The Interaction Series

by Rifka

Interaction Series


With a swoop of his right hand the chess pieces went flying, scattering in all directions on the floor in front of them. "Fuck, fuck, fuck."

Then he stood up and grabbed the chair fully intending to throw it across the room, but instead he put it down very hard, three times to get his point across. Chris was not having a very good day.

Toby shut his eyes, put his hands together in his lap and very quietly took in a deep breath.

"How many fucking times do I have to say it?" Toby asked softly. "Jesus Christ, Chris. I love you. Can't you get it through that thick skull of yours? Can't we agree to disagree sometimes? Or maybe go about something differently with the end result being the same? Maybe I lost my rule book somewhere."

`Good, it came out like I intended. I wasn't sarcastic this time.'

"Why does this always have to be so hard?" Chris answered as he sat down on his bed and looked up at Toby while giving him a lopsided grin.

"It doesn't have to be... hard Chris. Not unless you... not unless you intend to..." Beecher looked at Keller as he stretched out on the bottom bunk, knees bent over the side, hands intertwined behind his neck. Toby's eyes focused on one spot as Chris slowly put his hand on his crotch and said, "But it is hard, Toby. It's always hard for you."

Chris leaned back and sighed now that his temper tantrum was over with. His frustration was clearly evident and Toby knew it but at this point there was nothing he could do.

Murphy took that moment to walk into their pod. "Ah, you guys have an appointment with Sister Pete in about two minutes, I just don't want you to be late. And," he said as he pointed to the floor, "those little doo-dads are going to be picked up off the floor, right?" He looked directly at Chris while speaking because he had seen Chris's outburst just a few minutes ago. The C.O. had watched closely to see if anything further would develop and when it didn't, he thought `I'll be damned! Maybe Sister Pete is doing some good after all.'

Chris removed his hand from his crotch and let out a deep sigh, sitting up with just the strength that his abdominal muscles afforded him. His eyes connected with Toby's and he knew what Toby was going to say.

Sometimes Toby felt like he was dealing with one of his children; just keep the emotion out of it. "We'll pick up the pieces and put the game away and we'll be ready to go in just a sec. Come on Chris."

"Oh, I wasn't sure if you gentlemen were going to show up or not. You're usually on time but today you're late, what's going on?" Sister Pete asked as the two men came in to the office. Both men took their seats around the small rectangle in the stuffy room they'd been using. It smelled like her, a subtle hint of roses. They had been meeting with her for a while now, most times once a week, sometimes more. Sister Peter Marie hadn't fully grasped the concept of how demanding this task was going to be when she offered them the program, but brokering the peace between Tobias Beecher and Christopher Keller seemed like a full time job in and of itself. Sometimes she wished she'd never taken this prison job. Sometimes she wished she never "hired" Tobias to be her secretary. Most times she wished she never laid eyes on Christopher Keller. But, wishing away things she couldn't change only aggravated her.

Neither man spoke. Both had their eyes cast downward, Chris was playing with a loose thread on his inseam and Toby was brushing imaginary lint off his pants. She hated it when the sessions started out this way it was like pulling teeth to get them started.

"Well, let's start with who's the guilty party today, shall we?" She looked at Tobias waiting for him to speak, but he didn't.

"I am Sister."

"Well ok, Chris. You get to start. Why are you guilty? Why don't you tell me what you did so you can feel better?"

"Fuck. Why do you always use that tone with me and not with Toby? Don't look at me like you don't know what I'm talking about."

This only added fuel to the fire that had been brewing since breakfast. "Ok, we had breakfast and we were sitting side by side and I leaned over to Toby and said `wouldn't it be nice if Sr Pete could make a special arrangement and let us use one of the old hospitality suites that are just sittin empty?' I had leaned into him and put my hand on his thigh like I always do and some asshole in back of us made some friggin' remark about us being fags. I started to stand up and yell back at him but Toby here pulled me down and said `it's all right, just ignore them and they'll stop'. Well it's not all right and they didn't stop. It just burns my butt when they say that." Chris was nervously shaking his left foot while his right leg supported it. His arms were folded across his chest, his jaw was set tight and he still had a headache from this morning. He kept his hands tight under his armpits so he couldn't strike out at anyone or anything. Once was enough for today.

"Ok Chris, and this makes you guilty, why? You got pissed off which seems reasonable to me under the circumstances. Toby might have embarrassed you in front of the other men, which I'm sure that wasn't his intention. I can still feel this aura of anger all around you. What's the real reason you're upset today?"

Tobias had put his hands together with both index fingers pointed up and resting against his lips. He was willing himself to keep quiet and not interrupt since they had made some progress in healing their relationship and he wanted more things out in the open. They carried so much emotional baggage around and some days it was so hard to do it. He also knew it was very difficult for Chris to open up about his feelings but he was becoming slightly more comfortable doing it. Sometimes he needed a little prodding to get going and sometimes it was just painful to watch him go through it.

"Toby and I have been getting along pretty good lately. We've been watching each other's back and that space between us that you talk about seems to grow smaller all the time. We've been having fun, ain't that right, Toby?"

"Yeah Chris it is. And it's been good, Sister, really it has." Tobias responded. With that he turned and smiled at Chris.

Chris smiled back and said, "We've been playing a lot of chess and other stuff we did in the beginning, you know?"

"Like wrestling?" she asked.

"That's it. Toby, take my hand `cause we're walking out of here." He stood up and stretched out his hand to Toby. He needed to grab onto his lifeline.

Toby took his hand and with both of his hands he pulled Chris to him. "Chris, sit down. I'll finish, please Chris just sit down."

Chris sat down and rubbed his temples, his head was really hurting now and he could feel the pounding in his ears. Lately Toby had a way of calming him when he was churning inside.

"Chris, would you like a couple of aspirin? I've got some in my purse and that way you don't have to go to the infirmary. In fact, I'm going to bring in a bottle just for you and maybe some antacid too."

Toby got up and walked over to his desk, got his clean black coffee mug then stepped out to get some cold water from the drinking fountain. He came back in and handed it to Chris who was already chewing the aspirin. He made a face thinking how about awful that had to taste.

"Thanks." Chris looked up at Toby before he drank the water. Toby stood behind him and massaged the back of his neck. He puckered his bottom lip out as he let out a big sigh.

Toby continued to stand as he started speaking, "You see Sister, the thing is...Chris and I. We just want to be together."

"Well, you are together Tobias! You share the same pod, you eat together, and you... you work out together. How much more together...Oh, My! My, oh my! I see what you're getting at." Sister Pete felt herself turn many shades from pink to red and colors in between. "I forget that...that intimate part of your relationship."

Toby snorted, "Forget? How can you forget? We're two reasonably healthy men who enjoy sex, don't you? I'm sorry Sister, didn't you enjoy sex with your husband?"

"We're not here to discuss MY sex life!" she said emphatically.

At this, Chris started laughing. "No, but we want to talk about ours. How's that for a topic? I want to be with Toby in a room where I can make noise when I make love to him. I want to hear the noises Toby makes when I'm inside him and.. "

"I get the picture Chris."

"No, no you don't Sister. We love each other and we want to be able to make love not just fuck. Before we know it, Toby'll be paroled and then what chance do we have to be together. Cop a feel during visiting hours? Steal a kiss? We just want an hour to be together and not have to worry about some hack flashing his light on us or being the night's entertainment for Em City. We still have things to work out, lots of things but sex isn't one of them. That's the picture, Sister."

"Sister, we were wondering if one time, just one time, we could have the hour to ourselves in here? No one would have to know. The door has a lock on it and you've got the key. You can lock us in. I've never begged you for anything but I'm begging you now, please think about it?" Toby implored.

"No, I could lose my job. If Querns ever found, there's no way I could be party to that." Sister Pete was taken totally off guard.

"Sister Pete? Please, don't say no so fast. You're doing it for me too. You can think of a way. Please, give us a chance." Tobias begged.

"Tobias...I could lose everything, my reputation, my license to practice. My job. My job is my livelihood."

"Your job is all you got Sister. Come on Beech, let's go. Make another appointment I'll wait outside." Chris said dejectedly.

Sister Pete sat down in her chair. The atmosphere had become so thick it was like someone had sucked the oxygen right out. Never had she had such a request. Some of the men had hinted about conjugal visits after the governor had stopped the practice but no one had ever been so blunt before. Not that she was a prude. Oh, no! She'd been married.

"Tobias, I...I really need some time to think about this." She said to him as she reached for her glass of water.

Toby walked out of her office and quietly shut the door. He looked down at his feet for a few moments to gather his thoughts then he looked up at Chris and smiled.

"What? She changed her mind?" Chris questioned him.

"Not yet but when has she ever said no to me?"

"You're fuckin beautiful man. I guess there are different ways to get the same thing done. How long do you think it will take her to change her mind?" Chris was now getting hopeful. Not long I hope, but Chris we've got to let her think that she's running the show." Toby explained.

Note: This chapter was first posted as a lyric wheel fic. The song was from The Dave Mathews Band `The Space Between Every Day'. This is just a portion of the song and the lyrics I pulled out.

Take my hand
`Cause we're walking out of here Oh, right out of here
Love is all we need here
The space between
What's wrong and right
Is where you'll find me hiding, waiting for you The space between
Your heart and mine
Is the space we'll fill with time The space between...


"I'm going to ask her if she's thought about it" Toby said while he was brushing his teeth the next morning.

Chris moved him out of the way with a nudge of his hip while he put some paste on his toothbrush and he replied, "How could she not think about it? It's not like she's had that request before. Did you see her squirm when I said that I wanted to hear what you sounded like when I was inside you?"

Toby happened to have a mouth full of toothpaste and saliva when Chris said this and it made him laugh, barely getting back to the sink in time.

"Man, maybe I won't say anything today, see if she brings it up first. You know just go in there like any other day, `Good Morning, Tobias. Morning Sister, don't know what's good about it'.

"Is that how you guys start the day? With good mornings every fuckin day?" Chris asked.

"Yep, every fucking day. Except for the time I wasn't working for her, when I quit so I could see you in protective custody." Toby said and sighed.

"Yeah, well. I still hate that you agreed to work for that Nazi fuck." Chris raised his voice in anger.

"Chris, don't get upset."

"Don't tell me what to do, Toby. Don't you dare tell me how to feel.

"Come on. We've been getting along so well, let's not fight."

"It takes, two to fight Toby and I'm not fighting, got that?" Chris said glaring at his podmate.

Toby was ahead of Chris in the breakfast line. He picked up his tray and plastic utensils and quickly looked down at the trays of food. He decided to skip the toast, fake scrambled eggs and cold cereal. So that meant buttermilk pancakes again this morning.

"Hey, Beecher. Want any extra pancakes today?" Ryan O'Reily asked.

He forced a smile and said, "No, two's fine."

"Just two? An active man like you needs to eat more, ya know, keep up your stamina, right? More carbs equals more energy, isn't that what they say?"

"Yeah, I suppose so."

"How `bout extra bacon? Maybe you ought to give the Atkins diet a try. Lots of protein. Good for your muscles."

"My muscles are just fine but give my bacon to Chris, ok?" Toby said trying to keep it light.

"Sure, no problem, Beecher."

Then Keller stood before O'Reily and his pancakes. "Hey K-Boy, you look like your draggin a little this morning, didn't get much sleep, huh? Beecher said to give you his bacon, ya know more protein." He grinned as he placed a stack of pancakes and 4 slices of bacon on his plate.

"Shut the fuck up O'Reily and just give me my food." Keller snarled at him.

He waited till Keller left then shouted "Hey Poet, I win!" he leaned back and looked towards his right. Poet started laughing even though he lost the bet. But one of them had to lose. They had bet to see who would come the closest to Fight Day # 1. It didn't have to be a punching fight; a verbal or silent fight would do. It just had to count as their first fight, at least this go around. The first bet was only a carton of cigarettes but the stakes would get higher.

Meanwhile Chris sat down beside Toby who was already eating his breakfast. Chris cut some of the pancake up and sort of moved it around on the plate. Although he was hungry, he couldn't eat any of it.

Quietly Toby said, "Eat something. I promise I..."

And quieter still Keller said, "Don't make promises you can't keep."

Murphy walked into Tim McManus's office for his coffee break/shift report and sat down in the chair closest to the desk. He made himself comfortable, extending his legs out and stretching his arms over his head till he heard and felt a small pop in his upper back.

Sean cleared his throat and read from the summary on his sheet. "Howell took the count and only one prisoner didn't make it out of his cell. Reggie was found lying on the floor and it looks like his head was used to clean out the toilet. He's in the infirmary and we sent his bunkmate to the hole." Sean paused and waited for the question he knew was coming.

"And?" Tim asked

"Well, yesterday I could have sworn that Sister Pete was getting somewhere with those two. Keller had a temper tantrum but Beecher kept his cool and they worked it out. But this morning, I don't know what the hell happened. It looked like things started out ok but during count you could feel icicles all around them. Even Busmalis was looking at them funny. And when Busmalis notices something..."

"Yeah by then, the shit's already hit the fan. Do they see Sister Pete today?" McManus asked

"I don't have them on the schedule." Murphy said as glanced at his clipboard. "Tim, maybe you should just let her know. Ya know if something should happen." Murphy shrugged. "I mean Timmy, ya have to admit that when the two of them are getting along, well for the most part the unit runs better."

"Yeah, well maybe I'll drop by Sister Pete's office in a while. Beecher should be working by then and maybe she'll have a feel of what's going on. Did you ever watch Ozzie and Harriet when you were a kid?"

Forty-five minutes later, Tim stopped by Sister Pete's office. Toby was sitting at his desk with an open file and the computer was turned on with the screen saver reading... `Nothing Is So Simple That It Can't Be Screwed Up'... running across it even though Beecher was staring out the window. If he heard Tim come through the door he didn't acknowledge him but McManus wanted to see how he was faring for himself.

"Beecher." No response. "Hey Beecher!"

"Oh, I'm sorry McManus, did you ask me something?"

"Well actually I was just going to ask you how you were, you know common courtesy which is sometimes lacking around here. Maybe I should make everyone attend a class on common fuckin courtesy!"

Beecher sighed, "Yeah, it'll be a good one, I'm sure."

"Oh hi, Tim. Did you need me for something?" Sister Pete just returned from the ladies room. She had heard a loud voice and opened her office door not knowing what the commotion was all about.

"Yeah, do you have a minute? I want to run something by you."

"Sure, sure let's get some coffee." Sister Pete hoped it was nothing big; she had so much on her plate as it was.

"What's up with Beecher and Keller?" No beating around the bush today for McManus. They hadn't even arrived at the break room yet.

"Up? What do you mean up?" She stopped in the hallway and fiddled with the kerchief wrapped around her neck.

Tim took another step then turned around to face her. "Murphy said they had a fight this morning and Beecher is in some other world right now. Remember our agreement, they would stay together only if they got along. No fights!"

"Well, by fight did Murphy say he saw Keller physically attack Tobias?"

"No, more like verbal fighting."

She laughed. "Come on Tim. Think about it...if you and Murphy were locked up in a cell together 24/7 would you get along all the time? Of course not. Everyone's allowed to blow up once in a while and as long as no one got hurt it'll probably work itself out."

McManus thought about this for a minute. `If Tim and me were locked up together 24/7...hmmm...'

"Well... talk to Beecher and make sure it goes no further or we're looking at gen pop for both of them."

After Sister Pete and McManus had finished their conversation, Sister Pete returned to her office. She took a deep breath before entering and walked in. The odor hit her right away.

"Tobias! Didn't you smell this?" She asked as she ran to the coffee maker and took the empty pot off the warming element, which had been left on.

"Smell what? Oh, shit! Sorry Sister. Here give it to me and I'll clean it out. Gee, I'm so sorry." Toby took the pot to the drinking fountain, added some water then swished it around until all the burnt coffee came out. He came back with a full pot of water for a fresh pot.

"Tobias, what's going on? You didn't finish the stats for the month like I asked you to do, what have you been doing today? Everything is still in the same pile as it was this morning."


"Chris and I had a fight, not really a fight but he's mad at me. He thinks I tell him what to do like he's one of my kids. And I probably do to some extent but I don't fuck my kids."

"Stop that!!!"

"Well you know what I mean, Sister. It's in my nature, I've got...I..."

"That's just the leader in you coming out and Chris doesn't like it. Which shows how different the two of you are. Like oil and water. Maybe now that you're talking and realizing these differences, you'll come to see that the relationship is based only on sex."

Toby laughed and said, "You're wrong. There's more to it than that."

"Let me ask you something, Tobias. Has Chris talked much about his childhood?"

Toby paused a little before answering. "No, not a lot. I know his dad died when he was small and his mom raised him."

"By herself? Did she ever remarry?" she questioned him.

"As far as I know, she did it by herself and he's never mentioned anything about a stepfather." Beecher told her.

"Do you think Chris would talk, in here I mean, about how he was raised? You know, his childhood?" She continued the questioning.

Beecher sighed and answered, "I don't think so Sister. I mean all these years he's hardly mentioned anything."

"He hasn't mentioned any birthdays or Christmases? No memories?" She continued to hound Toby.

"Sister, I... I can't speak for Chris but I think Chris doesn't want to remember his childhood."

"Well I have a feeling that's exactly what he needs." She said feeling she had come to another logical conclusion. "You know what? I've got some free time later this afternoon and I'll meet with both of you. The two of you can iron out this latest problem and we can find out what this relationship is really based on."


"Hey Keller!" Officer Murphy stopped into the storage room to speak with Chris.

"What?" Chris asked as he opened a box full of recycled computer paper.

"You got a meeting with Sister Pete in a half hour." Murphy told him.

"No I don't. I don't see her till next week." Keller responded.

"Well that's changed. You and Beecher are seeing her today." Murphy said.

"Did Beecher ask for the meeting?" Keller questioned the guard.

"How the hell do I know? McManus called me and told me to get your ass over to Sister Pete's office and that's what I'm going to do."

"You always follow orders, Murphy?"


'What a good little soldier you are.' Keller thought to himself and then he thought that maybe Sister Pete had decided to let them use the room after all. 'We can fix the other stuff later. Make up sex is always good. This might turn out to be a good day after all.'

When Keller sauntered into at Sister Pete's office, Toby was working at the computer. He had worked through lunch, not wanting to see Chris and aggravate him more than he already had.

"You ok Sister?" Murphy inquired as he waved his hand around the room.

"We'll be just fine." She answered.

"Come on in Chris and sit down. Tobias, are you done? Come join us."

"I guess so." He said as he shut down the computer, then added as he nodded to his lover, "Chris."

"Beecher." He said but his eyes questioned Toby as to why they were meeting today. Toby read this and shrugged his shoulders and shook his head no.

'Fuck, this is not good and she hasn't done anything but plan mind games again.' Chris thought.

"Well, Tim brought something to my attention this morning. And that's that the two of you seemed to have had some kind of fight and I thought we should discuss it before it gets blown out of proportion. So, who wants to talk?"

Neither man wanted to talk. Keller sat in the chair, arms across his chest, breaths becoming shorter in proportion to his temper rising. Beecher sat in the chair looking and feeling defeated.

"What the fuck did you say to her Beecher? Do we need help with everything we do? I can't believe you come running to her with details about what happens in our pod. But that shouldn't surprise me should it? You always took everyone's advice but mine and look where you are."

Toby picked his head up slowly but the vein in his forehead was very prominent. "Chris, I didn't come running to Sister Pete this morning. I didn't say anything until McManus talked with her. I know I listened to everyone and that includes you, and that's why I'm still here."

"Oh, so we're back to that again? Well, fuck you." Chris stood up and started to pace around the room.

"Chris, when Sister Pete asked me if we had a fight, what was I going to do, lie to her? I told her no, not a fight exactly but I knew you were mad at me. Sometimes I'm... I can be too bossy and I know I shouldn't be but that's who I am. I don't think I can change that."

Chris walked over to Toby's computer chair and put his hands on the back of it. He let his head drops so his chin hit his chest, which also stretched out his neck muscles. Then he turned his head side to side to stretch a little more.

"Chris? What do you have to say to Toby?" Sister Pete asked.


"Oh come now Chris. Toby told you the truth and you have nothing to say?"

Chris turned around and walked back to his chair and sat down. "I can't do this anymore. One minute I'm up then I'm down. You're telling what to do, Toby tells me what to do. You both tell me how I should feel and... " He shrugged his right shoulder.

"And you don't like that do you?"

Chris smiled and said "No, I don't like it one bit. But what choice do I have?"

"Did you ever have a choice Chris?" Sister Pete asked softly.

"You got me to spill my guts once, what makes you think I'm going to do it again? Nothing's changed, I'm still a worthless piece of shit." He said.

"Chris, tell me about your childhood. Are your mom and dad still alive?"

"Why do I suddenly feel like I'm being gang raped or something?" Chris laughed.

"Chris, I'll leave if you want... if that will make it easier to talk because you are worthy to me as trite as that sounds."

"You're not going anywhere, Toby. If I have to do this you're going to hear it, got that?"

Toby just nodded and he slowly scooted back in the chair.

"Chris, tell me about your parents."

"My parents are dead."

'When did they die?"

"My dad died when I was five."

"How did he die?"

"He went down to the corner to buy milk and orange juice for my breakfast and got caught in the middle of a robbery."

"So he was shot?"

"Yeah, once in the chest with a .38 hollow point."

"And your mother, when did she die?"

"Don't know."

"But Chris, you said both your parents were dead."

"She's been dead to me for a long time."

"Chris, when a child says that a parent is dead to them and that parent might still be alive, well... that usually indicates a problem."

"Define 'a problem'."

"Well, was your mother nurturing? Did she love you? Did she abuse you?"

"No, no and yes."

Toby's mouth dropped open, "Your mother abused you? Chris, how?"

"I don't want to talk about it."

Sister Pete sighed like she was tired of saying some of these things over and over. "You know the rules, once it's on the table it gets discussed."

"Fuck the rules."

Toby snorted, happy in some way that Chris wouldn't play her game 100 per cent of the time. "Chris, how come you never mentioned any of this in all the times we were trying to learn about each other, you know late at night or early in the morning."

"You were trying to figure out what made me tick Toby. That part of my life is over.

Sister Pete jumped in. She wasn't ready for their conversation yet; she still had unanswered questions. "But those were your formative years. That's why you're the man that you are today."

"So what's your point? You want me to say that she was mean to me? Ok she was. Did she blame me for his death? Yeah, she did that too. She'd get right in my face and yell at me. She'd take her finger and poke me in the chest in the same spot where my dad had been shot."

Sister Pete felt they were getting closer. "And what else, Chris?"

Chris rubbed at his left eye, trying not to give her any satisfaction during this session. "She'd lock me up at night so I couldn't get into any trouble or run away. She had to work two jobs to make ends meet since my dad died."

Sister Pete put her hand over her mouth. She hadn't expected this. What a horrible thing to do to a child.

"Chris I'm so sorry. I don't know what to say." Toby said his eyes filling with tears.

"It's in the past," he gave an indifferent glance and folded his arms.

"But Chris, this explains everything, don't you see?" Toby said.

"It explains nothing. I am who I am. End of story. I made choices in my life, just like you did Toby and even you Sister."

"Chris, Toby's right to a point. This might and I'm saying might because we're just scratching at the surface here and... "

"That's all you're getting. Have you talked to Querns yet?" Chris gave her one of his most seductive smiles. He already had enough attention on himself. Time to turn the tables, change the subject.

"Chris," she gave a soft laugh and waved her index finger at him. "You can't change the subject to sex whenever you're uncomfortable talking about you. But the answer to that is no, I haven't had a chance to even think about it yet. "Chris, Tim mentioned something to me a couple of years ago and what you've said today partially explains it to me."

"Yeah, and what's that?"

"The cage. When it was introduced to Em City you said something to Tim and then you were put in the cage. No, you said something to him on purpose so you would be put in it. Why?"

"I remember that," Toby quickly added. "You did it on purpose but I didn't know why and we weren't speaking so I couldn't ask. Hoyt even called you a fag and you didn't even flinch. You asked McManus how big his penis was, right?" Toby chuckled remembering that.

"Yeah, I did it on purpose, I was remembering."

"But if it was painful why did you do that?" she asked.

"You said it was painful, not me. It was how I grew up. Before she left for work at night she would put me in a wire dog cage with my mattress and pillow. She would always say, 'If your father was alive I wouldn't have to do this' or she poked me and said 'Why did I have you? You're a worthless piece of shit! You ruined my life' and she would lock the padlock and put the key around her neck and go to work. In the morning she came back and let me out, gave me breakfast and I went to school."

"Chris, how long did this go on?" Sister Pete asked.

"Until I just couldn't take it anymore. I never had sleepovers so I was never invited to other kids houses. I was different; I didn't have any friends and neither did she. She was always tired and always yelling at me. She fed me but she never helped me with my homework or anything like that. I was never allowed to go on field trips, I had to stay in the library and just listen to the stories when the kids came back. I never got picked for anything." He stared at Sister Pete neither one needing to say anything more at this point.

"Well, I think we've covered enough for today. "Sister Pete said getting more than she bargained for. And once again she didn't give Chris the time he needed. Toby just sat there looking at Chris as he stood up. He felt like a weight was holding him down.

Chris just walked out of the office and back to Em City. As far as he was concerned his workday was done. He walked into his pod and lay down on the bottom bunk with his right forearm covering his eyes. He wanted to sleep; he just didn't want to think.

Toby continued to sit in the chair with his mouth open.

"Do you feel like finishing up your work today? There's just an hour left. Or... do you need to talk?" She asked Toby.

"I need to talk to Chris. Can I leave now?"

"Toby, maybe you should give him a little time to himself."

"No, this is one time, I'm not taking your advice, I'm going to see him."


Em City was empty and quiet when Toby entered after this latest interaction with Sister Pete. Everyone was at dinner and he had about ten minutes until everybody else started trickling back to watch TV before lights out. The only other person that he saw while scanning the area was one C.O. at the middle tiered guard station and he was on the phone.

Toby quickly walked to his pod and saw Chris on the bottom bunk. If someone were to pass by and glance in they'd think he was asleep. Toby walked up to the door and put his hands on the Plexiglas but he couldn't move any further.

'What do I say to him? Will he even talk to me?' he thought. He geared himself up for whatever was about to unfold and slowly opened the door then he quietly entered. He walked over to where Chris was laying and stooped down next to him. He gently placed his right hand on Chris's abdomen and felt Chris's muscles quiver from his touch.

"Go away Toby." Chris wasn't asleep. He didn't have to open his eyes or hear anything he just knew that it was him.

"Chris, let me stay. I'll be quiet if that's what you need right now." Toby said.

"What I need right now is to be alone or dead. Take your pick but please pick one, ok?"

Toby let out a sigh and bit his bottom lip. "Ok, I'll leave you alone for a while."

"Thank you very much." Chris said and turned on his left side.

Toby wasn't sure what to do next but he knew he was hungry and staying hungry just to stare at Chris was no answer. He quickly walked to the cafeteria to get something, anything to eat. He slipped an apple into one sweatshirt pocket and a carton of milk in the other. He ate his sandwich quickly and washed it down with some red colored juice.

He wasn't the first one back to the common area but when he did arrive he quietly went into the pod and hid the apple but put the milk carton by Chris's hand on the bunk and then he slipped back out. He saw a magazine someone had left lying around, something with pictures. He picked it up then seated himself close to his pod to make sure no one bothered Chris. He started turning pages but kept a close eye on his roommate.

He saw Tim McManus come down the stairs from his office, walk up to the guard and have a quick conversation then come down again. In the reflection of the pod window Toby could see him standing and looking towards him but he had no interest in anything McManus had to say right now.

He then noticed some movement from the pod. Chris found the carton of milk and drank it. Toby saw him hide the empty container under his pillow. He wasn't getting up he still just laid there on his bunk.

Meanwhile upstairs, Ryan O'Reily didn't feel like spending anytime with his dad tonight reminiscing about Cyril. He wanted and needed a few laughs or maybe make a deal or two. As he leaned over the railing on the upper tier he noticed Beecher sitting at a table outside his pod flipping through a magazine that he was obviously not reading. He wondered where Keller was at maybe the fight had escalated. No, Beecher had a worried look on his face. He decided he had to check this out. As he walked down the stairs he glanced around and saw the typical twisted fucks watching TV and playing cards. He approached Beecher.

"Hey. Hey Beecher!" he said.

"You scared the shit outta me O'Reily." Beecher said as he put his hand over his heart.

"You guys still fighting?" The Irishman asked.

"We're not fighting." Beecher simply said.

"Sure looks like it to me."

Exasperated, Beecher said, "Keller's got a bad headache. It started this morning. Ever since the fall he gets them, sort of like migraines. So I'm leaving him alone so the pods quiet.

"What? You can't even read in there like you always do?"

"O'Reily, haven't you ever had a bad headache or a migraine? Even the sound of a page turning feels like someone's slicing a knife right behind your eye. It just fucking hurts, ok?"

"No, can't say I've had headaches 'specially one like that. Oww!"

"Well it's pretty painful, trust me."

"Trust you Beecher? Always. Can't Gloria give him something?"

Beecher was getting tired of this conversation. "Sister Pete gave him some aspirin earlier."

"Uh, huh... Sister Pete. So she arranged for you guys to have your old pod back, huh?"

Toby stared at Ryan; there had been lots of looks when Toby had moved their belongings back into their old pod. "Yeah, she did. Chris can't go up there without having a panic attack and they decided it would be better this way, at least after the place was fumigated. The other alternative was to give him drugs."

"Keller didn't want no drugs, man?"

"No especially these drugs. They're a real downer not a good high at all. And Chris wants to stay clean." Beecher was getting agitated. 'I hope he stays clean after today.'

Ryan stood up and said, "I gotta tell ya Beecher, old pal. You guys are sounding more like a married couple every day." And he walked away.

'Fuck you' Beecher thought and at the same time heard "Count."

Beecher stood in front of his pod waiting for the CO to come by and read his name so he could go in for the night. When the guard called off Busmalis' number, Chris walked out of the pod and stood next to Toby. His hand lightly brushed Toby's hip and Toby quickly glanced at him. It looked like Chris was still feeling pretty shitty. After the numbers were read, both men walked back into the pod.

"I got an apple for you, it's in the empty laundry bag."

"Maybe later. I'm going back to sleep after I brush my teeth. It feels like someone rolled a cotton field in it." Keller said

Beecher was afraid to say anything. He continued to stare at Keller while he brushed his teeth and his eyes followed him as he lay down on the bottom bunk. He brushed his own teeth, took his pants off and jumped up to his bunk with latest book, 'Angels and Demons'. His brother gave it to him on their last visit. He knew he was reading and turning pages but wasn't absorbing anything. His mind was set on a certain pace and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Before he knew it he heard, "Lights Out", and it was suddenly quieter and darker. But it was too quiet for him. He didn't hear Keller breathing, didn't hear him turning, nothing. He leaned his head over and looked down at Keller who had his eyes opened.They stared at each other for a couple of minutes.

"You all right?" Beecher asked.

"No, no I'm not. Can I come up there with you?" Keller appealed to his softer side.

Toby smiled and said "As soon as the coast is clear, get your ass up here."

"I just want to talk to you."

"Sure you do." Beecher nodded in the affirmative.

"No, really Beech. That fuckin bitch made me remember so much shit, shit I thought I had buried along with..."

Beecher saw the guard walk past their pod. "Now! It's clear, come on!" He lay back on his pillow and lifted the sheet so Keller could get underneath it with him.

Keller hoisted himself up to the bunk and got under the covers. He wasn't prepared for Toby in a supportive role.

"Toby, I really just want to tell you some stuff." Keller said.

Toby ignored him as he gathered him close in his arms. Keller pulled back twice but was firmly brought back each time. Then in a desperate move Chris moved his arm around him, "Don't go away." He pressed his face into his chest, "Don't leave me again."

"Chris, you know I can't promise you that and don't make me." Toby kissed Chris's forehead and was rubbing his back in slow soothing circles. "I wish I knew some of this earlier. It makes sense... not what your mother did but why you keep landing in jail the need to be caged up at night. In a bizarre sick way it must give you some kind of security. And your ex wives... not trusting women. Fuck... you have no idea how sorry I am."

"Why are you sorry, you didn't do it? It wasn't your fault or responsibility." Chris whispered.

"Well maybe sorry isn't the right word. Hey, stop that, I thought you wanted to talk." Toby said as Chris was making circles on his chest and then playing with his nipple.

"I am talking." He said as he wet his finger and continued playing with him. "I think that's why with the girls, I mean after the sex was no good anymore, they never made me feel safe like you do."

"And..." Toby said as he continued to make circles on Chris's back and enjoying the sensations Chris was creating.

"This feels good, laying here with you. I just always wanted to be loved and I never really felt that till you. I don't know why you love me, you know all the bad stuff I've done and am still capable of doing. I broke my rules with you."

"Rules? You never told me about any rules." Toby stated in his quick to react without thinking mode.

"Toby! Shut the fuck up and just listen ok? I'm only saying this once; it's hard enough as it is. My rule was to never let anybody 'in' so I couldn't get hurt anymore. Everyone always let me down and look at us. Look what we've done to each other and you still love me. Do you know what that does to me? Do you really understand why I've done some of the things I've done for you? To help you and your family? I love you Toby, I always will. And I don't know why we love each other but it helps make up for all the shit in my life."

"Chris I do love you but some of the things I don't understand or can't fully comprehend why you had to go to the extremes you do like with my parole and with Schillinger and Winthrop. It's like you always have to prove that your stronger or...Owww!" Toby screamed as quietly as he could as Chris leaned over and bit the nub he was playing with.

"Stop talking Toby. I told you to just shut the fuck up." Chris said semi-seriously.

"Ok. Let me ask one thing though, you've told me you loved me before but I thought you wanted to talk about your Mom and growing up."

"I don't, not really. I mean what's the point I can't change it, I told you that."

"But what I'm afraid is, look at the way you turned out..."

Chris picked his head up and stared at Toby and raised his eyebrows, "Your point being?"

"My kids... what will they be like considering the way they've been raised with their mother dead, me in and out of prison, their grandfather. Even the trip Holly makes coming here. I never thought much about it before, but I've really fucked them up royally. Harry... look at that poor kid. What's he going to be like? Maybe..."

"Maybe you should remember that your Mother, their Grandmother is raising them with love and she ain't saying nothing bad about you behind your back. Your kids are going to turn out ok and well... it's beyond your control now." Chris said as he propped himself up on his elbows while straddling Toby's upper torso. He needed to be able to look in Toby's eyes.

"If I met you outside of Oz, would you have given me a second look?" Chris continued.

Toby laughed but then got serious. "Sometimes people are on different paths in life but that doesn't mean they won't end up in different places. Some things are just meant to be. So yeah, I would have given you a second and maybe even a third look."

"A Third Look, I'm impressed. But we would have run around in different circles."

Toby thought a moment and said, "Then I would have had an affair with you and sneaking around would have made it really hot. You're worse than heroin, Chris."

They stared into each other's eyes and Toby wet his lips remind Chris of his come hither look on New Years Eve.


Notes: I don't know the law only what I read. Parts of the case referred to in this chapter actually happened to a Mr.Summerlin, who murdered and raped a bill collector in 1981. He was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and retarded as a child. He was sentenced to death and his case will be heard April 19 before the United States Supreme Court. I take great liberty with the facts and use them to help those that Fontana did not. This is my fantasy after all.

First thing in the morning, Martin Querns walked into his office and got a cup of fresh coffee. He sat down at his oversized mahogany desk and saw a piece of paper sitting on the top. He didn't like it when his secretary did this to him. He liked to go through his papers his way not hers. Now this paper demanded his attention. It screamed out, 'Read... Me... Now!'

To: Martin Querns, Warden Oswald
From: Noel Behn, Society for Prisoners Rights Subject: Cases Reviewed by the Appellate Court

"Shit, that's just what the fuck I don't need this morning", he said after tasting the coffee. He had finally trained his new secretary how to make coffee the way he liked it. Then there was a knock at his door.

"Come in. Why Sister Pete, now aren't you just bright eyed and early this morning?" He gave her one of his special grins, one that made her nervous.

"Yes and good morning to you, Martin. Well, I thought since we both have such a busy day scheduled we could start early. I mean since we're both all ready here." She told him.

"Oh you did, did you? Well, Pete, I can call you Pete... that all right with you?" He didn't offer her any coffee. "We can't start early because I have things that require my attention now. Like this..." he indicated the paper before him. "I haven't even read this yet so you're going to have to take your skinny ass out of here and come back at what ever time you're scheduled to be here!"

Sister Pete sighed, turned around and left the office, she knew there was no sense answering him; she couldn't win where he was concerned. She really wanted to stomp her feet she was so mad and humiliated. She had always been comfortable doing this when Leo Glynn was alive but realized she would have to learn to use other tactics when it came to Martin Querns.

Querns got up, walked out of his office and stood before his secretary. Then he bellowed, "Don't let that woman just barge in here! She has to wait just like everyone else with an appointment. What time do I meet with her anyway?"

"I'm sorry, it won't happen again. Sister Pete's appointment is at eleven o'clock this morning, sir." His secretary was embarrassed for herself and for the good sister.

He turned around and went back into his office then he closed his door, a little harder than necessary just to get his point across. He sat back down at his desk, grabbed the fax and began to read:

The following case is being brought to your attention as it may concern one or more of your prisoners. The Appellate Court has reviewed and reversed a few cases that were presided over by Judge Grace Lima. They found in favor of the defendants citing that they had received 'Justice by Assembly Line.' In one particular case they found a defense attorney did not disclose she was sleeping with the prosecutor. This prisoner's second defense attorney didn't raise basic legal questions. The judge who sentenced him to die was disbarred for consuming alcohol during the time she decided the case. Also this same prisoner should have been given an original sentence of 25-30 years with a chance of parole. Given the fact that this prisoner was already in his late 30's at the time of sentencing, 80 years is a life sentence due to his age and a life sentence wasn't on the table. Judge Lima was too harsh in the sentencing and it was considered cruel and unusual. She did not hand out sentences fairly. In view of these proceedings,

The State vs.

  1. 97B412, Beecher, Tobias, case unchanged due to a parole violation.
  2. 98K514, Keller, Christopher, case overturned. He is now eligible for parole. An attorney from this office will be contacting you in the next few days.

"You gotta be shitting me!!" Querns yelled. He pressed the intercom. "Get McManus in here now!!" And then he read the remainder of the fax.

98K514, Keller, Christopher will be assigned to the Crown and Shield Halfway House for a period to be determined in conjunction with his parole officer.

Fifteen minutes later, McManus had just finished reading the fax after refilling his coffee cup. "Paroled? The shit's gonna start, just you wait. Beecher's gonna have a conniption fit over this. I can't fucking believe it. Son of a bitch... I never thought I'd see Keller get paroled. Does Sr. Pete know? Did you tell Keller yet?"

"Don't get your balls in a torsion net McManus. Beecher and Keller are not my problem they're yours. Remember you run Emerald City not me. And no I haven't told this to anyone but you. And I would like your thoughts right now on how you are going to handle this situation. Without it blowing up... you know we don't want any shit storms happening over this."

"Well, first I'll talk to Sr Pete. She's been meeting on a regular basis with the two of them; she probably knows the best way to approach this. Fucking son of a bitch, I can't believe this. You said he would be going to a half way house to get fucking acclimated to society? What kind of bullshit is that?"

"It's the politically correct way of saying if he can't cut it there he just can't cut it." Martin grinned. "And he's not going to cut it, he'll be back here within a week. One, the way things look to me, he doesn't want to be away from his boyfriend and two from what I hear from my sources, besides liking to be fucked up the ass, he likes to be caged up."

"Yeah well, Sr. Pete mentioned something about a real bad childhood he had but who would want to come back to this hell hole if he had a choice? I'm going to find Sr Pete and talk with her. Can I take the fax with me?" McManus asked.

"No you may not take it with you. I think you've memorized the pertinent details for now. She's got a meeting scheduled with me for 11 this morning. I want you here with her. Whatever was on her agenda can just wait. Understand?"

Tobias was typing away when Sister Pete walked back into her office. She wasn't in when he had arrived for 'work' but she had left him a note telling him where she was and what she needed to be done first.

"That was a quick meeting Sister. You don't look very happy, but that's... none of my business." Beecher said after he stopped typing.

"No I'm not. Oh, that man makes me so angry." She said as she balled her fists. "He told me to come back when my appointment was scheduled. Who makes appointments for 11 o'clock? That just messes up the day. Tobias, you're looking pretty chipper today. Did something just happen?"

"No, I just was thinking about last night."

"I gather you and Chris had a ... a... good night."

"Yeah, we did. Did a little talking too. Have you decided when we could use your office, you know like we talked about?"

"Tobias. I like the way you said 'when' not if. You act as though I've already made up my mind."

"So that's part of why you want to see the Warden? You're going to broach the subject with him?"

"BrrRing, BrrRing" interrupted the telephone. Tobias picked it up on the second ring.

"Sister Pete's office. Ok, sure... I'll tell her."

"Tell me what?"

"That was McManus. He wants you in his office, right now."

"Well this day sure has gone to hell in a hand basket." Sister Pete reflected as she left her office.

Sister Pete arrived at Tim McManus's office at the same time as Sean Murphy. Sean looked at her with a question in his eyes. He raised his eyebrows and said, "Your guess is as good as mine." Tim didn't bother knocking on the door; he opened it and waited for Pete to enter first. They found Tim sitting at his desk shooting a small basketball into a very small hoop.

"What's up Timmy?" Murphy asked casually.

Both guests took a seat after Tim motioned for them to sit down. He tossed the little ball to Sean who made a basket on his first try. They let the ball roll away from them and then ignored it.

"Guess who's getting paroled?" Tim asked.

"Whadya mean guess who? It could be any one of these dinks. Beecher? Poet? Torquemada?"


"Busmalis, that's who. Am I right Tim?" Sister Pete was positive she guessed right. Why after all he was married now and taking responsibility for his wife's daughter.


"Tim, enough with the guessing games. Who the fuck is getting paroled?" Sean asked as he looked at Pete. "Sorry sister."

"Yes, Tim, enough with the games. Who for goodness sakes?"

"Ok, it's Christopher fuckin Keller, that's who."

Sean just sat there and said, "Fuck."

Sister Pete gasped as her right hand covered her mouth and her left hand braced the front of her neck.

"How am I going to tell this to Tobias?" she asked out loud.

"How the fuck are you going to tell Keller?" McManus asked.

"Me? Why me? That's your job Tim." She asked incredulously.

"Yeah, Tim. That's your job." Murphy told him.

"I know but I'm not sure yet how to tell him, that's why you guys are here to help me figure this out. Oh, and by the way, Pete, I'm going with you at 11 to see Querns. I have to have a plan in place by then." Tim said. "So, what's your recommendation?"

"Gee Tim, I sure hate to tell you what to do." Sean laughed.

Sister Pete slapped his hand, "Sean this is serious. I don't think Keller is ready to be paroled. He... well he... he just isn't ready yet."

"You mean to say that this doesn't seem fair does it? Keller gets out while Beecher remains in and it's because of Keller that Beecher's back in, in the first place. Just like Beecher said, he got fucked in the ass again." Tim answered her. "Well first of all, Keller's case was overturned for many reasons that I don't want to go into right now but he's going to a half way house and it's up to his parole officer as to how long he stays there."

"When does he get released? When do we tell him?" Sister Pete asked.


After leaving McManus's office Murphy immediately started looking for inmate Christopher Keller. Upon his arrival in Em City he saw the CO on duty and asked, "Hey Howell, where would Keller be about now?"

Howell had recently returned to her job at Oz after suffering a miscarriage. She glanced down at the clipboard on the desk and said, "He's got gym time so he should be back in about ten minutes. You don't want to cut into his gym time do you?" She said facetiously.

"Nah, not today I don't. But when he gets back tell him to go take a shower and then he needs to go up and see McManus."

"What the fuck's he done now?" She asked. Claire's endearing personality hadn't changed since the loss of her baby but still she had surprised herself and many of the other employees by actually grieving for her son. It was "a blessing" as Sister Peter Marie and Father Mukada put it; the baby would have been severely deformed had he lived. Apparently noxious chemicals had affected the "salsa" donor's DNA while he was in solitary confinement.

"He hasn't done anything." He walked closer to her and whispered. "He's sentence was commuted because of a fuckin' technicality or something."

"No shit?" She asked surprisingly.

"Yeah, no shit! McManus and Sister Pete are trying to figure out how to tell him and then tell Beecher without a shitstorm happening. If he's getting out, McManus wants it done as quickly and cleanly as possible."

"You might as well put Beecher in the hole right now... just to protect him, from himself or Keller."

"Don't think I haven't thought of that."

Approximately ten and a half minutes later Howell accompanied the sweaty gym group back to Em City and as they began to disperse she called out, "Keller!"

"Yo." Keller said as he turned towards the voice. He gave her a small grin while pursing his lips together then said. "Well Officer Howell, you're back. How nice for all of us." He'd heard what had happened to her and he knew it was "a blessing" not to have her as a mother.

"You need to go take a shower and then you have to see McManus." She ordered as she gave him the once over and then leered up at him.

"Why do I have to see McManus?" He asked as he glared at her.

"Beats the shit out of me!" Howell answered.

Chris then thought to himself, 'he brings bad news to you so the only reason I'm going to see him means I'm in trouble for something or Toby has.... no, he couldn't have asked to change pods again.' He shook his head as if shaking out some cobwebs. He then went into his pod, stripped his clothes off, grabbed a towel and headed for the showers.

Later Howell accompanied Keller upstairs to see McManus and as Keller swaggered into the office he knew he was in trouble, big time. Extra chairs had been brought into the room and on the right side of the desk sat Sister Pete and Father Mukada as Sean Murphy stood at parade rest by the door. After Officer Howell shut the door, she positioned herself right outside the office. Keller glanced around and thought it was pretty lame that everyone was by the door just in case they needed to make a hasty retreat or if reinforcements were needed. He couldn't figure out what he had done that had gotten him into so much trouble.

"Take a seat Keller." McManus said as he apprehensively shifted in his chair and watched as Keller sat down, moving as though he were a panther ready to lunge.

Sister Pete cleared her throat nervously. Fr. Mukada, the hack in black, was quiet as usual, wondering why he was asked to sit in, knowing full well there was nothing he could say or do to help the situation. He guessed he was there more as a support for Sister Pete than anything else.

Keller sat tall in the chair while wearing the navy blue thermal cotton tee shirt, a shirt that was shared by his roommate. Chris wore it unwashed, right after Toby so his scent would linger on him all day. This situation was making him very nervous so he pushed his sleeves up and adjusted his position in the chair; he needed to do something. Then he crossed his arms over his chest. `Game face on. Throw what ya have at me, I'm ready!' thought Keller as he fixed his eyes on McManus.

"Listen Keller." McManus said as he scratched his head. "Fuck, I'm really not quite sure how to say this but..." he swallowed and glanced around, first at Sean whose eyes were riveted on Keller then at Ray who had his hands folded together in his lap and was silently praying. Sister Pete was nervously playing with the cross around her neck and biting the right corner of her bottom lip.

Keller lowered his chin to his chest and then with a defiant stare said to McManus, "What's so fuckin' important that all of you have to be here?" He didn't apologize for his language.

"Chris..." Sr Pete started to speak but was cut short by McManus, whose piercing glance told her to shut up. Sister Pete was not having a very good day.

"I'll go into all the details for you later after all this sinks in. But the bottom line is that... well, your sentence..." Tim placed both of his hands flat on the desk, took in a deep breath and finally felt that he had the situation under control, "your sentence has been commuted to time served."

You could hear a pin drop the room had become that quiet. No one said anything and no one moved. It felt as if the air had been sucked right out of the room. Time was distorted and seconds suddenly seemed like minutes. Keller's right foot seemed like an entity of its own as it nervously began to shake.

Keller felt as though a shock wave hit him and he slowly started to move his head as if he was saying no. He took a deep breath and said, "Why don't you just run that by me again."

"Your sentence has been commuted. It's some kind of..." McManus waved his right hand in a tight circle twice over his head then continued, "some technicality. You're basically free, Keller. Well not altogether one hundred per cent free, you'll be going to a half way house and then you'll have to deal with your parole officer. You also have a new attorney from the Society for Prisoners Rights. He'll meet with you and fill you in on all the details. There's paper work to be done and then Sister Pete's going to do some counseling for you on what you can expect."

"Beecher and his office have anything to do with this?" Keller asked.

"No, not at all. This group does this advocacy thing all on their own. So no, Beecher had nothing to do with it." McManus said shrugging his shoulders.

"This the same group McClain's with?" Keller asked suddenly doubting the authenticity of the information.

"No Chris, she was with the Alliance for Prisoners Rights. This is the Society for Prisoners Rights. They're separate groups but do the same thing." Sister Pete told him, not caring this time what Tim thought of her interruption.

"I don't understand. Why'd they pick me?" Keller asked.

"They didn't just pick you, Keller. They reviewed a lot of cases. You see, sometimes they look at old cases by a particular judge and see if there's any pattern that shows up. That's how it gets started. I told you; your attorney would fill you in on the details. Now I know this is a lot to digest and I've decided that it's best if we put you in Ad Seg, at least overnight because... well, frankly I'm not sure how Beecher's going to take this news."

"Beecher's case didn't get reviewed?" Keller asked.

"As a matter of fact it did, but fuck Keller... we all know that he violated his parole so he'll remain a guest of the state for quite awhile yet." McManus said rather emphatically.

Keller turned his head towards Sister Pete and she looked at him then they locked eyes. If there was some kind of special camera available you could see the words Toby and Tobias going back and forth between them.

"Ok, Keller, we're done for now. Sean, I'd like you to take him down to Ad Seg, ok? Pete, we've got to get to Quern's office or we're going to be late."

A few minutes later Keller walked with Murphy down the shadowed hallways to Ad Seg. `I'm getting out but I have to go and be locked up like I'm something special. Locked up just for my protection. Isn't that a kick in the ass,' Chris thought to himself.

"Keller? Keller!" the C.O. asked.

"What?" Keller answered as if he was coming out of a trance or something, because that's what he felt like.

"I asked you if you were all right; what with this news and all. But I guess your thoughts are somewhere else maybe, huh?" Murphy compassionately asked him as he ushered Chris inside then closed the cell door and locked it.

"Its funny, I guess I should be happy right about now but... I'm not. I'm sort of ... I don't know a little anxious maybe." Keller said as a small grin curved his lips while grabbing onto the metal bars as if it were a safety net.

"It's the unknown that you're afraid of." Murphy told him.

Twenty minutes later, Tim McManus and Sr Pete were sitting on the couch in the warden's office. They were just about done updating him on Keller and his impending release.

"Well it seems that you've handled this pretty good so far. So, Keller didn't react at all? I find that hard to believe." Querns stated while sitting back in his chair, his hands intertwined behind his neck.

"Yeah, well I didn't give him much time for a reaction and I'm sure it hasn't sunk in yet. It really was like pulling the rug out from under him." Tim said.

"And you don't have anything to add, Sister? Your silence is a little... shall we say unnerving/" Querns asked her.

"No, I've got nothing to add. We'll tell Tobias the news when we're done here." She responded to his question but didn't look up.

"And your prediction of Beecher's reaction is what, pray tell?" the warden asked while slightly tilting his head to one side.

"Prediction? I can't predict what's going to happen, I don't have a crystal ball but there's one thing I know for sure. He'll react. Oh, he's going to react all right, I'm just not sure when and how." This time she looked him straight in the eye as she answered.

Silently Sister Pete and Tim McManus walked to her office after their conference with Querns, meeting up with Murphy at the door. Toby heard the door open but didn't look up from his filing until he felt something different in the air that made him stop and look up.

"Tobias," she said. "We have something to tell you." The three of them stood close together and stared at Tobias.

"Holy shit! Why does this feel like dj vu?" he laughed nervously and sat down in his chair. "Just fuckin' tell me what it is."

Sister Pete took in a deep breath. She knew Toby didn't like it when someone beat around the bush and now he was staring at her but Tim started to speak.

"Beecher," he paused still trying to figure out just the right way to say this knowing however he did it the outcome would still be the same. "Beecher, we just found out a couple of hours ago that Keller's sentence was commuted to time served and he's being released."

Murphy braced himself in case Toby went ballistic similar to his actions when his kids were kidnapped. Beecher's reactions were so unpredictable in fact every so often Murphy thought he would benefit from some quality time in the psych ward.

Toby sat there suddenly becoming very pale, his breathing had increased. Fight or flight? His sympathetic nervous system was taking over-adrenaline now pumping. His mouth was suddenly so dry he had trouble speaking, "What? What did you just say?"

McManus talked as he quietly approached Beecher, "Beecher, Keller's been set free." He placed his right hand on Toby's shoulder.

"Take your hand off me McManus!" Toby said in a very controlled tone. As soon as the contact with McManus had ended, Toby dropped his head into his hands then briskly rubbed his face. As he picked his head up, Sister Pete was aware that Toby's eyes were reddened but from where the other two men stood, and the way the light was shining in the room, they didn't pick up on it. "Where's Keller now? I want to see him."

"Beecher, we put Keller in Protective Custody because frankly we didn't know what your reaction would be. We didn't want you guys to do harm to yourselves or each other." McManus tried to justify his actions.

"For Christ sake McManus, how could you possible think we'd hurt each other because of this? Chris isn't going to hurt me. Let him out now!" Toby insisted.

Murphy and McManus exchanged glances hoping this wasn't the beginning of Toby's unraveling. Tim grabbed a chair and sat down in front of Toby, leaned over towards him and said, "Well, just how stupid do you think I am, Beecher? You shank him because you're jealous, he gets out and you don't. He hurts you so he doesn't have to get out. I think it's safer all around if we do it my way."

"Then lock me up, not Keller. Sister..." he said appealing to Sister Pete who just stared back at him. "He needs to be around people right now, not isolated. Look, my initial reaction to this is `fuck me in the ass again' and I'm really trying to hold it together" he said as he stood up and started pacing around the office, "and I'm trying real hard not explode because this isn't fair, it just isn't fucking fair. I didn't shoot anyone with a fuckin' gun and that's what he was sentenced for amongst other things. And that's not even counting everything that Agent Taylor wants him convicted of. So just leave me the fuck alone for just a little bit, ok?" Toby stormed out of Sister Pete's office and back into Em City.

Murphy followed him from a distance but he could still see and hear Beecher talking to himself as he noisily entered his pod. Sean walked slowly until he entered the common area. Earlier he had informed the other CO's what was happening with Keller while Tim and the Sister were meeting with Querns. They were all in agreement to give Toby some space; let him blow up if that's what he needed, it would be better for him to actually tear up his cell then stick him in the hole with no way to release his pent up anger.

Toby did just what was expected of him. He tore into Chris Keller's mattress, tearing the sheets off and throwing the pillow against a wall. He opened the footlocker looking to obliterate what remained of Christopher Keller, but all of Chris' personal items had been removed for safekeeping. He remembered that Chris had saved the letters he wrote to him while in Cedar Junction but right now he wanted to rip them all to shreds so not finding them frustrated him even more.

Meanwhile Ryan O'Reily heard some commotion as he was waking up from his nap. He stepped out of his pod then took a couple of steps to the railing. Turning his head side to side in order to ascertain where the noise was coming from it confirmed his earlier suspicions. Shaking his head he smiled because this time he just knew the fight was on, there was no denying it now. He also knew he had just won another bet; this time twenty bucks from Poet. He sauntered downstairs so he could confirm his win before he went to collect his money and wasn't at all surprised with what he heard coming from Beecher's pod. He didn't knock he just walked in knowing Toby couldn't have heard it anyway.

"...That cocksucker. That mother fucking cocksucker." Toby ranted as he kicked the mattress on the floor. He suddenly stopped his tirade when he saw O'Reily standing there. Not surprisingly he felt out of breath and sweaty.

"Still not fighting, huh Beecher?"

"Fighting? I'm not even allowed to fight with that slithering snake. You want to know why, O'Reily?" Beecher shouted at him.

"Ahh... yeah. Why?" He had no other choice but to ask.

"Why? I'll tell you why! Christopher Keller has just had his sentence commuted because of some fuckin' mistake the court made. He's going free while I sit in here and rot, all because of him." Beecher yelled again.

"You're serious?" Ryan asked incredulously.

"Fucking A I'm serious." Toby grumbled.

"Where's he at right now?" Ryan questioned him further.

"They put him in protective custody so I couldn't hurt him. How fucking poetic is that?" Beecher snorted.

`Fuck' Ryan thought to himself knowing he lost the bet. This really couldn't be counted as a fight. He'd just have to wait to hear Keller's side.

A few hours later Sister Pete made her way down the hallways to Ad Seg.

"Hello Chris." She said as she stood outside his cell. "How are you? Has all of this sunk in yet?" She said with a wave of her hand.

"You mean is all this real? No. I want to see Beecher."

She scratched her head. "Maybe tomorrow, Chris. We've got some things to take care of first and both of you need to sort through this information, you know let the dust settle first."

"So you've just come to wish me a bon voyage again? I think you like doing that Sister."

"I'm not playing into your game Chris."

"Game? This ain't a game. Why did you come here? Do you think I'm going to try to finish up where we left off a few years ago, maybe I can persuade you to let me see him? Sister Pete, I've gotta see him. Tell him I had nothing to do with this."

"He knows that, Chris. See, that's what I mean about playing into your game. You're trying to manipulate me again. It won't work this time. I have some things to tell you."

"Yeah, like what?"

"You know Chris, we've... you've," she said pointing a finger at him. "You've made a lot of progress since you tried to seduce me, don't do this now. Remember that experiencing temptation is enough without acting on it."

Chris looked at her as that thought zipped over his head. "I'm just nervous and it's my last chance to try to twist a sister."

She cleared her throat then proceeded. "Yeah, well... I wanted to tell you that I notified your ex-wives of your release. You're going to need all the support you can get to stay out of here. And also that the timetable for your release has changed a little."

Chris looked at her. "What do you mean it's changed?"

"I mean you have time to write Toby a short letter and I'll make sure he gets it. You'll be leaving in a couple of hours."

"No, this isn't fair."

"No, it's not fair Chris. But that's the hand you've been dealt." She handed him a yellow legal pad and a pen.


I don't know where to begin. This is like a dream or maybe a nightmare. We were just starting to make some headway & out of nowhere they come & say I'm free. I never thought I would be able to say that.

I wish I was able to see you, to hug you, to kiss you one more time. But they told me I have to leave in a few hours. Sister Pete said I had time to write you a short letter and it's hard because she's standing so close. I know she'll read this before you do but there's nothing in here that will shock her.

I want you to have my St. Dismas medal. Wear it and don't forget me. Toby, figure something out some way to contact me. I don't remember the name of the place I'll be at. I don't want to screw this up.

Toby, please remember that I love you.



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