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Home for the Holidaze, Chapters 1 & 2

by Riley Cannon


(November 1998)

"Oh, yes," Harrison Beecher paused in the doorway of Toby's office, "I almost forgot: your mother told me to make sure and remind you about inviting Chris to join us for Thanksgiving."

Toby could only pray the smile pasted on his face looked genuine. "I will, Dad. I'm not sure...Chris...will be able to get away, though." Coward, he silently jeered at himself.

"Well, your mother and I really want to meet her." His father's expression turned a bit bemused as he said, "I don't want to scare you or anything, but your mother has mentioned that Christine Beecher has a nice ring to it."

Oh God. "Yeah, I guess it does." Just strike me dead now.

"Well," Harrison shifted his brief case to his left hand, "I'll see you later."

"Okay." As soon as the door has closed after his father, Toby's smile melted off his face and he slumped forward to bang his head on the hard, polished wood of his desk. "Stupid, stupid, stupid."

"That some new-fangled meditation technique, or something?" a familiar and much loved voice asked from the doorway, and Toby raised his head -- wincing a little -- to see Chris Keller lounging there, watching him with a flicker of concern in those deep blue eyes.

Chris as in Christopher. As in his lover. As in his very male, very sexy, probably way better than he deserved love of his life.

And Toby was suddenly convinced he was going to lose him, all over a pronoun. What difference did it make that he'd never intended any of this? By the time he'd realized the mistake, that his parents had just gone ahead and assumed 'Chris' was short for 'Christine,' there just never seemed to be the right time to correct them and say, 'Mother, Dad -- I've gone gay.'

"Hey, you okay, baby?" Chris closed the door and came over to him, parking himself on the desk and reaching over to curve his fingers along Toby's face.

"I'm fine," Toby lied, pulling up a smile.

Chris returned it and flavored his own with a lascivious twist as his gorgeous eyes boldly looked Toby over. "You sure are," he confirmed, leaning in to claim Toby's mouth in a soft kiss that made him feel entirely too warm for a late November afternoon.

"Wow," he said when Chris pulled back, feeling quite a bit better now, actually. "What was that for?"

Chris flashed him a mischievous smile. "Just 'cause I can."

Toby couldn't argue with reasoning like that. "You get out early?" he said, thoughtfully running his fingers up a denim-clad thigh.

"Umm hmm. Wrapped up the Pancamo case so Swannie felt like being generous."

"Good for Swannie. We'll have to send him flowers, or something." Toby let his fingers casually slip to stroke the inside of a well-muscled thigh.

"Oh, yeah, I'm sure he'd love that." Chris combed his fingers back through Toby's hair. "I was kind of hoping to persuade you to knock off early, too."

Toby quirked a curious eyebrow. "You have plans?"


"I can be had."

That sexy, playful smile curved Chris' lips again. "You know, I've noticed that."

Returning the smile, Toby stood up and moved to stand between Chris' legs, sliding his hands inside the leather jacket and around his waist, feeling his warmth through the navy blue mock turtleneck. "So what powers of persuasion were you going to employ?"

"Well, I kinda thought something like this," Chris let his hands rest on Toby's shoulders, gently kneading as he pulled him a little closer, nuzzling kisses along Toby's temple, eyelid, gliding his lips along Toby's cheek like a brush of butterfly wings to catch Toby's bottom lip, tease his tongue along the tender flesh, then pulling back a little, "would prove sufficient," he finished.

Eyelids at half-mast, desire curling through him, Toby sighed. "Yep, that'll do it." And he figured Chris was fully entitled to that smug little grin. "And I do have some influence with the head of the firm," he added.

"Well, there you go."

Stepping back and starting to gather up his things, Toby said, "So what were you going to do if I said no?"

"Go to Plan B, of course."

"Do I want to know what that would have been?"

Chris held out his overcoat for him. "Tell you when we get home," he whispered right in his ear, nuzzling there for a moment. "You cold?"


"Then why are you shivering?"

Toby sighed and leaned back against Chris for a moment before turning to look into midnight blue eyes filled with love and mischief. "Let's go home." He wasn't going to lose this, not over something so stupid.

Even so, as they left his office and headed for the elevators he couldn't help feeling a twinge of anxiety. Things could change so quickly, after all, and always when you least expected it. He'd discovered that just five months ago, never suspecting his whole world was about to get turned upside down with a knock at the door.


(July 1998)

"Hey, you Tobias Beecher?"

Toby looked up from his laptop, over at the man standing in the doorway -- about his age, couple inches taller, short dark hair, and remarkably intense blue eyes that went well with the rest of his forceful, handsome features. "Yes?" Toby had no idea who this could be; he wasn't carrying anything, and his clothes -- faded jeans, and a plain white t-shirt -- gave nothing away. Except that he obviously spent a lot of time in the gym.

"Chris Keller," the man said, crossing over to him and holding out his hand.

Toby shook it almost absently, momentarily distracted with how the man's body looked in motion, the easy shift and play of well-toned muscle. That flash of white teeth, dimples popping out as he smiled was sort of distracting, too.

Realizing he was still holding the man's hand, Toby quickly let him go. "Keller? Did we have an appointment?" The name didn't ring a bell.

"No, but Swannie said it would be all right if I just stopped in," Keller said, not waiting for an invitation as he sat down in the comfortable chair facing Toby's desk.

Ah, okay: Swannie must have referred this guy to him, Toby realized, although he would have expected Swannie to check with him before doing so. As he sat back down he said, "I can't really take on another case at the moment, Mr. Keller. Maybe if you can tell me what you need, though, I can recommend you to someone else in the firm."

Keller gave him a puzzled look, then shook his head. "I work for Swannie," he explained. "He's got me on one of your cases -- O'Reily vs. Schillinger? -- and said I ought to report straight to you."

"Oh, I see. You're a private investigator?"

"Umm hmm." Keller managed to relax even more, looking around the office, his curious gaze halting at a small table filled with family photos and lingering on one of Genevieve and the kids. "Wife and kids?"

Toby's smile was a little rueful. "Well, that was the original plan. No, sister-in-law and niece and nephews."

Keller nodded, looking at him again, something almost uncomfortably personal in that direct stare. "So you're single?"

"Yes." Although he didn't quite see what that had to do with anything; Toby also didn't quite know why he automatically looked at Keller's left hand, noting the absence of a wedding band. "So," he prompted after a long moment, fighting the urge to fidget as Keller just kept looking at him, "do you have something for the case?"

Keller smiled -- friendly enough and all, but something about it sent a little tingle up Toby's spine. "Not a whole lot at the moment, but some things are taking shape. I have a meeting today that could shed a whole lot of light on things."

Shoving down that funny little surge of anxiety -- or anticipation? -- Toby leaned forward, saying, "In what way?"

"Evidence that Cyril O'Reily isn't the first worker who's been injured on the job at Schillinger's. I found a guy named Augustus Hill who says he witnessed dangerous working conditions at the plant. Getting him to take the stand and testify might take a whole lot of persuasion, though."

"Why is that?" Toby said, jotting down the name.

"Because he's paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair. Says goons working for Schillinger are the ones who put him there." Keller shrugged. "That was for him saying he was going to complain to the union. He's not too keen on seeing what they might do if they get wind he's talking to an uptown lawyer, especially since he's got a wife and kid to think about."

Toby nodded, sympathizing with Mr. Hill. "But you're meeting him again today?"

"Not him, no. He put me onto somebody else -- one of those investigative reporters, used to work for one of the networks. Her name's Gloria Nathan."

That name sort of rang a bell. "She did a piece on Schillinger?"

"Had one in the works -- then the network killed it and she resigned a little while later. She's hosting some show on cable now, that Crimes and Trials channel."

And given that channel was one of Toby's guilty pleasures that was probably where he knew her from. "You've already spoken with her, I take it?"

"Five minutes on the phone. I'm hoping today's interview will go a little more in-depth," Keller said with a little smile.

Toby didn't doubt it for a minute, given the man's easy approach. "Do you think Ms. Nathan would object if I went along to this meeting?"

Keller flashed that bright smile again, like he'd been expecting that. "Actually, I might've insinuated you would be. That's kinda why I wanted to see you."

Why was he not surprised? "What time?"

"'Bout one o'clock this afternoon, down at Reimondo's. Can you make it?"

"At one?" Toby mentally rearranged his schedule for the day, nodded. "I'll work it out."

"Okay then," Keller stood up. "See ya then. Nice meeting you, Toby."

"Uh -- same here...Chris," Toby said and watched him leave, not sure he really wanted to know why another man's backside, snugly hugged by faded denim, should suddenly be a source of such fascination to him.


Toby still hadn't worked that out a couple of hours later as he stood outside Reimondo's and saw Chris Keller for the second time, walking down the street toward him. If moving like that could really be described as anything so prosaic as 'walking.' He'd put on a blue shirt that Toby bet really brought out the blue of his eyes. He'd kept those faded jeans, though, and even with a tie and light jacket there was no air of anything buttoned down and confined about him.

As Chris came up to him and tipped down his sunglasses, smiling, Toby saw he'd been right about the shirt making his eyes look ever bluer. "Been waiting long?"

"Umm, no, I just got here," Toby said, captured by that blue gaze and feeling a warmth that had nothing to do with the summer heat.

"You look kinda warm," Chris said, tucking the sunglasses in a pocket as he pushed the door open, letting Toby proceed him into the air-conditioned restaurant. "It's a hot one today," he commented, shooting Toby a teasing little sidelong glance.

And Toby found the blast of cool air wasn't helping to cool him down one little bit. "Yeah, it is," he said, breaking that mesmerizing gaze and looking around the restaurant. Mostly he got the impression of a kind of retro look, everything crisp and shiny, the greenery of the plants and the colors of the flowers really standing out; there was a low murmur of voices from the lunch crowd, and music playing -- Billy Joel singing:

It's so confusing choosing sides In the heat of the moment Just to see if it's real It's so erotic having you Tell me how it should feel But I'm avoiding all the cold hart facts That I've got to face So ask me just one question When this magic night is through Could it have been just anyone Or did it have to be you And will you still be saying

I don't want to be alone anymore I was checking you out I was just making sure...

"Come on, over here," Chris said, guiding him over to a booth with a touch of his hand at the small of Toby's back. "I guess Ms. Nathan's running a little late."

"That's okay," Toby said, regretting the loss of that touch as they slid onto the red banquette. "I'm not in any hurry," he added, feeling the color rise in his cheeks at the look Chris shot him, mischief and possibilities sparkling in his eyes. He picked up a menu, diligently focusing his attention on that and registering absolutely nothing except the presence of the other man sitting across from him, feeling that intense stare boring into him like electric blue laser beams.

"See anything you like?" Chris asked after a couple of minutes, and Toby was glad he'd already swallowed the mouthful of water he'd just taken.

tbc Thanks to Dori for help on finding some useful New Jersey locales (one of which is kind of in-joke, coming up in part 2b). ===================================


(November 1998)

"Y'know," Chris maneuvered Toby against the back of the otherwise empty elevator car, slipping his hands inside the overcoat and around his lover's slim waist, "I bet we could give a whole new meaning to going down in an elevator."

As expected Toby's eyes flashed with surprise, cheeks flushing with some color as he wavered between discretion and temptation -- and Chris had every reason to suppose any pesky sense of discretion could be disposed of easily. "Keller," Toby said, a wary note in his voice.

Chris grinned. "Would you, if I really wanted to?"

Toby gave him a look of fond exasperation, setting down his brief case and pressing his hands against Chris' chest, not holding him off, just connecting. "Probably."

"Probably?" Chris raised an eyebrow, eloquent of how much he doubted there was any 'probably' to it.

Raising his hands to Chris' shoulders, kneading lightly, Toby said, "Has it occurred to you there might be security cameras in here?"

"Nah, I checked -- we wouldn't be giving anyone a show." Chris moved in, nuzzling his temple, breathing him in. "Or were you wanting to?" he purred in his ear. "'Cause I could probably arrange something."

"I'm sure you could," Toby put his arms around Chris' neck, pulling himself closer, "but I'm not interested in sharing you, even vicariously."

"I've noticed that, actually." Possessiveness and jealousy were supposed to be poison to a relationship, least according to people like Oprah; Chris bet all those PC people would be singing a whole different tune if they had some as hot as Toby staking a claim, though. Chris had never expected to matter that much to anyone and hadn't even known he was missing it until Toby came along. Fuck, he hadn't even known he was feeling lonely, let along that he'd been perched right on the edge of falling, hard, for anybody and only needed a sharp nudge in the right direction by fate -- in the form of Swannie. Chris smiled at that, the image popping into his head of Jack Swannie, about as big and burly as your average bear, done up as Cupid and nailing him and Toby with arrows on that hot July day.

"What are you smiling about?" Toby asked, kissing his chin, the corner of his mouth.

"Nothin'. Just maybe we do owe Swannie flowers."

Toby looked at him thoughtfully, and then kissed his lips like he was testing something out. Satisfied he liked it, he cupped Chris' face, holding him still so he could make a more thorough job of it. Eyes closed, Chris yielded to the slow exploration of lips and tongue, wondering if he would ever get used to this, come to take it for granted. Yep -- round about the same time the Pope stopped being Catholic. Putting his arms around Toby, he drank up the lazy kisses, sighing as he felt Toby embracing him fully. Funny, kissing had never been that big of a deal for him before. Nice, sure, but just a stop on the way to the main objective, doubly so if it was another guy. You didn't just sit on the couch, necking with another guy, for instance, since one very important component of necking was that one party involved needed a nice set of boobs. And besides, the whole point of being with a guy was that you could skip all that wooing and winning stuff and just get down to business.

Yeah, so, it wasn't the first time he'd been stupid about something and Chris kind of doubted it was going to be the last, either. Because just kissing Toby like this, lips catching and caressing, tongues doing a sweet slow-dance, felt so good; still a prelude, maybe, but one that could be immensely satisfying all on its own. That neither of them had a set of boobs hadn't been any kind of necking deterrent, either. The weirdest thing was sometimes it didn't even feel like sex, but more like...coming home to somewhere warm and safe.

And if he really thought about it, they probably hadn't exactly skipped all that wooing and winning, stuff, either, just sort of condensed it down.

Parting before the elevator doors opened, Chris smoothed Toby's ruffled hair, feeling a warm little glow when Toby didn't pull away from the light caress even though anyone might see. "That wasn't Plan B, by the way," he said as they exited the building and walked along to where he'd parked the car.

"I didn't think it was," Toby said, giving him a tolerant look and headshake as Chris held the door for him.

Sliding behind the wheel, Chris started the car. "Plan B's a lot more elaborate."

Toby smiled, setting his brief case down between his feet. "I'm sure it is." Then as if he'd just thought of something, "What do you mean you checked for security cameras in the elevator? When?"

"First time we rode up together," Chris told him, maneuvering into the early evening traffic, the chains of headlights and taillights adding to the illumination as the city began to don its nighttime finery.

Toby sent him an interested look. "You were already making plans?"

Chris flashed him a grin. "Baby, I was making plans the moment I laid eyes on you." He just hadn't known, then, that it was going to be so much more than just another conquest, or that it would be the last one he'd ever want to make.


(July 1998)

"You ever loosen that tie, Tobias?"

Toby looked up from the print out he was looking through, casting an envious look at the man behind the wheel of the black T-Bird. Envious, and more admiring than he was ready to admit of the lean, powerful form in jeans and white t-shirt once more. He pushed his reading glasses up his nose, shrugged. "Yes, I loosen my tie," he said, trying not to sound defensive.

Stopped for a traffic light, Chris gave him a 'So?' look that seemed to be daring him to...? Toby had a feeling it was a lot more than just loosening his tie. Trying not to feel self-conscious about it, Toby tugged his tie loose and unbuttoned his collar. If this was some kind of test he thought he must have passed from the smile Chris sent him.

"That better?"

"Yeah," Chris drawled. The light changed and he made a turn, heading for the Holland Tunnel.

Toby smiled at the note of approval in the other man's voice. "I tried that once," he said, "coming in to work in jeans and a tie and jacket. Dad didn't say anything but I got the impression the firm wouldn't be instituting casual Fridays anytime soon."

"You get on okay with your folks?"

"Sure. They're a little old-fashioned, I guess, but there's worse things to be."

"You got that right," Chris commented with some feeling that made Toby's curiosity perk up a little more.

"What about you? You and your family get along all right?" Toby couldn't believe he was asking such a personal question of someone he barely knew -- but then that was sort of the crux of the matter, wasn't it? That he wanted to know Chris quite a bit better.

And Chris didn't seem to mind. "Yeah. 'Course it's mostly just my mom now, my sisters both moved out to California with their husbands."

"Older or younger?"

"Older. They used to fuss over me quite a bit -- can't say I miss that."

Somehow Toby had some doubts as to the total sincerity of this statement, and he couldn't help picturing Chris' sisters doting on their little brother, and probably helping to account for why his modesty appeared to be missing in action. "What about your dad?"

"He died when was I was fifteen -- shot down in the line of duty." Chris spoke the words very matter of factly, almost off-hand, but Toby got the sense that feelings ran a lot deeper.

"Line of duty?" he gently prompted, as Chris took care of the toll and they moved into the tunnel.

"Yeah," Chris said after a long moment, looking as if his thoughts were turned inward. "He was a beat cop, responding to a report of a robbery at the end of his shift -- and just never made it home." Hands resting on the steering wheel, he frowned, shrugged. "It's a long time ago now."

As if time really made a difference, Toby thought, surprising himself again by reaching out to touch him, squeezing his shoulder. "I'm sorry."

He shrugged again -- but didn't shrug off the touch. Pulling up a slightly lopsided smile, he said, "So you can guess my mom wasn't too happy when I announced I was going to join the force, too."

"Yeah, I guess she wouldn't be. So -- you were a cop?"

"Yep, ten years on the NYPD, right out of college. Made it to detective, too -- that's what my dad was aiming for."

"What happened, why are you with Swannie now?"

"Got knifed by some big, crazy motherfucker. My partner and me were responding to a homicide -- this drug pusher, Adebisi'd chopped the head off his partner in crime--"

"Chopped his head off?"

Chris flashed him grin. "Yep -- with some kinda machete. Anyway, Ronnie and me thought we had him. I was trying to get the cuffs on when Adebisi laid Ronnie out and came at me with a knife. Got me twice, in the back, before the uniforms got there. Sonofabitch is doing life up at Oz now."

Toby frowned. "Oz?"

"Oswald State Penitentiary."

"Oh. I didn't know they called it that."

"Yeah. I figure somebody was being kinda humorous. Anyway, when I got out of surgery, Mom was there, laying down the law: she'd already buried a husband and wasn't going to bury her son, too, and it had sort of prompted me to reevaluate my ambitions anyway." He shrugged. "So I turned in my shield and went to work for Swannie. Still get to do what I'm good at, with a lot less trips to the ER. And the slices of life you get to see on this job aren't quite as ugly, as a rule." Chris shook his head. "Stuff to do with kids was the worst, especially when the perp's their parent. So, yeah, there's a whole lot worse things your folks can be than kinda old-fashioned."

"Yeah, I guess." Toby sat back, thinking about that, irrationally troubled at the thought of this man being hurt, maybe almost killed when he hadn't even known him then. "I'm glad you didn't die."

Chris shot him a puzzled look at that. "You are, huh?"

Toby shrugged. "Guess it doesn't make much sense, but -- yes." And the next words out of his mouth really took him by surprise, "I'd hate to have missed meeting you."

Reaching over to touch the back of his neck, gently tugging at the errant little curls there, Chris smiled and said, "I'm thinking that feeling's mutual, Toby."

*** tbc

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