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He dreams of home often. He dreams of homes he no longer has, like the house he grew up in with the attic window that overlooked the neighbour's backyard. Like the apartment he shared with Genevieve in the early days of their relationship - small with grey curtains that Genevieve despised. Like the house he made a family in - three bedrooms and a master bedroom with en suite, the two-car garage and patio with wrought iron balustrade.
He dreams of this house most often. He sees it clearly and in detail, recalls little things like the paint chipping on the jam of the front door (Genevieve repeatedly told him to close the door, not slam it), the coffee cups hanging on hooks above the kitchen bench, the pastel yellow light shade in the living room, and the scratch on the floor in the hallway from the day they moved the settee into the games room.
In his dreams he is some times a stranger in his own home, seeing it for the first time. He falls down stairs, walks through empty rooms, finds a former client or classmate from Harvard lounging on the sofa watching Miss Patty, chases a child down a never ending hallway, never being able to see her face. The house is alien and unfamiliar. It scares him.
Then there are dreams where he is standing on the front porch watching his children play in the sand, but instead of Genevieve's flower beds there is sand stretching on forever like a waterless beach. There's a feeling of being home, of having come home, finally. He goes inside, follows the smell of rosemary and garlic along the hallway into the kitchen. His wife is cooking Sunday dinner. Soon he will call the children in and they will eat at the table like a family.
Only he gets to the kitchen and it's Chris waiting for him. He's stirring a pot and wearing an apron. Chris points to the pot, and says, "want some?"
Toby looks inside. It's empty.
When he wakes he remembers that he was never home for Sunday dinner and Genevieve only cooked when she wanted to impress her parents.
He makes a mental note to tell Chris about the dream because it will offend his confused masculine sensibilities and gender stereotyping in the sexual miasma of Oz is always amusing.
His retelling will take on a more serious tone when he relates the dream to Sister Pete.
As much as he laughs at the image of Chris wearing an apron and cooking for him he's not stupid enough to think there isn't something seriously wrong with the idea.
But it's not just dreams he needs to discuss with Sister Pete. Genevieve called two days ago and is coming to Oz. Genevieve has been to Oz a total of one time since his incarceration and that was while she still wanted to be married to him. Her appearance now is questionable not to mention superfluous.
He says as much to Sister Pete.
"Closure," she says. "If she doesn't see you one last time she'll feel like she never ended it."
Genevieve tried to kill herself a year ago. She must know by now ending it is harder than it looks.
Toby tries to sound casual when he tells Chris. He delivers the information over a chess game. Chris is a good player, which isn't surprising - strategising and tactical maneuvering are two of his more obvious skills. At this stage of the game he is only a gambit away from taking the board. In three moves it's over.
Chris topples the king, says, "I want to meet her."
Toby picks up his fallen pieces and starts resetting the board. They always play best of three. "What are you talking about?"
"Your wife," Chris says. "I want to meet your wife."
Toby laughs. Chris follows Toby's lead and resets his end of the board. "I'm not kidding," he says.
"Sure," Toby says. "I'll slip Murphy a fifty and sneak her into Em City. You can all meet her. She'd like that."
Chris stops what he's doing. "Fuck, Beecher - it's not like I'm trying to throw a dinner party here." He leans forward, lowers his voice. "I'll arrange to meet Bonnie at the same time. You can introduce us."
"You want to meet your ex-wife while I meet mine? That's fucking crazy - forget it."
"Why do you want to meet my wife? Do you want to kill her or fuck her? Or both?"
"I just want to meet her. You know, say, 'hi, nice to meet you'."
Toby shakes his head. "No fucking way."
"You don't trust me." Chris looks wounded.
The effect is not is not lost on Toby. "I trust you with my life," he says, placating. "I just don't trust you with my wife."
"Ex-wife," Chris says.
"My wife until I sign the divorce papers. And you're still not meeting her."
"Because..." Because he doesn't want his wife to think he's a fag as well as a criminal and a drunk. Because one look at he and Chris together and she'll make sure he never sees his children again. "Chris, I need this meeting with my wife to go well - for my kids' sake."
Chris doesn't answer. He goes back to arranging the pawns. "Okay," he says.
Toby lets out a breath. "You don't want to meet her, Chris."
"I said, it's okay."
Toby finishes arranging his pieces and nods at Chris when he's done. Winner goes first. "I mean - she'd be too scared to say anything, anyway. You probably wouldn't get two words out of her."
Chris moves his knight. "Just play the fucking game, all right?"
Toby moves his knight, a mirror image of Chris's move. "Okay." He banishes all thoughts of Genevieve's visit and sets his mind to the game.
Through the glass partition, Toby can see Genevieve waiting in the visitor's room. She looks more tired than nervous, a sharp contrast to his last meeting with her. She is leaning her head against her fist, watching the family at the next table - one of the Christians meeting, his wife and teenaged son. Toby understands her fascination. They look so normal. He thinks he should tell her the Christian blew up an abortion clinic killing a doctor and her husband - made instant orphans of their two children. No one is as they seem in Oz. First lesson he learnt.
Genevieve has cut her hair short. She looks older and thinner, and her black sweater and pants makes her look like she's come from a funeral. She stands when he enters and gives him a polite kiss on the cheek.
She says, "how are you?"
He nods, half smiles. "I've been keeping well," he says.
"You look - " She narrows her eyes, focuses on his face as if seeing something that wasn't there before. "- better."
He shrugs. "It gets easier after a while."
"That's... good." She says it like she isn't sure it's the right to thing to say.
He changes the subject. "How are you? How are the kids?"
"I'm fine Gary has a cold. He got it from Holly - she's better now."
"Kids get colds."
"Yes they do." There's an awkward pause. And then she presses her lips together, reaches down and extracts a yellow envelope from her handbag. "I have papers for the sale of the house. I need you to sign them."
He takes the envelope, looks at it like it's an alien curiosity. He doesn't open it. "You're selling the house?"
"Neither of us live there, Toby."
"I'm not going to be here forever."
"And you expect to live there on your own when you get out?"
"Where else am I going to live?"
"Toby -!" Her voice is raised. The Christian family looks up from their quiet conversation. Genevieve swallows. Her voice goes quiet. "Toby, I need the money. The house is worth more to us in liquidation than it is sitting there empty."
Toby imagines going home, pictures himself standing in the living room - only now it's minus the chesterfield suite and the antique bureau (presents from Genevieve's parents). The walls are bare and the floorboards are unpolished and uncovered. His footsteps echo, loudly, sounding like a death knell.
He doesn't want to go home to that. "Sure. Whatever." He unpacks the envelope and takes out the papers.
He makes Genevieve wait while he reads the small print. She searches her handbag and produces a pen, holds it up like a peace offering. He eyes it suspiciously before taking it from her and using it to trace the lines on the page as he reads. Genevieve crosses her arms and tries not to look impatient.
A young woman enters the room. Everyone looks up, taking note of the new arrival. She's blonde and pretty. Striking. She smiles at Toby and Genevieve and they smile back, feeling awkward.
Toby goes back to reading the documents. He becomes aware of something eating at him, as if there was something important he was supposed to remember. He takes another look at the young woman, sitting at the free table in the corner. She's watching the door, anxiously, tapping her hand against her knee.
He puts his finger on it just as the door opens and Chris walks in. Suddenly everyone is moving in slow motion: the CO closing the door behind Chris, the woman rising to greet him, her arms outstretched, Chris turning slightly toward Toby, smiling as he takes the woman by the waist and pulls her to him. They kiss, open mouthed and passionate. It seems to go on forever.
"Do you know him?" Toby turns and faces Genevieve again, surprised to find she's still here and not suddenly displaced from reality as his worlds collide.
"Yeah - uh, he's in my unit." Toby looks briefly over his shoulder. Chris and the woman are still kissing. Toby shifts his position in his seat. His hands feel warm and clammy.
"They must really miss each other," Genevieve says.
Toby's throat goes dry. He coughs, chokes on air. He steadies himself by gripping the edge of the table.
"Are you all right?" Genevieve is staring at him, wide eyed with concern.
He manages to say, "fine," and forces himself to focus on the papers she has given him. "You could have delivered these to my lawyer." Genevieve hates Oz, hates Toby for being here and making her aware such a place exists. One visit was one too many for Genevieve.
Which doesn't change the fact that she's here. "I'm not a coward," she says, as if reading his mind. "That's not why... " She shakes her head. "I thought it was time I paid you a visit."
Toby can hear Chris and his ex-wife of the moment whispering to each other. She giggles and Chris laughs, low and suggestive. Toby tells himself not to turn around.
"Where are the divorce papers?"
"My lawyer thought it best to deliver those himself. I expect you'll hear from him in a few days."
He understands. It's one thing to face him when she's selling the house, it's another to look him in the eye and tell him she's taking his children.
"Is that all?" he says.
Genevieve blinks. "I guess so." She pauses. "Do you need anything?"
He needs her to get the hell out there. "I'm okay."
And then Genevieve's eyes look up and Toby turns, following the direction of her gaze, to find Chris approaching their table, holding out a hand.
"You must be Toby's wife," he says. His smile is wide and brilliant. Even Genevieve is hypnotised.
"Uh - yes..." She hesitatingly extends her hand.
Toby leaps to his feet, grabs Chris by the shoulder and shoves him away from their table. "Get away from her!"
The presiding CO is across the room faster than Genevieve can jump backwards in surprise. He gets between Toby and Chris and orders Chris back to his table.
"We were just leaving," Toby says. Chris makes a show of being once more engrossed in his ex-wife. The ex-wife, for her part, looks confused.
Toby ushers Genevieve out, handing her over to the CO outside. The CO closes the door before he can get a last look at Chris and his ruse.
Genevieve gives him a brief hug, and kisses him politely again. "Who was that man?" She is calmer than he expected, no doubt mesmerised by the Keller charm and its effectiveness on lawyers, nuns, neo-nazis and housewives alike. No one is safe.
"Just - " He shrugs, tries to look dismissive "Just one of the crazies in here."
When she is gone he notices his grip on the property papers is so tight it has crumpled the envelope. Nothing in Oz stays straight for long.
He waits for Chris in the pod, stretching out on the top bunk and staring at the ceiling. He thinks about what he'll say when Chris comes back, remembering the way Genevieve would lower her voice to a whisper when she took issue with something he did. By contrast his relationship with Chris is the Em City soap opera, broadcast live and in surround sound to an eager Oz audience. Some of the gays have taken to emphasising the point by pulling up chairs outside the pod. Chris scares them away by barking at them like the mad man he is.
Chris arrives, stops at the door and smirks when he sees Toby. "You know, I pictured you with a blonde."
Toby rolls on to his side, leans on one elbow facing Chris. "You know you're out of your fucking mind, right?"
Chris lounges against the foot of the bunk. "You were the one who wanted to start a fight. I was just being friendly." He's still smiling, still pleased with himself.
"I'm getting divorced," Toby says. "My wife wants to sell the house and she's probably going to claim custody of the kids. Put your fucking ego aside for one moment and think about how important it is that you not host my coming out party right now."
Chris folds his arms, defensive-like. "Is that what's up your ass? You think I was there to reveal your dirty little secret? Hey, baby, did you know your husband gives a blow job that makes a guy's toes curl?"
"You think this is a joke? You think it's funny messing around with my family?"
"I just wanted to meet her!"
Toby snorts. "You must think I'm a fucking idiot."
"I told you I wanted to meet her. Why'd you have to make such a big deal out of it?"
Toby is set to explode. "Because I said 'no'! What part of that do you not understand?"
Em City inmates pause outside the pod at the sound of Toby's raised voice. Chris turns around and says, "what are you looking at," and they move along without a word. Toby rubs his forehead with the heel of his hand.
Chris throws Toby a look, goes to the basin and splashes water on his face, running wet fingers through his hair. He dries himself off, takes a fresh t-shirt from his laundry and swaps it for the one he's wearing. He looks at Toby again but doesn't speak.
Toby ignores Chris's brooding and falls onto his back, returning his attention to the ceiling. Seconds later he hears Chris leave, slamming the pod door like a petulant child.
When Holly was four, Toby took her Christmas shopping in Lord and Taylor's. It was a father-daughter outing, a chance to spend time enjoying his child's developmental years before she all too quickly grew into a simpering teenager, shutting herself in her room and refusing to be seen in public with her parents - as Genevieve put it. Unaware of the significance of the occasion, Holly was unwilling to be removed from the toy section when it was time to leave. She threw herself on the floor and screamed causing shoppers to rubber-neck..
Toby tries to imagine Chris faced with a screaming child. Would he drag her outside by the arm, nearly separating her tiny joints as Toby had done? Or would he lie on the floor and scream along side her, never one to be upstaged for attention?
Imagining their relationship on the outside is always surreal but inside it's farcical so that shouldn't bother him. Still, there's a part of him that wants to show Chris who he was, what his life was like on the outside. And there's another part of him, the more sensible part, that realises how ridiculous that is.
Over dinner, he ignores Chris. They sit together, of course, because the alternative is sitting with the Nazis or the gays and they don't fit in either camp despite what outward appearances suggest. Ryan O'Reilly sits on the opposite side of the table, sensing the estrangement and finding it all too amusing.
"Looks like you don't know how to keep your woman happy," Ryan says to Chris, smirking and eating at the same time, a talent unique to him. Chris sneers in response while Toby plays with his mashed potato wondering why he's always the feminine one.
Cyril asks for the salt and Toby hands it to him, grateful for the one person in Oz who doesn't have an agenda. He finishes what he can of his meal and leaves quickly, hoping to avoid a scene.
It doesn't work. "Where the fuck are you going?" Chris says.
"Back to the pod," Toby says. He doesn't turn around, keeps walking away.
"Fuck you," Chris says. He doesn't say it to be heard but Toby hears as does half the room. There are catcalls and whistles and one or two comments less well intentioned.
Back in the pod he performs his nightly ministrations before taking a book a climbing into the top bunk.
Chris returns not long before lights out. He gives a noisy performance of his usual routine, shoving the chair out of the way so he can shave, slamming it against the wall. He turns the water on full so it sounds like a waterfall gushing down the drain, half whistles, half sings while he shaves. Chris craves constant attention, clings savagely to the knowledge there are those who can't take their eyes off him.
The lights go out putting an end to Chris's campaign to be noticed. Toby hears him shuffle toward the bed, stopping at the foot of the bunk. He feels a hand on his foot, fingers trailing along the underside. He remembers that while an exhibitionist, Chris is primarily a lover and he's used to getting his own way. "Come on, Toby - didn't your mother ever tell you not to go to bed angry?"
Toby shakes his foot free of Chris's hand. "Leave me alone, Keller." He turns on to his side, facing away from Chris. In the dark he can hear Chris breathing, still standing close.
This time the hand is on his thigh. "Toby - "
Toby jerks away from his touch, shifts himself into a seated position. "How fucking loud do you want me to yell, Chris? You want to spend the night in the hold?"
Chris takes a step back. "Fuck, Toby, how long you gonna be pissed at me? I just wanted to meet her, for crying out loud."
"Well you met her. Congratulations. Now fuck off and let me get some sleep." Toby slides back down in the bed, lies rigidly on his back with his eyes open.
Chris doesn't move. He mutters something Toby can't hear.
"What did you say?"
"I said, God, you're a woman, Toby."
Toby's been angry since the scene in the visitor's room but now the blood is pounding in his temples, his hands shaking with rage.
Chris goes on, oblivious. "You're one fucking whoring ass-bitch! A big momma's boy -"
Toby is off the top bunk and on the floor before Chris can finish the sentence. He grabs Chris around the neck, throwing him onto the bottom bunk and landing on top. Chris writhes beneath him, struggling to regain the upper hand.
Toby moves down his body so that he's straddling Chris's ass. He forces Chris's face against the pillow with one hand and pushes his t-shirt up his back with the other. It isn't easy, and Chris twisting beneath him makes it worse. He clenches his teeth and pushes Chris's face deeper into the pillow. "Who's a woman now, bitch?" he says. "Who's a fucking bitch now?"
Chris turns the side of his face into the pillow so that he can breath. Toby's fingers are like a harness, spread out across his face, narrowly escaping his eye and nose. With his mouth free Chris is laughing, relishing the pain as Toby tears at Chris's t-shirt and scores a scratch down his back in the process.
Toby rises up on his knees and shuffles down Chris's body to his thighs. He tugs at the fabric of Chris's boxers but they're better stitched than the t-shirt and they don't give way so easily. Toby pulls them over Chris's ass and wrestles them down his legs to his ankles. Chris provides little resistance now that his legs and arms are free but it's not a fight to be won by strength alone. Dominance is a mindset and control is an attitude. No one knows this better than two chess players.
Toby is in control now. This is his game.
Toby spreads Chris's legs, kneels between his thighs and pulls Chris's hips toward him so that his ass is lifted into the air. He wrestles his own boxers down around his knees.
Chris groans as Toby's erection nudges his thigh. "God yes, Toby, fuck me, Toby..."
Toby's too impatient for foreplay. He spits into his hand, mixes it with the tiny drool of semen seeping from the tip of his cock and lubricates himself just enough to overcome the resistant muscles in Chris's ass and slide all the way in. Chris grunts into the pillow, breathes out heavily, controlling the pain. Toby extracts himself and thrust again, harder this time. With satisfaction, he notes Chris's fists gripping the bedposts tight.
Chris rises to receive him, grunts once more into the pillow as the thrust hits home, laughs as he steadies himself. Over his shoulder he says, "Is that all you got?"
Toby lets go, fucks Chris harder and faster than he thought possible. He grips Chris ass so tight his nail dig into his flesh until there's a trickle of blood trailing down to Chris's thigh.
It feels fucking incredible. It feels like power, like Toby could control them all - the Nazis, the Hispanics, the Homeboys, the Italians - make them all bend to his will. Chris feels it too as he bucks beneath him, slave to his master.
Toby leans his head back as the feeling takes over, manages to extract himself just as he peaks so he can come over Chris back. He watches the semen trail down the curve of his Chris's ass and pool in the small of his back.
Chris looks over his shoulder and smiles, his hands still gripping the bed post. "Fuck your wife like that, did you?"
The moment is over. Toby rolls off Chris, pulls his boxers back on and gets up to take a piss. He is washing his face when the hacks come around. They shine their torches on the innocent scene of Chris wiping himself with his t-shirt and Toby running wet fingers through his hair. Toby recalls the hacks have lousy timing. Where were they when Schillinger branded his ass?
He climbs into the top bunk, lies on his back and shuts his eyes.
"What, no good night kiss?" Chris isn't a gracious winner. He can't let an opportunity to rub it in pass.
"Shut up, Keller."
"You're still a woman," Chris says.
Toby lets it slide, pictures the steps in his house - the one he'll probably never set foot in again now that Genevieve is selling it - counts them slowly, one after the other until he falls asleep.
He dreams he is climbing the stairs. When he gets to the top he finds empty rooms. He walks down a corridor and opens door after door, each opening into another empty room. Then they become pods. He looks through the glass doors to find them also empty. No inmates, no hacks, no Chris. Empty spaces. One after the other.
Two weeks later Toby's lawyer delivers divorce papers for him to sign. He negotiates an agreement with Genevieve whereby she keeps the children with the condition that custody is reviewed when Toby gets out of jail - a deal made easier by Genevieve's suicide attempt. No one wanted to bring that up in family court.
"Congratulations," Chris says when Toby tells him. Chris is lounging on the bottom bunk while Toby leans against the top of the plastic chair in their pod.
"I feel like shit," Toby says. As much as he anticipated the moment he never expected this feeling of finality, the ultimate destruction of something that took time and effort to build. Nothing but ruins left now.
"The first one's always the hardest," Chris says.
Toby laughs in spite of himself. "Trust me, there won't be a second time."
Chris shrugs. Maybe he believes Toby and maybe he doesn't. They both know what goes on in Oz is beyond the real.
"Why did you want to meet my wife?" Toby says. His tone is kind, not accusatory. The anger has passed.
"Just curious," Chris says and he smiles wickedly, like he's got a secret. "I just wanted to see her - see what she looked like."
"I could have shown you a picture."
"Not the same."
Toby knows that's not why Chris wanted to meet her. He takes his weight off the chair and turns it around so he can sit on it. He leans his elbows on his knees and clasps his hands in front of him.
"Do you think you made your point?"
Chris frowns. "What point?"
"You tell me."
"I don't know what you're talking about, Beecher." They both know that isn't true. Chris is a master manipulator who plays people the way he plays chess - every move is strategic.
And Chris knows things - knows a lot more about being in jail and living a life in ruins than Toby ever will. So when Chris reminds him of who is important in Toby's life, he thinks maybe he should listen. Without Chris, Toby has nothing but an ex-wife who wants to forget him and children who have already done so.
He joins Chris on the lower bunk, puts an arm around his shoulders so he can pull him closer, traces the hairline above his neck with his tongue.
His lips move across Chris's ear. "I never fucked my wife like that," Toby tells him.
"I know," Chris says.
Toby never fucked anyone like that but he suspects Chris knows that too. He kisses him, finds the edge of his t-shirt and sneaks his hand underneath, touches Chris's spine, feeling the smooth, warm skin over the ridges of bone. Chris grasps Toby's thigh between his legs.
Chris isn't waiting for him at home. He can't find what Toby has lost, but he lingers in the corners, makes his presence heard in the silences, and with him the rooms are never empty.
"There's a corner to this room, a telephone, a chair, a memory..." - "Rooms for the Memory" (Michael Hutchence and Ollie Olsen from Dogs in Space).
Thanks to those on my flist who helped fill in the blanks: sloanesomething, aline and rustler.
I thought it was sad that they killed off Genevieve before we could have any fun with her. Chris probably thought so too. I just wanted to see them together - if only for a moment.
I've not seen all six seasons (yet) so it's possible there are places where the canon doesn't fit. My apologies to anyone who gets offended by that sort of thing.
And y'all should see the movie Dogs in Space (with Michael Hutchence) because it's just a really good film.
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