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After writing only non-B/K for the Lyric Wheel, that all changed with these wonderful lyrics from Kitestringer - thank you! My gratitude also goes to Rustler for a beta job well done!

Easy Way Out

by Lisa H

Entering the front door of his parents' guest house, where he'd been staying since his release, Toby froze at the sight that greeted him. Even though he'd halfway been expecting this, even living it out in his head over and over, the actuality of it froze him to the spot. Seeing Chris Keller, lounging casually on the couch his mother had spent so much time picking out, was surreal. Two very different worlds were colliding and he couldn't quite accept it. He couldn't move, couldn't speak until Chris got to his feet and started toward him.


Then Toby did move, quickly, slamming the door and locking it; tugging on the already closed drapes of the large picture window. He started toward the kitchen to check the back door, when Chris reached out and stopped him.

"It's okay, everything's locked."

Toby looked down at Chris' hand, browner than the last time he'd seen it, and thought how wrong it looked there on his arm, now, here.

He looked at Chris. He was smiling, his eyes soft, but it didn't hide the exhaustion in his face. And something else, something Toby couldn't identify. Something that scared him a little.

"What are you doing here?" he finally managed to ask.

"I missed you."

Toby let out his breath in a long, quiet whoosh. When Chris took his face in his hands, whispered "I missed you" again against his cheek, he began trembling. Mostly from relief - it felt like he'd been holding his breath since receiving word that Chris had escaped, eight long days ago - but partly from fear and the uncertainty. When Chris kissed him, when he returned the kiss, hard, he tried to stop the thought that this would all end badly.

When the kiss ended, Toby asked again, "What are you doing here?"

"What, you don't believe me? I missed you. It's been a couple weeks. I know I was unavailable for a few days, but before that..." There was an obvious accusatory tone to his voice, and Toby flushed with guilt.

"I told you when you called, Holly was sick and then --"

Chris brushed his explanation away with a wave of his newly tanned hand. "Don't worry about it."

Toby opened his mouth to argue, feeling the need to explain himself, make Chris understand he'd had real reasons for missing two visitations, but he realized the absurdity of having a discussion about anything other than his immediate plans.

Chris was looking around the room, stopping at a picture of Toby with his family, the family he used to have before he ruined them all. "Nice place. Your parents home?"

"No, they took Holly to visit Harry when they heard you'd...you were out." He grew impatient. "Chris, what are you going to do?" He ran his fingers nervously through his hair. "Jesus, the police told me they'd heard a man matching your description was seen near the Canadian border. Was it you?"

Chris came back, resting his hand on Toby's shoulder. "Yeah, I made it out of the country, then decided it was too cold - figured I'd pull a Butch Cassidy and try South America. You wanna be my Sundance Kid?"

Toby didn't say anything, knowing a response wasn't really expected. He simply stood looking at Chris, a hundred questions vying to be the first asked, when the phone rang. Toby's heart seemed to double its beating and he felt a little sick when Chris said with a grin, "That's probably for me. I"ll let my lawyer do the talking, okay?"

It was Detective Cassidy, the officer who had been keeping Toby updated, giving him any information they had on the search for Chris, checking in daily to see if Toby had any news for them. "Mr. Beecher, we just got in a report on a car-jacking. It happened about twenty miles out of town, and the description the guy gave us was pretty good. Sounds like Keller."

"Really?" Toby's mouth had gone so dry he could barely get the word out and his brain had seemed to stop functioning. How should he sound, what should he say?

"We'll be sending a couple patrol cars out to watch your house while we search the area for the stolen vehicle. You'll be sure and let us know if you hear or see anything?"

"Yes." It was all he could say.

"Mr. Beecher, are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine, just surprised, I guess."

"Us too. We'd thought we'd lost him in Canada. I'll be in touch."

Toby hung up the phone and turned toward Chris. "Did you steal a car?"

"Guilty." He was grinning like a kid caught doing something he knew he wouldn't be punished for. "Shit, I didn't think they'd find me this fast."

"Where is it?" Toby demanded, ignoring the fact that Chris wasn't upset about the cops closing in on him.

"Parked it in an alley about three miles from here. Won't be too hard to find."

Toby was incredulous. "Why? What the fuck is going on? What are you going to do?"

Chris sobered. "Let's sit down."

He didn't like the tone of Chris' voice, far too serious. "Let's not." He became aware of an icy trickle of fear winding its way through him. He realized he didn't want to know what Chris was going to do, he didn't want any of this. It was Tuesday, visiting day. They should be sitting in the Visitor's Room, holding hands, sneaking forbidden kisses, and swapping stories - Chris' about the goings-on in the life Toby had left behind, his about the life he was trying to get used to again. They shouldn't be worried about cops or stolen cars or anything else.

"Toby. Let's sit."

Toby relented and they sat on the couch, turning to face each other. It was all he could do to hold still; he put his hands in his lap and squeezed them tightly together.

"When I was in Canada, trying to figure my next move, I realized it didn't matter what the fuck I did. Whatever it was, you wouldn't be there. Eventually, I'd have to see you again. And again. And odds are one of those times I'd get caught. So I decided to stop running."

"Really?" Toby almost sagged with relief. It wasn't that he wanted to see Chris back in prison, but since the escape his nerves had been fried. He'd worried constantly, wondering where Chris was, worried if he was hungry or cold or had a place to sleep. He'd been scared every time the phone rang, hoping for the best, always anticipating the worst. But this he could deal with, and he immediately took control of the situation. "It's gonna be okay. By turning yourself in it'll go a lot easier on you. I'll find out where they're going to take you and have Fergusen meet you."

"I don't need Fergusen."

"Of couse you do! He did a lot of work on your appeal, he's the best one to handle this. And I want to make sure the cops don't give you any shit between here and Oz." Toby reached for the phone on the coffee table. Chris put a hand on his wrist.

"Don't. I'm not going back to Oz."

"You just said you're not running anymore."

"I'm not."


Chris' grip tightened on Toby's arm. He leaned forward, at the same time pulling Toby toward him. He spoke in a low voice, his words precise and deliberate. "When I said I can't live without you anymore, I meant it."

Toby could feel the relief evaporate, the trickle of fear returning in a gushing torrent. He pulled his arm gently from Chris' grasp and went on as though he hadn't heard anything Chris said after "stop running."

"They'll probably put you in the hole, then maybe solitairy for a while." He was standing now, pacing the room. "But you'll still get to meet with your lawyer. Maybe I can--"

"Toby, are listening to me?" Chris was exasperated, and sounding tired. "I'm not going back to Oz."

This time the words penetrated and Toby went cold as he let himself understand what they meant. He began looking around the room, trying to find something to focus on, to talk about, anything to keep from hearing what Chris was going to say next.

"You'll need some money." He pulled his wallet from his pants pocket. "I don't have much cash, but--"

"Shut the fuck up!" Chris was on his feet, grabbing Toby's wallet from him and throwing it to the floor. "You're not listening to me!"

Toby laughed grimly, a touch hysterically. "Oh, I think I am. You steal a car, leave it where the cops will find you, come here and start spouting shit about Butch Cassidy and how you can't live without me and not running anymore..." He stopped, not able to finish.

"Toby, don't be mad, just hear me out."

He had the overwhelming urge to stick his fingers in his ears and shout, "la, la, la." He wanted to shut his eyes, and when he opened them Chris would be gone. He wanted ignorance, but he waited quietly, letting Chris speak.

"Remember when you wanted to let Vern kill you - you thought you had no other option."

"And you stopped me."

Chris' mouth twisted into a hard grin. "You gonna cold-cock me and turn me over to the cops?"

"Why shouldn't I?"

"You had a reason to keep living."

"Fine, Chris." Toby rubbed his face, his fear sounding like annoyance. "What do you want from me?"

Chris suddenly grabbed him by the arm, his angry face coming within inches of Toby's. "I don't want anything, you fucking shit! You want out, get the fuck out! Go flag down a cop, find a bottle and one of your bitches to keep you company!"

Toby's body was shaking with the urge to do just what Chris suggested. He wanted to turn and run and forget any of this had happened. But when he looked at Chris, he knew he couldn't. Although his face was tight with anger, his eyes were desolate.

Tentatively, he put his hand on Chris' arm, addressing what Chris had said. "Is that what all this is about? Are you jealous?"

Chris turned away, barking laughter. "Yeah, Beecher, I'm jealous. I'm fucking jealous of you. Ask Sister Pete, we had a nice conversation about it all."

"I'm not seeing anyone, you know that."

Chris looked at him, shaking his head. "You don't get it, do you? Aren't you supposed to be smart?"

Toby bristled. "Why don't you clue me in?"

Chris dropped to the couch with a heavy sigh, the tension leaving his body. "When I said I don't want anything from you, I was lying. I need you, Toby. I need...I need..."

"What do you need, Chris?" he asked softly. He wanted Chris to give him something to cling to, something that he could do to make it all right.

"I need you with me all the time. I need your touch. I need for us to be together forever."

Toby's heart sank. "I can't give you that, but I'll do better. I'll be there every day I can. You can call me, anytime." He fought to keep calm. "Just, please, please don't do anything stupid."

Chris frowned. "Don't give me that bullshit. You can't promise that, and you know it."

"I'm doing the best I can."

"I know, but it doesn't matter anymore. Seeing you, talking to you, getting letters, it doesn't work anymore." He looked down and took a deep breath. "Toby, I'm starting to hate you."

The words were forced and Toby wasn't sure he heard right. "What?"

Chris looked up at him, his expression agonized, his voice strained. "I'm starting to hate you, hate you having a life, hate thinking about you here in your cozy little home, with your family around you, coming and going whenever you want, having everything I'll never have." He waved his arms, encompassing the room. "You come to see me, and it's great while you're there. I may seem all right and smile when you leave, but back in my pod all I can think about is the next time. And the thought of watching you walk out the door, leaving me behind, is becoming bigger in my head than the thought of getting to see you. I'm starting to dread your visits." His voice dropped even lower. "How can I live like that?"

His head hung low, and when he spoke again his words were soft and sad. "I'd just end up becoming a guilty responsibility for you, like visiting your grandfather in the nursing home or something. You'd start to resent me, and we'd both end up hating each other."

Toby's mouth had fallen open in shock. Why hadn't he known this? Why hadn't he see it happening, known it *would* happen? Did he expect Chris to remain satisfied, even grateful, for the two hours a week he got? Content with living vicariously through Toby? Had he really expected him to only be happy for him, to never feel jealousy or resentment? The return to his old life had blinded him to everything else. Chris had been suffering and Toby hadn't seen it.

"Chris, I'm sorry. I didn't know..."

Chris got to his feet. "You got nothing to apologize for. I'm the sick fuck here, Beecher. I missed you so much I was even thinking about ways to fuck with your parole, get you sent back to me. How's that for being a cocksucker?"

Toby's eyes widened and there was a sour taste in his mouth. What Chris said disturbed him, but the fact that he'd been so oblivious to his state of mind upset him even more.

Chris was continuing, "Sister Pete says if I really love you, I'd be happy for you, no matter what. But love and hate are just two sides of the same coin, aren't they? She's never understood how much I love you. I can't even understand it."

"I'm sorry," he repeated, "I don't know what else I can do."

"There's nothing for you *to* do, Toby. I know you can't spend the rest of your life with me being part of it. There'll come the day when your visit is your last. And I can't spend the rest of my life wondering when that day'll be."

"Don't do this." Toby wasn't sure if he had actually said the words or not. He didn't seem to have enough breath left in him to manage it.

"It's the only thing left for me. I can't go back to Oz. I won't die in prison, I won't give those bastards the satisfaction of carrying me out of there. This way I'll go out in a blaze of glory, just like Butch Cassidy. Remember how the movie ended? Only this time he leaves the Sundance Kid behind."

'Stop!', he wanted to scream. Everything was happening too fast. He couldn't comprehend it all. Suddenly, everything seemed hazy, like he was looking through water, and he felt dizzy. Christ, he wasn't going to faint was he? Chris was there, holding him, asking him if he was okay, bringing him back to focus. He pushed Chris away, suddenly angry again, furious at him as the realization of what he was planning sank in even further.

"So your brilliant plan is to commit suicide by getting the cops to shoot you to death on my parents' fucking driveway?"

"I can't go back."

"What about your fight to get off Death Row? After everything I did! You wanted to live, you fuck! That was just a big waste of time? Jesus fucking Christ!" Chris reached out, his fingers only brushing Toby's arm as he jerked away. "Why come here to do it? Why didn't you just pick another store to rob and have a shoot-out there? Why not just drive off a bridge or something?" Toby stopped yelling, suddenly exhausted and too bewildered to sustain his fury. "Why come back here, to my home?" The anger gone, despair washed over him. "You fucker, why make me watch?"

Chris held one hand out toward Toby, his eyes welling with tears, his face crumpled. "Don't be mad at me. I just...I don't want to die alone."

Toby turned his back, tempted again to just run, leave the house and this unbearable situation behind. In all of the scenarios Toby might have had for the end of their relationship, for the end of Chris, this wasn't even close to being one of them. He turned back, and the look of despair on Chris' face removed any thoughts that he would abondon this man. All his anger was gone - now he felt as though he could drown in their sorrow. He took Chris' hand and pulled him close. They held each other a long time, supporting each other through their silent tears. Both men jumped when the phone rang, but neither one moved.

"Chris, please, you can't do this," Toby choked out against Chris' neck. "You can't kill yourself over me. It's fucked, I'm not worth it."

"It's a done deal, Beecher. I got no other choices."

"Don't put your blood on my hands."

Chris pulled back, holding Toby at arms length, staring intently into his face. "Don't think that, don't ever think this is your fault." He forced a smile. "And don't be so fucking cocky. This isn't *all* about you. I'm tired of waiting for the fucking Aryans to try and airhole me. I bet Vern had a coronary when he found out I got away." He nodded toward the phone, still ringing. "If that's the cops, tell them I'm here. Tell them I've got a gun on you. I don't want you gettin' in any trouble for this." He went to his jacket, laying across the back of the couch, and pulled a gun from the pocket - he set it down on the coffee table. "It won't be a lie."

Toby stared at the gun; seeing it made things final. This was happening, the cops would be here soon, if they weren't already, and Chris would go out and point the gun at them and they would kill him. With shaking hands and voice he answered the phone.

"Mr. Beecher, this is Cassidy. We found the car near your home. The S.W.A.T. team should be there by now. Have you heard --"

"He's here. Keller is here. He has a gun." He didn't sound like himself. He didn't want to be himself, playing this part in Chris' death.

"Tell them I'll come out, I just want some time."

"He said he'll come out on his own, he just wants a little time."

"Are you okay, Mr. Beecher? Do you believe you're in any danger?"

"I'm okay." Toby suddenly hated this man, no matter helpful and courteous he had been over the past week; now he was a representative of Chris' would-be assassins.

"Mr. Beecher, you have to be very careful. Even though you think you know him, Keller is in a dangerous position. He might react impulsively and in unexpected ways."

Toby looked at Chris, who was looking through the sliver of a part in the drapes. Could he be planning something? He thought about what Chris had said, how he had thought of ways to get him sent back to Oz. Would he really ever have done it? Toby chose to believe he wouldn't. Their days of hurting each other were over.

"I'm hanging up now." He replaced the receiver and walked to the window.

"They're out there. On the garage, behind that stand of trees, fucking everywhere. Who knew I was such big news?" Chris turned to Toby. "I need to make a call. I need to talk to Bonnie."

Toby pulled his cell phone from his back pocket. "Use this. My line is tapped."

Chris nodded. "Figured it would be." He squeezed Toby's shoulder. "About all this shit, the cops and everything...I know they must've been hassling you all week, like this shit with your phone and...I'm sorry."

"It's okay. Call Bonnie."

Toby went to the small kitchen to give Chris a semblance of privacy. He watched him closely, though, as he talked. Watched his face go through a range of emotion, smiled when Chris smiled that big, open-mouthed grin of his; wiped at his eyes when Chris did the same. He took in every inch of his body, dressed in a black wifebeater, new black jeans, and his same old boots from Oz.

He could feel the panic deep inside, a feeling he knew well. He'd never been without it during his years in Oz. The terror of everyday prison life had consistently pushed him to the precipice of his sanity; it was only through sheer self-control, a strength he hadn't known he posessed, that kept him from falling or jumping - most days. But none of what he went through in Oz compared to the sick fear he was now struggling to control. He knew he was in shock, in denial. When it was over he'd probably have a good old-fashioned breakdown, but right now he had to be strong for Chris. He thanked God his family was gone.

His resolve slipped sooner than he expected. When he heard Chris tell Bonnie good-bye and that he loved her, he felt the panic bubble to the surface. That was the last time Bonnie would ever hear Chris' voice; soon it would be his turn.

When Chris handed him the phone he threw it on the counter and grabbed him, his fingers tight on the back of his head. "Don't do this, don't do it, goddammit! Ask for a car, I'll give you money, go along as a hostage, help you escape. You can't fucking walk out there and just let them kill you!"

Chris pulled Toby's arms down, holding his wrists, rubbing his thumbs along them, speaking quietly, soothingly. "You know that wouldn't work. They'd catch me, kill me anyhow." He kissed Toby softly on the mouth. "I'm sorry about dragging you into it. I didn't think it through enough." He pressed his mouth to Toby's cheek. "I just knew I had to see you one more time."

Toby wanted to be mad again, to yell, fight, anything to stop what was happening, but instead he wrapped his arms around Chris' neck, struggling to regain his composure. "Don't do it," he begged one more time.

"Toby, dammit, help me. Don't make it any harder." His arms were around Toby's waist, one hand sliding up to curl through his hair. "You know this will be the best thing. I don't want to be a responsibility to you for the rest of your life." He cut off Toby's protest, staring hard into his eyes. "You think about it later, you'll know I'm right. And I don't sure as fuck don't want to end up like Rebadow, thinking of Oz as my home." His voice broke to a harsh whisper. "I don't want to hate you anymore. Let me die loving you."

Toby put his hand on Chris' cheek, rubbing his thumb across dry lips. He nodded once, reluctantly, his head barely moving. There was so much he wanted to say, so much he wanted Chris to say to him. He said the only thing that mattered. "I love you."

The phone rang again. Toby took a couple steps backward, bringing Chris with him, his hand never leaving Chris' face, their eyes never losing contact. When he got to the coffee table, he reached behind him and picked up the phone. His calm had returned and he knew he could carry this out. He would do everything he could for Chris.

"Mr. Beecher, let me talk to Keller."

"This is what's going to happen, Cassidy. Chris is coming out, but he's bringing me with him. He said he'll let me go once we get outside."

Chris swore and tried to grab the phone from his hand; Toby held tight. "No fucking way. You think I'm gonna spend the last minute of my life thinking you're in danger?"

Toby jerked his hand from Chris', covering the reciever. He set his jaw stubbornly. "I don't give a shit what you say, Keller. I'm going out with you. You can take me as a hostage, and I'll get out of way in...in time. You know they won't risk hurting me." He took Chris' hand in his, squeezing tightly. "You said you didn't want to die alone. You won't."


"Goddammit, you fuck, let me do this for you!" Tears sprang to his eyes as he pleaded and his voice softened. "Let me do this one last thing for you."

Chris' throat worked and he blinked several times. "Okay, but only to make it look good for the cops." The gratitude in his eyes made Toby's chest ache.

He put the phone back to his ear. "I'm here."

"Are you all right?" Cassidy sounded alarmed.

"I'm okay."

"He plans to surrender?"

"Yes." He dropped the receiver to the floor.

Chris started to speak, but Toby interrupted him, trying to delay the inevitable. "How's Bonnie? Did you tell her?"

Chris shook his head. "I didn't come right out and say anything, but she suspected something."

"What about Kitty and Angie? Do you want to call them?"

"Nah." Chris pulled Toby into his arms. "I don't know where Kitty is, and Angie would jabber my fuckin' ear off. - that woman can talk." He lifted Toby's hand to his mouth and kissed his palm. "I wish we had more time. It was so easy staying away from the cops, I figure it'd take 'em awhile to track me down."

"We can wait."

Chris shook his head. "I'm ready. It has to be now."

Something suddenly occured to Toby. "Chris, what about...when it's over...what should I do...?" Chris shook his head, not understanding. Toby closed his eyes, pushed the words out. "With your body."

"Shit, never even thought about that. Tell you what, have me cremated, then sprinkle my ashes someplace with a good memory."


"You pick. I don't have too many of those kind of places."

Toby nodded, unable to speak. He looked at Chris, making himself understand this moment for what it was. His last with Chris, not a dream, not a nightmare. He pressed his lips to Chris' and they held each other tightly, bodies molded together, breathing each other's breath. Communicating everything they would never say, conveying every emotion they'd never share again.

Abruptly, Chris pulled away, reaching for the gun with one hand, Toby with the other. Without speaking they moved to the door. Chris stepped behind Toby, wrapping his arm around his chest, resting his hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently. Toby stared at the doorknob, wondering if he'd actually be able to turn it when the time came.

They stood that way for what seemed like forever, but not nearly long enough, before Chris pushed his face into Toby's hair, inhaling deeply. "Why didn't you go with your family?"

Toby bit his lip, cleared his throat before he could answer. "I wanted to be here, just in case."

Chris made a low sound in his throat. "God, Toby, Toby, what have you done to me?"

"I'm sorry, Chris," he whispered. Sorry for what? For not loving him in the same terrifying, obsessive way Chris loved him? For having everything while Chris had nothing? For his part in this sad, desperate ending? For all of it.

"Don't be sorry, don't ever be fucking sorry. This is all on me." Chris' body suddenly stiffened. "Toby?" He sounded worried. "You won't hate me for this, will you? If you think about me, you won't--"

"Stop." Toby clutched the arm across his chest and leaned back into the hard body behind him. "I'll never forget you. I'll never hate you."

Chris pushed his face against Toby's neck. "You know the best thing about loving you, Beecher?"


"Everything. Let's do it."

Toby swallowed hard and reached for the door.



Artist: Macy Gray Title: I Try

Games, changes and fears When will they go from here When will they stop I belive that fate has brought us here And we should be together babe But we're not I play it off, but I'm dreaming of you And I'll try to keep my cool, but I'm feenin'

I try to say goodbye and I choke Try to walk away and I stumble Though I try to hide it, it's clear My world crumbles when you are not here Goodbye and I choke I try to walk away and I stumble Though I try to hide it, it's clear My world crumbles when you are not here

I may appear to be free But I'm just a prisoner of your love And I may seem all right and smile when you leave But my smiles are just a front Just a front, hey I play it off, but I'm dreaming of you And I'll try to keep my cool, but I'm feenin'

I try to say goodbye and I choke Try to walk away and I stumble Though I try to hide it, it's clear My world crumbles when you are not here Goodbye and I choke I try to walk away and I stumble

Please send feedback to Lisa H.