He wasn’t close enough to hear what was being said but he recognized the body language. So why was it a surprise when Chris swooped down to kiss Ronnie? Why did his stomach knot up, hurt and jealousy mixing, as he watched Chris devour Ronnie? That dazed look in Ronnie’s eyes as Chris came up for air – he knew that feeling, knew he had worn that same stunned and dazzled expression. A couple of times he had even seen it in Chris’ eyes, like that very last good time when he had kissed Chris’ wound and his mouth, needing to reaffirm that connection between them. Needing to feel something that wasn’t desperation and fear.
How had they lost that? How had it come to this, him standing there and watching Chris stake a claim on Ronnie?
Oh, yes, something about him accusing Chris of having his son murdered and trying to kill him.
Funny how that slipped his mind sometimes.
Toby sighed and set down the weights he was trying out, bitterly glad when Mineo came over and told Chris and Ronnie to knock it off. Like that would really be a deterrent if Chris had his sights set on Ronnie. Knowing it was just payback, that Ronnie didn’t mean anything to Chris, should have made a difference.
Now, sure, they were using Ronnie to fuck with each other – but what if it turned into something else, for Chris? What if Chris looked at low maintenance Ronnie, no issues and no baggage between them, and thought that would be a bargain? That idea had flitted through his own mind, after all. It was so much easier with Ronnie, no underlying tensions, no scent of danger … no passion, no fire.
There was something to be said for that, though, just a warm body and nothing invested.
And that’s why he was eating Chris alive with his eyes, tracing every spectacular line of the most sinfully beautiful body he had ever seen, because empty sex was sooooo satisfying? God … He licked his lips, starving for that body. Aching to just be near him again, to breathe in the smell of him. That had been his, all of it. He had held Chris in his arms and kissed his mouth, touched his body – possessed his body, been consumed in turn; he had looked into those crystal blue eyes and knew their every mood, knew when Chris was horny, when he pleased with something … when he was hurting, when he was too tired to keep up the façade and just wanted to rest in his arms and let it all go.
That had all been his – and he had thrown it all away.
It should have given him some sense of satisfaction, the knowledge beyond doubt that while Ronnie would never have that. Ronnie might be allowed to touch the outer surface, what Chris let the whole wide world see; he would never have the rest of it, it would never even cross Ronnie’s mind there was anything more. That only made Toby’s belly knot up some more, aching for Chris, for the Chris only he had ever known.
He watched Ronnie get up from the bench and saunter off, like a kid with a new toy, hating the dumb prick more with every step. And wasn’t that a revelation?
Chris watched Ronnie for a moment, then turned to look right at Toby, his expression unreadable – almost, to anyone but Toby. He could hear the words, the challenge just as clearly as if Chris spoke them out loud, “Whatcha gonna do now?”
Say something, asshole. Those were the unspoken words in his own head. He couldn’t get them to his lips, though, he could only reply with a poker-faced look, and watch Chris shake his head and reach for a towel. He stood there, watching as Chris wiped himself down and tossed the towel away, as Chris shot him one more look, expression truly hard to make out this time, and finally turned to walk away.
“You two are beyond fucked up, you know that?” O’Reily said, and Toby glanced at him, wondering when the Irishman had gotten there, wondered how long he had stood there and watched the show.
“Yeah, and you’re Dear Abby?” he shot back, eyes locked on Chris, watching him get further and further away.
“I’ll tell you this – if that was Gloria,” O’Reily nodded at Chris, “you wouldn’t see me standing here acting like a dick.”
“It’s complicated,” Toby said, the idiot side of his brain still rationalizing and justifying.
“Yeah?” O’Reily shot him an ironic look as he retied a shoelace. “Falling in love in Oz is complicated? See, I never would have guessed that, Beecher.”
Chris was almost out of sight. “Excuse me,” Toby said, finally moving, going after Chris.
No, there was nothing easy about this. But wasn’t that what made it worth it?
He was so tired of this. Worn out with being so close to what he wanted. Worn out with wanting. All those months, trying so goddamn hard to find a way back to Toby, finally getting there and having it be so much more than he had even known to expect – and then losing it all over again, right back at square one. Worse than square one. He’d understood it before, known what he had done to earn Toby’s anger. This one… Chris sighed, shook his head, turned down one of the long corridors, just one hack around and he wasn’t paying attention to anything.
Yeah, sure, he’d set himself up for it. Conned himself into believing it could be true, it could be real that Toby loved him and trusted him. That Toby knew him. He should have known it couldn’t work, couldn’t last beyond those two weeks in lockdown. It had just been so good, just being allowed near Toby, sitting there in the pod sometimes and happy just to look at him.
Why hadn’t he known not to fall for that, let it lull him and make him drop his guard?
No worries that way with Ronnie. No anything with Ronnie; no getting lost in Ronnie’s eyes, no believing Ronnie knew him like no one else ever could; no opening himself up to Ronnie and wanting Ronnie to have it all.
Better that way, though, it had to be. No more reaching for the brass ring. That wasn’t meant for him, never had been.
He didn’t stop, didn’t turn to look at him, just kept walking. “What?”
A hand touched his arm, fingers curling around his bicep. “Chris, I…” Faltering words, trailing off in one of those huffs, the frustrated and baffled kind.
“What?” he snapped back, no patience for this, for how his body reacted to that touch, to his nearness.
“I want to say something. I…”
“Fucking say it,” Chris growled, wanting to get away.
“If you would stop for a goddamn minute I would,” Toby snapped right back.
Chris halted, turning to look at him, seeing the desperate light in those blue eyes. A light that made every nerve in Chris’ body sizzle, not even about to guess what it heralded. There was never any knowing that, not with Toby. One time it might mean the best sex Chris had ever experienced. Another time it might mean a shank between his ribs. “So?” He looked at the hand still resting against his arm, those practical fingers idly tracing the outlines of his tattoo, that casual touch almost burning.
“Not here,” Toby said, tugging at him.
Chris wasn’t about to budge. “Beecher, what the fuck do you--”
He didn’t get the chance to finish. He was dragged inside a storage closet, the hack oblivious to it all. He was pushed up against the closed door before he could even open his mouth again. He was held there, pinned there, as Toby moved in and kissed him, kissed his face, kissed his jaw, kissed his mouth, kissed him long and slow and deep. He still couldn’t move as Toby’s hands shifted their grip, one cradling the back of his head, the other cupped around the nape of his neck, the kiss going on and on, Toby moving off for a split second and coming back for more. Toby kissing him soft, kissing him tender, taking up, making it hungry.
“Does,” Toby panted, moving off at last to suck in air, to burrow his face against Chris’ neck, “does Ronnie taste like that?”
No, nobody did, never. He rubbed his face against Toby’s hair. He threaded his fingers through it and tugged, bringing Toby back to his mouth. “Why are you doing this?” he murmured against those lips, those sweet, hot lips he ached for every night, hearing the pain and the doubt in his own voice.
Toby drew back to look at him, both hands framing his face, that serious, earnest look on his face. “Because I have to.”
“You have to fuck me up?”
Toby smiled, sad, hurting. “No. I have to love you. Chris,” he ran a hand over Chris’ head, “I’m dead inside without you. So are you.” He came in for another kiss, the softest of all.
And dead was safe, but… But Chris didn’t want safe, he didn’t want easy.
“Yes,” he whispered back, kissing Toby’s mouth, feeling the fire licking at him, scorching them both. But if this was Hell he never wanted to see Heaven.