Finally, the end.
GO STRAIGHT TO HELL, BOY
Beecher slowly slumps into a chair next to her. He's tired, he's exhausted. Fine lines on his forehead become thicker and his mouth twitches into a sour grin.
"How the hell did he find out?"
"I don't know," Pete murmurs slowly, leaning in towards him, fingers lightly curling around his arm: "He wants you to do it."
"He's told me..."-- she tries to control her breathing: "Tobias, he's not going to do anything against you. He's told me to convince you to do it. To turn him in."
Beecher nods his head in disbelief.
"He knows what he's done to you. And he's sorry. I guess it's his way of making it up to you."
"That's bullshit," he whispers.
"No, listen to me. He wants you to be happy, for you to be with your children."
"He's told you that?"
"Oh, come on Sister. You know him, he's a liar. He'd say anything to get his way."
"I mean what other chance does he still have? He's using you to get to me, like always. To get you all...sympathetic. Otherwise he'll have to kill me, right?"
"He'd never kill you. You know that."
"Yeah, I know."
He knows. It's the one certainty he possesses about him. Chris Keller would rather kill the whole damn world than finish him off.
(--'Ain't that ro-man-tik?'--)
"I think he's being honest. He's changed, he's different."
"He's *depressed*," Toby says sarcastically.
"Yes, he is."
"He's depressed, I'm depressed, everybody's fucking depressed!..."
(--'What fucking else is new?'--)
"Tobias, listen to me. When you asked me for an advice on this...you had already made up your mind. You want to make a deal with the FBI to get out of here, right? He's giving you permission to do it. I believe he's tired...of everything. Of lying. Of feeling guilty."
"Feeling *guilty*? Giving me *permission*?!... Fuck him."
"Unless...a part of you wants to punish him. To make him suffer. Has this thought crossed your mind?"
"I just want to get out. Go back to my kids. I don't wanna punish him. He's not worth even that."
He sighs, leaning in his chair, elbows on his knees.
"I'm so tired, Sister. I've let my life pass me by. I don't wanna grow old and die in this place. I don't wanna end up like him."
"I believe that's exactly what he thinks."-- her voice's shivering just a tiny bit: "He loves you. But he also knows - I think he's finally come to accept it - you don't belong here. Your life doesn't stop here, it shouldn't. That's why he's doing this. Tobias...Chris is doing this for you. It's the only thing he can still do for you. You should appreciate it."
"You know, I've hated this man with so much intensity...so many times. It was nothing resembling my feelings for Schillinger. He didn't humiliate me, he didn't break me. He just lied and...lied. Betrayed my trust. Still I loved him. And I don't even know why... It's crazy, isn't it? I hated him so much because he showed me what I could be, just how low I could sink... And now...he's doing it again. Fucking complicity."
"He just wants to help you."
"He will die. He's worthless, nobody gives a shit about him. If the D.A. was able to convict him on Heekin's testimony... He's got no chance."
"Tobias, you need to talk to him. He needs you to talk to him. You have got to talk to him, for both of you."
"What? I need closure?"
"He needs it too."
"Yeah, but... I honestly don't think he's capable of it, Sister."
Of course, the most important element in this particular equation for Beecher is just how much - if any - does Keller value his own existence.
More than that, how can a man used to reacting almost instinctually to protect himself from whatever or whoever might get in his way - intentionally or not - abandon his own self, that which makes him who he is...
And for what? For who? For love?
(--'Oh, come on!...'--)
But then again...he did put his life on the line, more than once. For...(--love.) For Toby.
How can a man like Christopher Keller just let go of everything that he is...for him?
Beecher knows - if there's anything blatantly obvious about Chris for whoever gets to know him a little bit more deeply - Keller's perception of his own life, of its value, is pretty much close to zero. The man hates himself.
The fact that he keeps breathing - that he's managed to breathe all this time - seems to be nothing but the simple result of an unconscious rhythm his own body produces for him; it's not something that he asks for, it just happens.
A perfectly functioning organism...soulless.
And now - apparently - even that beautifully skilled - crafted over the years - survival reflex seems to be crumbling down. The man's falling in on himself, like a house of cards.
But there's another element involved in this (whatever *this* is) - an element both Sister Peter Marie and Beecher himself are well aware of: Chris' fear of that 'pain and fire for all eternity'...
God and hell and heaven - all that twisted, fucked up Catholic understanding Keller retains over his own life and of all the things he's done; his sense of loneliness, of being abandoned.
Sister Pete's words echoing in Toby's head:
"I guess it's his way of making it up to you."
Maybe this is his way - the *only* possible way - of making up to everyone he's ever hurt.
Making it up...(--to those men he's killed.)
Making it up to God himself.
(Cutting a deal.)
His life for Beecher's; his life for the ones he's taken. Booking himself a place in heaven.
(Tit for tat.)
What else is new?...
What Beecher doesn't realize - and Pete only slightly suspects - is that Chris has given up.
On himself; on others. On heaven, or salvation or grace...
On God himself. His love. His forgiveness.
Most importantly: on Toby's forgiveness.
He's just...abandoned it all. And he's freer than he's ever been. Oblivious.
Kind of like...(--being dead.)
Nighttime in Em City.
Ryan O'Reily stares outside of his pod, green eyes lowered and tired. He feels - maybe for the first time - completely aimless.
He's tired; tired of Oz, of himself, tired of his life. Tired of everything.
Small flashes flicker into darkness: a pair of equally green eyes staring at him, skinny fingers twisting and twirling into long blonde hair. His own name faintly echoing in his ears...
Behind him, the lower bunk squeaks; he turns around to see Beecher gazing at him, blue eyes just as lowered and tired.
"Can't sleep?" Toby asks quietly.
A moment of silence spreads between them like time itself. Oz time; seemingly endless, unusually bendable.
"Are you really gonna do it?"-- a beat: "Rat on Keller."
"How the..." Beecher draws a long, ragged breath; looking down. "Did you tell him?"
O'Reily moves towards him, sitting on a chair across the other man:
"Shit. Don't tell me he knows."
"Yeah. He knows." Toby's voice is calm. Tired. "He knows."
"What are you gonna do?"
Beecher doesn't respond. He doesn't have to.
Ryan moves again towards the pod's door, staring outside into Em City's darkness. His home. Everybody else's.
"You're both fucking walking disasters," he whispers under his breath. "When you don't destroy others, you somehow find ways to destroy yourselves."
His words dissolve into the night.
Em City remains silent as a tomb.
---end of part 16/17---
GO STRAIGHT TO HELL, BOY
Count the years, the days, the hours...the minutes, the fucking seconds 'til you're *out*, one way or the other.
Everybody does that in here, even those that will never get out.
And in the meantime, they try to stay alive...most of them anyway.
Living the mockery of a life they've been handed. The life they've CHOSEN.
Nobody's got any right to complain.
Not Ryan O'Reily - who's managed to destroy not only his own life, but the life of his brother; the only person he's ever cared about with all his being, in his entire life.
Not Vernon Schillinger - caught up in his hatred for his father, for that black drug dealer who got him sent to Oz in the first place, for everybody and everything...even his own sons - his only reason for living; his biggest failure.
Not Christopher Keller - going from one screw up to another with his eyes wide open, wrapping himself up in the feeble, disappointing illusion of love and the salvation it promised.
And not even Tobias Beecher - blaming everybody and everything for his own weaknesses, his bad judgment; blatantly incapable of understanding, of learning anything from his own experience.
Forgiving and forgetting, instead of *remembering*...
But do any of them learn anything, ever?!...
Do any of them change?...
Moments like these...Beecher misses Said.
A hidden heartache - stacked up inside other heartaches - surfacing from time to time as a reminder of just how completely alone he really is. How isolated he is - always was -in Oz.
Living, breathing among a throbbing mass of bodies; not real people. Bodies.
Intimacy, closeness...that's what he misses the most. He had that with Said; he had it...(--with Chris.) Not anymore.
All over again. Repetition - the mother of being.
Keller's eyes slowly focus onto the figure that's just stepped in his pod. He closes the book he's been reading, and moves his thumb across its cover.
"Hey." His voice is so quiet, lacking rhythm; head slightly moving from left to right, teeth chewing on the inside of his cheek. "You've talked to Pete?"
Beecher nods approvingly, rubbing his forehead with the back of his hand. How in God's name did they end up here? Like this?...
Toby wants to get closer to him, to feel his warmth - that which always used to give him comfort, encouragement.
But he doesn't. Things have changed; everything's changed. And it won't ever be the same, no matter what.
"Why are you doing this?" Toby asks under his breath, gazing at the other man.
Keller draws a long breath staring right back at him. He knows Beecher is suspicious; he's got every right to be. After all, he's fucked him over so many times...broken his trust. Proved him, on countless occasions, to be so unbelievably fucking wrong in giving Keller any kind of credit.
"Pete must have told you..."
"Yeah, Pete told me. But I wanna hear it from you." His voice is raw, demanding.
No trace of that machine-like coldness Beecher has been spreading around him like some kind of a fucking protective haze over the last few months. This is Beecher at his best. Wild cat determination.
Another ragged breath; Toby is gonna make this as hard as possible.
"I wanna make things right..."(--'for once.'--)
And...Oh, my God!... Hadn't he said that before too?
(--'How many times are you gonna say it Chris?... 'Til he gets it.'--) Until Toby understands that he actually means it.
"Oh...and why does *that* sound familiar?!..." Beecher asks sarcastically. "What are you after?"
(--'What am I after?!... God, you can be such an idiot sometimes. Or...maybe not.'--)
"Look. You wanna get out, right? I'm... I'm letting go."
(--'Letting *you* go. That's all I can give. What more can I give?...'--)
Bad choice of words. (As always.)
"You sound like Schillinger."
Keller frowns for a second, pain and anger clouding his eyes. He looks down at his hands. What the hell can anyone answer to that?
"I'm not yours to *let* go," Toby points out coldly. "Never been."
(--'Something that you keep forgetting, Chris.'--)
"I know," Keller replies, rubbing his palm. He looks up and meets Beecher's ugly, distant squint, thinking: 'Jesus, you never make anything easy, do you Toby? You just gotta twist everything to shit, you fucking bitch. I'm giving you everything; giving you my life. Can't you just fucking take it for what it is?'
"I know," he repeats, voice thicker and harsh.
His brain's squirming to find the right measure, a way out of this maze of words Beecher has always known how to entangle him in. Suddenly he realizes: Toby's unspoken truth, what the other man had always silently thrown between them like an unsurpassable gap, an accusation - 'You don't know me.'
(Never did, never will. Never even tried to.)
Well, Toby...I guess you don't know me either, he thinks.
(--'Maybe it's time you found out. So you can finally let go yourself.'--)
He springs out of his bunk, his overwhelming figure spreading like a shadow over Beecher. The other man can't help but try - in vain - to hold back a small shiver.
"You know To-by," Keller says in that low, way-too-intimate tone of voice Beecher knows so well - intimate enough to hurt; intimate enough to sound unmistakably threatening: "...you always used to tell me I never said anything about myself, remember? You kept whining about it, 'member?"
He's now so close to the other man, Toby feels like Keller's sucking the air out of his lungs; he wants to move, to walk away, fucking *run*...but he knows that would be a sign of weakness.
And besides, Chris would probably stop him; grab him, fucking strangle him just to keep him near. This is Keller-on-automatic-pilot here talking, crawling into him; touching him withOUT even putting a finger on Toby's skin.
Sucking him in; taking him whole.
(--'Jesus, oh Jesus...'--)
Half reeling, dizzy and hollow on the inside, a thousand champagne bottles popping open at the same time in his ears... Toby hears - no, *senses* - Chris' words quietly forming in the back of his throat; his mouth is so close to Toby's, he can't hold back a whimpered gasp.
"Well, I'm tellin' you now, so pay attention, okay? 'Cause this is good shit, To-by..."-- strong arms encircling the other man's body, palms resting onto the pod's wall; still NOT touching him, face just inches away form Toby's. "Useful," he spews out almost sarcastically.
(--'If the bitch won't get it the right way, try the wrong way. The one's already familiar with. The one he always associates you with, in the first place...'--)
"Back the fuck away," Beecher whispers, hot breath and mint flavored toothpaste melting onto Chris' tongue.
Keller's eyes linger for a second on the other man's mouth, a tinge of desire, hunger sparkling beneath lowered eyelids. (And sorrow.) Yeah, sorrow; the kind...(--'that rips your fucking heart out.'--)
He wants, he needs to back away...but he doesn't. Toby's trapped between his arms; like a caged bird.
He's got to get this over with. Leaning in even closer, tilting his head a little:
"I killed them all; all three of them. I fucked them and then I killed them. Dumped their bodies after..."
He closes his eyes, tongue flicking over his teeth for a second. A sour grin spreads on his face, looking straight into Beecher's eyes. He sees fear dancing behind his pale blue irises.
"Snapped their necks - two of them...stabbed the other. Don't ask which, I don't even remember what they looked like. They meant shit to me, just something warm to stick my dick into. They were just bodies...things that stood in my way."
Lips brushing against fresh shaven jaw, feeling the other man instinctively jerking away.
"Happy now Beech?"-- hoarse voice soaking into Toby's sweat drenched skin, tongue sliding across strained muscle: "You've got your confession."
Chris knows Toby's gonna be punching him any minute now to free himself, to get away from him; he's counting on it.
Throw enough bullshit to freak him out and make him fucking face the music already: Chris is a murderer, he's confessed and now he can turn him in without his goddamn conscience getting in the way. He's counting on it.
But - as always - Toby proves to be predictably unpredictable.
"Things that stood in your way," Beecher whispers, forcing Keller to look at him. "That's what you said... What *way* Chris?"
Keller moves away from the other man turning his back at him. A soft chuckle filters through the distant noises slithering in from outside the pod: Poet laughing, the Muslims praying. O'Reily yelling at somebody.
The world keeps spinning, alright.
"What *way*, Chris?" Toby repeats even quieter this time.
Chris covers his face in his palms for a second; then he half-turns towards Beecher, eyes roaming over his entire being.
A half-crooked/half-shy smile settles on his face as he nervously rubs his knuckles across his jaw and mouth.
He loves this man. He loves him so much.
"Nothin's simple with you Toby, is it? You just can't take 'simple'..."
"I am giving you," Keller interrupts him, raising his hands in utter surrender: "...the only thing that I can. The one thing that I've got left..."-- his voice is breaking up, tense and shivering: "...what you need out of me, okay? Just take it, okay? Just fucking take it, Toby."
(--'Please, take it.'--)
Beecher's mouth opens. No sound comes out though. He's breathing heavily and his lowered, red-rimmed eyes seem frozen under tired, swollen eyelids.
After a long moment of complete, eerie silence, he looks up at the other man, tears glistening in his blue eyes.
"The State's gonna kill you," he whispers.
(--'I'm gonna kill you.'--)
So powerful. So devoid of doubt. So complete.
(A full circle.)
'Your kids need you, not their grandparents. This is the only way to do it...'-- Chris' words and his own blending in Toby's mind - one body. One soul. Whispered in the other man's soft voice:
"It's your only shot, Toby."
Chris is smiling; a bit sad, a bit relieved nice little smile. Toby smiles back.
"You're my knight in shinning armor..."
(--'Always have been.'--)
"I wouldn't go that far," Chris says, letting out a low, amused chuckle. "If I didn't take care of your ass, who would?"
Moments of silence pass between them like water. The heart's deepest forgiveness.
Time itself is standing still.
"I love you, Chris. I never stopped...not for a second."-- a beat of quiet mutual understanding; an endless string of spoken and unspoken feelings captured inside three little words: "I love you."
So powerful. So devoid of doubt. So complete.
(A full circle.)
Keller just nods, turning his back on the other man. Hearing his steps slowly dissolving behind him.
"I love you too, Toby."
Whispering into darkness; whispering in his own pillow, for only the cold, transparent walls of Em City to hear.
Whispering into the void of his own life. And - pretty soon - into the void and the darkness of his own death.
His (other) only certainty.
And everybody else's.