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This is set during Season 4 while Beecher and Keller were apart. It is Beecher's POV leading up to Cuts Like A Knife.
"Here by my side, you are destruction
Here by my side, a new colour to paint the world
Never turn your back on it
Never turn your back on it, again
Here by my side, it's heaven"
-Matthew Good Band, Weapon
He has to work the image.
To move forward is to let go of the past and the present. The only way to do that is to visualize the end, as it exists beyond the current state of things that his mind has protectively and insistently chosen to settle on. He has to ignore the incessant instinct to clutch on to what ifs and maybe, just maybe. Wishful thinking is a fool's errand and in Oz, Beecher may as well be the court jester.
Weariness deepens the lines that stretch across his forehead, wrinkle at the corners of his eyes and detail the indisputable tension of his clenched jaw as he chokes back the words he wants (boldly) to say, is desperate (hopeless) to hear in return, but knows full well no longer have a place in this world.
Burying Gary, truly saying goodbye to the son who damn well deserved a better lot in life than his short one was granted, is still an unconscionable (broken) reality for Beecher, but he survived by forcing himself to work through it.
Everything is about survival. In this god-forsaken place survival is a four-letter word. It is more than hoping to make it through the middle of the night without his pod-mate getting frisky or trying to kill him for reasons too myriad and sketchy to ponder. Survival is built into the hours that stretch between morning count and lights out, when all that exists is time with no end, to think about how the hell he got here. That self-reflection goes way beyond how his life spiraled him into prison in the first place. It extends to how he ended up in this specific moment within this captive existence, his second life, as it is, his current life; the only life that really fucking matters anymore.
Everything is in a tailspin. He is as much to blame for his own misfortunes as anybody else. Pleading innocent on all counts is a farce he gave up long ago. His hands and mind are weaponry he has used out of self-protection and to inflict destruction. He has learned to own that. Lessons are always hard, however, but that trace amount of humanity that still lives in his cells and has yet to be beaten or fucked out of him is what keeps him going.
So he works the image.
It used to be about Gary. Now it is about Chris, who haunts his mind with mistakes and misbegotten deeds. The difference is that it is not rooted in death (unless he wants to get poetic about the whole rotten hand life has dealt him) though it surely feels like it. That would have probably been easier. No, this is torture. It's cruel. In his mind he visualizes the end of their relationship. He has to take it beyond the unforgettable reality that bore witness to his distraught desperation leading him to accuse Chris of ordering the murder of his son and Chris's refusal to forgive him for even entertaining the disgusting thought, no matter what state of emotional and mental freefall he was in.
They have both betrayed each other now and it doesn't matter that in each case Schillinger was playing puppet master to their breakdown. The first time it was Chris who owed the brutal favour. The second time it was Beecher's grief that towed the line. Both of them were ripe for the picking for a man with no conscience and certainly no soul.
Chris had worked hard to make amends with Beecher, his determination was both flattering and scary, and in the midst of turmoil they had found their peace. Yet in a moment of despair Beecher had done the one thing that Chris had asked him never to do--he let go. Unlike Beecher, Chris does not seem nearly as interested in seeing him work his way back to what they once had. Maybe that is the lesson to be learned--in the end Beecher has the heart to see things through, no matter the extreme depravity he has to endure and subject himself to. On the other hand, Chris has the balls to put it all out there and still cut off the head when and if infection sets in.
The befores and the in betweens, when things were confused but so full of (unexpected) wondrous possibility, those are the moments that should have counted for more. Those moments should outweigh all the other bullshit. But they didn't. They still don't.
So he keeps working the image.
Which is easier said than done. Especially when the image is constantly changing in front of him, teasing him from across the quad, taunting him with ridiculing eyes, indifferent and cold words, and a spiteful smirk that declares, I know you want me, Toby, but we ain't ever going to happen again. No one is going to have you again.
********** ********** ********** ********** **********
Good intentions are a worthless pursuit in a place that trades on bad deeds. All they get you in the end is retribution and revenge.
It is ludicrous (to an extent) how much weight Beecher still puts in them, of his own doing and with Said's encouragement. The two of them--Naively? Stupidly? Compassionately--keep applying the laws of balance that work outside in the real world, but those have no place here in this hell-like purgatory.
Sometimes when Beecher has quiet time to himself in his pod (made a whole lot easier with his newest pod-mate, Mondo, now suspiciously--or not so suspiciously--dead) he muses that he and Said are an upside down world's version of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Although they should know better, Chris (no, Keller-- maintain distance and sanity) was right, after all, that finding Hank for Schillinger in an attempt to atone for what happened to Andrew was a massive goddamn mistake. But Beecher is not angry with himself or Said for going that route. However, he is pissed and devastated at what transpired. Yet the intent to do good is something he never wants to lose. It is what keeps reminding him that no matter how much this place eats away at his soul it cannot consume or contain him the way has with the others. He is not bound by this place. That fact is what gives him hope.
Whether that is dangerous or good, however, remains to be seen.
It is an anchor to his old life, that is for sure, but not the old Tobias. That man is dead and buried, long gone and good riddance. For Beecher the funny thing about prison is that it wasn't until he was locked away from everything and everybody he knew that he realized who he truly was--a relatively (and everything is relative) good man capable of exquisite brutality.
His dad does not know what to make of the changed man his son has become. But apologies are for the faint of heart. The only other person who truly knows him would have surely seen the old version as no more than an easy mark. Keller loves (loved?) the man Beecher became, the person who really existed beneath the fancy show and tell faade. Beecher knows Keller got off on the dichotomy; that he got hard at the idea of a thesaurus of words coming out of Beecher's mouth while he simultaneously wielded a shank.
During the lockdown, when all they wanted to (finally) do was explore every square inch of one another's body and mind, Keller would smile as Beecher told stories from his days as a lawyer. He would ask all the interesting questions, murmuring appreciatively into the crook of Beecher's neck as they lay side-by-side on the bottom bunk.
Back then Keller looked at him like he was everything. Even when they fought there was bloodlust desire coursing through their veins and, push or shove, they crashed back together stronger than ever.
Nowadays Keller pins his every movement under the scrutiny of a predatory gaze.
Now there is just bloodlust.
********** ********** ********** ********** **********
He has never given much thought to nicknames besides the casual amusement that people use them as if the extra syllable in a given name is one step too many, to commit to.
Anything is acceptable over prag or bitch.
Names carry meaning. Tobias is for another lifetime; it belongs to an alcoholic lawyer who loved his family but whose life was a series of disaffected motions and horrendous mistakes. Beecher is the result of that man's torturous baptism by fire into Oz; intelligent and conniving, he weds contemplative deliberation with madness, contempt with precision. He is respected to one degree, and avoided due to what he has proven to be capable of, to another.
Toby...many people in his life (outside of prison) call him that affectionately, sweetly, apathetically. But the way `Toby' sounds as it uncurls along Keller's tongue and slips through his lips renders Beecher nearly speechless (a rather difficult feat) with the undeniable reverence that is infused in the tone. There is nothing indifferent about it. The world falls away, leaving just them, and no matter what they are talking about a part of Beecher wants nothing more than to press up against him, as close as they can possibly be, and melt into him.
Keller uses `Beecher' more regularly, conversationally for their daily (and public) dealings. He used to save `Toby' for when he was making a point between just the two of them, making sure to focus their attention on each other. What Beecher wouldn't give to hear `Toby' now, but it has been packed away behind lock and key.
Being married to Genevieve, no matter the love they really did share, was never as intensely passionate (or passionately intense) as what he has with Keller. With Keller everything is in technicolour and surround sound.
Which is precisely why losing Keller, for more than a stubbornly held grudge that would have been over sooner rather than later, has Beecher undone. Tasting the visceral rawness of existing--the intoxication of every sense on high alert, each emotion running at full throttle, any and all touch (or suggestion of it) an electric current, conversation that sparks his mind--is a profundity that makes losing it in one grand swoop, a devastation of epic proportions.
Yet, where all should be lost, there exists the riddling enigma. Soon enough it becomes apparent to anyone with two brain cells (which unsurprisingly does not actually include all of Em City) that Beecher is off limits, to have and to hold, to fuck or be fucked by. Although Keller cannot be officially linked to the bodies piling up (and even though Beecher himself hovers in the background of the rudimentary thoughts of the masses as the common link, his countenance a mixture of self-loathing and giving the middle finger to Keller's mind-fuckery) the word spreads to not test your luck.
As infuriated as Beecher is at Keller's power play and psychotically possessive claim, his heart and mind thrum with the confirmed implication that Keller is still beholden to whatever the hell it is that binds them. Jealousy may be a green-eyed monster but it is one that Beecher welcomes, with a hint of trepidation. He wonders if god would consider him an accomplice in all of this bloodshed, after all, intentions or not, he is hardly as remorseful as he should be for what has been done in his name.
Of course that doesn't mean he has to roll over. Keller's jealousy is one thing. Once Beecher knows he still has that power it lights the embers of a once fading fire within. But he knows better than to play the apologetic card again. Instead he pulls himself together and dishes out the same cool, taunting attitude that their relationship treats as salacious foreplay.
********** ********** ********** ********** **********
Without sex in the mix all that remains are the fantasies that visit Beecher late at night in his pod. They are the very ones that make his cock hard, straining for the urgent relief that only comes with taking himself in hand and beginning a slow; then quick and steady pace up and down, brushing his thumb over the tip and slit. He hisses a sharp intake of breath and closes his eyes, thinking of Keller sucking him in deep, moving his tongue expertly, caringly, along the length of the shaft and around the curve of his balls, speeding up as his cock shudders with release.
Beecher's fantasies are a mind-trip. Coming once isn't enough. With his hand still sticky and his boxers and t-shirt (unashamedly) soiled, he relaxes for a few seconds to recoup then pictures Keller moving up his body with tongue filled kisses along his sweat-sheen skin until he is claiming Beecher's mouth and rubbing his own rock hard erection against Beecher's growing one.
What a surprise it had all been. Before true (and unrehearsed, which was the key) feelings were admitted, Beecher had Keller pegged as the rough type, fucking hard and furious. And though Keller proved to have the rigorous vigor of an animal when they both wanted it like that, he was unexpectedly gentle with his kisses and touch otherwise. He drew them out, long and coaxingly, taking his time to taste and explore Beecher like he wanted to map him out in his mind for future (personal) reference (like being stuck in the hole for a week).
Beecher dwells on that memory often, sinking into the oblivion it wraps around him. Other times all he wants is to take the brunt of Keller's essence infusing him, altering his DNA with each thrust. In his mind's eye Keller is then inside of him, taking his time moving in and out in drawn out and smooth strokes, then thrusting faster, more steadily, with unequivocal intent. Beecher feels Keller's tongue move along his, consummation complete, groaning, and the two of them crash over the peak, one after the other.
Beecher doesn't change out of his dirtied clothes before drifting off to sleep, as sated as can be by what his memory files away for another time. He prefers the reminder of what Keller has done to him and is still capable of doing, reducing and enlightening him, when he wakes up in messy state of disarray. It keeps him focused.
Almost every moment of the day he feels Keller's eyes on him, no matter where in the quad either is situated or with whom they are with. O'Reily, Hill, Rebeadow may as well be window dressing. Keller and Beecher stare, glare, and pretend to ignore each other. No one bothers Beecher (a side effect of his own ability to go crazy at the drop of a hat and Keller's don't fuck with what's mine persona) and it affords him plenty of time to think--for the first time he contemplates the oddness that Keller, a man whose sexual prowess precedes him, has not taken on any sexual partners since their falling out. It goes without saying that O'Reily is not playing back up dancer and Beecher thinks about Keller's admission of not wanting to see him with other guys. He considers that Keller applies the same criteria to himself.
But what was that about wishful thinking? She's a bitch when she slaps you awake.
Keller jokes about fucking Beecher's brother, Angus, one afternoon. It is an off hand remark meant to goad but it is also the first time Keller blatantly baits Beecher with the suggestion of wanting to fuck someone else. He is changing the stakes, upping the ante again to see how far he can push it.
Beecher doesn't like being tested and he sure as hell doesn't like being challenged to prove his convictions. Added anger comes with his family being used as chess pieces in this bullshit game with ever-changing rules. Keller's comment is meant to throw him off balance. It also teases, your move.
A blast from Keller's past swaggers into Oz and Beecher's pod. The timing is perfect. Ronnie Barlog unintentionally shifts the power struggle. Beecher knows how to work it to his advantage. He has learned from the best. Check.
But with every move there is a counterattack, back and forth it goes until all the pieces have been played. In the blink of an eye everything shifts again on its axis. Mate.
********** ********** ********** ********** **********
Barlog is dead.
God forgive me.
But who the hell is Beecher kidding? He knew when he told Keller the truth about Barlog cutting a deal with the Feds against him that it would either put another (insurmountable) obstacle between them in the high stakes of this twisted reality they are immersed in or sign Barlog's death warrant.
The sacrificial lamb, where ignorance was definitely not bliss.
The expendable pawn whose death managed to halt everything. Barlog is the twisted flesh and broken bone rendering of Beecher and Keller's unshakable sphere. Too bad no one warned the poor bastard.
Beecher did what he did out of love. Fucking with Keller only went so far. Having Keller ripped away from him by some outside force was unacceptable. Keller did what he did out of survival. Within the laws of kill or be killed, live and let die, all that matters is being the last man standing.
Barlog's death is deceptively straightforward. Keller got to him before he could stab him in the back. Black and white.
There is more to that story, though, isn't there?
Beecher and Keller are in colour. Setting aside the murder (and he finds it obnoxiously funny how a penitentiary, where one should be penitent, has taught him to rationalize acts of violence), the very fact that Keller questioned Barlog about the Feds is a testament to his belief (still, after all those harsh words meant to strike definitively and deliberately, wounding irrevocably) in Beecher. He had considered Beecher's plea, the worried inflection of concern that allowed Beecher to swallow his pride and warn the man he was supposed to be warring with.
Then it is not a game anymore but wounded hearts holding on through the fire of dissidence, clinging to the unbreakable scraps (frayed and torn) that tether them; forever. Despite knee-jerk denial, Keller heeded the warning.
Allegedly gone, accused of not being there, at all--and that is the sweetest lie of all. If a silver lining can be found in the crimson mess it is that trust (love) is still there. Strained and wounded--yes. Destructive and frightening--absolutely. Real, honest in its desperation and desire, authentic--yes.
********** ********** ********** ********** **********
McManus decides that enough is enough. Putting the sordid pieces together he gets pre-emptive (a bit late in the game) and hazards a guess that the best way to prevent more bodies from showing up is to shake up the pod assignments again.
He moves Keller back in with Beecher.
To Beecher, Keller appears his usually cool and reserved self, watchful yet cautiously keeping back, but there are calculations behind his penetrating blue eyes that are troubling. Burlog had been his friend long before Beecher had been an obsessive thought in his head, but his hand was still forced to make a choice. Beecher does not take pleasure in that turn of circumstances.
Uncertainty hangs heavy between them as they eye each other wearily in the pod. Beecher, standing by the sink, watches Keller's reflection in the mirror as he reorganizes his meager belongings and sets up, again, on the bottom bunk. He sees Keller tucking the bed sheets into place then pause briefly, turning his head to glance Beecher's way, before continuing to get resettled.
Beecher sighs quietly and stares at himself, not sure how he feels about the man looking back at him. It goes without saying that he was questioned about Barlog's death and Keller being here is proof that he kept his mouth shout. But Keller isn't talking either. He is just infusing their closed quarters with his larger than life presence.
Suddenly Keller is behind him, reaching over his right shoulder to put some toiletries (a toothbrush and comb) on the small wall shelf. Beecher holds his breath at the flush of heat that jumps between them and races up his body. Their eyes clasp in the mirror and Keller hesitates, his right arm still hanging over Beecher's shoulder but now hovering mid-air like he has no idea what to do with it. Beecher slowly reaches up with his right hand and grasps Keller's, tightening his fingers and squeezing, apologetically, encouragingly and sympathetically.
The tough lines on Keller's face, all brooding and serious, disappear as his expression softens. Beecher pulls Keller's arm forward, across the top of his shoulders and over to his left side, putting them in a half embrace. He watches Keller tilt his head forward, and feels him place his left hand on his waist. He hears Keller's reverent whisper in his ear, "Toby."
Beecher closes his eyes, undulating in the vibrations flooding his body as Keller's heated breathe spills against the side of his face, rushing his blood straight to his groin, telling him that this is home; the only light at the end of the goddamn tunnel. He wants to offer words of comfort, feels he should, but they all sound trite and condescending. He hears Keller mutter something unintelligible against his neck, just below his ear. He cannot say for certain but it sounds like, `stay.'
"I have to go. I have another interaction session with Schillinger," Beecher says softly, remembering his meeting and cursing the timing.
Keller groans and lifts his face to eye Beecher's reflection. With frustration he sternly says, "Jesus Christ. Fuck the session. It's all bullshit anyway."
Beecher rolls his eyes. "I know you don't get it or believe it, but I need to do this, Chris. There's too much destruction that I've been part of. I have to make amends where I can."
"Schillinger's an asshole and you know it. He's never going to let you be," Keller states in a low voice that is restrained but emphatic.
"Maybe not," Beecher acquiesces. "But for now it will do."
Keller says nothing at first and a handful of seconds turn suffocating and endless. "You'd rather hang out with that Nazi fuck and Sister Pete than properly welcome me home?"
He is partially joking, but Beecher can hear the hint of disbelief and irritation in his tone. A small smile turns up the corners of Beecher's mouth. It is like old times already between them. "I'd rather be with you," Beecher says. "Making up for all the time we wasted."
"Then be with me," Keller interrupts, insistent.
"You need to learn delayed gratification." Beecher smiles and places his left hand over top of the one Keller has on his waist.
"I think we've done enough of that." Keller's gaze in the mirror is steady and demanding, yearning.
Beecher is dumbstruck by the weight of want heavy between them and the overwhelming relief that comes with being back in Keller's arms, the two of them back on the same page after a nightmarish diversion that stole precious time together from them.
"Yeah," Beecher agrees and pulls Keller's arm tighter across his chest, pressing the two of together. "But I have to do this."
Keller bristles and frees himself from Beecher's hold, sighing. When he steps back, Beecher turns around and takes in the sight of Keller looking contemplative and vulnerable with his head lowered. Beecher grips both his shoulders and waits for Keller return his gaze. "I'll be back soon enough. Then all we'll have is time together." He offers Keller a closed mouth smile.
Resigned acceptance silently plays out in the slight drop of Keller's shoulders. Beecher leans forward to kiss him but Keller pulls back and lifts his head, placing a kiss on Beecher's forehead. Surprised, Beecher quizzically raises his eyebrow at him.
"Delayed gratification, right?" Keller teases with a half smile.
Beecher grins and drops his hands, feeling a slight flush heat his cheeks. After a brief pause he walks to the pod door. "See you in a bit."
"I ain't going anywhere," he hears Keller say before the door shuts behind him.
Oz has the uncanny ability to feel both constrictive and wide open. Like the end of the world and big bang all at once. Lately it has felt like a deathtrap, but now, in this moment, all Beecher feels is hope and possibility--the beautiful and tragic sting of love. How long it will last, he doesn't know, and in this place anything good is fleeting. But it has always been worth the pain. It is a double-edged sword--hope is what makes the pain so intense, undeniable, and relentless. Pain is what makes the hope so rewarding and desired, salvation. They exist hand in hand.
Beecher wants to revel in what he can, what is sparingly allowed in this place, before the other shoe drops. With a measured smile he makes his way out of Em City, already thinking about what awaits his return.
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