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This covers Toby and Chris' relationship through to the end of Season 6.
"So I hold my breath `til my heart explodes//
Cause this is how it is and this is how it goes//
You can steal my body but you can't steal my soul//
Cause this is how it is and this is how it goes"
-Billy Talent, How It Goes
Arms snapped in half and legs crushed.
The physical rendering of his broken soul, but it was the lie that struck the fatal blow.
The punctured dream left sputtering.
The metal spring, tightly wound with patience, time and psychotic precision, uncoiled quickly with malicious deliberation. It was more than seeing Chris with Schillinger and realizing they were in cahoots. It was more than the pathetic understanding that he had been brought to them by Officer Metzger, their intent being to dismantle and rearrange him. Those were the distant facts that rung hollow in the suffocating echo chamber of his shocked mind, little more than distracting noise from the bitter truth that mocked him to his face, pointing and taunting at the impending wreckage he was to become.
Chris did not love him and never had.
Yet, as much as he hated Chris for the betrayal (despising Schillinger was an exercise in common sense), Toby hated himself more. Everything he had worked hard to build up out of self-defense came crashing down. The Mad Hatter had been had. He should have known that kindness was not to be found in Oz and that appearances to the contrary were sure to be mired in selfish pursuits.
Why did he let his guard down? How had Chris, of all people, snuck into his heart and lay claim under his skin? Was Toby really that hard up to feel again?
He refused to (yet again) be just another victim of psychopathic desires, so he planned meticulously for the future while biding his time. The problem with lying in a bed with nowhere to go was that his mind overplayed every single detail from Chris' arrival and onward.
Toby began second guessing the second guesses. Love was a lie was real, the snake eating its tail, choking along the way; the epiphany did not deliver him from evil. He analyzed every shared look, touch (welcomed and unwanted), revealing conversation, making sure to leave nothing unturned. With hindsight he saw the cracks, the tells that gave Chris' game away or would have if Toby had not been so damn blinded by the feeling of possibility the man had lit within him.
Even then he could not help but wonder if Chris really was that good at the con or if maybe he, himself, was that desperate to believe, or...
The rub was somewhere in between.
Chris was a con who pushed until he got what he wanted, just to prove he could do it. Toby was craving human connection, like a vice in the freefalling midst of the void. But the most masterful betrayals, the ones that sated the appetite of the perpetrator and lay waste to the intended mark, were the ones rooted in something authentic.
Not that it brought Toby any comfort. It simply made it hurt all the more. Prison was a barrage of extreme emotions and actions, while at the same time it was the adamant denial of those very things if they could be perceived as weakness. Toby had loved Chris--truly, madly, deeply--and it had hanged him in the long run. Chris had done Schillinger's bidding because he wanted to, because he had to. If the love Chris professed had an ounce of sincerity at its core, what did it say about him that he had no qualms leaving it twisted in pain, the sight of some medieval torture display?
Their destruction was the way of the world, a complicated mess begat of black and white circumstances. Retribution would be the same--simple on the surface and convoluted deep below.
To rise from the ashes.
Reborn. Brand spanking new; except not. Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but it was the personal investment (detrimental as it was) that gave it flavour. If the question was a matter of bland or spicy, Toby was not above burning his tongue.
********** ********** ********** ********** **********
Bullet pierced the flesh and muscle.
Adrenalin was the drug of the restless. One taste and it could make even the most timid person reckless. Toby had been coasting on it, permanently on edge, although he had learned to maintain a staid faade. Such a pleasant face, they surely thought, while down below he seethed.
It had carried him through wayward plans and being careful what he wished for--which he damn well got (his conniving manipulations making other hands into murder weapons), and more so.
It was the more so that shocked his system, snapped at secrets and dragged him out of purgatory, kicking and screaming, marked for all to see.
Once lost, now found.
Angry, demanding, unconditional conditions, hypocritical, revelatory bliss; it was all encompassing.
Adrenalin pumped his heart. But something else made him race from his pod (risking any bullet that dared to find him) to pull Chris, who was wounded, bleeding, and in anguish on the floor, to safety. Previous arguments were forgotten, tossed aside without a second thought. No consideration existed beyond--
Please don't die.
Death. It was the one thing that could truly come between them in Oz. To forgive or not forgive had proven to be not much of a moot point. They were intertwined, irrevocably, in a tangled web. They orbited each other belligerently and desirously. The steps they took around each other--to each other--was a chess match of calculated anticipation. The rules were ones only they knew, and even then there were surprises.
The illusion created was that Chris' life rested in Toby's hands. Soaked crimson red, Toby willed himself to believe he could play God, that he was the master of both of their domains. But life was precarious. It could be weak-willed and fleeting, and in the process it could strike a blow of clarification.
Toby felt love for Chris. Still. The second time around, however, was more real, flawed and stunning. He knew it in the way Chris kissed him. Whether soft and drawn out or hard and urgent, it was always definitive. There was nothing uncertain in the touch, maybe occasionally tentative but not out of confusion. Any hesitation was out of understanding the unparalleled plane of existence they had entered into; wanting to experience each emotion and feeling built upon one another in precise detail.
There was no flinching.
It was not that Toby would give up all the other ways they used their bodies to show the depth of how they felt, but the kisses carried a degree of reverence. Each one was slightly different--a flick of the tongue, the light scrape of teeth across skin, moist and overheated--and each alteration declared Chris' intention towards him.
Initially it surprised Toby that Chris did not rush into sex with him each time, even going so far as to wonder if he had imagined Chris' interest in him. Keen observation opened his eyes. Sex came easy to Chris. It was uncomplicated, something he could do in his sleep; feelings not included. But kissing--that was everything. It was Chris bared open with his own want (need) uncensored, his love for Toby undeniable.
They would stare at each other in a holding pattern of silent consent as Chris trailed his fingers up the back of Toby's neck before pressing forward to begin another sensory exploration wherein Toby's body and mind were seared, thrust alive by the lengths to which Chris reveled in pushing him; ensuring that what was between them was never in doubt.
Oz was a timeless land that relished screwing with perspective. With the outside world at bay, inside took precedence. If Oz was all they had left of this life, Toby wanted Chris at his side. With deep reflection for the various forms of love that Toby had experienced in his life--that which he felt for his parents, the instinctive awe and protectionism he felt for his children, the chaste affection he experienced with Genevieve, the challenging and enlightening revelations of friendship that came with Said--it was with Chris that he felt the most frighteningly and wondrously upended. Theirs was a rare love, certain not to come around again.
The cyclical nature of life and death had its poetry, but in the face of unanticipated loss it was the world on a string, unraveling at the speed of light. He prayed to a God he had thought could never be so cruel, to show mercy, to forgive their sins (as unforgivable as they should be) and let Chris live. He made promises he meant to keep in the panic of the moment; ones that remained plausible days later when he could do nothing more than anxiously wait for news of Chris' health, and deliberated scenarios of all magnitudes, overcome by outcomes not (yet) reached.
Adrenalin and love--
A potent cocktail.
********** ********** ********** ********** **********
A death fall and broken neck.
He is finally free of Chris, and forever bound to him, overwhelmed by the larger than life essence that consumed everything in its path. Chris was nothing if not thorough. He covered his bases.
Our relationship, it started with brutality and it will end in brutality. Love was the smallest part of it.
In a letter shuttled between them by Schillinger, Chris confessed he had told Father Mukada that. But as with everything that happened within a confined existence, that came to be between them, it was one part truth to two parts lies. Hurt, intended and accidental, had always been there, but love was not the smallest ingredient. It wasn't inconsequential or a harmless side effect. It was their crucial point, their raisin d'etre.
They lived it with sharp tongues that struck deadly blows and coaxed sentimental promises in all or nothing battle cries.
The absolute anger that Toby felt for Chris' betrayal, the set up that guaranteed a return trip to prison, purposely taking him away from the new lease on life he was supposed to have with Holly and Harry, was only matched by the utter devastation of losing Chris, all together, body and soul.
Toby should hate him for the suicide disguised as murder checkmate move Chris spectacularly ended on. He should despise the extreme act of passive aggression that was carried out to shine a harsh and unrelenting spotlight on him--on them.
But he couldn't.
As disturbing as it was to those more rationally minded, Toby knew that selfish acts carried out by Chris were more than they seemed. There was a separation--a disconnect--between the world that lay beyond the prison's walls and the existence cultivated within. Chris had not lied when he confessed he could not face the rest of his life inside without Toby.
They had both seen the writing on the wall. Love was forever, but context could alter the course of those in its grip. As usual, Chris squeezed it right back. If he couldn't have Toby in this life then Toby couldn't have a life, at least not the one he planned on. Gallingly unbelievable, it was a declarative Fuck you, you fuck.
Yet Chris' swan dive, made to initially seem as if Toby had pushed him, was also a final act of warped kindness on his part. Following on the heels of Toby `accidentally' shanking and ultimately killing Schillinger (another corpse that only Toby knew to trace back to Chris), Chris' death was insurance that no one would ever consider messing with Toby while he counted down the endless hours until he would (hopefully) one day walk free again. After all, who would dare to take on the person who took out two of the most powerful men in the joint? In death there was also mercy.
Common sense dictated that the only thing that had truly transpired between them was a long con of epic proportions. But that interpretation gave Toby little credit. It was as much about him as it was about Chris. They were never going to get their happy ending, not the way the movies or fairytales promised happiness to be.
They were always going to be a tragedy. That was the beauty of them. It was what infused their every encounter with a visceral intensity that Toby never thought possible. Life was suddenly supercharged. But as exhilarating as it was, Toby subconsciously knew that what sparked bright was short lived. It could not be sustained.
He found peace in that. Acceptance was a gift he had learned from Said (who had suffered the irony of not accepting Chris and Toby's relationship, but believed in Toby enough to stand by him) and it served him well in the contemplative aftermath of discerning scrutiny.
In the end it was as it was in the beginning, with a twist. He was alone once more. Ryan was a shadow without Cyril, the Muslims were unbalanced without Said, and Toby was displaced without Chris. Everything was the same yet different. The experience of Chris, and that was exactly what it was in all its profundity, changed everything, as knowledge from the tree. Toby was not the same man who first walked into Oz, quick for the taking. He was an old hand, well versed and no longer susceptible to the one weakness that had undermined him.
He mourned the death of the man who had loved him too much. Who, in return he had immersed himself in wholeheartedly. That was part of their problem. They were a destructive lesson in extremes. Everything was too strong, too intense, too disparaging; too wondrous. The ricochet between good and bad was lightening quick with little recovery time. They were each other's addiction.
Cold turkey, theoretically speaking, was the workable option. What was colder than one of them being six feet under?
But the scars ran deep and Toby cherished the shared life that they detailed. Long ago he had learned to take the bitter with the sweet. Co-existence was mandatory. He had survived the most challenging love and was still standing, bruised and battered, but in one piece.
There was nowhere left to go but forward, and Toby was ready and willing.
Chris would be proud.
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