Posted also on Unit B and TS.
Title: Slide (said the little penguin)
Note: Set during S.3 lockdown.
Beta'd by the wonderful Erin.
Title: SLIDE (said the little penguin…)
Part 1/11 - Prologue: "it's like...we're married or something."
(Let days and nights pass like water... Wait for time to stretch and narrow, cross all boundaries - last forever, unstoppable. Blurred. Wait - hope - for the whole fucking thing to just stop, die in its own making. By its own hands. Hoping for the end. The end of everything. And nothing in particular.)
Wake up when they tell you, back in your pod when they tell you; eat when they tell you, work when they tell you; sleep, piss, fucking *breathe* when you're told to...
Like a caged animal.
Like a goddamn lab rat.
Do what we want you to, and you'll get your cheese. Or - better said - you won't get punished.
Still, you could move around, talk to people, watch fucking TV...
Not anymore, though.
Twenty-four hour lockdown, slowly chipping away at Beecher's sanity, making him oversleep or not sleep at all; making him pace back and forth in his pod, angry and confused.
Having only Keller's eyes on him, watching him. Hell! Even Keller has gotten tired of watching him...(--and that's saying a lot.)
Apart from the usual, mindnumbing routine of NOT DOING DICK all day long, what Toby has is DOING DICK with Keller.
Weird, amusing small talk with the other man, that oh-so-welcomed sly, self-deprecating sense of humor he’s missed so much (nobody can really match Chris' ability to make Toby genuinely smile and even laugh, that's for sure); playing cards or chess.
Watching him get pissed off like a kid whenever he loses.
Jesus, the man has really gotten under his skin, hasn't he?!...
Screwing each others brains out; a bit surprised (okay, a whole lot more than a bit...) to hear Chris whispering to him - in that low, husky tone of his - he actually WANTED Toby to...
And...(--'sweet fucking Christ, if that's what Schillinger must have felt...'--)
But you don't wanna go there Toby, do you? No. (--'Fucking NO.'--)
Having that completely NEW experience (and especially realizing just how good, great, fucking *amazing* it was) leaving him confused and insecure all over again.
Who the hell is he?
How has he become *this*?
This thing, this person he can barely recognize...
Where has he left Tobias Beecher - the lawyer, the son, the father, the husband?!...
(--'Inside that Toyota you drove into drunkenness and death...'--)
And who the hell is this enigma, this man with whom you can never quite tell what he is thinking or feeling, and why the hell he is doing the things he does?
Who is Christopher Keller?
And what does he want from him?
(The things that aren't exactly obvious.)
What the fuck does Chris really *want* out of him?!...
Why does he want HIM...
Chris had told him on their fifth night together it felt like they were married...(--'or something.'--)
Lying on the lower bunk, already *almost* completely uncaring of any hacks that might pass by on their nightly check-up and bang on the pod's wall.
Having Chris' arms holding him tight, feeling his breath invading his lungs; Chris' body nudging into his like the other man wanted to melt into Toby's being.
He'd whispered slowly:
"You know Toby, it's like were married or something..."
Making Beecher wince, his back muscles stiffening under the other man's hold; letting out a small, disapproving huff - enough to get Keller to ease his grip and let out a casual remark about the hacks' nightly rounds.
Toby can sense the other man's insecurity, the underlining fear; he'd sensed it even before moving in with him, before the lockdown had begun.
The awkward chat they had at a *safe* distance - for both of them - leaning on the railings; the first night they'd been together.
That unspeakable tenderness in his voice and in his touch: like he was afraid Toby might push him away, or freak out on him.
His entire being saying just one thing: 'I'm sorry, I'll never hurt you again; don't push me away.'
(Blur. Bury your senses, feed off your instincts, ignore it all together. Swim through shit, grope in darkness, stumble. And grab the one thing that's still standing, the one thing you fear the most. The one every inch of your body, every pore of your skin craves and dreads. Grab on to him, like he grabs on to you. What fucking else do you have left? Burn. Breathe. Make your choice.)
Toby didn't push him away, he didn't want to. They had both crawled through way too much shit, too much pain and longing to deny themselves that kind of intimacy, the closeness they had experienced before.
And besides, having someone like Keller to watch his back is not a thing to be easily discarded, as Toby had already realized.
But there is something more than the simple idea of protection...
(--'Cause that would make this a kind of bargain, right? It would make you his *prag*.'--)
Even beyond longing...
It had hit Beecher the moment he saw Chris stabbing Schillinger in the gym, to SAVE his life.
The moment he'd felt the other man's arms grabbing onto him, shielding him with his body.
It wasn't about fucking or winning him back. Or proving *something* to the other inmates.
It was about the fact that Keller actually CARED about him. Needed him to stay alive. Enough to put his own life on the line for that.
Keller probably would have even settled for Toby to just fucking *talk* to him again and not treat him like a worthless piece of shit.
(For the moment.)
But Beecher had also realized, as he lay in the gym, bleeding all over Chris, that he too needed the other man.
In every describable and indescribable manner.
Both of them - trapped inside each other. Tangled.
So, maybe they are kind of *married*...
(--'Jesus, this is fucked up!'--)
But marriage means - above all - TRUST. Unconditional surrender.
And Beecher doesn't trust him.
Even if he desperately wants to...(--'cause he DID save his life after all.)
But trust doesn't come on command; you don't just snap your fingers and have it magically appear.
It's something that comes naturally, you can't force it.
Toby has forgiven him...
But he can't trust him.
And that's the one thing Keller wants the most out of him.
The one thing he can't really have, for the moment.
(Burn. Breathe. Drown. Just...slide. But never, never, never-fucking-EVER forget. Don't you *dare* to forget...)
---end of part 1/11---
Part 2/11: "things you better not ask for"
(Let days pass like water. Wait...wait for all this to pass, to collapse inward, outward, everywhere in between. Wait for it to grow, expand, become monstrous. Everything blown out of proportion, over-exposed, under-developed. Beyond recognition, so fucking familiar. Uncontrollable.)
Beecher walks back and forth in his pod, hands curled into fists, his blonde hair all wild and tangled; looking like a very, very pissed off house cat, unable to go wander off into that not-so-welcoming wilderness of Em City, but... What the fuck?
*Anything* is better than THIS.
Keller is sitting on his bunk, trying to read something. Trying to ignore his podmate's tense shoulders, his resentful expression.
Almost a week has passed since lockdown was enforced and if during the first few days things have gone off pretty smoothly - chess, reading, talking about meaningless, weirdly childish shit; most of the time, just *touching* each other, enjoying each other's presence, the flow of heat running between them - now the peace (or *truce*) they have managed to maintain is starting to rapidly disintegrate.
Toby feels like repeating the whole *PCP-up-the-stairs-and-throw-a-chair-thr
He momentarily looks over at Keller and thinks for a second about starting a fight with the other man.
Punching his fucking lights out.
Of course he knows Keller is a hell of a lot stronger than he is (not to mention the still slowly healing broken limbs...); he knows Chris could probably take him out just by punching him once or twice. He’s not dumb.
But Beecher had discovered during that whole *pod-wall-breaking-face-shitting* experience just how powerful he could be, whenever anger and that convenient tinge of madness overwhelmed him.
And - right now - madness and anger are not too far away, truth be told.
He feels like he can’t breathe; the air in the pod smells like recycled breath, sweat and tension.
It smells like Keller.
Fuck! Even his own skin, his *flesh* smells like Keller... He feels like he's breathing through the other man, drowning in him; sinking in the muddy depths of Christopher Keller.
(--'Ha! That's an *image*, To-by... You're really losing it again, aintcha?'--)
Keller, who is - no matter how much Toby might have wanted to tell himself otherwise - definitely not stupid. Uneducated, yeah. But...education doesn’t have much to do with intelligence, or creativity for that matter.
The man sharing a pod with him is the living proof of that.
He would sometimes - just sometimes, when he'd let his guard down - almost amaze Toby with the diverse amount of things he knew, things so completely useless for someone with his track record...
Toby had even considered telling him - in the middle of some pleasantly surprising discussion about the civil rights movement - that he could apply for college...
But he kept his mouth shut, once Chris had accurately pointed out that he'd never get out of Oz..."so all this pseudo-intellectual bullshit is a complete waste of time, and it's dangerous, a weakness", as Keller himself had put it.
(--'Just think about yourself, Toby. About where that *pseudo-intellectual bullshit* has landed you, from the moment you came to Oz... *That*'s the weakness he was talking about.'--)
Anyway, Keller was a lot smarter that he let people think he was, that much he could tell.
And it made Beecher wonder sometimes whether that wasn't one of the reasons why he'd been so keen in getting him back.
God knew there weren't a lot of people like Toby in this place... There wasn't *anyone* like Toby... And that was kind of...frightening really.
Beecher walks toward the pod door and peers outside into the empty quad, into the other pods.
He can't see Said's pod, though.
He really needs to talk to him; he needs to get out, to get away from Keller.
Just for a fucking second.
"Toby, settle the fuck down," Keller whispers from the lower bunk, closing his book and looking up at the other man: "You can walk back and forth in this fucking pod all you want, it won't change a goddamn thing. Sit down."
Beecher turns towards him and places his hands on his hips, snarling back:
"I'm sick of being locked up in here, like an animal. I need to get out. Damn it, don't you feel it too?"
"Feel what?" Keller asks, with a small tinge of boredom hiding in his voice.
"Numbness. Fucking inertia!" Toby snaps back, letting his hands fall down behind his body, placing his palms behind his back against the pod's wall.
"*I-ner-tia*..." Chris says, mimicking the other man's voice, chuckling a little: "You're not going crazy on me again, are you Beech?"
"Fuck you," Beecher answers angrily, turning his back on the other man.
Keller places his elbows on his knees and rests his chin on his fists, looking at him wearily:
"Listen, if you keep this up you'll get me acting the same way. And we'd both be like a couple of animals on display, and the hacks would come. You don't want that, do you?"
He stands up and walks towards Beecher, barely touching his shoulders with his fingertips:
"So...just *relax* for a sec, okay?"
"Don't," Toby snaps back, shaking his shoulders to make the other man take his hands away and back the fuck off.
Keller walks away from him and sits back down on his bunk:
"Talk to me. Tell me about your kids," he says in a monotonous voice, looking at his fingers.
"I don't know, pretend I'm Sister Pete or fucking Said... Tell me about your wife. Your parents."
"Why the fuck would you wanna hear about that?" Beecher says cautiously, turning towards him.
Chris looks at the other man with an almost bored despair:
"Because I give a shit about you?!... Jesus, Tobe, just talk to me, just sit the fuck down."
"You talk," Toby says, complying with his demands and sitting down in a chair across Keller.
"Me? About what?"
"You. Your parents, your life. I'm sick of talking about mine."
Chris lets out a soft chuckle, scratching his forehead and smiling widely:
"Shit, Toby, you're *never* sick of talking about yourself."
"Don't back away," Beecher whispers, leaning towards him: "Give me something about you."
"There's nothing to give," the other man replies, picking up his book, trying to be as dismissive as possible.
But Toby grabs the book from his slack hands and puts it aside, touching the back of Chris' hand with his fingertips, making the other man wince.
"Chris, you always do this. I always tell you things about myself and you never give anything in return."
"What is this, a bargain?" Keller says morosely, standing up and moving away from him: "Fuck it, Beecher, just forget it. Go back to your pacing."
"Why do you shut me out?"
Chris looks at him for a long moment, pondering whether to give in or not. Now he’s the one feeling trapped.
"Okay, what do you wanna hear?" Keller lets out in a loud sigh that sounds to Beecher like surrender, leaning against the pod's wall.
"Tell me about...tell me about your mom."
"My mom?!... Why?"
Beecher shrugs, vaguely gesturing with his hands as he wraps one of his ankles around the chair's leg:
"I don't know, just tell me about her."
"She's dead. And my dad's dead too. See?"-- his tone getting sharper: "Nothing worth talking about."
"How did she die?"
Keller turns his back on the other man, resting his head on the pod wall:
"Toby, fuck... Talk about your kids."
"Talk about Holly and Gary," Chris interrupts him, closing his eyes; his voice is smooth and monotonous again: "Talk about how it felt like when you saw them, when they came to visit."
"No. *You* don't fucking do this," he says, turning towards him, crossing his arms against his chest: "There ain't nothing, NOTHING to talk about, okay? It don't do no good to anybody. Tell me about your kids," Keller continues, clearly not in the mood for any soul-searching bullshit.
Beecher's eyes sparkle with fury in the pod's cold, emotionless light:
"You know what? If you don't trust me... Why should I trust you?"
The other man smirks bitterly, shaking his head:
"Come on, Tobe, this ain't about trust," Keller whispers pointing at him: "You talk about yourself to fucking everybody. You can't help yourself, that's how you are."
"And...that's NOT how *you* are, right?"
"Yeah. So don't ask me to change for you, okay? It would be useless, and, most likely I'd be lying to you."
"Because it's easier," Toby sneers, throwing at him that ugly squint Keller hates so much.
"Yeah...I guess I should be the one to know just how easy it is for you to lie about everything, right?" Beecher points out in a low, slightly condescending tone of voice, standing up and moving halfway towards Keller.
Chris doesn't say anything, but instinctively backs away a little, pushing his whole being into the wall behind him.
He feels his hands shake a little; his head jerks slightly as he avoids Beecher's mean stare.
"Tell me about when you first went to jail," Toby demands in a cool, predatory tone, nudging into the other man's personal space.
"It was Lardner, right?" Beecher adds, moving even closer to Chris, making the other man squirm as he tries to avoid looking at him: "I mean, shit! You were 17, how early could you have started your *career*?"
"Early enough to know a fuck of a lot more than you," Keller snarls back violently, pushing Toby's body out of his way and sitting on his bunk, looking down at his feet.
"Come on, tell me about it. *Brag*. Isn't that what tough cons like you do?" Beecher smirks, feeling his palms burning, his entire body riding on the wave of an impending symbolic Keller-bashing.
God, it feels so fucking good, he thinks, sensing the other man's uneasiness.
"Why do you always have to pull this shit Beecher, huh? What the fuck is it you want from me?" Keller asks in a low voice, not looking at him.
"I just wanna hear about your *first time*."
"Yeah right," Chris snarls back, rubbing his nape with his hand, looking at him through lowered eyelids: "You wanna hear about Schillinger, that's what you wanna hear 'bout."
"Now that you've mentioned it..."
"Okay!" Keller almost yells at the other man, taking a long moment to calm down: "He didn't treat me like shit. He didn't treat me like he did *you*," he says, smiling that demented clown smile of his: "You happy?!"
"Because he didn't have to..." Beecher says, giving his own, more refined, way more *in control* smile.
"Like I said, I know a fuck of a lot more than you ever will," Keller responds, looking down again.
Beecher crosses his arms against his chest, pushing out his most lawyer-like tone:
"And that makes you feel what? Better?"
"Well, I didn't lick his fucking boots. So yeah, it does," Keller answers, trying to get the upper hand.
"You know what?" Toby whispers, keeping his tone cold and casual: "I believe you. *You'd* feel better about being like *that*."
"What the fuck's that supposed to mean?" Keller throws back, his voice suddenly ragged and dangerous.
"Nevermind Chris," Toby says, looking tired and broken, turning his back on him, looking outside the pod: "It was a bad fucking idea to even ask you to *talk* in the first place."-- lowering his head and resting it on the glass wall, murmuring under his breath: "Besides, I don't think you'd get it even if I told you."
"Why? Because I didn't go to fucking Harvard?"
"Because you *know* a fuck of a lot more than me that's why," Beecher responds slowly, smiling bitterly.
Keller nods without being exactly sure what the other man meant by that.
He stares for a long minute at Beecher’s figure leaning against the wall, all that previous unrest, that fire rummaging through his body - gone now.
Chris shakes his head painfully, leaning on his elbows and clasping his forehead in his shaking palms:
"You know Toby, it would be useful for you to pull your head out of your fucking ass once in a while," he says in a low, almost whispered voice, keeping his face carefully hidden behind his hands: "People are different, the shit they go through... I am here, with you, because you..."-- his voice breaking up a bit: "...you're *not* like me. Get that?"
"Why? Because I'm weak?" Beecher says in a tone matching Keller's, watching one of the Sicilians smoking a barely concealed joint in his cell: "Because you had to shank Schillinger to save my ass?"-- he adds, turning to face him.
"Oh, fucking forget it," Keller lets out in a quiet tone, unaware of Beecher's stare measuring his entire being.
"Or maybe you're the weak one. For being here, with me, in spite of everything."
"Yeah, maybe I'm the weak one..."
Keller lifts his head out of his palms, meeting the other man's eyes:
"You shanked me, didn't you?"
His soft spoken words, his weary voice... those midnight blue eyes darkening...
Beecher turns back to staring outside the pod, his voice ragged, breaking into pulsating gulps of anger and resentment - though weirdly monotone:
"Well, at least you didn't have to spend three fucking months in a fucking cast, completely fucked up. Cursing everything and everybody. Cursing your own life."
"I told you I was sorry..." Keller says, swallowing hard, standing and moving towards him.
"I told you I had no choice..." he whispers, covering the other man's figure with his own, more powerful, taller shadow.
"Yeah, 'cause you owed your buddy for being so *nice* to you..."-- turning to face him, blue eyes burning with anger and contempt: "Tell me Chris, what exactly did you do back in Lardner, to keep Schillinger so pleased?"
Keller doesn't respond, but slowly turns around and backs away from him.
"You know Toby, you say I never wanna talk about me," Chris whispers, slowly dragging his feet as he spins in an imaginary circle, his shoulders lowered: "The truth is you don't want me to talk about myself, you don't even listen. You *never* listen. I guess it comes from the fact that you're so interested in your shit, so fucking self-absorbed you just can't deal with everybody else's."-- looking at him: "Maybe that's why your wife offed herself."
Beecher suddenly seems to revert back to his familiar pattern of anger and pain - his whole body twisting under the burden of Chris' last words - putting on that crazy, horrible, barely human mask of self-defense he's manufactured to survive in Oz:
"Don't you fucking talk about Gen, you bitch," he hisses through his unveiled, sharp, little teeth: "You don't know anything about my wife."
"Yeah, and that pretty much shows how little you talk about her."
"I wouldn't talk about her with *you*," Toby sneers back at the other man, ferociously.
"My point exactly," Keller chuckles quietly, leaning against the wall across from Beecher: "So don't ask me to talk about what matters to me, okay?"
Toby suddenly seems out of words.
Confused. Sad. Losing whatever kind of advantage over Keller he has felt before.
"Gen...I can't talk about her, you know? Not *really* talk... I just can't. Not now," he lets out, sighing and sliding to the floor.
"That's okay Toby," Chris whispers appeasingly, approaching the other man and dropping down on his knees in front of him: "You know, some things... You can't talk about them, you shouldn't..."-- putting his hands on Toby's trembling shoulders squeezing a little, leaning in his head only inches away from the other man's mouth: "There's shit you gotta keep to yourself, you know? There's things you just don't talk about."
Beecher looks at him - straight into his eyes - feeling the other man's breath warming his face, moist and caressing. Almost suffocating.
"You don't talk about anything..."
"Like I said..." Keller replies, unsure of what to say, backing away a little.
"...There’s just shit you don't talk about," Toby continues, slowly curling his fingers around the other man's shoulders, pushing into the fabric of his shirt.
"I know," Toby whispers under his breath, hugging him and subconsciously gasping for air as Chris leans in even further, whispering into his ear something he can't quite make out and gently kissing the spasming muscle stretching just under his jaw, shattering any small, residual instinct of self-defense he might still have.
For the moment anyway.
And - strangely enough - no hacks came to spoil the moment, Murphy deliberately ignoring the whole thing completely.
(Wait - hope - for the whole fucking thing to just stop, die in its own making. By its own hands. Hoping for the end. Days and nights - fingers over your mouth, nails scratching for blood, for dirt. For purity, for hate. For love. Days and nights, passing like water.)
---end of part 2/11---
Part 3/11: "beggars can't be choosers"
(Let days pass and let nights come... Harsh, transparent darkness. Make days into nights, sprawled arms wide open; you forget everything. And then you remember *everything* all over again.)
He closes his eyes and takes a long, ragged breath. He does that most of the time.
(--'I am not here, I am not here... Take me away. Pull me out from inside. Force me out of myself...'--)
Only this time, Chris' hand stops jerking him off; Toby slowly comes back from where he almost always seems to go, sensing the other man's body slightly moving away from him.
A rush of cold air quickly fills up the gap between them; a shuddering chill runs up Toby's spine and he opens his eyes in time to see Keller sitting on the edge of the bunk, searching for something under the mattress.
"What?" Beecher asks, sitting up and leaning against the back wall, stroking himself.
He's gotten so used to having Keller all over him these past few nights of lockdown. He's gotten so used to having Keller making him come it's kind of difficult getting over a hard-on just like that.
And even if it makes Toby feel a bit guilty for thinking it, he'd rather have Keller sucking him off than having to deal with whatever's on his ass right now.
Chris finally finds what he was groping for under the mattress: a cigarette. He lights it and takes several long drags, not replying.
Oh, aren't you the fucking drama queen, Toby thinks.
He leans over to Keller - looking like a very pissed off house cat ('cause he can't seem to be able to get off without proper *assistance* anymore) - letting his feet drop on the floor next to Keller's:
Chris doesn't look back:
"Where the fuck do you go?..." he mutters slowly, smoke filling up the space between them: "You close your eyes and it's 'bye-bye Toby'..."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
Beecher knows what he's talking about; he just never thought Chris would notice. Or care.
The other man finally looks at him. Toby sees his eyes narrow with something that's not anger, not even a scowl. Keller's pondering whether to go along with it or just pretend nothing's wrong, nothing bothers him.
"You love me..."-- he stops for a second, but keeps staring at the other man, eyes sparkling in the darkness: "You said so, you told me you love me."
And that's the worst possible choice of words Keller could have come up with at that particular moment. Toby doesn't want to think about fucking *love*... Shit, Keller's asking for too much. What does he expect him to do? Hold him and fuck him and tell him he loves him?!...
(--'Give me a fucking break!..'--)
Beecher moves away from him, resting against the back wall:
His voice is so cold, so unemotional. This is not the pissed off version of Toby, Keller thinks. No, this is the cool, calculating, lawyer-like Beecher that Chris has gotten to witness way too many times for his own taste. Analyzing the situation, waiting for Keller to make his move. Like chess... Cautious and wary. Because NOW...he knows better.
"Nevermind," Chris says, staring at the burning tip of his cigarette. Jesus, he wants to put it out on the back of his hand so much he almost feels the burn spreading beneath his skin.
"No, no. You don't get to back away so easily," Beecher whispers, keeping his voice monotonous: "I told you I"...(--'whatever'.--) "So?"
Keller looks back at him; Toby's gazing through half-lowered golden eyelashes, slant pale blue eyes gone almost white. Sometimes - just sometimes - Keller can't help but associate that powerful lack of *whatever* he notices in Beecher's irises with Schillinger's dead white gaze.
Like both of them have something in common...a seemingly natural contempt and a sense of superiority directed straight at Keller. Like both of them...(--know him.)
Inside and out. And take it all for granted.
"Fuck you." Chris really doesn't know what else to say to him.
"What do you expect of me, huh? I forgave you. I let you move back in here with me. I let you fuck me... I have given you what you wanted. You should be pretty fucking happy now, Chris. You've got your way. What ELSE do you want?!..."
Those last few words come so blatantly sharp, so...heartless.
"What do you want?" Beecher repeats.
A bargain, Chris thinks. It's a fucking bargain. Nothing more. Toby's way of saying 'thanks for not letting me get shanked to death... See? I too know how to pay my debts...'
Keller closes his eyes; keeps them tight shut, feeling something resembling sharp pieces of glass piercing through his eyeballs. He hears - like in a dream - Beecher's voice softly whispering his name:
Toby's gaze has lost that cold, narrow ugliness. Something shifts inside him, making his limbs tremble slightly; it moves behind his eyelids like water... He looks down, that cute, child-like V forming just above his eyebrows; and he looks up again, straight into Chris' eyes.
He can never keep this up, Keller thinks. This bitchy meanness of his, this fucking unbearable distance he's learned to depend on just to keep himself sane. Simply because...it's not enough.
It's not what he REALLY wants, what he needs. Toby needs THIS...this thing right here.
Toby needs...(--him.) To make it better. Easier. He needs closeness. And...(--'so do you.'--)
So...(--'fucking go for it.'--) It's the only thing either of them really have. Right now, anyway.
It's the only thing he's willing to give and take. (For the moment.) And besides...beggars can't be choosers, right?
He leans over to the other man and kisses him deep, clutching his shoulder with one hand, pushing him hard against the wall, while his other hand is sliding down Beecher's shorts once again.
Beggars can't be fucking choosers. Never have, never will. Just take what you're being given. For the moment anyway.
(You forget everything. And then you remember *everything* all over again. And you can't walk away 'cause there's no place left to go. To hide.)
---end of part 3/11---
Part 4/11: "quietness"
(Exchange. Trade one thing for another.)
"My great-grandfather blew his brains out on the living room couch," Beecher says, smiling and crossing his legs near Chris' arms.
"No shit! You're fucking with me," Keller's smile is a bit embarrassed, like he doesn't know exactly what his reaction should be. Okay, Toby doesn't seem to be too affected by this, bit still... How the fuck should he react to this?
He's sitting down on the floor in front of Beecher, fingertips brushing slightly over Toby's ankles.
"I mean it. He took his shotgun and BOOM - that was it. The maid had to clean his brains off the walls afterwards."
"The *maid*..." Chris says, chuckling smoothly. "I guess you're not exactly 'nouveau riche' or whatever, huh?"
"Yeah... Well, money doesn't buy happiness."
"Bullshit."-- Keller's eyes express exactly what he's just said: "Did you have a *maid*?"
"Did anyone in your family off themselves?" Beecher shoots the question into thin, nerve-breaking air, watching the other man's reaction carefully.
He's not interested in going into a nauseating class privilege - or *lack* thereof - discussion with Keller; that would only break *Toby* open. (Like always.)
He's interested in something else; something besides having his own psyche sliced up and analyzed by someone that's even *better* at it than Sister Pete. And...(--'ain't that weird?'--)
Keller throws his head back, neck cracking like a piece of dried wood.
"You're avoiding my question," he says morosely.
"No. *You're* avoiding my question."
"Don't know. I didn't even know my grandparents, let along my *great-grandparents*... Maybe there was some crazy fuck down the line that blew himself away, how the hell should I know?"-- looking right at him: "Why the fuck should I care?"
Beecher remains silent; Keller's so fucking transparent sometimes, especially when he's forced to talk about his relatives - that oh-so-very-obvious reluctance tells it all.
"Besides," Chris continues, voice tinged with just the tiniest shade of anger: "I didn't ask you to tell me about your suicidal fucking family, did I? You did that out of your own initiative."
(--And I didn't even *touch* on your wife... Just give me a fucking break.'--)
"So what? That means I don't have the right to ask you anything that you yourself haven't asked of me?"
"No, it just..."-- scrubbing his face with the back of his hand: "Jesus, Tobe... It just means that not everybody feels the need to just spill out their personal shit to..."
"Okay," Beecher says, dragging one of his feet beneath his body, away from Chris' touch.
The other man scowls:
"What do you want from me?"
(--'What do you want me to give you?'--)
Same old fucking question, Toby thinks. Going both ways. Always unanswered.
"Nothing," he replies quietly, leaning his head against the back wall.
"Wouldn't you be too?"
Toby knows he can't force anything out of the other man; definitely not what he's after. Pressing him just doesn't work; Chris has probably had his fair share of psychiatrists trying to do the exact same thing...and look how well he's turned out.
He just has to wait - he's learned by now that even Keller has moments when he just has to 'spill out his personal shit'; moments when he needs to do it maybe even more than Beecher himself. Either that - or explode.
They sit in silence for several minutes - just listening to the sounds outside their pod.
Complete unreal SILENCE.
Nobody's fighting, no one's yelling; even the C.O.'s seem to have sunken into a hot coffee-induced numbness - as paradoxical as that sounds.
"It's so fucking weird," Chris whispers, leaning his head on the bunk's edge.
"Like the whole world's disappeared," Toby says, his tone of voice matching Keller's.
Quietness flows around the entirety of Em City, a surreal stillness settling all over - blurring out boundaries, walls; cages. Or maybe making them more visible.
"Maybe we're dead," Chris' voice melts into the mattress where he's buried his face.
Beecher looks at him - *really* looks at him.
Strong, muscular figure barely contained in a ragged, sweat-stained white T-shirt; tattoo flexing on his left arm stretched alongside the bunk, lower half of the black inked Christ's body seeming to want to crawl down from that unseen flesh-carved cross Keller had nailed him to.
Bare feet tugged underneath him, fingers crumpling the sheets on the mattress; the back of his neck -- egg-white soft skin - icy cold, damp. Burning.
Low, unbalanced breaths of air resonating against the bunk's sheets as his body raises and lowers itself, shivering a little.
A wounded animal.
He looks like a wounded animal. (Vulnerable.)
"We're not dead," Toby whispers, rubbing his palm across the other man's exposed nape and shoulders, feeling the body beneath him jerking unconsciously. "We're not dead."
(Exchange. Give away something that belongs to you and get in return something that's not yours. Something that belongs to somebody else. And make *it* yours by default.)
---end of part 4/11---