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Beta: Fantastically, encouragingly and speedily beta-ed by Dorilon. Thanks!
Copyright: Edgar C. Gambodge, Elizabeth Lightbody and Martha Grosbeak are mine. Sadly so are Father Michael and Gruner.
Warning: In my Oz universe, many of the events from the last two episodes of Season Six are fictitious.
Settling the Bill: Alone at Last (1/17)
Toby was dizzy with fear and rage. Chris's dead weight was straddling his legs, crushing him into the enamel-painted chair, pinning him against its back, trapping his arms. Keller was only slightly taller and not very much heavier than him, but Chris had always been much stronger. And much quicker. Toby had forgotten that. He had been completely taken by surprise. He surprised himself again by laughing bitterly at the double entendre. How was he going to be taken next? None of the scenarios playing out in Toby's mind were pleasant. His mouth was stinging from Chris's ripping off the duct tape, he still wasn't sure if Keller had a real shank or not and, when Chris started kissing him savagely on the mouth, Toby started to fear what he hadn't feared in a long time. But he kept laughing out loud. Crazy Beecher was getting the upper hand again, no doubt brought back to life by an all too familiar threat of imminent sexual violation.
"Now, if I was really siding with Schillinger, Toby, you'd be dead already. But instead...all I really want...is for you to love me again..." Chris drew back a bit, to look at him properly.
Toby broke off in mid-cackle. Keller had to be nuts. Chris sounded desperate and, from what Toby could see in the swinging overhead light, he looked desperate too. But Toby felt suspicious. After all, what looks real isn't. He'd learned that from a master.
"Toby, please..." Chris's voice, usually as smooth as velvet, as soft as silk, had a new and jagged note to it.
Toby hadn't heard that before.
"Toby, I love you..."
"You have got to be joking," Toby said.
"I do, Toby, you know I do... please, Toby..."
Toby marveled. Chris Keller begging. But his marveling was cut short by a new surprise. Chris's dark head swooped in again. Toby drew back as far as he could in the chair, wondering whether he could bring himself to bite off the tip of Chris's tongue if he stuck it into his mouth again. But it was worse.
Chris was breathing in his left ear, "Please, Toby... I love you so much... please ..."
And his voice. Toby had only ever heard that ragged tone once before in all their long years together and through all the pain, humiliation, fear and loss they had had to endure. That time after Chris came back from hospital and, as he would have it, from Hell, when he sat in the dark, on the floor of their pod, smoking. And weeping.
"Toby, please... love me again..."
As his rage and fear passed off, Toby could feel himself returning to himself, filling his body again. He could feel Keller's weight on his legs and chest. The heat of his body. He could feel Keller's smooth, warm skin where his tank top had rucked up. Toby found that his arms were free, but that he'd put them around Chris's waist on a reflex. Fuck.
"Chris, stop it," he said wearily, "don't."
Oz had been pressing down on him since he stepped through those double doors again in his orange transportation overalls. He just didn't have the strength for any more misery. He pulled Chris's tank top down again. Stroked it down over the contours of his back. Heard Chris catch his breath. Felt Chris's heart beating through the double layer of his own T-shirt and Chris's vest. Too hard and too fast.
"Shh," Toby told him.
Chris was heavy, slumped against him, but Toby didn't want to have to see his face just yet. Chris had shh'd, which was something. Toby relaxed a bit more. He rubbed Chris's back lightly, just as he used to do with his kids. He was always good with children, he thought sadly. Probably never see his kids again now, after breaking his parole. "They'd" never let him. Certainly not if "They" could see him in Oz's Prop Room with Chris Keller on his lap.
"Please... I love you, Toby..." breathed Chris.
"Iloveyoutoo..." Fuck fuck fuck.
"Toby..." breathed Chris again, his lips on Toby's ear.
A new voice put an end to Chris's suit.
"What the fuck is going on here?"
Suzanne Fitzgerald, her arms full of scripts, was staring furiously into the gloom. Chris scrambled off Toby, as they both lurched to their feet.
"Just a little harmless fun between two consenting adults," said Chris nonchalantly.
Toby kept his face in shadow and averted from Mrs. F, who was becoming increasingly paranoid about losing more cast members as the dress rehearsal approached. Chris, by contrast, stood facing his director, full in the light. He smiled his dimples and pretty teeth at her, as Toby struggled to catch up with the events and the next amazing act in Chris Keller's repertoire. His own heart was still hammering on his breastbone and he felt crumpled and disheveled. He backed further into the shadows.
"Keller?" Mrs. F. squinted at Chris. "Don't bull me. It didn't sound or look like fun from where I was standing."
"Honest, Mrs. F.," Chris's smile developed an "aw, shucks," quality about it, "we don't got much time alone in Oz, ya know? Gotta take what we can get."
"Well, don't do it on my turf," she said, "and get out."
As they left, Toby saw her staring after them, with the same bright and clever eyes as Ryan O'Reily. She was no doubt wondering, not for the first time, if choosing "MacBeth" for the Christmas play had been a wise idea, when it was always such an unlucky play and Oz such an unlucky place. What had she noticed? He sighed. Why hadn't he said anything during Chris's exchange with her? Why hadn't he told her what had really happened? He should have. Only he wasn't sure what it was.
Toby and Chris had parted company outside the cafeteria partly on instinct borne of a long struggle for self-preservation. Toby didn't actually doubt Chris's assertions about Schillinger's intentions. He merely lacked details. He realized it would be wiser if they weren't seen together. Self-preservation guided him on another level too. He didn't need to be around Keller right now. Period. He needed time to think. He picked at a patch of residual stickiness the duct tape left at the corner of his mouth. Yeah. He really needed to think hard.
Later that afternoon, when he went to the library to find something to take his mind off things, he saw Keller leaning against the wall outside the copy room. Keller looked as if he'd been there for a while, thumbing through an old National Geographic. Keller motioned with his head at the door, his face expressionless, and then rolled off the wall and went inside. A minute or two later, Toby followed him, against his better judgment. Alone in a storeroom with Chris Keller. Unwise, Beecher, very unwise. It was to find out about Schillinger, he told himself. That was crucial if he was to survive long enough to his next parole hearing.
Toby found Chris sitting on a large box in the shadows. He must have come from gym, because he'd changed his clothes. Toby found himself scanning the room to make sure they really were alone. Just in case. They were.
"Toby," said Chris, in his old voice.
Toby's heart sank.
"Chris," he replied unwillingly from the doorway.
Chris remained where he was on the box. Toby felt relieved. He came a bit closer, wondering why there wasn't an act that outlawed Chris Keller from wearing body-hugging thermals. Chris was hunching over and hugging his arms to make himself look smaller. He looked up at Toby, who wondered how he did it. Chris had seemed so big in the Prop Room. Chris reached out a hand to him. Toby stopped a reflex to take it, as he came to stand in front of Chris. Chris withdrew his hand, but continued to gaze up at Toby, wide-eyed. Toby clenched his teeth.
"Still mad at me, huh?" said Chris, straightening up.
He brushed Toby's jaw with his fingers. Toby flinched.
"Sorry that I hit you like that and all - things got... I got a little crazy at the thought of losing you... You still love me, right?"
Toby realized he was standing right in front of Chris - virtually between his knees. Ah shit, drop the pretences, Beecher. The guy was a walking aphrodisiac to him and he'd never known why. And he did love him, even though he really didn't want to anymore. He put his hands on Chris's shoulders and Chris straightened up hopefully, his lips parting in anticipation.
Toby's own lips tingled, but he said:
"Chris, I love you, but I don't trust you. If you want to have anything to do with me (yeah, keep it vague, he thought), you're going to have to show me you're trustworthy."
"I told you about Schillinger, Toby, Christ!" Chris radiated barely contained anger, which Toby could almost feel coursing under his hands.
He whipped them off Chris's shoulders. Chris shot out a hand toward Toby, seemed to have second thoughts, and pulled it back. His jaw muscle twitched. His fist balled. But Toby flinched again when he saw how wounded and needy Chris's eyes were.
"Yeah, you did, but you're going to have to do more than that," Toby told him patiently.
"I have a plan how we can get rid of Schillinger for good," Chris said.
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