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Unbeta-ed. Mistakes mine.
Disclaimers: I am only playing with the people from Oz and SVU. They do not belong to me and I am making no money from this.
Copyright: Edgar C. Gambodge, Elizabeth Lightbody, Chris's professor and Mrs. Keller are mine.
Theme: B/K. What happened after what really happened at the end of Season Six. This overlaps with my previous story, "Settling the Bill.
Warning: In my Oz-verse, many of the events from the last two episodes of Season Six are fictitious.
Coming in from the Cold 11/17
Part 11: Shrinkage
It's late at night and Toby is lying in bed beside Chris, who seems to be sleeping. Toby's thinking about his life. He's never had a relationship with another man, other than Chris. Schillinger didn't count. Nor did Mondo, Shemin and the others. Those weren't relationships. They didn't ever relate. Toby relates to Chris, although he often wishes he didn't.
Toby's lying on his side, watching Chris. Usually it's the other way around. If it were anyone else staring at me in the dark like that, while I were sleeping, it would freak me out, Toby tells himself. He hasn't told Pete that Chris watches him at night when he thinks he's sleeping. He knows what she'd say. To be honest, it does freak him out a bit, waking up to find those eyes on him.
They are no longer sleeping spooned around each other, but twined together, face to face or Toby on his back, Chris's face buried in his neck, his arm around his chest like an ever-tightening band of steel, squeezing him while they sleep so that Toby can barely breathe, trying to climb inside him, possess him even while asleep. Not being able to breathe wakes Toby up.
Tonight, though, he's awake because he's not being squeezed. Somehow Chris has managed to keep to his side of the bed. He should be grateful - finally get a decent eight hours before the week begins again. Toby's wondering whether he should move the rest of his stuff into Chris's apartment and get it over with or keep telling himself that he hasn't really moved in yet. He's there almost every day now. He's even brought Gary's stuff over, to sort through and decide what to keep and what to give to charity. The boxes remain stacked in Chris's spare room (the one without the gym equipment) untouched.
Toby thinks moving in formally would be a mistake. There's too much they need to sort out still. He keeps telling himself this relationship won't last. Never has. He ignores the fact that being apart has never lasted either. He needs his space. He feels himself stroking Chris's arm in the dark. He sighs.
He can't keep his hands off Chris. It's worse, not better, out of Oz. It's worse, not better seeing him in button-down shirts. His hands keep straying and he has to concentrate to make sure they stay in socially acceptable places. Not Chris's nape. Not Chris's torso. And most especially not Chris's thighs or ass. In Oz Toby has gotten used to touching Chris in public. Now he can't stop. Chris of course betrays no sign that he is aware of Toby's struggles. Other than a dark-blue gaze at just the wrong time and the ghost of a smirk. Toby feels as if he has a permanent hard-on around Chris. And Chris knows it. Bastard.
How many guys has Chris fucked? Once, long ago, Toby asked Chris if he'd ever felt this way about another man and Chris said "no". He had to under the circumstances, Toby reflects, in the dark. He remembers Chris's incredulous laugh when he asked if he'd ever been with another guy. How many? Toby wonders. Chris has married more girls than Toby's dated. Although Chris likes guys much more than girls, Toby's jealous of the girls. He didn't have to worry about them in Oz.
A different night. Toby is watching Chris's profile in the half-light from the window. He knows every angle of it. Could draw it from memory. The day out wasn't an unmitigated success. Met Elliot in the park with Chris and bought a hotdog off a vendor. Elliot and Chris had the same combination of sauces. Way too much mustard. They seemed to find that funny. Toby found it childish. He made sure he got different sauces.
Elliot's on vacation. The way he carries on you'd think he'd been fired. Of course, he's not wearing a suit now, but jeans and a plum-colored sweatshirt. He looks more like Chris than ever if that were possible. Chris is wearing jeans and a light gray sweatshirt. They find that funny too.
Chris suggests he and Elliot go into business together, but Elliot says he's "going back to the force" as soon as he can. He surveys the park for suspects over his hotdog. This obsessiveness must be genetic, Toby thinks, gloomily chewing on his bun. He wonders what business Chris had in mind. Maybe he was kidding. He doesn't bring it up again.
Elliot is at a loose end. The kids are in school and he really doesn't know what to do with himself if he's not at work. He can't sit still. Can't concentrate. He tells Chris they should shoot some hoops sometime. Chris says he never got the hang of team sports. Liar, thinks Toby. Chris is a natural to any sport as he proved time and again in Oz. Earned him lots of respect there. And he was really good at shooting hoops.
Toby realizes that Chris is surveying the park too. The way he used to survey the rec room in Oz. Head unmoving, eyes flickering around the perimeters. Toby can just make out Chris's eyes behind his sunglasses. Prescription lenses. A different style from Elliot's.
And now, tonight, Toby is watching Chris not sleep.
It isn't a question. He doesn't wait for an answer or indication that Toby's awake. Because he knows. He's been watching him too. Toby doesn't expect what comes next.
"You know how to use a gun?"
He stares at Chris.
"I got you a gun. Show you how to use it."
He's on parole, godammit! Toby is outraged. But he doesn't let it show. He can't afford a fight now. It's too late at night and he needs to be fresh for tomorrow. That didn't matter in Oz. It also didn't matter if you arrived at your work detail with a black eye or split lip.
"What do I need a gun for?"
Toby sits up and puts the light on. Stares at Chris, who stays lying down, his eyes fixed on the ceiling. Toby doesn't feel like a fight.
"Okay," he says, "when my parole is up. I'd prefer an iPod though."
"You need the gun now."
Fuck. Toby rubs his face with his hands and clasps them together.
Chris sits up too and stares at Toby.
"Don't argue with me, Toby. Just listen to me, okay? You need the gun."
"Chris, I know the city is dangerous. But I'm not going to violate my parole conditions. I can't carry a firearm. You know that."
This conversation is starting to skirt dangerously close to the forbidden topic of Toby's previous parole violation. Chris glances away. Toby takes a deep breath.
"You want to tell me why I need the gun?"
"You're not safe. People want to hurt you because of me. They're watching us all the time."
Toby sighs. Puts his head in his hands. Suddenly he feels really tired.
"Chris, you just can't help thinking like a con, can you? We're not in Oz anymore. The cops are on our side now. Your own brother..."
When Toby is finished telling Chris about being on the right side of the law now and putting their pasts behind them, Chris says, "Goddamn it, Beecher," and goes to the kitchen to fix something to drink. He's bristling. Toby can hear him muttering "Fuck" in the passage. Toby lies down again. That was easier than he expected. He's asleep before Chris comes back.
Chris is at his shrink again, at Elizabeth's office across town, in a small nineteenth-century office building with medieval-looking gargoyles on the guttering. She shares the building with an insurance company and a large firm of lawyers.
Elizabeth is pressing Chris to talk about Elliot, but Chris wants to talk about Toby. He is convinced that a fight is brewing and that if they do fight - when they fight - Toby will walk out for sure. And this time nothing and no one can stop him or bring him back. In Oz Toby couldn't go far. Out of Oz, he can go anywhere. Get lost even without violating his parole. It makes Chris scared and that makes him angry. He's been working out a lot. Too much. He's sprained something in his left shoulder. He does not discuss the watchers or the background situation with Elizabeth. He can't discuss that without saying anything incriminating. He doesn't trust that doctor-patient confidentiality crap. Instead he tells her how great it is with Toby, which is partly true. He tries not to say it too much.
Unlike Sister Pete, Elizabeth doesn't press him to tell the truth or imply that she doesn't believe him. But she suggests that he bring Toby to a session.
"Why? You want to check him out?" Chris grins. His grins don't seem to work as well with Elizabeth as they had with Sister Pete either. He meant to suggest that Elizabeth thought Toby was so fabulous that she had to meet him for herself. He has to admit though (to himself) that it sounded more as if he feels Elizabeth doesn't quite trust what he's said and finds him evasive about answering her.
"I thought it might be useful at this stage to get some input from him, as he is a central figure in your life," she says.
Chris grins again. Says nothing. Fiddles with a tassel on one of the cushions.
"Chris, what scares you most about my meeting Toby or Elliot?"
Christ, Elizabeth can be so direct. Shrug. You tell me. You're the shrink. He doesn't have his weapons anymore. He chose to hang them up for therapy. So he can't intimidate, charm or seduce because he needs to make progress, to keep Toby. He can't haze, misinform or confuse. He can't lie. He promised himself this when he began. Stupid fucking idea. But he won't break a promise, especially not one to himself. Gotta tell the truth. What scares him with Toby is that Elizabeth will see how rocky things are and then he'll have to face up to it too. Then it'll all fall apart, just like his marriages, `cos he can't keep it together by himself. Leave Toby out of the mix for now. Concentrate on Elliot.
"Toby knows I'm a shit, but Elliot doesn't. Don't want him to know who I am."
"He knows your record."
"Yeah, but he doesn't know me."
Doesn't know all the shit that isn't on my record. The stuff I never got caught for. What I'm really capable of.
"I won't tell him anything you've told me."
You don't know half of it. All Chris wants to do is go home and hold Toby forever and forget about the past. But the past won't forget about him.
"I'd like to know more about what he remembers of your early years."
"Elliot's busy. He's a cop." Too quickly. "You don't got to meet him. He's just like me." Only he ain't a fag and he ain't fucked up his life. Not much anyway.
"His input might help you to piece things together faster. And it might help him too."
"Chris, you don't have to worry that I'll discuss your sessions with Elliot. What you say here to me in this room is confidential, like a confession."
"With no absolution," says Chris.
Elizabeth is too sharp. She knows exactly what he means.
"When you're ready, you'll forgive yourself," she tells him.
Psychobabble bullshit. He wants to get up there and then and leave. Elizabeth has no idea who he is. He's tried to tell her, but she doesn't get it. He's got into the habit of telling her the truth though. For one thing these sessions are pretty fucking expensive and he may as well get his money's worth from them. Once you start an honest relationship with someone it's hard to stop. The whole fucking deal is hard. Why he doesn't usually do it. So:
"I'd rather talk about Junior," he says. "And this whole evidence shit I gotta give in court soon."
"When was the last time you cried?" asked Elliot that evening.
Toby was at a PTA meeting and Chris was feeling jumpy. He told Toby to call him the moment the meeting was finished. Still no call. How long did these godamned things go on? He should ask Elliot.
"Dunno," Chris lied. It had actually been that morning in therapy. Dragging up more stupid shit from the vast sewer of his past. Should've left it there where it belonged. Made him feel worse not better. He'd be lucky if he slept tonight. Christ, he hoped Toby would stay over when he was finished with the PTA meeting.
"I went to see the departmental shrink, Hendricks, the other day and ended up crying about a school project I'd had in the fifth grade - a diorama. Hadn't cried since childhood and I cry about that. Pretty dumb, huh?"
He looked at Chris for confirmation. Chris looked away. He hated crying. He'd forgotten how lousy it felt. Must've been why he'd stopped as a kid.
"My dad ... my dad said crying was for pansies. He used to beat me with his belt if I cried. Said I wasn't a man."
Chris laughed an ugly laugh. Elliot shrank visibly.
"I guess it's pretty stupid for a grown man to get so worked up about his fifth grade project," he said.
"I was thinking how stupid it is for a grown man to be telling a ten-year-old kid he isn't a man."
"Actually, he said I was a failure," said Elliot. He looked as if he still believed the old bastard.
"What an asshole," said Chris. "It sounds as if he was the failure, losing his job and all."
"I'm about to lose mine," said Elliot.
"I never kept jobs long," Chris told him, flipping open his cell phone. "Maybe we should go into business together like I said."
Elliot looked doubtful.
"If I lose my job, I don't know what I'll do," Elliot said. "Cragen's been looking at my psych reports. Forced me to go on leave. Next it'll be suspension. Once the brass think you're loony tunes, you're finished."
He had tears in his eyes, not a lot, but Chris could tell. If Elliot's father wasn't already dead, Chris would cheerfully have whacked him. Teach him to hurt a little kid like that. He played the scene over in his mind. How he'd drop by when the old asshole was busy working on his car, surprise him, make him think he was Elliot and then just as his hands closed around the jack and he dropped the car on him, he'd let him know he wasn't Elliot at all.
"What do you think your dad would have thought of me?" He asked Elliot.
They both know he meant because of Beecher. But Elliot said:
"I don't think he would have pushed you around as much. You'd've fought back more. Funny - what he did to us would be considered child abuse these days, but we never thought of it like that then. It was just...life."
"You ever hit your kids?" asked Chris, texting Toby. He bet Elliot never had. To his surprise Elliot answered, "Yes".
"Once, when Maureen was small, before the other kids were born." He looked as if he was about to cry at the memory. "Never told Kathy. Never did it again"
Chris changed the subject. He had enough stress for one day what with therapy and Toby being at that fucking meeting until all hours. He wouldn't even give him a ballpark idea of when he'd be back. Jizzball.
"Toby's dad was great. He didn't like me though. Called me despicable. He was defending me in court because Toby asked him to. He'd do anything for Toby."
"Beecher's dad got stabbed while visiting him, didn't he?"
So he'd been reading Toby's file too. Once a cop.
"Hey, it had nothing to do with me."
He'd even taken care of the guy who'd done it for Toby, not that he'd been very impressed by that. He hadn't yet mentioned that episode to Elizabeth.
"I didn't mean to suggest you did it, Chris," said Elliot, concerned, "I know it was some kid who was with the Aryans. They really had it in for Beecher, especially that Schillinger psycho. The word is that he arranged to have that anthrax sent to Oz to wipe out his own crew. Why he wasn't in the mailroom when they were all taken out."
"Yeah, ol' Vern is one crazy motherfucker."
Chris's phone chirped. It better be Toby.
Donald Cragen was in New Jersey on a fishing expedition. He wanted to know more about Christopher Keller to try to work out how much of a complication he was going to be as Elliot's identical twin. Cragen also wanted to find out about any unknown episodes in Keller's life. He didn't like surprises.
He had found the home of Keller's adoptive parents, in the predominantly Catholic neighborhood of a lower-middle-class suburb. The house looked dark and empty, but a tallish, elderly woman opened to his ring. She had a broad face, hazel eyes and kept her hair in an untidy bun. She wore a blue house-coat. Somewhere in the house, a soap-opera's soundtrack played. Cragen took off his cap.
She sounded slightly spaced-out.
"I'm Donald Cragen of the NYPD. I'd like to ask you and your husband a few questions about Christopher." Badge. She didn't look at it.
"M...my husband isn't in right now. He's at a men's Bible study group until..."
"That's quite alright. May I speak to you? I've got to get back to New York this afternoon."
"Oh, yes...yes, of course...I was just cleaning the house..." She patted at a loose strand of grey-white hair and stood aside, as if she knew the drill, for him to enter the house. It was gloomy inside and cold too. As the front door closed, the outside sounds receded. It felt like going under water. Cragen did not take off his coat.
"Tea?" she asked.
Cragen sat himself down in a living room that was predominantly grey-blue and sea-green. The armchair crackled as he sat down in it and he realized the seat was covered with plastic. All of the living room furniture was. The TV continued to play in the other room. It was well into the next soap before Mrs. Keller emerged with a tray. Teapot, cups and saucers and a plate of cookies. They were butter creams, with glazed cherries on top that seemed inappropriately cheerful in the surroundings.
"When did you last see Christopher?" asked Cragen, taking the tray from her and setting it on the coffee table between two neat stacks of magazines. TV guide in one pile and Catholic Quarterly in the other. He sat down again with a crackle.
"We haven't seen him since ...since 1978," she said as if she were mentioning a vacation spot.
1978 was the year Keller had first gone to prison. Cragen remembered this from Keller's jacket. Elliot (and therefore Keller) was 44. They'd have been 17 in 1978.
"Did you ever visit him in Lardner?"
"Oh no," said Mrs. Keller, pouring tea. "My husband wouldn't stand it. He said Christopher had disgraced our name. Would you like a cookie?"
Cragen took a cookie and put it on the side of his saucer. He found it interesting that Mrs. Keller hadn't yet inquired after Keller's well-being. Most mothers who have police wanting to talk to them about their children usually want to know why or whether their offspring are okay. Maybe she expected the worst or was used to police at her door with questions about Keller.
"I understand Christopher was your adoptive son?"
"Yes, we couldn't have children."
"Did you adopt any other children?"
"Did you know anything about his family?"
"Did you ever try to find them?"
Big surprise. Cragen pulled a photo from the inside pocket of his blazer and held it out to her. She took it. Looked at it. Flinched.
"Is this him now?" She looked up and met Cragen's eye.
"In a manner of speaking," said Cragen. "It's his brother, Elliot. They're twins."
"He has a twin brother? Oh my." The first spark of life Cragen had seen since she opened the door.
"You never knew about Elliot, Mrs. Keller?"
"Would you like some more tea?" She was back to watching the clock. Cragen guessed Mr. Keller would be home soon and that Mrs. Keller would prefer it if there were no visitors when he arrived.
"Thank you - no," he said rising to his feet. "I want to miss the traffic. Thank you for your time, Mrs. Keller."
Mrs. Keller still stared at the photo in her hands as she stood up too and smoothed down her house-coat. Cragen had taken a picture of Elliot and the kids from Elliot's desk before leaving the precinct. It was a few years old and it pained him to see how much happier Elliot looked in it compared with now. The kids were all still at school and the twins were hanging on him as usual as if he were a climbing frame, while the older girls stood on either side of him. Four blond heads around one dark one. Everyone was smiling. Kathy must have taken the picture because she wasn't in it. There was no picture of Kathy on his desk any more. Cragen still kept a picture of his wife on his desk among the clutter, although she had been dead for ten years. He could never imagine putting her picture away.
"Are these his brother's children?"
"Yes," said Cragen.
"Does Christopher have children?" A slight tremor of energy had entered Mrs. Keller's voice.
Cragen thought it best not to go into too much detail about Keller's private life. He just said, "Christopher isn't married."
They stood for a while in the submarine living room. Outside the muffled sound of a car approaching the house and driving past sounded as faint as a blue bottle. The light was as hazy as when Cragen had entered the room. It could have been any time in the afternoon.
Cragen was about to put his cap back on when Mrs. Keller said, "You mustn't think I didn't care about Christopher, Captain Cragen. I loved him very much. He was the son I could never have. We waited so many years before adopting and we decided not to take a baby because my husband said you can't be sure what you're getting. Bad genes. So we adopted a little boy of four to try to make sure we could tell what sort of a person he would grow into. He was so sweet and quiet and good we thought he might have had a vocation. But when he was about eight and then he started telling the most unbelievable stories. By the time he was twelve he was playing truant, lying, stealing. What's bred in the bone comes out in the flesh. That's what my husband always said. Christopher's teachers told me he was even intoxicated in class, but I couldn't believe it. He was only a child. My husband was very disappointed. Home life became unbearable. When he was... arrested we decided it would be better if we stayed away from him until he was released because he'd be better then. But he never came back after being released from prison. I always hoped he'd come back when he was ready. My husband said it was all for the best. But sometimes..."
She stopped herself.
"You were saying, Mrs. Keller?" Cragen asked gently. He had enough experience to know when someone wanted to tell him something and this felt important.
"We thought being in prison would cure him, but afterwards awful people kept coming here looking for him. He must have been incorrigible. It stopped about seven years ago and I wondered if he had maybe died." She squeezed the photo. "But recently about six months ago I noticed a tan sedan parked across the street again and I just knew he must still be alive. But I never told my husband because I didn't want to worry him."
Cragen's ears pricked up.
"How long was it parked across the street?"
"I'm not sure. I hardly noticed it at first, but I think on and off for about three days and then I'm almost certain I saw it again recently when I was shopping for groceries. There was someone sitting inside, like when it was outside my house, but the windows were tinted and I couldn't see if it was a man or a woman."
Cragen didn't expect she would have got the plates, but he asked anyway. She hadn't.
"I'm afraid I haven't been of much help, Captain Cragen," Mrs. Keller said as she held the door open. "What has Elliot done?"
"Nothing, Mrs. Keller," said Cragen, a bit startled, "he is one of the senior detectives in my special unit."
She didn't offer to return the photo and Cragen didn't ask for it. He decided he'd find a way of explaining it all to Elliot when he returned.
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