by Gigi Sinclair

Title: Institutionalized
Author: Gigi Sinclair
Website: Email: Pairing: Beecher/Keller
Rating: R
Season/Spoilers: Mid-season 5 (I think. My canon timeline is a little rusty.) Summary: Beecher is paroled

When Gary was first born and their sex life had been a little lacking, Tobias had gone to a Barnes and Noble on his lunch break and bought a "relationship manual" to share with Gen. The only thing he could remember from it now, years later, was the confident assertion, on practically every page, that enjoyable sex and a routine, predictable life couldn't co-exist, and if you wanted to get off, you had to shake things up on a regular, but not too regular, basis.

It amazed Toby that, at the time, he'd actually believed this, and gone through months of "spontaneous dates" and romantic picnic lunches and chocolate sauce and plastic wrap to prove it.

"Well, here we are." Marian pulled her Honda Civic up in front of Toby's apartment building and switched off the engine. She'd paid for their dinner, too, and although Toby had tried to protest, he had to admit that even a public school teacher made more than a disbarred typist in a legal office. Once upon a time, back in his casually sexist, "how does your boyfriend feel about you working late?" days, he would have balked at the idea of a woman taking him out, but that was then. Amazing, he thought, how all it takes is a bit of time surrounded by men to make a guy really respect women.

Marian had been looking a little nervous all evening, in the same way Kathy McClain had looked nervous. Toby guessed dating a parent of one of your students was about as unethical as dating your client, but that didn't seem to be stopping Marian. She smiled widely and said: "Can I come in?"

Toby wanted to say yes, but he was seized by the same irrational fear he'd felt when he'd stepped out of Oz and realized no one was going to tell him what to do next. So, then as now, he did what had always come most naturally to him. He lied. "Holly and Harry are here. It's my night to have them, so I got a baby-sitter." Then, too late, he hoped Marian wouldn't ask Holly about it at school the next day, when Holly would honestly and undoubtedly tell Miss Marian that she and her brother had spent the night with their grandparents. They spent most nights with their grandparents, because, while they loved their dad, the grandparents in question weren't so sure he was stable.

"OK." She sounded a little disappointed, and Toby felt bad. So he leaned forward and kissed her, enjoying the feel of soft, smooth skin and sweet smell of her hair until there was a muffled banging noise and Marian said: "Ouch."

Toby drew back and saw that he'd pushed her into the car door, knocking her head against the window. "Sorry," he apologized, sheepishly, as Marian rubbed her head. "I'm not...I'm just used..." To kissing an immovable object, a guy built like a tank who didn't budge no matter how hard he pushed.

"It's OK, Toby." Marian smiled at him and put a gentle hand on his arm. "I'll see you later."

Toby got out of the car and waited until she'd driven away, then he went inside and pushed the elevator call button.

He headed for the bathroom as soon as he got back to his apartment, loosening his tie and tossing it casually over the doorknob. He was in the middle of brushing his teeth when, at ten o'clock sharp, the timers he'd attached to every light in the apartment went off and he was plunged into darkness.

The first day he'd been out, Angus had offered to take Toby anywhere he wanted for lunch. Toby had chosen Burger King, which had surprised himself as much as it had surprised Angus. Toby suspected Keller had probably mentioned it sometime, because it certainly hadn't been a haunt of Toby and Angus's at any point in their lives. Gamely, Angus went along with it, ordering a Whopper while Toby stared at the menu boards and found himself completely and entirely unable to make a decision.

When the pimply teenager behind the counter prompted: "Sir?" for the third time, Toby panicked and said:

"I'll have a Whopper, a Double Whopper, a chicken Whopper, onion rings and fries," he said. Angus and the teenager looked at him like he was insane. "And a Coke. And Sprite." The teenager glanced at Angus, who shrugged and pulled out his credit card. It was disgusting, but Toby couldn't stop himself. He ate all of it.

And there was the start of a new addiction. For the first few weeks, while he was trying to find a job and trying to relate to these kids who'd grown up while he wasn't looking and trying to figure out how to get Keller off death row, because if he was working on that, it meant he was thinking about Chris, Toby ate two or three burgers a day. As usual, he only stopped when he hit rock bottom, in this case a definite spare tire around his middle and difficulty climbing stairs.

The timers on the lights had come next, when he realized how much he hated waking up to inane radio chatter or a shrieking alarm. At ten, all the lights went out. At six, all the lights came on. It was sure, predictable, and when Holly told her grandmother that: "At Daddy's, it's like a sunrise inside the apartment," and his mother raised her eyebrows, Toby couldn't bring himself to care. She didn't know how comforting routine could be, how liberating it was when you didn't have to deal with every tiny detail of existence. Toby hadn't known it himself until he'd come out.

He turned off the faucet and felt his way down the narrow hall to his bedroom. He climbed into his bed, the one he'd shared with Gen that his parents had thoughtfully kept in storage for him, and right away, the old, sagging mattress beneath him transformed itself into a hard, strangely stained piece of sheet rock as he drifted off to sleep.

Toby wanted to have sex with Marian. He fantasized and dreamed about it. She reminded him of Gen in the good days, funny and smart and way too good for him, but thankfully she didn't seem to think so. But he was scared to take Marian to bed, not because Toby worried he wouldn't be able to get it up for a woman--Keller hadn't been quite that good, no matter what he personally thought--but because he worried he wouldn't be able to get it up if he wasn't scared of getting caught. No one would throw him in the Hole if he fucked Marian, just as no one would send him back to Gen Pop if he slacked off on his data inputting, or shank him in the back if he used someone else's coffee mug in the break room. No one cared.

The secretaries had even invited him out for a drink after work. He'd gone with them, enjoying a guilty thrill as he imagined his parole officer finding out he'd had a dry martini in the faux-English pub down the street from the office, but the thrill had faded as soon as he'd realized the parole officer wasn't going to find out, unless Toby admitted it himself. And there was no fun in that.

"Always knew you were a fucked-up bastard." Chris's voice was in his ear. Toby knew it was a dream, but that hardly mattered. He opened his eyes, and he could see the dim glow from the guard station on the other side of the glass doors.

"Fuck you," he said, out of force of habit, and Chris laughed, putting his nose into Toby's neck. Toby flinched. "Fuck, you're freezing."

"So warm me up." Predictable reply, accompanied by a predictable action. Chris hopped onto the bunk beside him, the beds rocking against the wall as he settled in.

"I don't want this." Of course he didn't. He'd hated every goddamn minute he'd spent in that goddamn place. The only thing that had kept him going was thoughts of his kids, of getting out and getting back to his real life.

"So, now that you have," Chris replied, with perception--not to mention telepathy--he'd never had in real life, "Why the fuck do you want to be back here?"

"I don't," Toby repeated, even as Chris's hand slid over his, squeezing his fingers. As Chris moved their joined hands towards Toby's crotch, Toby heard the sound of booted feet outside. Chris's other hand clamped over Toby's mouth, and, just like that, Toby was painfully hard.

"Howell," Chris murmured. "So unless you want company, keep it quiet." Toby complied, and Chris rubbed their hands over Toby's erection. Toby sucked on Chris's fingers until the footsteps retreated, and Chris replaced his fingers with his tongue.

When he drew away, Chris said: "Nice to know you still want me, baby."

"I want Marian," Toby protested, because even in his dreams he was a stubborn, not to mention denial-ridden, son-of-a-bitch.

Chris snorted. "What you want is someone to tell you what to do, so you can do the fucking opposite. You're a bitch. Both kinds."

Toby tried to push him away, but Chris held tight and a second later, Toby was coming, just from that.

Chris laughed, and as he faded into the darkness, he said: "If you ever do get it up with her, make sure to use a condom. You don't know what you might've picked up..." From me. From Vern. From Mondo, and Barlog and half the prison. "Here."

The instant Chris disappeared, Toby woke up wet and sticky, the clock beside his bed reading 6:00 and every light in the apartment blazing.

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