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Beta'd by Erin.
Points of View - part 4/4 - "Count"
"Hey, Beecher, get up! It's time for 'count'."-- Chris says, shaking the man still lingering in his top bunk in his underwear and a white T-shirt.
"Okay, okay..."-- Toby whispers slowly, dropping down from the top bunk , rubbing his eyes with the back of his hands.
For some strange reason, Keller seems to have been awake for quite some time, already wearing a pair of dark-blue pants and a tank-top. And he looks like he hasn't slept too much either.
As both of them step out of the pod and stand next to Rebadow and Busmalis, Toby - still partially asleep - mumbles, annoyed:
"Jesus, I need coffee..."
The C.O. passes before them - ugly looks, bored, lazy voice...what else is new?!...
Later, while Toby's brushing his teeth, leaning over the sink, he hears Keller - who's sitting on his bunk, watching him:
"So, your parents are bringing Holly tomorrow, right?"
"Are both of them coming, I mean, both your mom and your dad?"
Toby just nods.
Yes, they were both coming to visit him. He couldn't wait to see Holly again, but his mom...she hadn't come to visit him for quite some time, now.
Ever since they had found out about him and Chris, to be more precise.
"Why are you asking?" Toby says glancing up in the mirror at the other man. Voice carefully casual.
Keller just shrugs. He looks bored and tired.
"Just making conversation."
For some reason, Toby expects him to get up from his bunk and walk over to give him a hug and kiss the back of his neck.
Probably because he does that almost every morning, like some kind of a ritual.
But, this time, Chris doesn't move, looking down at the back of his arms, instead.
There was a sense of tension coming from the other man, like Keller wanted to tell him something but he would back away from doing it at the last moment.
It bothered Toby.
"Is something wrong?" Beecher asks, after wiping his face with a towel, turning around to face him.
Seeing Chris trying to look carefully casual.
Everything's fucking peachy.
Breakfast in the cafeteria.
"Hold this for me for a second."-- Toby says under his breath, handing over his food tray to Keller.
Chris takes it without asking anything, and watches the other man crossing the room to a table where *The Allah People* were seated.
Keller silently curses himself for being such a...he doesn't even know what, but he sure does feel STUPID, standing there, holding both his and Toby's trays, while the man in question is chatting in a low, intimate tone with his best pal, Said, slipping one of his legs over the bench and sitting down next to Kareem.
(--'Hold this for a SECOND...Well, no, Chris, just STAND there and wait for me 'til *I* feel like coming back! Yeah, there you go, good doggy!'--)
Shit, fuck that! And what the fuck does he have to talk to Said about?
Biting his lower lip, Chris suddenly feels someone's persistent gaze across his shoulder, like a laser beam.
(--'Don't turn, don't look, don't...'--)
But he does.
Schillinger, looking quite pleased, that giddy expression on his face, shaking his head slowly: 'Aw, Chrissie, you stupid prag. That bitch's playing you like a flute. And ain't that IRONIC.'
'He's right', Chris thinks bitterly.
God, for how long had he been standing there?
He walks over to a table and sits down fast next to Hill, Busmalis and Rebadow, his face burning up with anger.
Looking over his shoulder at Toby, who is still talking to Said, dark and blonde leaning in together, whispering to each other.
(--'Stop staring, stop staring, stop staring you stupid fucking...prag. Don't you have any pride?'--)
Sensing Hill's embarrassed gaze, knowing the other man knows what's going on inside Keller's head.
"Did you guys hear?"-- Busmalis says in a dismayed tone, holding up his fork: "They're bringing in a guy who chopped the fingers off little kids and sent them to the kids' parents through mail."
Hill looks at him in dismay:
"Yeah, he'd kidnap kids - you know, like 10-year olds - and chop off their thumbs. He didn't kill the kids, though, just left them thumbless."
And to demonstrate, Busmalis holds out his thumb and then hides it in a fist.
'One moment there, the next, gone forever.', Chris thinks, weirdly amused by such a grotesque image, when he feels someone's hand on his shoulder.
(--'Oh, look, it's Toby!...Finally decided to stop by, *To-by*? Or maybe you just remembered I was the one carrying your tray. Hungry, I guess.'--)
The other man sits down next to Keller, glowing. Fucking GLOWING.
Chris knew how much his parents and his daughter's visits meant to him, how good the whole thing made him feel, but he hated this *glowing* Toby who always felt like talking to Said (instead of him) about it.
Like Said...did it for him. Emotionally. On a *spiritual* level.
(--'And: What the fuck am I, then? The guy you fuck and keep around just in case someone tries to shank you in the back? Thanks very fucking much.'--)
Pushing Toby's tray a bit too hard, making the other man wince:
"Come on, Chris, what's wrong?"
"For how long were you gonna sit there and chat with Said?" Chris asks in a low voice, avoiding eye contact.
After a brief moment of confusion, Beecher snaps resentful:
"What, you're gonna tell me who I can TALK to, now?"
Keller says nothing, feeling his stomach roll. Sensing the other man recoil, moving a bit further from him.
"This is so fucked up... Why do you always do this?"
"Well, if you don't wanna sit next to me, baby, then go and fucking sit next to Said, see if I care."
"Maybe I will," Toby hisses through his teeth, anger boiling up in his voice.
Okay, now Chris definitely feels like throwing up.
"Yeah, ya tried that already, didn't work, remember?"
"Yeah, fuck me..."
Looking over his shoulder at Said, seeing the other man watching them:
"Fuck me, alright..."
Suddenly, Chris leans over Toby and grabs the nape of his neck, pulling him into what's *supposed* to be a loving, passionate kiss...but only ends up looking like a weird, desperate attempt to grasp some kind of control over the whole situation.
And...it feels like POSSESSION to Beecher.
Like displaying possession over him in front of everybody in the cafeteria.
(Which, it probably is.)
So, not surprisingly, Toby pushes the other man's arms away, hissing a cold, unemotional "Don't". Not even looking at him.
"Fine!" Keller almost SHOUTS, suddenly standing up and leaving.
Busmalis, Hill and Rebadow try to look anywhere else but at Toby, while Keller passes near both Schillinger's and Said's tables, shooting a cold, angry stare in Said's direction, while the other man tries to keep his face as blank as possible.
And Schillinger, behind him now, laughing:
"Shaky fucking marriage, huh? Fucking prag's prag!"
Later the same day. Much later.
Keller's playing chess with Ryan O'Reily at a table in Em City (getting his ass kicked), when Beecher approaches him:
"Do you have a minute? We need to talk."
'We need to talk?! No shit!', Chris muses as he completely abandons a not-exactly-pleased O'Reily, following the other man into their pod.
"I'm sorry if...I give you the feeling that...-- Toby sits down on Keller's bunk, not exactly knowing what he wants to say: "I don't know why you got so upset this morning, in the cafeteria."
He looks up at Keller, as the other man carefully gives him the space he knows Toby needs, leaning near the sink.
Chris slowly breathes out:
"Did you notice, Toby...that you barely talk to me with other people around? Like you're...I don't know, ashamed of it." (--*me*) "Somehow."
And, to that, Toby replies sincerely, obviously hurt by Chris' remark:
"Well, it feels like you are. Sometimes. Anyway," -- Chris smiles a little, trying to ease the tension he senses rummaging inside Toby, making his shoulders slightly shiver -- "it doesn't really matter. Tell me, what have your parents planned for Holly's birthday, I know it's coming up in about a couple of days. Did you talk to them about it? 'Cause, I'm sure, next year you'll be the one doing it, with your parole hearing coming up and all..."
The parole hearing. And Holly's birthday. And his parents coming to see him.
The outside world invading their space, their life - that's what this whole thing's all about, Toby slowly realizes.
That's why he's been acting so weird, lately. So...nervous. Restrained.
"You think I'll get paroled?" Beecher asks softly.
"Yeah, I mean, if *you* don't get paroled, who the fuck will?! If you don't deserve it..." (--'I sure as hell won't get paroled ANY TIME SOON. And I definitely don't deseve it, come to think of it.'--)
Chris feels that familiar powerful urge to get near Toby, to welcome the warmth of his body, to just Sit. The. Fuck. Next. To. Him.
But he doesn't move.
"You'll get paroled, Tobe. You'll see, one year from now" -- he looks down on the floor, feeling his knee involuntarily jerk a little -- "this place will only be a bad memory."
He finally looks up, smiling, moving his head slightly to the right, glancing out of the pod.
"It won't be just...bad memories," Toby finally whispers.
"Yeah, I guess not."
Chris sighs like what he's just said made his heart stop for a very long second.
"But, that's what's gonna happen, Toby. Trust me, what you carry out of a place like this is the stuff nightmares are made of."
"I'll try to...move on," Beecher whispers even slower this time.
And that's NOT what Keller wanted to hear.
How the hell does he not see what he's doing to him, is he fucking blind?!
How can he be so...
Feeling his chest compress, like being held between huge concrete walls closing in on him fast, painfully.
He's trying, he's trying so hard to...do the right thing, here. To be a better man.
But Beecher keeps... *slapping* him with his carelessness, his naivete.
His lack of...whatever.
Of care. Right now, anyway.
Making his mind squirm into the darkest and most ugly corners lying inside himself, making him angry.
"What?... You think's gonna be that easy once you get out?" Keller growls, putting on that annoyed-skeptic look on his face, clenching the hands on his knees into fists as he sits down near the sink.
"No. Nothing is going to be *easy*," Toby replies carefully, slowly moving his body even further away from the other man, leaning his back on the glass wall of their pod: "But, I'll know not to make the same mistakes again. All this time away from my kids...all the pain I've caused them...I know I can't make it all go away, I know that. But..."
Keller knows what Toby's words mean.
What he's actually trying to whisper beneath all his guilt and pain, all the nightmares... *Hope.*
Something Keller certainly doesn't have. Maybe never had.
(--'Well, Toby, we'll just see about that.'--)
"So, you'll get out, go back to being the man you were?" (--'minus the drunk driving in the middle of the day'--)
"You'll try to make yourself into the kind of man your parents want you to be?" (--'the buttoned-down self-hating corporate lawyer who only had a FOUR-YEAR MOMENTARY LAPSE IN JUDGMENT?!'--)
"Well, baby, you're just gonna have to get yourself a *nice* (blind) little WIFE and pray to God she doesn't run like hell when she sees that swastika on your ass," Chris finishes with a low chuckle, slowly shaking his head.
Watching Toby's eyes glaze over, his mouth twitch a little.
(--'Yup, that's what I'm talking about, baby.'--)
Pushing his chin up a bit:
"It's true, ain't it?"
Toby lets his eyes slide to the side of the bunk, looking aimlessly at his fingernails:
"You don't understand..."
"'Cause I'm a moron, right?"
And Toby catches on to the other man's slow-simmering resentment, even if his tone remains casual. Amused.
Replying softly, looking into his eyes:
"I don't think you're a moron."
"Yeah, you do!"
(--'Cause I don't understand anything. About you.'--)
Toby gets up and tries to touch the other man's arm, but Keller recoils angrily, forcing Beecher to snap, cold and nasty, right before leaving the pod:
"You know what? Maybe you fucking are!"
Outside, he crosses paths with O'Reily, who's giving him that *I-see-everything-I-know-everything* look of his:
Yup. On and off, back and forth.
Up and down...
(--highest high and lowest low.)
Grist to the mill.
Every fucking moment, apparently.
Beecher finally steps inside the pod, after having avoided Keller since that discussion that had started out so well (apparently) and had ended worse than a fist fight (definitely).
Seeing the other man drowning his face in handfuls of water, shirtless, he wonders, for the thousandth time, why the hell it had to be so difficult between them.
Who made it difficult, what made it difficult.
Keller turns to look at him, his eyes hesitating, his mind slowly squirming for the right words, the words that would bring some kind of a way out from the minefield that had grown between them during the day.
Every mildly deceptive, poisonous phrase, every narrow ugly squint - all those small things Beecher does, fucking over and over. And over.
That weird, annoying feeling of embarrassment - that anger - that seems to engulf Chris' whole body, whenever Tobe shies away from any public sign of affection - all burning, blistering wounds that never really seem to heal, always sore and aching, ready to be forcibly/deliberately re-opened.
They just can't help themselves.
*Chris* can't help himself, Toby's...just walking around half-blinded, turning everything to shit, hurting everybody around him. Mostly hurting himself.
Always making those twists and turns, taking Chris by surprise, always on the wrong foot, bad fucking timing all the time...
Fascinating in his own recklessness.
Completely unaware...of how much he makes Keller suffer. (Apparently.)
Breathing out the right words for Tobe. Not exactly what he would really want to say, but...the right words. For now, anyway.
"I'm sorry for what I said earlier. I shouldn't have said it. It was stupid and mean. I'm sorry."
The mature, responsible Chris Keller. The kind of guy Beecher wants him to be.
Fucking weak-ass, pseudo-polite...bullshit.
(--'Fine, if it gets me where I want...'--)
"I don't think you're a moron," Toby whispers, standing completely defenseless.
"Yeah, I just say moronic things, sometimes."
And Chris smiles, that shy, weird smile of his, making Toby move in closer on him, putting his arms around his neck. Hugging.
Sensing Keller's arms clutching on the back of his shirt, fingers digging inside his flesh through the fabric, nauseatingly. Intoxicating.
"I love you, Toby. I love you."
Not. Letting. Go.
A few of hours later, minutes before lights out.
"You know, I'd really like to meet your kids, one day... You know, just to meet them, just to say *hi*," Chris finds himself saying, as Toby keeps going on and on about his kids. About seeing his daughter tomorrow.
Voice *terribly* uneven, shaky.
(So unlike Keller.)
Looking for a brief moment at Beecher, testing the waters.
(--'...UGLY. That cold, fucking squint again, the distance... Like slamming an imaginary door right in your face. God, this isn't going anywhere.'--)
Trying to smile like the whole thing wasn't SUCH a big deal. *Really.*
And silently cursing himself for being such an idiot and not thinking twice before opening his mouth.
(But...he has thought about this...a whole lot more than twice. He's had a hundred and one long fucking conversations with himself on this subject, he's even *rehearsed*...)
Cursing himself for trying to get to something that's only *Beecher's*, something that - judging by his sudden self-imposed silence on the subject - the other man obviously doesn't want to share.
(Not with his prison fuck-buddy --sorry:LOVER, the guy that just told him he loves him...-- that's for sure!)
God! He's sometimes so clumsy he's almost fucking laughable!
Around Beecher, anyway...
Cursing the fucking hacks for not crying 'lights out' already so he can *peacefully* look morose. For still having to smile like this.
(Like the fucking walls are NOT crumbling down on his sorry ass right now...God, this is hard!)
And cursing Beecher...for being HIMSELF. For being so damn selfish. Always.
Because he gives him everything, and Toby...gives him as little as he can.
(Or so Chris thinks.)
Beecher, suddenly losing any interest in babbling about his kids and family, about anything, really.
Because that's not the kind of thing he wants to hear from Keller, now. Or ever, for that matter.
Chris and his kids; his outside life are separate, have to stay separate.
Sure, he can talk for hours about it with the other man, even if sometimes it seems to bother Keller somehow.
(Or bore him, Toby doesn't know for sure.)
But he keeps talking about it...just like he'd be talking to Hill, or Rebadow, if they were his podmates.
Just like he talks to Said, all the time.
Someone there to spill your guts out on, like he's talking to himself, sometimes.
But this, Chris asking something like this...
This is different.
It's not *talking about himself like talking to himself* crap anymore.
Keller wants the one thing he's not capable of, doesn't want to give.
His outside life. What's left of it.
Chris should know better than to go there...(--but he does. Go there.)
And, even if he acts like Beecher's non-verbal refusal doesn't bother him, like the whole thing doesn't even *matter* that much to him, Toby can't help but notice the sudden silence settling between them.
Keller's not even looking at him anymore.
And a part of Toby's grateful for that, hoping the other man's got the message and he'll never bring the whole thing up ever again.
From somewhere outside the pod, Murphy cries 'LIGHTS OUT!' -- and the whole of Em City falls into that never-too-dark darkness.
Beecher, already lying on his bunk, turns his back on Chris, murmuring a slow-running "Good night", making the other man shudder, as he's still standing on the floor, staring directly at the back of Toby's neck, now. Whispering softly:
Beecher doesn't turn, but his body stiffens, and Keller hears his breathing getting heavier.
Trying to pretend he didn't hear him, or that he's already gone asleep.
Not. Making. Any. Move.
(--'Please, Chris, drop it. Drop it. Please.'--)
And Keller seems to hear his unspoken plea, cause he slowly turns his gaze away from Tobe, staring outside the pod, across the quad.
At the dark sleep-sunken world of eighty-eight-years-up-for-parole-in-fifty of nothing.
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