They were podmates again, after all those weeks spent fighting. The day before, the hacks had found Ronnie Barlog's broken body in the storage room, and Chris had been surprised and relieved that nobody seemed to suspect him. Maybe no one gave a shit about Barlog's death, after all. Today, early in the morning, he had asked McManus to move him back with Toby, and unexpectedly, McManus had agreed. Later, Toby had watched Chris unload his stuff on the bottom bunk like he just couldn't believe it. But he hadn't said a single word until lockdown. Not reading, not moving, just sitting on his bunk, his back to the wall, watching him, every move, like he didn't know him at all, like it was all new to him. But a second after lights out, he was standing in front of Chris.
"Kiss me." It had been soft, and pleading. "Please!" Chris had watched him for a second, his eyes dark with painful memories. It was too soon. He needed some more time, to make sure he was able to handle the situation. But Toby's eyes were so imploring, his expression so hopeful, so open, and Chris couldn't fight his own need: he'd kissed him. Tender, rough, hungry, needy kisses, his hands on Toby's waist, bruising the flesh, his breath short and reckless. Kisses which said: I'm back, I love you, don't ever do this again, you're mine. His hands had snaked under Toby's shirt, and he'd felt his lover's arms circling him, their bodies pressed together. He'd kissed him some more, enjoying the instinctive response, rubbing his stubbly cheek against Toby's fresh shaven face, and that too was good. It was good to hurt him, just a little, to make things clear between them.
"Fuck me, Chris." Toby's whisper against his ear, and Jesus fucking Christ, Chris had stripped him bare carelessly. He had to get inside Toby, where he belonged. He'd caressed him roughly, recollecting every detail, every curve, every feature, and Toby had seemed to melt in the touch, his eyes closed, silent, quivering under the blunt fingers.
"It's Toby. He's mine again." This thought had lit the fire: Chris had turned him around, pushed him against the bunk. He'd scratched the skin with his nails, drawing blood, and he'd said. "I'm gonna fuck you, Toby. Real hard. Is this what you want? Is it what you need?" Toby had lowered his head in silent assent, and moaned softly. "Yes." It was barely a whisper. It was all that Chris needed. A single, powerful thrust and he was buried deep inside Toby, his hands clutching his hips, holding him still.
He heard Toby muffle a cry against his inner arm, biting the tender flesh; felt Toby's body stiffen, and then nearly collapse, his hand clutching the frame of the bunk to steady himself. And how does that feel, Beecher? Chris thought, motionless, closing his eyes, losing himself in bliss. Did you miss that?
Yeah, I guess you missed it as much as I did. Chris thought. I saw you night after night craving my touch. I'm gonna give you what you need. He pulled off slowly, until only the tip of his cock was left inside, and Toby shivered and moaned again, much too loud, helpless.
"Tell me, Toby. Tell me."
"Fuck me, Chris. Do it."
Chris needed Toby to surrender: only this could take away the pain and the anger which kept simmering under his skin. He thrust inside him, hard, deep, enjoying this much more that he ever had before. Yeah, not like this was the first time, but this guy, fuck, he was driving him nuts.
Chris growled, feeling the other man so close… too close.
"No." He whispered. "Not yet. Wait." He clenched his fingers around Toby's cock, and Toby jerked forward then kept still. From the corner of his eyes Chris checked the guard station, outside the pod. Johnson was there, alone, his feet on the desk, and most likely he wouldn't move soon. He saw only shadows in the other cells, guessed that some men were enjoying the show, and smiled. Enjoy, bastards, keep your eyes open, because it's all that you'll get, you'll never have a chance to touch him again. Never, ever. He felt his breathing come back to normal. Yeah, Browne, Shemin, they had been a warning. Stay away from Beecher, he's mine.
When he felt that they were both ready, Toby's breath coming out in short gasps, his body shaking, Chris tightened his grip around him, and began to move again inside Toby, faster, harder, circling his waist with a strong arm, the other hand stroking his dick. He closed his eyes, listening to the sound of Toby's pleasure, feeling his release, as he came in his hand with a soft cry, shuddering. Closing his eyes, he leaned forward, bit hard on Toby's shoulder, and came seconds later. Man, fucking Toby, loving him, was the best thing he could ever have in his whole fucked up life.
They collapsed on the bunk together, Chris never letting go of Toby, feeling his lover's heart beat under the palm of his hand like a wounded bird. He needed this so much. He had to feel in control again, had to make sure Toby was his, once for all and knew it.
Later, as they lied together on the bottom bunk, side by side, covered with sweat, holding each other, Chris felt the need to talk.
"I'd like to stay inside you forever. I want to be under your skin until the day you die." Chris whispered softly in Toby's ear, pulling him closer.
"You will. Nobody can pull me away from you."
Chris didn't answer. He wouldn't put much faith in this promise. He was pretty sure that as soon as he'd be out of here, with his kids, Toby would begin to drift away, because that was the way life had to be. But at the moment, Toby was sincere; he knew that, and he kept silent. He wanted to believe. Catch a glimpse of hope. Cling to Toby's love was his only chance to redeem. Sister Pete's god had sent him a chance to make things better.
"Chris." Toby turned buried his face in his neck, breathing hot against his skin. "Chris, tell me you forgive me."
Shit. Chris didn't want to talk about this right now. Forgiveness? He didn't believe in forgiveness, but he could do that for Toby. For Toby, he could do a lot of things he had never done for anyone else. He sighed, laughed shortly, and said: "I do. I do as much as you forgave me for operation Toby."
He saw the shock in the blue gaze. "Meaning what?"
"I don't know. You tell me."
Toby said nothing. But after some endless seconds, he gave him a tiny smile, and this look, god, Chris could kill just to see this look, so serious, so earnest. Then Toby whispered: "You forgive me completely, is that it?"
Chris laughed. "Beech, if you say so, then I do."
Toby nodded, keeping his eyes on him. "And I'm sorry for Ronnie. Sorry you had to kill him. It must have hurt like hell." This smile again, a soft brush of his hand on Chris's face. "I'm sorry that I played this sordid game. But I just…"
"It's OK, Toby. I know. You don't need to apologize, OK? You don't have to feel sorry." He wouldn't shut up, Chris knew that, so he kissed him again, deeply, long enough to steal his breath.
But, fuck, Toby was right. Killing Ronnie had been painful. Killing a friend, someone he'd known for long, hung around with and trusted.... Chris had felt sad and bitter. He understood Ronnie; he could do that. Always think of yourself first, because your friends would do so, and after all, who was he to judge? How many times had he betrayed people who loved him? Used them? Abused them? Brought them down? Hurt them? Yes, and he just had to watch the man reclining against him to remember how easy it had been.
God, how could he ever forget this?
Anyway, he couldn't really blame Ronnie, but he couldn't let him live either. He sighed, rested his forehead against Beecher's shoulder and closed his eyes, inhaling deeply. Thinking of Toby had helped. Thinking of Toby's lips on Ronnie had helped. Yeah, he could kill anybody who would dare to come between Toby and him. He'd happily kill Saïd just for talking to Toby, giving him stupid advice. What did that make him? Whatever he felt for Tobias Beecher, however strong his love for him was, he remained the same old Chris Keller. Sister Pete was right: he hadn't changed, except for Toby. He remained the same, and his soul was like a desert. Toby was his oasis. He opened his eyes, looked at him, and sighed.
"How can you love me, Toby? I'm so fucked up." Toby's arms tightened their grip around his shoulders and Chris heard him snort.
"Sure! And what about me? You're fucked up, I'm fucked up, and we both hate ourselves, so… I guess that's why we love each other so much. Sister Pete would say so, I'm positive about that."
Chris licked the sweat on Toby's shoulder, kissed the soft skin here. "Yeah. And you listen to Sister Pete and the others too much. You'd better listen to me." Because if you had, Gary would still be alive. And all this shit between us would never have happened. But Chris didn't say this aloud. No need to twist the knife once more.
"I know." Toby answered quietly. "I'll try." Then he rose, pulling Chris up. "Let's get dressed. Come on, get up."
"Get dressed? What for? Let's make love again. Come on, Toby, let's make love. Just touching you makes me hard again."
Toby laughed softly. "Chris…"
"Hey, you were the one who wanted to fuck, right? Now, you've had enough? Well, not me." Chris stretched like a big cat. "You can fuck me, if you want."
Toby snorted, only half-amused. "You never get enough, do you?"
"Never, when it comes to you." Chris sat on the bunk, outstretched his arm, pulled Toby on the bunk, facing him, and sighed. He saw this expression on his face, and knew that Toby wasn't done with talking. Shit.
"Come on. What's wrong, Toby?"
"He was your friend. How could he do that? Send you to death? Some hours ago, he was talking about you… Telling me you were like some elder brother to him. That he'd always loved you, wanted you, but never acknowledged it… And then…"
Chris watched Toby's face, crumpled with pain, his lips, slightly trembling, his eyes begging for an explanation.
"I know. Toby, I told you. He did what he had to. He had to be free." Chris shrugged. "When freedom's at stake, this kind of friendship doesn't mean dick."
At first, Toby said nothing. He watched Chris, shocked and angry. "Chris, how can you…" He shook his head and snapped, "Is this all you're worth? Being betrayed by a friend? Don't you think maybe you'd deserve more?"
Eyes dark, Chris watched Beecher and sighed. He didn't want to answer, but the words left his mouth before he could bite them back. "I don't know. Look at us, Toby. You tried to kill me. Twice. And I broke your arms. I passed you to Browne. Said I didn't care. You told me I was capable of anything. I was unable to comfort you about Gary…"
"It's over. It won't happen again." Toby answered, just a little too fast.
"It's never over." Where did it come from? Chris wondered, feeling sadness and dread falling upon him. Where did it come from? He was supposed to be happy, and smug, because Toby was back where he belonged, back to him. Toby loved him. Just shut the fuck up, Keller, for chrissake.
Toby snorted. "Great. One more word and I'm going to kick your ass out of here."
"You can't. The door is locked." Chris answered, smiling. Then, serious, he added: "Listen to me. You tell me you love me, and I believe you. God, I need to, after all this shit, but…" He shook his head, his words trailing in the silence of the pod.
Toby rose, picked up his discarded clothes. "Christ. I thought we had moved past this. You telling me I'm faithless, again." His voice was hard. "You told me you forgave me, remember?"
Chris walked just behind him. "And I do." Chris declared "I know you're not faithless. I know you love me. I know you do all you can, but, Toby, this is Oz. And we don't know what's gonna happen tomorrow."
Toby put his shorts on, without a word. Fuck. Chris thought. He'd pissed him off. But it was too late to stop, now. "I think we shouldn't promise each other anything. Just love each other, one day after another. See what happens."
For a moment he thought Toby wouldn't react, wouldn't talk, and he was about to give up and try to get some sleep when Toby came to him, faced him, framing Chris' face with his hands and whispered .
"Chris. I don't want to talk about this shit anymore, all right? Please."
*He* doesn't want to talk? I must be dreaming. And ignoring it won't make it disappear, baby. He wanted to say this, but Toby's mouth on his, his tongue playing languorously with his, his hand caressing his face, the way he pressed his body against his… Well, maybe this could wait.
"Didn't you say you wanted me to fuck you?" Toby pushed him towards the bunk, and they fell on it. Words became useless; they sank deep in pleasure together, holding each other, whispering each other's name.
Just before dawn, as Chris lied sound asleep in his bunk, Toby's scream woke him up. Like so many times before, he rose, heart racing, rested a hand on Toby's chest, shaking him lightly.
"Ok. Ok, it's ok, just a dream. Toby, I'm here."
Toby kept silent, watching him, and Chris read something unknown in the gaze locked on his face. "Toby? You OK?"
Beecher moaned in pain, slipped off the bed right in Chris' arms. "Chris. Thank God, you're alive."
Chris embraced him tightly. "Yes, I am. C'mon, Toby, it was a dream, just a dream, right?" But the pain he read in the blue eyes was almost too much to bear and he felt anxiety rise. "Toby, come back to me. Come back. Please. It was not real. It's OK."
Toby moaned again, and rested his head on Chris' shoulder. "Tell me, Toby. Tell me what this is all about."
"You know" Toby said after a while, still shaking. "Even when I was so angry, even when I hated you for what you'd done, I'd never have taken such a deal. Like Barlog did. Never."
Chris nodded. Must have been a really weird dream, baby. You look like shit. He waited for Toby to go on.
"I'd lost you, in this dream." Toby said "I hated you. You were crazy. Do you think…" He seemed to hesitate. "Do you think our love could die?" He sighed. "I mean, we hurt each other so much." Chris said nothing. "Please, tell me it wouldn't."
Chris frowned. "It wouldn't." He answered softly "My love for you, it's kind of an immortal one, Toby. No way I can give it up. I tried hard enough, but I just can't."
Toby shook his head. "Neither can I." And he frowned, restless. "But in this dream…"
Chris slapped his hand over Toby's mouth "Tell you what? You keep talking about that, and you'll have to get yourself a new roomie." He growled, frowning, as if Toby was some kind of stubborn kid. And it worked: Toby seemed to relax, allowing Chris to pin him on the bunk, kiss him, hold him tight until the moment Toby fell asleep.
Chris didn't move, stroking his lover's hair. It was longer, and Chris liked it that way. He liked the golden, wet locks curling on the pale nape; he liked the silky feeling against his skin when they made love. And Toby was definitely thinner. Almost fragile, and that triggered something inside Chris. He had to protect him. Keep him safe. He bent over Toby and kissed his neck, his shoulder, felt him try to come closer and smiled. Then he saw a hack walk toward the cell, and hopped up in the top bunk.
Before he fell asleep, he remembered a book, the one he was reading in the library before Toby came in to warn him about Ronnie. 1984. The lovers betrayed each other in the end, because they lived in such a fucked up world. Yes, just like us, Chris thought. But I won't let this happen. I'll find a way. If I must run away from you to protect you, I will. I swear. Then he fell asleep.