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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: Toby Strikes Back (2/17)
"Are you insane?" Toby spluttered, releasing Chris's shoulders. "You want me to shank Schillinger on stage in front of hundreds of witnesses?"
"It'll look like an accident - no one will blame you. Schillinger's got enemies everywhere. Everyone will think you've been set up," Chris assured him.
"And if they don't, I'll be heading straight for Old Sparky. Forget it. Anyway I can't kill in cold blood. I'm not you."
"I do what I have to," said Chris.
"Then you do it," Toby told him, turning to walk away, "but I'm not going to be part of this."
"You are part of it, babe," said Chris.
"Leave me alone, Chris," said Toby, "stay away from me."
"I'm withdrawing from the play," Toby told Suzanne Fitzgerald at rehearsal later that afternoon.
"You can't!" she said. "It's two weeks to performance and my only other option for MacDuff is in the Hole!"
Ryan O'Reily, lounging apathetically next to his mother, flickered his eyes up to Keller, who was standing back near the stage, next to Schillinger. Toby almost didn't catch the slight movement and didn't dare turn to look at Chris himself. He heard Schillinger mutter something.
"I'm sorry, Suzanne," Toby replied, "I can't do it."
"Did Chris Keller have anything to do with your decision?" Suzanne demanded.
"I think he wants to have a stab at the role," said Toby.
O'Reily looked up directly at him. Toby gave him and his mother a tooth-baring grin. I'm smiling with anger, he realized. He decided it was time to leave.
"I'm not moving you out of Schillinger's cell," Tim McManus told Keller, who was slouching in a chair across the desk from him, after being told to keep his hands off McManus's stuff, "you asked to be put there in the first place."
"He's going to air-hole me," Keller persisted.
McManus picked up on an undercurrent of ... something that belied Keller's nonchalant appearance. With Keller it could be difficult to tell what that something was, but it didn't seem like fear.
McManus rubbed his eyes. Keller stared at him unblinkingly.
"I suppose," McManus asked, "you want to be put back into Beecher's pod?"
"Yeah, that would be great," said Keller.
His posture didn't change, but his voice sat up straight. His hand snaked to a large ornamental ashtray that bore the legend "ATTICA `75". McManus shook his head. Keller returned his hand to the edge of the desk.
"It's not going to happen," said McManus, "Beecher expressly asked that you not be put back with him."
"How come you listen to him and not to me?" demanded Keller. "I'm telling you, Schillinger's gonna have me whacked, man."
Murphy leaned over McManus's shoulder and murmured, "Omar White, Tim". But McManus said, "Forget it, Keller, you're staying where you are. You've played Beecher, you're playing Schillinger and you're not playing me."
Keller's expression and demeanor changed from relaxed to fury in ten, but Murphy was there in five. He took him by the shoulders and started to steer him out of McManus's office.
"Time to go, Keller," he said.
"Okay, I'll bring you back to Em City, but you're in with O'Reily. One person in Oz you won't be taking advantage of," McManus fired his parting shot. "And if I get any complaints whatsoever from him, you're back in Gen. Pop. For good."
"That was fucking stupid," said Ryan O'Reily later.
He and Keller were in Em City, playing cards again.
"Yeah, must be losing my touch," muttered Keller, surveying the common area, while pretending to look at his cards. No sign of Schillinger's goons. No sign of Beecher either.
"I have another plan though," he told O'Reily.
Toby was on the bench press, working out some of his growing sense of anxiety, betrayal and anger. Go to prison, get free gym, he thought to himself. He decided just to focus on the weights, to calm his mind down. It was harder than he thought. Other than the usual wariness he felt in Oz every time someone entered the peripheral area of his vision, his ear was half-cocked for voices that sounded like Schillinger or any or the Aryans...or Chris, who must be pretty pissed with him now. He didn't feel like hearing any relatively friendly voices either.
When he at last succeeded in getting into the Zone, he pushed and strained for what seemed like only five minutes, before becoming aware of a voice speaking his name and someone standing at his left shoulder. He almost dropped the barbell.
"Godammit, Chris!" he hissed.
Chris squatted down on his haunches beside Toby as Toby sat up. Chris was surveying the gym. Toby found himself doing the same.
"Schillinger's going to have us both whacked, I'm pretty sure of it," said Chris in a rapid whisper, grabbing Toby's forearm, to prevent him getting up. "Listen, I've got another plan - we start a fight and get thrown into the Hole - that'll do for starters...keep us safe..."
"You have really bad plans," snarled Toby. "I'd rather take my chances."
"You always were a pussy," Chris replied, smirking, but Toby noticed his eyes dart to something in the far corner of the gym. He turned and Keller's blow sent him tumbling onto his knees.
"Fuck you, Chris!" he shouted.
"Bet you'd like to, wouldn't you?" whispered Chris in his ear, hauling him to his feet again, by his T-shirt and the back of his pants.
He shoved Toby in the chest.
"Leave me the fuck alone!" Toby yelled, starting to feel the vestiges of control he'd gained at the bench press dissipating. "I don't want you in my life!"
He shoved Keller back. Keller started laughing as he regained his footing, but his eyes were dead. Toby realized this should probably make him feel afraid, but instead he felt something like a big dark wave starting to swell inside him.
"Did you purposely fuck up my parole, Chris?" Toby was surprised at how quiet his voice sounded in the gym. Quiet and tinny.
"Yeah, you know I did," Keller grinned, his cocky game-face back.
The wave seemed to sink away again. Toby dropped his hands and shoulders. He felt numb.
"Why?" he asked, gazing at Keller, trying to gauge Chris's mind behind the perfect teeth and impenetrable blue eyes.
"Because why should you have a life and I don't?" asked Keller. "'s not right."
Toby was wrong about the wave, he realized, as he felt it start to tug and swell again. It was bigger than before. It pulled his gut and he felt as if he were floating on top of it. He stared at Keller. Keller stared back.
"'Sides," Chris added, "you deserved to get taken - you're so fucking predictable."
The wave broke.
Somebody pulled him off Chris and Toby found himself lying face down on the mat, with a heavy weight on his neck and the small of his back. Somebody else - a hack - was shouting something about "radio the infirmary". Toby twisted his head. He could see Chris lying curled up, with his arms over his head. A hack was kneeling next to him. Ryan O'Reily, with an inscrutable expression on his face, was hovering in the background, Toby was almost sure. Who the hell was on his back? What the fuck had happened? He started to panic.
"Chris?" he shouted.
But Chris remained immobile.
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