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Beta'd by Erin.

"Slide" (said the little penguin.) - Part 4/11: "quietness"

by Ralu

(Exchange. Trade one thing for another.)


"My great-grandfather blew his brains out on the living room couch," Beecher says, smiling and crossing his legs near Chris' arms.

"No shit! You're fucking with me," Keller's smile is a bit embarrassed, like he doesn't know exactly what his reaction should be. Okay, Toby doesn't seem to be too affected by this, bit still... How the fuck should he react to this?

He's sitting down on the floor in front of Beecher, fingertips brushing slightly over Toby's ankles.

"I mean it. He took his shotgun and BOOM - that was it. The maid had to clean his brains off the walls afterwards."

"The *maid*..." Chris says, chuckling smoothly. "I guess you're not exactly 'nouveau riche' or whatever, huh?"

"Yeah... Well, money doesn't buy happiness."

"Bullshit."-- Keller's eyes express exactly what he's just said: "Did you have a *maid*?"

"Did anyone in your family off themselves?" Beecher shoots the question into thin, nerve-breaking air, watching the other man's reaction carefully. He's not interested in going into a nauseating class privilege - or *lack* thereof - discussion with Keller; that would only break *Toby* open. (Like always.) He's interested in something else; something besides having his own psyche sliced up and analyzed by someone that's even *better* at it than Sister Pete. And...(--'ain't that weird?'--)

Keller throws his head back, neck cracking like a piece of dried wood.

"You're avoiding my question," he says morosely.

"No. *You're* avoiding my question."

"Don't know. I didn't even know my grandparents, let along my *great-grandparents*... Maybe there was some crazy fuck down the line that blew himself away, how the hell should I know?"-- looking right at him: "Why the fuck should I care?"

Beecher remains silent; Keller's so fucking transparent sometimes, especially when he's forced to talk about his relatives - that oh-so-very-obvious reluctance tells it all.

"Besides," Chris continues, voice tinged with just the tiniest shade of anger: "I didn't ask you to tell me about your suicidal fucking family, did I? You did that out of your own initiative." (--And I didn't even *touch* on your wife... Just give me a fucking break.'--)

"So what? That means I don't have the right to ask you anything that you yourself haven't asked of me?"

"No, it just..."-- scrubbing his face with the back of his hand: "Jesus, Tobe... It just means that not everybody feels the need to just spill out their personal shit to..."

"Okay," Beecher says, dragging one of his feet beneath his body, away from Chris' touch.

The other man scowls:

"What do you want from me?" (--'What do you want me to give you?'--)

Same old fucking question, Toby thinks. Going both ways. Always unanswered.

"Nothing," he replies quietly, leaning his head against the back wall.

"You're pissed."

"Wouldn't you be too?"

Toby knows he can't force anything out of the other man; definitely not what he's after. Pressing him just doesn't work; Chris has probably had his fair share of psychiatrists trying to do the exact same thing...and look how well he's turned out. He just has to wait - he's learned by now that even Keller has moments when he just has to 'spill out his personal shit'; moments when he needs to do it maybe even more than Beecher himself. Either that - or explode.

They sit in silence for several minutes - just listening to the sounds outside their pod. Complete unreal SILENCE. Nobody's fighting, no one's yelling; even the C.O.'s seem to have sunken into a hot coffee-induced numbness - as paradoxical as that sounds.

"It's so fucking weird," Chris whispers, leaning his head on the bunk's edge.

"Like the whole world's disappeared," Toby says, his tone of voice matching Keller's.

Quietness flows around the entirety of Em City, a surreal stillness settling all over - blurring out boundaries, walls; cages. Or maybe making them more visible.

"Maybe we're dead," Chris' voice melts into the mattress where he's buried his face.

Beecher looks at him - *really* looks at him. Strong, muscular figure barely contained in a ragged, sweat-stained white T-shirt; tattoo flexing on his left arm stretched alongside the bunk, lower half of the black inked Christ's body seeming to want to crawl down from that unseen flesh-carved cross Keller had nailed him to. Bare feet tugged underneath him, fingers crumpling the sheets on the mattress; the back of his neck -- egg-white soft skin - icy cold, damp. Burning. Low, unbalanced breaths of air resonating against the bunk's sheets as his body raises and lowers itself, shivering a little. A wounded animal. He looks like a wounded animal. (Vulnerable.)

"We're not dead," Toby whispers, rubbing his palm across the other man's exposed nape and shoulders, feeling the body beneath him jerking unconsciously. "We're not dead."


(Exchange. Give away something that belongs to you and get in return something that's not yours. Something that belongs to somebody else. And make *it* yours by default.)

---end of part 4/11---
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