"Come in, Toby," Bonnie said, standing aside to let him in.
Toby had come to the kitchen door, as that seemed to be where everyone always congregated at Bonnie's house. He sat down at the kitchen table while Bonnie got coffee for them.
"How are you, Bonnie?"
"I'm good. And you?"
"I'm... not so good. I came to talk to Holly. Chris talked me into it."
"Good, because I was getting ready to get on your ass myself," Bonnie said, hands on her hips, but grinning.
Toby smiled. "How is she, Bonnie?"
"She's okay. Missing home, and scared. But she's tough, Toby, she'll be fine."
Toby thought about the last time he'd seen Holly, looking frail and terrified as she admitted to him and Chris that she was two months pregnant.
"Will she talk to me, Bonnie?"
"I'm sure she will. I'll go up and tell her you're here."
Toby looked around the kitchen, where they'd all spent many happy hours. The walls were a warm, buttery yellow, and the room was decorated in a country theme, with chickens and blue gingham. The china hutch held Bonnie's collection of salt and pepper shakers, all shaped like farm animals. When Harry was little and they came to Bonnie's, he was fascinated by them, always begging to play with them. Toby was inclined to say no, but Bonnie always let him. Amazingly, Harry never broke a single one. For years now, Harry's gift to Bonnie every Christmas was a new set for her collection.
Toby's reverie was interrupted when he heard Holly's light footsteps on the stairs. Soon Holly, looking pale and nervous, came to stand opposite Toby, hands on the back of an empty chair.
"Hello, Holly," Toby said cautiously. "How are you?"
"Okay," Holly said nervously.
"Will you sit down? I'd like for us to talk."
Holly sat down, but looked as if she would bolt at any minute.
"Holly, when you told me you were pregnant, I admit I was shocked. And I reacted badly. I'm very sorry for that," Toby said, reaching for Holly's hand, afraid she would pull back.
She didn't, and as Toby held her hand, she said shakily, "Daddy, I was so scared you hated me."
"Holly, honey, never. Chris and I love you and your brother more than anything."
"Dad, Chris says you feel responsible for all the stuff that's happened to me, the drugs and everything. You know that's not true, don't you?"
"Yeah," Toby smiled wryly, "Chris got that point across. Honey, it's just that when you have kids, you want to feel everything for them, keep any kind of pain from touching them. Seeing you go through that hurt so much. I was worried you had... followed my example."
"Dad, you realize I never saw you drunk, right? If I did, I don't remember it. Maybe Gary would've, I don't know. I never saw any of that, the drinking, the drugs. Once we started living with you and Chris, you were both great examples to us. It was me, okay? I messed up."
"Okay, I'll try and remember that. Look, the reason I'm here is that we want you to come home."
"And if I do, what then?"
"Let's wait until we get home. Chris has an idea about that, and we'll see how you feel about it. If you want, you can always come back here. But, Holly, we really want you to come home. We miss you."
"Oh, Daddy," Holly said as she burst into tears.
Toby stood and went to her, holding her close, unable to speak himself.
When their tears had abated, Toby sat down beside Holly.
"You know, when your mom was pregnant with you, she used to burst into tears all the time, for no reason. Anything would set her off, a sappy commercial, a billboard..."
"Really?" Holly asked, always eager for stories about Genevieve.
"Yeah, she was that way the whole time. I kept asking her what was wrong, and she would just say, 'I'm happy'." And she was, Holly. The day you were born was one of the happiest days ever for us."
"And you were there when I was born."
"Yes. Your mom and I both cried that day. You were so beautiful, so perfect. And you still are. Ready to go home?"
"Yes. Let me go grab some stuff and tell Aunt Bonnie goodbye."
When Holly got upstairs, Bonnie had her bag packed. Holly looked at her, eyebrows raised.
"Well, I know your dad can be just as persuasive as Chris, so I figured it would turn out this way," Bonnie said with a smile.
Holly took the bag and gave Bonnie a hug. "Thanks, Aunt Bonnie."
"You're welcome here anytime, baby."
Chris was doing laundry when Toby and Holly arrived home. Chris chuckled, remembering how he used to hate doing laundry. When he and Toby started living together, Chris did laundry early in the morning. As soon as he got the kids off to school, he would start a load washing. With the washer going, and the dryer blowing its clean, warm scent through the house, Chris would sit in the kitchen and enjoy being free.
"Chris, where are you?" Toby yelled.
"Laundry room. I'll be right there."
Chris came in a few minutes later, smiling hugely when he saw Holly. "You're home. Good," Chris said as he hugged her.
"Yes. Dad said you had some idea you wanted to tell me about?"
"Tobe, you didn't tell her?"
"No, I wanted you to."
They all sat down, and Chris first asked Holly, "Honey, has someone discussed your options with you?"
"Yes, we talked about me keeping the baby, adoption, or... terminating the pregnancy."
"And how do you feel about that?"
"I might consider adoption, I'm not getting rid of it."
Chris smiled. "Okay, then," he said, and told Holly his idea, her finishing school, and going on to college while they looked after the baby.
"You want me to go to school while I'm pregnant?" Holly asked. "But... everyone will know."
"Well, maybe we could work something else out.." Toby said.
"Wait a minute, Toby. If Holly's old enough to sleep with a guy and get pregnant, she can deal with the consequences. Holly, you've got another chance here to do something with your life. You always talked about being a psychiatrist. You still want to do that?"
"Yes," Holly admitted. "I want to specialize in drug counseling."
"Enough to go back to school and deal with the shit?"
Holly was silent for several seconds, then sighed. "Yes."
"That's my girl. While Toby gets you settled back in, I'm going out for groceries. You gotta eat right."
"I love you, Chris," Holly said, hugging him again.
"I love you, too, honey. It's good to have you home."
Holly took her bag upstairs as Toby walked Chris to the door.
"I love you, too, Chris. I love how you are with our kids."
"I love you, too, baby. And Holly's gonna be fine now, you'll see."
- TBC -
Go to the sequel: Conceptions 4
Title: Conceptions 3: Home
Website: Maddie's Fanfiction
Feedback: Yes, please!
Rating: PG, for language
Disclaimer: They don't belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.
First Published: September 9, 2004
Summary: Toby goes to bring Holly home.
Notes: Thanks to Haven for beta. This is for Rifka, she knows why. Thanks again, sweetie.
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