Notes: This short story popped into my head as I was listening to Sarah McLachlan's ``Elsewhere.'' It made me think of Toby trying to explain his feelings for Chris to his mother. This is what came out of those musings. Set in season five.
When I walked into the visitor's room, she was sitting there straight and tall, her eyes darting around the room, looking like a chicken in a room full of butchers.
She looked regal and commanding, despite her discomfort. Still, I ached to throw my arms around her; have her hold me close. I hadn't seen her in over a year. She hadn't even come to see me when my son - her grandson - died. I know why she didn't come; I even understood it.
She stood up when she saw me and gave me a quick embrace before sitting back down. ``Toby, how are you?'' she asked, placing her hand over mine on the table.
``I'm fine, Mother. Just a few scrapes and bruises.''
``Your father said you had a concussion,'' she said breathlessly. ``I was so worried.''
I nodded. ``The force of the explosion threw me across the room and I hit my head, but I'm fine now. Really. Is that the reason you came? To see how I survived the explosion?''
``Of course! I'm your mother. I was worried.''
``I guess you weren't as worried about me when Gary died,'' I said and instantly felt guilty when I saw her cringe.
``Toby, that's not fair. I was grieving just as much as you were. I could barely get out of bed in the morning, I was so depressed. Gary was like a son to me. We`d been raising him for almost three years. And it took all of my remaining energy just to care for Holly. She needed me more than you did.''
``I know, Mother. I'm sorry,'' I said. ``It's just that you haven't seen me in over a year.''
``You're right, Toby. I was wrong to stop visiting you. I...I just didn't know what to say.''
``About Chris, you mean,'' I said. A statement, not a question.
Victoria nodded but didn't speak.
``Look, I know the whole topic makes you uncomfortable and that's fine. I can appreciate that. I really can. But it shouldn't stop you from coming to see me. If you don't want me to talk about Chris, then I'll try not to. But I do love him. I always will. You need to accept that.''
``Your father said he had been moved to another prison.''
I nodded. ``He has, but that doesn't change how I feel about him. He forgave me before he left. Thank God. I don't know what I would have done if he hadn't.'' I brushed my hand through my hair and sighed.
I saw my mother looking at me; studying me almost, but couldn't figure out what she was looking for or seeing. ``What?''
``You really do love him, don't you?''
``Yes, I do. Very much.''
She clasped my hand then, closed her eyes for a second, as if mustering some internal courage. ``Tell me,'' she said, when her eyes opened again.
``Tell you what?''
``About Chris,'' she said, a valiant but fake smile on her face.
I shook my head. ``I don't really think you want to hear.''
``But I do. I mean, I don't, but I need to. I need to understand.''
I snorted. ``Understand? Mother, even I don't understand it.''
``Alright, then, tell me something about him. What draws you to him? Why him and not somebody else?'' she said and paused. ``Are you sure this isn't just a...a prison thing? I have done some research since you told us and...'' her face wrinkled up in distaste.
``Don't torture yourself, Mother. I know what you're trying to say. And, no, it's not that way for me and Chris. I mean, for awhile, I thought it was. Shit, I hoped it was. I hoped that when I got paroled, I could walk away and forget everything that happened in here. But it doesn't work that way. Not for me, anyway.
``When Chris and I were fighting, after Gary's death, part of me was relieved. Hell, I may even have sabotaged the relationship in purpose, out of fear. I figured, I'm up for parole in a year. I can get out, get back to a normal life. But my life was never normal before I came to Oz. You know that, even if you won't admit it. I was in pain, Mother, and I used alcohol to dull it.
``In the beginning, I reached out to Chris because he was kind to me and I was lonely. But I learned there was a lot more to it than that. Chris loves me with all my flaws. He doesn't judge me and he doesn't try to change me,'' I said and then laughed. ``I don`t understand it, but Chris doesn't want me to change. All the parts that I'm made of, including all the shit I tried to bury deep inside me with the alcohol, Chris loves unconditionally. I was uncertain for awhile, but I'm not anymore.''
``Why are you so certain now?''
``Chris gave up everything, including his life, to save mine.''
``By killing that boy who kidnapped Gary and Holly?'' she asked, looking confused.
``No, by confessing to it. Chris didn't kill Hank. Schillinger believed I killed his son and he was going to kill me, Holly, even you and Dad. He'd already tried to kill Angus. Chris stopped that. He gave up his life in Oz, which may not seem like a big deal to you. But he had already established his reputation in Oz and he was trading that in for uncertainty at Cedar Junction. He essentially gave up the only visitors he ever had - his three ex-wives. He gave up me to save me. Don't you see how....selfless that is; how he could only do that if he loved me? He put my safety; my family's safety, above his own.''
``Perhaps you are just feeling a strong sense of gratitude?''
I shook my head. ``I did consider that. I really did, but it's more than that. I don't really know how to explain it. I've become a stronger person since loving him. I like myself better - at least I have since I stopped fighting my feelings for him.''
She pondered that for a minute. ``That sounds an awfully lot like love for a best friend or a brother. Maybe your loneliness in here has made you distort those feelings into some sort of romantic bond. Surely you can't...enjoy having...um, sexual relations with him,'' she said, her face turning red with embarrassment.
I smiled at her naivet. ``Oh, but you're wrong, Mother. And I have to say, that surprised me most of all.'' Her expression conveyed shock but at least she was tactful enough not to show any revulsion. ``I know you don't really want to hear this, but I have never been so in touch with my sexuality. Chris reaches a part of me that I was never even aware of. When I'm with him, I let go of all my inhibitions; all my hang ups.
Because he loves me so much...because I love him so much, making love with Chris is like...well, heaven doesn't even begin to cover it,'' I said, smiling as I remembered the last time Chris and I had been intimate.
``My most miserable times in this place were when I wasn't with Chris. And then, all I did was think about him; obsess about him. Since he's been gone to Cedar Junction, I've missed him horribly, but at least I know he loves me. I have that and I can keep it inside me. Sometimes when stuff gets rough around here and I feel like I'm going to cave in from the stress and the fear, I go and find a quiet place and just think of Chris. It calms me and gives me strength.'' I stopped speaking and looked at her. I wasn't sure she was getting the picture, but I really didn't know what else to say.
``If Chris is in Massachusetts for the rest of his life, how can you still be so attached to him? When you get paroled are you going to just give up on love for the rest of your life?''
I shook my head and smiled. ``You see, that's just it. If I walked away from Chris, I would be giving up love. I believe that I ended up in Oz to find Chris. For us to find each other. I don't understand it, but I've come to accept it. I hope you can too.''
She nodded, as if indicating she would try. Then she stood up and hugged me again. I watched her leave. I went back to my pod and got out some paper and started writing Chris a letter.