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Tomorrow Comes With No Guarantee

Title: Tomorrow Comes With No Guarantee
Author: diacriticalword
Fandom: Victor/Victoria
Words: 2053
Notes: Written for Caro_dee as a pinch-hit in the Yuletide 2009 challenge. This was the first time I'd ever picked up a pinch-hit, so I was pretty terrified! But my betas, DragoJustine and Moosesal, read it through and fixed the bits that sucked, for which I am eternally grateful.

The original story is here.

"I am very much in love, and I don't know what to do."
"Dear, I can't stand to see a grown man cry."

Toddy wobbled on stage, dangerously unstable on his high heels, as he watched Victoria and King clap wildly from the front row. His chest heaving from the exercise, his eyes bright with either adrenaline or tears, he struggled to keep a smile on his face as he watched Victoria smile benignly at King, her hands still a blur. He still couldn't believe that she was choosing him over her entire career.

She'd entered his life with a spectacular bang (and a rather large cockroach), but she was about to leave it with nothing more than a round of applause and a smile. It didn't seem right. Her exit should have been at least as flashy and dramatic as her entrance, and a slapstick drag performance by some old queen in an ill-fitting dress just didn't seem quite the thing to do it.

They found him backstage, after, surrounded by amused patrons torn between clapping him on the back and demanding to know where Victor was. He ushered Victoria and King into Victoria's old dressing room before too many awkward questions could be asked.

Victoria gave him a watery smile and held out her hand, her lower lip quivering. "Oh, I will miss you, Toddy."

"None of that, now," he admonished, shaking out his skirts. "You and I both know you won't. Imagine that, missing musty old me when you're out having fun in some other city, probably a sunny one free of cockroaches and snow." He flapped his hands in the air. "And I, of course, will be far too busy as the toast of the town, what with my theatrical debut and all, to even notice that you are gone!"

Victoria just reached out and pulled him close, ignoring King's pained look as he stood awkwardly in the corner. "I love you," she whispered in Toddy's ear.

"And I love you," Toddy said, cradling her head, "Even if you do look better in a suit than I do."

Victoria made a tiny, miserable noise and pulled back a little, looking up at Toddy's face. "I'm afraid my suit-wearing days are all but over." She sniffled a bit, wiping her eyes. "Chicago is not exactly what one would call a friendly town for transvestites or," -she slid a glance over at King, still staring intently at the wall- "homosexuals."

Toddy nodded, wiping the tears from her eyes and producing a handkerchief from the bosom of his dress with a flourish. Victoria laughed wetly as he held it up for her to blow into, and the dying-geese noise she produced caught King's attention.

"Victoria, we've got to go. I don't want to be here when Cassell comes for an explanation." He beckoned to her, opening the door and checking to see if the agent was anywhere nearby. He was looking more and more anxious with each passing second.

"He just doesn't want to be caught in the dressing room of an actual female impersonator." Victoria sent a scathingly loving glare King's way, then turned back to Toddy. "Here," she said, handing him a thick envelope. "Don't open it until we have left – I don't wish to be here when you realize what it is." She threw him a wink.

"It's not a cockroach, is it? I've had more than enough of those near me to last a lifetime." He shook the envelope suspiciously, hoping nothing with legs would fall out.

"No, Toddy, I wouldn't give you a cockroach in an envelope. If I was going to do anything, I'd drop it down the front of your dress!" Toddy looked affronted, then amused.

"It sounds to me as though you don't want your present," he said, fingering a small box speculatively.

"Toddy! You can't hold out on a woman like that!" She made a grab for it, but Toddy just held it high above her head. He shook his head.

"Not unless you ask nicely, like a proper lady!"

Victoria scowled, then transformed her face into a politely aloof mask and curtsied deeply. "If it pleases you, Monsieur Toddy, might I please have my gift?"

Toddy winced and relinquished the box. "Never, ever do that again. It was horrifying!" He gave a mock shudder, placing his hand against his chest in outrage. "No man should ever be that simperingly polite."

King suddenly reappeared behind Victoria's shoulder. "But she's not a man, not anymore. I believe that's the whole point of this endless exchange. May we go now?" he asked, glancing again at the door. "We've stayed here too long as it is, and I have no interest in getting beaten up by angry fans of yours."

Victoria clutched the box to her chest and followed King out the door. Toddy smiled once more, and waved gently as they disappeared around the door, ducking for a back exit. His hand stayed in the air for a sad, small moment before it dropped to his side, defeated.


He made it back to the hotel, almost unscathed (though one angry chorus boy had had great aim and a very heavy pair of tap shoes, and the pain in his shoulder was living proof), and trooped up to their (his) room. He hung up his coat, wishing for the sound of running water and Victoria's voice to comfort him, and he dropped heavily across the bed, realizing just how lonely it was going to be without her in it.

He reached into his pocket, remembering the envelope she had given him, before he realized it was still in his coat pocket. He leveraged himself out of the bed, his body still feeling the aches and pains of his performance. He rubbed his right hip, silently cursing lazy chorus boys in his head, and pulled the envelope out of his coat. Slitting it open with the penknife on the desk, he pulled out the papery wad inside.

He almost dropped to the floor when he realized it was almost all of Victoria's earnings during her extremely successful time as Victor. He riffled through them, realizing that he was now holding more money than he had ever seen in his entire life, when his thumb was stopped by a thick card at the center of the bundle.

Toddy, it read, in Victoria's characteristic spiky handwriting, I know you don't want my charity, but believe me, charity it is not. You truly have terrible taste in scarves, and I am merely trying to help you out. He smiled, remembering her protestations on her first day out as a man. Now, so you don't get too unbearably lonely (and don't look at me like that, I know you will be, you temperamental old man), here is the address King tells me we will be staying at in Chicago.
Yours always,

Toddy ran his finger over the last word, wishing, then shook his head and tossed the card down on the desk. "Lonely!" he scoffed, "I'll show her lonely! I'll be the most popular man in town; all the young men will want me, all the young ladies will want to be me!" He ended with a flourish, hands poised midair as if he were on stage again. He glanced around the room, as if noticing for the first time that he was, in fact, alone, and he lowered his arms. "Just you watch!" he added, defiantly, to the rather ugly statue on the wardrobe.

An interminable week of clubs and terrible singers and smoke-filled bars passed before he caved and dug the card out from under the large pile of mail on the desk. He'd used Victoria's money to pay for the hotel for a solid three months, with plenty left over for entertainment besides, and, though the staff seemed to think he was especially eccentric, they didn't bother him other than to bring him his mail and towels. Toddy quite liked the arrangement.

He sat at the desk for an hour, pondering what to write, before he scrawled down simply:
I miss you.

He sealed the envelope and took it down to the front desk before he could change his mind, and shrugged his coat back on and headed out into the snow to see if anyone had a need for a gay man with a singing voice and a sharp sense of humor. He was hopeful – in Paris, such things were always in demand.

Victoria's reply, when it came, was voluminous in comparison to his pathetically short missive.

Oh Toddy, he read, smiling grandly at the bemused clerk who had handed it to him, I miss you awfully as well. Do you know how utterly dreadful the clubs are here in Chicago? Not a single female impersonator in sight, at least not in any of the clubs King has taken me to. That may well be on purpose, though; he seems intent upon repairing what he sees as his ruined reputation as a man's man (an odd turn of phrase that never made sense to me, as it would seem that you are, in fact, a man's man indeed, and not King, but I digress) and has been taking me to all of the dances and sporting events that he can squeeze in. I find myself wearing so many close-fitting dresses that I am beginning to miss my suits something terrible as well. What I wouldn't give to wear a loose pair of slacks and a jacket again!
Unfortunately, the mafia does indeed frown upon transvestites just as much as it frowns upon homosexuality, so that seems to be nothing more than a fantasy for now.
Thankfully, there has been no sign of Norma, that harpy-woman, though it can only be a matter of time. I wish we could return to Paris (and to you, my friend!), but King does not wish to risk me being recognized.
But it is good here, after all that. I have King's love, and a singing job at a small club on the south side of the city. I hope things are going at least as well for you, or that you have at least found a pretty boyfriend to fill my side of the bed and laugh at your jokes and take care of you when you get ill.
And I cannot believe that the box you presented me with contained nothing but a meatball! I regret not putting a cockroach in your letter now, for sure. I do miss you, Toddy, though you make fun of me.
All my love,

Toddy had never thought too hard about why he missed her so much, but now he realized that all he wanted was for Victoria to come back and take up the mantle of Victor again and never leave his side. He wrote her back, trying to sound optimistic about his life and hers, but he was afraid some of that sentiment had seeped into the letter. He was only good at lying in person, and old queens are nothing if not dramatic.

He sealed the letter, addressing it to The Shady Lady of Seville and dropping it in the post, already eagerly awaiting her next letter. It had brightened up his day considerably, not as much as her presence would have, but it was something. Already the wintry outdoors looked warmer. Perhaps, with a few more letters, spring would come at last.

But weeks passed without another letter, and Toddy was starting to despair that she would never write him back. Perhaps she and King had worked out their differences, or she didn't want to hurt him by refusing to come back to Paris as he so plainly wished she would.

He soon fell into a routine, wakening late in the day and spending the night singing at yet another club and talking to people he really had no interest in. It was beginning to get tiresome.

One morning, nearly two months after his second letter, the phone rang, interrupting his mid-afternoon drink. He answered grumpily, swishing his drink around in the glass as he barked, "Hello?"

"Fire up your sewing machine, you old queen. Victor is back in town." The line went dead.

Toddy smiled. She always did find the best way to surprise him. And outside, the spring sun rose, warming Gay Paree once more.