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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: Agent Taylor Refuses to Give Up (5/17)
The following day, Toby found himself meeting with the FBI agent, Pierce Taylor, whom Chris had referred to as Spanky, although he had never said why. Watching the thin, cold man, in his immaculate suit, toying with the new, sharp pencil in his immaculate hands, Toby was forced to wonder how he'd earned the nickname. The two men exchanged pleasantries without conviction, while Toby peered through the Venetian blinds into the corridor, wondering where Chris was. He hadn't seen him in the cafeteria at breakfast. Not that he was looking for him or anything. The person he'd really missed was Kareem Said. He told Rebadow so.
"Sometimes I can really feel Said," he had insisted. "It's as if he's still here talking to us."
"I hear voices too, Beecher," Rebadow had comforted him, "except, in my case, of course, it's usually God."
Taylor seemed to be getting down to business when he asked, "How's your daughter, Holly? You know, the reason I ask is one of the few joys of this job is reuniting kidnapped children with their parents."
"Low blow," thought Toby, but said, "She's adjusting, all things considered." Don't go there. Keep it neutral. Move on. But Taylor was relentless, like a terrier with a holed rat. "It must be tough on her though, I mean, you out of prison one day, back inside the next." Then he said: "How would you like another chance at being paroled? I can make it happen."
Toby stared at Taylor transfixed. There was nothing he'd like more. He tried not to let that show, pulling the tiny vestiges of his dignity around him. Letting Taylor talk. Apparently all Toby had to do to get his parole reinstated was tell Uncle Pierce what Keller had told him about Byam Lewis and Mark Karachi. Toby hedged. Taylor dug. Toby retreated. Taylor sat back and waited.
It didn't matter how small the morsel was, Taylor explained at last. It just had to be phrased correctly. Toby's mind wandered back over some of his conversations with Chris about his life prior to Oz. Chris had mentioned some wrong things he'd done, but it was all pretty vague and Toby couldn't honestly think of anything that could be twisted into propelling Chris into the electric chair. He felt quite relieved.
Taylor's next remark displaced the relief with disgust: "You're back in Oz because of him. You testify, you go free. He dies."
As angry as Toby was with Chris and as betrayed as he felt, he wasn't far gone enough to imagine either that messing with evidence like that was within the bounds of the law or that sentencing Chris to death could in any way be equated with Chris's setting him up to break his parole.
"So what is it about Keller, Agent Taylor, that obsesses you?" Toby inquired, feeling unconfused for the first time.
Justice for those murdered men was apparently Taylor's motivation. And Keller was guilty. Taylor knew it, despite having no evidence.
Whatever was really obsessing Taylor wasn't justice. Chris had clearly put a bug up his ass somehow. Taylor seemed to sense he was losing Beecher's interest because he made an uncharacteristically clumsy attempt to pull him back by bringing Holly into the equation again. Toby got up to leave, just in time to see Chris pass by. Their eyes met through the half-open blinds. Chris grinned at him and Taylor. Toby tried to mask his alarm. He felt suddenly as if he was swimming between two sharks. He left in a hurry.
He had to get to his work detail so he could work out what to do. Fast. He had been posted at Sister Pete's again after Alvin Yood had got bored of logging data and moved on to the thrills of the dress factory. But the psychiatric evaluation office was uncomfortable this time around. Toby hadn't wanted to come back - he felt too ashamed of himself after breaking his parole and could feel Sister Pete's disappointment in him almost palpably. His mind was on other things now.
As he flurried back to Sister Pete's, a number of conversations played in his head. They were the various things he would have liked to have said to Taylor. How every life was precious and how he wasn't going to send a man to his death, just because Taylor said so. How Taylor was preoccupied with Toby and Chris's sex life and that all he could see was the ass-fucking, while in reality it had been about love. How Chris was his lover and they sorted out their differences themselves, without letting people interfere. That last one rang a bit hollow, Toby thought guiltily.
By the time he got to Pete's office, he had calmed down enough to realize that he needed to speak to Chris fast, before Chris had time to stew about his interlude with Taylor and start to feel murderous.
Chris had spent the time between lockdown and lights the previous night out trying to convince O'Reily to maneuver McManus into putting him back into Toby's pod. He hated that he couldn't even see Toby's pod from the ground floor. Toby was somewhere above him, out of reach and unhappy. Like when Chris was at Cedar Junction. On Death Row. Or so many other times in Oz. The fucking irony was overwhelming. Chris was starting to feel jinxed.
He wanted to make it right. The beating didn't really seem to have done the trick with Toby. Chris could feel it. Toby felt guilty, but something had changed qualitatively between them. That hard-won trust was gone. Fuck. Chris hadn't really thought it through when he brought Toby back to Oz. All he'd wanted was Toby. All he could see was Toby slipping away to Marion and his family. He'd missed him so bad he couldn't see further than the lack of Toby in his life. His feelings for Toby had clouded his judgment and compromised his survival skills. Now he had nothing to show for it all. He felt shitty about hurting Toby once again. And he was missing Toby still. Aching for him.
"No way, K-boy," was all O'Reily said.
He was sitting against his pillow on the lower bunk, with his legs half drawn up and his Converse sneakers on the blanket. It had been Cyril's bunk. Ryan slept there now, but he still thought of it as Cyril's. He'd sat there since evening count, staring into the empty common area and fidgeting with a loose thread from the blanket and tapping his right foot restlessly.
Chris moved away from the Plexiglas to sit at the foot of O'Reily's bunk. He leaned against the metal support and studied O'Reily through half-closed eyes.
"All you gotta do is get McManus to put Alvarez in here, tell him it's to get ol' Miguel away from that freak in boots with the D, and then put someone else in with Torquemada - maybe Guerra or one of the homeboys - they're lining up for the drugs and they'll be lining up to have them on tap - then make sure I get in with Beech."
"Forget it," said O'Reily tonelessly.
"I'll make it worth your while, O'Reily," he stole a hand onto O'Reily's sock-encased ankle and squeezed it lightly under the hem of his sweats.
O'Reily whipped his ankle away, focusing on Chris for the first time.
"Don't do that!" he snapped.
Chris let his eyes trail over O'Reily's exposed, trousered crotch. He smirked as O'Reily moved his legs together imperceptibly. He leaned into O'Reily.
"How about I don't give you a blow job and don't tell all of Em City about it?" he purred.
O'Reily's mouth opened and closed, then he snapped his lanky legs together and shoved at Chris with his foot.
"How about you fuck off, off my bed?" he asked.
"Okay," said Chris, fucking off to lean on the sink. "How about I do give you a blow job?"
"I'll tell Beecher," said O'Reily weakly.
"Aw, c'mon, Ryan," said Chris, pumping up the pathos, "I need your help, man. I got no one else I can turn to. You and me, we go back fifteen years, further even. Didn't I look after you when you came up to Lardner? It was my second stint there. I knew the ropes. You were...how old?"
"Eighteen," mumbled O'Reily reluctantly.
"I was your roomie. Watched your ass, never tried anything funny on you, looked out for you. Treated you like my fucking kid brother..."
"Cyril was in Juvie that year..." said Ryan, seemingly irrelevantly. His voice trailed off and he started gazing into the common area again.
Chris crossed the pod to crouch down next Ryan.
"You miss him, don't you?" he asked, looking up at him.
"Every fucking minute of every fucking day," said Ryan, the pain in every syllable.
Chris took Ryan's hand gently between his own.
"You and me - we've only got each other now, Ryan. That's gotta count for something. Help me, man. Beecher don't want me in his life. It's killing me, Ryan. I can't fucking think straight anymore. I'm clean out of ideas. All I know is my life ain't worth a damn without him. I can't face being here without him anymore. I ain't kidding, Ryan. I ain't gonna make it without him. I don't wanna."
Ryan looked down at him, his eyes dulled to grey-green. He left his hand in Chris's. Chris massaged it with his thumbs.
"'Kay," Ryan said, "I've got something you might wanta hear."
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