Another Try

by Erin

Another Try by Erin

Flashback to: Season 2 finale Escape From Oz, after Chris gets back from the Hole and tells Toby that "you and me are through", but before the bone-breaking ambush in the gym. There's a no-dialogue scene where Toby watches Chris get into bed, then silently goes up to the top bunk to have himself a cry. Now what if.....Toby hadn't remained silent and pushed a little harder for answers?

Toby pulled down his pants and sat down on the foot locker across from the bottom bunk in his boxers and ratty green T-shirt, as the lights in Em City were shut off one by one. He was officially a mess. Even he could admit it. He hadn't changed his clothes in days, he couldn't remember the last time he'd taken a shower, and thanks to Guerra's overpriced bottles of contraband hooch his on-the-wagon status was officially in tatters. Actually he had not so much fallen off the wagon as thrown himself off it - headfirst into a slab of concrete. So here he was, smelly, stubbly, tired, miserable, and....heartbroken.

The cause of his current state of being passed in front of him, clad only in white boxers, his beautifully muscled torso on display in the shadowed half-light. Chris flopped down onto the bottom bunk and pulled the blankets up over himself with infuriating casualness, as though Toby wasn't completely losing his mind not three feet away from him.

Toby just stared at Chris, his sad blue eyes practically pleading in the dim light. //Why did you push me away today, Chris? Why did you refuse to talk to me? Why did you dump me on my ass in front of everyone in the middle of the quad, and then just walk away while they all laughed and jeered? You told me you loved me, Chris. You fucking kissed me for Christ's sake. Did what happened in the laundry room mean nothing to you? Did it even happen? Maybe it was just a dream. Sure feels like it right now.//

Chris just looked back at him impassively - he didn't appear to give a shit, and that was what was tearing Toby up inside. He could have handled anything from Chris - anger, hatred, public screaming matches - anything but this. This cold indifference that made Toby feel all alone and absolutely worthless, such a shocking contrast to the care and kindness that Chris had showered him with since his arrival.

After a few moments of this silent staring match Chris just smirked and rolled over, his back to Toby. Well this sure as fuck wasn't how Toby had envisioned their first night back together after Chris returned from the Hole. After that hot, sweet kiss in the laundry room, Toby had been jonesing for another passionate encounter, fantasising about naked flesh and soft lips and a warm tongue. He'd dreamed of Chris' strong, muscled arms encircling him and making him feel safe and wanted and loved. Shit, he'd even dreamed of holding Chris' dick, imagining what it felt like, touching and caressing, getting off on the idea of giving pleasure to this person he loved; this man who made him feel so wonderful after so long that he desperately wanted to return the favour.

These thoughts, these desires had scared the absolute shit out of him. How the hell could he feel this way after the torture Schillinger had put him through? How could he have survived being raped repeatedly by that Nazi cunt, and now find himself wanting to share Chris Keller's bed? It was unthinkable, unbelievable - maybe he really had gone crazy finally, taken complete leave of his senses. That first night Chris was in the Hole, after he'd gone completely postal on those hacks who'd broken up their kiss, Toby had come damn near close to going completely off the rails himself. He'd thrown himself around their pod in his restlessness and anxiety, reliving the kiss over and over; remembering his excitement and desire; feeling sick with guilt and disgust when he remembered what happened with Schillinger; feeling so ashamed when he thought of his kids and wondered what kind of man their father was becoming.

He had been lonely, confused, Chris hadn't been there to explain things, to make him feel better like always, but in the end it all came back to the desire. The desire for Chris that he shouldn't, that he couldn't feel. But he did.

After that first night though, he'd managed to reconcile himself to his feelings. Well reconcile in the best way Tobias Beecher knew how anyway - drown those feelings so deep in booze that the questions, the doubt, the guilt and shame surrounding them disappeared from view until the only thing left was the desire. The same desire that had made him - oh God, no - practically pounce on Chris the minute he'd come back from the Hole today. Toby winced in humiliation, remembering his drunken, slurred demands - "Gimme a kiss" and "Come on, let's fuck". Demands that Chris had firmly and thoroughly rejected, shocking the hell out of Toby, who'd been sure that Chris wanted him too, after the kiss and that other time when Chris had tried to grab his dick.

So what now? As he stared at Chris' broad shoulders and muscled back Toby knew exactly what he wanted to do - slide in under the blankets next to that warm body, that heated flesh, bury his face in the nape of Chris' neck, inhale his scent, slip his arm around Chris' chest, cup the swell of pectoral muscle there, feel a nipple harden against his heated palm - //Stop it!// Toby thought furiously. Chris had shoved him to the ground just for grabbing his arm today. God only knew what he'd do if Toby attempted to get in bed with him.

Toby stood up reluctantly. He may as well just go up to his own bunk. Chris had made it blatantly clear that (for whatever reason) he no longer wanted anything to do with Beecher. Nothing left to do but go to bed....where he would no doubt spend a sleepless night, obsessing over every detail of what had happened with Chris, trying to figure out where he had gone wrong (like he hadn't been doing that all day anyway); as well as crying softly, stifling his sobs so Chris wouldn't hear; slipping into his usual nightmares which would probably now be populated by haunting images of Chris rather than Kathy Rockwell....FUCK THAT!

"Chris?" he whispered.



Not even bothering to turn over, "Go to bed Beecher".

"No!" he said, a little more forcefully than he'd intended.

At this Chris did turn over, a mildly surprised look on his face, to look at Toby standing next to his bed. He smirked, "Beecher, what is your problem?"

Toby was suddenly furious. "What's my problem?!" he hissed, "You ignoring me all day and throwing me to the floor in front of all of Em City - that's my problem!"

"Jesus Christ, Beecher I am not gonna have this conversation with you. Go to fuckin' bed."

"No!" said Toby, suddenly remembering something, "You said we'd talk about this when I was sober. Well I'm sober - so let's fucking talk!"

Chris snorted in disbelief. "You are fuckin' not. I know for a fact that you bought more booze this afternoon so don't try pullin' that shit on me".

Well....if Chris knew about that, then he mustn't have been ignoring Toby's existence quite as much he had been acting like he did. Which was something, he supposed. To Chris he said, "In case you hadn't noticed, we've been locked in here for five hours since then, so I've had some time to sober up. Chris talk to me. Please."

Chris heaved a sigh, sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the mattress so he was perched on the edge of the bed, looking directly at Toby who was sitting back down on the foot locker. Chris kept his face impassive, but he had to admit he was slightly surprised at Toby's outburst. He had been sure that his actions today had crushed Toby and made him so unsure of himself that he would offer no resistance to Chris' treatment, probably thinking he'd deserved it. Looked like Beecher had some fighting spirit left in him after all - fat lot of good it would do him, he reflected uncomfortably.

Chris fixed Toby with his midnight blue gaze. "What exactly do you want me to say Beech?"

Toby squirmed under that uncomfortable scrutiny, even more uncomfortably aware that, sitting like this, Chris' knees were almost (almost) touching his. "I just want to know where things stand with us Chris".

"I thought I made that pretty clear when I got outta the Hole - we're through".

"But why?" said Toby, horrified at the whiny hitch in his voice - like he was going to fucking cry or something.

Chris put his head in his hands and irritably started rubbing the back of his neck. "Jesus Toby," (//He called me Toby!// Beecher thought, insanely happy), "This don't got nothin' to do with you, okay? I just decided that this ain't what I want. Don't feel bad, it's nothin' personal. It's not like I hate you, I mean, I still wanna be...."

"Friends?" finished Toby incredulously. "You're giving me the `Let's just be friends' speech? Are you serious? After everything that's happened between us, when you were the one pushing for this from the very beginning, you're blowing me off like some pathetic one stand night? Fuck you Chris, fuck you!"

//Shit,// Chris thought, //shoulda known that approach wouldn't work. Gotta find another way to play this. Since it's not like I can actually tell him the goddamn truth.// "Beecher, keep your voice down will ya? I'm not tryin' to blow you off, okay? I just....look, why do you think I'm doin' this?"

Toby stared at him. "What do you mean?"

"I seen ya watchin' me all day Beech, seen ya usin' that clever little Harvard brain of yours, tryin' to figure it all out. Whatcha come up with, huh?"

Toby just sat there in cold silence. Chris' callous, taunting, indifferent tone was like a direct blow to the stomach. Finally he just whispered, "Go to hell".

Chris shrugged casually. "Fine, whatever. Your call". He lay back down in his bunk and rolled away from Toby again. //Finally,// thought Chris, //now all I have to do is sleep and get through the morning until I can meet Vern and let him know that the final stage of Operation Toby has to happen tomorrow afternoon. Then I just do the fuckin' job and all this shit is over. Finally.//

So he was none too pleased to hear a quiet voice behind him say, "Okay".

"Okay what?" he growled, without moving.

"Okay, here's what I've come up with".

Chris gave an internal groan. //Fuck Toby, why you gotta make this so hard?// But he already knew the answer to that. //Well of course, because you're Beecher.//

Toby's voice carried on, regardless. "I figure there's a number of possible reasons for why you've been such a complete prick today. One is that you suddenly realised that if we do start fucking then everyone's gonna know about it, and you can't deal with the shit that people are gonna give you because of it. But I don't think that's too likely because that surely would have occurred to you before you kissed me and you did it anyway. Besides, I don't think you'd ever care enough about what others think to be embarrassed by that".

Chris almost snorted. //Which just goes to show how much you really don't know about me Toby - you don't wanna know the measures that my shame over what other people think has forced me to take in the past.// But Chris quickly pushed away those dark memories as he rolled back over to look at Toby, bent elbow on the pillow, head propped up by his hand.

Without further prompting, Toby continued. "Or maybe you never really meant it in the first place. Maybe the idea of being with a guy disgusts you and you were just fucking with me - seeing how far you could push me before I truly freaked out. Maybe you just did it for kicks."

Chris opened his mouth to comment, but Toby barged on before he could get a word out. "But I fucking know that's not true. Because you don't kiss someone you don't really want to kiss the way you kissed me. That wasn't bullshit Chris, I know it wasn't. I may not know everything about what's going on between us, but I know this much for certain. That kiss was real. I felt it - and I know you felt it too".

Chris remained stonily silent, but he had to admit that Toby was right. Nothing about that kiss in the laundry room had been forced or fake. Neither had the words that preceded it been. Which was precisely why Chris was now scared shitless and anxious to get Operation Toby over and done with before he did something really stupid. //I gotta put a stop to this - NOW.//

"You love me", Toby whispered, "I know you do".

Chris hardened his expression, stretched his mouth into a cruel smile, leaned forward and whispered nastily, "You don't know shit Beecher. That kiss meant nothin'. You mean nothin'. Think I love you? Fuck, I wouldn't even know what that word meant".

Afterwards, Chris wouldn't know what it was exactly that gave him away. Perhaps he tried just a little too hard to sound sincere. Perhaps he inadvertently let his face soften in sympathy at the sight of Beecher's traumatised expression. Whatever it was, Beecher just glared at him. Then snarled, "Christopher Keller, you are a fucking liar". And that's when he pounced.

He threw himself bodily on top of Chris, stretched out on the narrow bunk, separated by the thin blankets between them, and crushed his lips hard against Chris's. For a moment Chris was too stunned to respond and Toby took advantage of his surprise to slip his tongue in past those soft lips and grind his hips hard against the ones beneath him. And Chris, helpless in the face of his desire, his hunger for Toby, wrapped his arms tight around the man writhing on top of him, and returned his kiss with equal fervour. Toby smelt of musk and sweat and booze, and Chris was lost in it.

They rubbed frantically against each other, hips bucking, legs entangled, mouths locked together in a desperate, frantic kiss. //Christ,// thought Toby as he feasted on Chris' hot wet tongue, //I'm dry humping him like a fucking bitch in heat.// He reluctantly pulled his mouth away, forcing himself to slow down, breathing erratic. He looked down at Chris, panting beneath him, eyes dark with lust. Toby pulled down the blankets a little, exposing Chris' chest and stomach, and ran his hands over that smooth, warm skin.

"Jesus" he whispered hoarsely, "You're like a work of art, you know that?"

Chris just stared up at him, overcome with arousal. And panic. Shit, he should not have let this happen, Beecher should not be sitting on top of him right now, looking unnervingly sexy with smouldering eyes and kiss-swollen lips - sitting with his ass planted firmly on Chris' already achingly hard dick. //Fuck Keller, you can not be getting a boner for the guy whose bones you're gonna be breaking tomorrow.//

In his panic he acted on pure instinct - shoving Toby roughly off him, causing him to fall to the floor. Chris sat up and backed across the bed until his back was pressed against the Plexiglass wall, while a stunned Toby scrambled to his feet.

"Goddammit Beecher, I said no!"

A still stunned Toby stared stupidly at him. "No?"

"Yeah", Chris snarked, "As in `no means no'."

For the second time that night, Toby got pissed off. "What, now you're saying I tried to rape you? Fuck you Chris, you were giving as good as you were getting."

"And I shouldn't have. Look, just stop will ya?" he said as Toby sat down on the bed and reached for him again.

"Why?" asked Toby.

"You tell me Beech", said Chris, hopping off the bed and going over to stand with his back against the pod door, "C'mon, what else was on that list of yours?"

"Fuck. Chris just stop this will you? We both know you want this as much as I do."

Chris didn't say a word. Just stood there and stared at him. Just waited.

"Oh fine!" snapped Toby, "You want to know what else I came up with? Here it is. I know that you love me and you want me, and I know that I personally haven't done anything to change that, so I figure somebody else has said or done something to turn you against me..."

"And?" prompted Chris.

"There's nothing about me that you didn't already know, so somebody is deliberately trying to fuck this thing up for me. But who would do that, right? I mean nobody else is gonna give a shit what we do together, why would they bother? In fact, there's only one person who would want to cause me grief and that's Schillinger. And that's it, isn't Chris?" Toby's tone was suddenly accusatory, "Schillinger got to you. He threatened you or bribed you or something to get you to leave me alone. Schillinger's the reason you're acting like this. Isn't he Chris?"

Keller just stood there, amazed. //Shit Toby, so close yet so far. Never thought you'd connect it to Schillinger, even if your connections are all wrong.//

"Tell me Chris".

He sighed. "Fine, yeah it's Schillinger."

As Chris predicted, Toby was immediately enraged. "Motherfucker!" he cried, jumping up and pacing angrily around the pod. "That cunt. I'll kill him, I'll fucking kill him."

Then Toby said something Chris would never have predicted. "How dare he do this to you? How the fuck dare he?! This shit's between him and me, he should never have dragged you into it. What did he threaten to do to you? I'll fucking disembowel the asshole...."

He rambled on and on. The sight of Toby getting so infuriated on his behalf broke something in Chris. The wall he'd so carefully built between himself and his feelings for Toby came tumbling down. Nobody had ever cared about him the way Toby did. Nobody else had ever given a shit about what happened to him. Anybody else thinking what Toby must have been thinking just then would be more concerned with how the situation affected them, rather than how it affected Chris. But not Toby. His concern was all for Chris. Chris guessed it must be like that thing O'Reilly told him about, when Toby tried to get some guy he barely even knew off death row. And as much as it was stupid, narrow-minded concern for others and nave ideas about justice that was most likely going to get Toby killed someday, Chris found himself falling in love with him all over again for it. In that moment, Chris Keller threw caution to the wind.

"Toby, it ain't what you think" he said loudly over Beecher's continued ranting.

Toby finally shut up and looked at Chris. "What do you mean?"

//Oh god, I am gonna be so fucked.// But he owed Toby the truth. At the very least he owed him that. Chris took a deep breath. "Schillinger didn't threaten me to stay away from you. He threatened me to make me get close to you."

Toby's puzzled look of pure confusion was almost comical. "What?"

"I know Schillinger, alright? We did time together up at Lardner when I was seventeen. He protected me. When he found out I was comin' here he came to me and told me I had a debt to pay. I owed him for his `protection'." Chris gave a bitter laugh at that. "If I paid my debt then I'd have the Aryan Brotherhood to watch my back and nothin' to worry about. So he gave me a job to do. Make you fall in love with me, then break your heart, then give you to Schillinger so he could break the rest of you."

Toby's face drained of all its colour. "What?" he whispered.

"But I can't Toby. I can't go through with it. I fucked up well and truly - I fell for the mark. I can't believe it man. I'm king of the scams and I fell for the fucking mark. That's like the most basic rule you can break, you know." Chris flashed him a sad, self-deprecating grin.

Toby collapsed onto the bottom bunk in shock. He stared up at Chris, licked his lips and tried to start speaking. It took him a couple of tires before he got out, "S...So it was all a scam? None of it was real?"

Chris sighed. "Of course it was real Toby. You know that, you've been sayin' that all night. You knew better than I did. It just wasn't s'posed to be real."

Toby shook his head, "But...I just don't get it. I mean, how is this revenge for Schillinger? Me falling in love with you?"

Chris squatted down in front of Toby's knees and reached out to grasp his hands. He felt somewhat gratified that the man sitting in front of him didn't pull away.

"Toby", he whispered softly, "Schillinger doesn't just wanna kill you, he wants to hurt you. That's what this whole thing was leadin' up to. Me ignorin' you today. You....startin' to drink again - that's what the moonshine was about. Fuck, I feel really bad about that Tobe - I mean I feel bad about the whole thing but especially that. I know how important stayin' sober was for you. But that was Vern's plan, ya see? Drag up all the shit you been through, send you on a downward spiral again. Then, when you hit rock bottom, well..."

"Kill me" Toby finished under his breath, looking so dejected and beaten down it made Chris's heart ache.

"Worse Toby. Killin' you woulda put you outta your misery. He wants the misery to keep goin'. He was gonna...." Chris faltered.

"What?" said Toby, in the deadest, most expressionless voice Chris had ever heard.

"He was gonna break your arms and legs. And...I was gonna help him."

Chris was half-expecting the solid slap Toby delivered then, but the shocking sting of pain across his cheek still managed to knock him sideways. Toby glared down at him sprawled on the pod floor.

"How could you do that Keller?" he hissed icily, "How the fuck could you do that?"

"But I'm not, Toby!" Chris cried, scrambling to his feet, "I'm not gonna do it, I told you, I love you!"

Chris bent down and tried to kiss Toby, who shoved him away roughly. Toby stood up and hauled himself into the top bunk, whilst saying, "You may love me Chris, but as recently as lights out you were still planning on going through with Vern's plan, so you'll understand if I don't find your declarations of love all that reassuring right now."

Toby rolled away to face the wall. Chris stood, watching Toby lay angrily in front of him. He wanted to run his hand along that trembling back, but thought better of it.

"Toby, I was gonna go through with it because Schillinger would probably cut my balls off if I didn't. You of all people should know that Vern has a way of getting people to do things they really don't want to do."

He saw the muscles in Toby's back stiffen. Then he heard a small voice say, "You said you owed Schillinger because he protected you when you were a kid?"

"Well that was his way of putting it, yeah."

"I see. And did mean as much to you as it did to me?" he asked bitterly.

"Let's just say I know as well as you do just what that fuckin' animal is capable of. Although he never did feel the need to brand a swastika on my ass."

"I suppose you should feel thankful for that."

"From what I've heard, it's only `cause I didn't misbehave and disobey `im as much as you did. See, I knew - I know the rules of the game, even if I hate playin' it." He snorted. "Kinda like chess."

Toby rolled over to face him and gave him a tiny smile. "One big difference though, Chris. Chess is a game you can learn to like. I doubt very much that anyone could like Vern's games of rape and torture."

Chris bit his lip and scratched the back of his neck uncomfortably. He knew that not everything that had happened between him and Schillinger had been strictly rape, but he wasn't about to impart that particular piece of information to Toby anytime soon. He suddenly realised that keeping Toby's love was the most important thing in the world to him. Telling Toby about that and...other things, would be the quickest way to lose it.

"You're breaking the rules now though, aren't you?" Toby said, "I mean, telling me all this, going against Vern, that isn't exactly part of the game is it?" He suddenly looked scared, as though a nasty thought had occurred to him. "Is it?" he repeated.

"Jesus, Toby - no."Chris swooped in and smothered Toby with soft, loving kisses across his forehead, his cheeks, his cute little nose; before concentrating on his mouth, pressing against those soft, lush and oh-so-kissable lips. Chris poured every ounce of love he felt for this man into this most tender and sweetest of kisses, determined to leave Toby in no doubt of just how sincere Chris was being right now.

When Chris pulled away, Toby stared up at him, dazed and breathless. Chris cupped his hand around that sweet face, stroking his cheek with his thumb. "What?" he whispered.

" taste good" Toby breathed, and Chris shuddered, the soft words going straight to his groin.

"God, Toby. Can I come up there with you?" he whispered hoarsely, suddenly desperate to feel himself pressed against the warm body laid out in front him.

Toby stared at Chris' hot blue eyes and moist lips, feeling the waves of heat coming from his bare skin. There was still a small part of Toby that urged him to break away, still scared that this was all a trick, and asking how could he trust this man who had nearly betrayed him. But he couldn't deny the love he saw in Chris' eyes and felt in his kiss. And he couldn't say no to his own love either. In classic Beecher style he decided to do what felt good now and worry about the consequences later.

"Yes" he whispered, wriggling back toward the glass wall to give Chris room.

Chris hauled himself up into the top bunk, settling himself beside Toby, the tight fit on the narrow mattress forcing a closeness that both men relished.

Chris nuzzled into Toby's shoulder, then made a face. He grabbed a fistful of Toby's T-shirt and sniffed the ratty, green fabric.

"Phew. Toby, this thing stinks."

Toby cringed with embarrassment. "Yeah, sorry. I've been wearing it for a few days."

Chris nodded solemnly. "Yeah", he said in a serious voice, "I guess it's about time you took it off, huh?" Then he lifted his eyebrow suggestively.

Toby couldn't stop the chuckle that bubbled up. "Yes, I suppose that might be a good idea" he matched Chris' mock serious tone.

Toby sat up and whipped off the smelly shirt, then quickly lay back down, hiding himself under the covers.

"Ah Toby, don't tell me you're feelin' shy" said Chris softly, gently pulling back the blankets and exposing that soft, smooth flesh he'd been coveting since he'd first spied it in the showers. He ran his hand over the warm chest, fingers bumping over nipples, and pulling gently at the sparse hairs.

"You're the work of art, baby" he whispered.

Toby raised his eyebrows. "Did you just call me baby?"

"Yeah. Why, is that a problem?"

Toby smiled and cupped his hand around the back of Chris' head, pulling him in for another kiss. "No Chris. It's not a problem at all." Then he smirked. "Does this mean I can call you honeybuns?" he teased.

"Not a chance in hell" said Chris happily, swooping down for more kisses.

The two men held each other, warm under the blankets, sharing sweet, slow, lazy kisses, separated only by their boxers. It was everything Toby had hoped for and more. He could feel the love between them, so strong it was almost something he could reach out and touch. He was overwhelmed by the almost primal emotions he felt for the beautiful, strong man he held in his arms. Toby just wanted to lose himself in this, in him, and forget all about the rest of the world. But reality wouldn't let him. Reality kept rearing its ugly head in his thoughts, even as he explored the soft moistness of Chris' mouth. He broke the kiss and pulled away.

Chris was about to protest the loss of Toby's mouth when he saw the sudden look of fear on Toby's face. "Jesus, baby what is it?"

"He's going to kill you, isn't he?" Toby whispered, "If you turn on Schillinger he'll kill you. And then he'll kill me anyway."

Chris shook his head. "Nah, he'll probably have someone beat the shit out of me, but I doubt he'd kill me. It ain't worth riskin' death row just for me. You're the one he's got a crazy grudge against, not me."

"You're lying. You're just saying that so I won't worry." //Oh God, Chris. I can't lose you. Not now.//

"I ain't lyin' Toby. That's most probably what'll happen."

"Most probably? So there is a chance he'll kill you."

"Well yeah, but this is Oz, Tobe. There's always a chance somebody's gonna kill ya." //Jesus Toby, just shut up and let me have this one perfect night with you. If there is a chance I'll die tomorrow I don't want to spend my last hours with you fuckin' talking.//

"So you're just going to put yourself at risk Chris?"

"Yes. I have to."

"Since when? You weren't going to do this before."

"Yeah well I guess I finally realised that I have somethin' that's worth the risk."

"What, me loving you? That's bullshit Chris. You already knew I loved you and you were going to break my fucking arms and legs anyway. What changed tonight?"

"You Toby. You changed tonight. Look..." Chris paused uncomfortably, "Other people have loved me - my ex-wives mostly - but it was only ever for the things I could do for them, because I took care of them. But tonight I...I started to see you as somethin' more than just someone I wanted to take care of. See...When you got all pissed `cause you thought Schillinger had threatened me...I realised that...that you want to take care of me too."

Toby looked at him incredulously. "That's it?"

"Whatcha mean `that's it?' That's fuckin' everything Toby. In my whole life nobody's ever wanted to take care of me, not ever. I'm just a worthless piece of shit, nobody gives a fuck. But you do, you care Toby, and it...feels nice" he finished lamely.

Chris looked away uncomfortably, clearly embarrassed by his admissions. Toby had the feeling that if Chris Keller had actually been capable of something as humble as blushing he would have been bright red just then.

He gently took hold of Chris' chin and turned his face back towards him. Toby stared into Chris' eyes - for once, the Keller mask was gone and he could see everything that was going on in there. He could see the fear and the uncertainty, the past hurts and disappointments, the love and the desperate desire to be loved. Toby recognised just how badly Chris needed him and his heart ached for Chris and whatever he had gone through to make him need a fuck-up like Tobias Beecher this badly.

He dropped a soft kiss on Chris' forehead and whispered "You are not a worthless piece of shit, Chris. And damn straight I want to take care of you." Toby paused, steeling himself for what he knew he had to do. "So that's why you're going through with the plan."

Chris' mouth dropped open as Toby's words sank in. "What? What the fuck are you talking about?"

A sudden bang on the glass made them both jump. "Keller, get back in your own fucking bunk now" the hack growled through the door.

//Fucker. We don't hear a peep outta you guys all night and now's when you decide to make your rounds?//

Chris jumped down and climbed into the bottom bunk. He waited until the satisfied hack had gone on his way before saying, "Now what the fuck do mean go through with the plan, Beecher? You can't be talkin' about Schillinger's plan, Operation Toby."

Toby snorted. "Operation Toby? Oh that's very original."

"Tobe - "

"Look, Chris this is what you're going to do." Toby leaned over the side of the bunk so he could look Chris in the face. "Tomorrow you're going to take me to Schillinger and help him break my arms and legs."

"//What?// Are you outta your fuckin' mind? I ain't doin' that Toby, no way."

"You have to Chris, it's the only way. You know that, that's why you were still going to go through with it even after everything that's happened between us. There's no way out of it."

"There is - "

"No way out of it without running the risk of Schillinger hurting or killing both us."

"I ain't afraid of him, Toby."

"Well I am. I don't want him coming anywhere near you. Or me."

"Toby, I'll take care of you."

"But I can't take care of you. Not against him. The ideal situation, obviously, would be to kill him, but there's no way we're going to be able to organise a way to do that without getting caught any time soon, and I'm sure the bastard's sick of waiting to end his game already. So instead, you're going to bring Operation Toby to its completion tomorrow. That way, Vern gets his revenge, you're out of danger, and so am I - for now at least - and no-one's the wiser."

Silence. Then, "You are outta your fuckin' mind."

"It's the only way Chris, you know it's the only way. Afterwards, everything'll be just like it was, only we won't have to go through any me-trying-to-get-revenge-on-you-for-betraying-me bullshit, because you won't betray me. You'll have my permission. I'll have to be in the hospital for a couple of months, but then I'll heal up, come back here and..."

"We'll live happily ever after?" Chris said sceptically.

"Nah. First we'll plot a way to get rid of Schillinger once and for all. Then we'll live happily ever after. Together."

Chris wanted that so bad he could almost taste it. To be with Toby, just the two of them; no lies, no agendas, no doubts, no pain; free to love each other, trust each other, make love together, just be together, period. A little slice of happiness carved out of the hell of Oz. It would be like paradise, like a dream...Chris sighed. Fuck, it was a dream.

"It's a nice dream, Tobe."

"It's not a dream, Chris. It's what's going to happen. What has to happen."


"What do you mean `no'?"

"As in `no means no'."

"Don't be a smartass. That's my job."

"Toby, it's not a matter of `I don't want to', okay? It's a matter of `I fucking can't!' Do you understand? I can't hurt you, not now, not after all this. I just can't."

"If you can't hurt me then let Schillinger do all the work. Oh wait, he'll probably make you do something, just to re-affirm your so-called `loyalty' to him, but that's okay, you can break one of my arms. I've had a broken arm before, I can deal with it. Hang on a second, actually that's perfect! Make sure you go for my left arm, I already busted that one about five years ago, it'll be easier to break."

Chris rolled his eyes. "Toby, as incapable as I am of breakin' your bones right now, I think I am even less capable of just standin' around watching while that fuck Vern hurts you."

"Fine, other way round then. Let Schillinger break my left arm and you do the rest."

"Toby!" Chris cried, exasperated, "I'm not fuckin' doin' this!"

"Yes you are!" Toby glanced out the window to make sure there were no hacks around, then jumped down from the top bunk and sat on the edge of Chris' bed. "Listen...honeybuns..."

Chris couldn't help but smile as Toby leaned over and cupped Chris' face between his hands.

"Chris, I can look at your face right now and see everything you're feeling. The only other time I've ever been able to do that was that time in the laundry room. Usually I can't tell what the hell you're feeling or thinking, Chris, because you hide it so well. You put up that Keller mask and no-one can get in, no-one can touch you. No-one except me" he added with a self-satisfied grin that Chris found irritating and endearing at the same time, "Put the mask back up Chris. Don't let this get to you. Don't let that fuck Schillinger hurt you. You know you have to do this. Remember your first day here, you told me `I do what I have to'? Well do what you have to now. Hurting me will save us, Chris, both of us. And even if you won't do it for yourself, do it for me because you love me. Hurt me Chris, hurt me to save me."

Chris stared into his sky-blue eyes, full of fear, but also full of conviction. He reached up to pull Toby's hands from his face, and sat up, clasping their hands between his and Toby's laps.

"Baby..." he whispered.


"Has anybody ever told you that when you're tryin' to be convincing you start spoutin' off shit that sounds like dialogue from a bad soap opera?"

Toby glared at him. "Chris!" he barked.

"Shhh! You want the hacks to hear? I was just kiddin' baby. I know what you're sayin'. And you're right."

"What was that?"

"You're right."

"Ah, music to my ears."

"Shut up, wiseass" Chris said with a grin.

"Make me" Toby grinned back.

So Chris stopped his mouth with a long, deep kiss. When he broke away, he nuzzled Toby's neck.

"So we really gonna do this baby?"


"You're brave."

"I'm a weak, cowardly, selfish sack of shit. I have been for a long, long time. Maybe this way... helping you, sacrificing myself...I can get my spine back. Maybe my balls too."

"Seems like you've got plenty of balls from where I'm sittin' baby."

"You sure? Maybe you should check."

Chris snorted. "I love it when you're playful, Beech." He ran his hand down Toby's chest and softly cupped his groin. Toby couldn't suppress a gasp.

"Yep, just like I said, plenty of balls. Nice big dick too."

Toby whimpered and pushed Chris back onto the bed, settling on top of him. "I love you Chris", he whispered between kisses, "I need you. I need you to be with me."

"I am with you Toby. Always."

"I know. Thank Christ. That's the only thing that's going to get me through tomorrow."

"Me too."

"Do you want to talk about exactly how we're going to do this?"

"No, we'll figure it out in the morning, Toby. When the mask's back up. Right now I just want to tell you that I love you. And say thank you."

"Thank you?"

"For taking such good care of me."

Toby's heart warmed. "We're taking care of each other, Chris. We're in this together. Promise me."

"We're together Toby. I promise."

Toby wrapped his arms tighter around Chris. He was scared as hell about what they were going to do tomorrow, but at the moment it all just seemed so unreal. He couldn't even think about it right now. All he could think about was Chris' promise that he was no longer alone. And he was...not happy; he couldn't be happy yet, not until all this shit with Vern was over, but he peace. He hadn't been this at peace since he'd come to Oz.

Toby nuzzled into the crook of Chris' neck, inhaling his sweet, musky scent. "Chris?"


"Make love to me."

Chris pulled back slightly, staring into the soft blue of Toby's eyes. Sweet pain curled in his belly, seeing Toby's love and desire, his trust and his faith in Chris - it was mixed with the horrid thought of what he'd have to do to him tomorrow. Very reluctantly, he shook his head.

"No, baby."


"I can't do that. I want to - God do I want to. But I can't share somethin' that intense with you tonight. It's gonna be hard enough to - to do what I have to, without remembering being inside you. The fact that you let me inside you. You know?" Chris' eyes pleaded with Toby, desperately needing him to understand.

Toby nodded slowly. "I know. You're right. And the hacks'll probably be coming back around soon anyway, so..."

"But we will, Toby, I promise", Chris was suddenly very insistent, "After all this bullshit's done with and we're together - really together; I'll show you how good it can be - I'll take you to heaven baby."

"Confident aren't we?" said Toby with a smile.

"Toby - "

"I know, Chris, I know. Thank you for waiting, for wanting it to be special for me. But let's just stay here like this `til the hacks come back, okay? I just want to hold you and kiss you and tell you I love you for as long as I can."

"Me too", Chris' pained whisper was barely perceptible; "I love you, Toby."

"I love you, Chris. And I trust you."

Chris could have cried with joy at Toby's words. He pulled him close for another sweet, tender kiss. For now, both men could not be touched by the horrors tomorrow had in store for them. Because despite the pain and fear that the future held, for the first time in a long time neither Chris nor Toby would be facing that future alone.


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