GO STRAIGHT TO HELL, BOY
"All hell will break loose when Schillinger gets back from the Hole," Hill says, rolling his wheelchair next to Beecher and O'Reily, sitting (as usual) at a table in Em City.
"Maybe, maybe not," Ryan replies, that devilish spark surfacing in his green eyes for a second.
"Why you say that?" Hill asks.
"Because Schillinger wants to stay in Em City, and that means 'no hell breaking loose', Augustus," Beecher morosely points out, keeping his eyes on the game of chess he and O'Reily had been playing: "He'd be out of here and back in Gen Pop in a fucking second if he were to do something. He's not an idiot."
Toby looks up at O'Reily, and they both seem to instantly have the same thought: 'Well, well, aren't we smart?'
And it makes them leer at the same time, like a couple of kids.
It feels unspeakably good.
He's always had this with O'Reily, even when the only thing bonding them together was heroin.
This 'I know you're smart, you know I'm smart, so let's be smart together' feeling.
And it sometimes felt like friendship to Toby.
Except of course...(--Ryan didn't have any friends.)
Kind of like the thing he'd had with Keller, both of them so enmeshed into each other's twisted brains, both enjoying each other's weird, irritating quirks.
Only that...(--Ryan never played that game for the same reasons Keller used to.)
Or maybe he's wrong about Keller's motivations. Maybe he never *got* the other man at all. Wouldn't be that much of a surprise there...
"Anyway, something's got to happen. Schillinger won't just let this pass him by," Hill says.
"Maybe," O'Reily responds again, smirking triumphant, as he knows he's one step away from beating Beecher at chess.
And God knows, that doesn't happen very often.
With Keller it did.
More than often. Almost all the time, truth be told.
Way back...(--a long, long time ago, when things used to go *his* way.)
When Keller and Beecher used to exchange more that two words to each other, and Schillinger was safely rotting away in Gen Pop; and...(--*Cyril* was twisting his long hair with his fingers, smiling...)
Yeah, a long fucking time ago.
"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't throw your ass back in Gen Pop."
Schillinger stares at the other man admirably cool, as though looking down at a bug.
"We made a deal, right? When you said you'll transfer me in Em City. I don't fuck with Beecher, we both keep our distance. Well, McManus, I kept my end of the bargain."-- a hypocritical smile: "We haven't even spoken to each other. So I don't see any reason for you not to keep *your* end of the bargain."
McManus nods, annoyed, leaning against his desk:
"Yeah you did. But that doesn't mean you can go around fucking with anybody else."
"I promise," Vern says in that mild-mannered, mocking tone of his: "What happened in the cafeteria was just an accident. It won't happen again."
(--'Cross my heart and hope to die. *Really*.'--)
"Okay, but Keller's out of your pod as of this moment."
Schillinger just shrugs, lifting his shoulders and twisting his mouth in utter indifference.
He didn't want him in anyway. Not anymore.
Same place, different inmate.
"I don't wanna move out."
McManus frowns and bangs his knuckles on the desk in dismay, gazing at Keller, who's looking down at his feet.
"You heard me. I don't wanna move."
"Where the fuck do you think you are, Keller? This isn't a fucking hotel, you don't get to choose where you stay, *I* do. And why in God's name would you wanna share the same pod with Schillinger? He didn't beat you enough?"
Keller looks up and smiles, a bit amused by the other man's last words.
(--'You think you control anything of the shit going on in here, Timmy? Take another good look around, and keep your eyes open this time.'--)
"I'll move you in with Beecher."
"I don't think that's such a great idea, McManus," Keller says choking a sudden, bitter snort: "Beecher doesn't want that," he adds, chewing at his fingernails.
"Yeah...I guess he wouldn't too thrilled about that now, would he?..."
Keller ignores the other man's sarcastic tone, slowly banging one of his boots against the desk in front of him:
"Listen... There's no need to move me out of Schillinger's pod. We're getting along fine," he says, making McManus cross his arms on his chest, huffing and puffing.
"You're getting along *fine*?... Well guess what, Keller. Getting the crap kicked out of you - no matter how personally gratifying that is - doesn't constitute for me a reason good enough to keep you with Schillinger, you hear me? You're moving out, and that's the end of it."
Keller's eyes narrow, turning dark and mean, matching the tone of his voice:
"Don't do it."
"Or you'll what?!" the other man barks at him, standing up and waving his arm: "Get the fuck out of my office!"
So Keller moves in with some stinky dork who he's never talked to before, who's name he can't even pronounce correctly.
Ukrainian or Lithuanian or something...
Carrying his stuff, while Schillinger sits at a table with those two Aryans - mean, icy-cold smile firmly placed on his face.
And Beecher and O'Reily gaze from in front of the TV.
"End of the fucking marriage, huh, Schillinger?" O'Reily throws at the other man, chuckling.
(--'Shit! Even *wife* no. 1 - or no.2 - however you wanna count, sitting here, next to me lasted longer. Losing your *appeal*, or something?'--)
"Getting old, big daddy? Can't get it up for him anymore?" Ryan adds, a bit annoyed the other man isn't giving him the time of day.
"Shut the fuck up," Beecher says - quietly enough for only Ryan to hear - looking at the TV.
Well at least someone's giving him a bit of attention. And weirdly enough, O'Reily keeps his mouth shut. For once.
"I didn't wanna move out."
Schillinger glances up from the book he was reading, staring at Keller for a second, before letting his eyes fall back on the book.
"Get the fuck out of here."
"I didn't wanna move," Keller repeats, keeping his eyes firmly locked onto the other man.
"I heard you the first time," Vern grumbles, looking up at him, raising his eyebrows: "So?"
"I thought you should know," Chris lets out, in the most demoralized tone possible.
"Go tell that to someone who gives a shit, Keller."
"I'm tellin' you."
"Jesus fucking Christ, what do you want?!" Schillinger snaps, instantly regretting letting the other man know he's still somehow...interested.
"I want...things..."-- Keller seems to not be able to find his words, his eyes slipping a little to the corner of the pod: "If you still want me..."
(--'Jesus, it's happening all over again. Only this time you know better, Vern. Or you should...'--)
"Just for fucking," Keller adds quickly, rubbing his thigh with his fingertips, his tongue flicking for a moment over his lower lip, enough for Vern to notice: "And nobody has to know if you don't want them to. And you can do...whatever you want. You know, to make things *right*."
"*Making things right* would mean putting a shank through those ribs of yours, Chrissie," Vern says, a bit disconcerted: "Why?"
"I don't know..."
And he really does seem to have no clue.
Schillinger nods his head for a couple of moments, as if pondering whether to accept his proposition or tell him to fuck off.
And the more unstable part of him, the *weaker* side of him wins.
(For the moment.)
"Okay. We'll figure something out."
Just fucking him.
No strings attached.
No need for everybody else to know.
No fucking headaches, right?
So later that day, in the same storage closet where Keller works - the same closet he got himself shanked in, the same he took somebody's life in - Christopher Keller finds himself bent over a table, grunting and cursing under his breath, shivering and aching all over, getting fucked in the ass by the same man he's been fucked and fucked over by for as long as he can remember.
Even during those moments when Schillinger wasn't around.
Feeling the other man's rough hand clutching on his wrist, pinning him brutally onto the table; its sharp, cold, metal edge painfully nudging into Chris' still sore wounds, splayed on his stomach; Vern's other hand grabbing his throat from behind, making him gag and choke for air.
Spit, on the back of his neck; feeling his own fingernails clawing into his arm, drawing blood.
And Vern, coming inside him, muttering slowly the same words he's heard for a lifetime:
"*You* wanted this, you fucking whore. You want this, Chris..."
Business as fucking usual.
---end of part 13/17---
GO STRAIGHT TO HELL, BOY
"Fucking in a place like Oz turns you into a fag," O'Reily blatantly points out, in the middle of a drug-counseling group session with Sister Pete.
Around him, the usual suspects: Beecher, Hill, Keller and some other guys they barely know, even though they're all residents of Em City.
"You know, Beecher might have a thing or two to say about that," Hill chuckles, making Toby give both of them one of those patented ugly squints of his.
"That's of course, if you're not screwing some very well known, barely female C.O.," Keller replies, staring at Ryan.
Who - by the way - doesn't seem too pleased with Chris' not so subtle innuendo.
"What you're trying to say, Ryan, is that there is a lack of choices, right?" Sister Peter Marie says, sensing where the exchange of arguments might lead.
"Yeah, Sister. That's what I'm getting at. Being in here does limit your range of choices," O'Reily replies, looking suddenly morose.
"And you've made yours, we already know," Beecher snaps back, shifting in his chair: "Blah, blah..."
"Yeah, well at least I didn't get it up the ass from half of the fucks in here," Ryan sneers nasty, making Keller - who is sitting right next to him - quietly chuckle for one brief second.
"What the fuck are you laughing at?" Toby snarls, as he seems to be on the verging point of unleashing that 'Beecher from hell' everybody knows so well.
So, Sister Pete tries - again - to calm things down:
"Ryan, stop it!" she says harshly, looking from underneath her glasses at the man in question, letting him know not to (metaphorically) fuck with her: "I don't want this to turn into a fist fight."
"Well, I guess you should have picked a different topic, Sister," Keller whispers under his breath: "And, besides, this ain't about whether you're a fag or not. It's about something else."
"Oh, really? Why don't you enlighten us, Chris, since you're such an *expert*?" Beecher asks, throwing a mean smirk, obviously in a pissy mood.
The two men stare at each other for what seems like an eternity, neither of them backing down. Finally, it's Keller who lowers his eyes:
"It's about power..."-- biting his inner cheek, smiling a little: "It's not even about that, really... It's about trust," he says slowly, locking eyes with Toby: "Intimacy."
He sees something flickering in the other man's blue eyes: a shadow, or a shiver.
(--'Yeah, you know what the fuck I'm talking about Toby.'--)
But Beecher snaps back machine-like, cold:
"Intimacy gets you a shank in the back. From the asshole you least believed to do it."
"Hey, it's a prison Beecher," Chris says, dismissive: "What did you expect?"
A heavy silence falls over the room; they all know what the hell the two men are talking about, and nobody feels like interrupting them.
"Chris..."-- Sister Pete tries breaking the standoff, but gets silenced by Beecher's sly tone:
"It's about weakness..."-- leaning in his chair towards Keller: "Isn't it, Chris? Weakness and need. And I'm not talking about sex, but something else. Something beyond it... You DO know that there's something beyond fucking, right?"
Keller's eyebrows quirk for a second, a quizzical smirk spreading on his face:
"Yeah, I know. Do *you*, Toby?..."
The tone of his voice, the way he barely whispers his name, his unreadable stare...
Beecher's smoothness suddenly disappears, giving ground to confusion, anger and...(--something *else*.)
That fucking stupid cocky smile of his, the confidence...when the fuck did all that come back?!... Beecher senses he can't win this...(--whatever *this* is.)
"Fucking bitch," he hisses, seeing the other man's smile widen with satisfaction.
"Thought so," Keller says, smile freezing halfway through, like a mask.
He looks down at his feet in what seems to Beecher as being...disappointment.
And that's the end of the session.
Too much of a bad vibe in the air for Sister Pete, apparently.
Making O'Reily wonder what the fuck are these sessions good for, in the first place...
If sex in Oz is a matter of power and weakness...then who's got the power, and who's weak?... Who's driven by need?
Keller's leaning against a shelf in the storage closet where he's supposed to be having his regular up, close and very personal *date* with Schillinger, yawning and looking beautifully bored.
Still, Vern's late, and a barely noticeable tinge of...(--fear?) makes his hands shiver a little.
He's NEVER late...
(--'What the fuck?!...'--)
His weekly screwing sessions with Schillinger have a monotonous, familiar pace, and Keller likes that. Stability. Just like in Lardner.
Only that...this time is different.
Meet, fuck, and then part ways, without saying much to each other.
There ain't much to say, anyway.
And that's just fine with Keller.
Vern gets off, and so does Chris.
No needless complications.
He knows the game; he can play it, and he can (almost) pretend it doesn't mean shit to him.
But...why is he doing it?
And why is *Vern* doing it?...
He wonders if that's what Beecher felt after his kid had been murdered. Fucking all those guys and not even trying to hide it.
Letting everything run through his body like poison, deliberately hurting himself. Keller too.
And...(--'if you're doing this to hurt him, why are you hiding, then?'--)
He's not the one that's hiding, though... Vern is.
And - by doing this - he's vulnerable. Weak.
Vern's not doing it to show off; he's not doing it to display power.
He just wants to fuck him.
And the really disturbing thing is that he's not projecting his power not even over Keller.
He's accepted an offer that only provides him with...*this*.
A small, restrained grin comes over Chris' face. Vern's doing it because he needs it. Needs *him*.
(--'And you're doing it because of the exact same reason...'--)
But he knows Schillinger's not the one he really needs; Toby is. And Toby is not giving him the time of day; Toby...doesn't need him. Not anymore.
Chris just needs for Schillinger to fuck him. To keep him going. To force him to breathe.
He knows he depends on the other man for that; he depends on all his feelings for Schillinger to keep resurfacing to just get him through the day.
That almost visible leash...
Something to hang on to, to keep him sane.
(--'Letting a man you hate fuck you, that's *very* fucking sane, Chris!...'--)
A man...that won't show the fuck up already!... (--'Where the hell is he?'--)
And...speaking of the devil, Schillinger is in his pod, casually talking to a Brother, a wide, chilling smile settling on his face.
He doesn't need to fuck Keller up; he knows the other man will eventually do that by himself.
(--'You think you can play me, Chris? Think again, you stupid low-life slut.'--)
Vern's the one doing the mindfucking now. He's running the show, and -if he knows Keller the way he does - he's probably gonna have him lurking outside his pod any moment now, like a stray puppy.
Simply because Chris is nothing like his other ex-prag, Beecher.
He's got no pride, no backbone.
He's never really escaped.
Chris is still fucking 17, locked up in Lardner, in the darkest corners of his mind; he's still Schillinger's - body and mind. And soul.
Only now, Vern doesn't want him anymore. The older man's just gonna kick back and enjoy the show...
For he knows...Keller - even if he seems to be a smooth, sly bastard, capable of making it on his own - is craving for *anything*, deep inside.
Anything Schillinger - or Beecher - or anybody else could come up with: pain, hate, humiliation, affection, care, love...
Beecher's not giving him any of those things lately. And neither will Schillinger.
Keller's gonna sink into dismissal, oblivion...
And that's the one thing the man can't handle. He's gonna crumble like a castle made of sand...
Schillinger smiles even more widely, looking at Beecher, leaning over the railing outside his pod.
(--'Yes, life is good.'--)
Meanwhile, back in the storage closet, the earlier oh-so-confident Chris Keller slowly slides down on the floor, holding his knees to his chest. Schillinger didn't show up; he didn't come...
He'll never come.
He gradually realizes Vern doesn't need him. Just like Beecher. Or his wives.
NOBODY depends on him anymore.
The one thing he's been after all his life...to have people needing him.
So he could safely need them back.
Need turned into craving; craving turned into possession. Possession into surrender. And love. And hate. And pain.
All that he's asked for, ever since he could remember: just for someone to *stay* the fuck with him.
All that he's managed to let slip through his fingers. What he has instinctively groped for in the scrambled, meaningless, black and white puzzle his life has been; and what he has consciously...(--ran away from.)
Scared of getting *too* close, terrified of *never* getting close enough.
(If that makes any sense...)
Bonnie needed him...and she died all alone. His mom needed him. And he can barely remember her face. Toby did...he'd given him what he could.
The one time when Chris had wanted *everything* - crushing his inner fear, his own demons - blinded by the promise of something meaningful, something lasting. Something he could hope for, look forward to.
His surrender turning into the other man's trap. His prison.
"I don't hate you, Chris..."-- Toby's soft voice resounding in Keller's ears, making him cover his face with his hands.
(--'You don't hate me 'cause you don't feel anything for me anymore. You're done needing me.'--)
Beecher had gotten what he needed from Keller, the moment he needed it.
Toby had given him all he could.
And Chris had intentionally misread everything about the other man.
Trying desperately to hang on to the only thing that had given his life a meaning. Sense.
The man shielding him from death.
From eighty-eight years of oblivion.
He's lost everything.
---end of part 14/17---
GO STRAIGHT TO HELL, BOY
Well, Keller didn't choose to be lurking outside Schillinger's pod, as the older man had thought. He's just chosen to stop breathing.
Moving around in the quad like a ghost, barely talking to anybody.
Silent and recluse, avoiding looking at Vern or Beecher. Or anybody else.
Devouring himself, from the inside. Completely alone.
He's not interested in the others around him, he's not interested in Sister Pete's almost frantic efforts to make him *speak*; he's not interested in fucking, either - one of those oh-so-obvious things he's depended all his life to keep him going - he's not interested in anything, really. Not anymore.
Not until...he casually hears bits and pieces of a whispered conversation between O'Reily (the man who knows everything) and Rebadow, leaning in so close together they seem like part of some fucking secret cult.
"I know..." O'Reily murmurs, looking behind his shoulder at his (and Beecher's) pod.
"How?" Rebadow asks.
"Someone..." Ryan whispers back, and Keller can't hear the rest of his words, but he clearly hears the ending: "He's gonna snitch on him."
"Beecher? He wouldn't do that," Rebadow says a bit too loud, making O'Reily squirm annoyed in his chair.
"Sssh... Lower your fucking voice. I'm telling you, he's gonna do it. He ain't got any other opportunity to get out of here."
"Still..."-- again Chris can't hear what Bob is saying, catching on his last words: "...he know anything?"
"Probably. Who knows? Who cares?"
"*He* cares about stuff like that," Rebadow mutters slowly, noticing Keller's presence over his shoulder and silencing O'Reily with a sharp look.
Both men try to look as casual as possible, but after a couple of moments they both walk away in different directions.
Too late, though.
Keller has already figured out what they were talking about.
Toby's gonna give him up. Just like O'Reily said, he doesn't have any other possibility of leaving Oz, any time soon.
He's gonna snitch on him...
Toby's gonna...(--kill him.)
Toby's gonna kill him.
But, what the hell is he gonna say? Toby doesn't know shit about Bryce Tibbetts, or any of those other guys.
Beecher is smart, though. And that fucking FBI agent from hell's gonna fill him in on the murders enough for Keller to safely secure himself a seat on the electric chair, this time around. Beautiful.
Why don't you fill him in yourself?, Keller thinks, smiling bitterly.
Why don't you fill him in yourself...
Give him what he needs.
The only thing he still needs from you. Give him...(--his freedom.) His life.
Give the fucking mockery of a life you have for his. Besides...(--'anything's better than this.'--)
(--'You've stopped *breathing* a long time ago, Chris. You know that now. Let him breathe. *Save* him.'--)
"I'm kind of surprised you asked to see me, Chris. These past few weeks...well, you haven't been exactly communicative," Sister Pete says, a bit uneasy, leaning back in her chair.
Whenever Keller wants to *talk* to her, it can only mean one thing: he's after something he can't get by himself. She's got way too much experience with him not to be cautious.
"So... How are you?"
Keller stares at her for a long moment. He doesn't answer back.
Pete thinks she sees for a second his eyes flickering with nervousness, but maybe it's just her imagination.
"Sister," he starts abruptly, still staring at her with that amazing, horrible intensity of his: "I asked to see you because I need to ask you something. And I want you to be honest about it, okay?"
"Go ahead," Pete murmurs, as if under some weird, fucked up spell.
Keller finally looks down for a second, clutching the edge of the chair he's sitting in with his fingers.
Then he looks up at her again; there's a determination in his gaze she hasn't seen in a long time in the other man. And...something else.
(--'God, he's got tears glistening in his eyes!...'--)
"Is Toby...is he gonna rat me out?"-- his voice breaking up a bit, painfully clearing his throat: "Is he gonna give me up?"
Keller can see the woman standing across from him wincing. Her body stiffens as she tries to get as much distance from him as possible, searching for the right words.
She's scared, Keller thinks. She didn't expect this. And, just by reading her body language, Chris already knows.
Still, he presses on. He needs to be sure.
"Be honest. Please," he whispers, letting his gaze roam all over her being.
"Chris... I don't know what..."
"Please..." Keller repeats in an even more quiet tone, utterly motionless.
He's not leaning in towards her; he's not touching any of her stuff, he's not even smiling or smirking or whatever the hell he'd normally do, Pete notices.
He just...keeps staring.
"Chris... You know I can't do this," she manages to mutter, looking down on her desk.
"Professional ethics, I know..." Keller says, moving his head a little to the left, settling his eyes on the large crucifix hanging above a shelf on the wall.
"What are you going to do?" Pete asks, looking at him. Knowing how pointless it would be to pretend she doesn't know what he's talking about.
"Tell him to do it," Chris says, as his fingers slide across his own crucified Christ, in an unconscious move: "He should do it. He has to."-- looking back at her, his voice low, but clear and powerful: "I want him to."
Peter Marie moistens her burning lips with a sharp, quick lash of her tongue, just as unconscious:
Her voice is so soft, so quiet it makes Chris' legs shiver a little.
He tries to shrug, shaking his head:
"How the fuck's he ever gonna get out of here?"-- his voice getting thicker: "Don't let him blow it, Sister. You know he can, that's how he is. Same ethical shit, you know?" he chuckles slowly, rubbing his knuckles against his stubbled jaw: "His fucking conscience."
(--'You know, the thing you believe I don't have.'--)
"That which you *think* I believe you don't have," she replies in a low tone.
Chris nods for a second, a bittersweet smile settling on his face.
(--'Shit, Sister...we could've been such good friends, things would've been different.'--)
"Don't let him blow it," he repeats, dark-blue eyes glowing with...something Pete can't quite make out.
"You know what this means... You DO know, don't you Chris?"
(--'That *think things through* shit... Yeah, I know.'--)
A long, loud sigh:
Still smiling, his eyes darkening for a second.
But, slowly, Pete realizes what that *something* hiding inside his beautiful eyes is...relief.
He knows who he is, he knows where he is. He knows what he's done. And he knows what he has to do.
Suddenly, she manages to pull herself out of that haze the other man always seems to lure her in with, and remembers...she can't do this.
He's gonna die. She can't do this.
"You'll be executed," she hastily points out, as if trying to wake him the fuck up from whatever knight in shining armor fantasy he might be wallowing in.
"I know," he replies, his tone getting sharper, tougher.
He sighs, and looks back at the crucifix hanging on the wall:
"What? You can't let me do this? You can't *approve* it?" Keller interrupts her, holding back a sarcastic laugh: "You don't know where I AM right now, Sister. You don't have a fucking clue where I am," he finishes, leaning back in his chair, eyes wide open. Pupils dilated and hungry, darker than ever.
He rubs his forehead, letting his elbows fall on his knees.
He stares at her for what seems like an eternity to Sister Pete.
"Look. You want him to be happy, don't you Sister? You want him to be happy... Let him be happy," he whispers, looking down at his feet, his voice so low it seems like words form in he back of his throat: "Let him be with his kids. Let him live."
"Chris... Look at me," Pete whispers, and he complies.
She knows - looking at him, sinking into his glistening, tired eyes - there's nothing to say.
He's finally found something worth hanging on to, after all these months of pain and confusion: letting go.
---end of part 15/17---