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Beta'd by Erin.

"Slide" (said the little penguin.) - Part 7/11: "stop processing everything, *honey*"

by Ralu

(Stop. Turn around for a second, look behind you. See your other world, your other self caught in a still snapshot. You probably should take your time, try to remember, re-live it once again. And again. And again. 'Til it all comes back to you, 'til you're the same. But...you know that just ain't possible anymore. Useless junk.)


Chris never says shit like "Come to bed, honey!"; he never calls him "sweetie" or "darling" or whatever terms of endearment Gen used to. He never ruffles his hair, never strokes his head backwards. He also never does that half-shy/half-teasing twirl with his tongue that Gen used to do whenever they were kissing.

Keller's kiss is deep, overwhelming, suffocating sometimes - his tongue feels heavy and swollen in Toby's mouth, and his teeth almost always clash with his own. Kissing Chris has nothing in common with the way he used to kiss Gen. With the way he used to feel doing it. It's...overpowering, an outright *dare*; not the little tease his wife used to throw in the game.

Beecher knows what all this means, all the things separating Chris from Gen. All the little details (and he's not even talking about sex) displaying themselves in front of him like small mirrors of his soul, each showing him - if it's still necessary - just how much he's changed.

Ever since coming to Oz, he's constantly felt like shedding his skin, or growing a new one; this place has forced him not only to adapt (read: try to survive) but also to take a good look inside himself and witness all the hidden fury, all the helplessness; all the lies. That simmering knot of contradictory feelings and urges that he had felt and hidden all his life had been exposed, and Toby had to either acknowledge and embrace himself the way he really was - to make *all* of him legitimate - or lose it completely. Give up, crawl in a corner and die.

He had chosen almost instinctively - surprising even himself - to fight back; to reclaim himself through admitting to all of himself. The only way to survive; the only way to recapture some fucking dignity. Accepting to finally live with himself, as he truly was.

And...the really weird thing was that Keller - this man who kept spinning around him like Toby was the center of the fucking universe or something - LIKED this Toby. *Loved* this Toby. Embraced him completely, in a way Gen would have probably never done.

He feels raw, completely exposed around Chris. Naked. He can throw anything at the other man, and Keller inevitably responds in what seems to Beecher to be an equal manner. No matter if it materializes in a simple nod of acknowledgement, a hug or a fistfight. He's more honest around Chris than he's ever been in his entire life.

Still, Keller and Gen have one thing in common - something that only feeds that inner monster of addiction lurking inside Beecher: they both carry around that shade of resentment, of disapproval. That slightly quirked eyebrow, that wrinkle of the nose.

And that continuous flow of...whatever gives way for Toby to wrap himself in a well-known pattern of addiction: an ugly squint met with an equally ugly one; a mean word countered with an even meaner expression. Cynical arguments and slammed doors replaced with all the bitching and moaning both men are capable of. With violent fights and even more violent silences.

Both Gen and Chris are - essentially - natural enablers; the difference is that - with Chris - Beecher can do *everything*. There's little restraint involved in this relationship, and when hell breaks loose...well, there's no telling how deep the rabbit hole is.

It makes Toby feel alive. And terrified of his own power. His own deliberate recklessness.

He does things to Chris he would have never even thought of doing to Gen. And that kind of freedom, that kind of unbounded savagery is as good as alcohol or heroin. Even better.


(Useless junk. Everything keeps spinning inside your head like a broken record and you know you can't let go. Because it's the only thing that really, REALLY matters. It's what you are.)


"This can't last forever," Beecher mutters, staring outside the pod into the empty quad.

A hack walks by dangling his nightstick like a harmless toy; he bangs on the pod's wall, telling Beecher without words to back off. Why the fuck he'd do that, Toby doesn't know. It's a senseless act, like so many others in this place.

"Hey. Tobe, come here."

Chris is sitting on his bunk doing this *thing* with his fingers...like he's counting or something. Toby's noticed the subconscious gestures the other man sometimes does, and he usually associates it, without even thinking, with his son's habit of sucking on his thumb when he was a little baby. (Back when...he could actually *witness* it.) He doesn't know whether it is a sign of boredom or just a reflex, something he does without even knowing. Without even caring someone else might see it.

Just like he's seen Chris staring at himself in the mirror sometimes, the expression on his face...a contorted mess Toby can't quite identify. He wonders for a moment if Chris ever feels like he doesn't know who or *what* he is, just like Toby has done all his life. Probably. If there's one thing he's learned about Keller, it's the fact that the other man has some serious self-identity issues. It breaks through that cool mask of his, like ugly cracks on a smooth surface; anyone can see them, if only they're interested enough to watch. And Toby's interested all right. Trying to pick up on anything that could show Keller for what he really is; anything ugly, anything horrible. Any sign of...kindness. Trying to be always one step ahead.

Beecher goes back towards the other man and sits down next to him.

"You really wanna get out of here, don'tcha?" Chris asks, leaning closer to him.

Beecher just nods in agreement. Yeah, he definitely does. He's tired. He wants to talk to Said; he wants to see Pete. He wants to play cards with anybody except Keller - who always seems to win - he wants...he wants to see his kids. His parents. He wants to fucking *move*.

Keller on the other hand, doesn't seem to want any of that.

"It's gonna be over soon, I'm telling ya. It usually doesn't last very long," Keller mutters. His voice is oddly tinged with sadness.

"Is that the voice of experience?" Toby asks quietly. He doesn't want to imply anything, he just doesn't feel like it. He's not after a fight, not right now. He's too fucking tired, too fucking numb.

Keller doesn't reply. He almost instinctively places one hand around the other man's shoulder, leaning his face into Toby's neck. He whispers something, but Beecher doesn't understand. Doesn't hear...doesn't *want* to hear, to be more precise.

He's swimming inside those murky waters of his over-active brain; thinking of his kids, thinking of Holly's blue eyes; thinking of Gary's thin, small fingers clasping his own, when he was just a toddler.

Thinking of...Andy. Of what he'd done to him. His shivering, sweat-soaked body, the trembling of his voice. His insecurity, his *need* to believe that someone, SOMEONE gave a shit about him.

"Jesus, being locked up like this really..."

"Gives you too much time to think, right?" Keller says, scanning his face for some kind of a clue of how to get Toby back with him, where...(--he fucking belongs.)

"Yeah," Beecher replies softly, rubbing his eyes with his palms.

"Wanna play some chess?"

Chris' voice is so low, so tentative. So insecure. He's taken his hand away and is now leaning his elbows on his knees. Toby looks at him for a long moment. Chris' eyes are all puppy dog bullshit, all 'Come on, I'm just trying to...I'm doing my best here...'

"No?... Okay."

Chris stands up, grabs the cards from under the bunk and starts shuffling them, spreading them on the floor.

Jesus, he's gonna play by himself, Toby thinks for a second.

And that, THAT right there - that's one of those moments when Keller says more about himself that any bullshit talk they could ever have. This man, this grown-up man is sitting on the floor, legs spread, chest bent over the cards, playing by himself. Like a child. (A lonely child.) Looking like he's done it all his life.

Keller notices his stare and looks up; the expression on his face - strangely enough - reminds Toby of his own, when he was a child. He had never been what one might call a popular kid. He'd never really had any friends... Probably neither had Chris. Only lonely kids do this; this `shuffle and spread' thing, all by themselves.


Jesus, his voice sounds like nothing Toby's heard from this man before. It's almost frightening. And...comforting in a weird manner.

"Yeah," Beecher says, sitting on the floor next to him: "You deal."

Chris lets out a small chuckle, and shuffles the cards, looking like a real expert. Something unsettling crawls up Beecher's spine, and a slight red-hot shiver burns through his skull. Toby already knows, he *feels* he's gonna lose. Or that Keller's gonna *let* him win. (--'Fucking bitch.'--)

"You did it on purpose, didn't you?" Toby asks.

He should be angry, he should be annoyed. But...he's too fucking tired for that. Give the little moron what he wants, he thinks, oddly relaxed.

"Toby," Keller says smiling, handing out Beecher's cards: "Don't you ever stop thinking?..."

Beecher doesn't reply, just looks at him. And that odd comfort, that closeness he needs, is so much a part of his life now - sitting here, next to this man, this habitual liar, the man who broke his arms, the man who says he loves him - he just can't help but smile back.

I'm so fucked up, Toby thinks, but he doesn't even want to process that thought anymore.

"Just play," Chris adds, playfully squeezing his shoulder: "What the fuck else is there to do?!.."

My point exactly, Toby thinks morosely.


(So days and nights slip through your fingers, my fingers. Let them. It's who you are. And it's who I am. If only it were enough...)

---end of part 7/11---

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