back of his neck in a nervous gesture. "Christ, I can't believe I'm talking about this...but I've been sort of, y'know, worried that I haven't done, uh, more with you than I have."
Rather than laughing it off, or making a joke, Tobias merely bent down and kissed Elliot's forehead. "You don't have to worry, Ell."
"But I do, because, well, you have more experience, and I didn't want you to be disappointed..."
God, he sounded like an awkward teenager trying to discuss this stuff. Maybe that was why Kathy had more luck talking to the girls than he did.
"Elliot. The fact that you care enough to want to see me happy says everything, believe me." Tobias bent down again, this time finding Elliot's lips and leaving a lingering kiss. "I do want you. I want to share all of myself with you, touching, tasting, feeling you for the first time. When that time comes, we'll both know it's right."
He blinked. "It doesn't bother you to wait?"
"I love you, Elliot. Why should it?"
"I don't know..."
"I get to kiss you, and hold you next to me, and do other things besides fucking. Why would I be disappointed in that? Y'know, you give handjobs like a pro."
Tobias laughed, his eyes brightening at the reaction he got from Elliot. "You know I love hearing you say my name like that."
"You do that on purpose just for that reason," Elliot said, the side of his mouth turned up in mock annoyance.
"I do." He moved close to Elliot's ear, and whispered his next admission. "And when the time comes, I can't wait to hear you scream my name as well."
Elliot shivered at the sensation of Tobias's lips against his ear. Shifting on his knees, he moved his head back onto Tobias's lap -- this time farther up the other man's thigh -- until his chin was even with the slit in those white boxers. Tobias was looking down at him curiously, following every move.
Tobias took a quick glance at the clock. "Doesn't your shift start in..."
At that moment Elliot flicked his tongue over the thin material of Tobias's shorts.
The other man drew in a sharp breath and put his hands on Elliot's shoulders. "E-Elliot..."
Elliot licked again and grinned when he felt Tobias respond with a hiss. He kissed the tip of Tobias's cock through the boxers.
"Ell, w-what are you doing?"
"Enjoying the view from down here."
"But you've never..."
Elliot chuckled. "You can't be the one who's always doing all the work. Thought I'd give it a try."
"You're going to be late."
"I don't care," Elliot responded, grating his teeth against the fabric.
"I don't...we need a condom," Tobias gasped.
"Just for a blowjob? It's okay," he mumbled, his tongue tracing Tobias's length through the cotton as the other man became more aroused.
"Elliot, wait..." he said, pushing back in the chair.
Elliot sat back off his knees and frowned when Tobias pulled away. "You don't want me to?"
"No, no, it's not that. I just...I don't want to us to be rushed. You have to leave for work, and we're in the middle of the kitchen...I want you to be comfortable. I-I want it to be different."
The look on Tobias's face was confusing, but Elliot accepted the explanation. He shrugged, and got up off the floor. Running his fingers through Tobias's hair, he gave the blonde man a deep kiss. "All right." He grinned. "But I have to learn sometime."
"We should get you dressed," Tobias said, returning a half-smile that didn't reach his eyes.
"Okay..." Elliot replied, concerned now. "Tobias, uh, I thought you were enjoying that. I didn't mean..."
"No, Elliot, it's okay, I was enjoying it. It's just like I said, I want to have more time with you, that's all."
Elliot nodded, not quite sure if he was telling the truth.
* * *
He was standing there staring at the closet when he heard Tobias walk up behind him. "One of the blues. You always look gorgeous in blue."
Elliot reached for the pale blue dress shirt and turned to find Tobias sitting on the bed.
"You're doing an 8 to 4 today?"
He nodded. "Unless something comes up, of course."
Tobias rose and walked over to the tie rack that hung from the back of the closet door. He selected a dark blue tie with purple flecks in it and walked back to Elliot.
"Lift your collar."
Elliot did so, and Tobias wrapped the tie around his neck. Slowly, he began knotting it.
"You know I love you, right?" Tobias asked quietly, focusing on the tie.
"Of course I do."
"Then you know I wasn't rejecting you by asking you to wait."
Elliot shrugged, and Tobias met his eyes. He placed his hand on the back of Elliot's neck in an embrace.
"Chris and I had this intense, love/hate relationship for years, Ell. You looked at him and felt yourself burning...he was like fire. And we consumed each other. You, you're different. I just want to experience that."
Tobias kept his eyes on the other man, searching his face for a sign of understanding. When he saw it, he leaned in for a kiss.
Elliot met his lips halfway and wrapped his arms around Tobias's naked chest, drawing him closer. He kissed him eagerly, and then drew back to flutter kisses over his jaw and neck.
"I won't let you do all the work in bed for long, y'know," Elliot noted.
"Ell, I could listen to the way you moan when I go down on you and it would be enough, believe me."
Elliot felt heat surge to his abdomen and he pressed himself against Tobias's thigh. "It doesn't have to be. I want to make you happy."
"I am happy." Tobias grinned, patting the other man's ass. "Just be patient. Now look at me so I can finish with your tie, beautiful."
Elliot smirked and stared at Tobias while the other man knotted and adjusted his tie. "I'm not wearing the paisley socks this time."
"Thank God, he's learning," Tobias quipped. "Where's your jacket?"
"On the hanger."
Tobias walked over to the closet and removed the charcoal grey jacket. "He's hanging up his suits, too. Will wonders never cease?"
"Har-har," Elliot said, pulling it on. "Make sure my collar isn't sticking out."
Tobias ran his fingers along the collar and brushed at Elliot's shoulders. "There. Ready for perp-busting."
"Maybe it'll be slow today."
"You won't find out unless you get your butt to work, detective," Tobias admonished. "What about breakfast? We never had the chance to eat."
Elliot rolled his eyes. "I'll grab a bagel from one of the carts, mom."
"That's a good boy," the other man said, kissing his cheek.
"What do you have planned for today?"
"Job interview," Tobias grinned.
"That's great, bud!"
Tobias chuckled. "I like when you call me that."
"Bud. It's cute."
"I didn't even realize I was doing it." He squinted at Tobias. "Hmm, you don't look like a 'sugar' or 'sweetie' to me, so I guess it works."
"How about 'studmuffin?'"
Elliot smirked. "What kind of job is it?"
"Receptionist position for some art gallery."
"Kiss for luck, then," Elliot said, offering him a peck on the cheek. "Did you want me to drop you off on the way in? I know it's early, but you could stop and get coffee first or something..."
"No, it's okay, I'll take my car. I have something else to take care of while I'm out."
"All right, then." He smoothed out his tie. "Do I look decent?"
"Perfect...you can't even tell your boyfriend dressed you at all."
Tobias kissed him, and patted his ass again. "Go. You're going to be late. Oh, I'm going to borrow that Sedona Mesa Sunset-colored Perry Ellis shirt that I like so much, okay?"
"The reddish-brown dress shirt, Ell," Tobias sighed, shaking his head. "Honestly, how you keep from walking out of this house naked is beyond me."
"Me see shirt. Shirt look clean. Sniff. Bad smell, no wear. Good smell, wear shirt," he teased, flicking at Tobias's long hair on his way out of the bedroom. "Call you later?"
Tobias nodded. "Love you."
"Love you, too."
"Be careful, okay?"
He grinned. "Always."
* * *
It was mid-afternoon, and the time was passing quietly enough for a dayshift, which was a nice change of pace. He was alone in the office, since the captain was at a departmental meeting, Fin and Liv had worked a late case over the 4 to 12 shift and were now off the clock, and Munch was following up with Warner on a report that had crossed his desk earlier. Catching up on paperwork seemed to be a never-ending cycle, but today it didn't bother him in the least. It was mindless work -- click, click, page down, type, click, type -- filling in screen after screen of information. Usually he was itching to be out on the street, but after the incident with Liv and Tobias this morning, he just wanted to keep thinking to a minimum.
So when the phone rang, he felt the need to suppress a groan. "Special Victims, this is Stabler."
"Hey there, detective. Say hello to the new personal relations specialist for the Luhring Augustine Gallery."
"You got the job! Fantastic!" Elliot excitedly said, then realized where he was and lowered his voice. "That's wonderful, Tobias. We'll have to celebrate. Now what the hell does a personal relations specialist do?"
"Make coffee, answer the phone, schedule appointments for private viewings," Tobias laughed. "But it's work."
"It is. Did you, y'know, have any trouble?"
"With the ex-con thing? It came up of course, but I think Sister Pete's reference letter helped."
Elliot smiled broadly at the phone. "I'm so happy for you, bud."
"I think the fact that the guy interviewing me said I was hot helped, too."
"You don't agree?"
"Of course I agree. But I'm feeling a little overprotective of you after this morning," Elliot whispered.
Tobias's nasally chuckle came through the earpiece. "The gallery is in Chelsea, but don't worry, Ell. I'm a one-man guy."
"Glad to hear it."
"Unless you're into threesomes, which might get me a raise..."
Elliot shook his head and laughed. "You drive me crazy."
"And I don't even have to try very hard."
Elliot laughed again, which is when Munch walked through the squad room door and over to his desk.
"I gotta go," Elliot said, his voice lowered.
"Back to work?"
"Something like that. I'll call you later, okay?"
"Talk to you then," Tobias replied, and hung up.
Elliot replaced the phone on its cradle, and Munch parked himself on the edge of Elliot's desk. "Didn't mean to interrupt."
"You're sounding better," Munch noted.
"Better than what?"
"Well, better than you were a couple of weeks ago at the diner. I didn't want to say anything at the time, Ell, but I know what it's like going through a divorce and all the shit that comes with it, and then that thing with Gitano..."
"Yeah, John, thanks for the concern. I'm doing okay."
"We were worried about you for a while there."
Elliot narrowed his eyes. "Who's 'we'?"
"Me, Fin, Liv...all of us. We know you're going through a rough time. We're here if you need the support."
Elliot nodded, thinking back to the look on Olivia's face when Tobias surprised them in the kitchen.
"It's good you have that friend of yours, too," Munch said when Elliot didn't answer.
"Friend?" Elliot asked nervously.
"The guy with glasses and long blonde hair," Munch answered. "He drove you home that night from the diner. Tobias Beecher? The friend staying at your house?"
Elliot's stomach dropped and he swallowed. "How did you..."
"Oh. I thought Olivia talked to you."
"Olivia told you he was staying at my house?" he asked angrily.
"No, no, she just said she had stopped by this morning to apologize and your friend was there."
"She told you that? When?"
"Elliot..." Munch hesitated. "I thought she had talked to you. I don't want to get in the middle..."
"Just fucking tell me, John, all right?"
Munch sighed. "She said she was worried about you, saw your friend, and asked me to run a plate."
"She got you to run the plates on Tob...on my friend's car?" he asked incredulously.
Munch held up his hands. "I didn't know it was your friend when she asked me, Elliot. Sorry."
"No, no, it's okay." Elliot took a deep breath and exhaled loudly. "I shouldn't be angry at you."
"She was just concerned because he's an ex-con, Ell."
"You ran a background on him," Elliot said coldly, amazed at Olivia's audacity.
"I told her there was a logical explanation."
"Yeah, that it's none of her business."
Elliot waved his hand, until the fact crossed his mind that Tobias had only been wearing boxers when Liv saw him. He tried not to let the worry show on his face.
"What did she say about seeing him at the house, John?" he asked, trying to control the waver in his voice.
"Nothing, just that he was at your house."
Had she left out the scene of Tobias on the stairs? "I already knew he was an ex-con. He's a friend of mine, John, and that's all anyone needs to know."
"John...don't let anyone else know about this, okay? I have to...I need to talk with Olivia."
"Yeah, it's cool," Munch replied, patting Elliot's arm as he got up from the desk. "Don't worry about it."
Elliot looked down at his tie, thinking of the man who had picked it out, and felt a wave of guilt wash over him.
* * *
Tobias got up from the chair and walked over to the front desk.
"Come on back to the second door on your right. Ethan is going to speak with you for a bit, and then we can proceed, okay?"
"That's fine, thank you."
The woman typed his name into the computer and smiled at him as he walked down the hallway.
He found the room and entered to find a tall, dark-haired man behind the desk, waiting for him. Tobias shook the man's hand and took a seat.
"I'm Ethan, as I'm sure Lizzie already told you," he said, smiling warmly. "We're just going to discuss some things to help us get a better idea of what you need, okay, Mr. Beecher? Also, please understand that this is entirely confidential, which means I won't be sharing you name with anyone."
"Is this your first time?"
Tobias shook his head. "It's been a while. I just started dating someone and...y'know."
"I understand," he said.
Tobias sighed. "Yeah."
"When were you last tested?" Ethan asked.
"In...when I was still incarcerated," Tobias answered, not looking at him.
"And when was that exactly?"
"I was paroled in October of last year, so I had all the blood work and a health check up before I was released. I tested negative at the time, but I haven't been checked since then and wanted to be sure."
"I see," Ethan said, writing in his notes. "You realize that it usually takes three to six months from the time of exposure for the HIV antibodies to show up in a test."
"Yes. The test in October might not have shown it."
"Okay. You were sexually active in prison, then."
Tobias shrugged, his eyes focused on the floor. "It was prison."
"Did you have multiple partners?"
"Uh..." Tobias let out a breath. "One wasn't consensual. Two were out of revenge during the mess with Chris."
Ethan paused with his notes. "Chris?"
"Long story. Another inmate. I had a long-term relationship with him. But then I kind of went through a...dark period after he killed himself."
"And this dark period meant you were having unprotected sex with other inmates?"
"My parole had just been revoked, Chris died...it was a fucked-up time for me. There was just one guy, though. I was using him to try to forget."
"You haven't been sexually active since then?"
"No. I've been dating this really great man," Tobias said, finally looking up at Ethan. "We haven't had sex yet, and I've been careful about putting him at risk. Then this morning he told me that he loved me."
Ethan grinned at him. "You must be very happy, then."
"I am. And I don't want to fuck anything up, which is why I'm here."
"Did you want to be tested for any other STDs? The HIV test is free, but the others aren't."
"I haven't had any symptoms, but I guess it won't hurt to be on the safe side."
"We'll test for syphilis and hepatitis, then, and use the standard blood test for HIV instead of the oral or the rapid test. We also combine the Elisa and Western Blot, if necessary, to confirm HIV infection."
Tobias sighed, and nervously ran a hand through his hair. "How long?"
"We'll have the results in a week."
Ethan stood up, patting Tobias on the shoulder. "I'll let them know you'll be getting the standard test. I'll be right back."
Ethan smiled comfortingly as he left the room, and Tobias slunk into the chair.
Then he put his head into his hands and cried.
Please send feedback to RhymePhile.