[Home | Quicksearch | Search Engine | Random Story | Upload Story]

Let's Give Them Something to Talk About, part two

by Riley Cannon

Title: Let's Give Them Something to Talk About, Part Two Series: Domestic Incidents Author: Riley Cannon Subject: B/K, major AU; PG-13 to NC-17 Archive: OK Feedback: OK Disclaimers: Fontana, Levinson, HBO, and others own them; I'm only borrowing them for non-profit sap and smut.

Summary: Obviously this is a sequel to LGTStTA, Part One. The action picks up a little while after the conclusion of Part One.

Note: Some characters have been imported from Homicide: Life on the Streets, mostly because I don't want to commit any so-far-off-stage Ozzies to any particular role in case I get a better idea about them later. For that matter, some who did appear briefly in Part One may be getting something better to do this time out. And a few more original characters will be turning up as needed.


"Chapter One"

Stephanie Carter finger-combed her brown hair as she slipped her feet into her favorite fuzzy slippers, the ones that made her think of those exotic big cats, snow leopards. She looked down at her fuzzy feet, thinking about how faux fur was politically correct and all, and no matter what she would never wear real snow leopard slippers. It was just that Stephanie kind of regretted she couldn't wear her mink coat out in public without feeling guilty. It was definitely one of her favorite things leftover from her bastard ex-husband.

As she tied the belt of her pink terrycloth robe in a neat bow and headed downstairs, she considered that list. The divorce itself had to be number one, then the alimony, and then the house -- after that? She turned on the coffee maker, weighing the jewelry against the condo in Aspen, pretty sure she could lose the latter in a heartbeat and never miss it. Diamonds might not be a girl's best friend -- Stephanie thought she might reserve that spot for certain items in her nightstand drawer -- but having lots of shiny, expensive things could never be a bad thing.

That settled, Stephanie opened the front door and went out to get the morning paper, coming to a dead stop as she looked across the street and saw him standing there, bold as brass. Barefoot, bare chested, nothing but a skimpy pair of gray sweats riding low on his narrow hips -- looking totally and completely edible at 6:30 in the morning. She felt an embarrassed flush at knowing she probably wasn't the only one who thought so. And like she needed a blatant reminder that there was no justice in this world.

Picking up the paper, she ignored his friendly wave and million-watt smile and flounced back into the house, not quite slamming the door behind her. Well, she knew why Genevieve had left, anyway. Although -- Stephanie tugged the curtain aside to watch him go back inside, having to admit that an ass like that held the potential of changing your point of view on a lot of things -- if it had been her, she might not have said no to a threesome.

Back in the kitchen she spread the paper out on the table, fixed her first cup of coffee, and started looking through the personals.


...three weeks ago...

Warm and comfortable, Chris was floating in that wonderful in-between state of being awake enough to register that sunlight was streaming through the window, and that there was a some kind of songbird in the backyard that really needed to knock it off with the chirpy racket at this hour of the morning. Even that wasn't sufficient to urge him to full wakefulness, however, and he just snuggled a little closer to Toby, spooning himself along his back and curling an arm over him. Head resting against Toby's shoulder, Chris heaved a soft little sigh of pure contentment, and let himself doze some more. It was Sunday; he had the whole day free and was in absolutely no rush to get to anything. Life was good.

When he did actually open his eyes some while later, he had shifted away from Toby and wound up sprawled along his side of the bed with his face half-buried in the pillow and a bare arm and leg sticking out of the covers. Nor were he and Toby any longer the only ones in the room. His brain needed a few extra seconds to fully process what he was seeing: three bright little faces framed with haloes of golden hair hovered beside the bed, gazing at him with matching sets of serious blue eyes. Chris blinked, the image coming into focus now ... Fuck. "Toby," he managed to raise his head from the pillow and nudge his lover with an elbow "we got company." As Toby stirred to life beside him, Chris pulled all extremities back under the covers, wishing the kids would go find something else to stare at. He was also getting an idea of how come Toby insisted they both wear some clothes to bed, no matter what.

His sense of mild dismay only increased as Toby sat up and looked over at the kids, face lit with a sleepy smile. And because Chris thought a really good idea would be the kids going downstairs to watch cartoons or something, he derived no reassurance from what Toby actually did. Which was to pat the mattress and say, "Come on, guys." At which point there was much jostling and bumping as three tiny Beechers clambered aboard and clustered around their father.

This meant a couple were also clustered around Chris, and he just smooshed his face back into the pillow, only able to think, What the fuck? Not to mention, what kind of cop didn't notice three intruders sneaking up on him? Very small intruders, true enough, but suppose he was ever out investigating some midget-related crime? He'd feel pretty stupid, wouldn't he, if he got taken by surprise by marauding midgets just because it never crossed his mind to be on the lookout for that.

And mostly he wondered if this kind of thing was likely to happen a lot. He sighed into the pillow, contemplating that prospect. It hadn't been an issue with any other guys he'd gone out with, and had only come up a couple of times with girls he'd dated. Since there hadn't been any major sparks flying in those instances, the kid issue had never come up. That was another way this thing with Toby was a whole different situation. There was no pretending this wasn't a crucial point to factor into this whole moving in together business. There were a lot of guys, maybe some women, too, who might look at it as being a pretty good reason for him to grab his hat and go.

Oh hell, who was he was trying to kid? He'd take life with Toby on any terms, miniature Beechers included. After one week of them officially being a couple that much was as obvious as the nose on his face. Besides, it wasn't like kids were that big a mystery to him. With seven nieces and nephews he figured he had some idea of how kids worked. This would be different though, there was no getting around that. Where he could just hand Adrienne or Joey Angelo back to their parents when he got tired of them, dealing with Gary and Holly and Harry was going to be a full-time thing. Could he do that? Being an uncle was a breeze, sure, he had that absolutely nailed. What he'd be taking on here would be something a lot closer to being a dad, though. And Chris knew he'd be fibbing big time if he claimed that didn't scare him. Yeah -- and maybe more than just a little.

Christ, it was no wonder O'Reily kept having kittens about his impending fatherhood. And Chris guessed he was no longer in any position to rib his partner about that.

Listening to the murmur of conversation going on around him, he latched onto one comment: Toby telling the kids to go downstairs. This was good. He rolled over in time to see Gary helping Harry down off the bed, then all three of them scampering out the door.

"What was that about?"

"It's Sunday morning." Toby said it as if that was supposed to cover everything.

Chris cocked an eyebrow at him to show that it didn't. "Yeah, and...?"

"And," Toby was out of bed, rummaging in a dresser drawer, "every Sunday morning -- well, barring last week," he turned and tossed Chris a pair of navy sweats and a t-shirt, "they bring up the paper and we read it together before heading downstairs to fix breakfast." As he spoke, Toby was pulling on a pair of cotton, blue-and-green-plaid pajama bottoms. "It's kind of a routine now. They'll be back in five minutes," Toby added, his voice muffled as he put on a tee.

And kids were really into routine. Chris knew that much. Feeling a pang of nostalgia for last weekend, when he'd had Toby all to himself, he slid out of bed and started dressing. "They don't gotta go to Sunday school or something?"


"How come? Don't you Episcopalians do that?"

"We do that. I just want to wait and see what they're curious about before getting them into anything official." Toby sat back down on the bed, giving him a thoughtful look. "That okay with you?"

Chris shot him a startled look back. "Yeah," he said, a little cautious. He wasn't actually being asked for input on how to bring up the kids, was he? "That's probably a good idea," he said, smoothing a hand back over his hair. "Let them find something that feels comfortable." Christ knew he might have had an easier time if the faith he was raised in hadn't made him feel bad about who he wanted to sleep with. "Just don't tell Mom or Aunt Ro you're shopping around for religion -- they'll want them growing up Catholic."

"Would that be a bad thing?" Toby was looking at him like he really wanted to know.

"Not bad, maybe." Chris sat back down, facing him cross-legged. "It's got a lot of potential for kind of fucking a person up, though." Although the Catholics didn't exactly have the market cornered on that by any means. Rev. Vern and Faith of Our Fathers Ministries was proof was of that.

"Are you speaking from personal experience?" Toby reached over to run his fingers along the crucifixion tat.

"Yeah, a little. It could've been a lot worse, though." He knew he'd lucked out with having parents who were a lot more devoted to their kids than to any pope in Rome. "I think God's something you sorta have to find on your own, at least if you really care about its being something real and not just what you do on Sundays."

Toby looked like that made him happy for some reason. "That's what I think. I guess some of it comes from not being sure where the best answers are for me, so I don't want to force anything on the kids." He scooted a little closer, hooking his hands around Chris' neck. "And you just never know where you might find what you're looking for."

Chris had a feeling Toby might be talking about something besides God here. "You got that right, babe," he said, moving in for a quick kiss, then a slightly longer one, pulling back as the patter of little feet approached the door. One of the issues they were still ironing out was this intimacy deal, how much to let the kids see, how to tell them what was going on. He wasn't sure, but something told him the kids finding them together in bed might have been a little further down the schedule. Maybe they were too young to attach much significance to that, though?

Whatever they might think, it wasn't deterring them from piling back on the bed, Harry getting an assist from his sister this time as Gary handed the rolled up newspaper to his father. And no matter what stage he and Toby might be at in their relationship, Chris figured this was one of those family only moments, and seized the opportunity to excuse himself and head for the bathroom.

At least he had some cause to believe they would make some new family rituals in time. So it didn't bother him too much to have to be left out of this one. That struck him as a pretty encouraging frame of mind for him to be in, all things considered.

*** Toby smiled, watching his lover flee into the bathroom. As escapes went, it was all very cool and smooth, of course, but he wasn't fooled. He just hoped that rapid retreat wasn't because Chris had any kind of loopy idea he didn't have any business being part of this. His smile faded just a bit as he thought about that. He might not be a certified expert in all things Chris Keller, but he had noted that if there was some squidge of pessimism to be derived from any given situation, his lover would be the one to find it.

And sure enough -- Chris came back out, saying, "Guess I'll go get breakfast started, then," and started for the door.

Fortunately he had to pass right by Toby on the way, making it easy for Toby to just snag his hand and keep him there. It beat having to leap off the bed and tackle him anyway. "No, the routine goes: we all read the paper, then we all go downstairs and I fix pancakes. Failure of any party residing under this roof to fully comply with these established rules can result in severe penalties."

"Yeah?" Chris gave him an interested look. "What -- you gonna spank me?" he said, blue eyes trying to look innocent as an angel.

Biting back a smile, Toby said, "Keep it up and you'll find out."

"Keep what up?"


His lover's smile stretched a little more, dimples digging deep. A more serious look in his eyes, though, he said, "Yeah, but, you and the kids--"

"Won't take no for an answer."

"Yeah," Chris narrowed his eyes at him, "I've kinda noticed that."

Toby smiled, glad his lover had picked up on that much, at least. He looked at the kids. "It's okay if Chris joins us?"

They nodded their heads with even more enthusiasm than expected, instantly scootching around to make room for him.

"I think you're popular," Toby whispered in his ear as Chris sat down. And he loved the little embarrassed, borderline shy, look that flashed over the handsome face. He loved even more that as much as Chris might feel a little out of his element here, with the kids settled around him and vying for his attention, he was making a real effort to get the hang of things.

The kids were making it a little easier than expected. If they weren't quite sure why Chris was hanging around here so much, let alone what he was doing in their daddy's bed, they seemed comfortable with him. The motorcycle was definitely part of the allure; being a cop didn't hurt, either -- Holly especially had looked over his badge and I.D. with a lot of fascination. Gary was a little more interested in the specifics of what Chris did day to day -- were there a lot of car chases and stuff like on television, for instance. Harry mostly just wanted to take everything apart and play with it. Toby had to marvel at Chris' patience in answering all their questions very seriously, and not minding when his badge and I.D. came back covered with sticky fingerprints. Showing them how to take and lift fingerprints had been a major hit. They were still going around examining every shiny surface, and more than once he'd spotted one of them carefully wiping down the cookie jar, kitchen counter and cabinets when they had been getting into something they shouldn't.

At the moment they were content to group around Chris and point out which comics they wanted him to read out loud next. Smiling as he listened to him reading 'Peanuts,' Toby sorted through the other sections, checking the sports page, arts and leisure, before picking out the op/ed section and skimming through it -- huffing a little as he paused to scan one piece.

"What is it?"

"Just an editorial by Reverend Vern."

"Who's Reverend Vern?" Holly asked.

Toby shared a long look with Chris, not sure how to explain about bigoted, dangerous fatheads cloaking themselves in religious dogma. Deciding to attempt some slight civility, he said, "He's a very foolish man." Albeit one Toby had only recently begun paying real attention to since recent developments in his life had made the Reverend's words start hitting a whole lot closer to home.

Chris playfully nudged him with a bare foot. "He only has power if you let his words get to you, Tobe -- forget about it."

Toby squinted a dubious look at him. "That's very enlightened of you."

"I have my moments," his lover replied with a diffident shrug, a smile sparking his eyes.

"Believe me, Keller, you have a lot more than moments." And all of a sudden Toby kind of wished they didn't have the kids around right at this moment. Hmm, this was going to be a little tricky at times, wasn't it?

Since the timing was off, however, he said, "So everyone ready for pancakes?" when what he really wanted to do right now would have involved using a bottle of maple syrup in a manner not at all recommended. Well, it wasn't like he couldn't have a sweet little snack later tonight, when the kids were all tucked up in bed.

"What are looking at me like that for?" Chris said, squirming a little.

Toby just smiled and winked, leaning over to whisper in his ear, "Tell you later." He was pretty sure Chris' smile meant he'd be looking forward to that.

*** "You're really making pancakes?" Chris watched as Toby got a box of Hungry Jack flour off a shelf and setting it on the counter, adding a mixing bowl and whisk. Just because he was seeing it didn't mean he had to believe it, though.

Giving him a prim little look, Toby said, "Yep."

Chris leaned against the counter, arms folded over his chest, feeling he needed to pin this down precisely. "You're making pancakes?"

Toby sniffed, looking a little huffy now. "We have established that, yes."

"Uh-huh. So ... If I leave the kitchen you're not gonna dig a package of frozen pancakes out of the freezer, nuke 'em in the microwave, and pass them off as homemade?" Chris wanted to be absolutely clear on this. He also wanted to enjoy how cute Toby looked the huffier he got.

"Have you seen a package of frozen pancakes in the freezer?"

"Well... It's hard to tell with all the ice cream you got jammed in there."

"I seem to recall someone really enjoying that ice cream."

Well, Chris couldn't dispute that. All the same... "It's not what you'd call nutrious, though."

"Oh, that's rich coming from a guy who doesn't want his mommy finding out he eats Pop-Tarts," Toby returned.

Reining in something close to a huff, Chris frowned. "That's a low blow, Beecher."

"It's what you get for mocking my pancakes. Besides, I thought you liked low blows," he added, looking at Chris in a way that made him think pancakes weren't the only things Toby wanted to slather with butter and syrup.

Fuck. "Umm..." He licked dry lips, tried again. "You think your folks'd mind watching the kids for a while?"

"I expect something could be arranged," Toby said, measuring flour into the bowl.

Chris stepped a little closer, trailing his fingers along the back of Toby's neck, smiling as he felt him shiver a little. "There anything I can do to help?"


"Sure?" Chris ran his hand lightly down Toby's back, feeling the bumps of his spine through the blue polo he'd put on.

"I need to whisk the batter," Toby said, voice gone kind of breathy.

"Am I keeping you from your whisking?" Chris whispered, nuzzling his ear.

"Fuck yes."

He grinned and pressed a quick kiss to his cheek. "Well we can't have that." He stepped back. "Call me if you need anything."

*** Toby watched him exit the kitchen, sighed and shook his head, not quite able to wipe the goofy smile off his face. God, now he couldn't even make pancakes without its being loaded with sexual innunedo.

Somehow he couldn't seem to mind that.


...to be continued...


Toby watched Chris exit the kitchen, sighed and shook his head, not quite able to wipe the goofy smile off his face. God, now he wouldn't even be able to make pancakes without its being loaded with sexual innuendo. He guessed that's what he got for taking up with someone who practically asked, You want sex with that? with every move he made.

Somehow he couldn't seem to mind that. Well, not so long as that behavior was for him alone. He was trying not to have insecurities about that, telling himself that was just Chris' way; flirting, turning on the charm, was practically an autonomic reflex for him.

Smile turning a little wry, Toby checked to see how the griddle was heating up -- and no one would blame him for automatically thinking of Chris in relation to things were hot, right? That aspect of Chris Keller was right up there with some immutable law of nature, and he might as well try bitching to Isaac Newton about the laws of physics if he was going to fret himself goofy about Keller using his God-given assets. He whisked the batter more briskly, figuring if Chris could work on his insecurities, then he could do something about this possessiveness. In both cases it came down to trust and confidence. Most things did.

Done whisking, he carefully poured the batter out, tidying up each circle so they would look closer to the picture on the box. And like Chris was going to care if they came out looking a little irregular? He shook his head at himself and opened the refrigerator, reaching for the carton of orange juice and frowning as he sloshed it around. Hmm ... They were about out of milk, too, and eggs, veggies -- pretty much everything, he realized as he made a more thorough inventory, looking in the pantry, too. Well, he hadn't been shopping in over a week and his agenda at that time had been stocking up for a certain weekend of love; household necessities had not been high on that particular list.

He flipped the pancakes, calculating how much time would be required for a shopping trip to get fully restocked. Factor in having three kids along and it quickly added up to not having a lot of time left for grabbing an afternoon's delight for themselves. Toby puffed out his cheeks, thinking they could drop the kids off at his folks, do the shopping, and then rush back here. The main thing wrong with that scenario was that making love with Chris wasn't something he ever wanted to rush.

Actually, he pondered this some more, this could be a good little dress rehearsal of what this new life was going to be like. Even though Chris had been around quite a lot this past week, sleeping over four out of seven nights, there was still a tentative quality hovering over everything. So maybe this was as a good a time as any to start trying things out as a family. He just wouldn't make too big a deal about it. The trick, Toby had quickly learned, was not to nag and pester the big goof about things like this. Let Chris set the pace, don't make a fuss, and he'd settle right in and make himself at home. Turn it into some kind of production, though, and you spooked him off for a while. All of which made Toby think that if Aunt Felicia was right about this reincarnation stuff, Chris must have been a stray cat in a prior life.

Toby smiled at that image in his head, of himself keeping very still and quiet, Chris gradually sidling up to him -- lured over, perhaps, by a fresh from the oven pizza? -- and took the pancakes off the griddle. He placed them in a chafing dish to keep warm, and then opened the fridge to look over the contents once more. He figured they might as well use the few eggs remaining, and that little bit of ham, and was just breaking eggs into a skillet when someone knocked at the backdoor.

He frowned over there, seeing Stephanie Carter from across the street waving and aiming a big smile at him. Now what? Some other expression of gratitude for helping her find a good divorce lawyer? "Come on in," he called over to her, "it's open."

*** Looking over her shoulder at the cheval mirror, Stephanie checked out her ass one more time, feeling pretty confident it was shown to advantage by her jeans. She turned around, patting her flat tummy and hiking her pink tee up a little more. If you were going to get your belly button pierced there wasn't any sense in being shy about showing it off, right?

Her mouth quirked with a wry smile, easily imagining her sonofabitch ex going all self-righteous about her being some latter-day Jezebel, parading around in such a skimpy outfit. He'd liked it well enough when he was getting a show from some prostitute in a cheap hotel, though. So screw him.

She touched up her lipstick, good and red, and looked herself up and down once more, thinking a really good investment had been that membership down at the health club. Divorce was a wonderful thing, she thought as she headed out. Right there in court she'd lost a hundred-and-ninety pounds of husband. Beat that.

At the curb, she looked across the street, checking to make sure the Harley was still parked in the driveway. It was, so Tobias' tall, dark and sexy friend must still around. So -- maybe it wasn't exactly the neighborly thing to barge in and ask for an introduction. Stephanie couldn't imagine too many people would hold it against her, not if they'd got a good long look at him. How he was connected to Tobias had her beat. An old pal from Harvard, maybe? He didn't exactly have Ivy League written all over him -- more like: Fuck me, I'm hot -- but that didn't necessarily mean anything these days. But if you came right down to it, he didn't exactly look like anyone who would be hanging out with Tobias Beecher, not unless there were some really unexpected depths to Tobias. That wouldn't actually surprise her. No one was that buttoned down just for the fun of it.

First she was going to have to get by Mrs. Willoughby next door, though, if she was going to get at least her curiosity satisfied. Sure enough, the old busybody was out there, planting some bulbs near the lilacs, and keeping an eye out for any unlucky soul who passed by. She always made Stephanie think of that poem, The Ancient Mariner, stopping people to unload some cockamamie story.

"Don't you look pretty, though," Mrs. Willoughby said, taking off her gardening gloves and straw hat, brushing at her wispy, faded strawberry blonde hair. Stephanie's best guess was that Mrs. Willoughby was pushing eighty, but Christ only knew for sure. They made the usual small talk, progressing from what a beautiful day it was, you could just feel spring in the air, to how Mrs. Willoughby thought she might go down to the mall later and check out that department store that had just opened up. Finally the topic came around to what was really on the old bat's mind, "You're not visiting Tobias, are you, dear?"

"I might drop in for a minute," Stephanie said. There was hardly any point in denying her destination since Mrs. Willoughby would be keeping an eagle eye on her all the while. "What about it?" she returned, kind of sharp, but figuring she was entitled. If five years of marriage to an asshole didn't relieve a person of having to be diplomatic all the time, then she didn't know what would. Besides, she knew where this was headed.

"Well," Mrs. Willoughby put her hat back on, then her gloves, "I'd think a sensible young woman would know better, that's all. We have no idea what's become of Genevieve, after all. Ii>I'd be very careful of getting mixed up with that young man, that's what I know."

Yep, that was it: Tobias must have murdered Genevieve and buried her in the backyard. Among all the things wrong with that was that, according to Mrs. Willoughby, that was the story behind every absent spouse in the neighborhood -- they were all dead and buried in their backyards.

"Genevieve ran away with a lover." Even though she knew it wouldn't do any good, Stephanie thought she owed it to Tobias to at least point that out.

Mrs. Willoughby sniffed at that, sticking her trowel in the dirt, loosening it up. "Did anyone see her run off with this lover? No, you mark my words, something shady happened. You see it on television all the time."

"Maybe you shouldn't watch so much television," Stephanie said.

She managed to make her escape when Mrs. Willoughby spotted Jonah, the tomcat from down the street and the worst horndog on four feet, making a beeline for her Miss Priss. With the old biddy off to rescue her cat, Stephanie wasted no time in crossing the street so she could check out the other potential neighborhood tomcat.

*** If Toby had been slightly perplexed at Stephanie popping over out of the blue, everything began making sense as their conversation progressed. Just the way she briskly moved things along told him she wasn't that concerned with how he was making out as a suddenly single father. And once that idle chitchat was out of the way, she got right to the point.

"So," she leaned back against the center island, arms folded under her breasts, "you got yourself a Harley?"

He guessed it wouldn't be too subtle to tell her, 'Well, no, but I got myself a boyfriend who rides one.' On the other hand, did subtlety even rank that high as a priority? Not to mention he was just a little miffed she automatically assumed the Harley wasn't his. He could ride a motorcycle if he wanted to. In fact he was looking forward to Chris giving him a ride so he could see what it was like.

Still -- he turned the slices of ham in another skillet -- he opted to just say, "No, that belongs to a friend of mine." First try diplomacy, then whap 'em over the head if that failed.

Her ingenuous reply, "Oh -- yeah, I thought I'd seen someone around," didn't fool him for a moment. She'd probably had her binoculars trained on Chris every time he stepped outside. Not that Toby could necessarily blame her, given Chris was worth some covetous gawking.

Before he could think of a delicate way to tell her to fuck off, the source of all this interest popped back in, saying, "Hey, Tobe? I think Harry needs changing. Oh -- hello." Chris hovered in the doorway, surprised to see they had company but sending her a friendly smile.

Stepping into the awkward moment -- even if it was only awkward for one person in the room, Toby said, "This is Mrs. Carter from across the street." He didn't miss the annoyed look she flashed him at being introduced that way.

She sent Chris a bright smile, however, taking a few steps forward and extending her hand. "It's Stephanie, actually; the missus is history."

"Chris Keller." He smiled back and shook her hand, but didn't linger over it.

Okay, maybe it was time to try out that resolve not to act like a possessive, jealous dork every time someone ogled Chris. It wasn't Chris' fault he had that effect; it probably wasn't even Stephanie's fault she couldn't resist. "You think you can finish up here?" he said, pointing his spatula at the stove.

"Yeah, I think I can handle eggs and ham." Chris took the utensil from him, turning the eggs.

"Uh-huh. So when are you going to get a handle on changing diapers?"

Chris flashed him a little smirk. "How 'bout when I have a kid of my own."

Smart-ass. "All right, I'll be right back." Five, ten minutes -- what could happen? Not to mention: either he trusted Chris, or he didn't. Was it a really bad sign that he wanted to tell Chris to go put on a shirt, though?

Damn, this stuff was complicated.

*** Stephanie had to admit Tobias was going around with a different kind of aura today. She'd never denied he was cute, but she also hadn't automatically thought Tobias - sexy. He had a brand new sizzle to him now, though, that made him a lot more intriguing. He was looking pretty tasty in his jeans and blue polo, too -- just not quite as scrumptious as his friend.

"So, Chris," she resumed her former pose, leaning against the counter, striking a little pose with one leg crossed over the other, a hand at one hip, the other resting against her thigh, "what business are you in?" She wasn't even going to make a guess at that. He wasn't all buttoned down, she could tell that much, but beyond that...? He could be anything from a wiseguy with the mob to a Chippendales dancer.

"I'm a cop," he told her, taking the eggs off the burner and poured them into one of the chafing dishes.

Okay, that wouldn't have been her first guess, and she kind of hated to give up the Chippendales dancer one. Maybe that explained the connection to Tobias, though. "So what kind of cop? I mean," she let herself look him over again, silently applauding that he didn't mind dressing to show off his body -- and that he had something worthy of display, "I'm guessing you're not a meter maid."

He flashed that gorgeous smile again -- white teeth and dimples, crystal blue eyes sparkling -- and said, "Nah, I look lousy in a skirt."

She could believe that. Tight jeans and that ass were made for each other, however. And why had she ever thought sleeveless t-shirts weren't sexy? Maybe because it was a long time since she'd seen one clinging to a torso like that. Used to be tattoos didn't do a lot for her, either -- now her fingers were itching to trace the lines of that striking crucifixion image on his arm. "Well I'd say you worked vice, but that's almost too easy."

"Oh -- I know what that is, that's one of those double entendres, right?" he returned, still smiling.

Damn -- sexy and sassy, and a pretty smart cookie, too, if she was reading him right. Jesus, did they really make them like this? "So, is it a mystery? Maybe you're into undercover work?"

"Yeah," he drawled playing along, "but not the kind they pay you for. Nah, I'm in homicide."

"Yeah?" she said, thinking any kind of police detective could be worth knowing, the way things were shaping up. "That ever overlap with robbery and stuff?"

"It can." He was taking the ham off the burner now. "Kinda depends on who got whacked and how come."

Yes, she bet he could be very handy to have around if things played out the way Jim was thinking they would. Come to that, someone getting whacked over all that might not be such a wild stretch of the imagination, either. And Stephanie guessed all that was one of those classic, 'If I'd only known,' set ups. Just went to show, say 'I do' to the wrong guy and you could wind up in a whole load of shit. Sometimes she figured there wasn't a whole lot of difference in being married to the mob and being married to Faith of Our Fathers.

Chris was giving her a curious look now, like she'd been quiet a little too long and he wondered what was up. "There something on your mind, Steph?"

Oh, now, that wasn't fair. Ordinarily she hated being called that, but he said it so nice she'd bet he could call you ma'am and make it a compliment. Tempting as it was to trot out her dilemma and get a professional opinion on it, though, maybe she ought to wait until she had some actual facts and not just her big brother's suspicions. "Just weighing some pros and cons," she said.

"'Bout what?" He leaned against the opposite counter, watching her, real intent and serious.

"Well I've been thinking about getting a new bike, but could use some advice. How's your Harley handle?" If that wasn't exactly what she wanted to talk about, it was as good a jumping off point as any.

*** Toby knew he was insane to hear any kind of innuendo in, "How's your Harley handle?" but that didn't keep him from striding back into the kitchen, trying not to shoot them both a suspicious look. "What about a Harley?" he said, moving up beside Chris.

"Steph was just saying she's in the market for one." Chris gave him a funny little look, like he was kind of suspicious himself.

Steph? He'd introduced them five minutes ago, and it was already Steph? He instructed himself to take some deep breaths, reminding himself that was just Chris' way; being easy and familiar with people was just what he did. Even so, he sidled a little closer until there was contact. "Is that why you were sizing up his bike?"

Now Stephanie was giving him a funny look, but not quite connecting the dots. "Uh-huh. I thought Chris might give me some advice." She looked at Chris again. "I was thinking of checking out that new shop that's opened up, down at the mall. Maybe you could come along and give me some ideas."

Oh yes, Toby just bet she needed Chris to give her some ideas. Maybe it was time to drop the tactful approach and go straight to the whapping over the head portion. He'd just cross his fingers that it didn't get him whapped right back.

Slipping his arm around Chris' waist, he said, "Gee, I don't know. What do you think, Cupcake?" He turned his head to meet a pair of bemused blue eyes. "Will we have time to help Stephanie and do all our shopping, too? I know you had your heart set on looking at some new drapes, and we really do need some new linen for the bed. What do you think?" Belatedly it occurred to him it probably wasn't a good idea to piss off a homicide detective. They probably knew all sorts of ingenious ways to kill you.

*** Well ... damn. Stephanie paused in the driveway, looking back at them through the kitchen window, realizing she should have known it was too good to be true. No way was a guy like that single and straight.

And the worst thing wasn't even that she felt like an idiot -- a really disappointed idiot. No, as she watched them move towards each other and kiss, the worst fucking thing was that she couldn't seem to help thinking they were kind of hot. What the fuck was that about?

*** "Cupcake?" Chris gave him his best stare, challenging him to have a fucking good explanation.

Trying to look cute -- and not doing a bad job of it -- Toby said, "Uhm ... You don't like Cupcake? How about--"

"How about you tell me what that was about?"

Toby shot him a wary look now. "First you have to promise not to kill me."

"I gotta give it to you in writing?"

Toby huffed. "Okay, I'm an idiot--"

"Well we're agreed on that much."

"Look," Toby moved in close again, looking all sweet and sexy, his arms going around Chris' neck, "I'm a nut, okay, I admit it. I can promise you a lot, but don't ask me to like it when someone's looking at you like they want to take you for a ride."

He was nuts all right, but it was kind of hard to mind him getting all goofy. Chris put his arms around Toby, pulling him in closer. "Just 'cause they want a test drive don't mean they're gonna get one."

"I know that, I do."

Chris gave him a really serious look. "You're sure?"

Toby's, "Yes," wasn't one hundred percent convincing, but it would do for now, and Chris dipped his head to drop a quick kiss on his lover's lips.

"Just don't ever call me Cupcake again," he said as he let him go.

"Deal," Toby agreed, drawing him back for a longer kiss.

All the people in the world and he had to fall in love with a nutbar, Chris thought, threading his fingers through Toby's hair, knowing he really wouldn't have it any other way.

*** "Don't you gotta make a list of all your lists now?" Chris said, leaning over Toby's shoulder as he sat at his desk, organizing their shopping expedition.

"Well we can't all go through life on a whimsy," Toby replied, kind of snippy.

"Whimsy, huh?" Chris lowered himself to straddle Toby's lap, sliding his hands around to cup the nape of his neck. "That the same kinda thing as frivolous?"

Toby licked his lips. "It's the same ballpark, yeah."

"Hmmm... So I guess this is being too whimsical, huh?" Chris whispered the words against his ear, nuzzling a moment before flicking his tongue against it.

"It's really...bad...omigawd...timing... Chris."

Chris kissed his lips, lingering. "So I guess you don't want to find out how my Harley handles, huh?"

*** to be continued

Please send feedback to Riley Cannon.