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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: Out of the Hole (4/17)

by Rosybug

At last Toby was remembered and released. As he returned from the showers, in fresh chinos and polo shirt, but still sporting a strange and incongruous beard, he began to feel a vague sense of apprehension about Vern and the Aryans. He could've asked Sister Pete about them - but she wouldn't have known anything anyway. He could feel adrenalin starting to spurt into his system and his cool, fresh skin starting to grow hot and scratchy, as he was escorted back to Em City. He wondered where Chris was. Part of him wanted to see him; part of him dreaded it. How would Chris take to seeing him? Would he still love him? What would he do in retaliation? The usual doubts, in other words, he reflected gloomily, although now for different reasons. He hadn't meant to hurt him. Not like that. A cynical voice inside his head said, "How badly could you have hurt him?" But Chris had been admitted to the infirmary and had been there for some time.

Toby wasn't prepared to see Chris in the common area, playing poker with Rebadow, Busmalis and Ryan O'Reily. Chris had his back to Toby, so Toby couldn't see his face. But then, Chris couldn't see Toby either. Toby decided to slink past into his pod, but O'Reily kicked Chris's boot under the table and gestured at Toby with his chin. Chris, Agamemnon and Bob all looked round at Toby, who averted his face, more to prevent himself from seeing Chris than vice versa, and headed off to his pod. Chris nodded at O'Reily and tossed down his cards. His companions watched him get up and follow Toby.

"Well, there's a waste of the only good hand I've had all day," said Busmalis, flipping his cards onto the table.

"Yeah," said Ryan distractedly, watching Keller walk up the ramp to Beecher's pod.

"We should play another type of game, Agamemnon," suggested Rebadow, watching Keller too, "one that only needs three people."

"Animal Snap?" inquired Busmalis sarcastically.

He hadn't been himself since Rebadow talked him out of pursuing his right-to-procreate suit.

"Hey," said Chris, leaning on the pod door.

Toby, who had been putting his stuff onto the top bunk, straightened up and turned unwillingly. Shit, he's got a beard again, thought Chris.

O god, look what I did to him, thought Toby. Chris's face was still swollen and discolored. His lip was split and his arms were mottled with yellowing bruises. He had his right arm in a cast - just like when they'd first met.

"Hey," said Toby awkwardly.

He reminded Chris of a scared bunny rabbit.

"Are you sharing the pod with me?" Toby asked politely, after a desperate pause.

"Nah, I'm with O'Reily," said Chris. "McManus wanted someone he knew, but hadn't pissed off, to be his roomie for a while because of Cyril."

"O yeah," Toby felt an additional pang of guilt and misery. He had completely forgotten about Cyril in the midst of everything else. "How's he doing? Ryan, I mean."

"He's taken it kinda hard," said Chris.

"O," said Toby, hunting helplessly for something to say.

"Hey, Keller," Adenauer, one of Vern's sidekicks who was loitering in the common area below, shouted up at them, "didn't know you were Beecher's bitch!"

"Always thought it was the other way round," said another Aryan named Gruner, "well, ya learn something new every day."

Toby felt a tingle of horror. He looked at Chris, but Keller's expression was unreadable. Just a faint enigmatic smile.

"They think that because I beat you up you're my bitch," Toby said.

Chris shrugged.

"Why didn't you fight back, Chris?" Toby asked. "You've lost face in front of everyone."

"Now I don't owe you," Chris replied. "We're even. Fresh start."

Realizing the implications of what Chris (and he) had done in the gym, Toby was appalled.

"Chris, I never meant to hurt you like that -"

Chris silenced Toby with a surprisingly gentle caress along his bearded jaw.

"You got it out of your system," he murmured, "we're pretty much square now."

Toby was too remorseful about beating Chris up, to compute if smacking him around and riling the Aryans really equaled losing his parole.

"Don't worry, Toby," said Chris softly, "next time it will be different."

"There won't be a next time," Toby promised him fervently, wanting to miss the underlying threat in Chris's words, but not quite succeeding.

"Good boy," said Chris.

Chris left Toby and made his way down the slope to his and O'Reily's pod again. He found Adenauer in his face, with an audience this time.

"Vern says you'll screw just about anything. Always thought you walked like a slut, myself," Adenauer said.

Chris shoved his face into Adenauer's, flashing his teeth in a smile.

"You want me to screw you, Adenauer?" he asked in the same soft voice he'd used on Toby.

It seemed to get a different reaction from Adenauer, who stepped back slightly. Chris stepped forward just as much, keeping his face inches away from Adenauer's.

"What's a matter? Don't you want to be my girlfriend?"

"Fuck off," muttered Adenauer, dropping his gaze.

Around them, inmates started to pay mild attention to the face-off, the prospect of a fight enlivening their afternoon. Busmalis and Rebadow were pretending to concentrate on their hands, but their ears were clearly pricked in the direction of the altercation. O'Reily, leaning back in his chair, was studying the Aryans with calculating reserve, from beneath his eyebrows. Even Burr Redding managed to drag his attention away from his brooding contemplation of Torquemada's pod.

"Assholes," growled Chucky Pancamo, from his office at the backgammon table.

From somewhere behind them in the silence came the sound of a solitary voice zanily cackling. Guerra was high again. Keller smiled at Adenauer and patted his cheek.

"Good boy," he said, as the Aryans moved off.
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