FIRE AND BRIMSTONE
The beginning of the fourth night in a pod with Tobias Beecher. Not simply a fallen soul, a very weary soul. These nights Beecher had watched him, such tired eyes, as fatigued as Jeremiah's frequently were. Jeremiah had his mission; Beecher had, if the gossip mongers were to be believed, an upcoming parole hearing.
Yet, he seemed distant, never allowing himself the gift of happiness. Jeremiah understood, as any man who had ever been in prison understood.
A presence stood beside his bunk as he finished his section of Leviticus.
'If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.'
He closed the Bible, soft plastic against his fingers.
"They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. Your disciple would agree, when he isn't fucking men up the ass."
The beginnings of a conversation, a relief from more of this smoldered silence. He leant out, pulling away his glasses to stare at Beecher.
"Tobias then. Tobias, who is my disciple?"
"Vernon, of course."
"Of course. The man who killed my son."
"The man who, if the crimes you accuse him of are true, twice spared your daughter's life. "
Tobias ran a hand through his sandy hair, beginning to pace.
"Yeah, well, there's that."
"Tobias, do you have trouble reconciling man and monster? Or is there another matter you wish to discuss?"
He watched the bare feet walking to the door, palms and torso suddenly molded to the glass.
"Tobias. Only Sister Pete calls me that. I feel like I'm back in Sunday school."
Mineo shone a path with his flashlight, bathing the pod in unnatural beams.
"Tobias is your God-given name."
"And God's given me so much, hasn't He?"
Jeremiah held back his reply, Beecher splashing water against his drawn features. He almost felt the chill on his own skin, Beecher's mirror image staring through fingers. A breath passed through Jeremiah's chest, exhaled with fluid, gently direct words.
"This is about your parole, isn't it?"
Beecher had yet to look away, an arctic sheen frozen into his oceanic eyes. The lack of speech said exactly what Beecher intended it to. Letting the conversation die was the sensible choice. Sensible was too often a fancy word for cowardice, and Jeremiah refused to bow down to cowardice.
"Sister Peter Marie is asleep at home. And, let's face it, she doesn't understand."
A small hint of a smile on Tobias's face. He had seen that smile so many times before, the smirk of "modern" man, the non-believer attending services for family obligations, or a few chuckles.
"And who the *fuck* does?"
Extra emphasis on the profanity. Oh yes, shanks, beatings, and threats by Aryans were nothing compared to cuss words.
"Christopher Keller would."
Such a harsh tactic to use. Tobias nearly flinched, a crack in his carefully layered, cynical mask. But the name kept him from burying himself in the power of the top bunk.
He could have sworn Tobias was looking right through him, past Em City, into nothingness.
A quaver in his throat, such pain in the word.
"...isn't here, Reverend."
Jeremiah stepped forward, minty breath catching in his beard.
A very bitter chuckle.
"Now I get it. My rep has reached Biblical proportions."
Too quickly to fully comprehend, the other man's undershirt fell to the floor. Jeremiah had done his best with Kirk and Vern, failing both times, and now his third attempt was wrapped in a haze of sin and prison sex.
"Tobias, I don't want your body."
Another laugh as Tobias's boxers slid down, thrown onto the upper bed.
"Right. You want my eternal soul. How's it look? Haven't had any complaints yet."
He spun, pale skin silhoutted with each turn, only stopping with Jeremiah's hands grabbing his bare shoulders. This was the man Jeremiah could have been, would be if he'd continued to sacrifice everything Jesus taught him. A broken dervish, clinging to any false belief, any taunting sliver of hopelessness.
"Tobias. Tobias, listen to me."
Hands slipped into his curly hair, behind his neck, feeling and tugging until Jeremiah's forehead touched his. The heat of Beecher's palm travelled into his underwear, index and middle grasping and teasing, sensitive veins smoothed over.
"I see how you have cut yourself away from society, away from even the culture of prison. I want to help you find hope."
Words gasped, total concentration needed for them to be spoken clearly. Faster movements now, Jeremiah unable to break away from the surprisingly strong grips on his neck and penis. Almost compelled not to, soft lips inches from his, tempting with sorrow that made Tobias not simply pathetic, but pathetic enough to be needed, desired.
Bolts of clarity scorched his body at the full, pink lip rubbing his lower lip. This was temptation of the worst kind, designed only to taint both men. He wasn't naive enough to dismiss homosexual acts as the hellwork of Sodomites, particularly in prison. Participating in these acts was another matter.
Summoning faith, he managed to push Beecher away, hand on his lean, bare chest at the next attempted forward movement. The word was harsh, brief, and carried the power of the Lord.
Beecher thought of his podmate as Jeremiah, not Cloutier, or even Reverend Cloutier. From around Gary's birth to the last time Beecher had seen his grandmother's large home, she had watched the Hour of Salvation. Never ashamed, she'd tuned in at least three times a week, because Reverend Jeremiah *spoke* to her. Hell, she'd probably written a few of the checks he'd stuffed into his pockets at night. Beecher had always wanted to ask her if Jeremiah actually spoke to her, or if his broad shoulders and commanding, gently husky voice did more of the talking.
Once Jeremiah came to Em City, Beecher had spent weeks watching him from the corner of the one eye not distracted by his latest personal crisis. Studying his mannerisms, the quiet fearlessness, the sleeves always pushed up to his elbows. Envying his ability to maintain faith, when Beecher lost his as soon as he got the first tangy taste of boot leather.
Podmates or not, he'd stayed away from Jeremiah as long as possible, weary of the deceptively simplistic mindfucks that constituted organized religion. Instead of being reborn, he was mutated into Mary Magdalene.
Beecher rolled his eyes, reaching for his boxers.
"I don't remember giving you permission to call me that."
Arms crossed, Jeremiah bored tired brown eyes into him. Slitted and tired eyes, even when he preached. The exhaustion was a secret weapon, showing the congregation that their Reverend fought an impossible war from morning to night. Underneath, he had the glimmers of life, not like those decrepit wheezers Beecher had been nudged to stay awake to during his church-going years.
"I don't think you want to leave Emerald City. You don't consider yourself deserving. But you can't admit that to yourself."
When he looked at you, you felt as if you were the only person in the world, being singled out for the most important task in the world. If he got through to that sadistic fuck Schillinger, he had to be talented. Or just another con artist, who'd made all his money selling holy water and power stones blessed by some stagehand named Morty.
"Pretty good analysis from someone who's nothing more than a hunked-up, low-rent Jim Bakker."
He cocked his head, brown locks falling over his left ear.
"Hunked-up. Is that how you see men, pieces of meat?"
"Assholes, pieces of ass, wastes of time, that's about it."
Except Keller, and he'd shown his devotion in the most screwed-up ways possible. Fuck him, Beecher wasn't going to stop missing him, easier to accept that and pretend he'd stopped missing him.
"Am I a piece of ass, Tobias? I've never used you."
Furthering messiah fantasies apparently doesn't count. Jeremiah moved closer to him, not walking on water. Yet. Beecher felt a slight shudder at the closer contact, the muscled chest covered by cotton, and that hint of a bad boy underneath so much Southern-fried purity.
Jeremiah had a point. Kathryn wafted into Oz, teasing parole, and so much more. A firecracker exploded in his dick as soon as he saw her, those curves didn't hurt. He'd forgotten a woman's touch, falling back into that cavernous triangle was a huge reason to hope for parole. No more days and nights with men, no more men to break his heart and several other body parts. Genevieve seemed so far away, and Kathryn could be...not better...different.
If he ever began to believe he had a chance at parole, the get out of jail free card would vanish. A continuation of the same pattern that had followed him around Oz: see happiness, wave goodbye. Every day he loathed Em City more, and every day he became more of an automaton to cover up that loathing.
Jeremiah was in front of him now, running worn thumb pads over his eyelids. He gave in.
"Picture your children, Tobias. Smiling, happy to see their father. Picture your parents, your whole family. Blue skies, ice cream, football, cable television. Let the seed be planted. Let yourself hope."
Lips pressed against his hairline, and damn that Jeremiah, he felt himself almost believing. In so many things. Breathing in the breaths of himself and the soul-saver, Beecher blinked, blue eyes locked onto brown, a perfect match of weary determination. He desperately needed that unspoken comfort Jeremiah gave out. Seconds ticked in Beecher's head, but Jeremiah didn't move, not even at the hand sifting into his sloppy brown hair, pulling him into a tentative meeting of mouths.
The full-beard scratches against his shaven cheeks were a new painful pleasure, sending him up and up toward Heaven as Jeremiah explored his arms and back. Beecher ran the tips of his fingers down the clothed spine, pelvis slowly thrusting against Jeremiah's blue-tinted bulge, growing with every blasphemous dry hump.
The good was so easy to forget, not cheap fucks with cocks you don't know, real touches, intimacy. Beecher wanted to feel that connection again, sliding Jeremiah's hand under the tented fabric. Shivers all the way to his toes at the hand that held the Bible now tentatively mapping out his shaft, jerking oh-so-slowly. The holy tongue finally summoned up enough courage to enter his mouth, sailing along teeth, swabbing under Beecher's own tongue. So sinfully corruptive, so Sadie Thompson, so wrong, so perfectly right...
And then back down to Hell, for what had to end, sucking on the wet tongue until Jeremiah pulled away. Beecher rubbed his burning face, Jeremiah too shocked to do more than pant, pre-come smearing his fingers, confusion and lust warring on his still-serene face.
Recovering from breathlessness, Beecher managed to climb underneath his sheets, erection bunching down his left thigh. A few wisecracks came to mind, demeaning or emasculating, but Beecher kept them inside. Jeremiah had taken his place at the mirror, searing the glass reflecting Beecher, either infuriated or invigorated by crossing that Sodom & Gomorrah line. Their words were simple, the simplest Beecher had spoken in a long time.