I failed to mention that this fic was written while listening almost compulsively to "Straight to Hell" by The Clash. It was heavily influenced by this song and has a couple of lines from it, lyrics used without permission.
GO STRAIGHT TO HELL, BOY.
Almost a week and a half later, unseen and mysterious forces had turned the 'ugly fuck' into just another wooden box shipped to grieving relatives, and Schillinger was practically drooling like the Big Aryan Emperor that he surely is , seeing Keller walking towards his pod (--'fucking wild cat'--), carrying his stuff in one hand and something that resembled a...Kleenex tissue(?!), in the other.
(--'Oh, don't tell me he's *sick*!'--)
Behind him, Beecher, moving in with O'Reily...
Well, this is going to be one mighty serious motherfucking roller coaster ride!
"What the fuck's wrong with you?," Schillinger growls, visibly pissed at Keller, as the man walks into what's now *their* pod.
(--'Well, *hello* to you too...Afraid I'm gonna start coughing my lungs out and FAIL to swallow, tonight, dear?! Don't worry, never happened - *pro* - remember?'--)
"Got a cold"-- Keller's voice, ragged, red eyes moistened, his nose running.
And Schillinger doesn't seem to ever remember seeing Chris sick, ever!
The man's strong like a fucking ox.
But his running nose and those eyes of his surely do bring back memories...and not just related to Keller.
"Great fucking timing! Just be careful, you hear me, don't wanna get *that* from you."
Mumbling a bit slower, for himself:
"Fucking slut, you never get sick around other people..."
Keller, wiping his nose, watches the older man for a couple of moments, silent.
Smiling just a little:
And THAT - the tone, the smile, the whole fucking *gesture* throws Vern back into one of those weird flashbacks he keeps having lately: Chris - so much younger, skinnier, *frail*...smiling like that, his running nose turned bloody, his lower lip splitting under Vern's powerful blow, a deep painful moan.
That wince. Bending.
Licking his blood-stained teeth, gently sucking that split lip.
And...biting it. Hard. Repeatedly.
Deep enough for the wound to re-open at the most *inappropiate* moments, and make Vern shiver (and not in the good way) at the sight of that narrow trace of blood slowly having an affect on his hardened dick, (barely) visible...
Smiling again, (barely) perceptible, painful, teeth soaked in blood and cum. Those fucking dark, dark, darker than ever eyes of his --...and, oddly enough, Beecher's feral-spoiled-toddler sneer, superimposed over Keller's over-the-edge smile.
(--'Fuck, you sure can pick'em! Or maybe...you're the one that made them like that.'--)
And that single particular thought makes Vern both feel mighty proud of himself and scared shitless.
'Cause he knows he's got the power to do *that* to people...and that's sometimes a bit too much, even for Vern.
But he can't slap him down now, not right the fuck now.
(--'Not ever, Vernon! 'Cause it seems so stupid to slap a grown fucking man...Maybe this was a mistake.'--)
*Not with the fucking hacks around.*
Still, that doesn't stop him from throwing the usual shit he feels he has to, just to reconfirm his new pod-mate's status:
"Yeah, well, I sure hope that's gonna be *gone* by tonight."
A bit bored, suddenly, getting off his bunk and stepping out of the pod, leaving Keller all by himself. For a second.
"Hey, Christopher, said something about watching my back...well what the fuck are ya waiting for?"
And Keller follows him down the stairs (like a puppy...not exactly a new or surprising image), his hand still holding the tissue. Crumpling it.
Still fucking smiling. A little.
The usual crowd of morons, half-breeds, shitheads; willing and *not-so-willing* cocksuckers sprawled all over in front of the TV, headphones on, watching the usual 'Up Your Ante!' shit. Fucking re-runs.
(--'Lame, lame, God this is so fucking LAME, no wonder some of the idiots in here go crazy on a regular basis, with only shit like this to occupy your brain!...'--)
Some niggers; Pancamo; *Miguelito* and that fucking freakshow Torquemada, both of them looking stoned to the eyeballs; O'Reily (--'that shithead'--) and Beecher (--'that fucking slut'--), standing so close to each other they could practically be holding hands and nobody would notice.
(--'And wouldn't that be a looovely picture?'--)
Obviously, Schillinger picks the perfect spot to display his new (well, not so new, but still...) *acquisition* to his former prag.
Near Beecher, but not too near, Keller dragging a chair for Schillinger, waiting 'til the older man sits down, and then dragging a chair for himself, right next to Vern.
Everybody staring, some black guy making some stupid joke Keller can damn well hear, since he's not wearing his headphones.
Hesitating, for a second.
Rubbing his face with his hands, wiping his nose again, not looking in any direction but the TV.
And then looking up straight at Beecher, only to catch, at the last moment the other man turning his eyes away from him.
Still, Beecher can't help himself (like always), and looks back at him, their eyes locked, glued together by the same odd, barely perceptible force swimming back and forth between the two men even when they're (supposedly) ignoring each other.
Both of them feeling, thinking the same thing; that amazing, horrible sense of being completely helpless, unable to let go, flowing inside the men's bodies like hot lava.
Beecher's unspoken questions floating through Keller's mind, painful: 'What are you doing? Why?'--'...riiight, *what* am *I* doing?! And why...'
Schillinger casually grabs Chris' nape, blunt fingers pushing hard, like rusted nails.
Shaking him a little:
"What the fuck are you looking at, Chris-to-pher?"
Smiling - that fatherly smile - as he leans over to Keller, whispering into his ear, that mild, cold-hearted tone of his:
"Don't push me, Keller. Don't. Fucking. Push. Me.
You fucking wanted this, you play by my rules. Don't have to remind you of that, do I?"
His hand still painfully locked around the back of his neck, skin turning red-white.
Vern's touch, those big, squared hands of his, peasant-like roughness, all coming back, making Chris' shoulders stiff, his skin turning pale, eyes drowning in utter expectancy. Strain. Kind of...familiar.
(--'Guess that answers your question, Tobe.'--)
Kind of the *same*, 'cause he knows where he is. What he is. NOW, he knows. Not like with Toby.
And even as Schillinger's middle-age manly-man scent settles over him like a fucking sandstorm, Chris can't help wanting, just for a second, to just...go over to Toby and hug him, hold him in his arms. Just to hold him.
Just to let go. (Never) For good.
O'Reily gets up, glaring Schillinger, grinning at Keller, an off-beat tone in his voice:
"Happy now, K-boy? Got what ya wanted?"
Blank, white, hollow. Simple.
Toby gets up too, not even looking at Chris.
Both men leave, providing Schillinger with the perfect exit-line:
General hissing, clapping. Laughing. Keller's name, half-shouted, Beecher's name too.
Schillinger - God-like above it all, gloating.
Chris looks at his fingernails, humming. His whole body slack now, untouchable. Smiling a bit.
Then wiping his nose with the back of his sleeve while coughing hard, right next to Schillinger's face. Almost intentionally. *Seeming.*
Like a fucking 17-year old.
"Get the fuck away from me, you fucking moron! Fucking cough your lungs out somewhere else, not in my goddamn face!"
Well, if Vern actually worried even for a second that he wouldn't get to enjoy Chris' expert cocksucking abilities...
Lights out. That eerie mix of light and shadow floating through Em City again, like some kind of a semi-translucent blanket unfolding slowly, a wave of quietness - cold, sterile. Unsettling.
A powerful mix of light and shadow, always seeming to keep you on your toes, like any time now shit's gonna go down bigtime or something.
This permanent state of confusion is what Christopher Keller remembers the best from all the time he's done in jail. What he hates the most, what scares the shit out of him. Because anything can happen in this pure state of limbo, and you always get to see it happening. You can't fucking close your eyes on this one.
That red light back in Lardner, like spray-painting everything in blood, keeping him awake for almost two weeks straight. Until he got used to it, that is.
And, later, that didn't even matter that much, because he had something else keeping him awake...one way or another.
And now, here, in Em City, this seemingly ever-present almost transparent snowstorm...
Sitting down on the edge of his bunk, hands on his knees, shivering a little.
Head spinning, swollen and hot, fever running through every fiber of his body. Feeling his sweaty nape ache, ice-cold, all bruised up where Vern's fingers had buried themselves earlier.
And his fucking sore throat...like someone pushing broken glass down an ever-tightening hole everytime he swallows.
Chris can't help smiling when thinking about that particular symptom and the implications it will carry that night. And the night after that. And the...
(--'Hope it won't interfere with my meds...'--)
Looking at Beecher's new pod. No Toby, though. Just glowing darkness.
(--'Come on, come on, come on...'--)
And Vern's bunk, squeeking above his head, the older man jumping down, his crotch now near Keller's face.
(--'What took ya so long?'--)
The whole pod filled with so much tension, so much anxiety, expectancy, it seems it's about to explode.
The whole of fucking Em City, watching *breathless*, Chris could take a bet on that.
Except Beecher. Maybe.
Vern closing in on him, letting out a low, barely detectable, animal-like grunt. Over-pumped, bursting with sheer will to fuck and humiliate and beat and kill - Keller can smell that all over him.
And, God! Doesn't this feel familiar!
Waiting just a little longer.
Going down on his knees, slowly unzipping Vern's pants.
Looking up to meet the older man's burning gaze, to suck in all that power.
To welcome it, again. Pragdom.
And to reward Schillinger with that particular feeling of *reassurance*, the one an owner never quite loses, not even when his property slips from under his thumb.
(--'Or goes ballistic and cuts your face to shit and takes a crap on you. But that's another story... A story about someone else. Someone different.'--)
Shit!... *When you make someone your prag...you own him for life*, right?
Apparently. In some cases.
Keller trying to force out one of his bullshit smiles, but managing only a sour grin, while - weirdly enough - trying his best to hold back something growing inside his throat.
Or maybe just one of those deliciously delirious, insane laughs he had to fight back really, really hard, back in Lardner.
Whenever he had to listen to Vern rumble about the Great White Race and America-goin'-straight-to-hell 'cause of... well, guess you can fill in the blanks by yourself.
Or just hearing that barked order,
(--'On your knees, do your fucking job, bitch. And don't spit, hear me?'--- 'Yeeesss, SIR! *Never*!'--)
like he was fucking Zeus or something, thundering from those mighty skies of his, that no prag could ever get close to, let along fuck up.
Making Chris associate the whole thing with a quasi-religious, Old Testament-type of experience, feeling deep down - instinctively - that Schillinger actually made the same association.
And enjoyed it.
Because it all meant POWER. Ritualistic.
Power in the purest form.
One above and one below.
So fucking Biblical it hurts.
Knowing already what would happen, how he'd have to just give way for Vern's need to control.
(--'Just try and catch the rhythm, match the thrusts and suck hard. And swallow. 'Cause that's how *Daddy* likes it, 'member?'--)
Knowing already that this, right here, THIS will HURT.
(--'But, fuck it, Chris...you *need* that, can't help yourself. Getting like that, getting hurt. 'Cause you're not eating a girl's pussy, here, you're blowing a MAN. And that requires submission and hurt, humiliation, you fucking well know it.'--)
Just the rules of the game, ways of the world...whore to paying customer, prag to owner.
Child to Father.
A simple game of putting out for the stronger man in the picture.
And Vern surely does know how to make a *spectacle* out of that.
And everybody's fucking watching... Just like in Lardner.
(Just like with Toby.)
And, yeah, everybody's watching, trying to get their best view.
(It's still night time and people are supposed to be soundly asleep. 'Cause it's *almost* dark...)
Schillinger's black boots, blurry movement; Keller's knees on the concrete floor, pale-white, hurting. His hands, shaking, fingers gripping his own thighs. Like wanting to strangle someone. Gagging.
"Jesus, he's really going through with it!"
O'Reily's voice a bit shaky, like what he's watching is just too much.
Looking over at Toby, who's hugging himself on his bunk, pretending to be asleep.
(--'You don't wanna see this...well, I don't think anyone can blame you on that one.'--)
"Fuck, he's kicking him! Hey, Beecher! Schillinger's kicking him, what the fuck just happened?"
(--'*What the fuck just happened* is Vern's I-ain't-no-fag-you-fucking-cocksucking-p
And, for that, Beecher's actually grateful. If it ever happened.
Across the quad, Keller's leaning against the pod wall on his hands and knees, expressionless.
Wiping his nose. Coughing. Blood in his mouth.
(And definitely something else, too...--'Welcome home, Christopher! Like you ever really went anywhere...'--)
Keeping his eyes still, a bit lowered, like he's gone blind. Red-rimmed, watery.
Darker than the darkest sea.
Not watching anything. Not seeing anything.
Biting through his lower lip. Humming.
"...clear as winter ice,
this is your paradise..."
---end of part 6/17---
GO STRAIGHT TO HELL, BOY.
<<And, oh yeah, *this is your paradise*, that's for sure!...>>
"Hey, Keller! Went back to *daddy*?"-- one of the Sicilians, smiling like he'd just won the lottery, as Chris passes by on his way to the laundry room.
Carrying both his and Vern's laundry.
Those walls starting to slowly get thicken again, the smooth coolness, that feeling of innate danger lurking in his eyes under the cold, dissolving light of Em City...
Best way to keep yourself alive in a place like this, act like everything's fucking perfect.
"Fucking faggot!"-- that one coming from one of the black guys hanging out with Poet, as Chris feels like he's being engulfed in a sea of hissing and catcalls. Rebadow's look from under his glasses, punching him in the gut. Silent. Painful.
Keller feels like throwing up.
A slap in the face, a kick in the stomach.
That word, everything it brings with it, rolling inside his mind.
Knowing all too well that this had been his conscious decision. His choice.
He's got no right to claim any other treatment than the kind of shit any prag would get.
Just the way of the world, that's all.
And, besides, this is easier...
This was the easy way out of the place he'd been ever since fucking up Beecher's parole.
Ever since Toby had gotten out of Oz, if he's truly honest with himself.
Bonnie's death had only been the last straw.
Feeling - at the precise moment when one of the hacks had called him to see McManus the day Bonnie died - as if his entire being had been slowly dragged inside a black hole, some place devoid of anything that could be useful to someone still breathing.
A place for the dead.
He'd let himself slip inside, he knew that, it was no goddamn accident.
Fucking Beecher up, knowing, deep down, the other man was never gonna forgive him for taking him away from his kids. Leaving them fatherless...
Knowing it had not been love behind his actions, but fear. Envy. Selfishness. Need...
Love was just an excuse he used with Beecher, with everybody, really. With himself.
He wanted Beecher...like a drug, like insulin. Something you need to keep yourself going, to stay alive, for everything to still make sense.
That overpowering rage doing the thinking for him - like so many other times - choosing to do the one thing that would make Beecher suffer the most.
To take him away from his kids, from his life.
Breaking his heart.
All over again.
He just couldn't *be* without him, it was that simple.
Couldn't live knowing Toby had everything he'd never have.
His most profoundly destructive craving. His best ever high. His worst ever low.
Making him teeter on the edge of madness, killing people for him, killing people because of him.
Killing to keep himself BALANCED...
Fucking up Toby's parole for the same reason.
Call it boredom, call it pathological obsessive behavior, call him motherfucking borderline if you want, he just felt like he was living in slow-motion since Tobe had left.
Like an old black and white image captured on a dead man's retina, slowly fading away. Bleaching...
Everything suddenly starting to REALLY come into light - all that he'd run away from - using Toby as his best distraction, his shield: eighty-eight years - trapped.
The rest of his life - a big fat NOTHING.
Nothing more than waking up in the morning, going to sleep at night, waiting... Waiting for the whole thing to end.
Vern was his lifeline. His anchor. Probably nobody in Em City saw it that way, nobody but Vern himself. He knew...
He'd felt it coming a mile away, knowing Chrissie the way he did!...
No problem, just find someone interested, kneel down and everything falls back where it should.
Feeling as if the whole thing was, in a weird way, somehow predestined, predetermined, the way it always was supposed to be.
He'd never had much jizz, no real rep. Never really had any pride, either. Nothing to lose there, right?
So keep doing what you know best, back to that universal language of pragdom.
*You put out... I take you. I KEEP you...*
Keep you afloat. Keep you from drowning. Keep you...balanced. Safe.
And, besides, it doesn't hurt. Never did. Never even suspected it might. Or that it SHOULD.
Just something you do. As meaningless as everything else, at the end of the day. An unconscious jerk. A reflex.
"Come on, Keller, I don't have all day. Sister Pete's waiting for you, move it!"
Chris looks first at Schillinger, then at Murphy, knowing all too well one of the first rules of pragdom: before doing anything, first check with your rightful owner, see if he's okay with it.
And Schillinger just nods absent-mindedly, making Murphy almost roll his eyes with contempt.
A bit uneasy, Keller gets up and follows the other man, keeping his eyes lowered, hands in his pockets. With Schillinger (and Beecher) watching his steps.
"Why are you doing this?"
Cutting right to the chase, Chris thinks, staring somewhere beyond the woman's inquisitive, painful eyes.
"Because I need it."
And, shit! Didn't that come out right! But what exactly does he need?...
Keller rubs his forehead, leans forward and lets a weird noise out of his throat (the kind of noise Beecher would have made, not Chris).
Protection? Security? Reassurance? Reassurance about what?!... Shit! He really doesn't wanna talk to her right now. Not ever.
But before he could even consider whether to tell her to leave him the fuck alone, the words come slowly rolling out of his mouth:
"Things to make sense..."
Sister Peter Marie looks like she's about to have a heart attack, but quickly recovers and just manages to quirk her eyebrows in disbelief.
And, even though her voice seems to be just as calm and professional as ever (well, most of the time...), her shivering hands and that liquid wave hiding in her dark eyes give away her nervousness.
Especially since she feels like the man sitting across from her desk is actually being...honest.
"Things make sense? With Schillinger?! Chris..."-- a deep sigh, like she's trying to find the right words: "Please, tell me...why? What do you get out of it?"
(--'God! She DOES suck at her job, doesn't she?'--)
Keller says nothing, just sits there, like a piece of furniture.
Slowly, Pete notices that mask of his coming back up, the one thing he hangs on to more than anything else. Cracked, though. Still not looking at her.
Like talking to a blind man, she can't help but notice. And this is SO not the Christopher Keller she knows. The Christopher Keller everybody knows.
"Listen, Sister...I don't wanna talk about this."
(--'Or anything else, to be honest. Not with you, not with anyone.'--)
"You don't *want* to, or you *can't*?"
And now he does look at her, straight into her eyes, dark blue on brown - Pete senses something...unbearable hiding underneath that gaze, overwhelming. Opaque. Like all those sparks, all that electricity blooming like fireworks inside his eyes had been brutally stolen. All those lights...out.
Breaking eye contact:
"That too. I guess."-- standing up, and before turning his back on her: "Can I go now?"
Yeah, like talking to a dead man.
Later that day: same Sister, different patient.
"What did he say?"
Sister Peter Marie sits down in her chair, knowing just how hard it must be for Tobias to even talk about him.
"He's...he's in a very dark place. I honestly don't know what's going on with Chris, he's like a different person."
Beecher shifts his position, snorting:
"He's always a *different person*, sister. That's what he's good at."
"I know what you mean, but this is different."
"He's playing at something, he wants sympathy. That's what this is, just his usual self. Manipulating."
"I...think he's just given up."
Looking straight at her:
"He NEVER gives up."
Now it's Sister Pete's turn to shift in her chair. This thing between Tobias and Keller...she never could fully understand or control. Never.
"Let's...talk about you. How are you feeling?..."
With his most neutral tone of voice, thin lips tightening:
(--'What the fuck else's new?'--)
Getting a bit tense, rubbing his forehead:
"I spoke to that FBI agent yesterday. I'm gonna do it, you know. I'm gonna do it. Nothing's gonna stop me."
"I think that's your decision alone."
"Yeah...you don't think I should do it?"
"Like I said..."
Beecher leans forward, giving her that squint only someone diagnosed with myopia can deliver:
"I shouldn't do it, right? I mean, I'd be lying, he didn't tell me anything about those murders."
Pete breathes in deep, before whispering:
"Think about yourself, Tobias, first of all. What doing this would mean for you. How it would affect you... Think about you, your life, your children. Your future. That's what I think you should do. That's what matters."
There's a long moment of silence before Toby replies:
"I think he did it. I know he did. He...he kills people...and he doesn't feel bad about it, he doesn't... feel. He just acts. And then he moves on. Like nothing ever happened."
And they both know that's true. Or they think they do.
"What did you tell her?"
Keller doesn't even look at him.
Schillinger grumbles slowly, forcing the other man to look at him:
"Don't you fucking lie to me, Christopher. What did you tell her?"
"We talked about you."
"Why don't you ask her?"
"Don't get smart with me, Keller. Don't you fucking get smart with me, I run the show, you hear me?"
"So you keep telling... Look, I didn't tell her anything, okay? I didn't have anything to say, don't know why she still bothers," Keller says under his breath as he watches Beecher sit down near O'Reily in front of the TV.
And Schillinger follows his gaze, locking eyes on the same man, who ignores both of them completely:
"Look all you want, sweetpea. I guess you didn't matter that much to him after all, huh?," Schillinger whispers, smiling and nodding in Beecher's direction.
"Yeah, well he didn't matter that much to me either, did he? So I guess we're even."-- looking at Vern sitting right next to him, dark blue eyes slitted: "You didn't matter that much to me, either."
To that, Schillinger just shrugs, his monotone voice not letting out any of the anger building up inside him.
(--'Don't you get smart with me, bitch.'--)
"Yeah, you don't matter that much to me either. Never did."
"Is that why you're doing this?," Keller asks, moving his hand as if tracing an invisible line between them.
"I don't know if you've noticed, Chris, but you were never in the fucking limelight here, Beecher was. You're just...damaged goods, anybody can have your ass as long as you get what you think you need. Beecher's...something else. You're just a slut. Sluts are fun to fuck, but, beyond that, there's no satisfaction, you get my point?" Vern says, looking somewhere beyond Chris - like talking to himself:
"Anybody can have you, but once they realize you're nothing but that, well...there's no real reason to give you the time of day. There's no jizz, get it?"
"Is that why you fuck me every night, Vern? Because I'm *fun*?"
"Yeah... And because it pisses Beecher off. Now, THAT's satisfactory, Chrissie. That's where the jizz lies."-- leaning towards him, patting him on the shoulder, fatherly-like:
"You...you're just a good fuck. But I guess you discovered that a long, long time ago. Long before Beecher, long before me."-- leaning back in his chair, gazing over at Beecher:
"And, besides, I'm bored out of my mind. It's a good distraction."
Keller just sits there, staring at his boots.
He doesn't even notice Beecher's blue gaze measuring him for a second. Just for a second.
"He looks really bad," O'Reily mutters slowly, sitting right next to Toby.
"So?"-- Beecher's voice, smooth, but carrying a tinge of anger.
Ryan just shrugs, crossing his arms over his chest.
(--'If you don't care, why should I?'--)
And, besides, Keller's not the kind of guy anyone should give a shit about in the first place.
Later that night, nobody even bothers to watch Schillinger's pod anymore.
But, tossing and turning in his bunk, Beecher feels his entire body ache and burn, slowly realizing just how much this whole fucked up thing...hurts.
---end of part 7/17---
GO STRAIGHT TO HELL, BOY
Walking into the laundry room, deep in his own thoughts, Beecher hardly notices there is someone inside, moving slower than a snail.
Automatic movements, as if he's half asleep. Eyes lowered and dim, hidden behind reddish eyelids.
Himself not noticing the other man stopping in the doorway, hesitating.
For a moment, Toby feels like turning and walking away. But he doesn't.
Still, he can't hold back a low huff, making the other man slowly turn his head in his direction.
Confusion written all over his face, as if Keller can't quite identify the man standing before him.
Jesus, he looks bad, Toby thinks, walking over to the farthest washing machine from where Keller stood. Muttering:
After a long pause:
Beecher starts pushing his clothes into the washing machine, aware of the fact that the other man's eyes still linger on him.
(--'Don't turn, don't look at him. Just don't.'--)
But something inside him, something more powerful than his own will, takes over. As usual.
He turns around to meet Keller's gaze...and sees his eyes...moist.
A part of Toby screams with hate and anger; but the other part, the stronger one, the one that makes him who he is, overwhelms his entire being with a sense of...pity. And a need to comfort.
Fucking empathy, he thinks bitterly. The one thing almost nobody in this godforsaken place has. His curse. His weakness.
He licks his dry, bitten lips, letting out a slow whisper:
"How are you?"
The dumbest thing to say, right now Beecher thinks, silently cursing himself for being so...he doesn't know what, but that was a stupid fucking question to ask.
"Okay," Chris mutters, matching Toby's own tone of voice.
"You don't look okay."
Christ, how long had it been since they last talked?!...
It feels like they're learning how to talk to each other, all over again, Beecher muses.
"Yeah, but *you* don't look too okay there, either, Beecher," Keller's tone a bit firmer now, leaning against the washing machine behind him.
That's more like the Christopher Keller I know, Beecher thinks. And...(--*Beecher*. Not *Toby*.)
Toby shifts his position to match Keller's, suddenly uncomfortable.
What the fuck is this gonna be, a duel of words?...
"I'm fine," Beecher answers, keeping his voice carefully indifferent.
Strangely enough - Toby realizes - Keller isn't measuring him with his gaze, like he would have expected.
No, the other man keeps his eyes firmly locked onto Beecher's.
Like...he can't let go. Can't *play*.
Keller draws in a long, ragged breath as his head jerks slightly to the left.
Beecher finally notices that his hands are trembling, fingers clutching the edge of the washing machine.
"I'm fine, you're fine. Everything's okay, then," Keller breathes out, slightly dismissive, turning his back on Toby.
A long moment of silence.
And, as Keller starts sorting through his things (or Schillinger's... Yup, *Schillinger's*-- Toby could recognize them a mile away), Beecher rubs his lips with his knuckles, clutching his hands into fists.
Chris stops moving.
His eyes fall on his hands over the laundry, shivering.
Toby's voice suddenly carries so much hate, so much anger, it makes him dizzy.
For a moment, he thinks he's gonna fall down.
"Why did you do it? HOW could you do it?"-- Toby's voice breaking into something tense and shuddering. Something between a scream and a wail.
Keller can almost sense the other man's voice trailing on his skin, like a snake.
Icy cold and... burning, at the same time.
He hears Toby - his throat - barely choking back a sob.
He feels the other man's...harshness.
The cold, metal core behind that soft appearance.
He knew this was bound to happen sooner or later. He just never thought it would take Toby so long to find the power within himself to do it.
And...he doesn't know what to answer. Anything he might say - even the truth - it would all mean dick to Tobe.
He doesn't want an answer, he just needs to ask.
To get it all over with.
Still, Keller discovers, right there, in that particular moment, he needs to answer.
He needs it badly.
"You know, Toby... I've always had this feeling of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, all my life... Don't know, you try to grab everything like you're running out of time, like you're stuck or something, and everything seems to just pass you by. Like you're always going at the wrong pace."-- his voice, running slowly, softly, like a litany:
"This constant feeling of losing everything, or being lost...again and again. Unwanted. Awkward."-- lowering his eyes again, feeling Toby's burning gaze grabbing on to him:
"I love...loved what you have. What you are. All that I'll never have..."(--'never had, not ever.'--)
"...all that I'll never be."
Toby lets out a low, ragged breath, covering his face with his hands, shaking his head a little.
"You're so selfish. You're so fucking selfish," he mutters under his breath, almost to himself.
"You wanted me to tell you. I told you," Keller whispers, turning around, looking at him. Straight into his eyes:
"I love you."
"You son of a bitch," Beecher manages to let out, through clouds of hatred and resentment, leaning on his elbows on the washing machine, resting his forehead on his clasped hands.
He is so...fucked. Trapped.
Keller hesitates for a second, then, as if guided by something outside any drop of rationality he might still possess, goes over to Beecher and puts his hands on his shoulders, squeezing a little:
"Get the fuck away from me!"-- elbowing Chris in the stomach hard enough for the other man to wince and back away: "Just go away, leave. Just go."
So Keller turns away, grabs his things and leaves.
Knowing he's given the other man what he needed.
But neither of them know what exactly what that 'something else' actually...is.
(--'He NEVER gives up.'--)
Beecher's own words swimming through his mind, intoxicating him, making him want to throw up.
Filling him with enough intensity to crush any other emotion, any other train of thought the discussion with Keller might have brought up inside him.
(--'Son of a bitch, fucking son of a bitch...'--)
He's fucking with him, that's what this is. He's fucking with his mind, all over again.
But, if Keller actually thinks he's getting anywhere, if he thinks he's getting *Beecher*, he's dead wrong.
Something inside Toby is broken, irreparable. Something's changed.
Sure, he can still feel pity, he can still *feel*. For Keller.
He can still sense that burn, that amazing heat trailing between them.
That seemingly unstoppable flow...
And he knows his own body keeps betraying him (as always), as if it's tied to the other man's, interlaced.
But something has grown inside Beecher, something that was there ever since the first time Keller had fucked him over - something he had tried to forget, to discard, through love. Through forgiveness. Through trust.
As if his body had learned, the hard way, Christopher Keller meant danger. Pain.
A constant reminder of that sickening sense of betrayal, lurking between them like a ghost.
'This man shouldn't be trusted'-- the one thing - stronger that any feeling of lingering warmth from that kiss in the laundry room - Beecher's body had released through every one of his senses, ever since he had turned on him in the gym.
The one thing Toby had forgotten, allowing himself to open up to the other man, to put everything he still had in Keller's hands. To surrender.
But now...things were different.
*This* proved they were different.
His whole body recoiling under Chris' hands, beneath his husky voice.
Breaking into pieces any shred of softness Toby still possessed.
Did Chris know that was what would happen? Had he sensed Toby's still lingering tenderness, his care - and decided to do the one thing he knew would make Beecher realize he had to just give up and move on?
To stop caring?...
Or maybe - the easier hypothesis to accept: Keller was just playing his age-old game - letting out a bit of himself (bullshit or not), waiting for a second for the whole thing to hit, and then pushing his entire being, like a weapon, into Beecher's space, engulfing him in his own scent, his heat, his body.
Knowing (hoping) Beecher would respond as usual, unconsciously trapped in his own desire.
His own longing.
Playing on Toby's own weakness.
Business as fucking usual for both of them.
Beecher didn't know what to believe, didn't fucking *care* to know that much, to be honest.
And this sudden realization made him...uncomfortable, at first.
He always cared about what Keller thought. About what he thought the other man was thinking.
Not now, though.
And, after the dust had time to settle over their conversation, Beecher realized that he felt...better. Easier.
Keller and his thoughts, his words, his actions were slowly drifting away from him. Like a fading photograph...
(--'*Old news*, like Chris would probably say...'--)
Yeah, old fucking news.
(--'Keep telling yourself that, Toby, keep telling yourself that...Shit.'--)
---end of part 8/17---
GO STRAIGHT TO HELL, BOY
"Okay, that's enough. That's enough, I said!..."
Pushing Keller away from him, tucking himself in, and climbing in his bunk, Schillinger only manages to let out a small, almost restrained "Fuck"; incapable of looking at the other man - still on the floor, on his knees.
What the fuck was he doing?
Blowjob after blowjob after blowjob - still this wasn't going anywhere.
Schillinger didn't even know where it was supposed to be going, in the first place...but he knew this was NOT it.
Getting Keller back where he belonged, to fuck with Beecher; getting him back just for the fun of it. For...(--the sex.)
Okay, for the sex.
But...there had to be something else behind it, it just had to be.
Couldn't be just for the fucking, and for Beecher.
Sure, he had enjoyed himself those first days, the vibe he got from everybody watching and KNOWING he still had it.
That sense of power.
The one...(--he depended on more than anything else. Like Beecher depended on alcohol, or heroin, or whatever he might have come up with. Like Keller depended on...What the fuck did Keller ever depend on, anyway?!...--)
But that had trailed off pretty quickly, like everything else here, in Oz.
Nobody was interested anymore. Not even Beecher. (Apparently) If he was ever interested, in the first place.
(--And: 'Why do you care that much about what Beecher thinks?'--)
*Of course* he was fucking interested, he had to be. That's his nature.
Like with that Guenzel prick; he knew what it all meant, and he felt it underneath his skin, over and over.
Vern still roamed inside the other man, making him feel ashamed, guilty, uncomfortable. STAINED.
(--'Nobody ever forgets shit like that. And...that's where the power is. The juice.'--)
But, this thing, right here, with Keller, well...it all felt like shit warmed over.
A dumb, unwise move.
Keller was no fucking prag material, he knew that, kept repeating it to himself over and over, before actually accepting the other man's offer. And...after. Accepting it.
Chris just knew too much, too fucking well.
He knew everything, 'cause...(--he had been there before.)
So, there wasn't much Vern could throw at him, really.
'Cause, both him and Keller knew...(--Vern wasn't the man to change, to *reform*.)
He was stable; as predictable as the waves of the ocean pounding relentlessly on the shore.
And Keller (just like Beecher, as Vern had learned to discover, in time), knew him inside and out.
Even more than Beecher.
Because...Vern and Keller, well, the two of them were not that different.
Prag, or slut, or spineless motherfucker - Keller was more like Schillinger than Beecher ever could have been.
The thought gave Vern a weird, uncontrollable feeling of...closeness towards the other man.
The king of closeness one feels towards his...kin. His *kind*.
Not that Keller could have ever classified as his 'kind', in the first place, but...(--sometimes, fucking him felt like that, especially this time around.)
Like fucking someone of Vern's own nature. His making, his *creation*.
Fucking a distorted image of...himself.
It all felt so unnatural, so out of place. Wrong.
(--'That fucking word, again.'--)
Nope, this new situation didn't make Vern feel GOOD at all. Satiated...yeah. (Almost)
Keller's willingless, his almost-complete indifference seemed so...deconcentrating. Annoying. It was not what Schillinger would have expected, in the first place.
An...*arrangement*, yup, that's what it was. No coersion. No real power behind it. No driving force...except for the sex. And Beecher.
(--'Shit, how come everything I do revolves around that bitch?!'--)
Good fucking question...
"I heard you talked to Keller."
Beecher glances up from the book he was reading on the top bunk, giving O'Reily a sly, distant look:
"Yeah? Where did you hear that from?"
"You know, news travels fast around here."
"Gossip, you mean."
"Whatever you wanna call it, Beecher", Ryan snaps back, leaning against the edge of the bunk (his bunk, 'cause, yeah, Beecher's sitting on *his* bunk): "I tell you, you should be careful, 'cause..."
"Nobody fucks with Schillinger's property."
(--'*I* should know that, right?'--)
Closing the book and letting it slip on the floor, right next to O'Reily's foot, making the other man (barely) wince:
"I don't think my safety's any of your concern, Ryan."
"So...you did talk to him, right?"
"Oh, Jesus!... Yeah, I talked to him, so?"
Ryan just shruggs, backing away from the other man.
"Same fucking story, nothing new", Toby says - his voice trully bored. And tired.
Not looking up at O'Reily.
Still, the other man presses on:
"Did he tell you why the fuck he's *hangin' out* with Schillinger?
Ulterior motives, Beecher thinks. Who knows? Who *cares*?
"We didn't talk about Schillinger."
"Then, what the fuck did ya talk about?!" O'Reily snaps nervously, staring at the other man.
And, to that, Beecher just nods annoyed, jumps down and walks out of the pod, making O'Reily shout after him:
Pointless. Fucking pointless.
Catching at the last moment Schillinger's gaze, watching the whole thing.
"Somethin's up in the *buddyhood* pod", Schillinger barks - tiny bit of interest in his usually blank voice.
Yeah, or maybe you're just imagining things, Vern, Keller thinks, unresponsive.
The other man's silence irritates Schillinger:
"What? You don't feel like talking, Chris-to-pher?! Cat got your tongue?"
Suddenly, Keller stands up, turning his back on the other man, whispering:
"Give me a fucking break."
(--'What the fuck am I doing? What the FUCK am I doing?'--)
Getting back under Vern's thumb - so to speak - had seemed like the most natural thing, at first. Something he needed. At that particular moment.
But now...Schillinger was boring him.
Vern was BORING.
Unbearable, at times. Like...(--right the fuck now).
"Oh, what's the matter, sweetpea? Things started to suck already?"
Trying to put into his words as much control as possible:
"We all have our bad days, Vern."
"I tell you when you can have your bad day, Chris"-- Schillinger's voice, suddenly turning sharp as a knife's edge: "Don't fucking forget that."
"How could I ever forget that?", Keller delivers with a bitter smirk, turning towards the other man, placing his elbows on the top bunk: "How could I ever?"
Grabbing control -- the only way Chris ever knew how.
His smirk, slipping into something Schillinger can't quite make out; something more ragged. With an...edge.
Making Vern uncomfortable.
(--'Is he...is he trying to *play* me? Or...what?!--)
"Don't get smart with me."
(--'Again that fucking phrase. What the hell's happening to him, is he getting senile?!'--)
"Hey, nobody's doing that, here, Vern"-- Keller outright SMILING, now, resting his head on his arm: "Baby."
(--'Oh, shit! *Dreamy*.'--)
And, to that, Schillinger finds himself incapable of applying the right measure of response.
He feels like punching him, or, at least, saying something demeaning.
But he doesn't.
And he knows Keller knows it too.
Right now, this very moment, he's...(--*weak*). Something's seriously screwed up inside him.
And Keller's standing there - invading his personal space and shit (something that only Vern's supposed to be doing) - staring right into his eyes. Smiling and licking his lower lip - like a cheap whore, completely aware of the effect it carries with it.
(Well, more like a '40's film noir femme fatale, if Vern's to be honest.)
"What...what the fuck are you doing?"-- Schillinger's voice, breaking a bit. Okay, more than a bit. A whole lot more.
"Oh, nothing," Chris replies, slowly tracing a very palpable line with his fingers on Schillinger's leg, way up to his crotch; stopping and squeezing a little, his long fingers closing in onto the full, heavy scrotum: "Nothing..." (--'you don't want me to be doing.')
(--'Oh, fuck. *That*'s what he's doing.'--)
"We can't fuck right now..."-- Keller murmurs softly, rubbing Vern's cock a bit faster now, harder: "But...we can always work out something else, right?"
"Don't, don't... Holy shit, don't stop", Schillinger barely manages to mutter, sweating and panting under the other man's skilled touch.
Feeling his cock hard and twitching under the fabric; small, muffled grunts spilling out from his burning throat, making him slightly blush, a bit ashamed (as usual) of his own response.
But...(--'fuck being *ashamed*, this feels so fucking, so fucking...oh, fuck... Fuck!...'--)
Yep, that's what I mean, Keller thinks, amused.
Shit! If he were to do this to God himself, he'd be getting back the exact same response.
(--'I got you where I want you. Like always. Like...with anyone else, really.'--)
"Still feel like talking about shit that don't matter, Vern?" Chris lets out, feeling the other man rapidly approaching the release he needs.
(--'Nope? Well, I guess this beats everything else by a fucking mile. So, keep fucking asking me to do it, 'cause it sure don't MEAN shit to me, and...stop asking me to TALK to you. Trust me, baby, I've heard it all before, and it ain't *interesting*.'--)
Unzipping Vern's pants, after a quick check-up for any potential voyeuristic hacks, and...making the other man come into his palm, rubbing his fingers onto Vern's sweaty flesh like...(--he would be rubbing onto anyone else's.)
(--'It's that easy.'--)
"Oh, shit, oh, Christ Allmighty, FUCK, FUUUCK...you, you...you fucking cunt, you...whore. YOU WHORE."
"Yeah, well...", Chris mutters indifferent, wiping Vern's cum off his palm on his trousers, looking sideways and putting on the most bored, dismissive expression possible ('cause, he really IS bored): "If it get's you where you want..."
(--'And me, where I want...or think I want...who the fuck cares?'--)
Just another boring, meaningless moment in the days (and nights) of podmates. Anywhere. At any fucking time. With...fucking anybody.
But, still...that's what gets Schillinger. And keeps him. Locked. Trapped.
For the moment, anyway.
Back to Vern's own private thoughts...the ones that keep him awake almost every fucking night, lately.
God, this was turning into one huge mistake!
(If Vern is actually capable of ever admitting to making mistakes, to...being human. Flawed.)
Keller was, still, his usual self. He hadn't changed a bit; or, if he had, Vern was now the one ripping what he himself had once sowed into the younger man's soul. Into his flesh.
That *burn* any first-time prag is cursed to never forget, to always carry inside, like a scar.
A fucking reminder of...all the things one should always remember.
And Keller sure does remember, like the man's carrying a goddamned prag guideline book underneath his skin, or something: 'How to make the guy you're with all hot and bothered'.
(Oh, yeah: and the recipe for giving the best blowjob EVER!)
Always putting out at the right moment. And...taking initiative. Sometimes, when it is hinted at.
(Something that Beecher never fucking did...'initiative' probably NOT being in his dictionary...not when it comes to putting out, anyway.)
But, if that's the case with Chrissie, then, what the fuck was that, earlier, in the middle of the fucking day?...
As good (great, fucking amazing!) as it might have been, Vern hadn't let out any kind of hint...none that he was aware of, anyway.
(--'And...that's not right. Where the fuck are you heading, Vern, if you can't even control your own body, your own goddamn thoughts? If you're not even sure of yourself, anymore?'--)
He knows - or supposes he knows - what it means.
It MEANS that it is all turning, slowly, but definitely, into some sort of a *relationship*.
With reciprocity, as the main ingredient. The best ingredient. The one that actually matters.
And, let's face it, buddy, you don't wanna go there. 'Cause that's...(--power sharing.)
(--'Oh, come on, Vern, just say it!'--)
Okay, that's fag shit.
(--'And, you're not a fag, everybody already knows that, blah-blah...'--)
But, maybe, any kind of relationship with Keller would eventually turn in that direction, anyway.
'Cause, the man's...(--a slut, a fucking cunt, a bitch, a...whatever.) A fag.
And Schillinger knows that, knew that.
(--'Yeah, you fucking KNEW that from the beginning.'--)
But, still...(--'that didn't stop you from jumping head first into resuming, well, what you had before.'--)
(--'And that makes you...what?'--)
Well, definitely NOT a... No. Fucking NO!
A man, in a place like this...you gotta manage with what you're given. With whatever you can find, whatever (whoever) you can get your hands on.
You get off any way you can.
It's that simple.
But, it means Keller's just that: an open and (very available, *too* fucking available) hole...
And, there's the fucking paradox, Vern; that's YOUR paradox.
What keeps you up at night.
What gives you fucking...(--headaches.)
Yup, Keller's turning into one massive fucking headache, that's for sure.
(--Shit!, even with Beecher, things were easier!'--)
Of course, what Schillinger doesn't yet understand, is that he is slowly letting himself slip on that slippery slope to continuous, nerve wrecking, restless nights.
That he can't...stop himself from slipping deeper and deeper.
That he's losing control, and, between all the bitching and the moaning, he actually...(--enjoyes it.)
And that fucking *stinks* a lot like...well...
He should really ask Keller about that one.
---end of part 9/17---