"What about this one?"
"Makes you look like a geek. Tryin' to stay away from that look, right?"
"Yeah." Toby paused to stare at his reflection in the mirror before he took the offending garment off and cracked the door just enough to hand it back out to Chris.
"Here, Tobe. Thy this on." He handed him some jeans and a few long sleeved cotton shirts. Navy, hunter green and pristine white.
"Hey, like the colors. But isn't it kind of hot for long sleeved clothes?"
"Won't be for long. Besides they'll look good on you. Yer car's got air and so do the classrooms. So why you whinin' at me?"
"Fuck you, Keller."
"Oh, it's Keller now is it?"
"Got your attention didn't it?"
Toby buttoned the last button of the shirt and tucked it into the jeans Chris had given him. And some damn tight jeans they were.
"Chris, I can barely breathe in these things." Toby complained as he stepped out of the dressing room.
Chris wasn't prepared for the visual shock of seeing his lover in the clothes he had picked out for him. His voice grew soft and husky with emotion.
Toby eyed his reflection carefully. With his glasses replaced by contacts and a different hairstyle, he looked, almost.... sexy. //Oh yeah. These clothes will do nicely.//
"Let's go find some more clothes like these."
Chris chuckled at Toby's deference to his taste. He was gonna be the hottest guy in any of his classes and he knew, *he knew* who he was coming home to. Toby walked out of the dressing room and handed Chris the clothes.
"Show me the way."
By the time they were ready to check out, Chris carried six pairs of jeans ranging in color from the softest blue to black, six long sleeve shirts and a half dozen wifebeaters of various colors to be worn with some of his short sleeved button downs. Chris managed to talk him into a couple of pairs of Chinos and a pair of black army-style boots. He was really gonna shake up the friends he'd went to high school with. They weren't going to recognize him at all. Chris' smile widened at the thought of the first time they would meet him. //Oh, yeah. Little rich boys gonna get a shock.//
Chris glanced over at Toby, who was riffling through his wallet to find his money. //With his new hair cut, shit, *I* don't recognize him.// Chris had told them to style it so it parts on the side and feathers back. He was right. The effect was dramatic. Just have to let it grow out a bit to get the full effect and he was sure it would be devastating. Chris picked up the bags while Toby waited for his change.
One step ahead of Toby, Chris reached out with his overburdened hands and opened the door for him. Toby flashed him a sunny smile for his effort. //Yeeeoooowww...// Right to the groin by way of his heart. He was going to have to show Toby just what it did to him when he smiled like that Once they got home...
"How do I look? Do I look okay?"
"Tobe, quit suirmin'. Lemme finish." Chris carefully parted his hair on the right, combed it back, then reached for the gel and ran his hand through the hair from Toby's temple on back. Slicking down right hand side to make the left more pronounced.
"In one word, STUNNING." Toby blushed to the roots of his hair. Even wit the Keller code of dress, he still exuded wealth and power, and oddly enough, innocense.
Toby stood back and examined himself in the mirror. Hard to believe that the face that was staring back at him *was* his. //Chris was right. Bitches must be blind.// How many times had he told him that? Countless. Toby smiled lovingly at the only person he had ever known that had believed in him and saw him for not only what he was, but for much, much more; what he could be. Toby felt the tears sting his eyes as his love for Chris came rushing like a tidal wave to the surface and spilled out into a long, slow, painfully seductive kiss.
"Love you, Baby."
"Love you too, Brat. Now you better get goin' or yer gonna be late on yer first day."
"That reminds me. I was going to ask you for a favor..."
Chris smiled and waited.
"Will you take me? I mean, I get out of my last class by one so you would have plenty of time before you have to leave to go to work...." He leaned down to pick up his back pack as he watched Chris' face, waiting for his reply.
"Have I ever denied you anythin' you ever wanted?"
Toby took his hands and kissed them each in turn. His emotions shut down his powers of speech forcing him to find more creative ways of expressing his love. Toby pulled him into a quick embrace before he turned to lead him through their home and out to the bike. It sat there waiting on the landing next to their door; via Toby's new mandate. He didn't want Chris' bike parked any where near the road where anyone could mess with it any time they felt like it. So far they hadn't heard anything from that guy with the car, but Toby wasn't willing to leave anything to chance. He did have to find subtle ways to make Chris check the brakes and the gas line and what not without letting him know that he knew. //Bless his heart, he never suspected a thing.//
"Is that gas I smell?"
"Prob'ly. I just filled it up last night, Tobe." Chris saw the spark of fear in his eyes and that was enough to make him give in and give the bike its peremptory once over before they got on. //He's got to know. Fuckin' Johnny, anyway. He must have told him or he wouldn't be this jumpy all the time.// Initially, Toby hanging out at the bar had made Chris feel like he didn't trust him with the customers, until he started noticing the other little things. Like, "Check the bike, Chris." or "Is it supposed to look like that?" Some little offhand remark to make him give the bike a once over. Took him a while to pick up on what he was doing. //Sneaky little fucker. Guess I'm rubbin' off on him. Makes us even.//
Chris hadn't had a drink since the night Toby had almost gotten into a cat fight with May-bel's cousin. Chris smiled at the memory. Towel and all, he would never forget that night as long as he lived.
"Everything all right?" The pensive question pulling him back to reality. Chris stood and stretched out his legs that had began to cramp as he was bent to his task.
"Yep. Good to go."
Chris took Toby's bag and bungie wrapped it to the back of his bike. Didn't want it interfering with his ability to hold on tight. Toby slipped the helmet on wordlessly, climbed on and wrapped his arms around the strong body in front of him, more out of love than out of the need for his safety. Chris could feel his crushing grip bruising his ribs. //Fuck it. It felt good to have someone love you that much.//
Chris kicked back the stand and tore off down the walkway on out to the road that would lead them to Toby's future. All he could do was pray that it included him. //Applying to Harvard. Jesus *fucking* Christ!// Chris let his thoughts wander and had almost missed the signal Toby gave to make the final turn on their way to his campus.
Chris pulled up to the attendant at the gate and informed him that he was just dropping Toby off. //Have to have a temporary parking permit anyway. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just fuckin' give it to me, motherfucker.// Chris pulled up to the door that Toby had indicated and stopped the bike. Toby swung off and collected his bag.
"You gonna wear that to class?"
"Oh, shit. Bet it fucked my hair up royally." Toby pulled the helmet off and checked his reflection in it. He pulled out the comb and tried, clumsily, to comb it while holding the helmet.
"Here. Lemme do it." Chris swung off the bike and stood just inches away while he ran the comb through his lovers silky hair, feathering it gently back. He pulled a little bit of it down to shadow his eye then ran it through the gel on the side. //God, but he is sooooo sexy.// Chris' hands shook slightly at the unwarranted stress the closeness was causing his body.
"Good as new."
"Thanks." A brief smile and a quick, too quick, peck on the lips. "I'll call you at lunch if ya want."
"Yeah. That would be great. I should be heavy into withdrawals by then. Oh, yeah. Stop talkin' like me. It's if "you" want. Got it?" He was smiling and nodding at him, showing off those small kitten-teeth of his. "Whose gonna hire a lawyer that sounds like an Italian mobster?"
A full blown smile and a chuckle won him another kiss. A nice slow one. //Ooohhhhh yeahhh.// Chris handed him his bag and watched his backside twitch until he disappeared through the doors. Chris glanced up Heaven bound and whispered a prayer.
"Take it easy on him today, all right? It's gonna be tough, kinda scarey I guess. Just get his back, ‘cause this is one place I can't." Chris closed his eyes and finished silently. //In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, amen.// He genuflected then kicked his bike into motion.
Later that day Chris reached around blindly searching for the phone. God, awful noise that it was making almost shattered his eardrums. //Ah, there it is.//
"I was about to hang up. Were you sleeping?"
"Ummmm hmmm. Was dreamin' ‘bout this blond..." At Toby's small sound of pleasure, he couldn't help but add, "with the biggest hooters I've ever seen."
"Fuck you, Keller."
"Oh, shit. Honey, I'm sorry. Don't call me that, okay?"
"Just yanking your chain a little. Making sure you're awake."
"You, have my unnnndivided attention."
"Good. See you at one where you dropped me off at, okay?"
"Bet." And they hung up. Chris never said good-bye to Toby. Good-bye was final and he refused to jinx what they had together. He had silenced him with a kiss when he almost said it one night as he was leaving to go to work. It meant a lot that he didn't have to remind him about it. Meant he *understood.*
Toby glanced at his watch. He had an hour before his first class started so he wouldn't have to rush. He looked around furtively trying to figure out the weird numbering system they used for the class rooms then finally gave in and stopped someone to ask for help. Twenty minutes later he found the room he had been searching for and the cryptic codes were starting to make sense finally. 15324 was building 15, 3 meant the third floor and the 24, of course, was the room number. //Jeeze, Tobe, you can be so dense sometimes.// He smiled wryly, noting that the voice of his conscious was none other than Chris'. Now, now, now. No thinking of him until you get out of here. It's going to be hard enough to get back into the swing of things without giving into thoughts that were guaranteed to leave you with a woody that Barnum and Bailey could pitch a tent on. Another Chris statement if he ever heard one. Toby tried to shake his thoughts off of Chris when he looked up and saw his friend, Steve, making his way through the crowd wearing the same quietly scared look he had worn only moments before himself.
Toby winced inwardly at the reminder of the life he had left behind. He watched as he searched the crowd for him. Obviously not recognizing him.
"Steve, how you been, Buddy?"
Obviously trying to adjust to the visual shock, Steve asked. "What the hell happened to you, man? I went by and your parents told me you moved out. I was floored, man. You couldn't fucking *call* me? And what's with the clothes, the hair? Where's your glasses?"
Toby smiled. Steve dropped his voice when he swore much the way he used to. Afraid someone would hear them, but wanting to sound tough for their friends. That was a lifetime ago.
"Sorry. I been so busy trying to get the place together. And my room mate, he runs me ragged. Between picking up after him and...." Toby stopped short of saying "fucking his brains out every night." "It just really runs me down. Haven't called anybody actually. I knew everyone would want to come over and party all the time. My friend is a recovering alcoholic and I didn't want that shit around him."
"Shhhh. Someone's going to hear you!"
"And I care? I'm a fucking adult. I'll swear if I want to. As long as it's not at the instructor, there isn't really much they can do. Not unless I'm disrupting class with it. And I won't."
"The hair and stuff, huh? My friend Chris' idea. Says I'll be a babe magnet."
Steve snorted, obviously unconvinced. //Ah, well. What do I care? I've got what I want. At home.//
"What other classes you got?"
They compared their class schedules and found that they had all the same classes but one. On Tuesday and Thursday Toby had a Latin class and a weight training class. The latter a surprise for Chris. The weight training involved a lot of warm ups and exercises in addition to actually lifting the weights. He'd be one tired puppy after those classes and those were the ones he would have to drive home from.
"You know, it's not too late. You can still sign up for the weight training class if you want to." Toby almost burst out laughing at the look that crossed Steve's face. "Come on man. You can spot me, and I'll spot you. I'd like to have someone I know and *trust* holding extremely heavy weights over my head." A few more minutes of working on him and he caved.
"All right! If I say, yes, will you shut up?"
"Only if you mean it." His defeated nod sent a delicious thrill of victory through him. //Yeah, Tobias Beecher was going to be a hell of a lawyer.//
They spent the rest of the day together drifting from class to class, continuing to catch up in between. Toby left his side only briefly to make a call home to Chris then resumed their journey that would take them through the rest of the day. When it came time to part ways Steve headed in the direction of the parking garage and Toby hesitated.
"Uh, I'll see you tomorrow, all right? Don't forget to add that class tonight. You can pay by phone."
"I know. I will, I will. Wait, you aren't leaving?"
"Uh, I gotta go wait for my room mate. He's picking me up."
"Well, shit, Tobias. I could have given you a ride home. From now on, I could pick you up and drop you off. Save him the trouble."
"I, uh, have a car, Steve."
"Then why didn't you drive?"
"I love riding that bike and I don't have the nerve to do it alone. So he gives me a ride sometimes. Just because I enjoy the experience. That's all." His words ringing truer than he had intended.
"I could follow you home so I can see where you live. Hang out for a while?"
Toby's mind raced. How to put him off without saying too much? //*Fuck!* Chris is going to be pissed.//
"I usually hang out with Chris before he leaves at five to go to work. Now that I'm in class, it's going to be harder and harder to see him..."
"So you can hang out with me instead."
//Oh, yeah. Ummm hummm. That sounds SO much better. NOT.//
"Yeah. We can hang out. Study together and shit. Oh, I keep forgetting to tell you and if I don't, I know Chris will. And he's not usually very nice about things like that. I go by ‘Toby' now. ‘Tobias -momma's boy extra ordinaire'- is gone for good."
"Yeah. I can see that." He gave Toby a once over that made him shiver, and blush to the roots of his hair.
"Well, he'll be here in about ten minutes so if you plan to follow us you better move your ass. I'm meeting him at one at the front door."
Steve nodded and trotted off in search of his car. //*Fuckfuckfuckfuck!* "Hopefully he won't find it in time.// Toby mentally tried to calm himself, but it didn't work. //Man, Chris is going to be pissed about having to spend our last few precious hours together before he has to go to work with some putz.// Steve was a friend, but he was walking on sacred ground without even realizing it. Tell him? //Hell *fucking* no! He would tell EVERYBODY. He would stop people he didn't even know to tell them that the little blond haired guy was a fag.//
A shiver ran through Toby when he allowed himself to remember some of the *fag* jokes he and his friends had swapped not more that four or five months ago. *Shit!* He was going to have to tell him *not* to do it in front of Chris. Now that was going to sound real good. How the fuck was he going to pull that off without tipping him off about the two of them. Chris. He would have to tell Chris to ignore him if he started and pray that he didn't put one and one together and figure out that he used to be just like him.
Toby glanced around, praying that Chris would show up before Steve did. He had to warn him before he exploded all over Steve, effectively shoving his derriere out of the closet, naked, waiting to be ridiculed. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. A glance at his watch said it was one-fifteen. Neither one of them had shown up yet. What was *that* about? Toby walked back and forth pacing and wondering, wondering and worrying.
Toby was so lost in his thoughts he barely caught what the girl was saying.
"....wreck involving a motorcycle. Couldn't tell....."
"WHAT?" Toby jerked himself out of his haze and ran over to the girl who had been speaking.
"Excuse me, but did you say there was a wreck involving a motorcycle?"
"Ummm, yeah. They got the road into the parking garage blocked off. Some ninny pulled out and ran the guy over..."
"Holy fucking Christ!"
Toby took off running and realized he had no idea where he was going. He stopped at the attendants booth and he pointed him down the street. Two blocks away Toby could see the flashing red lights of the ambulances that sat, unmoving, at the scene of the accident. //...ran the guy over... Oh no no no no no no no!//
The cop caught him around the waist as he tried to get around the tape.
"Slow down, Son. I can't let you through there."
"The guy on the bike... Is he...?" The tears were already falling, but having to voice the question out loud was almost more than he could stand. He sank to his knees and wept.
"Now, now. He's gonna be all right. He almost swung at me when I pulled the bike off him. Dazed outta his mind. Keeps askin' for a Toby."
Toby had stopped crying and was listening intently to what the officer said.
"That's me! *I'm* Toby!"
"Well, then. I better get you over there."
Toby wasn't prepared for the sight that met him when he rounded the end of the ambulance. Three paramedics were holding Chris down trying to keep him from killing some poor slob. They hauled him back into the back of the ambulance to reveal...Steve! //Oh, yeah. Just keeps getting better!//
Chris kept trying to bolt every time they even loosened their grips slightly. He would have to take the situation in hand.
"KELLER, what the *fuck* are you doing? Sit down, shut the fuck up and let them fix you."
The voice went through Chris, calming him like a blast of cold water on a hot day.
His voice trembled with barely repressed rage. "Tobe, he fuckin' ran the light and hit me!"
"I did not!"
"Steve, I didn't ask you."
"You know that *fuck*?"
"Yep. Best friend from high school." Toby watched the color drain from Chris' face as all the steam left his sails. "That's better." He walked the rest of the way over to him to inspect the damage. "Is anything broken?" He asked, directing the question at the paramedic.
"Yes. His arm is broken in two places. We have to take him to the hospital to have it set and a cast put on it."
"Shit. Is the bike able to be ridden, Chris?"
"Should be. I laid it down to keep from being bounced off the hood of his fuckin' car. The weight shifted and pinned my arm. Broke it."
"I'll follow you to the hospital."
Toby walked over to stand the bike up and was about to get on it when Chris called him.
"Hey, Tobe. Forgot the helmet."
He glanced up to see Chris holding the battered looking helmet that had just saved his life. //Yup. He's getting one before he ever sets foot back on that bike again. No matter how much he whines and cries. He's going to fucking wear one.// Toby, already sitting on the bike, pushed it over to the ambulance and took the helmet. His previous thoughts shone clearly on his face, Chris read it and nodded in acceptance.
"What's going on? I mean, what do we do now?"
Chris arched his eyebrows at the conversation. He had no idea what they were talking about and wasn't even sure that he wanted to know.
"We're going to follow Chris to the hospital; wait while they patch him up; take him home; give him a bath; then put him to bed so he can sleep off the pain medication. Then we can talk for a little while."
Toby glanced back and forth between them daring them to disagree.
"Sir, we have to get going." It was the paramedic that broke the spell.
"Yeah. All right. Gimme your wallet Chris." Chris' eyes narrowed at him. Not now.
"Hold on. Let me *give you* my wallet. Told you ‘bout that mobster slang didn't I?"
//*Fuck!*// Chris lecturing him on proper English. //Just want you to go somewhere, Baby.// He could hear the words as clearly as if he had spoken them. //I know you do. That's why I love you so much.// Silent communication. Chris smiled and nodded.
"I'll be back to see you as soon as I get the paper work filled out. All right? So don't worry." He turned to ask the paramedic. "Where are you taking him? I have to stop and get some money."
"Benchley Memorial, know where it is?"
Toby was already nodding. His grandfather had passed away in there. He knew how to find it in his sleep. Toby sat and watched as the ambulance pulled away, waiting for his chance to speak to Steve, alone.
"What the fuck were you thinking?"
"You going to tell me you believe him over me?"
"Chris don't get that pissed if he's in the wrong. He certainly don't lie. I know it's a survival instinct to cover your own ass, but don't do it at his expense." Toby watched the color drain from his face as he stood there obviously wrestling with his conscience. Steve ambled over to the officer that Toby had first spoken to. After a brief exchange, Steve headed back to where Toby sat waiting astride the bike.
Toby tried to smile, but couldn't. "Thanks for doing the right thing. I appreciate it."
Steve smiled weakly at his friend, not trusting himself to speak.
"Oh, yeah. By the way. Did you catch the Italian mobster comment?"
"Well, he may joke and slam on his own people, but don't ever take it as an invitation to join in. He doesn't like *any* kind of derogatory jokes. Polish, Jewish, Micks, Wops, Spics.... none of it. Faggots neither. None at all. So no jokes unless it's something *far the fuck away from what I just said.*"
Steve nodded silently. "Say. Thought you were afraid to ride that thing alone?"
"Don't have much of a choice, do I?"
Steve flinched at the iciness in his words. //What the fuck was that about? Is this even the same guy I used to know?//
Continued in Part 11