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Unbeta-ed. Mistakes my own.
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 10/17
Part 10: Stake out
There were no visitors to the penthouse, other than Elliot sometimes and Beecher, who was spending almost every night there. Sometimes he'd come straight from work, sometimes late in the evening. Every morning when he left, it would be a similar protracted farewell.
"Didn't figure Keller for the wife," said Fin.
"Sexist bastard," said Munch affably.
"Notice something missing from his routine? He never goes to gym. Guy must have a home gym in there - you gotta work out to keep in shape like that," Fin remarked one dreary afternoon.
One Sunday morning, however, there was a change in schedule. Keller returned from the Beechers with Beecher. Although they were in a Lexus and not Keller's Mustang, which had remained in the underground garage all weekend, Keller was driving. He pulled into the garage and took the parking spot next to his Mustang. Munch and Fin sank lower in their seats. The boot popped open and both men got out of the Lexus, unsmiling. Beecher started unloading some cardboard boxes, while Keller pressed the button for the elevator.
"Beecher moving in?" said Fin.
"Doesn't look very happy about it. Neither of them does," said Munch. "Reminds me of my third marriage. We both had a premonition we shouldn't move in together. It turned out to be the only thing we had in common."
Keller held the elevator door open as Beecher put the first box inside on the floor. He said something to Beecher as he returned to the car, but Beecher shook his head, eyes downcast as he picked up another box. He tripped over something on the garage floor and split the contents of the box he was carrying. Toys. It looked like miniature cars and Lego bricks.
"He bringing the kid to live here too?" said Fin dubiously.
"I thought it was his daughter who lived nearby, not his son?" said Munch. "Those aren't Barbies."
"Who's the sexist bastard now?" inquired Fin.
Keller left the elevator and went over to Beecher who was crouched on the ground, trying to gather up the little bricks and cars. He crouched down next to him, put a hand on his back, spoke to him for a moment, then helped him to his feet and took him over to the elevator. Opened it again. Beecher stepped inside, his face a mask of misery, and the door slid shut. Keller returned to the spilt toys.
"Mr. Keller? Can we have a word?"
Keller looked up at the two pairs of feet in front of him. He stopped gathering up the bricks and stood up slowly. Dangerously. A flash of a gold shield made him relax his stance.
"Detectives Munch and Tutuola. Special Victims Unit."
A look of recognition told them that he knew SVU was Elliot's unit.
"Yeah?" Elliot's voice - or the next closest thing to it - was a jolt to the detectives.
And Elliot's face, but not Elliot's expression. A humorless smile below angry eyes. The lazy drawl in stark contrast to the coiled body.
"Do you mind if we see what's in those boxes?" Munch said.
"You got a warrant?" Keller asked predictably.
"We can get one and come back and search your apartment too, but if you've got nothing to hide, why go to all that trouble?"
Keller's face was an old con mask of calculation and resentment.
"I think you should get a warrant."
He glanced at the elevator.
"You want us out of here before Beecher comes back? That it? Ain't going to happen unless you let us see what's in those boxes," said Fin.
Keller thought for a moment. Smiled.
"Knock yourselves out," he said.
More toys were in another box. Stuffed animals. Small clothes in a third. Small boy clothes and a baseball mitt, child size.
"Whose are these?" asked Munch, holding up a small royal blue baseball cap and a Six Flags beanie.
"They're Beecher's son's."
Interesting way to refer to your lover, said Munch's expression.
"I heard he was in California with his mother's parents?"
Keller gave that strange half-smile again.
"These belonged to his other son, Gary."
Belonged. Fin dropped the baseball mitt back into the box, as a tight voice behind them said, "What are you doing with my son's things?"
It was Beecher. He looked pale and unwell.
"Toby -" said Keller, but Beecher brushed him off.
"What the hell are you doing?" His voice had risen.
The detectives stepped back from the car.
"I'm sorry, sir, our mistake."
It was seven o'clock on Monday morning in Precinct 16, when a dark, angry cloud whirled into SVU's squad room. Olivia, who had gotten in early to catch up on her e-mail and other admin, looked up from her computer.
Olivia stared into furious blue eyes that were familiar and yet strangely unfamiliar. Realization dawned. Keller.
"I wanna see Elliot. Where is he?"
Olivia stood up cautiously.
"Elliot's not in yet. Can I help you?"
She'd heard about Munch and Fin's misadventures the previous day. Keller clearly hadn't gotten hold of Elliot yet and had had a whole day to stew over the incident that had taken place in the garage.
"Where the fuck is he? He isn't answering his goddamned phone."
"He went to the shore with his kids over the weekend. He's probably taking them to school now. Chris, we need to talk."
Keller turned to her, with a grin that was positively shark-like.
"Chris?" he said.
Why was he asking? Was he really Elliot playing a bizarre joke? Looking at him, Olivia faced the creeping realization that she couldn't be sure. The confusion on her face made him grin more - a slow smile that was all sex and danger. And totally un-Elliot.
"You're just not sure who I am, are you?" he purred.
Olivia blinked. Keller leaned in.
"That must bother you..." his voice was so smooth, so reasonable and so hypnotic and his eyes so blue and so frank that Olivia had to fight not to give in to it, to believe that Chris Keller was just another Elliot Stabler and that she knew him so well.
"Not knowing who you're dealing with. Not having control. Not knowing if I'm the good guy or the worthless shit. Elliot and me - we're so similar, aren't we? Must worry you all the time. Maybe you want to keep good ol' Elliot safe from me in case he changes...in case I change him. Cos if you don't know who I am, I guess you don't know who Elliot is either, O-liv-i-a. Must be hard, keeping control all the time, even for such a strong woman like you..."
Olivia stared into those dark eyes, her mouth slightly open. His voice was like fingers stroking her... caressing her... She hadn't seen Chris Keller up close since that first day when Elliot had found him. She could forget how handsome Elliot was, because he was her partner and they worked together. She vaguely realized she could never forget how attractive Chris was and wondered why she found him so much more attractive than his identical twin brother. The spell was broken by Captain Cragen's voice saying, "Elliot, Olivia, can I see you in my office please?"
He looked grim. Uh oh, Dad's mad, thought Olivia gloomily. Great start to the week.
"Captain, this isn't..." Olivia began, but Keller smirked, read the name on Cragen's door as Cragen disappeared into his office and loped after him.
What the hell was Keller going to do? Pass himself off as Elliot? Olivia scrambled after them both, wondering if this counted as impersonating a police officer.
"I've just been speaking to a Mr. Tobias Beecher on my home phone. Apparently he got my number through some private detective he knows, but I'll look into how that happened later. He's brought some rather puzzling information to light."
Olivia's heart sank. Cragen took off his coat and hung it methodically on the back of his door. Walked around his desk to stand at his captain's chair. He glared at her and at Keller, who stared back, legs apart, hands behind his back. A con's stance that seemed strangely like that of a Marine in the police captain's office.
"I'll talk to Munch and Fin when they get in, but I want to talk to both of you now. Elliot, you know Mr. Beecher, I expect, as your brother's partner..."
"Captain," Olivia blurted out, "I can explain..."
"Kindly do so, Olivia," said Captain Cragen. He looked at her balefully. Keller cocked his head to one side and looked at her too, a slight and disturbing smile hovering.
"This is Christopher Keller, Captain," Olivia said.
Cragen stared at Keller, disbelief written all over his face. Keller smiled at him.
"Captain Cragen," he said, "I've heard so much about you from Elliot."
"Mr. Keller," Cragen recovered his composure and extended a hand. Keller shook it. "I must apologize on behalf of my unit for the misunderstanding yesterday. I appreciate it must have been very distressing for you both..."
"Invasive," murmured Keller.
"Yes, invasive," Cragen bored holes in Olivia. She looked away.
"They said they were detectives and showed me their badges," Keller continued in a quiet, reasonable voice that belied his furious entrance a little while ago. "So when they told me they needed to look through Toby's stuff I didn't see that I had a choice. They didn't have a warrant, but I'm an ex-con. I didn't want any trouble. Toby's taken his son's murder real hard and I didn't want to make bringing his stuff home any harder."
"I assure you, Mr. Keller, I intend to get to the bottom of it. Please accept my heartfelt apologies. I need to talk to Detective Benson alone for a minute, if you don't mind."
Cragen came back around his desk to escort Keller to the door. He beckoned to a dapper plainclothes officer with a clipped gray mustache.
"Mr. Keller, this is Detective Di Franco. This is Elliot's brother, Chris, Frankie. Would you make sure he gets a decent cup of coffee while I talk to Olivia? Thanks."
As the door closed behind Keller and Cragen turned to Olivia, she knew it wasn't going to be pretty.
"I take it you know exactly what he's talking about?"
"No, Olivia. Tell me who authorized this stakeout, because it sure as hell wasn't me."
"It was me, Captain, it was all my idea. I just wanted to make sure..."
"Have you any idea how it makes me feel to see the top detectives in my squad taking the law into their own hands, endangering their careers and making the my unit look like a bunch of amateurs and loose cannons? Tell me you had good reason to be tailing Keller and Beecher, Olivia. Please."
Olivia thought so.
"Keller is a criminal. He's got a record as long as your arm. Serious crimes and clear links to syndicates. Con jobs. Fraud. Motor vehicle theft. Drugs. Armed robbery. I've spoken to a nun who was the psychiatrist at Oswald. According to her, while in prison, he broke Beecher's arms deliberately. He was implicated in..."
"I don't care if he's the next Jeffrey Dahmer or a card-carrying member of La Nostra. If he's not doing anything wrong now and is not breaking any laws, then we cannot investigate him. SVU in particular cannot investigate him unless he's involved in sex crimes or child abuse, because if he isn't and we do, we are out of our jurisdiction..."
His voice was rising with each word.
"I'm trying to protect Elliot."
"From who, Olivia? His long-lost twin brother?"
"He doesn't know - and won't see - what Keller's like. He's coming unstuck, with Kathy and the kids leaving."
"It doesn't make me any more comfortable seeing that my most senior detective has an identical twin who's spent most of his life on the wrong side of the law. But if you thought Elliot was a risk to himself or anyone else, you should have come to me. Do you think he's a risk?"
"No, I...I just didn't want him to take more strain. His job..."
"So you're protecting him from me?"
It was half an hour and two days' pay later that Olivia emerged from Cragen's office to a squad room that seemed unusually quiet. Perhaps it was the ear-battering she'd just had.
Fin and Munch had got in and were at their desks, heads down, working hard. Working hard at being inconspicuous. Munch looked up as she walked over and caught her eye. The real Elliot was standing at his desk, jacket off, sleeves rolled up. He'd folded his arms on his chest and was scowling at his shoes. His mirror image was facing him with an identical scowl. Then:
"Fuck you," said Keller. "Fuck you. You were never there for me. Why did it take you forty fucking years to find me anyway? You're a shitty fucking detective, that's why. Or maybe you didn't really want to find me. Maybe I wasn't as important as your job or your family or whatever the fuck else came before me. You were the one who remembered. What took you so fucking long? Why bother now, when it's too late? Why come and find me and then stalk me? Are you trying to prove you're a detective?"
Elliot Stabler wasn't the most expressive person in the world, but after years of reading him, Olivia guessed Elliot was feeling a mixture of guilt, hurt and mounting fury. What she didn't expect was the note she heard in Keller's voice. Something raw. She hadn't thought Keller would care that much. She didn't think he'd care at all, to be honest. He wasn't bluffing. He was too emotional. His words were tumbling out and his argument didn't make sense, not the way it would have if he'd coldly plotted it through. Not like when he was talking to her earlier on.
Around them, Elliot's colleagues moved, pretending to get on with their business, not knowing where to look or what to say, some trying not to stare, others staring openly. Better intervene while she still could, before someone did or said something irrevocable and the whole miserable business became even worse, maybe costing Elliot his badge after all. He had been better at anger management since being in therapy, but Olivia could see he was tightly wound, ready to lash out. She stepped up to them, as Elliot unfolded his arms. He looked up at Chris and started to speak. She was taken by surprise.
"You want to tell me what this is all about, Chris?" His voice was gentle, the one he used for children and victims of trauma and he watched Keller intently, never taking his eyes off his face. Right move, thought Olivia, get rapport. Keller sounded like a child. Play the corresponding adult.
Keller stared at him - the same wide-eyed, slightly crazed look she'd seen when he'd stormed through the squad room.
"You come and find me. Make me trust you. Make me think you care. Then you follow me around. Stalk me. Try to fuck things up with Beecher."
"You think I'd do that to you?"
"They were in my garage yesterday, going through Beecher's stuff." Keller jabbed his thumb in Munch and Fin's direction. They had stopped pretending to work. Elliot stared at them a moment, then returned his gaze to his brother.
"It wasn't me. Anything I want to know about you, I ask you myself. You know that. I swear, Chris."
It was Fin who spoke up.
"It's true, man, Elliot wasn't in on it."
"John, Fin. A moment, please." Cragen stood in the doorway to his office again. If he was astonished at Elliot and his double's remarkable sameness, he didn't let it show. "Now."
When they were gone, Elliot touched Keller briefly on the upper arm. Keller twitched as if suppressing a flinch.
Silence for a couple of beats.
"You're right. I should've tried harder to find you. I took too long. But it's not too late."
Olivia hated hearing the pleading note in Elliot's voice.
"If I can make it up to you for not being there when you needed me I will."
Keller spoke at last.
"Not if this costs me Beecher. There's no making up for that."
"I won't come between you and Beecher."
They stared into each other's eyes for what seemed like a long time to Olivia, and then seemed to resolve something silently, because Elliot squeezed Keller's shoulder and Keller let him.
"We okay?" Elliot asked.
Keller said nothing.
"I'll find out why you were being followed and I'll tell you and Beecher what I find out as soon as possible."
Keller nodded so slightly that Olivia almost missed the slight incline of his head. Dropped his gaze.
"We okay, Chris?"
"I'll walk you out," said Elliot.
He turned Chris around, by putting a casual arm across his shoulder, and walked him to the squad room's door, past the other occupants of the room, who had relaxed visibly, but were shooting unfriendly glances at Chris's back. Their footsteps were in perfect time.
"I'll catch you later for lunch," said Elliot by the door.
"Later," said Keller, seemingly oblivious to the stares of Di Franco and the other detectives, ignoring Olivia completely.
Elliot clapped him on the shoulder and watched him walk away. Olivia guessed Keller's slight cocky swagger was a way of saving face. Then Elliot returned to his desk across from hers, picked up a folder and began reading it, without sparing her as much as a glance.
"Elliot - I can explain ..." said Olivia as soon as she was sure he wasn't going to talk to her.
Elliot stared up at her and for a moment he looked positively Keller-like.
"So you been following Chris around without telling me? Yeah, I know you're at the bottom of this mess. You've been trying to sabotage my relationship with him from the get go. Showing me confidential files on him, checking up on how he did his time, telling me exactly what he's done, on and on. You've been stalking him through paperwork for months. Now you're doing it in person."
"Elliot, it's called investigating. It's what we do."
Elliot tossed the folder he had pretended to scrutinize back on the desk and stood up.
"So what's he supposed to have done now, Liv? What are you investigating?"
"I'm trying to make sure you don't get hurt because you won't see him for what he is."
"And what is he?" Elliot came around to her side of the double desk.
Olivia didn't realize until he was quite close to her how angry he was, because his voice was so uncharacteristically quiet. She forced herself not to shrink away from him.
"Elliot, he's a violent criminal with a long record. Maybe he was like you once, but he isn't any longer. All you see are his similarities to you."
"All you see are our differences."
"You think he's like you and you're imagining how you'd be if you'd gone through what he has. You don't see him for what he is: an habitual offender who..."
"What he is, is my brother. My twin. My family."
"What about your children?"
"That family's broken up. Taken away. Kathy took care of that. I've still got Chris."
Cragen's door opened again and Munch and Fin came out of his office, subdued. They looked at Elliot and Olivia, and then looked away.
"I'm gonna ask Cragen to give me another partner," Elliot started towards Cragen's office, but Cragen preempted him.
"If Keller's gone, I'd like to speak to you alone, Elliot. We need to decide how we're going to handle the situation with your brother."
In Cragen's office, Elliot didn't hear what his captain was saying. He stood with his hands behind his back, a Marine looking very much like a prisoner, staring into the distance. He was staring at a childhood memory. It was the one childhood memory he couldn't bring himself to share with Chris. It was the one he thought of most often.
He and Chris, about three years old, were playing on the floor in the middle of a strange room. They were pushing toy cars around the patterns on the rug and making vrooming noises for the engines. There was no one else there. They hadn't seen anyone they knew for a long time, but they weren't scared, because they were together. Then there were voices at the door and grown ups came into the room. They were big and their clothes rustled noisily. Elliot didn't know them. They were talking amongst themselves. Someone called to him. Grown-up Elliot couldn't remember anything about the person, not even their gender. Both he and Chris looked up from their game.
"Come over here," the person said.
So Elliot got up and came over.
"No, Elliot!" said Chris urgently behind him.
Then a woman who seemed immensely tall stooped down and picked him up. She had jangly earrings. He liked the way they sparkled in the sunlight.
"Aren't you a cutie?" she said and let him play with them.
"Elliot!" said Chris down below, on the floor. "Come back and play!"
His voice sounded wobbly, as if he were about to cry.
One of the other grown ups said something to the tall woman and suddenly she was carrying him out of the room. He wriggled to be put down. He could hear Chris start to cry. Elliot felt scared.
"I've got to go to Chris," he told the woman, but she didn't answer. Just kept on walking down a long, long corridor, while he struggled in her arms.
"Chris! Chris!" he sobbed.
And in the background, getting fainter all the time, was Chris's tiny, terrified voice, wailing, "Elliot! Elliot!"
Cragen's voice brought him back to the here and now. He was staring at him.
"There's always someone trying to separate Chris and me," said Elliot aloud, but mainly to himself.
"No one's trying to separate you," said Cragen patiently.
Elliot set his jaw and stared over his captain's head at the wood paneling behind his desk, the formal group photos and plaques. Dropped his eyes to the orange "Pattern Sheets" and "Stranger Cases" files. Yellow "Child Abuse" one.
"I'm glad you've found your brother after searching so long, Elliot ..." Cragen began, his large brown eyes full of compassion.
"My mom knew about Chris. My adoptive mom." Elliot interrupted him.
"You told me your folks didn't have any idea you had a twin," said Cragen.
"I told them about Chris when they first adopted me, but they said I didn't have a brother. Every time I mentioned him, my mom said I was imagining him and my dad got mad. So I eventually learned not to talk about him. By the time I was eight I didn't mention him again to anyone. They thought I forgot him, but I never did. When I was eighteen I started looking for him. I didn't know where to start. I didn't tell my folks.
I finally find him after looking for twenty five years and I go to tell my mom I was right and I do have a twin brother. And you know what she tells me? She knew all along. They just didn't want to take two of us because they already had kids of their own. So they picked me and hoped I'd forget about Chris. Then they had more kids anyway.
She's looked me in the eye and lied to me for forty years. Almost my entire life. It's all been a lie. I loved Chris more than anything and my folks took me away from him. We should have been together and tearing us apart like that damaged us both. Chris can't even remember anything about when we were together as little kids. He's blocked it all out. I thought of him every day. She could have helped me find him, even when I was an adult, but she kept me from him because it was easier for her and dad. So not only does my wife of twenty years walk out on me, taking the kids, but I lose my mom too. I lost all my family.
And now Olivia. After everything that's happened and knowing what finding him means to me, she's trying to come between us too. I got no one and nothing left but Chris.
I want a partner I can trust. It's time for a change."
"Let's not be rash, Elliot," said Cragen, who had been helping himself to a string of red licorice while Elliot was talking. He offered the jar to him to delay a bit before continuing. Elliot refused on reflex.
"I've already reprimanded Olivia for her behavior and have taken steps to prevent this from happening again. But I will not allow personal issues to break up my team. You've always worked together and that's how I want it to stay. You will both sort out your differences. That's an order. Elliot, you have no active cases right now and I want you to take some time off. You're way overdue for leave."
"I spent the weekend at the shore," Elliot objected angrily.
"Spend a week there," Cragen told him. "Better still, spend two. Decompress. Spend some quality time with your kids. You see them seldom enough. Get out of town. Take your brother. Get to know each other better. We'll manage without you for a while. Olivia will cover for you."
Elliot stared at him.
"I've been warned about your psych reports on and off for some time now. I am aware of the levels of stress in your life and I've been meaning to speak to you about all the leave you haven't been taking for the past several years. I don't want to lose you from the unit, Elliot. It's this or suspension."
"You're telling me if I don't take a holiday you'll suspend me?" Elliot asked incredulously.
"I should have done this long ago. You are clearly not capable of acting in your own best interests, so as your commanding officer I have to take charge. Take as long as you need. You've earned it. But I won't accept anything less than two weeks. We'll talk about all of this when you get back and, in the meantime, I'll find a way of placating Keller and Beecher."
"You want to take my gun?" sniped Elliot.
"Do I need to?" asked Cragen.
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