by Pilar


Almost a year had passed since they'd released him and Tobias Beecher still felt like a prisoner. No mediocre desk job at his father's firm was going to change that; no rolls in the hay with the woman he felt too indebted to or thoughts of skin grafts would allow him to forget. Prisoner #97B412 refused to die.

Each morning he rose at five half-expecting an alarm and a call for count. Each morning he lay in his bed and waited for it. Then the sun would stream in through the curtains and he would remember. He would remember everything.

It was only with his children that he could put the last four years into a small box deep in the back of his mind. Then he would look into his son's face and see another child. A missing child, all the missing children. And he remembered the nightmares -- all of them. And everything would rush back in a sickening wave.

Maybe he'd been let off too easy. Maybe he should have told the board he wasn't ready -- that he hadn't served his time or justice. That the Rockwells' loss could never be paid back. Maybe he should have confessed to the line of bodybags instead of whinging about exits and entrances over graves.

Maybe he needed therapy.

Maybe he needed a drink.

He'd had years of sobriety inside Oz, where one would think it impossible to maintain any semblance of control. But outside the challenge consumed him.

He still thought of it as outside.

But he would look at his children, the two children he had left, and remember that he was home.

Some days it didn't matter.

"Toby? Would you like to come down for breakfast? The children are almost ready for school." His mother trod eggshells, never cracking a one.

"Thanks, Mother. I'll be right down."

The maid would have the coffee ready and breakfast centered on a placemat. Routines were always the same, only the hours and settings were different.

Without looking in the mirror, he splashed cold water on his face and fastidiously brushed his teeth. It didn't matter how long he remained in bed; the day was going to begin with or without him. No control. Never any control.

Smiles all around as he entered the breakfast room. Funny how Mother and Dad could always put on airs, even in front of people to whom it would never matter: maids and delivery people and the fucking gardener, people who were hardly even people in the minds of his parents. Still, the show must go on.

He almost preferred the way they had acted while he was still inside. At least there had been honesty in those short visits.

Harry was almost used to him; he still clung to his sister like a vine. They should have brought him to visit; they should have given him the chance to know his father, despite the less than perfect circumstances. The lack of real recognition hurt. So many things hurt.

"I'll take my own car today, Dad. I have a meeting with my P.O. at nine." He wasn't supposed to see the wince from behind the corner of the newspaper, but he did. The short nod was definitely for him, though. Time never really did pass, did it? Everything was the past and the past was everything.

His father read the newspaper and his mother made idle conversation. His children laughed like children -- the only sound that brought him any peace.

The parents protected themselves by pretending that nothing existed -- their son had never been a number, an alcoholic, a killer. They protected him by creating a life around him that seemed, on its surface, much like the one he'd had before he'd taken a life, more lives. Near, but not the same. Never the same.

The guest bedroom still felt like a guest bedroom no matter how many of his own things he accrued and brought into it. And five a.m. still howled without audible alarm.

"Daddy? Will you be at parent-teachers night tonight? Ms. Linville says we should be there at six o'clock." Holly pulled at his arm and smiled her lighted face into his. His perfect child.

"Holly, darling... Your fath--" His mother glanced sharply at him as he cut her off.

"Of course, sweetie. I can't wait. You make me so proud." He pulled her onto his lap and squeezed her tight. Most of the time, he never wanted to let go. He'd let go for too long already.

The school bus honked outside, Holly scooted off his lap and chased Harry out the door.

There were moments when he felt like a whole man: like a father. He called after them as they left the house in a flurry of jackets and bookbags and lunchboxes.

"Have a nice day at school, babies..."

There would come a day when he would stop seeing Genevieve and Gary in their every movement. One day he would be able to remember the good things about the ones that were behind him and see only the beauty in the ones that remained.

Almost a year and it felt like a day.

"Holly won't be disappointed if I meet with her teacher tonight, Toby. You don't have to go." He had felt her presence behind him as he watched the bus turn the far corner.

"Afraid too many people will see me and your precious reputation will be sullied once again, Mother?" His mother stared at him with wide eyes, her mouth falling open a few degrees. "I will be a father to my children, even if it embarrasses you."


He glared at her through squinted eyes and made for the shower.

His mother shrouded herself in calm denial as he steered clear of everything from life before Oz.

The shame was part of what held him back. The shame and everything else.

He kept to himself at work; doing menial paperwork and research for senior partners he would have already surpassed if it weren't for so many mistakes.

Mistake. A small word for such a tremendous alteration.

* * * * *

Part One

Driving would never feel right.

He should have been banned from ever getting behind the wheel of a car again. And even though it wasn't the same car, they were all the same cars. And even though little girls on bicycles weren't Kathy Rockwell, they were all Kathy Rockwell. Except they were alive.

The windshield was the worst part.

Having to stare through it, even with stone sober eyes, there was a blur on the glass where he would always have to stare through her lifeless body, a streak across the hood where it slid to the tarred street.

Suburban streets all looked the same: rounded corners and long, green lawns. Well-appointed homes set away from the street. And children and wives and family dogs.

He felt all right on the highway. He felt better on the Third Avenue Bridge. Dread started to set back in as he hit the FDR Drive.

He reached the office of his P.O. and waited in the lobby until his name was called.

"How is everything going, Mr. Beecher?"


"And you're still working regularly?"


"And you're still at the same address, living with your parents?"



"No, sir."

"Then we're all good here. Unless there have been any other problems?"


At the beginning, the first time he had walked into this man's office, Tobias had thought that meeting with a parole officer would be something like therapy sessions with Sister Pete -- filled with questions about how he was really doing and the stuff of analysts. His P.O. was a cold paper pusher with a waiting room filled to the brim, a list of rote questions and a file on his desk. In and out in five minutes flat.

He stopped as he was leaving and turned back, one hand on the office door.

"Yes, Mr. Beecher?"

He hesitated for a moment, considering his words.

"I wanted to contact -- no, never mind."

For the briefest second, he'd thought about trying to bring past and present together; maybe the only way to advance to the future was to bridge the gulf between the two. But, no. Bad ideas were his only ideas sometimes.

* * * * *

He sat at his desk staring at the walls until the phone rang.

His office was small, but not the smallest. And it had a window that overlooked the rooftop of the building next door. He had counted the water towers twice and come up with different numbers each time.

You can only immerse yourself in auto-pilot for so many hours and it doesn't always help you forget. Things weren't always so difficult; some days were better than others. And some days were good. But the bad ones were very, very bad.

"Tobias Beecher."

"Hi, Toby..." Kathryn always had a lilt to her voice on the phone, halfway between 'fuck me' and 'I'm at the office.' He often wondered how many of her other clients had gotten the same treatment that he had. Not that he was really complaining.

He couldn't really complain.

But he did a shitload of wondering. Why had she attached herself to him in the first place? Why had she been attracted to his case? Why had she let him take her out? Why had she slept with him? Why did he hate them both...?

She was a warm body and she cared for him. And he was genuinely attracted to her, even if he would never love her. Their lives had been intertwined since his release and he owed her for that, if nothing else. But she reminded him of so many things he tried to forget.

It should have been about starting over, but she linked him to the past in all the wrong ways.

She reminded him of debts unpaid and unfinished business.


"Are we still having lunch this afternoon? I'll pick you up at your office."

"Yeah, all right." He could hear her smiling into the phone, probably twisting that lock of hair around her finger. "One o'clock?"


"Okay, I'll see you then."

"Toby, is something wrong?"

He let the silence spill across the phone line, but for only a long moment.

"No, it's just been a long day." He glanced at his watch and rubbed at his eyes beneath his glasses. He'd been far less than productive this morning, the piles of books and contracts on his desk had lain untouched since he'd arrived and closed the door to his office.

Something had to give.

"All right, honey, I'll see you at one."


He placed the handset in the cradle and stared at the phone.

* * * * *

More coffee. Pile of contracts finally sifted through but not worked on. Self-realization and revulsion clawing at burnt out and empty skull. Self-actualization not actualized.

"Mr. Beecher, Kathryn McClain is on her way, she says she'll meet you in the lobby in five minutes." Disembodied voices still reminded him of the hacks screaming through Em City. Count! Lockdown! Shakedown! Didn't matter that the voice was female and soft-spoken.

"Thank you, Celia."

He never saw his father in the halls of the law offices, never bumped into the senior partners whose work he did everyday. He talked most often with the mail guy.

Waiting by the elevator, he adjusted his clothes and dragged his hands through his hair. Nodded to co-workers whose names he didn't remember but who probably knew his by heart.

He kissed her chastely in the huge, marble lobby, her hand fitting into his and fingers twining through fingers.

"Are you sure you're all right, Toby?"

"Yeah." He smiled at her, thin lips spreading over teeth. "I've missed you," he lied.

"I've missed you, too." She led him through the glass doors and out onto East 39th Street. "What are you hungry for? There's a new Vietnamese place on 36th we can check out."

Routine. Rote. The same. Mundane. Maddening.

He was a fucking ex-convict. He was a fucking murderer. A cold-blooded killer. No Ed Gein, but near enough. Nothing normal should be normal.

"Sure." He held her hand tighter in an attempt at reassurance.

Kathryn babbled incessantly, feeding details of her latest case, a murder trial appeal that she knew was a loser but kept up hope. Blah blah blah DNA blah blah blah eye-witnesses blah blah blah Cedar Junction.

Cedar Junction.

Sounded so flaccid, not imposing like Oswald. A nice junction amidst the cedars. Green and warm.

"You're going up there?"

"Up where?" He'd fixated on the name for longer than he'd realized; she had passed over that conversation point and stealthily moved on to the next.

"Cedar Junction. You're going up there?" She knew everything about him, she still owned the file. Must be easier for her to forget the little things.

"On Thursday. I'll be there for five days." The little things were the biggest things.

"I'll miss you," he lied. And she covered his hands with hers.

Not hard swallowing your pride and taking it up the ass. Harder realizing that you can never go home again, even when you're home.

"Let's get together on Wednesday night. I can drop Scotty off at my sister's and we can do something romantic, maybe dinner at Indochine?" She leaned in close and lifted his hand to her lips. "It's been a few weeks...," she whispered, locking her eyes to his.

"I've been busy, so have you."

"I didn't mean it that way."

But he meant it that way. And a distant part of him wanted her to see that. Her denial ran as thick as the rest of theirs. His mother's, his father's, his own. Not his own. Denial was an ailment he was quickly healing from.

He found himself staring over her shoulder, towards the kitchen, into space.

"Yeah, Wednesday's great."

"Great! I'll take care of the reservations and everything." And that smile again, teeth and gums and dark, sparkling eyes.

Conversation lapsed and stuttered and moved into meaninglessness while they ate; it was normal.

When the check came they both grabbed for it. He slid it out from beneath her hand and went to the cashier to pay.

He pulled out his wallet and paid, wishing that some code on his credit card would tell the world who he was. Attention: The man that you have just service killed a child and only served a tenth of his age. Thank you for your transaction. Anonymity -- the nectar of the gods and the opiate of the masses.

It was the routine and stress that had started his drinking years before. Wake, work, children, wife, sleep. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. And it was starting over again, this time with the added boons of parents who tried their damnedest to gloss it all over but forgot that expressions could be read and memorized, and of a woman who looked at him with too much sympathy and too little recollection.

The further they pulled from reality, the deeper reality sucked him in.

* * * * *

Head up and walking tall, his hand clasped around Holly's, he entered through the doors of the elementary school where he had gone as a child, halls and classrooms exactly the same, except so much smaller than he remembered.

When he had married Gen, they had taken a home two towns over. Close enough to his parents and the home that he had grown up in, but not on top of them. Security and suburban sprawl and white picket fence mentalities. Seemed all wrong now.

"Daddy, I drew that picture!" She steered him towards a bank of colorful drawings under Plexiglas beside a classroom door.

Requisite stares and hushed whispers that might have had nothing to do with him. There was Chuck Sperling and his lovely wife, Anna, who had married right after college. He had been at their wedding. There was Randall Harrison, whose girlfriend he had felt up in the girls' locker room fifteen minutes before half-time at the homecoming game.

"That's beautiful, honey. Is this your classroom?"

"Uh huh. That's my teacher, too."

The classroom milled with children and parents. People who clumped together over weekends and drank margaritas, made with only the most expensive tequilas, in the backyards of their perfect houses on pristine lawns. People that years ago he would have joined in their waspy, upper-middle class existences. People that looked at him through the sides of their eyes now.

He embraced the discomfort he'd been waiting for. What his mother didn't realize, what he'd craved all along.

Holly joined her friends in a chatty circle of desks and he sat in a too-small chair near the windows.

"Hey." The voice came from behind him and he turned towards the sound, surprised. The sheepish smile of an old friend who had obviously spent too much time considering his approach.

"Hey." His fingers went absently to his hair and pushed through it. "It's been a long time."

Their quiet voices carried through the small room.

"Yeah. I heard you were back in town." Staggered pauses and hems and haws. "I'd been meaning to call or stop by, or something. Our kids are in the same class." He followed Stan's pointed finger towards a tow-headed boy seated among the crowd.

"He looks just like his mother." Toby smiled back at him. "How've you been, Stan?"

Stanley Rosenfeld had been one of his closest friends growing up. Another of the people who he'd grown up and away from, but hadn't completely lost touch with until... everything happened.

"Great. Can't complain. You know... How about you?"

How to answer that question.

"All right. You know..." He said nothing and just enough in four words.

"I'm really sorry, Toby." Stan cringed and Toby tried not to react. "You still use Toby? I feel--"

"It's all right."

Stan nodded with slight resign. "Well, I'm really sorry. I should have written or something, come to visit you..." He pulled up a chair and sat down, ignoring his wife's glower from across the room.

It felt nice, even though that same retiring sympathy was in his eyes that he saw in his parents and in Kathryn. That look of 'I'm so so sorry that your life is so so screwed.'

"Please, Stan, we hardly saw each other before -- nothing to feel guilty about now. I'm all right. My life is all right. But, it's good to see you. We should get together and talk sometime, under less public scrutiny." He quirked his brow and looked around the room, where parents were beginning to meet with the teacher as their names were called.

Stan's eyes hit the floor and Toby reached out for him, moving his hand softly against the other man's arm until eyes met his again. This friend, this man he had known since they were both snobby rich kids at snobby rich kid school. One just like this. One exactly like this. This one.

"Stan. It's all right." Almost a sexual movement, but he didn't mean for it to be that way, and Stan would never even think it. Different lives. Different people.

"Holly looks really good." And the moment is still broken, but better.

"She's doing well." He looked towards his daughter then, the perfect little girl that she was always supposed to be. Thought of her locked up with Hank Schillinger. Afraid. Alone. "Really well." He smiled over at her, towards her, as she caught her father's proud eye.

"Yeah, considering-- I mean-- I'm sorry."

"Stop apologizing." Stan lowered his eyes, focusing on the wringing of his hands. Toby looked to him sympathetically, not quite sure what else to say. Then his family's name was called.

"That's us... Look, it was good to see you again, Toby. I will call you, we'll get together." Stan's handshake was firm and reminded him of old times.

And Toby won't hold his breath for the call, but it sounded good anyway.

The teacher never gave him that look he expected, although she must know everything since everyone knows everything. The files don't lie, the files are fat. The Beechers are a fucked up group. Instead, they gushed over his child, her student, and Holly beamed brightly. Like a star.

One of very few in a pitch-black universe.

* * * * *

Part Two

"You're not even listening to me, are you?" Her voice chopped through his distraction like a chainsaw.

It was an effort to pull his eyes back to hers, from over her shoulder where he stared at the door.

"I was." He tried to smile softly at her, to avoid unnecessary trauma, to make her lose her train of thought. He was tired. Leaning over and across the table, he lightly pressed his lips to hers.

"What were you thinking about?"

He tasted the inconsiderate wine on her lips, darting his tongue out along his own before settling back into his seat. "Nothing." He smiled again; infusing it with what he hoped would look like lasciviousness and let the words drip off his tongue. "Let's get the check."


He thought of the first time they'd been intimate: her head bobbing between his legs and his pants around his ankles as the black car shuttled him away. He'd held tight to her hair and came in her mouth, watching the contemptible walls of Oz fade to nothing through the rearview mirror.

Shooting his load into his lawyer, he'd honestly thought he could forget everything.

* * * * *

In her bed, in her arms, Tobias faked it with the best of 'em.

They cabbed to her Chelsea apartment and practically undressed each other in the vestibule. If he closed his eyes and ran his hands over her body, he could pretend that he was someone else, that she was anyone else, that he wasn't even there.

Their lips crushed together, her tongue sliding against his and her long nails scraping at his inner thigh, he urged her deeper into the apartment. He wanted to want her; he sometimes even wanted to love her.

His feet knew the floor like he'd memorized the directions in Braille.

Her hand groped his cock through his pants, boxers bunched between his legs, her other hand dragging through the back of his hair. A few more feet to the bed -- he could make it.

With fingers digging into her panties, he closed his eyes and concentrated on the sound of his own breath. Numb. Pants in a pile beside the bed, shirt discarded near the door. Moaning Kathryn and her 'Oh, Toby's pouring onto the soft comforter. He looked down between them and was surprised to see his own erection in her hand.

He looked into her face; into big and dark eyes staring into his with such great optimism and trust and whatever else that was behind them that he hoped wasn't sympathy. Handing her a condom from her nightstand, she rolled it over him with thin fingers. He felt himself wince at her touch, then hoped she hadn't noticed. Or that she wouldn't recognize.

Or maybe that she would.

Sinking inside her, he closed his eyes once more and tried to focus, tried to keep his head in the right place. Not that he ever knew where the hell that was supposed to be.

He moved slowly and gently; tried to be loving, hesitant. Reverent. His face pressed into the pillow beside her head, her hair in his mouth.

Kathryn's patience evidently waned.

With a hand on his chest, she pushed him to his back and, with practiced ease, sank back onto him in one sleek movement.

Had he finished that file Wellman left for him and needed before his nine o'clock meeting? Had he given it to Celia for inter-office?

Her knees clenched tight against his sides and his hands held her hips. His body flat, his eyes pressed shut.

"Toby, ohhh... Oh! TobyS"

Oh, god.

Her familiar cunt should have just been more. She moved above him, his nails digging into her hips. Through shut-tight eyes he could feel hers boring into him. Could picture her head tossed and her face twisted in ecstasy.

He realized he wasn't moving, couldn't move. She brought her face down to his, kissing his neck, his face, whispering words of love; he fought not to turn his head aside.

* * * * *

Slipping noiselessly from her bed, he left Kathryn's sleeping form curled under the blankets; it was a clear night. His watch on the night stand read one a.m.

He stood over her, his hand hovering in the air above her face.

He pushed a stray lock of hair from her cheek and tucked it behind her ear, shaking his head to clear his thoughts. As if that was even possible.

A glance back from the entrance of the bathroom; she slept so soundly, her face a mask of settled peace. He envied her that.

As the hot water rained over him, he caught his reflection in the chrome shower door. Distorted image mocked him -- maybe not so skewed, but the truest representation. Crying in the shower is redundant.

A man lives his life. As a child, he hopes for the extraordinary, believes in the possibility, knows that every avenue is one to be explored and exploited. As a child, the doors are all unlocked and open for the choosing. As that boy becomes a man, the roads become thinner, there are more twists and turns and fewer forks. More doors are snapped shut and bolts slide to keep them closed. What should have been explored ends up behind him and the only thing left to exploit is himself.

Some things can't be washed away with soap and water, and some men get road rash when they fall.

* * * * *

In a chair across the room, he watched Kathryn sleep before he left her apartment.

A walk through Chelsea, past the meat-packing district, cold air flushed his cheeks and surrounded his bones. Lack of decisive destination had always been a problem.

Tobias slipped into the bar, the first one without gigantic fruit stripe flag swinging in the wind or neon double male symbols to announce his intention in an electric hiss. Still blacked-out front windows and techno jukebox. Still clearly gay.

He pushed through the plastic slats that hung in the doorway. Still a bar.

He faced a wall of alcoholic temptation. The first bar he'd been inside since before he'd been inside, since before the accident. Still a bar. Still a gay bar.

In dress shirt and night-wrinkled slacks, he found an empty stool and sat with his back to all activity. Nodded at the bartender when their eyes caught.

"Whatcha drinkin', beautiful?" Bare-chested and leather-vested, he leaned toward Tobias and husked in a loud whisper over the incessantly pounding music.

Mind and body screamed vodka; mouth said coke. He admired his own restraint. Sort of.

"Designated driver?" he asked coyly, passing the soda over the bar and grinning like a cheerleader.

"Something like that."

He turned his back to the bar and sucked in all the air from the room.

Leaning back into the oak, he scanned what he was beginning to think of as the arena. Even more than in Oz -- he felt out of his fucking element.

But, oh, this was a sweet discomfort.

Heart pounding for the first time in a long time. Truly excited for the first time since he'd heard Kathryn deliver the news of his parole. Since he walked through the gates and left Oz behind him.


He let himself think of her for a moment and gladly let the thought pass.

His eyes toured the room, moved slowly over groups of men playing pool, huddled around the jukebox, standing together drinking, talking suggestively to one another, checking him out in return.

He forced every debatable and opposing thought from his mind. Stopped thinking about his parents, his girlfriend, his parole and all of the myriad other things that threatened to force him from the room. For once, he wanted simply to pretend he was someone else. If for only a moment. To allow himself the tiniest of indiscretions. To possibly have a second of complete selfishness without the ruin of thinking too much.

A body nudged beside him at the bar; facing him, leaning past him, hard leg pressing against his. Eyes drilled into the side of his head. Every movement deliberate and premeditated. Warm breath on his neck.

He kept his eyes straight ahead; refusing to turn into the presence that accosted him. Instead, he focused on another man across the room. Someone less threatening, someone more like himself. Blinking slowly and determinedly, he smiled just slightly at him, still feeling the weight of the staring eyes moving into him.

Felt the lips touch his ear.

Across the bar, another man joined the object of his focus and he moved his eyes away.

"Are you looking for something special?"

A couple danced close near the jukebox. Lower halves bumping in time with the pulse of the music. Tobias watched them for a moment, his eyes casting out through the crowd and ignoring the man beside him. From beyond the dancers, he caught another heated stare. Light-haired and tall, he nearly leered at Tobias. It sent a small shiver up his spine.

A hand rounded his thigh and he looked towards his predator with upcast eyes.

"Well, aren't you a pretty one." Licentious grin and sharp, dark eyes. He bit back an annoyed remark and lifted the soda to his lips.

Familiar bile rose in the back of his throat, a mixture of nerves and excitement, anticipation and disgust.

"I'm waiting for someone." Who will never show up, he finished mutely.

"And I thought that was me." The fingers tightened on the inside of his thigh. Their faces were too close; felt the sweat prickling up on the back of his neck. He turned his face away, relocking eyes with the pair that still watched him from the other side of the room and felt the corners of his mouth rise.

"Excuse me."

He left his drink on the bar and moved to flee towards the bathroom. Fingers clasped around his wrist like a handcuff.

"Where are you going, sweetness?"

"Let go of me. Now. Sweetness." That bitchiness snarled through him, memories of being taken without being asked. That wasn't what this was about.

He heard low laughter as his wrist was released; he walked as calmly as possible to the men's room.

With the door shut behind him, he clasped hard to the edges of the sink, knuckles pallid under the pressure of the rest of his body. He splashed cold water on his face and questioned his motives, his motivation, what in the hell he was doing at all. In this bar, in any bar, fighting off the advances of one man while trading leers with another -- this was crazed. Another really bad idea in a long line of the same.

The door swung open; he hadn't expected it. Tobias started, his body reflexively tightening into a defensive pose he would never unlearn.

Broad shoulders and large, lean frame stepped into the too-small room and let the door close with a snap behind him. Leaning his back into it, the light-haired man whose eyes had drawn Tobias' just moments earlier, smiled with insinuation and said nothing. Tobias offered the same in return, voicelessly echoing sentiment.

In a quick movement, large arms descended around his neck, a hand firm on his jaw; lips connected and tongue spread teeth. Tobias offered no resistance, opened his mouth in acceptance, allowed the prying tongue its exploration and pressed his body against the other man's. He felt himself being backed into a stall behind him and the backs of his calves hit porcelain.

Fleeting thoughts of past and present lovers, fucks, dead ex-wives. But just fleeting and then gone. He pulled away briefly but not out of arms, eyes wide open, memorizing. Mesmerized. The gap reclosed immediately. A wet heat filled the stall.

Head tipped back, he allowed himself to lean into the sensations. To give in to the harder touches that he'd missed from another man. The bigger hands and tighter, more sinewy muscle, the scruff of shaven skin next to shaven skin. The feeling of another hard cock pushed insistently against his own.

He didn't need to imagine ice-blue eyes and Roman nose, even though he remembered them anyway. Not about love, about release. And hunger.

His hand slid down between their bodies and he kneaded at the hardness beneath the denim, his other hand reaching to unclasp belt buckle and pop open buttons. With the flesh like hot marble in his hand, he traced veins and slid his thumb over the other man's slit, spreading pre-come he wanted to taste over the head.

His teeth razed over jawbone and collarbone, stopping to slide his tongue into the tight divot before continuing descent. Hands followed him down, fingers clasping shoulders, both men's breath coming in shorter gasps and pants. As his mouth closed over cock and his knees found the floor, fingers tangled in the back of his hair and tugged all too gently.

Tobias' out-of-practice throat eased into the job, opening and relaxing, tongue and teeth slicking over shaft smooth like warm velvet ice. His hand juggled testicles, fingers sliding between ass cheeks and grazing over puckered hole. The smell of sweat and piss and come and smoke in his nostrils, the taste of salted skin in his mouth.

Tugging fingers lifted his chin and he looked up at the man whose name he was only half-interested to know. Cock still in his mouth, lips still working glossed shaft; Tobias blinked and felt the hands urging him to stand.

Their lips met again, savage and ravenous mouths warring for a dominance that he didn't even want but felt good to try. Lips hard on his mouth, lips scraped his jaw, lips tested his neck; he was crushed between the toilet and the wall. Skilled hands made short work of his pants and slid his boxers down his legs where they fell to the floor.

His own hands were frenzied and chaotic, moved from solid cock to firm ass to cup balls in his palm. He was turned violently into the cool metal; teeth worried at his throat. He was self-conscious with his chest to the stall. Mental image of his body rushed through his mind, what the swastika must look like to someone who didn't know who he was and where it came from.

Blunt nails dug into his sensitive, exposed flesh. A thumb grazed over the brand. The acute slap to his right cheek echoed through the bathroom.

"I'm gonna fuck you now." A dark voice, deep and shallow of breath. Consonants sharp and purposeful. Growled words cut through the non-silence like a shiv.

The squirt of lube and he felt hands slide between the cheeks of his ass.

A slicked finger pressed at his sphincter pushed inside him. A deep, almost fulfilling gust of air from his lungs turned to a long moan and he accepted as many fingers as he was given. He closed his eyes and stepped a foot from his pants to spread his legs wider, arm reaching back to half-embrace this lover with dark eyes and few words and pull him closer.

Face pressed into the wall and his cock in his hand, Tobias tried to live in the present. He heard the small snap of latex, saw the wrapper flutter to the floor at his feet, noted make and model.

Fingers replaced with cock; momentary flash of pain before his well-fucked ass remembered and accommodated and stretched and he breathed again. Filled, his legs tensed and feet gripped for purchase on the tile floor.

A hand tangled in his hair and pressed him harder against the wall as the girth rocked into him, thrusting and probing him deeper, pushing against his prostate as he pumped himself faster into his slicked fist. Angry digits bruised at his hip, reached around to grab his balls and steadily squeeze.

When he came, it was like a burst of self-illumination and torture.

A few more thrusts crescendoed speed and he felt himself released from the grasping hands and pressuring body. Emptiness as the cock was slowly pulled from inside him. A splash when the latex hit the toilet. A tight squeeze on his ass as the bathroom door opened and he was left alone.

Outside he heard the tempo of the music pounding over the blood in his eardrums.

* * * * *

A lifetime could have passed while he stood outside Kathryn's apartment door staring at her name beneath the doorbell. When he finally slid in stilted silence into the apartment, the lights were still off and he could almost hear her steady breath from the bedroom.

He headed straight for the shower; needed to wash the filth from his skin, from his hair, from himself. Entering the adjoining bathroom through her son's room, the stink of smoke and sweat and sex all over him, he peeked into her bedroom, felt guilty, closed the door.

His clothes piled in a skunked heap on the white shag.

No water would ever be hot enough to wash away the loathe.

The darkness of the unlit bathroom filled with steam as he hung beneath the near-scalding spray. His limbs were too heavy, the pounding behind his temples too erratic, the settling of guilt in his stomach made him nauseous. Only a few hours earlier he had stood in this same spot pretending not to know his own intentions, washing the smell of Kathryn off his body. This time it was exactly the same, only opposite.

Maybe worse, but maybe not.

He tipped his body back against the cooler tiles and let the water shower over his skin, hit him in the face as he eyefucked the wall.

The shower door opened, he felt her look at him with those sickly sympathetic eyes. God, he was so tired.

Kathryn entered the showerbox and he didn't move, didn't dare to meet her gaze, truly hoped that she would just go away. When her arms snaked around him, he could only shudder, her lips touched to the vein in his neck. He pushed her away and wrenched out of her arms.

He stepped from the shower and walked out of the bathroom without stopping and without looking back, a trail of dripped wetness left behind in his wake.

Stood in the middle of the room, looked towards the door. No safe places here.

He turned to find her watching him from the doorway near expressionless, close to blank. Possibly angry, certainly questioning. He met her eyes briefly and looked away.

No safe places anywhere his mind could reach.


to be continued

* * * * *