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by Maddie

"I'm worried about him," Victoria Beecher whispered to her husband.

Harrison Beecher checked in the rearview mirror to see that Holly and Harry were engrossed in whatever game they were playing before answering. "I'm worried, too. Toby has been so... depressed, it seems since he's been home. I keep hoping he'll snap out of it."

"Me, too, dear," Victoria said without much conviction.

It was Christmas Eve. Toby had allowed his parents to take Holly and Harry home with them, promising to come over early the next morning to watch the children open presents.

In the little over a year since Toby had been released from Oz, he had tried to be a good father to his children, getting them up for school, helping them with homework in the afternoons, reading them a story before bed. He was working as an assistant at his old law firm. At work, he didn't bother to pretend he liked his job. He didn't have to pretend with the children. He was happiest when they were around. But after they went to bed, or school, or home with his parents, Toby was left alone with his thoughts: of what a mess he'd made of his life. Mostly, he thought of Chris. Too many times, Harrison and Victoria noticed, when they brought the children home, that Toby had been crying. He never said anything, but they knew without asking that Chris was the reason.

Toby now believed if he had given Chris even a glimmer of hope that he would be forgiven, Chris would never have killed himself. He also realized that despite what he'd told Chris, he assumed things would go back to the way they always did, with Chris repentant, doing everything he could to earn Toby's forgiveness. This revelation was almost more hurtful than the first. It had taken losing Chris to show Toby how much he truly loved and needed him.

Toby served out the rest of his time in relative peace, Chris having removed most of the threats to that peace. Since his release, he had tried to pretend he could resume a normal life. In the end, however, he had decided his children would be better off without him. They had made it just fine with their grandparents. And Toby had concluded he simply couldn't go on without Chris, bearing the knowledge that he was responsible for Chris's death.

Toby sat on the side of his bed, a bottle of Scotch in his hand. He planned to get drunk, then take the sleeping pills he had saved up for the occasion. When he didn't show up on Christmas morning, he knew his father would call, and when there was no answer, his mother would insist he go over to check on Toby. That was the reason Toby chose pills. The thought of using a gun or a razor blade was never an option. He had put his parents — and children — through enough. He didn't want his father's last vision of him to be gruesome.

Toby sat against the headboard and took his first drink in almost seven years. The first one was rough, but soon he felt the familiar thrum as the alcohol took effect.

"Toby? Hey, Toby, come on. You gotta wake up."

"Wh-what?" Toby asked groggily. He opened his eyes, then sat straight up.

"Chris? Oh my God! Am I dead?"

"Not exactly."

"Are you a ghost?"

"Yes. I am the ghost of Christmas past," Chris said with a smirk.

Toby laughed in spite of his shock and confusion, then said softly, "Can I touch you?"

"Yes, but then we have to talk."

Toby moved into Chris's outstretched arms. Chris held him tight, stroking his hair.

"God, Chris, I missed you," Toby said, his voice breaking. "What - - how are you here?

"I have to talk to you, Toby. I need you to concentrate. Listen. Don't talk."

"Okay, but... you look great," Toby said, finally noticing what Chris was wearing — soft, faded jeans, a plain white t-shirt and a leather jacket.

Chris frowned at Toby. "You don't look so good," he said. "How much weight have you lost? And crying all the time — did you think this was how I wanted you to be?"

"Shouldn't that be what you wanted? It's my fault you died, Chris!"

Chris shook his head. "You can't take responsibility for every bad thing that ever happened, Tobe. Definitely not for what I did."

"Chris, I still don't understand how you're here. Are you real, or - -"

Chris held up his hand. "You were going to be quiet, remember? Let me talk this time."

"Okay," Toby said.

"Toby, I'm here to give you a second chance. Don't do this. Don't you know how much your kids need you?"

"They're better off without me, Chris. My parents are more capable of raising them than I could ever be. If not for me, Gary would still be alive."

"Bullshit. I would've been better off without my old man. But you, Toby... you should see yourself with your kids. They need you. And whether you know it or not, you need them. Your parents, too. They worry about you, Toby. They love you a lot. You have so many people who love you, Toby."

"I don't deserve their love."

"I used to think I didn't deserve love, either. But you showed me that I did."

"How can you say that, Chris? After all I did to hurt you? My God, I tried to kill you once! And I finally succeeded, without even raising a hand to you."

"Toby, I'm not gonna say what we had wasn't fucked up. Being dead gives you a lot of time to think. I was fucked up. I did some truly awful things. To you and to a lot of other people. I don't know what I was thinking, killing all those people for you. I should've known how you'd react."

"Chris... I can't believe I'm saying this... when you died, did you - -

I mean I know you believed you'd go to hell..."

"There's different kinds of hell, Toby. It's not all hellfire and brimstone. Sometimes it's not being able to be with the one you love more than anything, and knowing it's your fault."

"And I'm not even dead yet. I guess."

"I didn't mean you, I meant me." Chris grasped Toby's hands. "Toby, I've watched you. All this time. I've watched you with your kids, with your parents, trying to convince them you're okay. I've seen you alone, crying yourself to sleep. And I couldn't do a thing. All I could do was watch. That was worse than any hell I know."

Toby pulled Chris to him. "For me, too, Chris. That's why I decided to end it. I couldn't stand being without you anymore. Sleeping alone every night, you were all I could think of. I ached to have you hold me, Chris, to hold you."

"I know, Toby. Believe me, I know." Chris ran his hands over his face. "I wish this was one of those movies where I could show you what it would be like without you. Can you imagine how your folks would feel?"

"Relieved, I would think."

"Toby! Fuck, you know better than that! And Holly and Harry — what about them? I never told you this, but I hated your wife. I hated her for leaving you and her kids. For letting the kids find her, for Chrissakes. And that letter she sent you. I thought she was a weak, selfish bitch."

"Chris - -"

"No. Let me finish. Did you really go through all that shit that happened to you in Oz, just so you could kill yourself? If you did, then you're a weak, selfish bitch, too."

"Fuck you, Chris!" Toby shouted. "You don't know how it's been..."

"I don't know how it's been? I do, Toby."

"Chris, I... If I don't go through with this, you're going to leave me again, aren't you?" Toby said, tears rolling down his face.

Chris nodded. "Not because I want to. It's not time for you to go, Toby. We'll be together again one day, a long time from now. But I'll always be here, watching you."

"Chris, I don't want to lose you again. I can't."

"You have to, Toby. You're not done here yet. You have to be here for your kids. They need you."

Chris stood up and took off his jacket. "Move over," he said.

Toby slid over to the other side of the bed. Chris got in and held Toby close, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Chris, I don't want you to go. I need you."

"I know, baby. I need you too. But like I said, I'm always here. Tobe, you remember that lockdown we had? The long one?"

"How could I forget? The best two weeks I ever spent in Oz."

"Yeah," Chris smiled. "Remember the story you told me, about your best Christmas?"


"Keep it in mind. And, Toby?"


"Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings."

Toby chuckled. "Chris..." he said seriously.

"I love you, too, Toby. More than I've ever loved anyone. Whatever else has happened between us, that's always been true."

"I love you so much, Chris," Toby said, in tears again.

Chris kissed him softly, then settled Toby's head back against his shoulder.

The phone ringing woke Toby. He sat straight up, then immediately fell back, holding his head. He reached for the phone.

"Toby? Are you all right, son?" Harrison asked, concern evident in his voice. "The children are getting a little impatient. Should I come and get you?"

"Would you, Dad? I overslept, and I need a shower and coffee. I'll be ready when you get here."

"Okay, I'm on my way."

Toby hung up the phone and looked at the opposite side of the bed. He ran his hand over the sheet. It had seemed so real. He shook his head and got up, slowly this time, to go start coffee and take a shower. He was feeling a little better after he was dressed and had some coffee. He went to his bedroom and grabbed the Scotch bottle and sleeping pills. He flushed the pills, and took both empty bottles to the trash. Then he called his AA sponsor, promising he would go to a meeting that afternoon.

As soon as he hung up the phone, his father was at the door.

"Toby, are you all right? Really?"

"Yeah, I just... had a rough night. Are you ready?"

"Yes, the children have been up for hours. You and Angus always were, too. All kids, I guess," Harrison said as they walked to the car.

"Yeah. Can't get `em up for school, but on Christmas morning, or Saturday morning, they're up before you," Toby said, buckling his seatbelt. "Dad... I know you and Mom have been worried about me. I'm sorry for that. For everything."

"That's all right, Toby. Parents worry, it's just the way it is. You know that."

"Yes. I just wanted you to know, I think I'm okay."

"I'm very glad to hear that, son."

When Harrison and Toby arrived, Angus and the children were watching the end of "It's a Wonderful Life", and Victoria was bringing in a tray of coffee and hot chocolate.

Harry ran to Toby, happily yelling "Daddy!". Holly followed and they both hugged Toby.

"Hello, Toby," Victoria said, setting down the tray to give him a hug. "How are you?"

"I'm fine, Mother."

"Grandma, tell Daddy about his present!" Harry said from Toby's side.

"Oh, yes, as your father was leaving, he found this outside the door," Victoria told him, passing a dark blue gift bag to him.

"For me?" Toby said.

"Open it, Daddy," Holly told him.

Toby opened the bag, pulling out silver tissue paper. He looked in the bag, puzzled, then took out the contents.

"It's a train!" Harry said.

"The engine," Toby said weakly. "It's a Christmas ornament."

"Looks just like the one you had years ago. You got it for Christmas," Harrison said. "Toby?"

"I'm okay, Dad. I just need a few minutes."

Toby headed for the front door as Zuzu Bailey was saying, "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings". Toby walked outside and sat on the front steps. He held the miniature engine in his hand, and thought of what he'd told Chris long ago, during the lockdown.

They had been talking about Christmas, about how it never seemed like Christmas in Oz. Toby had told Chris about his best Christmas, when he was eight. He had asked for and received a train set, the engine exactly like the one he held in his hand. His brother Angus had just been born, and Toby was feeling a little left out. His father, perhaps sensing this, had suggested they build a model city to go with the train set. They set up a table in the basement and spent many happy hours painstakingly putting together a miniature city for Toby's train to travel through.

Toby sat there trying to figure it all out. Was it a dream? Had Chris been there? Had Chris gotten his wings? He was still staring at the engine when Angus came out to sit beside him.

"Toby, hey, are you all right?"

"Yeah, I just had a weird night."

"Are you really all right? What's up with this mysterious present?"

"I'm really all right. I just... I miss Chris, Angus. And I almost did something really bad because of that, and I can't explain it,but... Chris stopped me from doing it. But yeah, I'm more okay now than I have been in a while."

"Good," Angus said sincerely. "Now, let's go open presents. It's getting hard to put the kids off."

After they opened presents and had a late breakfast, Toby found his father in his study.

"Dad, is that train set and the city we built still in the basement?"

"Yes. Probably a little dusty, but still there."

"I thought maybe later, we could show it to the kids."

Harrison smiled. "I would like that, Toby."

Harry was fascinated by the whole thing, and asked if they could take it home with them. Toby promised they would build their own.

Later in the afternoon, Toby went to his AA meeting. When he returned to his parents' house, they had Christmas dinner. It was late when Harrison took them all back home. The children fell asleep on the way and Toby and his father carried them inside. As Toby tucked Harry into bed, he made Toby promise to hang the train ornament on their tree.

After Harrison left, Toby took the ornament back out of its bag and took it to the tree. He hung it in front, where Harry was sure to see it. He stared at it, still amazed by all that had transpired.

"Chris," Toby whispered. "I miss you. I'll always miss you. But you were right. They do need me, and I need them. Thank you for making me see that."

With one last look at the tree, Toby went upstairs to bed.

- The End -

Angel by Aerosmith

I'm in love, yet I don't know if I can face the night
I'm in tears, and the crying that I do is for you

I want your love, let's break the walls between us
Don't make it tough, I put away my pride
With your sweet love, I've suffered and I've seen the light, baby

You're my angel, come and save me tonight
You're my angel, come and make it alright

Don't know what I'm gonna do about this feeling inside
Yes, it's true, loneliness took me for a ride
Without your love, I'm nothing but a beggar
Without your love, a dog without a bone
What can I do? I'm sleepin' in this bed alone

Baby, you're my angel, come and save me tonight
You're my angel, come and make it alright
Come and save me tonight

You're the reason I live
You're the reason I die
You're the reason I give when I break down and cry
Don't need no reason why
Baby, baby, baby

You're my angel, come and save me tonight
You're my angel, come and make it alright
You're my angel, come and save me tonight
You're my angel, come and make it alright

Come and save me tonight (5 times)





Title: Angel
Author: Maddie
Websites: Maddie's Fanfiction
Feedback: Yes, please!
Pairing: B/K, but no sex
Warnings: This story contains a m/m sexual relationship and mention of rape.
Rating: PG
Warning: Angst! This is not the happiest of Christmas stories.
Archive: Sure
Disclaimer: They don't belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.
Summary: Toby gets a visit from an angel on Christmas Eve.
Notes: This is sort of a cross between "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Carol", and was actually inspired by the Aerosmith song "Angel".    ♥   Thanks to Ahavia for beta.    ♥   And finally, Merry Christmas to everyone! Love you guys.
First Published: December 25, 2004

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