Title: Road Work 4: Dinner With Chris
Website: Maddie's Fanfiction <http://www.cruelhaven.org/maddie/>
Feedback: Yes, please!
Disclaimer: They don't belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.
Summary: Chris and Toby have dinner together and deal with family.
Notes: Thanks to Ahavia and Haven for beta and their great ideas. And look, Rifka! Twenty pages, finally.
Road Work 4: Dinner with Chris
After Chris left, Toby made himself a sandwich for dinner, grabbed a beer and sat in front of the TV. Nothing managed to hold his interest. He gave it up at ten and headed to bed. His thoughts kicked into overdrive then. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw Chris. Chris in the road with his shirt pushed up, Chris kissing him breathless, Chris staring at him as he fucked him, his eyes black with desire. Toby's hand slipped down to his boxers, pushing them lower to free his swollen cock. He brought himself off, the image of Chris fucking him pushing him over the edge. He cleaned himself up with a handful of tissues and feel into a deep sleep.
Chris went home and fed his dog, a Rottweiler, giving him some extra attention to make up for his long absence. Then he went inside and microwaved some leftovers for his dinner. He was exhausted from two days of work without sleep, so he took a long shower, then went up to bed early.
Once Chris made it to bed, not even the overwhelming fatigue he felt kept his mind off Toby. After a half hour of a Toby-based porn montage running through his head, he gave up and did what he'd told Toby he would do - - he jerked off, and was finally able to sleep.
The next morning, he awoke refreshed, and happy, thinking of his date with Toby the next night. He got dressed, and waited for his best friend and coworker, Augustus Hill, to pick him up.
A few minutes after Chris got in the car, Augustus looked at him critically.
"You got laid last night, right? Thank God. You were a bastard all day yesterday."
"Fuck you! I did not get laid last night, and I was not a bastard."
"Come on, Keller. No one could even look at you yesterday. Now here you are, all smiling. You can't fool me. I've known you too long."
Chris looked at Augustus, his best friend since grade school. "Okay, I met someone."
"You're always meeting someone."
"Well, this one's different."
"So, come on, spill, what's she - - or he - - like?"
"He is a gorgeous blonde. And he's... Augustus, he's not like anyone I've ever met, man or woman. He's coming over for dinner tomorrow night."
Augustus smiled, having been through this with his friend before, hoping this time it was for real. "That's great, man, I hope it works out."
Toby woke up smiling, then frowned, thinking how long it was before he's see Chris. He got dressed and headed to work, cheered by the fact that he would be hearing from Chris today.
Around nine, his secretary, Sarah, let him know there was a Chris Keller on the phone.
"Thank you, Sarah, put him through."
"Toby. How are you?"
"I'm great, how about you?"
"Yeah, fine. I'm on my break. I wanted to give you directions to my place."
Toby grabbed a pen and paper. "Go ahead."
Chris gave him detailed directions. "Listen, I gotta get back to work. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Okay, goodbye then."
Toby hung up the phone just as his father walked in the door, without knocking. This practice of his father's annoyed Toby, especially considering it was his father who taught him to knock before entering a room. Toby didn't complain, still in a good mood from hearing Chris's voice.
"Good morning, Toby, how are you?"
"Fine, Dad, how are you?"
"I'm fine, too. You do seem to be in a better mood than yesterday. I came by to see if you wanted to have lunch today."
"Sure. I'm finishing up some of Mrs. Clark's stuff, but I should be done by twelve."
"All right, I'll meet you downstairs then."
They went to a nearby restaurant Toby's father favored. After they ordered, Harrison looked at Toby and commented, "You aren't working too hard are you, son?"
"No, Dad, I'm fine. I've uh, been up late for a couple of nights, but I'm fine."
"Well, your mother and I worry about you. We know you're still adjusting to the divorce..."
"It's been well over a year since it was final, Dad. I'm as over it as I ever will be."
"Well, in any case, your mother made me promise I would convince you to come for lunch on Sunday. Angus will be home."
Toby smiled. He missed his brother since he'd been away at law school. "I'll be there." Then he thought about the night he had planned with Chris. "Dad, if I'm late, start without me. I'll be there, though."
Their food arrived, and they ate, talking about how different cases were going until it was time to go back to the office.
After work, Toby picked up Chinese for dinner. Once home, he changed into jeans and a t-shirt, forgoing shoes, and sat down at the kitchen table to eat. Afterwards, he did a little cleaning, then lay down on the couch to read. He tried for an hour before putting the book down.
Restless, he got up and decided to do laundry. He went to the bedroom to get the dirty clothes he'd brought home with him from Fairview. As he opened his bag and began pulling out the soiled clothes, a piece of paper fluttered to the floor. Toby grinned and picked it up. The morning before, he couldn't imagine why he brought Chris's note home with him. Now he was glad he did. He laid it carefully on his bedside table and took his dirty clothes to the washer.
After work, Augustus asked Chris if he wanted to stop off for a beer on the way home.
"Nah, I'm gonna try and work on the bathroom, get it finished. You better go home, too. I don't want you calling telling me Annabella kicked your ass for coming home late and drunk."
"Fuck you, Keller. I'll see you Monday."
Chris laughed, then let himself in his gate, stopping to scratch his dog behind the ears. Chris lived in the house he'd grown up in, inherited when his father died. It was an old farm-type house, which Chris was slowly restoring. Chris had done construction work with a building company some years before, and was glad for the experience now that he was working on his own house.
This afternoon, he was working on finishing up the bathroom. He had enlarged it, and installed a separate shower stall and garden tub. The bathroom walls were painted a pale peach, with blue and white accents that matched the tile, giving the room a southwestern feel. Chris was working on baseboard and trim this afternoon.
He stopped working around eight, and was about to take a shower when the phone rang.
"Chris, it's Toby."
"Toby! How you doin'?"
"Some of my directions not clear?"
"No, they were fine. I just... I didn't really call for any reason. I just wanted to hear your voice, Chris."
There was a lengthy silence from Chris's end.
"Chris? Are you there?"
"Yeah, I'm here, Toby. I'm glad you called."
"Yeah? So, what are you doing?"
"I just finished up the trim in my bathroom. I'm remodeling."
"And you're doing it yourself?"
"Yeah. I used to work with this construction company, and it's really come in handy."
"So, do I need to let you get back to that?"
"No, I'm done. I was about to take a shower."
"You worked up a sweat, huh?"
"Yeah, I don't have central air yet, and it's pretty hot in there."
"Just thinking of you all sweaty."
There was silence, then Chris laughed, low and sexy. "Yeah, I'm all sweaty. I had to take my shirt off. I'm standing here just wearing jeans. So what are you wearing, Toby?"
"T-shirt and jeans."
"Ah. And where are you?"
"I'm lying in bed. Where are you?"
"Standing in the kitchen. I'm going to move somewhere more comfortable. Why don't you take your shirt off?"
"`Cause I want you to run your hands over that gorgeous chest for me."
Toby exhaled sharply.
"You okay, baby?"
"Fine. I'm going to take my shirt off."
"You do that. I'm on the couch and I'm unzipping my jeans. You need to do that, too."
There was a pause, then Toby was back. "Okay, I'm here."
"Good. You running your hands over your chest? Imagine that I'm doing that to you, Toby."
"Oh, God, Chris..."
"And then," Chris continued, his voice raspy, "my hand goes down lower, to touch your beautiful cock. Thinking about touching you is making me hard. You hard for me, Toby?"
"Yes," Toby hissed.
"You touchin' yourself, baby? Thinkin' about me with my hand on you?"
"Now, tell me what you want me to do to you, Toby."
"Uh, Chris, I'm not very good at this kind of thing."
"Come on, baby, it's just me. You can tell me."
After a few seconds of hesitation, Toby said, "I... want you to suck me."
"Okay, baby, imagine I'm sucking you. I've got my mouth all the way down on your hard dick. Can you feel that?"
"Uhnn, yeah, Chris..."
Chris pumped his own cock as he listened to Toby's gasps and whimpers.
"That's it, baby, imagine you've got your hands on my head, fucking my mouth. You see that, Toby?"
"Oh yes, Chris, I'm so close."
"That's good, baby," Chris said, his own breathing becoming erratic. "I am, too. Come for me, Toby, imagine you're shooting down my throat."
Toby became incoherent at that point, but Chris wasn't exactly capable of speech either. After they came back down and cleaned themselves, Toby shyly said, "Chris, that was amazing. I've never done that before."
"You're a natural. I just wish you were here."
"Tomorrow night. And I have a feeling tomorrow's going to be a very long day."
"You got that right."
"Well, I'm going to let you go now. I'll see you in... about 21 hours."
Chris laughed. "Okay. Good night, Toby. Sweet dreams."
"They will be now. Good night, Chris."
The next morning, Chris asked his sister Grace if he could ride along to the grocery store with her.
"I really appreciate this, Gracie," Chris told her as she helped him bring in his groceries.
"No problem, Chris, I don't mind helping you with stuff like this. I'm assuming you'll get your junker fixed eventually."
"That is not a junker," Chris said severely. "That is a classic 1966 Mustang convertible. And Ronnie is going to help me fix it up."
"Okay, whatever," Grace said, putting corn in the refrigerator. "It always amazes me that someone as clueless as Ronnie can actually fix stuff."
"Well, he works for beer, so that's good for me."
Grace laughed. She was a good six inches shorter than Chris, but shared her brother's intense blue eyes and dark hair, and kept hers cut almost as short. "So, who are you cooking for?"
"Aren't you nosey today?"
"Come on, Chris. You never have anyone over here, and you never cook for anyone except us. And you're happy. I say this one's special," Grace said knowingly.
"So, shouldn't you be getting home soon? Won't Jaz be missing you?"
Grace laughed. "No, Jaz is at work, doing payroll today. He won't be home for a few hours."
Grace's husband, Jaz Hoyt, co-owned a trucking company with his father. It was a true family business, his mother working there as a receptionist, and several cousins were drivers. Grace had worked there, and still helped out on occasion, but at the moment was going back to school to get her business degree.
"So, you want something to drink?" Chris asked.
"Nah, I really do have to get back. We've let the laundry pile up all week. Jaz had to fill in for a driver this week, and I've been busy with classes."
"You see Ma this week?"
"We went over Tuesday afternoon so Jaz could cut her grass. She was doing good."
"I'm planning to go over tomorrow."
"Okay. I'll see you later. And Chris? I was teasing you before. It's really good to see you so happy."
"Thanks, Gracie," Chris said, hugging her. "As soon as I can, I'll tell you all about it."
Toby spent his Saturday running errands - - picking up dry cleaning, going by the bookstore for a book he'd ordered, and grocery shopping.
As the afternoon wore on, he started to obsess over what to wear. He was almost positive it would be casual, but Chris hadn't said. But what if he dressed down and Chris dressed up? He didn't want Chris to think he didn't feel like this date was as special as Chris did. Or, if he dressed up, and Chris didn't, then Chris would feel bad. He almost called Chris once, but then chided himself for acting like a teenage girl on her first date. He finally decided on khakis and a black polo shirt. He left early, to give himself plenty of time to find the house. It turned out to be unnecessary, as Chris's directions were easy to follow, and he managed to arrive only 15 minutes early.
Chris had described the place well, the cedar trees lining the property, the magnolia and weeping willow trees in the front yard. There was a chain link fence surrounding the house and large yard, and Toby soon saw why. A large dog ran from around back, barking furiously. Toby identified it as a Rottweiler, and thought that it must weigh at least 120 pounds. He got out of the car, but didn't make a move toward the gate until he saw Chris coming from around back.
The dog ran to Chris to let his master scratch behind his ears.
"Toby. You found the place."
"Yeah. You give good directions. That's some dog."
"Sure is, ain't that right, boy?" Chris said, petting the large animal. "Come on in, Toby."
"He won't hurt you. Come on," Chris said, holding the gate open.
Toby reluctantly walked in. Moose walked up to him, sniffing Toby, then nudged his hand. Toby reached out to pat his head.
"Damn," Chris said. "I've never seen him do that before. He usually doesn't like strangers."
"Huh." Toby looked at Chris, who was wearing a short sleeved white button-up shirt over blue jeans. Tight jeans.
"You look great, Chris."
"You're lookin' good yourself, Tobe. Come on in the house."
As soon as they were inside the door, Chris turned and pushed Toby against it, then kissed him.
"I've been wanting to do that ever since I left you the other day," Chris said.
"Oh, yeah," Toby said, "me, too."
"Come on in the kitchen. I haven't done anything in there, so it's still kind of... well, you'll see."
"Will you show me what you have done later?"
The kitchen was medium sized, with butcher block counters. But the walls were painted a pale orange color, and the floor was covered in linoleum with a tan design, which was ripped in spots.
"I told you it was bad. I plan to repaint the walls, and there's a real hardwood floor under this ugly linoleum. I want to redo it."
"So, you bought this place and decided to restore it?"
"Nah, I grew up here."
Toby looked at him in surprise. "Really?"
"Yeah. I got it when my dad died."
"I'm sorry about your dad."
"Thanks. It was fifteen years ago. A car accident," Chris said, going to the refrigerator. "Want a beer?"
"Sit down. I've got the steaks marinating, and I've got some corn I'm grilling, too."
"Mmm, sounds good."
Chris went to check the grill, then came back for the steaks, allowing Toby to help him bring the steaks and corn out. They ate at the kitchen table, making small talk as they did, Chris telling him more about what he still planned to do to the house.
"And I wanna get rid of the wallpaper in the living room..." Chris was saying, when he noticed Toby staring at him. "What?"
"You have butter on your chin," Toby told him. Chris reached for a napkin, but Toby put his hand over Chris's. "I'll get it."
Toby went over and leaned down, licking the butter from Chris's chin and kissing him softly.
"Jesus, Toby," Chris said, pushing back from the table. "I guess I'm done."
"Me, too. Want to show me the bedroom now?"
"Yeah," Chris agreed.
Chris led Toby to the bedroom, turning on the light, and standing aside to let Toby enter. The walls were a light blue, the blinds and bedding a darker blue.
Toby ran his fingers over the trim around the door.
"This is nice, Chris. You're very talented."
"Thanks. My sister Grace did all the decorating, though. God only knows what it would look like if I had. But I enjoyed redoing it. I like the idea of taking something old and making it beautiful again."
"If you can do all this," Toby said, indicating the bedroom, "why are you doing road construction?"
"It's steady work, it pays well. I want to finish the house. I've always wanted to do that, restore houses, for a living, you know, have my own business."
"You could do that."
"That takes a lot of money, Toby. And, I dropped out of high school. I went back and got my GED, but still... Besides, I don't want to talk about that. Come here," Chris said, sitting down on the bed. After Toby joined him, Chris reached out to play with the curls at the back of Toby's neck. "So, can you stay over?"
Toby smiled and reached out to cup Chris's cheek. "I'd love to."
"Think we're moving too fast here?" Chris asked with a grin.
"Probably, but I want you too much to care," Toby said.
"I like the way you think, baby," Chris said as he pulled Toby close for a kiss.
"God, I love the way you kiss," Toby sighed.
"What else do you like, Toby? What else do you want me to do to you?"
Toby groaned. "Let me do something for you, Chris. I want to make you feel as good as you make me feel."
"You sure, baby? We can go slow. You don't have to do this if you're not ready."
"I want to. Let me undress you?"
"Yeah, undress me, Toby."
Toby moved in front of Chris, taking his time unbuttoning his lover's shirt. He pushed the shirt down Chris's arms, then ran his hands across the sculpted chest, loving the way Chris shivered as his fingers made contact with his nipples.
"Stand up for me," Toby said, "and kick off your shoes."
Chris did as Toby asked, then Toby got to his knees and unzipped the tight jeans, pushing them and Chris's underwear down, allowing Chris to step out of them. Toby looked up at Chris reverently.
"Chris, you are so sexy."
"So are you, baby. Come up here and I'll show you just sexy I think you are."
Toby shook his head. "Uh-uh. This is for you. Look, Chris, I'm not very experienced. So, just... don't laugh."
"Baby, laughing is the last thing on my mind. I'm already hard from you just touching me."
Toby caught sight of the butterfly tattoo on Chris's upper thigh. He traced it with his finger. "When did you get this?"
Chris grimaced. "A long time ago. It seemed like a good idea at the time."
"It's cute," Toby said, leaning over to lick it.
"I was - - ah, Toby - - kinda going for sexy."
"Mmm. Cute and sexy," Toby agreed, moving over to Chris's cock. He licked lightly at the head and Chris shivered again. Satisfied with that reaction, he licked along the length of the hard shaft, this time eliciting a moan from Chris. Toby hesitantly put his mouth over the leaking cock, remembering the way Chris had done it to him. He went down too far and started to gag. He backed off quickly. "Sorry, Chris."
"You're trying too hard. Just take it easy, give your throat time to relax."
Toby tried again, doing better, not trying to take as much at once.
"Oh, fuck, baby, that's good," Chris said.
Toby got braver after that, and soon Chris was groaning, trying not to thrust into Toby's hot mouth.
Chris pulled back. "Don't make me come yet. I wanna fuck you, Toby. Can I?"
Toby stood up. "Oh, yes."
"Here, let's get you out of these," Chris said, helping Toby to undress.
When Toby was naked, Chris motioned him to the bed. "Lie down for me." Toby stretched out on the bed, his pale body stark against the dark blue sheets. Chris stroked Toby down his side, all the way to his knees. "Baby, I know I told you already, but you are gorgeous."
Toby blushed. "You make me feel that way."
"You are that way. I know you've been told that before."
Toby turned his head. "No, quite the opposite," Toby said, his voice flat. "Can we move on?"
Toby missed the look of sadness in Chris's eyes. He lay down beside Toby. "Yeah, we can move on. But, Toby? Whoever told you that is insane. You're beautiful," Chris said as he rubbed his hand over Toby's chest. He leaned over to lick at the dusky nipples. Toby hissed, head thrown back, as Chris sucked at each one, before moving down to swirl his tongue around Toby's belly button. Toby practically sat up, dislodging Chris.
"Ooh, somebody's ticklish," Chris said, delighted.
"Chris," Toby said, warning tone in his voice. "If you keep that up, I won't be responsible for my actions."
"Okay. I'll keep it in mind for later, when your reflexes are off." Chris moved back down again, this time going straight for Toby's cock.
"Oh, God, Chris, that is so good," Toby breathed.
Chris kept it up, bringing Toby almost to the point of orgasm before backing off.
"I wanna fuck you now, baby," Chris told him, reaching into the bedside table drawer for lube and a condom. "Pull your legs up for me."
Toby did, resting them on Chris's shoulders. Chris took it slowly, opening Toby up gently, then he slipped on the condom and prepared to enter his lover.
"You ready, baby?"
"Yeah, fuck me, Chris."
Toby was relaxed, and Chris slid in easily. "Ah, Jesus, Toby, you feel so good," Chris said, thrusting slowly. "I missed this, missed you."
"Me, too, Chris," Toby said, panting. "Fuck me harder?"
"Anything you want, baby," Chris said, thrusting harder. "Better?"
"Mmm, yesss," Toby hissed, rising up to meet each thrust.
"Toby, you look so hot right now," Chris told him, leaning down to kiss his sweaty lover. "I'm not gonna last much longer. Make yourself come for me, baby."
Toby, eyes locked with Chris's, reached for his cock, pumping it as Chris thrust harder and harder. They both came yelling each other's names. Chris managed to take off the condom and throw it away before he collapsed beside Toby. He rooted beside the bed and came up with his discarded underwear, which he used to clean Toby. They lay there, breathing slowly returning to normal.
Toby slid over into Chris's waiting arms, both falling into a dreamless sleep.
They slept late the next morning, waking up in each other's arms.
"Morning," Chris said, running his hand through Toby's hair.
"Morning," Toby said sleepily.
"How soon do you have to leave? I wish we could just stay in bed all day."
"I'd like nothing better. But, I promised my parents I'd come by for lunch. My brother Angus will be there. I haven't seen a lot of him since he's been in law school."
"You just have the one brother?"
"Yeah, that's it. You?"
"One sister, Grace, she's five years younger. And two stepbrothers, but I'm not close to them."
"Chris, when can I see you again?"
"Whenever you want, baby," Chris smiled. "It'll be hard with work, though."
Toby got out of bed and started to dress. "I may be able to come back sometime this week. The client I was here to see is apparently a little eccentric. She won't come to the office. I have to go see her."
"She must be an important client."
"Yes, Mrs. Clark is filthy rich, and evidently changes her will every few months to include whichever niece or nephew she favors at the time."
"Rosie Clark? Is she your client?"
"Yeah. You know her?"
"I used to do yard work for her. She's a little weird, but she's okay."
"Well, when I find out what day I'll be here, I'll call and let you know."
Chris slipped on his jeans to walk Toby to the door. Toby stopped by the phone table.
"Chris, I'm leaving my home and cell phone numbers. Call me."
"Let me guess, you want a kiss before you go?"
Toby grinned. "Please."
Chris threaded his hand through Toby's hair and kissed him tenderly.
"Now hold me until the dizziness passes," Toby teased.
Chris laughed and pulled Toby to him. "I wish I never had to let you go, babe."
Chris opened the door and Moose immediately ran up.
"Hey, boy, how you doin'?" Chris said, kneeling to pet the dog.
Toby patted the dog's huge head and stepped off the porch.
Toby drove home and showered, then dressed to go to see his parents, managing to make it there by one.
Victoria Beecher fussed over her son, fixing him a huge plate of food. Then she, Harrison and Angus sat with him as he ate, getting him caught up on all the news. Harrison told how Toby had impressed Mrs. Clark, landing her account, and both he and Victoria commented on how happy Toby seemed.
After Toby finished, Angus talked him into going for a walk.
As soon as they were outside, Angus said, "So, tell me."
"Tell you what?"
"You met someone."
"Come on, I know that look. What's she like?"
Toby blushed. "Well, it's not exactly a she."
"A guy?" Angus laughed. "This is great."
"Well, I'm glad you feel that way."
"When are you telling Mom and Dad?"
"I don't know, I just met him the other day."
"This is great," Angus repeated.
"You're being really good about this, Angus, thanks."
"Sure. Once Mom and Dad find out about this, anything I get into for months will pale in comparison."
"You asshole," Toby said good naturedly.
"I'm kidding, Toby. I'm happy for you."
"Thanks, Angus. So, tell me how school is going."
After Toby left, Chris showered and went to visit his mother and stepfather. Chris's mom, Margaret, and his stepfather, Vern Schillinger, lived about 30 minutes away. Vern had worked for a power company until a fall put him on disability. Margaret, who had been a nurse's aide, didn't work now, either. When Chris got there, they were just finishing lunch.
Chris hugged his mom. "Hey, Ma, how you doin?"
Margaret, who looked older than her fifty years, smiled. "I'm doing fine, honey, how are you?"
"I'm great. Hey, Vern, how are you?"
"I'm good. You been working on the road this week? Hot out there."
"It's okay. I like being outside."
"Chris, go get something to eat. It's still warm, and there's plenty," Margaret urged. "When have you seen your sister?"
"Yesterday, I went to the grocery store with her."
"She and Jaz were over here last week. Jaz cut the grass."
"Gracie told me."
Chris sat down to eat while Margaret caught him up on all the family news, and neighborhood gossip.
"Chris, I'm worried about Grace. I'm afraid she's doing too much, trying to go to school, and taking care of the house. And you know she still helps out at the trucking company, too."
"Ma, Grace is fine. Jaz wouldn't let her push herself too hard. He helps out around the house. He takes good care of her. I'm glad she's able to go back to school."
"I am too. I wish you could've gone to college, Chris."
"I'm fine, Ma. I'm makin' it just fine."
"I know, I just - - " The phone cut her off. Margaret answered, then told Chris and Vern it was Eugenia Hill, Augustus's mother, and she would take it in the living room.
"Vern, how's Ma doin', really?"
"She's better. The doctor was real proud of her on her last visit. She's cut way back on her drinking."
"And her heart, and blood pressure?"
"She's still taking her pills, but it's okay."
Margaret had a heart attack several years before, and had never quite bounced back. Her condition wasn't helped by the fact that she was an alcoholic.
"What about Hank and Andy?" Chris asked, referring to Vern's sons.
Vern frowned. "Andy's still on drugs real bad. We never see him unless he wants money. And Hank and Carrie never come around until they need a babysitter for Jewel. I told Maggie that baby's too much for her, but you know how she is."
"I know. You two okay, you need money?"
"No, Chris, you keep your money. We're fine."
"Eugenia sends her love, Chris," Margaret said as she walked back in.
"Augustus and I are supposed to work on her laundry room next weekend. Her washer leaked and the floor rotted."
Chris stayed another couple of hours, chatting with Vern and Margaret. When he was ready to leave, his mother appeared with a bag.
"Chris, these are a few things I fixed and froze, some lasagne and soup, stuff like that. Take it."
"Ma, you know I can cook, right?"
"Yes, but I know you're tired at the end of the day, and working on the house, you don't need to have to cook, too."
"Okay, thanks, Ma," he said, giving her a hug.
"You be careful, Chris," Vern said from his recliner.
"I will. See you guys later."
When Chris got home and put the food away, he grabbed a beer and went to call his sister.
Jaz answered. "Chris, how you doin'?"
"Yeah, good. Here's Grace."
"Hi, Chris, ready to tell me about last night?"
"No, but it went well. I went to see Ma today. Vern says she cut back on her drinking."
"She needs to stop the drinking, Chris. Her liver's bad already. But you know how Vern said she jumped all over her doctor when he suggested a dry out place."
"I can imagine."
"Chris, she's not going to stop until she gets ready to. I hate to say that, but nagging only alienates her."
"I know, Grace, but I worry about her."
"I know you do. I do, too. Now, tell me, when do we get to meet this new love?"
Chris heard Jaz in the background. "Give him a break, he'll introduce us when he's ready."
"See, Gracie, Jaz is right. I don't wanna scare him off just yet."
"Screw you, Chris," Grace said. "I hope it works out."
"Thanks. I'll talk to you later."
Chris got out of the house, going to clean the grill, playing with Moose, and watering the few flowers Grace had convinced him to put in. It was dark when he got inside. After a shower, he sat down and called Toby.
"Toby, it's Chris."
"Chris, it's good to hear your voice. How was your day?"
"It was okay."
"You sure? You sound a little down."
"Just, you know, family stuff. How about you? How did your visit go?"
"It was great," Toby said, mentioning how nice it was to see Angus. "He used to annoy the shit out of me when we were kids, but we've gotten close."
"I'm close to my sister, too. We've been through a lot together."
"Oh, listen, I have a couple of cases to clear up Monday and Tuesday, but if it works out, I might be there on Wednesday. Dad told me today. There's some paperwork Mrs. Clark has to approve."
"That's great, you're staying overnight?"
"Yes. So, I take it I'll see you then?"
"Count on it," Chris said, sounding happier than he had since the call started.
"I'll see you Wednesday, then. I'm not sure how long it'll take with Mrs. Clark. Why don't I call you when I finish?"
"Okay. Goodbye then. And Chris, I really enjoyed last night."
"Me, too, Toby. I'll see you on Wednesday. Bye."