Chris Keller sat in the common area, taking in his surroundings. He watched the everyday machinations of his fellow prisoners, the same old shit happening over and over. It was repetitive, it was dull and it was, in the end, mostly futile. Things never changed. Players moved in, players moved out. But the basic structure, the fundamental problems and underlying factions remained.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw O'Reily and Alvarez moving together, talking quietly. Alvarez's walk had the barest hint of a strut. It made Chris sneer, and he felt a surge of anger. It started him thinking about his list of grudges against people.
McManus. That cocksucker had put Alvarez into Toby's pod, setting up the circumstances for the little thing the two of them now had going.
Schillinger. The pure-white fuck had orchestrated Operation Toby, organising the circumstances that had led Chris to not only fall in love, but, in the long run, to get fucked over by the very object of that love.
A tiny internal voice spoke up. 'Love? Or are we talking obsession here? And hell, if you're going to list off grudges, list the one against yourself, Chris. Remember? A certain matter of some broken limbs needs to be considered.'
He pushed it away.
And Alvarez. Currently top on the list of people he could seriously do without. Although, he was only leading ol' Vern by a few notches.
Alvarez. Fucking lunatic who continued to distract Toby from what should be his real priority. Namely, one Chris Keller.
Shit. He watched Toby enter the room, followed closely by that dumb-fuck kid Cyril O'Reily. They walked over to the O'Reily-Alvarez meeting.
He appraised his former podmate. He was still walking with a trace of a limp, arms held close to his body. Chris sighed, vaguely irritated at his fascination with the blond man. Toby wasn't even that fucking hot. Sure, not bad arms; an endearing face - when it wasn't scowling or twisted by temporary insanity; nice eyes. But fuck, there were way better looking guys in Oz.
It was the left over edge of innocence that got Chris every time. The corn-fed, white-bread, privileged-and-polite background that made Toby so enticing. Even if hints of this former lifestyle were increasingly few and far between these days.
Another thing he could at least partly blame on Alvarez. He looked down at the pale scar on his finger, traced its length for a moment.
Christ. Toby and his teeth.
He angled his body slightly to the right so that he could get a better view of the small group. Surreptitiously he watched for a few moments, wondering what they were discussing. Alvarez turned slightly, and caught Chris watching them. He flashed a quick sneer and turned back to the conversation.
The guy was a loose cannon. Who knew what he would do to Toby sometime soon? Chris wanted him out of the way. Toby needed to be with someone safe, not some fucking eye-popping lunatic spic.
The contrary little voice made itself heard again. 'Ummm....Chris? Remember - you broke Toby's arms. You ain't exactly what most people would call safe. And do you really believe you're looking out for Toby's best interests? Are you really doing this for Toby? Or are you just some possessive horny fuck trying to assert your control?'
Again, he pushed the voice away. Breaking Toby's arms had been *business*, not personal. He hadn't *liked* it. Alvarez though - that fuck had no self-control. Could be Toby's nice blue eyes that were lying on the floor next.
Looking over at the small group again, he watched it dissolve. The two O'Reilys went one way, Toby and Alvarez another.
He smiled a grim smile. He was going to shatter the little alliance Toby had going.
And then he was going to move in and help Toby pick up the pieces.
The hacks called evening count. Brushing aside the nagging doubts, he stood up and moved towards his pod.
He *was* doing this for Toby.
A series of images swam across his vision. Each scene was tinged with red. He was aware, even in his dream state, of what a cliche that was. Kathy Rockwell thudding across his windshield. Andy Schillinger smiling at him, trusting. Looking up at Schillinger senior, just as a boot came crashing down on vulnerable bones. Over and over he saw images that still haunted him. The tension increased, the images moved faster, eventually blurring together into one red pool.
Toby jerked up in bed with a grunt.
He looked down, saw that he was once again drenched in sweat. Shit. He slowly slid down from the bunk, changed his shirt, and splashed some water across his face. He paused to look at himself in the mirror, and then bent to drink. His head hurt, and he reached up and dug his thumbs into his temples, trying to ease his tension. He didn't feel ready to go back to sleep, so he walked to the door and looked out to the quad. The flashlights of the patrolling guards reflected on the multiple glass walls. The effect was vaguely mesmerising, and it kept him occupied for a few minutes. Leaning his forehead against the glass, he let his mind wander.
What he really wanted was a drink. Too bad he'd alienated his reliable source for hooch when he'd...altered...Guerra's hands.
The thought made him smirk a little. Oh well. It had been worth it.
Eventually, Toby turned to go back to bed, and noticed his podmate on the other bunk, curled up, eyes wide. The sheen of sweat was visible even in the dim light. He knelt down, reached out a hand, and touched the shaking, damp body lightly.
"Nightmare?" He rubbed a thumb across Miguel's arm, trying to soothe.
There was a pause, then a nod. "Yeah."
Alvarez took a deep breath. "You?"
They looked at each other. Finally Toby spoke again. "Shit Alvarez. We're quite the pair. A psychoanalyst's fantasy."
The other man grunted. "I don't need no yuppie analysis, Beecher. I know what's gettin' to me."
"Hmmm." He stood up. "Think you can sleep again?"
"Me neither." He tried to make his tone light. "Wanna fuck?"
Miguel shrugged. "Not really."
Toby sighed. "Yeah. Want to just sit?"
Miguel nodded and slowly sat up. He moved to one end of the bunk.
Toby sat down on the thin mattress. They both leaned with their backs against the wall, not quite touching each other, and stared at nothing.
The next morning, Miguel waited in line for breakfast. After only a few hours of sleep the night before, he was tired, but not as wiped out as he'd expected to be. He was getting used to little sleep.
After getting his meal - an offshoot of working with O'Reily was the slightly larger portions - he joined Beecher at a table, sitting across from the other man. His podmate nodded at him and kept eating.
Picking up a piece of toast, he scanned the room. Same old arrangements, for the most part. The Italians still hadn't recovered from the loss of their leader to solitary confinement. The faction was rife with internal politics, and that suited Miguel just fine. It couldn't last, but he'd enjoy it while it did.
He started to eat, but kept covertly looking around. He noted Keller in the line. They traded impassive looks. He looked over and saw Beecher watching the exchange.
"You notice him lookin' at me a lot?"
Beecher nodded, chewing.
"Almost as much as he looks at you, man."
"A different way though."
"It's fucked up."
Miguel shifted impatiently, and leaned across the table slightly. "Hey - what the fuck? You can't speak today or what?"
Beecher shot him a blank look, then glanced over to where Keller had decided to sit. "He's up to something."
Miguel sighed. "Shit Beech." He stabbed his fork into some eggs. "Tell me the day when some fuck in here *ain't* up to somethin', ok?"
"I'm serious. He's planning."
"Yeah. I fucking *know* him, alright? I've watched him play the game before. He's planning something, and it involves you. Or me."
Miguel glanced over at Keller again. "Or both."
Mid-morning of another endless monotonous routine day, Toby sat in the psych evaluation office typing. The air shifted as the door opened, and he looked up expecting to see Sister Pete.
Expectations. He really should know better by now.
"Hey Toby." The taller man moved to sprawl across the small couch.
"You got an appointment?"
"Since when do I need an appointment to talk to you?" The tone of voice was cocky.
Toby sighed and turned away.
"Listen Toby - I just wanna talk to you for a second, ok?"
Toby ignored him.
The air shifted again, and suddenly Keller was leaning against the small desk. Toby could smell that particular Keller-smell, and it put his teeth on edge.
Toby closed his eyes briefly. Christ. "Fine Keller. Just make it quick. I'm busy."
"Look Beecher - I know we ain't been talkin' for awhile now. I know you don't love me. An' that's fine - I mean, I know you got some thing goin' on with Alvarez now, an' I can't say that don't bug me, but I know I can't do nothin' about it, so I want to make up. Make peace. Move on. Be...friends."
Toby shook his head in amazement. "Be friends?" He looked up at the other man, trying not to laugh.
Keller took a deep breath and looked away for a moment. He walked to the window, continuing to speak. "You an' me Beecher, we've been through a lot. I ain't saying it's all been good, but it wasn't all bad either. We work well together too. I'm sick of playing games with you."
Toby shook his head again. Was Keller completely fucked up?
"Just think about it." Keller moved towards the door and opened it. Just before he stepped across the threshold, he turned. "I mean it. And, oh - I brought you this. So you know I'm serious." He reached into his back pocket, grabbed something, and threw it towards Toby before turning again and leaving the room.
Reflexively, Toby reached out to catch the object. He looked down.
It was chocolate. Warm, slightly squishy from being in a pocket. He could smell it. He looked at the wrapper, squinting a little to read it. Lindt extra-fine dark chocolate. How the hell did he get that?
Keller had brought him chocolate.
It was ridiculous and it made him snort with laughter. After a few moments, he set the chocolate down and returned to mindless typing.
Miguel and Ryan sat at a table, playing some poker - fucking boring with only two guys, watched closely by Cyril. An object landed on the table, and Miguel looked up. Toby was looking down at them.
He looked at the package on the table. Chocolate?
"Yo - what the fuck is this? You askin' me out on some fancy date tonight, Beech?" He reached over and grabbed the smallish bar.
Beecher sat down. "Keller gave it to me."
O'Reily snorted. "Keller gave you *chocolate*?" He started to laugh.
"Yeah. Says he wants to be friends."
Miguel looked at Beecher and O'Reily. Toby looked distracted, O'Reily calculating. He noticed Cyril staring at the bar slightly wistfully. He nudged Beecher under the table, and twitched his head in the direction of the silent O'Reily brother. Beecher nodded.
"Cyril - you want some chocolate?"
A quick nod. "Yes please."
Ryan held out his hand. "What the fuck Alvarez - how d'you know that's safe? It could be poisoned or some shit."
Beecher shook his head. "Naaah. Keller's up to something, but poisoning isn't his style. Too indirect. The chocolate's safe."
Ryan looked doubtful, but shrugged. "Fine - but only a little bit."
Miguel opened the wrapper, broke off a couple of chunks and handed them to Cyril. "More tomorrow, ok?"
A happy nod and a big smile.
Some people were so fucking *easy* to please.
"So - Keller wants to be *friends*?"
"Yeah. Said he's sick of playing games. That we work well together."
"What d'you think?"
Beecher rolled his eyes. "I don't believe him, if that's what you're asking. The guy turns on everyone way too easily. This is another game, I just don't know what about yet."
Miguel watched his podmate look around the room, eyes roaming, then fixing. He looked over to see Keller strolling from the direction of the laundry room, arms full of clothes, and apparently oblivious to the attentions of the small group. The guy moved well. Snake-hipped fucker. He walked like a slut. It made Miguel want to spit.
He looked back at Beecher, about to make some smart-ass remark, but noticed the warring expressions on the other man's face. He shut his mouth and started to deal out cards.
Later, Miguel lay on his bunk, eyes half closed, and watched Toby pace. Up and down the length of the small pod. Pause, look around, fiddle with something at the sink. Stare in the mirror for a few moments. Start pacing again, stealing small glances at the shelf where the remainder of the chocolate lay. Occasionally, Toby would sit on a chair or his bunk for ten or fifteen minutes. Then, he would start pacing again. Up and down, up and down.
Beecher had been pacing on and off for hours. Miguel was starting to feel pissed.
"Hey - you ever gonna stop? Some of us want some sleep."
Beecher turned to look at him. They locked gazes briefly, then the pacing started again.
He got up and moved towards Beecher. He blocked the other man's path, and reached out to grab his arm. "Relax, fuck. You're making me dizzy."
His podmate stood there, looking in the direction of the hand on his arm, but eyes unfocused. "He has no friends." The tone was vague, distant.
Toby's eyes focused on him
"Keller. He has no real friends. He turned on Schillinger. O'Reily doesn't trust him. He talks to Hill sometimes, but that's pretty much it. He has enemies and no real friends. He's probably lonely. He needs allies."
"You're still thinkin' about that fuck? What's it matter if he ain't got no friends?"
A shrug. "I don't know. I'm trying to figure it out. Maybe he's willing to move on so he can make alliances. It's not like he has many other choices. He's in here for a long fuckin' time. Maybe he's more interested in hooking up with O'Reily than anything else."
Miguel stepped back and stretched his arms in front of him. He leaned against the concrete wall. "Do you care?"
"So why've you been pacing all fucking night?"
"I don't know - it helps me think."
"Sometimes you think too much, man."
Beecher rubbed his eyes, then turned to stare out of the pod for a few moments. Eventually he turned back to Miguel.
"You know what I'm thinking right now?"
"That you look pretty good leaning against that wall."
Miguel grinned a little. "Hmmmph. You're changin' the subject."
"So?" Beecher's tone of voice was belligerent.
"Miguel, I'm tired of talking."
A slow shake of the head. "I don't think so."
"Beecher..." A hand reached out and covered his mouth. Toby stepped closer.
"Just shut the fuck up, ok?" Lips moved up his neck to his ear, and teeth bit him lightly. It sent a shiver through his body, as he knew Toby knew it would.
Toby moved closer and rested his hands on Miguel's hips, feeling the sharp, almost absurdly delicate edges of bone. He kissed his way along a shoulder, taking time to lap at the occasional small hollows. He moved to Miguel's neck, nibbling lightly, then travelled up to his earlobe. He heard a small sigh, felt arms pull him closer.
He breathed in Miguel's scent. It was a strange mix. The ever-present prison soap, shampoo and detergent smells, which they all carried with them - those who washed regularly, anyway - were mixed with a hint of something hospital-ish. Institutional smells, which should be anything but pleasant. But underlying it all was something uniquely Miguel, and it tied the other scents together enticingly.
He was physically attracted to Alvarez. In some ways, this was a slightly disturbing thing, but Toby didn't want to dwell on it too much. The thoughts he came up with might spoil what little fun he actually got in this hellhole.
So, keeping one hand on Miguel's hip, he moved the other slowly inside the younger man's shirt. Miguel pushed away from him impatiently, and tugged the shirt over his head.
Toby smiled faintly as he watched Miguel unconsciously move his hand to cover the scars on his stomach. His other hand gestured, and Toby got the hint. He took off his shirt and moved closer. Softly, "You always cover those scars."
Irritation flashed across Miguel's face, and any further comments Toby would have made were cut off with a hard kiss. It was enough to make him grin. He pulled back for a moment.
"Alvarez - you make a great distraction."
"Hey - you gonna stand around an' talk all fuckin' night, or we gonna DO somethin' here?"
Toby grinned and slipped out of his boxers. He reached out and hooked his thumbs under the elastic waist of Miguel's shorts. He moved a little closer and tugged down, hands brushing soft skin and rigid muscle. "What do you fucking think?"
He wrapped his arms around Miguel's waist, fitting their hips together, letting cocks brush against each other lightly, then more insistently. He stopped Miguel's sharp intake of breath with his mouth. He kissed him softly, then pulled at the lower lip with his teeth, at the same time grinding hips together. He let his hands draw soft patterns across the other man's lower back, trace the ridges of muscle and vertebrae. His mouth tugged into a slight grin when Miguel sighed gently then growled with impatience. The guy had no impulse control at all. He bit a shoulder, and in return, he was pushed towards the bunk.
Toby let himself be manoeuvred onto his back, shifting a little so that both he and Miguel were comfortable. He closed his eyes as Miguel sucked on his neck, nibbling gently for a moment. The younger man picked up the pace, mouth moving across Toby's chest, tongue ringing a nipple, as a hand reached down to circle his cock.
He let fiery pleasure wash over him, let it push away the circling thoughts about Keller's latest move. He let Miguel play for a few minutes, then shifted and twisted until he was lying on his side, hips and chest pushing against Miguel, pressing him against the wall. He smiled at the surprised look on the other man's face, and bucked his hips gently, leaning in for another kiss, tongue teasing.
He felt a hand reach around to his ass, grasping lightly. Hips moved in unison, grinding, and he felt a slight stickiness between them. He set the pace, and they continued, until Toby shifted back slightly, and reached between their bodies to stroke Miguel's cock, applying a teasing pressure, thumb moving to feather moisture across the head. He listened to the soft grunts coming from his partner, and briefly pressed his lips to Miguel's throat, so that he could feel the slight vibrations. He flicked his tongue, tasted sweat and salt, wrapped his fingers around Miguel's cock and slid his hand down.
He closed his eyes as the hand on his ass gripped tighter and pulled him closer. He felt teeth close on the skin that joined his shoulder and neck, worrying it for a few moments. He shook the teeth off after a few moments. He didn't need marks for every fuck to see tomorrow. Miguel started an on-going hissing groan as Toby's hand stroked and gripped him. Toby let the sound wash around him, let it drive out any remaining thoughts about the day. He wanted to lose himself in Miguel's noises.
Twisting again, he pulled Miguel onto his back, kneeling between his legs. He lowered his mouth to the slender neck, gradually travelling across a shoulder and down Miguel's chest. He tugged at a nipple with his teeth, and felt fingers and short nails dig into his arm. Miguel was getting increasingly impatient, and he grinned a little at the responses he was causing. He shifted down, and grasped Miguel's cock again, flicking his tongue out and then moving his mouth slowly over the head. His other hand pressed Miguel's hip to the mattress. He felt a hand move to lightly rest on the back of his neck, nails still digging into his arm.
He stroked his thumb in in time with the movements of his tongue and lips, listening as Miguel's breathing increased. He teased, hitting all the spots, trying to wring out as much pleasure as he could.
He heard a drawn out hiss, felt Miguel's body tense, and noted fingers start to clench at this neck. He swallowed as Miguel came, then shifted slightly to press his face into a muscled belly.
Miguel was still for a few moments, hand staying on Toby's neck. Then he felt himself being drawn up and flipped over, and Miguel was once again looking down at him. Toby licked his lips a little and smiled. He looked into hooded eyes before Miguel closed them and leaned close for a kiss.
Toby felt a hand travelling across his chest and belly, almost tickling. He shifted a little, covered Miguel's hand with his own for a moment, pressing harder. He let out a breathy moan as Miguel's hand moved to stroke his cock. He bucked his hips, bit his lip, then turned his face to bite Miguel's arm.
Fire shot through him, he heard a ragged moan, and realised it came from his own throat. He felt warmth rush over him, and a release of pressure. Blindly, he turned his head and searched for Miguel's mouth as his body tensed, then went slack. He half opened his eyes, and looked at the man hovering just above him. He reached up his hand and ran it down Miguel's slick back, smiling at the slight shiver the delicate touch evoked.
After a few moments, they stood and cleaned up, moving back to the bunk when they were done.
From his pod across the quad, Chris had watched Toby pace, and that had brought a smile. A few words, a little gift, and already the blond man was tense, probably obsessing about Chris and his actions.
Toby probably wasn't thinking *good* thoughts - the kind of thoughts that Chris wanted him to be having - but, at least he was thinking about his former podmate.
He had stopped smiling when that fucker Alvarez had blocked Toby's way. He'd gritted his teeth when Toby had pulled the younger man close.
When the two men moved into the shadows, towards the bunks, he'd wanted to throw something. Preferably something hard and sharp, and in the direction of Alvarez. Instead, he'd rolled over to continue thinking about the details of his plan.
"Why...um, I'm kinda wonderin' why you..." Miguel's voice trailed off. He looked slightly uncertain.
"Why you trust me. I mean, enough to..." he waved his hand in the direction of their naked bodies.
"To fuck with you?"
Toby shifted a little, then moved to sit up. "Miguel...you started this whole thing."
"Yeah well, I don't remember you protesting too much, man."
Toby shrugged. "I like you. You're a good guy."
A snort. "Fuck. I cut up a guy because he scratched my car. I cut out a guy's eyes. I helped O'Reily set up El Cid to get killed. How fucking *good* does that make me?"
Toby sighed, and tried to lighten the mood. "Hey - Hernandez's death was a public service."
The other man didn't crack a smile.
"Look - Alvarez, there are differing degrees of good. In here, you're one of the good ones, ok? You're funny. You're good to talk to. You're loyal, you have the depth to feel bad about Rivera. Some guys would brag and preen and do it again, but not you. And you notice little things. Like that Cyril wanted the chocolate. You did something about it. Me and O'Reily, we were too caught up in our own thoughts to notice. We would have eventually, but you saw it first." He paused and took a deep breath. "I'm not saying you're a model citizen, ok? Neither of us are. But I do trust you with me. Maybe it's stupid, but..." He let his voice trail off.
Miguel was silent for a while. Eventually, "You got a fucked up way of reassuring a guy."
"But did it work?"
"I guess....but, um, I mean, don't you worry?"
" 'Cause like - you trusted Keller. You loved him, right? Look where that got you."
Ah fuck. He didn't want to talk about this. He really *really* didn't. "Miguel. Keller is off limits, ok? I don't want to talk about it."
"It bugs you doesn't it?"
"Him comin' to talk to you. It's easier for you if you're ignoring each other."
"Nothing's easy for me Miguel."
Alvarez shifted, and moved away. "Oh, yeah, you are just *so* fuckin' tortured, aren't you?"
Toby was vaguely surprised by the suddenly angry man. "Hey - what the fuck?"
"No, Alvarez - what the fuck are you getting at?"
"You - you dwell on shit. Let it get to you. You sulk. It's like 'Oh, poor sad Tobias. Bad stuff is happening to him again'. You get all self-pitying an' shit. 'Oh Miguel, nothing's easy for me'. There ain't no room for that shit here, man. You should just let it go. Move on. It's almost like you WANT to feel like shit."
Toby couldn't decide whether to be annoyed or amused. "Sure Alvarez. You talking to me here, or to yourself?"
Not really all that bothered, Toby shrugged. "Fine." He stood, threw on some shorts and moved up to his bunk. He rolled over to fall asleep.
Miguel lay on his bunk, seething. He was pissed. Pissed at Beecher. Pissed at himself.
Beecher. Sometimes he *made* himself a victim. It was fuckin' annoying. Sometimes Miguel was half tempted to just cut the guy loose. Just say it was done. He was ok, he could move on. He had his deal going with O'Reily. El Cid was dead. He was cool.
But fuck. He couldn't just fuck off for no reason, especially since he owed the guy.
He owed Toby, and he knew it. Owed the guy who had gone out of his way to help him out when he first got out of solitary. Who had gone on some fucked-up insane rampage after he'd been nearly killed.
Beecher had stepped out on a limb for him, and Miguel had yet to return the favour. He wasn't doing *anything* for Beecher.
The feeling grated. He hated the pressure.
And, when he thought about it in any real depth, he had to admit, he did need Toby. He craved the physical contact, the human warmth. He wanted the conversation, the light touches, the understanding silences, as much as he wanted the reliable source of sex. He needed the acceptance.
Acceptance. The need for it had plagued him most of his life.
He sighed and shifted. He liked Beecher. The guy could be a total nut, but Miguel liked him. In the end, it pretty much came down to that.
Besides, there were certain advantages to siding with someone who was a known lunatic. It made for entertainment as well as a distinct wariness on the part of the other prisoners.
He really couldn't afford to fuck up this connection. And, he really didn't want to either.
He rolled out of bed and stood up.
Leaning against Beecher's bunk, he reached out to touch the man's back. "Hey."
No response. "Hey. Beech."
He podmate rolled over. "What?" The voice was sleepy, strangely vulnerable.
Miguel shifted. "Umm...I just wanted to say...ahh..."
Toby rubbed his face with his hands, and half-smiled sleepily. "What Miguel?"
"...sorry for saying all that shit." He toyed with the edge of Beecher's blanket.
The other man shrugged. "S'ok. Just letting off steam, I know."
"Uhh, yeah. Ok."
There was a slight pause. Toby, obviously thinking the conversation was over, started to roll over to go back to sleep. Miguel reached out a hand to stop him. "Beech - I owe you."
Beecher looked at him intently for a few moments. Finally, he spoke. "No. I don't want to start counting up debts with you, Miguel. I didn't do what I did to get some control over you, to set up some network of obligations. I did it to get some kind of control over myself, over my situation."
Miguel was confused. "What?"
"Look - this place, everything's laid out for us. Routine. When we eat, *what* we eat, how long we shower, when to work, when to sleep. I started talking to you because I wanted to. It was *my* choice, and it reminded me that I still had some choices. That I was still human, not some fucking rat in a maze."
Miguel shook his head. He wasn't convinced.
"Look - Alvarez, I know you think I'm not getting anything out of this thing we have going. You're wrong. It works for me. I get someone to talk to, someone who I don't have a fucked-up history with. And that's good. So, it works out."
"Don't think about it too hard, Miguel. Just go with it."
He stared at the blanket for a minute. "You should take your own advice."
"You think about Keller too fuckin' much. It's gonna screw you up."
"I'm just trying to figure out how much of a threat he is."
"An' that's all?"
Miguel shrugged. "If you say so." With that, he lay back down on his bunk, ending the conversation.
He didn't care what Toby said. He did owe the guy. Beech might not be playing by the same rules as Miguel, but that didn't discharge the debt. He still owed the guy, and he had to find some way to deal with it.
But at least Toby's words had eased up on the pressure a bit.
Chris walked into the gym, automatically assessing the men around him. Hardly anyone from Em City. A couple of bikers. That freak Cramer, working his admittedly nice ass. No real threats. He picked up a couple of free weights and moved to a bench.
Exercise. Repetitive motion. It helped him to think.
Right now he was assessing potential allies in his plan.
Schillinger. Always up for a chance to play with Beecher. But no. Schillinger was a really fucking bad idea. Aside from Chris's personal hatred for the fuck, the local nazi-godfather had his own grudge against Chris. Besides, Chris wanted Toby alive, not bleeding out all over the floor.
The Italians? Chris was no idiot. He was pretty sure he knew at least some of what had gone down with Pancamo. The Italians might be interested in his observations of the actions of O'Reily and Alvarez. He would conveniently leave Toby out of it.
He shook his head. The faction was a mess. Useless right now. He could probably wait it out, see what happened, but he really didn't want to do that. He was getting tired of waiting.
Wangler or Adebisi he wrote out all together. No help there.
There were only two people he could think of that had a grudge against Alvarez. Guerra - but his problems were really more with Toby.
And Ricardo. In the hole. Thanks to some information that Chris heard Alvarez had let slip.
He reached up to brush a trickle of sweat out of his eyes. He noted O'Reily enter the gym. Without his blond shadow. The mick looked at him for a moment, then nodded slightly. He nodded back, and switched the weights to his other arm.
Chris turned slightly. "O'Reily."
"You trying to get into Beecher's head again?"
He put down the weights. "No."
He shrugged and smiled a little, going for an honest, open expression. "Just trying to move on O'Reily. Say I'm sorry and shit."
The other man looked unconvinced, but Chris didn't care. He hadn't expected O'Reily to warm up to him right away.
"Hey - I'm in here for the long haul. Don't really need more people hating me than necessary, understand? I mean, I already got Schillinger and his fucks on my ass. Figure - I don't need Beecher," he paused briefly, and gave O'Reily a sly look, "or his...allies...right there too." He smiled a little, and got a shrug and a calculating look in return.
"Sure Keller." He walked away.
Chris picked up the weights again and went back to thinking. Ricardo. A definite possibility.
Miguel waited in the stairwell, sucking on a cigarette. He looked up when he heard footsteps and tensed a tiny bit. He relaxed when O'Reily turned the corner. "You talk to him?"
"He said pretty much what Beecher thought he would. That he doesn't need any more enemies, fucking Schillinger is enough. That he's here for the long haul. The expected stuff."
Miguel scowled. "What d'you think?"
Ryan shrugged. "That he's a lying cocksucker who's got it bad for Beecher and who knows that he needs some friends."
"So - you don't trust him."
O'Reily snorted. "Are you fucking kidding me Alvarez? Look at the guy...it's just one screw-over after another with him. Besides, I don't trust *any*one..."
Miguel waited for the capper.
O'Reily flashed his bullshit grin, and touched Miguel's arm lightly. "...except those I do business with...you."
Miguel nodded. No-fucking-way he bought those reassurances, but it wouldn't do to let Ryan know that. He stubbed out his cigarette. "I gotta go back to work."
He turned to go. "O'Reily - thanks."
He got a grin and a rolling shrug in return.
They walked away in separate directions.
Toby closed the door behind him, and walked in the direction of the library. He thought about the patterns of his everyday life. Psychiatric evaluation office and eye straining screens. Kitchen. Library. Pod. Gym. Laundry. His world was small and it continued to close in.
He sighed as he entered the library. Looking around, he noted that the only other prisoner in the room was Keller, and that resulted in a mental sigh. He was about to turn and walk out when the other man looked up. Too late, he was caught, and he wasn't about to show any weakness. He moved to a book shelf.
He busied himself looking through titles. Keller had been deftly and persistently making his presence known for the past few days. At first it had been infuriating, then annoying, and now it was just increasingly...tiring. He was weary of constantly having to fend off Keller's overtures. Weary of having to keep up his walls. Not that he wanted to let those walls down, but constantly having to barricade himself against Keller's attempts to charm was getting to him.
"Keller - what?"
"I don't know yet."
"You want help findin' something?"
"No." He picked up a book at random and headed for the door.
Chris watched Toby leave the library, stopping briefly to sign out his book. He sighed. At least Toby was able to speak a few words to him now, even if they were just barely civil.
He looked down at the book and pretended to read. He'd heard that Ricardo was getting out of the hole in a couple of days.
He'd make sure that the guy had a welcoming committee.
A couple of days later, Chris watched Ricardo enter Em City. He noted the slight wildness and disorientation on the man's face. Grinning a little, he followed Ricardo into the shower room.
Keeping a good distance - who knew if the guy would go off on him - Chris started up a conversation.
A little while later, he left the room with a slight bounce in his step.
He caught a slight movement from the corner of his eye, but when he turned, nothing was there. He shrugged and kept moving.
Miguel lay on his back, lifting weights in the gym. He wondered what Ricardo's return to Em City meant for him. He wondered what Keller had gone to talk to the fucker about. He suppressed a vague foreboding feeling. Ricardo didn't seem as screwed up as Miguel had figured he would be after so long in the hole. He'd hoped that the guy would dig his own grave, but now...he started to think up alternate plans.
He listened to the sounds of the men around him. Grunts, clangs of metal, murmured conversations and the occasional loud exclamations. He lifted his head slightly to make a cursory scan of the room. He watched Schillinger walk into the caged-off court and begin push ups. He frowned a little, and went back to his reps.
The next time he looked up, the gym was mostly empty. Keller - when had that ass entered? - was hitting a punching bag. Some homeboy was lifting weights. Schillinger was gone, and in his place a couple of guys were playing a half-assed one-on-one game on the court.
Getting up to leave, he grabbed a towel and wiped his face. He moved towards the door, just as that shit Ricardo entered the room.
Ricardo confronted him, eyes wild. "You fuckin' rat Alvarez."
"Fuck you Ricardo." He moved away slightly, and felt someone behind him. Turning, he found Guerra looking at him with a tight, nasty grin. He quickly glanced around the rest of the gym. The few guys in it were watching or uninterested. Except that fuck Keller, who was watching with way too much interest.
Fuck. He tensed himself and slid to the side, so he could see Guerra and Ricardo. "What the fuck d'you cocksuckers want?"
"C'mon Alvarez, you ain't so fuckin' stupid are you?"
Chris watched the confrontation and grinned to himself. He stepped back from the punching bag to lean against the wall. He wanted to enjoy this as much as possible.
Miguel smiled and shrugged slightly. What the fuck. As if fuckin' Guerra was much of a threat. The guy could barely stand upright most of the time anymore. And Ricardo - dumb ass motherfucker...
"You gonna try something, Carlo?"
He got a wild look in return. Ricardo lunged at him.
He slid out of the way easily, and grinned again. Too fuckin' easy. He sneered slightly. Ricardo was a shit.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Guerra lunge forward. He reached out and swung, connecting with a jaw. The guy went down.
He turned back to Ricardo, and ducked a fist.
Men were starting to gather closer. They were the fuckin' entertainment of the day. No hacks though. Looking up, Miguel noted the familiar tilt of a head. Beecher had entered the gym.
It was a momentary distraction, but it cost him. Things started to move faster. Ricardo lunged, grabbing his waist and pulling him down. He twisted as he hit the floor. Adrenaline started to rush, and the roaring in his ears drowned out all other sounds.
Then Ricardo was being pulled up, and Miguel got some room to breathe. His eyes connected briefly with Toby's, and he caught a familiar lunatic grin. He started to rise, and saw Toby step back and stumble over Guerra's prone body. Ricardo twisted out of the other man's grip, shoving him a little. Fuckfuckfuck. Things were moving way too fast. He was losing control of the situation.
Beecher lost his balance, and as he fell, his head thudded sickly against some weights. Guerra rose up, and Miguel caught the glint of metal gripped awkwardly in his hands. Shit. He lunged, but Ricardo got in his way. Trying to push him away, Miguel could see as Guerra leaned over Toby, shank thrusting deep.
Decking Ricardo, Miguel moved forward and reached out and grabbed Guerra's arm, pulling him away. He glanced at Toby, and then at the blood covered metal still held loosely in Guerra's hand. He advanced, but was shoved out of the way. He watched as Guerra was pulled down by a fierce-faced Keller. He heard a yell and saw Guerra twist and fall. A trail of blood began to seep out from under his body. He'd fallen on his own weapon.
Miguel caught Ricardo advancing on him again, and he twisted his body, letting his arm swing up. Ricardo fell, and stayed down.
Miguel stared for a moment, then turned towards Toby. Chaos erupted as the SORT team rushed the room.
He felt a surge of anger and frustration. Fuckin' hacks. No sense of timing.
He went limp as they dragged him away.
The hole. Cold floor, cold walls. Chris sat with his knees drawn up, trying to conserve some warmth.
He leaned his head back against the wall, and contemplated his latest fuck up.
Miguel lay in a fetal position, cold from the floor seeping into his bones.
Beecher covered in blood, eyes rolled back in his head. The image haunted him.
Keller. That fuck had set up the thing with Ricardo and Guerra, Miguel *knew* it.
The door opened, and he looked up. Clothes were tossed down to him. "You're done Alvarez."
He got dressed, squared his shoulders and walked out. He needed to talk to Beecher.
Shortly after, showered and changed, he checked the time and adjusted his direction. Psychiatric evaluation office - Beecher would be there now.
Before he got to his destination, he was intercepted by Father Mukada.
"Miguel - I heard you were out. I've been looking for you."
He shrugged. "You found me."
The priest looked distinctly uncomfortable. "I think you should come with me."
He suppressed a swell of irritation. He didn't have time for this right now. "Do I gotta? 'Cause I got shit to do here."
A grave look. "Yes. It's pretty important."
They walked in the general direction of the infirmary.
"Hey - what's goin' on? You takin' me to work?"
"Ummm....no Miguel. Beecher was hurt pretty badly, and he's in the infirmary."
He felt vaguely sick suddenly. Worries that he had pushed aside while in the hole surfaced. "So?" They had arrived at the hospital ward.
The priest gestured. Miguel looked over.
Beecher. In a bed. Unmoving.
Nathan came over to them. He half heard her words - head injury, compounded by loss of blood, coma...
He went cold, switched off, and walked out of the room.
Keller. That fucker.
In the hall, he leaned against the wall, and felt resolute.
He'd take care of this.
Finally, a way to discharge his debt.
Pausing briefly in his work, Miguel stared at the man in the bed before him. Toby was pale and chalky, skin bordering on a bluish tinge under his eyes. Tubes and wires seemed to be linked to all areas of his body. Miguel watched the delicate rise and fall of his podmate's chest, slow but rhythmic. Steady but shallow. He clenched his jaw and moved on with his tasks.
Keller was still in the hole, and by all accounts, Ricardo was a raging lunatic in the psych ward. Guerra was dead.
During his time as an orderly, he'd watched Nathan enough to know that the small furrow of her brow when she looked at Toby meant she was worried. When he'd asked about Toby's state, she had answered with a shake of her head. "He's breathing on his own. That's a good sign."
Miguel resisted the urge to hit something. He didn't want a good sign. He wanted a fuckin' excellent, irrefutable sign.
Fuck. Toby should be in some intensive care unit at a hospital, not lying in an understaffed prison infirmary ward. Goddamn Weigert wouldn't authorise the transfer. Too expensive, not enough guarantee of positive results. It pissed him off, and all he could do was wait.
He let his need for revenge simmer.
Days were spent doing the same old shit. Working in the infirmary, checking on Beecher when he could. Stealing tits, dealing with O'Reily. Spending nights staring at the pod that Keller would be in, if he hadn't been in the hole. Seething.
He felt like he was in a haze. He watched everything, took it all in and reacted appropriately, but he felt removed. There, but not quite. Almost watching his body go on automatic. He lost track of time. He didn't care. Days and actions blurred together. Very little broke through his daze. Except -
O'Reily handed him a roll of cash. "Alvarez. Keller gets out soon."
He looked up, took the money, his share of the take, slid it under his shirt. He narrowed his eyes. "When?"
"Tomorrow. You got plans?"
Miguel shook his head. "No."
The other man looked unusually reticent. "Do you want..."
"No." He turned and walked away.
The next day, he watched Keller walk across the quad. They locked gazes, and Miguel noted a brief flash of remorse across the fucker's face. Keller obviously hadn't counted on Guerra going apeshit and Beecher getting in the way. He turned away from the emotions on the other man's face.
Count was called soon afterwards, and Miguel moved to his pod. He couldn't sleep, and spent most of the night fingering the scalpel he'd filched from the infirmary. He delicately cut a shallow line across the pad of his thumb and smiled.
The blade was sharp.
He quashed his urge for instant gratification. He would have to wait, this would take delicacy.
He watched Keller's movements. He avoided him. He didn't give any indication that he gave a fuck about the guy. He dodged O'Reily's questions about what the hell he was doing.
HE knew what he was doing. Fuck everyone else.
Keller had a pattern. It was fuckin' stupid, but who knew if the cocksucker was even aware of his own personal routine. It made Miguel wonder if his own actions would be so easy to map out to the interested observer.
Fuck it. He didn't give a shit.
He passed his latest cache of hospital narcotics to O'Reily.
Miguel shrugged. "Same. Breathing. Sleeping." He took a deep breath. "I need a favour."
"Yeah." He leaned closer, and started to talk.
Miguel let O'Reily take over after that. They staged a few public confrontations, resulting in some bruises and an apparent end to their previous arrangements. He watched O'Reily reopen channels of communication with Keller. He began to cultivate a reputation for instability. He made himself scarce when O'Reily would accompany Keller to look at a pale and unmoving Beecher.
He stole the necessary supplies, pieces at a time - a needle, a couple of vials of Midazolam.
And he waited. He was getting good at waiting.
He wondered if Keller actually began to trust O'Reily, or if he was just in need of some conversation, a little companionship, and was willing to take what he could get.
In the end though, it didn't matter to him. Fuck, the results would be the same.
One day after breakfast, he headed off to the hospital ward. He was intercepted by O'Reily.
"Let's get this thing done, Alvarez."
Miguel nodded. "Today?"
"Yeah. I can get him to meet with me after lunch."
"Fine." He started to turn away.
A hand reached out to grab his arm."Yo - Alvarez - you gonna get it together after this is over or what?"
He felt his face go rigid, and he shook the hand off. "Just get him where he's gotta be O'Reily." He walked off.
Miguel didn't know or care what Ryan did to get Keller to such an isolated spot. He stood in the half-shadows and watched the two walk towards him, idly talking about nothing. He slid back behind the rough concrete pillar as Keller moved by. Just as the tall man passed his hiding spot, Miguel reached out and jabbed the syringe into flesh.
Keller turned, uttering a low, "What the fuck?..." His voice trailed off as he saw Miguel looking at him. He moved towards the pillar, but was yanked back as O'Reily threw one arm around his shoulders and a hand over his mouth.
After that, it was easy. Everything seemed to slow down. The injection blunted Keller's responses, and O'Reily kept his hand on the bastard's mouth, blocking any potential cries. Miguel needn't have worried, the dosage worked faster than he'd expected it would. Everything was all very silent.
He reached his hand out towards the drugged man, moved closer and angled his body away slightly, so that the blood wouldn't completely cover him. Quickly, he drew the scalpel across Keller's throat. The man sagged a little bit more, and O'Reily let him drop. Leaning down to wipe his hand across Keller's white shirt, Miguel watched eyes close.
He stood, cleaned off his face with his hospital scrubs and O'Reily handed him a clean pair. They threw bloodied clothing, scalpel and syringe into a hospital laundry bag, and O'Reily took it away to be incinerated. The metal scalpel wouldn't burn, but it would be distorted beyond recognition. He took a moment to appreciate the many benefits of having O'Reily's connections at his disposal.
He waited a few moments before following. He paused to look at the body at his feet, and smiled for the first time since Beecher's injuries.
Unable to fuck with him or Beecher anymore.
It had almost been too fuckin' easy. Too clean.
He shrugged. It didn't matter, the job was done.
After a while, he headed back to the infirmary. He watched some nurse check Beecher's pulse, adjust an IV, rearrange a blanket and then walk away.
He moved towards the bed, and looked at the figure lying in it. He reached out and smoothed down a lock of hair, then turned away.
He could wait.
Nothin' else to do in this fuckin' place anyway.
Continued in Interval