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Beta'd by Erin.
"Slide" (said the little penguin.) - Part 9/11: "what's there not to like?"
(So everything passes, right? Right?!... One forgets and forgives. Or maybe one forgets *or* forgives...)
"No, I'm serious..."
"Get the fuck outta here..."
Toby's telling him some weird, kind of silly story about a girl he'd dated in college; he's doing that prissy-pissy expression of his when he thinks Keller's laughing at him.
But Chris is not laughing AT him, he really is amused. Toby could say the dumbest, most childish things and Chris would somehow find them interesting. Useful. (Sweet)
Yeah, Beecher can be so irritatingly sweet sometimes that it almost hurts. Sister Pete had once asked him why he liked the other man. "What's there not to like?" he'd asked back, more earnest than ever.
*What's* there not to like?!...
"So we went back to her place, 'cause she had an apartment of her own, you know?" Toby says, dangling his feet over the edge of his bunk.
"She was rich?" Keller asks, slowly chewing at an orange skin he's kept in his pocket long enough to dry and shrink. He's sitting right next to Toby, leaning against the back wall.
"Yes, she was," Toby responds, not catching on to the other man's sly implication: 'Rich like you.'
"She had a really nice place; huge windows, great fucking view. She had this gorgeous stained glass window, you know? Like the ones you find in churches."
"I know what a stained glass window is, Toby."
(--'Jesus, what the fuck's he gonna do next, tell me about her fucking furniture?!'--)
"I know you kn -" Beecher starts to say, frowning a bit, before Keller suddenly interrupts him:
"Was your wife rich too? You know, educated? When you married her."
Beecher stops in the middle of the sentence, blue eyes narrowing:
"Why do you ask that?"
"Was she?" Keller presses on.
"As a matter of fact, yes. She was," Beecher says, his voice getting defensive.
Chris licks the orange skin and rubs it against his lips, spit and the faintest tinge of lingering acid melting down his throat.
"Did you ever fuck someone who WASN'T rich? Did you even *meet* someone who wasn't like you?" His voice seems so impossibly casual, way too *conversational*.
"Where are you going with this?"
(--'What the fuck?!...'--)
Toby wants to sound just as casual as the other man, but he fails miserably.
Still, what Keller senses in his voice is not anger or annoyance, but weariness. Beecher's being cautious. Defensive. Very...(--lawyer-like.)
Keller just shrugs, gently sucking on one of his thumbs for a second:
"Don't know, I'm just asking."
"Well..."-- Beecher drags on his words deliberately, cold eyes boring into Chris': "I've never fucked a high school dropout before. If that's what you wanted to know..."
(--'Someone who *remembered* to TRY to take his GED exam in his late 30's.'--)
Keller's body reacts involuntarily, stiffening a little, even though his voice remains as smooth as velvet:
"Yeah, that's what I wanted to know." -- a beat: "Funny though. With all your money, your education, you still managed to end up in here,"-- a mean, sour smirk spreading across his face and in his dark, resentful eyes: "With fucking high school dropouts."
They stare at each other for a long time. Keller senses a battle raging on inside the other man's body; Toby's shoulders are trembling slightly and the expression in his eyes has slowly slipped from initial defiance into something resembling...helplessness.
Fine, Keller thinks. That's exactly what I wanted. Just fucking remember where you are and what you've done. From that perspective - and ONLY THAT perspective - you're no better than...(--*me*.)
"What do you want me to say, Chris?"-- Beecher's voice is tired. Quiet. He's lost - or abandoned - any of the advantage he had a moment before.
'Abandoned', Keller thinks almost instantly. Tobias Beecher - always taking the path of least resistance.
(--'How to best avoid a fight: look up the, on occasion, Not! Crazy! To-by. Jesus...'--)
"Nothing," Keller whispers, staring outside the pod: "Never mind, it was a stupid thing to ask anyway."
As it seems, neither of them is up for a fight.
(Not right at the moment.)
(Wait for a confession, for the truth. Wait for patience, turn patience into forgiveness, sliding through time like white feathers...
Rub your hands across the back of his neck, thumbs across his stubbled jaw and wait. 'Til patience and trust wear themselves out and turn on you, turn on him, like jagged knives.
Wait for a confession from a liar. You really want that? Do you?)
*What's there not to like?!...*
Keller doesn't want to talk about it. Never ever. (For obvious fucking reasons.)
So Toby avoids bringing up the subject, knowing all too well what a potential mess it could lead to. (Almost always.)
"What did it feel like?" Toby asks, seeing the other man squirm uncomfortably in his chair.
They're playing chess, and Beecher's not even paying attention to the game anymore; he could win with his eyes closed, that's how bad Keller's playing.
"When you heard the snap. When you heard *me*." He's a bit amazed at how calm, how plain his voice sounds when saying it.
Keller - on the other hand - is anything but calm and plain.
"Jesus, Tobe..."-- he mutters, scratching his head nervously.
"I just wanna know. What did you feel?" Beecher continues, completely unfazed by the other man's obvious discomfort: "What do you feel...when you hurt people?"
And that's a bit too much for Keller apparently. He jumps out of his chair, turning over the chess table, more accidentally than on purpose, moving as far away from the other man as the tiny cell allows.
Toby just sits on the bunk, completely unimpressed. He gets a sickening, overwhelming rush of bittersweet, poisonous pleasure from seeing Keller like this.
Toby knows so well just what buttons to press, how to twist the knife in Chris' unhealed (never to be healed) wound; how to tease, when to punch.
It feels amazingly good to know - deep down inside, in that place so very few suspect even exists - he's got him. In every imaginable and unimaginable way.
Keller sighs and attempts to come off both cool and appeasing:
"I thought..."--trying to clear his throat, to force a shot of power in his (very) slow voice: "I thought we were over this."
"Forgiving doesn't mean forgetting, Chris," Toby points out quietly.
"Jesus fucking Christ, what do you want from me, huh?" Keller's one step away from exploding.
And...(--'doesn't it feel good?'--)
"I hated you. I hated you so much, you know? I wanted to break you, to tear you to pieces, like you did me."-- Toby's voice is trembling under the burden of his confession. Like always, he finds himself asking for explanations, for *something* from the other man; and - like fucking always - he's the one spilling his guts out. He just can't help it.
"I didn't want you dead," he adds. "I just wanted you to suffer."
"Do you still want that?" Keller asks quietly, making the other man give him a short, tired glance.
"No," Beecher says, shaking his head and looking down. "I'm done hating. It's too fucking exhausting. Hate doesn't get anybody anywhere."
"Did Said tell you that?"
"Yeah. One must forgive others in order to forgive one's self. To find some kind of peace."
"And you forgave me?"
"I told you..."
"Yeah, you told me, I know. But did you really feel it when you said it? Did you really feel it, Tobe?"
"I told you I forgave you," Beecher repeats, sensing his hands involuntarily clenching into fists, his voice getting thicker.
Keller stares at him for a long moment. He knows he should drop it, accept whatever lie Toby feels he has to tell himself and others to just move on with his life; he knows it would be the best thing right now. But he doesn't. They've reached a point where lies just don't work for Keller anymore.
"Said's full of shit. And so are you."
"Oh really?"-- the world's contempt is built up in Toby's voice. "What the fuck do you know about forgiveness? Or guilt, for that matter?"
Saying those well-rehearsed lines - like a prayer: `I'm sorry. I had to do it, didn't have a choice. I know it was wrong, I wanna make it right. Forgive me.'-- like that could make a fuck of a difference for Beecher. Like he doesn't know it's all a lie - for Keller to get whatever it is he wants.
And...(--he got it.)
Which...(--'makes you what, Toby?')
Weak, at best.
*Forgive me. Forgive me, forgive me, fucking forgive me...*
(--'Well, I forgave you, Chris. And if I could forgive you - a worthless piece of shit like you - I can forgive anybody. Even myself. I just have to try hard enough.'--)
"You think you're so special, so different. Better. That's what you and Said have in common, that's why you get along so well. You both think the world revolves around you; what you think, what you feel."-- Keller's voice drops to a barely audible murmur, edgy and dangerous, disturbingly intimate as he slowly moves towards the other man: "Well, let me tell you something, Toby. It fucking doesn't. And you don't know shit about me or what I feel. What I am. You just keep making stupid, narrow-minded assumptions about everybody and everything. That's what got you shanked in the gym. That's..."(--'what got your arms and legs broken.'--)
Keller's words seem to have hit a raw nerve inside the other man; his eyes gaze deep into Chris', blue-green flares twisting behind lowered eyelids, pouted mouth twitching with anger and helplessness.
He tries to say something, *anything* to hurt him, tries to act out on his own need. But...there's nothing there, nothing.
Toby's trapped, locked inside Keller, as the other man's last words keep spinning in his ears: `That's what got you shanked in the gym. That's... THAT's...'
His own stupid naivete. His own foolishness. His own doing, nobody else's.
Everything that's happened to him - he's responsible for it. All...a consequence of his own actions.
"Just...fucking face it, Toby. For once," Keller whispers, standing right in front of him; knowing all too well the effect his words have on Beecher.
The other man's breaking, falling inward like a house of cards; he's shivering.
(--'Shit! Shit, shit...'--)
That's NOT what Keller wanted. He doesn't need Beecher to have a fucking breakdown right now; still, he's kind of...surprised - pleasantly surprised - to discover he can actually do this to Toby. That he can make him like this.
What Chris doesn't realize - for the moment - is that he's not the one doing it, Toby is. Nobody can really break Toby, except for Toby himself.
Beecher slumps forward resting his head in his clasped palms, elbows on his weak knees. The pod is filled with so much silence, so much inertia, it seems like time is standing still.
Keller leans down in front of him, unsure of what to do; he wants to touch him so bad his skin itches and aches every time the other man's breath rushes like a wave over his being - the only sign he's not completely alone. Completely abandoned.
A sudden feeling crawls up his spine, intoxicating him: this is what he needs. Toby's breath near him, on him; inside him. That's what keeps him going. Pulsating all over his being. Another addiction...THE addiction. His one reason for breathing.
"I shouldn't have said those things. I'm sorry. You shouldn't listen..." Keller doesn't know what else to say.
"I lied," Beecher breathes out slowly, keeping his face carefully hidden behind his palms: "I wanted you dead. I wanted everybody dead. Everybody and everything... I wanted myself dead."
(The clear implication for Chris - and Chris only: 'That's what YOU did to me.')
He looks up at the other man, a small part of himself - the darkest of all, the one almost nobody ever got to see behind that mild-mannered, overgrown, child-like appearance - scanning Keller's face for a clear assessment of the damage his words might have inflicted.
(--'Let's see now, Mr. Keller...is that brain of yours good at anything besides finding ways of seducing people and then fucking them up?'--)
But Keller's not giving anything away; if he *is* feeling something in the first place. He places his hands on Toby's shoulders and buries his head in the crook of his neck, murmuring that litany that has become his life lately: "I'm sorry, I'm sorry..."
(Like reciting a poem at a high school pageant - hollow, utterly meaningless. For Toby.)
Sorry about fucking WHAT?!...
He feels Chris' lips brushing against his skin, hot, cat-like tongue flickering around Toby's Adam apple. Keller's response to everything. His hideout. And...(--*yours.*)
So: you go and you push him, just like he pushes you. You force him to give up his defenses, just like he does with yours. You make him crawl through shit and anguish and misery...something that he also did to you. Once. Not anymore... And why?...
A loud bang on the pod's glass wall, Mineo waving his nightstick; and Keller reluctantly takes his hand out from under Toby's T-shirt and slowly backs away.
Like a rattle-snake; Beecher can't help but notice the similarity.
(How can you forget that which is forever carved in your flesh, forever beneath your skin? Burned inside you down to the last cell in your body? How can anyone really forgive without forgetting?...)
---end of part 9/11---
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