Second of a series of vignettes in the First Time For Everything universe.


They were sitting, playing chess. Not because either of them  particularly wanted to, but because there wasn't anything else to fucking do, except think of all the things they couldn't have and stare at all the places they couldn't go. Just a couple days into lockdown and already Chris was chomping at the bit - and Beecher wasn't being any help. Barely talking, hardly *moving*, he'd been too fucking quiet all day, and the tension was driving Chris nuts.

He didn't know what he had expected. Nothing much would have surprised him; guilt, shame, denial, even anger. All of that he'd been prepared for. But silence? Shit. Beecher being silent was like... like... hell, Chris couldn't think of one fucking thing that was like.  Death, maybe.

"Tell me something."


"When did it stop being a game?"

Oh, Jesus Christ. "Toby..."

"I'm not mad, Chris," Toby says quickly. "I just want to know."

And then he looks up, and Chris groans inwardly at the look on his face. He knows that look, remembers it from the exes. One night in particular, with Kitty. Chris had come home way too late again -- tripping on something, smelling like smoke and the girls from the bar, and there she was. Huddled under a blanket on the living room couch, every light in the house turned off, a big box of tissues on her lap. She'd set the whole fucking scene, down to a single candle burning on the table next to her, just to make sure he'd know that she'd been crying. He'd walked in, seen all that, and knew he was doomed.

He sighs, and thinks -- just as he did then -- that it's gonna be a long fucking night.

Toby looks down at the chessboard like he's looking for a a sign, some message to decode in the little plastic pieces. And that's the thing with Toby. He's always looking for something, that's what gets him into trouble. He spends so much time looking, he don't even see.  Almost on cue, he closes his eyes, flattens his lips real tight -- that ready-made mask of the suffering man. 

Kitty had nothing on him. *Nobody* plays this better than Beech.

"Here's the thing about chess," Chris tells him. "You got all these guys, right? You got your castles, and your horses, and they can only do what they're supposed to do." He picks up a pawn, twirls it between his fingers. "They each got their own little set of rules. Now, if every one of 'em follows the rules, you can pretty much figure out how things are gonna go." 

Toby glares at him impatiently. "So?"

Chris shrugs, leaning back in his chair. "So, the problem is, you gotta play *against* somebody. And that guy, he ain't so predictable.He could be making up his own rules as he goes along." Placing the pawn back on the board, he picks up the king, examining it closely. "What if that guy isn't playing to win? What if he just likes to move the pieces around? What if he's just, you know, fucking with you or something? Then, see, you don't know what's gonna happen. You just can't figure it out. You gotta play along, see where you end up." He cocks his head as if to say, "you gettin' this, baby?"

Toby laughs, in that bitter way he has. He gets it.

Chris rises, and walks around the chessboard until he's standing behind Toby's chair. He drops a hand onto each of Toby's shoulders, squeezing them almost roughly. Leaning down, his breath tickles Toby's ear. "You think too fucking much."

Toby angles his head away. "Fuck you," he says softly.

Chris laughs, but something flashes in his dark eyes. "Anytime you're ready."

A pause. Toby lifts his head, meets Chris's stare, and then suddenly he's rising, kicking his chair aside.

"I remember this one night, I'd had another of my nightmares," Toby says, so softly Chris has to strain to hear him. "I woke up covered in my own sweat." He walks forward until their noses are practically touching, and his hands reach out to grasp Chris's hips, leading him 
backward toward the rear wall of the pod. "You helped me change my clothes."

"I remember," Chris says slowly.

Up against the wall now, with Toby's hands gliding slowly up to Chris's shoulders. "You told me you wanted to help me get rid of the swastika." Toby reaches his hand around the curve of Chris's neck, his fingers lightly caressing. "Then you touched me, right here. Remember that?"

Chris says nothing, merely gives a curt nod.

"I wanted to touch you that night," Toby continues. His voice is light, and lilting, as if he's distracted. "I wanted to feel you under my hands, to see what it would feel like to put my hands on you." 

Despite the tension between them only moments before, Chris's body is responding, drifting into familiar depths by the words, and by the sound of Toby's voice saying them. Vaguely it occurs to him that he should say something, acknowledge this little confession -- but instead he leans forward, pressing his mouth against Toby's in a hard kiss.

Toby returns the kiss for only a moment, then pulls away slightly. "Was any of that real?"

Chris reaches for him, drawing him back, and grinds his hips against him. "That feel real to you?"

"Then why? Why'd you go through with it?"

With a sigh, Chris drops his arms and slumps back against the wall. "Beecher, you really don't know when to shut the fuck up." Toby's shoulders stiffen, a sure sign of an argument looming, and Chris curses under his breath. "Look, I couldn't see any fucking way *out* of it, don't you understand that? Not without signing my own death warrant." He pauses, his jaw tightening. "You came to me looking like you did, saying what you said... ahh, fuck." He shrugs, shaking his head. "Even as high as I was, Toby, I knew I was goin' down."

Toby watches him silently, his eyes unreadable in the shadows. Chris feels suspended, somehow - hovering on the edge of this gap that's still between them, even when they're standing this close.  "I said I love you, Toby. But that's not what you're after, is it?"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You still don't know if you can trust me."

"You saved my life," Toby says softly.

Chris smiles, fleetingly. "This ain't about gratitude."

"I know. I know that." Toby swallows hard. "Chris, I told you... I do.  I forgave you for what you did. I just want to know why."

"You forgave Schillinger too," Chris says, shrugging. "But that don't mean you trust him."

Toby stares at him, the kind of stare that reaches out and grabs something inside. The kind of stare that drove Chris to his knees in front of Kitty, saying all the words she needed him to say. But this time everything is turned around. This time, he means them all --

sorry, baby... didn't want to hurt you... lemme make it right...

-- but there's not a fucking thing that he can say to make Toby believe.

Back onto the bed. Toby's struggling a little, but Chris doesn't care. Some things you just gotta do, no matter what. They fall, they roll, and Toby's strong, but he's no match for Chris. Keller sees the fear in Toby's eyes, and that just makes him more determined to keep going, follow through. You figure out the best move, and you make it.

They wrestle for a minute, and it helps that Toby's fighting, that just gets him right where Chris wants him to be. Chris lets his arms grow slack, letting Toby take him down; just like those lessons in the gym, but this time all the rules - and all the reasons - have been changed.

When the smoke settles, Chris is pinned to the mattress with Toby lying flush across his back. They're both covered in sweat, breathing heavy from exertion, and Chris is satisfied when he feels Toby's cock nudging his ass.


Toby gasps for air. "Why are you doing this?"

Chris chuckles against the blanket. "The horse -- what's he called again?" He pulls his wrist free easily, and folds his arms beneath his head as if they chat in this position every night. "A knight, that's it -- the knight. Ever wonder how they came up with all those rules? I mean, the king, the queen, even those stupid *pawns* can move ahead, right? But that horse, he's gotta work his way around to where he's going. One step up, two to the side -- takes him fucking forever to get anyplace."

For a moment, there's just silence. And then Toby drops his forehead against Chris's naked back, vibrating with something that could be laughter, could be something else, though Chris can't see. Without another word, Toby draws himself up into a crouch and moments later, both their clothes are gone. Chris stiffens a little when Toby lays back down on him, but he knows it doesn't matter. What he feels, what he thinks, what he *wants* doesn't matter --the only thing that matters is that Toby understands.

There's no pain when Toby enters, just the sense of being filled, of giving what he's getting until both become the same. His body knows this game, knows how to play it so they both can win -- but this time, Chris is hoping for a whole new kind of prize. Toby moves inside him, and beneath the sharp-edged pleasure is a strange feeling of fate, as if Chris is gambling everything he has. 

And when Toby comes, it's Chris who groans aloud -- asking Toby, without any words at all, to let it be enough.


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