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At your best

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At first, thing hadn’t been perfect between the two of them- quite the opposite, actually.  But then, she had opened herself up to Toby, explained him that she wanted to marry him, but she couldn’t; she explained him the whole story, of how she had met Walt while she was very, very young, very, very  poor, and very, very married to a very, very abusive husband, and of how Walt had helped her run away, and yet she had never been able to face her own demons, and get a divorce from a man who, frankly, still scared the hell out of her.

Toby had shook his head, and cuddled her in his arms, kissing the crown of her hair, murmuring not sweet nothings, but promising to be there for her, that they would have taken every step together. And he had kept his promise: without expecting anything in return, he had been there with her all the way- even ending up in the hospital with a broken nose, a black eye and a missing tooth when he had faced the way bigger and stronger Ian.

They lay low for a while after that, not wanting to rush things, well aware that they couldn’t get back to the moment he had mastered up the courage of asking for her hand in marriage; it wasn’t one of Sylvester’s comic books, they couldn’t get back in time and just reset the timeline so that, instead of saying no and running away,  she would jump in his arms, kiss Toby senseless while he slipped the engagement ring on her finger; she had said no, she had refused for days to tell him the truth- and even worse, all the while they were together, despite knowing how he had always felt about her, she still hadn’t opened up with him. And that hurt.

But, Happy was still the love of his life, and for some unknown and unexplainable reason, she felt the same about Toby as well. It took them a while, but they finally regained their footing and they were slowly getting back to what, for Toby, was supposed to be the starting point of Happily Ever After, Walter be damned if he still didn’t believe in fairy tales despite that saint woman that was Paige at his side.

He remembered how their first date went- or better yet, how it didn’t happen at all,  as he had slept through it. That was why he had asked her out again, doing things the way he should have that very first time, sure that this time nothing could have gone wrong.

It turned out Toby was wrong- partly, at least. Oh, nothing major, of course. There was no case to ruin their date, no Apocalypse of any kind,  no crazy former partner (from work or marriage) breaking their eggs, and yet… and yet, Toby was the first one to admit that  it wasn’t going as he had planned: he was nervous, so much he had contemplated taking an Alprazolam again (but decided against it, fearing to fall asleep like that first time) and on top of that he was uncomfortable too with the starched shirt, he felt like the tie was suffocating him,  the shoes were brand new and were just too damn tight and he could see that Happy was feeling the same- he would have guessed that the lacy underwear was itching, and the heels were killing her feet and she seemed to be bothered by her own perfume as well.

And then… then, there was the main problem. The restaurant itself.

He had chosen it based on recommendations, cozy and low lights and romantic and “rural”, but apparently, what it truly meant was that the tables were way too close to each other, it was dark, with too many pieces of silverware (what he was supposed to do with four forks?), the menu was written more in French than in English, the dishes had incomprehensible names, a bottle of wine costed as much as  a month’s pay and the dark, stony walls were filled with embalmed animals. They hadn’t even really talked- just small talk, about weather and the day that had just had, like two people on a blind date who were meeting for the first time, and not someone that had known each other for years and wanted to get old together.

 “Hap?” He asked- begged- as he heard her sighing for what felt like the 100th time that evening. “Do you want to leave?”

“What? No, no, of course I don’t…” She fake-smiled, readjusted herself so that the short little black dress wouldn’t ride too high. Toby looked at her, not knowing if being mad (she was supposed to know that he would have seen she was uncomfortable and hated the place) or loving her even more than he already did (she was ready to suffer through that awful dinner just because he had chosen the restaurant and arranged the whole evening).

Toby closed his eyes and took a big breath. “Please, please, please… tell me you hate this as much as I do…”

As the words left his mouth, Happy left out a breath of relief and finally allowed herself to relax, so much that she almost slipped down the uncomfortable designer chair, and she took the white napkin and threw it on the table; Toby smiled, and took her left hand in his own, and played with her fingers. “It’s nice of you to make an effort for me, but, if I have to be honest, I’d rather take something at the Shao Kao BBQ food truck and eat barefoot at home with a beer.”

Happy closed her eyes and sighed in bliss. “Oh, I’d kill to be barefoot right now. Sorry to disappoint you, Doc, but I’m never wearing heels again. I don’t care what you or Paige say.”

Toby shook his head, and chuckled lightly. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but Happy… I find you at your sexiest when you are… you. Lost in your work, greasy and with jeans or overalls and old t-shirts and sneakers or boots.”

Happy chuckled. “You know, you look like an embalmed monkey right now, Doc, so shout the hell up, will you?”

They stood, smiling and happy and just themselves-  and holding hands they left  the restaurant, ready to go looking for the Shao Kao food truck; things hadn’t gone as planned, and yet Toby didn’t feel disappointed, after all, there was room only for improvement, given how the night had gone until that point.

And besides… who knew. Happy probably preferred to be proposed to in the security of his place, with music in the background while eating take-out, than something done in front of tens of patrons in a dark place filled with taxidermied wild beasts…