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Stabler/ Beecher - Crossover with Law & Order: SVU. Set post-season six Oz, and season six-ish SVU.
Looking For Them
Insanity comes in degrees. His therapist told him that. The department insisted he attend counselling sessions after he shot a corrupt police officer. Self defence, of course, but guilt is an absolute, you either are or you aren't, and while a jury might not have agreed his conscience knew how to judge him.
Losing your mind is a more surreptitious process. Today's instability is tomorrow's psychosis. You don't get warning signs - tremors before the quake, falling pebbles preceding the avalanche - you just find yourself walking down the street naked on a cold day in January while the neighbour's children giggle and their father calls the police. He never did find out what happened to Mr McKenzie from number twelve but the kids talked about the incident for years afterward.
He supposes getting a blow job from a complete stranger is not that different. Especially if you're a married, heterosexual cop, albeit recently separated.
He's not really a stranger. His name is Toby and it's his apartment. Toby has Elliot pinned against the wall in his living room, his hands either side of Elliot's thighs as he sucks Elliot in, drags his tongue along the length of the shaft as he pulls out. Repeats the process slavishly.
Elliot's almost there, almost ready to blow. He reaches for Toby's head, runs his fingers through his hair until he reaches the top of his neck, grips him hard, pressing his fingers against the base of Toby's skull. Toby doesn't flinch.
When he comes, Toby sucks him dry.
When he comes, he wonders how the hell he got here.
It's a month ago, maybe two months ago. Only two weeks since Kathy and the kids moved out, left him to enjoy the comfort of their four-bedroom house in Queens on his own.
He's standing on the sidewalk outside Maloney's contemplating calling a cab or walking back to the Station House and sleeping off his intoxication in the crib. His empty home lacks appeal but so does waking up in the Station House with a hang over.
Anything is better than standing still so he walks, shoves his hands inside his pockets, curled into fists to stave off the chill. He takes his mind off the cold by reciting verses of "The Hurricane," sings the words under his breath in a monotone so it sounds like a prayer. He's had too much to drink and he finds himself repeating lines and inserting the refrain in the wrong places. Eventually he gives up, refuses to butcher Dylan any further.
He's not so drunk he doesn't hear the sound of footsteps behind him. He glances over his shoulder, notices a man behind him. Feeling cautious, he crosses the street. The man looks up, seeming interested. He looks away when he sees Elliot watching him.
A healthy paranoia makes him turn the corner, take a side street. He listens for the sound of footsteps following him. The brick buildings produce an echo that reverberates down the street, making the footsteps seems closer than they are. He becomes acutely aware of his firearm tucked into his side holster.
He takes another side turn and presses up against the side of the corner building, still listening for footsteps. They sound close. He takes his gun from its holster, raises it, leans back against the building so he doesn't cast a shadow.
The footsteps stop. The man looks around, sees Elliot a split second before Elliot has him pinned against the wall, his hand at his throat and gun pointed at his chin.
"You following me, asshole?"
He looks at Elliot, eyes wide with shock. And then he starts to laugh.
Elliot smells alcohol. "Fuck," he says. Some crazy who's had too much to drink and too little to do.
Elliot lets go, gives him some room to breath. The laughter dissipates and he doubles over, coughing and catching his breath. "You know," he says, straightening up. "You look just like him."
Elliot frowns. "Who?"
The crazy starts laughing again. Elliot shakes his head. "Get lost," he says. "And quit following me."
The man slinks off into the night, his laughter sounding like hiccoughs as her gets further away. Elliot watches him until he disappears around the corner at the end of the road, pulls his cell from his pocket and calls a cab.
In the morning Olivia tells him he "looks like hell" before he's even out of his coat.
"Is everything okay?" she asks.
"Yeah, sure," he says. He hangs his coat, puts his jacket on the back of his chair.
Fin is more direct. "You been drinking?"
Elliot pours himself coffee. Double shot, two sugars. "What makes you say that?"
"Your eyes are red." Fin is sitting on his desk obscuring Munch from Elliot's view. Munch leans to the side to get a better look at Elliot. He raises his eyebrows but doesn't comment. "And Jackson says you've been in every night this week."
Jackson is the bartender at Maloney's. He wasn't aware that Fin and Jackson were on friendly terms. Not that it matters. Sprung is sprung.
"I eat dinner there," he says.
Olivia is incredulous. "Every night?"
"Man's gotta eat." His tone is more defensive than he intended. He sits at his desk and begins filing through the night reports.
Fin doesn't look satisfied with the answer but they have a case to work on and Munch is demanding his attention. He leaves Elliot to his work.
Olivia sits in the chair on the opposite side of the desk. She leans forward, closes the space between them, and lowers her voice. "Tell me you're not drinking," she says.
He looks up, sees her genuinely concerned expression and knows he's about to lie. "Everything is fine."
A couple of weeks later and he sees the crazy buying a newspaper across the street from the Station House. He's cleaned up, cut his beard short, dressed in casual, neat attire, hair cut to an equal length just below the ears.
Same crazy, different image. He sees Elliot watching and walks away leaving Elliot to wonder if he saw him at all.
Elliot gives up Maloney's. He gets touchy when his colleagues interfere in his personal life but they've seen alcoholism in cops and parental figures alike and are understandably concerned when they see the early warning signs. When he tells them he can stop anytime he wants to believe it.
He finds a diner a few blocks over. The decor is dark, winter browns and maroons, unobtrusive tones that impact softly on tired eyes. Colour therapy for the world weary.
Here no one recognises him. Not a cop, just a guy killing time at the end of the day.
Some times people talk to him: a woman with plum lipstick asks him for change for the pay phone. She has a brilliant smile, which she lavishes on him, leans into his personal space and flirtatiously tells him she'll "pay him back." He tells her it's not necessary and he doesn't return her smile. She takes the hint and leaves him alone.
A man in a suit and tie asks him for the time and Elliot points to the clock above the counter. A drunk sits next to him and tells him a story about his son who lives in the Philippines and has children who've never met their grandfather. Elliot listens and wonders how easy it is to lose touch with your children. It's been weeks since he spoke to Maureen.
He goes home at the same time every night. When he gets there the house looks dark and empty. Brochures are stuffed roughly into the mail slot and there are weeds in the flowerbeds.
He un-stuffs the slot and opens the door. There are letters on the floor from today, yesterday and probably the day before. It's mostly bills so he lets them sit there until he finds space in his schedule to sit down with a chequebook. Every now and then a letter arrives for "K. Stabler" and he methodically re-addresses it and sends it on. He wonders how long she will keep his name.
The passage of time drags him forward, an unwilling participant in his own parade. On the job, a rape victim refuses to press charges and Olivia can't let it go. She steps dangerously close to harassment and he plays the hypocrite who tells her not to get emotionally involved.
They catch a serial rapist after weeks of frustration and sleepless nights. A local news programme shows Munch and Fin shoving the suspect into a car and pushing a camera out of the way. With the sound turned up, Fin can be heard saying, "get the fuck out of my face." They laugh about it in the squad room and Fins gets a lecture on how to behave for television cameras from the Captain.
After working ten days straight, Elliot gets a four-day weekend and the twins comes to stay. He takes them to the movies, buys them popcorn, soda and ice cream and Dickie throws up in the car on the way home. Kathy warns him against over-compensating and he wonders how she knows where to draw the line. There is too much he failed to learn as a parent and his children are in need of compensation.
Nothing feels normal but everything seems to be falling into a pattern: wake up, get through the day, catch bad guys, eat, sleep, do it all again. It's just when he thinks he might get used to it, he sees the crazy again, standing outside the station house, hanging by the side of the road like he's waiting for some one. Elliot watches him from the entrance. He's wearing a knit hat pulled down over his ears and dark sunglasses like he doesn't want to be noticed. But it's definitely him, identifiable by the blonde beard and edgy movements.
Elliot goes outside and the crazy is walking away. Elliot watches him retreat, thinks about going after him but decides against it. He wonders whether it isn't just a coincidence after all. For all he knows the crazy lives around here.
He goes back to his desk to contemplate the reappearance of the crazy. Across from him Olivia is working on their statement to the DA's office for an upcoming. He waits until she gets up for a break and calls Kathy.
On the phone she is pleasant and kind but he cringes when he hears the inflexion in her tone, the way she says "how are you?" with too much emphasis on the "are".
He says he's "fine" and asks if she's spoken to Maureen lately.
"No," she says. "At least, not since she was here on Sunday. You should call her."
He says, "I will," and knows he doesn't sound convincing.
"You should call Kathleen, too. She has a new boyfriend."
He didn't know she had an old one. "Yeah, okay," he says.
"Elliot -" She pauses. "-is everything all right?"
He wants to tell her to come back. He wants to tell her he can change and he wants to believe it himself. "I - miss you," he says. "I miss all of you."
"I know," she says. She doesn't tell him she misses him too.
That night he drinks at Maloney's again. He leaves late, hails a cab from the sidewalk outside.
He's about to get in when he sees the crazy again - a little further up the street this time, walking like he's in a hurry. The cabs drives by and Elliot realises it isn't him at all. The hair isn't even the right colour.
His wakes to the sound of a phone ringing. It's still dark outside. A glance at the bedside clock tells him he's had less than three hours sleep. He answers and it's Cragen calling him in. A child's body has been found decomposing in the Hudson. He's not on call but Munch and Fin are already out on a case and not being on call is like not being a cop -
only happens when you retire.
He arrives at the scene feeling the stirrings of a hangover. He finds Olivia and Warner bent over a tiny greying body, the generator lights making it look ghostly. They look up when he arrives, acknowledge his presence with a nod.
"Took you long enough," Olivia says. She sounds irritable.
"Got here as fast as I could." He took a shower, washed the bar-smoke from his hair.
"I've been here an hour."
"You live closer." She does but they're not so far away from Queens that an hour explains the discrepancy.
She lets it drop anyway, nods toward two men in parkas and knit caps. "They from NYU. They were looking for river bugs and it seems there were plenty of them in the vicinity. Now they know why."
"They give you anything useful?"
"They can tell you how long she's been in the water from the size of the ecosystem she's harbouring," Warner says. And then she smiles. "But I can do that too so I wouldn't get excited."
Elliot looks at the body. The eyes are open and the whites have turned the same grey as the child's skin. There are purple patches around the neck, dark like ink stains. Only the yellow hair doesn't appear to have changed colour.
He feels bile in his throat and a sweat forming on his brow. He walks away quickly, finds a spot by the road hidden by trees and throws up as quietly as he can.
"Are you okay?" Olivia is right behind him.
He doesn't turn around, rests with his hands on his knees, lets his stomach settle.
"Shit," he says, eventually. He takes a handkerchief out of his pocket and wipes his face. "I have water in my car."
Olivia accompanies him to his car. He takes a water bottle from the passenger side. "You eat something last night that disagreed with you?" she says.
"Not enough sleep."
"This isn't the first time we've been called out in the middle of the night, Elliot."
He drinks slowly, small sips. His head swims but his legs feel steady. He hasn't thrown up at a crime scene ever. Olivia knows this. He looks back at the scene by the river. The ME's office is bagging the body and preparing it for transport. "Shouldn't you be talking to Warner?"
"We're finished here. I'm going back to the station house."
"Fine." He puts the water bottle back in the car, pulls his keys from his pocket. "I'll see you there."
She takes a breath, lets it out in a puff. "I think you should go home."
"Go home. You're not well."
Elliot walks around to the driver's side of the car. "Just a little nausea. I've over it now."
"Elliot!" She looks at him like she can't believe him.
He doesn't respond. He gets in the car, starts the engine and drives. At the station house, Olivia does her best to avoid him. He anticipates a lengthy argument, hopes she'll leave it until later so he can have a nap in the crib before hand. He doesn't like to argue when he's tired and volatile.
He makes it through the day without the expected confrontation and is surprised to find he's disappointed.
Once, Olivia's mother turned up drunk at the station house and proceeded to hurl abuse at her daughter. It was years ago, the early days of their partnership. At the time no one knew her mother's history. She was loud and angry and everyone went out of their way to calm her down. Cragen eventually showed up and hustled Olivia and her mother into his office, closing the door behind them. The rest of the squad stood around looking gobsmacked.
Cassidy said his father was a drunk. "Used to come home after dinner and fall asleep on the couch," he said. "Too drunk to talk let alone yell."
After that incident Olivia told him about her mother, about the particulars of her birth. She told him they dealt with rape victims who were same age as Olivia's mother when she was raped and she can't help wondering how long it will be before they're shouting at strangers, losing the battle to stay sane.
Next to this, he's just a man with marital problems. That should mean something.
It should mean that he doesn't need to be in Maloney's again, but he's there anyway, staring at a bourbon on the rocks, the swizzle stick daring him to walk away. He drinks it in one shot. Leaves before he can order another.
Outside, he sees the crazy again. It takes him a second to register the coincidence, and then suddenly he's chasing after him. Realising Elliot is in pursuit, the man breaks into a run, speeds around the corner, narrowly missing a jogger who careens into the wall trying to avoid him.
Elliot yells, "Stop! Police!" and a concerned citizen tries to get in the man's way. He doesn't stop him but he slows the man down long enough for Elliot to catch up with him. Elliot grabs him by the shoulder, throws him against the wall, pins him with his hand on his shoulder and his elbow just below the crazy's chin. He doesn't smell like alcohol this time and he's dressed neatly, would pass for normal if he weren't shadowing a cop.
"Dj vu, huh?" Elliot says. The man struggles. Elliot pushes his elbow against the crazy's adam's apple, choking him. "You want to tell me why you're still following me?"
"It's... not...what... you...think..." the man says, between breaths.
"I think you're a fucking psycho - have I got that right?"
"I'm... not... sure..."
Elliot shoves the crazy back against the wall and then let's go, taking a step back. "You're not sure."
He slumps down against the wall, coughing as he tries to regains his breath. When he's recovered, he says, "You got a twin?"
"You got a twin - someone who looks exactly like you?"
The man laughs quietly, looks at the ground and shakes his head. "I guess I'm crazy then."
Elliot doesn't know what to do next. Out of the blue, he says, "I'm a cop."
"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't arrest you for stalking me."
"I'm on parol." He meets Elliot's eyes.
"You're an ex-con." The crazy gives Elliot a look that seems to indicate 'yes.' Elliot frowns. "I put you in there?"
"No - I hit a girl while I was drunk driving. You look like someone I knew." He gets to his feet, rubs his neck where Elliot wedged his elbow. "At least I think you do. I'm crazy, remember?"
He starts to walk away. Elliot grabs him by the arm. "Where do you think you're going?"
The man looks at the spot where Elliot has hold of him. "You going to arrest me?"
Elliot thinks he should arrest him, should throw him into a cage at the station house, give him some time alone to think about the not so desirable repercussions of stalking a cop.
For an ex-con, time alone in a cage is probably an empty threat. Elliot lets him go. "Maybe next time," he says.
"Whatever," the man says, and he walks away.
When the Captain calls him into his office Elliot is not without expectations. He imagines the gamut of reprimands from dismissal to severe warning, wonders which one he prefers.
Somewhat unexpectedly, Cragen starts by asking Elliot how he is, his tone indicating it's not a casual enquiry.
"I'm holding up," Elliot answers.
Cragen asks after the children, asks if there are "arrangements" in place yet.
Elliot says they are "working on it," and leaves it at that. He hasn't thought about custody battles and court appearances.
Eventually Cragen tells him what he expected to hear all along. "Have you thought about taking a few weeks off."
"Is that a suggestion or an order?"
"It's not an order."
"I don't need time off."
"The incident the other night suggests otherwise."
Cragen has been speaking to Olivia. It doesn't bother him as much as he thought it would. It gives him a chance to state his case.
"It won't happen again. I guarantee."
Cragen looks thoughtful. He leans forward rests clasped hands on the desk. "I believe you. But I want you to know, next time it will be an order."
Munch joins him for a meal at the diner. He tells Elliot divorce gets easier after you're done it once or twice. In the minefield of things that can be said about a divorce this is Munch's way of not setting off an explosion.
He wants to ask Munch if he gets lonely but instead says. "Why'd you do it? Why three?"
Munch shrugs. "I'm a romantic."
Elliot laughs. "Think you'll do it again?
"No." Munch points at the unfinished fries on his plate. "You want those?"
"Sure," Elliot says and Munch pushes the plate toward him. "Why not?"
"Too old," Munch says. "Not for the marriage part -for the divorce part."
"I thought you said it gets easier?"
"That's bullshit." Munch waves at the waitress with the coffee pot. "I was just trying to make you feel better."
It almost worked. Munch leaves early, saying something about an early night and an even earlier start. Elliot finishes his coffee, considers dessert.
He is staring out the window when he sees the crazy again, standing on the other side of the road, leaning against the closed door of a halal small goods shop. He sees Elliot, turns and walks away, doesn't even try to hide.
Elliot jumps up, throws money on the table and is out the door, pulling his coat on as he runs. He sees the retreating figure of a man a block away. He follows after him, keeps far enough behind to let the shadows conceal him.
The man looks over his shoulder and Elliot hides in a doorway, hoping the light from the overhead neon will distract from any movement on the ground. The man doesn't stop walking.
Elliot follows him to an apartment block, wait for the him to go inside before showing his badge to a couple coming out and asking them to identify the man who has just passed them. They tell him he's from number 22. Elliot checks the name next to 22 on the buzzer: "Tobias Beecher."
He climbs two flights of stairs, knocks on the door of number 22. If Tobias Beecher is surprised to see him it doesn't show. He slumps against the doorframe, looks at Elliot with tired eyes, says, "Took you long enough."
Elliot nods at the interior. "You gonna let me in?"
Tobias Beecher pushes the door open with his foot, stands to the side as Elliot walks past him. The apartment is small - kitchen and living room in one with a bedroom and bathroom to the side. It doesn't look like a madman lives there - not neat but it's not chaotic either. There's a pile of National Geographic magazines in a heap on the floor; some of them are open, showing pictures of mountain ranges and ancient ruins. There are three empty cups on the coffee table in the middle of the room, plain white, the kind that costs a dollar at Walmart.
There's a mismatch of thrift shop furnishings and expensive antiques like the mahogany bookcase that reaches the ceiling. There are two leather single seat couches that look unused.
Tobias Beecher tells him to, "have a seat."
He stuffs his hands in his pockets, shrugs. "Well - here you are."
"People call you 'Toby?'"
"You're still following me."
"You followed me."
"That's different. I'm a cop."
"I'm the bag-boy for the Delvicchio Food Mart on Grey Street. What's your point?"
Elliot doesn't answer. He does a slow three-sixty turn, takes in the entire apartment. "You been here since you got out of jail?"
Elliot nods at the bookcase. "Where'd you get that?"
"I knocked off an antique store."
Elliot looks at the floor so Toby doesn't see him smile. There are two pieces of Leggo sticking out from underneath the couch. He decides not to ask about them.
Instead he asks, "Why are you following me?"
Toby takes a thick book from the bookshelf - The History of the Roman Empire, Volume 1 - pulls a photo from between the pages and hands it to Elliot.
It looks just like him - thinner in the face maybe, but the receding hair line, the dark eyes, the slight olive tone to the skin - it's all him.
"That could be me," Elliot says.
Toby shrugs. "Then maybe I'm not crazy after all."
Elliot hands back the photo. "You think I'm that guy?"
"That's guy's dead."
"So - what, you think I'm a ghost?"
"Maybe." He reaches out, touches Elliot's face, his fingers pressing the top of his cheekbone, just below the eye.
Elliot flinches. "What the fuck are you doing?"
"Prove it to me," he says.
"That you're not him."
Elliot stares in disbelief. He wonders if this was what he came for, whether he just wanted to know that the crazy is actually crazy.
He shakes his head, mutters, "Christ," under his breath, and starts to leave. Toby grabs him by the shoulder, pushes him back against the wall. Before Elliot can react, Toby kisses him, presses his mouth against Elliot's so hard his teeth graze Elliot's lower lip, drawing blood.
The shock of it makes Elliot's head swim. He thinks he should respond, should throw Toby across the room, pin his arm behind him and wrest him to the ground.
Before he can react, Toby pulls back. He meets Elliot's eyes, stares at him from a distance of less than two inches. They don't speak.
And then Toby drops to his knees, reaches for Elliot's belt buckle and starts unfastening his pants. Elliot's heart races. He breathes in, leans his shoulders against the wall for support. He knows what is about to happen, thinks he should stop it, thinks that it wasn't so long ago he would have beat the crap out of a guy that looked at him the way Toby just looked at him.
Toby pushes Elliot's pants, underwear included, to his knees. Elliot feels the cool air around his groin, finds he has (surprise, surprise) a growing erection. It doesn't feel like him, doesn't feel like anything he knows.
Toby touches him, fingers gliding along the shaft all the way to the tip. Elliot clenches his teeth, hisses as his breath tries to escape.
"Just relax," Toby says. His voice is low, calm and controlled.
And then he takes Elliot in his mouth. He is warm and soft and wet and his tongue tastes the length of him. Up and down and all the way up again.
Elliot closes his eyes.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result - something Kathy said before she left. Seventeen years of marriage didn't turn out the way she expected and she was always the mentally stable one in their relationship.
She tried something different. So did he.
He's still leaning against the wall, still breathing hard when Toby gets to his feet, wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and goes into the kitchen to pour himself a glass of water from the tap.
Elliot re-dresses, feels self conscious as he tucks his shirt back into his pants while Toby stares at him, drinking his water slowly.
When Elliot is dressed, Toby holds up the glass, points to it. "Want one?"
"Yeah - thanks."
Toby takes a glass from the rack by the side of the sink, fills it and hands it to Elliot. They stand there, each eyeing the other like a curiosity.
"You ever get a blow job from a guy before?" Toby says, eventually.
Despite the water Elliot's mouth goes dry. "No."
"Neither did I until I landed in prison." He shrugs, like it's no big deal. "Things change."
Elliot looks at the floor. There's a tile missing just below the sink, nothing but plaster and glue visible. He says, "Was that... what you were after?"
"Maybe." A pause. "I'm not looking for a stand-in if that's what you're worried about."
Monique Jeffries was put on desk duty after a psyche evaluation revealed she'd been intimate with a suspect, one she'd investigated no less, never cleared. Jeffries quit. Elliot wonders what he would do if he were placed on desk duty.
He thinks he should leave. "I'm gonna..." He nods in the direction of the entrance.
"Yeah," Toby says.
"I'm sorry," Elliot says.
Elliot thinks about it for a while. "I don't know."
On the way out he sees the photo of his likeness on the coffee table. The man in the picture smiles knowingly, like he's got a secret.
He doesn't date men so it takes him four weeks to come back to the apartment. Four weeks and a lack of Toby showing up in unexpected places.
When Toby doesn't answer the buzzer, Elliot returns to the station house and retrieves Toby's record. He finds details of his crime, learns what he told Elliot was true but that he omitted the part where he was accused of killing Chris Keller - the man in the photo. He was cleared of all charges, found to be acting in self-defence.
He learns his parol expired two weeks ago. Toby is free.
He thinks he sees him some times. Sees a man with a blonde beard walk past the station house, hears footsteps and sees a dark figure in the shadows, spots a hooded figure in the crowd at a crime scene. When he gets closer he finds it's never him.
He takes time off and the twins come to stay again. Dickie tells his sister the first sign of madness is hairs on the palms. When she holds her hands up for inspection he tells her the second sign is looking for them.
He shows up to work early, writes a report while Olivia makes a court appearance. He makes coffee and lets it go lukewarm before he drinks it. He has a second cup anyway. Olivia arrives eventually, sits in her usual spot opposite and asks how he is.
He answers the way he always does. "Fine."
And then he sees her face, her familiar look of concern and worry. He remembers she hates court, always comes back with an air of defeat.
"Give me time," he says. "Please?"
She blinks, looks surprised. And then she nods. "Okay."
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