Takes place roughly six months after Toby's first parole hearing.

In the beginning, there was chaos.

His life in Oz had been punctuated by drama since the day he’d been thrown through the gates -- four years on a roller coaster ride of emotions from fear to fury, anguish to euphoria, with all the degrees in between. For so long he had desperately needed that, he'd thrived on it -- the adrenaline rush, the constant buzz in his blood that kept him moving, kept him standing, even when they thought him down for the count.

Then suddenly, the ride had just -- stopped.

Chris was gone. *Really* gone – not just across the quad or in a different pod, not rotting in the hole or lying in the infirmary. The air that for so long had crackled with his presence was now heavy and still. Toby shared his cell with the silence – staring at the ceiling as another night went by, another day loomed, with nothing to break the interminable emptiness of it all.


Even when they had been separated by so much more than space, even when they’d been at their manipulative worst, Chris had always been there, somewhere; lurking in Toby’s peripheral vision, skirting the sidelines of his conscious awareness, infusing him with nervous energy. And even when he hadn’t actually had Chris, he’d always had the possibility of Chris – the sense of something ‘to be continued’ that had somehow managed to keep him sustained.

But then Chris was gone, and the numbness had come creeping in, threatening him. He’d looked around desperately for another mainline, something new to feed the beast that kept him on his feet. And suddenly, there it was.


With Sister Pete and Katherine urging him on, he’d clutched at it. Despite his own reservations, that shiver of uneasiness that always twinged him whenever he stood on the brink of a bad decision, he’d allowed himself to imagine a life outside of Oz -- to picture it in his mind, and then drop himself into that picture. He hadn’t wanted to. He knew hope was a dangerous thing, a burden of almost unbearable weight; he’d learned that again and again. But this was Oz. And the only thing that separated Oz from Hell was the hope, however slim, of getting out.

So he’d picked up that cross and he’d carried it. He’d climbed to the hill on his own personal Judgment Day, clutching his burden of hope... and when the words came down and he felt the first sharp sting of pain, he was able to see, with astonishing clarity, that he’d driven the nails in all by himself.

He’d been so wrong to tell Said that it was better to feel. He never wanted to feel anything again. So he stopped.

Stopped hoping, stopped feeling. Just – stopped.

He was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into the dead.

Sister Peter Marie had been concerned. She’d insisted that he continue going to rehab, worried that he’d fall back on some well-worn M.O. of addiction, but Toby didn’t blame her for that. So he went to group, because it was easier; he went to work, because it was required; but it didn’t matter where he was. In sessions, in front of the TV, in his pod, none of it mattered, none of it even penetrated. He didn’t need to drink or do drugs, because the numbness he sought was all around him now. It was a thick cocoon of apathy, woven from the inside out. He simply drifted through his time, safe within its walls.

It hadn’t taken long for the rest of them to realize that Beecher simply wasn’t *there* anymore. He was nothing now -- a nonentity, a void.

And as a result, they tended to leave him alone.


Toby sighed. Said again, exuding that new intensity of his, expending all that useless, ineffective energy. It made Toby feel tired just to be near him.

“Our friend Robson is making noise,” Said told him. “We need to discuss a plan of action.”


“Beecher, you cannot continue to ignore this. James Robson has the potential to become a powerful enemy.”

Toby continued eating, unperturbed. Words, just words, words with little meaning, just like everything else. Life, breakfast, work, death, laundry, whatever.  Had he any interest or inclination, he might have said it aloud, might have told Said that these occasional attempts to draw him out were pointless.  He didn’t, though.  He chewed and he swallowed and said nothing at all.

Said shifted impatiently. "How much longer is this going to go on?"

Again, silence.

"Do you hear me talking to you?” Said said angrily. “You walk through your life like a sleeping man. But you are in *Oz*, Beecher. You let yourself sleep in here, and you are as good as dead."

Ah-ha, Toby thought distractedly.  Death by inaction; he’d been wondering how bad that possibly could be.

Said leaned forward over the table. “I have done everything in my power to protect you,” he spat. “But you must start helping yourself. So you didn’t make your parole. Beecher, there are men in this place who will never again see the light of day. Men far worse off than you.”

“Go away,” Toby said softly, without raising his eyes.

“Tell me. Is your pain worth more than theirs? Why should you be allowed to give up, while the rest of them struggle to keep on?” Angered by Toby’s lack of response, Said leaned back in his chair and folded his arms over his chest. “And what about Holly?” he demanded. “Have you given up on her as well?”

At last Toby lifted his head. “Holly is the only reason I am still alive,” he murmured.

“You call this alive?” Said scoffed, waving his hand over Toby. “Beecher, this is just breathing. You must get over what happened in the past. Do it for Holly, if you believe she is all that you have. But you must do it.”

Toby dropped his eyes again. “You know, they bring her to me for an hour a day, three times a week.”  He spoke softly, without any inflection. “They put us in a well-guarded room, with the hacks only footsteps away.  I go into that room and I smile for her, I read to her, I pretend to be the father she knew.”

Was that really his voice? So empty and distant and strange? Said seemed to be wondering the same thing -- he'd gone completely still, his expression revealing surprise and dismay. Briefly, Toby wondered how long it had been since he’d really spoken at all.

Frowning slightly, he went on. “For the other 23 hours of the day, Holly is protected from the man I really am. The man that I have become." Shrugging, he asked, "Which way is she better off?” 

He rose out of his chair before Said could respond, and headed back to the silence of his pod.

The lights had been out for less than an hour; still way too early to go to bed, especially when you no longer slept much. Judging from months of experience, it would be hours before exhaustion seeped in and took over, and lying awake in the dark was nothing short of torture these days. Better to find something to do – anything to keep the mind blank and the body occupied, until he could fall into bed without thinking at all.

He didn’t know why he liked brushing his teeth in the dark, but the mindlessness of it was comforting. And nobody thought it was too strange – not like breaking out into rhyme, anyway, which tended to defeat its purpose by garnering unwanted attention. Sometimes he’d catch himself in these little rituals, these little things he did to keep from doing other, less palatable things, and he’d wonder if maybe he really was losing it. Or, Christ, maybe he already had. But thinking about that required some effort, an emotional investment he was no longer willing to make, so he simply brushed it aside.

From somewhere in the bowels of the prison came an unexpected sound; muted by distance, but at this hour, in this place, all things seemed magnified. Ironically, life on the outside had been filled with noise…sometimes so much that it shrieked in his head, at least until the vodka toned it down. But years in Oz had taught him that even silence can be deafening; all you had to do was listen to it long enough. This particular sound was real, though, and familiar, too -- the rumble and clang of the prison gates, something you rarely heard at night. Toby glanced over his shoulder into the darkness of the common room, but nothing much seemed to be happening there; the hack was still slouched in his chair at the control station, as bored as he’d been a few minutes ago.

He turned back to the sink and caught his own reflection, studying it critically in the dim light. The face in the mirror was oddly unfamiliar; leaner, more angular, with harsh new lines drawn in the skin. The dispassionate eyes staring back at him had perpetual shadows now, and his hair was too long. He ducked away from the stranger in the glass, rinsing his mouth before grabbing a towel and rubbing his face. He knew he looked like shit, and couldn’t bring himself to care.

Another gate opened, this one closer now. Mildly curious, he wandered over to the glass door. Anything that dented the monotony of the night was worth at least a look, since variations in routine were rare in Em City. He leaned his shoulder against the glass, willing to put off going to bed for as long as he could avoid it.

The last gate to Em City rattled open, and shadows shifted in the quad. The rest of the inmates were watching as well; peering out with undisguised interest as the shadows grew longer and footsteps were heard in the hall. From the far corner, the one that lead to receiving, two men were entering the quad. What the fuck? They’re bringing someone in, at this hour? They were still too far from Toby to see.

He squinted in the darkness, watching as the men came into view. One of them was a hack, easy enough to tell by the bulk of the belt he wore at his hips. Toby turned his focus from the C.O. to the dark figure who ambled beside him -- and froze. The way he moved… oh, but no, it wasn’t possible. Still, Tpby's throat constricted, and his pulse begin to race wildly as he watched the two men cross the room. The loose, long-limbed body… that smooth, almost liquid stride…  Toby dug at his eyes with the heels of his hands, laughing aloud at himself.  Get a fucking grip, Beecher. Hallucinating without any chemical assistance -- not good, not good at all. Or fuck, maybe this was it -- the one defining moment when his rational mind dissolved into delirium. Hell, he’d been half-expecting it for months.

But… he hadn’t expected to *know* it, when it happened.

He dropped his hands and looked out again. No, they were still there -- and real enough, unless all of this was a dream, which he couldn’t discount completely. They were closer now, heading toward Toby’s own pod, and denial clamored in his brain.  It can’t be, it can’t be, it can’t… Frozen in shock, he  held his breath as the figures approached, their footsteps scored by the rhythm of Toby’s own heart, drumming out a message. Or maybe it was a warning.

And then they were there, at the door. A uniformed hack, and the flesh incarnation of Toby’s own desolate dreams.


Toby was backing away before they even got to the door, matching each one of their forward steps with one of his own, fading back into the shadows of the darkest corner of the pod. The door opened and suddenly Chris was there, emerging from the gloom of Em City like a dark angel, returning... for what? Toby wrapped his arms around himself protectively, willing it away because he knew it was a dream, it had to be, and he wanted to wake up -- he needed to, now, before he began to believe. Before the idea of Chris standing before him started to sink in, become real. The possibility of that scared the shit out of him. 

The fact that he actually *felt* that fear terrified him even more. 

He rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet; tamping down the fear, rejecting it. No. He would blink his eyes and find himself staring at an empty pod -- maybe crazy, maybe not, but safe, goddammit, safe. He would, he knew he would, because it had to be that way. Because to believe that it was any other way would drag him right back up onto that hill -- the hill where hope had bled him dry, and hopelessness had sealed his tomb.

He wouldn’t let that happen.

He watched, trancelike, as the door hissed shut and the hack left them alone. Keller walked straight to the beds, tossing his stuff onto the bottom bunk and pausing there, his back to Toby. The pod was silent, so utterly silent, and for one long, surreal moment Toby had himself convinced that he truly was trapped within a dream.

And then he noticed the clothes. 

Chris’s clothes. White tee-shirt, blue pants, standard Oz-entry-issue, a detail that could have been wholly unremarkable, in and of itself, but somewhere deep in Toby’s anesthetized brain flashed an explicit, full-color memory, so vivid it actually brought pain:

Chris Keller, Tobias Beecher. He’s gonna show you the ropes.

He jolted, and a strange, strangled sound escaped him. Chris must have heard it – expected it even, though likely for different reasons -- because he straightened, squaring his shoulders and turning to face the wall where Toby stood. The breath caught in Toby’s throat, his nerves jangling as Chris came forward, stopping only a few short paces away.

His slight smile was weary, but warm, caressing. “Hey.”

Toby shivered.  Hey...  Echoes of the past, bleeding into the present; he tried to stop them, to stifle them, but whatever was opening just kept opening, and the memories were pushing their way through. Chris, waiting for him at the railings outside McManus’ office… Chris, beckoning him from his hospital bed after the shooting… Chris, embracing him in the quad with all of Em City looking on. It was déjà vu of the cruelest kind, forcing him to remember –- forcing him to feel -- and he shrank from it until he could go no further, his back now against the wall.

“I missed you,” Chris said, low, and he stepped closer. Toby braced himself, gritting his teeth against it, but it was there now, it was moving inside him --  I missed you… Me, too…  Chris was here. Chris was here. Chris was standing just a few steps away, so close they could touch . . . touch, the way they had the day he’d left . . .  Deep within, other memories were chafing at their confines, writhing to get free, and Toby's heart rammed in his chest as they just kept coming. 

I’ll see you… back here, or in heaven…


It hit him like a bullet, his body bowing inward from the impact. He stared, openmouthed, as the full truth struck him –- Chris was here, back in Oz, in this pod, in the flesh. Toby felt a flash of pure elation, one brief moment of undiluted joy even as he was already forcing it away -– even as the defensive voice inside him screamed NO, don’t feel it, don’t let it come, because to feel anything now would mean feeling everything else, and that he couldn’t allow. He *wouldn’t*. 

Chris was reaching out -- a warm hand on his neck, surprisingly gentle -- and Toby recoiled as if he’d been struck.

“What the fuck?” Chris snapped his hand back, obviously surprised, but Toby said nothing; he simply rolled his head to the side, avoiding Chris’s gaze. Chris stared at him for a moment, his dark eyes narrowing, and then he reached out again, more determined this time. Toby inhaled sharply, angling his head away, and shrank back against the wall.

“You're fucking kidding me,” Chris said, his voice turning bitter-cold. Toby shook his head, and Chris studied him for a moment. “This is how it’s gonna be?”

Toby flinched as Chris’s words registered, but still he said nothing. He couldn’t speak at all -- couldn’t make a single sound, couldn’t do anything more than simply fight to keep breathing as everything in him screamed to get out, to break free. “Is it, Beech? You tell me. ‘Cause that’s how it works with us, right?” Chris chuckled softly, a horrible sound, and then added, “Yeah, it’s all coming back to me now.”

But still, Toby said nothing.

Finally, Chris turned his head away, nodding once, then stepped back. “Fine. You don’t want me to touch you? I won’t fucking touch you.” He paused, waiting, then suddenly he seemed to lunge forward, grabbing a handful of Toby’s shirt. Toby grunted, wrenching himself free, and backed away – directly into the thin shaft of light bisecting the room.

“Holy Christ.” Chris had stopped in his tracks, his jaw slackening in shock. For the first time since he had entered the pod, the light illuminated Toby’s face, enabling him to see. “Shit,” he breathed. “Toby. You all right?”

Christ – oh, Christ… Toby was beyond words, lost inside his head.  I’m all alone!  No, you’re not, you’re all right…   He felt the panic approaching, felt it -- felt the prickly hot sting of tears behind his eyes, felt his chest tighten as his breathing grew labored and his legs turned to liquid beneath him.  I’m alive, thanks to you…   He gasped for air as he *felt* it -- felt the sick churn of desperation in his stomach as it kept coming, coming, burrowing through the cocoon, battering at his defenses, drawing forth a deep, mournful sound that Toby felt -- ohhh, fuck, he *felt* -- rise from within him. He choked on it all, suffocating, and still it kept coming. 

“Toby.” Warm, solid fingers touched his face, and the pressure inside him grew and expanded, threatening to burst free. He tried, weakly, to pull away once more, but Chris gripped his chin firmly, drawing him back. Chris’s hand moved to his cheek briefly, wiping away the wetness there before sliding around and sinking into the hair at the back of his neck. “Toby, look at me.” 

Toby shook his head mutely, a last, frantic attempt to resist even as something inside him flexed, loosened, released. And then he was drowning -- the tide sweeping through him, over him, eroding the last of his defenses against this, a torrent of emotion rushing over him in waves. He gasped at the sheer force of it, his eyes flying open as he searched the pod frantically for an anchor. Chris reached for him, bracing firm hands on Toby’s shoulders and turning him towards his chest. Toby clutched at Chris’s wrists as if to yank himself free, but something in Chris’s tone stopped him. 

“Toby. Say my name, Toby." 

Their eyes met, and held. An unnatural silence descended, and time seemed to stop as they stood there… then the stillness was shattered as Toby expelled his breath in a harsh, ragged sigh, releasing the single word like one last, desperate prayer.


They embraced hard. Toby fell against Chris, his body trembling in reaction, and felt familiar arms tighten around him. Real, he told himself. This is real. This is *Chris*. This is his body, his heat, his smell…. this is his heart beneath his shirt, this is his hair beneath my fingers, this is his skin… 

You’re back.

Yeah, so are you...

He buried his face in Chris’s neck, touching him, tasting him, breathing him in. Christ, he was here. . . he was solid, and strong, he was exactly as he had always been. Toby felt Chris’s hand slide up his back, curling possessively around his neck, and even through the flood of emotion, he knew what this could mean. Chris had come back. He could touch him, could feel him -- could once again know that fierce, volatile pleasure. He could let it rush through him like a powerful drug, waking him, bringing him back from the dead. 

Standing as he was, surrounded by Chris, he knew that despite the pain it would bring, he wanted that. Wanted it more than he’d thought he could ever want anything again.

Chris lifted his hands to Toby’s shoulders and pushed him back slightly, just far enough for them to face each other. Toby raised his head, his eyes damp, and found Chris regarding him cautiously, heavy brows furrowed in perplexed concern. Without conscious thought, Toby reached out to smooth that brow, touching Chris’s face with hesitant hands. He outlined the familiar features, brushing his fingers lightly across Chris’s forehead, his cheek, his mouth... Chris closed his eyes briefly, his hands clenching Toby’s shoulders, and Toby’s hands grew bolder, relearning what Chris felt like – his short hair, his rough, stubbled jaw, his lips – and at the same time he felt it all against his own skin, sensitizing his fingertips as he explored, recognized, remembered. 

Chris drew him close again, and Toby felt the ache expand. After months of experiencing nothing at all, he awakened to this with a sudden eagerness he hadn’t known he could still feel. He allowed it to come rather than pushing it away, and as he did so he became aware of small, peculiar things: the weight of his own hair against his neck, the slide of cloth against his skin, the angle of his body as he leaned against Chris. His breath caught as he woke up to these things again, these sensations he’d refused to allow for so long, and his mind struggled to absorb it all -- the depth of the shadows, the chill of the pod, the cold floor beneath his bare feet. He felt it, felt all of it like sharp needles piercing his skin, and still, he knew there was more. The rough scrape of Chris’s cheek against his, the smell of fresh air still clinging to Chris’s clothes… oh, God, there was so much more

Everything he’d given up, everything he’d grieved for -- it was all right in front of him now, waiting for him to reach out. He drew a tortured breath, squeezing his eyes shut as the memories came once again:

Why are you doing this?

It was here. It was right here under his fingertips, right here beneath his hands. And to hold it, to keep it, he would have to accept what came after, just as Chris had -- he would have to reclaim that burden of hope, and willingly carry the weight. But this time, there would be no doubt that the choice had been his… this time, there would be nobody else to blame. 


He barely heard. Memories were bombarding him mercilessly –- dark days spent grieving for what he had lost, and long, endless nights when even his dreams had been filled with denial and shame. He remembered it all: the pain, the guilt, all the familiar ghosts that he knew were still waiting for him, and he pressed even closer to Chris. He wouldn’t lose this again. He couldn’t let go of it twice. 

“Toby.” Chris’s hands were on his shoulders, his neck, gripping him tightly, dragging him out of his self-absorbed haze. He took Toby’s face in his hands, forcing him to look up. “Toby, come on...” Toby frowned slightly, surprised by the odd note in Chris's voice, and finally, he lifted his head. Chris's expression was tense, his narrowed eyes watching Toby steadily.

Toby searched his face, looking for the reassurance, the strength in which he had always been able to lose himself. He saw the familiar concern, felt the hands pulling him close, heard the unasked questions – ‘What’s wrong, baby? What happened? What can I do?’ – but this time, tonight, Toby could see more. Those dark blue eyes were tired, more tired than Toby had ever seen them. He searched for his savior, his protector…but tonight, as he looked at Chris, he was startled to see -- just a man. 

A man returning to him with a year’s worth of fresh penance on his back.

Once again, Toby touched his fingers to that face. Had Chris ever looked this weary before? Once…maybe once…

Toby, I died…

Wordlessly Toby met his gaze, and Chris’s eyes burned into his. “I need you, Toby.”

The breath hitched in Toby’s chest as the words sank in. For a long, stunned moment, he simply stood there, speechless -- staring at Chris. Seeing him. Remembering.

 Don’t let go…

He hesitated only a moment. Hooking his arm around Chris’s neck, he pulled him into a tight embrace, knowing his choice had been made.
The first kiss was a benediction. Toby pressed his lips against Chris’s as tears filled his eyes, and this time, he let them come; he let it all come, let Chris feel it all through the touch of his mouth. Apology and atonement, regret and repentance -- he held back nothing. He *couldn’t* hold back anything, now… there were no pretenses left between them, no games left to play.

“I’m here,” he whispered. Chris shifted against him, and Toby said it again, firmly this time, as much to himself as to Chris. “I’m right here.”

How many times had he thought of this, ached for it? Too many to count, during those grief-racked nights after Chris had left Oz; in the dark, dark hours before sleep had taken him, and the fitful ones after it had. At those times, Toby had wondered how they could ever repair all the damage they’d done. But now, at least he knew how to begin. Questions could wait, explanations could wait -- the daylight with all of its dangers could wait. Right now, Toby wanted – needed -- to be close to Chris, as close as their world would allow…to feel this complex connection they shared, and make sure Chris was feeling it too.

His hands came up, circling Chris’s neck. “I want you,” he muttered against Chris’s mouth. “Inside me. Right now.” 

He felt Chris react: felt him stiffen, felt the rush of warm air as he blew out an uneven breath. Toby leaned forward, eager to capture that breath, taking it in as his tongue reached deep, and this time, his kiss held no regret. It was urgent, and raw.

Dropping his arm low, Chris caught Toby around the waist and kissed him back, hard. Toby took hold of his hips, steering him backwards without breaking the kiss, pinning him against the bedframe with a *thud* that echoed in the silent pod. The jolt startled them both. Chris drew away, leaning his head against Toby’s, and the harsh, strident sound of their breathing seemed impossibly loud. Just an hour ago. One hour ago, this room had been nothing more than a tomb. He planted his body more firmly against Chris, repeating: “Chris. Right now.”

“The hacks--” Chris warned.

Toby cut him off. “Fuck them.” His hands dipped under Chris’s shirt, riding it up and over his head and tossing it to the floor. “This time, I’m not letting go.” His mouth covered Chris’s hungrily as his hands roamed over the warm, smooth skin. He pressed closer, chest against chest, hip against hip, his aching groin brushing Chris’s, causing them both to moan. Closer. He needed to get closer. He couldn’t seem to get close enough.

Their eyes met again, pale blue locking onto dark: steady, determined, sure. Without speaking a word, Toby closed his hand around Chris’s arm and pulled him down to the lower bunk, sweeping aside the untouched stack of sheets as they sprawled together across the unmade bed. They met mouth to mouth in a heated rush; bodies colliding and arching to get closer, fingers digging into flesh. Clothes fell away, discarded by Toby’s impatient hands, and he sucked in his breath as suddenly Chris’s mouth was everywhere -- on his lips, his throat, his chest; warm licks of fire on fever-flushed skin, raising goosebumps wherever they fell. Lower, and then lower still, opening him, preparing him, leaving him eager and frantic and crazed; flooded by too many feelings at once and still desperate to feel even more.

“Now,” he gasped, tugging on Chris’s hair. “Do it now.” 

Time seemed to slow. Toby hooked his legs over Chris’s hips, drawing him in, gritting his teeth when he *felt* it – that insistent pressure, so hot it felt like fire. “Chris… fuck…” He moaned as Chris pushed slowly inside, inch by agonizingly deliberate inch… felt his own body stretch to receive him, and *Christ*, it was too fucking much. It was pleasure and pain, hardness and incredible heat, all of it centered where he and Chris joined. Too much, too much, too much… every nerve in his body was alive, screaming, and he couldn’t go back, didn’t ever want to fucking go back -- he had to have all of it now. The pleasure, the pain, Chris’s breath in his ear, and oh, god, the *feel* of him – 

“Chris… Chris…” He flung his head back, crying out as Chris sank into him completely. “*Chris*..."

And then, unexpectedly, Chris went still. Gasping, impaled, Toby looked up and found those dark eyes burning into his, the urgency vanishing as he lifted his hand to Chris’ face, touching the unexpected wetness there. Chris closed his eyes, leaning his face against Toby’s hand, and Toby reached for him, pulling him into a deep, searching kiss that offered as much as it claimed, wrapping his body around him until they connected in every way they could. Threading his fingers through Chris’s hair, he held him close and kissed him again, tongue plunging deep, relearning tastes and textures that once had been as familiar as his own. He shifted, feeling the ache deep inside, welcoming it…this tangible evidence of whatever it was that kept them so bound to each other, feeling it now more sharply than he ever had. 

Reluctantly, they came up for air, staring at each other as they drew apart. Toby’s gut tightened when he caught Chris’s unguarded expression, the swirling emotion that darkened those blue, blue eyes. He dropped his hands to Chris’s hips, pulling him close, and he swore he would never doubt this again. Not ever again. Chris closed his eyes, letting his forehead fall against Toby’s chest, and for a moment they simply remained like that; joined, unmoving.

“Toby--”  Chris shuddered against him, swallowing hard, and Toby felt his own eyes sting.

“I know,” he said softly, arching his hips, drawing Chris further inside. The subtle movement seemed to shake Chris out of his trance, and Toby tightened around him, silently urging him to finish. Chris lifted his head as he picked up the cue, and their eyes met as they began to move. 

It was… revelation. 

The warm, hard length of Chris’s body, rocking into his…the sharp, piercing pleasure as he arched up to meet it…all of it felt so familiar, and yet it was different now. It was *more*. Pressed against Chris with nothing between them, stripped bare in every possible way, Toby felt things he hadn’t believed in before, knew things he’d refused to let himself see… It surrounded him; the strength and the heat, and the *need* that had always been there underneath -- it was there in those eyes, in that deep, ragged sigh, in the way Chris blindly sought Toby’s mouth with his own as he shuddered and found his release. Toby groaned deep in his throat as he gave himself up to it -- facing Chris without any defenses, touching him without any shields; *seeing* him, without the veils of suspicion and doubt that he’d hidden behind for so long.

Oh, God, I do love him.  He didn’t know if he’d said it aloud. He only knew that he’d heard.

Author's Notes:
The story was conceived by Christy, who is entirely too good at this sort of thing. I think she breeds plot bunnies in her backyard. Big thanks (again!) to Grackle for being Grackle. :) And for being the fastest beta in the universe. Originally posted to TS in July 2001.


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