Title:
A Single Moment
Pairing: B/K, M/M
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: HBO owns Oz.
Summary: AU - Keller makes one small decision that changes everything.


Chapter One - Prags
*****

The jury stayed out all of five seconds. Yep, his podmate - whatever the fuck that was - was a fucking nutcase. Keller hesitated in the doorway, after making his bunk, and looked over his new home again. What the fuck had he done to deserve all this shininess? That spot between his shoulder blades began to itch as he realized that there was no place to hide.

"You, Keller?"

Keller didn’t think this was another inmate, dressed too nice. "Yep."

"Tim McManus. I’m the unit manager here in the Emerald City. You know the rules now, but I want to make completely sure that you follow them in regards to your podmate." McManus did his best to look damn tough.

Keller choked off some laughter. "Podmate. Whose idea was that? This ain’t no movie." He laughed.

McManus glowered. "They’re pods, not cells. This is the best that Oz has to offer."

"I feel the love." Keller smirked. "I’ll follow the damn rules."

"Keep your dick zipped." McManus trotted off towards the stairs. Keller got the message loud and clear. He couldn’t fuck his podmate, not that he would, but now that he’d been told not to the idea wasn’t all that bad.

"Keller! Gym time!"

Keller smiled falsely at the hack, Metzger. Now there was a prick, and it had taken two minutes to figure that out. "Gym is mandatory?"

"Move it, smartass." Metzger escorted him through the prison to the gym. Keller felt the hairs on his arms raise up. This wasn’t right. He was going to be killed on his first day here? Shit. He went through the door and put his back to the wall. Nice gym and it empty except for three fuckers who turned immediately.

"Christopher Keller."

Keller’s brain took a second to catch up with his eyes. "Where’s your hair, Vern?"

"Some respect, you little prick." Schillinger and two other fuckers moved around him. Keller made a note that Metzger was a Nazi. Schillinger looked him up and down. "Still have a nice ass?"

"Check for yourself." Keller grinned. He didn’t like these odds, but he could talk his way out of most anything. "How the fuck have you been?"

"Good, as you can see." Schillinger frowned. "You realize, of course, that you’re still mine."

Keller had expected that, but it still made him want to spit. "I ain’t no boy any longer. You want it, you take it, and you pray I don’t find a way to kill you."

Schillinger took another step and so did his boys. "I have a job for you. Your podmate is my old prag, and I want him hurt. Bad."

"So, do it. I don’t give a shit." Keller understood the insanity he’d seen on Beecher’s face now. Schillinger could fuck anyone crazy. Keller shrugged. "What did he do?"

"He needs to learn his place!" Schillinger was seriously pissed. "I want you to seduce him and then we’ll break his arms and legs."

Keller drew his head back until his hair almost brushed the wall. "I’ll fuck him all you want, but that’s it."

Schillinger shook his head. "Put Keller on his knees where he belongs."

Keller started fighting instantly, but he was in trouble from the start, and when his knees kissed the concrete, he quit. His arm was killing him. Schillinger leaned over and spoke softly.

"You’re going to break his heart, and I’m going to break the rest of him. Got it?" Schillinger smiled and pushed Keller’s head back. "It’s that or you can die right here, right now."

Keller knew he could make Beecher fall for him. He wasn’t worried about that, but why the fuck should he? It’d be work, and that sucked. The guys holding his arms cranked them back another inch or two. He grinned through the pain. "Pay me, and I will. I’m broke."

Schillinger snorted. "You’ll do it because you owe me, and this way, you get to keep living."

"Tell you what." Keller arched his back in an attempt to take the pressure off his arm. "I’ll snap his neck for free."

"No. He has to suffer. Do you hear me? Suffer!" Schillinger had lost it. Keller could see it now. He was dealing with another nutcase. Fuck. Was everyone crazy in this prison? He lowered his head and made a soft sound that he knew Schillinger would like.

"Okay. I’ll do it, just don’t tell anyone I was your prag," Keller said softly and swallowed all his pride. It was the only way to get to his feet. "Please, sir."

Schillinger stepped back. "Let him up."

Keller got to his feet and controlled himself. He stared at Schillinger’s boots. "You’ll keep quiet?"

"You better hope so. Now, go cozy up with your podmate." Schillinger laughed. "This is gonna be fun."

Keller cradled his broken arm and bolted out the door. He was fucked. Unless. No, he was fucked. Damn it. He heard the horn for lunch and went that way. His knees ached and his arm wanted to fall off, but the pain just pissed him off. He should have demanded to go to Attica, not that they’d have listened.

Beecher glared at him as he got into line, and he looked away. When he had his tray, he looked for a table, and he saw that Beecher’s friends were an old guy and a crippled guy. Not a lot of muscle there. Shit. Things weren’t looking good. Keller sat down, but not too close. It wasn’t like he could go sit with the Muslims, and he sure as fuck wasn’t sitting with Schillinger’s crowd.

"How do you like our fair city?" the old guy asked.

Keller squeezed his orange and made sure not to look at his crazy podmate. "Fucking sucks."

The crippled guy laughed. "We can agree on that."

"You selling?" Keller asked him. Some drugs were a good idea. It‛d take the hurt out.

"No." The guy shook his head firmly. "Get with O’Reily or Adebisi or the Italians."

"Quite a choice." Keller didn’t like the sound of that. He didn’t want to get caught in a turf war. "Fuck it. I’ll stay clean for a month or two."

Beecher laughed insanely. "Right."

Keller glanced around the lunchroom again. He was going to have to do this. Unless. Fuck. There just weren’t any other damn choices. Nowhere to hide and no one to get behind. Damn it! He ate his lunch and listened to the chatter. The old guy was Rebadow, and the crippled guy was Hill, and O’Reily came over to talk it up with crazy Beecher. They looked to be friends. Keller took that moment to give Beecher a long look. Fucker wasn’t ugly, but he wasn’t pretty. Why the hell had Schillinger pragged him?

Rebadow scooted closer. "Leave Beecher alone," he whispered.

"Gonna be hard in the same pod with him." Keller pushed his tray away. "Is he nuts?"

"Oh, yeah." Rebadow nodded. "Schillinger made him that way."

"I hear that." Keller took his tray and left without another word. He had a phone call to make, and he had to think about all this shit again. Damn it!

"Hey, Keller."

Keller turned and waited for the Nazi prick to say something.

"Mark Mack." The boy grinned. "Schillinger says to put on a show by the phones after Beecher makes his usual call. Play the ‘we hate Nazis’ card. And don’t fuck up, the Brotherhood owns you!"

Keller knew in that instant that he wasn’t going to do this. He would have, if Schillinger had just let him play it out, but there was no way on God’s fucking green earth that he was going to take orders from this pretty Nazi boy for the next however the fuck long it took to make Beecher fall for him. He smiled.

"Okay."

Mack stared at him. "You give good blowjobs?"

Keller moved closer and dropped his voice low. "Yeah. My specialty."

Mack adjusted his package. "Later then, by the phones."

Keller nodded and licked his lips. He was going to kill someone for this. It might be blondie here. "Yeah." He leaned against the wall, watched Mack swagger off, and waited for the answer to come to him. There was one here. He knew it, but he didn’t have enough information yet. Hill came down the hallway, and Keller waved him over.

"What? I ain’t got any tits."

"Fuck that." Keller squatted down so they were closer to eye level. "Where’s Schillinger’s cell?"

"He’s in Unit B. Damn near runs the place. The hacks love him. Why?" Hill frowned. "You a Nazi?"

Keller laughed. That was one thing that he wasn’t. "Fuck no. I’m a fucking survivor. Thanks." He strode off towards his pod and the damn phones. If Schillinger wasn’t in Em City, that changed everything.

"Keller, you better tow the line." Metzger gave him a hard shove as he walked past. Keller nearly fell, yanked himself straight, and played the good dog. He cowered, nodded, and kept walking. The hack was Schillinger’s ace in the hole. Fuck! Keller went to his pod and pissed. He had to think, not panic. Even if he did follow Schillinger’s orders, they would own him, and he wasn’t doing that again. He was a man now. They could kill him, but he wasn’t going to bend over for those fucks. No fucking way.

Beecher came through the door."You score yet?"

Keller held his arm tight and winced. He couldn’t resist playing with him a little."It hurts, okay? I ain't tough like you."

Beecher stared."I'm not sure, in this moment, which of us is more insane, and it worries me. It really does." And he left. Keller smiled. Beecher was vulnerable. He probably wanted to be held at night, rocked, kissed, and told that everything was going to be all right. Keller laughed softly. He could have made Beecher fall for him, easy, but he wasn't going to do it. Oh, he was going to fuck him. That was all though. Love wasn't going to play a part in this. He didn't need that shit, and Schillinger could go to hell where he belonged.

Keller waited in line for the phone. He was going to beg Bonnie to put some cash in his bank account here. Beg her. It was that or he was going to have to earn it, and he didn't want to do that. She owed him. She'd come through for him. She always did. Suddenly, Mack was there, acting like an asshole, and Keller didn't hesitate to break the little fucker's nose. The fight was short, and Beecher got in the mix fast.

“Hey, thanks. I owe ya," Keller said, flashing a small smile."Really, I owe ya."

“I just hate those Aryan fucks." Beecher brushed himself off and walked away. Keller took the next phone. Yep, it would have worked easy, but he was going to find some wiggle room. He hated Nazis too. Bonnie gave in fast and promised to send the money. Keller talked dirty to her until she clicked off, and he went out to watch TV with a smile on his face.

O'Reily was there, and Keller sat next to him out of curiosity more than anything."Which gang you run?"

“The Irish." O'Reily grinned fast and shut it off. "You want in?"

Keller shook his head."I ain't Irish, just a mutt." He checked where the hack was."Beecher do drugs?"

“He's clean." O'Reily shrugged."Worried he'll shank you?"

Keller shrugged."He's nutty as a fruitcake. I need some money. Got any ideas?" It never hurt to ask.

O'Reily gave him a long look."I'd be a fucking fool to trust you."

“Well, fuck. Don't do that!" Keller laughed. Everyone in this place was fucking insane, and he must be too because a bizarre little plan clicked over in his brain, and it all started here."I need a hit, and I ain't asking for charity. I can deliver. Earn it."

“How do I know you ain't a cop?" O'Reily was just stalling now.

Keller sighed."Fuck it. I don't need this shit." He stood up.

O'Reily was right there with him."Make a delivery over to Unit B and I'll give you one."

“They'll let me walk in and out?" Keller knew better. He was no fool, but it was smart to play it dumb.

“Hell no, but that's your problem." O'Reily smirked."You in?"

Keller nodded. This was too perfect."Give it."

O'Reily took him to another pod and handed him six tits."Deliver five to a guy named O'Donnell. If you lose them, you owe me, and I will collect."

Keller stashed them away and ignored the threat."When's lockdown?"

“Five. Get moving." O'Reily took off fast, and he didn't look back. Keller strolled back out to the commons area, watched for a few minutes, and wandered over to Metzger.

“I gotta see Schillinger," Keller muttered."Today."

“Give me the message." Metzger was ugly and mean and stupid - the whole Nazi package.

“Fuck that. Get me to him." Keller walked a short distance away and pretended to watch television, managing to take a huge hit. His head about exploded, and it was all good. He wasn't surprised when Metzger grabbed him by the collar and manhandled him through the archway. He didn't bother to resist.

Metzger shoved him against the wall."Don't even think that you're the boss!"

“I'd never." Keller played weak while the heroin raced around his body."I just need to see him. For a minute. Please."

Metzger glared."Come on." He took him. Keller made sure not to look happy about it. He had choked on more than a little pride today, and he was about finished. Metzger pushed him through a door and said,"Five minutes."

Keller went fast, keeping a sharp eye out for hacks. He asked the first fucker he saw where O'Donnell was and nearly ran to the right cell."O'Donnell?"

“Who the fuck are you?" The Irish accent was obvious.

Keller pulled out five tits."Delivery. Fast."

O'Donnell got down to business and hid them away."O'Reily is being an ass. I see him at lunch!"

Keller figured that."He just making sure I ain't a cop." He laughed, took another hit, and headed out, stopping at the pool table. Now the second part and it would be the hardest. He filled his nose again. Shit!

Schillinger and his fuckers came down the hallway almost instantly."Keller, you lost?"

“Pretty much." Keller smiled brightly. He felt so good."I snuck down here to tell you something."

Schillinger stepped too close and put his hand through Keller's short hair."What is it, Chrissie?"

Keller didn't hear the laughter over the roaring in his brain. He pulled the tits out and inhaled deeply. Oh fuck!

Schillinger yanked him."No drugs!"

Keller laughed. He shoved the rest of the tits in the back of his cast for later."Vern. Kiss my ass. Kiss it."

“I'll give you one second and then you're gonna beg to change your mind!" Schillinger's eyes were evil and his soul was rotted. He dripped gore and blood.

Keller laughed at the sight."You can stick your tongue up my ass, and I still ain't gonna do what you say! Sending your pretty boy to order me around? I fuck boys like him before breakfast! Stupid fuck!"

Schillinger seemed stunned for one second."Kill him."

Keller expected it, and his hopped up brain was good with it. He was fast. He wasn't afraid to hit with his cast, and he was feeling no pain. It was Schillinger that caught him with a blow to the back. Keller hit the wall hard and fell backwards."Fuck you!"

Schillinger slapped him, kicked him, and pulled him up to throw him against the wall. Keller heard a loud thwack and the sound of a horn. He figured that was the heroin, and he spit out some blood, staying down. He was done. Fuck them all. Another boot crashed into him.

“Lockdown! Lockdown!"

Keller heard it and didn't try to get up. He snuck another hit and threw it away into the chaos. Rolling, he avoided another boot, but he stayed down. A shield came at him, and he played dead. The goon squad was here. He watched the blood dribble down to the concrete floor from his face. Weird to feel so good and know it was going to hurt like hell later.

They ripped him up off the floor, but he fell down when they expected him to walk."Sorry, guys," he whispered.

“Get a gurney!"

Keller lay in his blood and waited.

“You're dead, Keller! Fucking dead!" Schillinger would never shut up."You stupid prag!"

Keller spit some blood out and watched the vision fade away in his right eye. They tossed him on a gurney and he enjoyed the lights over his head. They swirled and danced, and he felt nothing but satisfaction. The hospital smelled awful, but he didn't care, and he smiled his broken lips up at the prettiest doctor he'd ever seen.

“What the hell happened to him?"

“Schillinger and his boys beat him up!"

Keller tried to look."McManus?" He hoped so. The room spun around.

“I'm right here." The little fucker was."How'd you get to Unit B?"

Keller groaned and gurgled for a few seconds just to fuck with him. He grabbed him by the arm and squeezed."Metzger took me there," he whispered.

McManus stared down at him."Say it again."

“Metzger got me. Took me. They hate me. I was Schillinger's prag at Lardner. I told him to fuck off." Keller knew he was about done."Metzger."

“Damn him!" McManus was gone from sight. The doctor was there. Keller groaned. He needed another hit fast. He had to have it or it was going to hurt.

“Hey, Doc. Yer purty." He smiled.

“Push an IV." She cut his shirt off."Hang on, Keller."

He could do that. He'd done it his whole life. Just hanging on, usually by a thread. He shut his eyes and went inside his head. He was dead. Matter of time now, but he didn't care. It was better than rotting here for the rest of his life. He might as well die young. Maybe, if he were lucky, he'd get one last fuck before Schillinger killed him. His new podmate would do fine.

“Move him!"

Keller let out a real groan and that was the last thing he felt.

********

“He's ready," Dr. Nathan said.

Keller shrugged into his shirt and got off the bed."I was just getting comfortable!"

She rolled her eyes, and some hack pointed at the door."Move it, Keller."

Keller looked hard at him."Irish?"

“Is it so obvious?" The hack took him to the archway."Do us a favor and don't cause any more trouble."

Keller wasn't going to promise that. He adjusted his sling and kept walking.

“Keller!"

Keller didn't turn around. He was going to his pod. Fuck them all. He wanted to lie down for a minute.

“I think it's time for my blowjob!" Mack grabbed him.

Keller brushed him back easily, even hurt like he was."Fuck off."

“This ain't over!" Mack hissed."You owe us!"

“He doesn't owe you dick," Beecher said. He snapped his teeth at Mack. Keller was surprised to see Mack flinch. Beecher laughed."Go the fuck away."

Mack slunk off. Keller didn't bother to ask what was going on. He walked the rest of the way, but O'Reily was right outside the door.

“We got your back, Keller, for a day or two." O'Reily nodded and held out tits."Need it?"

“I'm gonna stay clean for a while. Thanks." Keller wanted it, but it was a bad idea right now. He pushed open the door and claimed the bottom bunk. The cast on his arm itched, and he tried to get comfortable. Not thinking was all he wanted to do today.

“You okay?" Beecher sat down in the chair.

Keller flipped him off. This was all Beecher's fault."Go the fuck away, prag."

“Well, that makes two of us!" Beecher laughed."You got bigger balls than I do though."

Keller didn't laugh."Later, you can take a look and see for yourself."

“I might do that." Beecher grinned."Tell me what happened."

Keller groaned. He didn't want to talk."Where's Metzger?"

“Fired, and for that, you have legions of fans." Beecher was still nuts."Schillinger is still in the hole." He giggled.

“He'll come after me when he gets out." Keller knew that."You sure pissed him off."

“Yeah. I shit on his face." Beecher was in such a good mood."He'll never forget it."

“He wants you dead or squirming at his boots." Keller shifted to find a better spot, but there wasn‛t one."If I were you, I'd make parole fast."

“That's not going to happen." Beecher shrugged."Why'd you go after him?"

Keller wasn't going to answer that."I ain't his whipping boy, not any longer." He flashed Beecher a quick grin."You get that?"

“I sure as fuck do." Beecher slowly stuck out his hand."Tobias Beecher, nice to meet you."

Keller looked at it an extra minute before taking it."Chris Keller, and you already owe me a favor."

Beecher shrugged."You made your own choices, fucker." He eased away and left the pod. Keller stared after him. His own choices, huh? Well, wasn't that sweet? Beecher could kiss ass, and he might later. Keller licked his lips. Things were going to be interesting around here, and he sure as hell was getting laid before Schillinger got out and killed him. Yeah.

Chapter Two - Etched
******

“What the fuck is that?" Keller blurted out before thinking about it."Motherfuck!"

Toby shrugged and put on clean boxers."Schillinger marked me."

Keller threw Toby a shirt that wasn't wet with sweat."Bet that fucking hurt."

“You bet your ass." Toby stepped to the sink and washed his face."Go back to sleep. Sorry that I woke you up."

“Yeah, screaming usually does that." Keller rolled back onto his bunk and sprawled. He was tired, and his arm ached, and he was still stuck in a pod with a lunatic. Toby belonged in the psych ward, and Keller couldn't figure out why the prag wasn't there. McManus must like him.

Toby crawled onto the top bunk with a small grunt."Sorry."

“Got it. Shut up about it." Keller put his arm over his eyes. He needed a hit of something to make the hours pass faster. After the first week as Toby's podmate, he'd given up on sleeping much at night. He made up for it during the day when Toby was off being a fucking nut elsewhere.

“Did he mark you?"

Keller considered his answer carefully. Schillinger had etched his initials into Keller's skin, but that was nobody's business."Does it matter?"

“Not really, no." Toby gave out a slight gasp."I know you don't like me, and well, that's fine."

“What a fucking relief." Keller rubbed his eyes and wished the lights would come on. He didn't like his crazy podmate. Toby rhymed, stared off into space, flinched when they casually touched, and screamed half of each night away. There just wasn't anything there to like. Keller adjusted his cast again. Dr. Nathan had promised him that it would come off in two weeks. He was going to hold her to it. Schillinger got out of the hole in three. Keller would have to be ready. He wasn't going to sit back and wait for Schillinger to kill him.

“Three more weeks."

Keller got off the bunk and went to piss. He wanted to scream curse words at his fucking podmate, but he pissed instead."Schillinger ever make you drink his piss?"

Toby said nothing, and when Keller looked, the prag was curled up. Well, that had been easy. Keller got back on his bunk and tried to relax. He'd drunk his share of piss. No fucking big deal. He didn't like Toby, but he was impressed that Toby had shit on Schillinger's face. That had taken balls. Toby had a reputation as one crazy fucker, and it was true. Keller had asked around. He shut his eyes and saw the swastika again. Poor fucker. He sighed heavily.

“Hi diddle dee. The prag ran up a tree." Toby giggled.

Keller pulled his pillow over his face. Tomorrow, he was going to confession and then he was going to talk to Sister Pete. There had to be someone fucking sane in this prison.

********

“Forgive me Father for I have sinned," Keller said. He hesitated, not wanting to continue.

“How long has it been since your last confession?" Father Mukada asked softly.

“A long fucking time." Keller wasn't sure. It didn‛t really matter. He was a sinner all the time."Might have been right before I married Bonnie. Yeah, that had to be it. She wanted communion at the wedding. Women are weird, ya know?"

Father Mukada didn't answer immediately."Why are you here, my son?"

Keller nearly laughed. Mukada looked about eighteen, maybe younger."I've done a lot of bad shit since the last time I was in a confession booth. So much, I can't list it all."

“Do your best." Father Mukada wasn't going to let him off easy, that was clear. Keller groaned softly. He had no idea how many times he'd committed each major sin, but it had been more than once, or twice.

“Beecher, my podmate, is fucking insane. I've dreamed about shanking the shit right out of him." Keller decided to talk about that instead, and he felt the flinch in the priest's shoulders."Schillinger had this stupid plan. I was supposed to make Beecher fall for me, and then we'd break his arms and legs."

“But you don't like men?"

Keller laughed."Hell, padre, I've committed that sin about thirty times since my last confession. Well, more than that. Problem was, no matter what I did, Schillinger would think he owned me. I ain't his bitch. No fucking way. So, I told him to kiss my ass. All it got me was a new, bigger cast, and more bruises than I can count."

“Why are you confessing this to me?"

Keller shrugged."I sinned. I got Metzger fired, and I caused a fight down in Unit B. Those are sins, right?"

Father Mukada slowly turned."Metzger didn't take you to Unit B?"

“Of course he did. I asked him to. He was Schillinger's bitch." Keller turned in his chair and smiled."I couldn't be a prag again. Get it?"

“I think I do." Father Mukada nodded."Are you going to hurt Beecher?"

“If I would have, I wouldn't be in this damn mess." Keller cradled his broken arm."I should've led him like a lamb to slaughter, and I didn't. You think I'm losing it?"

“No, I think you redeemed yourself." Father Mukada turned away again."But you still have a lot to answer for. Every day do ten Hail Mary's and ten Our Father's and we'll talk again soon."

Keller groaned loud."Fuck!" He got to his feet."Sorry, Father, I mean thanks."

“Make it twenty, right before lights out, on your knees by your bunk." Father Mukada was pissed now. Keller stared at the floor and shuffled his feet. He didn't want to do all that. It would be embarrassing as hell. Father Mukada stood, pulled off his sash, and kissed it."Do it for your soul. Ignore your pride."

“Damn it." Keller strode away. He should've kept his sinning mouth shut. His soul was rotted anyhow. He wound his way through the prison to Sister Pete's office, but she wasn't there. Crazy Toby was.

“I can tell her you were here," Toby said.

“Can you not rhyme while you're doing it?" Keller rubbed his forehead. He could see he would get nowhere. If Toby worked for her, she was in his corner."You work for a fucking shrink, get shrunk for fuck's sake!"

“Toby, is this man bothering you?"

Keller whipped around. He smiled his very best at the little nun."Sister Pete, nice to meet you."

“And you are?" She took off her glasses.

“Chris Keller." Keller kept his best smile on his face."Toby's podmate."

“Ah, yes. I've heard about you." She frowned.

Keller quit. He was outgunned."I gotta go. Father Mukada gave me a list as long as my arm after confession."

She looked him over and said nothing. Keller shut the door quietly. Damn it! Toby had the nun on his side. No wonder he wasn't in the psych ward where he belonged! Keller gave up and headed for the quad.

McManus found him first."Keller, I have your work assignment."

Keller looked at his arm."I ain't good for much."

“You can work in the factory." McManus smiled."Hill will show you around."

“Beecher's a secretary, and I'm a fucking laborer. Ain't that sweet?" Keller muttered. He made up his mind to try one time."McManus, that Beecher is fucking insane. I want to bunk somewhere else."

McManus glanced at his clipboard."Beecher had a rough time with Schillinger. I think you're the best to help him with that."

“That will fucking never happen." Keller had a sudden thought."Not unless I get a better job!"

“You're all the same," McManus said softly."Do it because that was you once."

“That was never me. I didn't go fucking crazy over an ass fuck!" Keller wanted to bash McManus with the cast."I ain't doing it unless I get something."

McManus shook his head."You aren't ever getting moved unless you help him out."

“Damn you." Keller saw the angry glint come into McManus's eyes. He backed away, but it was too late.

“Sean!" McManus waved his new hack over."Help Mr. Keller report to the factory."

“Will do." Murphy smiled. Keller went without a fuss. He'd screwed up. His temper always got him into trouble and staying up all night with crazy Toby made it worse. Damn it! Hill showed him around, and Keller found something to do.

“Why doesn't Beecher have to work here?" Keller bitched to Rebadow.

“He did, for about a month. He was hopeless, and then Sister Pete found out he knew computers, and he was gone." Rebadow shrugged.

“Figures." Keller snorted. He helped Hill roll the material out."Hill, I'll give you money if you ask for Beecher in your pod."

“Uh, no." Hill shook his head."I just moved out and I'm enjoying the peace and quiet."

“Fuck." Keller could tell by the look on Rebadow's face not even to ask."My own damn fault. I should've just busted him up like Schillinger wanted." He suddenly realized everyone was staring at him."Forget that shit. I was just blabbing."

Rebadow shook his head."Schillinger is coming after you both. If I were you, I'd make nice with Toby."

“He's a fucking loon!" Keller saw their faces. They knew Toby was crazy, but they were on his side. All of them. Keller sighed."Give me a reason."

“He's smart."

“If he likes you, he'll watch your back."

“He never rapes people."

“He's crazy, but hell, most of us are."

Keller threw up his hands."All right! I get it! He's a damn saint." He wasn't going to get anywhere with this crowd. This was Schillinger's fault. If the fucker didn't insist on a damn prag, none of this crap would have happened. Keller did as little as possible until dinner, and he made a point of sitting by his podmate.

“Hey, Beech."

Toby didn't even look at him. Keller started eating and wished he'd have gone to Attica. The lunchroom was busy, and the Aryans, what was left of them, were glaring at him. The Muslims were up to their usual weird shit, and Keller envied Schillinger his private room in the hole.

“I know you're trying to move out."

“I ain't keeping it a secret." Keller peeled his orange."I want some damn sleep."

Toby lowered his head and muttered something about sheep. Keller ate his orange and looked around the lunchroom again. Maybe he could join the Christians or something. One of the faggots blew him a kiss. Keller smiled and winked - nothing wrong with a blowjob.

“Hey, Keller! Suck my dick!" Mack again. Stupid little fucker.

“Beecher wants to do it!" Keller yelled back."Ain't that right, Beech?"

Toby grinned."Keller, let's make a deal."

Keller didn't like the sound of that."What?"

“You leave me the fuck alone, and I won't kill you." Toby laughed and started rhyming. Keller didn't even listen. He got up, put his tray away, and headed for the quad. Some TV before lockdown would be nice. He sat down near Hill and tried not to worry.

“Beecher ain't so bad. This thing with you has made him crazier than usual," Hill said softly."Talk to him."

Keller groaned."I don't need a prag."

“He ain't ever doing that again." Hill fiddled with his gloves."Just shut up for a change."

“Of all the prisons I could have been sent to, I get the one full of crazies." Keller gave up on Miss Sally's tits and went to his pod. He pissed, washed his hands, and dug out a magazine. Sitting on his bunk, he stared at the pretty women and thought about it all again. Together, they had a chance against Schillinger. Alone, they were going to get fucked and then killed. He turned the page and studied her pussy.

“I asked McManus to throw your ass out," Toby said as he pushed open the door."He gave me some crap about how you could help me deal with Schillinger."

“Yeah. I got the same shit." Keller went to the next page."Looks like we're stuck with each other."

“Unless I kill you." Toby laughed.

Keller shrugged."Go for it." He wasn't scared."But, you know, if we decide to play nice, we would have a chance against Schillinger."

“I don't need your help!" Toby crossed his arms. His eyes were wild."You're nothing but a prag!"

Keller shut the magazine and moved fast. Toby didn't cower away, and they were eye to eye. Keller edged even closer."Toby, you smell good." It was true, and he had a nice ass.

“No," Toby strangled out the word.

Keller licked his lips."Don't make me angry," he breathed.

Toby backed up and his shoulders hit the concrete."Don't touch me."

Keller laughed softly. He deliberately looked at Toby's basket."I'd like to touch you. You think about it."

Toby ducked, slid, and bolted from the pod. Keller went back to his naked ladies. He shoved his hard cock to the side and shrugged. There was always later.

“Count!"

Keller tossed the magazine and swaggered out the door. He didn't look at Toby at first, and then he leaned."You do smell good."

Toby shoved at him, and the hacks were there. Keller raised his hands and went in his pod. Toby took a stick to the gut and received a hard shove to get him through the door. Keller caught him, held him for a moment, and waited for the panic to set in. It did. Toby jerked away, hit the wall, and collapsed down it.

“I hate you!"

“No. You hate you." Keller chuckled softly."Don't you think I know?"

Toby rubbed his face, got to his feet, and glared."Show me your mark, and then I'll believe."

Keller drew his head back."I got the shit kicked out of me because of you!"

“How the fuck can I know that? You have liar written all over your face!" Toby started pacing."It could all be some grand plan!"

Keller banged his cast against the glass."You're stupid as well as crazy. When the lights go out, I'll show you."

Toby stopped."How old were you?"

“Seventeen," Keller growled."It was no fun, but I managed to stay sane. Work on that, will ya?"

“Fuck you!" Toby banged his fists against the door hard. Keller got on his bunk, picked up his magazine, and pretended that he was busy elsewhere.

“What's your problem, Beecher?" It was Murphy, and he had his stick out.

“Him!" Toby pointed at Keller. Keller shrugged and turned the page.

Murphy sighed."Give it a rest. It's here or solitary, you choose."

Toby paced a few more times."If he kills me, it's on you!"

Keller laughed. Murphy rolled his eyes and shut the door. Keller choked back the laughter."You're really acting crazy now. If I was gonna kill you, I wouldn't do it in here!"

Toby came over to him and kicked the mattress."Shut up!"

“Okay." Keller shut his mouth, leaned back against the glass, and watched the crazy fucker pace and rhyme. Maybe it hadn't been Schillinger that had done this. Maybe it had been the drugs. Fried his brain. It was possible.

“If you think I'm going to trust you because you let Schillinger kick your ass, you're the crazy one!"

Keller dropped the magazine on his chest."My choice, remember? Hey, were you smart before the drugs fried you?"

“I graduated Harvard with honors!"

“Quit yelling. I ain't deaf." Keller smiled."So the smart, rich boy got pragged by the stupid Nazi. Wow, I bet that chaps your ass."

Toby put his hands on his head and squeezed."I'm gonna kill you."

“Why? I ain't that bad." Keller blew him a kiss."I did you a favor by not seducing you. You're ripe for it, and you'd have been mine forever."

“Wow, you think a lot of yourself," Toby said softly.

“You're vulnerable. Weak. I can smell it." Keller pushed his cock to the side."It would have been easy."

Toby abruptly sat down in the chair."I am weak. I hate myself." He rubbed his hands through his hair."But I hate you more."

“You don't. You like me, and it makes you nervous. Now, I, on the other hand, hate you, but I'd hate anyone that kept me awake as much as you do. It ain't personal."

Toby stared at him, tilted his head to the side, and suddenly laughed."And they say I'm crazy."

“So, what is it? You and me against Schillinger or do we let him pick us off one at a time?" Keller slowly rubbed his hand up and down his bulge. Christ, he was horny, and he did want to fuck someone before Schillinger killed him.

“Show me," Toby said harshly."Now!"

Keller scooted off the side of the bed. He wasn't sure if he should. Finally, he shrugged. It didn't matter. He pulled off his pants, tossed them on the locker, and crooked his finger."Come here."

Toby came over one step at a time."Where? I didn't see anything when we showered."

Keller was pleased that Toby had checked him out. He leaned against the wall, propped his leg up on the sink, and pointed."See that scar?"

“Above the butterfly?" Toby's nostrils flared.

“Yep." Keller traced it with his finger."Schillinger branded me with his initials. I cut them out and got the tattoo."

Toby stepped back."What a bunch of bullshit. So what you have a scar? It don't mean dick."

“It did to me." Keller smiled and put his leg down."I wasn't spending my life staring at his handiwork. Fuck him."

Toby gave a short nod."Bet it hurt."

“I got drunk. I didn't feel nothing until the next day." Keller took off his shirt carefully and tossed it on his pants. He lay down on his bunk and pulled the blanket up to his chest."Now shut the fuck up. I want to sleep a few hours before you start screaming."

Toby went to stare out the door. Keller shut his eyes and tried not to worry about being killed. Toby was crazy, but he didn't seem to carry a shank. Keller hoped not, and he took a deep breath.

“Fine. You and me," Toby said loudly."Don't betray me or I'll kill you."

“Honey, if I betray you, you'll be dead." Keller relaxed a little. He rolled to his side and tried to find a good spot for his arm."Very dead."

“Good."

Keller smiled and went to sleep. He didn't wake up until the lights clicked on. Stretching and yawning, he put his feet on the floor and checked his cast. Still there. Damn it. It was then he noticed Toby over by the door, staring out.

“You dead?"

Toby turned and shrugged."Only on the inside."

Keller laughed. He knew he wasn't supposed to, but it was funny."Let's take out Mack while Schillinger's away."

“What do you mean?" Toby looked like hell: hair scraggly, half a beard, and sweaty.

“You lure him. I'll give a twist." Keller thought he could get it done, even with a cast. Mack was a pussy.

Toby frowned. He either didn't get it or he didn't like the idea of being bait."You could kill him so easily?"

“Hell yeah." Keller went to piss."It's them or us. This is prison. Did you notice?"

Toby didn't say a word. Keller shook off and washed up. They could talk about it later, and maybe O'Reily would help out. Keller got dressed, and they went out to breakfast. He was surprised that Toby went with him.

“You could go sleep."

“No." Toby shook his head fiercely."No more sleeping."

Keller laughed."Go ‘til ya drop, huh? Might work." He thought it wasn't a bad idea. Toby stopped in the hallway and grabbed him hard by the arm. Keller almost decked him, but something held him back.

“When I pass out, do it," Toby said fiercely.

“What?" Keller knew he'd missed something.

“Cut off my swastika." Toby gripped him hard."Do it!"

“What with? My teeth?" Keller shook his head. He'd end up in the hole if he did that."No fucking way."

“I'll get a knife from O'Reily." Toby's eyes were crazy."Promise me."

“Why?" Keller narrowed his eyes."What's in it for me?"

“A thousand bucks." Toby grinned."My word on it."

“Transfer it today and I'll do it." Keller echoed the grin. That was a lot of money, and he needed it."And you know you ain't gonna sit for a month."

“I don't give a flying fuck." Toby turned him loose."Promise me."

“I'll do it, but you're nuts." Keller stuck out his hand."And you'll help me kill Mack?"

“With pleasure." Toby stared at the hand for a moment and then took it."You and me."

Keller felt a rush of something at the touch. Power maybe."Me and you."

Chapter 3 - Bonds
********

Keller leaned against the upper bunk and rubbed his face. He ignored the bang of his cast against the metal. That wasn't something he ever wanted to do again. Killing a man was one thing, slicing him up was another. The door pushed open, and he turned.

“Keller, what do you know about this?" McManus looked pissed.

“About what? I've been in the gym." He had made sure to get on the list, but he had ducked out. He'd known that Toby only another hour or so before he'd pass out from lack of sleep. Had to give him credit, he'd gone almost five days without sleep. Keller had slept like a baby, finally.

McManus glared."Bullshit. You sliced him up!"

“Why?" Keller furrowed his brow."We're buddies. That's what you wanted! You told me to make nice, and I did!"

“Got the pod all to yourself now, huh?" McManus marched out, but he'd be back with his buddy Murphy and then the interrogation would really start. Keller looked at his clothes. No blood and he didn't have to worry about the knife. He put it in Toby's hand. The last four days, they'd hung out together nearly every minute. They'd worked out, eaten, and Toby had taught him how to play chess. The fucking surprise was that it hadn't been bad. He liked Toby as much as he liked anybody.

Toby treated him like he wasn't a piece of shit. It had been a shock. Keller smiled. He did like Toby, and it was pretty damn embarrassing. Sure, Toby was crazy, but only part of the time, and some of it was an act. Keller knew that now. He groaned softly. Crap. He had to go back to confession.

Murphy and McManus were talking, pointing at the pod, and Keller waited for it. They came through the door one right after the other. Murphy crossed his arm."You do it?"

“I didn't." Keller did his damn best to look innocent."Did they cut his cock off or something?"

“You know!" McManus yelled."Toss this pod. Any contraband and I want him in the hole."

Keller put up a fuss when Murphy shoved him against the glass."Watch the fucking arm!"

“Shut up," Murphy said and searched him. Keller wanted to punch McManus in his smirking mouth.

“I ain't done nothing wrong!" Keller protested. Depending on how well Murphy knew how to search, this could get ugly. Murphy's hand got very personal. Keller didn't flinch. He stared out the glass and waited for it.

“Shank," Murphy said. He removed it. Keller lowered his head. He'd bought that to kill Mack, or someone else.

“Put him in the hole for a month!" McManus got right in Keller's face."What do you have against Beecher?"

“Nothing!" Keller was tempted to break his cast over McManus's pin head."Ask him! Ask him!"

“Get him out of here," McManus spat.

Murphy pulled his nightstick out and shoved with it. Keller went out the door. Rebadow, Hill, and O'Reily were staring at him.

“I didn't fucking do it!" Keller yelled. He knew they wouldn't believe it. Murphy wasn't kind or gentle, and Keller found himself on the concrete floor, naked, and wondering why he'd agreed to anything."Murphy, I want to see Father Mukada!"

“To confess?" Murphy stopped before slamming the door shut.

“Yes." Keller cradled his cast."Come on. One Catholic to another."

Murphy tilted his head."One Catholic to another - you're going to hell."

“I know that." Keller flashed him a quick grin."Talk to Beecher."

“When he wakes up, we will." Murphy slammed the door. Keller stared at the dirty walls. He didn't get this prison. McManus acted like he cared what happened, and Murphy couldn't be bought off. Sister Pete was Toby's personal mother hen, and Keller was about ready to believe that Toby was somewhere being given first class health care. They sucked up to him because he was wealthy. No doubt about that.

Keller leaned his head against the wall. He'd been careful. He hadn't just carved off Toby's ass. He'd just skinned him. Toby hadn't even moved, but there had been a lot of blood. Shit. Keller hoped that stupid fucker was all right. Blood in, blood out. He'd watch Toby's back now. Toby had earned it, unless he opened his big mouth and told the truth about what happened. Keller lay on the floor and let the day fade in and out. He'd had plenty of practice doing that. Dinner was pushed through the slot, and he entertained himself with the food.

The door creaked open."Chris?"

Keller got to his feet, surprised that Father Mukada had called him by his given name."Father, thanks for coming."

“Do you wish to confess?" Father Mukada looked at the hack on duty.

“Yeah." Keller smiled to try to put him at ease.

“Let me in and then shut the door," Father Mukada snapped. Keller was impressed. For a priest, he had balls. The hack shut the door, and Keller leaned against the wall. Father Mukada looked at him."Tell me what happened."

Keller nearly laughed. He couldn't believe this shit."No vestments? You just march in here and expect me to spill my guts?"

“Have you been doing your penance?" Father Mukada frowned at him.

Keller groaned. He knew he'd forgotten something."I meant to get started real soon."

“Chris, contrition is one thing, but you must be willing to do penance for your sins or my forgiveness isn't attainable."

Keller tried to control a glare, but failed. He didn't need to hear this shit."It's not your forgiveness I'm shooting for here."

Father Mukada sighed softly."What happened with Toby Beecher?"

“So you can run back and tell your hack buddies? Forget it. I was in the gym." Keller scratched his stomach. He was done talking about that.

Father Mukada crossed his arms."Everything you say to me is confidential."

“Unless God puts a damn cork in your mouth, you'll excuse me for being skeptical." Keller shook his head. He didn't believe that crap."I spent the last week hanging with Toby. He ain't bad."

“So you don't dream of shanking him anymore?"

Keller laughed."Nope. I got some sleep. Don't see why you give a fuck about him anyways. He ain't Catholic."

“We're all God's children." Father Mukada was so full of shit.

“Everyone sucks up to him. I figure it's the money. McManus, Sister Pete, you. I bet Dr. Nathan is giving him backrubs while the warden promises him an early parole." Keller went back to his tray and slid down the wall.

Father Mukada frowned."You're jealous of him?"

Keller picked up his juice and took a drink. He didn't even bother with a shrug. Jealous of a crazy man? Not likely. No amount of money could fix that damaged brain.

“Do your penance, Chris. Let it be a beginning." Father Mukada pounded on the door and left quickly. Keller squeezed his orange and laughed softly.

*******

“What's Beecher's condition?" McManus asked. He was more worried than he'd admit. Seeing all that blood had been a shock.

Dr. Nathan pointed at him."He's exhausted but the wound is superficial. Someone carved off the swastika. Did a pretty good job of it too. He isn't going to be sitting for awhile, but he'll be fine."

“Did he say who did it?" McManus knew Keller had done it. Keller was probably still working for Schillinger.

“He says that he did it, but I don't believe him. Angle is all wrong." Dr. Nathan shrugged."I'll release him soon."

*******

Keller paced, hummed, slept, exercised, ate, and did it all over and over again. Once or twice, he was so desperate that he did his penance. He didn't want to, but it didn't hurt, and he had plenty of damn time. Nothing but time. Time to think about Toby, promises, and Schillinger.

When the door opened, he jumped in surprise. McManus came through and held out the clothes."Dr. Nathan wants to see you."

Keller dressed and kept his mouth shut. If he were lucky, they'd forget to bring him back for two more weeks. Schillinger was out. Toby was vulnerable, and Keller had to get back to Em City. McManus walked with him to the infirmary.

“Go sit there." Dr. Nathan pointed at a bed. Keller ducked his head and went. He had that itchy feeling that he always got right after he'd been in the hole. He wanted to run, scream, and hurt people, but there was no reason to get excited yet. She examined him quickly."Let's take it off and see what we got."

Keller nodded and smiled. He was glad to hear that.

“What? Cat got your tongue?" Dr. Nathan smiled.

Keller shrugged. McManus was watching and looking pissed. He needed to get laid and chill. Dr. Nathan got the saw and made short work of the cast. She poked and prodded. His arm looked pale and skinny. Yuck.

“Looks good. If you're careful, you'll be up to speed in no time." Dr. Nathan turned his hand over. Keller enjoyed being touched by a woman. Hell, any touch felt good. He controlled a soft groan, but his cock was hard instantly. She gave him a sideways look."You okay?"

“Sure," Keller said softly. He smelled her perfume over the stench of the hospital."Is Toby okay?"

“He is. I sent him back to his pod about a week ago." Dr. Nathan looked in his eyes."Someone knows how to use a knife."

Keller made sure not to smile at the compliment."They wouldn't tell me what happened to him."

“Someone, who knew exactly what he was doing, cut off Toby's swastika." Dr. Nathan didn't look away."But why?"

“Why keep the mark of a prag?" Keller asked very softly. He got to his feet and flexed his arm. She moved back fast, and the hack came at him. Keller felt like a cornered animal. He took a deep breath and tried to find his equilibrium.

“Take him back!" McManus was still pissed.

Keller clenched his fists. He wasn't going peaceful this time.

Dr. Nathan suddenly got very close and put her gloved hands against his chest."Keller. Please. Not the arm again."

Keller lowered his head."Schillinger is out! Toby has no one to watch his back!" That was all that mattered.

“Tim, please. Beecher said he did it." Dr. Nathan turned around.

Keller wanted to curl around the back of her. She smelled good, and she was defending him. He practically purred. This little lady had balls a mile wide.

McManus reached out his hand."Move away from him. Let the officers do their job."

“Keller's right. Schillinger will go after Beecher and try to put that swastika back on." She wasn't ready to give up.

Keller liked her more than two of his three wives in that instant."Move away. They'll beat me worse the more you stand in the way."

Dr. Nathan looked back at him."Please don't fight."

McManus took that instant to grab her by the arm and pull her away. Keller smiled and raised his hands. He could fight and go back or he could suck up big time and hope for the best. Fuck. The things he did. Slowly, he went to his knees and put his hands behind his head.

“McManus, Toby ain't got no one to watch his back." Keller didn't even flinch when he was roughly cuffed and yanked to his feet."Punish me, but not him."

McManus looked at him and then Dr. Nathan."Don't ever do that again. Keller's dangerous."

Keller saw it all now. He wasn't going back to Em City. Gen Pop was in his future. God damn it."Let's talk this out, McManus. You've got it all wrong."

“You cut him. I know enough." McManus made a sharp gesture."Two more weeks."

Keller bit his lip and let them do their dirty work. He was nothing but an animal to them, and they all looked scared. Bunch of pussies. He slid down the wall again and moved his arm up and down. Two weeks to get in shape, and then, someone was going to die.

********

McManus looked up when Murphy escorted Beecher into the office. Beecher didn't sit down. In fact, he made a point of standing behind the chair.

“What is it now, Toby?" McManus waited to hear it.

“When's Keller getting out?"

McManus felt his jaw drop open. He clicked his teeth shut and said,"He's headed to Gen Pop. I don't want him in Em City. He's too dangerous."

“And Schillinger wasn't?" Toby rubbed a hand through his hair."I finally have a friend, and you just send him away? Fuck you!"

McManus got to his feet fast. This was the last thing he'd expected."Watch your mouth, Beecher!"

“No!" Toby looked crazy as hell."He didn't do it!"

McManus gestured to Murphy."Get him out of here before he ends up in the hole."

Murphy had to drag Beecher out, kicking and screaming about Keller. It was more than surprising. Beecher and Keller were friends? Keller was worried about Beecher also. McManus sank down in his chair. He wasn't sure what to believe.

“He's out of control. I'm putting him in solitary for a couple of days," Murphy said from the doorway."Okay?"

“Sure." McManus did some quick math."Give it a week."

“You sure?"

“Yes." McManus leaned back in his chair. He'd watch them, but Keller was on a short leash. One misstep and he was out of Em City.

********

Keller did pushups until he wanted to cry, sit ups until he wanted to puke, and paced until his feet hurt. He had to get out of here. Out of here. When the door actually opened, he stopped in complete surprise.

“Put them on," Murphy said.

Keller grabbed and dressed. He didn't ask any questions. They headed down the hallway, and Murphy took him another direction. Gen Pop. Shit! But Murphy stopped and unlocked another door."Out!"

Toby slunk out the door. Keller smiled at him. Toby looked tired and embarrassed. He'd done something to earn solitary, and Keller was looking forward to finding out what.

“Move it!" Murphy had his stick out.

Keller started walking, but he didn't take his eyes off Toby's face. Toby made a soft sound and then moved close. Keller wrapped his arm around Toby's shoulder. He felt the small flinch."Okay?"

“Yeah. Thanks." Toby leaned into him. Keller felt his blood spark alive.

“Break it up!" Murphy shoved at them."Girlfriends! Really!"

Keller nearly killed him. It was close, but Toby pulled at him."Keller, we have to talk."

“Wait for it." Keller kept his hands to himself until Murphy took them through the arch. Toby gave him a very small smile, and Keller wrapped his hand around Toby's wrist. The embrace was short and someone laughed, but he didn't care.

“No cast," Toby said softly."I'm glad."

“How's your ass?" Keller whispered in Toby's ear.

“Faggots! Move it!" It was Mineo.

Keller turned him loose, and they walked together to their pod."I gotta take a shower."

“Me too." Toby grinned."Solitary stinks."

“Angel like you getting thrown in solitary. I'm shocked!" Keller stripped off his clothes and got a towel around his hips. Toby did the same, and they didn't touch each other, but Keller wanted to.

“I pitched a fit when I found out they were moving you to Gen Pop." Toby shrugged."I guess they changed their mind."

“Guess so." Keller was so glad that Toby had acted like a brat."You got jizz with McManus."

“I doubt that."

They went to the showers together. Keller marked where all the hacks were and decided to take a small risk. He waited until the far shower was empty and took it."Come on, Toby."

Toby stared for a second and then got under the water with him. It was hot, and the steam came up. Keller gently put his hands on him.

“Can I touch you?" Keller knew Toby was scared.

“Yeah." Toby soaped Keller's chest."I missed you."

“Me too." Keller didn't quite understand it, but he had."Let me see my handiwork."

Toby turned around, and Keller leaned over to look. Big scab, but nothing to cry about."Nice ass." Keller ran his fingers over the other side, ignoring the wince.

Toby gave grunt."Not as much of it as there used to be. I feel about five pounds lighter."

Keller laughed and slathered some soap on different body parts. His cock ached, and he stroked it. Toby wasn't really participating, but he was close, and Keller was desperate.

“We're going to get caught." Toby craned his neck to look. Keller pulled and kissed him on the neck. It was prickly, but Keller didn't care. He moved his lips up, and Toby met them. One kiss. It surged over them, moved the entire prison a good six feet to the right, and Keller shot come between them. Shit. He was a sad fuck. Toby gave a short gasp, looked down, and Keller quit touching himself and stroked him.

“Toby," Keller breathed and moved his hand. Come hit him on the stomach, and he laughed at the stunned expression on Toby's face.

“You two gonna fuck or just hog the water?"

Keller groaned and looked over his shoulder."Shut up, O'Reily. I'm busy here."

“That faggot shit should be done after lights out. Anyway, Murphy's coming."

Toby jerked away, went to another shower, and sagged underneath it. Keller leaned against his arms and shook it off. He slowly washed his hair and enjoyed the fact that his balls had emptied on someone else for a change.

“You two behaving?" Murphy slapped his stick in his hand.

Keller spat some water. Toby washed his hair. Neither of them answered Murphy. Keller shut off his water and grabbed his towel."Need a hand, Toby?"

Toby turned and laughed that crazy giggle of his. He took his towel and started drying off. Murphy gave a rude snort and left. Keller moved close enough to touch. Gently, he brushed his fingers down Toby's chest. For once, Toby didn't panic.

“Thanks," Keller whispered.

Toby cocked his head."You're not what I expected."

“I'll throw you down later." Keller grinned. He wrapped his towel around his hips and went to find some clothes. Oh, he was going to kill someone, but it could wait. Toby came in the door. He still looked slightly stunned. Keller shrugged and brushed his teeth. Some things were more important than gloating.

“Count!"

“Shit," Keller mumbled. He spat and took his toothbrush out with him. Toby only had sweats on, and Keller scrubbed his tongue.

“Stop that," Toby whispered.

Keller grinned."Gotta get it clean so I can stick it in your ear."

“Shut up!" Mineo was feeling pissy today. Keller kept on brushing and went in to spit as soon as he could.

“You ask for trouble." Toby laughed."You should try to be a good boy."

“I try." Keller put his toothbrush away and considered shaving. Nah, it could wait for another shower. He sat on his bunk and watched Toby put on a shirt. Being in the hole always made him itchy, but it wasn't quite as bad this time. Jacking off had helped.

“Want to try some chess?"

“Sure." Keller stretched and tried to remember even one rule. Nope. But he enjoyed watching Toby try to teach him. After Toby whipped him twice, they played a game of checkers, and Keller won that.

“Shit." Toby glared at the board."I think you cheated."

“Checkers ain't taught at Harvard?" Keller leaned back flat and put his legs up on the board. Toby made a rude noise. Keller rubbed himself and noticed that Toby's eyes focused there."Me and you?"

“Yeah. You and me." Toby flicked his tongue over his lips.

Keller nodded. He was good with that."Schillinger?"

“He's in Unit B, bragging about his prags." Toby looked away."He said that my next swastika is going to be on my face."

Keller wasn't surprised, but it pissed him off all the same."We'll fucking see about that."

Toby put the game away and slid the locker to the end of the bunks. Keller looked at the time and sighed. He should do his penance because tomorrow he might commit a major sin or two. Hell, if he were lucky, tonight. He went to his knees by the bunk and leaned on his elbows. A rosary would make this easier. He usually lost count around ten. He'd finished three before Toby sat down next to him.

“What are you doing?"

“Penance for my sins." Keller kept at it. When he finished three more Hail Marys, he looked up."Father Mukada ain't happy with me."

“Is it that easy to wipe away the sin?" Toby's face was intent.

Keller wasn't sure."I doubt it, but I have to try something. They've taken everything from me, but I'm not giving up my faith that there‛s more to this world than their bullshit."

Toby furrowed his brow."You have uncommon depths."

“It's the surface that should scare you." Keller shut his eyes and went back to working on his soul. He knew what and who he was, but the feeling that Toby was going to change him was an uncomfortable one. Toby stayed with him until he was done. Keller got up off his knees and sat next to him."We gonna fool around?"

Toby laughed."Won't that earn you more?"

“Sure." Keller shrugged. He'd pay later, but now, he wanted to play."You still scared?"

“Yeah," Toby breathed.

“Okay. Later. You let me know." Keller knew when to back off. He wasn't no Vern. Toby reached and almost touched him before changing his mind. Keller smiled. This was going to work out fine.

Chapter 4 - Vern's Interlude
*******

Vern stood and tucked in his shirt just the way he liked it. That done, he meticulously tied his boots. They were buffed. He was ready for whatever Oz threw at him today.

“Breakfast?" Robson asked.

“Of course." Vern never missed a meal or a chance to taunt Tobias."You heard anything about Keller?"

“Not a thing." Robson shrugged."Too bad Metzger is gone."

Vern glared and went out of the cell. That was not his fault. Keller was smart, and he'd played the system that he knew so well. Vern was going to make him pay for it, again. A few bruises and a smashed arm didn't wipe the slate clean. No sir. When Keller begged and sucked some cock, then he might get to live. Maybe. Tobias was dead either way.

Robson nudged him."Keller's out. He's sitting by Bitcher."

“I can see, Robson." Vern didn't look directly at them though. Was it his imagination or were they cozy? He got his tray and moved to sit somewhere close enough to watch them. Keller whispered something in Tobias's ear, and Tobias ducked his head. Vern nearly growled. They were fucking. His prags. They had no business touching each other! That was wrong. Very wrong. He ate his breakfast quickly and marched over to them. A few well-chosen words would knock down this alliance.

“Keller, glad to see you're out," Vern lied.

“Thanks, fucker." Keller grinned. Tobias smirked.

“Did you prag him yet? I taught you how. I taught you everything I know." Vern hesitated two beats, watching Tobias's face."You cut off my mark so you could put yours on him, right? A butterfly? A crucifix? Or just a big K?"

Keller and Tobias weren't laughing any longer. Tobias shot Keller a hard look. Keller squirmed a little. Vern was almost satisfied with that, but he had more ammunition.

“Tobias likes it rough. Don't let him tell you otherwise. Making him come is easy." Vern laughed. He saw Tobias's hand clench. That was more than enough for one meal, and he moved away smartly. He'd spread the word that Tobias was Keller's prag and enjoy the laughter.

Robson caught up fast."Let me kill him."

“You're not smart enough to get away with it." Vern controlled the urge to bitch slap him."Go tell everyone that Keller has a prag and is willing to share."

“On it." Robson strode away. Vern headed down to Unit B. He didn't miss Em City or McManus. It was nothing but a prag palace. No real men anymore. He was satisfied where he was. For prison, it wasn't bad. Damn that Bitcher. Parole had been possible, but that was long gone. His sons were on their own, and they'd screw it up. No doubt about that! They were weak, like their mother, even though they talked a big game around him. Real men didn't need drugs. If Tobias had stayed off drugs, he'd still be on his knees sucking cock - where he belonged.

Vern grinned. Keller was enjoying that lawyer mouth now. Lucky bastard. That was the bad thing about Unit B. No fresh meat lately. None at all since the retard. O'Reily better watch his step. Vern caught sight of Lopresti and changed course to talk to him.

“Keller has a prag," Vern said.

“Beecher? They fucking?" Lopresti looked surprised.

“I know Keller. He's doing the fucking." Vern laughed."Murphy is clueless."

“He's gonna be pissed." Lopresti laughed."Isn't that a shame?"

Vern nodded."I hate it when Murphy looks the fool." He laughed loudly and went down the stairs to his pool table. Work was later. Right now, he was going to relax and spread the poison. Keller and Tobias were stupid to take him on. Together or apart, they were no match for him.

By the time lunch rolled around, Vern was ready to get back at them, but neither of them made an appearance. O'Reily looked his usual death eyes at him. Vern smiled."How's your sweet brother?"

“Get the fuck away!" O'Reily obviously was having a bad day. How nice. Vern ate his lunch and smiled. Things were fine in the land of Oz.

Robson sat down next to him."Shakedown in Em City."

“I hope they find something good." Vern was glad to hear it. Shakedowns were always upsetting, and he wanted Keller and Tobias on edge."Did you spread the word?"

“Two guys cornered Bitcher already." Robson laughed."He's back on the market!"

Vern grinned. That was perfect."We need Keller in Gen Pop."

“Word is that McManus was gonna move him, but changed his mind." Robson nodded.

“Interesting." Vern thought McManus needed another nudge in that direction. Keller was too wild for Em City. He needed to be in Unit B, sucking cock all day. Vern finished his tray."I need a new prag. Keller would do fine."

Robson smiled."Is he a good cocksucker?"

“The best, and he's all mine." Vern got to his feet and went to toss his tray. He took his time going to work, but did his usual efficient job. On a whim, he asked for time with Sister Pete and smiled when he got it.

She looked up and frowned."Can I help you?"

Vern sat down in the chair to make himself seem less threatening."I know I'm not one of your favorites." He deliberately looked at Tobias's chair."But I'm in need of counseling."

“Really?"

“Yes." Vern folded his hands neatly."You see, I'm furious. So angry that I'm honestly afraid that I'm going to have to shank someone."

Sister Pete yanked her glasses off and leaned forward."Why? What's going on?"

Vern sighed. He had her. So damn easy. He waited five seconds and took a deep breath."Beecher belongs to me!"

“Schillinger, settle down. You don't own anyone!" She was falling for it.

Vern shook his head."I taught him how to survive, and this is the way he thanks me?"

“What do you mean?"

Vern got to his feet fast and braced his hands on her desk."He's letting Keller fuck him. Keller is strutting around, bragging about taking my prag. It's too damn much!"

“Settle down. Sit!" She pointed, but her hand was shaking slightly. Vern sat down with a thud and looked away from her. He was about done here. She stood up."Are you sure?"

“I know. I saw them!" Vern punched his fist in his palm."Tell me what to do, Sister."

She stared at him."Calm down. While Toby doesn't belong to you, I'm certain he's not doing anything with Keller. Toby's still very fragile. Ignore Keller. He's trying to get back at you."

Vern took several deep breaths."I have to let it slide?"

“You do." Sister Pete nodded firmly."Don't do anything that will earn you solitary for the rest of your life, or the chair."

“Good point." Vern put his hands on his knees."Okay. I'll think about it, but Keller needs a good ass-whupping."

Sister Pete might have given a short nod."Thank you for coming to see me instead of hurting someone. My door is always open."

Vern nodded and marched out. Open. Right. She was nothing but a toady, but that had gone well. Tobias would get an earful later when he showed up for work, and she might mention it to McManus. Vern smiled. Those two idiots didn't know what they were up against. In another week, Keller would be sucking cock, and Tobias would be dead. Guaranteed.

Chapter Five - Beaten
*****

Toby pulled the chair over to the corner, pointed it towards the glass, and sat down. It was all he could do to pretend that Keller wasn't in this box with him. Keller. Keller. Keller. Toby put his head in his hands and tugged his hair. It hurt his black eye, but he didn't care.

“We gonna play chess?"

“Shut up!" Toby clapped his hands over his mouth. He couldn't believe he'd said that, and he was very afraid he was going to start rhyming again. Keller had no patience for behavior that he considered nuts. He didn't rush over to smack the back of Toby's head though. Toby stared at the floor and tried to make sense of the last week. It had started out okay. He'd thought maybe he had found a friend, not just an ally. They'd touched, and it hadn't been bad. After being in solitary, he'd been desperate for a kind touch, but the next morning, all hell had broken loose.

“Your eye hurt?"

Toby stood, kicked the chair away, and crumpled to the floor. He put his head on his knees and rocked slowly. There was no need to answer. The brilliant colors spoke for him. It wasn't his only bruise. Fighting off horny men took up a part of every day now, and Keller did nothing. Nothing! If he were around, he shrugged. Apparently, they were allies against Schillinger but the rest of the prison could have a piece of Toby's ass and Keller wouldn't give a damn. Toby felt tears leak out, and he gulped back a sob. He'd promised himself never to cry again, but he wasn't good at keeping promises. He wasn't good at anything.

“Toby, you're freaking me out." Keller knelt down close and put his big hand on Toby's shoulder.

Toby flinched automatically. He hated being touched, and he yearned for it."I hurt." It was all he could manage to say. He did hurt. His back had a bruise the size of a pancake from some Aryan's fist.

Keller slowly took his hand away."You gotta fight your own battles."

“I thought-“ Toby stopped. He hadn't thought. That was the problem. They weren't friends. They weren't even acquaintances. The only thing that joined them was their hatred for Schillinger, and he was laughing now. Sister Pete was after Toby to demand a new podmate that wasn't quite so horny. McManus was looking for any excuse to ship Keller to Gen Pop, and Murphy was a constant presence. If they even looked at each other, he was there.

“One fight and I'm gone. You know that." Keller stood, but didn't move away."I can't do shit if I'm sucking Vern's dick in Unit B!"

And that was the problem. Keller couldn't do shit either way, so what good was he? Absolutely none. Toby was on his own, like always, and he had the bruises to prove it. He hadn't thought his situation could get worse, but it had. Schillinger was doubly pissed now and twice as dangerous. It was hard to believe, but true.

“Problem, girlfriends?" Murphy, the wiseass.

Toby looked up as Keller walked away."Can I go to the hospital? Please."

“Did Keller give you that?" Murphy had to know that wasn't true, even if he had just come on duty.

“No," Toby whispered."Please, my back, I hurt."

Murphy glared at both of them."Does Keller need to come to hold your hand?"

“I don't even like him! He's a fucking idiot! Give it a goddamn rest!" Toby didn't look at the man he was insulting. He wiped his face and waited to be told to suffer. No one in this damn place gave a rat's ass whether he lived or died, and he was a fool to have ever thought different.

“Come on." Murphy grabbed him under the arm and pulled. Toby gasped, but got up.

“Good. I can get some fucking sleep," Keller growled."Keep him. Will ya?"

Toby winced as he was encouraged to lean into the glass. Murphy patted him down and took him out the door.

“Get me some cuffs!" Murphy yelled up to the tower. Toby waited patiently while someone did that. Keller came to the glass and gave him a small smile. Toby shook his head. He didn't care. Keller might as well go suck dick. Murphy cuffed him and took him under the archway. Toby ignored the staring eyes and concentrated on walking.

Murphy gave him a small shake."None of this would have happened if you hadn't let Keller fuck you!"

Toby furrowed his brow and nearly stumbled from shock. Murphy believed that shit? Was he a damn fool? Toby tried to explain,"I didn't. I - I - needed a friend. Keller said we would watch each other's backs." He paused. He should shut up, but he had to say it."He can't now because McManus will send him to Gen Pop. I'm on my own again."

“Give it a rest, Toby. Everyone knows you're his prag." Murphy managed to put a lot of scorn in those few words.

Toby shook his head."Never again. Never again. There was a cat named Og, who lived with a frog. The swamp was deep, the crickets cheeped, but it was torched by Nazis!"

Murphy groaned. Toby tried to yank his arm away. He jerked and twisted, nearly screaming from the pain in his back. Murphy pulled his stick and yelled,"Settle down!"

Toby kneed him in the nuts and tried to run. Some part of his brain knew he was stupid as hell, but the other ninety-eight percent had snapped. Murphy managed to keep a good grip and the nightstick came roaring at him. Toby screamed from the pain, and he was flat on his stomach.

“Officer in need of assistance," Murphy choked out and sat on Toby's back."You're in deep shit, Beecher."

Toby wondered where all the air had gone. He wheezed,"No one's damn prag!"

Murphy said nothing, suddenly the hallway was full of CO's, and they all looked pissed at having to leave their coffee and donuts.

“Get him to the hospital." Murphy got off him. Toby managed another breath and a grunt as they dragged him away. He didn't look to see if Murphy was cradling his balls. Dr. Nathan turned and frowned as the CO's forced him through the doors.

“Where you want him?" Stupid hack.

“What's wrong with him?" Dr. Nathan came closer."Toby?"

Toby lifted his head. He didn't have enough air in his body to list his bruises.

“Uncuff him!" Dr. Nathan snapped."Toby's never violent."

“Tell that to Murphy's balls," hack number two said, and he was pissed."Stand still, Beecher, or I'll beat your head in."

Toby didn't make a move. He believed that. The cuffs came off, and he left his arms back. It seemed smart. The hacks eyed him.

“Toby, come to a bed." Dr. Nathan put a hand on Toby's arm. Toby nodded. He was glad the walk was a short one. She snapped on some gloves and started doing her thing. Toby concentrated on breathing. It still wasn't easy. He coughed and winced. Dr. Nathan helped him take off his shirt. She put on her stethoscope and put it against his back."Take a deep breath, Toby."

Toby tried. He did. It hurt. Shit!

“Lie down." Dr. Nathan helped him to his side."He's here. Go back to work."

Hack number one strode over to him and put on the restraints, moving one so they were doubled up on one side of the bed."We ain't as trusting as you."

Toby curled around his pain and shut his eyes. Dr. Nathan put an ice pack on his eye and muttered about broken ribs, but he didn't care. He wasn't in his pod, smelling Keller, listening to Keller, and wishing that Keller would hold him. The trip here had been a rough one, but maybe Murphy had learned a lesson. Toby wasn't a damn prag. He was weak. He was a pussy, and he was helpless in the fight to survive Oz, but he wasn't a bitch. He'd have to cling to that until he died, which by his reckoning, would be soon. Robson would stick a shank in him before long. Keller would shrug and suck dick.

“Beecher, what the hell did you do?"

Toby opened his eye and blinked at McManus."What?" He took a deeper breath. It was coming now.

“You kicked Murphy in the balls!" McManus loved to yell.

“Sorry." Toby coughed."I'm not in my right mind after being beaten all week. Tell him I apologize."

McManus finally seemed to look at him."Did Keller do this?"

Toby stared at the idiot."You are so fucking stupid! None of this would have happened if it weren't for you!" He coughed again. His back yelled obscenities at him.

“Tim, I think one of his ribs is broken." Dr. Nathan pulled McManus away."I want to transport him to the hospital."

McManus sighed heavily."No. Ribs heal. Bind it. He can rest in solitary, because that's where he's going for a good month."

Dr. Nathan shook her head."Not tonight!"

“Tomorrow morning." McManus turned back to him."Keller's not fucking you?"

Toby felt the vein in his forehead pop out."No! You cocksucker!" He yanked hard on the restraints and kicked out at him. McManus got away fast.

Dr. Nathan was there immediately, blocking."Toby, rest. You're going to make it worse. Please."

Toby stared at her. She was so nice."Explain it to him, please, Dr. Nathan."

She pushed his hair off his face and leaned close."Explain what?"

Toby shuddered."I can't bear to be touched. Tell him. Vern did this. He spread lies. I just wanted a friend. I'm sorry. I won't make that mistake again." He shut his eye so he didn't have to see her disbelief."Please."

Dr. Nathan gave him a pat on the arm."Rest. That‛s all that matters."

“Okay." Toby was proud that he only flinched a little. He felt as if he were inside one of those grade B horror flicks. It didn't matter how far he ran, he was going to be hacked to pieces in the end.

********

McManus pulled off his cap, brushed his hair back, and put it on again."Sedate him. Check him for rape."

Dr. Nathan recoiled and then nodded."I'm going to test him for HIV also. I don't think he's in a relationship with Keller."

“Murphy says they are. They are." McManus believed Murphy over Beecher any day.

“Schillinger raped him repeatedly. Beecher's in no mental condition to allow or encourage another man. Keller may have raped him, but other than that, I don't believe it." Dr. Nathan stepped and gripped him on the arm."Trust me on that."

McManus slowly nodded. He'd talk to Sister Pete, but it was possible."Check him. If he's been raped, I'll charge Keller with it."

“I agree." Dr. Nathan nodded."Now go on and let me work."

McManus was happy to go elsewhere."Don't take the restraints off. You saw him. He's not in his right state of mind."

“Who is in this crazy place?" Dr. Nathan laughed and left him. McManus headed out the door. He had hoped that Beecher and Keller would be friends, but not lovers. Murphy was still in McManus's office, and McManus shut the door so they could talk.

“You okay?"

“Yeah," Murphy rubbed his forehead."I may walk funny for a while, but I'll live. Beecher make it there?"

“He's restrained, and Dr. Nathan is going to sedate him and check for rape. She swears that he's not involved with Keller." McManus frowned at the look that crossed Murphy's face."What?"

“Beecher went nuts when I called him Keller's prag."

“He did the same thing for me." McManus went to his chair and slumped down in it."Did you see them together?"

“Lopresti told that he saw them fucking in the gym." Murphy frowned."I never saw them do more than a fast embrace."

McManus groaned."Sean, Lopresti is Schillinger's bitch."

“What?"

“Yeah. You're new. I didn't think to mention it. Lopresti does a good job, but he's too cozy with the Aryans for my taste." McManus saw it all suddenly. Sister Pete had suggested gently that Keller was too wild for Em City. Lopresti had told Murphy that Keller had a prag, and McManus had made it known that Keller would be moved for even the smallest infraction. It all added up to one thing - Schillinger. The Nazi was a master at manipulating people. God damn it!"Sean, we've been played."

“Son of a bitch!"

********

Toby winced and opened his eyes. His vision blurred for an instant and then cleared. He nearly screamed, but a scrap of pride forced it away.

“You're looking well, Tobias." Schillinger smiled."No mail today. Again. I know your family cares. It's amazing, isn't it?"

Toby jerked the restraints, but they held. He knew he was growling. Words were impossible.

Schillinger stepped closer."Let me see your ass."

“No," Toby whispered."Go fuck Keller. Leave me alone!" The last word ripped out of him. The hospital noise died away.

“Beat it, Schillinger," Dr. Nathan said."If I write you up for harassing patients, your little mail route might disappear."

Schillinger smirked and strutted away. Toby realized he was chewing the restraints and stopped. He shuddered out a breath and tried to think. It was hard with so much hatred in his brain.

“Toby, relax." Dr. Nathan brushed his hair back again. She was so nice."He's gone. You're safe."

Toby didn't think she was as smart as a doctor should be. Safe? He nodded though while his heart raced."I'm okay."

“You're not, but I‛ve done all I can for now." Dr. Nathan smiled a little."Someone is going to come escort you to solitary. I'll check on you daily. Don't fight them. Promise me."

Toby sighed deeply. He didn't want to be alone for weeks, but he might as well be. There was nothing in Em City."I won't."

She held up a pill."Take it. Here's a sip of water." She put a straw to his mouth. He sipped and swallowed. Probably something to make the world fuzzy. He was good with that. Shutting his eyes, he did nothing but breathe until rough hands unbuckled the restraints.

“Get dressed." Murphy held out clean clothes, but no shoes.

Toby slowly complied. He wasn't going to apologize again. He'd been taunted, but he wasn't angry any longer, not at Murphy.

Dr. Nathan hadn't gone far."No cuffs, Sean. He's too sore."

“He better behave or he's going to spend a month in shackles." Murphy pulled his nightstick and pointed at the door."Move it, Beecher."

Toby smiled at Dr. Nathan."Thanks, Doc."

“I'll see you tomorrow." She was so nice. Toby did like her. Everyone did. He stuck his hands in his pockets and headed out the door.

“You're high!"

Toby blinked in surprise. He'd forgotten Murphy was there."Where are we going again?"

“Solitary." Murphy put his hand on Toby's shoulder and steered him that way."Your shoulder hurt?"

“No." Toby smiled. He felt good."I hate to be touched. Makes me want to cry. Schillinger, ya know. He knows how to hurt a man. No one cared. Hell, no one gives a shit now."

Murphy made an odd noise. Toby kept on walking. He felt fine, for a change. Solitary was a good idea. He could heal and maybe figure out a way to stay alive. Sure, he'd be lonely as fuck, but that was okay.

Murphy nudged him inside the small cell and said,"Sister Pete is coming to see you later."

“Well, okay." Toby carefully sat down on the bunk."Can I have a book or something?"

“Against regulations." Murphy shut the first door. He put his stick away and cupped his balls."And after abusing my nuts, you don't deserve any favors."

“Sorry." Toby rubbed his forehead. He'd forgotten that he wasn't going to apologize."I'll be good. I promise."

Murphy rolled his eyes and slammed the outer door shut. Toby looked around and shrugged. Home sweet home.

********

McManus caught up with Keller in his pod."Beecher's in solitary. He attacked Officer Murphy."

“Toby? Wow, he must be growing balls." Keller smiled."Thanks for the gossip."

McManus looked Keller up and down again. Keller was a predator. A truly dangerous man. A killer. But there was more there. Somewhere. McManus tried for the truth."Are you fucking him?"

“You told me to keep it zipped. I have." Keller shrugged."Toby hates to be fucking touched. Occasionally, we bump into each other and he climbs right up the damn wall. I ain‛t Vern."

McManus heard the truth in those words because Keller sounded disappointed."But you want to fuck him."

Keller grinned big."I'd fuck about anything. You volunteering?"

McManus shook his head automatically."You're going to watch Toby's back. Promise me."

“I get a lot of fucking mixed signals from you." Keller slowly stripped off his shirt and knelt down by his bunk.

“You have my word that I won't send you to Unit B, not for watching Toby's back." McManus wondered what the fuck Keller was doing on his knees.

“I'll think about it." Keller leaned against his elbows."Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women-“

The door closing shut off the patter of Keller's voice. McManus stared at him for a moment through the glass. The words were well-worn. Maybe it was time to talk to Mukada.

********

Toby flinched awake when the door opened. They ought to give a man some warning. He sat up with a small wince as Sister Pete came inside and sat down next to him.

“Tobias, are you okay?"

“Sure, beaten and bruised, but fine." Toby smiled for her."At least I'm not bleeding."

Sister Pete nodded slowly."Why did you attack Officer Murphy?"

Toby groaned. He didn't want to talk about that, but she wouldn't let it go."He said I was Keller's prag. I just lost control. You know how I am about that."

Sister Pete took him by the hand."Toby, even I've heard that you and Keller have a relationship of some sort."

“We're not, not really." Toby let her touch him."Once, I let him touch me in the shower, for about two seconds, but nothing else. I don't want it, and he said not to worry about it."

“It's hard to believe that he takes no for an answer." Sister Pete gave him a squeeze."Tell me the truth, Toby."

“Chris would never rape me. He knows how much it hurts. He knows." Toby slowly pulled his hand away. That was enough for one day."He's loud and rude, but there's more to him than meets the eye. I had thought that he and I might be friends."

“And now?"

“We can't. I won't allow it. The Nazis are after me again, and if he gets in trouble, he'll be sent to Unit B. Vern is praying for that so he can rape him."

Sister Pete looked skeptical."Keller's big and strong."

“Sister Pete, three or four guys can rape anyone. They nearly got him his first day here." Toby went to the sink and washed his hands. No mirror to look at his face. He dried his hands on the little towel provided and leaned against the wall."Please listen to me this time."

Sister Pete stood up and slowly nodded."I believe you. I'll speak to Keller. Can I get you anything?"

“A book?" Toby tried again."Something like War and Peace?"

“I'll try." She went to rap on the window. The door opened, and Toby stayed well back. The hack was from last night, and he still looked pissed.

“You done, Sister?"

“Yes. Thank you. Toby, use this time to try to make sense of your life."

Toby didn't give her any attitude, but he thought she was crazy. As long as Schillinger was alive, Toby's life would be out of control. Look at everything he'd managed in one short week. Give the Nazi a month and Toby would be dead, and Keller would be back on his knees sucking cock. Of course, Keller might not mind. He was one horny bastard. Toby laughed softly and stretched out on his stomach. He was going to try to sleep. There was plenty of time to think about his life, and Keller.

Chapter Six - Broken
******

Toby adjusted the strap around his back again. In a few more days, he was taking it off. His back was better, if not great. He was so damn bored that he wanted to kill himself, but he had a feeling that was the purpose behind solitary. They wanted to make him crazier, so he'd kill himself, and they could stuff someone else in here.

“Lunch!"

Toby sighed. It was something to do for a few minutes. He put the tray on his cot and sat down. What the fuck? He made sure the hack was gone before slipping the piece of paper out from under the sandwich.

You okay? K

Toby nearly laughed. Short but sweet. He wondered how much Keller had paid O'Reily to get the message delivered. Well, Keller had the money. Toby stared at the words until they blurred. Shit. He was pathetic. No way to answer. Unless. Toby lifted the tray and looked under it. He did laugh this time. Taped in the groove was a pencil. He took it out carefully. Not only could he answer, but he could also kill himself now. Sweet. He put the note and pencil under his pillow and ate first. He made sure to leave a slice of bread to hide his return message underneath. What to say? Some sick part of him was thrilled that Keller cared enough to go to the trouble of sending a note.

“Keller doesn't give a shit. He has his own agenda, which includes my ass and killing Schillinger, not necessarily in that order," Toby said aloud to hear the words. He knew it was true, but-. Fuck. He knew it was true! Squeezing his apple, he put it aside and took out the note. He stared at it for longer than necessary, and then wrote his answer.

Find another podmate. T

It was the right decision. Keller needed to cut his losses and run. Find someone that could help him, like O'Reily. Toby stashed the note carefully, reusing a small piece of tape to make sure it didn't slide off. The pencil, he put under his pillow. He put the tray back in the slot and fiddled with his apple. Fuck, he was bored. He'd had plenty of time to think about his ‘life,' such as it was. There was only one truth. He was dead. Might as well get used to the idea.

The hack pulled the tray out and opened the door. Dr. Nathan was here for his daily checkup. Toby smiled slightly and tossed his apple in the air."Hey Doc."

“How are you, Toby?" She came inside.

“Bored to death. Got a cure for that?" Toby slowly peeled off his shirt before she asked.

“Maybe this will help." Dr. Nathan reached in her coat pocket and pulled out a book. ‟Sister Pete asked me to deliver it.‟

Toby stashed it under his pillow fast. It could be a romance. He didn't care. ‟Thank you. If you want, I‛ll give you money.‟

She rolled her eyes, snapped on some gloves, and gave him a good going over - poking and prodding. It was better. Toby only had to gasp once.

“Eye looks good. Ribs are healing. I know solitary is hard, but it's helping you get well." Dr. Nathan smiled slightly and handed him a pill."Last one."

“If you insist." Toby got his juice and took it before Dr. Nathan changed her mind."Thanks."

Dr. Nathan pulled her gloves off."Toby, I tested you for HIV."

Toby nearly choked. He set the juice down, swallowed hard, and waited for the bad news. It was going to be bad.

“You don't have it." She nodded."I ran it twice. Please have safe sex in the future."

Toby rubbed his face."I'm glad, but safe sex? In here? Chances are good that I'll be raped again." He hated to sound so gloomy after good news, but it was true.

“I hope not." Dr. Nathan frowned."Keller could be infected with HIV. Be careful."

Toby hadn't thought of that."We haven't, and we won't. He's moving out."

“You sound sure of that." Dr. Nathan shrugged."I'll be back in a couple of days. Rest."

“Thanks. For everything." Toby smiled."And tell Sister Pete thanks."

“I will." She went out the doors. The hack shut him up tight, and Toby was alone again. He could only believe that whatever tiny friendship he had started with Keller was over. Finished. When Toby got out of here, Keller might be in Unit B, bunking with Schillinger. Nothing in here ever worked out the way he thought it would. Schillinger usually found a way to get what he wanted. Damn. Someone needed to kill him. Send him to hell. Toby lay on his bunk and let the pain pill seep through him. The book could wait.

*********

McManus happened upon the two people he wanted to talk to in the lounge. He got some coffee and joined them at the table."Gloria, how's Toby?"

“Better." Dr. Nathan nodded."He's clean for HIV."

“I'm glad." McManus was completely relieved."How's his state of mind?"

“He's bored, but calm. However, today is his last pain pill, so we'll see how the rest of the week goes. I think the time has been good for him. No conflict." Dr. Nathan finished her coffee."Back to work. Later."

McManus and Mukada both waved. Mukada smiled slightly."Me next?"

“How'd you guess?" McManus laughed. He didn't want to have this conversation, but he had to do it."Let's talk about Keller."

“I won't break the seal of the confessional." Mukada frowned.

McManus knew that, but it was still disappointing."Tell me about him."

Mukada fiddled with his coffee cup."He has a very vibrant personality. He's charismatic, stubborn, and intelligent. He plays dumb, but he's not. He's been concerned for Toby Beecher."

“What else?"

“He hates Schillinger, but we all do." Mukada shrugged."What's this all about?"

“I went to see him in his pod the other day. He was kneeling, repeating that poem about Mary." McManus couldn't remember the name of it."I asked him to look out for Beecher."

“Doing his penance? Good for him. I had wondered. He complained about the lack of a rosary the other day. I may have to get him one." Mukada suddenly looked up."Oh, Beecher! Well, Keller's hands have been tied there. Even I knew that."

“You could have told me!" McManus burst out."Do you think they could be friends?"

“Toby needs one, and Keller likes him, but that week was difficult." Mukada got up and threw his cup away."Don't ever underestimate Chris Keller. He makes survival look easy."

McManus nodded. He knew that."Schillinger might have met his match."

“Not as long as he has you working for him." Mukada headed for the door."Later, Tim."

McManus sighed. He'd fucked up, riding Keller, but it had seemed reasonable at the time. He still wasn't convinced that Keller belonged in Em City. Keller was . . . wild. Sister Pete had said it, and it was true, but it wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps, Keller needed more guidance, not less. McManus got to his feet and headed for Sister Pete's office.

*********

Toby woke up fast. His breath ached in and out of his lungs, and he was covered with sweat. It was dark. Where was he? He took a deep breath."Keller?" No answer. Toby bit his fist and put a hand against a wall. Solitary. Solitary. He flinched as he hit the windshield again. His face crammed into the glass, as he stared in horror at his prison self.

“Fuck!" Toby tucked his knees up tight and rocked."Fuck!" The noise was somehow comforting. As if he wasn't completely alone. How much longer? How much longer? He felt a whimper claw up his throat. Maybe being dead would be better than this never ending nightmare that was his life. Sister Pete would say it was a sin, but Toby knew better. It was an option, a choice, an escape. He always had a way out, if he were brave enough to take it.

The lights snapped on, and he recoiled in shock. The whimper turned into a gasp, and he rubbed his eyes."Motherfuck!"

“Good morning to you too." Murphy opened the outside door."Take a shower. Here's some clean clothes."

“Okay." Toby fumbled over to the door and took them."Thanks. Can I ask you something?"

Murphy shrugged."Yes, my balls still ache, and thanks to you, Keller cups his nuts every time he sees me. Fucking hilarious."

“Sorry." Toby managed to look contrite."Do-." He took a deep breath and started again,"Do many guys kill themselves down here?"

Murphy narrowed his eyes."Too many. For fuck's sake, Beecher, get a grip."

“I have." Toby felt as if he was finally thinking clearly."Another week?"

“Yep." Murphy stepped back and returned with the breakfast tray."Before you know it, you'll be back with Keller."

“Move him," Toby said flatly."I'm as good as dead. He needs to save himself. Move him!"

Murphy didn't answer. He shut the big door. Toby sighed and ran a hand through his sweaty hair. It was long. His beard was out of control, and he wanted to hit someone. Oh yeah, he had a grip.

********

McManus went down the stairs and stopped at Murphy's station."How's Beecher?"

Murphy looked up, stood, stretched, and moved to lean against the rail."He wants Keller moved. Said that Keller needed to save himself."

“Keller is Beecher's only chance." McManus knew that now.

“He don't feel that way. He figures he's dead." Murphy sighed and rubbed his face."He was talking about suicide. Tim, he may do it."

McManus nearly threw his clipboard over the rail."Damn it! I'll send Sister Pete to him. If Beecher kills himself, his father will demand a full investigation!"

“His father has jizz?"

“Enough. An entire family of lawyers." McManus spotted Keller and watched him settle down in front of the TV."Is Keller behaving?"

“Pretty much. He's made friends with O'Reily, and the entire prison should be scared." Murphy went back to his chair."Send Sister Pete. Beecher was serious."

McManus nodded and got moving.

********

Toby stuffed the book away fast, when he heard the door. His back gave a twinge, but he didn't worry. He'd be well enough for another beating when he got out.

“Can we talk, Tobias?" Sister Pete looked worried.

“My calendar is empty until dinner." Toby pulled his legs up to sit cross-legged at the top of the cot.

“I'll be close," the hack said.

Sister Pete actually came inside and sat on the bed at the farthest distance from him. Her trust was a little alarming."How are you?"

“Lonely. Scared." Toby shrugged."Same old. Same old."

“I understand why you would be lonely. Anyone would be in solitary, but why are you scared?" She folded her hands neatly, waiting for an answer.

Toby considered several lies, but it seemed like a lot of work today."We both know Schillinger is going to kill me. I have to admit, it worries me."

Sister Pete shook her head firmly."We're not going to allow that to happen."

“You give McManus and his crew far too much credit. The only reason I'm not dead is because Schillinger is toying with me." Toby lifted his hands."Dino was killed in the hole. Solitary is nothing."

“I can only hope you're wrong. How are your ribs? And, well, your back end?" Sister Pete looked slightly uncomfortable for a moment.

Toby laughed softly. He hadn't put the strap back on after his shower."Both are better. I haven't had a chance to look at my backside lately."

She nodded, but didn't volunteer to take a look."Tell me, honestly, do I need to recommend you for suicide watch?"

Toby looked away from her bright, probing eyes. He furrowed his brow and told the truth."It's an option that I'm keeping open. Sister Pete, I'm very tired."

“Of what?"

“I think you know." Toby didn't have the strength to re-hash his life in Oz."I'm okay. Really."

Sister Pete got to her feet and stared down at him."An answer, of sorts. The Catholic faith abhors suicide. It makes it impossible to get into heaven because God's gift of life has been rejected."

Toby knew all that."I believe that my hell is right here, right now, and I have the choice to end it all and go to heaven."

“Your children-“

“Don't!" Toby threw up his hand. He refused to let her lecture him on that."I love my children."

She nodded slowly."We'll talk more later. Guard!"

Toby smiled at her."Thanks for stopping by. Things are a bit dull."

“Keep it that way." Sister Pete left without a look back. The doors slammed, and he pulled out his book. He'd only read it twice. He might read it backwards tomorrow. Time dragged, and he was glad to see dinner pushed through the slot. He sighed though when he found the next note.

Me and you, babe.

Toby stared at it and nearly cried. He had hoped so, but Schillinger had found a way to trash it. Keller hadn't given up, unless he was lying, but he should. He should. Toby pressed the note to his heart and wished. It couldn't hurt - not any more than it already did.

********

McManus found his coat and put it on. He wanted nothing more than to go home for eight or so hours.

“Tim?"

McManus took his coat off and sat back down."Sister Pete, how can I help you?"

“As staff psychologist, I'm recommending that you move Tobias to protective custody and put him on suicide watch."

McManus put his face in his hands for a moment and rubbed."Men talk."

“Not him. Schillinger has broken him. His state of mind is precarious." Sister Pete took her glasses off."Tobias thought, he hoped, that he and Keller would establish some sort of relationship. That hope is dead. He's suicidal."

“Damn." McManus could only believe her."I thought you were solid against Keller?"

“I'm against Tobias involving himself sexually with another inmate, but this isn't about that. He thought he'd found an ally, someone else that had suffered like him. They formed a quick bond, and when it snapped, Tobias did too." Sister Pete seemed to take a deep breath."Sex isn't part of it."

“Not yet." McManus knew it would be, if Keller had his way."You discouraged the friendship, didn't you?"

“I did, and I was wrong to do it." Sister Pete played with her glasses."Keller is dangerous, but he may be exactly what Tobias needs to survive."

“I want you to start counseling Keller." McManus wasn't going to take no for an answer."He's Catholic. He's been doing his penance, and you may be able to find out what makes him tick."

“And then what?" Sister Pete frowned.

“And then we make sure no one ends up dead." McManus smiled."Easy, huh?"

Sister Pete got to her feet."Will you move Tobias?"

“I will, and please schedule Keller soon. Explain to him that he has exactly no choice in the matter." McManus found his pencil and made a few notes."Thank you, Sister."

“Thank you, Tim." Sister Pete shut the door quietly, and McManus leaned back in his chair. He hated to think that he was fostering some sort of love affair between Beecher and Keller. With any luck, it would stay friendship. Beecher was smart. Hopefully, he was too smart to fall in bed with Keller.

********

“Roll it up, Beecher!"

Toby could only stare."I'm good at math. I have six more days."

“I'm proud of you. Get your shit!" The hack glared."Wait, you don't have anything. Get over here!"

Toby picked up the strap for his ribs. The book was tucked inside it, with the pencil. He was glad he'd changed hiding places. The hack snapped the cuffs on, but in front and opened both doors. Toby went quickly with him to avoid another beating.

“Don't even look at my balls!"

“No, sir." Toby wished for shoes, but they didn't go too far, and he was shoved in another cell. This one had bars on all four sides. If he wasn't mistaken, this was the older section of protective custody. No one in here but him tonight. The door clanged shut. He put his rib strap down and stuck his wrists out the slot so the hack could remove the cuffs.

“Do not even think about offing yourself on my shift! I don't need that shit!" The hack glared at him."Got it?"

“Got it." Toby noticed the lack of sheet and blanket. Sister Pete had put him on suicide watch, but the joke was on her. He still had his pencil. He giggled and went to piss. He'd lost his own personal shower, but this wasn't too bad. Could be worse. Schillinger could be in here with him. That was always the benchmark. No matter how crappy things got, if Schillinger wasn't around, it wasn't all that bad.

Toby took another good look around at all the empty cells. Six of them. Where was everyone? He laughed again. They were all dead. He sank down on his cot and retrieved Keller's message from the book. Not answering it had been the only option. Toby leaned to the side, pulled down his sweats, and craned his neck to his ass. Scab had fallen off, nothing but red skin. It kinda looked like he'd sat on something hot. He'd expected a huge crater, but Keller had skinned him. Good job there. Worth every dime. If he was going to die, at least he'd die without a big swastika on his ass.

“Lights out!"

Toby blinked as the cells fell into relative darkness. There was one pool of light over by the door were the hack stood. Toby slowly lay down flat and waited for his nightmares to come out to play. Two seconds later, a horn rang and light struck his eyelids. He tried to burrow under his blanket, but there wasn't one, and he wished to fuck that he knew where he was, not that it mattered.

“Here's your tray, fucktard."

Toby flipped him off and went to the sink. There was a battered piece of stainless steel above it. Dimly, he could make out his face. Blue eyes stared back at him. Damn. He did look insane. Sister Pete had probably been scared for her life. He rubbed his hand along his chin and shrugged. One look was good as another. It wasn't like he was going out on a date. He pissed, washed, and went to chew on a pancake. Not even plastic silverware today. He should scare the shit out of them by brandishing his pencil. He giggled. Fuck, he was losing it. No. He had lost it, but the rhyming seemed to have stopped. He figured they'd beaten it out of him, and that was probably a good thing.

The food was gone, the book had been memorized, and the pencil was starting to whisper his name when a commotion at the door caught his attention.

“Give me a fucking break!"

“It's this or the toilets. Pick your poison!" McManus. What a fucker."Guard, I want the floor mopped. Inside the cells, as well as out."

“I have a prisoner." The hack was incredibly stupid.

“Well, open it. Where the fuck do you think he's going?" McManus sounded irrational."Mop!"

“All right, you win."

Toby knew that voice. He dreamed it. Deliberately, he turned his back. He would not allow even a breath of hope in his existence.

“Well, fuck me up the ass!" Keller laughed."I was starting to think they'd moved you upstate!"

“Fuck off," Toby growled. He wasn't going to look, and he wasn't leaving his cell, even if they did open the door. It clicked. Shit.

“Beecher, give me one bit of trouble, and you're headed for the morgue!"

Toby turned and nodded."No trouble."

The hack grumbled something rude and went back to his position by the door and the alarm. Keller slopped the mop down and laughed."Love that crazy beard."

“I'm on suicide watch. God only knows what I'd do with a fucking Bic razor." Toby eyed the door. Being out, just for a minute, would be so nice. He edged that way. The hack didn't even move.

Keller slapped the mop in the rolling bucket and walked over. He pushed the cell door open."Come out and enjoy the fresh air."

“Moron." Toby took a deep breath and got out of there. He walked to the far end of the cell block and stared up at the tiny barred window that led somewhere, maybe outside. Keller chuckled softly, and Toby heard the mop hit the floor again."You get moved?"

“Hell no. I like my pod. You move out." Keller was close."They'll probably put you in Unit J after this, so don‛t worry." He was even closer.

“Unit J?"

“That's where they put all the cops and shank bait. Lawyers, too, I hear." Keller's breath was right on Toby's neck."You didn't answer my note."

Toby put his hands against the wall and pushed."Deal's off."

Keller was gone. The mop was moving again."Blood in - blood out. Don't matter what you say. The deal is done. You want out, you're gonna have to die."

Toby turned, leaned, and stared in astonishment."I paid you to do that!"

“Doesn't matter. We made a deal, and we bled on it." Keller smiled.

“You didn't bleed!" Toby couldn't believe this shit!

“Yes, I did. They broke my arm and beat the crap out of me because of you. You gave it back when I sliced you." Keller leaned against his mop."You want out? Kill yourself."

“Fuck." Toby rubbed his forehead."That's the way things work?"

“It is. Moron." Keller started pushing it again."Anyways, what the fuck are you worried about? That they'll kill us twice?" He laughed.

Toby felt the prison walls shake around him. He hadn't - quite - understood what he'd done, but it was too late to go back and do it over. Taking a deep breath, he made a leap of faith. Faith in blood oaths. Faith in prison politics. Faith in another man. He was a damn idiot."You and me, then."

“Now you're talking." Keller backed up towards him and then leaned against the wall next to him."Bored, huh?"

“Fuck. I really do want to die." Toby lowered his head.

“I know, but next time, keep your mouth shut about it." Keller reached in his pocket and held out a couple of cigarettes and some matches."Here."

Toby took them quickly."Thanks. Five more days, and then they'll probably move me somewhere else."

The hack came around the cells."Mop! Asshole!"

“That's me." Keller went back to his mop. Toby laughed softly and watched him. Keller missed a few spots, but he didn't quit again."Tomorrow, I'll bring you something good."

Toby couldn't help but smile. Tomorrow. Something to look forward to for a change.

*********


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