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Acciacatura - End of the story (Ch. 15)
Excellently betaed by the lovely Rifka...
It took Toby four more years before he saw his relation with Keller for what it was; a failure, a dead end street, an endless fight interrupted with fiery reconciliations, blazing make-up sex to cauterize the wounds. Obviously, he thought (and it probably had to mean something that so many people around thought the same way) music would be Keller's real love for as long as he'd live and for as long as he'd live he'd need meaningless casual sex to relieve the pressure. Toby had lured himself into the idea that coming next was good enough. It wasn't. Someone more patient, someone wiser would be able to live like this; he wasn't. Psychological instability, sudden anger, incomprehensible blames and silence and... He couldn't take it.
So they broke it off. It seemed the right thing to do, before they killed each other, exhausted each other, got so tired of each other that all that would be left was loathing. And when Toby said the heart-wrenching final words, he saw something in Chris' eyes that looked suspiciously like relief.
They spat venom at each other because they knew each other's weakness so well and because that's what they did anyway...
And the die was cast.
For good. No turning back, no regrets; what had been wasn't anymore and it had been a whole year now.
Toby was sitting in his living room, reading, and Chris was... Well wherever he was, in a concert hall somewhere in the world , facing an enthusiastic audience. After the show he'd pick up someone, anyone who'd look young and willing enough and fuck her, or him; then leave for another place and do it all over again. During the summer he'd settle in Tuscany and Susan would join him with Harry and they'd spend a peaceful summer there, while he, Toby, would be somewhere else, as far as possible.
Two separate lives.
And it was fine that way. Toby still worked at his father's practice, and every Friday night he took a flight to New York and spent some time with McKenzie who was a considerate lover; they didn't talk about Chris. Yeah. Real fine.
Except... Come on Beecher, you can fool everyone but you can't fool yourself...
He felt empty. Hollowed. This infatuation had stolen the best of him; his desire to live, his ability to laugh and feel and love. From time to time he thought of picking up the phone and calling Chris, just to hear his voice, chat about anything, make sure he was still part of the world somewhere but his resolution never went further than typing Chris' number; then give up. Call him? What for? From time to time he heard about him on TV, on the radio, read about him in a paper, a magazine; looked at the picture or the video, wondering if this was still the man he'd loved and yes, he was; the look, the smile, the gestures; he could make out Keller's body under the clothes, the strong, muscular lean body he used to consider as his and the void inside him widened, deepened, threatening to swallow him.
Then the cell phone rang -again, jolting Toby out of his thought; and he sighed.
"I'm worried about Toby," Francis McKenzie told Chris next time they met; in London before a charity concert at the Albert Hall -the royal family was expected; Keller didn't look more nervous for all that. He didn't even look up; his behavior with McKenzie oscillated between cold indifference and polite hostility.
"Yeah? Don't be," he said "Toby's strong enough; he'll be OK."
Self-absorbed moron... Francis sighed. "It's not about you, Keller," he said, "It's just that lately he's been worried. Something bothers him but he won't tell me."
"Do you fuck him?" Chris asked, never taking his eyes from the keyboard, his fingers dancing over it, brushing against the keys with stunning virtuosity. He was playing Schumann, something light and brisk; something he'd play later for a very rich and boring audience.
"I don't see what..."
"Well if you do you should be able to fuck the truth out of him. If you're good enough. Are you good enough, Francis?"
Keller's voice was light and easy; indifferent, kind of "leave me alone with it" but the words were meant to hurt; Mc Kenzie wanted to ask him if this was an insult -then he thought better of it. Keller, as odious as he was, was under contract with him for three more years, and, Francis hoped, longer still; he was an invaluable artist. Better not ruin what was, all in all, a profitable association. Besides, he had to get that worry off his chest.
"Someone keeps calling him on his cell phone and Toby doesn't say a word; I asked him who it was, he shrugged and said he didn't know, something telling him bullshit. He didn't want to look worried, but I know better."
Keller struck a last key, raised his head and looked at McKenzie with a hard expression on his face.
"OK, listen. Beecher and I are *done*; it's over. I don't talk to him and he doesn't talk to me; there's nothing between us anymore. Did you think it was me calling him?"
McKenzie shook his head.
"No. And let me tell you, I'd rather have *you* stalking him than that son of a bitch. I just thought maybe you could call him, try to get him to talk to you; he always talked to you; I'm sure he would."
"Yeah? Well I'm sorry to disappoint but Beecher's not my fucking business anymore."
"I thought that in the name of what there was between you... all these years..."
Keller's gaze hardened and McKenzie took a step back.
"No. Am I clear? Do it yourself, that's what a lover is for. I don't give a fuck about Beecher."
And before Francis could say anything he started playing something loud and lively that cut short any attempt at continuing this conversation.
At 4 am the phone rang -again; Toby woke up with a jolt, wanting to yell in exasperation and maybe fear. The stalker had called in the evening already, and the cold threatening voice was still echoing in his ears... So he wouldn't answer this time, he'd bury his head under the pillow... But of course he didn't because he didn't want the kids to wake up; he knew that Holly sensed something was wrong and he didn't want to worry her.
It took Toby a second to realize whose voice it was, warm and sounding so close.
"Thank God it's you."
"Why? Who did you expect it to be? The mysterious stalker?"
Toby rubbed his eyes and sat up, trying to get a hold on his conflicting emotions.
"Keller do you have any idea of the time?"
"In my part of the world it's 2 pm, so I'd say it's about 4 am for you. Sorry, Beecher, I had a break so I thought I'd call you; McKenzie's worried and he won't leave me alone, nearly bored me to death yesterday; told me I had to make you spill your guts about something. Come on, I'm listening."
"What the fuck ... What the fuck are you talking about?"
"He said someone was stalking you. Is that true?"
"No; yes... It's nothing."
"Yeah? `Thank God it's you'" Chris said, mimicking Toby's relieved tone "that didn't sound like nothing to me."
God damn the man and his sharp mind.
"Who is it?"
"The fuck if I know."
"Did you tell the police?"
"Not yet. I changed my phone number but he one way or another he keeps calling."
"What does he say?"
Toby sighed that particular sighs that meant he was embarrassed and didn't want to talk.
"Come on, Toby, don't be stupid. Death threats?"
"Jesus fucking Christ. And?"
"Listen, I don't think you have to get involved in this, it's just some stupid stuff; he'll grow tired of it."
There was a silence, and Keller's voice, cold.
"It's about me. Something about me? Isn't it?"
Ah, shit. He shouldn't have answered the phone after all.
"You know, Keller, the world doesn't revolve around you," he says with a derisive snort.
"The hell about that... Is the fucker talking about me?"
"Care to explain?"
"He says he's one of your victims' relatives; that I saved you from a well deserved fate and that I'll be punished for it. Then you."
"So the bastard's threatening us both and you didn't feel like you'd tell me?"
"Did he call you? No? So I'd say it's mainly about me."
... And I didn't want to upset you; I knew how you'd react.
"Toby..." Threatening tone and Toby pretended to surrender.
"OK; I'll call the cops, right?"
"Yeah, like the stupid *cops* are gonna do something! Did you save his messages?"
"You're that dull, aren't you? Do you think you're gonna handle that alone?"
"They're just phone calls, nothing more."
Keller knew how stubborn Beecher could be, he knew that his own magic didn't work so well with him, that Beecher was somewhat immune to his voice and his mind games and his clever tricks, knew them all; maybe Toby was right but Chris' instinct was telling him something different; so he just talked some more, pretended to be resigned, to give up, and hung up.
An hours later he was at Warwick airport; it was past 10 pm when a taxi stopped in front of Beecher's door and Keller walked out, gave a look around. It was a cold evening of February, no one to be seen; he pushed the door of Beecher's garden and it wasn't even locked; would that kill Toby to just lock the fucking door? Christ. He listened to the bell ring inside - footsteps; and Toby was facing him, looking stunned.
"Shit he's ageing well" was Keller's first thought. How old now? 43? Yeah, must be around that but he really didn't show his age, slim and elegant, hair blond as before, maybe some grey strands here and there, eyes paler than he remembered and ... fuck that; he hadn't come here to lose himself in the contemplation of Beecher's hotness.
"What the hell are you doing here?"
"Hello, Beecher, I'm glad to see you too. Mind if I come in?"
He didn't wait for an answer, pushed Beecher aside, a hand against his chest, feeling Beecher's pounding heart against his palm and not wanting to let go.
"I thought I'd come listen by myself. I don't trust you on that. Did you call the police?"
"Fine. Let's see. Did he call again?"
"Chris? Oh, I'm Chris again, then? Not just Keller-walking-dick? Or however you called me last time?"
Beecher felt very tired suddenly, he thought, "I have to sit down; fast." And just when he did, the phone rang and Chris picked it up; listened, focused, his lips stretching in a feral smile that didn't belong to this world, and it wasn't the musician, the artist, but the other one, the one Beecher didn't want to think about. He saw that through a haze of pain because when the phone rang, his whole chest was caught in a vice-like grip, something tight and painful, crushing his heart, drilling through his left shoulder, along his arm, his jaw; and he couldn't talk, it was too late, he realized, fuck it was much too late and Chris turned to him...
Before Toby passed out he knew he was dying; last thing he was aware of was the warm and strong embrace of Keller's arms and blue eyes looking deep in his. Not a bad way to go, after all.
In the hospital waiting room there's a man sitting, head in hands, waiting. He's been here for six hours now, indifferent to anything around him, deaf to people talking to him, barely registering the old couple who came earlier, crying, sitting two seats further and glancing at him from time to time. They're waiting too and when the doc walks out of the emergency room, the three of them rise.
"He's through," he says, taking off his gloves, "A chance we could intervene fast enough."
Ten minutes, that's what it took to the emergency services to be there and then...
Keller is livid, his eyes closed, leaning against the wall, muttering something under his breath. Thank God, maybe.
"Can we see him?" The woman -Toby's mother- asks.
"Yes, but he's barely conscious and he needs to rest... 5 minutes and don't make him talk. He's still very weak."
He's alive. Toby's alive. Thank God he's not dead.
But when the woman turns to ask if he wants to come with them Keller shakes his head wordlessly and walks away.
Because there's something he has to do and he has to do it now. If he's fast enough he'll be back to London for the second concert just in time. If he's fast. If he doesn't get caught. But he won't. Not this time. And when it's all over he'll come back here and have a little chat with Beecher because the last seven hours were truly the worst in his whole sorry life and there's no way that he loses him again.
"FBI ex-special agent Pierce Taylor committed suicide a week ago. Agent Taylor had been suspended from office three years ago after the court established his misconduct in Chris Keller's case. His brother told us that Taylor never recovered from the sanction; he was deeply depressed and spent two months in a psychiatric hospital; he was still treated for depression when he finally threw himself through the window of his apartment in the Queens. The police concluded that it was a suicide... Agent Taylor was aged 50...His career..."
Toby put the paper down and leant back against the pillow, closing his eyes.
They probed, checked and tested him over and over before telling him he could leave. His heart was fine, the accident had been caused by a blocked artery -that particular problem had been solved and now he was to resume a normal life -sports, diet... Still it felt strange to be back home, alive and well, after what he'd been through. He felt like a miraculous survivor; a little... lost. And nothing really looked the same.
His father wanted Toby to take some time off -months- before coming back to work; money wasn't a problem and for the first time Harrison Beecher managed to show his son how much he loved him and cared for him. Holly left for Paris Conservatoire and Harry for college. Toby was alone; he'd told McKenzie during one of the man's countless visits that as pleasant as it had been he didn't feel like resuming their affair and it had been an amicable, if a little sad, breaking off. He saw Katherine from time to time and avoided Neill as much as possible.
A very quiet and retired life.
Three months later Keller called.
"I wanna see you; talk to you," he said, not even asking for news and sounding like a very nervous Keller.
"All right. Whatever."
And now he was sitting on the new leather couch beside Toby, his eyes not leaving Toby's face.
"The fucker will leave you alone now," he said, the ghost of that fearful smile stretching his lips.
"I gathered that much... Suicide, huh?"
"Well, yeah. I'm glad the bastard's dead; he deserved it."
He deserved it and what do *you* deserve, then, Toby wondered. But Keller's logic, or lack thereof, didn't work like anyone else's. As long as you didn't get caught, as long as you proved to be smarter, stronger, better, you deserved life and freedom. Remorse was for the faint of heart.
"What did you come for?" Toby said finally. He didn't ask why Keller hadn't visited him before, at the hospital; he didn't need to; his aversion for the place was not a secret.
Of course Keller didn't answer straight away.
"Where are the kids?"
Toby told him, half expecting a snarky retort; so after all he agreed to let Holly go? Just... not with big bad Keller? But Keller only nodded.
"We're alone, then. What did the doctors tell you?"
There we go, Toby thought, his mind racing to find the best way to tell Keller that there was no way he'd give in to him again; but his traitorous body shivering already at the thought.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean fucking. I missed fucking you; I've been thinking about fucking you every fucking day; maybe not even fucking, just kissing... kissing you. Touching you. God. I've been missing that so much."
Toby knew that look; he saw the usual hunger there and something else...
"No. Listen. Listen carefully. My contract with McKenzie runs for three more years and I don't think even you will find a way to set me free sooner; I'm already booked for a hundred dates all over the world and three records at least. But after that I don't intend to renew it."
"You mean not with McKenzie."
"I mean not with anyone. I..." Keller rose and began pacing the room, suddenly stopping by the window, talking to the garden outside, his back on Toby.
"That day, when you... I thought you wouldn't make it, Toby" he said in a tight low voice "I thought I'd lost you; I thought you were dead, I thought about all the moments we'd had together, about the time we'd lost. I... I promised God that if he saved you I'd stay by your side, give up everything else."
*This* was very fucking stupid.
"Chris... God didn't save me. The doctors did and the hell if I want to shoulder the responsibility for being the one who stopped your career; besides..."
"Shut the fuck up!" Chris walked back to Toby, pulled him up, those long fingers squeezing his shoulders hard enough to bruise and shook him lightly "Shut the fuck up, Toby, I made my decision and you won't be held responsible for anything. I'm fed up with this life; I've been living it for too long. Fed up of those people watching me; fed up of playing this music for morons who don't understand half of it; don't have any idea of what it means to me. I'm fed up with interviews and whoring myself to sell records I don't give a damn about. I'm rich enough; I don't need to do what I don't want to. I want to be free. And all this time without you... I want a life, Toby; a real one."
Chris' dark and haunted eyes silenced Toby; the grip around his shoulders loosened and he was wrapped in a fierce embrace, Chris' voice muffled and urgent, his lips so close from Toby's that he could feel the words rather than hear them.
"I'm tired, Toby. I hate the idea of you with anyone else; I hated that prick McKenzie just for having you. Other people don't matter that much. Susan won't be back, I think I managed to upset her for good and the truth is that I don't care. The only person I care for is you."
There was a name for this, Toby thought, a medical description for it; he should be worried; the single minded bastard was crazy. Maybe dangerous. But he was too and besides he'd missed Chris so fucking much that it didn't worry him as much as it should have.
"If you'd died..." Chris' voice broke suddenly and he kissed Toby, hard, deep, moaning against his mouth, his hands roaming over his body, under his shirt, the touch of his fingers stealing Toby's breath, Keller's body pushing him down on the couch.
"Not here," was all Toby said and Chris groaned like a frustrated animal, walking Toby to the bedroom upstairs, then saying hoarsely, "No, not here, the other one, the cellar."
They fell on the sagging mattress half-naked already and entangled, trying to kiss and lick and bite and stroke any patch of skin within reach, tearing off their clothes, hard and aroused to the point of aching. When Chris closed his fingers around Toby's cock Toby thought he'd come immediately and thrust hard, arching his body, throwing back his head, hissing.
"Do it," he said "do it now!" and he felt the strong hands parting his thighs and something cold -lotion and then...
"Oh my God!" He yelled when Chris thrust inside, hard, then stopped, worried, but shaking with desire, his eyes shining like sapphires.
"Are you sure we're supposed to do this?"
"If you stop now I swear I'm gonna die. Please... Please... Yes, yes, do it again, like this, just like this..."
Pleasure took him off guard and he came, Chris still thrusting inside him, making it last endlessly.
Later when they lay wrapped in each other's embrace Toby listened to the pounding of his own heart. Now seemed as good a moment as any for dying, he thought, but he knew he was alive; more alive than he'd been for the whole previous year.
"Taylor," he whispered, wondering if he should ask and half asleep, Chris only said, "Bastard threatened you, bastard had to die."
And to Toby's absolute horror, it made sense. So he held the strong body tighter, knowing that probably nothing would go the way Keller thought it would but also sure that he had Chris -for good this time.
On that elating thought, he sunk into a deep dreamless sleep.
Thanks to all of you who nudged me, encouraged me, commented, and so on.
Please send feedback to Aline.