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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 8/17
Part 8: Loss
It's Gary's birthday today. He would'd've been twelve. Toby won't get out of bed this morning and I can see he's jonesing for a drink. Lucky there aren't any in the apartment. Lucky it's the weekend otherwise he'd be missing work and violating his parole. I don't know it's Gary's birthday until Mrs. Beecher phones to find out how Toby is and to invite us for lunch. I weigh driving to the Beechers against watching Toby come apart. We drive to the Beechers. I drive. I've done it before often enough. It goes okay. Toby doesn't speak all the way there though. Doesn't speak much at lunch either. No one does.
After lunch Toby goes upstairs to sit in the room Gary had stayed in for a while. I follow him. Try to touch him.
"Don't, Chris," he pushes my hand off him. "I could never be alone in Oz. I need to be alone now."
So I go downstairs again. Next thing I know, he's driven off in a spare Lexus they've got stashed somewhere. He's not answering his phone. The first thing I think is "parole violation". The first thing the Beechers think is "accident". So I call Elliot. Tell him what's happened. Ask him what to do. Hope he won't report Toby. He says he can put a trace on the car. Then Angus remembers the car has a tracker system. We call the tracker company. They trace the car to the cemetery where Gary is buried.
When Angus and I get to the cemetery, it takes us a while to locate Toby after we find the Lexus and park next to it. We go to Gary's grave, which has a small headstone in pinkish granite that looks brown in the overcast weather. We don't see Toby at first, because he's sitting on a stone bench a little way away, hunched over with his head almost on his knees, his face buried in his hands.
"I was afraid of this," says Angus.
He looks afraid. His coloring is high in the chilly air and he's pulling his chin in apparently against the wind. He looks from Toby to me.
"What are we going to do?" he asks.
"Get him indoors before it starts to rain," I tell him. Asshole.
Angus stays where he is. So I head off to Toby on my own, hoping I'll do a better fucking job of comforting him than I did back in Oz. I don't feel optimistic. I mean, if he's still this cut up about it all these years later, when's he going to move on? At least I now know better than to grab his dick. The gravel crunches under my boots. Otherwise the place is silent, save a slight, familiar sound from Toby.
"Hey," I say.
He seems to pull into himself more, but otherwise gives no sign of being aware of me. Here we go again. I crouch down in front of him and try to see his face. I take his wrist and shake it lightly.
"Beech? C'mon. Don't be like this. Look at me."
He does. Shit. He looks almost as bad as when it happened. Ghostly. Hollow. It scared me then and it scares me now. His eyes are faded and unfocused. I'm not even sure he sees me. I hate that cocksucker Schillinger. Fuck's still alive, despite everything, like some psychopathic cockroach, fucking indestructible. Thinking about Schillinger is lot easier than thinking about Toby right now. Makes me feel more in control. But there's rain spitting down on my face and hands. Gotta get Toby indoors.
"Toby? Gotta make a move. It's raining."
"I don't want to leave Gary out here all alone on his birthday."
He starts to sob again, as if shaken from inside. I move up slowly to sit next to him on the bench. Hold him. Stroke his hair. Kiss his temple. Remember Angus watching. Think, "fuck him" and kiss Toby again. He lets me. Good sign. Just take it slow. Wait for him to relax, then I'll move him off to the car. Don't force him. Never force him with anything. Don't give him orders. The rain's spitting harder and the air is cold.
"Gary's in a better place, Toby. He isn't here. He's with his mom and grandpa. He's not hurting anymore. You can come back here again later, but we gotta get in out of the rain now, okay?"
At last I get Toby to stand up and walk him to his car. Angus has apparently already left in his. Fuck. Now I'll have to drive back too and I don't even have a fucking map. He could at least have stuck around long enough to give some goddamn directions.
"Toby, give me the keys."
He just stands beside the car, staring into space. The drizzle is turning into rain. It's making his short hair spiky and blurring his tears. And it's fucking freezing. I want to shake him and suddenly I wonder if he's been drinking. I can't smell anything on him, but I don't want to be too obvious. And it might've been vodka. Never smell that.
"We're getting wet out here, Toby. Let me have the car keys."
No response. I could open and start the car easily enough without keys, even though I haven't done that in years. I was real good at boosting cars way back when, round the time I was married to Bonnie for the first time. I even trained Ronnie Barlog. Took forever. Ronnie was a dumb fuck, but I thought he was cute. I'd've fucked him if I hadn't been married to Bonnie. `Course I eventually did fuck him in Oz.
Don't want to go back there now and I don't want to go back to car boosting. I gave all of that up for Toby and I'm pretty certain Toby won't approve of me hotwiring his mom's Lexus. I pat Toby down. Dig in his pockets. All his pockets, his trousers, his coat. Where the fuck are they? I'm just wondering if he left them at the bench or locked them in the car, when I notice he's got them balled in his fist.
"Goddamn it, Toby."
He won't let them go. I have to pry them out of his hand. I grab his wrist harder than I mean to and bend it back. I hurt him. He's angry at me, I can see it burn in his light eyes, but at least it's a reaction. Same as before. The only way out of his grief is getting mad at me. At least he's not blaming me for Gary's death this time. Not yet anyway.
I open the passenger door and let him in, go round the car, get in the driver's side, adjust the seat, put on my seatbelt. I'm about to turn the key in the ignition, when I notice Toby's not buckled up. All we need is a fucking accident and this is the time it's likely to happen. I unbuckle myself, reach over, strap him in. Child-lock the car doors. I hate it that he looks like a lost little boy now, in a wet coat. He staring at the dashboard, his mouth turned down, but he's not crying any longer. Don't know if that's good or bad. I start the car.
"Beech," I put my hand on his thigh, more to test how wet his clothes are than anything else, "what's the quickest route to your mom's? Gotta get you out of those wet clothes."
"Can we go back to the apartment?" he asks in a broken-sounding voice. "I can't let Holly see me like this. Or Mother."
"The apartment", not "your apartment". Progress. I squeeze his leg through almost dry trousers.
Back at the apartment building, I'm glad the penthouse has a private elevator. Toby's been silent all the way home, but as the doors close, he starts to howl. My name, over and over.
"Chrissss - Chrissss -"
He reaches for me like a drowning man.
"It should have been me, not Gary. Not my son. Not my little boy. He was only seven years old." His voice is raw. "I don't deserve to be alive."
I pull him to me, push his face into my neck to stop him saying that. He clings to me, wailing. He can barely breathe. Nor can I. And so we ride up to the top of the building. It takes for-fucking-ever. I coax him out into the foyer, take off his coat and mine, lead him to the bathroom, start to strip off his polar neck. The lower parts of his trouser-legs are sodden. So are his shoes and socks. I turn on the shower, wait for the water to warm up, remember to take off his watch. I don't have one. He's shivering. I kiss his hair and guide him into the shower. Strip off my own wet stuff. Leave it on the floor. I'll put it away later.
I consider getting into the shower with him, but decide to take a shower later, when he's lying down, and go back to the bedroom to look for some sweats to put on instead.
He's looking round the bathroom door at me, as I pull on my sweat pants. I go over to him to towel him off. He lowers his eyes and puts a hand on my chest as I get up close to him. I almost don't hear him.
"Toby, it ain't really..."
His arms around my waist, his breath against my neck. His skin is still chilly and his lips are cold. He slumps against me. I'm not in the mood and it seems like a real bad idea from my point of view, but...
"Please, Chris, I don't want to hurt for just a little while...make it stop hurting..."
Help me forget, he means. I can't bring his baby back. I can't fix his family. I can't give him back the years in Oz. Or erase Vern Schillinger. I can't even fix our goddamn problems. But I can give him this. So I kiss his ear, his neck, his lips as I move him backwards to the bed. The sheets are cold too.
"Tell me what you want," I whisper, thinking "other than having your son back again".
"Make it stop hurting, Chris," his voice is shaking again.
Not sure I can, baby, but I'll do my best. And so I do. I kiss his old scars. I massage the knots in his muscles that are no longer so prison buff. I stroke him. I make his nipples peak. I put my hand between his thighs and rub his cock, while I tell him how much I love him. He sobs in my arms.
"Show me where it hurts, Toby. Tell me what to do."
In my eagerness to please him, I do his special favorite things too quickly and in no particular order. He cries the whole way through, until I find his prostate and then I watch him go onto autopilot. I get him to come somehow. Enough to make him go to sleep afterwards. And as for me, I hold him for a while and watch him sleeping.
Then my brick buzzes on the nightstand and I disentangle our limbs as carefully as I can so I can get up to take the call. It's Angus. He's worried. Why the fuck didn't he stick around then?
"Is he okay?"
No, he's not fucking okay.
"He's sleeping," I tell him.
Toby sleeps on. I try to do some reading for that assignment on social archetypes, but I can't sit still. That "I don't deserve to be alive" is still in my head. The bedroom's too quiet. I keep getting up to check on him. I could just as well lie down next to him again, but I tell myself the `phone might ring. Angus will probably call back before Toby wakes up. I go to the next-door room to work out instead. Thanks to Elizabeth, I can identify my feelings these days, but I don't want to right now. Of course, when Toby does wake up a couple of hours later, he wants to talk about it, why he's feeling the way he does. A good sign, I guess.
Another shower. More sweats. He's still cold. I lend him a pullover too. I never quite got the hang of pullovers, but they look good on him. I bought some because I thought they were the sort of thing he'd wear and I get a kick out Toby wearing my stuff. He used to do it in Oz sometimes, take my T-shirts. I think I chose this particular pullover with him in mind. It's cornflower blue and wheat gold. I've never worn it.
He sits wrapped in it at my kitchen counter, looking shrunken. That makes me scared, so I get angry. I try not to let it show. Where I come from and where he's been, you don't let yourself get beaten down. I make us sandwiches for supper, chopping at cheese and salad and bread with an unnecessarily big, sharp knife that cuts through anything, according to the telemarketing advert.
I want to tell him not to let himself get broken down. I stop myself by clenching my jaw until I think something's going to pop out of its socket. When are we going to be free, for chrissakes? When will we be able to put the past behind and get on with our lives? What's happened in the last year is better than I could have dreamed, but somehow we're still not happy.
He hates his job. He's quarrelling with his mom. He blames himself for the deaths of his dad, his wife and his son. He isn't sleeping well. I pretty much don't have a life. If something happens to Toby... We gotta stay in the game, s'all. Gotta be alert. There are folks out there who want us dead.
I pour him more coffee without asking and he looks mildly surprised, but says nothing and just warms his hands around the mug. Fabulous. He's slept half the afternoon and now he's full of caffeine. He'll be up all night, fretting. And so will I. Even if he's not here.
"It's all the firsts, you know," he says looking at me properly for the first time since this morning. "I mean, Gary died over five years ago, but Oz was like being in another dimension. I had to focus on staying alive all the time."
"You gotta do it out here too, pal," I think to myself, tossing the knife down and looking for another. It may be able to cut through anything, but it can't spread butter.
"What happened outside Oz ...it just wasn't real. I wasn't confronted with it everyday. After his funeral...after his coffin...his coffin was so small, Chris..." his face crumples and his knuckles whiten around his mug.
I realize that what I want more than anything at this point is to go work out. I must be a real shit cos all I can think about are my triceps and whether I should get a punch bag after all. I was never real good at empathy. That's what Bonnie always said. Toby doesn't seem to notice. He stares into the coffee dregs and continues.
"In Oz, it was avoidable; out here it's not. Now it's as if it was all packaged and waiting for me to unwrap and start up where I left off after the funeral. The first Christmas, first family holiday, first ... b-birthday. All over again - this time for real."
I stop buttering bread and turn to face him properly.
"It's...his toys, his clothes - Mother kept them all, you know. She didn't know what I'd want to keep. They're all in boxes..."
Like Gary. I know where this is going. Shit. I should really get a punch bag. But Toby stops. Swallows.
"At least his mother isn't here to see it. At least Gen ... it would have killed her."
I don't want him to go there either. This is all bringing back unhappy memories for me too. I wonder how he's going to fall off the wagon this time. Booze? Drugs? Sex? Maybe he's already started. Elizabeth's been helping me work through some of what happened back then. I just don't want to keep raking it up. And I honestly don't know what I'd do if it ever happened again. Elizabeth doesn't know about Mondo, Ronnie and the rest. She doesn't know what I'm really capable of. My mobile buzzes. Angus again. I hand it over to Toby. Go back to the bread. I watch Toby out of the corner of my eye.
"Hey, Gussie...yeah, I'm okay..."
"...I'm probably going to stay with Chris tonight...he's fixing supper...yeah, he's taking care of me..."
He reaches across the counter and squeezes my hand. Leaves his hand on mine. I stop spreading butter. Try to relax my muscles. Stop thinking about the punch bag. Stroke his fingers with my thumb.
"I don't think I should speak to her right now - send her my love. Does she know it's Gary's birthday? ... She does, huh? Shit. ... I don't think I should, Gussie, tell her Daddy'll be back tomorrow, okay? And send love to Mother too..."
"Is it okay if I stay over? I don't want to go back to Holly like this. It'll upset her."
"You don't gotta ask, Toby."
If you'd fucking move in, we wouldn't have to have this conversation. You should be here with me. Instead all I got is half a closet of your clothes and your shaving kit on my sink. His mouth pulls down a bit and he stares down at our hands.
"Bonnie was right," he says. "You are the only person who can understand."
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