A world without sluts or serial killers.
"You've got to forgive me."
"I forgave you."
"Well, I guess that makes you the better man."
The exchange replayed itself over and over in his head, relentlessly, and with it came the knowledge that once again he had destroyed something precious in his life. The list was becoming endless -- Kathy Rockwell, his career, his wife, his son, his daughter...and now his relationship with Keller. Surely, this must be the limit of pain expected to be endured by one person in a lifetime.
The enormity of the guilt, remorse, shame and loss threatened to crush him. Chris Keller had loved him and he had thrown that love back in his face in the worst possible way. In the harsh light of reason, he also knew that the blame was his alone. The usual standbys, Vern Schillinger and alcohol, the co-conspirators in all that had gone wrong in his life, in every bad decision he had ever made in recent years, had no part in this latest travesty and couldn't be used as an excuse. It didn't matter that Vern had paid Zabitz to mislead him. No, I chose to believe that Chris was guilty and the choice was mine alone.
"I worked very hard," Chris's voice breaking, "to regain your trust, your love. I thought I had, but this proves that I haven't. I don't. I can't and never will."
The realization of what I have personally lost is hard enough to accept but knowing that I have hurt Chris deeply, perhaps irrevocably, is more than I can deal with. Forgive me? How do you forgive the unforgivable? I accused him of kidnapping my children and killing my son. I tried to kill him. Oh yes, Chris, the "better" man, indeed.
"We're over. We're finished. We're done."
And so am I. Bone weary and tired of all of it. But then, Oz is never tired, never rests in its quest to punish and torment, now does it? It's been so long, I'd managed to block the dark days of pragdom. It wasn't really a consideration in my relationship with Chris Keller, or so I thought. My new podmate, however, has, in the span of a few short minutes, reminded me that I'll never escape it. Following me to the showers, making it clear to anyone who would listen exactly what he has planned for his new roommie tonight. If someone has told him about Robson, it doesn't seem to matter. So, I stop listening to the vulgar litany and let my mind wander back to better days and the only hands I want touching me, holding me, loving me. The hands I will never feel again.
"Well, well, well, look who we got over here...my man, Keller...what's up, dog?"
I can't breath as dreams suddenly are made flesh and I am forced to see the body that once belonged to me. It's a wonder I don't cut my throat open as I pretend to shave, pretend not to notice, try not to hear the ugly words that echo around me.
"Mind if I fuck your girlfriend, Beecher? Mind if she sucks my cock?"
"I don't give a fuck what you do, or what he does." And Chris looks directly at me, as he lands this blow. Permission granted for another to fuck me. He doesn't care.
"It goes on record. I've got Keller's permission to fuck Beecher up the yazoo."
Wrong again, Tobias. The capacity to feel pain is limitless.
I probably should have just sucked Mondo off. Probably would have been easier than what will happen once I'm back in Emerald City, once Mondo and his posse move to settle the score. Telling him to go suck his own dick, fighting him off, calling down the hacks and getting us both sent to Ad Seg -- ah, would-be rapist and intended victim, no differentiation in Oz -- is going to be costly. For a second, I almost did go through with it, watching Keller watch me. I wanted to see if I could hurt him, see if he really didn't care what I did with my body, the body that was and is his alone. But Mondo touched me and the reaction was instinctive, uncontrollable and I knew he'd have to kill me first.
Of course, the main problem with being in the hole is that there's nothing to do but think. Think about the bad times; think about the good times. Both equal now in the pain and misery they bring but I can't stop myself from dwelling on them.
New Year's Eve and those first sweet kisses, and then an entire night spent consummating our love and passion. Two glorious weeks of lock-down spent memorizing and indulging in each other, and the pleasant, unexpected surprises along the way. Oh, no surprise at how good the sex was, if anything, Chris Keller was a walking billboard advertisement for good sex. The surprise came in the knowledge that Chris not only would allow it, but actually wanted me inside him. That was a revelation. He loved me enough to want it to be equal in all things, despite the possible cost to him in reputation, in front of all those prying eyes. After all, it's one thing to "top" in Oz, quite another to take it up the ass for love.
IN QUERNS' OFFICE
"Keller, you're wasting my time."
"Look, this ain't a waste of time. Put me back in Beecher's pod and you'll solve a bunch of problems at once."
"I don't have any problems. I've already moved Browne out of Beecher's pod."
"That doesn't solve the problem. As long as Mondo and his crew remain in Emerald City, the threat remains and you know it."
"So what? I'm supposed to transfer Browne and the others out of Emerald City on YOUR say so? Forget it, they aren't going anywhere."
"Yeh, and the Warden isn't going to let you transfer Beecher to B Unit with Schillinger there. So you DO have a problem. You don't want violence but that is just what you are going to have. Someone is gonna end up dead."
"Let me guess. You don't want it to be Beecher."
"And you don't want it to be Mondo," the implied threat clearly written on Keller's face.
After 3 days in the hole, I'm done thinking; done feeling for the time being. What does it matter anyway? I'll be dead soon with any luck. Does Querns actually think that moving Mondo out of my pod is going to stop him? No, he's sitting at the table outside my pod because he's waiting to apologize. And if not Mondo, then no doubt there will be a replay with whomever they've already put in here in his place. The word is out -- Keller's given up his claim and Toby's ass is up for grabs. That's all that matters.
But I have to admit that a shower did help; a clean body and the promise of clean clothes has made me feel slightly better. I'm ready for my close-up now, Mr. DeMille. Well, maybe not. The bruises on my face, chest and arms have matured into beautiful shades of green, purple and yellow....
As I turn, I wonder if I have finally lost my mind and the slender hold I have on sanity. Chris is standing directly inside the pod's entrance holding a hamper of laundry, staring at me, at the bruises covering my body, and I am incapable of coherent thought for a moment. He's back in this pod? He's talking to me? He's concerned about the bruises? But it lasts for only a moment before the anger rises, demanding satisfaction.
"I thought you said you didn't give a fuck what he did," I hurl at him, not caring that the pain and hurt are evident in every syllable.
And then he is crossing the distance, reaching out and gently touching the bruise on my cheek before slowly tracing his fingers down the bruises on my chest. I am so shocked I almost don't hear him when he answers my accusation with a simple statement:
But before I can react, I see rage overtake him and he is hurtling through the pod doors, straight at Mondo, effortlessly lifting him from his seat and slamming him against a pillar.
"I've changed my mind. You don't have my permission to fuck Beecher." Words spoken calmly but betrayed by the dangerous glint in Keller's eyes, the tautness of his body, barely concealing the power waiting to be unleashed, wanting to be given a reason to be unleashed.
Stepping out into the quad, I almost laugh out loud at the tableau. Chris's actions were so unexpected that no one's really reacted. To a man, they are all just standing and staring. At Chris. At Mondo. At me, naked in a towel, listening to Keller proclaim, for all intents and purposes, ownership of said body in the towel. In the past, this probably would have really pissed me off, but the only thought I have at this moment is that an enraged and possessive Chris Keller is a mesmerizing sight. The moment doesn't last, however, as one of Mondo's posse moves towards Chris, only to be stopped in his tracks.
"You want some of this?" asks Chris, voice low and dangerous. Apparently not, since he moves no further towards him. It is Mondo finally who, at the nod from Adebesi, ends the confrontation.
"Heh, no problem. We don't want no trouble in Emerald City."
The hack's shout jump-starts everyone and I can't help but think that the scene would be funny if it wasn't so surreal. Chris and I standing side by side, me in a towel, all eyes on us, with a hack taking role call. Only in Oz, I think.
Chris brushes past me into our pod and I follow with a mixture of fear, anticipation and hope. With the click of the door lock, Chris begins pacing back and forth like an animal trapped in a cage. It comes to me in that moment that there is perhaps only one way to reach him and possibly begin the journey back to each other.
I drop my towel and step into his path. Subtlety be damned.
He almost knocks me over, so intent on his pacing that he doesn't see me until the last second, instinctively grabbing me so that I don't fall over. The connection is electric and as I look up into his eyes, I know that he sees what is in my heart and mind. I want him and I'll do anything for a chance to make it all up to him. In a millisecond, he lips are on mine, his hands are everywhere and I'm lost to the sensations. Briefly I think, well, if Querns is going to send us to the hole for this, then I'm damn well going to make sure it was worth it. Ignoring bruised flesh, I push against him, kissing back for all I'm worth, caressing every place I can reach, tugging and tearing at clothing standing in the way. I'm determined that Chris Keller is going to remember this night forever.
Later, as I lay in Chris's bunk, wrapped tightly in his arms, completely sated, I think, shit, maybe Mondo did kill me and I've gone to Heaven. I also have to acknowledge that there is one positive aspect of the Querns' regime -- the complete absence of hacktis-interruptis. Wicked, happy thoughts before I fall into a deep, dreamless sleep.
"I SAID COUNT!" I jerk awake and briefly struggle to find my bearings, realizing that we've slept through our morning wake-up call.
"Ladies, I hate to disturb you, but your presence is requested. LINE-UP!"
Shit. All eyes are on us as Chris stands up and pulls on his jeans, handing me my boxers. This is definitely NOT how I imagined "The Morning After" I think, as we exit the pod and line up to the sound of catcalls and whistles of our fellow inmates. Some of which, I am sure, had a jolly good time watching us last night. But as I stand there in my boxers -- heh, it's a step up from a towel at least -- next to a half nude Keller, I realize with amusement, I'm not embarrassed at all. No, actually I'm feeling, well, rather smug, if I'm honest with myself. Fuck them all, they don't know what they're missing. I steal a glance at Chris and see that he has that patented Keller I Don't Give A Fuck expression set firmly in place. Or maybe it's more of a Cat That Ate The Canary look.
Count done, we walk back into the pod and I find myself at a loss for words. I can't help but wonder if Chris might be sorry that we made love. Darker thought: maybe I was the only one "making love". The possibility exists that it was only "sex" for him. Fine, whatever, I decide. Beggars can't be choosers, now can they? I have no pride in this and I will take whatever he can give.
"I'm sorry I overslept," Chris says softly. "I know that was embarrassing for you."
I surprise him by laughing out loud at his statement, shaking my head. "Actually, no, I wasn't embarrassed."
I decide it's pointless to keep pretending that I'm reading the book in front of me. Damn the Warden and Querns for restricting me from the rest of the prison. Chris and I had no time to really talk before he was forced to go to breakfast and then off to his work detail...which, of course, will be followed by lunch. The urge to scream aloud momentarily seems like a viable option. Fighting it, I retreat back to my pod.
"Beecher. I need to talk to you." Hmm, the morning just gets better and better. Said in lecture mode.
"When is all this madness going to stop? That scene yesterday was a disgrace."
"Scene?" I parrot, deciding that if I play stupid, he might just go away. I'm really in no mood for an Inquisition.
"Four days ago, you chose to be beaten black and blue rather than allow yourself to be degraded sexually. Yet, Keller publicly brands you as his possession and you stand there with a smirk on your face. He then spends most of the night fucking you for all to see and orchestrates a grand display the next morning -- and you do nothing. How does that make you feel?"
"Actually, it made me feel pretty good," I respond, feeling white-hot anger threatening to overwhelm me. I am so sick of this shit. So sick of this interference. So sick of everyone always seeing Chris Keller in the worst possible light. I am done doubting him; done denying that I want him and this relationship more than anything. I need it like I need air.
"Said, get this through your head. Chris Keller has never, I repeat, NEVER, done anything sexually to me that I haven't wanted him to do. Last night included. He has been nothing but a loving, gentle and passionate lover. I know you don't want to hear it. Homosexuality is such an abomination to you but those are THE FACTS. And you know, possession IS nine-tenths of the law. I am his and all I want to do is earn back his love and trust. If you can't accept this, well, go fuck yourself."
I jump as strong arms encircle my waist and a familiar voice adds, "Am I interrupting?" I lean back into Chris's body, daring Said to say another word. He doesn't. Conceding defeat in his mission to save my soul, he leaves.
I turn and begin to apologize for discussing our intimacy in such a public manner, not certain about how much he has overheard, but Chris interrupts me.
"Yeh, it's going to be tough to get over being called a 'loving, gentle and passionate lover' but I'll work on it." Laughing he pulls me to him and kisses me passionately, breaking off briefly to add, "How 'bout another public display?"
It's dark, hours past lights out, and I've pretty much decided that I'm in the place I most want to be right now and in the foreseeable future. Chris's weight on me, the feel of his body as he moves against me, inside me. "I love you, Toby," he whispers softly as he climaxes, sending me over the edge, as well. I tell him I love him too and, in the closeness of the moment, I can't stop myself from asking him if he's forgiven me.
"I've hurt you badly, I know that. I am so sorry," I whisper, shame so strong, I can't look him in the eye.
"There's nothing to forgive," he responds and before I can say anything, he adds, "I put my own pain before yours -- grief I can't even begin to imagine for your son. And I understand now that trust can't be demanded; it must be earned, and earned in its own time. It's my fault that you didn't trust me. I laid that foundation with Operation Toby." His voice breaks and I see the tears start to fall before he continues, "I'll spend whatever time it takes to make that right between us." I feel tears sting my eyes and, in my heart, I know who is the better man.