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Beta'd by Erin.

Human Touch - part 8/10: "piece of shit"

by Ralu

"...deriving acceptance from abuse."

That last part of what Sister Peter Marie is saying gets his attention; he's been strangely absent-minded up until this moment, something that doesn't happen very often when talking to her.

"What *abuse*?" Keller asks, enunciating the last word a bit too much.

Pete looks up at him from under her glasses; her quizzical expression drives him to smile automatically.

"I've already told you there was no abuse."

She takes her glasses off, brushing her thumb across its frames.

"You lie a lot, wouldn't you agree?"

Chris just shrugs, keeping his smile firmly in place. Yeah, he does lie A LOT... They both know that. So?

"I didn't lie about *that*."

His soft voice, that bullshit smile - it annoys the hell out of her.

"Chris, I've agreed to these counseling sessions with the condition you'll take them seriously. Meaning no more lying. About anything, okay? Now, I've been talking to you, talking AT you for about 10 minutes, and you didn't pay attention to a word I said."

"I did..."

"No, you didn't. The only thing that got your attention was mentioning 'abuse'... Now, you'll agree that that has to mean something, wouldn't you say?"

The man sitting across from her doesn't reply. His smile's gone, replaced by a scowling brow and a nervous lip-biting habit she's noticed so often about Chris.

She knows, she finally knows she's getting somewhere with him. Or...(--maybe he's playing her.) Again. Who the hell knows? Who can be absolutely sure of anything with Chris Keller?

"Okay, I wasn't listening to you," he says in a tone that sounds almost defeated.

"But you reacted when I mentioned abuse."

Or maybe that's when I woke up, Keller thinks sarcastically. You shouldn't be putting too much faith into your own assumptions, Sister.

"So?"-- his voice is more defensive than he'd like.

"Why do you think that happened?"

"Why do I think *what* happened? Jesus, Sister...tell me what the fuc..."-- he stops just in time: "Just tell me what you're talking about."

"Chris, don't play dumb with me. You're not stupid, so don't act like you are."

"Okay, okay..."-- throwing his head back in utter boredom, staring at the ceiling: "Don't know."

Finally, Pete loses her temper; she leans over towards him, fingers tapping nervously on the desk, voice full of pure resentment and frustration:

"Fine, this isn't getting us anywhere. Chris, do you even want to be here? I have other inmates, other patients to see...people that need my help and that don't...pull this *shit* on a regular basis, do you understand me? If you're keen on keeping this up..."

Wow, she's totally pissed, Keller thinks. (--'Double fucking wow...'--) He wonders whether there's anybody else in the entire goddamn prison who can *get* to her like he does. (--'Probably not.'--)

Chris chooses his most conciliatory tone to not have her dump his ass altogether. 'Cause, after all...(--he does need her.)

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry... Look, you're right, I do act...like a moron, but I don't wanna stop doing these sessions. Talking to you,"-- he smiles a little too broadly for her taste: "...it feels good."

"Next you're going to tell me I give a *good aura*."

In his sweetest voice:

"Well, you do."


"It's true." (--'Jesus, don't you EVER stop flirting?!...'--)

"We're getting off the point."

'What point?', Keller wonders morosely.

God, he just loves to fuck with her brain. He loves to fuck with everybody's brain, truth be told... Especially his own.

"It wasn't abuse," Chris says after a long moment of silence.

They stare at each other like a couple of aristocrats in the middle of a duel. Slowly, Pete backs down a little:

"Okay. What would you call it then?"

"What would I *call* it... Sister, tell me, being a psychiatrist means being able to weasel yourself into your patient's mind and get him to tell you what he'd never tell anyone, right?"

She reluctantly nods. He's playing games, but at least now he's being honest about it. And, besides, how else is anyone going to get to Christopher Keller besides through games? His specialty; his strength and...his weakness.

"So basically you're trying to trick your patients, right? Trip'em. Make them fall into your trap." (--'Trap. Lap. Trap... Can I fall in your lap, Sister?'--)

"I wouldn't call it a 'trap'..."

"No, no, hear me out. You've asked me a question, and I gave you an answer. Naturally," he says, drawing on the word and leaving just the tiniest, most meaningful beat, eyes glistening like burning coals: "...you thought I lied... No big surprise there. But then you asked me the same question, but in a slightly diverted manner. *That* after you've told me you don't think I'm an idiot... Now, what am I to make of you? As a psychiatrist, I mean."

"You're doing it again. You're twisting everything so you won't have to talk, so you won't even have to think about your relationship with Schillinger. You've done it before, remember?"

Keller's scowling at her again. She's hitting a nerve.

"Think about this Chris, just think about it. You don't have to say anything to me right now... Why is it so hard for you to talk about Lardner?"

Keller sighs, a bit too theatrical, and gives her one of his patented beaten-down puppy looks:

"You're right, I don't wanna talk or *think* about Lardner. It's fucking pointless, Sister. It's an old story, nothing good can come out of it, okay?"

"We're not here to talk about good things."

"Yeah..." He leans over in his chair and places his elbows on his knees, face on one of his palms; he doesn't look up. Pete can't help but notice how tired he seems. "Did Beecher tell you about his abuse?"

"You know I can't talk about that," she replies softly.

"I know, I know. Still, I bet he told you he felt like he somehow deserved all the shit Schillinger put him through. 'Cause, you know, he's got that twisted brain of his - everything spins in circles of guilt, punishment, forgiveness with him..."-- a sour grin: "It's like *he's* the fucking Catholic, right?"

"Yes, he does have a strong understanding of guilt and he does seek forgiveness."

"Well I don't. I never did."-- his tone sounds almost childish, though weirdly sharp and nervous: "I don't understand it, haven't ever understood it. I know it's wrong, it's unnatural, but..."

"You did feel guilty for breaking Tobias' arms though."

"Maybe, I don't know. I felt bad, it felt wrong... The truth is... I guess if you don't have someone to tell you what's good and what's bad, what you should do and what you shouldn't - when you're a kid, you know?... If you're not taught these things when you're supposed to be...you're constantly out of pace for the rest of your life, you know? Like handicapped, or something. Kinda like Cyril. His brother has to explain even the smallest, simplest things to him, so he can just...fucking live through each day. Toby's had that, the early education. He's normal. The rest of us...Schillinger, myself, Ryan O'Reily...we don't know shit about guilt."

"But you know about punishment," Pete points out.

"Yeah, I definitely *do* know about punishment."-- a soft chuckle: "Beecher's sense of punishment comes from his guilt; mine don't, can't. You *do* understand, Sister, don't you? How the fuck am I supposed to feel guilty about anything if nobody's bothered to tell me I SHOULD feel guilty in the first place? If it's not inside me?"

"You do know what's wrong and what's right, Chris."

"Yeah, but it's like...wrong or right - they're words devoid of meaning. I know what wrong is, but I don't *feel* it. It don't stop me from doing it... I don't fully understand it. Beecher does."

"That's why you care about him."

"Yeah. Beecher's a good man," Chris says, leaning back in his chair. He looks somehow...relieved.

"And you think you're not."

Keller just shrugs, smiling just a tiny bit. (--'Come on, Sister. You know who you're talking to here.'--)

"You think that because you're not like Tobias, what happened to you in Lardner doesn't carry the same significance as *his* experience with Schillinger?"

"Schillinger didn't rape me." He shifts his position uncomfortably, dragging his feet under the chair.


"He didn't have to."-- a beat; biting his lip again, defensive grin firmly in place: "It's horrible, isn't it?"

Pete doesn't reply; she doesn't know what to say or what to think. Beyond the obvious self-loathing the man feeds on enough to make whoever's interested notice just how worthy of contempt he sees himself as being, there isn't a lot one could say with certainty about Keller.

"Look, Sister...I know what you're thinking. I mean, hell... I was barely 17. But, the truth is - from this point, Schillinger was pretty unimportant. He didn't force me to do anything I hadn't done before, okay? I sorta already knew what to do and when to do it. Lardner didn't matter that much. It was just a short stop on my way to...fucking wherever." (--'Oz, in this particular time-frame.'--)

"But he was violent. Sexually."

"I can *take* violent; sexually or otherwise. Besides, Schillinger doesn't know any other type of sexual encounter than violent. With men, at least. It makes him feel more...manly."

"And...how did it make you feel?"

"Alive. I made it out of Lardner, didn't I? The fact that I ended up in Oz, for the rest of my life, well...that's another story. Toby took a crap on Schillinger's face because he hadn't gone through that kind of humiliation before - he had no IDEA of what it felt like. I knew."

"You did?"

"I didn't go crazy on him, did I?"

"But you nearly overdosed around the time he got out of Lardner."

She watches his reaction carefully; she knows - if anything unplanned, unexpected should occur, it would be right about now. And...she's right. Chris' face contorts - just for a second - into a mask of pure ugliness and hate; his dark blue eyes seem to suddenly shrink into two black wounds while his chin is instinctively pushed up, in almost childish defiance. His ever-present smile has turned into a frozen mid-way caricature thin-lipped/tightly-shut smirk. (--'This is what the real Christopher Keller must be like, beneath his protective layers of charming smiles and cocky struts.'--)

"Oh, I did?..."-- trying to keep his voice low and casual: "How do you know about that?"

"It's in your file."

"Really?" He leans over her desk way too suddenly, eyes quickly scanning for anything that might have his name on it. "What else is in my file?"

His whole figure sends a shiver of pure panic down her spine. Still, she manages to pull herself together and silently tells him to back off - which he does immediately.

He senses her uneasiness and seems embarrassed by it. The last thing he'd want is to freak her out.

"Chris, I just want you to be honest with me. That's all I'm asking of you. Just be honest."

"What can I say?"-- ugly, one-second-here-the-next-gone grin: "Breaking up is hard to do. What else is in my file?"


"What else is in my file, Sister?"

"I think you already know."

Chris gives her a long, pensive look, nodding slightly. He tastes blood on his inner lip.

"What? You're gonna tell me next that I loved him or something?"

"I don't think you loved him. But I don't think he was *unimportant* to you either."

"Yeah...I guess you're right. Two and a half years with a man like Vern changes your view on things, right?" (--'Fuck! It changed Toby's...'--)

"What I'm... What I want is for you to stop blocking out all your feelings about that part of your life and just face them. You have to, one way or another. You know that."

He stands up, moving around the room like a big, very bored cat. Just stretching his limbs...

"Again, Sister... What's the use?"

"It might help you understand yourself better. Who you are and how you've ended up in here."

"I already know that one. I ended up in here because I'm a moron."

"You shouldn't think that."

"It's the truth. All of us, we've ended up in here because we fucked up our lives. It's that simple. The first part, the 'who you are' is what separates us. That's the tricky part.

"That's what separates you and Beecher."

"Yep. That's the really scary part."

"And Schillinger."

"Yep. I'm not a Brother, am I?"

"Because you chose not to be."

"Yes. It was my choice. The Brotherhood's made up of complete idiots."

What Pete sees in his eyes is something resembling pride.

"It wasn't because the Brotherhood didn't want you?"

"Because I'm a slut?"-- small, sour smile; slowly pacing around in circles, looking at his feet: "That might have had something to do with it."

"You think you're a slut?"


"Everybody else thinks that."

"You once told me you thought of yourself as being a piece of shit. Why do you think it is you think only the worst about yourself?"

"Don't know, you tell me."

"We're playing cat and mouse again, aren't we?" she says, smiling just a little.

He smiles back, charm pouring through every pore of his body. Nodding:

"We certainly are."

Yep, Christopher Keller's back in full force. Pete can't help but laugh; it's really hard not to, Chris just seems to have a natural ability to make people cut him some slack.

"Do you do this with Tobias too?"

"Yeah, sometimes... But usually, he ends up punching me in the face instead of getting me thrown out of the office. Like I get the feeling you're tempted to do right now. Oh, yeah, and he stops talking to me for a couple of days - he *always* does that."

"Which is worse?"

"The not talking part. That's the worst."

A knock on the door reminds them both the session's over.

"Oh, oops, look at the time! I gotta go and do my everyday completely useless, boring chores. And you gotta see your next..."-- a disturbingly fake, acid grin: ..."patient, ain't that what you called me?"

"Chris, don't act like a...that." They both know she was about to call him a 'moron.'

"Oh, but I'm not. We've already established that, remember?" he says, right before walking out the door.

Chris Keller may be a slut, a piece of shit, a fucking pathological liar - among other things that could easily classify as 'pathological' - but he ain't no moron. What a blessing. What a fucking relief.

---end of part 8/10---

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