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Thanks to Maverick for the fabulous beta.
Observations and Judgments
Peter jumped when he heard the gates close behind him. He'd never been inside of a prison before and he had a bad feeling.
He was led to the visitors room, which was crowded with people who were there to see their loved ones. He was one of them now.
Roy stood and smiled when Peter came in the room. He was short and stocky with short, dark hair and a round face. Peter waved and walked toward his table in the back. He passed by two guys who were holding hands across a table on the right side of the room. They were looking at each rather intensely as if locked in some world of their own. All of their emotions were right on the surface - love, longing, desire. Peter suddenly felt like a peeping Tom.
"Hey, how's Lucy?" Roy asked and shook Peter's hand.
Peter felt his heart skitter. "The same." He dragged out one of the chairs and sat down in it.
"Must be weird."
"You get used to it," he said dismissively. He didn't want to talk about Lucy. "How are you handling things?"
Roy snorted. "Oz ain't the place I'd pick out for myself, but I'm doing okay. Laying low, keeping quiet."
"Keeping out of the drug business, I hope," Peter remarked. He wasn't usually a judgmental person, but Roy had really screwed himself.
Roy feigned shock. "Drugs in Oz? Never." Then he smirked. Roy was Peter's first cousin on his mother's side. They'd been close when they were kids. They'd gone to school together all the way through seventh grade. Then Roy had moved away. They'd kept in touch intermittently over the years. A phone call here. A Christmas card there. Then, two years ago, Roy had been arrested for peddling dope to kids. He refused to name names, so he was sentenced to fifteen years. As much as Peter loved Roy, he thought the sentence was too lenient.
"Right. And you're all innocent, too."
Peter squirmed in his chair. It had been too long since he and Roy had had a real conversation. He wished he could leave, but Roy had asked to him to come. Said he had an important favor to ask. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the two guys - boyfriends? - leaning in close together and whispering. One of them was muscular with short, dark hair. He was rubbing the other guy's neck with long, gentle fingers. The other man, a blond, had his head bowed and looked like he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. Peter knew the feeling. He studied the blond's face for a moment and was struck by how much the guy looked like him. Except for the short hair on the guy, they could almost be brothers.
He shook his head and turned to Roy. "Listen, what did you want?" he asked abruptly. He wanted to hear what Roy had to say and get out.
"I'm worried about Celia and Dani." His wife and daughter.
"What can I do?" Peter asked sincerely. They were good people and Peter would never allow them to suffer if he could help it.
Roy rambled on but Peter felt himself drawn again toward the two men. He heard one of them laugh and knew it was coming from one of the two guys at the table next to him. He turned his head slightly to see what they were laughing about. The dark-haired one was leaning in, kissing the blond.
"Chris!" the blond flushed with embarassment, but he didn't pull away.
"...to make sure they're financially set. Peter? Are you even listening to me?" Roy asked, sounding annoyed.
"Sorry. My mind wandered for a minute."
"Did you hear what I said about the money?"
"No, I didn't."
"It's hidden in my mother's garden."
Peter's mouth fell open. "You want me to go dig up money you earned from selling drugs and give it to your family?"
"They need it! Celia just got laid off and Delia's been sick. Besides, you got no room to fuckin' judge me. I didn't put my wife in a mental institution," he snapped.
Peter clamped his jaw hard. "You have no idea what happened," he said tightly.
"Fair enough. You don't judge me and I won't judge you. My family needs that money and I need you to get it for me.You have to convince her it's from you. She'll believe that."
Peter sighed and shook his head. "Roy, I don't feel comfortable with this."
"Please, man. She really needs it."
"I'll think about it, okay?" Roy just glowered at him . Peter refused to be intimidated
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the two men at the next table touching, their hands intertwined. They were whispering to each other, as if wanting to keep the rest of the world away from their time together. Peter couldn't figure out why he was so curious about them, about their relationship. He wanted to know more. What made them so loyal to each other? What connected them? He wanted to know why the blond guy visited Chris in prison. At least he assumed the Chris was the prisoner. He had a rougher edge to him and his clothing looked like a standard prison uniform. Had they been lovers for a long time? Neither one of them looked gay, which he knew was a stupid thing to think. Still, it crossed his mind.
"Peter!" Roy called his attention back. "What the fuck's got you so distracted?"
Peter licked his lips and leaned in. "Those guys at the next table," he said, nodding toward them. "What's their story?"
Roy looked up, confused. "Beecher and Keller? They're just a couple of fags. What do you care?"
"I just ... I was wondering what keeps the one guy coming back. He must have a pretty good life, right?"
Roy snorted. "You talking about Beecher? He's an ex-con. Used to be inside."
Peter's mouth fell open. "You're joking."
"No shit. Beecher got pinched for DUI. Killed a little girl. He got paroled about a month ago. Keeps coming back. I have no fucking idea why."
Peter stole another glance at them out of the corner of his eye. "They obviously care about each other a lot." That kind of devotion had to be earned. Didn't it?
Roy laughed. "If anyone cared for me that much, I'd have to say no thanks."
Peter was puzzled. "What do you mean?"
"They tried to kill each other about a half-dozen times when they were both inside. They're obsessed with each other. It's fucked up."
Peter knew all too well how easily you could get fucked up over love. Knew you could hurt someone even though you loved them with everything you have. It took all of Peter's willpower not to turn and stare at them. He wanted to study them and figure out what made them love each other. What made them come back to each other over and over again.
"Well, they obviously forgave each other for everything that happened." The thought gave him hope for when Lucy got better. Maybe she'd forgive him for his betrayal.
"Maybe. But that don't mean the hurting's over. Guys are taking bets how long it'll be before Keller finds a way to fuck with Beecher's parole."
"No," Peter whispered.
"Oh yeah. He's a fucking psycho."
Peter shuddered. Why did love have to be so damaging? He certainly had no room to be judging anyone else's actions. He'd put his own wife in a mental institution, allowed her to be drugged and had an affair with the family vet. It was hard to believe there was anyone more fucked up than he and Lucy. But if what Roy said was true, these two certainly took the prize.
He had strong urge to get the hell out of there. He stood up abruptly and told Roy he was leaving.
Roy was simmering with barely controlled rage. Peter got up from the table, mumbling assurances that he would call Roy to tell him his decision.
As he passed by their table, Peter stared at the men again. They were hunkered in close, hands grabbing at each other as if holding on for dear life.
Keller looked up at him. His stare was piercing and nerve wracking. "What the fuck's your problem?" He felt a shiver crawl up his spine. This man is dangerous, he thought. Maybe Roy was right.
Peter ignored him and walked out of the visiting room. He paused at the window outside and saw Keller pulling Beecher in for another kiss. This time, Beecher didn't hesitate or hold back. He held onto Chris' shirt as their lips met in a hard and hungry kiss, their mouths opening to each other. Chris' hands roamed over Beecher's neck and head as if memorizing him. Peter was both touched and scandalized by their brazen actions. He tried to remember the last he'd kissed Lucy like that. It was before her illness. However fucked up their relationship was, Beecher and Keller were damned lucky to have each other, Peter thought. When Beecher stood, Peter turned and walked away.
He stopped to take a leak before heading outside. He saw Beecher standing at the bus stop. The guy was shaking, his face contorted in some kind of agony. Had he gotten some kind of inkling that Keller might betray him? Or maybe he was just missing Chris, hated leaving him behind.
"Hey, buddy, you alright?"
Beecher looked up at him, startled. "What? I'm...yeah, I'm fine."
But he didn't look fine. Peter debated with himself for a moment. "Listen, about your, um, about Chris," Roy said.
Beecher raised a hand to stop him. "Don't."
"Look, I just wanted to warn you..."
Beecher snorted derisively. "You wanted to warn *me*? About Keller? That's very funny. I think you better stick with things you know about. Like your wife and your 2.5 kids." A car pulled up and Beecher grabbed the handle of the passenger door.
Peter pressed his palm against the door, stopping it. "I don't have any kids. And my wife, well, let's just say I know about fucked-up relationships."
Beecher stared at Peter's hand until he moved it.
"Well, you don't know anything about Keller and me, so just leave it alone."
"I've listened to too many people talk trash about Keller and it got me exactly nowhere," Toby said, touching Peter's shoulder. "Sometimes we just have to have a little faith. Otherwise, what's the point?"
He moved his hand and slipped into the car. Peter watched Beecher ride away, wondering what was going to happen to him; to both him and Keller. In the end, it really didn't matter. He had his own problems to attend to.
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