Title: "SLIDE" (said the little penguin...)
Part 5/11: "pointless"
(Trade. Share. Take something and give something back. Over and over and over. Something you may not want, something you may not even *know* the other person has to give; something the other guy may not even want to give away in the first place. Exchange. Maybe something will eventually come out of it. Something just HAS to, right?)
"You wouldn't be doing this if you were out."
Toby looks at him a bit puzzled. He cocks his head:
Jesus, I hate you when you get like this, Keller thinks. Toby always pretends to simply not understand something whenever he doesn't want to talk about whatever Keller's throwing at him. And - strangely enough - Keller's been throwing a lot at him lately. Neither of them can go anywhere, they're stuck. Itches just HAVE to be scratched.
"*This*," Keller answers, tracing an invisible line between the two of them.
There's a 'safe' distance between them: Keller's sitting on the floor, one leg slightly bent under the other; Toby's on his bunk, dangling his feet like a small child. The 'safe' distance is necessary. The other day they almost got into a fistfight over some stupid argument that had come out of nowhere. Yep, distance IS a necessity.
"With *you*, you mean."-- Beecher seems to want to stop playing dummy. He's got a serious look on his face and he's stopped dangling his feet.
"Yep. Me...or any other guy."
"Probably," Toby says, his voice letting out just enough bullshit doubt to make Keller snap back at him a bit too rough:
"*Probably*?! Come on, Beecher, you're full of shit and you know it. Did you ever fuck a guy before coming to Oz? Did you ever even want to? Did you ever even fucking *imagine* you'd ever get to do it?"
Beecher looks down at the floor.
"That's what I thought."
"Well, if that's what you thought, then why the fuck did you ask me in the first place?"
Keller just shrugs. He knows Toby enjoys having sex with him, he knows it makes him feel good. Wanted. Needed. It gives him that false sense of security he craves so fucking much.
And yeah, Keller knows how to make someone, ANYONE come; there's no big fucking secret behind it. He did it with Schillinger, he did it with his wives.
He had done it before Schillinger, with women and countless men...he'd done it all the time with whoever, for whatever reasons: money, drugs, debts to pay, scores to settle...sometimes - way too seldom - for intimacy. Or just to get off.
Most of the times, just as a means to an end.
But with Toby...it is different.
And in a way, Chris feels good about the fact that the other man would *probably* never fuck another guy, if he weren't in here. With him. (Locked.)
Beecher's not a fag.
Beecher's not a slut either.
And...he actually gives a shit... Keller can feel it whenever they're fucking, it's like Chris' sixth sense or something.
Beecher does care; he doesn't just want to *take*. He wants to GIVE. Give as much as he's patently capable of.
Which - most of the time - is just too fucking little... Not enough. Never enough.
"When was the first time you fucked a guy?" Beecher asks, dangling his feet again for a second: "I mean, how old were you?"
Keller swiftly glares at him with so much sudden anger and hate it sends a chill running down Beecher's spine. He's definitely done with dangling his feet now.
"I answered your question..." Toby tries testing the waters, tries to push just a little.
"It wasn't a question, Toby. Just an observation."
Keller is not in the mood. Not for this. Never really is.
Toby stares at him for a couple of seconds, involuntarily nodding his head.
"Fine, whatever. I don't know why the fuck I keep trying to do this," he scowls, ignoring the other man and dragging a small book from under his pillow.
Keller slightly bangs his head against the wall and looks at the ceiling. He's chewing at his inner cheek and Toby - with just one sharp look thrown at the other man over his reading material - knows Chris is trying to figure out the best way to get out of this standstill.
Probably trying to give something about himself without *really* giving anything about himself.
Spinning in circles, Toby thinks.
And doesn't it feel exhausting?!...
Chris looks at him for a brief moment; then he leans his chin on his shoulder, stubbled jaw rubbing against his skin.
Like a cat, stroking itself.
Or a child.
(A very lonely child.)
"Why do you wanna know?" he asks quietly.
Beecher's startled, even if he kind of expected it. It still takes him by surprise. Keller NEVER gives away things about himself when Toby asks him to.
"I don't know..."-- Toby stutters, because he really doesn't know: "You don't have to answer if you don't want to," he adds after a long pause.
He senses a sudden shift in the pod's shaky balance, like all the musky, still air breathed in and breathed out with a desperate, sickening repetitiveness has somehow managed to defy the laws of physics; gravity seems to have kicked in so heavily the air they breathe scratches their throats and burns their lungs. Its own weight is unbearable.
Something's got to give, Beecher thinks.
Keller's barely whispered word breaks the silence just for a second. (Like a stone thrown in the water...small waves disappearing, imperceptible circles fading out.)
Toby remains silent.
"It wasn't nice," Chris adds. His face contorts into something the other man can't identify. Never really will probably.
*Everything* has had enough time to sink in so deep it just can't be recognized anymore; or understood. By nobody, not even by Keller himself.
"It's pointless, Toby. It's pointless."
( Not all trades are fair. And not all exchanges are desired... That doesn't stop them from happening though.)
---end of part 5/11---
Part 6/11: "...down the rabbit hole"
(Days and nights and days and nights and days again... Let everything flow through your body like water; drown in it, enjoy it if you can. If you can allow yourself to... And think. Think, think. Like always. Too much, as Chris would say. Chris...who's probably doing some thinking of his own.)
Okay: he knows he's a liar, and a very good one. Chris lies like Toby breathes probably. A habit, an addiction. One of many, as it seems.
Take the other day for example.
About 2 o'clock, with nothing to do but try NOT to go slowly but surely insane.
Keller - looking at him from his bunk, resting his head and his shoulders on the pod wall behind him.
"Yeah, I did all kinds of shit."
And he's not talking about what he did to others but what he did to himself.
"You never did heroin before coming here, right?" Chris asks.
A short, not-exactly-amused snort:
Toby doesn't particularly want to talk about it; neither does Keller, apparently.
But the discussion lingers on.
Just like the hours they spend locked up together in this glass-walled cage. Toby wishes this thing they've started here could just disappear. Evaporate into thin air. Just like he sometimes wishes his entire existence could just...erase itself.
Keller yawns and leans his head a little to the right. Then to the left.
He's bored all right.
"First time I did heroin...I was about 16, I guess."
His voice is monotonous, a small tinge of...something Toby can't quite identify.
"16?" Beecher asks, a bit incredulous.
"Yeah... What?" Keller responds, lifting his palms in the air.
He's right. What the hell's so surprising about something like that when it comes to Keller? After all, he didn't grow up in a wealthy, well-educated family, in a nice house with strict rules and all... In fact, Beecher doesn't have a clue in what kind of a family Keller grew up in, but it surely wasn't like any of the above.
*If* he grew up in a family, in the first place...
Still, Beecher's response seems to annoy Chris a little.
He avoids his stare, looking down at his legs. Toby does the same thing.
"But I didn't get hooked then," Keller says after a long moment of silence. "It was just this one time, you know? I didn't like it, I fucking threw up."
He looks up at Beecher for a moment, then lowers his eyes again.
"I got hooked on heroin a bit later..." he adds with a little sour smile.
"How much later?" Toby asks, sensing that *something* again.
"Back in Lardner."
Lardner again, Toby thinks.
Lardner fucking forever.
I guess nobody forgets their *first time*...
(--'Just like I'll never forget Oz.'--)
"Was Schillinger still around?"
Beecher's voice has the most soothing tone Chris has heard in a long time.
"Just before he got out."
Beecher matches Chris' faint smile with his own, nodding.
Yeah, I guess it makes sense, he thinks.
"I guess it...it was just too much, you know?"
"Sometimes you get fed up," Keller adds, looking again at his feet. He wants to be funny, casual about it, he needs to. And Beecher plays along.
"I know," Toby says letting out a quiet chuckle.
Chris just looks back at him. That fucking *something* filling up the pod again.
Was he honest? Can he ever be 100% honest about anything? And how can anyone trust a man who himself sometimes can't recognise the truth from the lies he whispers constantly?
(Let days out, let nights in...)
"I love you, Toby. I love you."
Murmuring in Toby's ear, Chris' face is buried in his hair.
Feeling Chris' mouth barely touching the back of his neck. His breath.
The comforting humidity between them, twisting around their bodies like hot summer wind.
Fucking terrifying, if Beecher takes a moment to really think about it.
Toby knows the other man is half asleep; still, Chris instinctively keeps nuzzling his face into his neck and shoulders.
And he holds him...(-- like Gen never did.)
Yep, this is fucking terrifying.
And Toby...well Toby doesn't have the strength or the will to actually analyze that particular impression. Not right at that moment. Still, that doesn't mean the thought goes away. It is too powerful to just...vanish.
Is he lying? Is Chris lying to himself? Are both of them lying to each other? Are both of them fooling themselves?...
( Bits and pieces of never-ending days, reflections of days to never ever end...for some. Until they finally end. And that will probably be a blessing, no matter how that particular 'end' comes. For some.)
"I love this part of your body," Chris says, touching the nape of Beecher's neck while he's leaning against the sink, brushing his teeth.
Toby involuntarily smiles and he doesn't even know why.
He looks up in the mirror, sees Keller's eyes looking down through lowered eyelids.
And hears - from that secret part of his mind where he's locked up all the precious things he's had to brutally smother ever since coming to Oz - Gen's voice...smooth, caressing: "You look so fragile sometimes, Toby.
You're so fragile."
(--'I know. But...'--)
Not anymore. (Maybe)
Gen. His kids. His parents. His life.
All that this place has taken away from him.
Or - better said - all that he's allowed this place to take away from him.
And all he's got now is this.
This man, who sometimes looks at him like Toby's all he ever wanted, all he's never had.
Like Toby's some kind of a...promise.
A way out. Or a way *in*.
This man...and all his quirks, all his weirdness. Twisted as hell.
The good, the bad and the ugly. Fucking EVERYTHING and NOTHING he could think of.
(May the all-encompassing days passing us by fill the air in our lungs with failures and regrets. And may it bloom into intimacy. For once.)
"I liked Bonnie, from the moment I met her. And I liked her even after I married and divorced her. Both times."
Chris has probably the most earnest expression on his face Toby's seen yet.
He smiles and frowns a little bit. It's so obvious he loves his ex. Toby's a bit disorientated; he's never seen the other man like this.
"You know what I mean, right, Tobe? I don't mean being into her 'cause she was hot or something. You saw her..."
"She's big," Toby says, smiling back at Chris.
"Yeah, she's not exactly supermodel material..."-- Keller's outright laughing now. "But I always thought she looked nice. She looked good to me, I told her that over and over. Don't know whether she believed it or not, though. But...that was never the thing with us, you know? It was something else.... It was like...we sorta matched or something. She's just as screwed up as me. Or maybe I made her that way..."
"She gave you something you needed, you did the same for her," Beecher points out, running his hands slightly over the sheets of the bunk he's sitting on. His bunk.
"Up to a point, yeah..." Chris' face darkens a little, just for a second. "You know, I didn't give much of a shit about Kitty or Angelique, still don't. But Bonnie...she had scars. She could get a lot of things...she could understand."
"You were pretty close," Toby says, unsure of what to think about this weird, sudden flow of honesty.
"Yeah, well I married her twice, didn't I?"
Keller lets out a low chuckle, rubbing his palms on his trousers.
That's all he's wearing. He's shirtless and his pants are stained and crumpled. He stopped wearing boots or socks a couple of days ago.
"The second time I married her...I wanted to make it work. I really wanted to make it okay. Get a nice place, get a decent fucking job. Have kids..."
He stops for a second and draws in a breath in a manner that makes Beecher realize just how difficult this is for him; still, it seems like he can't stop himself.
Toby's noticed that whenever Keller launches himself into some twisted, seemingly incomprehensible confession, it usually doesn't come on request.
It just appears out of the blue, like something inside Chris crumbles, or gets loose for a moment, and everything starts flowing out of himself like there's a broken tap inside him that he can't turn off.
And Beecher knows that if he's going to actually find out *anything* about this man, he has to pay attention to Keller's ramblings, whenever he gets confused and lost like that. Whenever he gets vulnerable.
He suspects something is seriously wrong with Chris, on a psychiatric level, not to mention a moral one.
He's even considered asking Sister Peter Marie if she thinks Chris' suffering from some sort of personality disorder, but - just thinking about *himself*, all the things he had handed to him on a plate - and the manner in which he semi-unconsciously did his very best to destroy them...well, it makes Toby think twice before asking for that kind of information.
(--'Yep, the perfect combination: two fucking nutcases.'--)
Still, Keller could be really strange sometimes.
And not in the dangerous, semi-psychotic manner Toby had already experienced.
No, it was something else, something different. Some out-of-the-blue inexplicable, unspeakable sadness.
There were moments when Chris looked even more depressed than Beecher himself did.
And...that's saying a lot.
Yeah, you really do have a *thing* for screwed up people, Chris, Beecher thinks, seeing the other man crumpling the already-crumpled fabric of his trousers with his fingers as he leans against the wall across from Beecher.
Still, the trail of heat stretching between them is almost unbearable.
Or maybe it's just the fact that they've been locked up for more than a week now, and the whole fucking pod seems to be set somewhere on the edge of hell's open mouth.
It's really fucking hot. Suffocating.
And even if Keller's given up on looking for clean clothes or even wearing those he obviously considers as being unnecessary, Toby's still in his sweaty gray T-shirt and his prison issue pants.
He's even clinging on to wearing his sneakers - something that had sparked a small-scale, incredibly stupid fight about two days back.
"I really wanted to get something right for once," Keller says, dragging Toby out of his own thoughts.
"Why didn't you get it right?" Beecher asks, not knowing for sure if the question is for Keller to answer or for himself.
Because Chris is not the only one who didn't get things right...
The other man looks at him smiling bitterly:
"Because I'm basically fucked up?..." -- he scratches his forehead and nods, looking at his feet: "It just didn't work... I guess I can't make anything work."
"That makes two of us."
"Nah," Chris says pointing his finger at Toby.
And...(--'My God! Doesn't he seem drunk all over again?--')
"You did something with your life. You've got your kids. That's *something*...and it won't ever go away."-- his voice carries a mixture of resentment and pride. And something else...hope, maybe. For Toby.
"They're yours, no matter where you are," Keller adds, looking straight into his eyes.
And Toby knows he's right. He's got something Chris will never have. Something that's his and his alone. No matter what.
"I -- on the other hand...I didn't do shit with my life. I'm worthless."
Toby wants to tell him just how much he's wrong. Just how much he means to him. But...he doesn't.
Deep down, he believes it would be useless.
Evidently, Toby has no idea just how wrong he is.
( Let days pass like water. Make room for old scars to resurface and let them heal. Just give them a chance... Let days pass, and let nights come...)
Feeling his insides burning with desire.
"Jesus, fuck... Don't stop, don't..."
Close your eyes and drift away...drift away...drift away... Like always. Let everything explode into that sweet, slightly painful, overpowering sensation pulsating in your gut.
Embrace it all; take everything you're being given.
Cause he is...(--giving you all he has.) Which - in the end - isn't so much really.
(--'Just go with it, To-by.'--)
"I swear to God, I've never been fucked like this my whole life."
Chris' voice is ragged, hoarse. He swallows a breath, a word, a curse... Everything, whatever; Toby. His lies. His own lies.
(--'Oh really, Chris... Not even by Vern? Give me a fucking break!...'--)
Toby almost spits the words right into his face. Just to see the result, just to see the pain. The little wince, the small lapse in his breathing; that almost audible *crack* inside him.
He's got so much anger, so much resentment still lurking beneath his skin. He still wants to hurt him, to push his buttons the way only Beecher seems to know how.
But he keeps his thoughts to himself. Better that way, nobody wants to go there. Not right the fuck now.
Later that night, Keller's crammed up on his side on the lower bunk with his back against the wall. Beecher has a far more comfortable position, lying on his back, trying to keep his eyes closed. Trying to...(-- ignore him.) Fat chance.
"I used to have this dream when I was a kid. Reccurring, you know?"
Toby nods. He used to dream about riding in a roller coaster and never getting to the top of it. Not to mention--later...having Cathy Rockwell's brains... Yeah.
"I kept dreaming I was drowning. All the time. There was something underwater...kept biting my legs and dragging me under."
"You should tell Pete about it," Toby says, turning on his side to face him and resting his head on his palm.
"I'm telling you."
Chris stares at him - eyes wide open - deep, engulfing. Liquid. An electric wave whirling inside his irises.
Toby notices - maybe for the first time - just how different Chris' eyes look in the dark.
And then he does that little thing with his eyebrows, frowning slightly, running his gaze over Toby's face, neck and shoulders. Lifting his eyes slowly back up to meet Toby's.
There's something there...not intent, not desire. Not his usual self. A small tinge of...sorrow. Fear.
Toby just HAS to put his arm around him.
(So you go back and forth, spinning inside a circle of half-spoken truths and truthfully whispered lies.)
Chris says he'll never hurt him again. He says it so slowly, so convincingly, Toby *almost* believes him. And later, that doesn't even matter.
(--'Just let go. Just...slide.'--)
Hearing Chris' muttered words in his ear:
"Quit fighting. Just go with it."
(--'It's better that way. Easier.'--)
His breath rolls over Toby's neck, over his left cheek like burning sand; feeling the other man's stubbled jaw rubbing against his own, raising his hackles as Keller pins him down on the lower bunk beneath the weight of his body.
Acid running through his veins, poison and sugar -- too much of it.
Making him dizzy. High.
Fear - the kind of fear only someone like Vern Schillinger can seed inside a man's body - springs up like an electric shock, making his body shriek under Keller's touch. His limbs stiffen.
Chris senses it but he doesn't back down; his mouth slides down on Toby's shoulders, gently biting at the crook of his neck.
His hands clutch on to Toby's wrists - the same wrists he once broke - making it practically impossible for the other man to move.
"I'm not gonna hurt you, I’m not gonna hurt you… Just let go. Let go, Toby."
Just slide...(--down the rabbit hole.)
Let days and nights pass like water…
(--'Just FUCKING let go, bitch!...'--)
---end of part 6/11---
Part 7/11: "stop processing everything, *honey*"
(Stop. Turn around for a second, look behind you. See your other world, your other self caught in a still snapshot. You probably should take your time, try to remember, re-live it once again. And again. And again. 'Til it all comes back to you, 'til you're the same. But...you know that just ain't possible anymore. Useless junk.)
Chris never says shit like "Come to bed, honey!"; he never calls him "sweetie" or "darling" or whatever terms of endearment Gen used to. He never ruffles his hair, never strokes his head backwards.
He also never does that half-shy/half-teasing twirl with his tongue that Gen used to do whenever they were kissing.
Keller's kiss is deep, overwhelming, suffocating sometimes - his tongue feels heavy and swollen in Toby's mouth, and his teeth almost always clash with his own.
Kissing Chris has nothing in common with the way he used to kiss Gen. With the way he used to feel doing it.
It's...overpowering, an outright *dare*; not the little tease his wife used to throw in the game.
Beecher knows what all this means, all the things separating Chris from Gen. All the little details (and he's not even talking about sex) displaying themselves in front of him like small mirrors of his soul, each showing him - if it's still necessary - just how much he's changed.
Ever since coming to Oz, he's constantly felt like shedding his skin, or growing a new one; this place has forced him not only to adapt (read: try to survive) but also to take a good look inside himself and witness all the hidden fury, all the helplessness; all the lies.
That simmering knot of contradictory feelings and urges that he had felt and hidden all his life had been exposed, and Toby had to either acknowledge and embrace himself the way he really was - to make *all* of him legitimate - or lose it completely. Give up, crawl in a corner and die.
He had chosen almost instinctively - surprising even himself - to fight back; to reclaim himself through admitting to all of himself.
The only way to survive; the only way to recapture some fucking dignity. Accepting to finally live with himself, as he truly was.
And...the really weird thing was that Keller - this man who kept spinning around him like Toby was the center of the fucking universe or something - LIKED this Toby. *Loved* this Toby.
Embraced him completely, in a way Gen would have probably never done.
He feels raw, completely exposed around Chris. Naked. He can throw anything at the other man, and Keller inevitably responds in what seems to Beecher to be an equal manner.
No matter if it materializes in a simple nod of acknowledgement, a hug or a fistfight.
He's more honest around Chris than he's ever been in his entire life.
Still, Keller and Gen have one thing in common - something that only feeds that inner monster of addiction lurking inside Beecher: they both carry around that shade of resentment, of disapproval.
That slightly quirked eyebrow, that wrinkle of the nose.
And that continuous flow of...whatever gives way for Toby to wrap himself in a well-known pattern of addiction: an ugly squint met with an equally ugly one; a mean word countered with an even meaner expression. Cynical arguments and slammed doors replaced with all the bitching and moaning both men are capable of.
With violent fights and even more violent silences.
Both Gen and Chris are - essentially - natural enablers; the difference is that - with Chris - Beecher can do *everything*.
There's little restraint involved in this relationship, and when hell breaks loose...well, there's no telling how deep the rabbit hole is.
It makes Toby feel alive.
And terrified of his own power. His own deliberate recklessness.
He does things to Chris he would have never even thought of doing to Gen.
And that kind of freedom, that kind of unbounded savagery is as good as alcohol or heroin. Even better.
(Useless junk. Everything keeps spinning inside your head like a broken record and you know you can't let go. Because it's the only thing that really, REALLY matters. It's what you are.)
"This can't last forever," Beecher mutters, staring outside the pod into the empty quad.
A hack walks by dangling his nightstick like a harmless toy; he bangs on the pod's wall, telling Beecher without words to back off. Why the fuck he'd do that, Toby doesn't know. It's a senseless act, like so many others in this place.
"Hey. Tobe, come here."
Chris is sitting on his bunk doing this *thing* with his fingers...like he's counting or something.
Toby's noticed the subconscious gestures the other man sometimes does, and he usually associates it, without even thinking, with his son's habit of sucking on his thumb when he was a little baby.
(Back when...he could actually *witness* it.)
He doesn't know whether it is a sign of boredom or just a reflex, something he does without even knowing. Without even caring someone else might see it.
Just like he's seen Chris staring at himself in the mirror sometimes, the expression on his face...a contorted mess Toby can't quite identify. He wonders for a moment if Chris ever feels like he doesn't know who or *what* he is, just like Toby has done all his life. Probably. If there's one thing he's learned about Keller, it's the fact that the other man has some serious self-identity issues.
It breaks through that cool mask of his, like ugly cracks on a smooth surface; anyone can see them, if only they're interested enough to watch. And Toby's interested all right.
Trying to pick up on anything that could show Keller for what he really is; anything ugly, anything horrible. Any sign of...kindness.
Trying to be always one step ahead.
Beecher goes back towards the other man and sits down next to him.
"You really wanna get out of here, don'tcha?" Chris asks, leaning closer to him.
Beecher just nods in agreement.
Yeah, he definitely does. He's tired. He wants to talk to Said; he wants to see Pete.
He wants to play cards with anybody except Keller - who always seems to win - he wants...he wants to see his kids. His parents. He wants to fucking *move*.
Keller on the other hand, doesn't seem to want any of that.
"It's gonna be over soon, I'm telling ya. It usually doesn't last very long," Keller mutters. His voice is oddly tinged with sadness.
"Is that the voice of experience?" Toby asks quietly. He doesn't want to imply anything, he just doesn't feel like it. He's not after a fight, not right now. He's too fucking tired, too fucking numb.
Keller doesn't reply.
He almost instinctively places one hand around the other man's shoulder, leaning his face into Toby's neck.
He whispers something, but Beecher doesn't understand. Doesn't hear...doesn't *want* to hear, to be more precise.
He's swimming inside those murky waters of his over-active brain; thinking of his kids, thinking of Holly's blue eyes; thinking of Gary's thin, small fingers clasping his own, when he was just a toddler.
Thinking of...Andy. Of what he'd done to him. His shivering, sweat-soaked body, the trembling of his voice. His insecurity, his *need* to believe that someone, SOMEONE gave a shit about him.
"Jesus, being locked up like this really..."
"Gives you too much time to think, right?" Keller says, scanning his face for some kind of a clue of how to get Toby back with him, where...(--he fucking belongs.)
"Yeah," Beecher replies softly, rubbing his eyes with his palms.
"Wanna play some chess?"
Chris' voice is so low, so tentative. So insecure. He's taken his hand away and is now leaning his elbows on his knees.
Toby looks at him for a long moment. Chris' eyes are all puppy dog bullshit, all 'Come on, I'm just trying to...I'm doing my best here...'
Chris stands up, grabs the cards from under the bunk and starts shuffling them, spreading them on the floor.
Jesus, he's gonna play by himself, Toby thinks for a second.
And that, THAT right there - that's one of those moments when Keller says more about himself that any bullshit talk they could ever have. This man, this grown-up man is sitting on the floor, legs spread, chest bent over the cards, playing by himself.
Like a child. (A lonely child.)
Looking like he's done it all his life.
Keller notices his stare and looks up; the expression on his face - strangely enough - reminds Toby of his own, when he was a child. He had never been what one might call a popular kid. He'd never really had any friends... Probably neither had Chris. Only lonely kids do this; this ‘shuffle and spread’ thing, all by themselves.
Jesus, his voice sounds like nothing Toby's heard from this man before. It's almost frightening. And...comforting in a weird manner.
"Yeah," Beecher says, sitting on the floor next to him: "You deal."
Chris lets out a small chuckle, and shuffles the cards, looking like a real expert. Something unsettling crawls up Beecher's spine, and a slight red-hot shiver burns through his skull.
Toby already knows, he *feels* he's gonna lose.
Or that Keller's gonna *let* him win.
"You did it on purpose, didn't you?" Toby asks.
He should be angry, he should be annoyed. But...he's too fucking tired for that.
Give the little moron what he wants, he thinks, oddly relaxed.
"Toby," Keller says smiling, handing out Beecher's cards: "Don't you ever stop thinking?..."
Beecher doesn't reply, just looks at him. And that odd comfort, that closeness he needs, is so much a part of his life now - sitting here, next to this man, this habitual liar, the man who broke his arms, the man who says he loves him - he just can't help but smile back.
I'm so fucked up, Toby thinks, but he doesn't even want to process that thought anymore.
"Just play," Chris adds, playfully squeezing his shoulder: "What the fuck else is there to do?!.."
My point exactly, Toby thinks morosely.
(So days and nights slip through your fingers, my fingers. Let them. It's who you are. And it's who I am. If only it were enough...)
---end of part 7/11---
Part 8/11: "fluorescent"
(Days and nights and days becoming nights and nights flashing white - the clearest, most depressing white... Countless hours of unchanging, untouchable colors. Slow flowing, unstoppable, fluorescent baths of light - blinding dead-white gazes.)
Okay. Sooo... Lockdown - day eight, or nine; or maybe seven. Who the fuck's counting?
Days and nights caught into something resembling a neon vortex spinning waaay too slow...it almost seems like time stands still sometimes.
Those times when you think you can't take it anymore; the times when you're close to plunging yourself head on into that dizzy, nerve-wracking, fucking *exhilarating* need to BREAK everything - starting with yourself, finishing with the walls of this fucking rathole.
Sure, time dissolves also when you're asleep; strangely enough, dreamless sleep - probably only normal since you're locked down in a small box with nothing to do all day, having the natural ingredient of prison life - fear - roughly taken away from you and placed in the refrigerator...for the time being.
No wonder I wanna sleep the fucking lockdown away!...
Then again - time explodes into small, sparkling, breathtaking particles of stolen pleasure; okay, maybe 'pleasure' is not exactly the most appropriate term to use, given the circumstances, but getting off never EVER held so much power, so much need until NOW.
Something which - looking beyond the momentary orgasmic thrill of having your podmate fingering you to death - is kind of...SCARY, truth be told.
'Cause - if *finally* getting into my high school sweetheart's panties, or having Gen fucking my lights OUT during that alcohol-extended honeymoon in Paris, doubled by countless Harvard-related more or less dubious female encounters - if *that* doesn't TOP *this*, then...there really IS a *very* serious reason to be freaked out.
Do I want to...
Hell! *Want* to?!...
Do I fuck Chris because he's Chris?
As in - sex-on-a-stick Chris; as in *I'm gonna make you come so hard you'll be SCREAMING my name like a bitch in heat* Chris?
As in...*I LOVE you; look at me, look into my eyes, fucking LOOK AT ME when I'm doing this to you* Chris?!...
Would I be doing it with any other guy smart enough to know...what there is to know? About myself...
See? THAT's what I'm talking about. Scary, huh?
Scary enough for *me*.
Like splitting into two separated sides of reality; two separated, completely incompatible sides of Tobias *Toby* Beecher: the *sort of* responsible (ex) lawyer and father and...husband (--'Widower, Toby; *widower*.'--), and...THIS.
Whatever THIS is.
And the REALLY weird thing is that it all seems so natural, so real. With Chris beside me - my sober, conscious choice.
(Whatever THIS is.)
Barely recognizable to my own parents, the people who made me, the people who (should) know me. My own flesh and blood. Have I changed this much? Have I drifted this far?...
Drifted from WHAT exactly?
'Cause I sure as hell didn't know where I stood *before* either. Just like I don't have a clue *now*. The difference lays probably in the fact that I DO take full responsibility NOW for where I am. And with who I am. More sober than ever.
And...sobriety - in this goddamn Plexiglas cage - would be certain DEATH without Keller. The fastest way towards relapse.
Which makes Chris...what?
(--'Kind of... Okay, yeah.'--)
But at least Chris is flesh and blood and skin and hot, moist breath; Chris is really funny jokes and long fluorescent hours drowned in hilariously easy chess games.
An arm around my shoulder, strong body pressing against mine; smooth, caressing, comforting voice brushing all over me like the nicest, most intimate flow of...
Chris is HERE.
And - as fucked up as it might sound - he feels *safe*.
Giving me all I need - for now.
("Is she weird,
is she white,
is she promised to the night
and her head has no room...")
Yeah... Oh, yeah!
This feels nice; nicest.
Don't ask me how I've ended up like this, I don't have a clue.
That small shred of self control (never had much of it before, to tell you the truth), all the carefully mastered skills of bullshitting people into giving me what I wanted; that *find-get-HAVE-get-rid-of* pattern that has been my life so far - all thrown away for this rich, cushy Harvard lawyer brat/freakish stone-cold scheming monster/insecure, soft, *ALL*-self-doubting twisted little walking contradiction.
You've finally found yourself that 'better half' you we're looking for... Hah!
In the shape of a (presumably) backstabbing, nasty individual who can fuck -- hey, hey... Wait!
Who *constantly* FUCKS with your mind a whole lot more than Angie and Kitty and that two-timing Bonnie ever did.
You've finally met your match, Chris.
Except that...(--he's not.) Not exactly.
Not in all those shitty, horrible ways you yourself would wanna erase completely from your memory, from yourself. All those things that make you who you are - whether you like it or not.
All that separates you from him.
That which you love about Tobe in the first place.
But...ugly aspects or NOT; who the fuck cares?
Beecher doesn't know about that; he never will.
So...it's like they don't even exist, most of the time. Best way to keep yourself TO yourself - bad things have to stay buried deep down underneath thick layers of bullshit.
Maybe that way...(--they'll eventually disappear.)
Like NOTHING ever happened.
No use in digging them up; Sister Pete should know better.
And Beecher - staring at me with that short-sighted gaze of his enhanced by the pod's razor-sharp white light, crystal blue gradually flushed by an unmistakable, pulsating warmth - Toby smiles that little half-shy/half-doubtful smile of his.
Bare feet swinging over the edge of his bunk, landing on the floor with a quiet *thud* - one, two small steps and everything FINALLY makes sense. For once.
Both of us giving as much as we're capable of; as much as it is *earthly* possible, at this particular time.
Whispering inside my mouth, giving himself; taking me whole.
I can't stop myself; I DON'T wanna stop myself.
(--'Yeah, that's it.'--)
Sense and NONsense - nauseatingly sweet.
(And then darkness and light collide for a small second, the brief, seductive thrill of unconsciousness... Give me more, so I can pass out and forget everything.)
---end of part 8/11---