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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 4/17
Part 4: Tattoo
Get up, take a piss, watch TV in the morning instead of in the afternoon like in Oz, eat breakfast (cereal and coffee - he was too lazy to cook), watch TV, jerk off if he was lucky (though there seemed to be less and less of that these days), think about lunch (take out), sleep, wake up, watch more TV, eat supper (take out), go to bed early. He was free. He was rich. He was in constant pain.
Thanks to telesales, catalogues and deliveries, he never had to leave home. Thanks to his insurance policy, he never had to work again. Chris's life had shrunk since leaving Oz. That much was sure. He hadn't ever liked being cooped up, but he hadn't ever hated it either. Things were simpler in Oz and more ordered. His life sure was simple now, but it didn't make him feel any more secure. Elizabeth said he'd been institutionalized, but there was more to it than that.
He didn't reconnect with any of his old crowd. They hadn't really been friends anyway. More business associates. Chris Keller had always been a bit of a loner. Safer that way. Anyhow he didn't give a fuck about most of the people he'd had day to day interactions with.
Most of them were on the wrong side of the law and he wanted to leave that behind him now. For Toby. Also many of the people he knew before Oz were dealing. He didn't dare keep any drink or drugs in the apartment, not only for Toby, but also for himself. He didn't want to fuck this up now, after everything that had happened. He kept no cigarettes either. He had a difficult moment or two watching cough mixture adverts. He'd used to get high on that as a kid when he could afford nothing better. So no cough mixture. No way to satisfy any of his cravings, scratch any of his itches. No recourse to oblivion. Only the hope that one day when his main craving was paroled he'd want Chris back, cos Chris wasn't giving that up ever.
He bought a lot of gym equipment and at first stuffed it into what the agent had called the "recreation area". He kept tripping over it so he moved it to one of the two spare bedrooms. Amongst other things, he had a machine that worked your abs, another that strengthened your back, graded dumb bells for his curls and something quite special for his pecs. He'd been disappointed by the treadmill though. Have to trade it in for one of those total-body trainers. Every time he wanted something to take his mind off what had become the dull pain of his existence, he hit the gym. Now he didn't have to leave home for that either.
In prison, even when he had been sent to Cedar Junction and back in Oz, after Toby had been paroled, Chris had somehow managed to drag himself through each day in some semblance of normality, showered and shaved. He'd managed to convince other people anyway. He'd always survived, no matter what happened. More than that. He'd kept control. Kept things organized. Not any more.
He had managed the most mind-blowingly dull prison work-details for years. Stacking stuff in the copy room, for instance. Huh. That was a no brainer. How had he done it for so long? Right now he couldn't even stack the weekend's newspapers near the trash. He had those delivered to his apartment too.
The monotony was relieved by Bonnie checking up on him occasionally or by his twice-weekly visits to Elizabeth, his shrink. And Gambodge's now regular cooked meals. The food didn't seem to come from any restaurant. There were no logos or names on any of the bags or boxes. Gambodge's PA would write the names of the dishes in ballpoint on their polystyrene containers: "coq au vin", "stroganoff", "moussaka". Chris managed to persuade her that he didn't eat desserts.
Today, he'd worked out. He'd watched the news on TV twice. It was just as bad each time. Some shit about natural disasters and a new virus to be scared of. Made him miss Sally-cise. He was thinking of getting one of her exercise balls. It bothered him that he was more interested in her gym equipment than in her other equipment. He'd looked at his books for the new study module he was taking in social structures. Looked at the covers anyway. That was enough to make him feel tired. They were overdue. Booted up the computer. Played about on-line.
He had developed the habit of visiting internet chat rooms and passing himself off as different people. It passed the time and taught him a lot about computers. Kept him off the streets and out of trouble. Gave him a bit of largely non-criminal human contact. He had been thinking of getting a cat, so he looked into it online for half an hour. It seemed like a hassle though. Pity his building didn't seem to have any stray ones to adopt.
Then he called Gambodge to check on how Toby's case and the other one were progressing. Got Gambodge's PA. Gambodge was out of office. Called Elizabeth. She was with a client. He didn't know what he'd have said to her anyway. Therapy had become rocky. Called Bonnie. Got her answering machine. He found himself hoping that Elliot would call.
Elliot didn't, so Chris went to make a sandwich he didn't feel like eating and then called Elliot himself before the lure of the ground became too strong. O'Reily had had a lot to say about the usefulness of having a cop for a brother. Chris saw it more as irony. But he guessed Elliot had his uses. Like now.
He didn't know what he would have done if Elliot hadn't been around. Actually, he did know and it scared him. He got used to inviting Elliot over to watch a game on TV. Baseball usually. Chris didn't like organized sports much, but Elliot seemed to like football and baseball. Keep him talking late, comparing notes, and he'd stay until Chris was ready to go to sleep. Elliot almost always came when invited and if he was on duty, he'd talk on the phone to Chris for a while or arrive later in the evening with beer. A couple of times he brought photo albums. Of course, he'd looked a lot like Chris had as a kid too. Chris wanted to look at those pictures, but Elliot wanted to show him his kids as they grew up. Elliot also invited him over to the house again, but only when Kathy and the kids were otherwise engaged. Seemed to happen a lot, in Chris's opinion. Didn't the guy have a life of his own?
Elliot, as usual, responded promptly to Chris's call and dropped by to "see how he was doing". Benson wasn't with him, although they were officially on duty that morning. She seemed to give Chris a wide berth. Chris didn't mind. He saw how quickly she'd judged him as a con. She didn't strike him as the usual cop though. Something different in her background. He'd find out what it was by and by. Especially on the `Net. He made a mental note to look her up.
"Where's Benson?" he asked Elliot innocently.
"Catching up with some paperwork at the precinct. I'll do mine this evening. Don't have a lot more to do then."
Chris felt a surprising stab of anger towards Kathy who could take Elliot's home and family away from him and leave him alone in the evenings with nothing but paperwork in that big, dark house. As much as it bored him to page through endless albums of the kids growing up, he could see that this was Elliot's life and taking it away was just cruel. Like Toby being separated from his kids in Oz. He should probably do something about getting Gambodge onto Toby's case again. Later. Right now he'd focus on Elliot.
"Wanna work out?" he asked.
Elliot didn't seem to get to the gym much these days. How busy could the guy be? Anytime Chris suggested working out, Elliot agreed, so it was a safe bet. And it would keep him there longer. Predictably Elliot said "sure".
There was an extra advantage in Elliot working out. He had to take off his clothes. As much as Chris liked to scoff at Elliot (mostly to himself) for his needing to connect with him, he kept catching himself doing the same. He especially liked to watch Elliot take off his clothes, so he could see how much alike they really were. The first time he'd watched Elliot change, he had stared at him openly until Elliot had told him it was his turn and he shrugged, grinned, dropped his clothes. And Elliot had stared at him. And for the first time in as long as he could remember, Chris blushed.
"I'm sorry," said Elliot, squeezing his shoulder. "It's just weird seeing how alike we are."
He frowned and peered more closely at Chris's torso. Reached out, brushed his chest with his fingers. Touched the scar.
"What happened here?"
"Guy smuggled a gun into Oz. Shot the place up. I got caught in the crossfire."
Seeing Elliot's expression, Chris added, "I nearly died."
It was gratifying to see Elliot's concern, but as Chris turned away to find his sweats, Elliot noticed the other scars on his back.
"And here?" he said. His touch made Chris come out in goose bumps. He straightened up abruptly. Didn't turn to face Elliot.
"I got stabbed."
He'd nearly died then as well. Toby had intimated that he'd done it, but Chris had never known for sure. Never wanted to believe. He pulled on his sweats and went over to the weights.
"What happened here?" Elliot touched his own face between the brows.
What was this? The fucking third degree?
"Hack beat me."
"In the face?"
Elliot was a cop. Why did he sound so surprised and look so pained?
"Yeah. With a nightstick." Chris waved his hand at the side of his head. "Lost 80% of my hearing in my right ear too."
He half expected Elliot to ask what he'd done to deserve it, but he didn't. Instead he said, "You could probably make a case against him for assault or at least excessive force."
Chris had other plans for "him".
"Yeah." He picked up the weights he'd chosen.
That evening, when he was getting ready for bed, Chris stared at his own reflection in the half-steamed-up bathroom mirror. Trying to see what Elliot saw when he gazed at him.
"Hey," he said to his reflection, who mouthed "hey" back simultaneously.
He raised his hand as his reflection did too and they pressed their palms together. But all he felt beneath his palm was cold glass. It brought nothing back about why that gesture was so special or why he did it automatically when Elliot had raised his hand that first day. He flipped the light switch and went to bed, thinking about Toby.
One of the reasons Chris liked to watch Elliot undress was to see the tattoo. Elliot had an identical crucifixion tattoo on his left arm to the one Chris had. That had been a surprise. Elliot had arrived one day in a short-sleeved T-shirt and relished Chris's reaction. Chris didn't even try to hide his startlement, but had grabbed Elliot's sleeve and yanked it up.
"Where did you get this?" he demanded.
"Why? Don't you have one?" he asked and Chris was startled all over again.
"You read it in my file," he said.
Elliot shook his head. His tattoo story was, if anything, stranger than Chris's. It began when he'd left the Marines, was starting off in the police force, and was still looking for Chris as he had been from the age of eighteen.
"At eighteen I was in Lardner, been there a year," said Chris.
"You were a little young, weren't you?"
"I was tried as an adult because I was judged incorrigible. It was some experimental shit. They stopped it afterwards in the eighties when they realized the juvies were graduating to university by going to prison. When I got out, I was just past twenty, no family, no education, no job because of my criminal record. Went straight back to boosting cars."
"I wish I'd found you," Elliot stared at his beer bottle.
"Wouldn't have done any good. I was pretty fucked up by then. Went back to Lardner for assault. Beat the crap out of the priest who'd molested me."
Chris got of Lardner for the second time at twenty three. Met a showgirl called Kitty. Hit the road to follow her to Vegas. The marriage lasted three months. He stayed on in Vegas, picked up some expensive habits, went back to New York, and met Bonnie. Went back to Vegas, married her on an impulse at twenty four at an all-night chapel that was all fake white marble and silk pink roses. Seemed symbolic, looking back on it.
At twenty four, Elliot hit the road on his bike and headed for Vegas, following a trail he hoped was still warm. One day he went into a tattoo parlor on the strip to ask if anyone had seen Chris. He didn't have a photo of Chris, but figured he didn't really need one. He was going to ask the owner if he'd seen a guy who looked kind of like him recently, when the owner asked him how the tat was and if he was back for more.
"I guess you don't remember me, huh?" the guy grinned. He had a long white mustache and goatee and wore a navy and white bandana on his head. "You looked a high as a fucking kite. Hope you're not back here to complain, buddy. We just do what the customer asks."
"What did you do?" asked Elliot.
The guy gave him a "what-the-fuck" stare.
"I did this, son," he grabbed Elliot's left arm.
Elliot took off his bomber jacket and rolled up his T-shirt sleeve.
"Maybe I got the wrong arm," the owner said.
Elliot rolled up his other sleeve.
"Maybe you got the wrong customer," he said, not giving away his excitement.
"No, I'd recognize you anywhere - I always remember a customer by the tats they choose and you're the only one who ever asked for that. You didn't have a Marine tat last night though. I always remember artwork. You got a twin brother or somethin'?"
"What was the tat?" asked Elliot, sure his heart-beat was visible through his shirt.
The owner hauled out a big file of templates and flipped through them until he came to a Mondrian-like crucifixion, a couple of inches high. He jabbed his stubby, ink-stained forefinger in it. Elliot pulled the file around to have a better look. Severe. Striking.
Before he could stop himself, he said: "Can you do it again?"
"Well, if you're sure," the owner said dubiously. "Gotta warn you though it was a bit bigger than in the book..."
"You copied my tat?" Chris grinned and shook his head.
Elliot felt foolish. He'd felt foolish at twenty four too, especially when he got home to Queens.
"It made me feel ... closer to you," he said quietly. "I'd been looking on and off for almost seven years and got nowhere."
The grin slid off Chris's face. He looked at the floor as if he found it fascinating. When he spoke again, his voice had an accusing tone to it.
"Why didn't you find me before now?"
"The trail ran cold again. The tattoo guy didn't know anything about you other than that you were passing through. He said maybe you didn't want to be found. Then I ran out of money and went back home to find I'd gotten Kathy pregnant. We had to get married quickly which kind of changed my plans a bit. Then job pressures mounted up and the other kids arrived and suddenly here we are today. Not much of a detective if I couldn't find my own twin brother, huh?"
Elliot felt as if he'd let Chris down suddenly. He'd always hoped that somewhere Chris was looking for him too and that they'd meet in the middle. But Chris hadn't been looking at all. He didn't even remember him. Elliot brushed away the twinge of anger he felt. It wasn't as if Chris could help it. Elliot had learned a lot about little kids between his own brood and the traumatized little ones he encountered in his job. He knew how small children could block out things they found too painful. That was probably what happened to Chris. He stared at the floor too.
"I got another tat," Chris purred. "Wanna see?"
"Where is it?" Elliot asked suspiciously.
Chris grinned. Elliot shook his head.
"No - your turn to copy me."
"I think I'll get one of those cool ties," Chris said. "Been meaning to ask: when did you start losing your hair?"
"Three minutes before you," Elliot replied.
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