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 Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)

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Muzical-Echo

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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Tue Nov 22, 2011 5:54 pm

"Try to keep it that way. Too many people get on the force and then find themselves up to their eyebrows in the bottle," Ethan told Joel, his tone soft and filled with memories. He had partners before. Even though he was so young, he had watched multiple partners fall head first into the bottle and then never manage to claw their way to the surface. He was stick of watching people drown in alcohol...But he wasn't nearly drunk enough to think of it yet, so he focused on something else, particularly on the music. It was a light tune, easy to lose himself in, so he did just that. With a faint smile on his face, he listened happily, not thinking about much. As their drinks arrived, he heard a question that he wasn't sure if he wanted to avoid or answer blatantly. Struggling with that thought, he took a long drink from his bottle.

"Well, Anthony and I came here a lot, so it wasn't exactly a fun place for me to come drink alone. Last time I was here, it was with my brother and his wife, celebrating their daughter's birth," Ethan informed him, his tone light. Glancing down at the bottle in his hands, he tilted his head back so that the foul tasting liquid could pour into his mouth. Putting it down, he swallowed before adding, "Plus, I am usually not much for drinking. I would rather drink wine and read a book than go out drinking beer." Chuckling, he signaled for the barmaid, asking for another beer even though there was still a small amount left in his bottle. He figured that getting a good buzz and then slowing to a stop would be best.
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Tue Nov 22, 2011 6:39 pm

“Sorry if I‘m not much for story time. I was never exactly at home with a crowd watching football on my nights free, but books have always been a bit beyond me. Not that I’m slow, but reading itself is…a bit of a chore.” his tone was embarrassed, but the admission didn’t bother him all that much. His mind drifted back a few lines, mulling over the words.

“Anthony…” Joel’s eyes narrowed, the only betrayal of emotion on his face. He was staring at the brown glass and murky liquid within, patiently nursing his drink. He wasn’t even a third of the way through his first bottle by the time Ethan was asking for his second. Not like it made a difference. He could go through a third of the bottle or three full bottles and he’d still be as alert and aware as ever. An obscenely high metabolic rate saw to that, along with keeping him, if not emaciated, very thin. But the image of being a light drinker was something he’d like to hold on to, at least for now.

There was a lull in the conversation. He couldn’t speak for Ethan, but Joel was relatively unsure of how to follow up to that one word. A single sad turn of his lip was the only change in expression as he looked to his partner, his voice soft. “You’ll have to tell me at some point.” A chuckle broke up the words. “When you’re drunk enough that is.” His tone was reassuring, saying ‘if you don’t want to tell me at all, it’s fine. But I am curious.’
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Tue Nov 22, 2011 7:30 pm

Shaking his head, he didn't say a word. He couldn't believe someone as smart as Joel didn't like reading, but someone as slow as him did. The thought made him want to smile. Hearing Anthony’s name out of his partners mouth was odd, and for a moment, he actually wondered why before realizing. He hadn’t come out at the station until after Anthony was no longer in his life. His personal life and professional life had that little overlap. Saying something so blatantly wasn’t common for him. He knew that he had reached the point where hiding what he was would be impossible, everyone in the station knew. It had been wisest to let him get it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Still, it was odd to hear anyone from his cop life utter Anthony's name. Of course, it wasn't like Joel would have to say it much. Anthony was long gone.

"I shall drink quickly then," Ethan said with a soft laugh. As his second beer arrived, he finished the first. He wasn't quite a light weight, but since he didn't drink often, he didn't have a high tolerance. That was fine by him. He had long since promised himself that if he could drink as much as his old man without falling down, he would never touch another drop of alcohol. Then again, if it reached that point, he would probably have turned into the same liquor drenched moron his father had been, so it would be far too late.

Taking a sip of the second beer, he grumbled before declaring, "Well, I suppose I can start on it now. Then, by the time I reach the parts that suck, I'll be drunk enough to not care." Another sip, the next, and finally, he began, "Anothy and I met in junior high school. He was drama club, and I was a jock. We fought all of the time, and I bullied him relentlessly. We got stuck in the same high school, the only two from our old school, and the cycle might have repeated, but we got smashed one night at the same party and ended up hooking up. He knew that I was gay, used it against me after that. It was a shit start to a relationship, but by the time we reached college, it had changed. We actually gave a damn about each other."

The level in his beer bottle was steadily getting lower, and before it was finished, another beer arrived. He switched eagerly before continuing. "We moved in together when I got into the academy. He worked his ass off to make sure neither of us went without, and I worked my ass off so we'd have a future." Pausing, he finished the third and added, "A lot of shit happened that I am not going into now, but simply put, about eight months ago, we got into a fight. He stormed out in the middle of the night. When I next saw him, he was surrounded by yellow tape and blood."
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Tue Nov 22, 2011 8:29 pm

While he was listening, a half dozen comments came to Joel’s mind at various intervals during Ethan’s story, but he wasn’t so callous as to speak while his partner was telling such a personal story, so, instead, the younger man simply focused his attention on the words coming out of Ethan’s mouth. He took in every sentence, running through it again, turning it over and examining it from every angle in case it might hold something deeper, but, as Ethan’s character was, his story was straightforward as well.

Every line seemed fine. A bit of a twisted tale, but fine enough. Joel had his disputes over the whole thing, thinking it was wrong to start a relationship as was, but he didn’t have much room to talk. Hell, he’d never been in anything official anyway, so he shouldn't think too much about it. But the final words were a whisper in the storm. Everything fell together, but he still wasn’t sure he heard correctly. He was a fish out of water, mouth agape for the world to see. Realizing what he was doing, he quickly put that stoic mask on in effort to quell his own rudeness.

“He…was murdered? …why? Might not be my place to say, but you’re a good guy. If I know anything, it’s that. And I can’t imagine you being with someone who wasn’t. You guys had a rocky start, but you had to of straightened him out. What happened in all of it?” His voice was an urgent, but quiet in hopes of keeping the conversation between him and his partner. Of course the other patrons of the pub were most likely lost in their own drunken stupors, so it probably wasn’t necessary, but his own luck, in this situation, would warrant listening ears where he wanted none. He’d also hoped that Ethan’s own growing inebriation would dull whatever edge his words might carry, but, in the younger man’s opinion, that was asking a bit much upon reflection.
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Tue Nov 22, 2011 9:13 pm

Ethan was happy that his tale ended without once being interrupted. He knew that if he had to explain how things had gotten from point A to point B, he would have broken down. Even when Anthony had been alive, they had never spoken about it to each other. All of the fighting and the heart breaks and the tears and funerals. It hadn't been an easy time for Ethan. Some times, he even convinced himself that some of it wasn't quite real. Maybe, just maybe, they had dreamed it up together. That didn't explain the scars that had marred both of them, but it was easier to believe that than to remember all of the past.

"Anthony was a great guy, but he knew some people that weren't so amazing," Ethan said, rubbing the bridge of his nose, a telltale sign that he was upset. It wouldn't be obvious to Joel, not this time, but it was a habit that he could never break. "Both of us did. Drug addicts and dealers both. I had to quit talking with them after I joined the force, but he still went to them when we fought. He knew that I wouldn't go looking for him if he was there. It was how he cooled off. It was a normal fight, but things didn't go normally."

Pausing, he looked off into the distance thoughtfully. "As Trevor described it to me, Anthony was more upset than usual. He decided to accept some guys offer for a hit. From there, it escalated and he steadily got higher. Anthony had done drugs before, so Trevor thought he knew his limits. Apparently, he overestimated them or maybe shit was just that miserable. Maybe he hated being with me so much that he had to lose himself. Either way, he got to the point that he was acting reckless. He said something to someone, got into a fight, and then left."

Sucking in a breath sharply, he looked at Joel and told him bluntly, "Anthony was not an addict. In high school, he did drugs, but if anyone had reason to do them, it was him. He quit when our relationship became serious, because he didn't want to hurt me. Occasionally, he would smoke pot with Trevor, but he was not a junkie. His death was because of a fight that got taken too far. Some addict got pissed that a faggot kicked his ass and decided to get even." A bitter smirk appeared on his face, but it vanished, replaced by his usual expressionless facade. Shrugging, he added, "I was taken off the case once they found out about me. There was a bit of trouble when they realize I had a relationship with a guy, but that was six months ago. No one really cared enough to make a production over it."
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:12 pm

Joel accepted everything Ethan had said so far, grinding his knuckle into the table with every statement, slowly shaking his head the whole way through. Another thing he hoped Ethan wouldn’t notice. This puzzle was falling together piece by piece. And it seemed his earlier assumption had been right about Ethan being backwards. As broken as he was, Joel could still feel sympathy, and putting himself aside, his partner was number one in his mind on the list of people who could drink themselves into their grave. But he kept resolute despite the pains that racked him. The realization came over Joel, though, that the bottle was just as much a reminder to Ethan as his everyday life with the memories made in places like this.

His knuckled began bleeding ever so slightly at some point, but that was irrelevant. Joel took a deep breath, looking up to face his partner. “Ethan, there are a lot of things I’d like to say, right now.” He paused. He was taking a leap of faith at this very moment. This next few statements could be interpreted in more ways than he’d like. He hoped that Ethan wouldn’t think it wrong. He hoped his partner wouldn’t take it as a pass at him. A different part, though, desperately did. He wanted someone to open up to, something he’d never had, realizing selfishly that Ethan would be hard pressed to get away after he did what with work. And he wanted to be someone who could bear the weights of another, if only to prove to himself that there was more to life than himself, and that not everyone would leave. Even further though, he wanted to find some sentiment between the two that they could find mutual, if not comfort, then release between each other. That they wouldn’t have to be absolutely alone in their work, taboo as it may be. Joel tried his hardest to thrust that vile, ugly thought away, but it sat there, eroding his conscious.

He glanced at his bottle, tipping the halfway mark, and decided that now would be a very bad time, symbolically, to take a drink, but he did so anyway. He drained the rest of the draught in one fell swoop, the liquor giving him a sweet, burning feeling in his throat. The younger man locked eyes with his partner, a stern expression on. “But chief among them is this: You’re an amazing person. You have this dedication to your job, fine, but I’m sure all, or at least most of that attention was set on something…someone different before. Don’t ever think that he hated being with you. Don’t lie to yourself like that. I hate people who lie to themselves in some vain attempt to hide their emotions away. I didn’t know him, but he couldn’t have hated you. I can see it now that you’re torn because of how much you cared. Pack it away, fine, but don‘t tell me that he hated you. No one could hate someone that loved them so.” The last line was a whisper, more for himself than the man in front of him. “And you, Ethan Whitestone, must’ve loved him very much so.”

Joel was unsure exactly where the hard truth, honest opinions, and honeyed words mixed, but somewhere he was positive they had. His heart was pounding in his throat, and his vision had blurred. He might as well have been drunk at this point. The only difference was that his inebriation came as a result of the strains and rapid revelations of the past few days. His most recent speech left him drained, and he slumped faintly, fingering the now empty bottle, wishing the waitress would come along and hand him another drink, stealing away the last few tense moments along with the glass.
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:38 pm

Ethan paused, waiting to be told that he was stupid. He knew that he was. Staying with someone for so long was stupid. Getting serious about a person that he had gotten with because of blackmail was idiotic. Dating a stoner while working on the force was suicide for his career. He was lucky that none of that had caught up with him. In some ways it had with Anthony's death, but he hadn't suffered nearly enough, not in some people's opinion. One of his old friends had told him as much. After everything that had happened, he should have gotten fired, if not arrested. They were ashamed of him. Maybe that was what had kept him from drinking himself to death: he didn't even deserve to die and join Anthony. The painful memory was still as clear as the day he had heard it, but it was just as easy to ignore. It was a bit like the scars: he could never get rid of them, but he didn't have to look at them.

The words that followed his partner's pregnant silence shocked him. Perhaps it was because he was edging on drunk, but he couldn't keep the smile off of his face. Shaking his head, he didn't know how to reject the words without being rude. It never occurred to him to consider the truth behind them, the chance that Anthony had loved him. By the time they had parted ways forever, the fights were too frequent, too violent. They were too used to it to break free, but that didn't mean the love was still there...or ever had been. He adored Anthony, but he knew all too well that people could stay with someone just because it was easy, it was already there. Anthony, especially, had never been loved before. The adoration must have been like crack for him, something he wouldn't have been keen to let go of. Ethan had known this, had accepted it happily. If his love was enough to keep the beautiful man around, he would have cut out his beating heart and given it to him. Their relationship had been wrong in many ways, but it had worked for so long, neither of them had known how to fix it. After that, Ethan hadn't even considered love again, didn't think he could have a normal relationship. Abuse was ingrained in him, or so he believed, and he loved too fully to want to do that to someone...

But he couldn't help feeling something, a stirring in the fickle part of his heart, the bit that loved in an instant and forgot an instant later. Where infatuations dwelt to die quickly, he felt something for his partner. It was, of course, the alcohol letting him feel it, and he knew it, so he ignored it, but he still felt it, and it was the first step in a long road.

"I hope you're right about that, that he actually did care for me," Ethan said. The barmaid came by again and he gestured for her to get two more beers. Rubbing the bridge of his nose again, he forced away all of the bad things. Looking at Joel, he studied him thoughtfully, waiting for the next round to arrive. Pushing his beer towards him, he prompted, "So, what is your story? The real one. Don't give me that bullshit about a loving family. I just shared my bleeding heart bullshit, so you can do the same."
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Wed Nov 23, 2011 11:40 am

“What’s your story”

That’s what Ethan had said. And it was all he needed for the memories to come back, the old scars on his back burning anew, Joel visibly flinching in their wake. The nightmares were still fresh from the other night, a fact that had shocked him initially, seeing has he hadn’t had them for years. But they were screaming on the other side of the glass, muted. He'd built a wall between himself and what he'd been. He looked away to anything available. The inside of his forearm, the rotted wooden table, the cheap tiled floor, the other patrons, the almost pretty barmaid, anything but his partner.

“My story…” he snickered, a smile on his face that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I really did have a loving family. I mean, aside from the domestic abuse, they were nice enough. My foster mother didn’t say but maybe two words to me on a daily basis, and only when my foster father wasn’t home. Besides, my foster father said enough for the both of them. I can’t remember when he stopped saying how much of a disappointment I was. See, he was a cop. Sleazy, alcoholic, and violent, but a cop all the same. And he taught me all the things not to do. Now if you’re talking about my real family, and if we ignore the…” Joel began counting on his fingers theatrically, his expression and tone now blank as the recollection washed over his mind. “Eight families in between, we’re left with the beginning and the end. Well let’s look back…mommy and daddy…well my mother was a drug addict. Cocaine, heroin, crystal meth, PCP was her favorite. Apparently the feeling of being numb was the best. That’s what she said anyway. Anything she could get her hands on went on the table in a line, on her tongue and down her throat, or right into that needle. It didn’t matter exactly what the drug was, just that it could make her forget my dad. He loved the drugs too, and they may of even had something of an intimate moment when they were high sometimes, showing that rare affection. Otherwise? Well, he was about as violent as they came. And so he beat us. Not just her, but both of us. She got the brunt of it, and that’s scary to think of. You see, he didn’t stop with fists. He punched me. Kicked me. When he was feeling frisky, out came the belt. Or maybe the whip. Or the knife. Once he even went at it with his teeth. Tore a chunk right out of calf. Only difference between me and my mom is that he killed her.” Joel paused to take a drink in effort to wet his suddenly dry throat before continuing.

“It wasn’t all that ceremonious or anything. She was high, couldn’t feel a thing, and he didn’t care about the blood. Sometimes I wonder if she knew she was dying. She just gave me this look that asked me what I was looking at her for. She didn’t know that I was looking at her crushed rib cage, the remains peeking out of her stomach. He took a hammer to her, and ended up with her blood on his hands, figuratively and literally. Thing is, when he took the stand and I took the stand…well I bet you can guess just who they believed. Apparently the word of a very well known druggie and abuser takes precedent over his bloody and scarred son. Imagine that. Turns out he paid off the detectives to come up empty handed and the jury for a verdict. His only lament was that he had to use a whole lot of his drug money to stay out of prison. And of course I took the heat for that. Because the fact he killed his wife just didn’t matter when he had a body to beat and take what he wanted from. My body. I was twelve at the time, had more scars than a war vet, and then…he raped me. Turns out he wasn’t too picky between young or old, male or female. I had something to use, so he used it. It happened maybe twice before someone down the road heard me screaming. Lucky for me, he left the window open on accident. Next day, DYFS was banging down our door and I was out. Last time I heard, he was dead. And if he wasn’t…I’d kill him.” That final utterance was the only change in his voice, but it burned with malevolence. So much that it scared him. If words were weapons, what he’d just launched were missiles, trained on a single grain of dirt.

“There’s a bit more, but not much that matters. At the end of that part of my life came another. That was it. Now I know that DYFS gives the public that crap about “helping kids”, but they don’t give a damn. I went family to family for one reason or the other. I drank everything I got my hands on, stole razors out of every cabinet I could find them in, and almost killed myself when I decided to try my wrists instead of my thighs, but that was no accident. Then the last family I stuck with got me right. Not better. Nothing could’ve made me better. But I was on the right track. Thing about my foster father though...I was always a disappointment. Even with all of the things I’d done and been through, no one had ever told me they were disappointed. From anyone else, I would've brushed it off. But every day he said them...those words cut deeper than any razor ever could. Stuck a needle in my veins and injected me with reason. Put the purpose in me. Got the motivation I never had. And when I had it…there was nothing I couldn’t do. Until I turned eighteen and got put out on my ass anyway. I had a job, went check to check trying to pay for school and rent. Eventually got my way into the academy and the rest is history.”

His face was a blank slate, unwavering. Joel had already cried enough over everything when he was growing up. He’d cried enough for a life time at this point. Felt sorry for himself enough for a lifetime. No more though. He’d never told the story, but he also didn’t choke up during or after he did, something he was proud of. A small shrug signaled the end. “Life happened. I’m still here. Not much else matters to me.” He stretched out, tired from all the talking he’d done. He took a swig of his beer, draining half the bottle. He decided he needed something stronger for tonight, so as the barmaid passed by, he ordered two bottles of vodka be brought to him, no glass necessary. "Charge me for every shot they're worth. I don't give a damn." turning back to his partner, his voice was cold, but not hostile. "So there's my 'bleeding heart bullshit'. Work for you?"
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:42 pm

Ethan had to wonder if his path would ever cross with someone that had a happy start, someone that had been born into the fairytale world of happiness. When he was younger, he would have hated someone like that, someone that had never seen the dark side of the world. His reality had been pain and shadows for so very long, and when he was in that world, nothing had mattered beyond that. He was suffering, so he wanted everyone to suffer. Now, just once, he wished that he could meet someone that had more reasons to smile than to frown. If that happened, he knew that he would give anything to preserve that part of the world, that last bit of sunlight. The desire to protect happiness was why he had become a cop. Unfortunately, by the time he had gotten the job, he realized that he wasn't protecting anything. He was just cleaning up the mess.

"Bullshit already. Hardly happy. Shouldn't lie to a detective," he said, his voice sympathetic. His eyes were fixed on the face that wouldn't turn towards him. There was pain in all of them, and some times, it was all he could do to handle his own, but at the moment, he wanted to take on someone else's. Reaching out, he rested his hand on Ethan's forearm. He wasn't great with comfort, never had been, but the gesture was a simple one. Giving the other's arm a light squeeze, he told him, his voice somewhat rough, "Going through hell is just one of the ways to get stronger. If you survived all of that, there is nothing you can't face now." Letting go, he picked up his beer and finished it. He had stopped drinking to listen, but with a single chug, the bottle was empty. Glancing at the barmaid, he gestured her over and ordered another. Fishing out his wallet, he added, "I have to say, I respect someone that can find motivation from abuse. It's not always that easy." Looking at Joel, he added, his tone dead serious, "But you have to be sure you're doing it for yourself, not to spite anyone, because it is more important to be happy than to be right."
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Wed Nov 23, 2011 10:53 pm

The light touch, no more than a graze of fingers over his skin, meant more than Joel could describe. Especially from the normally impassive Ethan. He still couldn’t look up to face his partner, because, at that very moment, he thought he felt the sting of tears coming on. Clearing his throat, he stifled his emotions, returning to the calm visage. It would be long before he forgot that simple display though. In a world that knew his pain, he’d never been comforted. Never received anything close to it. And when the world didn’t know, they didn’t care. He was another arrogant kid who probably had parents with a lot of money, nice cars, and a fancy house. So what did he matter. He was just a brat. And that suited him just fine. He’d never known love, so he didn’t need it now. He’d never known relief, so why would he want it now. It didn’t put air in his lungs, blood in his veins, or power in his step. Unnecessary. And yet, from a man so broken he’d found something. Something that stirred his thoughts. His affections had been naught but ashes, though now something had turned them over. Something had brought a source to burn, lit them anew, and brought them to be an ember, smoldering in winter, but alive all the same. Maybe he had been missing out. Joel didn’t let it show. Couldn’t let it show. Not yet anyway. Breathing deeply, he looked up into those steely eyes he’d become familiar with over the past two days. (Well, you put metal in the fire long enough, it’s bound to warm up right?)

“I just did what I had to do to stay alive. And…if I can save someone. Anyone. That’s enough for me. I can work that much harder. It’s not for spite or the sake of being right. I get where you’re going with that, but…this is for me.” Joel managed a bit of a smile while he spoke, even if he didn’t feel it. He decided against telling Ethan that most of the reason was concerning his father getting away with what he did, but his partner was wise enough to put two and two together at some point.
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:11 am

Ethan nodded, his eyes still serious on Joel's face. Standing up abruptly, he stretched and declared, "I've more than had my fill. You bought the first two so that means I need to pay for-" pausing, he quickly counted the drinks he had finished. It was only five, but it had felt like much more. Shaking his head, he wondered why heavy topics always made the negative effects of alcohol feel so much stronger. He was too pig headed to admit that it was sadness that weigh on his heart, not alcohol. It had to be alcohol, because there was no reason to be sad over something that he had gotten sick of long ago. Of course, he could be sad for Joel, but that would do the young man no good, nor would it help him out any. It was best to just not be sad and let it be the alcohol. Without really thinking about it, he accepted this, viewed it as fact. It was, after all, the smartest thing to be, and while he was not the smartest, he had his moments of brilliance.

"As long as you look out for yourself first every now and then, you'll be fine...but this job is killer, so you have to be in it," Ethan said, nodding to himself. The words were a robotic repetition of something he had heard before. Fishing his wallet out, he paid off his half of the tab, waited for Joel to do the same, and then headed out into the night. While some part of him wanted to continue talking, discuss more of whatever, he couldn't find the words or the will to speak. Everything felt distant enough that it didn't hurt, but too close to not care. Shaking his head, he knew his worries would vanish after a couple of hours of sack time. "You have to make certain you finish your reports in the morning," he declared, suddenly remembering. "There are some that you have to daily. It's stupid, really, but the boss will right your ass if you don't."
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:39 am

Joel was left without any words to object, and thus, simply accepted the next few minutes as a matter of course. He didn’t really want the extra cash burning a hole in his pocket, but he also didn’t have a choice given his predicament. The younger man didn’t really mind being ordered around. At least not by Ethan. Another quirk to the man he decided. They walked side by side in the cool air, his drink forgotten, and mind still in perfect clarity. Joel again cursed his tolerance. It wasn’t even a bother of not being able to forget some things. He just felt awkward when he could plainly see the buzz on Ethan.

“Right, right. Reports. I’ll get it all sorted tomorrow.” A yawn overtook him, and he absently scratched the back of his neck. His fingers used to painfully rake over the skin, even if he was gentle, differing shades of red and silver spread over it, the tissue mottled and deformed from the various open palm strikes and wicked bladed edges. But that was a long time ago. Still, with the events of the day, he could almost feel them. It made his scalp prickle at the thought. As they went, Joel stared up into the night sky, a black canvas devoid of light. (The city isn’t always the best place I guess…) he sighed softly, ambling along. He could barely make out the sounds of Ethan wheezing ever so slightly. Probably a byproduct of the smoking. And even though it was a strange sound with a wretched reasoning, it made Joel smile. (It does have its perks though…) This strange relationship, whatever it was or might be one day, was completely foreign, but so welcome to a man who’s closest thing to a companion before had been a rusted razor he couldn’t bare to throw away, knowing he might not find another for weeks when he was fifteen. The thought he'd once shied away from the blade only to cling on as though it was an oasis in the desert just a few years later was unnerving, and he pushed it away as quickly as it came.
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:25 pm

Ethan couldn’t help but nod. The night was near enough to over. Once Joel was on his way, he planned to promptly crash. The nightmares weren’t appealing, but maybe since he had recounted the story aloud, something else would occupy his mind. He wouldn’t particularly mind dreaming of working a case. Living, breathing, and dreaming his work had always appealed to him, even if it meant that he had nothing that was sacred and safe from the horrors around him. At least if they were someone else’s horrors, there was something that he could do to help. Even as he began to think about it, the idea struck him about how hard it would be to dream about Joel’s horrors. When he knew the person, it made it that much harder to look at a scene objectively, and he knew that. What had happened to Anthony had been awful, but in his eyes, it was a thousand times worse than reality.

“Do you want to go to the gym this weekend?” he asked thoughtlessly. Ethan was in amazing shape, but he had always thought that it was necessary to be. If he had to chase someone down, getting winded after ten or twenty minutes wasn’t an option. Then again, working out was just one of the ways that he could keep himself busy. Just like when he was working on a case, if he was focusing on exorcising, it didn’t give him any time to think. A treadmill wasn’t so different from a trail of clues. It didn’t keep his mind as busy, but if he worked himself half to death, he’d still be able to fall face first onto the bed and not think for four or five hours. Stretching his arms above his head, he yawned loudly before adding, “It is always good to have some company there.”
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Sat Nov 26, 2011 9:50 pm

The question caught Joel by surprise. He was unaware Ethan did anything but work, even in his free time. Still, it only made sense he’d do something like go to a gym. People didn’t just wake up with fantastic bodies without some work put in after all. The younger man had also never really considered the idea of going to a gym. While he wasn’t scrawny, he wasn’t a slouch either, and his figure had some nice tone to it from just the routine exercises at home. Maybe this could just be another way to get to know each other. Like the pub. “The gym sounds uh…just fine. Gotta warn you though, I haven’t ever really been to one, so you’ll be showing me the ropes more or less. I’m sure you won’t mind that though.” A wan smile crept over his face at the thought of his partner spotting him. If the weight ever got to be too much, Ethan would probably pretend to drop it in effort to scare him. ‘A bit of hazing’ to justify the act. It’d probably work too.
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Mon Nov 28, 2011 2:51 pm

Spotting the surprise on his partner's expression, Ethan wondered if it would be proper to take offense to that. Did he really seem so unsociable that he wouldn't invite his newest acquaintance to do something? After a second, it occurred to him that the other probably assumed he poured over old cases on his days off. While that was true, he wasn't so simple that he couldn't run on a tread mill while flipping through a report. It gave his mind something to do as well. It was too difficult to read while lifting weights, but there were plenty of recordings from court cases that he could put into his headset. Knowing how a case had been loss gave him knowledge of what was the most important to look for.

"I love teaching," Ethan said, his tone sarcastic, but the smile on his face tolerant. Shaking his head, he let the expression disappear before telling him, "Then we can meet at the dinner on main. It is a few blocks back, so I'll show you the way. Walking from there is also a pretty good warm up." His tone was thoughtful as he planned out and modified his usual schedule. Since he would be going with someone else, he would have to accommodate Joel. Nodding to himself, he looked at him and said, "So about six in the morning and we can go until you get tired. Sound good?"
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Mon Nov 28, 2011 7:07 pm

A fair enough time. A bit early, but Joel would manage. Sleep seemed lost on him at this point anyway. He made a mental note to change the time on his his alarm the night before he'd need to. Something told him, though, that the next few nights wouldn't be much different the last. He smoothed out his coat before inclining his head. “Peachy.”

Upon arriving at Ethan’s house, Joel stood by his car, looking around and feeling awkward. A sudden chill ran through him, feeling as though spiders made of ice were crawling along his spinal column, forcing the younger man to shudder, and he wrapped his arms around himself to ward them off. He paused, standing there for a moment before realizing he was being watched. His head snapped up, and he stood stiffly at attention, his voice wavering a bit. “I’ll uh…I’ll see you tomorrow then Ethan.”
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Fri Dec 02, 2011 12:49 am

Nodding, he smiled briefly at the thought. It would be good to have company, and it would be a bonus to work on the relationship he had with his partner. None of the others had lasted long. It was getting a bit tiresome to get adjusted to someone only to realize that you were working them too hard. This time, he would get to know his partner so that when things were too rough, he would speak up...or at least Ethan hoped that he would.

Heading up towards his door, he paused to turn around and bid Joel a good night, only to see the young man standing huddled inside himself. His brow wrinkled with concern and he took a step back. As their gazes met, his expression faded to blank indifference as usual. Nodding, he told him, his voice stern and edged with worry, "Drive safe." Turning his back on Joel, he once more went for the door. He had just reached it when he turned back and asked, "Will you be able to drive safely? You didn't drink that much, but if you'd rather not chance it, I do have a guest room. It'd be fine by me." The offer was impulsive and not thought through, but he didn't regret it. He would rather not see the young man stick his neck out if he wasn't comfortable.
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Sat Dec 03, 2011 11:03 pm

Ethan seemed to be full of surprising offers and comments tonight Joel noted, resisting the urge to shiver again. The younger man was in a perfect state of mind functionally speaking. The skittish behavior came at the thought of his partner. The idea of spending the night at Ethan’s was far too appealing to go home now, and after a moment, Joel’s head dipped signifying his acceptance, and replied warmly, “I’d like that.” He tried not to put too much conviction into those words. It’d be awkward if anything happened tonight, and he was sure Ethan wouldn’t be happy in the morning over it. Thus, he confined those thoughts to a corner of his mind, barring them as he stepped onto the porch into the dim overhead light. Still, he couldn’t shake the call in the back of his head telling him to try a little harder.
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Sun Dec 04, 2011 12:05 am

Joel seemed a little eager to accept his offer, but Ethan didn't give it much though. Anthony had been the center of his world for so long that he tended to be a bit blind towards others. So, without the least bit of suspicion, he nodded and headed in, leaving the door open for Joel. Flopping onto the couch, he pulled his boot off and tossed it in the corner. It landed with a loud sound and was soon joined by its match. Standing, he nodded towards Joel and pointed towards the door to the guest room. "Don't mind the gaudy colors. It was done on a bad day," he told him, his voice a bit rueful, but amused. Heading over, he opened the door and flicked on the light. A clashing mix of cyan, magenta, and lime green filled the small room. The bed was big, but the blankets on it were covered with some molten, twisted design of insanity. There was something distinctly childish about the room, and Ethan looked away after turning the light on. A brief, forced smile flickered over his expressionless face. Tilting his head, he asked, "Can I get you anything tonight?"
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Sun Dec 04, 2011 12:50 am

Joel walked into the guest room, gradually relaxing at they walked through the house, and chuckled at the color scheme. It really was gaudy, but the idea of the austere Ethan agreeing to it was rather amusing. The only person who could've changed this man’s mind had to have been just as stubborn. The younger man looked between his partner and the furniture, the odd mixture of bright colors clashing well with Ethan’s colder palette.

A dozen responses came to mind at the comment. Some grateful. Some cold. Some playful, and some all too serious. Feeling bold, he chose one that he hoped would unnerve the older man most. Clasping his hands at his waist, he suddenly closed on Ethan, whispering into his ear, a hint of seduction coloring his voice, “Well I’d like to have you, but I’d understand if that was a bit much to ask just yet.” Without waiting for a response, he jumped onto the bed, sinking into the comforter, not bothering to gaze back at the effect his words had. Then, for the first time in a very long time it seemed, he laughed, truly happy. The sound was muffled by the blanket hugging his face, but he was sure Ethan could make out pieces of it. Joel oft didn't have a reason to be happy, but the circumstances were too much for him not to be.
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Sun Dec 04, 2011 1:04 am

The way Joel took a moment before answering piqued his interest, and he went from being a stiff, good host to curious about what was to come. The whisper in his ear made his eyes widen in surprise. His gunmetal gray eyes followed the form to the bed, and he waited a moment, his mind still caught in confusion. A mix of the alcohol, thoughts of his ex, and the fact that he didn't really believe Joel left Ethan moderately stunned.

And then he heard the laughter.

Sighing at the sound of it, he rolled his eyes. Of course, this was just a game. The brat was still trying to push the boundaries like a teenage idiot and was going to be a cock about it. Part of him was hurt by this, offended that he had been honest with Joel only to have it thrown in his face. Another part of him was used to assholes that did shit, played games, made jokes, and didn't give a damn about the pain. Knowing now that Joel was one of them just meant that he wouldn't have to worry about it later. Still, it hurt, and it was frustrating. Knowing he was stuck with this kid until farther notice made it all that much more frustrating.

"You really shouldn't say things like that to someone that's drunk. They might take you seriously," Ethan advised him. Flicking off the light for his partner, he said over his shoulder, "Sleep well. If you're hungry, there is food in the fridge. The bathroom door is two up." He was walking away as he spoke and was in the livingroom by the time he grew quiet.

Walking out to the back porch, he sat down on the steps. With a flick and a hiss, his lighter sparked and another cigarette was lit. "A fag for the fag," he murmured with amusement before taking a drag. As he blew the hazy smoke into the night air, he tried not to think. After all, it was easier.
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Sun Dec 04, 2011 1:29 am

Joel was stunned, left in the dark as Ethan walked away. Surely…surely Ethan had known Joel had no ill intentions. Upon reflection though, maybe being so open hadn’t been a good idea. His partner was very no-nonsense, but Joel was sure he‘d understood the joke wasn‘t malicious. Hell, it wasn’t even really a joke if Ethan didn’t want it to be. After all, he knew…he… (He doesn’t…) he inhaled sharply, the thought like a straight shot to his solar plexus. For all his awry ideas and broken language, not once had Joel mentioned his persuasion. (How could I be so callous…) Even for his normally cocky self, maybe he’d pushed a little too far. He sighed, drawing himself out of the bed and flicking the light back on. He gazed back once, and stood for a minute thinking of what he could say to placate Ethan. Gathering the words into something at least slightly eloquent, he strode out, looking for the older man.

There. On the back porch. The smell of cigarette smoke, while acrid and disgusting, was already familiar and somewhat comforting. Ethan couldn’t see him now, his back turned, but Joel could very clearly see his partner just over the threshold into the back porch. The younger man ghosted through the house, leaning against the frame, and simply watched for a moment. Every puff and grunt Ethan was interesting. It was fascinating to see this man simply exist. He was still very much an enigma, down to the very motion of his hand drawing back and forth between taking the carcinogen between his lips and having his wrist rest against his knee.

What little preparation that had been made beforehand had meant nothing now. He was sure his partner noticed him. He was a detective. He could probably hear Joel’s breathing, slightly faster than normal. Could probably see the shadow cast from the lamp light into the ground. Could probably feel the person behind him. And yet Ethan didn’t stir, as if he didn’t want to look. Joel looked away, guilt-stricken, hating himself for not thinking. When he finally worked up the nerve to speak, his tone was flat. All business. Something even Ethan would understand.

“Ethan…I’m going to put this into simple terms. I’m gay. Never gotten close enough for a real relationship, but I’ve been around the block enough to figure out which way I turn. What I did wasn’t funny, fine. Write me off, fine. But I’m sorry if I offended you...I’m going back to the room now. It’ll probably be awhile before I fall asleep. It usually takes a good amount of time.” He briefly considered giving Ethan a formal farewell of sorts, but he silently prayed that this wouldn’t be the last he saw of his partner tonight. As quietly as he’d come, he turned around and solemnly walked back to the room, pausing only to turn off the lights, and to remove his shoes and shirt before wrapping the blanket around himself, throwing his hands behind his head, and staring up at the ceiling, patiently waiting without really expecting anything.
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Sun Dec 04, 2011 1:49 am

Ethan's thoughts wanted to turn towards Anthony, as they always did, or at least he thought they would. Instead, they turned towards Joel, the young man that he had met only so recently. Already, he could remember the arrogant face he put up, but the intelligence that brimmed behind that. The pain he saw so easily revealed because of a simple acceptance of trust, a token of understanding between them. The abuse that Joel didn't realize they shared. Closing his eyes at that thought, he heard the sound of approach and stiffened. He knew who it was, knew it couldn't be anyone else, but this time, as he wanted to think of Joel, his mind went to Anthony.

Soft footsteps came from inside of the house. Ethan had gone straight through, as quietly as he could. He didn't want to wake up Anthony. It was probably two in the morning already. His husband may not have had a job, but redoing the house was a full time career. Everything had to be redone. It was so rundown and destroyed that it wasn't really liveable...or rather, it hadn't been. Already, it was safe to live in and even comfortable. Anthony poured himself into the project, finishing things almost as soon as they had the money for them. He was what made their house into a home.

For a moment, the presence of his lover lingered in the doorway, watching him. Deciding to ignore him, just to see what he did, Ethan kept smoking, kept bringing the poison to his lips and into his body. It was intoxicating, especially since he hadn't been smoking for long, but it wasn't nearly as compelling as those silent eyes on him. They made him move slower, more gracefully. They made his heart race, even as his expression remained cool. After all, it was all just a part of the game.

Finally, the footsteps moved. Ethan had expected Anthony to go back inside to bed, but instead, he walked out. Crouching down behind Ethan, he wrapped his legs and arms around him and pressed his face into Ethan's back. There was something painful in the middle of Ethan's heart, but he didn't consider it as he kept smoking, his free hand rising to hold Anthony's, but otherwise not acknowledging him. That pain doubled when he heard Anthony's shaky voice. "Baby, why didn't you come to bed?"

He didn't reply, finishing his cigarette first. Putting it out on his shoe, he flicked the butt into the grass before bringing Anthony's wrist to his mouth, kissing him gently. Against his skin, he murmured, "I didn't want to wake you."

"I wish you would," Anthony whispered. Slowly, he pulled away. Ethan knew that he should have followed him, but, instead, he lit another cigarette. After all, neither of them had ever done right by the other. There was no point in changing that.


Drawn back to reality by the soft voice of his partner, he listened. Shock was his first response, but then he felt his heart rate pick up. Quickly, he stifled it with cold logic. Waiting until his cigarette was one, he put the cherry out against the wood. There was already a black line where dozens of other cancer sticks had been snuffed out. Standing up, he tossed the butt into the yard before walking inside. Checking that the doors were all locked and the house was shut down for the night, he finally made his way to the guest room.

Opening the door, he didn't walk in. Instead, he leaned against the door frame, refusing to look in. His voice was soft as he told Joel, "Our job requires that we have a close relationship, and you're young and have been hurt. That may make it seem like it is good, and maybe you do find me attractive, but...aim higher." Chuckling softly, more a breath than a laugh, he repeated, "Aim higher and find someone that can make you happy."
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Sun Dec 04, 2011 2:29 am

Joel absorbed the words calmly, working them through his mind over and over, digesting every syllable individually, pulling them apart only to stick them back together.

Aim higher

(Higher doesn’t mean much when you’ve always hit the bottom of the barrel)

Aim higher

(What’s wrong with you? You’re just as fucked up as me. If someone who understands at least part of me can’t make me happy, where does it leave me?)

Aim higher

(Shouldn’t I say that to you? You’re even trying to go along with this when you could do so much better. But you don’t let yourself. Why?)

Aim higher

(You don’t even know that you’re the highest I’ve aimed for yet…you really are a bastard. You don’t even know what you’re worth. I’ll make you understand. For you. For us. Maybe just for me. I don‘t care.)

Aim higher

(What’s wrong with finding peace in someone as chaotic as myself?)

Determined to put themselves into an impossible situation, denying the other. Joel would try for this at least. For tonight at least. He turned onto his side, stoic. The younger man watched until he knew Ethan was paying attention, silent as ever. Slowly, letting every word wash over his partner, Joel’s voice was steady in his reply.

“Aim higher…maybe later. Right now, you’re on the top of my list...listen...I don’t care if it doesn’t change anything. Maybe that’s for the best. I don’t care if you forget about all of this tomorrow. Maybe that’s for the best. I don’t care if we don’t do anything at all…maybe it’s for the best. But, at least for tonight, can you stay with me? For better or worse? Come let me know what I’m missing. Let me see what I need to beat. I can’t aim higher if I never knew what it was like to get off the ground,” his words trailed off, silence falling again, the curtain drawn at the end of the act.
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PostSubject: Re: Partners (Private/Possibly Mature)   Sun Dec 04, 2011 2:46 am

Ethan waited, wanting to be certain that his words were accepted. Unfortunately, they weren't. It frustrated him to no end. How odd, he was insistent that everyone needed loved, but he didn't want it for himself, didn't feel that he deserved it. No, he knew that he didn't deserve it. After everything he had done and that had been done to him, he didn't deserve it. The gods themselves had said this when they took Anthony from him.

Why was it, then, that he felt compelled by this words, by the want that they stirred. He was no blind fool. He knew that the kid was good looking. He wasn't even really a kid. At most, there were four years between them. That wasn't really that much. There was nothing wrong with it, even though they were work partners. It may make things awkward, but Ethan was used to not keeping a partner for long. Maybe, just maybe, this would help Joel more than any lesson he could teach him on the field. Maybe this could show him that there were better people and better things out there.

Sighing, he turned his back on the young man. Over his shoulder, he told him, "Not in there. If you're so serious, then come on." He wouldn't go into that room. He felt less guilt at the idea of staying the night with a man in the bed he had shared with Anthony than he did going into that room.

Down the hall to his bedroom, he walked. Flicking on a lamp, he sprawled onto his bed. His body ached with tiredness, but his mind was wide awake. This was something that it couldn't neglect.
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