CHAPTER 5: REALITY

The next morning Toki awoke to find himself lying in a useless mess of pillows and blankets alone. He sat up and hugged himself against the slight chill that was in the room. Tony noticed that he was awake and brought him a bowl of cereal. "You slept in."he remarked, taking a careful seat next to the Norwegian. He watched Toki eat, his deep, dark eyes shining with something that nearly resembled compassion. "Pickles went to work."

Toki let out a disappointed sigh. "He dids? But didn't you say that we had enough money does the month?"

He nodded before responding with, "Yeah, we do, but he just went out to have an excuse to get fucked up."

The Norwegian felt his heart fill with both anger and an overpowering sense of betrayal-so Pickles was out without him, indulging in drugs and who knew what else? In almost desperation he peered over into Tony's shining eyes and questioned meekly, "Where ams he at?"

Tony seemed taken aback by this question. He shrugged and answered loftily, "I dunno, man. Probably at one of our old hangouts with a few friends."

"But where ams he?" suddenly Toki had lost himself. He was pissed at being left in the dark like this. Pickles constantly saying that he loved him, that he didn't want to hurt him, but that's just what he was doing. The other man just jumped a little, surprised at having been yelled at, and shook his head, almost as if he could read the Norwegian's thoughts.

"What does it matter? S'not like you're gonna be going after him."

So that was it, Tony thought of Toki as an incompetent child. In a rage, the Norwegian threw the covers off of his muscular frame and jumped to his feet. Angrily he pulled on one of Pickles' old jackets then marched out the door. Once Tony realized what Toki was doing, he didn't hesitate to curse and rush after him. "Wait a minute, Kid, just-"

"Nos!" Toki cried, whirling around to face him. "You leaves me alone! If you don't want to tells me where Pickle ams, then that's fine. I'll go and finds him myself! I don'ts need you or anyone to helps me!"

"Just hold on!" Tony yelled, finally managing to catch up with the other man. "Look-" he seized Toki's hand and pulled him in the direction of the room. "-Pickles told me-made me swear-to keep you out of trouble, and if you go after him, that's all you'll find."

"I don'ts care!" he declared, pushing Tony away roughly, "I just wants to find him, to makes sure that he ams okay! I just don't understand how you can 'care' abouts him so much if all you do is just let him do whatever he wants!"

The older man just let out a tired sigh, but ended up ultimately nodding in agreement. He realized then that Toki was in love-stupid, delusional love-and if this is what it took to convince him that the Pickles he knew was long dead, then this is what had to be done. He saw no other way. In order to protect the Kid as he'd been told to do, he'd have to push him down and rub his nose in the dirt—he'd have to show him the worst of the life that they lived, the frightening severity of Pickles' emotional spiral into oblivion. Of course Tony himself cared about the redhead more than anyone or anything else, but what could he do against the kind of mindless cycle of addiction that Pickles had gotten himself into? In the end, he was powerless—so was Toki and anyone else who tried to care. Tony had realized this long ago, and it was time he made the Kid realize the same thing.

"Okay, fine. You win, I'll take you to wherever he is...we'll track him down, but you'll need to gimme a minute."

"Whys?"

"So I can go get my keys."

: :: :: ::: : ::: : :: :: :

They were both awkwardly silent in the car. It didn't take a genius to figure out that Tony was still pissed at having been dragged out into the city at this hour, when the headlights of other cars and the glowing marquee delights of the nighttime blinded them. It was dark now, almost excruciatingly so, and with each passing moment Toki felt his anxiety about Pickles becoming greater and greater; as they pulled into the parking lot of some old motel, he felt himself about to pass out. He couldn't breathe, couldn't even see clearly as he struggled to unbuckle his seat belt. Tony reached out and pulled his hand away, shaking his head firmly.

"No, you stay in here. I'll go inside."

"Buts-"

"You won't like what you see."

Toki paled as he realized that he had no choice but to nod and squeeze the other man's wrist tightly, trying in vain to get some kind of reassurance. "P-Please hurry up; I thinks I'm going to be sick."

"Don't worry, this won't take long." he assured him, getting up out of the car. He locked the door and took the keys with him. Toki waited for what seemed like hours. He wished with everything in him that the other man had left the keys in the ignition, so that he could at least have some air conditioning and music to keep his mind off things. He couldn't even crack a window open to get some air. He felt as though he was being smothered under the weight of his mounting worry.

In a while, though, Tony came back over to the car, carrying a red-haired man over his broad shoulders. He unlocked the doors, opened up the door to the back seat, then threw Pickles inside unceremoniously. Toki immediately snapped out of his sickened daze and tried to crawl in the back seat and join him, but Tony let out a sound of discouragement, caught him, and forced him angrily back in his place.

"I don't wanna see you move from this spot, do you understand me?"

"But Pickle, he ams-"

"Sick, he's really sick, and when he's like this I never wanna see you near him, do you understand me?" his normally calm voice had taken on a whole new, more frightening severity. Toki still resisted him, though. He reached out, took Pickles' hand, and squeezed it.

The redhead just covered his eyes and let out a drunken, horribly slurred, "Tonnnnnnnyyyy..."

"I'm here, right here." he said, pushing Toki away. "Whadda want?"

"Make me better."

"Just shut your fuckin' mouth. We're driving home now, okay?"

Toki glared at him in jealous hatred and announced, "He ams mine, so why can'ts I-"

"You idiot, when he's like this he isn't yours or mine or anyone else's!" Tony howled, climbing in his own seat and slamming the car door. "He's a different person, a fuckin' danger to everybody."

"He doesn't look dangerous, he looks like he ams about to die! He needs a doctor!" Tony ignored his pleas and simply backed out of the parking lot. This only served to make Toki angrier; he lashed out, but the other man slammed him back into his seat with little effort.

"Listen, you don't understand. We need to get him home. I've dealt with this a hundred times before, and all he needs is to just lay down for a bit and-"

"Ams he high?"

"Yeah, out of his fucking mind, and drunk too; you can smell the puke on his breath."

"He looks like he ams dying!" Toki exclaimed, glancing in the back seat at Pickles, who had turned a sickly pale and was fitfully napping. "Ams he O. or something?"

"Shut up and siddown so we can get home!" Tony cried, gritting his teeth. He tried to get a handle on himself as Toki continued to yell in his ear; somehow he managed to guide the car thru traffic. Suddenly he felt a warm hand touch his cheek, and for a moment he thought it was the Norwegian, but when he glanced in the rear view mirror he saw that it was actually Pickles. The redhead had been jostled from his sleep and was clinging to Tony in desperation.

"Love you." he murmured, his breath reeking of vomit and alcohol.

"Shut up and sit down!" he howled, shrinking away from the other man's touch. Toki just watched this display and finally quieted down. He felt like an idiot. So Pickles was still in love with Tony after all? Why was he even here, then? Clearly he was just a horrible burden to everyone around him, so what was his purpose? If he didn't belong with Pickles, then where should he be?

: :: :: ::: : ::: : :: :: :

Once they'd managed to get home and carry Pickles up the stairs to the apartment, Tony quickly used the phone to call a friend. Toki watched him with boiling hatred in his eyes. He'd never forget what he'd seen in the car, never be able to trust Pickles again. Now he sat on the floor with his love's head in his lap. He gently ran his fingers thru the other man's dreadlocks, whispered to him comfortingly, and eventually was able to coax Pickles into a fitful sleep. The redhead still didn't appear to be getting better; this worried him greatly. Pickles was sweating so much that his clothes were plastered to his skinny, quaking frame. He was pale and very cold. Tony saw all of this and quickly motioned for Toki to get up, which he did. Without a trace of care, he scooped Pickles up into his arms and carried him into the bathroom. Before closing the door, he turned to Toki and demanded coolly, "Don't you dare come in here."

The Norwegian sat down on the floor again and tried to do as he'd been told, but when seconds he heard the sounds of gagging and vomiting, he rushed to his feet and burst into the small room. Tony was holding Pickles close to him, murmuring in his ear, "Ssh...don't try to fight it, just puke all that crap up..."

"What ams you doing?"

"Making him sick." he said simply, holding back Pickles' hair as the redhead vomited again into the toilet. Toki began to shake with anger. What was wrong with this man?

"Why ams you making him puke?"

Tony gently wiped the sickness away from Pickles mouth before sticking his finger down the man's throat once again. "Makes him puke up all the bad shit that he forced down his fuckin' throat."

"Buts-"

"Shut up!" he suddenly screamed, running a hand along Pickles' cheek comfortingly. This was it, he'd reached the limits of his seemingly endless placidity and coolness.

"I wanna go home." the redhead sobbed. "I'm sorry, so fuckin' sorry...Tony don't leave..."

"Shut up; you know I'm never gonna leave." then he turned his attention back to the still livid Toki and explained with a new found calmness, "Listen, Kid, I'm sorry—I know you're probably confused, and I'll explain it all later once the doctor gets here."

"You called a doctor?"

"Yeah, sure, now listen here—if I wouldn't have made him puke up all that shit, he would've died." Tony said, intertwining his fingers in Pickles red hair. "Now the best thing you can do is go outside and wait for the doctor to get here. I'll take care of him."

But it ams not your job to takes care of him, it ams mine! Toki thought emptily as he exited the bathroom. Once he'd left, Tony returned his attention to Pickles. Gently he kissed the other man's cheek. "It's okay, man, I'm right here and I won't go anywhere."

"P-Please...sorry, so sorry..." he began vomiting again, and the other man continued to hold his hair back.

"I know, but don't be. It's not your fault, it's all that shit you do to yourself...you can't help it, I know...the Kid's scared, though."

Pickles fell back into Tony's arms and swallowed. His emerald eyes drifted closed for a moment as he whispered lovingly, "Kid—Toki? Dude, I love him s'much...don't let him see."

"I won't."

"Don't let'm see me like 'dis."

"It's okay, I won't."

" 'Cause I love him and I wanna-" he gagged and said before passing out, "-gonna be with him f'ever..."

: :: :: ::: : ::: : :: :: :

About half an hour later a man entered the small apartment and hurried to see Pickles. Toki arched a brow and asked Tony skeptically, "So he ams a doctor?"

"Shut up." he responded curtly. The man looked like no doctor that the Norwegian had seen before; he had long hair, skinny jeans, and in general he just appeared to be another metal-head. His feelings of uneasiness grew as he watched the man press a hand to Pickles' forehead.

"Why didn't you take him to the hospital if he was in such shitty condition?" the stranger finally asked, peering carefully into Tony's face. "Would've been better for him."

"We ain't got the money for that; you know our situation."

He just shrugged and then glanced over at Toki. "Who's the kid?"

"I'ms-"

"Unimportant." Tony said, waving away this question. He ignored the deadly look that the Norwegian gave him and instructed to the man, "Hey, I don't care what you do, just make sure he'll be up and walking around tomorrow, okay?"

"But-"

"Thanks. I'll play you later." Tony said. He exited the Private Room and left Pickles alone to rest.

Time slowly passed. Toki's anxiety began to grow again as he glanced over at the locked door. Obviously Tony had forbid him from disturbing Pickles and the doctor, so he was left to be alone and miserable. Finally he worked up the courage to clear his throat and ask moodily, "What ams taking him so long? I wants to see Pickle."

"Shut it." Tony demanded, adjusting his top hat so that it fully covered his eyes. He laid back on the couch and tried to get some sleep, but just as he began to doze off, the doctor finally exited the Private Room and walked over to him.

As the two talked, Toki was able to quietly slip into the Private Room. Pickles was lying on the bed nestled under layers of covers, his eyes closed and his skin pale and sweaty. The Norwegian hurriedly snuck over to where he was and sat on the bed beside him. He took the older man's hand and was utterly silent, careful not to disturb the peace of the room. This proved useless, though.

"I told them nat to let you in here." Pickles said at last, letting out a labored sigh. He opened his emerald eyes a crack just so he could get a clear look at Toki's pale and flawless face. At that moment, as the last traces of his near-O.D. were busy evacuating his worn and broken frame, the younger man seemed to be the most beautiful sight in the world; this almost made it possible to ignore the hurt look in the Norwegian's eyes.

He looked down at the ground and struggled to say without his voice breaking, "I wanteds to see you, though. I hads to see you."

"I didn't want you to every see me like 'dis." the redhead murmured, reaching up and pressing a hand to Toki's cheek. "I'm sorry I put you thru so much. I'm nat surprised f'you hate me."

"No, of course I don't hates you. I thought you was the ones whats hated me." he said sorrowfully, recalling the time before when Pickles had said so tenderly, 'Love you, Tony...don't leave me, Tony...'

The redhead shook his head at this and sat up. He stretched and said somewhat deliriously, "Nah, no way, dude. I love you, you're the only one in the world for me." it was clear that although he was in a much more stable condition than before, this didn't mean that his mind was back to normal. The drugs and alcohol were still taking a heavy toll on him; all the 'doctor' had been able to accomplish was to get his heart rate to stabilize and to get him sobered up a mere fraction. This had done little good, but it did ensure that he'd most likely not die of an overdose.

Toki didn't realize all of this, though. In his mind Pickles was still his old, funny, sweet self. He gently laid his head in the drummer's lap. The other man just locked his green eyes onto the Norwegian and shook his head. "No," he said, feeling his temper rising, "get out. I don't want you in here."

"Buts-"

"Gad damn it, you're nat supposed to see me like this!" he howled, pushing the younger man off of the bed roughly. Toki stood up and glared down at him.

"I don't know what ams your problem, but gets over it! I'm staying in here whether you wants me to or nots! I-"

"Tony...where's Tony?"

"Whats?" he felt his face turning red as he leaned in a little closer to the redhead. "Tony ams not here, he ams not important, Pickle! I'ms here, I wants to take care of you, so just lay down and gos back to sleep! I'll make sure nothing bad ever happens to you again."

"Don't you get it?" Pickles asked venomously, narrowing his eyes at Toki. "You don't know me. I'm always like this, there's no getting better!"

"Yeah there ams—stops will all the drugs!"

Without warning, the redhead had lashed out and slapped Toki across the face. "Get the fuck outta here! I want Tony!"

The Norwegian simply staggered back against the wall, covering his face with his hands. Part of him couldn't believe what had just happened—Pickles would never hit him, not his Pickles, not the sweet, careful drummer that he'd once spent years trying to be friends with. This was someone totally different. He could barley feel himself crying as he slowly inched his way over to the door. The look reflecting in his love's eyes was one of terrifying insecurity and detachment. The redhead seemed to have lost himself, to not even remember whether he was awake or alive, and this confusion only fueled his rage. Who was this? Who was he? Toki's hand began to shake, and as it came in contact with his own cheek, felt the searing-hot pain that now tainted the fair skin, he felt dizzy. Every nerve within him was howling with a kind of horrible warning. Get away, his body screamed, this isn't him. This isn't anything that resembles him; it's some new kind of monster...

Without hesitation he fled and hurried back into the living room area. He was sobbing as he found Tony and the doctor. He couldn't help but to crawl over and lay his head in Tony's lap; the older man flinched away from his touch, yet his deep, shimmering eyes filled with something of concern when he noticed that the younger man was crying. Gently he lifted Toki's face up into the light so he could better see him. His index finger traced the light bruise that was beginning to form around the Norwegian's right eye.

"What the fuck...who did this?" when he said nothing, Tony said to his doctor friend, "Would you watch him, please?"

"Yeah, sure, but what's-"

"I'll kill him." he spat vengefully, rising to his feet. Upon hearing this, Toki latched onto him, tried to pull him back over onto the couch.

"Don'ts, he didn't means it!"

Tony turned and said angrily, "Fuck yeah, he did! That bastard's always like this, and usually it's okay if he gets a few licks in on me, but you? He said he...he's..." he was shaking with fury, but at the terrified look on the younger man's face he managed to calm down enough to explain, "Look, he took you away, made you give up your family, and live here in this fuckin' poor, shitty apartment for what? So he could drink and get high and beat on you? Fuck that shit, you didn't come here for that. I'll kill him."

"Nos, d-"

"Keep him in here, Tony?" the doctor asked, wrapping his arms loosely around Toki's waist in an effort to hold him down.

The man nodded and said, "Yeah, and make sure that he stays away from Pickles."

Before Toki could manage to pull himself out of the doctor's grip, Tony was already slamming things around in the Private Room. Yelling echoed thruout the small apartment, and although most of it was mingled together, some things could be picked out of the chaos. Tony was shouting over and over, "You fuckin' prick, you hit him! If you ever lay a finger on him again..."

"Whadda care? He's mine, and he doesn't mind! He's used to getting beat on, so who cares?"

"I'll kill you!"

"Stops!" Toki shrieked, "Just everybody stops this right now!"

And all the noise ceased. Tony came out of the Private Room, his knuckles bloody, his face bearing the marks of being hit. He seemed to be the strongest, bravest man alive, then. He went over to the doctor and instructed, "You, haul Pickles outta that room and make his sorry ass sleep on the floor tonight—I can't even look at his face for another second." He quickly nodded and hurried to do as he was told. Once that was done, he was bid farewell. Finally Tony turned to Toki and said sadly, "I'm sorry you had to see this, Kid."

"Buts—hey!" he exclaimed as he was dragged into the Private Room, "Stops it! I wants to be with him!"

"Please just quit it, already!" the older man pleaded, slamming and locking the door. "I can't stand it, you and him...why do you insist on making this the hardest fucking thing that I've ever had to do?"

Toki suddenly felt ashamed with himself. He allowed his body to relax, and he willingly went over and planted himself on the bed. "I'ms sorry," he said, looking down at the floor, his voice full of disgrace, "to gives you such a hard time, but-"

"I just don't get it," Tony confessed, kicking off his boots haphazardly. He wandered over and laid down next to the Norwegian, but didn't give him a second glance. Instead he rubbed his eyes, which were smudged with eyeliner, and breathed tiredly, "I just don't get it."

"Gets what?"

"Why Pickles would choose a kid like you."

"Excuse me?" Toki asked, his temper flaring up yet again. He glared over at Tony and hissed, "What do you means by that? That I'ms not good enoughs, or that I'ms too immature?"

"Forget it." Tony said, shaking his head. "You wouldn't understand."

"Understands what?"

Tony bit his lower lip, tried to control himself as he cried out hopelessly, "Damn it, I don't get why he chose you to be with! What the hell does he see in you other than just someone to fuck around with? I don't get why he had to choose you, the stupidest, most ignorant kid ever, to fuck up. If it was anyone else..." he began tearing up just then, and he turned away and wiped his eyes. "S'not fair to you, it's not fair of him to make you see this. He should've let you go, and that's what he would've really done if he actually loved you. He would've let you go back and live a better life in wherever it is you came from."

Toki swallowed and said coldly, "You don'ts know anything abouts where I'm from."

"And apparently you don't know anything about what he is." the older man explained, sitting up and removing his top hat. He gently placed it on the little table beside the bed before continuing. "His brain is so fucked up...he's letting it rot...I worry about him so damn much, but sometimes I've just gotta make myself stop, 'cause I'm not doing anything by worrying, just killing myself..." his voice trailed off. It seemed as though he was speaking more to himself than to anybody else. Toki decided to change the subject. He felt a sort of overwhelming sympathy and compassion for the other man, and scooted a little closer to him. This is what he'd wanted from the beginning, someone who he could talk to and connect with. Couldn't Pickles give him that, or was he too far gone to even care?

He tried to think of something to say and came up with, "Your hat, why do you loves it so much? Where did you gets it?"

Tony gave him a little smile, a genuine one for once. It wasn't one full of contempt or anything like that, it was simply an expression of happiness. Was the simple act of knowing that someone cared about his life so rewarding? Either way, in the dim light of the room, Tony appeared almost handsome then. Although his face was as deathly pale as it always had been, Toki realized that the man's ebony hair had been washed that day, and it looked silky and smooth. It framed his thin face beautifully, and made his dark, emotional eyes shine with a new light that they'd never possessed before. It was only now, as Toki truly took the time to observe him, that he realized that the man had passionate, nearly black eyes. He looked away, feeling the color rising to his face as he recalled just how Pickles' eyes looked. Could he even remember a time when the redhead hadn't been high or drunk? The more time he spent with Tony, the foggier his mind became, the less his eyes were able to focus on other things besides the other man's slim figure.

I wants to know everything abouts him, he thought, though he chastised himself for doing so. What did he care about the other man? The only person in the world that he had any feelings for whatsoever was his only love, the one who kept his heart beating and his mind in the right place—Pickles. Still, he hung on to Tony's every word. "I got it from a little corner store back in my hometown. I was about thirteen when I passed it in the old, shitty shop." he explained, thoughtlessly beginning to twist some of his own hair around his index finger. He did this as a sort of nervous habit when he was talking to someone new. "And, well, I'd just gotten into real music and started listening to Guns 'N Roses, and stuff like that, and my favorite guitarist, Slash, had a hat kinda like that one, so I just walked in, picked it up, and walked out again. I was scared shitless that I'd get caught, but I never did."

Toki grinned. "Sos you stole it?"

"Yeah, guess so."

"That ams totally metal."

"Yeah, well whatever. It isn't a big deal." he distractedly glanced over at the locked door and said after a moment, "It's late, Kid. You need sleep."

"Buts-"

"Shut up and don't back talk me." he instructed kindly, removing his black leather vest. He threw it down on the floor before crawling under the covers himself. Toki just sat there, his cheeks scarlet.

"You ams sleeping with me?"

"Where else am I gonna go?"

"It ams just that if Pickle knew, he'd-"

"Then let's make sure that he doesn't find out, okay, Kid?" Tony suggested, pulling the covers up to cover his bare chest. After taking a moment to evaluate the unsure look on the younger man's face, he finally sighed and swore, "I'm not gonna do anything if that's what you're afraid of. I'm not that sick, and I'm definitely not a queer. I have a girlfriend."

"You dos?"

"Well..." he hesitated before admitting, "kinda...it's a joint-custody kinda thing...got married twice, divorced each time."

"Ohs. I'm sorry."

Toki sensed a hint of pain in the other man's voice as he heard him respond, "Whatever, it's not like I care anyway, it's just the kids...anyway, just shut up and go to bed."

"Okays." he said, getting under the covers as well. He ended up taking off his shirt, but this couldn't be helped—he never slept with a shirt on, and he couldn't go to sleep unless he wasn't wearing one. He also took off his boots before laying down and finally allowing sleep to overtake him.

Once he was sure that Toki had slipped off to sleep, Tony rolled over to face him. He studied the kid's face with the utmost care; his caramel-colored hair, so wondrously long and lush, was in the way, slightly covering his features. Tony couldn't have that, so he gently reached over and moved some of it aside. He was surprised to find that his hands were shaking. What was it about the Kid that made him like this? He'd sensed his growing attraction for Toki ever since Pickles had introduced them to each other. He wanted to kill himself for being drawn to his best friend's lover so strongly, but he couldn't help it. The way the Kid laughed, the way his eyes reflected an intoxicating sense of innocent wonder, and even the way his body moved when he walked turned him on in an unbelievable way. Tony knew that Pickles would kill him if he so much as thought of Toki in a sexual way, but he didn't care, not then as he watched the younger man sleep so securely like that. He'd seen how safe Pickles had made the Norwegian feel just by hugging him, and Tony wondered what it would feel like if he was pressed that close to the kid as well. Would their bodies fit together so flawlessly? Could he bring the other man the same kind of comfort and security, just by whispering to him and holding him in his arms?

Tony smiled to himself as he wrapped his arms around the Norwegian and pulled him close—so unimaginably, perfectly close—and wasn't the least bit surprised to find that his body molded perfectly against the other man's. He closed his eyes and dared to whisper in the younger man's ear, "I'm sorry."

He let out a tired little moan and allowed his eyes to open a crack. He didn't' struggle to free himself from the other man's touch, only asked shyly, "Fors what?"

"Making you think twice."

"Huh?" he asked, far to sleepy to riddle this out.

Tony smiled and kissed Toki's forehead. "For making you think twice about how much you love Pickles." he then pressed his lips to the Norwegian's, holding none of his passion back. His tongue entered the mouth of the younger man's, licking and insisting that they delve deeper into these unexplored attractions. He prodded Toki's tongue and became entangled with it, until all he could do was pull away and demand more. He kissed him again and again, allowed his hands to travel across Toki's hot skin.

Finally, minutes later, he was able to control his lust enough to break away and say, "He loves you, y'know."

"Whos?"

"Pickles."

He looked away and responded doubtfully, "I'ms not so sure anymore."

Tony felt his heart aching for the other man. The horribly sorrowful way that the kid spoke, the way in which his words were filled with misery, made him begin to tear up. The younger man almost seemed hopeless, more than sure that everything he could ever do wouldn't be enough to secure Pickles' heart. Perhaps he was right.

Tony's callused hands rested on the Norwegian's thighs. He didn't quit-the reaction that he got from the other man was simply too amazing to just abandon completely-despite his better judgment. He knew that now would be the opportune moment to back out and regain his senses, to save all of them a whole world of pain, but he just couldn't. There was some horrifying hold that the other man had over him, and he probably wouldn't have quit then even if Toki had begged him to. "I'll give you what he can't," he murmured, kissing Toki's neck, "I'll treat you better than he ever could."

Toki almost believed that he could. He missed the old Pickles, the one who had liked drugs, but not been overpowered by them. The missed the drummer, the man who he could mess with and joke with and talk to. Toki didn't allow himself to be overtaken by Tony's charm that easily, though; he hugged the other man tightly, but couldn't fail to notice how warm and secure he felt in the other man's arms. Hadn't Pickles once been able to protect him and warm him like this? Yes, but that had been what seemed like ages ago. Now, as he pressed a hand to Tony's muscular chest and felt the older man's toned arms hold him, his face grew hot.

"I miss hims." he said at last, his eyes filling with tears.

Tony gave him a sympathetic look and kissed his cheek. "I know, so do I." his lips grazed Toki's neck, his chest, licking and demanding more. "You don't have to tell him, y'know."

"Maybes you should keeps me safe." Toki suggested, closing his pale eyes, feeling pleasure race down to his growing erection.

Tony kissed him and replied, "You were made for me, Toki...you were made to let me fuck you."

"Maybes I was." he said this, but didn't truly believe it. In his heart he knew that he still longed for Pickles, that a greater half of his soul belonged to the redhead, and that this was only some kind of sick act of rebellion.

It was an odd thing, but the more that he was with Tony that night, and the more he exposed his body to him, the greater a sense of self-hatred became. His faith and trust in the other man also disappeared, as did many feelings of attraction that he'd had for him. True, Tony had managed to slim down and tone up since his last appearance on t.v.—his stomach was flat like Pickles', but more muscular, as was the rest of his body—but for some reason this began to repel Toki. In the end it took all he had to climax. He didn't want this. He wanted the drugs and alcohol to disappear, for Pickles and himself to just be together and make slow, sweet love every night...

"Are you afraid?" the older man asked breathlessly as he sat up and put some strands of drenched, black hair behind his ears. It was done, and all Toki had the strength to do was lay there panting, his body aching. He was gripping the sheets of the bed so hard that his knuckles were white; his arms quaked with effort of holding onto the fabric with such force. Tony let a look of deep concern flash across his ageless face as he noticed this; carefully, he leaned closer to Toki. His breath felt impossibly hot against the younger man's neck. "Go to sleep."

And, without restraint, he did.