Homeless, part II

********

"Well, he'll never press charges," Fin said and shook his head. "What a damn wimp."

"But he looked tough," Munch said.

Elliot still couldn't quite believe what had happened. "He looks like he got hit by a bus."

"Yeah, a prison bus." Fin walked off, laughing. Munch went with him. Elliot wasn't laughing because the guy had gotten in the precinct. There would be more. He strode into the crib and put his hands on his hips.

"Whoa - Detective Stabler is here." Toby sat up and put his back to the wall. "Am I under arrest?"

Elliot let him worry for a minute, but he didn't look worried. He looked somewhat smug. Well, he had taken out a guy twice his size. Elliot groaned. "Can't you try to look a little guilty?"

"For defending myself against an Aryan fuck?" Toby frowned now. "Not damn likely."

Elliot went ahead and rubbed his face. He sat down on a cot. "Elliot Stabler, nice to meet ya."

"Crazy Toby." Toby stepped close and put out his hand. Elliot shook it, but he stared into Toby's eyes. Toby grinned. "Big shank, remember?"

"It had slipped my mind." Elliot got up so they were too close - their hands still linked. "Stay in here, okay? No more chances tonight."

Toby licked his lower lip. It was swollen. "If you want."

Elliot came to the conclusion that Toby would do it for him, but no one else. It was alarming. "I have to get wheels turning. Please, stay here."

Toby nodded. He took a deep breath. "It's time for me to go."

"I'm working on it. Trust me." Elliot pulled, but not all that much, and Toby came all the way to him. It felt good to hold him. "Your head?"

"Nothing so far." Toby seemed to quiver. "I trust you."

Elliot hoped so. Tonight was going to be a long one.

********

"In here?" Toby's feet balked.

Elliot opened the cell door. "I won't shut it. Pictures and we're out."

Toby rubbed his chest. He did trust Elliot, but it was going to be tested tonight. "How am I offing myself?"

"Hanging, of course."

Toby glared at Munch. "Don't even smile."

Elliot got Toby's attention again. "Ted, make him look good and dead."

"Will do." Ted didn't smile, and that was reassuring. "You two get out so I can get the camera angles right. How are you posting these?"

"Elliot made a Photobucket account under the name NaziCop. We'll post the link in the chat rooms." Munch got out of the cell. "If someone traces it back to this precinct, it'll look more real."

Ted nodded, and Toby kept his eye on the door. His brain was quiet today, which was a small miracle considering what had happened in the restroom. "How are we doing this?"

Elliot helped them out there. It took a few minutes to rig up a proper noose out of a sheet, and Toby thought he might pass out when Elliot settled it around him.

"Only you, Elliot Stabler," Toby whispered.

"I know. This won't take long." Elliot made all the knots tight. "Ted, he's all yours."

Toby flinched once when Ted touched him, but he did what he was told without grumbling. He had no idea if it looked realistic, but his neck ached when it was over.

Elliot snapped open his phone. "Fin, roll the ambulance."

Toby got out of the cell fast. "Now what?"

"Ted, you're with me," Elliot said, "and Munch, do your thing."

Munch dropped his arm around Toby's shoulders. "Have you always been a blond?"

"Well, yeah." Toby rubbed his neck and wished he were going with Elliot. Munch laughed. Toby wasn't sure he wanted to know what was going on, and an hour later when he saw himself in the mirror, he knew he'd fucked up. "I look stupid."

"You look fine. It's brown, not black." Munch washed his hands. Toby stared and sighed. It did look natural, but he looked ridiculous. Munch dried off and came over to inspect it. "My second wife would be proud."

"I'm not sure this is something to brag about." Toby turned from the mirror. It didn't matter. "What now?"

"Let's check with Elliot." Munch led the way to the squad room.

Elliot did a double take. "He looks completely different."

"I haven't lost my touch."

"Both of you shut up." Toby didn't touch his hair. "Am I dead yet?"

Elliot clicked and pointed. "Yes. Look."

Toby looked and wished he hadn't. "I'm dead."

"Very dead." Elliot shut the window. "Okay, now we get you out of here without anyone seeing you."

Toby nodded. "I have to get my coat."

"You can't. It's posted on a website." Elliot shook his head. "I bought you a new one." He lifted a coat off the back of his chair. Toby took it slowly. It was a ski jacket and a nice one. He knew it would fit, but he had to get his old one. Elliot followed him up to the crib, and he hesitated.

"Toby, just empty it out."

"Well, okay, but you're a cop."

"I'll look the other way."

Toby took out the money first, a few letters from Chris, the pictures of his family, and then his fake I.D. and all the papers that went with it. He found places for everything in the new coat. "Thanks. This is nice."

Elliot came over and sat down next to him. "Who are you?"

Toby felt a spurt of panic, but he would trust him. "Chris Keller," he whispered.

"Why didn't you just get out of the city?" Elliot's voice was low and soft.

"The attacks made it impossible to function for any length of time. An airplane? Impossible. Even a bus was a stretch." Toby had no way to explain the pain and the confusion that had kept him on the streets. "I only used it to open a bank account."

"How much?" Elliot tilted his head to the side. "Do I need to worry?"

"No, you don't. My brother dumped a shit load of money in my Oz account right before they fled the country." Toby had thought it was too much, but there was no one to argue with. "I bought a false identity, rented an apartment, and then everything went to shit."

Elliot put his arm around him. "And now?"

"One step at a time. Get me out of here." Toby leaned into him. "I will miss you."

"It'll be quiet around here - that's for sure." Elliot ran his thumb over Toby's swollen lip. "Be safe, okay?"

"I'll do my best. Sorry I can't clean up your apartment." Toby still felt guilty about that.

Elliot laughed. "I'll send you the bill."

Toby smiled. "Do that." He caught Elliot's hand and asked for more, even though he knew it was a long shot. "Kiss me once?"

Elliot looked at the door. "Better not." He pulled away slowly, and Toby stood up with him. Elliot took the old coat. "This is going to the dumpster."

"I want my shank." Toby followed him back downstairs. Elliot pointed at a chair, and Toby sat down to wait. There was a conversation between Munch, Fin, and Elliot. Munch took the old coat and walked out. Fin went off in another direction, and Elliot started rummaging in his desk. Toby could hear him mumbling.

"You lost it?"

"I know I put it somewhere." Elliot frowned. "Oh, yeah." He went to a row of lockers. Opening one up, he looked inside. "Yep." He took it out. "I'll give it to you later."

Toby knew better than to protest. Elliot put his coat on, and Toby followed him through the precinct and down another flight of stairs. "I can really leave?"

"Don't sound so thrilled. You'll hurt my feelings." Elliot laughed and threw open a door. "There's Fin."

"I know it's dark, but aren't you worried they'll see us?"

Elliot stopped at the car. It was a Toyota of some sort, and Toby took a step back when the trunk popped open. Elliot smiled. "We're not taking any chances. Fin is going to stop right outside and talk to some friends to give them a chance to take a look if they want."

Toby shook his head, but he knew he'd do it. "Fuck."

"Trust me one more time and we're done." Elliot put his foot on the bumper. Toby sidled over to him and rolled in the trunk before his good sense sent him running out of the building.

"You sure, Elliot?" Fin asked.

"Yep," Elliot crawled inside, and Toby nearly hit his head on the roof when it slammed.

"Tight fit." Toby grunted and tried to find room for all his parts. Elliot was closer than a man should be unless they planned to fuck. Toby gave up and stopped moving. Elliot shifted around. It was completely dark, and Toby was glad he couldn't see Elliot's face.

Elliot's lips met Toby's jaw. "Not quite right," he said softly. Toby flinched from surprise, but didn't hesitate. He groaned and moved so their lips could touch. He wanted a thousand kisses, but would settle for one. Elliot hadn't kissed him yet.

"You only wanted one?" Elliot whispered.

Toby smiled in the dark. "One thousand," he whispered back. He made sure not to moan and squirm, but he enjoyed every kiss, every tentative touch, and the words that Elliot mumbled into Toby's mouth, "I want you."

The car gave a lurch, and Elliot squashed him. The engine shut off, and they could dimly hear Fin talking. Toby stole another dozen kisses. He had no room to touch like he wanted to, but he did his best. Elliot's tongue was perfect, and Toby sucked it.

"Ya okay back there?" The engine started again.

Elliot ripped his mouth away. "Fine!"

Toby controlled his laughter and wrapped his hand around Elliot's neck. He didn't know how many city blocks they had to go before he would be shoved out, but he was going to enjoy them all. Elliot slid a hand down and gripped Toby's ass, tugging them closer. Toby wanted to tear his clothes off and beg for it. He ached and he kissed and he held him so tightly.

The car stopped. Elliot turned him loose. "Thanks," he said softly. Toby had no words. He pressed his lips together and hoped he didn't come in his sweats - Elliot's sweats. The trunk flew open, and Fin helped them out.

"You okay?" Fin asked.

Elliot nodded and brushed off his jeans. Toby made sure he had everything. "My shank. I need it."

"Don't hurt anyone with it." Elliot shook his finger at him. "Promise me."

"I promise. I'll put it under my pillow." Toby held out his hand, and Elliot gave it up. "I thought something was poking me."

Elliot laughed and shut the trunk. "Be careful and call if you need anything."

Toby held out his hand to Fin. "Thanks."

"Take care," Fin said and shook Toby's hand. He got back in the car.

Elliot pulled Toby's hat down a little firmer on his head. "Davey's is six blocks away. That way."

"It's late." Toby didn't think he should do that. He was a risk. "Elliot, I can't thank you. It would be . . . inadequate."

"We're square." Elliot smiled. "I bet that was only two hundred or so."

"Well, you owe me." Toby turned away. He had to leave before he couldn't. Elliot's smile made it so hard to take that first step. They both heard Elliot's phone ring.

"Stabler." There was a moment of silence. "He says it's late, and he's afraid to be a bother."

"Tell the shiksa that the floors aren't mopping themselves!"

Toby managed a small laugh. "Even I heard that." He still wasn't sure. "Goodbye, Elliot."

"See ya around, Toby." Elliot got in the car, and they were gone. Toby found a building to lean against. He tucked his shank away and thought about it again. If he went to Davey's, he could still see Huang. His head was better. He could fly to California now. There were choices he could make, but Elliot wasn't one of them. Elliot was gone and would stay that way. Toby turned the right direction. He owed Davey - and clean floors was the least of it.

*********

Elliot went home to his crappy apartment. He knew it was still trashed, and it was, and he could only shake his head in disgust. Cleaning it up on his schedule would be impossible. Tomorrow, he'd call someone. He put the cushions back on the sofa and sat down. Toby should have gone to Davey's. He better have gone to Davey's. Elliot rubbed his lips. He'd been really stupid to make out with him in the trunk of Fin's car.

"Felt good," he muttered. He adjusted his dick in his jeans. He'd thought he might mess himself. Too bad that Fin hadn't taken the expressway. Elliot smiled and leaned his head back. He was a damn fool, messing around with a crazy ex-con. Kathy would say that he'd lost his mind, and Olivia would have him committed. And Huang? Elliot didn't even want to think about it. There were no good reasons for what he'd done and would do again if given half a chance. There was no explaining how he just knew that it was right to care for Toby. Maybe God understood. Elliot shut his eyes and hoped he'd collect on the rest of those kisses. It wasn't that much to ask.

*********

Toby shook his head firmly. "No more charity. You've given me enough."

"You worked!" Davey threw up his hands. He said some things in Hebrew that Toby didn't understand. Toby sipped his soda and waited for him to calm down. Davey finally smiled. "What do you want to do?"

"I'm not sure." Toby slipped his hand through his hair. He pointed at the computer. "I need to keep my head down until they find someone else to torture."

Davey nodded. "Fucking Nazis."

Toby blinked from surprise at the curse word. "What do you want, Davey? You live above a deli. Don't you want a house on Long Island?"

"Live with the shaygetz on Long Island? I don't think so." Davey tapped his fingers on the table. "You still have money?"

"That's the one thing I do have." Toby looked around and made up his mind. "You'll let me buy half the business?"

Davey also looked around the deli. "The building is not mine. I rent. I have saved to buy it, but Mother's health is not what it used to be."

Toby thought he understood. "You want to move home."

"I need to move home. I'm not sure that I want to!" Davey rubbed his chin and sighed. "I won't bully you into helping me."

Toby nodded as if that made sense, but it didn't. He put his hands to his temples and rubbed. If he had a choice, what would he do? He still had PTSD, and it would never go completely away. If he left New York - Davey - he'd be alone again.

"Is Munch's nephew still working here?"

"When he shows up, I let him work." Davey waved his hand as if to say that wasn't important.

"Show me the upstairs before I make up my mind, okay?" Toby still wasn't sure, but he was going to help out his only friend. Elliot didn't count. After two hundred kisses, he was much more than a friend.

Davey smiled. "If you lived here, I wouldn't worry."

Toby followed him up and was surprised. It was roomy and cheerful. "Two bedrooms? This is luxurious."

"I think most of my rent goes for it." Davey nodded. "If we bought the building, and you lived here, I could go home, knowing that things would be fine."

"But you may need that money for your mother." Toby looked out the window. This place felt like home, and he welcomed it. "How about I buy the building, live here, and you run the deli downstairs?"

Davey looked stunned. "I would still pay rent?"

"No." Toby checked out the bathroom. It was more than nice enough. Davey had kept this place in good shape. "Davey, it's my turn to help you out. My building, your deli, we'll work together. Okay?"

"The profits from the deli?"

"I'll get a portion." Toby didn't want any, but he had to ask for something or Davey would walk away from the deal. "Let's say - three percent?"

Davey went to a small desk, pulled out a calculator and started running some numbers. "Twenty percent gross and you pay to have the downstairs renovated."

Toby laughed. He was dealing with Davey the businessman now. "Five percent, we'll split the cost of the renovation, and I eat for free."

"Shiksa, it is not enough." Davey frowned.

"Davey, it's more than enough. I had absolutely nothing until you reached out your hand. I lived by a dumpster." Toby went to him. It was time to change the subject and take the pressure off. "Did you find a girlfriend while I was gone?"

Davey laughed now. "No, but my mother is still looking. A deal?" He stuck out his hand.

Toby shook it firmly. "A deal. I'll draw up the papers. If I die, you get everything."

"Oy vey." Davey reached and tugged Toby's brown hair. "And what shall I call you?"

"Chris Keller. Chris is fine." Tobias Beecher had to stay dead, and he refused to take any chances with Davey's future. "I have a lot to do."

"At least you don't have any furniture to move." Davey smiled and gave him a fast hug. "The other bedroom tonight, okay?"

Toby was going to argue, but Davey had a steely glint in his eye that spelled trouble. "Sure." He looked at the time. It was three a.m. "I might as well go open."

Davey laughed, and Toby took a deep breath. He was home.

**********

Elliot tapped his pencil on his desk and felt his stomach grumble. "We getting lunch today?" he asked.

"Whose turn is it to buy?" Fin leaned back in his chair. "I paid last time we ordered from Davey's."

"I bought the pizza," Elliot said. He knew it wasn't his turn.

Munch looked at Olivia. "It's hers."

Olivia shook her head. "I bought burgers for everyone last week. It's John's turn. He never buys."

Elliot found that hard to argue with. Munch always seemed to be elsewhere when it came time to pay the bill. "Munch, order us some food."

"Hot dogs it is." Munch grabbed his coat.

Elliot groaned. He should've known he wouldn't get real food, but he wasn't going to complain. Olivia laughed. "Elliot, is your apartment livable yet?"

"Sorta." Elliot didn't meet her eyes. He was working on it. "I threw a bunch of stuff out."

"Did you hire a cleaning service?"

Elliot had planned to, but Kathy had needed a little extra. "I will." He opened his desk drawer, pulled out a notebook, and stopped. He'd thought that he'd thrown that out. He picked it up carefully and made sure his face didn't betray his feelings - his want.

"What is that?" Olivia's eyes were sharp.

Elliot emptied the drawer and cleaned out every last strand. He wasn't sure he wanted to answer. "Something I need to throw out."

She said nothing, and he used a rubber band to gather it together tightly. Her fingers suddenly took it from him, but he couldn't protest. "If you want to keep a lock of Kathy's hair, I understand. Here, let me braid it for you."

Elliot's honesty forced him to silence. She braided it quickly, tying it off on both ends. "That was quite a haircut - six inches at least."

"Yeah." Elliot took it from her and stuffed it in his pocket. "Thanks."

"You're a sentimental guy." She smiled and went back to her desk. "I like that about you."

Elliot straightened his desk and refused to look at her. His eyes might betray him.

*********

"Are you sure we need another meat case?" Toby was only teasing him. Davey glared, but said nothing. He pointed. They moved it where Davey wanted it. The place was starting to look good. They'd never really closed, but business had had to walk around construction. Opening up the back room had added needed floor space, and Davey seemed happy about it. Toby hoped so.

"Chris, are you seeing that doctor today?"

Toby looked at his watch. "I have about an hour." He still wasn't used to the occasional 'Chris' that Davey threw at him, but he would get there, and the customers liked knowing his name. There was no way he could forget Chris Keller now that he was Chris Keller. Toby rubbed his face and smiled at the irony. Of course, he hadn't been in his right mind when he'd chosen another identity, and it was too late to do it again.

"Is your head okay?"

Toby looked up to see Davey's worried frown. "Yeah. I was just thinking about how life makes us into different people."

"But the inside stays the same. We all do things that we regret or we shouldn't, but that isn't who we are." Davey smiled and made a gesture that took in the entire deli. "I like it. We are almost done. Another year or two and I'll be used to it."

Toby had to laugh. "You miss your apartment?"

"I miss the quiet!" Davey threw up his hands dramatically. "Always to get a wife!"

Toby went to find something to drink and sit down for a minute. They'd just closed and his feet were tired. "Are you sure you don't want some more furniture from upstairs?"

"Where would I put it?" Davey shook his head, grabbed a drink, and sat across from him. "If you want new, throw it out."

"Right." Toby wouldn't do that. "I had a hard enough time buying some clothes!"

Davey stretched his back. "I had some worries, but we are doing well. Did you pay the painters?"

"Yesterday." Toby had no shortage of things to do around here. He had thought once or twice that being a lawyer might be easier. "Did you find a new coffeemaker like you wanted?"

"I won't be rushed." Davey was picky - very picky. Toby didn't mind, but he was always careful to get the floors clean. He got to his feet. Davey pointed at the door that led to the stairs. "Go take a shower and go to the doctor. I'll lock up."

"I'm going." Toby hung up his apron and went. He had handled all his business with Huang by phone, but he wouldn't be put off any longer. Toby had to go see him. The shower felt good, and he refused to think about car trunks and kisses. He'd done enough of that this morning. He looked through his shirts and happened to see Elliot's NYPD shirt hanging near the back. He put it on and laughed. He could return it, but he didn't want to. Elliot. Toby sighed. It wasn't possible, but it made him smile to know that Elliot was out there - not that far away. It was time to go, and he beat it out the door. Davey waved, and Toby walked to the precinct. He signed in, went through the metal detectors, and took the elevator to Huang's office. Elliot wasn't around. Toby looked on the way.

"Tobias, good to see you!" Huang came around his desk, and they shook hands. "I thought you'd skip out on me."

"I knew you'd cut off my meds." Toby shut the door. "And you have to call me Chris. Chris pays the bills. It's Chris."

Huang sat back down. He opened a file. "What you're doing is illegal."

"And necessary to my survival." Toby sat down. He wasn't going to argue about it, but they were doing it his way. "I can find another shrink if you're uncomfortable with this."

"No. I don't blame you. I just hope the IRS doesn't catch you at it."

Toby wasn't worried about that. His fake identity was ironclad, and Chris wouldn't mind. Chris would laugh his head off. Toby realized he needed to say something. "I suppose we have to talk."

"Yes." Huang wasn't going to let him off the hook. Toby braced himself and started blabbing. He wanted somewhat of a normal life, so he'd do this, but he didn't like it.

*********

Elliot leaned back in his chair,  wiggled his shoulders, and sighed softly. There was no reason to go to his apartment. Almost unwillingly, he pulled out the braid and caressed it. No one was around. It was safe. He refused to go by Davey's. Toby was dead. It had to be that way. The Aryans had gloated for weeks, and now they were on to something else. It was over. Elliot had his own life to worry about - bills to pay and people to see.

"How are you, Elliot?"

Elliot put the braid in his pocket before turning his chair. "I'm good. I thought you were in Washington."

"I was, but I had an appointment today." Huang smiled and leaned against the lockers. "It's funny how some patients refuse to come in until you threaten to cut off their meds."

"Hilarious." Elliot hoped there was a point to all this. He went ahead and shut down his computer. He'd get back at it tomorrow.

"His hair is almost blond again," Huang said softly. Elliot looked fast, but all he saw was Huang's back, walking away. Toby had been here. He must be doing okay. It was a huge relief.

Elliot hurried to catch up with him. "You know that it was nothing but the job." He had to tell that lie once. Huang had seen too much.

Huang stopped walking. He shrugged. "I know that there are some things that are beyond the job. Toby asked me once why you didn't have a life."

"Me?" Elliot frowned. He had a life. It was right here in this building. "I'm a cop."

"And?" Huang went to the elevator. "Good night, Elliot."

Elliot let him leave this time. He wandered back to his coat and out to his car. Toby was doing fine. That was what was important. He was still around too. Close. Elliot had no idea what to do. Not knowing had been easier. Now he had to make a choice: stay away or show up looking needy. He would look desperate.

Slamming the car door, he found his keys and the braid had twined around them. He held it up and sighed. Getting some early dinner at Davey's tomorrow couldn't hurt.

********

"Chris! You in back?"

Toby found the jar of pickles. "I'm coming!"

"We got customers."

Toby didn't rush. They could wait one second. Lunch was long over, and Davey could handle anything. Toby put the pickles on the sideboard.

"I'm going to need my shirt back," a low voice growled.

Toby lowered his head and laughed before turning around. "I think it has mayo on it."

Elliot shrugged. "I like mayo. Make me some food. I'll be over there." He walked off.

"You heard the man." Davey clapped Toby on the shoulder. "Business is dead. I'm going home." He was gone so fast that Toby could barely form a protest. Toby stood there feeling stupid. They'd been busy today, but Davey turned the sign on his way out.

"Turkey is good." Elliot wasn't that far away. "Some chips."

Toby fixed him some food instead of begging for more kisses. "Soda or coffee?"

"Coffee."

Toby took it all out to him. "Ten bucks. Anything else?"

Elliot handed him the money. "Nope."

Toby went to the cash register and rang it up. Now instead of stupid, he felt like a fool. He wiped off the counter, took care of the pickles, and stalled, hoping his brain would think of something to say.

"Can I get a refill, Chris?"

Toby flinched from the name coming out of Elliot's mouth and took the coffee pot out to him. "You'll be up all night."

"Usually am." Elliot smiled. "How's business?"

"You'd have to ask Davey. I'm just the help." Toby stayed out of the money side as much as possible. It wasn't his deli. It was enough that Davey was smiling. "How's it with you?"

Elliot shrugged. He was eating steadily. Toby tried not to stare at him, but it wasn't working very well. There was a tap on the door, and he went to get it.

"Can I get some takeout?" It was one of their regulars.

"Sure. Come on in." Toby kept the sign turned. "Davey went home."

"I trust you to make a sandwich, Chris." He smiled. "A number three, lots of onions."

Toby started making it. "No date, huh?"

"Can't find a good woman in this city, but I'm not ready to give up!"

Toby laughed and worked fast. He bagged it up, got him his drink, and locked the door behind him. Elliot hadn't moved. Toby wiped his hands on his apron and tried to think of something to say.

"Carrot cake?"

Elliot pushed his empty basket away. "Nah. I should go."

Toby heard all he needed to know in that one sentence. He looked down and cursed himself for giving a damn. Elliot stood and dug out his keys. Toby saw it hit the floor. He moved fast to pick it up. Elliot grabbed him by the hand.

"That's mine."

"No, I think it's mine." Toby stared down at his hair. It had been braided. Elliot had kept it. He did care, and he might even be as lonely as Toby was. "Are you still homeless?"

Elliot swallowed hard. Toby saw it and wanted to kiss him.

"Pretty much."

Toby turned loose of the braid and reached for him. "Stay." One word but it was all he had, and he had to hope it was enough.

"Davey will be back," Elliot whispered - his face so serious.

Toby shook his head. "He doesn't live here anymore. I do. Come upstairs. I'll bring the coffee, if you want."

Elliot still hesitated.

"If you leave now, you'll never come back."

"And that would be a bad thing?"

Toby nodded, but said nothing. Elliot had to make up his own mind. Toby gave him a minute, going to clean the table and turn off the exterior lights. They were closed. Elliot didn't move. He was looking at the braid. Toby wished he smelled less like onions. He made sure the doors were locked and pulled the window bars down.

"Aren't you going to mop?"

Toby usually did, but he didn't want to wait. "I could do it in the morning."

Elliot slowly smiled. "So, show me your place."

Toby nearly fell down from relief. He opened the door. "It isn't much."

"Better than a piece of cardboard behind a dumpster?"

"Much." Toby took him upstairs. The place was at least clean. Toby liked it that way, and he had a new TV that he hoped would entice Elliot to stay longer than five minutes. Elliot looked around, but he didn't say anything. He did take off his coat. Toby hung it up in the closet and tried to think of something intelligent to say. There was a lot between them, but words failed him.

"Two bedrooms?"

Toby nodded. He didn't use the other one. "I bought some clothes." He blushed. First words out of his mouth and they were stupid.

"I guess you could give me back my shirt." Elliot bit his lower lip. "Do we have to run out the back window?"

"If you want." Toby laughed softly. "I made sure the fire escape was in good repair."

Elliot smiled a little and sat down on the sofa. He looked nervous. "I guess Toby's dead."

"I guess so." Toby wasn't sure what to do. He gingerly sat in the chair that faced the sofa. "He was crazy anyway."

"I liked him. I'm not sure about this Chris Keller guy." Elliot's words hit Toby hard. Toby did feel different on the inside. He felt . . . better.

"I guess you don't really know me," Toby said softly. He reached forward and stuck out his hand. "Chris Keller."

Elliot look at him. "Elliot Stabler." He reached and pulled. Toby gasped once and went to his knees without a fight. Elliot kissed him gently. "You see that Toby guy, you tell him he owes me about eight hundred kisses."

"I can do that." Toby wrapped his hands in Elliot's shirt. "So, where does that leave us?"

"Only God knows." Elliot's eyes were intense. "Let's . . . not rush."

Toby nearly groaned from frustration, but he had to take what he could get. "Okay." He got to his feet fast before he unbuckled Elliot's trousers. "You want to move in?"

Elliot burst out laughing. "That's slow?"

"Well, yeah. If you don't, I'll never see you. You work all the time. There's a cot in the crib with your name on it." Toby turned on the TV and went to find something to drink. "Want a soda?"

"Nah."

Toby took it out to the sofa and sat on the opposite end from him. "You don't have a decent place. I do. And this way, I can steal your shirts."

Elliot started changing the channels. "What'll Davey say?"

"It's my building. What can he say?" Toby saw the surprise in Elliot's eyes. "He was in a bind. I bought the building, but he still owns the deli."

"You do have money." Elliot quirked an eyebrow at him. "You got a Corvette?"

"Is that wishful thinking I hear?" Toby shook his head. "This is New York. No one drives."

"Then how come I can never get to a crime scene?" Elliot muttered. "Have you been in contact with your family?"

"No." Toby pretended to watch television. "Wherever they are, I'm sure they're safe."

"You're a hell of a liar." Elliot reached out and pulled him until he was tucked into Elliot's shoulder. "Do I have to call you Chris?"

Toby got comfortable. "You can call me mud, as long as you call me occasionally."

Elliot kissed him on the forehead.

*********

"Cap, can I leave early today?" Elliot had things to do. He was nervous about it, but he was doing it.

"Lost hours?"

"I'll clock out. I'm sure I'm killing you on OT." Elliot smiled. He'd made sure of that this last week.

"Go, and take tomorrow off." Cragen headed for his office. Elliot had hoped that would happen, and he was out the door fast.

Munch caught him in the elevator. "Going home?"

Elliot smiled. "Yes. I am." He hoped so. He needed it, and he was embarrassed about it.

"Hey, I hear Davey's was remodeled. We should go there for lunch."

Elliot knew he'd be buying. "The shiksa is gone."

Munch nodded. "Some guy called Chris Keller helped Davey fix up the place."

The elevator doors opened. Elliot went out. "Later." He did take time to wave. Munch had probably known where Toby was all along. Elliot shoved a box over and got his car started. He wasn't sure he was doing the right thing, but he was damn tired of being homeless.

Davey was at the cash register when Elliot pushed through the front door.

"Oy vey, I'm overrun with shaygetz today."

Elliot laughed. "How's business?"

"Better than you can know. You might rob the place." Davey smiled and shut the cash drawer. "How much rent are you paying?"

"Too damn much for one room over a deli!" Elliot took a muffin and went in back to find Toby, who everyone called Chris now. He had made up his mind on that. Toby was Toby. Chris could butt the hell out. Elliot also knew he wasn't completely rational about the subject.

"Did someone call the cops?" Toby came in the back door. He smiled. Elliot found a place to lean and unwrapped his muffin. He'd pay for it later. Toby came right to him and took a bite. Elliot reluctantly let him. Toby grinned. "What are you waiting for?"

"Dunno." Elliot ate some muffin. He wasn't a pushy kind of guy to come barging in here with a box. Toby didn't move away. He took another nibble. Elliot pulled it away. "One more bite and I'm not paying for this."

Toby lifted his eyebrows and licked it with his long tongue. Elliot handed it to him. Toby ate it in two bites. "Always worked in prison too."

Elliot laughed. He pushed at him, but not hard. "I'm going to get my stuff."

"Ask Davey where to park. I'm clueless." Toby took two steps towards the front. "Oh, and use the back door. Knock down a customer and Davey will kill you."

"Welcome home," Elliot grumbled, but he wasn't serious. He went to get a box, and he did use the back door. Toby didn't help - at all. He didn't even watch. It made Elliot wonder what he'd expected. A band? Cheers? A kiss or two? The apartment looked the same, and Elliot made himself at home. After all, he was going to pay to live here. The clothes were the worst of it, and he was glad to be done with that. He put his stuff in the bathroom and hoped Toby wouldn't try to share.

Elliot turned on the TV and relaxed on the sofa. He could get used to this place. It was . . . cozy. He cringed. They'd remodel. Get some football pictures. He glanced over at the door and fidgeted. For once, he was off work, and it felt weird. He went to make sure his bedroom was set again. Empty boxes stared at him, and he took them downstairs and out to the dumpster. He wasn't moving for at least a month.

"Crush those down, will ya?" Toby came out with a bag of trash. "The garbage guys might beat me up otherwise."

Elliot broke them down and tossed them. "Busy day?"

"Yes. I'm starting to think we need to hire someone for the register. Davey disagrees." Toby shrugged and leaned against the building. "If he doesn't stop sending people to me for free advice, I'm going to hire someone while he's out."

"Is he ever out?"

"Not really." Toby laughed. "Ah well, I'm rarely bored."

Elliot smiled. He found some brick next to him and leaned. "Advice?"

"I was a lawyer. Davey thinks all his friends, relatives, and people he bumps into on the street should benefit from this." Toby rolled his eyes. "The back booth is now my office. It's funny. It really is."

"Can you help me get my deposit back on the other place?" Elliot grinned.

Toby glared. "It was completely trashed. Walk away and hope you aren't sued."

"Good advice." Elliot had thought the same. "I didn't leave a forwarding address."

Toby went back inside, and Elliot followed after him. "You hungry?"

Elliot shook his head. "I'll find something to do."

"Look busy or Davey will find something for you to do, and you may not like it." Toby went to take over the cash register, and Elliot saw Davey give him an assessing look. Elliot went back out to his car before Davey could say anything. There were a few odds and ends that had fallen out of boxes, and he collected them. Parking wasn't going to be a problem. He'd leave his car at work and walk. He went in the back door and slipped up the stairs. Tossing the junk on the bed, he went through it and found places to put everything. The pictures of his kids, he put on the dresser. He'd told Kathy that he was moving above a deli. She'd shrugged and asked about the child support. Money was always an issue. Toby hadn't even set a price for rent yet, and Elliot wasn't sure how to ask without sounding whiny.

Elliot sat down on the bed. The thought that Toby might want something besides money popped up in front of his eyeballs. That wouldn't be good, even though it would feel great. He sighed and lay back flat. They'd agreed to take it slow, but that had been two weeks ago. How slow was slow enough?

*********

Toby was very glad that Elliot had really moved in. It made the world a happier place. He had played it cool so he didn't scare the shit out of him, but he'd wanted to dance, sing, and kiss him all over.

"You are not welcome here!"

Toby pulled his head out of his ass and beat it over to the front door. Davey was mad as hell, and it wasn't apparent why at first.

"Give us some sandwiches, Jewboy, and we'll leave!"

Toby stepped in front of Davey, red hot anger pouring through him. "Listen, you Aryan fucks, leave now and I won't kick your asses."

They looked at each other. "You think you're tough?"

"Oz made me tough, and if I want you dead, you're dead. Now beat it!" Toby took another step. He wasn't backing down. Hell no.

"Oz?" The one guy glanced at the other. They both took one step back. Toby grinned. He had them. They left quietly.

Davey put his hand on Toby's shoulder. "You scared even me."

"I'm a scary guy." Toby took a breath. The noise resumed, and Davey rushed off to help someone. Toby went towards the counter, but he felt it shove at him. "Davey, I gotta go."

Davey looked confused for one second. Toby put his hand on his head and made it to the door. The stairs seemed impossibly tall, but he made it halfway. "No!" It didn't do any good. It never did, and his vision faded to black and then Oz was around him. Schillinger and his boys laughed as Toby licked boots. His tongue ached and he cried.

"Toby!" Chris was there, holding him. Toby didn't resist the pull, and he went with him. He could taste the dirt, and he needed something to take away the pain. O'Reily's grin spun around him. The drugs made it all go away, and he laughed.

"Come on, Toby."

Toby felt the arms around him. "It's okay. I feel . . . so good." He giggled and let his head loll on Chris's chest. Chris didn't belong in this memory, but it was good to see him. "Have a puff." He giggled again. There was no answer, and he jerked as it was ripped away from him. Oz spat him out, and he was on the floor in Elliot's arms. "Fuck," he whispered.

Elliot held him. "You back?"

"Yeah." Toby quivered all over. He rubbed his face and hated himself. "Sorry. I lost it."

"It's okay. I'm glad you didn't fall down the stairs." Elliot didn't turn him loose. "Rest a minute. I got you."

Toby did just that. He let his spinning brain slow way down. Elliot smelled good. He felt good, and it couldn't hurt to lay there and breathe. When it all settled, Toby pushed away. "I gotta get back. Thanks."

"I'll go with you. I can haul trash or something." Elliot gave him a hard look. "Your head on straight?"

"I'm not really high." Toby took a deep breath and went downstairs. He was ashamed of the memory that Elliot had watched him relive, but there were worse ones. Davey handed him a soda and pointed at the cash register. Toby sat on the stool and took orders and money. He could handle it, but he was glad he was sitting.

"Elliot, clean the tables!" Davey barked.

Elliot saluted. Toby laughed. He was tired when six rolled around, and Davey shooed the last customer out and flipped the sign.

"What a day! Nazis! Shaygetz! Chris's brain! Oy vey!"

Elliot stopped and stared at them both. "Nazis?"

"They came in, demanding food. Chris threw them out, and then his brain exploded. It's no wonder! Mine nearly did!" Davey slumped down in a chair. "Shabbas starts right now, and we need it!"

Toby stretched his back. "Thanks for your help, Elliot. It was a wild day."

"First day of Spring. People are glad to be out and about." Elliot pointed at the door. "Why don't you go rest? I'll clean up."

"If only you knew how." Toby sighed and stretched again. He didn't feel all that bad, just tired, but it had been a long week. Davey looked at him, and they got busy. Elliot mopped the floor, and they did the rest. It seemed to go faster than usual.

"Enough. I will come in on Sunday and do inventory."

"And get away from his mother," Toby whispered to Elliot.

"I heard that!" Davey smiled. "I can't deny it though. Lock up. I'm going." He was gone before Toby had his apron off.

Elliot sat down in a chair. "I'm hungry."

Toby laughed. "I have food upstairs. I'm not making a mess, not even for you." He locked them in and shut off the lights. "Some days I can't believe I went to Harvard."

Elliot was at the stairs. "It's quite a come-down."

Toby went past him and up, going right to the kitchen to see what he had in the fridge. "Uh, no. That's not what I meant. I meant that I used to be smart. My brain worked. I could do three things at once and not break a sweat. Today, simple math was hard."

"Working the register?"

"Yes." Toby got out the Italian food from last night and put the microwave to good use.

"The drugs burned you out." Elliot hovered, but he sat when Toby pointed. It didn't take long, and they were eating.

Toby wasn't sure he agreed. Oz had burned him out. "Huang and I have discussed it. It could have been the drugs or the alcohol or God only knows what else."

Elliot was awfully quiet. Toby regretted running off at the mouth. He was tired and talking too much. Elliot got up and looked in the fridge. "You gonna freak out if I bring beer home?"

Toby shook his head. Beer held no appeal for him. "I never liked it."

"Huang got any good news for you?"

Toby thought it was an interesting question. He finished his plate before he answered it. "No. There's more bad, but I think you've heard enough."

Elliot frowned and put his hand on Toby's. "What?"

"The Effexor isn't working as well as it was. I'm having more attacks. I seem to have a very resistant brain chemistry." Toby had known it was too good to last. He felt Elliot give him a squeeze. It made him smile. "I can't be evicted this time though."

"It's something." Elliot pushed his empty plate away. "Did you tell Davey?"

"Of course. He said something about letting the future stay there." Toby suddenly felt guilty. "I guess I should have told you. Fuck. I'm sorry. Just move out tomorrow. I'll help you find a place."

Elliot got up and put their plates in the sink. He tugged Toby to his feet. "I'm not an idiot, Tobias."

"You're not, but I should've told you." Toby was glad when his ass hit the couch. Elliot put his arm around him, and it felt so good. Toby shut his eyes. He'd just rest a minute.

********

Elliot took him to bed after an hour passed and it became obvious that he wasn't going to wake up. He mumbled, but he didn't protest. Elliot undressed him and rolled him under the covers. Toby was out, and Elliot went back to the television. He had been upset to hear about the drugs, but Huang was the best. It was an uncomfortable thought that Toby would never be . . . normal.

"Stabler." Elliot answered it fast so it didn't wake up Toby.

"Did you move and not tell me?"

Elliot went to his bedroom. "Hi, Olivia. Um, didn't I mention it?"

"No. I'm sure I would have remembered. Where are you?" She didn't sound happy. "I need to go over this case with you."

"Davey's Deli. I'll meet you at the front door." He shut his phone. If Toby became lost in his delusions again, what could Elliot do? He didn't know, but he wasn't going to run away because of something that might happen. Quietly, he went downstairs to wait for his partner. She looked slightly confused when he opened the door for her. He locked it securely again.

"You live here?" She frowned.

"Upstairs." Elliot weighed taking her up against the chances of making a mess down here. It wasn't his deli. "Come on." He shut the door behind her and nudged her towards the kitchen. "Need something to drink?"

"No. I'm good." She sat down at the table and put a file in front of her. "This is nice. Much better than that hole in the wall."

"I thought so too." Elliot smiled. He wasn't going to lie, but he didn't want to tell all of the truth. "What case?"

Olivia opened it up and slid it over. "The Munez case." She got up and wandered off, and Elliot had two seconds to make up his mind.

"Liv!"

She came out of the front room and sat back down. "What?"

"Toby's sleeping. You can have the tour later." Elliot pretended he was reading, and then he did start reading. "I thought we agreed that there wasn't enough evidence, and once she dropped the complaint, there was nothing we could do." He looked up, and her eyes were big.

"Toby?"

Elliot rubbed his forehead. "Tobias Beecher, but he goes by Chris Keller now. We share this apartment. He works downstairs."

"You remember that he's crazy, right?" She wasn't being very quiet, and Elliot shushed her. He also had no idea how to reassure her. She had issues with the mentally ill and the homeless and drunks, and Toby was all three.

"Did you talk to Novak? I don't remember her being willing to go out on a limb for this one." Elliot jammed his finger down on the case file.

She raised her eyebrows. "The wife is in danger. You and I both know that."

"Yes, but until she makes up her mind to get help, there's nothing we can do. She has to make that first step."

"Don't you think calling us was?" Olivia looked pissed now.

Elliot backed down, but not much. "She recanted almost immediately. She has four kids, and she's Catholic."

"So are you, and here you are living with a crazy man. People change!"

Elliot grabbed his temper before he yelled at her. He took a deep breath. "I'll go see her tomorrow. I have the day off, but don't expect much. She faces poverty, complete and total, if she takes her children and runs off, and she knows it."

"It might be better than a body bag." Olivia had lowered her voice also. She fidgeted with her coat, leaned close, and whispered, "You're sure about this?"

"Yes. We're . . . friends. Strange bedfellows, I know, but when he offered, I wanted some company for a change." Elliot spoke softly. He had to say enough to get her off his back but not so much she drew all the wrong conclusions.

"You're always at work."

"So what does it matter?" Elliot shrugged and shut the file. "I'll go see her tomorrow and call you."

"Good enough. She won't listen to me." Olivia got to her feet. "Can I get a sandwich before I leave?"

Elliot laughed. "No."

Toby - completely dressed - leaned against the doorjamb. "Sure. I'll put it on Elliot's tab."

Elliot wanted to slide under the table. He took the file to his bedroom instead, rubbed his face, and prayed that Toby had heard nothing of that conversation. When he went back out, they were halfway down the stairs, and he followed them.

"Turkey?" Toby flipped on a light. "I think we have some roast beef left."

"Turkey, whole wheat, no mayo, lettuce and tomato."

"I like a woman who knows what she wants." Toby flashed her a grin. Elliot got her the kind of soda that she liked and took it to her.

Olivia sat down at a table. "A deli was a good idea. Italian would have been better though."

"Food is food." Elliot tried to smile and sat down across from her.

"Chips?" Toby's voice carried clearly.

"No thanks." Olivia took the basket that Toby handed her. "Chris, right?"

"Chris Keller." Toby didn't sit down. He went back behind the counter.

Elliot listened to him clean up again. "You better not tell Munch I live here. He'll drop in every night."

Olivia laughed. "And he'd bring friends."

Elliot watched her eat and just felt awkward. Toby brought her a piece of carrot cake and said, "It's on the house. Elliot, make sure to lock up. Those Nazi fuckers might come back."

"Will do." Elliot nodded. "Get some rest."

Toby left without another word. Olivia said softly, "Still with the Nazis?"

"Couple of idiots tried to bully Davey into some free food today. Chris took it very personally." Elliot hated calling him Chris, but it was safer. He'd get used to it in time. That thought brought him up short. At some point, he'd decided that he was in this for the long haul. He wasn't afraid of what the future might bring in regards to Toby's health. Huang would do his best, and Toby would also. This was what Elliot wanted, and he wasn't backing away. "Olivia, we're friends, right?"

"More."

Elliot nodded. "I'll be fine. Let it go at that."

She smiled. "Good enough for me. This is good. I'm coming back." She laughed.

*********

Toby took his shoes off again and sat down to watch some TV. He wasn't going to waste time worrying about Elliot. Elliot would do what he wanted. He wasn't the kind of man to be bullied. Toby was that man, but never Elliot.

Toby's new cell phone rang and it took him a while to find it. He was terrible about keeping track of it. "Hello?"

"Chris, this is Dr. Huang. How are you?"

Toby wasn't sure what to say. He decided on the truth. "Some Aryans came to the store today. I had an attack."

"How would you rate it?"

Toby thought about it. "Maybe a four. I was able to go back to work."

"Were you alone?"

"No. Elliot was there." Toby wasn't sure why that was important. "Why the call?"

"I got your blood work back. Things have stabilized, but I want to up your dosage. Take two capsules, okay?"

Toby didn't want to take them at all. "I'm up to three attacks a week. That's what I was at before you put me on the med. It seems ridiculous to bother with it."

"You can't just stop. You might have a real seizure. This type of medication has to be backed off slowly," Huang said quickly.

Toby knew that. He'd done his research. "All I'm saying is that it seems stupid to up it if it's not going to help."

"We don't know that." Huang was using his soothing voice.

"No. I've stabilized. We'll see what happens. Any more and I'll be a drooling fool." Toby made up his mind fast. "If you get tired of this, you can find me another doctor."

Huang sighed. "Come see me in two weeks and we'll take blood again. If you have a nine or a ten, I want you to call."

"I will. Bye." Toby shut his phone and clutched it tightly. He felt like a damn chemistry experiment. Take this. No, take that. More blood would be nice. And meanwhile, Huang writes another paper on him. He was a one-of-a-kind fucked up specimen.

"You okay?" Elliot took the phone from Toby's hand before it broke.

"No." Toby wanted to curl up. For thirty five years he'd had the best brain around, and he missed it. He missed that feeling of knowing instantly the answers to everything. Laughing softly, he shoved away the arrogance. He'd known nothing. Oz had taught him that.

"Can I have your number?" Elliot asked and sat down next to him.

"Sure. Put yours in mine, will ya?" Toby had been afraid to ask. He put his hand on Elliot's knee. "I will always be fucked up."

"I'm not all that normal." Elliot was punching numbers.

Toby could argue that all day, but he was tired. "Elliot, you know you're getting on board the Titanic. I am going to hit an iceberg. It's just a matter of time. Shouldn't you back slowly down the gangplank?"

"That movie was really long. Kathy loved it." Elliot handed him his phone. "I'm already on board, and you need to steer carefully. End of story."

"Oy vey." Toby put his head in his hands. He sighed when Elliot pulled him close. "I can't be trusted."

"Yes. You can. There's no one I trust more with you." Elliot shook him gently. "You have a life now, and I know you'll protect it."

"Living on the streets did suck." Toby hoped Elliot was telling the truth. "An Oz was plain awful."

Elliot just held him. The TV chattered, and Toby relaxed. He'd do his best. Elliot expected it of him.

*********

Elliot didn't move until after the evening news. "Davey's is closed on Saturdays, right?"

"And we do very little business on Sundays, but we're open."

"I have to see someone tomorrow, but we can hang out together." Elliot felt stupid saying it like that.

Toby shrugged. "We'll see."

Elliot would drag him out of the deli. It was spring in New York - no place better. "Is that bed comfortable?"

"Not bad. I slept on it for a week before Davey moved out. I liked the other bedroom better." Toby yawned. "I'm tired. This time, I'll undress myself."

Elliot nearly blushed. "I didn't know Olivia would stop by."

"I'm sure she will again." Toby stood and stretched. He took three steps toward his room. "See ya in the morning."

Elliot bit his lower lip. He wanted to keep on holding him. "Yeah. In the morning." He turned off the TV and stood. "I get the bathroom first?"

"Only if you beat me there."

Elliot laughed and went to his room. That had broken the tension. He stripped and pulled on some sweats for modesty's sake. The bathroom was empty, and he got out fast. Turning off the light, he hit the bed. It was comfortable, much more so than the one at the crap hole. His first night here, and despite the curveballs, he felt good about it. Sleep was remarkably easy.

*********

Toby did not want to be a pushy bitch, but knowing that Elliot was across the bathroom made sleep almost impossible. Elliot was right there. He was right there.

"Shit," Toby muttered and rolled to his stomach. His dick was hard as stone, and this wasn't helping. He groaned and flipped back over. "Someone just shoot me."

*********

Elliot woke up with a jolt. He had no idea where he was, but it kicked in after two seconds. Home. This was his home. Toby was close by. Elliot rubbed his head and adjusted his other one. Damn. He heard a noise in the bathroom. Concern overcame reluctance and he went to see.

"You okay?"

The light was on, and Toby was sitting on the closed toilet - his head in his hands. "If you're going to live here, you can't ask that question ten times a day."

"Sorry." Elliot leaned against the doorway. "Can't sleep?"

Toby's eyes darted away. He stood. "I was looking for that Toby fellow."

"The one I owe all those kisses to?" Elliot tried not to smile. He wasn't backing away from this conversation.

"Yeah. That guy." Toby ducked his head. "He's a little shy."

Elliot raised his eyebrows. "You sure? He carries a big knife."

Toby looked up and grinned. Elliot held out his hand. It was as far as he could go. Toby slapped his down, and they were on Toby's bed faster than Elliot would have believed possible. Elliot discovered again that breathing was over-rated. Toby groaned and rubbed him up and down.

"Feels so good," Toby muttered.

Elliot moved his lips back up to swallow any more words. If Toby could still talk, Elliot wasn't doing this right.

*********

Toby smelled him first. It clogged his nostrils, and he breathed it deep. Instead of opening his eyes, he found some skin to lick. He heard a soft groan and traveled faster. There was light against his eyelids, but he had the day off, and he wanted to do this. Flicking his tongue, he found his target.

"Before coffee?"

Toby chuckled and settled down to do some serious sucking. This was better than coffee. Elliot's hand tangled into Toby's hair and Toby relaxed his throat. He hadn't forgotten the trick of it.

"Toby!"

Toby gripped Elliot's ass hard and made him groan and buck. He didn't resist the gentle pull that took him to Elliot's mouth. "Good morning, Elliot."

"It is now." Elliot kissed him, stroking with one hand. Toby pushed back into it and tried to die from lack of oxygen. Those kisses would be worth dying for. His orgasm burst out of him, and he collapsed away from Elliot's mouth, laughing softly. Elliot held him close. "I still want coffee."

Toby drew in a huge breath of air and let it out slow. "I'll see what I can do, but you're going to have to turn loose of that."

"Oh, yeah." Elliot kissed him and rolled off the bed. Toby just lay there for a long moment. He'd never thought to be this happy again. He put his hand on his heart and was glad it was still beating, and that didn't happen every day. Dimly, he heard Elliot banging aroud, and the sounds comforted him. Opening his eyes, he found some sweats and went to start the coffee. Maybe for one day - one day - he could be happy.

"That better not be decaf."

"I love you way too much to pull that shit." Toby saw the way his words made Elliot's eyes widen. Elliot looked panicked. Toby wanted to curse himself for dropping the L word, so he shrugged and growled, "But touch my orange juice and I'll shank the shit right out of you."

Elliot suddenly grinned. "There's the ex-con I know so well."

Toby made some toast and eggs. It wasn't much, but it was what he always had. He made enough for two and pointed when Elliot hesitated. "It's just eggs."

"I'm scared of your shank." Elliot helped himself. Toby poured himself some orange juice and sat down at the table. If he were honest, he'd admit that all he wanted to do today was stare at Elliot and occasionally lick him all over. That would make a damn fine day. Elliot didn't seem to notice the drool. "I gotta go see someone. Wear that pretty shirt I gave you."

"It's dirty. I wore it four days in a row." Toby tried to sound sarcastic. He wore that shirt too damn much, but he wasn't going to admit it. "Anyway, it's my day off. I usually read and play on the computer."

"Computer?"

"Laptop. It's in my room." Toby didn't even go downstairs on his day off, but Elliot didn't need to know that. "I'll be here when you get back. Did Davey give you a set of keys?"

"No, and it doesn't matter 'cause you're coming with me. I might get ice cream." Elliot raised his eyebrows.

Toby wasn't falling for the bait. He wasn't six, but it did sound good. "Elliot, I don't go out."

"What are you afraid of?" Elliot was serious now. Toby wasn't sure the question deserved a polite answer. Wasn't it obvious? He was afraid of having an attack. Elliot frowned. "Your head?"

"Well, duh." Toby sighed. "Things set it off. Bricks, boots, loud car horns, sirens, yelling: I could go on all day."

"What's Huang say?" Elliot asked casually as he took his empty plate to the sink. "Am I doing the dishes or you?"

"You." Toby reached behind him and pulled open the small dishwasher. "I'm sure you can manage it." He didn't want to talk about Huang.

"Huang?" Elliot didn't turn it loose.

"He says I need to get out more and de-sensitize myself," Toby muttered into his last drink of orange juice. He had to learn to lie to Elliot, who was doing a fine job of loading the dishes. His wife must have trained him well. Toby handed him the glass. "He doesn't understand what happens when the PTSD happens in public."

"Do people run and scream?"

"And call the ambulance and the police and their priest and it's just very messy. Staying here is safer." Toby shook his head. He wasn't budging. "Twice I ended up in a hospital, medicated out of my mind, no idea where I was."

Elliot shut the door. He took two small steps and kissed him firmly. "You'll have me. You look like the kind of guy who likes sprinkles."

"Oh, shut the fuck up." Toby escaped those lips and went to his room to find a shirt. He'd hide in here until Elliot got back. Elliot came around the corner and threw a shirt at him. Toby caught it, held it up, and sighed. "NYPD basketball?"

"Yep." Elliot pointed at him. "Get dressed. You're going, and if I have to haul your ass out of here in cuffs, I will."

"I bet that'll be good for my stress disorder." Toby had met stubborn men before, but Elliot was in a league all by himself. Elliot walked away, and reluctantly, Toby groaned and gave up. Going would set off an attack. Elliot would see for himself, and that would be the end of this argument.

Toby put the shirt on, found some jeans, and went to do something with his hair. It was long again, but he hadn't grown a moustache. He brushed it and left it loose.

"You better cut that before Davey starts calling you a shiksa again." Elliot came in the bathroom, taking up far too much space and smiling about it.

Toby shrugged and nearly pushed him in the tub. "I don't want to go. I'm safe here."

"Too bad. I want to spend some time with you - in the sunshine." Elliot smoothed his hand through his short hair. "And you owe me a favor."

"Do not." Toby left the bathroom. He was six years old today, and he didn't remember any favors. If anything, Elliot owed him! Toby hesitated between the living room and his bedroom. He should hide, but it was too late when Elliot dropped his arm around him. Toby glared at him. "This is not a good idea."

"We'll deal with it. You can't be a hermit." Elliot started checking his pockets. "My gun's at work, but other than that, I'm ready."

Toby took his keys off the hook. "Me too," he said glumly.

"Isn't that your phone on the coffee table?" Elliot pointed at it.

Toby shrugged. "I don't carry it."

Elliot gave him a squeeze. "But, what if I call you?"

"You're going with me!" Toby told himself to breathe.

"What if we get separated? Get it." Elliot smiled and kissed him on the side of the head. "Do it for me."

Toby quit trying. He clipped it on his belt. "Anything else, Mother?"

Elliot laughed and pulled open the door. "I'd ask if you had your wallet with two different kinds of identification, but I think that would be pushing it."

"It would." Toby had a fifty in his pocket. It was enough. "I don't even own a wallet."

Elliot made a noise that Toby assumed was disgust. Toby managed not to push him down the stairs but it was close. Elliot waited for him to unlock everything. Toby wasn't moving quickly, but Elliot was just smiling.

"You go ahead."

Elliot reached in his back pocket, took out his cuffs, and smiled. Toby cursed and went. He turned and locked everything back up. Elliot stood right next to him, smiling. It was enough to make Toby's brain hurt. He stuffed the keys away. Elliot escorted him to the car, and they were moving.

"At least I'm not in the trunk," Toby muttered.

"You didn't have fun?" Elliot quirked an eyebrow at him. Toby groaned and tried not to look out the window. His feet were fascinating. Elliot's hand came down on his knee.

"You can do it."

Toby doubted it. He'd try not to embarrass Elliot but it was his own damn fault. At least Toby wouldn't wake up in an ambulance. He tried to relax, rubbing his head. Elliot glanced at him but said nothing. Toby cleared his throat. "Where are we going?"

"Alphabet City."

"Maybe you should have gotten your gun." Toby looked at him.

Elliot shrugged and tapped his leg. "I have my spare."

Toby was sorry he'd asked. He tentatively looked out the window. Elliot was here. Chances were good that he would get through the day. He had to relax. Relax. Breathe. This was better than reading. He told himself that again.

"Nothing's gonna happen."

Toby snorted. "That's what Chris always said, and I always ended up in the hole."

Elliot just laughed. Toby wanted to crawl in the trunk.

*********

Elliot thought he understood Toby's anxiety, but one day out was not going to kill him. Tomorrow, he could hide in the deli. Parking the car, Elliot check the file again for the address. He didn't want to run into the husband. That might make Rosie's situation worse. The trick was going to be how to get that done.

"Toby, I'm going to need some help."

Toby groaned. "I was going to stay in the car."

Elliot opened Toby's door, waited, and put his arm around him. "I just need you to go up to the third floor, apartment sixteen, and find out if the man of the house is home."

"And then?" Toby was already shaking his head.

"Ask him for money. Say you're homeless." Elliot didn't smile. "If he's not there, we're set."

"Where will you be?" Toby was frowning.

"Just out of sight." Elliot pulled him into a hug. "This woman might need my help. Give me a hand?"

Toby was hanging on hard to him. "Can I run if the husband is huge?"

"Yes." Elliot kept his arm around him and went towards the correct building. He noticed a few strange looks, but he didn't worry about it. Toby wasn't running off, and Elliot stopped at the top of the stairs. Toby gave him a long look and then walked away.

Elliot could just barely hear.

"Is your husband home?" Toby had knocked, not pounded.

"No. Can I help you?"

Elliot went quickly. "Rosie, we need to talk." He winced. She had a black eye. Toby scrunched out of the way, and Elliot pulled him inside. She shut the door fast. Elliot put on his most sympathetic face. "You have to run. It's time."

"Where would I go? Back to El Salvador? I don't think so. There is no place."

Elliot opened his wallet and pulled out two business cards. "Any of these places."

She pushed them away. "And be homeless? With four ninos? Ay, Dios mio."

Toby had his back to the door. Elliot wasn't going to quit just yet. "You called us. Let us help you."

"It was a fool's mistake." She put her hands on her hips. "Go now. Before he comes home and hurts you."

Elliot stuffed the business cards in her apron. "Don't let him kill you."

Toby opened the door and went out in the hallway. She turned her back on him, and Elliot had to walk away. He didn't like it. Toby caught him by the arm. "I hear someone coming up the stairs."

Elliot yanked him into a shadowed corner. It was the husband, and Elliot pulled Toby's body close enough to hide behind. Toby kissed him.

"American faggots!"

Toby turned a little and flipped him off. He returned for another kiss, and Elliot let it happen. When the door slammed, they ran. Toby almost beat him to the car. "You are fucking insane!"

"It's the job." Elliot buckled his seat belt and got the hell out of there. It was time for ice cream.

*********

Toby brushed his hair back behind his ears. "Stupid. Stupid. Stupid!"

"She needs help."

"She's fucked. You know it, and I know it. Hell, I'd give her the money to fly home if she'd go, but you and I both know that she won't." Toby shook his head. That had been nerve-wracking. "It's a totally different culture!"

"I know. I know, but it's hard to write anyone off." Elliot shrugged.

Toby sucked in his next explosion. He tilted his head to the side and thought about it. "You should have written me off."

Elliot said nothing in return, but Toby knew it was true. He had a life and a future because Elliot hadn't quit on him. "Does her husband work?"

Elliot frowned. "I think he's a day laborer."

"If you want to help her, find him a job - a good one. Like janitor at one of the precincts." Toby stroked his hand down Elliot's leg. "Don't speak to her again. Help him."

"You think that'd work?" Elliot sounded skeptical.

Toby nodded. "A man without a job, without purpose, is a dangerous man. And if he's bringing home good pay, she can squirrel some of it away."

Elliot glanced at him. "Okay. I'll do it. See, I knew you'd be a big help."

"Can I go home now?" Toby whined intentionally. If he was obnoxious enough, Elliot might dump him out. Instead, Elliot parked the car. Toby opened the door without help this time. "After ice cream, take me home."

Elliot made no promises. They each got a waffle cone and found a place to sit outside. Toby didn't crowd him, but they did exchange licks. People were out and about. The sun was shining, and the street was a busy one. Toby was sure his head would explode, but when it didn't, he began to relax a little - not much.

"It's nice to have the day off. Maybe I can go see the kids tonight." Elliot smiled, but it wasn't at Toby.

Toby was curious about something. "Does your wife know that you have a roommate?"

"I didn't mention it." Elliot was concentrating on his ice cream. "And we're divorced."

"You're Catholic." Toby had a feeling that Elliot would never view himself as divorced. It was why he hardly glanced at women.

"How'd you know? I mean, when I was trying to talk to you the first time, you said I was Catholic." Elliot furrowed his brow. "It was kinda spooky."

"Chris was Catholic. I thought you were him. I was messed up." Toby hoped he wasn't quite as bad as that now. "You didn't deny it."

"The tattoo is kind of a clue." Elliot crunched his cone. "Can I ask you something personal?"

"Here?" Toby glanced about - there were people close. "I'd rather you didn't."

Elliot changed chairs and leaned. "Did your wife know you were gay?"

Toby's mouth dropped open. He had no idea how to answer that. His wife had known he was weak. She'd been angry about that. He refused to think about it further. Instead, he ate his ice cream and switched chairs so they were further apart. Elliot didn't seem to be in a rush. He was sucking the ice cream out the bottom of the cone and looked fairly ridiculous. Toby grabbed a napkin and handed it to him. Elliot grinned.

"Elliot, I'm not gay," Toby said forcefully. When someone glanced at him, he nearly slid under the table. He finished his cone fast, wiped his mouth, and went to get a soda. Elliot would want one also, and Toby bought two.

Elliot smiled and took it from him. "Thanks."

"Home?" Toby asked hopefully. He'd had enough.

"I need to hit the pharmacy, check in at work, and then we'll go home. Okay?"

Toby didn't argue, but he was walking home once the car stopped at the pharmacy. "There's one about four blocks from Davey's."

Elliot nodded, and they were on the move again. This time, Toby tried to watch the city. He would admit that the ice cream had been nice. Elliot put his hand on him and kept it there and that was better than anything.

"Still not gay," Toby whispered.

Elliot made a soft sound. "Sorry. I was . . . curious. You seem very comfortable with this, and I'm fumbling worse than a Jet quarterback."

Toby nearly laughed. "I'm just as freaked out as you are. I hide it better, having done it before. I'd planned to get married again. I even had a woman all picked out."

"And?"

"And Chris Keller bent me over." Toby didn't want to remember it. He'd re-lived it hundreds of times, and it never ended pleasantly. "I'm not sure what you're doing, and I suspect that you don't know either."

Elliot parked the car. "You coming?"

"Sure. I like Marek, the guy who works the counter." Toby got out and followed Elliot inside. Being so close to the deli made Toby feel better. He was in his comfort zone. Elliot picked up a basket, and Toby trailed him through the store. When they were both standing in front of the condoms, Toby realized that he'd been played.

Elliot shot him a grin. "Ribbed?"

Toby rubbed his mouth. He hadn't given it a thought, but Elliot obviously had. "I'm going to go buy some gum." He walked away and didn't look back. He just didn't want to know. Marek smiled, and Toby went to talk to him.

"No prescription today, Chris?"

"Nah. Just bored. Anything new?" Toby took out a magazine and flipped through it. His skin felt tight, but he was keeping it together. Elliot was buying condoms! Toby rubbed his forehead and prayed his brain didn't ooze out his ears. He wasn't gay.

"That your boyfriend? He's handsome." Marek winked at him.

"He's a cop." Toby rolled his eyes. He put the magazine back and caught sight of Elliot raiding the beer cooler. The contents of Elliot's basket needed to remain a mystery.

"He's still cute."

"You gay, Marek?" Toby didn't want to know the answer. He walked out and stood on the sidewalk. Anyone who thought it was cute to be gay hadn't been to prison. Gay meant faggot meant death - AIDS, a shank, something. Sex was one thing, gay was another, and Toby wasn't gay.

Elliot came out with a bag in one hand and a six of long necks in the other. "Are you planning to walk from here?"

"Yes," Toby growled. Elliot handed him the beer and walked to his car. He was gone ten seconds later. Toby stared down at the beer and wondered if Elliot was angry. He'd driven off with hardly a word. Three seconds later, Toby groaned. "Fuck, I am gay."

Toby made the four blocks last. He didn't hurry. That would be admitting that he was weak, and he wasn't. Damn it. He might be fucking crazy however. He'd gaily - he winced - jumped into bed with Elliot without a thought for the long-term consequences. Elliot would have expectations, and he probably think that they'd have sex a lot of the time.

Toby sat on a bench that wasn't far from the deli, put the beer down, and sighed deeply. His dick had taken charge, and now he'd have to deal with it. And what did Elliot want? Free use of Toby's ass? Toby pushed his hair out of his face and leaned back. A couple of women walked by, and he looked - really looked - at them. They were pretty, and they'd smell good, and he had absolutely nothing against pussy. Tits were nice too.

One of them glanced back and gave him a small smile. He instantly looked away. That was a good way to get a high heel in his crotch. The sound of a siren grew in intensity, and a cop car blew past him. He managed not to wince. Nothing pushed at him. No blackness surged up and he was grateful.

"Sorry if I pissed you off," Elliot said and dropped onto the bench next to him.

Toby hadn't seen him and he gasped. "Where the fuck did you come from?"

"My mom." Elliot spread his arms out behind the bench. "Checking out the girls?"

"I glanced at them. They weren't bad." Toby tried to recover his equilibrium. "Marek asked if you were my boyfriend. I wasn't angry at you."

"Why do you care? Ain't no big deal. People think what they want. As long as the police don't have to be called, who really cares?" Elliot smiled.

Toby didn't think Elliot grasped the issue. "It matters. People start to think one way and suddenly they're kicking the shit out of you."

Elliot looked right at him. "Being gay in New York isn't exactly breaking news. Now, if this was, say, Kansas, we could be in trouble."

"You admit that you're gay?" Toby snapped.

"A man with as many kids as I have probably wouldn't be allowed in the gay union." Elliot was still calm, and it was infuriating. "Gay, straight, whatever. It's a bunch of bullshit."

Toby had no idea what to say to that. Maybe he'd been in prison so long that he had a warped view of the world, but he doubted it. "Your boss?"

"None of his damn business what I do with my dick." Elliot sounded firm now. "It's between me and my priest."

Toby was glad he got to skip that trip to the confessional. "You'll be doing Hail Mary's for years." He shook his head and stood, suddenly tired of the talk. There was really only one truth here. He wasn't going to kick Elliot out of bed.

"I'm going up. You coming?"

Elliot picked up his bag and the beer. "I called Kathy. She's bringing the kids over later. Okay?"

"Sunshine and children in the same day - my heart may fail." Toby sighed and dug out his keys. He had to get Elliot a set. He'd ask Davey tomorrow. Turning the last lock, he opened the door and took a deep breath. He was safe.

*********

Elliot was willing to admit that he might have pushed Toby too far today. It was time to back off, let him relax. He had stupidly assumed that Toby was fine with being gay; not that he was. Whatever he was, it was his own damn business. Elliot took his things upstairs and opened a beer before going to put away the stuff he'd bought. Finished, he sat on the bed and took a long drink. It was time to get some lunch. Toby wasn't in the kitchen, and Elliot found some leftovers to heat up. They'd have to split the grocery bill. He'd never had a roommate, just a wife, and sleeping with ten other guys in a tent in Kuwait didn't count.

In his head, he started making a list: groceries, electric, cable, water, and . . . what else? He wasn't sure. Later, when Toby was around, they'd talk about it.

"Oh, good. You found some food." Toby opened the fridge and got out a soda. "Not much left in there."

Elliot swallowed and took a drink of beer. "I'm pretty good at scrounging. How much do you think I'm going to owe you a month?"

"For what?" Toby sat down across from him - a small frown on his face. "Whatever you eat downstairs, you'll square up with Davey."

"Okay, but rent? Electricity? Food?" Elliot used his most patient voice. His pride didn't like where this conversation was going.

Toby took a long drink, put it down, and grinned. "How's three grand a month sound?"

Elliot's mouth fell open.

Toby laughed and left him sitting there. That was not funny. Elliot put his plate in the dishwasher, grabbed his beer, and went to find him. He was lying on the bed, a laptop in front of him, reading or faking it.

"Nah, that's not enough. How about five?" Toby drawled.

Elliot found a spot and sat down hard enough to make Toby bounce. "Asswipe."

"Patronize me, will ya? I'll fuck you over." Toby grinned and clicked. "I love the internet."

"Good to know." Elliot rolled his eyes. He waited until Toby seemed absorbed in an article and then asked softly. "How're your kids?"

"Fine." Toby flipped over and glared. "You prick."

Elliot laughed. "I'm not an idiot." He tapped the computer. "I bet they were worried about you."

"They don't have a clue, and I won't ever give them one. You won't either." Toby shut the lid and pushed it away. "Five hundred and you do the grocery shopping."

Elliot thought about it. "Six hundred and you do it."

"Deal." Toby lay back flat and stretched. "Or, forget the money and kiss me."

"Just one?" Elliot laughed softly. Maybe he'd been over-thinking all this. He was always so pushy.

Toby pulled, and Elliot went. Kissing Toby was a hell of a lot different than kissing Kathy. First of all, Toby seemed to want it. Elliot nearly laughed. Toby also wasn't soft. He was hard. The change was . . . fine, even good.

"We square for the month?"

Toby laughed. "Yeah," he groaned out the word. "Okay, I admit it. For you, I'm gay."

Elliot kissed him again. "Don't be so hung up on labels. Next time I have the day off, we'll go get some pros." He was joking. There was no way he was wasting money on that.

"When will that be? Next year?" Toby had his eyes shut.

"If we're lucky." Elliot rolled to his back, but kept a hand on him. Toby quickly flipped on top of him. Elliot put his hands on Toby's chest. "Slow down there."

Toby smiled down at him. "I was testing your cop reflexes."

"I'm sure I failed." Elliot put his hands behind his head. He was going to try to weasel more information out of him. "Where are they?"

"Still don't know." Toby took his hand and ran it over Elliot's face. Elliot wasn't sure how he felt about that. Toby lifted Elliot's shirt. "I just want to look."

Elliot didn't think he minded. He leaned up a little and took off his shirt. "When will you see them?"

Toby's fingers poked and prodded. "No scar here. Nothing there. I think you're heavier than he was."

Elliot listened to him mutter about Chris before pressing again. "You will see them, right?"

Toby looked him right in the eye. "If we think it's safe."

Elliot didn't understand this at all. "Toby, don't you want to be with them?"

"I'd like to see them." Toby lowered his head and pushed his hands through his hair. "They don't know me, Elliot, and I won't risk them for an awkward reunion."

"So go live with them!" Elliot tried not to yell, but he wanted to make his point.

Toby left the bed and the room. He didn't come back. Elliot put on his shirt, found his beer, and went to watch TV. That hadn't worked. Toby had all that money, and yet he lived over a deli. It didn't make a damn bit of sense. Elliot finished his beer and watched some show about cars. He was sure about one thing: Toby would be glad when Elliot went to work.

*********

Toby turned on the light in the freezer and started organizing. It had been a while since he'd taken the time, and Davey hated a mess. The cold seeped slowly into his bones, but he didn't care. His thoughts were on Elliot, not slabs of meat. Elliot didn't get it. Maybe he couldn't, and Toby wasn't sure how to explain it. His children had good, stable, rich lives. They didn't need him. Harry didn't know him at all. Sure, he could fly to wherever and try to insinuate himself, but it wouldn't work. Not after all the years and not with his brain the way it was.

Angus was their father. Not him. The pain had receded to a dull ache over the years. There was nothing to discuss. They had their lives, and he had something here. It wasn't much, but it was about all he could handle. Next year, if he were better, he might ask to see them, but right now, it wasn't possible.

Finished, he blew a cold breath and dashed out. He shivered and rubbed his arms. And the money thing was frustrating. He didn't want Elliot's money. There was a small rap on the door, and Toby went to get it. He didn't know who it could be on Saturday.

"Hello, is, um, Elliot Stabler here?"

Toby let in the blonde woman with three teenagers in tow. This had to be Kathy. "Come in. I'll yell at him."

She smiled nervously. Toby only threw one lock. She might want to dash out of here. He went to the bottom of the stairs and yelled up. "Elliot! You have company!"

Toby smiled at her so she'd know it was fine and went to the much smaller back room to make sure they had enough of everything for the next week. He heard Elliot come down the stairs, but he didn't want to suffer through an awkward introduction.

"Chris, come out here, will ya?" Elliot wasn't going to leave this alone, but at least he'd remembered the right name.

Toby slunk out. He didn't want to do this. "What?" The kids were gone upstairs.

"Chris Keller, meet Kathy Stabler." Elliot didn't smile. "If you're going to be around the kids, Kathy wants to know you're not a serial killer or something."

Toby couldn't reassure her about anything. "I won't be around much."

"Elliot, if this is some pathetic attempt to get me back, you can stop now. Couldn't you find a real apartment?" Her voice was almost shrill. Toby wanted to cringe.

"It's a nice place!" Elliot put his hands on his hips. "If I wanted you back, I'd think of something better than this!"

Kathy glanced at Toby, who wanted to fall through the floor. "Are you married, Chris?"

"Widowed." Toby went with that. It made him look less gay. He desperately wanted to walk away, but Elliot was giving him a look.

"Kathy, he's fine. Trust me." Elliot's brows were down. He looked pissed.

"Are you a cop?" Kathy was talking to him again.

Toby shook his head. He felt like a complete and total fuck up, and he hadn't done anything. "I work here. Hey, I'll stay away from your kids. It's not a problem."

Kathy gave him a scorching look. "Elliot, one screw up and you'll be hearing from my lawyer."

Toby had to walk away. He couldn't take it. He wanted to punch her in the mouth for acting like such a bitch to Elliot. Toby grabbed a broom and went out the back door. He'd sweep. He knew he looked disreputable, but she had seen a threat to her children. It hurt. His own kids would probably run in fear. He leaned against the broom and wished that he had been a better man from the beginning. If he hadn't hated himself so much, his life would have been different. No booze, no dead children, no Chris Keller, none of it. He took a breath too much like a sob and pushed it all away again.

"You okay?"

"Go be with your children." Toby didn't look at him. The wind picked up and swirled some old leaves, and he watched. That was him - always spinning. His kids were better off without him.

*********

Elliot didn't like the look on Toby's face, and he didn't like the fact that Kathy had put it there. Was it so hard for her to trust him?

"Dad!" Dickie's grin was a mile wide. "Nice place!"

Elliot shut the door to the stairs. "Thanks. It's better than the old apartment."

"Much," Kathleen said. "That long-haired guy lives here too?"

"Yes," Elliot said cautiously. He didn't want his daughter insulting Toby. Kathy had been bad enough.

She shrugged. "His hair is prettier than mine." And she giggled.

Elliot relaxed and started passing out hugs. It was good to see them. He was greedy for every minute that he could get.

"Are there cookies downstairs?" Dickie grinned. Elliot laughed. He would do this now, and later he'd find Toby and try to make it better.

********

Toby swept the steps clean and picked up some trash. Going inside didn't seem like a good idea, but when the alley was probably cleaner than it should be, he went in to wash his hands. He smoothed his hair back, dug in his pocket for a rubber band, and pulled it back.

"Your hair is really, really long."

Toby nearly jumped. He tried to smile at the young man. "It grows." He tentatively stuck out his hand. "Chris Keller." It was almost natural now. Toby might crawl in bed with Elliot, but Chris worked in the deli and tried to face the world every day.

"Richard Stabler." The boy grinned and shook Toby's hand. "I'm glad Dad is living here now."

Toby took a shot in the dark. "Because of the food?"

"Yep." Richard laughed. "It's also nicer. Poor Dad couldn't afford much, not with child support."

"And he told you this?" Toby hooked the stool with his foot and sat down.

Richard blushed. "Nah. I overheard him talking to Mom."

Toby watched him poke into corners. The boy was nosy, like his father. He might make a fine policeman. "Did you feel guilty?"

"It was an accident. I had to go to the bathroom." Richard looked slightly indignant now. "Are you his friend?"

"Dunno yet." Toby shrugged. The less said about that the better. "I usually don't like cops."

Richard frowned and drew himself up taller. "He's a detective, and he tries to help people."

Toby smiled, but not much. Richard loved his dad, and it was nice to witness first hand. "Well, I'll get to know him before I make up my mind. Hey, you hungry?"

"You bet!"

Toby laughed and stood. "Let's see what we can find." He was more determined than ever to find a way not to take Elliot's money. Richard's smile and enthusiasm lodged in Toby's heart and carved out another small ache for his own son.

"Dickie!"

Toby smothered a giggle at the instant anger on Richard's face. Richard rolled his eyes. "Dad!"

Elliot came down the stairs. "Sorry, Richard, but don't pester Chris. He has a life."

Toby blinked. He did? "We were finding some food, but we can stop."

Richard groaned. Elliot smiled. "He's in a growth spurt. Eats more than a battalion."

"Dad was a Marine!" Richard was proud - that was plain to see. "How about you, Chris?"

Toby shook his head. "I've never done anything like that." He unclipped a bag of chips. "Here, Richard." He tossed them.

Richard caught them quickly. "Thanks!" He pounded back upstairs.

Elliot rolled his eyes. "Start a tab."

"Will do." Toby didn't watch him leave or blow him a kiss. His words came back to him, and he realized that he didn't know Elliot all that well, but Elliot's son loved him and that was a stellar endorsement. Toby found Davey's book and started a tab for Elliot.

That done, he considered going upstairs. He did live there. Elliot's kids would have to get used to it. Toby's watch beeped and he sighed. He had to eat and take his meds. Same time every day, whether he liked it or not. His head had behaved today though, so he wasn't going to complain too much. He made himself a sandwich and ate it quickly. Now he had to go upstairs. He went up quietly and tried to slide through the room without being noticed.

"We're going out to eat. Want to go?" Elliot looked slightly hopeful.

Toby didn't even consider it. "No, but thanks. Take my keys. I'm going to lie down."

Elliot frowned now. He came over to him.

"I have to take my meds," Toby said quietly, forestalling any questions. "Go on. I'm fine."

"Okay." Elliot clapped his hands. "Let's get pizza."

The kids seemed happy about that, and Elliot herded them out the door. Toby ducked into the bathroom. He should've been relieved at the silence, but he wasn't. It would be very easy to get used to having Elliot around. Toby took the capsule and went to rest. It wasn't that he was tired, it was just that he figured this counted as a stressful day, and Huang had told him to give his brain a break when things were crazy. He shut his eyes and concentrated on breathing.

*********

Elliot made absolutely sure to throw all the locks before going upstairs. It was after ten, and he had no idea if Toby went to bed early. Elliot shut the door softly. Toby wasn't on the sofa, and Elliot wasn't going to look in Toby's room.

"Glad it's you."

Elliot jumped. "Who else would it be?"

"The Aryans come to mind." Toby scratched his belly, right above his boxers. Elliot had noticed the lack of clothes right away. His jeans were suddenly tight. He swallowed hard. Toby waved his hand. "Lock the door."

Elliot turned and did it. When he turned back, Toby was gone. Elliot managed a shallow breath and went to his room. He stripped off his shirt and told himself to forget it. Toby had looked tired. He didn't need a pushy cop in his bed. Elliot brushed his teeth, pissed, and looked in the mirror. He was a fool, but he was going.

Toby was under the covers. He looked asleep, but Elliot knew better. "You, uh . . ."

"Yes," Toby said, but he yawned at the end of it. He didn't look wildly enthusiastic.

Elliot crawled in and curled around him. "I won't ask the question."

"Good," Toby muttered. He tugged Elliot closer. Elliot shut his eyes and held him. After all the nights of holding nothing but his pillow, it was more than nice. Toby squirmed a little, but then he seemed to fall asleep. Elliot kissed him once on the back on the neck and then shut his eyes. The night fell away from him, and he felt lips press into his. He responded instantly, and it was gone. Opening his eyes wasn't possible, so he reached, but felt nothing. Sleep tugged at him, and he gave in to it.

*********

Toby kissed Elliot because he was close and checked the clock - four a.m. Shit. It was his magic hour. His brain loved this time in the morning. He had no idea why. He'd really only noticed it since he'd had a home, but he knew he'd been doing it for years. Occasionally, he was able to go back to sleep. That wouldn't be possible this morning. He was wide awake. Quietly, he grabbed up his laptop and went out to the kitchen.

The internet was always interesting, and he'd find something to read, but first he checked his email. His mouth fell open and stayed that way.

Toby,

Coming to New York. Don't bother to argue as we are already in flight. Situation demanded it. We'll contact Detective Stabler at SVU upon arrival. I assume that he'll have your particulars.

Regards, Angus

Toby clicked his jaw shut, pushed the laptop away, and put his head in his arms. He had to breathe. Breathe. Oh, God.

*********

The smell of coffee woke Elliot up, but there was no one in the kitchen when he got there. He sat down and had a mug anyway. Leisurely, he dressed in jeans and a decent shirt. He'd go to work for a few hours today. Television was boring, and he was curious as to where Toby had gone so he went downstairs.

Toby was sitting in the backroom on a stool. He wasn't moving, and he looked up wildly when Elliot stepped close to him. Elliot lifted his eyebrows and moved back. "What's up, Toby?"

"It's Chris, damn it!" Toby jumped to his feet and shoved Elliot back. Elliot's shoulders hit the freezer and shock echoed through him. Toby put his finger in Elliot's face. "Don't you ever tell anyone I'm here. Do you hear me? No one!"

Elliot raised his hands and frowned. "I wouldn't do that. What's this all about?"

"It's about you knowing who I am." Toby backed off, but he still looked mad as hell. "Not a fucking soul. Got it?"

"Got it." Elliot wasn't going to make the mistake of trying to touch him. Something had happened during the night, and he was going to have to piece it together because Toby was out of control. "I went to too much trouble to kill you to wreck it now."

"You sure as fuck better keep your word." Toby glared, lowering his head. "No one! I don't care if the fucking Pope asks for me!"

Elliot nodded. He heard the front door open and shut, and it was time to settle him down. "I never break my word, and you have it. Can you take a deep breath?"

"Fuck me." Toby stepped back further and put his hands on his hips. "I should probably just leave. Fuck! Why the hell does this happen to me?"

"What's wrong, Chris?" Davey came through the door, frowning. "One day and you two are already fighting?"

"Everything is fine," Elliot said patiently. He shrugged and watched him closely. "Right, Chris?"

Toby snorted and slammed out the back door into the alley. Davey stared and then slowly looked at Elliot. "I have never seen him like that. He is furious!"

"At me." Elliot rubbed his face. He would never break his word to Toby, but convincing him of it wasn't easy. "He's afraid that I'll tell someone the truth about him."

Davey took off his jacket and hung it up. "Would you?"

"No!" Elliot sighed. "Should I go after him?"

"You want a bloody nose?" Davey shook his head. "He'll work it out. He is always the reasonable man."

"Well, someone pushed him right over the edge between last night and this morning." Elliot had a feeling that Toby would come back soon. Toby was too much of a homebody to be gone long.

Davey rubbed his hands together. "I have to open. Go elsewhere or put on an apron."

"I'm gone." Elliot had everything he needed so he went out the back door. He'd walk to work, but he didn't get far. Toby was by the dumpster, curled up on the bricks, and Elliot practically ran to him. "It's okay," he said softly.

Toby latched onto him. "Hurts so much. Can I please not remember?"

Elliot pulled them together. "You're okay. I got you, and no one is going to find you."

Toby let out a long sob, collapsing on him. "Please, please don't betray me like he did."

"I won't. I swear." Elliot stroked Toby's hair out of his face. Toby wiped his eyes and then stiffened. Elliot knew what was coming. He held him tighter and whispered nonsense to him while he went to a very dark place. Sometimes, Toby talked or yelled, but not always, and he didn't now. He rocked and silently cried. Finally, he went limp, and Elliot didn't try to get him up.

"I have a pill that I need to take," Toby whispered. He struggled, and Elliot got up fast, pulling him to his feet. Elliot didn't let him fall. They made their way back inside, and Toby leaned on him heavily.

"He is hurt?"

"He had a bad one." Elliot practically carried Toby up the stairs and to the bed. "Which pill?"

"The Ativan - just one." Toby's eyelids were drooping. Elliot got one and a cup of water. Toby took it fast. "I have to rest."

Elliot stroked his hand across Toby's forehead. "Sleep it off. I'll leave you alone."

Toby was already out. His hand stayed tangled in Elliot's shirt until Elliot moved it away. Elliot stared down at him and tried to make sense of it, but he didn't have enough information. He pulled Toby's shoes off and tucked a blanket around him. If moving in here was going to cause problems, he was leaving, and soon. He stepped out into the living room, unsure of what to do, and his phone rang.

"Stabler."

"Elliot, I need you down here at the precinct, ASAP."

"On my way, Captain." Elliot was moving before he'd shut the phone. Davey was behind the counter, and Elliot went to him. "I have to go to work. Chris is sleeping."

"Go. I will be here." Davey nodded. Elliot walked quickly to the precinct. He stopped at his locker, got his gun, and reported to Cragen's office.

Cragen looked up and pointed at him. "You have some visitors. I put them in the conference room."

Elliot was confused. "This isn't about a case?"

"Not directly. Go see these people, and then you'll understand." Cragen walked with him. "Officially, they were never here, and we never had this discussion."

Elliot raised his eyebrows, went inside, and shut the door firmly behind him. His eyes and his brain felt disjointed and he struggled to make sense of what he was seeing. "I'm Detective Stabler. Can I help you?"

"Angus Beecher, and I need your help."

Elliot shook Angus's hand, but his eyes were on the children. The girl was maybe sixteen, and the boy was ten or eleven. It was hard to tell. He was dark-haired, but that face. Elliot scrambled for something to say. Toby's attack made sense now. Toby had known they were coming, and he'd panicked. Elliot bit his lower lip.

"And this is?" He smiled at the girl.

She gave him that awkward teenage look that Kathleen wore so often. "Holly Beecher, and this is my brother, Harry. He doesn't talk much."

Elliot kept the smile on his face, but his heart was breaking in two. He knew all too well their pain, and he was determined not to make worse. "How can I help you?"

Angus didn't hesitate. "I need to find my brother. He wouldn't tell me the false name that he's using."

Elliot's guts clenched. He'd been very afraid of that. He watched Holly's face and decided to ask her a gentle question. "Do you remember your father?"

"Yes. I visited him in prison, and he came home." Holly's voice was firm. "I know he's scared."

Elliot thought that was an astute observation for a teenager. "He's frightened for the welfare of his children."

"Bloody Nazis," Harry muttered.

Elliot agreed with that. He met the eyes of Toby's brother. "I made a promise, and I'm not the kind of man to break it."

Angus swiped his hair back in a move that reminded Elliot of Toby. "I've spoken at length with Sister Peter Marie. I know Toby has . . . issues, and we know he's been living on the street." He glanced at Holly. "We need your help to bring him in from the cold."

Elliot had to sit down, but he didn't. "What did he say when you told him that you were coming to New York?"

"There was no reply." Angus pulled out a chair and sat down heavily. Elliot did the same. In this job, he was often presented with situations that had no real solutions, but this one was different. He'd given his word, and it bound him. And Toby had prayed that it would. If he even caught a whiff of betrayal, their relationship was over. Toby would never forgive him, and even worse, he'd run. Shit. Angus leaned and grabbed Elliot by the arm.

"You have to help me - him."

*********

Toby woke up slowly. He felt as if he'd been hit with a hammer. The whole word was fuzzy - fuzzier than usual. He made it to the bathroom and splashed water on his face. When he felt steadier, he found his phone and made the call. "Dr. Huang, it's Chris Keller."

"How bad?"

"On the scale of one to ten, I'd say an eleven." Toby didn't laugh. He held his head with one hand and the phone with the other. "I took an Ativan."

"Good. What triggered it?"

Toby tried to breathe. He had to gain control. "The dumpster," he lied. "Stupid, I know."

"Was it an Oz memory or another one?"

"Dunno." Toby didn't want to discuss it. It didn't really matter. He leaned back and took a deep breath. "We done?"

"Mark it on the calendar." Huang paused. "Keep our appointment. No excuses."

"I will." Toby hung up and went to put a red X on his calendar. If the mere thought of seeing his children could do this, how would he react if he saw them? He might fall over dead. Fuck. He was such a loser. And Elliot? Would he keep his promise? Toby sat down and considered leaving. He couldn't see them. He couldn't!

*********

Elliot tried to find a loophole. There had to be a way to work this that helped these children without betraying Toby. There had to be. "I'm not sure what to say."

"Take us to him. Please." Angus was earnest now. "He and I will work this out."

Elliot refused to commit to it despite the look on Holly's face. "Where have you been living?" He stalled for time.

"England. It was safe, and I attended Oxford to get a graduate degree and then I stayed on to teach." Angus shrugged. "I've taken a position at Hudson University."

"From Oxford to Hudson?" Elliot was no genius, but that sounded like taking one's career down, not up.

"I'll be the Dean at Hudson. I had no chance of advancement at Oxford." Angus didn't even blink. His voice was firm. Elliot heard only the truth. Angus ruffled Harry's hair. "Harry has a terrible English accent now."

Harry didn't show it off. Holly piped up, "Uncle Angus is leaving out the part where he gets married to Veronica Ashley in a month, and we don't like her."

Elliot knew his eyes widened. He looked straight at Angus. "I think that's a little too much information. Where is Toby going to fit into this family situation?"

"Holly is enrolled in Hudson for the Fall semester. She graduated early. With honors." Angus hesitated. "Harry's situation is more complicated."

"If you think I'm living with that skanky 'ore, you got another thing coming!" Harry flashed to his feet and turned his back.

Elliot winced. "You are in deep trouble."

"And I need help." Angus rubbed his forehead. "I love her."

"Where are you staying?" Elliot shifted the subject. He almost felt as if he were in family court.

"At the Hilton, but I'll be living on campus." Angus got to his feet. "You're not going to tell us, are you?"

"I made a promise, but if I can find a way around it, I will." Elliot stood. "Give me your cell phone number."

"I don't have one yet. Tomorrow, I expect."

Elliot dug out a business card and handed it to him. "Call me when you get one."

Angus put his hand in the small of Harry's back and steered him out the door. Holly lingered back and said quietly, "Tell Dad that I love him."

Elliot hoped he could. He smiled. "We'll figure this out. It may take a day or two."

"She arrives in three days." Holly's bright blue eyes pleaded with him. Angus turned and made a sharp gesture, and Holly sighed. She went, but not quickly. Elliot went to his desk and sat down to think it all through. He knew one thing - he was in trouble.

*********

Toby didn't look up with the door opened. He was slicing cheese and didn't want to lose part of a finger.

"Hey, deli-dog. We need some help here."

Toby shut off the slicer. "Fin, you call me that once more and I'll go find my shank."

"His preferred nickname is Cheesehead," Munch said and laughed.

Toby sighed. He'd had a hard day. "The whole gang, huh?"

"Cragen ain't here yet," Elliot said. "He's buying."

"Someone better be." Toby found the order form. "Okay, I'm ready." He took a moment to look Elliot over from top to bottom. Elliot looked smug about something.

"You listening, shiksa?"

"John! Leave Chris alone." Davey took the paper from Toby's hand. "He's had a rough day."

Toby rubbed his brow. "Well, now they smell blood in the water," he drawled. He listened and got the drinks as they ordered them. Davey could handle the food. Toby wanted to glare at Elliot.

Cragen came through the door. "Nothing extra, Davey. I'm on a budget."

Davey laughed. Toby noticed that Davey didn't short them. They'd pushed a couple of tables together and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. Toby played waiter. He didn't usually, but it didn't kill him, and he owed these guys. Slowly it sunk in that any of these guys - Benson too - could betray him. He had to trust them all or find another place to live. Shit.

********

Elliot tried to keep a close eye on Toby, without making it obvious. Toby looked tired, but he wasn't rubbing his head. He did sigh once or twice, but that could have been Munch's fault. Elliot had racked his brains for a solution, but he didn't have one other than honesty. Telling Toby might solve the problem, but he also might run right out that door and never stop moving. It had to be shame that made him not want to see his children.

"How's that head of yours, Chris?" Munch dropped the bomb into a brief moment of silence. Elliot wanted to slide off his chair and hide under the table.

Toby shrugged. "Fucked. Why?"

Elliot controlled a wince. Munch shrugged and began a rather long-winded speech about PTSD and veterans and black helicopters and God only knew what else because Elliot stopped listening.

"All right!" Fin threw up his hand. "Give it a rest. He ain't no veteran anyway. He's an ex-con, and Oz is one of those prisons that a man doesn't just walk away from."

"No, we run," Toby said and barked a strange laugh.

"I'd love to sit here and chat about the shortcomings of our country, but I have a meeting." Cragen went to pay the bill. He didn't come back.

Elliot popped the straw out of his drink. "Couple of guys in my platoon came home with PTSD. It ain't nothing to joke about."

Olivia looked surprised. "From Desert Storm?"

"Yep. Their families are coping pretty well." Elliot made sure not to look at him.

Munch nodded. "Cops with it are almost always drunks."

"Glad the captain didn't hear that!" Fin snorted in disgust. "Gotta run. Catch up with you guys tomorrow."

Elliot waved. It was time to get rid of the rest of them. "You guys need to beat it. Chris has to mop."

Munch and Olivia gathered their things and went home. Elliot cleaned off the table, but kept his straw to chew. He pushed the tables back where they belonged, and Toby came out with the mop and bucket.

"I am going home. Chris, get a good night's rest and don't come down tomorrow if you don't feel well," Davey said and was gone out the door. Toby turned the sign and started throwing locks. He also pulled down the bars on the windows.

"I'd kick your ass out, but you live here." Toby sighed and went back to his bucket.

Elliot chuckled. He found a spot to sit and watch. "If I did something to piss you off today, I'm sorry."

"I'm just in a bad mood." Toby didn't look over at him. "You didn't do anything."

Elliot shrugged and chewed his straw. "When's the rent due?"

"Didn't you pay last night?" Toby grinned. He never stopped cleaning the floor. Elliot laughed, but he was worried. There had to be a way to do this, but Toby was no fool. He'd see right through any tricks, and he'd be pissed, and he was dangerous when angry.

Elliot eased up, threw his straw away, and searched for something to say. "So tell me about your kids."

"No." Toby's eyes were sharp.

"You're a hard man to get to know," Elliot said softly. He wasn't above using guilt, but Toby didn't notice - must be the lawyer in him. Toby finished the floor and went to put the mop away. It was several minutes before he came out of the back room. He wiped down the tables, and he didn't seem to hurry. Elliot tried again. "You think Richard looks like me?"

"He's going to be tall like you." Toby looked around. "Good enough. I'm going upstairs. Are you going to sit on your ass down here all night?"

"You're a grouch," Elliot muttered and went upstairs first. He wasn't going to get anywhere tonight, but tomorrow he'd talk to Huang and then decide what to do. Holly had given him three days. If it came down to it, those kids were more important than him. He'd put them first, and Toby could hate him.

*********

Toby didn't want to talk about anything. He wanted sex. The day had been long and he was tired, and he wanted to get fucked. It was as if all his anger had molded into a big pile of lust, and it terrified him. He'd always been a whore, but he'd hoped that he'd put it behind him. Guess not. The sight of Elliot sucking that straw had made Toby's cock harder than stone.

"Going to bed?" Elliot asked in a low voice.

Toby groaned and avoided those sexy eyes. Abruptly, the truth burst out of him, "I'm like a bitch in heat tonight. Leave me the fuck alone!"

Elliot's head drew back. He threw up his hands and went to his room, but Toby heard him say, "Just forget it."

Toby sat down on the sofa and massaged the back of his neck. He felt as if he were going to fly to pieces. "I am so fucked up." Slowly, he got up and went to his bedroom. He yanked his laptop off the shelf and opened it. It seemed to take forever before his email account opened. He didn't want to click it, but he did.

Toby,

Detective Stabler refused to help us. I implore you to give me your address or a phone number. Holly wants to see you, and Harry is threatening to run off into the city. I'm your brother, and I need your help.

Please, Angus

Guilt surged through him, and he tried to ruthlessly shove it away, but it wouldn't go. His son was going to run away? It didn't seem real. And Elliot had kept his word. He'd kept it. He'd looked at Holly's sweet face and refused her - the cold bastard. Toby pushed himself off the bed and stalked into Elliot's room.

Elliot was standing there in nothing but his briefs, hanging up his trousers. "What?"

"You turned her down?" Toby spat the question out. "My little girl? You looked right at her and said, 'Fuck off!'"

"I didn't say that!" Elliot sat on the bed and pushed his back against the headboard. "You didn't give me any wiggle room. I mean, Holly is nowhere near as important as the Pope!"

"You fucker!" Toby rubbed his hand through his hair. "I should beat the shit out of you."

"You can try. I keep my promises. Now, that doesn't mean I wasn't looking for a way out, but you locked me up tight." Elliot yawned. "We done?"

Toby sat on the edge of the bed. He didn't know if Elliot's fatigue was affected or not, but it was pissing him off. "You were going to cave, weren't you?"

"Dunno." Elliot stretched out his long legs and pushed him with a sturdy foot. "She seems nice, but I don't owe her anything."

"I do!" Toby got up and began to pace. Anger, frustration, and a general sense of sadness all jumbled together. "I owe her!"

"Sorry." Elliot shut his eyes. "Get the light on your way out, will ya?"

Toby wasn't going to do that. Now that they were talking, he had to have answers, and Elliot's attitude made him want to yell. "How's Harry look?" He had to know. Elliot curled to his side. Toby got on the bed and poked him in the chest. "Answer me or I will kill you."

"I believe you." Elliot laughed. He grabbed hold of Toby and put him on his back. It was fast. Toby took a harsh breath and glared up at him. Elliot smiled. "Your son has dark hair, but he looks just like you. He doesn't talk very much, but Holly makes up for that. Oh, and he has a English accent."

"No shit?" Toby could hardly believe it. He wanted to know more, but . . . but he wasn't good enough. "They've been in England?"

"Yes. Here I thought you were lying." Elliot kissed him and shifted his weight. "Angus got a degree at Oxford. He's been teaching there, but he's taken a job at Hudson."

"I wonder why." Toby tried to take it all in, but his brain was spinning. "Angus was angry?"

"He wasn't happy with me." Elliot put his hand on Toby's heart. "I'll keep my word, but it'll hurt them terribly."

Toby pushed him off and went to the bathroom. He needed a minute, and he sat on the toilet to breathe. Just breathe. It didn't help. He was going to have to face them, and it hurt. They'd be so disappointed in him.

Elliot went to one knee and held him. "They know, and they don't care."

"What?" Toby didn't understand, but he wrapped his arms around him.

"Angus spoke with Sister Pete," Elliot said quietly. "Toby, it's no worse than if you were epileptic or had some other health issue. You're not on drugs or drinking. You have to give yourself a break and let your children into your life."

Toby shook his head, but it meant nothing. "I'm not normal."

"Who is? No one expects you to be, not after living through hell. They love you. Let them." Elliot kissed him on the forehead. "Think about it." He gave him one more squeeze and left him.

Toby got up and looked in the mirror. He was brain damaged. How could they love him? He braced his hands against the sink and tried to breathe. Elliot had kept his word. Holly and Harry wanted to see him. There was a problem, and Angus needed help. Toby broke it down into its base parts and tried to understand it all. He stared at his long hair and tired eyes. They deserved so much more than he had to offer, but it was all he had to give.

Quietly, he went back. "Elliot, did Angus tell you the problem?"

Elliot rubbed his face. "He's getting married in a month. Your children hate her, and I mean that. Harry called her a 'ore."

"Shit!" Toby's mind reeled. "Married? To a whore? Is he nuts?"

"Toby, I don't think she's a real pro. It's just that your kids are making Angus's life hell, and he needs help. Holly is going to Hudson in the fall. Harry's situation is up in the air."

Toby sat on the bed and knew he'd have to take another tranquilizer to get through all this. "She's too young."

"She's graduated early and with honors." Elliot tugged him close. "Are you breathing?"

"No." Toby leaned against him and enjoyed it through a haze of confusion and heartache. "You didn't betray me."

"No, but I wanted to," Elliot said glumly. Toby kissed him to make it better. Elliot smiled. "I know this is all hard, but I have faith in you."

"Right." Toby didn't believe that. "I better up my meds. Fuck. Okay. Tomorrow, after work, can you bring them here?"

Elliot nodded. "Around six. You feel safe here. You'll make it."

"If my brain explodes, you'll be here?" Toby had to know. He was weak, so weak.

"Yes, but it won't." Elliot kissed him and whispered in his ear, "You're scary when you're pissed off."

"Thanks." Toby curled his hand around Elliot's neck and pulled. "Now, about that rent."

Elliot kissed him.

*********

Elliot stopped in shock. "What?"

"Where did you put the condoms?" Toby asked breathlessly. His body bucked up into Elliot's again. Elliot lost track of the conversation for a second, kissing him hard and pushing into him. Toby tore his mouth away. "Condoms?"

Elliot groaned. "I didn't buy any condoms."

"But you were right there!" Toby frowned. "You moron!"

"Hey asswipe, you were the one with the red face!" Elliot was angry one second, but laughing the next. "I thought you might pass out on me!"

Toby groaned loudly. "Fuck!" He pulled Elliot's face down close and said, "We're doing it anyway."

Elliot jerked back. "What?"

"Yeah." Toby kissed him hard and managed enough room to roll over. Elliot stared down at Toby's back and swallowed hard. He wasn't sure about this - not at all. Toby moved his ass back into him. "Hello?"

"Wait." Elliot's cock brushed against Toby's ass and he groaned. "This is a bad idea."

Toby pressed back hard. "You're not, and I'm not. Dr. Huang tested me again. Nothing else to discuss." He reached and grabbed Elliot by the thigh.

Elliot knew he wasn't. He had one more rational thought. "Lube? Something?"

"That's for pansies." Toby laughed. "Spit and get. Come on!"

Elliot thought this was a very bad idea, but his dick had other ideas. He spat, slicked, and nudged. It had to have hurt, but Toby pulled them together.

"Oh, fuck!" Toby panted, lowering his head and clutching the covers. Elliot didn't think that was pain. He felt Toby spread his legs further and it sent him over the edge. Shoving and pushing, he let his dick do the thinking.

********

Beep! Beep! Beep!

"What the fuck?" Toby rolled over and bumped into Elliot. Elliot slapped his hand down on the clock. Toby stared at Elliot's muscular shoulder and reluctantly let last night wash over him again. It had been so good, but it had probably been a mistake. "Elliot, uh, about last night-" He stopped, unsure about how to go on.

Elliot rolled and pulled him close. "My fault. I'm sorry."

Toby frowned. "What? I was going to apologize for acting like a complete slut."

"Well, I just apologized for taking advantage of you when you'd had such a bad day that you couldn't have been thinking clearly." Elliot sighed. "You're not a slut. Trust me - I see them all the time at work."

"Did I sleep through the night?" Toby muttered. He had to change the subject. His face was red enough. He checked the clock. "Eight? Motherfuck! Davey's gonna kill me!"

Elliot held him down. "You needed the sleep. Hang on. Take a breath."

Toby did that, but only one. "Off. I have shit to do."

Elliot turned him loose. Toby kissed him fast and headed for the shower. He'd slept until eight! It didn't even seem possible. Elliot showed up and took the water. Toby hadn't shared a shower since he'd been married. It made the day seem even stranger. Elliot soaped him down. "I'll call before we come."

Toby shut his eyes. "We're really going to do this?"

"Yes. You can do this. You're strong enough." Elliot pushed him under the water. "Your hair is out of control!"

Toby laughed. He would do it. If it hurt, it hurt. He was used to pain. "Thanks, Elliot."

Elliot smiled. "I better go to the pharmacy today."

"I better take a tranquilizer." Toby got out and left Elliot to finish. He had slept! It was practically a miracle. Maybe it took an ass-fucking to get him to sleep. He laughed softly to himself. He'd tell Huang at their next meeting. The thought made him laugh harder. He put on one of Elliot's shirts and his jeans.

"What's so damn funny? And quit stealing my shirts!" Elliot was very naked.

"I don't have any!" Toby laughed. "Uh, nothing is funny." He grinned and tried to find his shoes. He'd gotten naked fast last night. Elliot was putting on his customary suit. He would look good - as usual. Toby picked out the tie. He tossed it at him. "This one. You need new ties."

"You need some clothes of your own!" But Elliot grinned. "I want coffee."

"Downstairs." Toby slicked his hair back into a ponytail and went to work. He was late, but it wasn't his fault. It wasn't. "Sorry, Davey. I overslept."

Davey only smiled. "I'm glad you rested. You needed it."

"Today, around six, Elliot is going to bring my kids and my brother here." Toby had to spit it all out at once. "I haven't seen them since prison."

"And you are nervous. I understand." Davey nodded. "Take the day off. Rest."

"That won't help. I was telling you just in case I run screaming out into the street." Toby put on his apron. He found another rubber band and braided his hair, tying it off at the bottom. "I'm not joking."

Davey sighed. "You think too much! Enjoy them. I didn't know you were married."

"She divorced me." Toby shrugged. "Couldn't blame her for that." He blamed her for other things, but those were memories that he didn't want to fall into right now. "They're the reason that I'm Chris Keller now."

"During World War Two, the children of the Jews were sent to England to keep them safe. It was precaution only, but we know what happened next." Davey's eyes glinted with what Toby thought was anger. "We have to protect the next generation."

"Exactly." Toby put his hand on Davey's shoulder and squeezed. "How's your mother?"

Davey raised his hands. "I have to find a wife!"

Toby laughed. "And Elliot is going to want breakfast." He got him a cup of coffee and a muffin. It would have to be enough. Elliot came down the stairs two seconds later and headed straight for it. He looked good enough to lick. Toby didn't dare smile at him.

"Thanks. Make sure to call Huang. He'll want to know what's going on." Elliot took a sip. "And get a haircut."

"No. I have another inch before I can donate it to Locks of Love. My kids will just have to scream in fear." Toby went to get his broom. He needed to sweep the step, and it was something to do besides stare at Elliot.

The morning was cool, crisp. It was the end of the April, and he was glad the cold was gone for good. Enough people had died. The city had done nothing for next year, but no one had expected they would. He swept the bricks and looked up and down the street. It was quiet still, and he breathed it deep. Today, he had to keep it all together. Yesterday, he'd melted down, but he couldn't afford to do that again. His kids would have a hard enough time. He couldn't make it worse.

Elliot came out and smiled at him. That smile - it made the day even brighter. "You'll do fine. They love you."

"Keep saying it." Toby leaned against the broom. He didn't know what else to say. Words clawed at his throat, but he didn't think Elliot would want to hear them. He swallowed it all and started sweeping again. Elliot waved and went towards the precinct. Toby watched him walked away - nice ass on that man.

"Chris! Is Davey around?"

Toby turned to face their closest neighbor. "I'll get him!" He went inside and caught Davey's attention. "What's his name from next door wants to talk."

"Why he won't just walk down here is a mystery to me!" Davey started for the door while he was complaining. Toby stepped back out and finished the sweeping. He had to help stock up for the lunch rush, but he could do this first.

"What is all the fuss about?" Davey's voice carried clearly.

"I'm selling out, moving to Florida, and I wanted to give you first chance at the building."

Toby looked at him. What's His Name was smug. Davey would hate that. He shook his head. "I'm a poor man!"

"I might have to sell to Subway." What's His Name laughed.

Toby was instantly angry. He had never like that guy. Leaning the broom against the building, he strode down to them. "Davey, go start the prep work. I'll be there in a minute."

Davey looked surprised. "Chris, do not hit him too hard."

"I promise." Toby smiled and waited until Davey was gone. "What the fuck is your game?"

"I want top price. Two million dollars and cheap at the price. This is Manhattan!" The guy grinned.

"Your building sucks." Toby wasn't a sucker. Even the outside of the building looked like shit. Paint was the least of it. "You'll be lucky to get a half million, and that's if they're feeling generous."

The fucker shrugged. "We'll see. Davey's had his Jew nose in the air for years. I'll enjoy sticking it to him."

Toby nearly knocked him down, but held back. He looked over the building again. The layout was the same as his, except this guy had a small upholstery shop downstairs. He'd never made much money. Toby took a deep breath. "I'll give you one and a half million. My final offer."

What's His Name stopped laughing. He looked over his shoulder at the building. "Two million."

Toby took one small step to put them close. "I was prison. I know people. My offer or worry about what happens when you piss me off, and I'm about there."

"You're nothing but Davey's crazy butt boy." The fucker narrowed his eyes. "I want earnest money. Today."

"Fine." Toby ignored the insult and pulled out his biggest weapon. "You'll have it all by five."

"Deal." He stuck out his hand. "It's been nice bending you over."

"Fuck me." Toby went back to work. He'd probably just screwed up royal, but it was only money, and he owed Davey more than could be repaid.

Davey caught him by the arm. "Shall I call an ambulance?"

"No, but I have to go upstairs and make a phone call. Okay?" Toby should have hit the fucker, but he would find another way to hurt him.

"Chris, you did nothing foolish, I hope." Davey was such a nice man. He deserved nothing but good things, and Toby wished that for him.

"Davey, I'm always a fool." Toby smiled and trotted up the stairs. If nothing else, he could sell it again to someone they could trust. He was relieved that the building across the alley was an apartment building. Buying the entire block was out of the question. He was rich, but not filthy rich. He found his cell phone and started making things happen. Finished, he tentatively pushed the memory button for Elliot.

"Stabler."

"Hey, um, can I ask you something?" Toby felt tongue-tied.

"Make it quick." Elliot was working, that was clear.

"Can you help me evict someone?" Toby wanted to tell him that he was loved, but that was not a good choice.

"Not my job, but I'll see what I can do." Elliot paused. "Keep your cell phone with you."

"I will." Toby took a breath to tell him, and Elliot hung up. Well, that made it easy to say nothing at all. Toby put his phone on his jeans and went back to work. He had to keep his head on straight today.

********

Elliot tucked his phone away. Toby wanted to evict someone? It didn't make any sense. Elliot was Toby's only renter. Of course, he hadn't exactly paid his rent for this month. He didn't think after last night-

"Elliot!"

Elliot tore his mind out of the gutter and focused on her. "What?"

"You have a visitor," Olivia said and motioned to the door. "Do you know that boy?"

Elliot wanted to curse and he moved fast. "Harry, what are you doing here?" He tried to sound calm.

"She's here!" Harry shook his head. "I ain't doing it. She's a horrible person!"

"Can't you try to get along, for Angus?" Elliot practically pleaded with the boy. Harry suddenly looked very stubborn, and Elliot had seen that look on Toby's face. It was a bad sign. "How'd you get here?"

"I took a cab." Harry lowered his head and sulked. "'He's my da. I want to see him."

Elliot wished he had enough hair to pull. "Does Angus know you're here?" But he had his answer before Harry opened his mouth. Elliot rubbed his forehead. "Phone?"

"I took off while he was getting one," Harry said.

Elliot gently took Harry over to the desk. "Sit down. Angus is probably frantic, and I hope he grounds you until you're eighteen."

Harry rubbed his hand through his hair, just like his father did. "She's a blighter. Angus may not be able to think past his pecker, but I can!"

Elliot happened to see Munch, trying not to laugh. "I have to talk to my captain. Don't move." He gave Munch a hand signal and went to Cragen's office. One thing for sure; he wasn't going to get any work done until he dealt with Angus and the kids.

*********

"Chris, do you think you could help Mrs. Croner with her will?" Davey wiped his hands on his apron. "I happened to mention that-"

Toby laughed. He did a thriving business in wills, if only they paid him. "When is she coming in?"

"This afternoon." Davey grinned. "If it's a problem, I can call her."

"You did mention that I'm not a lawyer, right?" Toby shut the cash drawer. He had to check on how the purchase for the property next door was coming along and the threat of his kids showing up still hung over his head.

"Of course!" Davey waved his hand towards the right. "What are you doing with the putz?"

Toby pulled out his phone. "Let's find out where things stand." He stepped in the back and made it quick. The 'putz' was causing trouble, but Toby had faith in his lawyer. Davey looked the question at him when Toby went back out front. "He's pitching a fit, but he'll be gone soon."

"How are you doing?" Davey's soft question caught him off guard. Toby smiled and shrugged. His head felt fine, and he was remembering to breathe. With luck, he'd get through the day. The lunch crowd went back to work, and Toby was glad for the relative silence. He cleaned the tables and let himself think of Elliot. Loving him was so easy. Loving Chris had been hard and keeping it had been harder, but Elliot was like . . . ice cream. Toby smiled. He was an idiot, but it was true. Elliot was good no matter what.

The bell on the door jingled, and Toby straightened the last table. He heard Davey say, "Can I help you?"

"I'm a mite hungry, but I used all me cash on a cab."

Toby turned so fast that his head nearly flew off. He lost the ability to talk or think. Every part of him focused on the young man with the English accent at the counter. In slow motion, he saw Davey smile. Davey never turned anyone away. Toby forced air into his lungs. "Harry?"

The young man whipped around. Their eyes met and something deep inside Toby connected with him. This was his child, his blood, his future. Harry tilted his head to the side. "Da?"

Toby felt his universe expand. "Yeah."

Harry grinned, and they were hugging. Toby felt the tears run down his face, and he didn't care. So much time thrown away, but he had this moment and he was going to hold on tight. Harry tugged Toby's braid. "Is that your phone ringing?"

Toby laughed and pulled it out. It was Elliot. "What? I'm busy here!"

"There's trouble - big trouble. I-"

Toby instinctively knew. "He's here. I don't know how, but he's here. Tell Angus that he's here." He shut the phone and ran his hand through Harry's dark hair, so much like Genevieve's, pulling him close again. "You're so grounded."

"I know." Harry laughed. "I don't give a bloody damn either."

Toby looked at Davey. "Davey, this is my son, Harry. He's hungry, I guess. Should we feed him?"

"Can he wash dishes?" Davey smiled.

Toby nodded. "He sure can, and he can mop the floor." He ached to hold his son forever, but it might scare him. "Elliot is going to kill him anyway."

Harry didn't look scared. "I snuck out whilst the bobbies were looking the other way. No use sitting around there."

"We'll discuss how incredibly stupid that was later." Toby took him to a table. "Sit. I'll get you some food. You picky?"

"Nah." Harry shrugged off his light coat. He was still a beautiful child. Toby went to get him some food.

Davey clapped him on the back. "Nice boy, but he talks funny."

"He's been in England." Toby smiled and looked at him again to make sure it was real. "See what happens when you find a wife?"

Davey laughed. "I hear your pride, and it is deserved. He ran off from Elliot?"

"Yeah, but I'll let Elliot yell at him. I'm too happy to see him." Toby felt only joy. The expected fear had never materialized. He knew he could have an attack any minute, and he didn't care. Harry was old enough to understand, and he'd smiled. He still cared, and that was a gift worth more than anything. Toby took him his food and sat down with him to watch him eat. "Where's Holly?"

"With Angus and the whore," Harry said around a mouthful of food.

Toby knew he couldn't laugh. "Son, I'm sure she's nice enough. What's the problem?"

"She's a whore!" Harry took a big drink of soda. "Angus can't see it, but that don't make it a lie. She's a bit familiar with me school chums, if you get it."

Toby's mouth dropped open. "No shit?"

Harry shook his head. "None. Angus is damn determined to marry her. She's after his money, naught else."

Toby rubbed his forehead. "Angus is no dummy."

"'Cept when the whore is around." Harry shrugged. "I ain't living with her. I'll live on the streets like you did."

"No, no you won't." Toby took him by the forearm and wished that he didn't know that. "I nearly froze to death more than once. It's hell out there. We'll work on this, but no more running away."

Harry nodded, but his eyes were quick to look away. "Bloody damn Nazis."

"Yes, but, um, should you be cursing all the time?" Toby didn't remember Elliot's boy cursing like a sailor. Of course, Harry was Toby's son, and that made all the difference.

"Good food. Thanks, Da."

Toby smiled. "You're still washing the dishes."

"Blimey." Harry slumped. Toby laughed and reached to ruffle that black hair. His son was home.

********

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