Though it sounded weary, Beecher's voice was edged with a hard warning, and Keller slid his hands out from under Beecher's shirt, the back muscles stiff under his fingertips.
Lights had been out for hours, but Keller had gotten no sleep and he knew Beecher hadn't either. Beecher hadn't slept in days. Fuck, I can't blame him. Kids kidnapped. Son's hand cut off. Fuck. Beecher had wailed, had cried. Every night he had done those things, but not last night. Not tonight. That seemed somehow worse.
"You can't go on like this."
When Beecher didn't respond, Keller placed his hands on the edge of the bunk and leaned forward to whisper, lips just brushing Beecher's earlobe, "Baby, come on..."
An elbow connected hard, but awkwardly with Keller's chest, and he stepped back as Beecher flipped over and sat up. "The fuck do you want from me, Keller?"
Keller, huh? Not Chris. Secretly, it pleased him to hear anger in Beecher's voice, to see his eyes glaring. It meant Beecher still felt something; anger was better than emptiness.
"Well?" Beecher growled. "You wanna fuck? That it?" He grasped his gray t-shirt and jerked it over his head. "Then let's just get it over with."
Shit, Tobe, that's not what I want. Keller glanced down at Beecher's right hand, which gripped the shirt. The hand was trembling with hate, with sadness, with weakness; Keller couldn't really tell. Maybe it was none of the above... maybe all of the above.
"I wasn't..." *Jesus, what am I supposed to say? Maybe I did want that. But not just that.* "It's not what you think."
Annoyed, aggravated: "Then what?"
"I don't know," Keller replied, matching Beecher's tone. "I want there to be something I can do."
They stared at each other, communication seeming at an impasse. Keller sighed, leaned with his back against the wall, and watched Beecher silently. Beecher closed his eyes and after a few minutes, said softly, "I wish it were you."
"I wish you had done it because then you could confess it to me and I could hate you and hurt you... I'd probably try to kill you and you would try to kill me. One of us would succeed and it would all be over." Beecher gave an unhappy laugh before opening his eyes. "If that's not a fucked up fantasy, I don't know what is."
Christ, for once here's something I haven't done. I can't do anything about it, can't fix it, and here you are wishing it were me. That wish twisted tight in Keller's heart; blood rushed to his face, hot and angry. The fuck kind of thing is that for you to think anyway? Keller clenched his jaw and took a deep breath, trying to quell whatever feeling was rising in him.
Cool. Calm. Control. Those were the things that Keller could understand. Unpredictability was much more difficult, and Beecher was a master at it.
Slowly, carefully, Keller said, "I don't know what to say."
"I know you don't."
Why does that sound like an accusation?
Silence, again, and unflinching desperation. Maybe Beecher wanted there to be something Keller could do just as much as Keller wanted it. Maybe in some strange way, Beecher had expected that Keller could do something. Maybe because Keller had said everything would be okay, and it wasn't. All I can do is be with you and, shit, that ain't enough and I know it, but what else have I got?
Keller approached Beecher again, but did not touch him. Instead, he leaned his left elbow on the bunk, rested his chin on his fist, and looked up at him.
"Everything about this is wrong, I know," Keller whispered. "But you can't go on like this."
"I have to."
Keller shook his head. "You gotta fucking survive, Toby. Jesus, you don't eat, you don't shower, you don't cry. You get up, you shave, you crawl back into bed. That's all you do. That fucking routine has got to stop. Don't fucking do this to yourself." To me.
A little lost, a little confused: "I took a shower yesterday."
Keller reached out to one Beecher's calves dangling over the bunk, and gently, barely touching, ran his fingers up it. "Three days ago."
Beecher slid off of his bunk, his legs wobbling slightly as his feet hit the ground. Keller moved to steady him, but Beecher's muscles tensed again, and Keller left him alone to steady himself.
Raising his t-shirt to his nose, Toby sniffed and wrinkled his face. "Smells like three days."
Keller took the shirt from him and brought it to his face, closing his eyes for a moment. "I like the way you smell." The way you taste, the way you look, the way you sound, the way you touch.
Beecher said nothing and moved to the sink. He did not turn on the faucet, but leaned with his hands on the edges and looked at himself in the mirror. "Fuck, fuck, fuck."
Keller placed a hand on one of Beecher's shoulders, but Beecher jerked away and snarled, "Keep your fucking hands to yourself."
They made eye contact via the mirror. Beecher's eyes were hard, bitter. Keller spoke softly to him. "Toby, let me touch you."
"Why?" Keller reached out and grabbed onto Beecher's forearm.
Beecher tried to shake Keller off, but Keller only gripped tighter and pulled Beecher toward him, forcing him into a hug. Beecher struggled briefly, but then gave up on resistance to stand limply with Keller holding him.
"Tell me why," Keller insisted.
Barely audible, Beecher answered, "Because I don't want to feel anything... can't feel anything."
But you do feel it. I know you do.
Keller whispered, "No, Toby, when we got nothing else, what we feel... that's all there is." He stepped back a little, slid his hands down Beecher's arms, and brought one of Beecher's hands to his chest. With his free hand, Keller pressed one of his own hands against Beecher's chest, feeling his heartbeat.
"And we got each other," Keller said and squeezed the hand he held against his chest. "You feel that?"
Beecher's brow furrowed, his lips frowned, and his eyes looked down. "I..." His voice halted, but he nodded.
"Look at me," Keller said, squeezing Beecher's hand just a little harder. He demanded more urgently, "Look at me."
With a shaky sigh, Beecher looked up into Keller's eyes.
"Now," Keller said softly. "Tell me you can feel it."
"Please... please don't ask me again." He pulled away from Keller and turned, placing his forearm against the glass and resting his forehead on it. "Just don't."
I can't take much more of this shit, seeing you like this.
"Fine," Keller said, impatient. "Do whatever the fuck you want. You want to pretend you can't feel anything, go right ahead."
Keller sat down on his bunk, knowing there was no point to lying down. He wouldn't be able to sleep, couldn't. Now what?
Beecher spoke. "Gary's dead. I know he's dead. A little boy, he can't survive a wound like that. Tears can't do anything for him. They can't do anything for me."
Beecher's shoulders started shaking. His voice breaking, he said, "Oh God, I can't make it stop. I don't want to feel it!"
But you have to.
Keller stood up and came to stand behind him; this time Beecher turned to him.
Almost a plea: "Chris..."
Keller pulled him close again, wrapping his arms around him. "I'm sorry. Baby, I'm sorry." He repeated the words over and over as he held onto Beecher.
A hack came by and Keller made direct eye contact with him over Beecher's shoulder.
Just keep walking, motherfucker.
The hack looked away and continued his round without another glance.
Keller felt a warm, wet sensation at the bend between head and shoulder: Beecher quietly kissing, licking. Keller ran his hands up Beecher's sides and then took his face in his hands. Closing his eyes, Keller kissed Beecher, soft and brief, but delicious.
He drove Beecher gently towards the bottom bunk and pushed him to sit down and lean back. Beecher reclined, his head and upper back pressed against the glass next to the bed.
Keller leaned forward against Beecher and kissed him on the lips before trailing down his throat, his shoulder, and his right arm, kisses gentle and quick. When he got to Beecher's hand, Keller sucked on the fingertips, faintly salty from sweat, and tangy from the orange Beecher had crushed in his hand earlier. God, Toby, I love your taste.
He turned his attention to Beecher's torso, trailing his tongue up his side, relishing the musky flavor of his body. Beecher's breath quickened as Keller sucked on one of his nipples, swirling his tongue around it. Keller returned to Beecher's lips and this time kissed him deep and long while at the same time reaching with one of his hands to massage Beecher's crotch.
Pulling out of the kiss, but lips barely away from Beecher's, Keller whispered, "You feel that?" I know you do.
Beecher's cock was hard in his shorts, and Keller slid down the length of Beecher's body, feeling that bulge press against him. Beecher's hands were on his head, gripping either side, and a sob came from his throat. Keller paused at the sound.
Christ, you even want this? This is fucked up. What the fuck am I doing? You didn't want to do this. But you have to, you have to feel something. I need you to.
"Toby," Keller panted. "You want me to stop?"
Voice choked and broken, but firm, Beecher pushed Keller's head further down.