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Written for the Oz zine "Ad Seg"
Of course it looked prettier with K9's drawing. ;)
This story owes a lot to Rifka's beta and Eliza's great work, as well as Michelle's thorough rereading. Thanks to them.


by Aline

Hill: "You know, they don't show you everything. You watch an episode, a man dies, the credits roll on, the show's over. Then next episode, something else happens; something bad, and you think it's the day after but actually who can say how long it's been? Hours? Days? Maybe weeks -just like in your own life, man. Except we're in Oz."


The hunt had been successful; he'd picked up a slender fair-haired, blue-eyed guy, too good looking for the place, among a crowd of other hunters and preys, all of them busy finding a mate in the hot deafening darkness; he'd moved to him, talked a bit, touched a lot, teased and taunted, eyes hot, hands warm and roaming, mouth hungry, until he'd felt the guy shiver and give in to him, sweaty skin under his fingertips; then he'd pushed him against the wall. Fuck, he was starving and he'd kissed him, testing the waters, been kissed back hard by a mouth as hungry as his own, hadn't even asked the man's name -who gave a fuck here- nor had he given his own. The place had been his hunting ground for weeks now, since Bonnie had dumped him; he'd got used to the place, the people, the raw courtship, the loud pulsing musing, the stink even, that talked of quick dirty sex. He was always drawn to the same kind of men - too rich, too smart, too hot and too horny for their own good and wasn't it obvious that they should've been home with their parents, or their wife, rather than cruising in bars with slugs like him?

"Want a ride?" he asked his prey with a promising smile.

"Yeah, sure."

They walked out together in a freezing sparkling night, shivering with cold and desire.

"Come on, my bike's right here."

He'd asked before, asked other guys -some had said yes, some had said no. Those who'd said no he'd fucked in the bar and let go. The others weren't so many, but those ones, careless enough to follow and ride behind him wherever it pleased him to take them, well, those ones... God save their souls.

Arms locked around him tightly, a hot body pressed against his as he rode full speed up the highway, thinking about all he'd do to him later, letting a cold and restless desire take hold of his soul. He stopped the bike by the road and they ran further into the woods, laughing, yelling, high, drunk, then fell on the floor, breathless, and fucked.

"C'mon, c'mon, give it to me hard," the guy said, breathless, Chris inside him, their bodies burning on the cold naked earth.

"You don't want that," Chris warned, his brain numb with wild anticipation.

"Come on, I can take a rough fuck!" the guy said, laughing as Chris tightened his grip on the slender compliant body under his and whispered, "You asked for it, baby."

After that he rode the guy all the way down to hell, eyes cold, body burning, hands hard, punishing and merciless; the soft pleas, the supplications only fuelling his fire, his rage, screams of pain calling for more pain, fear in the clear blue eyes asking for more fear, until the guy was like a drowning sailor caught in a whirlpool, watching the sea open under him and show the bare cold death below. When the screaming and the tears and the pleas stopped Chris pulled off, wet and still dizzy with a nameless pleasure, breathless under the cold dark sky, gazing down at the guy.

"Fuck," he whispered, and sighed, sobered up at the sight of the battered body, taking a wary look around and then checking out for an improbable pulse, but the guy was bruised all over and his face was a fucking mess.

"Looks like that was more than what you'd bargained for, huh?" he said, shaking his head.

He didn't take time to close the blind blue eyes gazing at the sky, barely disturbed by their expression of terror, and began to half carry, half drag the body along the path, deeper into the woods until he found a fitting place. Sweating, cursing, he pushed the naked body with his boot and watched it roll down the bank, dismantled and limp, crashing on a big heap of leaves, the dead face turned downwards. He buried the corpse under more leaves, more of anything he could find, branches, stones, covering his tracks; few people came here at this time of the year anyway, and soon everything would be buried beneath a cold blanket of snow. He sighed, relieved, and walked back, unhurried now, gathered the clothes and lit a generous fire, laughing, still high, knowing that he'd come down hard later, but just enjoying the moment, the bliss, the thrill. Then he scattered the warm ashes with his left foot, and walked up to the bike he'd left by the side of the road, hidden behind bushes; rode back home, relieved and freed for some time from the unbearable burden of being Chris Keller.

After that he didn't go back to the bar and he learned some weeks later that the place had closed; relieved, he let daily life swallow the memory of his crimes like earth swallows the rain; not quite forgotten, just buried deep inside the dark coils of his brain, waiting for the right time to snake their way back to consciousness.

Not really guilt. Not really remorse. Just the feeling he'd gone too far already. Cautiousness maybe.

And now, years later, trapped in Oz for life, he watched Toby cross the library, walk up to him with this new cool unhurried stride he had that seemed to draw every pair of eyes to his ass, and it was the same urging hunger rising deep inside. Same kind of guy, same easy look, nice face, sweet smile, something well-off about him, even now, something educated and smart that made Chris feel neglected and worthless.

"Hey," Toby said, and Chris put down his book, hands shaking. He could fake that quite well, stare at the page, looking focused, and turn it slowly -a convincing parody of reading.

"I'm sorry about Ronnie."

"I told you once," Chris said "I do what I have to."

Go away, Toby, go away, don't come near me now, don't stare at me with that needy look.

"What do you want, Beecher?"

"Peace. Forgiveness."

"Yeah, sounds good to me. No more mind games."

Toby didn't feel the expected relief, something was missing from Chris' voice, he sounded empty and cold.

"I thought maybe we could be podmates again?"

Ah, here we go, Chris thought, and leaned forward, his face so near Toby's that he could feel his breath melt with his own.


Toby backed off.

"What? Why? You said..."

He'd raised his voice. Shit, he'd never learn, now the guys nearby were staring; Chris gave them a dirty look.

Don't piss me off; I could use some more blood.

"I said peace and forgiveness. But love and trust, it's a whole different thing. The trust is gone, Toby. You can't call it back just by snapping your fingers."

Toby's lips tightened.

"You want me; I know you do," he said.

"Yeah? Well, maybe I want you; but there are a lot of things I want and can't have. Like, say, freedom, money, and true love."

Toby rose, pale with anger.

Aw, you're so easy, baby, I'm sure you'd hit me again, Chris thought.

"Go to hell, Keller."

"Sure. Meet you there."

He watched him walk away with an inexplicable feeling of defeat, his own hands shaking; then shrugged, glanced around and sighed.

"Guy's touchy, uh?" he said to no one in particular, resuming his reading.

But Toby was right, Chris wanted him badly, so badly it hurt.

Later the inmates gathered in front of the TV, more out of habit than anything else; none of those men, except maybe Busmalis, would've watched such crap outside, and even Miss Sally's impressive tits and the usual jokes about Nooter and Pecky weren't enough to dispel the boredom. But they watched, day after day, a show meant for kids, slouched on the plastic chairs, arms crossed, earphones half in place, dreaming of girls and freedom. Chris took the seat behind Toby, the seat no one else dared take anymore and stretched his legs, trapping Toby's chair between his feet, arms crossed, looking bored, gave a look to O'Reilly on his left and sighed, staring at the nape of Toby's neck, the unruly golden strands curling on the soft warm skin, and Christ there was nothing he wanted more than to rest his forehead there and close his eyes, feel whole again, but he couldn't. He rose and left, questioning gazes following him.

After a while Toby walked into Chris' cell and asked, "Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why don't you want things back the way we had them?"

"You mean why don't I wanna fuck you anymore?"

"Yeah, that sums it up."

Chris sat up, and faced him.

"You know why."

They stared at each other for a moment, and Chris closed his eyes, shrugging; Toby remained silent for a while, then walked out, defeated.

Two days later he was sitting in front of the computer in Sister Pete's office, staring at the screen, lost in thoughts.

"Tobias? Is there something wrong?"

He shrugged. "No, I guess not."

She waited for something more and sighed. He'd overcome his son's death -as much as one can overcome such a loss, but something else was bothering him now.

"Is it about Chris?"

"Who else, Sister?"

"I saw you standing side by side this morning, I thought you'd found some sort of agreement..."

"Bullshit. I don't want an agreement; it's something else I want."

Sister Pete leaned back into her chair, waiting for more, but nothing came. Some weeks ago, Toby's stubborn obsessive fixation on Chris Keller would have exasperated her but Chris had looked so desperate last time she'd talked to him in the computer room, and so lost; she'd felt sorry for him; now she'd come to think that maybe he'd genuinely changed, that his love for Tobias Beecher had transformed him.

"Chris has been very shaken by all he's gone through during the last months and..."

"And you think I haven't been?" Toby said, slamming an angry fist on the desk, rising and beginning to pace the room, "Do you think it's all been a bed of roses? I know I fucked him over, but I was out of my mind, I didn't know what I was doing anymore, all those people around me telling me he'd kidnapped my son, probably killed him," his voice faltered, "it was like being alone in the darkness, not knowing where to turn anymore, believing that maybe I'd been blind. The FBI telling me he'd killed those men, Christ, my mind was a mess. It was stupid and unfair, I know it was, but at the time I would've believed anything from anyone."

He shrugged.

"Why can't he get over it? I got over worse!"

Sister Pete waited until he'd stopped his pacing.

"Ah but maybe Chris is scared of losing you again, maybe he thinks it's too much pain for the both of you, too many fights, too much violence, maybe he's afraid he could kill you or you could kill him, afraid of the future, afraid of the pain," she said, "maybe he's just emotionally exhausted, needs time to recover and maybe you should let him, give him the time he needs."

Toby turned to her, mind and body strained, pleading.

"Sister, this love we have, Chris and I, as twisted as it is, as bad and terrible as it is, it's all we have here, the only thing that keeps us alive, gives us a reason to fight and go through the days. He's got nothing else, I've got nothing else, why can't he see it?" She sighed. For a smart guy, Tobias Beecher could be very dense sometimes.

"He does see it, Tobias, but he's got more at stake than you, here. He'll never get out of Oz, and you will, he's got no family, no job, no kids outside, no hope; your love means more to him than his love means to you," she saw him frown, knew he would interrupt her and raised a hand to shut him up, "If you lose him, you still have your kids and a family behind you; if he loses you, he's got nothing left. Nothing, Toby. Think about what that means."

Toby bowed his head, tension leaving his body, and nodded.

"I know, but I want him so badly, not just... sex, you know... *him*."

"Then give him what he needs, give him some time."

Toby sighed, tightened his lips, shook his head. "Maybe you could talk to him?"


"Sister, he respects you, listens to you..."

I can't believe it, she thought, can't believe he's asking me...

"No. I'm sorry, but this will have to happen by itself. I don't play those games any more. If he comes here and wants to talk, then..." He gave her a puppy dog look and nodded; then went back to his work.

"I have to admit, K'boy, you got me all wondering, here," O'Reily said, pushing a pawn with deceptive coolness, "giving Beecher the cold shoulder when he looks so openly ready for you."

Half the words were meant to take his focus from the game, Chris knew that, so he just groaned and studied the chess board, catching a view of Beecher reading in his pod, looking great in his blue shirt and his khakis. He made his move, leaned back, arms crossed on his chest, legs stretched.

"Nothing new about that, I'd say."

"Yeah, but you owe him, don't you, K'boy?"

Chris raised an eyebrow. "Owe him? Why the fuck would I owe him anything? He tried to kill me!"

"Oh, come on, Glynn may be stupid enough and clueless about Ronnie's death but we know what happened all right, don't we?"

This time, his eyes left the chessboard to make sure he had Keller's attention.

"I heard about good old Ronnie meeting the FBI, I saw him come to Beecher for some advice the other day and promise some," he waved his fingers above the pieces and sighed...

"Cut the crap, O'Reily," Chris groaned, "and make your fucking move."

"Promise some interesting reward. I take it Beecher told you about your good friend's intentions, and you didn't have that much of a choice, yeah?"

He lifted a tower, hesitated, put it down two squares further and this time, Chris was distracted and nervous, didn't see the trap, didn't really care...

"You know, O'Reily, for someone who doesn't give a damn about what I or Beecher do, you're being very nosy."

O'Reily raised his eyes. "Yeah, sure. And tell you what? Checkmate."


It took Chris Keller more than a week to overcome his reluctance and let go of the fear, open himself to the possibility that the tainted love they had was maybe better than no love at all; and the sex, well the sex, he missed that too. It wasn't the memory of Ronnie, Ronnie was already forgotten; it wasn't the way Beecher had played his sluttish game, sucking, fucking half the guys there, until Chris himself had to put an end to that; no, he wasn't that much a model of virtue anyway and he was sure Beecher had been trying to hurt himself more than anything else. Actually, Toby had probably believed that Chris didn't give a damn about him anymore. Maybe he really believed now that Chris had stopped loving him and this thought was so alien, so amazing that Chris couldn't help wondering how stupid Toby was, because love doesn't die so easily, well, not Chris' love, for sure.

"As much as I love him," he told Sister Pete, "I can't help the fucking fear."

"What do you fear, Chris?" she asked, her chin resting in the palm of her hand, determined to make things right this time.

"The fear, you know, that our love is... doomed."

She shook her little birdlike head.

"Doomed? Love is seldom doomed; except when we want it to be."

Chris gave her a quick glance and shook his head.

"Ah, come on, Sister, don't be blind, Oz isn't exactly the perfect place for some romantic love."

"I have trouble imagining you involved in romantic love anywhere, Chris, but after all, you met Toby here, your love grew here, so I guess you have no other choice than to live it here."

"Or give it up," he said softly, "because that love doesn't seem to do us much good. And maybe what I did to him in the very beginning, you know... it will always be there, hanging between us, tainting everything."

She tapped her pen against the desk, thoughtful.

"But you love him, and what good are you doing to him now, keeping him away?"

He looked at her in sheer amazement.

"What do you mean by that?"

"You're not the cause of every bad thing that happened to him, Chris; his problems didn't begin with you; Tobias didn't wait for you do dive head first in trouble. I believe that your love might help both of you to stay sane."

"That's a new one, Sister. You never looked that happy about the two of us."

"The little games you played didn't fit my idea of true love, Chris."

He nodded.

"I know," and after a while he added, "He's my whole life, Sister; he's my whole fucking life, if I lose him one more time I don't know what I'll do."

Chris kept silent after that, gazing though the window, and when he left, she had no clue what he'd decided.

That same day, just after work, Beecher was sitting with Rebadow and Busmalis, playing cards, watching Keller and O'Reily lost in one of those conniving chats, both of them leaning against the wall, looking cool, their faces frozen in an expression that gave nothing away, exchanging words behind which, Beecher thought, death was waiting. He saw O'Reily shove something into Keller's hand, the long strong fingers closing around it, saw Chris nod and move away gracefully, a languid predator prowling among his preys in the middle of Em City, looking for a quiet place, so he left his companions and followed Keller into the shadows under the stairs that led to McManus' office.

"Hey," he said, stepping nearer.

"Beecher," Keller said, smiling his deceptive, threatening smile, "what the fuck do you want?"

"What are you doing here, Chris?"

"Enjoying O'Reily's gift, quiet and all. Wanna share?" He opened his palm, showed the little bag of white powder, his eyes narrowed and mocking.

"Don't go there, Chris, don't."

Chris looked at him. "Why? Don't have so many things to get off on, here..."

"Don't, Chris, this shit will kill you."

Chris gave a barking laugh. "Tits never tried to kill me; *you* did," and heard Beecher's exasperated snort.

"You'll never get over that, will you?"

"Oh I'd love to," Keller said, shifting, trapping Beecher between the hard wall and his body, leaving him no place to escape," I'd love to, ya know; fuck you, shove my dick up your beautiful ass, and thrust into you, hard, listen to those noises you make when I fuck you, Toby," his voice was trembling, "and let go in your arms like I used to, when we still trusted each other; but you killed that; you killed the trust; I'd have to check under your mattress and inside your locker, make sure you're not hiding one of those shanks you use so swiftly; you fucking cocksucker."

Toby took a moment to recover from the attack, the anger, the pain that filled the low grumbling voice.

"I told you about Ronnie," he said, and thought, God, do I sound that pathetic? Chris' look told him he did.

"That should be enough, I guess, but..." Chris said, shaking his head.

Toby sighed, rested firm hands on his shoulders and leaned against him whispering, I love you; I do, please don't push me away!" Every word punctuated with a soft pressure of his mouth on Chris' lips and that did it; Chris roared like a starving tiger and kissed back, hard, his tongue deep in Toby's mouth, his body pressed against him, strong fingers bruising Toby's arms.

"Fuck you, Toby, why can't I just get my mind off you?" he growled against his mouth and his heart was racing against Toby's chest, his fingers squeezing so tight now that Toby moaned with pain, startling Chris who barely loosened his grip and began to thrust against him, again and again until Toby could do nothing but bury his head in Chris' neck, thrusting back against him, shaking.

"Oh god," Toby said and Chris collapsed on him with a ragged breath, his warm lips against his skin, stilling his shaking body with his own and Chris' voice, whispering, "storage room, ten minutes."

"But you..."

Chris pulled away at last; he pointed a warning finger to him, his eyes dark and hot as he turned to walk out.

Storage room... Chris' territory, his den, where he killed his foes, fucked his lovers, sometimes both; in Chris' logic, his animal logic, the place where he worked was his and summoning him there was a symbolic move, Toby thought, and an unsettling one; the place had seen so much blood, would he be the next one atoning for his crimes between those grey walls? No, not Chris, Chris wouldn't hurt him, he'd hurt anyone but him. He turned around the corner and stood in front of the storage room, unseen; the door opened, he was grabbed, pulled inside, flung against the wall, stumbling and the door locked on them.

"Jesus, Keller," he said, but a hungry mouth was already covering his.

"Say it again, Toby, say it again," Chris' voice whispered, breathless, breaking the kiss, "I need to hear it!"

"I love you; I'm sorry I hurt you, I'm sorry you're feeling so bad about it, but I love you, I never stopped, I swear, I felt so dead inside, I felt so empty, I felt so lost, I thought you'd never want me again."

Toby was rambling while Chris' hands took him out of his clothes, kissing him everywhere until he was naked, and seized him by the hips, pulling him against his naked, hard and angry body to feel his warmth. Both naked they collapsed on the floor, Toby scratching his back against the rough cold concrete and not giving a damn, opening himself up to the man above him, his eyes trapped by darker eyes, the lovemaking so rough he could've passed out but held on, held tight and took Chris inside him, deep, hissing with the punishing thrusts until the hard cock brushed against his prostate, again and again, forcing him into pleasure, making him moan and sob and clutch harder. Toby sought Chris' mouth blindly and kissed it, bit it, let it swallow the pleasure and the pain and the relief, and came, crushed under Chris' body, his legs hooked around lean hips, arms locked around a strained neck, his mouth against devouring lips; feeling Chris come inside him; and suddenly letting go, arms and legs limp, his heart thumping loud in his ears, his breath short.

"Please! I can't breathe!" Toby whispered after a while and Chris opened his eyes to look at him and moved over, kneeling between Toby's legs, taking in the bruised body leaning on the floor, wincing, then helping him up, wrapping his arms around him, his fingers stroking Toby's scratched back, his mouth breathing hot against his neck.

"Let's get dressed."

His mind dizzy with pleasure, his body still numb, Toby dressed slowly, so slowly that Chris had to help him, smoothing down the shirt along his body, running his fingers on Toby's neck, across his hair, smiling.

"You look a bit worn out, Beecher. People will talk," Chris said and Toby snorted.

"Yeah," he said, "like I give a damn." They walked out the room and into the quad together, the hacks barely glancing at them. "Nobody noticed," Toby said, yawning, suddenly exhausted.

"No, we weren't that long, and they were distracted," Chris explained, nodding at O'Reily who nodded back. Toby wanted to ask, why distracted, but gave up, followed him across the crowd of men sitting in front of the TV, a part of his brain noticing expressive looks roaming over him, the word going around; Beecher was hooked again, and he shrugged, entered his pod, Chris on his heels, collapsed on the bottom bunk and felt the mattress shriek under Chris' weight.

"Hey, you OK?"

"Yeah, just a bit tired," Toby said and closed his eyes.

Chris didn't move, watched him, relieved. He'd been afraid to discover some ghost hiding somewhere, afraid that the rough fuck in the storage room would awaken memories, wildness, fear, repulsion but the way Toby had surrendered to him, the love, the acceptance he'd felt had taken him off guard, moved him; and this last kiss had been nothing like the heated hell where he'd used to drag the other guys, years ago, something sweet and peaceful he wanted to taste again.

After a while, Toby heard him get up and leave; Chris wasn't in the cafeteria for dinner, but when Toby entered the quad he saw him leaning against the railway upstairs, looking at the guys below with the same predatory gaze he'd had during the last few weeks. At the sight of Toby he leaned forward and rested his chin on his hands, focused, waiting for him to come upstairs. They stood there together for a while, silent, Toby stiffening when Vern Schillinger entered the quad, pushing the mail cart and Chris came closer.

"Let me kill him for you," he said, whispering, his eyes on the man below, fierce determination behind the poker face, urging voice, "Let me kill him."

Toby's look wavered and turned away from his enemy's neat and tidy silhouette.

"He's not the only Aryan fuck in Em City, they'd seek revenge and kill you, or me; it's useless. Anyway, don't you think there's been enough blood lately?"

"I don't give a damn about that; just let me kill him."

Toby shook his head.

"Like you need my permission for that," he snorted, "and you know, since that Reverend Cloutier, arrived, Schillinger has been... different."

Chris stiffened and snorted. "You don't believe that, do you?"

"Why? Everyone can change!"

"Toby, please tell me you don't believe this bullshit! He's playing a new kind of game, that's all."

"Maybe, and maybe not."

Chris slammed back down the anger, the fear and the exasperation; after three years Toby was still as blind as the first day. "No one changes, Toby, not in here, how many times do I have to warn you?" "Y>ou did; you changed."

Stubborn stupid bitch!

"I'm not Schillinger; he's rotten to the core, Toby, he didn't change, he won't; first opportunity, he'll get you. Believe me, I know how he works."

Fuck, Chris knew he was right; no one ever changes; the old Keller was still hiding somewhere inside and who could tell? Given another chance, he would come back to life again; killing Browne and the others had given him enough blood to keep him quiet but the rage could surge again. This thought terrified him; he fought it, pushed it back deep inside, remembering the last guy he'd killed, how he'd tried to escape, already bleeding and wounded, how he'd let him go for a moment, crawl away from him for what... a yard, a bit more and then pounced again, and finished the job. Jesus, he was going to puke; he would go to hell for that, he knew it for sure but maybe Beecher would save him. Just maybe. Fuck, he had to stop zoning out like that, and he shook himself, taking control again, then shrugged and relaxed. Toby was talking.

"Actually, I have trouble believing anything good about Schillinger, and I hope Pancamo's killer did a good job of hiding the body," Toby said, his voice strained, "because you said it yourself, if they find the body..."

"Hey, hey," Chris moved to face him, pushing him against the wall behind them, shaking him lightly, "hey! Beech, stop that; they didn't find anything yet and they probably won't, stop worrying about it."

Beecher smiled, doubtful and Chris smiled back although he knew that most of the time the fucking cops found out, and if they did, nothing on earth would save Beecher's life. But Toby didn't need to worry with that more than he already did, didn't deserve to turn and toss at night, wake up and get out of bed, spend hours watching the desert quad in the middle of the night like he had all those weeks. "You didn't sleep well last night, did you?"

"Yeah? So what? Are you gonna hold me through the night to make sure I'm asleep?"

"I could do that, yeah. I know worse things than holding you."

The silence stretched between them, a hopeful silence Toby didn't dare break, his eyes focused on Chris' face, Chris' controlled and locked expression giving nothing away, dark assessing eyes, mouth shut tight like he already regretted his words.

"But you're not in my pod anymore," Toby said.

"That could be arranged."

Toby tried to look cool, to slam down the stupid dangerous hope that just surged through him, and failed.

"Yeah? You'd do that?"

"Guess so."

And Chris left; Toby saw him saunter across the quad and walk up the stairs to McManus' office.

Half an hour later, Chris was unloading his stuff on the bunk, a hack watching him from outside for a while before shrugging and walking away.

"Welcome back," Toby said, his throat tight with mixed emotions.

"Nice pod; I'm glad I'm back here."

Toby was standing awkwardly in the middle of the room, Chris moving around him as if he were some ghost, careful not to touch, not to look, focused on the clothes he was putting away.

When Toby turned his gaze to the door, Sad was there, resting a reproachful gaze on him.

Jesus, he's going to lecture me to death.

He walked out, leaving Chris alone in the pod.

"I cannot believe, Tobias, that you're still seeking this man's company."

"I love him."

"How can you love him? Do you remember who he is, what he did? To you, to the others, to those gay men?"

"I don't give a damn; I need him."

Faced once more with Beecher's stubbornness, Sad breathed deeply, trying to keep his nerves under control, something that had become more and more difficult lately.

"A while ago, you would've killed him yourself, cursed his name, hated him, wanted to kill him. And now..."

"I was wrong. Please, Kareem, don't you see how wrong I was?"

Chris' shadow looming between them interrupted Sad's wrath and the two men faced each other silently.

"Get away from him," Chris said, his eyes as dark as a wild sea, "your advice nearly got him killed. Leave him alone."

Toby stepped back, leaning against Chris, choosing his side.

"You are my friend, Tobias and I'd like to believe you're making the right decision but all my guts and all my convictions and all my thoughts scream to me that you are walking straight into a disaster," he glared at Chris, unimpressed by the lethal gaze resting on him, "and you won't have enough of a lifetime to regret it."

Then he turned on his heels and left; Toby sighed and entered the pod, silent, sat on a chair while Chris reclined on his bunk, then got up and went to the sink, restless.

Toby stepped to him, resting his hands on tense shoulders, the mirror reflecting Chris' expressionless gaze; Toby began to stroke the knotted muscles with his palms, comforting and soothing, hard muscles under soft skin, listening to Chris' controlled breathing and loudly beating heart, letting his fingers brush the skin of Chris' arms down to his wrists, pressing his lips against the nape of his neck, breathing hot, smiling at the long shiver travelling through Chris' body, kissing the warm skin until his lips met the worn fabric of the wifebeater.

"Take it off," he commanded in a soft voice, and Chris obeyed without a word.

There should be lands, Toby thought dreamily, where such men could be released, wide wild lands where they would live free, fight their own battles, fuck and hunt as they liked to without being corseted by ordinary human laws. Picturing a free Chris prowling, tiger like, among other predators of his own kind filled him with bliss and he chuckled.

"What's so funny, Beecher?"

"I was picturing you as a big tiger; you were perfect," Toby answered, his hands stroking the muscled back, wondering if Chris could purr as well, feeling him give in to the caress, bowing his head, enjoying, revelling in the caress, defenceless under Toby's touch.

"Chris," he said and Chris turned to look at him, his eyes dark, and Toby knew he had to take control, bring Chris out of his dark moods, the moods that asked for blood, more blood, feeding themselves on violence and pain and make Chris himself again, his again. Chris couldn't do that, he had to be forced to surrender, mind and body, to what he knew he needed but couldn't bring himself to accept. Toby framed the hard face in his hands and pulled Chris closer to kiss him, as sweetly and lovingly as he would've kissed a girl on a prom night, not wanting to push, to hurt, to steal anything, just giving all he had, all the love and hope he'd kept hidden deep inside for Chris in spite of all the shit that had come between them and when he broke the kiss, he said "I love you Chris, I really do."

Chris kept his eyes closed for a moment and let out a deep and trembling sigh, almost a sob, before stumbling blindly to grab Toby's shoulders and pull him into a crushing hug, keeping him there until a hack banged loudly against the door, yelling at them. Chris stiffened, his fists clenched, ready to fight, and Toby stepped back, saying, "Don't. He doesn't even exist, fucking bastard, he'll go away," praying that he did and when he turned to look the hack was gone, so they kissed again, then Chris lay on his bunk, Toby sitting on the chair in front of him, reading, throwing him sideway glances, tentative smiles.

Later he saw the hacks stir outside the pod and moved along, catching Toby's arms to drag him out of his chair, pushing him against the wall behind the bed, the most private place they could ever hope to find, and just when the lights faded, he pressed his lips on Toby's dry and warm lips, the kiss stealing their breath away again, Toby's fingers digging deep in Chris' back. The answer was the expected one, the grip around Toby's body tightened and Chris deepened the kiss, stunned at the surge of affection and love rushing through him like a hot and powerful geyser; not only lust, not only blind mindless desire, he would've been frightened by that; but love, something so shattering and strong he choked on it and pushed a very pale Toby at arms length, the whole prison vanishing around them, every disturbing thought disappearing as they broke the kiss.

"Jesus, I missed this," Chris said, his fingers brushing along Toby's shaved jaw, Toby's hands stroking his stubbly cheek, and he turned his head, taking these strong fingers into his mouth, sucking down on them, feeling a long shiver run through Toby's body, looking deep into his eyes, asking a silent question; Toby nodded and pulled Chris to him; kissed him again, tasting him again; he'd been wanting to do just that so many times in the last few weeks, even in the worst moments, but never had because he would've been pushed mercilessly away, but now, Jesus, now he could revel in Chris' embrace, relish every second, every move and this time nothing would take him away from Chris' arms, not even his own madness. When the kiss ended, they stood still for a while, lost in each other, then Chris pulled Toby on the bottom bunk and took him out of his blue shirt, caressing his arms, his shoulders, his back; rubbing his scratchy cheek against Toby's nipples, chest and belly; hearing Toby's moan, feeling Toby's fingers dig into his shoulders, bruising him. He paused, glancing back at the guard station to check, and unbuttoning Toby's pants, snaked his fingers along smooth stretching heat, Toby's head resting on his shoulder, his breath laboured.

Moving swiftly, Chris kneeled between Toby's legs, pulling the pants and boxers down, aware of dozens of look on them and unconcerned; discarded the clothes behind him and buried his head in Toby's crotch, listening to the low moan when he closed his lips around Toby's cock, teasing, sucking, licking.

"Oh, god," Toby said, shaking, wrapping his arms around Chris' neck, his lips on Chris' hair and coming; then falling flat on his back, pulling Chris on top of him.

"Aw fuck, you taste so good; no one ever tasted that good," Chris said, taking his time to savour what had been meant for him from the beginning, the abandoned body, the soul simmering just behind the hungry eyes; the pain that had left Toby untainted and unmarked like some god whose splendour fed itself on the blows he received, and Jesus, had Toby ever been that hot, that appealing? He kissed him again and melted in the heat of Toby's desire. They made love, their hunger carefully leashed, Chris holding back his passion, keeping Toby still on the bed.

"Enjoy, just enjoy," he said, thrusting faster as he came closer, harder, deeper, Toby's head rolling from side to side, his moans stifled by Chris mouth fuelling his fire, until he couldn't hold back anymore and came, stroking Toby's cock, letting the hot wave swallow him, fighting it, still wary of the demons but in the pleasure, there was nothing hidden, nothing stained, and in the end he left the flood submerge him, roll him into its hot coils, drag the old life out of him and replace it with a new one as he collapsed on Toby's body, feeling it quiver under him, Toby's cock still pulsing against his belly.

He didn't know how long they'd stayed like that -too long, he could see the hacks stir again and prepare for the next round and he slipped off Toby's body, swayed to the sink, naked, sweaty and exhausted, resting his hands on the cold steel.

Toby called from the bunk. "Come on, come back to bed!"

"Wait, the hacks are coming, I'll be back right after that."

Murphy himself had taken the rounds on their side of Em'city; the torch flashed its harsh light inside each pod, and Murphy nodded at Chris who nodded back.

"Murphy's gone," he said and washed himself before coming back to the bed to wash Toby with the wet cloth, "I think we'll have a quiet and private night."

Dawn found them still entangled, wrapped in rumpled sticky sheets, holding each other; Chris jumped off the bed just before count and shook Toby lightly.

"Time to rise and shine, Toby," he said, and watched him stretch, push away the sheets with his legs, turn a sleepy gaze to him and smile.

"Hey, it wasn't a dream, then?"

And Chris just shook his head, listening to Toby's happy laugh.

They stood for count side by side, not touching, not talking, silent and still, Chris' dark gaze roaming over the faces around him, making sure everybody knew and understood. Under his look, other looks lowered uncomfortably, and it didn't matter if they didn't get it right; all that mattered was that they got it. And now he prayed that it would last, prayed that fate would forget about them for a while longer, let them enjoy the hours, the days, and the weeks to come. He didn't even dare to hope further and when his eyes met Toby's eyes, he smiled and Toby smiled back.

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