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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 5/17
Part 5: Time out
One week, Chris had some errands to run. He'd saved them all up to do together, except for an earlier visit to O'Reily to collect some information for his big day out. Something they both needed him to take care of. Beecher, of course, still wasn't speaking to him and it was getting old. Did Toby think he was the only one suffering? Going through to Lardner to see O'Reily seemed a waste without seeing Toby too, even with the info O'Reily had. He didn't really care all that much anymore about the job he'd discussed with O'Reily, but O'Reily did and O'Reily seemed to think Chris owed him now for keeping an eye on Toby.
This week's errands involved making a number of stops and Chris had packed carefully the night before. Long-overdue library books, student ID card, driver's license, wallet, overdue assignment (may as well give it in person since he was going to campus), cell phone, gloves. Oh yeah - car keys. Almost forgot he had the Mustang. He didn't really feel up to driving today. Maybe he should use public transport. Yeah. He left the car keys on the kitchen counter.
After giving in his library books, Chris walked over to the human sciences building to give in his assignment. A bunch of about eight students were hanging around outside his professor's door. Grad students by the look of them. In their mid- to late-twenties mostly, carrying heavy text books and having serious conversations. To Chris's surprise they greeted him as he walked up to the door.
"You here for the ethnography seminar?" asked a scrawny guy with a scraggly beard.
"Yeah..." lied Chris on reflex, forgetting he had a perfectly legitimate reason to be on campus.
"We're a bigger group than I expected," said a young woman who was wearing a purple and brown headscarf and big gold hoop earrings. "We were just getting to know each other. What's your angle?"
Chris stared at her.
"She means what is your line of research?" the scrawny guy clarified.
"Correctional facilities," said Chris.
"How are you going to figure ethnography into that?" asked the woman.
Chris had actually been discussing just that with Elizabeth his shrink the previous week. He had said he could write a book about crime and punishment and she had said, "Why don't you?" So he decided this was as good a time to start as any. Take a few classes.
"I'm gonna compare policy documents to my own experiences."
"Are you in social services?" asked the woman, eying him narrowly.
"Nah, I'm an ex-con," he flashed her his best con grin. She backed off.
"Yeah?" said the guy. He didn't look convinced. "What were you in for?"
"Which time?" asked Chris.
The group seemed to decide to leave it at that. The professor didn't though. She was a skinny, freckled woman of indeterminate age, who wore a large shawl. She arrived with a knitting bag full of dilapidated papers and what appeared to be several tetrapaks of fruit juice. She was not swayed by his story of coming all the way across town for her group.
"This will not do," she told him severely.
So now the class was waiting impatiently outside her office door, while Chris sprawled in the chair across the professor's desk from her. He lowered his head. Folded his arms. Waited.
"Mr. Keller, you cannot take this course until you've completed your first degree."
"Awwww...." Chris grinned up at her bookshelves. Pushed his hands into his jeans' pockets.
"Don't see why not." Other than it was regulations.
"You need to have more background and experience before you can make a decision about graduate study. You'll be researching your topic for a long time and you need to know that you've made an informed decision."
"I know what I want to do." Chris stared at her. Squared his jaw.
"I suspect, Mr. Keller, that you might prefer a different line of research."
Why? Was he intimidating her? Did she want him out of her class? He leaned forward on the table. Focused on her eyes. She blinked. He smiled as charmingly as he could, with dimples. Women seemed to like that. She relaxed a bit.
"You might find Masculinity Studies more fruitful, especially if you choose to use Queer Theory."
"Do I look like a fag to you?" Chris inquired.
Instead of withdrawing, the professor leaned forwards slightly in her chair and glared at him.
"This is precisely what I mean," she snapped. "You don't even know what Queer Theory is, do you? And why not? Because you've barely started your undergraduate degree. You have no methodological background whatsoever, let alone a viable framework. I suggested Queer Theory as a lens through which to view the prison system because I think it would provide a useful approach in a study of masculinity in prison. How much time did you do?"
"The last time - I was up in Oz - I was meant to serve 88 years. Got out in five."
The professor looked at him skeptically.
"For good behavior." Chris flashed pretty teeth at her.
"Oz, you say? Is that the Oswald State Penitentiary?"
"Correctional Service," Chris drawled.
"Aren't you that prisoner who was targeted by a crooked FBI agent and sent to Death Row for a string of serial murders he didn't commit?"
Chris sniffed to buy himself time to make some calculations, picked up a paperweight on her desk, peered at it. It was a rock painted with a smiley face. The brushstrokes were broad and wobbly. She must have a child.
"You'll need to be a little more specific..." He twirled the rock in his hand. Watched the colors spin.
"I certainly can," she picked up a yellow cardboard folder marked "Articles" from her desk and pulled out a newspaper clipping. She read:
"Christopher Keller was released today from Oswald State Correctional Services after turning State Witness in a long-term case of Federal misconduct. One FBI agent, Agent Pierce Taylor, has been indicted on Keller's evidence so far. Sources say other indictments may follow. Keller was serving an 88 year sentence for..."
She looked up at Chris over her glasses.
"Specific enough?" she asked, eyebrow raised.
"You got me," Chris admitted. Shit. Didn't know he was a fucking celebrity. That might change his plans for this evening.
She stared pointedly at the paperweight he still held. He put it back on her desk with a shit-eating grin. She put the article back in the folder and snapped it shut.
"I have a proposal for you. You have had experiences I cannot have and can go to places I can't visit." Her eyes gleamed. "You're an insider. I can help you get your story together methodologically, but in exchange you must help me. I'm conducting long-term research on the nature of prison experience. I've got some case studies I'm tracking in Parker Women's Institute. But it would be very useful to me to be able to cross-reference with the male prison. Right now I need someone to follow up on my correspondence, collect references, newspaper clippings and help with filing."
"I don't know what to say," said Chris truthfully. He could feel his heart sink into his boots at the thought of filing, clipping newspaper articles and handling correspondence.
"You're new to this field. You need someone to watch out for you. Teach you the ropes," said the professor, moving her pen set out of his reach. "You need to know how academia works. How to project yourself. Where to be seen. You need to learn a lot about the field. I can fast-track you."
"So I gotta be your bitch?"
"I prefer to see you as my research assistant. But first you have to show me you've got what it takes and do this assignment."
She handed him a pack of typed sheets.
It was later than Chris expected when he left the library. He hadn't planned on becoming some professor bitch's prag this afternoon. Now he wondered if he'd have time to do the last thing on his list today or whether he should come back another week. He just didn't feel like having to come out again so soon. Besides, O'Reily was starting to nag him and make resentful allusions to how much time he was spending keeping Toby out of harm's way. Didn't want O'Reily losing concentration with Toby's parole so close.
Fuck. Chris was really tired. Traveling in to campus and being out on the subway, surrounded by noise and packed in by people. He could never commute. Should've done his degree by correspondence. Then he wouldn't've got roped into spending four fucking hours in the library trying to locate articles and books from a five page list without his fucking glasses and then searching their reference lists for cross-references. He was sure those fucking computer screens nuked your eyeballs or something. In Oz Toby worked in front of one every day. Seemed to love it. Chris's head was splitting and he could hardly see straight. Just as well he wasn't driving.
The professor was out of her office when Chris got back there. Gone home long ago. Like everyone else. He swore. The building was locked at ten and the library was closed at midnight. It was already almost nine. He wrote "It's 9:45 and I'm going home" on the sheaf of notes before shoving them under her door. He did this partly because he wanted her to feel bad. But mainly because there was one last thing to do before going home. Something he should've taken care of long ago. Something that was going to take him further out of town. And he needed an alibi. Just in case.
He got on the train to go home, taking care at the last minute to leave his book bag (university logo and his name clearly marked - something he'd picked up on campus today) under a bench near the security cameras. The compartment was quite full. He got off at a couple of stops later, wearing a baseball cap pulled low and with his standard issue bomber-jacket turned up against the night chill. He could be anyone on the cameras.
There was this bar just out of town, see. Had to meet someone there. Someone who wasn't expecting him. He wasn't expecting to find them as soon as he did though, on the road to nowhere, in the dark, as he walked along, hands thrust deep in his pockets. A flatbed truck pulled up beside him. He kept walking. Didn't need a witness. But a woman's voice hailed him.
"You lookin' for a lift? Hey, buster, I'm speakin' to you!"
It couldn't be. He couldn't be this lucky. Nice quiet stretch of road. Dark night. Claire Howell. Just tell him she was on her own. He turned to face her as the truck's driver compartment drew level with him. Yeah, all alone.
If he had been her, he'd've spun that truck into reverse right then and left him eating dust. But he wasn't Howell. Howell was Howell. And he was counting on her behaving true to arrogant form.
"I got released."
He flashed white teeth at her.
"On good behavior?" She stared at him.
He leaned in the window. She did nothing. Didn't even tense up. Must be pretty confident in her powers of self-defense.
"You know me better than that..." he purred, reaching over to her to trace the pattern of appliqu flowers on her denim jacket, his hand stopping just short of the fabric.
She smirked. So did Chris, internally. Pushed himself off the truck door. Waited for her to come to him. She turned off the engine. Got out. Slammed the door. Her boots crunched on the sand as she walked around to his side.
"So you gonna play nice this time?" She demanded.
She smelt of beer. Grabbed his ass.
"Not here," he said.
"Well, make up your fucking mind." Hands on hips.
"Too close to the road. I went into the woods just now to take a leak. There's a nice, quiet, little clearing back there."
He gestured with his head. Grinned.
"I ain't gonna leave my truck here to get picked up..."
"Put a note on the windscreen. `Gone for gas'. We might be ... a while."
While she fixed the note under the windscreen wiper, he pulled on his gloves.
He'd never whacked a woman before. It was easier than he thought. Now he saw why most of those serial-killer freaks did women. Much easier than whacking men. Killing Howell didn't actually bring him the charge he'd hoped for. It was a purely mechanical act of twisting and snapping her neck from behind and dropping her to the ground. Over in moments. She wouldn't be found for days. He'd heard from O'Reily that she'd had a baby. Way he saw it, he'd done the baby a favor.
Then he cut back through the woods for some way and came out closer to town again. It took a while, but he couldn't risk catching a ride. He'd read once about some South American cocksucker who'd killed more than fifty kids. He had said what gave him the biggest thrill of all was watching the light go out of their eyes. Chris doubted somehow that any light went out of Claire Howell's eyes, so he figured he hadn't missed anything. He stamped as he waited in the shadows for the road to clear before he came out into the open and headed for the station again.
He'd originally considered passing himself off as Elliot, but something had made him change his plan. He put it down to being freaked out by all their similarities and wanting to be himself. He had a sneaking suspicion though that he never could pass himself off as Elliot and that Elliot had no idea what a shit he was. And would never find out if Chris had his way.
Bonnie wouldn't be impressed by tonight's events either. She usually wasn't, which is why the marriage hadn't worked either time, in Chris's opinion. Why was he thinking about Bonnie and Elliot? Thinking about Toby didn't help him feel any better. Toby would be no more impressed than Bonnie, even though Howell was a hack. He'd keep telling him about the law or the sanctity of fucking life or some shit. Chris was longing for a cigarette, but didn't want to leave any trace of his ever having been near that clearing. He'd have to wait until...no smoking at the station, no smoking on the train and no smoking in his apartment. Fuck. He'd have to wait until he could get back to his home gym and work out. He could taste that cigarette.
It always helped him having a goal to focus on - took his mind off his anxiety. Now that his primary goal was achieved, he could feel the old anxiety trickling back into his mind and body again. He pushed it away. Once on the train, he took off the cap. He'd already dropped the gloves into a muddy puddle at a busy truck stop. Watched from the shadows as they got run over by an eighteen wheeler. Before he got off the train, he put on a woolen hat that he'd borrowed from Elliot and had kept in the inside zippered pocket of his jacket. Put the cap in its place. Straightened his jacket collar.
Toby had it easy. O'Reily had got him a part-time job in the kitchen, because he had to share his job at Sister Pete's with somebody else. So he'd probably spent the afternoon peeling potatoes or cooking. Chris pinched the bridge of his nose. Cooking, while he had to battle through traffic the library and Howell. Looked at like that, Toby seemed like the goddamned wife in this relationship. Better not tell him that either. He slapped at his arms to warm himself up and pushed on.
Had to get back to the campus station and pick up his book bag. Make sure he was seen. The station was emptier now, so that would be easier. Tell the guard who'd found his bag that he was almost back in the city before he realized he had left his bag at the station and boy, was he pleased to have that baby back. He'd run up a fortune in library fines. Didn't know what they charged if you lost the things.
Then he went home and fantasized about Toby.
Chris spent a lot of time fantasizing about Elliot seeing him with Toby and seeing how much Toby loved him. Being able to tell. He fantasized about being caught loving Toby. Kissing him. Or, better still, being caught when Toby was kissing him. Then everyone would see. All those times they had been caught in Oz had not been accidental. Once when Toby was being touchy, he had accused Chris of being an exhibitionist. That wasn't quite the case. Chris hadn't wanted everyone to look at him as much as he'd wanted everyone to see how much Toby loved him.
The mere fact that Toby could love him at all was of unceasing fascination to Chris. And if other people saw Toby's love, it became all the more real. He wondered how Toby would handle having a visible relationship with him outside Oz. Part of the reason Chris'd stalled Gambodge in getting him out. Maybe Toby wouldn't want to be seen with him. Maybe Toby-out-of-Oz wouldn't want him at all. He hadn't seemed to the first time he got out, taking up with Marion so fast. That's why Chris had to be very careful about how he organized things. Meantime, he lay back in front of the TV, closed his eyes and imagined...
In his fantasies, Toby always started off wearing a polo shirt and chinos. Light khaki chinos (a color Bonnie had referred to as sandstone when decorating their second house together) and that light blue polo shirt he often wore in Oz. Even Chris's imagination couldn't make Toby look good in the ugly green T-shirt. Sometimes in Chris's fantasies, Toby wore glasses. He'd told Chris once that he'd always worn glasses until they'd gotten broken in Oz. He looked kind of geeky in glasses. Chris had always liked geeks.
Chris's fantasies involved more than sex. One of his favorite fantasies involved sandwiches. And sex. It concerned his making Toby sandwiches for work and Toby forgetting to take them with him. Toby, of course, was living with Chris. Then Chris would take them to Toby's office (he always had a private office in this particular fantasy) and they would fuck on the desk. And eat the sandwiches. Chris guessed that in reality Toby would probably always wear a suit to work, but Chris didn't like suits, so in his fantasy Toby wore the blue polo shirt and chinos too, when he was wearing anything.
Part of Chris's aesthetic side came to the fore when he imagined what Toby would look like naked, against the wood of the desk. He tried out the picture with different types of wood, not sure if he preferred a more corporate dark wood to off-set Toby's pale skin or a blond wood that made him golden all over. What he chose depended on his mood.
He didn't much care if he or Toby was on top. Never really did. Back in Oz, more often than not, he'd just do whatever Toby wanted. It was all good to him. He liked pleasing him and was good at it.
Today, he had Toby sprawled across a mahogany desk because he was feeling kind of somber.
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