the Clock Strikes Midnight
Rating: R for language
Disclaimer: HBO owns Oz.
Summary: It's New Year's Eve, and everyone is a little on edge.
Toby stared into the mirror and ran his fingers over his stubble. There wasn't much, but there was more than he wanted. He sprayed some shaving cream into his hand and began to smooth it over his face. Once again, he told himself that it might all come to nothing. His eyes suddenly saw themselves in the mirror, and they laughed at him. He was nervous, and he had to believe that Chris wouldn't turn him away, not now.
"Only shaving half your face?"
Toby forced a grin for O'Reily. "I'll get to my other half."
O'Reily laughed sharply. "I bet you will."
Toby wasn't going to answer that or think that O'Reily could know. He managed to get the other side of his face ready for the cheap Bic shaver. Damn things weren't good for much besides making shanks. They gave a terrible shave, but it would last a few hours, and that's all he needed. He pulled the shaver slowly down his face, trying to concentrate on just that. He didn't want to think about the decision he'd made or consequences that might last his entire life. Right now, he'd shave his face, trying not to change his mind. Lifting his chin, he was careful not to cut himself, even though the chances of that were very small.
"Beecher, get a move on!"
Toby glanced over his shoulder. "What's the rush? Got a hot date?"
"I'm thinking you do," Pancamo said and laughed. "Weirdo."
"Right about one thing." Toby cleaned off the razor, such as it was, and gathered his few items. He put them on the wall and waited for a shower. Keeping his eyes to himself, he rubbed his side. It still ached, but it was healed. Making a comparison to his heart would be stupid, so he avoided it. He dropped his towel, pushed off his boots, and got under the water. There was still some hot left. This must be his lucky day. He nearly smiled, but it was never a good idea in the shower. Someone might take it as an invitation.
The soap issued by the state sucked, but he had gotten a Christmas box from home and his mom had put in a bar of Irish Spring. It was more valuable than tits, and he guarded it closely. It not only smelled good, it felt good on his body, and he slowly worked up a good lather. He wanted to be very clean. It would be nice to feel fresh, for Chris.
"Share some of that, will ya?"
"Fuck off," Toby said automatically. Quickly, he realized he was cursing at Chris, who didn't look happy about it. He looked down at the soap. If he shared, Chris would smell good too. "Sorry. Sure, this once."
Chris got his face wet. "You didn't even fucking see me?"
"I was thinking." Toby nearly blushed. He held out the soap, and Chris took it. Their hands slid across each other. Toby smiled into Chris's blue eyes. Chris didn't waste time. He was soon covered with bubbles and rivulets of soap ran down his body. Toby swallowed hard and stuck his head under the water. He was clean, and he checked to see if anyone was waiting. Just a Nazi prick, so he enjoyed the water, trying not to look at Chris.
"Here. Thanks." Chris handed it back. Toby grasped the slippery soap and met Chris's eyes. Chris gave him a crooked smile. "Clean enough?"
"You or me?" Toby indulged in soaping himself again. He hadn't expected an answer, and Chris didn't give him anything but a grunt. Chris snapped off the water, and by the time Toby had rinsed again, Chris was gone.
Toby finally put his soap in the little container and shut off the water. He felt spotless, almost pristine. Grabbing his towel, he dried off. The errant thought popped up that he could change his mind--again. He wouldn't though. He'd come too far and seen too much to chicken out now. He tucked the end of the towel inside to keep it up, put on his boots, and picked up his stuff.
"How is your wound, my friend?"
Toby smiled at Said. "I'm fine. Thank you."
"I sincerely hope that you know what you're doing."
Toby looked away. He didn't want to argue, not today. "I usually don't, but Chris won't hurt me."
"He already has." Said frowned.
Toby shrugged. He had to downplay this. "He's just my podmate."
Said fingered his beads. "Forgiveness is one thing, but sin is another."
"I'm cold. We'll talk later." Toby pushed open the door. He hated to brush him off, but now was not the time to discuss this. The walk back to his pod seemed to take forever. Was everyone staring at him? The skin between his shoulder blades itched, and he seemed to catch the eye of Rebadow, who smiled and nodded. No one knew anything. Right? He had only just made up his mind; it wasn't like it was all over his face.
"Hope you know what you're doing bunking with Keller, Beecher. Word is out that we're headed back to lockdown." O'Reily again. He didn't look any cleaner, so he'd been selling something in the shower.
"Damn." Toby groaned. Well, at least, he'd had a shower. He'd stay clean for a couple of days, and lockdown wouldn't last that long. "Chris and I have been podmates before. It's no big deal."
"That was before." O'Reily strutted off. Toby sighed and wondered what that meant. Before what? Before they'd all killed Andy? Well, he'd done most of it, even if Schillinger had finished the job. He got moving again, before someone ripped his towel off and showed the world his swastika. Oz seethed. Even he could feel it. Everyone was pissed about something. He wasn't though. For once, a sense of calm had settled over him. It could all wait until tomorrow. And then, maybe, he'd get mad. He tossed the towel on the hook and pushed his boots off again. Chris wasn't around, but there was a mess on the floor, so he'd been here.
Toby brushed his hair first. Was it too short? The barber loved to cut it short. He shivered slightly and started to look for clothes. There had to be something clean in this pod. He settled on a white T-shirt, stuffed the dirty, green one in the laundry bag, and found some pants. Glancing up, he caught a glimpse of his face in the mirror. He looked drawn, even thin, but Chris had smiled at him. That's what mattered. They were both out, and they'd both be here soon.
A horn rang. "Dinner!" The shout went out. Toby put a hand to his stomach. He wasn't sure that he could handle it. It might not stay down. Lunch had been bad enough. That scene with Schillinger had been enough to make anyone nauseous. Refusing to dwell on it, he scooped up the clothes from the floor and sorted through them. Chris threw clean clothes on the floor alongside dirty ones. He'd moved in and immediately made a mess. Probably marking his territory. Toby smiled.
Toby shot the Nazi asshole the finger and folded Chris's shirt. He wasn't a prag. He was being nice, and he had to do something while he waited. Time in prison was always too long or too short, but the time since he'd made up his mind had been some of each and it was making him crazy. It wasn't a big deal, and Chris might turn him down. It was possible. Okay, not likely, but Chris was his own man. Toby licked his dry lips. He had no idea what would happen tonight. For all he knew, Chris might hurt him. He suddenly sat down hard on Chris's bunk. No. That wouldn't happen. He stared at the shirt in his hands. Whatever they did, it would be because they both wanted it. He had to believe that. Chris had held him tenderly, saved him, when it would have been so easy to watch him die.
Toby took his time picking up the pod. He knew the truth. It had been hard won, but he knew Chris loved him. No matter what hoops Oz made them jump through, the love would remain. He just had to get through tonight. Focus on Chris, and plug his ears to the sound of Schillinger's hateful laughter. He could do it. He would do it.
Chris hadn't felt the need to pray in years, but the light in Toby's eyes made him want to drop to his knees and give it a go. He kept glancing at the door, expecting Toby to show up for dinner. It didn't happen. Was Toby still in the shower? Clean was one thing, but how squeaky did Toby need to be? Chris swallowed hard, and it wasn't just the food clogging his throat. "You look like you ate a rotten egg, Keller," Hill said and smirked.
"Food here sucks. You noticed?" Chris shoved his tray away. He couldn't take another bite of the shit. This was all so stupid. It was Toby, for fuck's sake. Toby loved him, and he loved Toby, and it couldn't be bad, unless he screwed up somehow. Shit. He was glad he'd had a shower, with real soap, and he was skipping the gym.
Toby had a lump in his throat when he lined up for count, and it was ridiculous. Lights out wasn't for hours, and it would feel like forever. He had to settle down. Chris came striding up, and he grinned. Toby had to smile back at him.
"Hope you like each other now. You're going to be in there awhile!" Murphy shook his head and smirked.
Chris frowned. "Lockdown?"
Toby nodded at the faint whisper. A few scuffles broke out here and there across Em City, and Adebisi managed to act crazier than usual. Toby was so glad he wasn't going to be in that pod.
Chris opened the door, and Toby followed him inside. The pod seemed smaller, if that was possible.
"Home sweet home," Chris said softly. He looked at the floor. "You picked up?"
"I was bored." Toby turned to watch the hacks and which of the fuckers was dumb enough to put up a fight. "Was dinner good?"
"Right. Fucking sucked, as usual." Chris came up behind him, and they stared out together. "No one's more dangerous than Adebisi."
"You. Vern. And Pancamo." Toby wanted the words back instantly. He didn't want to fight. They'd done enough of that, and his side still ached.
Chris shook his head. "Nope. Adebisi is smart, strong, connected, and crazy as hell. I'm strong. Vern is smart, and Pancamo is connected, but that black fucker is the whole enchilada. He's one dangerous motherfucker."
"Someone will kill him." Toby hadn't thought of it quite that way. He was abysmal at doing time, and Chris was the expert.
"Not any time soon." Chris moved away. Toby decided to ignore Oz and stare at Chris. It had to be more interesting. Chris raised his eyebrow. "Unless you know that Said is going to arrange it."
"Me?" Toby hadn't even considered it. "No. I don't know shit."
Chris shrugged as if he didn't care. "You two are pretty tight."
Toby knew it bugged the crap out of Chris, but it was friendship, nothing more. Two souls, seeking some measure of solace and it wasn't a threat to him. "Please don't ever hurt him. He's the only friend I have."
Chris shot him a look. "What the hell am I?"
That was a good question, and Toby hoped to find an answer tonight. He stepped over to Chris's tightly coiled body and put his hand on Chris's chest. "More."
Chris looked down at the hand. He cocked his head. "More?"
"Much more." Toby flinched at the whack of a nightstick on the door. He turned and yelled, "We're not doing anything!"
Murphy smirked. "Keep it that way!" And he moved on.
"The pricks are going to be all over us tonight," Chris growled softly. "Fuckers."
Toby wished it weren't true. "If I pretend I don't like you, will they go away?"
Chris's hand came down on Toby's forearm. "You've been pretending pretty well these last months."
"That's over." Toby enjoyed the simple touch and warmth. "I was angry. Said helped me see that I had to forgive you."
Chris turned him loose, went to the corner, and leaned into it. He stuffed his hands in his pockets. "About fucking time."
Toby heard the derision and an undercurrent of pain. Chris would never admit it, but he had been hurt emotionally as well as physically. Toby had wanted to hurt him. That was all finished. Done. He didn't even want to think about all that shit. If they were in lockdown, they would have time to discuss it--later. Not tonight. Not New Year's Eve. There was a chance at a new beginning, and he wasn't going to fuck it up, not for one night.
"Sorry. I just missed you," Chris mumbled.
Toby smiled at both the words and the fact that Chris mumbled. Chris didn't want to fuck this up either. Toby brushed his hair back with his hand. "I missed you too. Even if you do drive me nuts."
Chris smiled now. The moment of tension gone. He sat down on his bunk, fumbled with his boots until they were off, and stretched out. "It's not me doin' the drivin'."
Toby laughed. That was probably true. Oz was doing the driving, and he was going nowhere fast. He wasn't sure what to do or say next. If only the lights would turn off, but that was hours away. Hours. Shit. He sighed heavily and went back to stare out the door. A few idiots were still baiting the hacks. Holiday cheer. Whatever. This time of year, people in here just went nuts, probably it was the lack of family or eggnog or some such shit.
"You miss your family?"
Toby turned to look at him. "You mean--more than usual?"
"Yeah." Chris looked half-asleep; it was a lie though. He was watching.
"I think their birthdays bother me more than Christmas. I was usually pretty damn drunk on Christmas Eve, and it carried over into the next day." Toby didn't mind telling the truth about it, not to Chris. "By New Year's, I was drunk again."
"I bet you were the life of the party."
Toby pushed his hand through his hair again. It was too short. He felt like a nerd. "That's what I heard. How about you? You miss any of your wives?"
"Just Bonnie. She was great, ya know." Chris smiled. He usually did when he talked about her. "No matter how much shit I piled on her, she always tried to make it a nice day."
"A good woman." Toby made a conscious effort not to think of his wife. She was gone, and she'd deserved better. "Did you kiss her at midnight?"
"Usually her." Chris rubbed his face. "I make mistakes when I'm high."
"Yeah. Don't we all?" Toby laughed softly. He wished he remembered more holidays, but he'd never forget this one. The butterflies in his stomach tried to fight their way up to his throat. He went to the sink and washed his hands. It was something to do. The part of his brain that did all the thinking went on vacation, and he swallowed hard. How much longer?
Chris watched him. He tried to pretend he wasn't, but he wanted a fucking clue to what Toby was thinking, so he stared. Toby looked calm, composed, as if he didn't have a care in the world. Sure, his back was stiff, but that didn't mean shit. He might be sore from lifting weights. He washed his hands slowly. Chris forced himself to look away and out the glass. The fucking hacks were crazier than the inmates lately. If he scored a damn kiss, he'd be lucky. It was a bunch of stupid shit. The niggers were pissed so the dumbass Aryans were nervous. Fucking dumb. They all needed a fucking reality check. Prison sucked. Get the fuck over it.
His gaze drifted back to Toby. Toby looked good for a man that had been shanked. Vern must be losing his touch. Stupid prick. Chris smiled at Toby. He did look good.
"You look . . ." Chris hesitated to say it. He didn't want to sound like a fucking idiot, even if he was.
"Like a geek?"
Chris laughed a little. He shook his head. "You look well, and I'm glad. I ain't so glad that I didn't manage to kill asshole Vern, but hey, can't have everything."
Toby smiled at him. "Always later."
Chris didn't think Toby was joking about that, but with him it was hard to tell. Toby could apologize to Vern one day and try to kill him the next. It was crazy. It was Toby, and that was okay with him.
"Did you hear how long we're gonna be in fucking lockdown?"
"O'Reily didn't say." Toby leaned against the wall. "I'd guess at least until Adebisi stops screaming though."
"Good fucking guess." Chris rolled to his stomach and put the pillow on his head. If he stared at Toby's package much longer he was going to grab it. "Fucker needs to chill."
Toby didn't answer, and Chris didn't look. It was going to be fucking forever until lights out, and even then, the hacks were going to be on the prowl. One fucking kiss was all he was asking for. One.
Toby forced himself to stop looking at Chris's bulge. That bulge would only get them both thrown in the hole. Sure, it'd be great, but the hacks were watching for it. He sat down in the chair and idly began to massage his leg. His cane had saved his life, but that hadn't stopped them from taking it away. He didn't need it, not really, and no one in Oz cared if he limped.
"No cane, huh?"
Toby glanced over at Chris, who had emerged from hiding. "McManus had told me that if I used it as a weapon that he'd take it. He did. I don't give a fuck."
"He's a jackass. What were you supposed to do? Let Vern kill you?" Chris sounded pissed. "McManus needs his fucking head examined."
"No one wants that job." Toby didn't worry about it. He was going to be fine. "I'm not going to be walking anywhere for a day or two anyway."
"Fuckers." Chris exploded off the bunk and pushed futilely against the door. "You think he groped on Wangler?"
Toby took the time to think about it, and the evidence pointed to one conclusion. "Only if Wangler has a cunt under those droopy pants."
Chris burst out laughing, turned, and slumped against the wall. "If Wangler has a pussy, McManus has fucked it. Ain't a pussy in the place, he hasn't fucked! I should check Wangler's pants, just to be sure."
Toby grinned. "McManus's lawyer must be pulling his hair out. It's damn hard to feel sorry for the idiot."
Chris slid down to the floor and stretched his long legs out. "In a fucking perfect world, McManus would be convicted and end up in Oz."
"As Vern's prag," Toby finished that thought. He and Chris shared a laugh. It was funny, but it'd never happen. Vern had standards. Toby laughed some more. He had a hard time believing that he was going to have a happy new year, and he would have to lock the laughter inside his heart. Keep it safe. Oz always sucked.
Lopresti banged his stick against the glass for no reason, and Chris flipped him off. Toby continued to smile. Chris then blew Lopresti a kiss. Idiot. Toby opened the locker and got out his book. He might as well try to read.
"Got any skin mags that don't have come on them?"
Toby dug around. He did have one. He'd forgotten that he'd hidden it. "Yeah. I got a new one. I haven't even looked at it."
Chris was right there beside him. "A virgin? Christ, hand it over!"
Toby looked over his shoulder. "Where's Murphy?"
Chris went to check. "On the deck. Now that was just fucking wrong, taking our porn."
"I agree." Toby didn't really care, but he knew Chris did. Opening his extra pair of jeans, he slid out the magazine and told a small lie. "I thought you might like to look at it first."
"Best damn Christmas present ever." Chris tucked it under his shirt. "I fucking love you."
"Yeah. I'm a great guy." Toby watched him gloat. It was worth the lie. "I'm gonna read."
"Me too." Chris got on his bunk and maneuvered his pillow to hide his contraband. Toby crawled up top and put his back to the glass. He found his page quickly and considered the wisdom of giving Chris pictures of naked women. By the time the lights went out, Chris would be horny as hell or he'd have blown his wad and be worthless. Either way could be bad. Oh, what the fuck, it was the holidays. Chris deserved something nice. Toby couldn't seem to get rid of the smile on his face. He stared at the words, but didn't read.
Chris groaned. "This ain't good."
"Yeah." Chris let out a long sigh, and Toby knew what that meant. He had bunked with him enough to know. Looking out the glass, he saw the hacks go inside a pod and start beating the shit out of some poor fucker that had provoked them. Even a kiss seemed like a long shot tonight, so Chris might as well beat off, damn it. Toby craned his neck to see into Said's pod. Said was meditating, or planning something.
"What?" Chris grunted out.
"Don't get it sticky. I hate that." Toby shut the book. He couldn't concentrate. "Okay?" No answer. He didn't really care about the magazine. Chris was in his happy place. Toby envied him that. The hacks pounded past, and he saw why. Hoyt was body slamming the walls. Now that was stupid. They'd never shut off the damn lights if everybody didn't settle the fuck down.
Toby listened carefully. His own breath came a little quicker. Damn. He groaned softly and said, "Chris, stop that."
"What?" Chris laughed. "I ain't doing shit."
Toby rubbed his face and shut his eyes. His hand crept over to his dick, and he rubbed himself in time to Chris's quick breaths. Shit. This wasn't a good idea. He'd had a nice shower. With a soft grunt, he rolled to his stomach and tried not to listen. Happy Fucking New Year.
"Lights out in five minutes," Murphy said.
McManus leaned over the rail and shook his head. "Half of them are still out of control. Keep them on."
"It might make it worse."
"I don't want anyone dead to start the new year. Let's play it safe."
Murphy shrugged. "I'll spread the word."
"They should have shut them off," Chris said and began to pace. It had been long enough. He knew it.
"If everyone would shut the fuck up, they'd turn them off." Toby sat up and put his back against the glass. "Don't do anything stupid."
Chris hated advice like that. It made him want to throw things. He went back to his bunk and flopped down. One kiss--was that asking too fucking much? With tongue. Okay, two would be great. He rubbed his cock through his pants. "Fuck."
Toby understood Chris's frustrations, but there wasn't a fucking thing they could do about it. It was their job to rot in a cell, not stride around with a stick and whack people. He should get ready for bed, but if he took his pants off, well, he shouldn't do that. Brushing his teeth wasn't a bad idea though. He slid off the bunk to do it--slowly.
Chris didn't say a word, and Toby got back on his bunk. He propped the pillow and leaned back against his arm. This New Year's Eve was turning out to be the longest day of his life. Gradually, the noise dimmed, and he saw that crazy men were turning into tired convicts. The Emerald City fell into a stupor, not quiet, but lethargic. He smiled. There was time yet, but not much. A horn sounded, and the lights went out. Finally. The pod was thrown into relative darkness, and Chris went to the sink. He splashed some water on his face. Toby watched both sides of him. Their eyes met in the mirror, and Toby didn't look away.
"Happy New Year."
"Happy New Year."
Chris turned, hesitated, and Toby slid down in front of him. One kiss at midnight would have to be enough. Chris's hand came to rest on Toby's side, and he looked down. It ached, but Chris knew that. Toby put his hand on Chris's chest. He didn't push. The new year began as their lips met, and time slipped away from them. Toby wrapped him close. One kiss to seal it. To make it real. And the greatest miracle of all folded them into its sweet embrace--no one interrupted them.