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Beta'd by Erin.
"Slide" (said the little penguin.) - Part 2/11: "things you better not ask for"
(Let days pass like water. Wait...wait for all this to pass, to collapse inward, outward, everywhere in between. Wait for it to grow, expand, become monstrous. Everything blown out of proportion, over-exposed, under-developed. Beyond recognition, so fucking familiar. Uncontrollable.)
Beecher walks back and forth in his pod, hands curled into fists, his blonde hair all wild and tangled; looking like a very, very pissed off house cat, unable to go wander off into that not-so-welcoming wilderness of Em City, but... What the fuck?
*Anything* is better than THIS.
Keller is sitting on his bunk, trying to read something. Trying to ignore his podmate's tense shoulders, his resentful expression.
Almost a week has passed since lockdown was enforced and if during the first few days things have gone off pretty smoothly - chess, reading, talking about meaningless, weirdly childish shit; most of the time, just *touching* each other, enjoying each other's presence, the flow of heat running between them - now the peace (or *truce*) they have managed to maintain is starting to rapidly disintegrate.
Toby feels like repeating the whole *PCP-up-the-stairs-and-throw-a-chair-through-the-fucking-supposedly-unbreakable-plexiglass-wall* all over again. Just to see what would happen. Just to see the hacks scrambling like idiots; just to hear the other inmates' howls and cheers.
He momentarily looks over at Keller and thinks for a second about starting a fight with the other man.
Punching his fucking lights out.
Of course he knows Keller is a hell of a lot stronger than he is (not to mention the still slowly healing broken limbs...); he knows Chris could probably take him out just by punching him once or twice. He's not dumb.
But Beecher had discovered during that whole *pod-wall-breaking-face-shitting* experience just how powerful he could be, whenever anger and that convenient tinge of madness overwhelmed him.
And - right now - madness and anger are not too far away, truth be told.
He feels like he can't breathe; the air in the pod smells like recycled breath, sweat and tension.
It smells like Keller.
Fuck! Even his own skin, his *flesh* smells like Keller... He feels like he's breathing through the other man, drowning in him; sinking in the muddy depths of Christopher Keller.
(--'Ha! That's an *image*, To-by... You're really losing it again, aintcha?'--)
Keller, who is - no matter how much Toby might have wanted to tell himself otherwise - definitely not stupid. Uneducated, yeah. But...education doesn't have much to do with intelligence, or creativity for that matter.
The man sharing a pod with him is the living proof of that.
He would sometimes - just sometimes, when he'd let his guard down - almost amaze Toby with the diverse amount of things he knew, things so completely useless for someone with his track record...
Toby had even considered telling him - in the middle of some pleasantly surprising discussion about the civil rights movement - that he could apply for college...
But he kept his mouth shut, once Chris had accurately pointed out that he'd never get out of Oz..."so all this pseudo-intellectual bullshit is a complete waste of time, and it's dangerous, a weakness", as Keller himself had put it.
(--'Just think about yourself, Toby. About where that *pseudo-intellectual bullshit* has landed you, from the moment you came to Oz... *That*'s the weakness he was talking about.'--)
Anyway, Keller was a lot smarter that he let people think he was, that much he could tell.
And it made Beecher wonder sometimes whether that wasn't one of the reasons why he'd been so keen in getting him back.
God knew there weren't a lot of people like Toby in this place... There wasn't *anyone* like Toby... And that was kind of...frightening really.
Beecher walks toward the pod door and peers outside into the empty quad, into the other pods.
He can't see Said's pod, though.
He really needs to talk to him; he needs to get out, to get away from Keller.
Just for a fucking second.
"Toby, settle the fuck down," Keller whispers from the lower bunk, closing his book and looking up at the other man: "You can walk back and forth in this fucking pod all you want, it won't change a goddamn thing. Sit down."
Beecher turns towards him and places his hands on his hips, snarling back:
"I'm sick of being locked up in here, like an animal. I need to get out. Damn it, don't you feel it too?"
"Feel what?" Keller asks, with a small tinge of boredom hiding in his voice.
"Numbness. Fucking inertia!" Toby snaps back, letting his hands fall down behind his body, placing his palms behind his back against the pod's wall.
"*I-ner-tia*..." Chris says, mimicking the other man's voice, chuckling a little: "You're not going crazy on me again, are you Beech?"
"Fuck you," Beecher answers angrily, turning his back on the other man.
Keller places his elbows on his knees and rests his chin on his fists, looking at him wearily:
"Listen, if you keep this up you'll get me acting the same way. And we'd both be like a couple of animals on display, and the hacks would come. You don't want that, do you?"
He stands up and walks towards Beecher, barely touching his shoulders with his fingertips:
"So...just *relax* for a sec, okay?"
"Don't," Toby snaps back, shaking his shoulders to make the other man take his hands away and back the fuck off.
Keller walks away from him and sits back down on his bunk:
"Talk to me. Tell me about your kids," he says in a monotonous voice, looking at his fingers.
"I don't know, pretend I'm Sister Pete or fucking Said... Tell me about your wife. Your parents."
"Why the fuck would you wanna hear about that?" Beecher says cautiously, turning towards him.
Chris looks at the other man with an almost bored despair:
"Because I give a shit about you?!... Jesus, Tobe, just talk to me, just sit the fuck down."
"You talk," Toby says, complying with his demands and sitting down in a chair across Keller.
"Me? About what?"
"You. Your parents, your life. I'm sick of talking about mine."
Chris lets out a soft chuckle, scratching his forehead and smiling widely:
"Shit, Toby, you're *never* sick of talking about yourself."
"Don't back away," Beecher whispers, leaning towards him: "Give me something about you."
"There's nothing to give," the other man replies, picking up his book, trying to be as dismissive as possible.
But Toby grabs the book from his slack hands and puts it aside, touching the back of Chris' hand with his fingertips, making the other man wince.
"Chris, you always do this. I always tell you things about myself and you never give anything in return."
"What is this, a bargain?" Keller says morosely, standing up and moving away from him: "Fuck it, Beecher, just forget it. Go back to your pacing."
"Why do you shut me out?"
Chris looks at him for a long moment, pondering whether to give in or not. Now he's the one feeling trapped.
"Okay, what do you wanna hear?" Keller lets out in a loud sigh that sounds to Beecher like surrender, leaning against the pod's wall.
"Tell me about...tell me about your mom."
"My mom?!... Why?"
Beecher shrugs, vaguely gesturing with his hands as he wraps one of his ankles around the chair's leg:
"I don't know, just tell me about her."
"She's dead. And my dad's dead too. See?"-- his tone getting sharper: "Nothing worth talking about."
"How did she die?"
Keller turns his back on the other man, resting his head on the pod wall:
"Toby, fuck... Talk about your kids."
"Talk about Holly and Gary," Chris interrupts him, closing his eyes; his voice is smooth and monotonous again: "Talk about how it felt like when you saw them, when they came to visit."
"No. *You* don't fucking do this," he says, turning towards him, crossing his arms against his chest: "There ain't nothing, NOTHING to talk about, okay? It don't do no good to anybody. Tell me about your kids," Keller continues, clearly not in the mood for any soul-searching bullshit.
Beecher's eyes sparkle with fury in the pod's cold, emotionless light:
"You know what? If you don't trust me... Why should I trust you?"
The other man smirks bitterly, shaking his head:
"Come on, Tobe, this ain't about trust," Keller whispers pointing at him: "You talk about yourself to fucking everybody. You can't help yourself, that's how you are."
"And...that's NOT how *you* are, right?"
"Yeah. So don't ask me to change for you, okay? It would be useless, and, most likely I'd be lying to you."
"Because it's easier," Toby sneers, throwing at him that ugly squint Keller hates so much.
"Yeah...I guess I should be the one to know just how easy it is for you to lie about everything, right?" Beecher points out in a low, slightly condescending tone of voice, standing up and moving halfway towards Keller.
Chris doesn't say anything, but instinctively backs away a little, pushing his whole being into the wall behind him.
He feels his hands shake a little; his head jerks slightly as he avoids Beecher's mean stare.
"Tell me about when you first went to jail," Toby demands in a cool, predatory tone, nudging into the other man's personal space.
"It was Lardner, right?" Beecher adds, moving even closer to Chris, making the other man squirm as he tries to avoid looking at him: "I mean, shit! You were 17, how early could you have started your *career*?"
"Early enough to know a fuck of a lot more than you," Keller snarls back violently, pushing Toby's body out of his way and sitting on his bunk, looking down at his feet.
"Come on, tell me about it. *Brag*. Isn't that what tough cons like you do?" Beecher smirks, feeling his palms burning, his entire body riding on the wave of an impending symbolic Keller-bashing.
God, it feels so fucking good, he thinks, sensing the other man's uneasiness.
"Why do you always have to pull this shit Beecher, huh? What the fuck is it you want from me?" Keller asks in a low voice, not looking at him.
"I just wanna hear about your *first time*."
"Yeah right," Chris snarls back, rubbing his nape with his hand, looking at him through lowered eyelids: "You wanna hear about Schillinger, that's what you wanna hear 'bout."
"Now that you've mentioned it..."
"Okay!" Keller almost yells at the other man, taking a long moment to calm down: "He didn't treat me like shit. He didn't treat me like he did *you*," he says, smiling that demented clown smile of his: "You happy?!"
"Because he didn't have to..." Beecher says, giving his own, more refined, way more *in control* smile.
"Like I said, I know a fuck of a lot more than you ever will," Keller responds, looking down again.
Beecher crosses his arms against his chest, pushing out his most lawyer-like tone:
"And that makes you feel what? Better?"
"Well, I didn't lick his fucking boots. So yeah, it does," Keller answers, trying to get the upper hand.
"You know what?" Toby whispers, keeping his tone cold and casual: "I believe you. *You'd* feel better about being like *that*."
"What the fuck's that supposed to mean?" Keller throws back, his voice suddenly ragged and dangerous.
"Nevermind Chris," Toby says, looking tired and broken, turning his back on him, looking outside the pod: "It was a bad fucking idea to even ask you to *talk* in the first place."-- lowering his head and resting it on the glass wall, murmuring under his breath: "Besides, I don't think you'd get it even if I told you."
"Why? Because I didn't go to fucking Harvard?"
"Because you *know* a fuck of a lot more than me that's why," Beecher responds slowly, smiling bitterly.
Keller nods without being exactly sure what the other man meant by that.
He stares for a long minute at Beecher's figure leaning against the wall, all that previous unrest, that fire rummaging through his body - gone now.
Chris shakes his head painfully, leaning on his elbows and clasping his forehead in his shaking palms:
"You know Toby, it would be useful for you to pull your head out of your fucking ass once in a while," he says in a low, almost whispered voice, keeping his face carefully hidden behind his hands: "People are different, the shit they go through... I am here, with you, because you..."-- his voice breaking up a bit: "...you're *not* like me. Get that?"
"Why? Because I'm weak?" Beecher says in a tone matching Keller's, watching one of the Sicilians smoking a barely concealed joint in his cell: "Because you had to shank Schillinger to save my ass?"-- he adds, turning to face him.
"Oh, fucking forget it," Keller lets out in a quiet tone, unaware of Beecher's stare measuring his entire being.
"Or maybe you're the weak one. For being here, with me, in spite of everything."
"Yeah, maybe I'm the weak one..."
Keller lifts his head out of his palms, meeting the other man's eyes:
"You shanked me, didn't you?"
His soft spoken words, his weary voice... those midnight blue eyes darkening...
Beecher turns back to staring outside the pod, his voice ragged, breaking into pulsating gulps of anger and resentment - though weirdly monotone:
"Well, at least you didn't have to spend three fucking months in a fucking cast, completely fucked up. Cursing everything and everybody. Cursing your own life."
"I told you I was sorry..." Keller says, swallowing hard, standing and moving towards him.
"I told you I had no choice..." he whispers, covering the other man's figure with his own, more powerful, taller shadow.
"Yeah, 'cause you owed your buddy for being so *nice* to you..."-- turning to face him, blue eyes burning with anger and contempt: "Tell me Chris, what exactly did you do back in Lardner, to keep Schillinger so pleased?"
Keller doesn't respond, but slowly turns around and backs away from him.
"You know Toby, you say I never wanna talk about me," Chris whispers, slowly dragging his feet as he spins in an imaginary circle, his shoulders lowered: "The truth is you don't want me to talk about myself, you don't even listen. You *never* listen. I guess it comes from the fact that you're so interested in your shit, so fucking self-absorbed you just can't deal with everybody else's."-- looking at him: "Maybe that's why your wife offed herself."
Beecher suddenly seems to revert back to his familiar pattern of anger and pain - his whole body twisting under the burden of Chris' last words - putting on that crazy, horrible, barely human mask of self-defense he's manufactured to survive in Oz:
"Don't you fucking talk about Gen, you bitch," he hisses through his unveiled, sharp, little teeth: "You don't know anything about my wife."
"Yeah, and that pretty much shows how little you talk about her."
"I wouldn't talk about her with *you*," Toby sneers back at the other man, ferociously.
"My point exactly," Keller chuckles quietly, leaning against the wall across from Beecher: "So don't ask me to talk about what matters to me, okay?"
Toby suddenly seems out of words.
Confused. Sad. Losing whatever kind of advantage over Keller he has felt before.
"Gen...I can't talk about her, you know? Not *really* talk... I just can't. Not now," he lets out, sighing and sliding to the floor.
"That's okay Toby," Chris whispers appeasingly, approaching the other man and dropping down on his knees in front of him: "You know, some things... You can't talk about them, you shouldn't..."-- putting his hands on Toby's trembling shoulders squeezing a little, leaning in his head only inches away from the other man's mouth: "There's shit you gotta keep to yourself, you know? There's things you just don't talk about."
Beecher looks at him - straight into his eyes - feeling the other man's breath warming his face, moist and caressing. Almost suffocating.
"You don't talk about anything..."
"Like I said..." Keller replies, unsure of what to say, backing away a little.
"...There's just shit you don't talk about," Toby continues, slowly curling his fingers around the other man's shoulders, pushing into the fabric of his shirt.
"I know," Toby whispers under his breath, hugging him and subconsciously gasping for air as Chris leans in even further, whispering into his ear something he can't quite make out and gently kissing the spasming muscle stretching just under his jaw, shattering any small, residual instinct of self-defense he might still have.
For the moment anyway.
And - strangely enough - no hacks came to spoil the moment, Murphy deliberately ignoring the whole thing completely.
(Wait - hope - for the whole fucking thing to just stop, die in its own making. By its own hands. Hoping for the end. Days and nights - fingers over your mouth, nails scratching for blood, for dirt. For purity, for hate. For love. Days and nights, passing like water.)
---end of part 2/11---
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