GO STRAIGHT TO HELL, BOY
Sitting at a table in Em City, shuffling cards seemingly absent-minded, Chris suddenly realizes he's...all alone. Nobody's sitting next to him, nobody wants to play. With him.
(As if awakening from a long sleep.)
When the fuck did this happen?
He sure as hell ain't gonna be sitting next to the only remaining Aryans in Em City.
Actually...(--they don't wanna sit next to him.)
And O'Reily, Rebadow and Busmalis (the old gang-- yup, he's getting *sentimental*, alright) are all gathered around Beecher, at a nearby table.
Like a fucking highschool feud, or something, Keller thinks, bitterly.
Nobody gives a shit about good old Keller anymore.
If anybody ever cared, in the first place.
Nobody except Schillinger - who's out of the picture, momentarily.
And...(--he doesn't want Schillinger's *mouth* anywhere near him, right now. Or ever.)
So: keep shuffling your cards Chris, keep fucking shuffling your cards.
Play some...Solitaire or something.
(--'Cause you fucking well deserve it.'--)
But...what's the big deal, anyway?
He's always been alone, he fucking *grew up* alone; he can handle it.
The obvious dismissal.
Or...(--maybe not that obvious.)
Not obvious at all.
'Cause that would imply that they're actually doing it on purpose.
And, most likely, they're not.
They just...don't care.
Keller starts spreading the cards on the table, not playing anything, just...spreading. And shuffling. And spreading them again.
(--'You know, like when you were a kid.'--)
Not even trying to give away the appearance that what he's doing ain't nothing but a lonely kid's play.
Playing by himself, with himself.
Like nobody wants him to join the fucking *team*. Nobody even thinks of asking him to...
Yeah, like he was ever a team player!...
(--'Jesus! Stop doing this, Chris.'--)
But...what the fuck else is there to do, anyway?
Throwing a short glance at the other table - Beecher's table - almost like he's afraid the other men might see him looking.
(--'Just keep playing, just keep playing...'--)
Shit, he almost wishes Schillinger would come back from seeing the mockary of a family he still had.
But...(--at least he's got a family.)
No matter how fucked up, he still has someone coming to see him.
Just like in Lardner.
Even his father would occasionally come up to see him, back then.
And everybody knows how fucked up things between Vern and his dad have always been.
Still...the old bastard would fucking visit him.
Even if that brought along hell's fire...usually spilling all over Keller's ass.
Because he was the closest, the easiest fucking punching bag available back then.
And even if it pissed Keller off big time, in a strange manner, it also made him feel somehow...important.
Like Chris was - in a way - an extension of Vern's family.
As if screaming at him, saying the lowest, most awful things to him, calling him any fucking names he could come up with - all that brought Chris and Schillinger (family included) closer.
As if Vern was his big brother, or something.
Vern passing on to Keller all the shit the other man's family kept coming up with - like blood.
A bloodline, flowing between them.
And Chris would welcome it all, with open fucking arms.
Because he surely didn't have anybody coming to visit him in Lardner.
He didn't have anybody in the first place, so...he welcomed it.
Like he welcomed any stupid, annoyingly cute thing Beecher would say about his family. His...kids.
And the man definitely did like to talk and talk and talk...
(--'Shit, what the hell are you doing? Snap out of it, fast!'--)
Glancing over to Beecher and the gang again.
Longer, this time around.
*They* were like some kind of a fucked up family, too. They sure did function as one: trying to keep each other's backs safe, laughing, joking. Hangin' out. Giving a shit about one another.
(--'Well, fuck that.'--)
And...what do you have now, Chris? Now, that you've managed to fuck yourself out of that *club*, out of Beecher's life?
Fucking Schillinger? His merry bunch of retards?
Those retards...(--that don't even wanna sit next to you?)
Because...(--it was *your* choice, remember?)
Yeah, it had been him, picking sides.
Great fucking choice, indeed, Chris thinks, watching Busmalis and Rebadow. And O'Reily.
Not looking back at him. Not once.
(--'Play some fucking Solitaire, already.'--)
Sister Pete's dark gaze again, roaming all over his being. Those metaphorical tiny, sharp pieces of ice replaced this time with...something warm - like an invitation. A plea. With...(--*worry*.)
Keller knows things are finally falling back where they used to be, a long, long time ago. So fucking long ago...(--he has a hard time remembering.)
(--'You're worried, Sister? *Concerned*?... Fine, 'cause I sure do feel up to it, now.'--)
Old tricks starting to slowly resurface...and Keller doesn't even know whether he's 'OK' with that or not. 'Cause, old tricks...well, she's seen them before; she's experienced them, intimately.
(--'She can't be that big of a fool.'--)
And, even if he'd actually wanna *play*, well...what the hell was there left to play for?
Yeah, Toby. Like THAT worked the first time around!
But...(--'do you really wanna play, now, Chris? Is it even a conscious decision? 'Cause you sure did it all your life, with fucking everybody - even Tobe. Like you couldn't help yourself.'--)
And that didn't get him too far...with almost nobody. Just didn't have enough...skill.
Not like O'Reily, for example.
But...(--he doesn't play for the same reasons.) (--'Maybe.'--)
One blunt mistake after the other, going from trial to error, always hoping to find the exact path to whatever he wanted. And never quite succeeding. Playing all the fucking time, even in those moments when a small part of himself told him he didn't need to. That he should stop...
(--'Yeah, you can't help yourself.'--)
But, this time is different. For the first time in his life, he doesn't feel the need to play. He just feels like...sliding. With Sister Pete, anyway. 'Cause...(--maybe that's the best strategy, right now.) To get what he wants. Beecher.
Okay, maybe he doesn't want Beecher, not the way he wanted him the first time around. He wants something out of Toby, something the woman sitting across from him might be able (willing) to help him get. Even without her knowing.
(--'And...ain't that 'playing', Chris?'--)
Shit, he wants forgiveness all over again. And, after he gets that, well...all the really good parts would come flowing naturally. Getting back bits and pieces of Tobe, using whatever he can, 'til the whole *package* finds its way back where it belongs. Where it always belonged. Around him. Near him. Inside him.
(--'Yeah, you definitely are a piece of shit.'--)
But there's another side of Christopher Keller, like the man's some fucked up version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
A side Keller is aware of, a side probably only Beecher dimly knows. Of all the people he's met, of all the people he's fucked and fucked over, only Beecher. And...(--that says a lot about which of these two sides usually wins those inner, twisted battles raging on inside Chris' soul.)
Keller knows pain. He knows what being fucked over by the one person you put your trust in feels like. He knows the bitterness, the sour taste it leaves behind. And how that sour taste never quite fades away; how it lingers on, altering everything.
Morphing every sensation, every feeling, every goddamn relationship into something unbearable. Alien. Forcing...change. And, not for the better.
Nobody becomes kinder or wiser, or...more forgiving, after shit like that. Nope, that kind of change brings with it only the worst in people.
Makes them...harder. Tougher.
Unpenetrable, almost... *Almost*.
And Beecher knows that.
'Cause, just as Keller had found a way to get inside his heart, Toby had done the exact same thing with Chris. He'd found that breach in the armour, that small crack, and, once inside...hell and heaven had broken loose.
Now, the thing was that maybe Toby's breach had disappeared. Because the other man had oppened up to Chris, had given him all that he could. Beecher had shed his armour, had fucking thrown it away, like useless junk. For Keller.
So, now, this Toby, this *unchained* Toby had...changed. For good.
Bare chested, stripped down, raw. The new, reformed and improved Toby, the UNFORGIVING Toby.
That steel core shimmering like a weapon... The power of...indifference. Of not giving a shit. About Chris.
Then...how do you slid yourself back into someone that has given up trying to protect, to shelter himself...to hide? How do you break into someone who's thrown away his armour?
(--'Oh, just be fucking honest, Chris.'--)
Just...by being honest.
(--'If you remember how to do that.'--)
And the ones that matter.
"Okay, everything's not *fine*, Sister."
Peter Marie gets that 'oh, finally, the start of a breakthrough' expression on her face, leaning over towards him, as Keller continues:
"I...I do feel guilty. For what I did to him, for getting him back in here."
"For betraying his trust, you mean."
"Yeah. For taking him away from his kids..."-- Keller rubs his palm across his leg, looking down, frowning a little: "That's what bothers me the most, really. I mean, how could anyone..."-- looking up straight at her: "Nobody can forgive that, right? That's...beyond forgiveness."
Pete reluctantly nods in agreement, but replies softly:
"Tobias has forgiven you before."
"Yeah, but that was different. This...this is..."-- a small, restrained sob, making Pete shiver a little: "Nobody deserves forgiveness, for shit like this. Nobody, no matter the reasons."
A long moment of very uncomfortable silence.
"Chris...is this why you're with Schillinger?"
Keller gives her a powerful, penetrating gaze, letting his eyes slip a little to the left, settling on Pete's desk.
(--'Play? Oh, fuck it.'--)
"Do you feel like you deserve to suffer?"
(--'Are you punishing yourself?'--)
That's one huge fucking mistake you've made there, Mrs. Reimondo, Keller thinks. Not very subtle of you - shrink, or nun, or whatever you wanna define yourself as.
In a place where so few wanna be saved.
Shit, Sister! You should know by now...(--none of us CAN be saved.) By you, or anybody else.
Keller just shrugs.
"You've told me, the last time we talked, that you needed things to make sense... Well, do they?"
(--'Can we go back to the 'Toby' subject, now?'--)
Still, this could be more than convenient... To get sympathy, to get her to think...
Hell, she's halfway there already, and he didn't even say shit about Vern.
But...he doesn't wanna play, doesn't wanna lie to her. Just doesn't feel like it.
"Listen, Sister...the best thing Vern's good at is following his own routine. He's got this *rhythm*...and I know it. I know him, okay? I know what he's like. If you give him what he wants, when he wants it, the way he wants it... The man can't surprise you too much, you know? I just have to keep in mind what I already know."
Sister Pete finds herself a bit too amazed by Keller's slow, monotone voice, speaking with such clarity, it feels almost...like a text he knows by heart.
But...what in the name of God is he talking about?
(--'Oh, yes, *things making sense*.'--)
"So, you think you can keep things under some kind of control, by doing this?"
(--'You bet your sweet, faithfull ass I keep things under control, Sister. Keep myself under control.'--)
"Having sex with Schillinger keeps you ballanced? Keeps you...stable?"
Keller's face contorts into something between rage and insane, bitter amusement, moving in towards her, way too close:
"Having Schillinger FUCK me every goddamn night keeps me ballanced."-- his voice, ragged and filled with dangerous anger: "Yeah, it sure FUCKING does!..."
(--'Keeps me fucking stable. *Sane*.'--)
You don't seem to ballanced, now, Chris, Peter Marie thinks, leaning back in her chair, cautiously.
(--'Maybe this is too much breakthrough for one day.'--)
"It gives me what I want", he says, falling back into his monotone rhythm.
"Do you even know what that is?" Pete whispers slowly, knowing, no matter what Keller might say or believe...he doesn't have a clue.
Chris lets out a long sigh, looking down. His entire being seems tired, wore down. No sign of his usual boredom, though. He's just...broken.
No, he definitely doesn't have a fucking clue. Not...exactly.
'Cause, no matter how easy to control, no matter familiar the whole thing is to him, he doesn't like it. It's not even what he wants, if he's to be honest.
But...(--what you want and what you need is not one and the same thing.)
---end of part 10/17---
GO STRAIGHT TO HELL, BOY
"Carry your own fucking tray!"
Keller's annoyed voice sounds determined enough to make some of the Aryans circling Schillinger stop talking.
A couple of steps away from them, O'Reily stops mid-way from serving some huge black guy; that big spoon of his - suspended in the air, mashed potatoes dripping from it on the table. Looking quite ridiculous, truth be told.
Schillinger thinks for a second about what to reply to Keller, but...can't really think of anything. His mind's gone totally blank; a sheepish, dumbfounded expression on his face gives away his...impotence.
So, Keller tries to walk away, but the minute he turns, he senses Vern's hand sharply grabbing his shoulder:
"Where the fuck do you think you're going?"
His voice is so loud, so unballanced - almost like a scream; it makes not only Keller turn to face him, but grabs pretty much everybody's attention.
As if God himself had thundered down from those mighty skies of his.
"Catfight!" one of the Gays squeals, making both Beecher and Rebadow instantly turn around towards the two men.
Keller's really in a foul mood.
And he's tired.
Tired of Schillinger, tired of his lame, pathetic quirks; tired of...(--*breathing*.)
And having Vern breathing down on him, all over him. Breathing...(--for him.)
He's pissed off; enough to not give a shit. About anything.
He's...well, he is actually strained enough (charged up) to want to welcome a showdown, right there, in that particular moment.
With fucking everybody watching.
This is how Beecher must've felt, Chris thinks, giving the man in question a short, meaningful glance. And...sensing his interest, his *invitation*. His dare.
(--'Go ahead, do it...'--)
Locking eyes with Schillinger, sensing - more clearly than ever - the other man's weakness:
"Come on, Vern, I know you need to pull this shit in front of everybody, just to save face. But...hell! Do you really think they're buying it?!..."-- lowering his voice, enough to sound intimate, but still keeping that mocking, condescending tone, flowing out of his battered throat: "Everybody knows YOU took me back..."(-- because you needed it. Wanted *me*.)
"No big fucking conquest there. So, why the hell do you need to act like you've got something to prove, when everybody knows - including you - you've got nothing worth showing off? Who do you think you're kidding? Everybody knows...this ain't pragging, baby. It's something else."-- shoveling enough strenght into the tone of his voice, to make everybody's ears perk up: "You want me to carry your fucking tray?!... Why don't you just ask me to carry YOU around? Shit, Vern, that's just old people talk!... Old. *Needy*, de-pen-dent. And...you're not OLD, are you, Vern?!..."
Shifting his gaze a little to the left, and meeting O'Reily's green eyes sparking like champagne, grinning like a kid watching cartoons:
And that seems to be pretty much the general reaction to Keller's little speech.
Sure, Schillinger hadn't been acting lately like the proprietor he was supposed to be. The proprietor he *claimed* to be.
Sloppy, careless - those would be the proper words to describe his actions, lately.
Absent-minded...like an old man.
An old man...(--who has nothing left.)
Nothing but a slowly-growing undisciplined, disobedient (younger) Brotherhood, and...Keller.
That prag, who was now showing everybody he was not HIS prag. Not exactly...
And Vern knows...he is so fucked. A rabbit caught in the headlights. Blinded. Incapable to react.
(--'An old man.'--)
He slowly, very slowly turns around, looking at the Aryans around him...looking back at him like they're somehow embarassed. By him. *For* him.
Looking at Poet and some black guys from Unit B, grinning.
Looking at O'Reily...sensing his pure, unrestrained satisfaction, a slow-running, admirative hiss slipping through his pretty teeth.
In the background, among faceless inmates...Beecher. Fucking BEECHER. *Smiling*.
Not even looking at him, but at...Keller.
His blue eyes burning up with...something Vern can't quite make out.
(--'What the fuck is this, 'prags from hell reunion'?!'--)
Right in front of him, barely restraining a smile of his own.
"What are you doing?" Schillinger lets out, almost like a whisper.
Keller doesn't answer.
Just sits there, looking at him.
He doesn't seem like wanting to smile, anymore.
His eyes are cold and sharp, but, behind that, there's a weird, annoying shadow of...regret.
Something resembling...understanding. Like the other man knows what's going on inside him.
And...feels sorry, as he turns his back on Vern.
Feels SORRY for him.
Schillinger's pale-blue eyes slowly bleach into an unclean white, his face contorting into something resembling an unusually large, unusually *ugly* scar.
Clasping his hands into fists, sensing his whole body melt into pure anger.
Letting his mind sink into it, feed on it; *purify* in it.
He's...not an OLD MAN.
And...nobody does THIS to him. NOBODY.
The words filling up the room with RAW POWER, as Schillinger almost *jumps* on Keller's dismissive shoulders, pushing him to the ground with the sheer weight of his body.
Growling like an animal, he starts hitting him repeatedly in the face, straddling the other man on the floor with his bent knees nudging into Keller's ribs; sucking in all the strenght spilling over from the other inmates' yells and cheers.
He is the center of the fucking universe now, he's the one in charge, and everybody acknowledges that.
Something's terribly, terribly wrong...
Keller's not reacting, he's not even moving.
He's not fighting back.
His bloody mouth's not putting on that familiar smile, his already swollen eyes don't even flinch, staring at him like razor blades.
Cutting right to the core, straight to Vern's enraged, *broken* heart.
(--'Oh, shit. Oh, shit...'--)
Making Schillinger slowly get back on his feet, half-staggering.
He feels his heart beating like a hammer, threatening to rip out of his chest, swallowing hard.
Blue-red flames licking his throat, hearing his own voice - hoarse, ragged - senselessly kicking the other man in the stomach, just before two hacks come throwing him to the ground:
"*You* don't do this to me, Chris! You hear me?! YOU DON'T FUCKING DO THIS! Nobody pushes me around!"
As Vern is carried out of the room - full-blown rage still rummaging through his body, making him swash and scream like an over-sized child - O'Reily jumps over the narrow table in front of him, and leans over to Keller, who's still sitting on the floor, watching Schillinger's figure disappear around the corner.
"That was quite a show, K-boy!" Ryan hisses, helping the other man get up on his feet.
"Yeah..."-- grabbing his stomach with one hand, shivering: "I think I might be bleeding internally, or something."
"You *think*?!" Ryan chuckles, watching Keller bend over, coughing hard and spitting blood.
"Jesus," he whispers, wiping his bloody hand on his shirt, looking up to find Toby's figure.
But Toby's gone.
He didn't even stick around to see if Chris was OK.
(--'Maybe I do feel like I deserve to suffer. Maybe Beecher feels like I deserve to suffer, also. Maybe every-fucking-body feels that, right now. 'Cause...I do. Deserve it.'--)
For Toby. For Bonnie. (For his mom.)
For fucking everybody he's ever hurt. Even for Schillinger. For...himself.
(--'If any of that makes sense.'--)
Sloutching on his bunk, trying his best to find the right position as to not fucking HURT all over from where Schillinger's rampant blows had hammered down on his defenceless body, Keller takes a long, painful breath as he watches (in amazement) Toby...walking into his pod.
He doesn't seem like his familiar uncomfortable self; he doesn't seem too preocupied about Keller's very visible pain, either.
Chris tries to lay on his bunk more *properly*, as if bracing himself for...something.
"What was that?"
Keller manages only to give away a small, contorted smile, wincing immediately and carefully touching his battered cheek with his fingers:
"I didn't wanna carry his tray. Don't know why he got so pissed off."
Toby can't help himself but smile at Keller's simplicity.
Jesus, that's what it always got him - Chris' secret weapon: that weird, completely out of place easiness. That feeling he always spread around, like a personal scent, a perfume - that 'stop taking everything so seriously, Beech' thing about him.
It may all be just an act (like always), but it feels so GOOD for Beecher to see it again, to sense that warm, careless, always slightly self-deprecating tone in his voice.
Almost like being grabbed by the sleeve and pulled back into one of those peculiar moments he and Keller shared, a long, long time ago, when Chris' awkward smile - stripped of any shred of arrogance, artfulness, or intent - would fill his heart with that precious feeling of security.
Like the man actually REALLY liked him, liked being with him.
"You know, he's not gonna stop just at *that*," Toby says, vaguely pointing at the other man's swollen jaw.
"Yeah, I know. So? Fuck him," Keller lets out, his tone getting a bit heavier now: "If he can't take a joke..."
"A *joke*, huh?"-- Toby snorts, pointing again at Keller's wounds: "I guess he didn't exactly read your intentions clearly, Chris."
(--'*Chris*! Be careful, just be careful. Just...be honest.'--)
"Well, Vern's not particularly known for his abilities to *read* people."-- and now is Keller's turn to point at Tobe: "You know...I thought of you. When I said those things, I thought of you."
(--'And if this is not fucking honesty, I don't know what it is.'--)
"Don't know...you were the first and the last thing that came into my mind. I thought about what you must have felt, when you were with Schillinger. And after."
Toby doesn't say anything, just lowers his blue gaze, biting those thin lips of his.
And Keller - who can read him so well - knows, he fucking KNOWS something he said has hit Beecher's psyche, enough to make him...reconsider. Everything.
(Or so he believes.)
(--'Shit! Honesty does really work, after all!...'--)
Hesitating for a second, Toby moves toward Keller's bunk and sits down next to the other man, with Chris carefully pushing his legs towards the pod's wall to make space.
Resting his elbows on his knees, Beecher whispers slowly:
"You know you got to stop doing this..."-- a considerable pause: "I don't know why you've been doing it. I don't wanna know. But...you gotta stop."
Chris' voice seems even slower:
"It will get you dead, that's fucking why! You, or Schillinger."
"No... Why don't you wanna know?"
Beecher looks back at him, then slowly shifts his gaze, staring at his clasped hands. It takes him some time until he finally answers:
"Stop trying to talk to me like we're friends, Chris. We were never friends...I don't know what the hell we were, but we were never friends, OK? So, stop it."-- his voice seems so slow, so monotone - lacking rhythm - it makes Keller squirm uncomfortably, rapidly realizing things are definitely not going his way: "I don't want to know because, frankly, I don't really care. I...I always had a hard time figuring out why you did the things you used to, even before all this... Honestly, I'm tired of trying to figure you out, to understand you, the things you do. It's too...fucking consumming. It's depressing, truth be told."
And, as usual, Keller misses the point:
"Yeah, well, you know what Beecher? If you don't fucking CARE, why the hell are you here?"-- he snaps back, trying unsuccessfully to hold back all that sudden rage boiling up inside him: "Why the fuck do you bother? Where do you get off telling me shit about Schillinger, when you don't give a flying fuck about me?!"
"Just what? Fuck you, Toby. Fuck you, ya hear me? I'm so sick of trying...nothing works with you, nothing would make you..."
Chris is suddenly out of words, trying to get up on his feet, pain and resentment (and something else...a residual instinct of defense, maybe) roaming inside him. Trying to push out in the open the old Keller...but the old Keller seems, at best, to have gotten rusted. Shit! He can't even move out of his bunk! Away from Beecher...
Toby doesn't look at him but, slowly reaches out and puts one of his hands on Chris' leg, squeezing gently his ankle, making the other man fall slack under his touch.
Jesus, he's been waiting for this for such a long time!...
To have Toby's touch on his body, again...so powerful, so soothing, so unspeakably RIGHT...
What the fuck was he doing with Schillinger?!
What the fuck...
"I don't hate you, Chris. You probably think I do... I probably should... I guess it would make things somehow easier for both of us, but I don't. I just don't want you to keep doing this to yourself."-- looking straight at him, throwing Keller into a warm, dizzy flashback of Toby's beautiful, determined eyes pourring magic all over, that very first time in the laundry room, fucking centuries ago: "I don't want you to suffer. I don't need it anymore. I don't think I ever needed it."
Keller suddenly realizes - clear as Vern's broken heart, painfully obvious as Schillinger's fists punching him senselessly - everything's lost.
Toby's not gonna forgive him, simply because he doesn't need to.
He's given up. He's moved on...
And nothing - old tricks, or honesty - not even love can ever make things better.
Nothing can make things the way they used to be.
"I'm sorry..." Chris mutters slowly.
So monotone, so complete. So...(--unlike Toby.) HIS Toby.
Beecher gets up and moves towards the door, making Chris' limbs twitch uncontrollably, his mind plunging deep into anger, fear and irrational denial. Into despair.
(--'I can't... I can't. I fucking CAN'T!...'--)
But the other man doesn't turn, he doesn't even stop.
"Toby, please...Toby, wait, fucking wait! I need..." (--'you... I need *me*...'--)
The sound of the pod's door smoothly closing behind him...
A complete, utter void...swallowing Chris' ragged breath, his heartbeat.
His entire being.
Pushing him right down where he belonged.
Inside his own making.
(Like a mother's womb.)
Devoid of...all, except of the deepest, most palpable, paralising nothingness.
(A perfect circle.)
---end of part 11/17---
GO STRAIGHT TO HELL, BOY
"Son of a bitch... Son of a bitch..."
Muttering the same words over and over like a silent prayer, hearing his own voice melting into the dark walls closing in on him, mute as silent witnesses.
His naked body, so tense it seems about to shatter like a piece of glass...
Like an unborn baby, thrown into the world way too soon, having to slowly learn how to walk, how to think, how to breathe. How to survive.
(--'This is your own fucking fault, Vernon.'--)
Yes, it definitely is his own fault.
What was he thinking? What the fuck was he thinking?!...
He doesn't regret beating the shit out of Keller. Or landing his ass in the Hole.
That...in a weird way, was a good thing. Being away from Keller, away from Em City, away from...(--Beecher), gives him time to think.
(--'A distraction... Wasn't that what he had called Keller? Ha! There you go, Vern, you've gotten yourself the distraction of a lifetime. *Amusing* and persistent as a fucking headache. Just like Beecher. Hope you're enjoying yourself now - stuck in here - naked and freezing. You dumbass!...'--)
What he really regrets is BLOWING UP like that in the cafeteria, in front of *everybody*, over some goddamn prag.
Some fucking slut.
That slut...(--who knows him so well.)
Knows what makes him tick. What pisses him off.
How could he have been so out of himself, so incredibly fucking blind?
How could he have been so wrong?
He knows he fucked up.
He knows...(--he's fucked.)
For the moment, anyway.
Keller's the same.
Give or take Beecher blowing him off, treating him...(--the way *Vern* had, way back in Lardner), or that wife of his, offing herself and leaving him...(--alone, kind of like Vern's own wife had bailed out on him, such a long time ago it seems like in another life to him sometimes), Keller - Christopher fucking Keller hasn't changed much.
Moody, unstable, uncontrollable...and, yes, incapable of self-control, too; but at the same time, sharply aware of his own situation, of the *environment*, sensing - like some kind of an animal (predator or prey, it don't really matter) - the ones around him, their strength and their...weakness.
And playing on them.
To get what he wants, as long as he thinks he needs to. Turning on those he uses afterwards.
Completely, utterly fucking...selfish.
And...(--'why does that matter to you so much, Vern?... I mean, it's not like you fucking married the guy or something.'--)
No, *that* particular aspect is not what bothers Vern right now...
What really, REALLY pisses him off is his own momentary goddamn lack of forethought. Insight.
Fucking common sense...and not listening to his instincts in the first place.
A part of himself screaming 'don't go there', the other pulsing with the sheer, irrational need to *rekindle*.
The sweet, pleasuring desire to relapse, flowing through his body like a drug...
(Or something like that.)
Just like with that fucking junkie Beecher.
But at least with him, he still had an excuse.
Who could have known there was a loony, fucking terrifying, wild animal hiding behind those dorky glasses of his?
Someone so far out there, so unbelievably irrational as to *fuck* with HIM?
Which, by the way, Vern kinda liked...
Seeing his own power reflected in a pussy-ass whiny bitch like To-by, witnessing his own prag turning on him, just like...(--Vern had turned on his own tormentor, that piece of shit that he had for a father.)
But that's another fucking story.
Keller though, he had no excuse for that.
He had given in to the sheer mindfucking pleasure of re-pragging, of getting back what was *his* in the first place; ignoring all those 'don't go there' signs popping up in his head like fucking sirens, ignoring all that had happened ever since Keller had stepped inside Oz.
Choosing to listen only to those superficial assumptions he held about him - natural born prag/slut, spineless piece of shit putting out for whoever for whatever - deliberately shutting down that inner voice that kept telling him Keller...well, he's not that easy to figure out. Not that *simple*.
And yes, believing the other man still somehow *needed* him.
Not just to get over his own...whatever, but on a deeper, more intimate level.
Believing Keller actually...*cared* for him. Somehow. Like...being connected, tied to Schillinger through some unseen leash, some deeply-rooted craving.
Like a dog that's kicked out and tries to enjoy its false freedom, but ends up crawling back to its owner, incapable of surviving on its own without protection. Guidance. Submission.
The 'sex' part had been the cherry on the goddamn cake. The most natural thing, since, well...everything involving Chris Keller seems to be a one way trip to *mmm...ohhh...yeah...* land.
Having sex as his only already certified, reliable trick (weapon) to get him out of really tight spots, to get him through the day really...the only possible thing anyone would ever want from him.
(And, if that doesn't have 'slut' written all over it then...)
God, that must be fucking depressing!...
Chris had fucked him up pretty good, there was no doubt about that.
If it had been some twisted attempt to get back at him for all the shit he had to take back in Lardner, or some pathetic plan to somehow win Beecher's heart...or just his usual temperamental self at work, Schillinger didn't fucking know.
Probably all three of them.
The problem - for the moment - was not exactly Keller and his reasons, but Vern himself...and that slowly creeping, and finally exploding, feeling of weakness. Of...*need*.
For Keller. For how the other man used to make him feel, and still does, on some level.
That feeling of closeness.
Of fucking understanding.
Like some silent exchange of...vital energy, flowing between him and the younger man.
(--'Jesus Christ, Vern... How did you allow yourself to end up like this?'--)
He's got to cast *that* - ALL that - out of his system. To *purify* himself...
To rediscover his own power, his natural strength, that which makes him what he is: untouchable.
Above it all.
Then he will be able to fight back.
And he will fight back. He damn well WILL.
"Hey, Keller! Come over here."
Oh, so I'm back in the fold or something? Keller thinks, hearing O'Reily's call, coming from a table in Em City, where he is playing cards with Hill and Rebadow. No Toby, though.
"What is it?" Keller asks, a bit shaky, keeping a safe distance from the other men.
"Sit down," Ryan says, pointing at a chair nearby.
Keller drags the chair and sits, not uttering a word. He's aware of what the gesture means and he welcomes it.
God, it feels good to have somebody to talk to him, to even glance at him after all these months.
"So what did you and Beecher talk about yesterday?" Ryan asks in a tone that's meant to be casual, but ends up being anything but.
Keller scratches his head and shifts his eyes to catch the other men's expressions.
Yeah, what *did* we talk about, he thinks bitterly.
"You should ask him," he replies carefully.
(--'And by the way, where the fuck is Toby?'--)
"Huh... I bet you're wondering where he is, right?" O'Reily snickers.
(--'Always the mind reader...'--)
Keller just shrugs, trying not to look at him.
"His mother and his little girl came to see him," Rebadow whispers slowly, noticing Keller's eyes flicker for a moment, his mouth twitching instinctively: "He should be back any moment now."
After a long moment of silence, Keller murmurs under his breath:
"Good... Should I leave?"
"You do what you want, Keller," Hill says, indifferent.
Right at that moment, Beecher enters in Em City, slowly walking towards their table.
He stops midway, noticing Keller, but decides to at least greet the other men.
"Hey," he says, making sure not to look at Keller.
'Hey', as in *hey* to everybody else but you, asshole, Keller thinks, not even trying to look at the other man.
"How did your visit go? How's Holly?" Rebadow asks.
Toby just shrugs, his shoulders tense and his whole figure burdened, his fever-hot blue eyes flickering for a second in Keller's direction, sucking in all the other man's uneasiness.
Sure, he's told Keller he doesn't hate him, he even convinced himself for a second, but seeing his daughter and...knowing he'll have to see her like *this* for the next fucking nine years, had made all his words meaningless all over again.
"Why don't you ask Keller over here about that?" Toby responds, in the ugliest possible voice, before walking away and going up the stairs to his pod.
Chris looks down at his clenched fists resting on the table, then rubs his eyes hard:
"Yeah, I think I should go," he mutters, standing up and leaving without looking at the other men, keeping his eyes carefully lowered.
"Anyone feels like playing anymore?" O'Reily says, looking at Rebadow and Hill: "Yep, thought so. Those two fucks sure do know how to spoil a man's fun," he adds, standing up and leaving.
Entering his pod, Beecher collapses on his bunk, holding his head in his clasped hands.
Having his mom and Holly coming to see him had always made him feel better. *Before*.
When he knew his parole was practically waiting for him just around the corner.
But now...seeing his little girl, sensing her disappointment, her pain behind those sweet blue eyes only filled his heart with sorrow. Hate.
For himself and for the man responsible for him not being with his kids.
He sometimes wished he had nothing (like Keller), so he could focus on only staying alive in Oz, ending his sentence...
Things would be a hell of a lot easier if he didn't have a life in the first place.
People that he cared about, people that cared about him. People he had let down. Disappointed.
That's how Chris must be feeling, Toby thinks.
'Cause, the man surely has nothing.
Nothing but a seemingly never ending sentence and...(--Toby.)
And since *Toby*'s made it pretty clear he doesn't want to be anywhere near him, not ever, well...the only thing left for the other man is...nothing really.
Nothing but staying alive, fucking breathing.
Something that Chris seems not to give much of a damn about lately.
After all, Schillinger's not gonna stay in the Hole forever, and when he's back...
Toby ponders for a minute the thought of having Keller slaughtered.
(--'Yup, that's the word for it, knowing Vern...'--)
Before, even the idea of having the other man out of his life would make him shiver and ache, his mind squirming helplessly, painfully aware of just how wrong it was to care that much about someone he was gonna have to leave behind, once his sentence was over.
But now...the thought of Keller, lying in a pool of blood, his life slowly fading away through his lowered eyelids...that makes him...
Beecher nervously rubs his chin with the back of his hand, the corner of his mouth twitching a little.
(--'Shit don't tell me, Toby...you're not actually smiling, are you?!... Is that how little this man means to you?'--)
No, he's not smiling because the thought of a dying Keller makes him happy.
The problem is that, well...Keller actually means something to him, even now.
But this time, it's for different reasons.
(Or so he keeps telling himself.)
If Chris had been his downfall, the reason why he wasn't with his kids right the fuck this minute; the obstacle that had stood in his way, preventing him from recapturing the trust and love of the people that *mattered*, rebuilding his family, fucking finding himself a WIFE and moving on with his life...
(--'And, oh my God! If I keep thinking about this, I'll probably burst into fucking laughter, or tears, or fucking kill someone!...'--)
Chris could very well be - NOW - his ticket out of OZ...
With a little help from that FBI agent that is.
(--'So you better stay alive, you stupid, backstabbing cocksucker. Long enough for me to get what I want from you, then you can go fuck yourself...'--)
Watching Keller in the Cafeteria, delivering his little *look-at-me-I-ain't-no-prag* speech to Schillinger had not only made Toby's limbs twitch with sheer pleasure; it hadn't only made his heart swell with a weird, twisted sense of exhilaration - seeing Schillinger's confused, angry, *hurt* gaze (kind of like Beecher's own gaze, a long, long time ago, and in a different location), completely aware of the fact that everybody was watching that little Superior-White-Man bashing, and, on top of it all, coming from someone like Keller.
It had also sent a sharp, itching, alarming shiver up his spine - especially during the beating section: Keller was not fighting back, wasn't even trying to avoid getting the shit kicked out of him...which could mean, in the long run, that he wouldn't oppose getting shanked to death either.
Whatever had gone terribly wrong inside the other man's head, it was interfering dangerously with Toby's plans of getting out of Oz through the back door.
If Keller would let himself be murdered, then the deal with the FBI Toby said he'd *think* about, would disappear into thin air, and his dreams of freedom would remain nothing but just silly, unreachable fantasies.
Talking with Chris after the beating had been a clumsy attempt to get the other man to fucking *stay* the fuck ALIVE as long as Beecher needed him to...
(--'Yeah Toby, keep telling yourself that. Keep telling yourself that and maybe you'll eventually believe it yourself... Jesus, don't you feel a weird, annoyingly familiar pattern setting in here? You're starting to behave like Keller, split personality psycho-babble included - spinning inside your own circle of bullshit lies and rotten truth 'til you finally get so caught up in them you don't know which is which...'--)
Okay, maybe it had been more than that...an attempt to put his own thoughts, his own feelings into some kind of an order.
He'd said he didn't wanna know the reasons behind Keller's latest choice in podmates and he'd actually meant it.
Keller was free to do whatever the fuck he wanted with himself, Toby couldn't care less.
In the darkest corners of his mind, Beecher believed Chris' liaison with Schillinger was some fucked up attempt on his behalf to make the him jealous or something, but he was rational enough to realize that was definitely not the case.
The real reasons behind Keller's actions were deeper, more obscure, more complicated, and Toby sensed that trying to get to the bottom of it all only meant exposing himself (and that oh-so-inquisitive, trouble-making mind of his) to the dangerous, potentially destructive vulnerability that inevitably came along with getting inside the other man's head.
Trying to figure Chris out was a tricky thing, and it was bound to get him hurt or even more confused; Toby had learned his lesson.
(--'Just take things for what they are, and don't bother with the *why* part of it all... Safer that way.'--)
He'd also vaguely acknowledged the impact of him putting his hand on the other man's ankle, the instinctive jolt that had run through his body (after all, Toby hadn't touched him in fucking months), the surge of electricity making his battered, sore joints arch with pure, veritable desire (need).
He'd felt - right then and there - just for a moment, he could do anything to Keller; Beecher could get him to do whatever he wanted: Becher held the leash, he was in control, and Chris would have taken anything he could have come up with.
His body had betrayed him, and Toby knew he could have beaten or shanked the other man, without him even resisting.
He could have told him to fucking suck his dick and bend over (like the fucking low-life, spineless slut that he is) or go throw himself over the fucking railing or something, and he would have done it.
(--'Jesus Christ, this is too fucking much... Frightening. And I don't even have to *make* him do it... This is more power than Schillinger ever fucking had with any of us. And...my God! It feels amazing!...'--)
But he had rapidly abandoned that thought; he had other more important things on his mind.
'Cause...(--'you don't wanna be Schillinger, right Toby? You can't be...'--)
Making sure Keller doesn't get his ass killed before actually GETTING his ass killed (in a more *humane* manner, as it were).
Trying to get through that thick, screwed up skull of his, while - at the same time - clearly laying out the boundaries between the two of them.
Properly saying their goodbye's, so to speak...
Well, Toby saying his goodbye...
(--'Cause fucking Chris will never say his *goodbye* apparently.'--)
And in the end...managing only to HURT the other man. (Like always.)
(--'Never really getting anywhere, just crashing into each other like blind, senseless objects, spinning in circles... Unable to *ever* GET one another.'--)
Like fucking always...
---end of part 12/17---