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Playing the Odds
Truth is subjective.
One person's certainty is another's doubt. It can be flexible, nudged this way and that. Although at its core there is no ambiguity, the perimeters are another matter.
Exhibit A: Chris Keller loves Tobias Beecher.
A murmur moves like a wave through the crowd.
Chris thinks about Toby non-stop, has done so since they first met and his intentions towards Vern's ex-prag were less than honourable. Circumstances change, however, and want is redefined, analyzed and prodded. It's all about motive.
Chris thinks snapping Toby in pieces once shouldn't be held over his head. He doesn't feel it fair to carry the burden of the crime for the rest of his life, not when the piper's tune has changed and he eyes the new direction.
Shake intentions out like an Etch-a-Sketch and begin again.
Survival gave way to lust, which begat the desire for forever. No word can encapsulate the layers pulled back, the pounding heart buried deep within, the SOS sent out at intervals first (steady and precise), then sporadically with desperation standing the edges and the call for more beckoning loudly.
So send the poets away and break the records next to the turntable in your parents basement.
Chris wants to inhale Toby in one deep breath. He wants to devour him whole, licking his way up and down Toby's body. He needs to drown in the heat of Toby's mouth, coming undone at the thought (and eventual gratification) of Toby's tongue moving against his, like the communion he puts too much faith in but only now understands.
The kiss is the promise. It is forgiveness from the poison fruit and he'll take the sin over and over again, letting it drip from his lips because he doesn't care as long as he has Toby. It's clear as day, except when it's not. Read between the lines, they say, but the implications are too convoluted and the inferences are too revealing. What is truth?
Exhibit B: Tobias Beecher loves Chris Keller.
Objection--hearsay. Overruled--he's admitted as much himself.
Judgment is experience put to the test. It is in repetitive failure that Toby sees the light. Against all reason he feels Chris more deeply, more profoundly than anyone else in his life. Chris makes him want to jump in headfirst and tell everyone to fuck off. Toby is driven to act on the unparalleled intensity of want which flows through his veins, and he doesn't care to think about the doubtful chorus singing ominously in the darkened corners of his mind, drawing air out of the pod in a death march, seducing him into a euphoric state. There are other days for that, days when buckling under the penance of this life is an order from the universe and he has to wade through shit just to come out clean.
Whether it's love or possession (and Toby no longer knows if there's a difference), he is marked by Chris; for good or bad, and for an addictive personality semantics are a matchbox.
Shake the Magic 8 Ball and ponder the fates.
Boy meets boy. Boy falls in love with boy. Boy breaks boy's heart. Boy hates boy. Boy tries to win boy back. Of course they fall in love, but happily ever after is for children not men who (should) know better.
We hold these truths to be self-evident. Really?
What gives anyone the right to take it for granted? To assume is no more than an excuse to sit back and let the world go about its business. The struggle is the essence of the point, the meaning of life. Chris and Toby battle each other as much as they fight off the barrage of opposing factions coming at them from all sides. In conflict, worth is declared because consequences are apparent.
Love means never having to say you're sorry? Nothing but bullshit to sell movie tickets, make people tear up until the end of the film reel slaps loudly in the projector, then go home and fuck slowly. No. Love means feeling remorse for inflicted wrongs and cracking your voice with confessions meant to save both your mortal souls. Love is meaning the word `sorry' and saying it with humility; accepting it (eventually) because at some point the honesty of the sentiment negates all the hurt that comes before. But it's always an obstacle course.
The chip on Chris' shoulder is a tumor breaking his back. It sounds a hell of a lot like his father (at least the one he remembers--so many men came in and out of his life in his mother's bed) and looks disturbingly like Vern (with a fixed gaze that delights in doling out retribution as cruelly as possible). On the nights when Toby curls up against him on the bottom bunk (rather than bidding a hasty retreat to his own bed to avoid the hack doing rounds), their arms tightly around each other and the pungent smell of sex in the air, Chris thinks maybe Toby is his punishment for this life.
It doesn't make sense otherwise--Chris has done so many bad things with little care for who got hurt in the crossfire, yet has been granted a love that (although difficult) is a tremendous revelation. He knows he doesn't deserve it and the precarious nature of its existence keeps him on edge, makes him silently anxious as if it teeters dangerously enough to slip outside of his grip.
Uncertainty is the constant. Love is always in a state of flux.
So save `til death do us part' for Hallmark cards and Valentine's candy.
Wanting love is different from deserving it. Needing it is not the same as earning it. And taking it--well, that's when things get complicated. You can't truly take something that isn't given to you in the first place. Love can't be controlled. It can be yearned for and offered up.
It's more than Toby's hand on Chris' cock stroking him to release while sucking in the heated skin along the hollow of Chris' neck. It's the overwhelming calm when Toby wraps his arms around Chris, fitting his hands up under Chris' shirt and pressing his palms to Chris' back; the soft touch of lips to lips, then two heads resting on angled shoulders--the time out Chris needs and only Toby can give him.
Flip the coin. The story is different, yet the same. Look at the line drawn from one extreme to the next and see where one chapter ends and the next begins. Dare to distinguish them.
The weight of Chris' unwavering intent, all on him (for him, because of him, jigsaw pieces fit together), is the body rush through Toby's soul better than heroin or alcohol, or any drug meant to numb the pain and open the door to enlightenment. And it's just as destructive, making it all the more enticing. Chris is an atomic bomb blowing Toby's world to kingdom come.
In Chris' arms, Toby waits for the telltale sign of his lover's slumbering descent, then throws his brain into first gear and considers that Chris is his twisted salvation. Life is split in two: Before and After Chris Keller. In his other life, Toby collected, "Attaboys," and pats on the back. He was trained to be polite and invisible, at ease with his life, only expected to fire on all cylinders when it came to a case. He self-medicated to feel something--anything--shake the walls.
Chris is black market absinthe rewiring the brain, he is a tsunami rewriting Toby's geography. Toby has been altered by the persistent onslaught of a passion so strong it scares him, but not enough to stop smiling or getting hard when his mind trips down memory lane, and certainly not enough to walk away from it all. Chris is all strong words and excessive confidence, he's an overdose of touch and taste, burning heat sparking nerve ends, stormy blue eyes that twist Toby's stomach in lust and caution alike, and a low voice that clicks combativeness one way and thoughtfulness the other.
The metaphor reconfigured. Chris breathes life into Toby and assigns purpose to every step. He turns each brand new morning--
Flick up the sun; dismantle the moon and stars.
And drawn out night--
Hang high the lunar body and hide the brightest star away.
Into the unforgettable.
All the world's a tryst; beyond the set time within the constriction of restraints, but they are not bouquets and chocolates or expensive gifts and cards. They speak devoted words over spilled blood and cracked bones. They make offerings of themselves on the altar of self-sacrifice. There is no denial. Hearts on sleeves (sometimes skittering behind masking eyes), they demand what they want, grasp for what they should have, but refuse to live without.
Rules are made to be broken, the cons sneer; however sometimes the rules don't apply. Not in this place, where "rules" are held up as commandments (but if anyone truly followed them there would be no need for prisons in the first place), and punishments make God blush and the Devil cringe. The rules don't apply to Chris and Toby. They're too abstract to contain either man, there are too many loopholes built on conjecture and torn apart by brutal honesty.
Put the clocks away. Ignore the deafening countdown of mortality and dyslexic morality. Shut the door and throw away the key. Don't bother looking back, the hands of time are too stubborn to budge and the past is written in stone. Forget seeing into the future, there's no guarantee tomorrow will ever dawn. All that matters is now.
Toby's presence, the basic thrust of his being, slams into Chris like a pheromone force field, rendering him a casualty of war, the one that makes slaves of them both. On counter attack is the remembered touch of Chris' hands along Toby's skin, the gentle kiss that begins tentatively then snowballs into something operatic; something which would be clich if it weren't so fucking painful and excruciatingly exquisite.
Choke back the nursery rhymes quipped with a dash of crazy, push Shakespeare's tragedies under the bed with a firm foot, send a smoldering gaze across any distance, and wait. The universe clicks into place and patience is a virtue no one has time for.
Sister Pete and Mukada mutter prayers for absolution, but the only forgiveness Toby and Chris seek is from each other. Bodies roughly move together, hands pull at skin, breath spills across to a waiting mouth, and hard cocks are fisted together, stealing moans (disbelieving and awed) in the dark.
God doesn't care. The Devil is looking elsewhere.
McManus yells at no one in particular, Murphy rolls his eyes, Glynn shakes his head, and Howell smirks at them in a way that raises the hair on their arms in distrust. The beat goes on, but in the end all of them are only spectators granted seats on the sidelines.
"I would do anything for you, Toby." And Chris means it.
"I have never loved anyone the way I love you, Chris." And Toby believes it.
They both know this dance and the crowd expects blood. Missteps and misdeeds co-mingle with good intentions and hope. It's a volatile combination which leaves little room for backtracking and second guessing.
"I know this much is true."
The most genuine of all sentiments and declarations, it purports to be no more and no less than what it is. And it's enough for them.
Put the qualifiers away, shrug off the stammering explanations, and know the word love is offered with a full heart, accepted with open arms.
Toby stares at himself in the mirror. He smiles at the reflection of Chris tossing a quick gaze to the quad before leaning against the wall and putting himself between Toby and everyone else. Chris watches him for a few seconds, then brings his hand to Toby's shoulder, lightly running his touch up to Toby's neck and softly stretching his fingers around him. Toby leans slightly into the touch and a small smile tugs up the corners of Chris' lips.
They have a truth subjective as all the rest.
They tease it, flirt with it, trip it head over heels and send it careening down the stairs. It kneels at their mercy and meets their orders with a raised head. No one else understands; Chris isn't interested in explanations, Toby is too tired to repeat them yet again.
The words fall on deaf ears anyway. Better to save those for hushed whispers pressed to skin, maybe suggestively uttered against an ear in passing, or taunted with a smirk and a sneer as they brush (dismissively) by each other.
They love so right it's wrong; so wrong, it's right. They love beyond reason, with sense nickel and dime'd away, and logic overrun to the point of being nonsensical. They love until bruises spit purple and yellow, giving way to jagged edges and a copper stench no one can wash out. They love in absolutes, with (surprisingly) light kisses more powerful than any mythical gods, deliberately placed touches along Braille bodies; each bump and ridge a tale to be shared in quiet voices, in secret meetings.
Dismiss the jury. Tear up the verdict. Lower the curtain and end the act. Justice will not be served anytime soon.
They'll take what they can get, come hell or high water.
Sealed with a kiss.
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