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View From a Balcony
by Blackchaps

art by Beechercreature

Title: View From a Balcony
Author: Blackchaps
Characters/Pairing: Toby Beecher/Alan Shore
Rating: Adult
Warnings: AU. Crossover. Set after Season Six in Oz and after the finale on Boston Legal.
Word count: 25,800
Summary: Toby is a lifer in Oz, doing nothing more than counting the years when Alan Shore is thrust into Toby's pod. Alan is there waiting on his appeal in the case of Denny Crane's death. Toby has to come to grips with the man he's become, and Alan, for his part, is just in deep shit. A lawyer, alone, with no protector, hoping the Nazis and Bikers don't catch him in the shower. Neither man expects what they get.
Notes & acknowledgements: Beta by Watergal, queen of the seas, and thanks for the voice of Shirley Schmidt.

"How long?"

"I give him two days. Two cigarettes on it."

"You don't have no fucking cigarettes!"

Toby got up and moved to the front chairs before the fight broke out. He didn't give a shit about anything, much less new prags and cigarettes. All he wanted was some place to sit and stare, and in prison, that shouldn't be too damn much to ask. Except that it was, and people wouldn't leave him the fuck alone. Sister Pete this, McManus that, and even Querns' glare looked weak. Maybe he needed to spend some quality time in the hole.

"Beecher! Get the fuck up here!"

Ignoring the hack would only make Sister Pete lecture at him, so Toby got up, took a long, lazy stretch, and ambled up the stairs to his pod. He tried to keep it casual as his fury built into a roar with every step.

"No," Toby snarled. "No!"

The hack puffed his chest out. "You don't get a say!"

"I'm not entirely happy about the accommodations either," the fresh piece of prag said. "And I'm fairly certain this pillow is not hypoallergenic." He paused. "Also? These clothes are itchy and uncomfortable. All in all, I'm disappointed in New York's penal system. In Massachusetts, we have much more style."

Anger fueled right into amusement and then horror, and then Toby got vein-popping mad. "Querns promised me!"

"Did you, by chance, get it in writing?"

"Shut up, Beecher! Show him around or spend some time in the fucking hole!" The hack got right up to Toby's face with his yelling.

"Mr. Beecher, arguing at this point seems like an exercise in futility."

Pulse pounding, Toby grabbed the railing behind him and squeezed. It was his mistake for believing a liar, but in his defense, no one wanted to bunk with him. They liked living too much.

"No," he muttered, giving up. He caught movement out of the corner of his eye and turned quickly enough to see Querns smirking before he walked away. "Just. No."

"Why don't you scurry back to your tower, or wherever it is you hide from the inmates? I'm sure Mr. Beecher and I can reach an agreement."

It was a shock when the hack actually left. Toby lowered his head, watching the fuckers laugh and point up at him.

"Mr. Beecher?"

"Stop talking, and I might not kill you myself." Toby jerked away, shoved open the door, and pointed at the bottom bunk. "Touch me, and they'll never find your body."

"Anger issues. I completely understand." He threw his things down on the bunk. "Alan Shore, and make no mistake that there will be no touching. I won't be here long, in any case."

"That's what they all say." Toby went to the far corner of the pod. He shoved his hands in his pockets and leaned back against the glass, watching and thinking. The guy was doomed, dead within the week, obviously sent here to die by some vindictive judge. Toby knew the type. He sighed when the guy washed his hands for the third time.

"Toby Beecher."

"It's very nice to meet you." Shore smoothed the blanket on his cot for the fifth time. "I'm going to hate it here, aren't I?" He raised his hand and laughed in a mocking way. "Don't answer that."

Toby hadn't planned on it. He had said more today than he had in the last month, and he was done. When Shore was dead, and that wouldn't take long, Toby would go back to his solitary existence, waiting for parole that would never come. He wasn't fool enough to believe he was ever getting out of here. Not after Chris.

"Ah, I can see your conversation skills have gone lacking." Shore opened the door and went out to stand by the rail. He stood there, staring out at nothing, and Toby seriously considered getting on his bunk and reading until the raping and shanking was over. Rolling his eyes, he pushed away from the glass and went out to stand behind him. Shore gave him a small glance. "I always enjoy a nice balcony.

"How did you get through law school without speaking?" Shore turned halfway to him. "Warden Querns seemed to think you'd make the ideal… podmate for me."

"Querns is a fucking liar, and you should disregard anything he said," Toby snarled. "If the Nazis don't kill you, the Bikers will, and I'm not going to stand in their way." He saw only calm acceptance in Shore's blue eyes, and it irritated him. "The judge fucked you over. Pray they just put a few dozen airholes in you."

Shore nodded seriously. "I will." He suddenly smiled. "Any chance we could find a bottle of scotch before my demise?"

Against his will, Toby barked a laugh. "O'Reily's gonna love you. Come on."

Shore followed, and Toby found himself running interference, keeping Shore alive a few minutes longer, even though it was a huge waste of time. When they caught Shore alone, and they would, they'd kill him, and Toby wouldn't care.

"Who's the new prag, Beecher?" O'Reily grinned, coming out of the laundry room with a bounce in his step.

"Alan Shore." Shore looked O'Reily up and down. "Mr. Beecher informed me that you could procure me some scotch. A good single malt, please, since it will probably be my last."

"He's crazy, right?" O'Reily looked at Toby and never lost his cheesy grin.

"I'm thinking he is." Toby shrugged.

"You got money, Shore?" O'Reily never gave it away for free, unless he had a reason that involved killing. Toby didn't listen to them negotiate. He tracked a Nazi fuck that was coming far too close. Snapping his teeth at him, Toby chased him off. Most of the Nazis were dead, thanks to Chris, but there were always a few morons who thought they were God's gift to the white race.

If Shore were a little older, his ass would be safer.

"Beecher, you nuts again?"

Toby let his eyes talk for him. O'Reily laughed. "Shore, you should ask to move now before Beecher starts shitting on people."

"I threatened to do that to a partner at our law firm once." Shore sounded amused, and he smiled tightly. "Tell me, did it help you express your anger?"

O'Reily walked off laughing, and Toby decided to answer him. "Yes, it did."

"I thought it might."

Done with that, Toby went for the television. The day was nearly over, giving him an excuse not to show Shore the hell that was Oz. Shore could figure it out for himself tomorrow. Toby settled into a chair, but Shore circled the place, looking into pods and under the stairs. It wasn't long before Shore had found someone to blab at, and then more men wandered over, and everyone wanted to hear the story and tell their own lies. Toby kept his eyes on the television, but he couldn't help but listen.

"So, you see, my release is pending," Shore said in a grand finale.

Everyone on the quad laughed, even the hacks, but Toby sat in silence, analyzing. What those idiots didn't know was that Shore was right. If he managed to stay alive, and if his lawyer wasn't a drunk, then Shore had a chance. But everyone died so it wasn't worth Toby's time to think about it.

People came and went, lived and died, and all he did was sit around the quad. Even biohazards couldn't keep him out for long. They'd just hosed down the place with bleach and sent everyone back. No reason to let space go to waste.

He sorta missed Rikers. Everyone left him alone there. Here it was nag, nag, nag, and he had no doubt that giving him a podmate was Sister Pete's idea in her eternal quest to… he furrowed his brow, unsure of her motives. He loved her. He did, but she was driving him crazy, and she of all people should know that was a dangerous place for him to be.

"When is your release date?" Shore asked, moving his chair slightly closer.

Toby stared straight ahead, counting down to count. It amused him.

"Beecher's fucked."

"Ah," Shore said.

Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six.

"Fucked in a bad way?" Shore asked.

Five. Four. Three. Two.

The horn rang, and the yell of count rolled over Oz. Toby's body got up and took him upstairs. It required no thought, no feeling, and he liked it that way. All he'd ever have again was nothing, this nothing, and he was more than fine with that.

"Why do they count us and then put us inside? Wouldn't it make more sense to shove us in and then count us at their leisure?" Shore shifted on his feet, oblivious to the glares of the hacks. "I wish Denny were here. He'd make a joke, and this would seem like fun."

"Shore! Shut the hell up!"

Toby couldn't have said it better himself. When the numbers were done, Shore didn't move, staring at the floor in a daze. Toby went inside and held the door open so a hack could shove him.

"They really are incredibly rude." Shore slowly got up off the floor, Toby let the door shut, and they locked it down. Glad he'd gotten a new book, Toby climbed up on his bunk to retrieve it from under his pillow. Shore made a soft, confused noise. "Now what? Do we practice breathing?"

Laughter burst from Toby's throat, and he nearly choked trying to control it. When he stopped wheezing, he managed to say, "Yeah. Do that."

The cot under him creaked, and Toby shifted around to get comfortable with his book. It had been a long time since he'd listened to another person breathe, and he didn't like it. He'd been in solitary at Rikers, thank God, and Querns had promised him no podmates here in Oz, but of course that had been a load of bullshit.

With any luck, someone would kill Querns before Christmas. Toby could hope. He tried to focus on the words of his book again, but Shore kept interrupting him with his breathing.

"Are you done practicing?"

"Do they give out complimentary shanks, or must I procure one myself?"

Frustrated, Toby still blinked at the rapid change in the conversation. "No," he spat.


Jumping down and killing him was an option that Toby kept open. He slapped his book shut, shoving it back under the pillow. He'd waited two weeks for the library to get it, and now he couldn't even enjoy it. This was why men killed each other in prison.

"You get a shank, and someone will kill you with it," Toby growled.

"You said they were going to kill me anyway." Shore didn't sound worried about it. "Denny always had a gun close at hand. I'm less critical of that decision now that I've been to prison."

Toby hated to actually have another conversation, but he was curious about a few things. "Who is Denny?"

"Denny Crane," Shore said firmly, accenting the syllables in a certain way. "Denny Crane."

"Oh." Of course Toby knew of him. Everyone knew Denny Crane. He was more than a legend. He'd never lost a case, and his ability to win against large corporations had made him the envy of every law student in America. Also, Toby's father, Harrison, had known him personally. "My dad talked about him."

A moment of silence and then a burst of movement as Shore got off the cot and loomed into Toby's space. "You know Denny Crane?"

"Everyone in law knows Denny Crane." Toby leaned as far away as possible. This was why he could never have a conversation with someone. Things always got intense, and then someone threw a punch, and he should've stayed quiet. "And sit down before I accidentally stick a shank in you."

"I knew you had one." Shore stepped back, leaning against the glass. "Denny Crane. I will always miss him."

Choosing his words carefully, Toby hesitated and then decided not to ask. Conversation over. He really didn't want to know. Shore would die, like all the rest, and Toby would be alone, like always, and the years would pass, slowly.

"You see, I killed him," Alan said.


When the door unlocked, Toby bolted out, stomach roiling from all the words Shore had pressed on him. Finally, when Toby had thought he might bang on the glass for a hack, Shore had curled up in a ball and fallen to sleep. Shore still slept, oblivious to the men starting their day around him, and Toby sure as hell wasn't going to shake him awake.

The hacks didn't care one damn bit as long as they drew a paycheck and no one on staff complained. Sister Pete complained a lot, keeping Toby in line, but Alan didn't have that handicap.

Scrubbing his forehead, Toby went to breakfast - the only edible meal of the day. He even sorta liked the mini-pancakes. He took his time, eating slowly and sitting with his juice until the hacks made it clear that he had to leave.

Taking a deep breath, he went to the quad to sit until it was time for work. He didn't even glance up at his pod. Shore was no idiot. Canny, wily, choosing each word for effect: that was Alan Shore. Toby didn't understand why Shore had confessed a killing to him. Lawyers didn't do that, but if Denny Crane had supported Shore, then, well, Shore was worth it.

Denny Crane didn't make mistakes.


"How's your new podmate, Tobias?" Sister Pete pounced the instant that Toby slipped inside her office. He booted up the computer, taking a seat and reflecting again that if he wanted to pretend, it would be so damn easy. Pretend that he was back in the days before everything went to hell and everyone started dying. He didn't, though, because that meant he'd have to think about Vern, and he wasn't going to do that except to relive killing him.

That memory refused to be shuffled aside, and he was ashamed that sometimes he grinned when he remembered.


He gave her a shrug and a small smile, seeing her frustration and not giving a damn. He'd had plenty of time at Rikers to come to the realization that talking was the root of all evil in his life. If he'd have shut up occasionally, more people might be alive.

"I started a file for Alan Shore." She gestured at the pile for Toby to enter. "Do you think he'll work out in the hospital?"

She would ask him questions the entire time he was here, and it usually rolled off his back, but he'd just spent hours locked in a pod with Shore, who never shut up. Right now, there were far too many words in his life.

"No," Toby said with real bite. "He's likely to have a panic attack. Chances are very good that he'll be a patient before the first thirty minutes are up."

Her stunned silence spoke volumes, and then he heard her begin to worry. "Should I… go check on him? Make sure he's settling in?"

"Yes." Toby hunkered down, typing faster and pressing his lips together. Her plan to get him to talk had worked, and now he'd suffer for it.

"Thank you, Tobias." She almost hurried out the door.

He heaved out a big breath when he was alone. The rest of his damn life he'd be doing this, waiting to die and shuffling from pod to job and back again. Being quiet had given him a certain freedom to be an asshole - quietly.

"Fuck," he whispered. He'd have to come up with a new no-life strategy now. Damn that Alan Shore and his mouth, disrupting Toby's carefully contrived existence. All he'd had was his nothing, and Shore had ripped that away with all his talking. Good thing the guy would be dead soon.


"Why isn't that guy dead yet?" Poet kicked the back of Toby's chair. "I had fourteen hours in the betting pool!"

Toby whipped around, getting to his feet, gratified when Poet flinched back. Poet muttered something about freaks, but he got up and left, and Toby glared at everyone else behind him. No one met his eyes.

"Oh, good. You saved me a spot." Shore plunked himself down with a groan. "Sister Pete reminds me of a secretary I had once." He paused. "She was insane too."

Laughter burst out, and it took a moment for Toby to realize it was him. Clapping a hand over his mouth, he sat down before someone threw something at him for being in front of the TV.

"Stop doing that!" Toby hissed.

"What?" Shore tried to pull off an innocent face. "I'm merely trying to discuss how prison and working at a law firm can… have unfortunate side effects in sweet, kind elderly ladies."

Glaring only made Shore smirk.

"Fine. I'll get you a shank, but stop making me laugh." Toby wanted to smack him. "I mean it."

"I cannot help it if you're charmed by my vivacious personality." Shore flashed him a lawyer's thousand dollar per hour smile. "And I decided against the shank. Where would I put it in this charming outfit?" He waved his hand down the length of his T-shirt and sweats.

"I have a suggestion." Toby smiled back at him.

"Let's save that for when we know each other a bit better."

"I'm out of my league, aren't I?" Toby asked with a true sense of horror.

Shore laughed softly. "Completely."


The noon horn rang, and after a bit of confusion, Shore followed Toby to the cafeteria for lunch without being invited.

"Shore, fuck off. Sit by someone else," Toby growled, grabbing a tray and smacking it down. He didn't want to talk, or think, again today.

"My company at mealtimes is generally considered excellent." Shore wiped his tray off with a napkin, frowning.

Toby found a table as far away from the Bikers and Nazis as possible, but he did that every day. He glumly took a cautious bite of his lunch. Every year the politicians cut the food budget and claimed that the nutritional value stayed the same. They, however, didn't have to eat it.

"This is worse than anything I have ever seen, and I've eaten in Texas," Shore said, eyes wide.

"Worst of the day." Toby opened his milk, glad it was still on the menu. "If you eat every meal, you'll get fat. Too many carbs, sugar, and fat."

"I would assume so." Shore poked at the lump of macaroni and cheese. "You are very thin, and there is nowhere near enough imitation cheese substance sprinkled on this pile of noodles."

Choking down a bite, Toby didn't answer.

"I've enjoyed far too much calorie-rich food in my life, or at least that's what my doctor tells me, but I'm paying for that largesse now." Shore put some food on his fork, but he didn't eat it. Toby stopped watching, shoving his peas around and keeping an ear out for trouble. Most fights started at dinner, but he never let his guard down.

"Where are we off to next? Now that we've been tortured with work in conditions akin to Bangladesh and a meal that dogs would turn from."

Finishing his milk, Toby shrugged. "I usually hit the gym, but…"

"That does sound dreadful. Don't they have a law library we can browse? Computers?"

"You can go to the library." Toby shrugged. "The gym is dangerous for new guys who aren't in a gang."

Shore leaned closer. "You aren't in a gang."

"No one fucks with Beecher. He has a rep." O'Reily thumped down with his tray. "You got nothing."

Toby bumped his tray away, watching O'Reily mindlessly eat. Shore started babbling questions about the best way to gain a reputation, and O'Reily loved telling all the old stories. Toby blocked it out, not wanting to relive it. He slid his hand down his shank, soothing himself.

"And this Mr. Schillinger was never prosecuted?"

"Hell no. No one gives a damn in here. Keep a shank close and find someone to watch your back." O'Reily gave that advice to everyone. "Then keep a close eye on them."

"Mr. Beecher has no one to watch his back," Shore said quietly.

An astute assessment given that O'Reily swore that he did have Toby's back. Toby knew better, and so did O'Reily, but that was their secret.

O'Reily glared. "I watch it for him! He and I are tight. Don't think you know anything!" He got up, tray dangling from one hand. "Oh, and I have three days, two hours, in the pool."

Shore blinked in confusion as O'Reily sauntered away. Toby sighed. "The pool as to how many days you'll live."

"What was your bet?" Shore didn't look angry, just curious.

"I never bet on a sure thing." Toby got to his feet, tray in hand, more than ready to leave. "The library is usually safe. Don't wander too far in the back."

"Good advice, I'm sure." Shore walked with him, trying to catch him by the arm near the arch, but Toby moved out of the way. "Does O'Reily have your back?"

With a shrug, Toby pasted on a fake grin. He didn't worry about it. O'Reily and he went back to the beginning, and they'd shared things that men shouldn't. Pain, anger, and death built bonds, but Oz would shred them given half a chance, and they both knew that. Neither of them was getting out alive, and that was the only truth they lived by.

"Get something to read so you don't talk to me all the damn time," Toby said. He went to the gym to lose himself in repetition and the ache of muscles.


Baked into Toby's bones was the routine, and no amount of distraction would keep him from it, not even hysterical lawyers.

"There are no doors! No walls! Nothing!"

Shore's volume made Toby's ears ache. Toby shucked off his pants, found a towel, and gave it the sniff test. Clean enough, and he peeled out of his favorite T-shirt.

"It's barbaric! Inhuman!" Shore took a deep breath. "I am definitely complaining to the prison board."

Nodding, Toby dropped his boxers, didn't respond to Shore's quick, assessing gaze, and wrapped the towel around his hips. He slipped his shoes back on and opened the door. It shut on Shore's noisy and inventive complaints. After a day or two of stinking, Shore would shower. Everyone broke sooner or later, scuttling under the water and praying they weren't raped.

That didn't happen all that much since the Nazis died, but no one let their guard down. It was still very dangerous to be young and pretty in Oz. Even old and handsome was a bad idea, and Shore wasn't old enough.

"Hey! Fuck you, Beecher!"

Toby flipped the bird without looking to see who it was. It didn't matter. He'd be here long after they were all gone, or dead, or dead and gone. He grinned at his own idiocy, glad when it made two homeboys shuffle out of the way.

"Crazy bitch," one of them whispered.

Wishing he had a nickel for every time he'd heard that insult, Toby toed off his shoes, slung his towel over the wall, and found his soap. He wouldn't waste time, getting clean and getting out before someone's temper flared over hot water and the lack of it. This was just another part of the routine and he sure as hell wasn't going to stand around remembering the slow slide of droplets off Chris' stomach muscles and thighs.

The way they'd dribbled, drabbled, rushed, and he'd desperately wanted to kneel and chase them with his tongue.

"This ain't a spa, Beecher!"

"Fuck you!" Toby toweled his hair before slinging it around his hips. Shoving on his shoes, he pushed his way out and then kicked a chair or two on the way back to his pod. He was fucked. Shore had shot to hell Toby's quiet oblivion.

In two days.


It was the laughter. Toby wallowed in his hatred, resentment, silence, and Shore blew the crap out of that with his casual sarcasm and impeccable timing. Shore should be crying himself to sleep at night, not cracking jokes and moaning about the lack of cheese.

Furious now, Toby yanked open the pod door, fully prepared to tell Shore to shut the hell up forever and enforce it with a shank. The human-size lump under a blanket on the bottom bunk stopped Toby's tirade in its tracks.

Getting dressed took a minute, and he bothered to comb his hair, but the pile of a lawyer hadn't even twitched. It was definitely time to walk away. Head downstairs and watch TV like always until the horn rang.

With a heavy heart, Toby yanked their only chair over to the window and sat down. From this corner, he could see the TV. Being involved was such a bad idea, and by not leaving, he was giving tacit approval to some kind of… relationship between them.

He got up twice and then slowly sat back down. Finally, he broke. "Okay, Shore, what the hell happened while I was in the shower? Rape? Murder?"

"I missed my therapy session." Shore sounded confused. "I just realized it."

"Just now? Shore, you're being a moron. How long have you been in the system?" Toby slumped, rubbing his face. He assumed the silence meant that Shore was thinking. "Go see Sister Pete. She'll screw you up as good as any therapist."

The blanket flew back, and Shore sat up, still fully dressed. "A stellar endorsement, and I was only remanded to Oswald the day I arrived. I'd been out on bail until then. Nearly two days, and I think I'm cracking under the strain."

"Better hope you get out soon then." Toby had no sympathy for the man. "You know they won't even hear your appeal for two months."

"Three." Shore swung his legs over and leaned his face into his palms. "We ended up in New York City on vacation. We never should've left home, but Denny wanted to see the whores in Times Square, and I couldn't persuade him that they'd cleaned that area up. He was extremely disappointed when he saw the wholesome tourist spot that it's become."

Toby stared in a mixture of bewilderment and amusement. "So you flew to New York? Doesn't Boston have whores?"

"It was the mythos of it, and we took a limo. Champagne and a good vintage scotch made the trip go quickly." Shore smiled, obviously remembering good times. "We'd been married almost exactly a year, and Denny was always more romantic than he appeared."

"Wait? What?" Toby stared, trying to make sense of all the words. "You married Denny Crane? Denny Crane?" He blinked into space. "Denny Crane was gay?"

"Oh, heavens no. Denny loved women. We did it for financial reasons." Shore smiled a little. "Denny was generous that way."

Standing, Toby raised his hand. "I'm going to watch television." He hurried downstairs before he could be sucked any further into the insane conversation. Either Shore was a liar of epic proportions, or the world out there was more screwed up than Toby thought. Sure, he knew there was gay marriage in certain states, but… straight men getting married to protect financial assets? Crossing his legs, staring intently at the television, he mulled it all over and came to one sure conclusion.

There was no way Alan Shore was straight.


"Ah, here we are again in this lovely dining establishment," Shore said, dogging Toby's footsteps closely. "Table for two?"

Toby rolled his eyes but didn't tell Shore to fuck off. Instead, he listened, and twice he laughed, unable to help himself. Shore could slice a man to pieces with a few well-placed insults. He drew a crowd this meal, and Toby began to think that there was chance that Shore would survive.

Shore made them laugh with his comments, even if some of them went over their stupid heads. He was an enigma, something never seen in Oz before, and if he were damn lucky, he'd get out alive.

That was luck that Toby didn't have. He ate his carrots, hunched his shoulders, and watched for shanks.


When the door locked, Toby seriously considered throwing himself against the glass in an attempt to avoid the hours ahead that would be filled with Shore talking. Silence was Toby's only friend, and Shore was cutting into their quality time. Coming to a quick, desperate decision, Toby rounded on him.

"You shut up tonight, and tomorrow we'll get you some better clothes," Toby said, crossing his arms. After all that talking at dinner, he needed a break from Shore's mouth.

Shore looked surprised. "Really?"

"Shore, everything is for sale in this place. If you've got money enough for that bottle under your pillow, then you can afford some better pants." Toby didn't want a drink of it, not much. "Maybe a shirt or two."

"Something that doesn't itch?" Shore's eyes assessed Toby up and down. "Belt?"

Toby went with a nod, but he doubted it. "Silence. Until the horn rings again." He narrowed his eyes, trying to look tough. "That means no talking."

"I'm a lawyer. I am thoroughly versed in the mechanics of a verbal contract." Shore somehow managed to appear both offended and innocent. Two things that Toby seriously doubted. He glowered. Shore suddenly broke into a smile. "In addition to new clothes, I'd like a different job."

"No fucking way I'm helping you out with that!" Toby laughed, but it wasn't funny. "You take what you get."

"But Sister Pete lives for your happiness." Shore smirked, making it sound dirty. "Let's have a drink to my future job, somewhere away from sick people."

The fury that welled up in Toby echoed back to the first time he'd been manipulated in this hell hole. He eased his shank from his pocket, keeping it against his forearm and sliding forward two steps.


"Ah, I can see the negotiations aren't going smoothly." Shore, to his credit, only backed up as far as the bunks. "Killing me in here will only get you life, and I'm very sure you have a family who want to see you again."

"You'd be wrong." Toby peeled his lips off his teeth. "No release, no family, nothing to lose. Now, you will shut up, or I will put at least two airholes in you."

"But I still get better clothes, right?" Shore smiled brightly, switching back to the original argument. "We did have an agreement."

Toby moved in closer, still angry and letting it show. "Don't fuck with me, Shore."

Shore wiped the smile off his face. His voice was low, well-modulated, and it was easy to see that he was a fine courtroom lawyer. "My sincere apologies, Mr. Beecher."

The lie hung between them, but Toby decided to ease up. Shore had been doing what any lawyer would do - push for more.

"Back off, Beecher!" The hack rapped on the glass with his nightstick.

Options flitted, and Toby considered them all. It was a glimpse of real fear on Shore's face that helped him choose. He hid the shank, waved, and scooted up on his bunk to put his back to the glass. He didn't imagine Shore's sigh of relief.

"You're not getting out?"

"Only in a box." Toby fished out his book and opened it. He forced his eyes to see the words and his mind to process them. The silence helped him accomplish it. Tomorrow, he'd give Shore a hand finding some decent clothes.


This time, Toby shook him awake, not caring that Shore whimpered in his sleep. "Move it."

"What? Where?" Shore clutched his pillow.

Toby zipped his pants after stuffing his shirt inside. "Breakfast."

"It's the middle of the night!"

"Welcome to Oswald State Correctional Facility." Toby threw some clothes at him. "You want better clothes? Get your ass up."

Shore groaned and moaned, but he staggered up, splashing water everywhere. Toby scrubbed his hands through his hair and went out to wait. He gave it three minutes and then shoved the door back open.

"Shore! Move it!"

"Prison, yes! The military, no!" But Shore stumbled out, fighting to get his shoes on his feet. Toby beat him down the stairs and didn't stop moving until he was at a table with his breakfast. Shore slouched next to him and then said, "Wait. This looks almost edible."

For an answer, Toby stabbed one of Shore's sausages and ate it. Shore narrowed his eyes, hunched over his tray, and began to eat instead of talk. As usual, the cafeteria was noisier than hell as men squabbled over food and pride, but Toby enjoyed the silence.


"I am fond of blue," Shore said, but he didn't snatch the pants. He almost sounded sad. "Is this the only size, Toby?"

Toby froze, not believing his ears. "Yes, Shore." He tried to make his point with emphasis, but the way Shore was frowning at the pants, he might've missed it. Toby said it again. "Shore, take them. Pay the man."

Shore grumbled but he did it. "You would think they would have decent clothing for sale at the commissary."

"You'd almost think this was prison or something," Toby drawled, taking him the long way around to the shirt guy. The guy had a name, but Toby didn't give a damn what it was. Shore had a few complaints along the way, of course.

"One pair? That hardly seems sufficient. I don't suppose we send out to dry cleaning. It's not really about the clothes, but Denny always… well, never mind." Shore snorted. "Your silence is more eloquent than most words. I appreciate your help, Toby."

The only way to handle this was to hit him, and Toby turned fast to do it, but Shore's earnest eyes were right there. A slight flinch of fear, and Toby couldn't do it, damn it. "Most people call me Beecher." He paused and laughed. "Or that crazy bitch."

Stepping closer, Shore didn't make the mistake of smiling. His eyes were blown wide, and his hands fidgeted, but for once, he pressed his lips together. Toby hated to do it. It was a weakness.

"Okay, but not where anyone can hear, and it doesn't mean anything." Toby backed those words up with his meanest look - the one that scared Nazis.

"Of course not. Just because we're two lawyers stuck in this hellhole, that doesn't mean we'll be friends, or even nice to each other." Shore nodded too quickly. "After all, I'm sure there are other lawyers incarcerated here."

That idea made Toby bark a laugh. "Not likely, but I agree in principle." He turned and walked faster. Shore caught up, and they bought him three shirts that weren't half-bad. There was more muttered grumbling, but Toby noticed that Shore didn't let the shirts go.

From there, they hooked around back to their pod, and Toby stood by the railing instead of going inside. It wasn't long, and Shore joined him. They stared out over Oz in perfect quiet. Until Shore ruined it.


Lowering his head, Toby gripped the rail until his knuckles turned white. "No." One word that encompassed years of screwing up his life. And of course he still wanted it. No matter how many people died, he needed it. "No," he whispered, praying that he could make it sound true.

They shared a soft sigh, and for a second, Toby thought that Shore understood, and then he ruined it by opening his mouth.

"Do I really have to go to work?"


"Oh, Tobias, I'm glad you're here." Sister Pete popped off her glasses and smiled, and he might've cringed a little. He couldn't wait to hear this. She almost rushed her words out. "I was speaking to Dr. Nathan this morning early, and we feel that Mr. Shore might be better served by having a different job. Your opinion?"

"He fainted, didn't he?" Toby pressed the button on the computer to get it warming up.

She automatically shook her head. "We only want what's best for him."

"Right." Toby wasn't offering up his job. "How about the mailroom?" He flashed her a fake smile.

Sister Pete might've almost glared at him. "Not a good idea. The factory?"

"Oh, because he has so many of those skills." Toby rolled his eyes. He groaned. "You and I both know that the library is it. It's the only job that won't lead to mass panic attacks."

"You could… take over the library job," Sister Pete said slowly. "Just until Mr. Shore gets his feet under him."

He'd been replaced, and she'd tried to make it his own idea. He wasn't surprised, or hurt. This was prison. There was no one he could count on, and he relied on that.

"Now?" That was the only question he could ask.

"Why don't you go get Mr. Shore and we'll all talk?" Sister Pete asked. "I don't want hard feelings between you two."

He went without a word, and it wasn't too hard to find Shore in the infirmary.

"Please tell me that Sister Pete has a new job for him," Dr. Nathan said with all sincerity. "He can't hide in my office forever."

Toby nodded, saw her look of relief, and went to drag Shore away. "I've got good news and bad news, Shore."

"Toby, thank God." Shore hurried after him, away from the infirmary. The hack waved them through, back to her office, and she greeted them with a smile. Toby leaned against the doorjamb, hoping to make a quick escape.

"Alan, the staff and I have had a meeting, and we've decided that you're going to work with me."

Shore turned and gave Toby a strange look. It might've been panic.

"Tobias is going to be working in the library." She smiled. "I think this will work out well."

Opening the door, Toby slid out into the hallway. The hack hooked his thumb in the direction of the library, and Toby went. It took him a minute to truly understand what he was feeling. Relief. He could go hide in the stacks. It'd be quiet. He could read. Taking a very deep breath, he smiled. Later, he might even thank Alan Shore for being so screwed up that Sister Pete couldn't resist him.


The lunch line stretched to the door, and burned hamburgers were not worth the wait, except that there might be potato chips, so Toby queued up. It wasn't as if he had somewhere else to be.

"I nearly went insane!" Shore rushed up, almost slamming right into Toby.

Toby jerked away, nearly shoving into the guy ahead of him down. "Shore! Watch it!"

Shore's eyes were almost scary. He panted, hands flailing. "You have to save me from her!"

"No." Toby liked the library. Sure, there were blood stains on the carpet, and a few bad memories under the tables, but it was quiet. "Take a deep breath and shut up."

"She talks about feelings!" The line moved forward, and Shore grasped his chest. "In particular, mine!"

Rolling his eyes, Toby pushed him much further away. "Shore! Get a grip!"

"She talks about making amends!" Shore looked about two seconds from losing it. "I almost told her that--"

Toby slapped him hard enough to raise a mark. "Shore, stop it or you're going to incriminate yourself in the damn lunch line," he snapped. "Not another word until we're alone."

No more words came out for a count of three, and Shore shut his mouth. He tilted his head. "No one cares in here."

"Wrong." Toby maneuvered Shore ahead of him. "You wanted a better job. She's better than the infirmary."

"But I didn't want your job," Shore said quietly.

The regret sounded real, and Toby stomped quickly on a tiny spurt of friendship. He didn't need it, and it was a lie, and he'd be alone again soon. "Eat. Shut up. Got it?"

Shore might've trembled, and he did lick his lips. "Got it."


The instant they were back in the pod, Shore went for his scotch. He drank hurriedly and messily, gulping between swallows, and Toby turned his back to give the man some privacy.

"Oh, Denny," Alan sighed. The sound of guzzling followed and then abruptly cut off. "Thank you, Toby. Sister Pete just pushed me too hard this morning."

"I know. I've been there. You have to ignore her." Toby didn't have any more advice than that. He heard the bottle slide back under the pillow, but he stayed turned away. "Your lawyer will win the appeal. Focus on that."

The creak of cot springs told Toby that Shore had sat down. Shore laughed softly. "Or she won't. Losing Denny took something out of Shirley."

With no reason to answer that, Toby crossed his arms and stared out the glass. He'd go to the gym soon. That was his schedule, and he'd stick to it.

"Poor Denny."

"Do not confess your sins to Sister Pete. She's not a psychiatrist, and there's no such thing as patient confidentiality in here." Toby whipped around and poked Shore in the chest to emphasize. "If you have to tell someone, get thrown in the hole, that way no one will hear you talking at the walls."

Shore caught him by the hand. "You pretend that you don't give a damn."

"Shore, I don't give a damn." Toby twisted away from the touch. That wasn't for him any longer. He didn't like it, and he didn't want it.

"Neither should I. My wife is dead. Denny is dead. Shirley is the closest thing I have to a friend, and I think she'd disagree with that label." Shore hitched a breath. "But I still give a damn."

"Give it ten years in this hell, and you won't." Toby couldn't stand there talking any longer. "Keep your mouth shut, your head down, and you'll get out of this fucking place before you turn into me." He didn't wait for an answer, leaving him and the scotch behind.


The stench in the pod hit Toby in the face, forcing him to start another conversation after his workout. "You have to shower. You remember water, right? Soap?"

Shore crossed his arms, looking mulish.

"Fine. I'll go tell McManus that you stink like shit, and he'll have two burly guards drag you down there and wash your filthy ass." Toby peeled off his sodden shirt, barely able to smell his own stink. He'd had a good workout in that he'd been able to think about nothing for more than an hour. He heaved his shirt at the sink. "Well?"

"No." Shore lifted his chin a tiny bit, and Toby would be willing to bet that there was a lot less scotch in that bottle.

Threatening him hadn't worked so Toby reluctantly tried some logic. "It's time to break down and get clean, Shore. You can't go three months without a shower."

"How long did it take you to break?" Shore asked with a touch of venom. "Five minutes?"

"I wanted to wash the Nazi spunk from my ass!" Toby shot right back at him. The words hit Shore in the gut, and his hands shook. Toby threw a towel at him, but it didn't hit the floor.

"You'll watch my back?" The question, soft and low, made Toby want to hit him. Oz was no place for trust, damn it.

Toby shucked off his shoes and pants quickly, but he didn't try to hide any of his parts. "Yes." He wrapped the towel tightly around his hips and put on his shoes. "You got soap?"


Tossing him a bar, Toby got his own. "You owe me. Let's go."

"I don't like you very much right now," Alan growled.

That made Toby laugh. "You and every other fucker in this shithole." He held open the door until Shore got up enough courage to walk out. Down the stairs and to the showers, and Toby only had to push him once.

They showered together, more or less, and Toby refused to look right at him. Shore washed almost frantically, as if he wanted to remove a layer or two of skin. Toby understood that, and he made sure no one came close enough to touch either of them. He knew very well how it would look, and the gossip that he'd taken a prag could very well be hitting Unit J by now, but he didn't give a damn.

They'd never be friends, or even more than acquaintances, and that was the way it was supposed to be, but… Toby sighed. He should've stayed in his smelly pod and read his book.

Shore bolted from the shower the instant he rinsed off. He clutched his towel, practically running, but Toby followed at a more sedate pace. By the time he got to the pod, Shore was dressed, sitting on his bunk. Toby found some clean clothes, dressed quickly, brushed his hair - it was longer than usual - and made a mental note to bother to shave tomorrow. Shore still looked like a deer in the headlights, so Toby left him alone, going down to the quad to watch television.

As usual, the hacks had set the channel to FOX News, and Toby didn't think he could stomach their insanity right now, so he steered for the card game run by O'Reily. Everyone knew O'Reily cheated, but no one cared enough to get punched in the mouth over it. Toby took the fourth chair and waited to be included in the next game.

"You taking the lawyer prag under your wing?" O'Reily dealt the cards quickly and efficiently and only about half of them from the bottom of the deck. "Teaching him the ropes? Who needs a good shanking?"

Toby scooped up his cards and put them in order. He'd expected that question, but he wasn't going to ever answer it.

"Guess not." O'Reily laughed but then leaned close. "Not that you care, but the Bikers want him dead."

That was no surprise to hear. The Bikers were a bunch of idiots and tried to kill anyone they suspected had one functioning brain cell.

"He has money. Lots of it. I'm thinking keeping him alive is good for my business." O'Reily flipped a couple of cards over and scowled at them. Toby tossed his and asked for two more, lips twitching at the two O'Reily gave him.

"If Beecher's grinning, he's winning. I fold," O'Reily said.

Everyone threw in, and Toby flung his at O'Reily's face. "Fuck you."

O'Reily flicked cards back at him, and the game broke up with muttered curses. Toby swaggered up and gave O'Reily a shove, but it wasn't serious.

"Oh, here comes your prag, Beecher," O'Reily said, pointing and laughing. "He's a pretty one!"

"Shut the fuck up." Toby half-heartedly kicked a chair at him. Shore smiled, strolling towards them, and Toby groaned. That could only mean trouble. In the sense that Shore would want to talk, and talk, and talk about it.

Shore did look better, showered, dressed in the clothes Toby helped him track down. Blue khakis and a blue shirt that wasn't prison issue. It was a long damn way from a five thousand dollar custom suits that Denny Crane preferred as Shore had mentioned more than twice, but it also wasn't sweats and a ratty T-shirt.

Prison was all about compromise.

One of the Bikers moved purposefully Shore's way, and O'Reily nudged Toby. "Go protect your boy."

"He's your investment!" Toby protested, not moving an inch but watching closely.

"He's a lawyer! Your kind!" O'Reily slapped his hand down on the table, making everyone look their way. The Biker paused, and Toby spotted the flash of the shank against his leg. The idiot was going to force Toby to do something stupid.

Toby growled incoherently, frustrated beyond words, and grabbed a plastic chair, throwing it at O'Reily, missing by a mile. O'Reily, eyes sparkling, snatched one up and the fight was on. Chairs flew, men yelled, and Toby nailed a Biker or two, including the one with the shank. He also kept an eye on Shore, who had the sense to hunker down by the stairs.

"Lockdown! Lockdown!"

O'Reily shoved Toby toward the stairs in a not-so-subtle hint, and Toby pushed Shore along in front of him. "Run!"

"What's going on?" Shore practically dragged his feet, looking over his shoulder, back at the men fighting. "Is this my first riot?"

"S.O.R.T. will be here soon." Toby yanked on Shore's arm to get him moving faster until they were upstairs, and they hit their pod right as S.O.R.T. burst into the quad. "Get down and stay down."

"Good God, they're beating people." Shore stood at the front of the pod, staring with his mouth open, and Toby found a corner to hunker. Toby had faith that O'Reily would be fine, and the rest of them needed their heads bashed. Shore gasped several times, finally getting the idea as S.O.R.T. pursued men into their pods to put them down. With Querns in charge, every lockdown was an excuse for a beat down.

"They're not stopping," Shore whispered.

Toby, against his good sense, grabbed Shore's leg and put him on the floor, half stuffing him under the bunk. S.O.R.T. burst through the door about two seconds later.


That was the problem with being a lifer and having a certain reputation. Even S.O.R.T. knew his name, and he often thought they looked for excuses to give him a black eye, or worse. He put his arms over his head, covered Shore as best as he could, and took the beating for both of them.

Shore didn't move at all when they peeled Toby up off the floor and dragged him to McManus' office. Toby managed to stay on his feet until they threw him at a chair. He graciously sat down before they hit him again.

"Toby, I thought we were past this stage in your development," McManus said.

Wiping some blood from his mouth, Toby wondered when McManus had turned into as big a dick as Querns.

"Did you want some time in the hole? Were you bored?" McManus sounded as if he were reading from a script, and he never stopped flipping his pencil.

"Saw a shank," Toby mumbled, sliding down in the chair and hating that he had to say something.

Eyes blank, McManus shook his head and talked on and on in a monotone. Toby had heard it all his first year here, and neither of them seemed to have the heart to play their parts anymore.

"Um, are you done?" he interrupted, sick of it. "If I leave Shore alone for five minutes, the Bikers are going to kill him."

McManus sat up a little straighter. "Are they really?"

"That's the plan. That's why I threw a chair." Toby shrugged and blotted at his right eye with what was left of his shirt. "I won't fucking bother next time. The guy can go ahead and die. I don't give a shit if he is a close personal friend of the governor of Massachusetts. The Bikers want him? They can have him."

Eyes wide, falling for the lie, McManus tilted his head. "I haven't heard you say that many words since Keller died."

Slouching, Toby focused his eyes on the tips of his shoes. Hearing the word 'died' and 'Keller' in the same sentence twisted in his gut like a shank. He avoided that fact of his life every day, even hourly.

"Shore never should've been sent here, but he thoroughly pissed off the judge." McManus shrugged, obviously not caring one bit.

"Shocking," Toby mumbled, unwilling to explore similarities or feel sympathy because of it. "An angry, vindictive judge, taking revenge on a mouthy lawyer. Who'd have guessed such a thing was possible in America?"

McManus said nothing, just staring. Toby waited for it, knowing exactly what was coming at him.

"Week in the hole," McManus said, showing teeth in a parody of a smile.

Toby grinned at him, happy to be right. "Finally, some damn quiet!" It'd give him a week to recapture his 'don't give a shit attitude' that had gotten him through the last year, and when he got out, Shore would be dead. "Kiss that Shore guy goodbye for me, will ya?"

One sharp gesture later, the hack encouraged Toby out the door. Toby practically skipped on the way to the hole, cheering when they thrust him naked towards the brick wall.

"Beecher's crazy again."

"Who you think won the pool?"

********* Day One

Running his hand along the grimy wall, Toby recognized this cell as the one he'd spent time in before, but he wouldn't relive the memory of what had landed him here. It was enough to be in a familiar place, safe from the daily dangers. He'd take the cold and the dark. There was no fear in him for those things any longer.

The only thing that frightened him was the years. All of them here. That had even scared Keller, and Toby pressed his face to the stone, listening for his own heartbeat. Refusing to lie down and die in Oz was the dumbest thing he'd ever done, but he couldn't. He wouldn't.

It was in this terrible corner of Oz that he could face why he hadn't killed himself. His parents dead, his brother furious, his life gone, but two things remained. His children, Harry and Holly, and he wouldn't put his death on them.

There was a good chance that Angus had already told them that he was dead, but Toby had to believe they knew he was alive. They knew he loved them, and while his children would never come see him again, the tiny bit of hope that they might - if they wanted - kept him going. He knew it was stupid. He knew hope was wrong, but like Pandora's Box, it was the only thing left in Toby's heart, and stomping it out had failed. Oh, he tried, over and over again.

Laughing at his own idiocy, he slid down the wall and curled his knees up to his chest. Wrapping himself close, he gently rocked back and forth, remembering their faces, their touch, and the love he had for them.

Maybe, someday, if he lived long enough, they'd come see him.

The slot opened, and a tray slid inside, marking the end of his first day over-thinking his life. The only solace he had was that by third day, he'd be numb from grief, and with any luck, it'd last six months or so.

********* Day Two

Dirt encrusted his nails, and he picked at them as wet trailed down his cheeks. He didn't wipe the tears away. He'd earned them.

Catching a sob, he tilted his head back and let free the emotions that could get him killed outside the hole.

Loss. Horror. Death. Pain. Terror. It all bubbled from his throat, and here, where it was safe, he let it out.

********* Day Three

Dark. Cold. He shivered, crouching in a corner with his arms wrapped tight. His teeth clattered, and he shook. Knowing that his time in the hole would end didn't make it happen any sooner. He sniffed, wiped his nose, and tucked his hands between his thighs. It was so cold that he couldn't even remember what he'd been bitching about yesterday.

********* Day Four

He paced around and around, counting steps and watching his feet. When his legs began to ache, he dropped and did sit-ups until his stomach screamed. Then he worked his arms, and then he paced until he fell and couldn't get up. Every part of him ached, and it felt so good.

********* Day Five

Hoarding the trays equaled a very bad idea, but they always opened the door and came inside to get them. He waited, crouching, giggling in the face of their glares and threats. They always let down their guard when he didn't move, and then he threw the bucket of shit at them. Hilarious.

********* Day Six

The apple tasted good, and he sucked the core for every bit of juice. It hit the door with a satisfying plop, and he threw the milk carton after it. They thought they could break him with beatings and confinement.

They were fucking wrong.

********* Day Seven

Nineteen trays come and gone, and Toby wanted a shower. Nothing more, just some water to get rid of his stink. He crouched as far away from his bucket as possible and waited. No thinking, no whining, no acting like a pussy.

He waited.

The door clanged open, and he took what he was given. He dressed, stepping out the door and taking a breath of air that was less fetid. His clothes stuck to his filthy body, and he felt as if a cloud of miasma dogged his footsteps as he hurried down the long corridor to make the turn into Em City. The place hadn't changed a bit since he'd been gone, and there was clearly no lockdown as men were doing their laundry. He didn't meet anyone's eyes, but they still stared.


Toby didn't slow down because even though it was a shock that Shore was alive, ultimately, he didn't give a damn.


Stuttering his step so he didn't crash into Shore, he tried to get around him. "Leave me alone."

"You're really here," Shore said, something like happiness all over his face. "O'Reily swore you were okay, just in the hole, but it sounded awful."

Six more steps to the stairs, and Toby refused to stop. Shore got right in Toby's face, grabbing him by the shoulders. The smell of scotch overpowered the stench of sweat, and Toby snarled under his breath in fury.

"Toby, I missed you. This place is--"

Toby shoved him hard, wanting to hurt him, and Shore hit the floor, sliding back. The quad erupted in laughter, hoots, and time crashed to a halt at Toby's feet. Rewound. Played the image of Toby on the floor, and Chris standing silently before walking away. The hurt hit him again, and he froze in place.

"Oh, God," Toby whispered, knowing exactly who he'd become. Someone with no choices, someone with no way out, someone who would make horrible mistakes out of grief and rage.

Shore fumbled to his feet, wiping his mouth, and Toby's knees wobbled. All his hard-fought indifference and anger, put in place one brick at a time in the hole, collapsed inside him and shame flooded through him. In his pain and grief, he'd become someone he hated. Even Chris had changed, some, not much, but he'd tried, and Toby put his fists to his ears.

"Toby?" Shore approached him cautiously.

Shaking, Toby whimpered softly. "Alan, I really need a shower."

"I'm really drunk." Alan grinned. "Sorry."

Toby didn't want to touch him, but he had to, and they stumbled up the stairs together. They somehow made it to the pod, and all the determination to never give a damn was gone. He felt a true sense of horror at what was coming at him. If he cared, again, he'd regret it in so many ways.

"Alan, you can't do this. You'll end up here forever like me," Toby said, trying not to sound whiny.

"I miss him so much." Alan's face crumpled. "Not sure I care."

"Well," Toby took the deepest breath of his life, "I care, and you're getting out of this damn place. I can't save me, but I can save you. Oz has destroyed enough lawyers."

Wobbling, Alan managed to get hold of Toby's shoulders. "You don't hope I get shanked?"

"No." Toby went against every prison instinct he'd embraced over the last years and pulled him close. He had to hold his breath to keep from whimpering with need for whiskey. "You drank it all, right?"

"Oh, I finished a couple while you were gone." Alan smiled so big, lax against him. "But O'Reily says he can get me more!"

"No, no more." Toby forced his hands to strip the clothes off him, working against the wiggling and protests. "You stink!"

"You do too!"

"We're both taking showers."

Alan clutched at him. "That's dangerous! And people can see!"

"I got your back," Toby promised, knowing that it might see him dead, but at this point, he had nothing to lose, and Alan did. Before Alan could frantically re-dress, Toby stripped and wrapped them both in towels. "Move it."

"Do we have to?" Alan's blue eyes were wide.

"Yes." Toby felt like parts of his personality were cracking apart, shattering to dust on the prison floor, and he must've looked more than half insane because a shower cleared for him instantly. He cranked it to cold, shoved Alan under the water, and held him tight while he yelled curse words.

When Alan was a ball of shrunken misery, Toby flipped it to hot and let go of him. The warm water and soap sluiced away days of filth, anger, and pain. It almost made Toby feel human again. Alan, trembling, curled in, hogging half the water, and Toby let him.

"I got you, Alan."

"I wish I had faith enough left to believe you," Alan said.

The simple words carved out a space in Toby's gut. Faith was something Oz didn't have, and Toby hadn't even heard the word whispered in longer than he could remember.

"Beecher! Hacks!"

Toby grabbed the soap from the hand of a Biker, shoved him to the glass, and took his water.

The hack yanked open the door, nightstick in hand. "Stupid fucker! Get out when you're done!"

"But he--"

Two words was all it took to let the beating begin, and Toby kindly moved out of the way so the hacks could drag the Biker away. A quick rinse, and he pulled a shivering Alan towards the towels.

"Come on." Toby watched him close, knowing they might not make it upstairs before all that scotch decided to reappear. They both stumbled once or twice, but they got to their pod, and Toby let Alan crawl on his bunk. Tossing the blanket over him, Toby said, "Sleep it off."

"You okay, Toby?" Alan whispered drunkenly.

It was a difficult question to answer, and one that no one asked him any longer. No one cared, not even Toby. He shrugged, looking for a shirt, and when he turned back, Alan was sleeping. It was just as well. Toby had no idea what he was, but he knew it wasn't fine.


When the horn rang for breakfast, Toby yawned before sliding out of his bunk and fumbling towards the sink. Being in the hole always threw his sleep schedule out of whack. He'd be a zombie for a couple of days.

It was then Toby remembered that Alan should be up and puking. Turning quickly, he had a moment's panic at the empty bunk and then he spotted Alan curled into a tight ball in the corner between the bunks and the wall.

Yesterday, Toby had made up his mind that he'd do everything in his power to help that man, but he'd slept since then and old habits whispered that there might be pancakes for breakfast. After a week of nothing but bologna sandwiches, that sounded very good.

"Damn it," Toby whispered. It'd be so easy to walk away. Again. Turn his back on Alan like he had Chris and everyone else. "All I wanted was thirty years of oblivion."

Alan raised his head, tired, drawn, looking one step from collapse. He rubbed his eyes. "All I wanted was thirty years."

Giving up on pancakes, Toby squatted, wrapped his hand around Alan's neck with a gentle squeeze, and rested their foreheads together. He keenly remembered the comfort that the simple gesture had brought him so many fucked up years ago.

"I'm sorry," Toby said, knowing the words wouldn't help, but they were all any person could give the other. Alan clutched Toby's arms, and they got to their feet together.

"No more drinking," Alan said.

"It makes it worse," Toby agreed. "Trust me on that."

A short nod and a grimace, and Alan slowly let him go. "I do." He rubbed his mouth. "I bet you want pancakes after a week "in the hole." He used air quotes.

"I'd shank a Nazi for some." Toby tried a small grin to see if he still could. "Your stomach hurt?"

Shrugging, Alan went to the sink to brush his teeth. "Go on."

"I can wait." Toby was surprised that it was true. He didn't mind. "We'll go eat together and then I'll walk you to work."

Alan's eyes widened a little. "You sure?"

"Very sure. I still can't believe you're alive, but since you are, I got your back. Somehow, we're going to get you out of here alive." Toby wasn't sure how.

"Won't be easy," Alan said with considerable scorn.

"Can't hurt to try." Toby leaned against the shut door, shoving his hands in his pockets. He watched him get ready, not sure he was making the right choice, as usual. Trying to do the right thing almost always got him shanked and someone dead. "Hey, you know, I have a bad track record."

Hair wet, hands steady, pants zipped, Alan made a gesture at the door, and Toby opened it wide. They stepped out, but they both paused. Alan glanced out over the balcony. He rubbed his face and grimaced.

"I promised Denny that I'd never share a balcony with anyone else."

For some reason, Toby understood, and memories of New Year's Eve flooded over him. "Don't worry. We're not sharing. I'm always waiting for you to fall."

Alan took a step away from it, eyes darting here and there. "It's a rotten view anyway."

"Especially looking down." Toby caught him by the arm. "Pancakes."

"Right." Alan swallowed hard, and they moved together towards the stairs and the cafeteria. "Do I want to know what goes on in the hole?"

"No, you don't." Toby picked up the pace but made sure that Alan stayed with him. They were near the back of the line, and enough men were staring that Toby figured it was time to let them know how it was going to be. He put his arm around Alan's neck, pulled him close, and kissed him on the temple.

The noise level dropped and then surged louder. Alan said, "Did you just scent claim me?"

"Yes. It's my new plan to keep you alive." Toby rolled his eyes. "You mind?"

"Not really." Alan shuffled forward a few steps. "If I get killed, are you going to feel responsible?"

Toby turned the other way, stretching his neck to look for O'Reily. He would never answer that particular question because either answer might be a lie. If it happened, he'd know then, and he'd have years to feel that way.

"Beecher!" O'Reily emerged from the front of the line, and Toby kept a hold on Alan, basically dragging him along. Toby shoved twice, flashed his best grin, and settled into place in front of O'Reily.

"No more booze for Shore here," Toby snapped. "Got it?"

O'Reily narrowed his eyes. "He's a good customer."

"We'll buy something else from you, but no more booze." Toby had to nudge Alan to get him to take another step.

"I can't fucking believe it." O'Reily reached, grabbed a tray, and slapped Alan hard in the chest with it. "You're taking him on."

"I had time to think in the hole." Toby got his own tray, going down the line. "We get Shore out of here alive maybe he'll bring us socks or something." He nearly laughed, choking it back and guarding his sausage from O'Reily.

"I can hear, you know that, right?" Alan asked in a calm voice. He waited so he could follow Toby to the table. When they were sitting, he asked, "So I'm your bitch. Why aren't I panicking?"

"Because he ain't a Nazi," O'Reily said.

Toby rolled his eyes, but on the inside, he agreed. "We'll stick together for a couple of days, and people will back off. That's all."

"Or Toby will shank them," O'Reily said with a nod. "You might have to do his laundry once or twice."

"I'd be happy to send everything out to the dry cleaners." Alan kept his free hand near his tray now to protect his food from Toby's fork. Toby considered trying for some anyway, but he was busy eating, almost feeling human again. He didn't have anything to be optimistic about or happy about, but the day could've been worse.

"Toby?" Alan flipped him a sausage. "Thanks."

"We'll see what you say later." Toby was going to get Alan out of Oz. Do one good thing, just one, and then, if he was still alive, he'd put everything on the scales and see where he stood. He ate the sausage, keeping watch for trouble.


"You're sure you couldn't stick around for a few minutes?" Alan didn't open Sister Pete's door, practically hanging his head like a naughty boy.

Toby had a feeling he knew what this was about. "She'll lay on the guilt for you getting drunk. Nod and look sad, even pitiful. Tell her that I banned whiskey from our pod, and you're on the straight and narrow now."

"Will that work?" Alan looked a little hopeful.

"Might. She's still going to pile it on, you idiot." Toby opened the door wide for him. "Have fun."

"I feel like I'm being sent to the nuns for… oh, never mind."

"Exactly." Toby waved at Sister Pete, who already looked down her glasses at them both. He got moving towards the library before she could start yapping at him.

The library had a backlog of books to shelve, and he was happy to do it. The hours passed quickly, and he made sure to be at Sister Pete's door when Alan stepped out, took a deep breath, and put his hand on his heart.

"She's making me go to confession and communion," Alan said mournfully.

That answered the question of whether or not Alan was a Catholic. Toby nudged him to get him moving down the hallway before the hack started complaining. "Father Mukada is an okay guy. Keep it simple and you'll do fine. Don't discuss your court case."

Alan made a noise of disbelief. "He's a priest!" Then he waved his hand dismissively. "But I see your point. My point is that I'd rather be flayed alive!"

"You have to work for her every day. Every day," Toby intoned, trying for a voice of doom.

"Shit," Alan grumbled. "I should've stayed drunk. Prison didn't seem so bad then."

"Sober is a cruel mistress." Toby stopped right inside the arch. "Lunch or TV?"

"TV," Alan grumbled. "I don't want to eat before confession."

Toby caught himself laughing, stopped, and slumped down in a chair. "I like the library. You did me a favor by being so neurotic. Of course, people get shanked in there occasionally, but mostly it's quiet."

"Glad to help," Alan said dryly. "When do I do your laundry?"

"We'll go later." Toby wasn't letting him go alone. "What happened while I was in the hole? Anyone die?"

Settling back, Alan crossed his legs. "Every day, a guard, or hack if you prefer, would escort me to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I was allowed to go to work or take a shower. Other than that, I stayed in the pod, or as I call it now, 'The Pod from Hell.'"

"I guess McManus took me seriously when I told him they'd kill you." Toby was surprised at that. It had to be the first time McManus had ever listened to good advice and acted on it. "Still, you got totally drunk."

"No one seems to care if you stagger around drunk." Alan sighed loudly. "As much as Denny loved FOX News, I would prefer to watch anything else."

"Wouldn't we all." Toby scanned the room, making sure they were safe. "Just watch their tits. Chris loved their tits."

Alan swiveled to stare right at him. "Chris? Chris Keller?"

Wanting to slink upstairs, Toby went with a bare nod, refusing to take his eyes off the screen. He hadn't spoken Chris' name in casual conversation to anyone in forever.

"O'Reily said you killed him," Alan said softly, leaning towards him. "Like I killed Denny."

Furious, Toby clapped his hand over Alan's mouth. "Stop." He jerked his hand away. "You're on appeal, you idiot."

Very calmly, Alan got to his feet. "Maybe I don't give a damn." He made it almost to the stairs before Toby's pure anger propelled him up and after him. Shoving Alan hard rotated him enough for Toby to grab him and shake him.

"You damn well better care! You want to be here until they take you out in a box? You want to spend every day staring at glass walls?"

"I don't have anyone left!" Alan yelled right in Toby's face.

"Break it up!" The hack pushed them apart. Alan nearly fell on his ass, and Toby hit the wall of the nearest pod.

"So you curl up and die? Never take flowers to his grave? Never touch his tombstone and tell him how fucking sorry you are?" Toby threw the words at him like stones. "Is that what you want?"

All the color drained from Alan's face, and he sat down hard on the stairs.

"That is fucking enough." The hack slapped Toby in the stomach with his nightstick, driving him to the floor. Gasping for air, seeing blobs of color, Toby didn't struggle as he was dragged to the cage and thrown inside. He hit the chain link hard, sliding down into a ball. His lungs wheezed, begging for air.

"Fuck," he gasped. He turned enough to see the hacks force Alan up the stairs and into their pod. He'd stay there. Toby put his face down on his knees, hating them all. They were idiots, tools, and morons, and he and Chris hadn't killed near enough of them.


"You're starting to piss me off, Beecher," Querns said. "I'm regretting giving you nice things to play with."

Staying curled up, Toby listened to him pacing around the cage. Talking to him would encourage him to gloat or rant, and Toby didn't want to hear either. Em City was mostly dark, count had been hours ago, and Querns was out running the prison like a rat.

"If you can't have nice things, I may have to give him to someone who'll appreciate his lawyer charms." Querns oozed his threat out, sounding almost proud of himself.

Knowing what Querns wanted, Toby pushed himself into a sitting position. "I'm sorry."


"I appreciate what you did for me. I'll behave." Toby nearly choked on the words, but nobody crossed Querns and lived to tell about it. He didn't care so much about his own life, but damn it, Alan was getting out, saving himself. Toby took the silence to mean he should add more. "If you'd turn off FOX news, this wouldn't have happened. That channel pisses me off."

Querns laughed. "This is prison, Beecher. You're supposed to be punished."

"Asshole," Toby grumbled, leaning back and shoving his feet out to brace himself. "I'll try harder."

"Do that, or he's gone to Gen Pop. I'm pretty sure the judge wanted him dead, and I can arrange that," Querns said.

Querns started for the stairs that led to the guard station, saying nothing else. Toby tilted his head back and listened to the fading footfalls. He'd have to be so careful, or Alan would end up dead. Querns loved games, loved screwing both sides of the system. The guy had serious issues, and they thought Toby was nuts.

Down the row, someone started banging on the glass, and up there, someone yelled, and Toby shut his eyes against it all.


They jerked him out of the cage not long after the horn rang. For a second, his legs didn't cooperate and he would've fallen on his ass if Alan hadn't caught him.

"I'm sorry," Alan said, gripping him tightly. "I screwed up."

Toby forced his legs to straight, gently untangled himself, and then stumbled towards the cafeteria. When they were out of earshot of the scowling hacks, he said, "I screwed up too. Now listen, and I mean listen. No more trouble from either of us, or Querns is moving you to Gen Pop."

Alan stopped walking altogether. "I won't last five minutes."

"I'd say more like three." Toby grabbed him by the arm and walked faster. "It's his game to punish me, and as a side benefit, you end up dead."

"That hardly seems fair." Alan fell into line right behind Toby. The line was a short one, and Toby's stomach growled. He didn't care what they were serving. He was eating it. Alan stayed close enough to bump. "I decided that I do care whether or not I get out."

"You sure as hell better, or I'll shank you myself." Toby glared, handing him a tray. "Got it?"

"I think I do." Alan nodded. "I appreciate you helping me to understand what's at stake."

"Your life." Toby took as much as they'd let him and stole an extra milk. After he sat down, he drank it all before saying, "You can still have a life, Alan. Don't throw that away for this pile of shit."

"I understand now." Alan pushed some food on Toby's plate. "Denny would tell me to stop whining and get the hell out of here."

"He was always a winner." Toby saw those words make Alan flinch and called it good. He ate until his stomach groaned, drinking everything he could get his hands on and then letting Alan take the trays.

O'Reily made his appearance while Alan was busy. "I saw Querns messing with you."

"He should be in a cell, not running the place." Toby took a long stretch. An idea sparked in his crazy head, and he went with it. "You know Shore's Irish, right?"

"He is?" O'Reily stared after him.

"And Catholic." Toby pressed the point home. "He gets whacked, and you're gonna look bad too."

They watched Shore make his way back to them, taking a shove from a Nazi. Toby had one more thing to say, "Think of the money."

Even with that incentive, suspicion glinted across O'Reily's face. "Shore, you Irish?"

"More Irish than not. You have seen me drink." Alan flashed a grin. "Boston is full of Irish like myself."

Very slowly, O'Reily relaxed, and Toby knew he had help keeping Alan alive long enough to get out. O'Reily stuck out his hand and spat on it. "Irish."

Alan swallowed hard, spat on his hand, and matched him, shaking hands firmly. "I really need to wash now."

"Later. Let me introduce you to the guys." O'Reily pulled Alan away, and Toby trailed after them, not too close. The Irish averaged about five guys, and they were all devoted to O'Reily and his mission to sell everything to everyone at a grossly inflated price. Alan didn't exactly fit in, but he had a sarcastic Irish accent and his knowledge of the Red Sox earned him points.

O'Reily stole some money right from Alan's pocket, everyone laughed, and Alan very wisely didn't demand it back. He'd be paying regularly now that he was Irish. Toby was more relieved than he'd admit. Strength in numbers, and he had a reputation for insanity, not much else.

When Alan met Toby's eyes, Toby went to rescue him and drag him to work.

"I'm surprised you know anything about baseball," Toby said, keeping his hand near Alan's back to send a clear message of ownership.

After a short laugh, Alan spoke softly. "Denny made me watch the games. He loved sports. I enjoyed the tight pants."

"It all comes back to Denny, doesn't it?"

"Indeed it does." Alan opened the door, Toby tossed a salute to Sister Pete, and she tried to level him with a glare. He grinned and went to the library to hide for a few hours.


The screaming threw Toby out of his bunk, and he landed hard on the floor, yelping in pain. Launching himself up, he landed on top of Alan, who was fighting his blanket, putting his hand directly over Alan's yelling mouth.

"Alan! Alan!" Toby knew a night terror when he saw one, but he'd never seen someone scream so loud his ears wanted to bleed. Shaking him hard, Toby prayed the hacks were far enough away that the sound would echo, not lead them right here.

"No! No! No!" Alan fought like tiger, clawing and biting, and Toby slapped him viciously across the face. Stunned, Alan froze, eyes wide, mouth open, and then he cursed, "Damn it!"

"Yeah, you went nuts." Toby could smell the sweat, getting off him and tossing the blanket aside. Alan's T-shirt was soaked, and Toby got him a dry one. Flashbacks teased at Toby, but he firmly pushed them away. Everyone in prison had problems sleeping. Alan gasped for air like a fish, staggering up and ripping off his sweaty shirt.

"Thanks," he mumbled, sliding on the clean shirt, not meeting Toby's eyes.

Toby's good sense told him to get back on his bunk. Toby never listened, and he stepped close to him, offering comfort. Alan raised his shaking hands as if to push him away, but then grabbed and pulled him so close.

"I'm sorry," Alan said.

"It's okay," Toby said, now his hands were trembling. Every day of his life in Oz, he was shoved, pushed, jerked, and punched, but no one ever held him as if he were fragile, wanted. His breath came fast, and he nudged Alan at the bunk. "We should lie down."

"Together? You won't leave?" Alan had a hitch in his voice.

"I won't." Toby shifted his grip, stroking him, wrapping them together on the small bunk.

"Denny slept with me. We had a rope." Alan laughed brokenly. "He was crazy enough to let me be crazy."

"I know you miss him." Toby wiggled until they were more comfortable. The light of the hack flashed by but he kept moving, and Toby relaxed. Being next to someone else felt strange, like he was somewhere he shouldn't be. Skin on skin, warm, and he kept his hands still, instead of exploring. "I miss Chris too. He was a terrible human being, but I loved him."

"I thought so. Your eyes went far away when you said his name." Alan twisted and suddenly they were spooning. Alan's body was tight up against him. "Denny used to snore like a pig."

Toby tried not to groan. Forcing himself to think, he asked, "That loud?"

"I liked it, but he did sound just like a pig." Alan laughed very softly. "Are you okay with this? I know we're in prison but that's no excuse for bad manners."

"Yeah," Toby breathed, but he wasn't okay. He felt like his back, shirt and all, was on fire, and his thighs, and every inch of his body tingled. "I haven't touched someone in so damn long," he whispered.

Slow, even breaths answered him. Alan slept, and Toby burned.


It was hard to find any words the next day, and for once, Alan said little also. They ate, they went to work, and they watched television, quietly. It was only during lunch, nothing better than nuggets, that Toby broke the silence.

"Let's hit the gym."

Alan straightened up, eyes wide. "Me?"

"We should stick together." Toby kept it simple. "You gonna eat that?"


"Me neither."

The gym wasn't as busy as usual, but Toby kept Alan in sight as they went through Toby's regular routine. Alan didn't actually do anything, but he watched and occasionally commented. Sweat ran down Toby's chest, and he focused on that, nothing else.

"Why exactly do the Bikers hate me?" Alan asked, moving around to Toby's other side.

"You're a lawyer. They hate me too." Toby racked the weights, stripping off his shirt to wipe his face with it. "Enough. We need showers, and then we should have time for you to go to confession."

Groaning, Alan beat Toby out the door. "Are you going to hold my hand all day?"

Stopping, Toby put on his dirty shirt. "Until you're gone from this shitty place."

Looking down and away, Alan frowned. "I don't want you thinking you're responsible for me."

"You don't get to make that decision." Toby got behind him and propelled him towards their pod and eventually the shower. "This is prison. I'm in charge. You're the prag."

Alan slogged along, complaining about prison rules and how he should be exempt every step of the way. Toby laughed twice, once at himself for giving up his silence when it would be so fucking hard to swallow it when it descended on him again.



"Every night? Where do they think we'll go?"

"You'd be surprised." Toby smiled, thinking of tunnels and crazy old men. He would never admit that considering its start, he'd had a decent day. No one had gotten killed, and he'd avoided the hacks. Chris would've called it a win.

"I hate these hours before lights out," Alan muttered when the door locked.

Toby had noticed that, but he hadn't actually cared until today. All in all, Alan wasn't so bad, even if he did talk a lot, and hum when he thought no one was listening.

"We could play chess," Toby tentatively offered. He hadn't in a long time, and he wasn't sure he wanted to, but it was better than talking.

Pivoting, Alan gave him a long stare. "Only if you want."

Shrugging, trying to act like it made no difference, he opened the trunk and dug to the bottom. The set was there, under a blanket that his mother had sent him before she'd died. "I think I'm missing a pawn."

They ended up on the top bunk with the chess board between them because neither of them wanted to sit on the floor. Toby arranged the pieces, giving Alan white and spotting him the missing pawn.

"You're that good?"

"You'll find out, won't you?" Toby challenged him. "If I win, I get your pancakes."

"If I win, I get your book."

Toby glared, not wanting to give that up. "You're on."

Alan grinned confidently, moving his pawn forward two square. "There's only one good book in this place and you keep it under lock and key."

"Because it's mine." Toby might never take it back, and since he'd doctored the records, no one would know. He moved his own pawn and started planning his game. A few stray memories of Chris' frustration tugged at him, but all he wanted to do right now was win pancakes, not think about Chris.

The battle raged across the board, and Toby made a note never to spot him a pawn again. They both leaned in to every move, watching like hawks, but Toby didn't worry until he lost his bishop.

"I'm going to win," Alan gloated.

"Chris used to throw the board in the air," Toby warned. He countered with a quick move and snatched Alan's knight. "I love pancakes."

"I like watching you complain when you don't get mine." Alan lazily moved a pawn as if he didn't have a care in the world.

Toby went for the easy kill and then stopped. He met Alan's eyes and squinted. Alan raised his eyebrows, and Toby casually moved his queen instead. "Check."

The silence from Alan reeked of frustration. "I can see you're better than most."

"Better than you." Toby flicked his tongue out, grinning when Alan grimaced. "You quit?"

"I did that once this year. Not again." Alan's hand drifted over the board. He nudged his bishop two spaces, blocking the check and protecting his queen at the same time. "O'Reily said you suck at cards."

"This isn't cards." Toby studied the board. "This game plays to my strengths."

"So you admit you're sneaky." Alan smirked at him. "A sneaky, sausage-stealing bastard."

"My parents were married." Toby paused. "Were yours? Oh, and check," he said, moving his knight into position. "Your days of winning are over."

"Not quite yet." Alan moved decisively now, and Toby countered, and their hands flew across the board until almost nothing of either side remained. Toby glared down in irritation, and Alan laughed. "I believe this is a draw."

Toby almost threw the board in the air. "I had you."

"How do you know that wasn't part of my plan?" Alan lifted the board, sliding the pieces off onto the bunk between them. "I was taking your measure."

They shared a glare and then laughed. Toby relaxed, leaning back against the glass. He almost felt happy and guilt immediately followed. Balance restored, he decided to be magnanimous even though he hadn't won.

"Hand me the book. I'll read you a chapter."

"I win after all."

When the lights clicked off, and the horn rang, they both flinched in surprise. One at a time, they cleaned up and got on their respective bunks. Toby laced his fingers behind his head and stared up at the familiar shadow patterns. He listened to Alan breathe and shift about, and he waited until the hack had gone passed twice.

"You want company?" Toby asked softly. "The hack is done for the night."

The answer came immediately. "You're sure?"

"Positive. The night shift hacks are lazy asses." Toby didn't move yet. He heard Alan move over and a whispered please and only then did he ease off the bunk. "You need your sleep."

"No rope, but this will help." Alan spooned around him again. "I'm sorry but you feel good."

Toby choked on any answer, forcing himself to stay still. He didn't trust his body not to thrust and push at any given excuse. Chris would understand.

"Thank you," Alan said, and Toby once again listened to him fall asleep. This didn't mean anything, not a damn thing, but Alan was right, it felt good.

Long before the horn rang, Toby woke up with Alan's cock poking him through his thin boxers. It sure as hell wasn't the first time for that, and Toby was well within his rights to demand a blowjob. He tried to remember the last time he'd had sex with anyone, male or female. Memories of Chris: hands, mouth, ass, and beautiful sucking assailed him, driving out other thoughts.

"You need a minute?"

Thrown out of his fantasy, Toby jerked around, nearly shoving his elbow up Alan's nose. "Sorry?"

"For a loner, psychopath, introvert, and bibliophile, you're remarkably kind. I mean, I know you'd still shank me for a sausage, but seriously, you're nice."

Toby punched him in the arm. "I'm not a psychopath!"

Alan laughed softly, and they relaxed against each other again. "Also I probably shouldn't mention sausage in this awkward situation."

"What did Denny think about your sausage?" Toby shut his eyes, tried not to move his hips, and ignored the brush of a kiss against his temple. He heard a small sigh.

"We never shared that aspect of our affection." Alan slid his hand down Toby's thigh. "I never got up the nerve to ask, and we didn't have the fortune of being in prison together. One of the many regrets I carry."

"Can't have enough of those I always say." Toby hesitated, not sure what to do or what he wanted from Alan. Chris had always been firmly in charge, roving hands and mouth, and Toby had done his part by cooperating fully. With everyone else… Toby tried to remember sex with Barlog, but came up blank. Some tiny part of him whispered that he should be ashamed, but he could barely breathe from the touches on his bare skin.

The lights clicked on, the horn blasted, and Alan fell off the bunk, smacking the floor. Toby stretched, yawned, and said, "Smooth, Alan, real smooth."

"Denny would be very disappointed in me."


"My wife and I used to do the laundry together."

"Let me guess, you watched." Toby sorted everything into two loads. "My wife hated the laundry. We had a maid."

Alan didn't move from his chair to help. "You were married?"

Toby nodded, shrugging and not caring to talk about it. He tossed in some soap and started the machines, going to sit one chair away. Stretching out, Toby kept a watch for hacks. For some reason, they had a thing against laundry, or it was just a convenient place to kick some ass. He wasn't impressed with this latest crop of hacks and their tasers. Nightsticks were much more effective. They left bruises that hurt for days. Case in point, Toby's stomach.

"Was she pretty?" Alan interrupted Toby's thoughts.

"Sure." Toby looked everywhere but at Alan. Sometimes, Toby couldn't remember what she'd looked like, and he was deeply ashamed of that. "Yours?"

"Yes. I miss her." Alan shifted but didn't move closer. "Do we have to stay here?"

"Do you want your clothes back?" Toby lifted his shirt to look at his bruises. "Hey, they're green."

Alan leaned far enough over to get a good view. "Indeed, they are. Weren't you angry at me for that whole cage debacle?"

"My fault. I should've walked away." Toby tugged his shirt down. He didn't want to discuss their previous argument. Alan had gotten the point, and that was all that mattered. Casting about for something to say, Toby tried to put some shock into Alan's day. "My friend, Shemin, was killed in here. Blood everywhere."

"I'm fairly certain that you're trying to distract me from asking any more questions about your wife." Alan now glanced away. "But I don't want to discuss mine either. It's enough that I still miss her."

Toby stayed quiet, not wanting to say that he hadn't missed Guinevere for years. He missed his kids like a hole in his heart, but he would never talk about that. He might break down, cry, and that would be a disaster. Stuffing his emotions further down, he crossed his legs and considered talking about the weather. This was why he should never go anywhere without a book.

"Denny had sex wives, and he loved them all." Alan broke the silence, coming back to his favorite topic, and Toby could admit it was more interesting than the weather. As long as they talked about Denny Crane, Toby would be fine.

"Did you count yourself?" Toby couldn't help asking, curious.

"No," Alan said and then laughed in a self-deprecating way. "But I know he loved me."

Toby wouldn't argue the point, even if it sounded ridiculous when said aloud. He fiddled with the seam of his pants where he kept his shank and wished he'd brought something to do. There was no way he was leaving Alan alone long enough to get a book. Bad things happened in the laundry room all the time.

"Chris had three wives - one he married twice." Toby felt strange, talking about Chris with anyone, but Alan hadn't known him and that left Toby plenty of ways to gloss over the terrible parts.

"But he didn't marry you?" Alan asked with a small twinkle in his eye.

The right reaction wasn't laughter, but Toby laughed and slid off the chair to go hop up on the table. Images of Chris smirked, so sure he was sexy, and he was. Toby missed him like a punch to the gut every day, but he shouldn't discuss their relationship. It wouldn't make sense to an outsider. Hell, it had never made sense to Toby. It had been about dark things, deeper than love and commitment, and he envied Alan for his easy love with Denny.

"He didn't want to marry me. He wanted to own me," Toby said, finding an answer that fit, trying to sound bitter and failing.

"Did he?" Alan challenged, safe across the room.

The truth came out of Toby's mouth before he could stop it. "Most days, he did." He forced himself to stay still, relaxed, and not throw chairs at the wall. Chris was gone. It was over, and he would rot in here until he died. "God damn him."

Almost casually, Alan stood and strolled over to a point about four feet from the table. Toby leaned back on his arms, letting him know to stay away. Alan stuffed his hands in his pockets and eyed him. Toby had been eye-fucked more times than he could count, but he wasn't in the mood right now.

"I'm sorry," Alan said unexpectedly. He met Toby's eyes firmly, no trace of pity. "That you still care. It can't be easy."

"No," Toby said softly, not sure he liked the fact that Alan understood. He eased forward, feeling less angry and more like a fool. "I should've known better than to care about him."

"Sometimes we can't help ourselves." Alan shuffled closer. "They get under our skin and stay there."

Toby just nodded around the lump in his throat. Desperate, he searched for something to say that would make him look tough, look like he didn't care about anything. It would've been so easy last month, but now he had to force it.

"You want under my skin?" Toby asked in a husky voice.

"While I am certain that Denny would be both appalled and delighted for me, yes." Alan sighed mournfully. "I hated letting him down."

"Did you? At the end?" Toby didn't lean away when Alan took two more steps. An arm's length separated them, but it might've been miles.

Alan blinked several times, mouth turning down. "I followed his last wishes. I have no regrets."

And that was something Toby could never say, feel, and he wouldn't have been human if he hadn't pulled Alan close to comfort him. Stiff as a board, Alan stood in the circle of Toby's arms.

"Assholes! Keep your hands to yourself!"

Pushing him back, Toby smiled his best at the hack. A glare, another mindless threat, and the hack marched off. Alan turned, leaned his butt against the table, and crossed his arms.

"I feel like I shouldn't hate them," Alan said.

"Stick around long enough and you'll forget you were part of our wonderful judicial system. All you remember is that you're stuck in our fucked-up penal system." Toby shifted his hips enough to nudge him. "You should see your lawyer soon. Make sure they're working on your case."

"She is." Alan put his hand down and gently gripped Toby's calf. "You should've brought your book."

"You should've brought the chess set," Toby snapped right back, but he liked the simple touch, wanting more tonight when the lights were out. "Then we wouldn't be discussing this crap."

They both heard the washers click off, and Toby sighed as he slid down. "Thank God."

Alan laughed softly. "We should stick to chess and rolling around in bed together."

Toby opened the washers and pointed. "Get that." He started throwing clothes when Alan had it open. When he was done, Alan got it spinning. Toby watched for a second, thinking it all over, and he had to make one thing clear.

"We can roll around, but we sure as fuck won't be getting married."

Alan jerked a little and then turned towards the doorway. Toby had meant to shake him up, give him a reality check. They wouldn't ever have a relationship or even much of a friendship, but they could have the occasional good time in the dark.

"Alan, you're getting out of this hellhole," Toby said, trying to sound reasonable, not harsh. "Don't put more on me than I can bear to live with when you're gone from here."

Twisting back, Alan had lost all the color in his face. "I… hadn't thought of it that way. I'm sorry." He was out the door, striding towards the quad before Toby could jump down to stop him. There was no damn way he wanted to do all this laundry by himself.


Toby paid a prag to help him get everything back upstairs.

"Throw that shit on the lower bunk," he said, still angry. There were rules about laundry, damn it, and he should've tossed Alan's stuff in the trash.

"Money?" The prag snapped his fingers.

Handing it bover, Toby got the door for him so he'd leave faster. The pod looked like a damn pig sty, and Alan would never do anything about it. The jerk lived out of hotels, or so he said, and Toby believed it. Grumbling, Toby began to pick up, clean, and put his own clothes away neatly.

If Alan was off getting raped in a supply closet, it wasn't Toby's fault, damn it.

When he finished, still grumbling, he wandered out to the railing to stare down at the other losers. It was late enough that he could go eat, but he wasn't hungry for slop.

Toby knew what Chris would have said about all this - fuck Alan's ass but good and then laugh it off when he left. Chris had been an expert at throwing people away, even people he loved. Toby sucked at it. His talents lay more in the area of getting people killed, especially if he cared about them.

The Bikers strolled across the quad, shooting him a few glares and middle fingers, but he pretended they weren't there. The Nazis were a bunch of pussies now. The power had shifted away from them, and it was the Bikers who tried to rule the quad, squabbling with the Italians over drugs and beating up the Homeboys caught alone. O'Reily had a shaky truce with the Bikers, but that could be over now that Alan was Irish.

Prison politics were beyond fucked up, and he'd learned to play them cautiously and only if lives - like his - were on the line. Even then, he usually screwed it up. Keeping Alan out of it was the best way to keep him alive, but Toby had also learned over the years that staying above the fray was damn near impossible. Disgusted, he went back to his bunk and his book. They could all kiss his ass.


Alan didn't turn up until count, trailing into the quad in the middle of a small pack of Irish. Toby did his best to not to notice or care, not looking right at him, but he was relieved.

"Line up, you fuckers!"

They stood, side by side, eyes not meeting, and Toby was damn glad he hadn't finished his book because it was going to be a long evening until lights out. Part of him was relieved that Alan finally understood, and the other part felt like a real shit. He should've just kept his mouth shut.

The door shut and clicked, and Toby prayed they weren't going to talk about it.

"I went to confession."

The irony of that made Toby roll his eyes. God continued to mock him, even in small ways.

"I did what you said." Alan rolled onto his bunk, sprawling on the clean clothes. "Father Mukada was nice enough, but I hope he realizes that there is no way I'm doing a thousand Hail Mary's."

"What else are you gonna do?" Toby climbed up on his bunk and lay flat, lacing his hands behind his head. "How many Our Father's?"

"Three hundred." Alan sounded amused more than anything. "I won't be doing those either."

"Then you better lie your ass off to Sister Pete." In his head, Toby counted the days since Alan had been dropped in Em City and came up with almost two weeks. Not near long enough, considering how vulnerable he was to sudden death by Biker. "The Bikers give you any trouble today?"

"They're pissed at O'Reily for protecting me." Alan shifted on the bunk. "Why didn't you toss my laundry in the trash? O'Reily said you would."

Toby thought about it a minute, hoping that Alan felt guilty. "I'm not that big of a dick, I guess, and those'll be my clothes when you leave."

"Like I said, you're a nice guy." Alan sighed loudly. "And your genitalia is far from small."

"Glad you noticed." Toby rubbed himself. Before Alan had been thrown in with him, Toby had decided that sex was too risky. Now, or as soon as the lights went out, Toby would take what he could get. It wouldn't mean anything. Alan would winc his appeal and be gone soon enough.

"I thought… no, never mind. Sex, no strings, no commitments."

"And no talking about it the next day." Toby didn't figure Alan could manage that part. "Deal?"

"I have to think about it," Alan said slowly. "I usually have one-night stands and sneak out before the sun comes up."

"Good luck with that here." Toby believed every word of that, but at the same time, he knew that Alan had been fully committed to Denny. He also knew that Alan would never have another relationship to match that one, nor would he want it. Toby shifted his cock. "I'm clean. Tested again six months ago."

"There is no way I believe you, and you shouldn't believe a word of mine on that subject." Alan got off the bunks, reaching back for a shirt. "I guess I thought we'd be friends, but sex would put the kibosh on that."

Toby put an arm over his eyes. "No matter whether we have sex or not, we'll never be friends. No such thing in Oz, that's what I've been trying to explain to you!"

"Ah. I see that now. My bad, as they say."

Something hit the glass but Toby didn't move to see. "Be honest with yourself, Alan. You don't want a friend. You're upset because you lost Denny and you're grabbing for everyone who strolls by. Trust me, I've been there."

"Yes, if it's sad and a tragedy, you've done it. I know!" Alan sounded furious now. "You care, except you don't. You want sex, as long as there's no emotional attachment, and you'll watch out for me, except when you don't! I get it! You're totally fucked up!"

Fast, Toby jumped down from the bunk and put himself right in Alan's air space. "Now you understand!"

Alan's breath touched Toby's lips. "You're like me. Before Denny changed me."

"You were a better man for him. For the rest of us, you're still a jerk." Toby pointed at the laundry pile. "May I present exhibit A!"

They stared into each other's eyes, both breathing hard, and Toby wanted to punch him, or fuck him. Alan broke away, going to the door and when he turned back, he was laughing.

Toby grinned, but he wasn't feeling it. "Wchat?"

"You're right, absolutely right." And he sat down, right on the floor, still laughing. After a minute of watching him laugh, Toby got it. It was time for the obligatory Oz breakdown. Toby would admit that Alan had made it longer than Toby had, but then again, Vern was dead.


The whimpering and gasping for air woke him up, and Toby didn't hesitate. He crawled down off his bunk and onto the bottom one. Alan immediately stopped fussing and spooned around him. It was barely possible that this wasn't about sex, not really. Alan cuddled him close and whispered, "Thanks, Denny."

Toby wisely didn't answer. He shut his eyes, letting someone else's warmth put him to sleep, and not for even one second did he pretend it was Chris.


The shadows were the same when Toby woke up, but his highly-tuned prison clock whispered that it wouldn't be long until the horn rang. Alan still had him wrapped tight, any tighter and they'd be fucking. Toby didn't mind.

Until Alan won his appeal, they'd sleep like this - it was a foregone conclusion - and Toby would shamelessly enjoy the touch as long as he could.

It was sick, wrong, and he should go to his own bunk, but he'd been so lonely, and he would be again. Alan was as safe as a one-night stand. Chris would understand.

"Awake already?" Alan said very softly.

"Yeah," Toby breathed. He didn't press back. "You were right. I am fucked up."

"You've earned it." Alan kissed the back of Toby's neck. "Carpe diem, Toby. We may not get another one in this crazy place."

Toby slipped his hand down Alan's arm to wrap their hands together. "I've tried to be a good man in here, but I've always failed miserably. I finally stopped trying and you showed up, needing help. Fucking typical."

Gently, Alan bit Toby's neck, sending shivers through him. "Have you tried to be a bad man too?"

"That's easier than you'd think." Toby liked the way Alan heard the unspoken words. Now Toby pressed back, wanting more and maybe a bit rough. Alan kept hold of Toby's hand but groped across and down until they were both holding Toby's cock. Toby nearly came instantly, but he pushed his orgasm away; thinking of Vern always did the trick.

"I'm clean too," Alan whispered, but Toby didn't waste time believing him. Alan had been right on that subject, and it didn't really matter because Toby had never played it safe when it came to sex. He didn't fool himself that he'd start now. It felt too good, and he liked it too much, and he'd always been a risk-taker. That's how he'd killed a little girl and ended up in Oz.

Alan moved their hands up and down Toby's cock, twining it all together. "You're thinking so hard I can smell smoke."

"Feels good. That's all that matters." Toby grunted, pushing up into the fist they'd made. Alan delicately licked the curl of Toby's ear, and Toby tried not to moan too loudly. He leaked pre-come over their hands, making it slicker, and shut his eyes to enjoy every second. Alan's cock pressed into the crack of Toby's ass when he moved his hips backwards. That felt good too, and Toby wanted more than this. He wanted to feel good for hours and wake up sated, drowsy, and a touch achy from it all.

But right now, after so many nights with just his own hand to keep him company, this was pretty damn good. Alan kissed and nibbled Toby's neck and shoulder, whispering filthy things they could do next time, and Toby started to lose it. He needed this so much.

Hot, wet tongue went into Toby's ear, and he arched his back, crying out nonsense words as he came hard enough to see stars behind his screwed-up eyelids.

The horn rang, the lights clicked on, and Toby didn't give a damn. The heat against his back melted away, and he dimly heard water running. He wiggled to the edge and stalked his prey to the corner. Alan's mouth smirked for one instant before Toby kissed him, using his tongue to his advantage.

Jerking away, Alan sucked some air. "The hacks--"

"Never get up here in the morning unless there's trouble." Toby mouthed Alan's neck, working his way down and leaving wet marks on the T-shirt. Alan laced a hand into Toby's hair, but he didn't pull. If he had, Toby would've punched him. Thrown off his stride for a moment, Toby looked up. "Ready?"

b"So ready," Alan said. He fumbled his cock out of his boxers, and Toby took one quick look - not a bad size - before thrusting his mouth down over the length of him. Alan gasped, seemed to tremble, and Toby did it quick and dirty, not giving him even a second to catch his breath.

"You're… killing me!" Alan choked out, and then Toby swallowed the first of it. He caught the rest in his mouth and stood up to return it to its rightful owner. Alan sucked Toby's tongue clean, slumping against the wall. When Toby pulled back with a grin, Alan sat down hard on the toilet.

The door shoved open, and O'Reily laughed. "You two finished? I need some money from my Irish."

Toby wiped his mouth with his shirt. Shrugging, he wandered back to the bunks and sat down on the bottom one. He felt calm, almost relaxed, and he wanted more soon.

"You look stoned," O'Reily said.

Alan fumbled his way into his pants, grumbling about early hours and annoying horns, and O'Reily stood there with a dirty smile on his face. Toby flopped back, idly caressed his cock through his boxers, and licked his lips.

"And that, Alan, is why everyone wanted Toby for their prag." O'Reily opened the door. "Come on. We got business before work."

Toby knew, intellectually, he should be pounding O'Reily's face in for that insult, but he felt good for the fibrst time in a damn long time, and he was going to wallow in it. He'd be offended later that everyone knew he gave the best blowjobs Oz had ever seen.


"Chess tonight, Toby?" Alan asked.

"Sure." Toby finished brushing his teeth while Alan dug out the board. He wiped his mouth on a towel, and they climbed up on the top bunk as usual. "What's the score?"

"Twelve wins for me. Thirteen wins for you and six draws, as if you didn't know." Alan set up the pieces, taking white for himself. He grinned in a dirty way. "You're going down tonight."

"Asshole." Toby didn't appreciate the double entendre, even if it was true. He settled in on the side of black and let his spine relax. The door was locked. He was safe, or safer than usual. "Work was okay today?"

"Sister Pete was called away to a meeting." Alan nodded, moving his pawn. "Did you get all the books re-shelved?"

"Fucking Bikers," Toby growled. It'd be another day before they could finish straightening all the shelves and books. If the Bikers responsible weren't in the hole, he'd have personally kicked their asses. "I heard they're being moved to Gen Pop when they get out."

"Good." Alan propped his chin up with his palm, studying the board. "We certainly don't need their kind of riff-raff here in our beautiful Emerald City."

Toby laughed softly. "I always thought a Lollipop Guild was a great idea when I was a kid."

"I liked Dorothy's tits."

"Of course you did." Toby took one of Alan's pawns and threw it at him. "You haven't been horny your entire life!"

"I'm fairly certain that you're wrong about that." Alan leered, playing it up. "But, if it's any balm to your puny sexual ego, no one is, or was, as horny as Denny Crane." He moved his bishop. "His exploits are legendary in Boston."

"He'll live in infamy." Toby had grown used to Alan working Denny Crane into every conversation, no matter what the topic, and he was sorry he'd never met the man. "Especially after that last shooting incident."

Laughing, Alan nodded. "He'd have shot those Bikers."

"I'd have cheered." Toby moved a piece and cautiously switched to a more serious topic. "Meeting with your lawyer tomorrow?"

"I am. I have to admit, I'm nervous." Alan licked his lips. "She'll most likely be appalled at my appearance."

"If she has any sense, she will be." Toby loved making fun of Alan's ego. Studying the board and making several moves in advance, he began to think he might lose tonight. His mind was everywhere but in the game. "I'll find an excuse to walk by and check her out."

Alan said nothing until after he'd moved his knight, and then he slowly put his hand on Toby's knee. "Do you ever get visitors?" The question was an innocent one on the surface, but the implied comfort from the touch let Toby know that O'Reily had been flapping his lips again.

"No," Toby snapped, but he tapped down his temper enough not to punch Alan in the mouth. "And O'Reily needs to shut the fuck up."

"It was Sister Pete. She told me a few things about your family before I could stop her." Alan pulled his hand away and fiddled with a pawn, finally moving it. "She says she's worried about you."

"Nothing new there." Toby could easily see now where this game was going. With a curse, he threw the board off the bed and against the far wall where the pieces rained down. "You win."

Eyes wide, Alan sat up very straight. "We can call it a draw. My apologies, Toby."

"Not your fault." Toby would never discuss his children again with anyone, and he'd made many mistakes confiding so much in Sister Pete over the years. "I fucked up my life."

They eyed each other across the small space where the board had been, and Toby couldn't find any words that weren't curses or excuses. He tried to take a deep breath and unfurl his fists.

"You should pace and throw things." Alan eased down off the bunk, moving as far away as possible. "But not defecate, okay?"

"You take all the fun out of prison life." Toby hopped down, carefully put away the chess board and hunted down all the scattered pieces. Alan stood in the corner and watched, not even offering to help, but that was nothing new. Finished, pissed, Toby went to the glass and banged his head lightly once, cramming his forehead against it until it hurt. "Fucking hate this place," he muttered.

Alan started reading the next chapter of the book aloud, and Toby shut his eyes to lose himself in the words and a place that wasn't here. It helped pass the time, combined with pacing and occasionally throwing dirty clothes at the glass.

When the lights clicked off, Toby didn't hesitate. He shoved Alan onto the bottom bunk and crawled on top, grinding them together.

"Should I act reluctant?" Alan bit into Toby's neck, sucking hard enough to leave a mark.

"If that's your thing." Toby humped against him, not wanting anything but sex for the next seven or eight hours. "Did you pay the hacks to look the other way when they walk by?"

"I had to double it."

"Worth it?" Toby kissed him several times before letting him answer.

"Every penny." Alan pulled off Toby's shirt. "You're still angry, but I expect some consideration."

"I'll be considerate." Toby wiggled his tongue, but he'd be careful with his cock. If he were honest, he'd tell Alan that he wasn't angry any longer. More than anything, he was tired, old, and despaired of ever seeing his children again, but this was Oz, and those kinds of things were never spoken aloud. Anger would have to do. He slipped his hand down and gripped Alan's hard cock through his pants. "I'll take my time and consider it all."

Alan yanked him down and kissed him. "I'd like that."

Toby took charge, getting them both naked and trying to make Alan gasp, groan, and beg for more. A blowjob could do all that easily, but Toby didn't rush. He licked, teased, and sucked, waiting for words and grabby hands.

"Are you trying to kill me? I'm not young any longer." Alan's fingers dug into Toby's shoulders. "Is there a magic word?"

Sucking hard and then backing off, Toby looked up. "Tell me you want it."

"I want it. I really do. Please, please, please." Alan tried to shove his cock back in Toby's mouth. "Please?"

Satisfied, Toby used a maneuver Chris had taught him and shifted around so their mouths lined up with the other's cock. "Come with me."

Alan gave a tiny grunt and sucked him deep. After a minute or two of enjoying it, Toby swallowed Alan's cock to the root and matched the rhythm. Thrusting and groaning, neither of them pulled away, and Toby tasted come about two seconds before he poured his own down Alan's throat. Collapsing, he made sure to miss sensitive parts and lay panting near Alan's legs.

"Never thought that would be possible on a bunk this size." Alan caressed Toby's ass. He already sounded drowsy. "No clean up either."

Toby brought his breathing under control and shifted around so they could kiss. Alan was half-asleep before the first one ended, and Toby closed his eyes too. He wasn't young either.

"I haven't told Shirley the truth."

The words were soft, hushed, and Toby almost missed them since he'd been asleep, the taste of come still in his mouth and too lazy to get up to brush his teeth. It was hours since they'd shared a blowjob, but the horn wouldn't sound any time soon.

"She thinks I'm innocent." Alan snorted. "As if I've ever been that."

Turning slightly, Toby curled into him, knowing that these words were better shared with no one. "Alan."

"I know, I know, but if I don't tell you, I might tell her." Alan kissed Toby gently on the temple. "We'd had far too much to drink, and Denny had enjoyed as many hookers as Viagra makes possible in a man."

A long pause, and Toby hoped he wasn't supposed to say anything reassuring.

"I slept very late, unusual, but I'd been drinking. Denny and I were in bed together, of course, and when I was able to focus, to see, I…" Alan might've sobbed.

The obvious conclusion popped into Toby's head. "Stroke?"

"Yes." Alan bit off the word. His hands dug into Toby's skin, holding on for dear life. "He didn't want to live that way. He told me more than once."

Toby had no idea what to say. There was no way to comfort him. "Then you did what he wanted."

"I thought I was smart enough not to get caught." Alan sighed and held him even closer. "And in my defense the evidence is flimsy, even circumstantial at best. I would've made bail if I hadn't thoroughly pissed off that sanctimonious judge."

"With that smart mouth of yours." Toby moved so he could gently stroke Alan's ass. "Your loss, my gain," he said lightly, ducking his head to flick his tongue against Alan's nipple. He struggled briefly with telling a bit of his own story, and then shrugged in defeat. "I didn't kill Chris Keller."

Alan pulled back, gaping at him. "But…"

"He threw himself backwards. I didn't push him. I should've, considering I was going to do the time anyway." Toby kept touching him. "It's really only fair, I guess, since they didn't catch me when I did murder someone."

"A bad someone?" Alan leaned up enough to look Toby in the eye.

"A horrible someone." Toby still didn't feel guilty for killing that Nazi hack. He licked his way around Alan's chest, tasting sweat. "But I didn't kill Chris." He thought that Alan might actually believe him.

"I'll go to my grave knowing that I did the right thing, but it's damn cold comfort." Alan burrowed his face into Toby's neck. "At least you didn't kill the man you loved."

It would've be so easy to suck Alan's dick and throw aside the conversation, but Toby ripped the scab on his heart right off instead. "No, I didn't kill him, but he died thinking that I hated him. Denny knew you loved him enough to do what he asked at the end. You may have questionable morals at times, but you don't deserve to be here. You did the right thing for someone you loved."

"And he's still dead," Alan said softly. His hand snaked down and he rubbed Toby's cock. "He wouldn't, however, approve of us having a serious conversation while having sex."

"He sounds like the kind of guy who wouldn't notice a serious conversation during sex." Toby nipped Alan on the collarbone and started working his way down again. Alan laughed, thrusting his hips at him, and they rolled over without dropping off the side of the bed.

"I have a condom," Alan said. "And some lube that I was assured is high quality."

Toby felt his breath hitch, and he had to stop himself from spreading his legs and begging for it. He swallowed hard. "In Oz that's practically a declaration of love," he joked.

"Did you voice just squeak?"

Biting him felt great, and they both laughed. The lube was the good kind, and Alan spent long minutes teasing and kissing. About the time, Toby wanted to yell for it, Alan lined up his cock and pushed in all the way. Toby arched his back, grabbing fistfuls of sheet and rocking on his knees. He let out a long breath, fiercely glad that he had this to make him feel alive, even if it would end soon, leaving him damn alone.

"With me?" Alan gasped, not moving.

"All the way," Toby muttered, leaning forward, pushing back, gasping, feeling it through every inch of his body. "Do it hard."

It jolted through him, again and again, and he found himself unraveling, losing his coordination, speech, and any desire to do anything else, ever. The pleasure took him down to a place he hadn't been in a long time, and he'd never forget Alan for taking him there again.

"So good."

"God, yes."


Visitor's Day always sucked, and Toby always wanted tits and booze, but he always ended up spending too long in the gym, working the weights until his muscles failed. Stretching and yawning, he wasn't sure that he was up for that today.

"Can I borrow your belt?"

Toby waved over at it, refusing to leave the bunk to get it. He considered staying here today and skipping the gym altogether. There was something to be said for being all fucked out. "You'll be okay."

"I know." Alan tucked in his shirt and smoothed it. "Maybe she'll have brought me something."

Having heard those words so many times before, Toby made sure not to laugh with derision. Instead, he smiled, nodded, and got up off the bunk out of sheer manners. "She'll be glad to see you, and you'll be relieved to hear how your case is going."

"It is difficult to be on the sidelines." Alan stepped close, gave a sniff, and grinned. "You should shower."

"Yeah, yeah." Toby climbed up to his bunk, rolled to his stomach, and smiled. "Later."

Alan checked the mirror one more time and then beat it out the door. Toby let out a deep sigh. He felt jealous and hateful, but that was normal. Adjusting his pillow, he stared out the glass, watching people go about their business. He didn't have anywhere that he had to be, and he could skip the gym. Letting his eyes shut, he dozed, thinking of nothing that could make him cry, forcing away images of his children as he'd last seen them again and again.

If he were smart, he'd get up and go hide from missing his kids so much that it hurt. Instead, he rubbed his hand across his bare chest and let the minutes drain away.

"Up! Get the fuck up!"

Scrambling, Toby managed to land on his feet but they threw him against the wall damn fast. Mind spinning, wondering if this was another nightmare, he fell down to his knees.

"Beecher! Get the fuck up!"

A boot slammed into his stomach, and he forced his legs to work so he was out of the way of another blow. Heaving for breath now, he yelled, "I'm up! Jesus fuck! I'm up!"

They shoved him around, grinding his face into the wall and slapping on a pair of handcuffs. Toby was suddenly damn glad he had on a pair of sweats, but he still smelled like fucking. "Guys! Come on! A shirt!"

"Not our call."

He tried to walk, but they wanted to hurt him, drag him, and they did. Everyone on the quad watched the show, some laughing, but O'Reily looked pissed.

"Take care of Alan!" Toby yelled.

O'Reily gave him a thumbs up, and the hacks twisted the cuffs to make him scream. He wouldn't give them the satisfaction of anything more than a grunt. He assumed he was being taken to Querns because McManus usually insisted on clothes, but they took him into the old part of the prison. Opening a barred door, they shoved him into a chair that was behind a table and locked him into it. He wasn't getting up unless he wanted to take the chair with him.

Curious, he looked under the chair, seeing that it was bolted to the floor. "Okay, so I'm not getting up." He shifted to find as comfortable position as possible, surprised he wasn't being beaten. The hacks double-checked the restraints and retreated out the door.

They didn't make him wait. Cops. They had to be cops. Trench coats, bad attitudes, and smelling like old coffee. Suddenly, Toby was glad he smelled like sex.

"That him?" the taller, uglier one asked a hack, hooking a thumb at Toby.

"Tobias Beecher, 97B412," a hack said.

"Looks like he didn't want to talk to us." The shorter cop thumbed a swelling bruise on the side of Toby's face. "Not very nice, huh, Majowski?"

"No, Collins, that's not nice at all."

They circled him, shoving the table out of the way, and Toby tried to get ready for the blows that were coming his way. He was a lifer. They wouldn't offer him anything, but they could take so much from him. That was how the game was played. He had to give them what they wanted or face dire consequences.

"He's not asking any questions," Majowski said. "Maybe he's not scared yet."

"He should be," Collins laughed. "He's smart, a lawyer, he knows how this works."

"Maybe not. He was corporate law." Majowski sneered. "We should explain it. We'll use big words."

Toby forced his hands to stop twisting in the cuffs. He could already feel blood dripping down, and he didn't want permanent nerve damage. "Offer me something nice, and I'll give you anything you want," he lied. He saw indecision flicker over their faces. "Anything and anybody."

Faces intent now, they moved so Majowski was in front and Collins was behind him. "Your cellmate is Alan Shore?" Majowski asked. He was obviously the designated talker.

"Technically, he's my podmate, but it's a weird word. In Em City, we don't have cells. We have pods. Glass pods. They're nice, but I get tired of watching people shit." Toby took the slap across his face without a wince. "So, yes, Alan Shore is my podmate. Sounds creepy, huh?"

"He's a wise guy, and I hate wise guys," Collins growled. He cracked his knuckles and popped the back of Toby's head.

Majowski glared down at him. "Tell us everything Shore said to you. We know he spilled his guts. Sign a statement, testify against him, and we'll make sure you stay in your dumbass pod."

The threat was clear. Toby had to talk, or be moved somewhere miserable, like Gen Pop. He smiled to annoy them. "That's the best you can do? No parole? No money?"

They both hit him. Toby spat out some blood and kept his smile. "I like Alan. He's a lawyer, like me, and he likes to suck cock, like me. Tell me again why I should tell you anything?"

"Because solitary can break a man." Majowski smiled with all his teeth. "No more cushy job, library books, computers, and TV. Just four walls and a cot. Years of it."

"Solitary does suck." Toby met Majowski's eyes and saw there'd be no negotiating. "Do I have to make up my mind today?"

Making a quick gesture, Majowski and Collins went out in the hallway to have a whispered conference. Toby heard the word 'judge' and 'faggot.' He shifted on his ass and faced the reality about the rest of his life.

"One more chance, Beecher," Collins said, marching up to him, hands on his hips. "Just tell us what we want and keep your privileges."

Toby blinked up at him and didn't regret what he had to say. "Fuck. You."


They were careful not to hit his face, just in case he changed his mind about testifying. He tried to be grateful for that as he lay on a tiny cot in the smallest cell Oz had to offer. There weren't even sheets, or anything else for that matter.

By the number of meals, he thought it'd been four days, but he wasn't sure.

"Beecher! Turn around, hands back!"

Slowly, very slowly, he did as he was told, knowing what came next. Every day it was the same, and he didn't know how many days it was until Alan's trial, but it was too damn long.

Querns met him and his hacks at the corner, giving Toby his patented sneer. "Give them what they want, Beecher."

Toby stared down at his feet. "You knew this would happen. You set it up."

"You're weak. Give in." Querns took him by the chin and lifted so they were eye-to-eye. "You do me this favor, and I'll send you back to the good life."

Another lie, and why Querns thought Toby would believe him this time was a mystery. "You'll give me parole?"

"I'll make it happen. You'll be in front of that parole board by the end of the year." Querns grinned, lying his ass off. "It's that, or solitary until you leave here in a box."

Feigning weakness, Toby nodded, and the hacks took him back to the interrogation room and the chair that he hated.

It was only that fucker Collins today. He had papers on the table, pen in hand. "Hey, Beecher. Good to see you."

"Like I had a choice," Toby muttered, shifting a little and keeping his head down. He was so damn tired of all this, and chances were good the Bikers would kill Alan on Querns' orders no matter what Toby did.

"Feeling good today, right?" Collins laughed. "I have good news and bad news."

Toby sucked air through his teeth and tried to shift enough to keep his ribs from screaming in pain at him. He sure as fuck wasn't going to answer.

"Good news is that this is our last day together. Shore's lawyer got the appeal date moved up." Collins hesitated. "Bad news is that this is your last chance to be as smart as Querns promised you would be."

"Hey, diddle diddle, the hack and the fiddle, the nun jumped over the moon. The little lawyer laughed to see such a sight, and Querns ran away with the spoon!"

"Holy shit. What?"

"How now hack cow, the shank's in the henhouse, the Nazi's in the corn!" Fierce joy grabbed Toby and shook him. This time, this one fucking time, he wouldn't worry about right or wrong. He'd do what he wanted, and he wanted Alan to have a shot at freedom. For Denny's sake. "What are prison boys made of? Rapes and shanks and chicken nuggets: that's what prison boys are made of!"

He laughed and spat with all his might at Collins and his papers. "Old McQuerns had a prison, T-o-b-i-o," he sang. "And in that prison, he had some hacks, T-o-b-i-o!"

"Okay, I think we're done here." Collins bolted from the room, and Toby grinned after him, not caring that another beating was coming his way.

"Toby and Alan sitting in a tree, k-i-ss-i-n-g!" Toby struggled, yelling and screaming the entire way to his tiny cell. Querns wasn't in the hallway to smirk at him, and the hacks threw him hard at the cot. Toby collapsed down, giggling and laughing. "Oh where, oh where, has my little shank gone?"

Rolling to his side, he stared at the wall and whispered mangled nursery rhymes until he fell asleep.


When the big door opened, Toby didn't look that way. It wasn't like it could be good news. He continued to stare at his new favorite wall.


"Hey, Sister Pete." Toby didn't glance at her, and he could smell the hack lurking by the door. "Slumming, huh?"

"We've all been worried about you," she said.

"We meaning you." Toby pivoted around, noticing the hack flinch. They were slowly learning to fear him. Now that he had nothing to lose, he found ways to hurt them. "What day is it?"

"Tobias, I need you to listen." She took a deep breath. "Whatever you did to make Querns furious, we can fix it over time, but you need to stop harassing your guards and stop acting insane."

"Acting? Have you been down here for longer than fifteen minutes?" Toby spread his arms wide, enjoying the way it made the hack's eyes widen. "Get me a blanket and a pillow and we'll talk about sanity!"

He took a couple of steps to put him closer to the hack.

Sister Pete got right in Toby's face. "Tobias! Stop this!"

The hack turned, calling for backup, and Toby smiled down at her. "It's Querns' game. I'm just playing hard." He had always liked her, but now he had a better appreciation for why Chris hadn't. "Is Alan Shore alive?"

"I can't discuss that with you." Her face crumbled, and he accepted that Alan was likely dead. She turned for the door. "I'll come see you next month. Maybe you'll be ready to change."

"And maybe God will send Querns in here to kiss my ass!" Toby made sure not to touch her, and she was small, easy to avoid. The fucking door was open, and the look of surprise on the hack's face as Toby bore him to the floor made it all worthwhile.


When the lights were out, it was too dark to see anything, even the hand in front of his face. He missed the shadows of his pod, never-changing over the years. He wondered if they missed him. Getting up, he unerringly found the sink and splashed water on his face, shivering slightly as it trickled down. He used to have a towel, but they took that away after he'd caused a small flood.

It had seemed like a good idea at the time. One of these days, they'd take his pants. Of that, he was sure. The lights clicked on, he covered his eyes until he could see again, and took a long stretch. Breakfast was still the high point of his day.

The door creaked open, and he retreated to the far end of the cell.

"Beecher! Get over here! Hands back!"

Indecision flooded through him. Leaving meant another beating, but getting out sounded good, even if it was for a beating.

"Get the taser."

"Oh, fine. I'm coming," Toby grumbled. Tasers took all the fun out of life. "You hacks with your tasers are a bunch of fucking pussies!" But he put his hands back for the cuffs and waited while they opened the second door.

"God, he stinks."

"Well, duh." Toby laughed. "I never promised you a rose garden."

"Enough with the songs."

"Ran out of nursery rhymes." Toby laughed, stumbled on purpose, and managed to kick one of them in the shin.

"You fucker!"

"Tase him!"

"They want him conscious!"

Toby stopped fighting, going limp. "Someone wants me. How nice." He stayed limp, and they seemed relieved to drag him. When they got to the visitor's room, he straightened up in shock and actually walked through the door.

"Tobias Beecher?" the lady asked.

"That would be me." Toby tried to shake off the hacks, but they kept a grip on him. "Can I help you?"

Her expression was pure distaste, and he wrote her off as a potential fuck. Querns practically pushed Toby down, getting in the door.


"Yes. Me. Again." She peered over her reading glasses, somehow managing to ignore and emasculate Querns with one look. "And also with me is this habeas corpus, which will be executed immediately. You, Warden Querns, should count yourself lucky that someone remembered where you'd stashed my client."

She turned to Toby. "Mr. Beecher, I am your lawyer. These… gentlemen will be leaving." And she pushed a business card across the table.

"Wow. A lawyer all my own!" Toby grinned, wishing he could twirl. "A pretty one too!"

She smiled tightly and then pointed at the door. "This interview is court-ordered and privileged. It would be an idiotic prison employee who remained here long enough for me to note his name in the complaint I'm drawing up against Mr. Querns."

"God, I could love you." Toby sat down hard in the chair, picking up the card and staring at her with love in his eyes. "Talk dirty to them again."

The door slammed, and Toby laughed. "Oh shit, best thing all year!" He loved this day. "Sorry I smell so bad."

"Under the circumstances, I'm not surprised. Frankly, Mr. Shore thought you were dead."

"He's not dead?" Toby asked quickly out of shock. "I was sure the Bikers got him."

"They tried. Mr. O'Reily, who is now serving out his sentence at a minimum security facility, intervened."

"Ryan's gone?" Toby sucked on his lower lip, emotions stampeding through him. "Really?" He couldn't bring himself to believe her, trust her words.

"Alan said you had trust issues." She opened a file and pushed a picture at him. Toby had to lean to see it, squinting. She nodded. "That's him."

"Wow. He looks good." Toby shook his head, trying to clear out the cobwebs. "I can't believe he left Dr. Nathan."

The lawyer lady smiled. "Dr. Nathan no longer works here. She was denied access to an injured inmate. Apparently, she still has morals."

"Oh, that was me. They beat the crap out of me." Toby felt part of him go lax in relief. "Ryan is safe now."

"He seemed pleased." She smiled, and it was an honest one. "Now, on to your case."

"I don't have a case," Toby said instantly. "I'm a lifer, and Querns plans on keeping me in solitary until I die."

"Well, Mr. Shore and I have other plans." Steel laced her voice now. "By the way, my name is Shirley Schmidt of Crane, Poole and Schmidt."

"Denny Crane loved you." Toby had no idea why that popped out of his mouth. He'd been in solitary. He was no longer rational. "And Alan was right. You have nice tits."

"I am going to have to kill Alan one of these days." Her smile was predatory - all lawyer. "But he's a part of Denny still alive, and that's something."

"Good man. My dad spoke well of him, and praise from my dad was something to believe." Toby thought he should clap his hand over his mouth to keep the words inside. "Sorry, I'm not well."

"You seem lucid to me, contrary to what I was told by Querns and several staff members." Shirley shuffled a few papers. "I suspect you're only insane when it suits your purpose, which reminds me of Denny."

Toby smiled, feeling high or something like it in her presence. "Alan is okay?"

"He's fine, but he refuses to ever grace the state of New York again. I'm indulging him."

"He got out." Toby put his face in his hands. A weird mix of grief and elation spread through him, taking his breath away. His eyes prickled, but he'd never cry, and he swiped at his cheeks. "Thanks. For telling me. I'm glad for him," he said roughly. He cleared his throat. "It's just… I was sure he was dead."

"He thought the same about you," she said softly. "We're almost out of time, but be assured, Mr. Beecher, we are reviewing your case, and you aren't going to die in solitary."

"Yeah, Querns will shank me himself out in the hallway for talking to you." Toby wished he were joking. "But I'm glad. Really glad. Tell Alan, queen's pawn to queen's three."

Shirley nodded. The door banged open, and Querns' ugly face leered at her. "Time's up," he spat.

Toby got up and put his body between Querns and her. "All around the cafeteria, Querns chased a weasel. The hacks thought was all in fun. Pop goes the weasel!" He waited until the hacks lunged for him and then tried to knee Querns in the nutsack. "Fuck you! Fuck you!"

They took him to the floor, screaming about tasers, and everything went black.


The bed was bolted down and showed no signs of giving up no matter how hard Toby pulled. The mattress took the abuse, having been thrown more than once. There were no springs, just a slab of metal with legs, and Toby gave up on it, going to the sink to play with the water.

Bored had no meaning for him any longer, and sleep was something he only did when his body collapsed. The dark and the light were the same, and he knew every hands-width of the walls, searching for something. Anything.

His last set of injuries had only kept him occupied for so long, and now that he was healed, he couldn't even play with his scabs.

The door opened slowly, and he backed away, sure they were here to taser him again. Sister Pete smiled at him, but there were four guards behind her.

"Tobias? I need you to listen to me."

Out of sheer stubbornness, he clapped his hands over his ears.

"Tobias! Listen! Try to understand!"

He laughed, sinking down to a crouch and rocking back and forth.

"Let us haul him out. He's a fucking nut."

"Please, Tobias. Don't fight. Don't!"

Toby grinned at the hacks and saw two of them swallow hard. "Oh, I promise, Sister Pete. I promise."

She stepped way back, and the guards shoved into the tiny cell, tasers and nightsticks held ready. Toby flexed his fingers, crouching, wanting to kill them all.

Father Mukada eased into sight, behind the guards. He took hold of Sister Pete's hand. "This one time, Toby. Do it for Chris. He always loved you."

Shocked that Mukada would say such a thing, Toby straightened up. "Why is he dead then?"

"That doesn't matter, Toby. The love carries on. Hold it tight in your heart, and he's always with you."

That sounded like a bunch of bullshit that might possibly be true. Toby suddenly saw the faces of the hacks. Young men. Scared. They weren't Nazis or Bikers, just guys trying to make a living and go home to their wives.

"Okay, fine. This time I'm giving you fuckers a free pass." Toby pointed his finger at them. "But only this time." He turned, knelt, and put his hands back. They cuffed him incredibly fast and pulled him to his feet.

"Thank you, Tobias."

He smiled at her and Mukada. "You guys owe me one."

"We do." Mukada wrapped his arm around Sister Pete, and they all fell into step as Toby was taken out of solitary and to what appeared to be a locker room. He stared in confusion when they removed the cuffs.

"We have clean clothes for you. Go shower," Mukada said. He'd left Sister Pete outside. The hacks shuffled around, looking worried, and Toby rubbed his wrists.

"Seriously?" Toby could smell hot water and soap. "No one will hit me?"

"I promise." Mukada couldn't promise that, but he had, and that was enough to send Toby into the shower area before the hacks regained their senses. He turned on all the shower heads at once and stripped off his filthy sweats. Throwing them aside, he put a bar of soap in each hand and simply stood in the water.

"This is heaven," Toby said, shivering all over despite the heat. The water ran dirty, and he washed until he was scrubbed nearly raw. This might be his birthday present or something, and he had to get really clean. Very reluctantly, he turned off all the showers, wishing he could hide the soap to take back with him.

"Clothes?" Mukada pointed at a stack on a bench after throwing him a large, fluffy towel.

Toby scrubbed his face. "I'm being executed, aren't I? Do I get a last meal?"

Mukada's mouth dropped open. "No! I mean, yes, we can get you some food, but no!"

"Okay, whatever." Toby rolled his eyes and dried off very thoroughly. "Can I keep this?"

"If you want," Mukada said slowly. "It's mine, for when I shower here, but I can get another."

"Thanks." Toby dried off again, concentrating on his wild hair and beard. He made sure of the positions of the hacks before he dressed in clean jeans and a T-shirt. Slipping on the shoes, he felt human again, and he was ready to fight. "Now what? Another beating and back to the cell?"

"No." Mukada shook his head. "But they have to cuff you again to take you to processing. Please cooperate."

"Shit." Toby eyed them, wondering what prison they were processing him for. "You'll owe me another one." He put the towel around his neck, knelt, and put his hands back. They really were fast with those cuffs, and this time, they added leg irons. He stared down at them. "Where am I going? Rikers?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you." Mukada walked close to him now. Sister Pete followed closely as he hobbled along. Two more guards joined their parade, and they stopped at a place Toby had only seen once before - discharging.

Stunned, it went quickly, and he found himself watching the big door roll up again. It was sunny, hot, and he squinted into it. "I'm dead, aren't I?"

"No, Tobias." Sister Pete hugged him very tightly. "You were pardoned. Go home, and for God's sake, don't ever come back."

The world twisted and spun, and the cuffs dropped away. He took the towel off his neck and gave it back to Father Mukada. "When I wake up from this dream, I'll be crying."

"Go find a life, Toby." Mukada put his arm around Sister Pete. "You owe it to Chris."

"The bus will be here in about fifteen minutes," Sister Pete said, and they all stepped towards the last fence.

There was a limo parked on the other side of it, and the driver got out, holding up a sign.

"That sign has my name on it," Toby said, hand still protecting his eyes. "Think I should go?"

"Definitely, Toby. God works wonders, but you gotta grab for them." Mukada gave him a tiny push. "Go with God."

"I bet he's glad I showered." Toby took another step. "Bye. I won't be back."

They smiled, and he cast aside his fears and ran for the car before it disappeared. The driver got the door for him, and the seats were leather. There was even a mini-fridge, and he grabbed one of everything, praying his dream held a little longer.

The limo pulled smoothly away from the curb, and Toby popped a can of Coke and shoved his mouth full of a Snickers bar. Moaning, he looked around enough to notice a book on the seat. He stared for a moment, afraid to touch. It was his book. The one he'd read aloud with Alan, and he poked it to make sure it was real before picking it up.

"Best dream ever," he said, opening the cover page of Texas by James Michener. Alan hated Texas, or so he said, but the complaints had made the book much more entertaining. Distracted, Toby almost missed the sheet of paper, and his hand shook slightly as he unfolded it.

Dear Toby,

Your limo driver has been instructed to take you home. I took the liberty of calling your brother, Angus Beecher. He's expecting you, and he's scared. I assume you are also.

No, this isn't a dream.

The hacks came for your things, but I only let them take the clothes. You will find a box of items in the trunk, including your chess set.

This is what we lawyers call 'quid pro quo,' but it's also what we in Oz would call 'having your back.'

I'm in Boston, and thank you.


Alan Shore

P.S. The governor of New York owed Denny Crane a favor.

Toby read it three times and the words made it real. He was free. He was going home. And someday, after he'd hugged his children a few million times, he would go to Boston to say thank you in person, and they could raise a toast to Denny Crane.

Denny Crane.





art by Beechercreature