Table for Two
Six letters. Two syllables. A deceptively simple term. Except, Brian Rafe reflected, when so much of your future happiness depended on the occasion that the word represented. Under those circumstances, "dinner" became an obstacle course, with each misspoken word a pitfall that could knock you right out of competition.
Anything but simple, after all.
"I'm sorry to keep you waiting, sir," the restaurant's perky blonde hostess returned from seating the elderly couple who'd entered just before him. Looking the young detective up and down, her smile subtly turned from perky to expectant as she sized up how attractive he was. After darting her tongue out to wet her lips, she coyly asked, "Will you be dining alone this evening?"
The hopeful tone of her voice settled Brian's nerves a bit. Although he wasn't a vain man, he nonetheless was aware that many people found him attractive. As a result, dealing with eager women was something he had a lot of experience with, not to mention the ardent members of his own sex.
Relieved to be on familiar footing, for a moment or two anyway, Rafe gave the young woman an apologetic smile. "No, I'm meeting someone tonight... but I don't know if he's here yet."
"Oh," the young woman's welcoming smile faded a bit before snapping back into place. Despite her disappointment, however, she was a hospitality industry professional and quickly got down to business. "Maybe I can help. What name would the reservation be under?"
"I'm not sure," Rafe ruefully admitted. "I don't know if he put it under Rafe or Ellison."
The hostess quickly scanned her list. "Here we go,"she chirped, back in full perky mode. "It's under Ellison and it looks like he's already been seated. If you'd follow me, please..."
With a smile of relief, Rafe followed the young woman, glad to hear that the other man had already arrived. He was nervous enough about this dinner engagement, he dreaded to think what would have become of his poor nerves if he'd had to sit and wait for Ellison. It was crucial that he impress this man tonight...
Like an obedient puppy, he followed the hostess through the crowded dining room. The two of them wound their way around tray-laden waiters and patrons on their way to the restroom, passing table after table until they reached a quiet corner in the back. Somehow, Rafe wasn't surprised at the choice, secluded location. It must have cost his dinner companion a pretty penny to reserve a prime spot in Cascade's top restaurant on such short notice but he should have known that this particular man would leave no detail to chance.
"Here you are, safe and sound." The hostess accepted Rafe's thanks and headed back to her post, leaving him to face the man who'd risen with an outstretched hand to greet him.
"Brian! I'm glad that you were able to make it."
Rafe looked into trademark Ellison blue eyes and was lost for a moment in their penetrating gaze. Thankfully, his hand was immune to those baby blues and had risen automatically to return the greeting. The young detective came back to himself when his hand was clasped between the other man's larger ones in a grip that was more of a hand hug than a handshake. If that wasn't disconcerting enough, the other man began to stroke the sensitive skin between his thumb and forefinger.
Before he knew it, Rafe was settled into the chair opposite his companion and the waiter was shooed off with their wine order, all accomplished without the older man relinquishing his gentle grip on Brian's hand.
Ellison was nothing if not efficient.
"So, Brian, I've been wondering ever since I first saw you walk into the squad room, what's a nice boy like you doing in a place like that?"
Rafe gently disengaged his fingers from the other man's grasp and grabbed a conveniently placed water glass, quickly taking a sip to give himself some much-needed distance. After whetting his whistle, he found voice enough to answer. "A policeman helped me out when I was a kid. Ever since then, that's all I wanted to do with my life."
His companion tilted his head, his gaze intent on the younger man. "Really." Ellison blinked lazily as he leaned back in his chair, every inch the indolent feline. "I do admire a man who knows what he wants... and isn't afraid to go after it." His position changing so that he was leaning forward this time, Ellison's hand reached out to firmly intertwine his fingers once again with Rafe's. "That's how I made my mark in the world."
Rafe looked at his entrapped hand as if it belonged to an alien. This was not going as he had planned. "R-really? How so?"
William Ellison gave him a predatory grin before answering. "Being a policeman isn't the only occupation that requires a lack of fear. Business, in its own way, is every bit as ruthless as fighting crime ." He brought their clasped hands up to his lips, and bestowed a soft kiss on the young detective's fingertips. "But I quickly discovered that I have a knack for... mergers and acquisitions."
Rafe blindly reached for his water glass with his free hand. Jim was going to kill him, no doubt about it. His lover was buried up to his sweet ass in paperwork, an inevitable fact after the arrest of the serial killer who had haunted his childhood and then resurfaced only to kidnap his father. Rafe had thought it odd that William Ellison had asked him out to dinner, figuring that the older man would need to rest after his ordeal with Aaron Foster. He'd pushed his surprise aside, however, and accepted the invitation. He and Jim weren't very open about their relationship yet, but Rafe figured it would be a good opportunity to get to know the older Ellison, sort of soften him up and get him to like him before Jim revealed the true nature of their relationship.
He never, in a million years, figured that his lover's father, Jim's DAD for crying out loud, would make a pass at him.
William laughed softly to himself as he watched the younger man's discomfiture. Whether in the conference room or the bedroom, he'd learned long ago the advantage of keeping the opposite party off his guard. "I'm sorry if I seem bold to you," he said, in a tone of voice that was anything but apologetic, "but you don't get what you want out of life if you don't take a chance or two along the way."
Rafe almost choked on the lemon in his water. Not quite a week after he and Jim had become lovers, he'd finally worked up the nerve to tell Jim that he'd admired the courage the other man had taken in approaching him romantically. In their line of work, if the other detective had been wrong about Brian's preferences, well, it wouldn't have been pretty. The younger Ellison had responded with almost the same words that his father just had, except that Jim's accompanying smile had been much more tender than the cocksure smirk that his dad currently wore. It was funny, Rafe mused, how when Jim had said it, he'd never felt more cherished in his life.
When William Ellison said it, all he felt was dirty.
Rafe's dinner partner took advantage of his silence to press his suit. "Come now, Brian. Don't act so shocked. Society has a long way to go, but we're at least past the stage where the thought of two men coming together sexually is unheard of."
Brian set his glass down and firmly removed his hand from William's grasp. "But, you were married. Had children..."
William sighed at the loss of contact, but allowed the younger man his space. "Just because I prefer men, doesn't mean that I was incapable of being a good father. And, in those days, a wife was necessary if you wanted to have kids. I opted out of the arrangement as soon as possible." Ellison smiled again, a hunter sensing a weakness in his prey. "I couldn't help but notice that your protest was because of my former marital status... not because of your own preferences."
Rafe blushed and looked away. Damn. Here he thought that William Ellison would be drained from his hostage ordeal, but the old guy was thinking circles around him. So much for comforting his lover's father.
Before he could answer, there was a chuckle from the other side of the table.
"I can't get over how naive the younger generation is. Do you really think you invented homosexuality?"
"I..." Rafe was reluctant to answer, already uncomfortable with how much William had perceived about him. The last thing he wanted to happen would be to give the older man any sort of impression about Jim. Despite what the elder Ellison had revealed about his own preferences, Brian knew from harsh experience how unforgiving a parent could be.
William sighed. "I understand your hesitancy, Brian, I really do. If you think it's hard being gay in this day and age, you should have tried it forty years ago."
"I'm not ashamed of what I am," Rafe finally admitted. "It's just that when you're a police officer, you have to be careful..."
"I can be discreet," William interrupted, gesturing with his hands to bring attention to the fact that the corner of the restaurant they were in was extremely secluded. "I can take care of you, with my connections, there's not telling how far your career could go..."
"And," Brian finished, acting as though the interruption had never occurred, "I'm already in a committed relationship."
William's forehead creased in a frown. "You are?"
"Then why did you agree to have dinner with me tonight?"
Rafe had been asking himself that question for the last several minutes. "Because I knew Jim would be busy with paperwork and, if my dad had been through what you had just been through, I wouldn't want him to be alone."
"And that's the whole reason."
"Yes." Rafe hoped the firmness of his answer would redirect the conversation. He further attempted to change the subject by picking up his menu. "I haven't been here before, what do you recommend?"
William Ellison was tempted to allow the young man to succeed in steering them towards another topic of discussion. The detective was, after all, a colleague of Jimmy's. Having just reconnected with his older son, he was reluctant to do anything to unbalance the delicate understanding they seemed to have come to.
He remembered how drained he'd felt, sitting in that squad room, waiting for his statement about the abduction to be typed up. He was well acquainted with that feeling, like a tired-out old man, well past his usefulness in life. But then, Brian Rafe had walked in and his attention had been caught by the attractive man with an easy smile. Much to his surprise, the unknown detective had strode right over to him and had asked if he was okay.
Having the undivided and genuine attention of an attractive man who was young enough to be his son had made William Ellison feel more alive than he had for a long, long time. Alive enough that he'd spontaneously asked Rafe to dinner, and even had hopes that the occasion would lead to more than dinner. But now this same young man was telling him that he was just looking after him the same way he would his own father.
Babysitting an old fart too feeble to look after himself.
He didn't believe it, not for a minute. He'd just forgotten how easily intimidated the younger set could be, that was all.
"Brian," Ellison said gently. "I know how hard it is to fight an attraction. It's okay. Really, it is."
Rafe looked up from pretending to study his menu. "Excuse me?"
"Look, I know the connection between us is strong. Believe me, I was surprised by it too..."
Brian put his menu down. It was bad enough that Jim's father had made a play for him, but apparently now the man wouldn't take no for an answer. So much for being polite.
"I don't know how else to say this, William. You're Jim's father. He and I work together." Rafe gulped, hating to understate his relationship to the younger Ellison but knowing it was necessary. "I was just trying to be there for you when your son couldn't. That's it. Nothing else."
"I refuse to believe that."
Brian pushed his chair back and got up from the table. "I think I'd better leave now."
"No, surely that's not necessary..." Ellison protested.
"Yes, I believe it is," Rafe replied, looking into the eyes of his lover's father and seeing nothing there that indicated any kind of understanding of what he was trying to say. "I'm sorry for what you went through with Foster and being a hostage. I'm glad you're okay, but I told you already, I'm in a committed relationship and nothing's going to change that."
Not waiting for an answer, the young detective turned his back on William and angrily strode away.
William Ellison leaned back in his chair, craning his neck to take advantage of the rear view of Brian Rafe striding purposefully away from him. Yes, surviving Corporate America had taught him a lot. The first salvo in his seduction of Brian Rafe had been less than successful, but negotiations were just beginning.
Despite the younger man's apparent rejection, William felt even more rejuvenated than he had before. It was clear to him now that his retirement had made him become complacent. Brian Rafe was the first thing he'd seen in a long time that he'd wanted and he found he wasn't at all disappointed that the detective wasn't going to be an easy conquest.
No doubt he would eventually enjoy having Rafe in his bed, but getting him there would be half the fun.
Rafe trudged up the steps to his townhouse, idly noting that no lights were on. That, coupled with the absence of Jim's truck, meant he would be on his own for the rest of the evening. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing. He wanted to put some distance between himself and his dinner encounter before he had to face his lover. It was beyond him how someone as warm and caring as Jim could have sprung from the loins of a cold and calculating man like William Ellison...
Brian shuddered as the wording of his own mental imagery hit him. No, he did not want to think of William Ellison's loins, not now or ever, thank you very much.
In this absent state of mind, Rafe unlocked his front door and entered the darkened entryway, fumbling for the light switch even as he shut the door behind him.
The breath was knocked out of him as a lean and muscular body suddenly and forcefully pressed him against the wall.
"So, you wanna tell me what you were doing going out to dinner while I was stuck doing paperwork?" The sibilant tones of the whispered voice in his ear caused Brian to shiver but the erection pressed up against his own groin belied the harsh nature of his attacker's words.
The pressure of the other man's warm body against his was removed just as suddenly as it had appeared. "Hey, you okay?"
Rafe blinked as a bright light was suddenly switched on. "Y-yeah," he answered. "You just surprised me, that's all."
Seeing the younger man's genuine startlement, Jim's mood went from frisky to concerned. "I left the blind half-mast, just like we agreed on." He cautiously approached the younger man, stopping just shy of touching him.
Brian looked over at the window. The blind was indeed pulled half-way down, the lovers' signal for "I want to play, prepare to be pounced." It had proven necessary when a playful Sentinel had ambushed his unsuspecting lover, very nearly resulting in Brian shooting him before he realized just who it was that had grabbed him. "Damn. I'm sorry, Jim, I didn't even notice."
Rafe moved forward to lean his forehead against Ellison's chest, a silent request to be held. Jim didn't make him wait, wrapping long arms around his lover. "What's the matter?"
"You're going to kill me."
Despite his dire prediction, Brian's body relaxed as the warm hands that held him moved to his back, rubbing circles of warmth into tense muscles. "I doubt that, babe. Sandburg's the only one I'd trust to help hide the body and you know how squeamish he is."
Brian smiled and relaxed further into the comforting embrace. "Do you know who I had dinner with?" Not that he really wanted to tell Jim about his evening, but better it come from him than from William.
The gentle massage stopped for a moment, the continued. "H said it was with my dad."
Rafe lifted his head to look the older man in the eyes. "I was going to tell you, but you were booking Foster. I know you wanted to make sure everything was by the book and that bastard wouldn't get out on a technicality, but I thought maybe your father shouldn't be alone."
"So you had dinner with him. Why?"
"Because he's your father."
Jim rewarded him with a kiss. "Thanks." After pulling back, he tilted his head to the side and took a good look at Brian's face. "Something tells me that it didn't go as well as you'd hoped."
Suddenly tense again, Rafe broke their embrace and started pacing. "I don't know what I was thinking. I thought I could use the time to get to know him, so that if we ever decided to tell him, you know, about us, that maybe it'd help if he already liked me."
Jim leaned back against the wall, arms folded across his chest. "Sounds reasonable."
Facing away from Ellison, Brian stopped pacing and snorted in disgust. "Reason had nothing to do with it, trust me."
Ellison left his post by the door and approached his younger lover from behind, placing careful hands on the smaller man's shoulders. "So, what went wrong?"
Brian bit his lip, reaching up to cover one of Jim's hands with his own. Looking back over his shoulder at his lover, he finally gathered up his courage to tell the bare bones of what had happened. "Jim, honest to God, your dad made a pass at me."
Blue eyes blinked. "Excuse me?"
Rafe turned all the way around. "He held my hand, Jim. Gave me some sort of line about mergers and acquisitions. Said it was easier being gay today than it was forty years ago."
Another blink. "Gay. My old man is gay."
"Umm, yeah, I'd say so."
Jim let go of Brian's shoulders and staggered back a step or two, finally turning his back on his partner. Seeing the taller man's shoulders start to shake, it was Brian's turn to carefully approach his lover.
"Jim, you okay? I know this is a shock..." One hand was placed on the small of Ellison's back, enough of a touch to let the older man knew that he was there for him, but not enough to intrude on his space if he needed distance.
Ellison turned around, to reveal tears of laughter running down his face. "All these years, I've been worried about my father finding out I like guys... when it turns out all along that he's been out there doing some pole dancing of his own."
Rafe's worried tone penetrated the Sentinel's fog of stupefaction. Jim wiped the tears of merriment from his cheeks and hurried to pull his lover into a hug. "Thank you, Brian. You have no idea what this means to me."
"You're not mad?"
The hug tightened. "How could I be mad? If you hadn't had dinner with him, I would never known my dad was gay. I would have gone God knows how long, keeping the best part of my self hidden from him. But know I don't have to, all because my father was attracted to you." Something occurred to Jim and he pulled back to give Brian a frown. "You said he made a pass at you. You didn't... take him up on it, did you?"
"No, you idiot, I didn't." Sometimes, Brian couldn't tell when Jim was being serious and when he was joking. "I told him I was in a relationship already. A committed relationship. I didn't tell him it was you, though."
"That's okay, there'll be time enough to let him know."
Brian settled back into Jim's arms, grateful for his lover's reaction, but not sure that the other man was taking the news seriously enough. "Jim...there might be a problem."
"Well, you know I said I turned him down?" Brian felt his lover's chin brush the top of his head as the taller man nodded. "Well, I'm not sure that he accepted it."
Warm hands came underneath Rafe's chin, lifting his face for Jim to kiss. "I can't say as I blame him, babe," came the Sentinel's affectionate reply. "You're pretty hard to resist."
"I'm serious, Jim. He was pretty persistent." Briefly, Rafe outlined the tenor of his conversation with William Ellison.
"Brian, he'd just had a traumatic experience. He wasn't himself. I'm sure that's all there was to it. Hell, in the morning, I bet he'll be embarrassed."
Brian didn't think so, but let the issue drop.
"I think we need to celebrate."
Rafe grinned at the almost giddy tone in his lover's voice. "What did you have in mind?"
"Well, it seems to me that I'm the wronged party here. You went to dinner without me, after all." Jim looked and sounded hopeful.
Brian made a show of giving in. "Oh, all right! Your choice tonight. What did you have in mind?" Knowing full well what the older man would choose.
Ellison's grin lit up the room. "You could wear.... you know... them."
"What's the point of putting them on if you're just going to take them off me again?" Feigned innocence this time.
Jim's voice became husky. "Taking them off you is the whole point."
"If you insist," Rafe said with a grin, taking Jim's hand and heading for the stairs to the upper level where the bedroom was located. "Other guys are into leather or maybe cowboy chaps. You're the only man I know who's fantasy is of having his lover put on a pair of jeans."
"It's just that you don't wear denim all that often. I mean, you always look great, babe," Jim justified, "but jeans fit you so well, hug all the right curves, have holes in all the right places...."
Thinking of the carefully placed rips that Jim was referring to and what the Sentinel's tongue could do to the flesh the rents in the fabric exposed, Brian picked up the pace towards the bedroom.
Laughing, his lover kept up, but was unable to resist one final comment.
"One thing I have to say about my dad, he sure has fine taste in men."
~ the end ~
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