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Written for the Hardtime100 'Creative Weaponry' challenge.
Use It or Lose It
Toby's had a lot of time to think since Keller moved out of his pod. Time to let his mind wander, set it free. All the things it's so hard to do when Keller's presence takes up more space than a body should.
The rules he had to learn the hard way are all out there if you look close enough or long enough. Life in Oz is about power, it's about having an edge. A weapon.
And knowing how to use it.
Without even looking for it, Toby got himself the best weapon he could have. It's kind of a waste not to use it, if you think about it in purely practical terms. He doesn't baulk at using a knife and fork to eat, after all. It's just using the implements perfectly designed for the job. Of course, right now, the weapon's not exactly his to use.
Right now, right at this minute, it's O'Reily's. He's got some scheme, nothing new there. He doesn't really know why Keller goes along with it; boredom, benefits, or just something to piss Toby off a little more. Maybe get his attention. Why else would he be watching the poker game from the wall behind O'Reily, not playing? It's not like he ever loses if he tries.
From where he is now, Toby can see the state of play all too clearly. To O'Reily, gambling his way through the game that is Oz, Keller's more than the ace up his sleeve. He's the blade in his palm, the cold slide of steel from nowhere hidden under a handshake or a friendly arm around the shoulders of some poor slob who's staked his life on the wrong hand.
A whisper in his ear, and O'Reily's out of his seat and leaning just a little closer to Keller than he needs to. There's no point in him pretending he's not watching or listening; all three of them know better.
"Trouble?" Keller's eyes are still on Toby, but his body's already moving into gear.
And Keller peels himself off the wall, slipping round the corner into O'Reily's hand. Another day in Oz, maybe another body for the hacks to trip over in some dark corner.
Keller's never told him why he wasn't one of them. Schillinger sure as hell wanted him dead; he's not a man to leave loose ends.
In Schillinger's hands, Keller wasn't a subtle knife in anyone's guts. He was a gun; a pistol, cocky and brash. Lethal and proud of it. Lovingly polished, warm and snug in his hand, a comfortable weight in fingers that knew every scratch and dent, every inch of its surface. Probably sure of it like the faithful old pistol daddy brought back from the war, and maybe he'd learned to shoot with it, never missed a shot. His plan should have been a bullet to the heart, a terminal wound. But it wasn't.
"What you looking at, Bitcher?"
Oh, Vern, Vern. The little wifey took you for daddy's pistol in the settlement, and your pride still hasn't stopped hurting, has it?
"Nothing." The laughter's good for him; he's out of practice lately. "You wouldn't find it so funny."
'Course, she sold it for a handful of beans, but that's life, in or out of Oz.
"Gettin' nostalgic, Beecher?"
It's impossible for Keller to have come up behind him, but somehow he has. Just leaning there, poison on his tongue, seeking out those old wounds to let it flow into and fester.
"I'm sure he'd take you back if you begged pretty enough."
And he's gone, payload dropped, no known antidote. If he'll even make Schillinger laugh at Toby's expense, is there anything Keller won't do? Anyone he won't whore himself out to, be used by?
Maybe if Toby begs pretty enough one day, Keller will stop the torture, finally finish the job he started so long ago. If Toby pushes him a little more, maybe he'll slide those sharp edges of his just far enough under his skin; peel the flesh from his bones, cut the heart from his chest. Let him bleed free through the crack under the door, between the tiles on the floor and out into the cold.
Because in Oz, a weapon you're not prepared to use may as well not exist at all.
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