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This story was inspired by the song "This I Promise You," and especially the line, "I've loved you forever in lifetimes before."
Title: Promise You
Notes: This is a BK reincarnation story, which was inspired by the song, "This I Promise You" written by Richard Marx and performed by NSync. (I know, I know but still, it's a good song.) I had wanted to finish Twist of Fate before starting to post this but the muses are not being cooperative.
Disclaimers: Not mine, just playing.
"I've loved you forever,
In lifetimes before
And I promise you never
Will you hurt anymore
I give you my word;
I give you my heart
This is a battle we've won
And with this vow,
Forever has now begun."
"I have crossed oceans of
time to find you." -- Count Dracula
in Bram Stoker's Dracula
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
He held his bleeding lover in his arms, weeping quietly. He kissed the dark-haired man on the forehead, the cheek and then the lips. A punishing wave of love and loss swept through him as he watched the life drain out of the only man he would ever love.
He felt like his heart was collapsing in on him. When the men grabbed his arms, pulling him away, he began to wail in anguish. "Beecher, let go," one of the men said. No, no, not yet. Please, I'm not ready to let go, he thought, as they dragged him away.
Tiberius Bartholomew woke up panting hard, his body sheathed in sweat. What the fuck was that? He had no earthly idea where the dream had come from. He didn't know anyone who looked like the dying man. And where were they? A dark, cold place. Gray and ugly. What could it mean? Am I the grieving lover? He had felt the man's emotions, his loss. It was a devastating feeling.
Tiberius shook off his grogginess and slipped his legs off the bed. He looked around his dorm room. It was a single so he had no roommate to share with, to fight with. He stood up and gathered stuff for the shower -- shampoo, soap, towel -- and walked down the hall to the boys' bathroom.
"Hey, Ty, what's up?" Matthew greeted him. Matthew lived in the room next to Tiberius' and they had studied and partied together on occasion.
"Hey, Matt," Tiberius said, stepping into a shower stall. He put his stuff down on the bench and reached into the shower to turn the water on. He undressed while waiting for the water to warm up. He tested it and then stepped into the warm stream, letting it massage the tension out of his body.
His mind drifted back to the dream, wondering where it came from. Nothing remotely close had ever happened in Tiberius' life. He had never even been attracted to another man. So why would he dream about being in love with one? Ty had plenty of gay friends and he'd even experimented a couple of times with mutual masturbation but he had never felt any kind of attraction or love for another man.
Maybe the dream was triggered by some movie he had seen but he honestly couldn't connect it with anything he remembered seeing. Ty finished his shower and dried off. He wrapped his towel around his waist and walked back to his room. He got dressed quickly and headed out for class.
Tiberius was in the last semester of his senior year and was very anxious to finish his undergraduate work and head out into the working world. He taken classes every summer since he started college so he could finish his degree in pharmacology a year early. He had a job interview in two weeks with a hospital near his parents' home in Maryland.
Arriving at his 10 o'clock class, Ty took his seat next to Gwen, a pretty girl with dark, straight hair. It was cut shoulder length. Her skin was very pale, like his. It was such a contrast to her dark hair. She had smiled at him a few times but seemed too shy to speak to him.
"So, did you do the homework?" he whispered, leaning toward her.
She looked up, startled. "Me?" Her eyes were a deep brown.
"Um, yes, I did."
He figured she had. She always got As on her papers and tests. Ty would peak at her desk when the professor would pass back the papers.
"Probably got'em all right, too, huh?" Ty asked.
"Well, um, yes, I think so."
"I'm having a little trouble with the chapter on MAOIs. Any chance you could help me with that?"
"You want me to help you?"
"Yeah," he said, giving her his most charming smile.
Gwen felt herself blush at his smile. He really is cute. His hair was dark blond -- with just a hint of red highlights -- and curly in the back. His teeth were almost too perfect - straight and white. His mouth was wide and sensuous with lips that were thin yet very kissable. His eyes were as blue and luminescent as a rare gemstone. They seemed to look right inside of her. His nose sloped at a curve, coming to a very adorable, roundish point, making him looking much younger than he probably was. His cheeks were full and boyish, shaping his face nicely.
"I guess so. Sure," she whispered and then the professor called the class to order.
After class, Ty followed Gwen out to the hallway and they made a date to study the following afternoon. He watched her walk away, her long, dark hair swinging. She had a cute little figure and a porcelain-doll face. Ty knew he would be spending a lot of time with Gwen over the next few weeks.
He had an early lunch, then a class in narcotics. Ty headed back to the dorm and turned his computer on. His messenger window turned on and he was happy to see CK406 on his buddy list. CK406 was Christian and they had been chatting over the computer for several weeks now. Ty had shared things with Christian that he didn't tell anyone else -- his problems getting along with his dad, his fear of not doing well in school and disappointing his family. Still, they hadn't yet met; although they had talked about it several times. The message window popped up on Ty's screen.
CK406: Hey, Ty. There you are.
TyBart: Hi. You been looking for me?
CK406: Yeah. :) You know me. Anything to avoid work.
TyBart: So how goes it at the old grind?
CK406: Oh, you know. SOS.
Ty knew Christian worked with computers but that's all Christian had told him. No company name, no job description. He also avoided answering some personal questions that Ty asked, like whether he was married and how old he was. Sometimes Ty thought Christian was trying to be mysterious. That could be why their plans to meet always seemed to fall through.
Ty had been flirting with installing a view window into his computer. Most of the kids on campus had them so they could see each other when they chatted. But Ty was wary of the creeps who stalked people over the internet. Still, it would be nice to see what Christian looked like. He claimed that he hated having his picture taken.
CK406: How're classes going?
TyBart: Well, semester just started---so ok so far
CK406: glad to hear it. studying hard?
CK406: Now, don't wait until you're deep into the semester to start studying.
TyBart: Ok, DAD
CK406: Cute, Ty :p
TyBart: well, for all I know, you could be old enough to be my dad. When are you going to tell me more
CK406: So, you'll be heading to the library soon then?
TyBart: avoiding the question yet again. Same old Christian.
CK406: Tell you what, you go study at the library tonight and I'll tell you how old I am tomorrow.
TyBart: I don't need to go to the library. I have a single, remember?
CK406: Yeah, but the library is better for studying.
TyBart: Why are you so interested in where I study?
CK406: Maybe I wanna take an anonymous peek.
TyBart: Ha! How will you know which library I go to? There must be like 20 different ones on campus
CK406: You tell me which one.
TyBart: Hey, no fair. Why should you get to see me? When do I get to see you? Hey! Maybe we could
meet at the library together.
CK406: Listen, Ty, I gotta get back to work. Boss is coming.
Then his name was gone in the blink of an eye. If Ty didn't know better, he would guess Christian shut his window on purpose to avoid the conversation. Ty got a nervous feeling the pit of his stomach at the thought of Christian spying on him. But how would Christian know what he looked like? They had never exchanged pictures.
"Christian, can you restack those books on the cart?" Betty asked him just as he was logging off his messenger window.
"Yeah, sure," he said and wheeled the card from the check-in desk back through the stacks and got in the elevator, pushing the button for the 7th floor. Christian Kelso had been working at the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library for the last 7 years.
Christian smiled as the elevator rose, thinking about Ty Bartholomew. Christian had first noticed Ty the previous fall when the young blond had been working at a computer station on the ground floor of the library. Christian was passing by the station to restack some books when he heard Ty laugh. It had been deep, throaty and full of joy. Christian turned and looked for the source.
Ty had been sitting there, his head thrown back in laughter, his dark, blond curls tickling the back of his neck. Christian's eyes zoomed in on Ty's thick, muscular neck and the way the library lighting had cast a shadow across the skin there. Christian's breath had caught in his throat. He found a place in the stacks to discretely watch Ty, enjoying his perfect, white smile, his sexy laugh, and his long, lean body; which he kept stretching as he worked.
Christian managed to walk behind Ty and saw that he was exchanging messages with another student. He stopped long enough to memorize Ty's screen name. When he got back to his own computer, he had added Ty's name to his buddy list and waited for an opportunity to chat with him.
A few nights later, just days before Christmas break, Christian had been in the stacks again and had noticed Ty at another computer station. He had gone back to his station and turned on his own messenger window. Sure enough, Ty was on. Christian had sent Ty a greeting and Ty had accepted.
CK406: Hi, up for a chat?
CK406: Whatcha doing?
TyBart: Studying for finals. You?
TyBart: Not too hard, I'm guessing
CK406: Good guess
TyBart: So why'd ya messenger me?
CK406: Bored, I guess
TyBart: Yeah, but why me?
CK406: Dunno, random selection
CK406: So whatya studying for?
TyBart: advanced chemistry
CK406: Yuck, not my cup of tea. What ya going be? scientist?
CK406: sounds hard
TyBart: sometimes. you in school?
CK406: well, a class here and there but mainly just working.
TyBart: what kind of work?
TyBart: you and everyone else. :) what kind of computer work?
CK406: not really important
TyBart: k. Where are you?
CK406: What state, you mean?
TyBart: Yeah -- city, state
TyBart: Me too! I go to U-M
They had chatted for an hour without ever exchanging names. They talked about sports, t.v., movies and the perils of living with your family. Ty had just opened up like a flower under Christian's probing questions. Christian, on the other hand, revealed almost nothing of himself but somehow managed to keep Ty intrigued. They chatted every day until Ty headed home for Christmas. Then an interminable two weeks of nothing. Christian missed seeing Ty's name everyday. Ty was busy visiting relatives and going to gatherings. He hardly spent any time on the computer.
It was during their second chat, that they learned each other's names. Christian would only give his first name and Ty could not get him to reveal the meaning behind his screen name. He didn't learn until he returned from his Christmas break that Christian's last name was Kelso.
That January night, Ty decided to go to the library after all. He was both intrigued and a bit wary of Christian. Ty walked through the front doors of the Harlan Hatcher Library, which was the only library he really liked to study in. The stacks were quiet and private. He felt cut off from the world when he was here and he liked it that way.
He settled into his favorite computer station and turned it on. He spread his books and papers around him and did a search for MAOI, or Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors, a group of drugs used to treat depression. They weren't used much anymore, so current information was likely to be scarce.
Ty was reading some reports when his messenger sounded.
CK406: So, what did you decide?
TyBart: About what?
CK406: Library or not?
TyBart: Why should I tell you? So you can stalk me? ;)
TyBart: I don't know why you don't want to just meet. what's the big deal?
CK406: It's not a big deal
TyBart: Then, why not?
(Over a minute passed before he got response)
CK406: Uh, sorry. Work
TyBart: So, you gonna answer?
CK406: I guess I wanted us to know each other better
TyBart: yeah, well, if you'd answer my questions, that might help
TyBart: Okay what?
CK406: Okay, I'll answer your questions.
TyBart: Just like that?
TyBart: How old are you?
TyBart: Really? I had no idea
CK406: did you have a guess?
TyBart: I guess around my age, maybe a little older
CK406: Does it matter?
CK406: Ha, that's a little personal. We can save that for when we meet.
TyBart: Where do you work?
CK406: That's a little tricky
CK406: I can't really say right now. But I will tell you. When we meet.
TyBart: When are we going to meet?
CK406: How about tonight?
CK406: Sure. At the library. U up for that?
TyBart: I'm here already. Harlan Hatcher
CK406: Good. See you in about 10 minutes.
TyBart: Where should we meet. What do you look like?
CK406: I'll find you
And then he was gone before Ty could respond. How the hell is going to find me when he
doesn't know what I look like? He felt a little tickle up his spine. A warning? Should I be worried? Part of him wanted to bolt but his curiosity kept him in place. He tried to go back to his work, but his thoughts kept returning to Christian. What if he's dangerous, Ty wondered. Then he reminded himself how long they had been chatting. If he was some kind of weirdo, I think he would have revealed it by now, he told himself. Movement in the corner of his eye pulled him out of his reverie. It was just one of the librarians collecting books the students left lying around.
Ty's eyes followed as the man wheel the cart into the stacks. He was still thinking about Christian. When the man turned to place a book back on its shelf, Ty's breath caught in his throat. He blinked twice but the man was still there and he looked so much like the man in Ty's dream; the one who lay bleeding in his arms. The librarian's hair was slightly longer but still the same dark brown color. His profile was startling similar to the man in the dream. A sharp, prominent nose; full, dark eyebrows; and a strong, masculine chin. Good Christ, how is this possible? Maybe I've seen him here before and it just didn't register.
The librarian noticed Ty staring at him. He turned and looked at him straight on. His eyes pierced Ty, causing the student to jump up as if prodded. The dark-haired man started walking toward Ty, who felt panic wash over him. He quickly shut down the computer and gathered up his papers. He ran out of the library without looking back.
Ty walked quickly home, his heartbeat returning to normal after a few blocks. He could not get over the librarian looking so much like the man in his dream. If I've seen that man in the library before, it certainly never registered anywhere in my conscious brain.
He walked into the dorm, dropped his stuff on the desk, and laid down to relax and watch t.v. He fell asleep after about an hour and dreamt of the man again. This time his features were clearer.
The dark-haired man was walking through a common area with tables and chairs. There were lots of men sitting in the chairs but no women. Everything was gray or some variation thereof. There was lots of glass doors and walls.
The dark-haired man stopped and looked right at Ty. He smiled warmly.
"Hey Toby. Where've you been?"
"Just got back from the gym. I'm going to go shower." Ty saw the glass door get closer as he walked toward it. He opened the door, walked in and grabbed a towel from a hook.
"Maybe I could join you," Chris said suggestively.
Ty turned around and saw Chris in the dark room with him. Chris got closer and pulled Ty into an embrace. Then their lips met. Ty felt his arms wrap around this dark-haired stranger. His heart clenched and began to beat faster. He felt aroused and hungry for Chris' kisses. He pulled the dark-haired man closer and felt Chris' erection against his leg.
He woke up startled and looked at the clock. 12:17 am. He waited for his own erection to calm and then got up to use the bathroom, remembering the dream. The same guy from the library or pretty darn close, he thought. Why do I keep dreaming about him? What was his name? Chris? And what did he call me? Toby. Yeah, Toby. But in the other dream, the men who took him away called him Beecher. Hmm. Beecher must be his last name. Why the heck would I have the dreams of someone I don't even know and never heard of?
He got back to his room and saw that his computer was still on. He checked his buddy list and saw that Christian was on, so he sent a message.
TyBart: Hey, Christian
CK406: Hey, where were you?
CK406: What happened? You chicken out?
TyBart: No. something happened.
TyBart: I saw somebody there that spooked me.
CK406: who? why'd they spook you?
TyBart: I don't know his name. He worked there.
CK406: Why did he spook you.
TyBart: He was in my dream last night
CK406: why is that spooky?
TyBart: I don't remember ever seeing him before
CK406: No? I guess you don't study there often.
TyBart: That's just it. I do. All the time.
CK406: So you must have seen him. Unless he's new.
TyBart: I don't know how long he's been there but I really don't remember ever seeing him before. That's why I'm spooked.
CK406: I guess that would be a little freaky.
CK406: Tell me more about this dream
TyBart: Uh, the man in the library, he was bleeding to death and I was holding him in my arms
Ty waited but there was no message for almost a minute.
TyBart: yeah and it was kind of like I was there but I really wasn't. It didn't feel like me holding the bleeding man but I could see everything through this other man's eyes and I could feel his feelings.
CK406: How do you know it was a man?
CK406: if you could only see through his eyes but couldn't see his face, how do you know it was a man?
TyBart: Well, Chris, the bleeding man, he called me Toby. And the hands were masculine. I could see his hands holding Chris. The fingers were really long, kind of bony but strong.
CK406: Did they look like your hands?
TyBart: not really. well, maybe a little. More veins, though. He was definitely older than me.
CK406: What else happened?
TyBart: nothing, really. Chris was bleeding and looking at me and I could see the life draining out of him. When he died, I felt this horrible loss as if I had somehow known him and loved him.
CK406: Wow. The dark-haired guy's name was Chris?
CK406: and then you see him, or someone who looks like him in the library.
TyBart: it was really weird
CK406: did the guy in the library scare you or was it just the dream?
TyBart: just the dream, i think
CK406: so, what did your dream lover look like ;)
TyBart: haha. very funny.
CK406: just teasing
TyBart: I know. actually, his profile was almost identical to the librarian. sharp nose - italian or jewish, maybe. but the guy in the dream had shorter hair.
CK406: hmm, that's strange
CK406: well, if you had seen the library guy before without realizing it and your mind somehow incorporated him into a dream, wouldn't he look the same?
TyBart: well, I don't think it was him, per se. I think they just looked alike
TyBart: the setting. it was dark, gray, cold, barren. Like they were...
TyBart: no, colder, harder than that
TyBart: I think that's it!
TyBart: that must be it!
TyBart: yeah, there was lots of brownish gray walls, gray floors.
TyBart: I didn't see any bars though.
TyBart: Thank you!
CK406: for what?
TyBart: helping me figure it out.
TyBart: just thinking about how strange all this is.
CK406: What else happened in the dream?
TyBart: Nothing in the first one but I had another one after I got back from the library tonight.
CK406: Yeah? what happened this time?
TyBart: I called him Chris.
TyBart: Yeah and he called me Toby. Then he kissed me.
TyBart: well I'm kinda embarrassed to say it
CK406: ah, come on. you can tell me anything, right?
TyBart: well, nothing like this
CK406: you can trust me
TyBart: you won't laugh?
CK406: course not
TyBart: I woke up aroused
Again several minutes passed and there was no response from Christian.
CK406: I'm here
CK406: I'm just surprised, that's all
TyBart: I freaked you out, didn't i?
CK406: not exactly. just surprised me
TyBart: why? cause I'm straight?
CK406: yeah, something like that.
TyBart: you're getting me worried here
TyBart: thinking you might be uncomfortable
CK406: no, not at all. just surprised. that's all. really.
CK406: anything else happen?
TyBart: in the second dream?
TyBart: just a long, heady kiss
CK406: so, it was pretty hot, eh?
TyBart: yeah, it was. those guys were definitely lovers and in love
CK406: why do you say those guys?
TyBart: well, they called each other Chris and Toby. So it wasn't me. I just can't figure out why I'm having
this Toby guy's dreams.
CK406: maybe you'll have more dreams and figure it out
TyBart: I hope not
TyBart: I dunno. Listen, I should go. I need to finish up some studying and get back to sleep.
CK406: k. Hey, got any plans tomorrow? Maybe we could try meeting again.
TyBart: well, actually, I have a date.
CK406: with who?
TyBart: a girl in one of my classes named Gwen. We're meeting for a study date in the afternoon but with any luck, it was last into the evening ;)
CK406: Oh, ok. Well ttyl
After signing off, Christian sat at his computer in stunned silence. Ty is dreaming about me? Or someone who looks like me? And his name is Chris?! What could it possibly mean? Christian wondered if Ty could possibly be attracted to him. He was amazed when Ty said he woke up aroused after the kissing dream. But no, Ty couldn't be attracted to him; it was impossible. He seemed to be very adamant about being straight.
Not that it mattered much in this age of sexual experimentation, Christian thought. What with more and more people claiming to be bisexual and this whole trend toward heteroflexibility, why would Ty hesitate to say he felt an attraction to Christian if it was there? But how can he be attracted to me? We haven't even met. But he has dreamt about me. Or at least someone who looks like me. Sexual, loving dreams. That has to mean something. Maybe Ty has seen me in the library and somehow incorporated me into the dream. But why did his dream lover call him Toby? He was giddy at the thought that Ty might harbor some kind of hidden attraction for him. Or maybe he was just afraid.
There were all kind of laws out there now to protect people no matter what their sexual preference. Still, Christian knew, there would always be prejudice from those who didn't care about being politically correct. Hate never goes away; it just goes into hiding sometimes.
Christian thought of himself as bisexual, for the most part. Still, he expected that someday he would find some woman to settle down with. His first wife, Katarina, just hadn't been the right one. Everybody makes one mistake. Still, the feelings that Ty brought out in him was beginning to make him re-think his vision of a heterosexual future.
Christian had only been intimate with a few guys in his life and they were mostly for fun -- to see what if. He'd always been an adventurous guy, trying things just for the heck of it. And when he'd first seen Ty, that's all he thought it would be - another adventure.
But then they'd started chatting and Ty seemed to know things about Christian without being told. They seemed to have a connection that transcended the computer and phone lines. At first, Christian thought it was his imagination. That he was just lonely, not having been in a relationship in awhile.
As time went on, however, and their chats became more frequent, Christian continued to hold back personal information, but Ty somehow picked up on stuff Christian didn't say. He remembered one chat they had just before Ty left for vacation in December. He had saved it so he could read it again. He opened the file on his computer.
CK406: So heading home for the holidays soon?
TyBart: Yeah, tomorrow.
CK406: Looking forward to seeing the family?
TyBart: I guess.
CK406: you don't sound too sure.
TyBart: yeah well there's always the usual holiday bickering
CK406: you got any siblings?
TyBart: one brother. only 8. from mom's second marriage.
CK406: so you live with Mom?
TyBart: yeah, dad lives in LA. I hardly ever see him.
CK406: sorry to hear that.
TyBart: what about you? what do you do for xmas?
CK406: usual stuff
CK406: nothing special
TyBart: you said you were divorced. do you go see other family?
CK406: something like that.
TyBart: something tells me you're pretty lonely at xmas.
Ty waited for a minute but there was no response.
TyBart: Ok, I'll drop it but if you ever need to talk, I'm here to listen.
How could Ty have known that? Just because I was vague about answering? I've always been kinda vague. Christian's own father had abandoned the family when Christian had been very young. He'd never had a male role model. Then his Mom died before he was out of his teens. He had a sister, eight years younger. But she was far away and never invited Christian over for holidays. Ty understood how he felt - at least about having an absent father. Why can't I just open up to him?
Now Christian had to find a way to meet Ty without blowing all the progress they had made. He wanted their relationship to go beyond a computer chat, even if Ty never had romantic feelings for him. He was pretty sure Ty was going to be mad when he found out Christian worked at the library. How to get around that? He hadn't a clue. He could always say he started chatting with Ty and then found out who he was. Nah, wouldn't work. Besides, lies always slapped you in the face sooner or later.
Ty met Gwen at the Diag, the center point of the campus, with the Hatcher Library in the background. Foot traffic streamed through the diag in all directions. He was Gwen waiting near the steps of the library, looking nervous and apprehensive, her eyes darting all around.
"Oh, Ty. Hi."
"So where do you want to study?"
"How about right here?" she asked, indicating the library.
Ty felt a little shiver run up his spine. What if the librarian he'd seen last night was working? Oh what the hell. Did it really matter? He just looked like the guy in the dream. It wasn't really him. "Okay."
He led her back to his favorite study area and found a couple of empty cubicles next to each other. As they settled in and spread their materials out, Ty took a quick glance around to see if the librarian was on duty. No sign. He started to relax.
Ty looked into Gwen's eyes. She looked at him so openly, so sweetly. He felt the pull of attraction and looked away. Let's wait until studying is over to go there, Tiberius, he told himself.
"So what exactly are you having trouble with on the MAOI drugs?" Gwen asked, eager to help.
"Well, it's these chemical interactions with other drugs that get me confused..." he began.
An hour later, Ty's mind was clearer on MAOI anti-depressant drugs and he knew he wanted to spend more time with Gwen. During their whole time together, Gwen was very demur and polite. He knew his family would love her. she would make the perfect wife. Shy, intelligent and she even let Toby act the gentleman, even though such notions were mostly outdated. Who knew such an old-fashioned girl still existed?
He invited her to go for coffee and she agreed. They walked over to a Java Joe's on S. University.
"So, Gwen, where are you from?"
"My family lives in Boston. What about yours?"
"Westchester County, New York."
"Why didn't you pick any New York school?"
"Kinda wanted to be away from home. Hey, Boston has great schools, too."
"Yeah, well, I needed to get away, too," she said, giving him an adorable smile.
"Well, I'm glad you picked Michigan," he said, returning her smile.
They talked for over two hours and Ty learned that Gwen's parents were both doctors, that she loved the movies and her favorite music was classical, although she liked some rock groups too.
"You know Satan's Heaven is coming to the coliseum next week."
"Really? I would love to go see them play!" Gwen said.
"Would you like to go with me?"
"Yes, Ty, I would," she said, smiling.
"I'll see if I can get tickets then."
They walked across campus in the late afternoon towards Gwen's campus. She lived right across State Street in Betsy Barbour House, a small women's dorm.
They stood at the door, not speaking. Ty felt awkward and shy. He wanted to her invite him up but didn't want to sound forward. He was afraid he might scare her away.
"I had fun, Gwen. Thanks for helping me with the MAOIs."
"Me, too, Ty. And, you're welcome."
He leaned forward then and noticed her face tilt toward his. He kissed her softly, their lips brushing across each other. He pulled back a moment later and saw that Gwen's eyes were still closed, as if she was in a trance.
"Mmm. That was nice," she said under her breath.
"Yeah," Ty agreed. "Well, goodnight," he added and waited for her to go in the door. Then he headed back to his own place.
"I thought I'd make spaghetti," the small dark-haired woman said, smiling. But Ty didn't care about food. He just wanted to be close to her. He took the package of spaghetti out her hand and put it down.
"Just hold me, Jen." Their lips met and he hugged her close. Ty felt safe for that moment; the demons were retreating and he could finally relax for the first time since he'd arrived here.
When Ty woke up, he realized immediately that the woman he'd been holding in his dream reminded him a lot of Gwen. What had he called her? Jen? Why was he incorporating Gwen into his dreams about this Toby guy? Didn't make any sense.
He got up, turned on his computer, and headed into the shower. When he returned, he saw a message from Christian.
CK406: You there?
TyBart: Hey, Christian. I just got out of the shower.
CK406: Feeling all clean?
CK406: any more dreams of dark-haired lovers?
TyBart: yes, actually but not the kind you mean.
TyBart: in last night's dream, Toby was kissing a woman and she looked a bit like my Gwen
CK406: Really? hmm.
TyBart: yeah, a little strange
CK406: sounds it. how was the date, btw
TyBart: oh, pretty good. we studied for a bit and then went for coffee, shared life stories. you know.
CK406: yeah. Did you fuck her?
TyBart: Jeez, Christian, why don't you just be blunt?
TyBart: some things are meant to be kept private
TyBart: gotta run. gotta go work at the hospital pharmacy as part of my clinical studies.
CK406: okay. got plans for later?
TyBart: just some research at the library
TyBart: yeah. Why? you going to come meet me?
TyBart: okay. ttyl
After a four-hour shift at the pharmacy, Ty headed over to Harlan Hatcher to do some research.
When he walked in, he glanced around for the Chris look-alike, but didn't see him. Hopefully, he's off today. He settled in to his favorite spot but left his messenger off. He wanted to concentrate.
After looking up some call numbers, Ty went into the stacks to get locate the books he needed. Ahead of him, he saw a dark figure move quickly around the corner. Ty shivered. Was it him? He grabbed one of thebooks he needed and headed back to his study carroll.
An hour later, he gathered up his things and stood up to leave but someone was standing in his way. He looked up slightly and saw that it was the librarian who looked like the dream Chris. Ty felt his throat constricting and panic started to overtake him.
"Is something wrong?" the Chris look-alike asked, his voice a deep, seductive whisper.
"Uh, no. I was just leaving."
"Don't go, Ty."
Ty did a double take. "Wait, how did you know my name?"
The dark-haired man squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. "Shit, I didn't want to meet you like this."
Ty was completely puzzled. This doesn't make any sense. The only person who knows I'm here is...Oh shit. "Christian?"
"You work here?"
Ty felt anger welling up. "So you've known who I was all along; what I looked like before? You knew this whole time?!"
"Yeah," Christian said, keeping his eyes locked with Ty's.
"I don't understand. Why? Why would you be so secretive about it? Why not just tell me who you were?"
"I guess I wanted to get to know you first."
Ty shook his head, as if trying to clear his confusion. "This still doesn't make any sense."
Christian placed his hand on Ty's arm near the elbow. Ty felt an unexpected electric shock run through him. "I'll explain it all. Come on," Christian said, trying to guide Ty back through the stacks.
But Ty pulled his arm away. "Uh uh, I don't think so. I don't know anything about you."
"Oh come on, Ty. You know more about me than most people. Besides, I was just going to take you back to the office so we could talk without disturbing people."
Ty considered that for a moment and then nodded. He followed Christian back to the library office, which was cluttered with papers and books.
"I first noticed you last December. I was stacking books and I heard you laugh. I turned and saw you. You were chatting with someone and obviously having a good time. I just wanted to get to know you," Christian said, shrugging. "I walked by your station later and saw your screen name. The next time you were on line, I sent a message."
"Jesus, ya know, this sounds an awful lot like stalking."
"No. I never followed you anywhere. Just saw you when you came to the library. I swear."
"What do you want from me?"
"Just to know you."
"I like you. Why else?"
"Whoa. What does that mean? If you're looking to get laid, pal, you found the wrong guy. I'm straight."
"What's that supposed to mean? You don't believe me?" he asked defensively.
"I never said that, Ty. Look, you're blowing this all out of proportion. I enjoy our chats. I wanted to get to know you. I should have been more upfront about it. I apologize for that."
"Yeah, well forgive me if I'm a little freaked out about all this. Jesus! You could have told me after I said you looked the guy in my dream!"
"How could I? Over the messenger? You would never have spoken to me again. I wanted to meet you and tell you in person."
"Yeah, well." He couldn't really refute Christian's logic, although he wanted to.
"Listen, I was thinking we could do a little research on those guys in your dream. See if they really exist."
"Too late. I already tried that. There's no Toby Beacher in state prison. I tried several search engines and even the state correctional index."
"Yeah, well, I gotta brother-in-law who used to work for the federal prison system. He works in California now, but he knows everybody in all the state systems. If anyone would know, he would."
"Isn't he going to think you're a little nuts? `Uh, yeah, can you see if these guys exist? This friend of mine dreamt about them.' That'll sound rational," Toby said sarcastically.
"Uh uh. That's not the approach I was going to take. I was going to tell him I'm doing a research project on them. He knows I take classes part time here. I'll tell him the names as if I am certain they exist. If he finds nothing, I'll just tell him that I probably got the spellings wrong and I'll get back to him."
"Well, we only have one full name. We don't know Chris' last name."
"Well, we can wait until you learn it."
"That might not happen. There's no guarantee I'll dream about them again."
"Why ya gotta be so negative, Ty? If you don't want to do this, just say so," Christian said, anger in his voice.
"Look, I need to go. Gwen is supposed to be calling me soon. I'll talk to you later," he said and left before Christian could say anything else.
Ty was shaking a bit as he walked home. His heart was pounding and his breath was coming out like short little bursts of steam. How could he do this to me? I feel like a fool! He's been watching me for weeks and I never even knew it!
He wondered why Christian was interested in him. Was it a sexual attraction? He didn't know. He knew Christian had been married but that didn't mean he was straight. Why else would a man -- a man several years older -- go to the trouble of secretly finding Ty's screen name? It was kinda creepy.
He came out of the Diag and walked up Washtenaw Ave, past the pharmacy building and turned left on Forest Ave, heading for Mosher-Jordan house. The dorms had been renovated a couple of years ago and some new ones built in the area. Now the rooms were bigger and there were more of them. It was the best place on campus to live.
He couldn't get over the feeling that Christian had deceived him but to what end? Why hadn't he been up front with me? What did he hope to accomplish? Not knowing was driving him crazy.
When he got to his room, he dropped his backpack on the bed and called Gwen.
"Gwen. It's me, Ty."
"What are you doing?"
"Having pizza with friends."
"Sounds like fun."
"I was thinking of you today."
"Me too. Of you."
"Oh, I called last night and ordered tickets for the concert. It's next Friday night."
"That's great, Ty. I can't wait."
"Do you want to get together before then?"
"Maybe we could go to the movies this Saturday?"
"I'd like that."
"Great. I'll look up some movies and times and call you tomorrow so we can decide which one."
"See you in class."
But when he was drifting off to sleep that night, Ty wasn't thinking of Gwen. Christian's face loomed in sight, his eyes intense and penetrating. Ty couldn't help but shiver at the thought of Christian watching him for weeks on end without his knowing. What did Christian want from him? Why had he been so secretive about knowing who Ty was? About himself? Could Christian be gay and hiding it? Could he possibly be attracted to me? Ty couldn't decide how he would feel if that was true.
He still felt angry at Christian for deceiving him but he wasn't ready to give up their friendship forever. They had been getting along so well in their chats. Damn Christian for ruining it all! He'd take a few days to mull it over; decide what to do. In the meantime, he decided, he would avoid chatting with Christian. Whenever Christian sent him a message, Ty would ignore it or turn off his messenger box. He was tempted to block incoming messages from Christian but he didn't want to take it that far just yet.
Saturday came and Ty took Gwen to see "Bound to You," a new romantic comedy with young actors in it. Gwen enjoyed it and invited Ty up to her room this time. Her roommate was out, so Ty sat on the chair in front of her roommate's desk.
"I have some juice in the fridge," she offered.
"I'm okay," he said. He began to feel awkward and wasn't sure if anything was going to happen. Or if it should. Or if he even wanted it to. Jesus, I'm a mess.
"Do you want to listen to some music? Or watch t.v.?"
"Music is good."
"How about the Omars? I just got their new disc last week."
"Sure, that'd be great."
She walked over to the stereo and put it on, then sat down on her bed.
"So, where do you want to work after school?" she asked.
"Well, my family has a pharmaceutical company back home in New York. I guess I'll go to work for them."
"Really? Wow. Is that why you wanted to be a pharmacist? You've probably spent a lot of time in the labs, huh?"
"A bit, I guess. How about you?"
"Well, I'm specializing in homeopathy. I hope to travel to third world countries and help the natives find and produce natural medicines."
"That's very ambitious."
She shrugged. "I just want to help people."
"That's very noble." Ty wasn't sure if he was impressed or annoyed with her now. Could anybody really be that selfless? I doubt I could. Yet there wasn't even a hint of smugness in her expression. She really did believe in what she said.
Gwen blushed. "Thanks."
"I'm surprised we haven't run into each other before in another pharmacy class."
"Oh, that's because I just transferred here this year. I'm only starting my third year. I used to go to Ohio State," she said, whispering. "Ssh, don't tell anyone," she added, looking around the room conspiratorially. OSU was Michigan's main rival in collegiate sports but there was also an academic competition as well.
Ty laughed out loud, not expecting her to make a joke. "So who do you root for when you go to the games?" he teased her.
She giggled. "Like I'd root for OSU here even if I wanted to, which I don't. I wasn't too crazy about their pharmacy program. It was rather disorganized. I like more structure."
He could tell that she did. Her room was very neat and orderly - unlike most college dorm rooms. Nothing was out of place.
"Yeah, well, your notes sure are organized."
"Thanks," Gwen said, and moved closer to where Ty was sitting and put her hand over his. She looked at him, her eyes showing her desire to be kissed. She never said a word, just waited for him.
I guess there are still some old fashioned women in this world, he thought as he leaned forward, lightly pressing his lips to hers. She leaned into it, sighing. Her lips parted slightly but she got no bolder than that. Ty put his hand on the back of her head, holding her gently to him. The kiss was...nice, he thought. It made him feel safe. Just like the kiss in the dream; when Toby kissed his Jen.
They stayed that way for a minute or so, until Ty pulled away. He didn't want to push things too soon. He stood up to say goodnight and saw that Gwen was still sitting there, a glassy look in her eye, as if she were some kind of daze.
"I should go," Ty said and she finally looked up at him. Her expression changed to one of disappointment.
"Yeah. But I had a good time. Would you like to go out again some time?"
`Yes," she said, smiling. She stood up and took his hands in hers. "I had fun, too." She kissed him again, wanting it to last longer. Wanting it to last all night. But she didn't want Ty to think she was too forward. She walked him to the door and they said goodnight.
Ty smiled as he headed back to his dorm. The date had gone well, he thought, and he enjoyed Gwen's company. They had lots in common. That was the way it should be, right?
Kissing Gwen had been...well, not quite what he expected. He felt safe, sure, but wasn't something missing? Like passion? No, no. Don't start going there. We just started. Give it time to grow, he told himself. He was obviously attracted to Gwen or he wouldn't have started flirting with her in the first place, right?
Not that he had tons of experience with women. He had only seriously dated one girl in high school. Tammy. It was one of those relationships that went on for years and everyone assumed they would get married. But they broke up before Ty headed off to college. Tammy and he started sleeping together about two months after they started dating in sophomore year. They had both been virgins. And Ty had loved having sex with Tammy because...well...because he was a 16-year-old boy who was horny. No, it was more than that. Wasn't it? He had loved Tammy. At least, he thought he did. Yeah. They had a lot in common. Just like Ty and Gwen did now.
What the hell triggered attraction anyway? he wondered. Chemistry, supposedly, but how did one determine that? The person you're attracted to is supposed to make you feel giddy, excited, euphoric, and sexy. Right? Do I feel that way when I'm with Gwen? I think I do. I know she's attracted to me and that makes me feel sexy. But the other stuff? He wasn't too sure. He enjoyed spending time with Gwen, but was he giddy about it? Excited?
The only time he could remember being giddy and excited about spending time with someone was, well, when he was looking forward to meeting Christian. Oh no, pal, do not even go there. Then Christian had to go and ruin it all with the damn stalking thing. Ty was better off without him. They hadn't chatted in days. Ty even used an alternate screen name to sign on to his messenger so Christian wouldn't know when he was on.
If he was better off, why did he miss talking with Christian so much? It's the friendship; the camaraderie I miss. That's it, he told himself. Jesus, I need to talk to someone about this. He couldn't talk to any of his friends about this. They would think he was nuts. Maybe Matthew, that guy who lived down the hall in his dorm. Matthew was openly gay and seemed easy to talk to. Maybe he could give Ty some perspective on this whole thing.
He was so tired. The drinking, the lack of sleep, the obsessing over Chris -- it was exhausting. The tall blond guard escorted him to the gym, rambling on about working out. Ty just wanted to lie down and go to sleep and forget Chris, forget Oz, forget everything about what brought him here. Ever since Chris has pushed him away, life in Oz had become even more interminable than it was already. The memory of those brief moments of joy he'd had in the laundry room when they'd shared their first kiss mocked him now.
Ty walked through the gym door and saw Chris standing there next to an older, balding man. He knew instinctively that man's name was Vern, a man who had hurt him, raped him, treated him like a slave. Shock, hurt, anger all registered themselves at the same time. Betrayal. Chris had lied about knowing Vern. The anger swelled and without thought, Ty propelled himself across the gym floor at Chris. Everything else around him blurred.
"No! You..." and then he was on Chris, but the bigger man held his ground. Ty hadn't gained any ground before Metzger pulled him, held him by the neck. Adrenaline was coursing through him but the booze still made him sluggish.
"You know him?" he asked Chris, his breath coming out in short gasps.
"Say What? Oh yeah, we've known each other a long time. I've known Vern since we were both doing time up in Lardner. I was 17 and uh, well," Chris said, putting his arm around Vern's shoulders, " he saved my life from a big, dumb nigger, who wanted me to be his prag. I don't think so." Then Chris kissed Vern on the face and Ty began to see red. He felt humiliated, furious. He struggled against Metzger`s hold but got nowhere.
"I've owed him ever since. I don't love you. I've never loved you; not for a second." Then Chris patted him on the face like some kind of incorrigible pet and pushed him back. "Let him go," he told Metzger.
"Come on, Chris," the big blond said.
"No, let him go!"
And then the guard's arms were gone and Chris was beckoning him; challenging him. "Let's see what you've got there, Toby."
The red anger exploded behind Ty's eyes and he launched himself at Chris, the man he was given his heart to. All he wanted at that moment was to shed Chris' blood; to make this man feel even some of the pain and anger Ty was feeling. But something went awry and before he knew it, Chris had trapped him in his strong arms and legs. And then Ty could feel the burning pain when Chris snapped one of his arms and then the other.
Ty woke up screaming; believing that he had indeed just had his arms broken. He moved his arms and was amazed that there was no pain. He ran his hands over his face; it was covered in sweat. Jesus Fucking Christ! What was that? He tried to put it together and it made no sense. When had Chris broken Toby's arms? It was obviously before Chris died. So why was Toby grieving for Chris? Had he somehow forgiven Chris? How could he have done that? It was unforgivable, wasn't it? It makes no sense.
Ty got out of bed, grabbed a towel and went across the hall and stepped into a shower stall, stripping his clothes off, and letting the water cascade over him. He let the sweat wash away but the fear remained. He dried himself off, wrapped the towel around his waist, gathered up his sweaty clothes, and went back to his room.
Who was this Vern guy and how did I know so much about him? Ty wondered as he dumped his wet clothes in the laundry pile and put on fresh ones. Somehow I knew that Vern had raped Toby; humiliated him. How could I know if I've never dreamt of this Vern guy?
Ty put on fresh pajamas and slept fitfully through the rest of the night. When he woke, he was even more angry with Christian than he had been. He admitted to himself that the dream was probably part of the reason, even though he knew logically that Chris was not Christian, he had come to identify them together in some way.
As he headed out to class, he walked by Matthew's room and saw the door was open. He thought about stopping to say hello and asking if Matthew wanted to talk later. Then he realized that there was no point. Ty didn't plan on ever contacting Christian again. Better to just leave well-enough alone. He looked in through the door but Matthew had his head down, studying. Ty quietly moved on.
A few days later, Ty woke up feeling refreshed. He got right out of bed and decided to go for a jog. As he got dressed, he realized he hadn't had a dream the night before. At least not one he could remember. That was the first time in more than a week.
What a relief, he thought, as he passed the university`s fitness center and turned down North University Street. He was tired of having this guy Toby's dreams and getting obsessed over Chris and all this shit with Christian. It was all better just left alone. He didn't need Christian in his life. He just stirred up too much emotion in Ty.
Still, Ty missed their messenger chats; the easy way Christian had been able to get him talking about whatever was bothering him. Then Christian had to go and ruin it all. Why couldn't they just be friends without all this other shit clouding everything up? Guess that would be too easy, Ty thought. Instead, Ty had to start dreaming about being in love with Christian's doppelganger. Why did everything have to be so complicated? No wonder I spend so damn much time alone. Getting to know people; caring about them -- it's messy.
He turned left on State Street and headed past Gwen's dorm, smiling as he thought of her. Now Gwen didn't mix him all up; didn't make him feel like everything had to be so complex. Everything with Gwen was simple and straightforward. Isn't that the way is was supposed to be? Easy and uncomplicated. He headed down State Street for about a half mile and then swung around and headed back for his dorm.
He returned about 30 minutes after he started, covered with sweat and taking in deep breaths. He went into his dorm room, grabbed his shower stuff, and headed across the hall.
He pushed thoughts of Christian away and concentrated on Gwen. He would call her after he finished showering and ask to see her later.
The next week passed by uneventfully. Ty forced himself to stop all communication with Christian, even using a new screen name so Christian would stop sending him messages and emails. Eventually, the phone calls stopped, too, after Ty failed to return the voice mails Christian left.
Ty started spending more time with Greg Melman, a friend since freshman year. Greg and Ty had been roommates briefly until Ty realized he really needed to live alone. But they had remained close until this past year, when Greg moved out of the dorm and into off-campus housing.
Greg called to tell Ty about getting accepted into law school. Ty was happy for him and suggested they get together. They caught up on things. Ty told Greg about Gwen, but Christian's name never came into the conversation. Greg told Ty that he'd just broken up with his long-time girlfriend and wasn't looking to get hooked up right now.
They found out they both had tickets for the Satan's Heaven concert and made plans to hook up after the show at Jay's Restaurant on South University.
Ty was also spending more and more time with Gwen. Most nights, they studied in her room. She had a roommate, but the girl was hardly ever there. So they had plenty of time making out during study breaks. Ty was starting to get the feeling that Gwen was ready to move past the making out stage, but he was not so sure *he* was ready.
Friday arrived and Ty told Gwen about their plans to meet up with Greg after the show.
"After? I thought this was going to be our night to be together, Ty. It seems like every time we want to be alone, something interrupts us. One of us is rushing off to class or we need to get sleep for the next day's classes," she said, pouting.
"I'm sorry, Gwen. It seems to me that we've been spending a lot of time together. And I haven't seen Greg in forever."
"Isn't there any way you can call him and cancel?" she asked, her voice sounding more irritated.
"I don't really want to cancel, Gwen. I enjoy Greg's company and I haven't seen him since last spring. We just want to catch up on stuff."
"Well, you can do that any time, Ty."
"Yeah, and you and I can be together anytime, Gwen," he said, now getting a bit ticked himself.
"Fine. Do what you want."
"What the hell does that mean? You're pissed at me?!"
"Yeah, but I'll get over it, okay? Let's just go and get this over with."
"Wow. That makes me look forward to it. Thanks," he said sarcastically.
The concert, performed at the new Fatima Auditorium, was a good show, but Gwen's attitude dampened it for Ty. She was very standoffish and acted like it was a chore for her to sit through it. Meeting Greg later wasn't much better. Gwen was quiet all through the late dinner and barely spoke two words to Greg. This made Greg a little self-conscious and the conversation turned awkward.
So much for his uncomplicated relationship with Gwen.
He walked her back to her dorm around midnight and kissed her quickly on the cheek. She snapped out of her silent treatment to berate him some more.
"You're not coming up?!" she asked incredulously. "I suffered through that damn concert and an hour with your friend, whom I didn't even want to meet in the first place, and now you're not even coming up?"
Ty shook his head at her puzzled. "I don't understand you, Gwen. You give me the cold shoulder all night and you're rude to my friend, which tells me you can barely stand to be in my company. Now, you *want* me to come up? That doesn't make any sense. But what's even more puzzling is why you would even think I'd want to spend more time with you after the way you acted," he said and watched as her mouth opened in shock. But before she could respond, he added. "When you're ready to act your age, give me a call."
Ty walked toward a staircase, looked across the catwalk and saw Chris standing there. He stopped at the railing when Chris called to him.
"Hey," Ty called back, feeling an overwhelming surge of affection for this man. He knew instinctively that this man had saved his life and that he loved him.
"Yeah. So are you."
"Yeah. Feeling better?"
"I'm alive. Thanks to you." He wanted to tell Chris something but
Chris smiled and started to walk away.
"Keller," he called and Chris stopped to look at him. "I just asked McManus to let you be my roommate again."
He saw Chris smile; it was a knowing smile. Then he gave an almost imperceptible nod. Ty felt both nervous and excited at the same time. He knew that soon this man would become his lover. It would be his first time with a man -- well voluntarily anyway -- and he was scared about that. But he trusted Chris and knew that it would also be thrilling and wonderful. He pushed away ugly thoughts of Vern.
Ty woke up from the dream but wasn't startled or upset this time. It was almost like he had known he was in the dream and just let it ride out. Vern again. Somehow, Ty knew that Vern had tried to kill him - Toby, actually - and Chris had saved him, but he didn`t know how. Maybe this is the reason Toby forgave Chris for breaking his arms? These dreams are getting weirder and more cryptic, Ty thought.
Then he remembered something he had learned in the dream. He had it! He turned on his computer and signed on under his old screen name, hoping Christian would be on. Sure enough, his name showed up in the window. It had been almost two weeks since they had spoken, but Ty pushed that thought aside.
TyBart: Hey! Good news!
A full minute went by before Christian responded.
CK406: Oh? Are we speaking?
TyBart: Look, I'm sorry about the silent treatment. But I have exciting news.
This time Christian did not respond.
TyBart: Come on, Christian! Did you ever put yourself in my shoes? Don't you think your reaction would have been similar if I did that to you?
CK406: I guess so.
TyBart: Can we just move past this?
CK406: I don't know, Ty. We haven't spoken in weeks and now you just want to pretend nothing happened.
TyBart: I know, I know. I just needed some time, okay? I'm sorry.
CK406: I guess.
TyBart: I'll make it up to you, okay?
CK406: Ok. So what's the news?
TyBart: I had another dream last night. I found out Chris' name. It's Keller.
CK406: excellent. should I contact my brother-in-law?
TyBart: sure, if you want.
CK406: what do you want?
TyBart: I'm curious as hell.
CK406: Consider it done. It might take a couple of weeks to get the info.
TyBart: Sure. I expected as much.
CK406: So how are things going with Gwen?
TyBart: Oh, ya know, pretty good. She's fun and she seems to like me a lot.
CK406: can't blame her.
TyBart: why do you do that?
CK406: Do what?
TyBart: You know. flirt like that.
CK406: Flirt? Well, flirting is in my nature but I was just stating the facts.
TyBart: ok. well, gotta get ready for class.
He signed off and grabbed the stuff he needed for a shower. A shiver passed through him as he thought about Christian's comment. Was he flirting? And if he wasn't, why did it give Ty a little tingle to know that Christian liked him and wasn't afraid to say it?
Damn, I gotta stop thinking about this, he told himself as he stepped into the shower.
Ty was walking out of his Medicinal Chemistry class the following Tuesday morning when he saw Gwen waiting for him.
"Hi," she greeted him shyly.
"What do you want?"
"To say I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me on Friday."
"Yeah, well, I don't either."
"I guess I was just disappointed because I had planned for us to be alone. Then you invited that friend along."
"I don't get why that matters. We were together, weren't we?"
"Yeah, but not..."
"Together...together. You know?"
Ty looked at her, puzzled for a moment and then it clicked. "Oh."
"Yeah, and I didn't know how to tell you without coming off like some kind of sex-obsessed sorority girl," she said laughing.
"You're in a sorority?" he joked and she whacked him playfully on the shoulder.
"So, you forgive me?"
"Yeah. And I'm sorry for ruining your plans. We can make it up to each other, okay?"
"I look forward to it," she said, grinning devilishly.
"I gotta run to my next class. See you later?" she nodded and Ty gave her a kiss good-bye before rushing off.
Gwen looked out the window of her dorm room for the 15th time in the last five minutes, checking to see if Ty was coming. She wanted tonight to be very special and her stomach was churning.
I could really fall for this guy, she thought. "Shit, who's kidding who? I already have," she said aloud to the empty room. Gwen had told her roommate to find something to do tonight, preferably something that took several hours.
She walked to the mirror and checked her hair again; breathed into her hand to check her breath. God, please let this work. Let him want to be with me.
Gwen checked around the room again to make sure everything was in order. She had candles on a small table in the middle of the room, ready to burn. And there was wine cooling in the bucket over near the door. Too bad the room isn't a little bigger, she thought irrationally.
The buzzer sounded, startling Gwen out of her reverie. She ran over to the intercom.
"Hey, Gwen. It's me."
Oh thank God. "Okay." She pressed the buzzer to let him in.
She greeted him with a lengthy kiss and helped him get his coat off. "Would you like a glass of wine?"
"Uh, sure," he said and sat down in the chair at Gwen's desk. She poured the wine and sat down on the bed and patted the spot next to her.
"Wanna join me?"
So he did, despite his nervousness. And then they were kissing and before long, they were undressed. Ty responded to her light touches. It had been a long time since he'd been with anyone and his body welcomed the pleasure.
By the time he slipped inside her, Ty was lost in the sensations pounding through his body. When he finished, he cried out a name.
"What did you say?" Gwen asked after Ty stopped shuddering.
"Umm, hmm, I don't remember," Ty said dreamily, his body still lethargic.
"It sure didn't sound like Gwen."
"Okay," he agreed happily.
"It sounded something like kiss or Christ?"
Ty opened his eyes wide in surprise. "Really?" he asked, then shook his head. "No, can't be. You must have misheard me."
The phone was ringing when Ty walked into his dorm room that afternoon.
"Ty? It's Christian."
"Christian. Wow. I don't think you've ever called me before. Did I give you my number?"
"No, Ty, I got it from the student directory."
Christian ignored the wary tone in his friend's voice and plunged forward. "I have news. My brother-in-law called me. Chris Keller does exist. Or he did. And he was at a prison called Oswald State Correctional Facility on the east coast. Jack said..."
"What do you mean *did*?"
"Well, he died. At Oz. Some years back apparently."
Ty sat down. He supposed he should have expected that news; that was Chris was dead but somehow he found himself at a loss for words. He felt the energy drain from his body and a sense of loss come over him.
"Ty? You still there?"
"Yeah, I'm sorry. I'm just absorbing this. I'm so surprised that I don't know what to say."
"Hey, is something wrong? You sound...I don't know...funny, I guess."
"Nothing. I mean...I don't know. Just hearing that he's dead, it just hit me. I wasn't expecting that to happen. Although I guess I shouldn't be surprised. He died in my dream, after all. But I feel kind of sad. Does that even make sense?"
"Yeah, sure. I mean the guy's been in your dreams for weeks now; he's been your lover, in a way. How could you not be affected by that?"
"I mean he died in my dreams so it would make sense that he would be dead. I mean that he is a real person is kind of blowing me away," he rambled on, not even really hearing Christian.
"Oh, but here's the weird thing. couldn't find anything on a Toby Beacher."
"That can't be right. If Chris exists, Toby must be real too."
"I know! That's what I said. Anyway, he said we would have to go to the state capitol to see the Oz records. He knows someone there who is willing to let us see the records. Guy owed him a favor or something. Do you wanna take a road trip?"
Ty hesitated for a moment, remembering all the weeks that Christian had been watching him without Ty knowing. It still made him shiver a bit but he didn't feel like Christian was dangerous in any way. Besides, he was damn curious to see Keller's records. "Okay. Sure."
The drive would be at least 10 or 12 hours. They would have stay overnight but where?
"Great. When you wanna go?"
"Well, can we go on a weekend or does it have to be on a weekday? Cause I don't want to miss classes if I can avoid it. I only have one class on Mondays and it's in the afternoon, so I might be able to miss that one."
"I'll call him back and ask."
"Uh, Christian? This is obviously going to be an overnight trip. Where are we going to stay?"
\"Jeez, Ty, I hadn't thought about that. I don't know. A hotel, I guess, unless you know somebody who lives near the state capital out there."
"Okay, but we're getting separate rooms, right?"
"Whatever makes you comfortable, Ty."
"Hey, Gwen," Ty greeted her as they headed out of class on Friday afternoon.
"You wanna come over tonight?"
"Actually, I can't. I wanted to tell you -- I'm going on a trip this weekend.
She looked at him, curious. "Where? With who?"
"A guy named Christian Kelso and the where...well, it's a long story. Suffice it to say it's on the east coast and I'll be back Tuesday night."
"How do you know this Christian? I don't remember you mentioning him before."
"He works at Hatcher."
"How long have you known him?"
"Uh, well, since last December. That's when we started talking on the messenger. We actually met about five weeks ago, just before I asked you out."
"Why haven't you ever mentioned him?"
"I don't know. We were fighting for a little while and then we made up. What difference does it make?"
"I just think it's odd that you haven't mentioned him to me and now you're going on an overnight trip with him."
"Yeah, well, there it is."
They walked through the Diag and toward Gwen's dormitory. "Why can't you come over tonight...you know...to say good-bye," she asked, her voice low, whispering.
"I gotta lotta stuff to do to get ready and I need to get sleep early." He decided to leave out the part where he wasn't actually leaving until Sunday.
Gwen pouted. "Are you sure you can't come over for a little while?"
"I really can't, Gwen, but I'll miss you," he said at they reached State Street. He kissed her quickly and turned back toward Angell Hall and the Diag.
"Bye, Ty," she called out and crossed the street to Barbour House.
They left the following Sunday and headed east. Christian rented a car, as he didn't want tooo put so much mileage on his. Christian picked Ty up at the dorm at 6 a.m. He was still yawning when he got in the car.
"Did you get any sleep?"
"Not much. Damn, it's early."
"Well, you can sleep in the car if you want."
"Thanks, I might just do that."
Christian's brother-in-law had contacted the head of corrections for the state, Dale Hendrickson, who agreed to see Christian and Toby on Monday morning. They would be allowed to see the records for Christopher Keller and go from there.
They would probably arrive in the capitol around 5 or 6 pm. They could grab some dinner and make an early night of it. Then head over to Hendrickson's office on Monday morning. Then back to Ann Arbor on Tuesday. There were no classes on Monday due to Presidents' Day. So Ty would only be missing one day of classes -- and luckily, Tuesday was one of his light days.
"We should go over our...uh...story, so we don't tell this guy conflicting things," Christian suggested.
"Yeah, I guess that couldn't hurt."
"Okay, so we're doing a project for a criminology class, right."
"Yeah, and we are looking at prisoners who died while incarcerated - what were the circumstances of their deaths, etc."
"So how would Toby come into play? If we ever find him, that is."
"Well, we need to look at people the prisoner came into contact with."
"And what's the point of this project?"
"Hmm. Good question. We should know the answer to that, right?"
Christian laughed. Ty watched him, realizing he had never seen Christian laugh. He had a mouthful of gorgeous teeth. Christian turned his head, the full beam of his smile aimed right at Ty, who felt a strange but not completely unpleasant coil in his gut. He felt nervous and awkward suddenly, without a clue as to what to say. I made him laugh, he though stupidly, then shook his head to clear it.
"You okay? You looked a little like you were in a daze or something."
"Something like that. Daydreaming, I guess," Ty answered, looking straight out the front window.
"So what's the answer?"
"The answer? To what?" Ty asked, having completely lost track of their conversation. What is going on here?
"The point of the project?"
"Oh yeah. Right. Um, I'm not sure. But I'll come up with something. I'm good at that sort of thing."
"I bet that's not all your good at," Christian said and Ty did a double take, studying Christian's face for hidden meanings. But Christian was looking at him guilelessly. "What?"
"I was just wondering what you meant by that."
"Just that you're good at a lot of things. Like coming up with the idea to come out here to see the records of Toby and Chris."
"That was all you, Christian. You came up with that idea. You're the one with the great brother-in-law."
"Hey, I guess I did think of that, huh?" Christian said, sounding surprised.
Ty yawned. "I'm feeling a little drowsy. Mind if I nap a bit and then I can take over some of the driving."
"Sure. Go ahead."
Christian fiddled with the radio a bit before settling on a station he liked; something that would keep him occupied while Ty slept. He had a tendency to get lost inside his thoughts when he was driving alone. With Ty asleep, he might as well be alone.
No one was more surprised than Christian Kelso himself at the bond that had sprung up between himself and Tiberius Bartholomew. He'd always been a loner. He'd had friendships, but they always seemed to be fleeting. A few months and then he'd start distancing himself; change his hangouts; stop returning phone calls until they gave up. He never really understood why he did that, but he always did, which made his pre-occupation with Ty so curious.
When he'd first messengered Ty, he didn't really know what he was looking for. Someone to chat with; a friend. Had he been thinking about something more? A sexual relationship? It hadn't really been forefront in his mind. Sure he'd been with guys, although not as much as he'd been with women. But pretty much all of them had been one-night stands. He'd never really let any of them get to know him. But, for some reason, he wanted Ty to be the exception to the rule.
He looked at the sleeping blond, noticing the way his curls rested on the nape of his neck. Christian had an urge to reach out and slip his hand into the curls; feel the softness. He wanted to cradle Ty's had and pull him close, kiss his lips.
Ty was the only person he'd ever met who was more interested in learning about Christian than in talking about themselves. The more Ty probed, the more Christian dodged. Still, Ty didn't give up. Most of the others just stopped asking. Maybe that's why he was so drawn to Ty. Of course, he could be a pain in the ass. There was no doubt about that. But, hell, even that could be endearing. Fuck if Christian could say why that was.
"We're here," Ty announced to a still-napping Christian, who opened his eyes to see the red-brick hotel looming in front of them.
"I guess we are." He followed Ty around to the back of the car and grabbed his luggage. Ty locked up the car and they both headed for the lobby and checked in. Their rooms were next to each other with an adjoining door, that either or both of them could keep locked.
Ty dropped his bags on the bed and walked over to the adjoining door, knocking. Christian unlocked the door from his side and opened it. Ty greeted him with a warm smile.
"So what do you want to do now?"
Jesus, Ty looked tempting standing there with that gorgeous smile plastered on his face; his disheveled curls begging for attention, Christian thought. He checked his watch. 8 p.m. "Uh, eat dinner, I guess," Christian said, trying to sound casual.
"Yeah, me, too. I'm starving."
"I wanna just use the bathroom, wash my face. `K? Meet you down in the lobby?"
"Great. I'll ask for restaurant recommendations."
When they got back from dinner, it was almost 10 p.m. and Ty was yawning.
"I guess you're ready to go right to sleep," Christian said,
"Oh, um, not really. It's funny, traveling in a car makes me feel drowsy even when I'm not really that tired."
"You want to go have a drink at the bar?"
"You're legal, right?"
"Cute. I'm a senior, remember? I've been legal for more than six months," Ty said as they walked toward the bar.
"So whaddya want to drink?" Christian asked as they sat down at a booth in the darkly lit bar.
"Beer, I guess. I don't care."
"I'll be right back."
He stood up and walked up to the bar. Ty watched Christian as he moved like some kind of nimble cat on the top of a fence; all fluid and poised. His body was powerfully built but there was an unmistakable grace to it. Ty shook his head to clear it and pulled his eyes away.
"So what's the main thing you're hoping to find tomorrow?" Christian asked when he brought the drinks back.
"Oh, I don't know. I guess I'm pretty curious how Toby ended up in Oz in the first place. What about you?"
"Hmm. I'd like to know what brought them together and why their bond was so strong. Well, from your dreams, anyway."
"Why are you so curious about that?"
Christian took a sip of his beer. "I guess I've always been kind of curious about what bonds people together. What keeps them close."
Ty studied his face for a moment. "Christian, do you have family?"
Christian's eyes clouded over. "Just drop it, Ty."
"Don't worry about it."
Ty thought for a minute. "We should make a list."
"The things we want to learn. If we don't find stuff in the files, we can always ask your brother-in-law's friend."
By the time they finished the list - and went off on tangent discussions - thirty minutes had passed and Chris had polished off two more beers.
"You want another one?" Christian asked.
"I'm starting to feel a little buzzed. How about you?"
"Let's just say, I'm got a pleasant hum going on."
"Hum," Ty said, smiling. He tried the word a few more times. It made his tongue tingle. He giggled and stood up. "Guess it's my turn." He walked up to the bar and picked up another couple of beers.
Yeah, well if you could feel what I'm feeling, Ty, you'd know what I mean. Being close to Ty, spending time with him; being so *aware* of him gave Christian a warm, pleasant hum.
Ty returned and deposited the beers on the table.
"I could stay up all night talking to you, Ty." He hadn't meant to say it. It had just slipped out and he wished he could suddenly take it back.
Ty looked like a deer caught in the headlights. "Uh, thanks."
Fuck, fuck, fuck! I screwed it up.
Ty was touched by Christian's words, but didn't have clue how to express it, so he just took a drink of his beer.
"We should probably get some sleep, though, huh?" Christian suggested, as he finished off his fourth beer. He didn't seem drunk at all, just more relaxed than usual; more open.
"Probably a good idea."
They headed up to their rooms, looking at the elevator doors instead of each other. But once they were in the hallway, some of that discomfort eased. Ty was curious about something Christian has said earlier - or rather something he didn't say. Maybe now that beer was relaxing him, he'd open up more.
"Christian, earlier you seemed reluctant to talk about your family. Why?" Oh shit, there's that face again. I really did it this time.
"It's a long story, Ty."
"I'm not going anywhere."
"You sure you want to hear it? It's not a pretty story."
Ty nodded. "If you want to share it."
What the hell. He's listened to everything else I've chatted about and he's still here. Christian opened the door to his room and gestured for Ty to go in.
Christian followed him in and closed the door. He headed over to the mini bar and pulled out a beer, offering one to Ty, who accepted. Ty opened the beer and sat down in the chair by the desk.
Christian took a sip of his beer, put it on the nightstand and flopped down on the bed on his stomach. Ty couldn't help but notice the way the snug jeans shaped Christian's full ass.
"I don't know my Dad. He left when I was about 2. And don't look at me like that, Ty. This is not a sob story. You asked. I'm telling. I don't want pity."
"So my Mom had to raise me alone, right? It was hard, but she did it. Then when I was 8, she had my sister by another jerk who didn't stick around long enough to know his kid. So it was just the three of us. I graduated from high school at 18 and had a full scholarship to Michigan, if you can believe that. But my Mom got sick. Cancer. She died six months later. My sister was 10 and there was no one to take care of her except me. So I had to give up college, give up my scholarship to raise her. I really didn't mind cause I loved her, ya know? Now, she's 22; just graduated from college last May. I helped her get her degree. So she meets this guy her senior year. He's one of her professors; a lot older. They fall in love, they get married after she graduates."
Sounded like a success story to Ty. Unless... "Do you still see your sister?"
"No. Her husband took a job in California. I haven't seen her since she graduated. Not a letter. Not a phone call. She doesn't even email me."
"I'm sorry, Christian. Why did she stop communicating? Did you have a fight?"
"Not really. I told her she shouldn't get married so young; so fast. She didn't want to hear it, so I dropped it. I wished her the best. I gave her away at the wedding. I think her husband hates me for some reason. I don't know why.
Anyway, I started taking classes at Michigan part-time around the time they hired me at Hatcher. Get that employee discount, ya know. But it's taking forever to finish."
"How many credits do you have?"
"Almost enough. I take one class every semester. On a few occasions, I have tried to juggle two, but it turned out to be too much. Anyway, I only need two more classes to get my B.S., but what can you do with that these days? Then I have to start on my masters. Should only take me 10 more years," he said sarcastically.
"Well, it sounds like you've come a long way, what with raising your sister and all. You should be proud. Most people would have given up by now."
"Thanks. Didn't mean to burden you with my problems."
"Don't worry about it. I'm glad you felt you could share it with me. Really," Ty said and he meant it. Their relationship was returning to the camaraderie they enjoyed during their on-line chats and Ty was happy it was.
The awkwardness had been disturbing, as had the feelings Christian stirred in him. Best not to think about those.
"Well, we should probably get some sleep," Christian suggested and Ty felt disappointed. He was enjoying his talk with Christian and didn't want to go just yet. "What?"
"I didn't say anything."
"No, but you had this look on your face. Are you mad about something?"
"No! I just...uh...well, I'm not that sleepy yet and I was kinda enjoying our chat," Ty said, looking down at the floor.
Christian felt his heart constrict in his chest. Jesus, Ty, you really know how to get to a guy. "You can stay, if you want. I don't usually go to sleep this early either. Hey, ya wanna watch one of those pay-per-view porn movies?" he asked, a devilish grin on his face.
"Jeez, I don't know. I've never done that before."
"Time to grow up, Ty," he said, laughing and picked up the remote. From where he was sitting, Ty couldn't see the t.v., so he moved over to the bed, sitting on the edge of it.
"Ty, this isn't a movie theater. Relax. Get comfortable," he stood up and started to unbutton his shirt.
Ty felt a panic rising in his throat. "Wh...what are you doing?"
Christian looked at Ty with an incredulous look on his face. "What are worried about Ty? That I'm going to do a striptease? Jesus! I`m just getting ready for bed. That okay with you?"
"Alright. Don't get all huffy."
Ty drew his eyes back to the television, where some big-busted blond was getting fucked by some tall stud. Out of the corner of his eye, though, he watched Christian, who let his shirt slip to the floor. Under it, he was wearing a muscle shirt and he definitely had some nice muscles to display, Ty thought.
His eyes were drawn to something on Christian's left arm. Was that a tattoo? He turned to look, all pretense of watching the movie gone. Christian watched Ty staring but didn't say a word. It looked like a long snake that ran almost the entire length of his upper arm. The snake's mouth was open and it looked like there was something in its mouth.
"Is that a tattoo?"
"No, Ty, I just like to draw pictures on my arms," Christian said sarcastically. He began unbuttoning his pants but Ty didn't seem to notice as he was transfixed on the tattoo.
"Ha, ha. How long have you had it?"
"Um, about 6 years." Christian slipped out of his pants and sat down on the bed, clad only in the muscle t and boxers.
"Why did you pick that one?"
"I dunno. Thought it was cool. Never saw one exactly like it before."
Ty walked across the bed on his knees, wanting to see the detail. Now he could see that in the snake`s mouth there was a man and a woman intertwined. "Is this like some kind of take on the Garden of Eden?"
"I guess. I just liked it."
"Can I touch it?" Ty asked seemingly before the words even formed in his head.
Christian, shaken by Ty's undisguised attention, took a deep breath. "You'd think you'd never seen a tattoo, Ty."
"Well, I haven't. Not up close. Just on t.v. or from a distance. Is it bumpy or smooth?" he asked, his hand hovering over it.
"Why don't you touch it and find out?" he whispered, his voice slightly hoarse.
That seemed to pull Ty out of his tattoo-infatuated stupor. He looked at Christian sharply. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"You asked to touch it, Ty."
"Yeah, well, you didn't have to say it like that."
"Say what like what?" Christian asked innocently.
"Never mind," he said and pressed his fingers to the tattoo. It was smooth and soft like the skin surrounding it. It was like someone had painted his skin. No, wait. Not paint. Paint would have a different texture. Pigment. It was like some changed the color of his pigment, Ty thought as he smoothed his hand over the tattoo.
Christian's head was swimming with all the delicious tingles erupting from Ty's touch. He struggled to breath normally.
"Is this the only one you have?"
"Hmm?" he asked, distracted. His focus had narrowed to the feel of Ty's touch on his arm and the blood coursing through his body. "Uh, no."
"You have another one? Where?" Ty asked, abruptly moving his hands away from Christian's arms and flopping back on the bed, his hands behind his head.
Christian took a deep breath and turned his back slightly, praying that Ty would not notice his burgeoning erection, which was threatening to pop out of his boxers. He stood up and walked toward the bathroom.
"Be right back."
Ty returned his attention to the television. The movie, which didn't seem to have a plot of any kind, was focusing in on a man and a woman fucking. The camera closed in on their genitals, which Ty thought rather amusing. And this stuff makes people horny?
Now the camera was behind the man, trained on his hips and buttocks pumping into the moaning woman. I bet Christian's ass looks a lot better than that, Ty thought absently. Whoa, where the fuck did that come from?
Before he had time to ponder it, Christian came out of the bathroom. His face looked pinched and he wouldn't meet Ty's eyes.
"I think we'd better call it a night, Ty. We have to get up early tomorrow."
Surprised by Christian's abrupt change of mood, he didn't even protest or ask if anything was wrong. "Okay. I'll, uh, see you in the morning." He got off the bed and walked through the adjoining door.
Christian laid back on the bed and closed his eyes. He had opened up to Ty tonight in a way he never had with anyone before. And then Ty had reached in and touched him, shattering his fragile shell; giving him a tantalizing peak at how it could be between them. He didn't know if he could go on with this "friendship" feeling the way he did. It was too painful to be close to Ty and not touch him the way he wanted; to hold back his feelings.
After this trip, he would stop calling Ty, stop sending him messages on the computer. It was the best thing for everyone concerned. Best for Ty, who obviously had no romantic interest in him, and best for himself. Who needed the damn heartache anyway?
Christian leaned up on one elbow to reach the lamp switch. After he turned it off, he heard a knock at the adjoining door.
Ty opened it, standing there in the partial darkness, a beam of light from his room illuminating his face and the disarrayed curls of his blond-red hair. He looked like some kind of angel. Christian's breath caught in his throat.
"Are you okay, Christian? Cause I didn't say anything before, but it seemed like you sort of kicked me out of here kind of abruptly. I was wondering if I'd said anything or done anything to piss you off." He squinted into the dark of Christian's room, trying to see the older man's face but all he could identify was the outline of his body on the bed.
"No, Ty. I'm just tired. It hit me all of a sudden. That's all."
"Okay. If you're sure. I'll see you in the morning," Ty said and started to close the door.
Ty stopped and looked up toward Christian again. "Uh, I just wanted to say thanks for coming with me on this trip. I know you didn't have to. They were my dreams after all. Traveling with you was a lot more fun than traveling alone."
"No problem," Christian said. His voice was just above a whisper. He was finding it hard to speak just then.
"Oh, and thanks for sharing all that stuff about your family with me. I know that was hard to talk about." He didn't wait for a reply, just closed the door quietly.
Christian rolled over onto his side and prayed sleep would come quickly. He didn't want to spend hours thinking about why he felt both closer and further away from Ty than ever before.
Ty woke up early the next morning and jumped into the shower. His stomach was already gurgling and he was anxious to get some breakfast. He knocked on the adjoining door to Christian's room but got no answer. He finished getting dressed and then tried to call Christian's room. Still no answer. Where could he be? Did he get breakfast without me?
He walked over to the adjoining door again and knocked. Getting no answer, he turned the knob and pushed. The door was unlocked. He walked in just as Christian came out of the bathroom clad only in a towel.
"Jeez, I'm sorry," Ty stammered, trying not to stare at Christian's muscular form.
Christian looked at him, surprised but not upset. "Don't worry about it, Ty." He walked to his suitcase and began digging out some clothes, throwing them on the bed.
"Are you sure? I mean, I shouldn't have just walked in. I tried to knock a few times and I even called, but there was no answer. I just wanted to make sure you were alright."
"I went down to the hotel gym and got a bit of a workout in. Sit down."
"But you probably want some privacy to...uh...to get dressed," he said, his eyes raking over the skillfully sculpted muscles. He was even more beautiful than Ty realized last night. His still-damp skin glistened in the early morning sunlight. Ty forced himself to look out toward the window.
"Fuck, Ty, you act like you've never been in a locker room before," he said and dropped the towel.
Irritated at Christian's comments, Ty turned his head back toward the older man, ready to do verbal battle. But his words dried in his throat when he saw Christian standing there completely nude; his ass round and muscular; his soft cock full and heavy, as if threatening to rise up at any second. Ty's heart hammered in his chest and he couldn't seem to pull his eyes off Christian's delicious body. Christ! Get a grip!
"What's the matter, Ty? See something you like?" Christian asked, a knowing smirk on his face. Ty wasn't the first man to look at him with open admiration. Christian knew that even if Ty was attracted to him, he'd never admit it. Fuck it, he thought.
Ty broke his gaze, muttering under his breath and walked quickly back into his own room. He closed the door and leaned back into it. What the fuck is going on? His breath was shallow and he could feel his cock twitching. Am I attracted to Christian? No, no, I can't be. I can't be. It must just be the dreams and his similarity to Keller. I'm responding to Toby's feelings for Keller. That's all it is. It's got to be.
He took a deep breath and stood up. He gathered up his backpack and knocked on the door to Christian's room. "I'll be in the lobby," he said loudly, hoping he sounded normal and headed out the door.
"So, where do you want to eat?" Christian asked when he arrived downstairs.
"Look, Christian, I'm sorry about walking in on you..."
"Forget about it. It's no big deal."
"Drop it, Ty."
"I wasn't checking you out, Christian. It's not that way for me. I just...well, you do have a great body. I admit that. But, for me, it's just a matter of envy, not attraction."
"Whatever. I don't recall inviting anything else," he said testily. "Oh, and don't sell yourself short. You don't have anything to be envious about. I'd be willing to bet real money there are plenty of people out there who'd jump you in a hot minute," he added and got in the car before Ty could respond.
Jesus! What was that supposed to mean? He'd said People. People. Not girls. Or women. People. Was Christian one of those people? Ty wondered, as tingles ran up his spine. Was he getting some kind of thrill at the idea that Christian *might* be one of those people? No, I'm just flattered, he told himself.
They stopped at an IHOP and gobbled down some pancakes before heading over to the capital. Christian found a parking space not too far from the building where the Department of Corrections was located.
They walked the four blocks and then waited for the elevator.
"Nervous?" Christian asked.
"I don't know. Excited, I guess. I want to find out about this Keller guy I keep dreaming about. I just know Toby exists, too. We just have to find him."
When the elevator arrived, they got in and rode up four floors. They walked down the hall and went into the DoC's office. The receptionist buzzed Dale Hendrickson, who was a friend of Christian's brother-in-law.
"You can go back to his office. Third door on your right," the receptionist announced. They walked down the hall and found the right office. Hendrickson was on the phone when they entered. He was probably in his mid- to late-30s and was very tall. He had thinning, blond hair and rather sizable beer gut. He hung up a few seconds after they arrived.
"Nice to meet you," said Hendrickson, coming around from behind his desk; his hand extended. "Jack told me about your project."
He shook Christian's hand first, then Ty's, as Christian introduced them. "Yeah, we really appreciate you taking the time to see us."
"Oh, anything for Jack. Have a seat," he offered and went back to his own. "So you want to see the file on Christopher Keller?"
"Yeah, we're doing a study for a criminology class we're taking," Christian said. "Looking at the different ways prisoners die while still in custody."
"How'd you come up with one of our convicts? Don't they have convicts who die in Michigan prisons?" Hendrickson joked.
"Well, sure. Actually, it was a fluke that Keller's name came up at all. One of our classmates mentioned a cousin who died in prison years ago. So we got to talking about that. So Ty and I went on a hunting mission to get more information and we didn't get far. Curiosity got me calling my brother-in-law and here were are."
"Why so curious about this particular prisoner?"
"Well, the classmate mentioned that Keller had a very unique relationship with a fellow prisoner; one that lasted past parole of the fellow prisoner. We were told his name was Toby Beacher. But I understand you couldn't find a record for him?"
"Oh, yes. We looked up the spelling you gave us. B-e-a-c-h-e-r. But nothing came up. Then I skimmed through Keller's file myself and found reference to a Tobias Beecher -- B-e-e-c-h-e-r."
Christian looked at Ty, who smiled with relief.
"They were podmates and lovers. From what I discovered, their relationship did extend beyond Beecher's release. In fact, Beecher was visiting Keller the day he was killed."
Ty and Christian exchanged glances again. They were both thinking of Ty's first dream about Keller's death.
"We've got a room here off my office, where you can look at the files. You can take notes about but no photocopying, okay?"
"Thanks, I appreciate it," Christian said, standing up and shaking hands with Hendrickson, who then handed over the two files.
"If you have any questions, just let me know."
Christian and Ty walked into the small conference room and closed the door. Ty opened his backpack and took out a notebook and pen. He slid a second set across the table toward Christian.
"I guess you probably want to see Beecher's file?"
"Yeah," Ty said, reaching out for it.
"I'll look at Keller's."
They sat in silence for several minutes, reading. Ty occasionally took notes but Christian just studied the file.
The mug shots of Chris were grainy and old; it was hard to see any distinguishing characteristics, Christian thought. Just short, dark hair and a sharp nose. It was hard to see any resemblance to himself from this picture.
He flipped through the sheets to get more information about Chris' death.
Ty looked up from his reading and saw that Christian's face had gone white.
"What?" he asked.
"The day he died," Christian choked out and flipped the file around toward Ty.
Ty looked. "April 2, 2006. Yeah? So?"
"That's the day I was born."
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