by Riley Cannon
HT100 Flash Fiction Challenge #3 - The Gift I couldn't think of any tangible gift Chris could give Toby in Oz, so went this route instead, another take on how things might have gone...
"Tobias," she was in front of him now, "I'm sorry--"
"Chris is dead." In the end, the idea formed and took shape and he had to speak the words. Chris was dead; he'd saved him from death row so he could be shanked in the back by Schillinger and left to die alone in the dark--
"Tobias." Her voice reached him through the fog of grief that was forming. "Did you hear a word I said?"
He nodded, took off his glasses. "Chris is dead," he said it again, wondered if he sounded like a zombie to her too.
She touched his arm, sympathy welling in her dark eyes. "Tobias, no, Chris is fine, but," she gave her head a small shake, fingers tightening on his arm for a moment, "he doesn't want to see you."
He stared at her, trapped between emotions. "Why not?"
She sighed, a glint of sadness in her eyes now. "He thinks it's best."
Anger chased his numbness now. "Well what the fuck gives him the right to make that decision, Sister?"
"Tobias..." She sighed again, shook her head. "He has his reasons. They aren't mine to share." She took something from her pocket, a chain with some kind of medallion dangling from it, and pressed it in his hand. "He wants you to have that."
He looked at the bright metal resting in his palm, recognized the St. Dismas medal Chris used to wear. "Why? Sister--" Why the hell was she standing on ceremony now?
"Because he loves you, Tobias."
"Oh." Gee, yeah, that explained everything. "He loves me so goddamn much he never wants to see me again?" As Keller logic went, that one took the prize all right. "He told you why?"
"And you agree with him?"
"Yes I do."
Christ. He closed his fist tight, the medal digging into his flesh. "So what am I supposed to do? Just ... walk away?"
She touched hishand, a sad smile gracing her features. "Walk away -- and live your life."
He wanted to demand how he was supposed to do that without Chris. He wanted to demand to see Chris and have the son of a bitch tell him to his damn face to go away and not come back. He wanted ... things that could never be.
"If he changes his mind..."
She nodded. "I'll let you know."
He nodded back, released a deep breath as he looked around the place one more time. "Guess I'll..." He stopped, shrugged. "Take care of him," he finally said, throat tight.
Tears glittering in her eyes, she promised, "I will."
Nothing more to say then. Nothing to do but walk out of Oz and into the sunlight. At the car, while his brother waited, curious but quiet, Toby put his glasses back on and risked one backward glance, knowing he could never explain how much it hurt to leave this place and never come back.
He held up the chain, the medal catching the light. He touched it to his lips before slipping the chain over his head, and climbed into the car.
"Ready to go home?" Angus said.
He nodded. "Yeah, I am."