"I think it's getting to the point where I can be myself again
I think it's getting to the point where we have almost made amends
I think it's the getting to the point that is the hardest part." - Barenaked Ladies, "Call and Answer"
"Fuck!" Chris woke up in a sweat, head and heart racing. Where was he? The hole. Shit.
He couldn't remember what had happened. Why was his head so fuckin' sore? All at once
it came crashing down on him. Toby. The moonshine. The kiss. Being dragged to the hole
by the hacks. The kiss. That goddamn kiss. And fucking Vern Schillinger.
"I'm the key," he had told him.
Yeah, he was the fucking key all right. The key to the plan. That glorious master plan. The
key to Toby. Toby's ass. To Toby's heart.
That really is the problem, isn't it? The heart. One simple, organ, beating away. Sustaining
life. And fucking everything up.
And then the nightmares. They'd started a couple of weeks ago. It was always Toby. Toby
getting shanked. Toby, wailing in his cell. And now this new one. Toby, going free. With
some woman. For a while he could hold them at bay. For a while. But then he needed the
moonshine. And after a while even that didn't help.
But what the fuck could he do about it? Vern had him by the balls - literally. Chris, he was
tough. But the Aryan Brotherhood? Yo, you gotta have a death wish to screw with them.
But Toby. Goddamn Toby. How was Chris supposed to know he'd fall for him? Distance,
it was always about distance. That's what Chris was good at. Not getting emotionally
involved. Keeping work and play separate. But Toby, he was... he was different. So open, so
vulnerable. He wasn't one of those college studs Chris used to pick up. Toby tried to put
up that facade. Tough. Crazy. Whatever would keep the wolves at bay. But underneath...
underneath he was about to break into a million pieces. But Toby couldn't fool Chris. He
knew. Because Chris knew what it felt like.
Goddamn. That pounding. Would it ever stop?
"Keller." It was the hacks. "Keller, time to go home." The door to the hole was thrust open,
admitting an ungodly light which bore into Keller's already sensitive eyes. "Here are your
clothes. You look like shit."
"Gee, thanks. You look as fresh as a morning rose."
"Just shut up and get dressed."
"Chris, at last. Give me a kiss." Toby lurched unevenly towards Chris, who was still trying
to acclimate to the artificial light in Em City.
Dear god, Toby smelled like a gin mill. For a minute, Chris couldn't figure out why. What
the... the moonshine. Damnit. "You're drunk."
"You bet your ass I am. did you miss me? Christ, I missed you. Come on, let's fuck." The
raw pain, the open wounds that were Toby's eyes cut into Chris' flesh more deeply than
any shank ever could. But here was not the place, and now was definitely not the time.
Not with Tobe in this condition.
"I don't wanna fuck you, Beecher. I don't even wanna be in the same room with you."
There. He'd said it. That wasn't too hard, was it? Yeah, it was.
Chris headed out of the pod, towards the showers, in hopes that the hot water and steam
could drive out his pain, mental as well as physical, but Toby just wouldn't let the subject
drop. He followed Chris into the quad. "Where are you going? Chris..."
"Hey, don't fucking touch me." Maybe if Toby could just leave it at this, Chris could go on
/Shut up, Toby, just shut the fuck up. If you ever gave a shit about me, just leave me alone./
"Go away." Chris spat the words out, afraid they'd cut his tongue with the sharp hatred he
added to them.
"Are you mad at me about something?"
/Yeah, yeah, I'm mad at you. For screwing up my plan. Why couldn't you have just been
another innocent bystander? Another one down, another notch on my belt, no big deal.../
"No, if I..." If Toby didn't shut up soon, Chris didn't know what he'd do. The rage flowing
through his veins was enough to level an entire city block. He was mad at Toby, mad at
that fuck Vern, but most of all, mad at himself for letting things get this far. And sooner or
later, it was all going to have to come out.
"I said forget it." /Just forget all of this ever happened. You, me, not even a memory. Just a
sweet dream that you're not even sure ever happened./
"If I did something, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..."
/Didn't mean to what? Have a relapse? Piss me off? Fall in love with me? Take my heart.../
"Why don't you keep your voice down, huh?" Chris lowered his own voice to a whisper
with an intensity that betrayed his true feelings. "Look, I had a lot of time to think about
things in the hole, and one of the things I've decided on is you and me are through."
"Oh, Jesus, what did I do?" Toby pleaded. Chris could think of many answers to that >
question, none of which would help either Toby or himself.
"Look, we'll talk about this when you're sober."
"Chris, what did I do?" /What did you do? What did YOU do? Chris, Toby, if only you
knew. If only you had the slightest inkling of what I was getting you into, you'd sober up
right here and leave me like everybody else. Like I deserve./
"If it's the drinking, I can stop. I can stop the drinking. I can." Yeah, Beecher could stop the
drinking like McManus could stop the flow of tits through Em City.
Chris gave Toby a hard shove onto the ground, hoping that would discourage him from
following Chris into the showers. If Beecher followed him there, who knew what would
happen. "Don't fucking touch me."
"Chris!" But Keller ignored Beecher's please and stormed into the showers.
Once he had the temperature turned up to high and the pressure going at full blast, Chris
pulled out the blade he had hidden against the palm of his hand - just a blade from a razor,
but it worked well enough. Bringing the blade against the warm skin of his thigh, he pulled,
making a small cut on his leg. The cut freed his boiling blood, allowing it to run down his
leg. It mixed with the steam and hot water from the shower, all joining together in the drain
like some kind of release. An offering. Allowing Keller to live with himself just one more
"Chris." shit. Toby was calling him again. Just ignore him. Chris could do that. He'd been
doing it since he'd gotten out of the hole.
Two nights of this. Chris didn't think he'd be able to take much more of it.
"What the fuck do you want, Beecher?"
"Beecher rolled over in his top bunk. "Nevermind."
"Look, Chris. I'm... I'm sorry for getting you thrown in the hole."
Chris jumped out of his bunk and stared Beecher down. "I got my own damn self thrown in
the hole, so I don't need your apologies. Can I go to sleep now?"
Toby looked up at Chris, resignation in his eyes. "Yeah, whatever. Good night."
Chris climbed back into his bed and stared at the bottom of Toby's bunk for what seemed
like hours. He laid there and listened as Toby's breaths moved into the familiar pattern of
sighs which meant he had finally fallen asleep. But Chris himself couldn't sleep. He quietly
got up from his bed a second time, and went back into the far corner of the pod, where he
could sit in absolute darkness. There he sat for the rest of the night, rocking himself gently,
and keeping vigil over Toby.
Schillinger was already waiting in the library, surrounded by his Brotherhood
lackeys when Chris entered the room. When Chris saw the look in the older
man's eyes, he felt all the confidence and security he had built up drain
"So?" Schillinger asked. They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul.
Looking into Schillinger's eyes, Chris wondered about the possibility that
somebody could not have a soul. Whether pure evil could exist in the form of
a human being. Chris was fairly certain that Schillinger was about as close
to pure evil as you could get.
"I been out of the hole two days, I haven't spoken more than ten words to
Beecher." /Actually, it was more like 30 words that night in the pod, but
If it was at all possible, Schillinger's eyes seemed to beam even more
brightly with the thoughts of future damage to be done. "Yeah. I've seen
him. He's a fucking mess. He's on the ledge."
/Just tell him. Just spit out the words. Tell him you won't go through with
it. Then the nazi thugs will do away with you, and you won't have to worry
about anything anymore. Not Oz, not Schillinger, and not that fucking prick
But Chris simply swallowed, slowly looked up at Schillinger, and said what
was expected of him.
"I say it's about time we pushed him off." Chris took pushed away from the
table, leaving Schillinger and his mindless fucks behind.
Chris rushed through the quad in a frantic search. Rebadow was sitting at one
of the tables. He looked up at Chris with a confused look on his face.
"Hey, Rebadow," Chris said, stopping just long enough to pull the old man's
attention away from his card game. "You seen O'Reily? Where's O'Reily? The
shit is going down fast."
"Well, I believe he's in his pod with his brother..." Chris was gone before
Rebadow could finish his sentence, bounding up the stairs towards Ryan
O'Reily's pod two at a time.
Swinging the door open, Chris looked at O'Reily. "I need to talk to you."
"Cyril, go watch some television."
Cyril looked at his brother pleadingly, not wanting to be left alone,
undefended. "But Ryan..."
"Cyril, just go watch some fuckin' TV. I'll be out in a minute." Ryan looked
up at his younger brother and saw the pain in the eyes of a man who would
never again be a full man. "It's okay, I promise."
Cyril nodded obediently and moped towards the door. After he left, Ryan
turned his attention to Chris. "This better be fuckin' important, k-boy."
"It is. I need your help."
Chris sauntered out of the O'Reily's pod and down the stairs, taking a seat
next to Rebadow, who was still playing his game of solitaire.
"Well?" Bob asked of Keller with a jolly note in his voice.
"Well, what?" Keller sneered, trying to hide his nervousness, but failing
"Did O'Reily agree to your plan? He did, didn't he? You knew he would. After
what happened to his brother..." Rebadow shook his head. "That wasn't
"You know, Bob, sometimes you really creep me out. Did God happen to tell you
whose side he's on?"
"Sorry, Keller. You know He has to stay impartial. But I'm sure everything
will turn out just fine," Rebadow confided, with a twinkle in his eye that
made Chris thankful that Bob was on his side. At least he hoped he was.
Schillinger led Keller through the hallways, keeping an eye out for any hacks
who may have the misfortune of getting in his way. "So, do you want the arms
or the legs?" Vern asked with a little giggle.
/Shit./ "Um, the legs." /Maybe that way I won't have to look at his face./
"Nah. I think you should have the honor of getting the arms. The two
lovebirds, in a final embrace." Schillinger face lit up. "How sweet."
"Yeah, okay." /Keep conversation to a minimum, Chris, just stare straight
Schillinger stopped in his tracks and looked Keller in the eyes. "You've
been awfully quiet lately. You don't have anything you want to tell me, do
"Nope." Chris kept his eyes trained on the floor in front of him.
"You sure about that?" The look in Vern's eyes said that Chris better be
absofuckinlutely sure about it.
"Yeah, I'm sure." This time Chris looked up and met Vern's eyes, trying to
portray absolute certainty.
"Alright, then come on, already." Vern opened the door to the gym and walked
Chris let Vern walk into the gym before slamming the door shut.
Vern looked around at Chris. "What the hell is this?"
This time Chris was more than able to meet Vern's eyes. He stared long and
hard before saying, "This is me. Saying I'm out."
Vern laughed and crossed his arms across his chest. "You know, Keller, I
thought you were smarter than that. You actually think you can get out of
this? You've been spending too much time with that nutcase Beecher."
"You know, Vernon, I may be smarter than you think."
"Bitch. You owe me. I saved your ass."
"Yeah, yeah. Lardner and all of that."
"That nigger woulda..."
"Woulda what? Stole my shit? Raped me? Made me his prag? Yeah, probably. But
you saved me. Salvation handed down from up on high by the almighty Vernon
Schillinger. Praise the lord." Chris walked towards Schillinger and made a
big show of forcing Vern against the wall. "Salvation from the big bad
niggers so that... what? So you could do the same he woulda done? You ain't
no different from him, Vern. Your skin color might be different, but your
hearts both pump the same blood through your bodies."
Out in the hallway, Metzger was leading Beecher to the gym for a much needed
"You look like warmed over shit, Beecher." Yup, you could always count on
Metzger to be the sensitive type.
"It's been a rough couple of days."
"Workout'll do you good." Metzger went to open the door and was pleasantly
surprised at the situation waiting inside.
Ryan and Cyril O'Reily walked through the halls of Oswald State Penitentiary,
led by a less than thrilled Mineo.
"Why is it again exactly that I have to waste my precious time taking you two
dopes for a workout when it isn't even gym time?"
Cyril didn't answer, he just stared down at the floor in front of him. Ryan,
on the other hand, looked at Mineo with a mischievous gleam in his eyes.
"What, you don't want us looking our best for you?"
"No offense, O'Reily, but the day I care what you look like will be the day
they carry you out of Oz in a body bag."
"Joe! You're killing me with your words! Where's the love gone? The
passion?" In all honesty, Ryan himself had no clue why he was dragging Mineo
to the gym.
Chris had come to Ryan's pod asking for his help. Ryan had been intrigued.
Keller wasn't the type of guy to go around asking other people for help.
"Whatcha got in mind, Keller? Some kind of scam?" O'Reily was always up for
plotting, any kind of plan or scheme, so long as it benefited him in the
"Nah, we ain't got time for that."
Chris refused to divulge any details to Ryan, simply saying that it was
"personal" and that he could "take care of the fuckers himself." He just
needed Ryan to do him one little favor.
It wasn't much of anything, just get one of the guards to escort him to the
gym later that afternoon.
"Keep an eye on me. When you see me leave, wait about half an hour, then get
one of the hacks to bring you over."
Chris knew that Ryan could get to the gym any time he wanted to, but insisted
there be a guard with him, which only made Ryan wonder even more. Chris had
refused to tell him the reason. His eyes had glazed over, though, and he had
looked at Ryan with a strangely peaceful grin on his face. "I'm sure the
show will be well worth the price of admission," he had said, and Ryan had
let it lie at that.
In the grand scheme of things, it was nothing. Chris had been so panicked,
and had even offered to pay O'Reily, so he agreed.
Now, as they drew closer to the gym, and Mineo started asking questions, Ryan
again wondered about the scene that Chris Keller had set up.
In the gym, Keller and Schillinger didn't seem to notice that they now had an
audience. If they had bothered to look, they would have seen the two blond
men standing side to side, looking as different as night from day. Metzger
stood tall, relaxed, with a knowing look in his eye and an amused smirk on
his lips. Beecher slouched, world-weary, with a dazed look in his eyes. The
only emotion visible was that of astonishment, accompanied by complete and
Metzger was the one who finally broke the silence, alerting the duelers to
his presence. "What, Vern, you've started the show without me?"
Vern turned his head slightly so that he could see Beecher and Metzger, but
refused to take his eyes off of Keller. "This little fuck here thought he
was gonna try and grow some balls behind our backs."
Metzger gave a low, disappointed cluck. "Now, now, Chris, why would you go
and do that?"
Chris remained solid and silent, but Vern answered for him. "It seems our
little protege here has turned fag on us. He just wuvs his wittle Toby sooo
much, don't you, Chris?"
Chris still refused to answer, but his face was growing redder and redder by
Vern gave an off-kilter smile which seemed to electrify the room. "I suppose
I misspoke. I mean, little Toby really isn't all that little." Vern gave
Chris a knowing wink and shook his head. "I really was sorry when he turned
on me. That was some cock. And you know, " he added, with a slight lilt in
his voice, "I can honestly say that was the best ass I'd had in years. What
do you think, Chris? Was it his pretty white ass that stole you away from me?
Or are you just mad about getting sloppy seconds? Finding out that your
pretty little angel was damaged goods."
All of the anger that had been building up inside of Chris forced itself out
in a loud "No!" Chris looked around, confused, trying to figure out where
the voice had come from, and was surprised to realize it was his own.
Apparently it had shocked Vern as well, for the older man just stood there,
staring at Chris and waiting for him to continue. After what seemed like an
eternity, he finally did.
"I mean yes. I mean..." Chris' voice trailed off and he looked over at Toby.
As Chris did so, the look of hatred on his face was replaced by one of fear
and uncertainty. "All I know is that I ain't going through with this. You
can kill me for all I care, but you're not laying a hand on him ever again.
Not so long as I'm here to do anything about it."
As Keller was saying all of this, Vern gave an almost invisible nod, and
Metzger was standing behind Chris in a flash. Before he knew it, Chris'
hands were cuffed behind his back, and Metzger's oversized arm was around
his neck, making it extremely difficult for Chris to breathe.
Vern approached Chris slowly, pulling a shank out of his pants. As he moved,
the strange smirk which had occupied his face was replaced by a different
look all together. In its place was an all out smile with a glisten in his
eyes that could not be mistaken for tears. The look on Vern's face spoke of
evil which his earlier confrontations with Chris had only hinted at. His
soulless eyes caught Chris and drew him in like a tractor beam. Their gaze
was broken by Chris's shock when Metzger began to speak.
"What you were saying earlier, I'm really glad that we're on the same
wavelength. Because, between you and me, I don't think Vern over here was
gonna give you much of a choice."
With that being said, Metzger moved out of the way, and Vern lunged at Chris.
Chris attempted to move out of the way, but with his hands behind his back
and still struggling to catch his breath, he was unable to move quickly
Vern's blade sunk into Chris' side, cold metal against hot flesh, the two
becoming one. The force of Vern's blow knocked Chris off balance, and as he
sunk to the floor, the blade was dragged upwards through his side. Chris
fell to the floor with a moan.
From near the door, Beecher snapped out of her daze, suddenly aware of what
was going on. "Chris!" he shouted, and ran over to where Keller had fallen
to the floor, cradling him in his arms.
Vern stepped back from the couple, who were clutching at each other, trying
to keep Chris alive by sheer will, and started laughing. "Aw, come on,
Beechball. Worried about your little Chrissy-wissy? Well, don't worry, the
two of you will be together soon enough."
Beecher reluctantly released Chris, and lowered him gently to the floor.
"What the hell's going on here?"
"Now, you don't really want to know that, do you sweet pea?"
"Yes, yes, I do. I want to know why the hell you just stabbed Chris, and what
he was talking about when he said he 'wouldn't go through with it.' What
'it' was he talking about?!?" Beecher asked, getting to his feet.
"Your stud muffin over there was working for me. Ya know, it's just he was a
little too good at his job. Kind of lost perspective, so to speak."
Schillinger again emitted that strange noise that, coming from any other
person, would have passed for a laugh.
Beecher tried to speak but stumbled on his words. He gave a huff of
frustration before lunging towards Schillinger, emitting a loud, primal
shout. But Beecher never made it anywhere near Vern. While he and
Schillinger had been talking, Metzger had moved in behind Beecher and was
prepared when Beecher had lashed out. He grabbed his arms and twisted them
behind his back. He tried to hold Beecher still, but the smaller man refused
to stay in one spot. He twisted and turned with all his might, trying to get
/Maybe some of those wrestling movies Chris taught me will come in handy/
Toby thought to himself. But nothing he did seemed to free the giant from
his back. And Vern was coming closer, wielding the blade that was still
covered in Chris' blood. Toby struggled again to get free, but it seemed
like each time he moved, Metzger's grip on him just grew stronger. Metzger
took one of his hands that was holding Beecher's arm and grasped his other
arm with it. He then used his now free arm to put Toby in a choke hold.
Toby could sense his breathing become more restricted, and started to see
white dots dance in front of his eyes. Behind those white dots was the
menacing figure of Vern Schillinger, still advancing with the blade. He was
so close that Beecher thought he could smell his breath. With the last bit
of energy Toby could muster, he drew in a deep breath and ducked out from
Metzger's arms, dropping to the ground, and rolling to the side.
By the time he moved out of the way, Vern had already started on his forward
trajectory, shank held high in his hand. Metzger leans downward, trying to
regrasp his hold on Beecher. Halfway to the floor, Metzger's face and
Schillinger's shank collided. Metzger cried out in pain and clutched at his
face, trying to remove the impaled object.
Beecher used the distraction to take a glance at Metzger's tool belt, looking
for something to help him. His eyes passed over police strength pepper
spray, his night stick, his gun /damn good thing Metzger's a hands-on man,
he could have taken us all out with that/, and back to the night stick. That
would do for his purpose. He grabbed the stick from Metzger's belt, and
thrust himself forward at Vern's legs, knocking him to the ground.
"Come on, Mineo, stop harassing us. You know that Cyril just got out of the
hole, so he needs a workout. He's not too good at playing with others."
Joe Mineo was eyeing Ryan O'Reily with a look of disbelief, when the three
men heard a loud scream coming from down the hallway. Mineo looked at Ryan
with a questioning look on his face.
"I don't know what's going on, I swear!" Ryan said, but he thought he was
beginning to get an idea. The three of them picked up speed, running the
rest of the way down the hallway towards the gym.
Mineo tried to open the door, but Metzger had bolted it behind him when he
had entered. "Shit!" he cried, then spoke into his walkie. "We need back up
in the gym!" Mineo again tried to open the door, without luck.
"Mineo, let us try," O'Reily said. He and backed up several feet and launched
themselves at the door, landing with a dull thud. "Fuck! Ow!" Ryan stood up
and rubbed his shoulder where he had hit the door.
Ryan backed up for another try, but Cyril placed his hand on his shoulder.
"Let me do it Ryan, I can. I can do it."
Ryan started to speak, but Mineo interrupted him, saying, "All right, all
right, just hurry up, already!"
Cyril back up and looked at the door with a fierce concentration before
rushing at it with all his might. Under Cyril's crushing force, the door
came bearing down and the three men were confronted by a devastating scene.
Metzger was on the floor in the fetal position, clutching at his face.
Keller was across the room, also on the floor, lying in a pool of his own
blood and breathing shallowly. Vern had easily taken control of Beecher and
had him on his back, with Metzger's night stick up against his neck.
"Fuck!" Ryan cried, matching the timing of Mineo's "Holy shit!" perfectly.
While Keller and Metzger were wheeled to the emergency room of the prison's
hospital, Vern was being shoved into the hole. On the other side of Oz,
Mineo returned the O'Reily brothers and Tobias Beecher to Em City, just in
time to hear McManus' shout of "Lockdown!"
On to the next part!
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