I loved you for a long, long time, I know this love is real ~~ It don't matter how it all went wrong, that don't change the way I feel ~~ And I can't believe that time's gonna heal this wound I'm speaking of ~~ There ain't no cure, there ain't no cure, there ain't no cure for love
~ Leonard Cohen,
There Ain’t No Cure For Love
Intentions – good ones, the kind that come with heavy expectations – are a pendulum swinging conundrum. Chris doles them out like a hand of cards, sometimes accepting what he has and knowing that if he follows through it will work in his favour, other times trading for what’s not there, relying on false hope, ready to say “fuck it” when it all goes down the drain.
In the driver’s seat he cranes his neck and stares up at Toby’s outline in the half lit window on the second floor of the brownstone. He sees a mark, an easy one, a paint-by-numbers con he knew he would pull off even after the voice in his head whispered misgivings. Toby wasn’t the first job who made Chris hard, but he was the only one Chris couldn’t stop thinking about, didn’t want to stop dreaming about, refused to not beat off to.
Distance didn’t just make the heart grow fonder it ratcheted up Chris’ want to a nearly insurmountable degree until it was back to business. And (finally) being out of Oz due to a well orchestrated deal loaded with restrictions meant work had to be first, pleasure (a distant) second and Toby way off limits.
Simple. Effective. Easier said than done.
Circumstances always have a mind of their own. Chris already broke the promise to himself long before the world went to hell in a handbasket. He’d long been keeping tabs on Toby by the time life and death became more than a cliché or a statistic on the evening news.
The early reports were subdued then sensationalistic (if it bleeds it leads and all that shit). From a back page story to above the fold front page treatment, the story moved with efficiency, transforming from urban legend to living nightmare before their eyes.
Quarantine The Island, international headlines declared and like that Chris was back in a bubble of a prison with Toby (and a few million others).
With both hands he rubs the top of his head, feels the bit of stubble, and sighs. Leaning back in his seat, gripping the steering wheel tightly, he closes his eyes and thinks. A minute passes, maybe ten. Who knows? Time is meaningless when there’s nowhere else to be.
He doesn’t hear the front door of the brownstone open and shut. Nor does he hear the footsteps approaching the car.
All the times ~~That I felt like this won't end ~~ It was for you ~~ And I taste ~~ What I could never have ~~ It was from you ~~ All the times ~~ That I've cried ~~ My intentions ~~Were full of pride ~~ But I waste ~~ More time than anyone
It is two weeks tops when Chris stops fighting the urge.
Work is fine, his hours keep him busy, the money gets him by. He shoots the breeze with his grease painted cohorts, sharing tales of sexual conquests surely exaggerated to increase the titillation factor. He’s nonchalant about doing whatever and whomever in the name of instant gratification. No one bats an eye or if they do they wait until his back is turned. Mostly they seem to enjoy his stories.
He doesn’t talk about Toby. It’s one part not wanting to sully the man’s name for cheap tricks and one part not wanting to give a shit anymore. He tries to convince himself the past is over and done with. He busies himself to distraction. It works until he’s lying on the bed alone at night and the void is too big to ignore. Rather than deny what he wants he grips his cock and jerks off, groaning into the damp air.
It’s the simple pleasures that suffice for a time, but the gnawing need to know, to just steal a glimpse of Toby in the outside world living a life he was meant to lead, proves too much. It’s easy to find him and once that bridge is crossed Chris shrugs his shoulders and dives in head first. He doesn’t consider it stalking—watching Toby from afar with his kids—but doesn’t care to risk putting a label on it either.
He watches and keeps tabs. And when all hell begins to break loose he stands watch while Toby says his goodbyes and sends Holly and Harry on their way with Angus. He sees the sad smile he remembers so well from a past life.
And then he waits.
How I wish, how I wish you were here ~~ We're just two lost souls ~~ Swimming in a fish bowl ~~ Year after year ~~ Running over the same old ground ~~ What have we found? ~~ The same old fears ~~ Wish you were here
~ Pink Floyd,
Wish You Were Here
They drive in silence.
With little more than a drawn out stare between them (after Toby opened the passenger door and shoved a duffle bag into the back then took a seat). Chris’ continued surprise is compounded by Toby’s lack thereof, as if he’s known Chris has been around all this time.
So much for remaining incognito.
The streets are dark with only the ghostly haze of streetlamps lending a yellow hue. Abandoned cars, boarded up buildings, sporadic groups of people (gangs? Funny how fast people seek out likeminded others in a desperate bid for comfort and normalcy) fill in the blanks. It isn’t chaos. Yet. But it’s in the air, buzzing around, looking for a place to sit down.
Chris’ place is on the fourth floor of an old tenement. It’s not far from where he was living before but this location and architecture provides fortress type functionality. There’s a family, the Muscovites (mother, father, two kids) on the second floor who occasionally invite him to dinner or leave leftovers at his front door. The unspoken agreement is that he’ll be their muscle if needed.
After parking in a back alley he silently leads Toby up. In the second floor hallway the Muscovites door opens an inch. Chris nods in its direction, casting a brief glance over his shoulder at Toby (brow furrowed in curiosity) and sees him mimic the gesture, as if tipping an invisible hat in greeting. The door shuts.
They keep trekking upwards.
And I wonder ~~ When I sing along with you ~~ If everything could ever feel this real forever ~~ If anything could ever be this good again ~~ The only thing I'll ever ask of you ~~ You've got to promise not to stop when I say when
~ Foo Fighters,
Toby is an itch Chris can’t scratch.
That’s the way it was in the beginning. It’s the way it’s always been.
Their story isn’t a pretty one and far from sweet. Out of self preservation (and for kicks—a patterned modus operandi) Chris wanted to control him, own him, break him. Falling in love with him in the process didn’t override those first base desires but it did temper them. They attached themselves to wanting to protect Toby, saving him from himself as much as from others with more nefarious purposes, to believing in a life of sorts with him, willing to burn down the world—and Toby—to prove there was no room for alternative theories.
Chris has had his share of conquests. Toby is the only one who stuck around long after the fucking started. Chris can’t explain it. It’s not as if Toby was the first rich jackoff he had his way with, but Toby’s the only one who managed to claim a piece of Chris for his own.
Because it’s more than the sex (although Chris instinctively responds—full body thrumming rush—when Toby touches him—soft, hard, doesn’t matter—and the need to do the same is a hunger that never dissipates). He’s told Toby the fairytale white lies, blatant dishonesties, exaggerated accounts and brutal truths. And in the calm of the storms brewing around them he’s shared remembrances of his past, thoughtful ruminations and concerns and the rare stray hope. All because Toby cared enough to ask, to push for more, to demand a mile for an inch. All because Toby took a risk and opened himself up.
Give and take. Point blank. No one sided bullshit. “Us” means “we”. Blood in, blood out. Sacrifice common sense. Break bones and skin, suffocate in the copper air and know what is truth, even in the silence in the space between words.
Chris never forgot that.
You make me hard when i'm all soft inside ~~ I see the truth when i'm all stupid-eyed ~~ The arrow goes straight through my heart ~~ Without you everything just falls apart
The Perfect Drug
(Not surprisingly) it’s a fight that throws them into each other’s path.
Maybe it’s being away from each other too long, not touching or talking, overwhelmed by memories and failed attempts to leave the past in the past. Maybe it’s because anger has always been the flipside of love for them, one bleeding into the next, the outcome always the same.
In this case it’s Toby warily eyeing Chris’ home and snorting over the “nice digs” and moves to them roughly grappling with each other (eyes flared, smirks threatening), throwing taunts and barbs and ends with Toby bent over the back of a torn sofa, hips in a vice grip as Chris fucks him hard and steady with nary a pleasant word between them. Instead it’s grunted acquiescence and guaranteed bruises promising this is real enough to never be forgotten.
Chris pours all his emptiness, longing, anger and realized (if one-sided) happiness into every thrust. Each guttural escape across Toby’s lips (half into the tattered fabric of the sofa, half into the stale air) spurs Chris on and the damp flush creeping along the back of Toby’s neck is a siren’s call only magnified when Toby starts pushing back just as hard, leaving one hand clenched around the curve of the backrest and the other stretched back, clamped over one of Chris’ hands on his hips.
But the end is really the middle and the kiss Chris places on the back of Toby’s neck, their chests playing the same up and down rhythm, changes the pace and edits the script.
Toby, with his jeans tangled around his knees, turns around and tries to pull up his pants. Chris refuses to step back and give him room. Never breaking their gaze, Chris presses his still half-hard cock to Toby’s, takes both their hands and presses them down to the top of the sofa and chases Toby’s mouth for a softer, asking kiss.
This is the beginning of the second inarticulate conversation.
Be my friend ~~ Hold me, wrap me up ~~ Unfold me ~~ I am small ~~ I'm needy ~~ Warm me up ~~ And breathe me
They could take it to the bedroom having finally been granted permission to partake in the uninterrupted intimacy free people take for granted. But it’s the sofa with its nostalgic refrain of restricted movement, of time being of the essence, that pulls them, conjuring the past into the present.
Toby’s on his back, legs around Chris’ hips, hands feeling the sweaty column of Chris’ neck. Chris has himself half propped with his hands on the sofa, nestled under Toby’s shoulders. He uses his legs to push forward, against Toby, into him, slow and steady. No blinking distraction, sweat drips from Chris’ brow and lands on Toby’s lips (which he licks, prompting Chris to groan and twist his hips slightly, pushing Toby to gasp and arch his neck).
As the end rushes into sight Chris goes to nuzzle Toby’s neck but Toby has other ideas, stealing a kiss neither refuses to give up.
Fucking and fighting. Now they can talk.
'Cause there's a side to you ~~ That I never knew, never knew ~~ All the things you'd say ~~
They were never true, never true ~~ And the games you play ~~ You would always win, always win ~~ But I set fire to the rain ~~ Watched it pour as I touched your face ~~ Well, it burned while I cried ~~ 'Cause I heard it screaming out your name, your name
Set Fire To The Rain
“I would have introduced you to them.”
Chris says nothing at first. He knows Toby would have done it, would have crossed that invisible line they used to toe gently but never breach. He knows he could have dismantled Toby’s legitimate defenses a long time ago and forced a meeting with his kids. He knows the person he could have been for them and the one that would have forever lurked beneath the surface. He knows the selfishness of it all, the conscience set aside, the deep rooted desire to belong to something good.
He thinks of the quote, “I wouldn’t want to be part of any club that would have me,” and understands the sentiment but yearns for the familiarity anyway. He stayed away for his own good, but also—and this is the telling point because only his ex wives, namely Bonnie, came close—for Toby’s best interest.
He stares into Toby’s eyes, sees exhaustion, tired resignation and love. Chris sighs and cups his left hand around the back of Toby’s neck. “Best you didn’t,” he pretends to agree.
Toby stares, eyes searching. He shrugs. “Given everything, they don’t need another person to become attached to.”
Chris hears the uncertainty as if Toby is trying to convince them both there was a happy ending for everything that got screwed up by the outbreak. It’s naïve posturing and it drives Chris nuts, yet it’s still one of the things he loves most about the man across from him.
“Could you picture me as a regular daddy dearest?” Chris placates him and Toby’s pause, his dropped gaze, his crooked smile say everything—No.
“We don’t have to think about that,” Chris continues. “Not right now.” He smiles.
Toby meets his gaze once more and shifts closer. A contemplative glimmer flashes in his eyes. “Still, I would have introduced you to them.”
The ‘if you’d just shown up at the front door instead of hiding in your car’ goes unsaid but heard loudly. In the matter of a few seconds Toby’s stubbornness (which served him well and for ill in Oz) settles into place. Once he’s made up his mind there’s no turning back.
“I wanted to,” Toby adds insistently.
“Yeah,” Chris murmurs which Toby obviously interprets as agreeing by the way he relaxes beneath Chris’ touch.
Maybe Chris could have made a go of it to be with Toby. Maybe he would have come to resent the kids for having a true piece of Toby’s heart. Sharing’s never been Chris’ strong suit. Maybe he could have become a better man.
Maybe there’s no such thing.
And I come to find a refuge in the ~~ Easy silence that you make for me ~~ It's okay when there's nothing more to say to me ~~ And the peaceful quiet you create for me ~~ And the way you keep the world at bay for me ~~ The way you keep the world at bay
~ Dixie Chicks,
Normalcy, as they all once knew it, is a pipedream.
Routine is what they make of it.
Between meals Chris fills Toby in on the lay of the land, the few folks in the neighbourhood who can be trusted (for food and goods, with labour traded to earn a living), as well as the various factions forming, each trying to claim a section of the cordoned off city for their own. There are a handful of close calls when nearly invisible turf lines are crossed, a few shoving matches and stoic posturing complete with bloodletting and huffed breaths of relief when they get through by the skin of their teeth.
He shows Toby what a day in the life consists of and the shared smiles, bookended by weighted silence, say that in a bizarre way Oz prepared them for this. The cage they’re in now is larger but the game hasn’t changed all that much.
They fight (no surprise), make up (as usual and directly proportional to the emotional intensity of the argument) all while making some semblance of a life. Toby tells him about the kids, Angus, the parts of his life Chris peeked in on but never infiltrated. Chris likes the stories and the way they make Toby’s face light up. Still, deep down resentment builds at having to share space with those memories, the people Toby will never let go, no matter what.
Some days Chris heads out on his own (trading labour for good), relishing the time to clear his mind. He doesn’t know what Toby gets up to when they’re apart, figures he spends times with the Muscovites, acting as a pseudo teacher to a few of the kids (and some adults) who want to keep up their studies.
There’s a nervousness Chris can’t articulate over the peace he feels when he’s away from Toby. He should hate it, but he doesn’t. He prefers not to think on what it means, but as the violence in the city spreads and the streets grow emptier during the days and more ominous at night, as shouts and screams echo off corners, as explosions thunder in the distance, as laughter becomes more muted and is saved for the safety of the indoors and plans to get the fuck out become more urgent, Chris does think about running for it with no one at his side to concern himself with, to slow him down, to challenge his methods and his conscience.
But then he sits with Toby on the rooftop long past midnight and they stare at the starry sky and the city line and he rubs the back of Toby’s neck while Toby massages his thigh and Chris knows, without a doubt, there’s no one else he’d rather be with. For all the shit in the world there’s only ever really been one truly good thing.
And he’s got it.
And if there's nothing left to die for ~~ And all this our beauty is just decay ~~ And if there's nothing left to die for ~~ Then you and me ~~ Let's go out going all the way
~ Matthew Good Band,
Going All The Way
The city is burning.
Breaking points are rarely as arbitrary as people think. No turning back and inevitability are variables with a precise outcome. Everyone sees it coming they just don’t talk about it until ‘Houston, we have a problem.’
Rumour has it (and at this point in the game gossip carries more cred than purported facts) the government, the outside world, believes the best way to avoid unforgivably intense scrutiny and condemnation over the undemocratic and knee jerk quarantine is to hope everyone on the inside kills each other off. Survivors mean questions. A catastrophe can be contained, rewritten and reimagined as something other than everyone’s worst nightmare. It can be presented as making the best of a bad situation, a government putting the healthy majority of its citizens and the world first while risking an acceptable number of casualties.
No one knows what is happening out there, just as surely no one knows what’s unfolding in here. It’s a classic ruse, a ‘what’s behind door number two’ deal.
Some accept death. The government sanctioned news that bristles across limited airwaves tells stories of courageous citizens turning themselves over to medical detainment facilities and sacrificing themselves for research into whatever this contagion is, all for the promise of a better future.
Strangers smile grimly into the camera for their close up.
This is how the world ends.
Do not go gentle into that good night—
Sit and die or stand up and live, breakout, fight to see another day. It’s time to get off this hamster wheel.
It’s Toby who makes the suggestion that they should leave, find a way out of the city, find the rumoured underground of ghosts flitting between two worlds. He looks tired but determined. He stares at Chris with unblinking eyes daring him to agree or disagree. Chris sits back in the chair and folds his arms across his chest. He weighs the options:
1/ Get out the gun he has hidden in the floorboard beneath the bed and shoot Toby then himself.
2/ Get out the gun, shoot Toby and survive this nightmare by ensuring a stone-cold heart and no albatross of love around his neck to hang him.
3/ Stop pretending Toby doesn’t know about the gun, the one he’s probably moved by now so he can take it with him when they go.
4/ A life without Toby—in love or war.
Chris rubs the back of his neck and gives Toby a half smile. “Pack light. Only take what you can carry, what you need.”
Toby suggestively raises an eyebrow, the only break in his otherwise serious expression.
Chris smirks and shifts forward, resting his arms on the table. “Yeah, that too. We go out there, we ain’t coming back.”
No time or presence ~~Of mind to wonder why ~~ No time for questions of ~~Why I wonder why ~~ Something's wrong...again ~~ The noise shakes the ground ~~ There's a rage in the crowd ~~ And I'm a face n the crowd ~~ What's your name? ~~ You're sinkin' in the sand ~~
Standing next to me ~~ A river running through your pants ~~ Afraid to trust me when my hands
are helping you
~ I Mother Earth,
Used To Be Alright
It’s slow going at first as they stay cautious and aware, nervous to screw things up before they really get started. They see a few stragglers here and there with the same idea to risk making a run for it. But it’s all about traveling first.
A handful of people (including the Muscovites) heading in the same direction becomes a mini posse with no really discernable edges. They’re a wayward gang begat of similar intentions and needs, seeking solace in the company their rag-tag formation provides. For a split second, a caught breath, it all seems doable.
As they walk Chris ventures his hand around Toby’s wrist and they curl their fingers into each other’s grasp.
I think it turned ten o'clock but I don't really know ~~And I can't remember caring for an hour or so ~~ Started crying and I couldn't stop myself ~~ I started running but there's nowhere to run to ~~ I sat down on the street took a look at myself ~~ Said where you going man you know the world is headed for hell ~~ Say your goodbyes if you've got someone you can say goodbye to
~ Matchbox 20,
How Far We’ve Come
Despite the united front a group growing in numbers provides, in the end everyone’s out for themselves. Survival means cutting your losses. When the going gets tough, crossing over into the no man’s land (and battling power hungry factions) Chris has to snatch through Toby’s ‘save the world’ bullshit and take them both out of the line of fire.
“Let the others risk their necks,” he growls at Toby, yanking him to follow. “If you plan to see your kids again you can’t give a fuck about these assholes.”
It’s a cold, hard fact. The Muscovites get it. Toby doesn’t. He doesn’t have to. Chris has his sights set on the two of them getting out of here alive.
A white blank page and a swelling rage, rage ~~ You did not think when you sent me to the brink, the brink ~~ You desired my attention but denied my affections, my affections ~~ But tell me now, where was my fault ~~ In loving you with my whole heart
~ Mumford and Sons,
White Blank Page
They haven’t spoken in hours. There’s not much to say. The outside world is not the way they left it before the quarantine was enforced. It’s broken. Chris shudders to think they would have been safer on the inside. He’s known lawlessness before. He’s lived it. This burns a pit in his stomach.
Toby walks ten feet ahead of him on this otherwise lonely country road. Chris takes in the lumber of Toby’s gait, the hunched shoulders that angrily hiss his fears that his kids, who he thought he saved, may be dead. Chris wants to console him as much as yell at him to focus on what they know for sure, what they have that is tangible and set in stone. Each other. But he knows Toby will glare at such a proclamation, see it as a challenge to choose him over the kids (and on that count Toby wouldn’t be wrong—only thing worse than competing with the living is fighting for room alongside the dead).
Chris hangs back and tightens his grip on the gun. He watches Toby and glances to either side of the road for any threat of movement. Occasionally a corpse decorates the roadside. Toby will stop to mutter something while Chris hangs back in a lookout position in anticipation of surprise attacks. When Toby moves on Chris quickly assesses the body for any useful trinkets—a weapon or non-perishable food do quite nicely—to hold onto for later.
It’s a long road to nowhere and the more Toby pulls away the more Chris feels a suffocating longing.
He looks up at the sky and smiles at the stars, their lies and promises and the uselessness of being a speck in the grand scheme of things. Briefly lost in thought he walks into Toby who has come to an abrupt stop.
“What the fuck, Toby.”
Instinctively Chris raises the gun at his side and looks up the road at the abandoned or broken down Mazda half in the ditch about twenty feet ahead. If he can get it running…
“About time we got some wheels,” Chris jokes. They could make good distance to…wherever. At the very least they could use it as a shelter for the night.
As Chris pushes by Toby to investigate their new find Toby reaches out and holds him back. Looking back over his shoulder he raises a questioning eyebrow at Toby.
“Careful. It might be a trap,” Toby points out.
Chris is touched he still cares.
Smack, crack, bushwhacked ~~ Tie another one to the racks, baby
The attack comes out of nowhere.
Toby’s off pissing in the woods while Chris is rummaging through the trunk when the faint sound of footsteps on gravel causes him to freeze and turn (with only a half second to grimace that he’d given Toby the gun for protection).
The golf club knocked him to his knees and he bangs the back of his head on the bumper on the way down. Thank god the attacker’s aim is bad, catching Chris on the shoulder. Bad luck for the attacker and good luck for Chris is what keeps him from becoming roadkill. He barely has a chance to note anything of interest about the man (besides being young and of average height and a heavy build) when the asshole clocks him in the face.
Chris feels his nose break and the spray of blood that paints his face and shirt red. He launches himself head first into the guy’s stomach, grinning into the pain that sets his face on fire, and knocks them both to the ground. With leverage and gravity on his side, Chris lands a few quick punches meant to deliver maximum damage before the guy thrusts his hips up and sends Chris sprawling to his side. For a big guy he’s quicker than Chris anticipates, rising to his feet with impressive speed. He manages a powerful but awkward kick to Chris’ ribs.
Battered and bruised, Chris rolls onto his back, fighting to stand up. Sparing a glance at the deceptively serene blue sky, a shadow passes overhead and then the man is looming above, golf club in hand, smirking when Chris emits a low groan. Chris weakly swats him back as the man kneels down and roughly searches his pockets.
The gunshot startles them both.
The man falls like a dead weight across Chris.
He manages to push the body off and roll onto his hands and knees. Looking up he sees Toby with the gun still pointed his way, a look of pissed off anger etched in deep lines. Keeping a careful eye on Toby and a potentially itchy trigger finger, Chris struggles to his feet and kicks the downed man. “Stupid fucker,” he spits out, mad at himself for almost getting killed.
“You okay?” Toby’s voice is steady, clear, a little too clipped.
“Yeah.” Chris tenderly touches the bridge of his nose. “It’s broken. Nothing I can’t handle.”
Their eyes meet and Chris is reminded of the man he met a long time ago, his first day in Oz. The effect is comforting (fighter Toby is a good person to have on your side) and worrisome (fighter Toby can be too ruthless for his own good, he can be all battle and no reprieve). Toby slowly lowers the gun.
“Get the body off the road.” Toby looks in both directions. “Others will be out there.”
“So? This body’s a warning to them.”
“It’s a declaration of a war we don’t necessarily want to fight yet.”
“You want me to dig him a shallow grave? Maybe put a pretty wreathe on it?”
“I want to buy us some time. If we leave him like this…just fucking roll him to the side.”
Chris stands up straight, ignoring his aching body, and does not budge. Eventually Toby huffs his frustration, tucks the gun into his waistband and pulls the body over to the grass, leaving the man near the start of the tree line. He glares at the body then nods at Chris. “Get in.”
Chris looks at the car and back to Toby. “I need to clean myself up.” Petulant.
“Get in.” Bullheaded.
He walks away ~~ The sun goes down ~~ He takes the day but I'm grown ~~ And there's no way, in this blue shape ~~ My tears dry on their own
~ Amy Winehouse,
Tears Dry On Their Own
“I have to believe my kids are still out there, that I’ll see them again.”
Chris doesn’t reply.
Toby doesn’t push.
The statement hands in the air, immovable.
Everybody just wanna fall in love ~~ Everybody just wanna play the lead ~~ Watch out Cupid ~~Stuck me with a sickness ~~ Pull your little arrows out ~~And let me live my life
They find an abandoned farmhouse. After a thorough safety check they agree that although the owners apparently left under less than fortunate circumstances it’s safe enough for their purposes.
Chris heads to the bathroom to assess his wounds. He catches Toby’s eyes upon him in the mirror, standing in the doorway and resting his shoulder against the frame, taking in Chris’ bared and bruised chest.
“It looks worse than it is,” Chris says.
Toby waits a moment than holds out a first aid kit he’s found. Their fingers touch as Chris takes it—it’s the first touch between them in days and if Chris didn’t think Toby would throw a fit he’d grab him and fuck him right there, to remind Toby that they are still in this together no matter how stacked the odds are against them.
Chris takes the kit and turns back to the mirror. Eyeing his reset nose (that still needs to be bandaged) he jokes, “Looks like you’re stuck with this ugly mug for awhile.”
Toby doesn’t crack a smile. “I’ll take first watch. Get some rest,” he says and walks away.
But I don't wanna take something ~~ That never was mine ~~ Or fill in blank spaces ~~ With more dotted lines ~~ One thing I can promise ~~ When all the smoke clears ~~ Just look in this window ~~ You'll find me here
~ Sweet Talk Radio,
Chris can’t say how long he’s slept only that it’s dark when he wakes up. Alone in the bedroom with no sign of Toby he groggily makes his way down the hall to the bathroom to take a leak and double check his injuries which are now a lovely shade of purple and blue. He looks like he’s seen better days.
Rubbing sleep from his eyes his top priority becomes finding Toby. They need to hash out the strained tension bubbling between them or it will only get worse and Chris has seen firsthand the trouble that may bring. With the state of things being what they are someone having your back is a necessity. Besides, he is not here making the decision he’s made because Toby is some expendable one night stand.
Briefly lost in thought he’s startled to be thrown backwards up against the wall. Before he can retaliate, Toby is pressed up against him, claiming his lips in a brutal kiss. With days of nothing between them than this rages desire in Chris so strong that all thought and reason take a backseat to instinct.
They barely make it to the bedroom, let alone the bed. Chris hardly has time to catch his breath with Toby’s full assault on all his senses, the only hesitation coming when Toby accidentally nudges Chris’ broken nose, eliciting a sharp hiss. Chris doesn’t let him pull away too far before pulling him back and staking another deep, long kiss. Then it’s all Toby—he’s rough and demanding, plying Chris’ skin with searching fingers digging indentations, controlling as much of their movement as he can.
He has Chris on his back in no time and though Chris could flip the tables and remind Toby that power is a precarious thing, he’s intoxicated by the intensity of Toby’s onslaught and the implications behind it. He’s as undone by the addiction of the need that wreaks havoc when time and distance play a cruel hand. Toby’s demons are not the same ones that haunt Chris but they’re every bit as ruthless and when rock bottom rushes up, exorcising them is about all or nothing.
Toby has that look in his eyes that says now, take, give, please—I need this, we need this—and Chris understands more than he (usually) chooses to admit and is more than willing to comply because no one gets that piece of him without earning it. And no one’s earned it until…
Hard wood against his back be damned, Chris pushes down as Toby thrusts forward and they begin a relentless movement. Chris grapples at Toby’s torso, his hips, up to his neck before settling with one hand gripping Toby’s shoulders and the other curved around his back.
Of all the times and ways they’ve fucked, Toby almost out of control, desperately foraging to assert himself full throttle, is something that awes and excites Chris. It’s a rare occasion when Toby is free of all the over thinking and second guesses. Chris willingly accepts the brunt of the release.
And in the breathless comedown, when Toby allows himself to take stock of what he dished out and rests his head on Chris’ chest; when Chris can fold Toby in his arms and kiss his sweat soaked hair, the pounding in their chests finds the beat.
Theirs is a matching tempo.
If you want it ~~ Come and get it ~~ Crying out loud ~~ The love that I was ~~ Giving you was ~~ Never in doubt ~~ Let go your heart ~~ Let go your head ~~ And feel it now
~ David Gray,
“I need to know you’re not going anywhere,” Toby says quietly against Chris’ skin.
It’s far from an innocent comment. Expectations and implications hang heavy on every syllable, pressing them into the air with the click of a jigsaw puzzle. Toby’s honesty is emphatic enough but Chris has learned to read between the lines all the same. There’s a question in those words, not so much for Chris but one Toby’s been struggling with.
There’s an admission of guilt (for pulling away) and Chris wouldn’t mind picking up on that thread at a later time, unraveling it for some (twisted) sexual purposes, but for now he wants little more than to zone in on channeling the heat between their bodies, feeling the curve of Toby against him.
Chris smiles into the darkness.
My life ~~ You electrify my life ~~ Let's conspire to ignite ~~ All the souls that would die just to feel alive ~~But I'll never let you go ~~ If you promised not to fade away ~~ Never fade away ~~Our hopes and expectations ~~ Black holes and revelations ~~ Hold you in my arms ~~ I just wanted to hold ~~ You in my arms
They’re on the road to—somewhere, nowhere, anywhere that will have him.
Chris looks at the gas gage and figures they’ll need to stop in another half hour at the latest. Toby fiddles with the radio, skipping past the static, hovering briefly when a voice comes through before chucking it in the ‘religious fanatic’ or ‘burn the world to the ground anarchist’ bins. They’re searching for one clear voice not puppet mastered by God, just a hint of some sanity they can speed toward like a light at the end of the tunnel.
Soon Toby gives up. Turning the volume down low (never off, you never know when hope may speak up) he slumps in the passenger seat. Chris rests one arm on the door’s ledge and loosely steers with the other. They’ve talked about the probabilities of running into survivors and sustainable communities and whether it is worth the risk integrating with. For every possible safe haven (at the very least a place to blend in and bide their time to make a go of it) there could be a Schillinger led ‘hell on earth’ contingent looking to cause trouble.
They can to go their own way. But for now long?
At some point paths will be crossed and Chris is not the same attitude challenged yet naïve seventeen year old who walked into Lardner a cocky teenager and came out a cynical, wizened, tainted man. He’s more learned than the person who strolled into Oz with a mission and survivalist mentality; the one who came out giving a shit about someone else.
As the bottom line zooms toward them Chris can put a muzzle on the cynicism he knows too well. He’s got Toby with him. Oz was the dress rehearsal they squeaked by and the lessons stuck. Alone on the road or mixed in with those reduced to point A, he and Toby have each other, as it was always meant to be.
Toby stretches out. Chris spies a peak of stomach below the hemline of Toby’s shirt and the stretch of his jeans across his crotch. He stares hard at the road, his mind reeling for a place to engage in a quick fuck which would do them both good. Unexpectedly he feels Toby’s hand around the back of his neck, stroking gently. Chris rolls his head back and grins. Returning it, Toby drops his hand, dragging it along Chris’ shoulder and forearm, with a quick squeeze to his thigh (which has Chris twitch involuntarily), then he’s back to fiddling with the radio.
Chris bites back a smirk. He tried telling this to Toby years ago in Oz but only now do the words resonate with prophetic authenticity.