by Riley Cannon
Series: Love, Love Will Keep Them Together; prequel to "The Jackpot
Disclaimers/warnings: Tom Fontana and HBO own `em, not me. I only take them out to play for purposes of non-profit angst, romance, and smut.
Summary: Hmmm... Okay, this one is going waaaaay back to near the beginning of the Beecher/Keller love-o-rama ride. This is the day before their segment starts in "Strange Befellows," so expect angst and UST and nothing more. While this series of stories does tamper with established canon, some things simply cannot be messed with, and sadly Operation Toby is one of those. :
Anyway, the important thing here is that the boys get all hot and bothered and sweaty from wrasslin', that they take a shower together, and that even when they're asleep they can't get each other out of their minds. The World According to Me, in other words. ;)
Thank you to Danielle for finding exactly the right song to pair this with. I love how it works for both of them, with a bittersweet irony underscoring the lyrics.
Thanks to Christy for the beta.
And dedicated to birthday girl Mav for letting me play in her Big Bang sandbox, and just for being her own generous and snarky self, and championing the boys through thick and thin. Sorry it's a few days late, but I wanted to make it good. ;) Hope you like it.
~It Would Be the First Time~
Flipped on his back and with his shoulders pressed against the mat, Toby tried to catch his breath as he looked up into Chris' face. He watched, almost mesmerized, as a single drop of sweat slid along Chris' jaw and fell. Licking his lips, Toby tasted that salt. He could see another drop just barely clinging to the other man's skin and for a fleeting, insane moment wondered what might happen if he stretched up and licked it off. Eyes locking with Chris', Toby felt an almost desperate need to read the thoughts and feelings sparkling in those blue depths, to know if he really was all alone in this awareness or if Chris shared it - if Chris wanted it, too. One sure way to find out would be to give in to those wild impulses one of these days. What scared him most of all was how often he found himself teetering right on the edge of doing that.
Hauled back to his feet, Toby ran a hand back through his hair and tried not to stare as Chris stripped down again. There was nothing else to look at, though. Nothing but this man, this erotic fantasy made flesh and blood. Only ... when did this become the stimulus for his erotic dreams?
Just looking wasn't so bad, right? Anyone with a pulse might stop to look. Convinced of his own argument, Toby let his gaze roam over Chris, along his legs and the lush curve of his ass, those gym shorts doing nothing to conceal and everything to tantalize. He swallowed and fought not to smack his lips as he tracked the way Chris hiked up the white wifebeater, revealing a flat stomach and a scattering of hairs. He followed it all the way up, soaking up the sight of exposed nipples and a swell of a pectoral muscle just before the shirt was whipped all the way off and discarded.
"Ya wanna go again?"
Toby blinked, started out of his reverie and hoped to Christ his face only felt warm from the exercise. "Yeah," he said, opting to keep his own t-shirt on and suddenly grateful for having worn a loose fitting pair of shorts this time. Although a full suit of armor might have been the better option.
They circled each other, making feints, Chris eluding him at first. Then remembering that first trick he'd been taught, Toby shot out his hand and caught Chris by the neck, dragging him down to the mat. Struggling to pin his shoulders there, Toby relished the feel of Chris pushing up against him. The sense of arousal was razor sharp as their bodies slipped and glided against each other, sweat-slicked limbs tangling as Chris got the upper hand and everything reversing just as quickly the next instant. His breath coming hard as he succeeded in pinning Chris this time, a triumphant smile flashed across Toby's face, fading as he looked down into Chris' face and saw how flushed he was from the exercise. As he saw how his lips were parted just as if he were waiting for a ... kiss.
Swallowing again, Toby reared up, swiping his hair back and looking around wildly for a moment. Oh man, what the fuck was going on?
"You okay there, Beecher?"
"Yeah, just," he paused, struggling to calm his breathing, "just a little winded. I'll be okay."
"Yeah?" Chris rolled to his feet in one smooth move, coming up behind him and reaching for Toby's shoulders, kneading them.
Toby closed his eyes, letting that sensation seep through him - Chris' hands gripping and squeezing his shoulders, one hand stroking along the back of his head on down to the small of his back. Mouth so close to his ear that Toby could feel the warm breath tickling him, Chris whispered, "I don't know, you feel kinda tensed up to me, Toby."
The words felt like a caress, especially his name rolling off the other man's tongue. He should stop this. He should tell Chris to take his hands off him, like the other night. The other night when - he shivered as Chris' hands ran down along his arms - when Chris had slipped up behind him and touched him and talked to him, trying to comfort him. That had felt good, really good, and he wished Chris had just kept doing that, just kept petting him and whispering to him. Oh Jesus - Chris' hands were at his waist now, holding him lightly, and Toby found himself wanting so badly to lean into him, to turn in his arms and ... and kiss his lips, taste his skin, touch him like a lover.
"We, uhm, we should probably hit the showers," he said, voice shaky.
"All right." Chris breathed the words right against the nape of his neck, a mysterious smile lingering in his eyes and on his lips as Toby finally turned to look at him.
Toby wanted to solve that mystery more than anything. And with the way each revelation only tantalized him more, he had a feeling that could keep him could keep him occupied for quite a while. Grabbing a towel to wipe himself down, he couldn't say that struck him as such an awful occupation. In fact -- he followed Chris' movements again, the way he stretched like a big cat before swiping his own towel over his chest and arms -- there were some very strong arguments to be made in favor of unraveling Christopher Keller.
"You sure you're okay, Toby? You're kinda spacin' on me."
Toby blinked, looking into his face again, touched by the genuine concern in those deep blue eyes. "I'm fine. I just ... have a few things on my mind." No lie there.
"Yeah - showers." He returned Chris' smile as they headed out of the gym. Passing Vern and his boys on the way made the smile dim just a bit, but he refused to let that fuck get to him anymore.
Things were better now since Chris had come along. Schillinger was in the past. And the future - Chris moved in front of him, an easy swagger in his step as they proceeded down the corridor - the future was shaping up to be fairly interesting. And not a little disturbing, he amended as he realized his gaze had drifted down to watch the other man's ass. Oh man.
Shaking water out of his eyes, Chris looked over at him. "What question's that?"
"If you're such a hotshot con artist," Toby worked the soap in, "what were you doing committing armed robbery?"
Chris shrugged, not having much of an answer even though he had pondered that one a number of times ever since he'd sobered up and found himself in jail. "I was being high and stupid. And mostly," he frowned as he lathered up his chest, "I think I was aimin' to go out in a blaze of glory. What's that saying?" He aimed a lopsided smile at Toby. "Live hard, die young, and leave a good looking corpse?"
Instead of taking it for a joke, Toby was giving him a serious look and saying, "Well I'm glad you didn't succeed at that." The really weird ass thing was he acted like he really meant that.
Trying to ignore that and stick with the game plan, Chris said, "So I wouldn't leave a good lookin' corpse?" Yeah, that was good; got him looking flustered and rinsing his hair to try and hide it.
"I'm sure you don't me to encourage your vanity," Toby said a second later, a snarky note in his voice as he shook his head and scattered drops of water. "What I meant is, I'm glad you didn't die."
Which would make him about the only one, Chris thought, wishing all it took was some soap and hot water to sluice away everything and truly leave him clean. Way too late for that. He sighed, turning off the water and reaching for a towel. "Yeah, `cause it's a fuck of a lot better to spend the rest of my life in here," he said, surprising himself by the bitterness in his voice. He figured he had a right to some that, though. Toby didn't know; even with all he'd been through he couldn't understand because no matter what, someday Toby was going home. He frowned again, remembering the plan, remembering how Vern meant for Toby to go home in a box. Fuck.
"I know it probably looks bleak, Chris--"
"You do?" Chris gave him a skeptical look. "You wanna point out the silver lining `cause I sure as fuck don't see one." Toby didn't count as the silver lining, right? He couldn't let Toby count that way, not now, not when he had to do a Judas on him. A corner of his mouth quirked with an ironic smile as he ran the towel over his left arm, over the tat that marked him there. Yeah, God had a fucked up sense of humor all right.
Sarcasm lingering in his tone, Toby replied, "Well I guess someone's never heard of the power of positive think--fuck!"
Chris turned in time to catch Toby as he slipped and started to fall. "Easy," he whispered, unsure of his own footing as he wrapped his arms around Toby and held him tight. "Easy there." He breathed the words against Toby's wet hair, feeling it like silk against his lips for just an instant. "You okay?" he said, drawing back a bit and not sure why he was breathing so hard. Maybe it had something to do with how Toby's hands were gripping his shoulders ... how Toby was looking at him? All of a sudden there was nothing but Toby's blue eyes watching him, Toby's hands touching him ... Toby's lips so near it wouldn't be any effort at all to kiss them.
Oh fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Chris pulled back, taking a moment to make sure Toby was steady on his feet again and feeling his own world rocking. Christ, he had to finish this, get it over with before he really got in deep.
"There a problem here, gentlemen?" someone said, and Chris looked around at Metzger.
"Everything's cool," Chris said, hating that motherfucker almost as much as Vern.
Metzger'd probably scurry along to Vern now and tell him Operation Toby was looking good, that Chris had the situation well in hand. He hoped to Christ was true, that this would soon be all over. Maybe then he could find some peace. That was all he wanted, just a little fucking peace.
The thing was every day that passed had him feeling Toby was going to be too high a price to pay for that, and he didn't know what to do to make that feeling go away.
Chris looked up from his examination of the tater tots. "I don't know -- what?"
"A tick falls off when you die," Toby finished with a smile.
Shaking his head and trying not to laugh, Chris popped a tater in his mouth. "That all you got?"
"Well..." Toby looked over what passed for dinner today - the tater tots, peas and carrots, and fish sticks - and figured a little humor might aid digestion. Head tilted close to Chris, he said, "What do lawyers use as birth control?"
"I don't know," Chris said, a smile in his eyes as he munched another tater tot. "What?"
"Their personalities," Toby said and chanced a bite of a fish stick. "You know, I never had these growing up."
"Wow, poor deprived you." Chris shook his head again, watching him eat the fish stick. "School I went to, it was fucking fish sticks every Friday." He pierced one on his plastic fork and held it up, glowering at it. "They lost their allure a long old time ago. So that what you and Sister Pete do all day, sit around swapping lawyer jokes?"
Solemnly, Toby nodded and tried a tater tot. "Why does society prohibit lawyers from having sex with their clients?"
"To keep the client from getting billed twice for essentially the same service?"
"Killjoy," Toby muttered around a smile, pushing his fork through the peas and carrots and wondering how they got the carrots cut into neat little cubes like that.
Watching from the other side of the table, Rebadow said, "You're in a good mood, Tobias."
He looked up at the older man, then quickly back down at his tray. With a shrug, he said, "Thought I'd try it on for a day or two and see how it fits."
"Pretty well, I'd say," Rebadow replied, eyeing his own tater tots with a dubious air.
Yes, it didn't feel half bad. Well, except for those moments when it scared him to death. How noticeable was it anyway, if first Sister Pete and now Bob Rebadow were seeing something in his behavior that piqued their curiosity? He had been uncomfortably aware of Sister Pete watching him thoughtfully all day, hearing something between the lines of every inquiry. And what could he tell her? Yes, keeping the context in mind - he hadn't been fucked up the ass, branded or humiliated lately - he was doing all right. And yes, he was dealing with Genevieve's death the best that could be expected. You know, if a reasonable expectation included him falling in love with his male cellmate.
Because that was what it felt like, he admitted, turning his head to watch the other man and looking away again when Chris glanced over and caught his eye for a moment. He could try insisting this was just friendship he was feeling, a perfectly natural response to someone treating him like a human being in this place. He could do his best to pretend he was only aesthetically admiring the other man's physical form, exactly the way he might look at some piece of classical sculpture. Sure - he could do all those things and it wouldn't explain away the kick he got out of being close to Chris like this, the sense of intimacy that warmly curled through him to lean over and whisper some stupid joke in his ear. Not to mention those ever increasing urges to touch him ... to spend a lot more time getting hot and sweaty with him.
Feeling warm, he reached for his juice, the liquid almost going down the wrong way as Chris shifted on the bench, his thigh rubbing against Toby's. He took another drink, seriously wishing it was something a lot stronger than grape juice. A few martinis would be really helpful in dealing with this.
Polishing his apple on the front of his fresh white t-shirt, Chris bit into the fruit with evident enjoyment. As he chewed and swallowed, Toby found himself thoroughly absorbed with the trace of juice that smeared his lips. He watched Chris' tongue dart out to lick it up before taking another bite, those blue eyes looking right back at him as if reading every thought in Toby's brain, as if picking up on every desire. For a moment that knowledge flashed sharp and clear in those eyes, in the quick, upward lift of his lips. Any encouragement Toby felt at that, however, fled in the next instant as a darker look flared in Chris' eyes, anger and resentment showing in the set of his mouth now.
Confused and a bit embarrassed, Toby looked away - finding Vern had them both under his cold scrutiny. Not about to back down now, Toby met Vern's eyes, just daring him to say or do anything. Assuming an air of indifferent superiority, though, Schillinger and his boys passed on by after another moment and Toby felt Chris relax beside him once more.
He looked at him again, surprised by the bitter regret that flashed through Chris' eyes for a moment before being masked by that more customary, `I've got a secret,' look. "You don't have to be angry on my behalf, Chris."
Chris shrugged, a smile tugging at his mouth. "There a better reason?"
Toby smiled shyly, looking back at his tray, not quite sure how to take that remark. All he knew for certain was it made him feel good. And he was getting increasingly comfortable with entertaining ideas of just how else Chris could make each day at least a fraction easier to bear.
And who could say - maybe that could even help him through the nights, when all his sins crawled back to haunt him. There was a nice thought.
What the fuck? Jarred awake, Chris lay in his hard, narrow bunk for a long moment, trying to orient himself, trying to process the sounds he was hearing from the top bunk. Toby - Toby was having another nightmare, that's what it was. Christ... He sat up, rubbing his face, telling himself it would be over soon. No more putting up with those nightmares, feeling unwanted twinges of sympathy for him; no more struggling to keep the dumb fuck from getting any further under his skin, getting into his goddamned dreams.
Popping out of his bunk just as Toby sat up trembling, soaked with sweat, Chris said, "Hey, hey, hey. You all right? Same nightmare, huh? Wow." He reached out to touch Toby's forehead, feeling a curl of satisfaction when the other man almost allowed the touch this time.
"I'm soaked," Toby said, looking shaken up, his guilt still packing a wallop. Chris would be the last one to ever tell him it would get it better, ever get any easier to bear.
"Yeah," he said as Toby scrambled down, "let's get you out of those." All the while he was helping Toby, handing him a towel to wipe up the sweat, Chris was thinking of how to use this, how to speed this all along. Exploit every vulnerability, right? Like...? His gaze fell on that goddamn swastika branding Toby's ass, gut instinct telling him that could be a key. "We need to do something about that tattoo."
"Oh, yeah?" Toby shot him a sarcastic look. "What are we gonna do?"
"I dunno," Chris said, smiling, wondering why a Harvard Law boy couldn't see he was being conned every which way from Sunday. "Let me think on it, huh?" He reached over there, cupping the side of Toby's neck for a second. "You're all right?"
Toby shrugged, allowing he was as all as could be expected, and Chris moved back to his bunk. He flopped back there, one arm flung over his eyes, wondering if he could get back to the dream. Fuck, he wished he could escape into that dream and never come back.
Hearing Toby climb back up into his bunk, Chris sighed and rolled over to gaze out into the darkened common area. Yeah, that would get him somewhere, all right. His mouth quirked with a bitter smile, knowing the futility of dreams, knowing it was far too late to try wishing on a star. He was going to fuck Toby over, that was the reality, and there wasn't any escape. And, yeah, maybe he'd hate himself afterwards - so what the fuck else was new?
All he knew was ... this was different. This was the last thing he ever would have expected to find in Oz.
He didn't know what to do about it, not now. There was no rush, though, right? Fuck, he thought as he climbed back up to his bunk and stretched out, if there was one thing they had plenty of it was time. Time enough to figure it out.
Closing his eyes, listening to Chris' breathing, Toby smiled, thinking his dreams for the rest of the night might be just a little sweeter.
Good times for a change
See, the luck I've had
Can make a good man
So please, please, please
Let me, let me, let me
Let me get what I want
Haven't had a dream in a long time
See, the life I've had
Can make a good man bad
So for once in my life
Let me get what I want
Lord knows it would be the first time
Lord knows it would be the first time.