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This is set during season 6 after Toby was paroled. It works best if you ignore what the show did next and instead imagine what it could have done.

Tin Man

by levitatethis

"Well, it's a good story// But I don't want to live it alone// Crash to take a chance// I want to live it out// You're already dead// No concrete adversity// Only traps of our own actions// How we wanted it to be// Now I'm never going to see you again// You turned off" -Metric, Live It Out

Chris had never needed anything and what he wanted he took unapologetically. Living by his own rule of law (still unfortunately subject to the man made laws of the land, which is how he came to call Oz home for a lifetime that will end far after his natural one draws its final breath) he made rewarding use of a quick wit, a sardonic smile and a body that headily delivered a combination punch of sex and violence as easy as breathing.

He broke peoples bodies and dismantled their souls for fun, just because he could; to stand over and look down upon the destruction he had wrought was a mind-altering trip that he drew a reverent breath from. Usually he moved on--new stories to tell--but sometimes a person he crossed was worth picking up and putting in his pocket.

At first I wanted unconditional surrender. And then I wanted unconditional love.

His ex-wives--the shit he gleefully put them through--were amongst the tattered chapters of his play, mostly fulfilling that most basic urge for sexual gratification. Of all of them it was Bonnie who was the sweetest, the most genuine, and he actually felt a twinge of remorse for the hurt he dragged her through, but not out of a sticky conscience; in her eyes he recognized the same self-loathing that lay dank beneath his own skin. Hers peeked through the surface more easily with her yearning eyes and hopeful smile. But he was a goddamn career criminal and when it came to himself he should have been better at fixing a mask of indifference in place; one not far removed from the actual disconnect that steeled him.

If there were turning points, then Lardner systematically removed any trace amounts of humanity left over from a rather questionable childhood--no Romper Room and Sesame Street sing-a-longs for him. Technically Schillinger raped the last inkling of rehabilitation--getting on the right path and turning over fucking leaves--out of him over and over again. Unofficially, the creed was that `shit happens' and if playing the part of witting prag meant protection while he was stuck in that shit hole; so be it. He would make his sinful confessions on his own time when he felt God might give a fuck.

At least that is what he thought during his life before Oz and, more significantly, before Toby. And that was how life came to be splintered: pre-Beecher (up to and including Schillinger's game of Operation Toby) and post-Toby (realizing this same man, once nothing more than a mark, had somehow wormed his way beneath Chris' protective armor and into his bones, consuming his soul). Where the changeover from a called on hit to heart-wrenching (and relentless) desire had occurred is something Chris can't pinpoint. But it happened.

He never wanted a heart.

Chris saw the damage done by feeling too much, feeling anything at all. It always caused more trouble than it was worth. But when his began beating it was as if he had never known anything else before; anything as true and as frightening, anything worth destroying in the name of dying for.

And once it got started it couldn't--wouldn't--be stopped.

For a long while it defined him, loving someone so much that it possessed his body and mind. Where the mere thought of Toby flushed his body with a heat that burned. Being inside Toby, their bodies momentarily stilled as they gazed with want into each other's eyes before rocking against one another, slowly then more steadily; reveling in the connection of their minds, talking about life and circumstances, out maneuvering and outwitting the other's moves; finally belonging to something good was more than he could take and he wanted it constantly even when they were pretending (and doing a decent job of it) of disliking--hating--each other.

It was a fine line.

And Chris could stand it, at least while they were confined in the parallel universe that was Oz. But the yellow brick road tarnished and Emerald City crystallized with the aching slowness of his heart as it wound done when the reality of time passing meant Toby was truly gone, sent back to the world outside where he belonged.

Visits from Toby were regular and they revved Chris' mind with anticipation putting his body on full alert. It wasn't so difficult to believe that everything was as it should be, as they stared at one another across the table in the visiting room, leaning into the space--shrinking it--with an array of shy smiles and suggestive grins, their voices lowered to a pitch only audible to them.

What the heart wants--

It did not understand ration or the sacrificial annihilation of denying what gave life sustenance.

He knew Toby had a brand spanking new existence on the outside with his kids, a new job as a prisoner advocate, new love--

The news of Marion wasn't a surprise. Beyond the structured bindings of prison, Toby's heart led him to a good woman. Chris fixed a bright--false--smile in place. They had spoken about the undeniable reality that they--falling in love with each other, being open to it--could only exist in Oz, but to know it for a fact pulled at Chris' insides, twisting them torturously and stretching his will thin.

He hated that he wanted Toby to be happy, but only happy with him, not some middleclass do-gooder teacher who probably did crossword puzzles for fun over breakfast. What he couldn't have was only taunted and teased with each visit and Chris knew that it would destroy him until he devoured Toby. So he cut off his nose to spite his face.

Leaving Toby's letters unanswered (putting them away unopened), he refused Toby's visits and willed himself to ignore the attacking pain that bore down on him when he knew Toby was in the building, just beyond his grasp. Despite the urgency for completion, Chris did not falter. It was all a sign that he had been right to believe that fixing a cold stone in his chest trumped suffering the foolishness of a heart.

He chose to swagger and sway to an old familiar rhythm. He fucked to forget, not regularly, occasionally, but all his mind saw was Toby as he was, as Chris wanted him to be, until Toby slipped away behind the red curtain, taking home with him.

Once upon a time there lived a man made of steel. People tried to bend him in a half; they tried to push him over. Some even tried to peer inside of him, reaching into his walls with their eyes. But he never yielded. They could not make him. He would not move.

A change of fate in the form of a seemingly inconsequential action, and Chris' heart creaked out a muted SOS. The prison erupted; the cheering masses uncontainable.

Conjugal visits were reinstated.

His fellow dregs of society growled about fucking, practically salivating as they climbed the walls with uncensored hormones. Even his ex-wives smiled wider as they flirtatiously told him that any time he wanted it he could have it--and he did, but not with them. There could only be one first and burying the living was worse than the dead because the living could refuse to cross back over.

In the peace of his pod he ripped open Toby's letters and held the paper to his face, inhaling the lingering smell, then rushed his eyes over the words--every proclamation, joke, lament; each plea, demand and token of the man who once was the other half of his immediate space; then the anger that begat the slow stumble of goodbye, and then--

I love you, Chris. Always.

Blood flowed like oil through the elaborate complexities at the center of his chest. He clutched the papers to his body and tried to conjure forth any trace of the man who made him feel love, for another, and made him feel he deserved it for himself.

Chris had always been better with the spoken word so he let his tongue unfurl the promises he had broken. He hoped that Toby's stunned silence on the other end of the phone line meant that a similar longing was ripping through the body of his once (and forever) lover. At the sound of the dial tone hideously echoing in his ears, Chris closed his eyes and lowered the receiver, slamming it back in place.

The world kept spinning without him.

He heard the conversations around him bragging about now acceptable afternoon exploits in the makeshift bedroom and the offhanded jokes that, "Keller still isn't getting any," which he halted with a steady glare at the unthinking offender. He denied himself that release which he could get from anyone but the one person who mattered most. Yet for all the suffering he silently waded through, the quiet ticking that vibrated inside his chest thrummed his body to keep going; to hold on; to make it right.

Refusing to give up, Chris summoned his obsessive and relentless nature into first gear, once again aimed at Toby. He knew better than to assault Toby with a barrage of suffocating attention, but every other day phone calls kept short and cryptic letters meant to escape the prying eyes of the Aryans in the mailroom while being understood by the man they were intended for, became a whole other language that Chris spoke with the steadfast belief that Toby would comprehend.

With patience and time (and persistence) Chris began to breach the wall he had helped Toby once again put in place. Toby, still not speaking, stayed on the phone longer, even when only the sound of their breathing filled the transmission linking them.

One day a letter arrived with a single line of cursive writing in the middle of the page.

Friday. 3:00pm.

Chris' chest tightened as the walls constricted.

For three days he kept himself in check, unwilling to take a risk with what Toby was (finally) offering (once more). He folded the letter into a small square, which he kept in his pocket, quick to finger when he needed the incentive to stay out of trouble for the time being. Nonetheless a change must have been apparent in his countenance as he caught the curious looks that speckled Em City's population when he was watching TV or making his way to the laundry room.

Over a game of chess, O'Reily rolled his eyes. It was a gesture that Chris would have ignored (only for O'Reily--any other prisoner may have received a sarcastic retort hinting at a fight but meant to stop one from starting up) if not for O'Reily's added, "You're looking a little charmed there, K-boy. Beecher finally decided to give you the fucking time of day?"

Chris should tell him to focus on the goddamn game but anticipation had him twitchy with contentment. He glanced up to meet O'Reily's inquisitive stare (his mouth twisted in a smirk), then looked down at the board. "Maybe he just couldn't stay away."

O'Reily scoffed. "More likely that you can't keep your hands off each other."

Chris leveled a stern look at him.

O'Reily smiled, unfazed, and raised his hands in the air in a mocking show of appeasement and surrender. "The two of you are so obvious--the more distance you put between you the more you two want to be together."

Chris held his tongue. O'Reily's observation was not a lie but not the whole truth either. In the absence of each other, Chris believed that he and Toby were more painfully reminded of how false an existence apart is. They were bound, excruciatingly so, forever, completely intertwined through good and bad. It was in the denial of that where they stumbled to their knees.

Chris looked down at the board and moved his piece. "Check," he said and stood up, calling the game over before it was.

Walking away he heard O'Reily exclaim, "For fucks sake!" after a brief pause.

Chris smiled. Tonight, as with most nights, he would dream of Toby. One would expect those to be driven by sex, recreating every single way they explored each other's bodies on a sensory journey that exploded bright. And there were nights when that was the case, when he arched his body, using his right hand to work his own hardened length, while he thought about taking Toby into his mouth, working his way slowly up and down his cock then moving faster, sucking harder, while Toby gasped and clutched at the back of his head, fucking his mouth right back.

He could still taste Toby on his tongue and gripped his own straining cock harder, moving up and down the shaft faster, while he imagined moving up Toby's flushed body and pushing into him while Toby pulled him in closer by wrapping his legs around Chris' hips. With hard thrusts he would rush towards the edge then pull back at the last minute, slowing down to tease out the want, feeling Toby getting hard again, biting and licking at Chris' neck, gasping for more. Again they would go hard, bucking against one another, then slow down, only to start up all over again.

Chris could drag the fantasy out for ages until his body was too exhausted, too on fire, to handle one more second lest it turn on him. Then he was coming with a loud groan or shout, not caring that O'Reily heard him (and O'Reily was smart enough to keep his fucking mouth shut from the bunk above). Yes, Chris dreamed.

But his recurring one, the dream that happened more often when he let his mind wander off instead of paying attention to what Murphy was saying, and when he slept, was simply being with Toby (fully clothed no less) and talking about anything and everything.

He thought of lying on his side, his head propped up on his left arm, next to Toby (who lay on his back) and gazing into his eyes while Toby talked about his kids, cases he was working on, trips he went on a kid. All the while Chris would be trailing his right hand along Toby's chest (his shirt mussed and out of place), down the side to his hip and back up to his shoulder and neck, watching the faint blush that reddened the pale skin below as Toby bashfully undulated in the blatant desire.

Chris imagined resting between Toby's legs with his back to his chest and Toby's back against the headboard. He felt the rise and fall that came with Toby's breathing and bit his lip at the spill of hot breath against his neck. Chris' legs would be spread and Toby would bend his around Chris' jean clad thighs and rest them in the space between. In his mind's eye, Chris saw Toby gently caressing his wrists and hands as Chris talked about being married and the trouble (sexual and criminal) he got into in high school.

He missed talking with Toby, being with someone who challenged him and didn't back down (not easily at last) just because Chris could be imposing. If anything Toby became more resilient, with a few missteps here and there, which only stoked Chris' undivided attention. He hated himself for turning his back on all of that and clawed to get it back.

Home--only a day away.

But that night his sleep was restless and left him tossing and turning. He was held back by Toby's grim expression with flat eyes and tight lips as he told Chris he had only come to say goodbye once and for all; that it was over between them. Chris could not make his own mouth speak, his vocal chords paralyzed, and he could not move closer, his body refusing to budge. All he could do was watch Toby turn around and walk away.

The morning found him somber and moody enough that most stayed clear. The passing of time, however, and the guarantee of Toby's arrival lessened the paranoid weight. He knew Toby. The promise of a visit was a good thing. It meant another chance to right another wrong between them. Toby could not give that up--he was as uncontrollably locked to Chris as Chris was to him.

"Keller," Murphy called out from the guard's perch, clipboard in hand. "Visiting hours."

Chris pushed back his chair, leaving the book he was reading on the table, and maintained a blank face as he stood up. He began the controlled stroll (he wanted badly to run, but for the sake of appearances stayed on note) and felt the eyes of the other prisoners on him. He was sure they thought they knew what he and Toby were all about but in the end they knew shit all.

"Tell your girlfriend I miss his sweet ass," some idiot joked too loudly and Chris tensed his body and glared in his direction causing the perpetrator to avert his eyes and pretend to look elsewhere in the hopes that Chris wouldn't make him pay for his stupidity later.

Looking ahead again, Chris held his head up, challenging everyone, and slipped his right hand into his jean pocket to finger the letter that still willed calm and restraint. Even beyond the time, he sensed Toby in the building the closer he got, moving out of Em City and through the prison's hallways.

His mind flashed forward.

Maybe Toby would rush to embrace him in a tight hug, nuzzling his nose in the crook of Chris' neck, while refusing to let go.

Maybe he would hang back with uncertainty and wait for Chris to make the first move across the floor, pulling him into a kiss.

Maybe they would have a tense conversation, purposely staying far from each other, keeping to the corners and far walls like a chessboard with pieces refusing to engage just yet.

Maybe they would fuck hard and fast first, then ask questions later.

Maybe they would make love, slowly rediscovering old terrain and paying tribute to what was almost lost but never forgotten.



Chris' footsteps pounded in his head. He pictured Toby's face and everything else fell away, leaving nothing behind but a smile.

Chris' heart beat faster.

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