For the 2005 Oz Magi


In between doses of painkillers, Beecher has plenty of time to think.

Lying 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 sympathetic-sounding Spanish.

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 you, Toby.”

Toby relaxes his leg, lets his knee settle against Keller’s touch. “You said you’d be willing to help me get Schillinger.”

“That’s right.”

“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 to me.”

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 just foreplay.

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 for revenge.

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.


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