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Set between episodes 4.8 ("You Bet Your Life") and 4.9 ("Medium Rare").
The Worst Thing
by Viola S.
The Worst Thing
Ryan threw a lazy glance around Em City. Cyril sat not far away, playing with the puppet that was once Adebisi's sock. Keller sat across from Ryan and stared, trying not to look too stupid, at the chessboard. Overhead, Beecher slouched against the rail, looking everywhere but at Keller. So fucking sweet, wasn't it? True love, thwarted by...well, by the fact that Beecher and Keller were both assclowns, really.
But they gave him something to watch. Something to laugh at. Something to...take his mind off shit.
Keller's eyes darted back and forth, glaring at the chessboard one second and eye-fucking Beecher the next. Fucking hell. Keller was so goddamn Beecher-whipped. Yeah, Beecher was supposed to be the bitch, but sometimes Ryan had his doubts about that.
It might be fun to leave the table. Go up the stairs and talk to Beecher. Drape his arm around him, maybe. Lean in real close. Watch Keller go up in smoke, like he had over Shemin and Browne putting their hands on his precious little girlfriend. It would be so fucking funny.
Or on second thoughts maybe not, because Shemin and Browne sure as fuck weren't laughing, and Ryan didn't need that shit. He didn't want to get involved in the fucked up little drama between Beecher and Keller, not if he could avoid it. Didn't want to fuck with Keller, the scary motherfucker. Or Beecher either. Beecher, with his hard craziness hidden well underneath that born-to-be-a-prag surface. Yeah, better not wind him up either, not unless it was necessary.
Better, as always, just to sit back and watch.
Toby was right there, leaning against the railing in a would-be casual pose. Pretending he didn't care what Chris thought, what Chris did.
Like he could ever fool Chris. Like Chris wasn't aware of every beat of Toby's heart and every breath he took. Like Chris wouldn't always know what he was thinking, even before he thought it.
From across the table O'Reily smirked, seeing everything as he always did, seeing the way Chris looked at Toby and the way Toby carefully didn't look at Chris. But Chris didn't care, because O'Reily's contemptuous green stare wasn't real, the chessboard between them wasn't real, O'Reily himself wasn't real. No one else in Oz or even in the whole fucking world was real.
Toby was real. And whether he wanted to or not, he made Chris real.
O'Reily's smile grew more wolfish by the second. Chris sobered up quickly. Better not to show too much. O'Reily was one deadly bastard. Oh, Chris knew he could kill the mick--if he ever got him alone and pinned him down, he could do it. But O'Reily could kill Chris just by whispering the right lie--or the right truth--into the right ear, and then sitting back and watching the fun from yards away. Somehow O'Reily always had up-to-the-minute knowledge of everything that happened in Oz, every shift in politics, every falling-out and every new alliance and every time anyone even sneezed. The man was like the fucking CIA of the prison. He was lethal, even deadlier than Chris.
Deadlier, but more transparent. Sure, O'Reily knew everything that went on, and could get people whacked without ever getting his hands dirty. But his motives were always so fucking easy to read: protect Cyril. Protect himself. Carve out a little corner of semi-safety for the two of them in this snake pit. Even if Chris couldn't figure out exactly what O'Reily was up to, he could tell why he was doing it. And if someone O'Reily was pissed at conveniently died, Chris knew without a doubt who was behind it, even if he didn't know how it had been managed.
O'Reily was completely see-through, really, in all the ways that mattered.
Not like Chris. It was always obvious what Chris was doing, whether it was giving someone a blowjob or driving a shank into their gut. But the question of why he was doing it...Chris grinned, and both Toby and O'Reily took notice of it.
No one ever knew why Chris did anything. And that was the way he liked it. They drove themselves crazy guessing, trying to figure it out. Wondering if his smile meant that he really cared or if he was just fucking with their heads.
And nine times out of ten it was the latter. Except with Toby.
With Toby it was always real--no, who the fuck did he think he was kidding. With Toby it was both, both perfect sincerity and artful mindfuckery, and damn if it wasn't always beautiful. Even now. Even with Toby hating him. Even with him being too fucking hurt to go back to Toby, to get past the fact that Toby, his Toby, could believe any crime of him.
Toby had believed, really believed, that Chris murdered his son.
Chris was sure that even someday down the road when he was burning in hell where he belonged, the memory of Toby's shank and accusing eyes would be more painful than any punishing flames either God or the devil could create.
O'Reily carelessly shoved a pawn forward, and Chris tore his gaze from Toby and stared at the chessboard. He didn't have a fucking clue what to do next, and he knew O'Reily would win no matter what he did, but hell--chess was a distraction, O'Reily was a distraction, giving him something to think about besides the one real thing that stood not far enough away. "Why only one `l'?" It was something he'd idly wondered about before, and he said it now just for the sake of saying something.
"Your name. I've always seen it spelled with two `l's. How come you've only got one?"
O'Reily grinned. "You think I'd spell my name just like everyone else does, K-boy?" Chris let himself smile back, slowly, seductively.
Toby was staring at him openly now, a strange look in his eyes, and Chris realized with a start that the look was a jealous one.
Jealous. Of O'Reily? That was a whole barrel full of laughs, right there. He'd never let Chris touch him, and he really wasn't Chris's type. Too hard-edged, too cold. Chris liked them all soft and vulnerable...but with an inner core of stubborn unpredictability you'd run smack into if you pushed too hard...
Yeah, well. It wasn't wise to think too much about what you didn't have. What you might never have.
But maybe he could have some fun with Toby's possessiveness. Chris leaned in over the chessboard, pushing his chair forward so his legs bumped against O'Reily's. The other man's gaze flicked over him coolly, both teasing and suspicious. He wondered what it would feel like to choke the life out of the slippery motherfucker, close his hands like a vise around the thin pale neck and watch as O'Reily kicked and writhed and wriggled, listen and laugh as he spat out defiant curses with his dying breath--his last word would probably be "cocksucker" or something. Yeah, Chris would get off on killing him. He didn't think he'd ever do it, though--O'Reily was too fucking smart to give him either a chance or a reason.
Toby looked really pissed off now, which gave Chris at least a crumb of pleasure. And in Oz, you took what you could get.
They were both looking at him. Twin stares that saw way too much and gave away almost nothing.
Not that there was much to give away in O'Reily's case. He was probably just observing, as always. But Keller...
Did he miss Toby? Did he long for Toby, the way Toby ached for him? Every nerve in Toby's body cried out for Keller's touch, for Keller's hand on his neck pulling him close--did Chris feel the same? Was he in agony whenever he saw Toby, and then in sharper pain still when he was out of sight?
Who the fuck knew? Probably not, probably he'd just gotten sick of him, probably he'd just killed Shemin and Browne because he didn't like people touching what was once his and not because he actually gave a shit about Toby anymore. That's all it was.
Toby could almost make himself believe it, so long as he didn't meet Keller's eyes.
Said wouldn't call this love. Said would call it a perversion. A twisted and unholy desire that poisoned, corrupted, demeaned. Said was right about most things.
Anyway Chris was all taken up with his new best friend now. He and O'Reily were always together, it seemed, playing chess or talking or just standing and watching, side by side. Since around the time Shemin was killed.
Toby may have been a stupid fucking idiot but he wasn't too dumb to think that was any coincidence. But he didn't have a clue why on earth O'Reily would need Shemin dead. Browne, maybe, since he'd been harassing Cyril, but Shemin? Toby couldn't think what O'Reily stood to gain by killing some fucking nobody like Shemin. Maybe it had to do with Em City politics, with Adebisi and Querns and that whole debacle.
Or maybe Chris had given him a reason.
It would have to be a really good reason.
O'Reily was sneering at him--he's attractive in his own way, and if anyone could make him stop being so fucking straight, it's Chris, Chris and every seductive trick in his playbook--and Toby felt the urge to punch him hard in the mouth. "It's not funny," he wanted to say, and also "You didn't use to laugh at me, not before." But that was a long time ago, back when they used to fall into chemical oblivion together and O'Reily would remind him, with a smile and an almost-but-not-quite-caressing hand on his shoulder, that human touch didn't have to degrade or hurt like hell. Yeah, O'Reily must have had his own reasons for doing all that--if not then I owe you something, don't I, you slimy fuck--but Toby hadn't cared, really, so long as someone was being nice to him.
He knew he ought to feel ashamed down to the very marrow of his bones at how fucking pathetic he'd been. But shame had died in him a long time ago, barely outliving pride and just predeceasing disgust, and now there were only the essentials, just hate and fury and lust--and love, and Keller's gaze stroking him, no matter how insistently he looked away, too searing to ignore.
And guilt, of course. He'd always have that, which was something of a relief, a sharp clarifying emotion that tugged him out of this dreamy swirl of hot cloying love and into the chilly reality he deserved.
Ah, Toby, Toby. Why do you have to torture yourself? But then you wouldn't be so sweet if you didn't, now would you. Masochists were just so fucking adorable, and Toby could self-flagellate for his country at the Olympics.
On impulse Chris got up, ignoring O'Reily's curious look, and sauntered up the stairs in Toby's direction.
His lover tried walking away without looking like he was fleeing from Chris. Didn't work, of course. Chris caught up effortlessly. "Hey," he said into Toby's ear.
Toby shook him off. "Go away, Keller."
And it hurt, even now, even when he was expecting to hear exactly that, even though he knew he'd been the one to first push Toby away. "You don't mean that," he said, forcing a drawl into his voice. Toby gave him a seething, impotent glare. "I noticed you watching me," Chris pressed on. "You tried not to, tried to hide it, but I saw. You can't hide from me, Toby."
"Are you and him fucking?" The question came out abruptly.
Chris smiled. "Me and who?"
"O'Reily," said Toby, and scowled when Chris threw back his head and laughed.
"Jealous?" He leaned in, so Toby could feel his breath against his neck. "He doesn't fuck around with men, Toby, you know that." No response. That wasn't any fun. "Although, sometimes..." Toby's head snapped up, and Chris grinned broadly. "Oh, nothing. We just play chess sometimes. `Course he always wins, because somehow I always give him an opening--I just can't help myself--and he moves in." He made those words sound like the dirtiest in the English language.
It looked like it was working, at first--Toby's face flushed with hot anger--but then the blush subsided, and Toby just walked off. And then it was only a few quick loping steps to his pod, where Chris could see in but where a door still kept him out.
Toby was angry, Chris told himself. He was just pretending not to care, but he cared, and he was pissed--and that was a good thing. The anger proved, didn't it, that Toby was still his?
He wandered back to the table, where the chess game stood untouched and Cyril was now sitting with his big brother. "Hi," chirped Cyril. Chris smiled back, careful not to seem predatory in the slightest, knowing O'Reily was watching through narrowed eyes that clearly said I'll fucking kill you if you so much as look at him weird. Chris didn't want to take a shank to the heart while O'Reily calmly looked on from a safe distance, so he always played nice with Cyril.
Though it was good to know there was a way to hurt O'Reily if he ever had to, to know the bastard's armor had a big Cyril-shaped chink in it. Not that Chris ever wanted to do anything along those lines--no fun fucking retards, anyway--but it was something to keep in the back of his head when dealing with O'Reily and all the dangers that came with him.
"So," O'Reily said. "How'd the little romantic chit-chat go? Don't tell me you two crazy kids are still fighting."
And that was a neat little jab into the chink in his armor, right there, and Chris was fucking stupid for not being prepared for it. Because O'Reily had no fucking right to even talk about Toby, no right to open his filthy lying mouth about shit he couldn't begin to understand, no fucking right to laugh at something like this. "'Bout as well as you think it did, O'Reily, so just shut the fuck up, okay?" The fucker's voice grated on his last nerve, and Chris had never wanted to hit him as much as now.
"Touchy, are we?"
Chris glared at the chess pieces, picking up the white king and toying with it. "How could he have thought I'd do that? Kill his kid? The worst thing anyone could possibly do, and he thought I could have done it. To him." The words came out on their own, uncontrolled, and at the moment Chris didn't fucking care that O'Reily was the one listening to them.
"You ever give him a reason to think otherwise?" The mick's voice was light, dismissive, and Chris started to get up, started to move to pound the bastard into the ground--and then he eased back into his chair. Because he heard the undercurrent in that voice. Because he saw through O'Reily, as it was so easy to do, and he knew O'Reily wasn't talking about Chris and Toby. A couple of things he'd heard clicked together in his head, and he knew that whichever hand actually killed that scumfuck Keenan, it was O'Reily who was behind it all. As usual, Chris didn't know how the clever motherfucker had done it, didn't know exactly which sucker O'Reily talked into doing the deed. But as usual, he knew why, and in that same moment he also knew for certain that O'Reily had nothing to do with Gloria Nathan's rape, no matter what vague rumors he'd heard.
And for one bright uncomfortable second he wished he didn't know, because for that one second O'Reily was fucking real to him. But it soon passed. Chris threw O'Reily a look and was given an answering one, a look acknowledging the fact that they'd both shown too much, a look that agreed to forget about it all: I'll ignore your truth if you ignore mine.
"Checkmate," said O'Reily with a smirk, and normality was restored. Chris exhaled, unaware that he'd even been holding his breath. There was only so much reality he could take.
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