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Written Dec 24-25, 2006

A Family Christmas

by Erin

"This is the longest goddamn line in the history of the world."

Toby rolled his eyes. He'd anticipated hearing whining whilst waiting to see Santa, but he'd been expecting it from his kids, not Chris. "Obviously, you've never been to Disneyland."

"Daddy, Chris said a swear," Gary piped up.

"I know, buddy. Chris better watch out or Santa might leave a lump of coal in his stocking this year."

"Ah, shut up," Chris grumbled, shifting Holly, who'd twined herself around his leg for some reason, into a more comfortable position. "What the hel - heck, possessed you to come to the mall on Christmas Eve?"

"It's not like we're shopping - just doing the Santa bit," Toby reasoned. Of course, Toby hadn't planned it that way, but his kids had never missed a year of getting pictures with Santa, and as soon as he'd heard that Genevieve had neglected to do it this year, he'd dragged the entire crew down to the mall. Which, he reflected, was probably not the best place to be at 2:00 pm on Christmas Eve, with a seven-year-old, five-year-old, eighteen-month-old baby, and an easily-bored lover in tow.

"Dadda, doose!" Harry screeched from his stroller. Toby scooped up the sippy-cup full of juice that had fallen to the floor, and handed it back to his youngest son.

"Hey, Harry look over there," he said, pointing at some miniature dancing Santas in a nearby store display, "What's that?"

"Ho-ho!" Harry grinned excitedly.

"Yeah, he says `ho-ho', but it's Santa. SSSan - ta. Say `Santa'."

Harry gave his father an indignant glare. "Ho-ho!" he repeated insistently.

Toby pointed a somewhat similar glare at Chris, who was biting his lip to keep from laughing, while Gary and Holly giggled openly. "This is all your fault. You just had to keep saying, `Ho-ho-ho, Merry Christmas', in your stupid Santa-voice, every time he saw a toy Santa, and now he thinks that's what they're called!"

Holly and Gary burst into louder giggles at their father's annoyance, and encouraged their brother to say, `Ho-ho', some more. Chris just shrugged sheepishly, grinning his smug grin, and said, "Hey, Genevieve said he'll grow out of it, don't worry about it. Besides, it's cute. And everybody, except you, loves my Santa-voice."

Toby just sighed, and absent-mindedly ruffled Holly's hair.

Two narrowly-avoided tantrums and a spilled sippy-cup later, they were finally, finally, actually within sight of Santa.

"Big ho-ho!" Harry exclaimed, as Santa and his gingerbread throne came into view.

Toby huffed at Chris, only to realize the other man wasn't even looking at him. Toby followed his line of sight and promptly smacked him in the arm.

"Hey!" exclaimed Chris.

"You are shameless! Toby laughingly replied, nodding towards the young Santa's helper that Chris had just been ogling.

"C'mon, Beecher, she's gotta nice butt - I ain't made of stone."

"Yeah, she also can't be any more than sixteen, and is currently dressed as an elf. You got a fetish I don't know about?"

"Mm, must be the pointy ears - I did have a weird thing for Spock when I was a kid."

"That was something I really didn't want to know."

"You know I like your butt better, right?

"You want me to dress up as an elf sometime?"

"You're such a kinky bastard when you wanna be."

"Ew, Chris - why do you like Daddy's butt? Butts are gross," Gary interrupted.

Toby looked down at his son and blushed. Oh yeah, there were kids around. He'd almost forgotten.

"Hey, you'll change your mind about butts when you grow up, pal," Chris told him, "Besides, you don't think your daddy's got a nice butt? Check this baby out." Keller affectionately squeezed the area in question, making Toby jump, yelp, and smack his arm again, almost simultaneously, while Gary made gagging noises.

"See, this is why Gen complains about you being a bad influence."

"Like I care. Besides, these kids love me."

Toby couldn't but smile. It was true, his kids did absolutely adore Chris, even more than he'd ever hoped for. Chris had been in their lives for almost a year now, and the children had come to view him as a third parent, along with himself and Genevieve. A fact that Toby was thankful for every single day, because if his kids hadn't accepted his lover, he knew he most likely would've had to give Chris up, Which would've killed him.

Chris had come along when Toby had needed him the most. Divorcing Genevieve had been the hardest, but most necessary thing Toby had ever had to do. The fact that Harry had only just been born a couple of months before made it even harder - of course, he hadn't been planned. Well, not planned by Toby in any case. Toby strongly suspected that Gen had gotten pregnant accidentally-on-purpose, in a horribly misguided attempt to save their already rocky marriage, although he'd never questioned her about it. He'd loved his youngest just as much as his other children, which had made moving out all the more of a struggle.

Last Christmas had seen Toby lonely, miserable, missing his children terribly, and wondering if maybe he had made a mistake. A week later, he had attended his law firm's New Year party - a classy black tie affair, complete with circulating wait staff, carrying trays of appetizers. One heart-stopping smile from a certain blue-eyed, devilishly handsome waiter, over a plate of devilled eggs, and Toby had been lost. Midnight, he found himself again - being pressed against the door of a dark, empty conference room, having the breath kissed out of him, while the sounds of `Auld Lang Syne' drifted down the hall.

Chris slung an arm around Toby's shoulder, and nuzzled his ear. "What you thinking about, Beecher?"

"Just remembering things," Toby smiled, "Know what's in a week?"

Chris grinned wickedly. "Yep. Am I right in thinking the kids are at Gen's for New Years?"

"You most definitely are."

"Horny bastard," Chris whispered.

"Like you can talk."

They smiled at each other, both knowing that the upcoming anniversary - which they would never refer to as such - was really about so much more than just the sex.

"Daddy! Daddy!" Holly shrieked.


"It's our turn!"

Toby looked away from Chris, and realized they'd finally, thank God, reached the front of the line.

"Thank the fuck Christ."

"Daddy! Chris said another swear!"

Toby yawned and scanned the sheet of instructions in his hand. "Okay, now insert Piece E into Slot F, and if you say, `that's what you said last night', one more fucking time, I will kick you in the balls."

"Blow me," retorted Chris, dutifully sliding the corresponding pieces of metal tubing together.

"Christ, I'm tired," Toby mumbled, rubbing his eyes, "Why am I assembling two bikes together at one in the morning, instead of placing ready-made ones under the tree like any normal parent?"

"Because you're a cheap-ass who can't resist a discount?"

"Thought you liked my cheap-ass."

"Only when it's putting out. I'm not getting sex tonight, am I?"

"Chris, it's Christmas Eve, I'm practically falling asleep in my own lap, and we have three gift-hungry monsters to play Santa to - of course you're not getting sex tonight."

"So, the kids are spending next Christmas with Gen, right?"

"Shut up, Chris."

Toby worked as fast as he could to get the rest of the bike done, despite his heavy eyelids and aching limbs. The trip to the mall had been followed by wrangling his children through Christmas Eve dinner at his mother's, before trying to convince the overexcited, and insanely hyped-up demons to go to bed and stay there. Needless to say, he was exhausted, even without the hours of gift-wrapping and last-minute crises that had followed.

Chris, surprisingly enough, had been quite the trooper throughout the whole ordeal, handling the grunt work of assembling the larger gifts, cussing like a sailor and managing to get tape stuck in his hair while struggling with the gift-wrap, and being the one to finally get the kids to sleep by reading `The Night Before Christmas' three-and-a-half times - a feat which would have earned him a place of undying love in Toby's heart, had there not already been one. It mostly just earned him forgiveness for singing `Silent Night' during carol singing at Toby's mother's house, and replacing `sleep in heavenly peace' with what sounded suspiciously like `slip in the heavenly piss.'

After another fifteen minutes, they finally got the bikes done, placed everything under the tree, gulped down the cookies Gary and Holly had left for Santa, and shut off all the lights except the tree lights.

"Yesssssssssssss," Toby sighed, "Bedtime."

"Mm," Chris murmured, looking at the Santa photo they had brought back from the mall, which was now displayed with pride on the mantle piece. It had turned out to be a good one. Harry, predictably, had burst into screaming tears at the terrifying prospect of sitting on Santa's knee, but the moment had been saved by Santa's quick-thinking and nice-assed helper, plugging his mouth with a candy cane. The resulting picture had Gary and Holly grinning like imps, and Harry sucking very intently on the thick candy stick - prompting Chris to comment, "Aw, don't he look just like his Daddy?" and prompting Toby to run over Chris's foot with the stroller, as hard as he could.

Toby pressed his head against Chris's shoulder. "Something on your mind?"

Chris remained silent for a moment. Then, "Yeah. I just - I love you, you know?"

Toby smiled. "Yeah, I know."

"And I guess I just wanted to thank you. You know, for um, for letting me be part of this. Your Christmas. Well, your family, I guess. Christmases have never really been anything much for me, so - yeah. This has been nice."

Toby stood quietly, surprised by the depth of feeling obvious behind Chris's vague words.

"Am I doing okay?" Chris continued. "I mean, I've never really - I never thought I'd have kids. So I know I don't always get it right, but sometimes I think I'm screwing up even more than usual, and - Look, I don't wanna fuck this up, okay? This is the best thing I've ever had going for me. This time, two years ago, I was in prison, and now I'm here, and I have... all this, and it's insane - "

Toby quickly silenced him with a soft kiss. "You're doing great, Keller. Stop worrying. Besides, I always let you know when you're fucking up, don't I?"

Chris chuckled. "Yeah, you do. Repeatedly."

"So, what the hell are you worrying for?"

"Damn if I know, Beecher, damn if I fucking know," Chris shook his head and took Toby's hand, "C'mon, let's get to bed - we'll probably get five minutes sleep before the kids wake us up."

Toby let Chris lead him out into the hall and to the stairs before he stopped him.

"What, Tobe?"

Toby just smiled and pointed upwards at the sprig of mistletoe above them. Chris had hung it there a week ago, but only after he'd jokingly hung it from his belt buckle and chased Toby around the living room, demanding an early Christmas present.

Chris smiled up at it now, before taking Toby into his arms, and pressing his lips against Toby's eager mouth. The kiss was gentle, but firm, and just a little dirty. It was just like every time they kissed - Toby found himself, in a place he would never have thought to look.

Toby broke away slowly and pressed a kiss against Chris's jaw. "I love you, Chris," he whispered.


"Yeah. Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, Tobe," Chris whispered, before taking his mouth again.

It was a while before they actually managed to get to bed that night.


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