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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 9/17
Part 9: A day in the death
Toby was thrown to recognize some of Chris's mannerisms in Elliot. That little shrug and head tilt, that same wry grimace, that scowl of concentration. Toby had assumed that the shrug was put on for effect. A studied gesture in Chris's repertoire of charm. Now he wasn't so sure.
Elliot had Chris's looks, Chris's build (a couple of pounds heavier, according to Chris, not that it showed), much of Chris's body language. He didn't altogether have Chris's sex appeal though, Toby was glad to note. He wasn't sure how he'd have coped with that. Toby did nonetheless catch himself wondering what the rest of Elliot's body looked like, hidden underneath his somber detective suit, and if Elliot was quite as gorgeous as Chris. It didn't seem possible that there could be two bodies like that on the planet. It was a little jarring for Toby to realize that he probably knew intimately what Elliot's body was like and what he'd respond to... Toby hadn't thought about guys' bodies before Oz. Much.
It was also jarring to realize that Elliot was checking him out, examining him, weighing him up. Looking for clues about his nature. For the first time in their relationship, someone was wondering if Toby was good enough for Chris. And Toby wasn't sure he'd passed whatever test Elliot had for any pretender to his brother's affections.
The three of them had met in a crowded diner that advertised itself as "health-friendly". It was on a busy street and didn't look like anything Toby would have imagined to be a cop's usual haunt. Far too trendy. Lots of Hessian, sisal and chrome. Stacked bales purporting to be "hand milled flour" and wooden barrels supporting the counter, where you could watch the cooks use very little oil to cook your burgers (no doubt Soya bean).
Elliot seemed unfamiliar with the place. Chris seemed totally at ease in it. But Toby reckoned he was bluffing. Trying to rattle Elliot. Or Toby. Maybe he was just trying to show them a good time. It was hard to tell with Chris. Especially as he'd insisted it was his treat.
Elliot was apparently on duty, but had somehow arranged to take an extended break solely to be introduced to his brother's lover over coffee. What were the chances of that being the truth? Toby thought cops had busy schedules. Maybe sex crimes were down. Must be some other reason for Elliot's being here today. Twin brother stuff Toby couldn't possibly understand. He recalled Chris saying something about Elliot's children. Guy must be straight. Maybe he thought his brother should be too. These speculations did not improve Toby's mood.
Toby had got away from work with difficulty. He resented his lowered status post-Oz, where his time was no longer his own, as it had pretty much been before he went to prison. A lengthy sentence of having to account to others for his whereabouts, as he'd last done as a teenager. He thought that would have ended when his sentence did, but now he realized he'd earned a life sentence of adolescence when he'd gone to prison.
He'd always be disbarred. One of his parole conditions was that he had to have gainful employment, but he couldn't do what he'd been trained to do. What he was good at. Chris said he should go back to school and train as something else. Easy for him to say. Toby couldn't imagine doing anything other than law. Didn't want to. Not being a lawyer was like losing his legs.
He was pissed off to see Chris unfettered by such concerns. No job, no parole, no parole officer (jerk was a loser who'd never done time inside and had no idea of what it was like to get out again, although he'd been working with ex-cons for twenty years in the same dead-end job), no AA meetings (Toby had promised Pete he'd go), no family expectations, unexpressed or otherwise. Just an adoring identical twin brother who, despite being a cop, seemed completely unconcerned by Chris's history. Toby wondered how much of it Elliot knew. However much Toby had found out, there always seemed to be more and worse. Elliot was a cop. He had to know a fair amount. And yet here he was.
Toby didn't have long on his break. He'd made an excuse at the law firm he was a legal aide for now about needing to do something with his bank account so that he could get out of the office for a decent length of time. He'd had to walk quite a way to find the diner and now he had to fight his way through hordes of yuppies who all seemed much younger and much better groomed than he was. Chris had better be here. He wasn't going to waste time looking for him.
But he saw them both almost immediately, sitting facing each other in a side booth, identical hawkish profiles and identical coffees, eating identical apple pies and ice cream in an atmosphere of dark and brooding intensity. Chris had told him Elliot was his twin, but Toby hadn't been prepared for seeing a second Chris, in a brown suit, checked shirt and conservative tie. He blinked. Other than their dress, forty years of separation didn't seem to have made any impact on their uncanny sameness. Toby had known Chris and Elliot were identical, but, until he saw them together, he hadn't realized what that meant.
He suddenly felt unequal to the task of meeting Elliot. He wished he'd gotten to the diner first. He felt it would have given him the edge. He hesitated in the doorway. But the other Chris, who was wearing a familiar grey hoodie, black leather jacket and jeans, looked round and saw him. Flashed a brilliant smile. Waved him over. Chris still hadn't lost the knack of knowing when Toby was around, even if he hadn't seen him enter a room. Even in a crowd. Almost as if he could feel him. Toby never knew whether he should feel flattered or disturbed. Mainly, like now, he felt flattered. He walked over to the table.
"Hey," Chris's smile broadened. He shifted over on his bench. Toby realized he was meant to sit next to him. "Suited Chris" leaned back in his seat and stared at him. It was like being stared at by a Chris who didn't recognize him after everything they had been through together. It was disorienting. Toby felt self-conscious as he slid into the seat next to "Hoodie Chris". He hoped Chris wouldn't be too demonstrative. He wasn't up to being outed in a diner in front of his lover's disapproving identical twin today. "Suited Chris" watched him all the way, through narrowed eyes. Summing him up like a suspect.
"Maybe he'll call for backup," thought Toby.
"This is Elliot," Chris said at the same instant Elliot leaned over the table, with an extended hand and said, "I'm Elliot."
Chris and Elliot laughed a laugh that said, "We keep doing this". Identical curve to their lips. Identical straight white teeth. Toby had always assumed there was an orthodontist in Chris's childhood, but now he was no longer sure.
"I guessed," Toby shook Elliot's hand. The same long fingers, callused palm. The grip wasn't as hard though, nor as desperate. Elliot's voice was slightly more relaxed too. Softer, but not smoother. He'd clearly grown up in Queens by his intonation. He leaned back against the booth again and shot Chris a small grin. Why? Toby stared at the menu so that he didn't stare at Elliot.
As he scanned the list of skinny lattes and 0%-fat ice creams, a sudden horrible thought crossed Toby's mind. They'd changed places! Elliot was really Chris and they were ganging up against him. But, under the table, a familiar hand stole onto his thigh, crept over it and moved up within inches of his crotch. Squeezed.
"The coffee's real good," Chris breathed into his ear, maneuvering his thigh against Toby's.
Back in Oz Toby often felt as if he'd lost every last vestige of shame, but somehow Chris always proved him wrong. Like now. No one could see his hard-on underneath the table, but he felt himself grow crimson as it grew. Elliot just shook his head with the air of a cop who had seen it all before and drank some coffee. A gold wedding ring caught the light as he raised his coffee cup. How many times had he been married?
"I'll have a coffee," said Toby.
Chris left his hand on Toby's thigh as he summoned a waitron.
"Wanna share my pie?" he grinned.
Elliot stared at Beecher, taking in his cropped hair (dark-blond or medium brown? It was difficult to tell), round face that managed to look pinched, watchful light-blue eyes that gave nothing away, snub nose, wide mouth. Younger than him and Chris? Probably. Boy-man. He tried to see what Chris saw in him. Failed. Tried to see him as a sort of male Kathy. Failed again. He didn't get Beecher. Couldn't figure him out. And he didn't get Chris's overwhelming obsession with him.
To be honest, the Beecher situation annoyed him. It reminded him that he and Chris were not altogether identical and that there was a lot about Chris he neither knew nor understood. Had no control over. It would've been different if they'd grown up together, he was sure. He'd been cheated of forty years. Beecher was a symbol of that. Four decades without his other half. He tried not to resent Beecher, who had spent so much more time with Chris than he had. Failed at that too.
Right now he was watching how Chris had perked up when Beecher was around. How he focused entirely on Beecher even if he was talking to someone else (like Elliot). How he leaned in his direction as they sat side by side, shoulders almost touching. Beecher leaned too as he dug into Chris's pie, but Elliot didn't think he leaned quite as much as Chris did.
Elliot tried to feel happy that Chris had the object of his affections so close at hand. He just wished he could get some of Chris's attention too.
"Gimme your phone," he said to Chris.
"I made him get this, catch up with technology," he said to Beecher as Chris slid his mobile phone over the table to him.
He caught it with his free hand, flipped it open and took a picture of Chris and Beecher. Snapped it shut. Slid it back to Chris.
"Just like mine, so I could show him how to use it."
He didn't tell Beecher about helping Chris pick ring-tones for the few people on his list. Finding the right tone for Toby was his number one priority, even before Toby had been released from Oz or had acquired a phone of his own. In fact, Chris had bought Beecher a phone as a coming-out present. The same as his own. Eventually Chris settled on a Sinatra theme: Beecher was "I've got you under my skin". Elliot was "New York, New York". Bonnie was "I did it my way", but he wouldn't say why.
"How about something special for Beecher, like `I got it bad'?" Elliot had teased him.
"He hates that song," Chris had replied, but he wouldn't say why either.
Chris flipped his phone open and looked the picture Elliot had just taken.
"I owe you," he said, his voice betraying nothing, but Elliot knew he wasn't schmoozing. Maybe his long-dormant twin-brother senses were finally starting to kick into action.
"Nah, you don't. Just figured you don't have any photos of you guys together."
"Mug shots," thought Toby.
He watched as Elliot leaned back against his side of the booth again, folded his hands on his chest and closed his eyes, a picture of Chris-like pseudo-relaxation. Yeah, he could read old Elliot just as well as he could read Chris. He wondered if Elliot could read him though? He doubted it.
Elliot could have taken the photo on his own phone and sent it to Chris. Maybe he didn't want a picture of Chris with Toby, Toby reflected. Homophobic? Maybe. From what Chris had said, Elliot sounded quite religious. Maybe he was afraid people would think Chris was him. Maybe he didn't like Toby. Toby suspected he didn't. Jealous? A family trait? Toby wasn't sure he had the strength for it twice over. Maybe it was just the prison thing. Elliot was a cop. He probably didn't like spending time with ex-cons.
"I've got to get back to work," Toby said.
"Meet me for lunch," Chris told him.
Toby's irritation dissipated somewhat. It was a Keller request for reassurance, of course. Chris wanted to know if they were still okay. But thinking about lunch made Toby irritable all over again. He'd have to ask for permission and then be told he had only half a lunch hour because he'd taken part of the time to go "banking". Before Oz he could take off the whole afternoon if he'd wanted. Just right for a long martini lunch. Not any more.
"Can't get out at lunchtime, Chris, sorry," he said, adding hastily, "why don't you stop by?"
"You want me to bring something?"
For some reason the question sent a jumpstart straight to Toby's cock. Chris grinned and said, "Sandwiches?"
"I'll have what you're having," mumbled Toby and stood up to leave as quickly as he could. "Just get there on time and don't ask me to show you up. I was allowed more visitors in Oz."
Actually Toby didn't think his employers would object to Chris's showing up again. They'd seemed quite taken by him the last time he'd come, despite - or, oddly enough perhaps, because of - his kissing Toby on the lips. Now Toby was told he could keep a picture of Chris on his desk if he wanted. He wondered if he hadn't just become the new minority rights quota employee-of-the-month. His employers seemed more impressed by his alternative lifestyle than by his excellent grasp of corporate law. Chris said afterwards that they were threatened by his abilities. "It's not as if I'm going to be competing with them ever," Toby had replied bitterly.
"I gotta get going too. Meet Liv down at the Station. We got some calls to make."
Elliot slid out of his seat and tossed some bills onto the table.
"I already paid," said Chris.
"Tip," said Elliot, "cops tip big."
Back at the office, Toby looked at his phone. Yes, the message that had come through while he was in the elevator had been from Chris. It was the photo Elliot had taken of them together. He studied it. He looked uncomfortable in it and his tie was crooked. Chris lounged against the back of the booth, surveying his brother through half-closed eyes, his head slightly inclined towards Toby's, a suggestion of a smile curling his lips. Not only was he handsome in real life, but Toby now saw he was amazingly photogenic too. Probably even looked fantastic in his mug shots.
Toby considered downloading the photo onto his office computer as wallpaper, but decided that might be going too far. His employers still referred to Chris as his "friend", despite the kiss. He had wondered at the time how to introduce Chris to them, running through the options in his mind. "Lover" hadn't gone down so well with his parents in Oz, although the environment may have had something to do with it. It did seem a little intimate for work though.
He was tempted to try "boyfriend" facetiously, but it reminded him too much of the belittling way in which the CO's used to speak of their relationship. When Chris had been shot and all Toby wanted to know was whether or not he was still alive, even Murphy, who was one of the more decent hacks, had dismissively called Chris his boyfriend and made it clear he didn't think it worth the trouble finding out if he was alright. That had really hurt Toby. It had rubbished the one worthwhile thing he'd had while in Oz.
Toby didn't know the protocol for gay relations, but he knew it was probably premature to call Chris his "partner". What remained? "Significant other"? "Loved one"? In the end, all he'd said was, "This is Chris Keller". That was when Chris had leaned in and kissed him in front of what seemed to be the entire staff of the law firm. The office went silent for a moment.
"Christ," thought Toby, "there goes my job, to say nothing of my parole."
Instead, the senior partner had extended a well-manicured hand to Chris and said he was very, very pleased to meet him. The junior partners were similarly delighted. The secretaries all fluttered and other paralegals rustled their briefs and contracts approvingly.
Toby felt dazed. He had truly expected cat-calls and hisses, the odd cry of "faggot" at least. He was ready for that. But not for this. He gaped at them all. Chris grinned. Shook the senior partner's hand. Mentioned that Toby had spoken highly of him and found working at his firm real interesting.
"And what do you do, Mr. Keller?" asked the senior partner.
"I was a contractor. Took early retirement. I've gone back to school."
He proceeded to engage the senior partner in a complex discussion of the legal implications of a corporate case that was making the headlines. Toby was left on the outskirts of all the socializing, with his lips tingling. He could have killed him.
No, Toby wasn't quite ready to be parading pictures of him and Chris together or even Chris by himself on his desk or computer monitor yet. Pride of place was given to Holly and Harry, in any case. He had recent studio photos of them in matching frames and had spent one weekend scanning in baby pictures of all three children to make a collage wallpaper. It was good to be able to have their pictures about, without fear of repercussions. He still wouldn't talk about them though. He'd learned that lesson too well. And the pictures of Gary were too sharply bitter-sweet.
Chris would be going in to campus today after lunch, which was good. It meant Toby would be able to get on with his work in peace and quiet, assuming he survived lunch. He'd come to see that sandwiches were the food of love. He'd never realized how sensual sandwiches could be until Chris made him lunch a couple of times. Even the awful day of Gary's twelfth birthday had the slight luminous residue of Chris, sex and sandwiches.
Despite the apple pie, Toby suddenly wondered if he could hold out to lunch. He sms-ed Chris: "Miss you - looking forward to lunch! xx". And Chris sms-ed back almost instantaneously: "Hey, u want wholegrain or rye? xx". Lunch couldn't come soon enough for Toby.
"Howell's dead," said Toby one evening when Chris picked him up from work.
"Yeah?" Chris focused on the merging and unmerging cars around him.
"Yeah, Pete told me. She phoned me today when she saw it in the paper."
"Why'd she call you?"
Chris stared at the road unblinkingly, but a muscle in his jaw twitched and his brows pulled together slightly. Toby downplayed his conversations with Pete, because he felt guilty for spending time with her when Chris and she had had such a troubled relationship. The truth was they called each other quite regularly during office hours. It was just easier not to rock the boat with Chris.
"To let me know..."
"You knew Howell well?"
Chris's driving speed picked up almost imperceptibly.
Toby wanted to say something about its being the death of someone they all knew, but realized that although it were true, it would sound flimsy to Chris.
"Well, no, but..." he began.
"They know what happened?" asked Chris unexpectedly.
"Not really. She disappeared a few months back while working as a truck driver. Her truck was found beside a deserted road. Apparently she'd run out of gas. None of the surrounding gas stations had seen her, so no one knew exactly when she'd disappeared. Police say her truck had been standing by the road a few days at least before it was found, so it was hard to know where to start searching. The police thought she had been picked up by a passing motorist, but now her body has been found in the woods nearby where her truck was parked."
"She have an accident?" Chris was staring piercingly at the bumper of the car in front of him.
"No, not by the way her neck was broken. The police are saying she's been murdered."
"Could've broken her neck in a fall."
Toby was about to explain that Howell's neck had been twisted until it snapped, when a familiar tingle of suspicion awoke in him. He looked at Chris's profile in the gleam of the street lights.
"You had no reason to kill Howell, did you?"
"Fuck, no. Is that why Sister Pete called you? To find out if I did it?"
Toby stared at him. "Tell me the truth, Chris."
"So that's what this is all about?" said Chris, glaring at the road, his arms taut and braced against the steering wheel. "Somebody we both know dies so I've gotta be the cause? You already decided I'm guilty, so why ask?"
Toby stared at Chris. His face was unreadable. As far as he was aware Chris had no motive for killing Howell, maybe he really was just pissed off about Pete calling him... The scar between Chris's brows had almost disappeared into his scowl.
"Chris, what happened between you and Howell on Death Row?"
He'd never asked.
"I'm driving, Beecher. Don't fuck with me."
"Tell me what happened." The tingle was a definite vibration now.
Toby watched shoulders relax. Eyes blink and widen, focusing on the road again. His voice was toneless when he answered.
"I pissed her off. She took me down."
"I heard a rumor that she sexually abused some prisoners."
"Sounds like bullshit to me."
"I've usually found out that when there's a rumor like that doing the rounds there's something to it. Even in Oz. I mean no guy, least of all a convict, is going to compromise his masculinity by pretending sexual abuse at the hand of a woman."
"Yeah?" Chris turned to face him with a derisive smile. "So who was she supposed to have abused?"
"Never found out."
"Like I said, bullshit." His teeth shone white in the gloom.
Toby didn't want life outside Oz to be anything like life inside Oz. But Oz would not let him go. He wanted to be safe. He wanted his family to be safe. He didn't want to have to watch every step and spend every waking hour trying to keep it all together.
At first he hadn't associated Howell's death with Chris, but now he wasn't sure. He didn't know for sure if Chris was involved or not. His gut told him "yes", but that could be habit, not instinct. Chris had promised him before he was paroled that it would be different. So far it had been.
But this reminded Toby that although he and Chris had been lovers for seven years, they had been together less than they'd been apart. Chris was like a stranger to him sometimes. He was so different out of Oz that Toby was reminded every day about his life before they met. The life he knew so little about.
Was Toby different out of Oz? God, he hoped so. He wanted to be. He wanted to be different from before Oz too. He didn't want to break things that were working at last. He wanted to believe Chris. He wanted to believe in Chris and that they could be happy at last, despite everything. He didn't want to lose Chris. His mind shrank away from the thought. He loved Chris and he'd lost too many people he loved through his own behavior.
Chris's voice broke into his thoughts, a lazy drawl that was at odds with the tension of their recent conversation.
"You coming home with me or going to your Mom's?"
Another test of his trust. He badly wanted to tuck Holly in tonight and watch her sleep. He could do that tomorrow though. Tonight he needed to tuck Chris in. They both did. He needed to show them both that he trusted him. That the old breaks didn't ache anymore. That there would be no more attacks in the dark. The night seemed a little colder as they turned off to the penthouse.
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