"So…do I just stick it in?" Toby shifted uncomfortably and wiped a bead of sweat from his brow.
"Are you insane?" Happy huffed, "You can't just go barreling in with no lubrication!" She nudged him aside. "Give it to me! You clearly cannot do this yourself."
"Happy, I told you I could do it and I can!" Toby batted Happy's hands away. Bending at the waist, he held his breath as he gently inserted the piece exactly where she indicated. Twisting lightly, he felt it slide into place and he let out a whoop of joy. "Booyah! I am the man!"
Walter paused in the doorway, face was molded into a mask of concern. "What is going on in here?"
Happy grabbed a rag, wiping the excess grease from her fingertips. "I was showing Toby a few simple tricks for proper engine maintenance." Relief spread over Walter's features and she narrowed her eyes at him, "Why? What did you think was happening?"
Toby's eyebrows shot upwards as he moved to Happy's side, "Walter, Walter, Walter!" He chastised, "Do you really think we'd be doing that in the office? Never mind that it's the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday." Then, Toby grinned widely, "We'd at least wait until you and Paige went to pick up Ralph from school."
"Toby!" Happy elbowed Toby in the ribs.
"Ow, my spleen!" Toby groused but it was clear from his jovial expression that he was not actually hurt. He licked his lips, waiting to hear the rest of what Walter wanted to say. "I'm sensing discomfort in your posture that would've resolved once you realized we were not, in fact, having sex in the garage. So, what is it? Another case?"
Walter widened his stance, forcing his arms by his side to quell the hesitance he was feeling. "No, nothing like that. This is more of a personal matter…" He cleared his throat several times. "Paige has tasked me with inviting you two for dinner tonight. She thinks that we should socialize more and this was an agreeable compromise." It was clear from his expression that he did not exactly share the same opinion. However, Paige was the most important person in his life—other than Ralph—and he would do anything she asked of him without question. "So, dinner is at six o'clock at my apartment. Paige is making a roast." Without waiting for a response, he headed for the door before turning back to face them, "Wine is a customary hostess gift."
Happy and Toby exchanged a glance as Walter hightailed it out of the garage. There was a brief pause before Happy picked up her wrench again, "What just happened there?" She replied. "I could have sworn we were invited on a double date with Paige and Walter but…that doesn't sound right."
"I'm as shocked as you are, sweetheart."
"I told you not to call me sweetheart at work." Happy pointed her wrench at him menacingly. Turning her attention back to working on the engine, she leaned against the table. "I'm set here. Why don't you go pick up wine and head back to the apartment. I need to go back to my condo and grab some fresh clothes." She turned to him, "I'll pick you up on my way to Walt's."
Toby grabbed his wallet from his desk, "Why don't I pick you up?" He glanced at her, "It's traditional for a man to pick up a woman on their first official date." Honestly, he and Happy spent all their free time together and had been working incredibly hard on getting pregnant…but they had never really dated one another. Happy was extremely guarded and this was no exception. "You know, I've never actually seen the inside of your condo."
Happy shrugged, "It's four walls and a roof. Nothing exciting or special about it…"
"So you won't mind if we stay at your place tonight then?" Toby watched her posture stiffen. "Aha!" He cried, pointing a finger at her, "I was right! You don't want me to see your place. Why?" He frowned. "You're a secret hoarder, aren't you? Or maybe you have exotic pets…are you hiding a massive iguana tank?"
Scoffing in annoyance, Happy dropped her wrench onto the table. "I am not a hoarder! And iguanas? Really?" She shook her head, "Your apartment is closer to work, plain and simple." Plus, she didn't need him psychoanalyzing her entire life from top to bottom based on the place she chose to live. "I have to come back this way and besides, I'm not going to be drinking tonight. It just makes sense for me to pick you up!"
Toby put his hands up in mock surrender. "Alright," He capitulated, "You win for tonight." He'd been casually dropping hints for several weeks now that he wanted to see the place where his baby would grow up. Although Happy seemed perfectly comfortable in his apartment, it was not suitable for children. There was only one bedroom and a crib would not fit; not to mention the balcony a child could easily slip through and fall. Yet every time he mentioned it, she would find a way to change the subject. Toby was more than happy to give her some time to ease into it but sooner or later, he would have to resort to more nefarious tactics. Grabbing his hat, he placed it on his head, "Should I pick up white or red?"
"Get one of each," Happy dug in her pocket and pulled out a twenty, "And some sparkling water, if you don't mind. I won't be drinking but at least I won't seem out of place." Holding out the money, she rolled her eyes when Toby blatantly ignored her offering. He was already halfway out the door when she tore into him, "I get that you want to wear the pants in this relationship but I can pay for booze, I can drive my damn self to a date, and I sure as hell don't want you needling me about my privacy."
Toby whirled to face her, "Why should you have to pay for wine you aren't even going to be drinking?" He sighed, "Happy, every single part of you turns me on. You are a badass woman who can do it all on her own is amazing." He closed the distance between them, "You don't need me. You want me…and that is so powerful. I don't want to argue with you about this. I respect you but I'm still paying for the wine." Toby kissed her swiftly, his lips lingering over hers as he sighed. "I will see you tonight."
Happy forgot to be angry with Toby in that moment. Maybe she was just feeling oversensitive…the closer she got to Toby, the more she felt like she needed to keep up her guard. Trying for a baby was not just sex all the time. They talked at length about Toby's mother and her mental illness, about how growing up in the foster system changed Happy, and their hopes and dreams for the child they would conceive. Happy wasn't sure when it happened but their 'mutually beneficial relationship' had changed quiet drastically over the last few weeks and she wasn't entirely sure how to handle that; lashing out at Toby was a byproduct of her insecurity. She would just have to make it up to him later…
Once the wine and sparkling water were acquired, Toby headed back to his apartment. Happy infused every corner of the place now; her clothes hung in his closet, she'd brought her travel mugs for coffee, and there were leftovers in the fridge that she'd cooked. It made him uneasy how used he was to sharing this space with Happy. When she got pregnant, he was afraid of the changes. Would she return to her condo? Would they grow distant? Would she still want to be intimate with him? What if she insisted on living alone and then needed him in the middle of the night? All of these questions plagued him but until she was actually pregnant, he felt he couldn't address them. Instead, he was searching for some way—any way—to cement his position in her life. Toby did not want to be pushed aside.
As promised, Happy ran back to her condo to change. She found a skirt in the back of her closet and paired it with a nice blouse. This was an important moment and she didn't want to screw it up in any way. Afterward, she picked Toby up on the way to Walter's apartment. Toby had changed into a suit that made him look even more handsome than usual. Because he could read her like an open book and knew she found him attractive, he walked around like the cock of the walk. Happy rolled her eyes but smirked nonetheless; Toby was something else.
Toby was poised to knock when he heard Paige's voice from inside the house. "Come on in, I'm just putting the finishing touches on dinner!" Paige called from the kitchen. Walter stepped back to admit them into the apartment, taking the bottles of wine that Toby offered as he went. Paige tugged her apron off as she greeted Happy and Toby, hugging them each. "And you brought wine, that was so thoughtful! Thank you!" Walter and Toby helped themselves to beer while Paige opened up the bottle of white wine, "Happy? What can I get you?"
"I'm going to stick with the sparkling water for now," Happy followed Paige into the kitchen and pitched in slicing bread while Paige stirred the gravy. Happy sensed the burning question that Paige was trying not to ask. "I'm just being careful. Nothing is official yet."
Paige peered at the boys who were blissfully oblivious to anything happening in the kitchen. "I know you've only been trying for a few weeks but how do you feel?" She took a sip of her wine and leaned against the counter. "I didn't know I was pregnant with Ralph until I was almost in the second trimester but looking back? There were signs."
"I don't feel any different. If there are, I haven't noticed them yet… " At least physically, nothing had changed. Happy sighed as she arranged all the bread in a basket that Paige laid out; it was a welcome distraction, at least for a moment. "Can I ask you something? About your ex?" She waited for Paige to nod before continuing. "Was he somewhat overbearing when you pregnant?"
"Drew was never really the paternal type." Paige exhaled sharply. "Don't get me wrong, he was supportive when I told him I was keeping the baby but there was always a part of me that knew he wasn't going to stick around." She glanced at Toby who was showing Walter something on his phone. "Why? Has Toby been that way lately?"
Happy nodded curtly, "He's always been protective but it seems to be getting worse. He keeps pushing me to let him see my condo. He wants to pay for everything. He damn near insisted he pick me up tonight even though his place is on my way to Walter's. For lack of a better explanation, it's like he wants to show me he can play role of a traditional husband and father." She licked her lips, "But we haven't really talked about what a baby will mean for our non-relationship…"
Paige nibbled on a cracker as she sipped her wine. "You still don't believe you're in a relationship? Happy, you've been like an old married couple since the day I met you. Maybe you don't want to admit it because love is terrifying but what you have with Toby is the real deal. I think you should give it a chance." Paige watched Happy's expression sour and she chuckled softly. "Come on, would it be so bad?"
"I'm fine the way things are. Labels always make things more complicated and that's the opposite of what I want. I don't need a ring on my finger or a piece of paper to show that Toby is committed to this and he's going to make a great dad." Happy replied. "I'm good with the way things are."
"Well, as long as you're happy, that's all that matters." Paige smiled brightly. "Come on, let's get the rest of this served up. I don't know about you but I'm starving!"
Across the room, Toby kept his voice low as he scrolled through the images on his phone. Every once in a while he peered behind him to make sure that Happy and Paige were still in the kitchen. "Well? Do you think she's going to like it?"
"This is not my area of expertise," Walter shook his head. "I can tell you that the chances of it being a blood diamond are approximately four percent, the tensile strength of the setting appears strong, and the clarity of the diamond is quite good." He glanced at Toby out of the corner of his eye. "You aren't asking about the ring, are you?"
"You know Happy better than anyone," Toby shot a furtive glance toward the kitchen. "I trust your judgment." He held the phone a little closer. "It's not flashy, I didn't think Happy would want something ostentatious. And it's made of stainless steel and while it is not the most popular choice, I think that she will appreciate that it's incredibly durable but also equally nonreactive."
Walter took a moment to compose his thoughts before he spoke. "It's perfect, pal…but you have to prepare yourself for when she turns you down."
Toby shoved his phone back into his pocket. "I want to make it very clear to her that I am all in…" The truth was, Toby already knew Walter was right. If he pushed Happy too quickly, she would shut down and they'd be right back to square one. Unfortunately, that awareness did nothing to change the desire Toby had to cement what they had once and for all. "One day Happy Quinn is going to be my wife." Very soon, Toby hoped.
"Dinner's ready!" Paige announced as she carried the roast in on a platter and set it in the middle of the table. Paige took her place beside Walter, smiling as Toby slipped into the chair next to Happy. "I want to propose a toast to our very first double date." She narrowed her eyes when neither of her three companions looked particularly happy about it. "Guys, this is a big moment. We are couple friends." Still, there was no response and she sighed. "This is what I get for getting involved with geniuses…" Paige lamented.
Happy raised her glass, "Well I'd like to propose a toast to Paige for organizing this. This is a beautiful meal and thank you for inviting us." She took a sip of her sparkling water and glanced sidelong at Toby. The four of them dug into dinner heartily and the mood remained light throughout the evening. Happy and Walter got into a heated discussion about renewable energy which prompted Paige to talk about Ralph and some of his recent antics. Toby chuckled and made jokes to keep things light. He smiled and laughed but Happy was not fooled; there was something off with him.
After dinner, Toby insisted on doing the dishes and they continued to enjoy each other's company until it was nearly midnight. Paige had to get back home to relieve the babysitter and Walter looked tired. Happy and Toby said their goodbyes with promises to do this again soon. All in all, their first double date had been a success.
Toby stared out the window in silence as Happy drove the mostly deserted streets of LA. When they got back to his apartment, he leaned back in the seat. For a long time, neither of them spoke. They stared out into the darkness, watching the yellow waning moon cast a glow over the streets. Finally, Toby broke the silence. "You want to tell me what's on your mind?"
"I was going to ask you the same thing. You've been distant tonight…" Happy sighed, "Is this about earlier?"
"Not entirely," Toby admitted. "Although I find myself wondering what it is you feel you have to hide from me. We promised open communication…but I haven't been totally and completely open with you, Happy." He watched her tense. "I worry about what's going to happen when you get pregnant. I don't want you to shut me out. I want to be an active participant in your pregnancy." He swallowed hard. "But we can't raise a child at that apartment and given my credit history, I would never get a loan to buy a house. So, I am evaluating other options."
Happy let Toby's words sink in. Sticking the key back in the ignition, she backed out of his parking space and back onto the road. It only took a few minutes before she reached her place. "Come on…" Toby did not need to be told twice. In an instant he was by her side as the trekked up the three flights of stairs to her the condo. She lived on the top floor of a tri-level—one of twelve identical buildings within the development. Opening up the simple brown door, she flicked on the lights and motioned him inside.
Toby stared into the void. "There's…nothing here…"
"I have a table, a couch, and a bed with a nightstand…" Happy wrapped her arms around herself as she watched his expression soften. The walls were the same institutional beige they'd been when she'd leased the place; it clashed slightly with the carpeting was a sandy color that would hide stains extremely well, not that she'd ever made one. "I knew you were going to do this!"
"Do what?" Toby countered, "I'm just observing."
"Exactly," Happy scoffed. "You're psychoanalyzing every inch of this place. Why don't you just get it over with? Get it out of your system!"
Toby folded his arms. "There's not a single personal item in this place. Not one project, not one photo…"
"Photo of who, Toby? My family?" Happy watched him cringe. "This isn't a home to me. This is the place I lay my head." Closing the door behind him, she walked into the living room and sat down on the simple black leather couch. "I don't know where I want to raise the baby yet. But the one thing I am sure of is that I want to raise it with you. That's why I chose you, Toby. Whether we live here or at another apartment or if we start looking at houses, it will be the right place."
Suddenly all the fear that Toby had been feeling died away. He kissed her sweetly, "Do you want to stay here tonight or do you want to go back to my place?" Happy wrapped her arms around him tightly and he pressed a chaste kiss to her lips. Easing her onto the sofa, he kissed down her neck. "If I didn't tell you earlier, you look beautiful tonight…and the skirt was a great choice…" Pushing the garment up her hips, he grinned at her predatorily.
Happy tugged Toby's hat off and dragged her fingers through his hair. "I don't care where we are. I want you. Right here, right now…" She murmured.
"With pleasure," Toby growled throatily as he dragged her panties down her legs and tossed them aside. Eagerly, he kissed up her thigh, listening to her breathing grow harsh as he teased her. Happy tore at the buttons on his shirt, her fingers traversing every inch of flesh she uncovered. The fervor with which they made love this night was unparalleled. Long after their passion cooled and they cuddled on the sofa, Happy was sure of two things: She could no longer deny her love for Toby Curtis and she was absolutely, without a doubt, pregnant.
Ahh I'm sorry guys, my muses have been a little off lately. I worked very hard to get this chapter out to you and I really hope you enjoy it! Please don't gorget to feed the muses. Read, review, tumblr, tweet and/or PM to let me know what you think and if you want more! Every little bit counts, especially when I don't feel like writing.
Thank you all so much for your patience. I love you all!