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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 7/17
Part 7: A place like home
The watchers parked well out of view behind a panel van in the underground garage, with the doors to the private elevator in sight. Or else they sat across the street from the apartment building. They took it in turns to watch the comings and goings to the penthouse. Sometimes they followed one of its occupants, but he always went to the same places and seemed aware that he was being followed, so they tended to stick around the apartment building for now. They were eating Chinese takeaway for breakfast today, across the street from the lobby.
At seven am sharp, the private elevator's doors opened and Beecher and Keller got out. Beecher was wearing a different suit and tie from yesterday and a fresh shirt. Kept a change of clothes at Keller's apartment already. Keller was in the same jeans, plaid shirt and long sleeved Tee, evidently.
They nodded to the doorman and walked over to the glass doors. The door clicked open. Beecher turned back with a smile to face Keller and said something. Keller grinned back, but less enthusiastically. He put his hands on Beecher's shoulders and replied, staring deeply into Beecher's eyes.
"It'd give me the willies to be stared at like that," said Fin.
"Yeah, especially if my boyfriend were a serial killer," agreed Munch.
"He ain't a serial killer. You've seen the evidence," Fin stared at Munch, his chopsticks hovering above his steaming egg noodles. "It's a real-life conspiracy. You of all people oughta dig that."
Munch shook his head, cracked open a fortune cookie.
"Too simple, my trusting friend. It's as if it's been handed to us on a plate. I think he's concocted the whole mob-boss-nephew-hired-help scam just to throw us off the trail."
"Are you saying that the conspiracy's a conspiracy?" Fin's eyes narrowed mistrustfully.
"All I'm saying is that he's actually the real killer," Munch replied. He handed Fin the fortune paper. "This one's for you."
"I'll meet the girl of my dreams? Man! I wanted to win the lottery. I bought seven tickets. What does the other fortune say?"
Munch whipped it away from his grasp.
"Uh uh, you don't get to choose your fortune."
"You did," Fin pointed out. "Here we go again."
His light eyes narrowed and he pointed with his chin to Keller and Beecher. Beecher had just hailed a cab. Now he was talking to Keller again, looking more serious. Concerned. Keller dropped his gaze with a slight scowl and focused instead on Beecher's tie, which he pretended to straighten. Beecher stood resignedly, while Keller fiddled with it and smoothed his collar. Eventually Beecher grew restless. Then it was his turn to put his hands on Keller's shoulders and talk earnestly to him.
Keller seemed mollified by whatever it was Beecher said, because he slid his hands under Beecher's jacket and around his waist and kissed him lightly on the lips. Right there in the street. That turned a few heads, but Keller didn't appear to notice. Beecher put his arms around Keller's neck to deepen the kiss for a moment, then stepped away and opened the car door. There's prison for you. Apparently he was straight when he went in.
Munch and Fin could see Keller's lips form "Toby". Beecher turned back with a laugh and kissed Keller again. Keller held him for a moment before letting him go. Beecher cupped Keller's face with one hand, while rummaging in his jacket pocket with the other. He brought out a cell phone and held it up to show Keller. Keller nodded and kissed his cheek. From across the street, Munch and Fin could see the cab driver was looking edgy. He looked like the same cab driver from previous occasions this week. He should be used to the kissing by now. Munch and Fin were. Although they had to admit that it still rattled them sometimes.
"Short leash, eh?" said Munch.
"Yeah, he doesn't look worried though," mused Fin.
"Who? Beecher or Keller?" inquired Munch.
Beecher and Keller exchanged a few more words and another kiss by the cab, and then Beecher got inside and closed the door. He waved out the window as the driver pulled out of the parking spot and drove off. Keller stared after him for a few moments, his head lowered and his arms folded on his chest and gave the street a sweeping glance, before turning to walk back to the elevator.
"Do you think he made us?" Fin asked.
Munch shook his head.
"Not according to his body language."
"Don't you find this fucking weird?" asked Fin. "I mean, he could be Elliot and we'd never know."
"Wouldn't that be something? Elliot leading a double life with old Toby here," said Munch.
"Or a triple life - wife and kids, Toby and the serial killing business," Fin added.
"Or they're in it together."
"Elliot and Keller?"
"Keller and Beecher."
Keller's comings and goings were pretty regular. He kept mostly to his apartment. Studying, Elliot had said. On Tuesdays and Thursdays he went across town to Elizabeth Lightbody, a psychologist. In between he made the occasional trip to a university campus outside of town to see a professor in the Sociology Department. A little research on Munch's part revealed that she was an expert in prison studies. Munch and Fin provisionally concluded that Keller must be a case study, but they agreed it warranted further investigation. On Wednesdays, he went to Beecher's mother's house apparently for lunch. On Saturdays, he went there again in the evenings and sometimes stayed the night.
"That's always fun, sleeping over at your parents-in-law," Munch said. "Kind of puts a damper on your sex life. Could wind a fellow up - make him want an outlet."
"It'd wind me up," agreed Fin.
Munch studied him for a moment, but decided not to reply. Instead he said:
"Better get to Precinct 16 if we want to start work on time and tell Olivia that the routine's the same as usual."
"The novelty of being gentle with Chris has the additional benefit of knowing how much it irritates him when he's onto it," Toby told Sister Pete.
They had met in a coffee shop near Toby's work on her day off. Toby was trying to be flippant. He had, of course, spent most of the coffee break talking about Chris. He had told her about Chris's apartment, about Chris's new course of study, and about Chris's brother and how much alike Chris and Elliot were. Although he hadn't met Elliot yet, he'd seen pictures of Chris and Elliot together on Chris's cell-phone. He'd also, a little guiltily, told Pete about Chris's new vulnerabilities. Not the details of their first night together out of Oz, but the gist. How withdrawn Chris had been and how he'd broken down and cried at the apartment after they'd left Toby's mother's party.
Toby felt disloyal talking about it all. He knew Chris would see it as a betrayal, but he trusted Pete's discretion. She knew Chris better than anyone else did. So she'd understand, he reasoned. Secretly he was worried about Chris. He didn't say so to Pete, but skirted around the topic. Pete was merely listening by this point, like the therapist she was, nodding from time to time. She looked resigned. Her eyebrows were slightly raised as she sipped her coffee, the cup perched between the fingers of both hands. Was she disapproving? Probably, but she wasn't saying anything this time. He added:
"It's a matter of time before either Chris or I revert to type. Knowing this makes life quite exciting."
Seeing occasions with Chris not knowing what to do, caught off-side, had at first made Toby feel quite good. Watching Chris behave as a fish out of water had helped Toby not to focus on his own difficulties for a while. But Toby needed to focus on his own problems too. He felt he couldn't do that and walk on egg-shells at the same time. It took energy he didn't have.
Chris was so different from how he'd been in Oz - so obviously fragile (although Toby had always realized most of Chris's tough exterior was just an act) and clearly depressed - that Toby didn't know how to treat him. A careless word here or an unintentional omission there could shiver what was left of his old faade.
And seeing how raw therapy had left Chris had left Toby at a loss. While Toby had been back in Oz, Chris had learned to talk about his feelings. Now he was trapped between needing to talk about them and not wanting to. Toby didn't know why. Chris refused to talk directly about Elliot, for example.
Toby tried to imagine what it would be like if he discovered now, at the age of forty, that he had a long-lost identical twin brother. He decided it would change his whole world view. He would want to spend every waking minute with him, to find out what made him tick and to catch up with each other. But Chris would never say how it made him feel to have a new twin brother. He'd just change the topic. He seemed more eager to spend time with Toby than with Elliot and would brush Elliot off often when he called. It was always Elliot who called Chris, not the other way around, as far as Toby could see.
Toby noticed that Elliot had a way of turning up in their conversations though. He teased Chris about it once. Chris grinned his best bull-shitter's grin and said, "Yeah, I haven't been getting out much."
"Nor have I," said Toby before he could stop himself.
Something like guilt crossed Chris's face. He was probably feeling bad remembering that he'd been out while Toby had been inside, Toby reasoned. Now he felt sorry he had said it. After all it wasn't Chris's fault. But he also felt a vindictive rush of pleasure to see Chris looking hang-dog.
Elliot crept into their conversation if they were, for instance, discussing Chris's Mustang. The Mustang was a great topic of conversation for them. God, Toby loved that car and was itching to drive it, just as soon as he was legally allowed to. He wondered if it would seem too gay to get himself one too in a year's time when he got his license back. He could always get a different color. The Lexus seemed tired and middle-aged by comparison and was ready to be traded in. Chris had got the newest model Mustang on the market. But Elliot apparently favored the 1967 model.
If Toby and Chris were watching football on TV, Chris would mention that Elliot preferred basket ball. Played it with his kids. He had twins. If Chris and Toby were working out together, Chris would be comparing his routine to Elliot's, which he seemed to know by heart.
Food was a great topic of interest for both Toby and Chris after so many years of white bread and chicken nuggets. Elliot cropped up in their discussions of takeout orders too. It seemed that despite his different taste in cars and sports, his taste in food was identical to Chris's. Toby's wasn't and he felt an unfamiliar prickle of jealousy about it.
One evening, they had gone out for a change instead of ordering in or getting a delivery from Gambodge. Toby found it strange that Chris's lawyer would feed him regularly, but put it down to Chris's charm. Chris had suggested an Italian restaurant. He and Elliot had gone there once because it had good pizza. They had, of course, ordered the same pizza toppings without consulting each other first.
"Pizza gives me heartburn," said Toby.
"Elliot says the pasta's good too," said Chris with a slight and maddening smirk.
"Which does he recommend?" Toby inquired.
Chris scanned the menu. His spectacles made him infuriatingly cute.
"He'd probably choose the bolognaise with linguine," Chris said, after a moment. "He's pretty predictable."
Toby guessed that Chris would choose the same, but before he could say so, the waitress arrived to take their orders and flirted with Chris to the extent that Toby felt invisible. Chris played up to it of course. Said, "Hi, gorgeous", joked around, smiled dimples, talked about Elliot with her. Turned out she'd served them when they'd last come there. When she asked Chris if he was one who was the cop, Toby almost choked on his mineral water.
Under the table, Chris's knee pressed against his.
"So you want the bolognaise, Beech?"
"I'll have the seafood platter," said Toby and deliberately added, "Honey."
Chris didn't visibly twitch a muscle, although his pressing knee froze momentarily and gratifyingly against Toby's. The waitress at least backed off.
"So that'll be a Four Seasons pizza and the seafood platter?' she concentrated on scribbling on her order pad.
"Make mine a seafood platter too,' said Chris.
Toby pressed back on Chris's knee with his own. He wondered if he could change his order to a Keller spread on a bun with fries.
Toby was finding his new life stressful and had wanted to ask Pete's opinion on it all, but some things really are too private to be discussed with other people. The strange conversations he and Chris had, sometimes without words, when they awoke early still, after years of early morning counts. Lying facing each other, very close in the middle of the bed, murmuring, half awake, they started to find each other. Sometimes they made love. That was different too. And so were the fights.
Toby had forgotten how flexible Chris was. He'd first learned just about Chris's flexibility the day Chris broke both his arms - he had never understood how Chris had managed to twist his leg up at an angle that should have been impossible for a grown man, so he could snap Toby's bones against it. Later Toby had learned about Chris's flexibility in more enjoyable ways. He was rediscovering the latter most evenings now. He didn't share that with Pete.
He also couldn't explain what it was like finding ways to lie in bed together, because they'd never shared one before - not all night long. Where to put your arms. Which side of the mattress belonged to whom. Who needed more blankets. These things take time. At the moment, Toby was sleeping on the left side of the bed, spooned around Chris's familiar, warm bulk. But that could change. It had already changed from Oz with Chris sleeping in the bunk below and from what he was used to before Oz - Gen's slight form beside him, her small hand holding his as they slept. All this inconsistency left him feeling unsettled. Not knowing what to expect next. Not knowing how to plan or how to move on with his life.
This morning Toby had sat in an armchair across from the king-sized bed, watching Chris sleep. Toby hadn't been sleeping well again, since his release from Oz. The alien beds (his mother's house and here at Chris's), the big, quiet rooms, the foreign noises. The darkness.
Chris's swarthy skin and dark hair seemed even darker against the white sheets. He was asleep, spread out on his back as he could never lie in Oz and, in the hazy morning light, Toby was struck once again by how beautiful Chris was. That was something he'd never told Chris, of course. Chris was quite arrogant enough and Toby didn't want him to have more to crow over him about. Instead he'd always told Chris he was cute or sexy. Chris's beauty also made Toby feel slightly jealous. He felt he didn't quite measure up.
Asleep, Chris had a face like a tombstone effigy. Toby had experienced this effect a couple of times in Oz, where Chris didn't seem to be flesh and blood, but stone or marble. Toby wondered if Chris knew how beautiful he was. He certainly knew how sexy he was, but Toby suspected he didn't see himself as anything beyond that. Beautiful, but unsmiling. He didn't smile often when awake and when he did, it was only for effect or for Toby. Was it Toby's imagination or was Chris smiling less outside Oz than in it?
Toby let his gaze travel over Chris's body. He didn't get a chance to do that much when Chris was awake. He'd gone through a stage when he couldn't keep his eyes off Chris and had stared at him like a kid when they were in the gym or in the shower. Then there'd come the times Toby couldn't bear the sight of Chris and the times he was afraid to see him. More afraid of seeing Chris than of Chris seeing him. More afraid of the hurt he'd see than of the anger and its consequences. The scars. Today he could only see Tarrant's bullet's scar - the one he'd kissed years ago - on Chris's chest. All the others were hidden.
There was one small thing from Oz that Toby remembered and missed more than anything. At night, they often lay together in Chris's narrow bunk for hours, depending on how zealous the guard on duty was. There'd been a time, an all too brief period of grace, before everything had gone irrevocably wrong, when their relationship had become an established fact in the prison routine, lost immediate interest for the other inmates and become something to which most hacks had just turned a blind eye. Toby realized miserably that any change in attitude to them afterwards was probably entirely justified.
In those days long ago, seemingly in another lifetime, after sex or sometimes just fooling around, Chris would slide down in the bunk to put his head on Toby's chest and his arm around Toby's waist, complaining that the bunk was too narrow to let him lie with his head on the pillow next to Toby's. It was a ritual. The next part required Toby to put his arms around Chris without commenting. If Toby commented (or, God forbid, laughed) Chris would move, get up, go to the john. There wasn't anywhere else he could go in the pod.
If Toby didn't comment and held him, then Chris's legs would gradually entwine with Toby's, seemingly of their own accord, one thigh squeezing between Toby's legs, the knee nudging up at his crotch almost accidentally, the other leg pressing against Toby and the mattress. Then Chris would sigh in the gloom of the lower bunk. And Toby would stroke his hair and murmur to him. It felt good to be able to love someone back. It had reminded Toby he was human still. It was one of the small secret things he missed when Chris had gone. He hadn't got it back yet. He wondered if Chris remembered it, but couldn't talk about it with him because they never had.
And now, here Chris was again, at the meeting point of Oz and the world of the living, gradually swallowing up Toby's whole life, changing his plans, preoccupying him constantly, enchanting him and infuriating him, mystifying him, bewildering him.
"You up?" said Chris.
His voice was husky with sleep. Toby realized Chris was awake after all and was watching him through his eyelashes. Toby caught the slight undercurrent of disappointment in Chris's voice and felt sorry he had gotten out of bed.
For all Chris's swaggering, his public displays, his body-hugging clothing, what he craved more than anything was being loved. Toby knew that. In Oz's recreation area, when he grabbed Toby's crotch in front of the other inmates, Toby knew it was not so much to mark him possessively, but to rile him. To get back at him for going away, even for the shortest time. And for contact, any contact.
In private, Chris was so different that he seemed like another person. He never grabbed, never dominated, never took without permission. He was a surprisingly considerate lover by any standards. As time went on, the private Chris got bolder and came out a little in public. But it wasn't safe to show affection in Oz. That would be seen as weakness and you'd be eaten alive. And there was always some piranha waiting for the scent of blood. There was little else for the piranhas to do in their small tank.
And now, this morning, before Toby went to meet Sister Pete, he had gotten up so as not to wake Chris, made himself come coffee, come back to drink it in the bedroom and to watch Chris sleep - or seem to sleep - a while. Chris had not wanted to give himself away again, as he had that first morning. How long had he been awake, straining to hear if Toby was still in the apartment?
"Hey," said Toby, smiling as Chris's eyelids fluttered open, "you want some coffee?"
He wanted to make up for not being in bed, to make Chris feel better, without letting him know he knew. Chris padded through to the kitchen, while Toby was fixing the coffee.
"So you meeting Sister Pete today?" His voice was neutral, but, even with his back to Chris, Toby could imagine the air quivering around him.
"Yeah," said Toby.
"Great, that's great..." Chris took the coffee mug Toby held out to him and focused hard on taking a swallow, thick brows pulled down over his nose as he stared into the steaming cup.
"Want to join us?" asked Toby.
The air quivered a bit more.
"Nah," said Chris lazily, "leave you two to catch up. Meeting Elliot in the Park."
Toby bet he wasn't.
What he hadn't bet on was thinking he caught a glimpse of Chris at the coffee shop later that morning, while talking to Pete.
"What is it, Tobias?" asked Pete.
"I...I'm not sure...nothing..." Toby said, scanning the crowd for another glimpse of that unmistakable profile.
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