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Staking A Claim
(Prompt: Having to explain away hickeys)
"I loved you for a long, long time//
I know this love is real//
It don't matter how it all went wrong//
That don't change the way I feel//
And I can't believe that time's//
Gonna heal this wound I'm speaking of//
There ain't no cure//
There ain't no cure//
There ain't no cure for love."
-Leonard Cohen, Ain't No Cure For Love
Chris likes to mark Toby's body.
He has transformed the pale skin into a legend that maps out the wild terrain of their relationship. The blood vessels burst deep purple can be construed as love bites as much as sacred scars tantamount to a warning--to others and to themselves--reminders of what they are capable of reveling in and inflicting together.
Each flesh and blood design carries a meaning although some are more innocent than others. Speckled strips of blood from his skin scraped free tell their own story of urgent desire roughly doled out and demanded in return. To the unknowing and undiscerning eyes of Em City's rag-tag population the myriad affectation of wounds (some obvious, others barely perceptible) up Toby's thighs and across his back speak of Chris' domination, unapologetic and crude. But it is the mirror image that winks the flipside.
For all of Chris' swagger and deliberate over-confidence, he is surprisingly the more gentle of the two when they fuck or make love, whichever term they willingly subscribe to on any given day. He is still incredibly powerful and demanding to a point, but it is Toby who initiates the all or nothing touches when the want to meld together their bodies proves too much for him to ignore or play nice about. In those circumstances Chris gives as good as he gets and Toby can see the half hazy surprised lust in his eyes at the intensity of their matched arousal, something that Chris surely never expected when they first began this precarious course.
Toby's heightened lust is stroked by the all-consuming want he feels beneath Chris' searching fingertips and breath-stealing kisses. And when Chris' fingernails literally dig beneath the surface, Toby feels as bound to the nexus of forever as humanly possible. The sharp sting of his skin pulled apart rushes him to the present, with no past or future to distract him. All that exists is the now.
The scratches are a tableau that changes meaning based on the point of view of the person looking. The truth that Chris and Toby knows all too well is not the same one that the men around them hold as fact. Between Chris and Toby are other declarations with far more salacious motives. Only in Oz do physical renderings of love raise questioning eyebrows and judgmental red flags more than acts of violent bloodshed. It is the conundrum of an upside down world.
Chris flicks his tongue against Toby's neck then sucks the salty skin between his lips, smiling when he scrapes his teeth across the wet expanse of puckering flesh while Toby sighs, whimpers and moans his undying fervor. Toby is sure it is one of the many ways that Chris chooses to remind him, I was here. It is soothing--the pursued journey remembered; the peak reached together. It is comforting--a shared space made for two.
It is possessive.
The lustfully created bruises on Toby's arms flash a warning at everyone else to stay away. Toby's initial reaction is to be pissed off. He despises being made to feel indebted to another person out of a need for protection. He has been there before, at the repulsive bottom of a poisoned well. But he scratched and crawled his way out, claiming a piece of untouchable space all for himself. Insolated and impenetrable, it remained, until he decided to open the door.
It was the worst mistake and the best discovery.
He appreciates the significance of Chris' blatant and (almost) uncensored interest in him. With anyone else it would have been `in and out'--wham bam, thank you ma'am--and a toss to the ferocious animals, but when it comes to Chris all the expectations are twisted in on themselves. Chris wants him, and only him, even more as each day passes. It is suffocating and deliriously brilliant and Toby is an exposed raw nerve at the way that knowledge is kindling to his own mess of dangerous emotions.
Chris' lips against his skin are communion; the layered kisses a sacrament. The undulation he makes of Toby's body makes Toby thrum. Where others only seek to take pleasure, Chris grants it. The more Toby responds, the harder Chris gets. Wrapping his limbs around Toby, they thrust against each other in unison, stretching their bodies and contorting themselves into a perfect fit. With their eyes locked together they gasp into each other's mouths and know that what they have is theirs. It cannot exist anywhere else. It is separate from everything and everyone. They hold onto it with a death grip.
Unconsciously Toby touches his fingers to the painless bruise on his neck while watching Miss Sally. In his mind's eye he sees the defined edges that distinguish purple from white and traces them as if the topography of his skin recognizes two different landscapes. The two versions of himself--one part unscathed and untouchable, the other part forever altered and recreated--coexist and grant him a chaotic serenity.
On occasion Toby gets lost in a hypnotic daydream of them and his glossy gaze suddenly meets Chris'--from across the quad while Toby talks with Rebeadow and Chris shoots the shit with O'Reily; in the mirror of their pod while Chris leans against the bunks and watches Toby at the sink; in the cafeteria as they sit across from each other, their feet pushed together under the table while Busmalis and Rebeadow talk about the good hacks versus the bad ones. Chris levels him with a smoldering smile and Toby is flushed with a desperate craving he never thought possible in his life, let alone prison. It sates and panics in one full swoop and he struggles with the ricochet between turning himself inside out to be devoured whole and building up another wall.
He is put on display but only to be touched by one. Lying alone on his bunk, finally on the verge of falling asleep, Toby's body erupts in goosebumps at the memory of Chris' body curved against his, pressing a wet heat to a patch of skin on his neck just below his ear, nuzzling him, trying to burrow into his soul. He dreams with a smile on his face.
Those marks, to an extent, speak for themselves. The inference is not always right but it is rarely completely wrong. There is still an element of truth in the misunderstanding. Toby learns to ignore the stares, murmurs and comments made about him under the collective breath of the other prisoners and guards. He is unfazed by the silent condemnations that track his movements (whispering, `you two are so fucked up') and wouldn't be surprised if half of those are actually wishful contemplations (sighing, `I want a piece of whatever it is they've got going'). Oz is as mad as they are.
It is the more intimate scars that he cannot hide when he is showering that prove a bigger challenge. In those moments, having to explain away hickeys becomes far more problematic a personal, silent conversation than he is willing to have. The lasting kisses detail Chris' trek up and down his body with special attention paid to the spots that they both discover, cunningly and surprisingly, make Toby squirm with anticipation and encourage him to hook one leg around Chris' torso or over his shoulder to bring them closer together.
Hill raises an eyebrow and barely suppresses a smirk at the hickey on the inside of Toby's thigh. Being in a wheelchair gives him a ringside seat to the story that Toby's body tells when they are in the shower. Toby bites back a remark that Hill should keep his eyes above board, but he knows the smirk isn't meant as an insult. Not in Hill's case. Instead, Toby blushes as his imagination recalls Chris between his legs, licking slowly along his inner thigh and ignoring the twitch of his hardening cock while running his hands up the sides of Toby's legs, past his waist to his chest, and thumbing his nipples.
When he whimpered his consent, Chris bit down lightly, then licked and sucked the pressure point until Toby was writhing. Chris pushed his hands firmly against Toby's chest to keep him in one spot controlled his movements. Then Chris was sliding up his body and capturing Toby's mouth with his at the same time that he thrust his own lengthening erection against Toby's arching body.
A marked back with a sporadic pattern, very lightly bruised upper arms and shoulder blades, a small patch of discoloured skin at the back of his knees and around his ankles are the equivalent of every breathless whisper and shared chuckle as they twist and turn about each other in the confined space of the bottom bunk or the hidden area at the back of the pod. They are the physical reminder of the fortuitous opportunities they seize in tasting each other while Chris is working in the storage room or Toby is doing laundry. Everyone sees the show but few know the story.
In front of others, Chris leans into Toby in the cafeteria line. Toby breathes in sharply, holding still, as Chris' breath cascades against his neck and his chest fits against back, slightly propelling Toby forward. The master and his prag, say all the watchful eyes, but then that's never been the full truth and nothing but. And they all know it. Toby has stood his ground many times before when he was sick of playing the bitch in the other prisoners fucked up (and fucking wrong as far as he is concerned) fantasies.
He halts in place and turns around, going face-to-face with Chris who grins all too sure of himself. Toby rolls his eyes and forcefully presses his hand to Chris' shoulder, pushing him back slightly and eliciting a condescending scoff. But when Toby turns around again to get the rest of his food Chris stays back and gives him more room. Where others see a sketchy play that may cost Toby later (then again who knows since Chris seems to have more than a soft spot for the over-educated, sweet and crazy as a loon, Toby) they both know that an insistent demand for distance is to be respected, especially if they plan to partake in each other later.
Eyeing the hickeys on his neck in the mirror before count or the ones on his stomach and legs as he lies on his bunk (while Chris reads a tattered copy of Juggs below), he touches his fingers lightly along the distorted edges and examines the range of colours. Though he knows with time they will fade away (unless Chris decides to get flirtatiously calculated with his future intentions) they seem permanent enough.
He has never felt this kind of overwhelming want and need for another person before, let alone been on the receiving end. It is surreal and strangely miraculous. Out of the most excruciating pain has risen the most complicated and ultimately rewarding love. It has made Toby see his own strength--of mind and body. It forces him to recognize his own worth, once exorcised and thought to be lost. Chris may flirt with any and everyone as a second language, but he only has eyes for Toby. And when Toby is fixed in that gaze--trapped almost--the rest of the world starts to fall away and he has to work twice as hard to stay in it, conscious of its movements and their place within.
Toby knows that one day he will leave this all behind. His skin will shed old layers and melt away the physical rendering of their love. There will come a time when it will be a strong memory, but a memory no longer grounded in a tangible reality nonetheless. There will be no more penetrating gazes that quicken his breath or teasing touches that send goosebumps up all over his body. The remembrance of them wrapped up in each other will take a nostalgic turn never to be repeated.
One day, Chris will slip away.
But the marks he leaves on Toby's soul are forever.
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