What begins as a new way to pass the time becomes a ritual. It starts with Sex
and the City, but then they discover G-String Divas, and then Real Sex, and by
the time McManus figures out that signing a year-long contract for premium
cable probably wasnít such a good idea, the inmates are threatening to riot
again if he tries to pull the plug. The Italian faction alone has already made
plans to stage a minor coup if they take ďThe SopranosĒ away, and in a rare
moment of pre-catastrophic insight, McManus tells the warden that the cable
company changed their basic line-up, strategically leaving out the words
ďoptional upgrade,Ē and locks himself into his office with a bottle of
Beecher sits with the rest of them, but he doesnít pay much attention to the
TV. Instead, he watches Chris. Watching Chris isnít optional at all.
Keller shows a marked preference for ďSix Feet Under.Ē This takes Toby by
surprise. At first, he wonders if itís the gay thing, but then it occurs to him that Keller would watch
anything in which
thereís a chance someone might potentially end up naked, so it isnít really
that surprising at all. Personally, Beecher thinks the show is macabre, not to
mention unimpressive. A new death every week isnít entertainment, itís just
real life, and all of that stylized angst canít compare to the real thing,
which theyíve honed to a fine craft here in Oz. Besides, itís the same thing
every week: eerie music, cue creepy opening credits, somebody dies, and
everything fades to white.
Chris saunters in just before it starts, just like always, walking past
Beecher without a sideways glance. Toby can tell exactly how long itís been
since Chris showered, how many hours since he shaved, and when Chris drops
himself into a cheap plastic chair two rows ahead, Toby knows exactly how many
steps it would take to get to him. He spends the rest of the evening staring
at the back of Chrisís neck, at that slightly flushed spot just above his
collar, where Toby used to rest his hand while Chris sucked him off.
ďIím surprised you donít like this show, Beecher,Ē Hoyt calls to him, over one
ďYeah? Why is that?Ē
Hoyt smirks. ďItís full of fags. Right up your alley.Ē
ďAnd yet youíre watching,Ē Toby counters, smiling sweetly. ďThinking of
turning over a new, rainbow-colored leaf? Iíll take you on.Ē
Hoyt snorts and turns back to the TV. On-screen, somebody dies, in some stupid
way that is equal parts predictable and preventable. Toby glances at Chris
again. Heís slouched in his seat, gazing fixedly at the TV. If heís heard a
word, it doesnít show.
When the show is over, Chris gets up and heads into his pod. Toby watches him
go. He watches the sleek roll of Kellerís hips, the sway of his shoulders, the
way his cock demands space as he moves. Itís not much, but itís enough to save
for later; an image to conjure up the next time Beecher presses Shemin against
the laundry room wall, or when he drops to his knees on the cold floor in
front of Mondo Browne.
Eventually, Ronnie comes, and everything changes.
Itís different right away. While fucking with Shemin and Browne was merely
self-destructive (at least, until they ended up dead), fucking with Ronnie
is impulsive and spiteful and infinitely more dangerous. Beecher tells himself
Ronnie is actually safe -- he and Chris have a history, they share a past,
Chris says he loves him -Ė but the simple truth is, curling up and playing
dead hasnít gotten Toby anywhere except sitting in the quad watching Chris
walk away, and anything has to be better than all of this fucking indifference.
But Ronnie, as it turns out, isnít safe at all.
Beecher learns the grisly details from Hill, after dinner, as they shuffle
back to the quad. Not the who, of course, but the how. Toby refrains from
looking at Chris throughout the conversation, but he doesnít have to -- every
inmate in Oz knows exactly how Barlog died, and why. There are no secrets in
here, even when there are.
Later, when the show starts and everyone is distracted, Toby finally glances
at Chris. He looks almost the same -- almost. Thereís a tautness to his
shoulders, a tensing in his jaw, a change that nobody else would be able to
see who hasnít spent all these weeks staring at him.
On-screen, a clueless hiker gets jumped by a mountain lion. It happens so
fast, the poor guy dies without ever looking surprised.
Eight steps later, Toby is standing beside Chrisís chair. Itís the closest
theyíve been in weeks.
Chris turns to look at him, finally. Heís smiling.
Toby is pushed up against the far wall, in the shadows; Chrisís hand is shoved
halfway down his pants. He wants to ask, but he doesnít; Chrisís mouth is
rough and desperate against his, and besides, he already knows. He knows,
and if Chris killed him right now he would die without looking surprised, but
Chris isnít going to kill him. Ever. Toby squeezes his eyes shut and pushes
back at him, kisses him back just as hard, just as desperate, shoving his own
hand deep into Chrisís pants. He comes when Chris comes, warmth spilling over
both of their hands like blood, everything fading to white.
Author's Notes: Written for the "Worst Case Scenario" challenge, September 2005. The challenge
scenario appears below.
her fabulous challenge, and to
for giving this a title.