I never used to be a morning person.
I suppose it might have been a result of the alcohol; starting the day with your arms wrapped around the toilet bowl does tend to put an unpleasant slant on things. But here in Oz, I've gained a new appreciation for mornings. The last half-hour or so before count, when the monsters that haunt the night are long gone and the ones that come out in the day are still locked in their pods, it's the closest I've come to feeling some sort of peace. Now, since Chris, I've learned to be grateful for the mornings even more. Waking up with him curled around me, literally and figuratively watching my back – sometimes the peace actually threatens to swell into happiness. Almost.
I admit, we've been getting careless. Twice I've spent the whole night in his bunk, rolling out of it with barely a minute to spare, but so far we haven't been caught. Or I should say, nobody's bothered to call us on it; it's hard to believe they don't notice. This morning it's Murphy, which is almost a gift. As long as there isn't any blood, he leaves us alone.
And there isn't. There hasn't been any blood since the whole lockdown started, and considering the fact that we're locked in here together, with no place to go but out of our minds, I want to believe that we're doing all right.
To be honest, I want to believe a hell of a lot more than that.
I open my eyes, turn my head slightly. "Hey. What's the matter?"
He nuzzles the back of my neck with his nose. "I'm awake," he says, and to him, it's as simple as that.
"And, what? That means I have to wake up too?"
"You going all 'morning-after' on me, Toby? It's a little late." I can't see his face, but I'm sure he's grinning.
I roll to my back and he's right there, like he always is -- straddling me, kissing me, his tongue sweeping my mouth, making me want things I can't even put into words. He's the easiest thing in the world to be addicted to – he wants everything I have, and he gets it. Lately I've wondered if he's always been like that, or if it's only with me.
My curiosity is new – and my jealousy, too, born out of six days of exposing myself in every possible way. I ache with it sometimes, knowing he's got secrets he will never tell, things that make him the man that he is. I don't get to see all of it; nobody does. I know that. I see the game face, the role that he plays to survive here in Oz. Now and then, if I'm watching really close, I'll be given a glimpse of whatever it is that burns like hot coals underneath, and I know I should be grateful for that. It means something, doesn't it, that he shows it to me? But loving him makes me want more.
What was he like, before Oz? Before me? If I asked his three wives, "Who was he, really? What made you fall in love with this man?" -- what would they say?
Christ, what would I say, if someone asked me?
"Is this how you woke up your wives?" I cringe after it comes out, but he doesn't seem to mind.
"Nope. Angie, she slept like a bear," he recalls. "And let me tell you, Toby, you don't want to be screwing with that beast, not until it's good and ready."
I struggle to hold back a smile. "I see."
"And Kitty. . ." He gives me his pitiful look, the one I once told him was cute. It still is. "She would smack me for tryin'. Said it fucked up her biorhythms."
"Biorhythms, right." I pull him down to me. Chris in humble mode gets my body humming. "Hmm, should I be worried about mine?"
"Nah," he says with a smirk. "I'm pretty sure she was just a lazy bitch."
I reach my hands around his waist, stroking the skin of his back. "What about Bonnie?"
"Ahh. . . now, Bonnie. . ."
He closes his eyes, smiling at some memory I'll never share, and there's my jealousy again – nagging at me, chiseling away at this cautious contentment I've managed to create for myself. I can't help it. I know how crazy it is, considering that I'm the one locked in here with him -- then again, maybe that's why I feel so insecure. He wanted to be there with them. With me, he's got no choice.
"Bonnie needed a little convincing," he says with a slow grin. "I'd coax her into it, you know, nice and slow..." He opens his eyes again, shrugging. "She'd come around."
"Uh-huh. And how would you do that, exactly? Convince her, I mean." I try to sound casual, but as usual, he sees right through me. He laughs, pushing me over and touching his tongue to the back of my neck, and within seconds, I'm moaning his name. He moves down my back, driving his warm, wet tongue down my spine, then comes back up to rest his full weight on me, pressing me into the mattress.
"Toby. . ." He breathes in my ear, and a shiver runs through my shoulders. "To-bee. . ."
"Fuck! Yeah, that's a good start," I choke out.
"Toby, Toby, Toby..." He's chanting now, crooning it into my ear, his body moving in tight little circles against me. "So sweet," he breathes, and the sound of his voice makes me so hard it hurts. "You have any idea how sexy you are? Christ, I get hard just looking at you."
"Chris--" I arch my back, grinding my ass against him.
Without warning, he stops. Before I can moan in protest, he's laughing in my ear.
"Happy?" he asks, his voice low, and dirty. "See how easy it is? Now, what else did you want to know?"
I can think of a dozen things I could say. But for some reason, what comes out is this: "Why are you here?"
"I assume you don't mean, why am I here in Oz."
"Very perceptive of you, Keller."
He looks at me pointedly, like he's waiting for me to figure this out. Like it's something I should already have known. Why do I always feel like I'm letting him down? After a long moment of silence, he asks, "You ever go to confession?"
I shake my head no. "I'm not Catholic, remember? Besides, Sister Pete says I wouldn't know what to do without my guilt. Unburdening it would defeat my whole purpose in life." I hadn't laughed when she said it, but I do now.
"Well, when you're a kid, and you still believe all that shit they feed you, they put this idea of confession into your brain. Just list all your sins and your soul gets washed clean. Stand up and say, 'Hey, this is what I did, and here's how I did it' -- 'cause you know they want all of the details, I think they get off on hearing 'em all –- and then, 'Yeah, God, oh gee, man, I sure wish I hadn't done that.' And then somehow, God loves you again. Hallelujah. Amen. It's a fucking miracle."
He pauses for such a long time, I start to wonder if that's all there is to the story.
"But there's one thing they forget to tell you, Toby. See, forgiveness has nothing to do with being sorry." He rolls to his side and I do the same, so we're facing each other. "I hurt her, Toby," he says, softer now. "Bonnie. I hurt her bad. And she forgave me, over and over again. But sorry?" He shakes his head. "I've never been sorry for one fucking thing that I've done. Sorry I got caught, yeah -– sorry I screwed up and ended up in this place." He pauses again, and his dark gaze holds me still. "But, sorry I hurt someone? Sorry I did something wrong?" He looks right into my eyes and says, "Not until you." Softly, he repeats, "You understand, Toby? Not until you."
I close my eyes and move toward him, and somehow we're rocking together. The rhythm resounds in my brain, lifting my thoughts and carrying them along as we move. I like that. I like that. I love that. I love you. I love you. . .
He closes his eyes, and I wonder if he hears it, too.
"Don't get up yet," he says with a yawn. "I like havin' you here."
I settle back down, facing him. "Did you say that to Bonnie, too?"
"Nah. She'd never've fell for it." His eyes meet mine, and he laughs aloud. "With you, though, it's true, Toby."
Maybe for now, that's all I need to know.