In between doses of painkillers, Beecher has plenty of time to think.
immobile, alone in his head for days upon weeks, his body broken
and useless but his mind stuck in what seems like permanent overdrive,
he takes it all apart, piece by piece. Examines every shred of evidence,
analyzes all available information, replays everything he should have known but
hadn’t, everything he should have seen but didn’t.
The morphine they give him is a mixed blessing. It stops the thinking
and dulls the
sharp edges of the pain, but it also traps him inside his nightmares, leaving
him helpless against the horrors they bring. Sometimes he fights the
sleep even more than he does the pain, wakes with clenched teeth and a
wet face and bruises that have nothing to do with broken bones, coming
to in breathless fits and gasping starts to find Dr. Nathan hovering
over him with a syringe, shaking her head, muttering softly in
They tell him he’s getting stronger every day. They tell him he’ll soon
be as good as new. But there are other things that torture him
more than the pain ever can, memories that replay themselves in his
head, emotions that boil and churn inside him with no hope of ever being
released. He nods at their lies and says all the right things but he
knows something they don’t, he sees something they can’t -- even now he
sees it, like viewing himself through one of those thermal imaging
scopes: Oz has colored him. Stained him. He’s so bright it’s fucking
blinding; red for anger, red for hate, red for humiliation, consuming
him from the inside out. The days go by and his shattered limbs grow
stronger, his moments of lucidity grow longer, and through it all he
feels it spreading inside him like a sickness, like something that must
have been seeping into him all along, absorbed through his skin as
Schillinger sweated and grunted on top of him, breathed into him through
Keller’s lying, lying lips.
Eventually, when they say they’ve done all they can, they give him a
cane and a bottle of generic analgesics and send him shuffling on his
way. Back to Em City, back to his pod, his arms fully healed and his
legs almost there. They’ve done nothing to cure the real sickness, but as it
turns out, he doesn’t need them for that anyway.
“Tell me again,” he says.
It’s just past ten, just past lights-out. Toby is stretched out across
the top bunk, arms folded over his chest, leaning his head back against
the wall. He lets his eyes lock with Keller’s through the hazy
darkness in the pod; it’s the first encouraging gesture he’s offered
since his return, and as expected, Keller makes the most of it, walking
closer, laying one hand on Toby’s knee. Toby reminds himself not to
flinch, but really, it isn’t that hard at all.
“I’m sorry,” Keller repeats, his voice low, oddly demure, with a note of
sincerity Beecher can’t afford to believe ever again. “And I do love
Toby relaxes his leg, lets his knee settle against Keller’s touch. “You
said you’d be willing to help me get Schillinger.”
“You meant that?”
Keller nods, running his hand up and down Toby’s calf. “You want me to
hurt him? I’ll hurt him. Whatever you want.”
“Would you kill him?” Toby asks softly. “If I asked you to?”
“Fuck yeah,” Keller says, without hesitation, and he moves his hand
higher, crossing the line between Toby’s knee and his thigh, a clear
statement of intent. “I told you, I’m sorry for what I did. I want to
make things right between us.”
There’s a video game that Gary used to love: Vengeful-Man, the Revenge-anator,
something like that. Toby had always tried to get him to put it down,
to play something constructive, less violent, but as soon as his back
was turned, the boy would be at it again. Toby doesn’t remember too many
of the details - being a drunk will do that to you - but he clearly
remembers the goal of the game: conquer your enemies and absorb their
power. It was the only way you could win.
“Okay then,” he says, in a voice even he doesn’t quite recognize. “Make it up
He slides down from the bunk, stopping short just in front of Keller. It
doesn’t take long for Keller to figure it out, to put together the old
two and two, and Toby can see the exact moment he does. Suddenly Keller
is all smiles, the air of conciliation falling away, and Toby smiles
back, because Keller always gets a little sloppy when he thinks he’s
won, but the truth is, this war hasn’t even started. This -- this is
And it’s so much easier than he’d expected. He hadn’t known it could be
as easy as this, to just do it, despite the shit swirling around in his
head; he wonders if Keller had discovered the exact same thing, only two months
ago. The thought narrows his focus, hardens his resolve.
He settles himself onto Keller’s bed, making sure to coddle the injured
leg way more than is really necessary. It’s even better a moment later, when his boxers get caught up on the cast; Keller flinches, that’s
all, but it’s enough. Once Toby is settled, Keller crawls up and over
him, all seductive slowness, sloe-eyed and predatory even in his moment
of humility, and he presses his face into Toby’s pubic hair, his mouth
open just enough for Toby to feel warm breath on his cock, a ghostly
caress with no substance at all.
“No,” Toby says, pushing his head away. “Roll over.”
Keller throws him a look -- not quite as conciliatory now that
a wrench has apparently been thrown in his plans -- but Beecher says
nothing else. He just waits, until Keller does what he’s told.
After that, it’s exactly as Toby had imagined it would be. It’s not slow
and it’s not careful, it’s taking with no giving at all, and Beecher is
breathless and panting and harder than he’s ever been when he finally
pushes inside, nothing but spit and sweat to ease the way. Somewhere in
the middle of it, Keller murmurs his name like it’s sacred, like this
really is about making amends, and Toby bites back the words that rise
to his lips, grits his teeth firmly against them because maybe there’s
love there and maybe there never was, but it doesn’t matter anymore,
either way. All he wants now is what should have been rightfully his,
what Keller had promised him once, even if it was all lies.
His eyes drift closed, just for a second, and the kaleidoscope of
scorching colors behind his eyelids helps him to re-focus. Red is for
anger, red is for hate, red is for humiliation. Black is for Keller, and
Later, when it’s all over, he limps to the sink, wipes himself down,
tosses back the tablets the doctor gave him, and climbs up to his own
bunk. He settles on to his back, closes his eyes.
Today was good, he thinks. And tomorrow will be even better. After all,
he’s getting stronger every day.