Title: Conceptions 5: Imperfect
Website: Maddie's Fanfiction http://www.cruelhaven.org/maddie/
Feedback: Yes, please!
Rating: barely PG
Archive: After beta.
Disclaimer: They don't belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.
Summary: Toby planned a perfect Valentine's Day celebration. Chris... didn't.
Notes: This is set soon after Chris gets released from Oz and moves in with Toby and the kids, on their first Valentine's Day together. Very obviously unbeta'd. Inspired by an Alan Jackson song, and all the guys I saw in Wal Mart at 6 am this morning desperately searching for Valentine cards and gifts. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!
Chris Keller slammed the back door as he came in, stopping short when he saw Toby at the stove.
"Hi, Chris," Toby said, coming over to claim a kiss. "How was your day?"
"It sucked," Chris said succinctly, grabbing a beer from the refrigerator before sinking into a chair. "Why are you home early? Where are the kids?"
"I thought we'd have a nice quiet dinner alone tonight. Mom and Dad are watching the kids. Didn't find anything today, huh?" Toby asked, referring to Chris's search for a job.
Chris grimaced. "No. Either I'm not qualified, or if by some miracle I *am* qualified, they find out I'm an ex-con, and won't hire me."
"Chris, you know I've told you - - "
"Don't, Toby," Chris said coolly. "I told *you* I'm not sitting here while you support me."
Toby sighed, but didn't press the matter."Fine, let's not argue, okay? Let's have dinner."
"Okay," Chris said, his tone warmer now. "Did you cook?" he asked teasingly.
"Despite your obvious lack of faith in my culinary abilities - -"
"I love it when you use the big words," Chris grinned.
"- - I can cook," Toby continued. "Tonight, however, I didn't. I ordered from Morelli's."
Chris sniffed. "Is that manicotti?"
"Yes, your favorite."
Chris moaned. "This day is definitely getting better."
"Why don't you go and get changed, and we'll eat," Toby said as he placed a vase of fresh flowers on the table.
"I gotta change clothes before I eat?"
"You don't *have* to. I just thought, it's a special occasion... you don't have to dress up or anything."
"Special occasion?" Chris said, his confusion evident.
"Chris, it's our first real Valentine's Day. I thought we could, you know, make it special..." Toby studied Chris. "You forgot," he said flatly.
Chris stood, reaching out placatingly to Toby. "Toby, I... it's been a crazy couple of weeks, me trying to find a job, making sure someone's home for the kids every afternoon... Look, I'll go get changed and we'll have dinner, okay?"
"Okay," Toby said tonelessly, hurt that Chris could forget the holiday. After all, the last couple of nights had been spent helping Harry and Holly get their Valentines ready to take to school. Not to mention the deluge of Valentine-themed advertisements on TV. Toby set the table, no longer as excited as he had been.
Chris came back in as Toby was putting salad on the table. He'd changed into his newest jeans and a dark blue oxford shirt, one Chris knew Toby loved, the one Toby said matched his eyes.
Dinner was quiet and the atmosphere tense. Toby was still hurt, and a little angry at Chris.
Chris was embarrassed and angry at himself for forgetting, when Toby had obviously gone to such trouble. And he suspected Toby had a gift for him, or a card at the very least.
Chris's suspicions were confirmed when they went to the living room to have dessert - - New York cheesecake, Chris's favorite - - and Toby silently handed him a gift bag covered in red hearts, along with a large white envelope.
"Toby," Chris began, "look, let me run out and get you something, okay?"
Toby set his cheesecake down. "Why bother, Chris?" he said, disappointment evident in his voice. "It just... wouldn't be the same. It wouldn't mean anything."
"Toby, please, I - - "
"Forget it. This was obviously a bad idea. I just thought, it's our first real Valentine's Day... Don't!" He said angrily as Chris reached out to him. "I'm going for a walk. I need to get out for a while."
Chris watched him leave, then stared at his gift for a few minutes before opening it with a sigh. It was a teddy bear in a devil costume, "Hot Stuff" emblazoned across his chest, with a bag of chocolate kisses tied to one paw. Chris smiled sadly as he dropped it back in the bag and picked up the card. He realized Toby must've made the card himself. It showed a silhouette of two men against the background of
yet another red heart. The front read "To the man I love on Valentine's Day".
Chris opened it and read the verse inside: "I love you, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I'm with you." Underneath, Toby had written "I never imagined I could be this happy again. I don't know what I did to deserve this miracle, but I intend to try and be worthy of it. Love, Toby".
Chris shook his head in amazement. It usually took him much longer than this to fuck up a relationship, and he'd managed it this time without even trying. He took his present and card and went upstairs. He placed them carefully on the dresser, then undressed and got into bed.
He was still lying there, too miserable to sleep, when Toby came home. He waited until Toby slipped into bed beside him before turning over to face him.
"Toby - -"
"Chris - -"
"Let me say this, please, Toby."
"I'm sorry. I fucked up. I don't have any excuse, I should've remembered. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me, you know? No one's ever believed in me like you do, Toby, that I could change. Please, let me make this up to you."
Toby reached out and stroked Chris's cheek. "Chris, I need to apologize, too. I should've talked to you about tonight. And I shouldn't have stormed out of here the way I did. I'm sorry. I acted like a bitch. I don't need a card or a gift to know that you love me."
"I do, Toby, more than anything. But I'm nowhere near perfect. This won't be the last time I fuck up, you know."
Toby grinned. "Well, if past history is any indication, it won't be the last time I do, either. What do you say we just forget about tonight and move on, okay?"
"That'd be great. And Toby, another thing. I overreacted when you asked me about staying home and looking after the kids and the house while you work. I'm just... I've never done anything like that, and I'm not sure I can handle it."
"I think you can handle it. But it's up to you. Whatever you decide to do, I'm behind you."
"I can try it. We'll see how it goes."
"Good. Now, even though this evening didn't turn out quite the way I planned, Mom and Dad are keeping the kids tonight. It'd be a shame not to take advantage of that, don't you think?"
Chris nodded, sliding his hand into Toby's boxers as he moved in for a kiss. "It would. I intend to take full advantage of it."