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Unbeta-ed. Mistakes my own.
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 3/17
Part 3: Family bizness
"Christ," thought Chris, "they're all so blond. Kathy must be an albino."
All four young Stablers had answered the door when he had rung. He'd had second thoughts on the way up the stairs to the portico. He hated family things. The only person other than Toby that he'd ever made an exception for had been Bonnie, not that it helped in the end. He didn't know how to be part of a family and this left him feeling off-kilter and alienated. He'd only been making an effort with Toby's family to get closer to Toby anyway. He wondered if it would work after all. The Beechers all seemed to like him now. Except Toby. Elliot liked him though. Elliot liked him a whole lot. As he rung the door bell Chris wondered how long that would last. He could do without Elliot's family. He wasn't interested in them and liked to pretend that Elliot was alone, unmarried and childless, like he was.
"Are you Uncle Chris?" asked the boy. What was his name? Rickie? Dickie?
"Of course he is, silly," said his youngest sister who seemed to be about the same age. Elliot had said twelve.
"Silly yourself," retorted the boy.
"Dope-o," said the girl.
Elliot had said they were inseparable. Hmmm.
"You really do look like Daddy," said the next oldest girl.
The eldest girl nudged her sister. She had dark blue, thoughtful eyes and thick, shoulder-length, pale hair. She looked to be about eighteen. In between his marriages Chris had dated people that age. He'd stopped when he realized it made him look old. It was amazing to see that Elliot had a child who was almost grown up. How different their lives were. Chris stuffed down a vague feeling of loss and smiled his charming smile at the eldest girl, before realizing that he looked exactly like her father and to all genetic intents and purposes could be her father. That wiped the smile off his face.
"I'm Maureen," she said and pointed out her younger siblings to him, "this is Kathleen ... and Elizabeth and Dickie. They're twins."
She made that sound kind of significant. She continued staring at him.
"Aren't you going to invite me in?" asked Chris, trying a different, more avuncular (he hoped) smile.
"He could be Daddy," the youngest girl was saying to her brother, behind Maureen.
"Maybe he is and he's playing a trick on us!" said Dickie.
"Daddy doesn't dress like that," the middle girl told them. Then she and the little girl giggled.
"What's wrong with my clothes?" drawled Chris, knowing full well why they were giggling.
"Dad doesn't wear tight shirts," said Kathleen.
"Or tight jeans," giggled Elizabeth, which earned her a shove from Maureen.
"Yeah, you can't see his muscles, but he's really strong," added Dickie.
"You can't see his..." chortled Elizabeth, but Maureen cut in.
"Ignore them - they're being silly," she said, embarrassed.
From somewhere in the house, a woman's voice called:
"Maureen! Who was at the door?"
And a slim, fair-haired woman came hurrying through.
"You're here, Elliot. Thank goodness. Your brother is going to be arriving any minute. Why didn't you use your key? I'm just looking for my other earring. I left it next to the phone..."
She hurried past. The three younger children, who had been holding their breaths, giggled and shh'ed each other. And Chris suddenly found himself being stared up at by four pairs of round blue eyes, daring him to say anything. A moment of silence and:
"Yay, Daddy's home!" shouted Dickie.
"Hello, Dad," giggled Kathleen, taking Chris's arm.
Elizabeth grabbed the other. Maureen shook her head.
"Your dad's not home yet?" said Chris as he was towed into the living room.
He was seated on the couch, with a soda (Maureen had offered him scotch, but he had declined), listening to Kathy bustle around in the kitchen and occasionally call one of the children to help carry something to the table. An aroma of lasagna drifted through the house and something sweet and hot that involved syrup. Chris couldn't place what it was. After half an hour a key unlocked the front door. The twins leapt up from the chair they were sharing and fought each other to get to the door first.
"You're so lame!" Kathleen called after them.
"Ring on the bell! Ring on the bell!" Dickie and Elizabeth shouted at the vague figure behind the frosted glass. It was Elliot.
"You've got to ring the bell, Daddy," Dickie shouted, "or Mummy will know it's you!"
"He's just as punctual as you are, I see," Kathy said, emerging from the kitchen, drying her hands on her apron.
Her voice trailed off as she realized it was her husband standing in the front door, in a rumpled suit, with a twin swinging from each arm. She looked back at Chris, on the couch. He gave an awkward smile he hoped didn't look too much like a smirk. Kathy's eyes flashed from him to Elliot, who was taking off his coat and disentangling himself from the twins, who were fighting for the opportunity of hanging their father's coat up.
"I thought he was you," she said accusingly.
"I didn't," muttered Maureen pointedly behind Chris, just loud enough for her mother to hear. "He doesn't look anything like Dad if you look at him properly." She added peculiar emphasis to the word "properly".
Elliot appeared oblivious to all of this and stepped forward to kiss his elder daughters. Chris noticed he didn't kiss Kathy. Elliot noticed Chris.
"Chris. You're here. Met everybody?"
"I haven't been introduced to your wife yet," Chris said, while Kathleen giggled at his side.
"Stop that, Kathleen, and come away from him!" Kathy said furiously.
"'He' has a name," muttered Maureen.
"Maureen, don't talk to your mother like that."
Elliot as father. Elliot as husband. Chris as...nobody. Chris as ex-con.
"Kathy, this is Chris, my brother. Chris - Kathy, my wife. Chris's first wife was also Katherine, honey."
Chris shook Kathy's hand as charmingly as possible. Chris hoped it hadn't been too charming when Elliot stepped over to him, but Elliot squeezed Chris's shoulder.
"Glad you could make it," he said.
Chris decided to take notes, so that he could make a good impression on Toby's family and hopefully one day on Toby too. At least he wouldn't have to worry about how to treat Toby's wife, he thought to himself, as he joined the family at the dinner table.
He wondered if it was just his anxiety playing up or whether you really could cut the atmosphere between his brother and Kathy with a knife. Maybe it was because of Chris's coming to dinner. Long-lost, ex-con brother wouldn't go down well with most women. Chris looked to Elliot for a lead, while pretending to cast his eye around the dining room.
"Nice place, you got here, Elliot. Cozy." Chris took care to address his remark to Elliot, so as not to alarm Kathy, who was sitting upright in her chair, pointedly not looking in Chris's direction.
Elliot looked up from his plate, as Chris returned his attention to his. Their eyes met. The same raised eyebrows, the same slight self-deprecating smiles, their forks dangling from their hands in the same way. Chris had the sudden, fleeting feeling of unexpectedly seeing himself in a mirror. It threw him. It apparently threw Elliot too, who laughed softly to himself, shook his head, carried on eating, shooting Chris the occasional glance. Chris decided to carry on eating too, but as he started to raise his fork to his mouth, he had the most ridiculous feeling that he was copying Elliot. He put his fork down again.
"Salad?" asked Elliot, as Chris started to reach for some to cover his confusion.
Chris shook his head.
"Sure?" asked Elliot, taking the bowl himself. "It has olives in it."
"I made it," said Elizabeth, who was sitting on Chris's left. "I always put in olives because Daddy likes them."
There was no point in Chris pretending he didn't like olives. Elliot already knew he did. So Chris helped himself to salad after Elliot passed him the bowl. He made sure to take a good helping of olives too. Elizabeth beamed at him. He tried to see Elliot in her face and thought he caught a hint of him in her eyes and mouth. When he'd seen Holly in the flesh for the first time, he had been astonished to see how much she looked like Toby and had wondered for the first time in his life at what it must be like to have made another person. Elliot's kids all bore the ghostly impression of their father on them, but none of them was his spitting image.
"Guess we've already got one of those," Chris thought wryly.
Kathy and the kids left at ten. They were staying somewhere else during the separation, which made the separation sound more like the prelude to a divorce. Chris knew the signs. "We need to spend a bit of time apart for a while to sort things out." Death knell in any relationship, from his experience. The kids wanted to stay with their father. Chris got the impression that they wanted to stay with him generally, not just tonight. Kathy clearly didn't think they ought to be left with Uncle Chris. She had managed not to say two words to Chris all evening, other than what politeness required. When she told the kids to get their stuff, Elliot didn't say anything. He didn't have to. The light left his face the moment she made her suggestion. Bitch, thought Chris. What'd she come here for anyway? To check him out? He smiled particularly charmingly at her. Take a look, he thought, leaning way back in his chair, spreading his legs slightly. Elliot didn't catch it, but she did. Her eyes narrowed and she got up.
"Come on, we've got to get home."
"I thought you lived here," lied Chris.
"We don't," said Kathy, tight-lipped.
"Dad..." said Maureen. She looked sad too now.
"It's a school night for the others, Maureen. I'll see you tomorrow."
She met his eye for a moment and stood up.
"Goodbye, Uncle Chris," she said, her voice as neutral as her father's. "Bye, Dad. Love you."
"Love you, Daddy!" said the twins, hugging him together.
"Can't we stay? Dad can take to school in the morning," Kathleen protested.
"Listen to your mother," Elliot told her.
"Gotta go?" Elliot asked Chris, after everyone else had gone. Chris realized he didn't actually want to go. And he felt sorry for Elliot, alone in the too-big, empty house. The realization made him feel a bit anxious. What was wrong? He couldn't possibly be developing feelings for him? What did having a brother feel like? Like this? He barely knew him.
"'S okay," said Elliot. "It's late, I know."
It actually was well past Chris's bedtime. In all the time he'd been out of Oz, he hadn't ventured out at night past seven in the evening and he still kept Oz time. Waking up in the morning early, he'd imagine Toby waking up, far away in Lardner, stretching, swinging his legs over the side of the upper bunk, hopping to the floor. And in the evening, he'd imagine Toby getting ready for bed, lying on his bunk trying to get in some quality reading before lights out or brushing his teeth. Chris had always found the way Toby brushed his teeth an almost irresistible turn-on...
It wasn't only Toby-fantasies that kept him apartment-bound. He'd battled to go outside at all much in the beginning, because of the anxiety and his sudden, inexplicable fear of getting lost on the road. Even the gun had not allayed his fear. It had taken a lot of concentration and willpower for Chris to come Elliot's at all this evening, although he'd never admit it to anyone and he had been growing increasingly concerned about finding his way back in the dark. So...
"Nah, got nothin' planned. Let's be unhappy in your house for a change."
Kinda slipped out. Shouldn't've had that second scotch. His alcohol tolerance was all shot to hell or something after years of virtual teetotalism.
"You unhappy?" said Elliot. He sounded surprised.
Chris waved his hand dismissively.
"Toby's not talking to me. Won't see me. The usual. How long've you and Kathy been separated?"
"A year almost."
"Think you'll get divorced?"
"I'm Catholic," said Elliot. He didn't say if Kathy was, Chris noticed.
"Kathy wanted us to go to counseling. Probably should've gone. Make her happy. Just don't see the point of talking about things though."
"What'd she want you to talk about?"
"Stuff. You know, my job, our marriage. How the kids were coping without having a dad around much. It's a real..." he shook his head, rubbed his face.
"Yeah, I know. Bonnie was always trying to make me talk. Angie and Kitty wanted me to listen. Toby likes talking about things too, but he does most of the talking. Even when he's "not talking" to me. In Oz we had a counselor - a psychiatrist who was also a nun. Bad combination, if you ask me. She was always trying to make me talk too. Always on her fucking terms."
"Want another scotch?" asked Elliot. "Then we can be real unhappy."
"Fuck, yeah. But let's not talk about it. Give me the tour. I haven't seen your place yet."
Should kill a bit of time. The house looked huge. Double storey at least.
So Elliot took him all over the house, told him when he'd bought it, how he was still paying it off, how he used to work on it weekends before his job took over his life.
"I get so tired these days after seeing so much shit that when I come home, I just crash."
"Why'd you do it? Why don't you get another job?" Chris asked.
Elliot scowled, thinking about it. His puzzled scowl, the one Chris didn't have in his repertoire.
"I love my job. Been at SVU for twelve years. I can make a difference with my experience. Get justice for victims."
Chris snorted. They were on the upstairs landing, looking into what must be one of the girls' rooms. Lots of pink hearts and frilly cushions, but no more personal details. Even the corkboard above the dressing table had been cleared. No one lived there anymore, obviously. Chris hoped the sacrifice had been worth it.
"If you're getting justice," he said, "how come child molesters get such short prison sentences? How come they get out on parole at all? They never stop doing it. You should just whack `em."
Elliot stared at him for a moment.
"Is that what happened to you?" he asked softly.
"You gotta find a reason for why I did what I did? Why your brother's such piece of shit?"
Your brother. Not "I". Elliot caught it too.
"I recognize the signs."
"Were you molested too?" Chris eyed Elliot narrowly, wondering what the signs were and whether other people could see them too.
"No," said Elliot. "It's my job to see, Chris."
"Just as well you weren't. Maybe you'd've ended up a con too."
"Maybe," said Elliot neutrally.
Or maybe not, Chris thought, looking at him.
Elliot shrugged. Looked at him out of the corner of his eye, while pretending to gaze into his daughter's room.
"My dad used to knock me around sometimes. It's not the same as being sexually abused though."
"My dad never laid a fucking finger on me. Never touched me. Never hugged me or kissed me. When I got sent to Lardner, he never spoke to me again."
Shit, I should really lay off the sauce, thought Chris to himself.
"He still alive?"
"Haven't seen him since 1978."
"My dad's dead."
Chris wondered why Elliot looked so sad about it. Must be the whiskey.
"It helped finding out I was adopted," Chris said. "I guess they took me in out of charity. They were very religious. Our real folks might still be out there."
"I never found out who they were," said Elliot. "It doesn't really matter though. Your parents are the people who bring you up."
"Fuck," said Chris.
Elliot laughed unexpectedly.
"I mean Jesus Christ," Chris added.
"Yeah," said Elliot. "Let me get you another drink."
Then they talked all night, lying on the living room floor, on cushions from the couch (Kathy would have hated that for sure), eventually falling asleep side by side.
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