Though Hell Should Bar the Way

by Riley Cannon

A little something for Halloween. And you can check out info about Loreena McKennitt here:

Her interpretation of Alfred Noyes' "The Highwayman" & her own "Dante's Prayer" can be found on her "The Book of Secrets" CD. (I also heartily endorse "The Visit.")


Listening to the final wistful words of the song -- When the dark night seems endless, please remember me, please remember me... -- Toby sank down on his hard mattress, looking around at the shadowed walls of his cell. Shadows were all he had for company these days, all he wanted. He knew his fragile sanity was slipping but couldn't seem to care. What did it matter, now, if he spent all his time inside his head since he was never leaving Oz?

As the last Please remember me whispered through his head, Toby stopped the CD, then started it again, skipping ahead to that other song he liked, about the highwayman. He remembered reading that poem in school and always liking it, its vivid evocation of the dashing thief who died for love -- When they shot him down on the highway, the singer sang, her voice bringing the drama to life, down like a dog on the highway, and he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat...

And he thought about his last glimpse of Chris, lying in a pool of blood, the light fading from his eyes, his lips growing cold against Toby's as he died there, cradled in Toby's arms. Schillinger had lain nearby on that same gym floor, breathing his last, but alone and forgotten. Toby didn't really remember that, how he'd raced across the gym floor and driven a shank deep into Schillinger's body, but if they said it happened that way it probably had. He didn't regret it. Nor that it had brought him to this solitary cell with only his thoughts and dreams and memories for company.

He wished he could remember Chris differently, though, alive and vibrant, not falling mortally wounded by Schillinger. Not growing cold in his arms, going down into the darkness with only salt tears for a final meal.

Toby sighed, closing his eyes, listening to the words, Then look for me by the moonlight, I'll come to thee by the moonlight, though hell should bar the way... and wished he'd gone down into that darkness with him.

"Toby..." the voice whispered in his ear, breath soft and warm. "...Toby... Look at me," it commanded, still soft, husky with need, but he couldn't obey, knowing he would open his eyes to see only shadows. No, he would stay here in this perfect dream where Chris whispered his name and touched him, fingers stroking his jaw, cupping his face and combing through his hair as lips -- soft, warm, tasting of moonlight and rain, no hint of the grave -- brushed his, teasing. He arched into those kisses, moaning softly, pleading as his lips were nibbled. Still not looking, Toby reached for him, hands grasping broad shoulders, one caressing his nape and sliding into silky short hair, holding Chris where he needed him so he could claim the kisses he was starving for.

"...Chris, oh God, I miss you..." he whispered, feeling the burn of tears again as he clasped his lover to him, stroking the dark head buried against his neck.

"I miss you, too, baby," his lover murmured back. "Toby, look at me."

But Toby stubbornly kept his eyes shut and shook his head. "I can't."

"Why not?" Curious fingers traced his face, stroking his wet eyelashes.

"Because you won't be there if I look." He reached up with both hands, framing the face he knew so well he could identify it just by touch in the dark. His fingertips danced over the high forehead, brushed along the hairline and along each eyebrow; he traced the long, jutting nose, smiling and aching at memories of the times he'd teased him about that feature. He kissed a path along a cheekbone, the strong jaw, longing to look into those beautiful blue eyes with their fringe of dark lashes, the eyes that had looked right into his soul and acknowledged every flaw, witnessed all the darkness -- and loved him anyway, made him see there was still some light and innocence there. He softly kissed the sweet lips, tasting the salt tears there now.

"Toby -- look at me," his lover pleaded, fingers stroking through his hair. "I won't disappear."

He would, though, Toby knew that -- but still he answered that plea and opened his eyes, even as he felt his love slipping from his arms -- then caught his breath as his eyes took in the tall, lean form bathed in pale moonlight, leaning against the wall, hands in his pockets and his head titled a little, an enigmatic smile on his beloved face and a blend of love and lust gleaming in his eyes.

And what did it matter that Toby knew there was no moonlight in Oz? That this was only a vision conjured by his desperate need to see him, to touch him one more time?

"Love me?" he asked, holding out his hand, the hand that grasped his feeling so strong, so real, as he drew Chris down to this bed.

"Always, Toby, always," Chris vowed, kissing his face, his mouth, his throat.

Toby groaned and arched into that touch, so easily remembering how those lips would brand his flesh, wanting to wear the marks proudly now, when it was too late. He gasped as he felt his shirt hiked up, his nipples lashed by an impatient tongue before the shirt was pulled all the way off and discarded, the rest of his clothing disposed of just as quickly. And because it was only a dream, he didn't hold back the cries and whimpers as his lover washed him with kisses, leaving him aching and needy -- a deep moan of pure satisfaction welling up as Chris entered him.

"Oh... god... Chris... " He looked at his lover, there between his raised legs, fucking him so beautifully, and reached for him, drew him near enough to snatch more kisses from his mouth as Chris moved in him. "Don't stop ... never stop ... " he begged, wanting to stay here, locked in this moment for eternity.

"Never," Chris vowed, breathless, kissing his face, his mouth, hungrier than Toby could ever remember, "I love you, Toby ... I'll love you forever ... "

"Forever... " Toby echoed, moving with him, breathing it into his mouth. "I'll love you forever, Chris, always... " he promised, kissing, caressing as Chris loved him, making it so good, making it last forever...

He opened his eyes, looking around the darkened cell. "Chris?" he whispered, feeling the cold seeping into him and reaching for the blanket to draw it up around him. "Chris?"

No answer, of course, he was alone.

Still, as he put his head down on the pillow and closed his eyes, he didn't feel that way at all, and a smile gently curved his lips as, in his sleep, he felt his lover's arms around him, holding him there in the night.

the end
Please send feedback to Riley Cannon.