Toby jogged along the path in
He paced himself, ignoring dogs and other joggers. This wasn't a social time for him. This was his time to run, because he could, because he needed it, and because there was so much to run from.
"Hey! Watch it, buddy!"
Toby shot him the finger and didn't slow down. Some people couldn't accept the fact that they were slow and needed to get out of the fucking way. He pulled his towel off his shoulder and rubbed it across his face. Another mile and he'd be in the part of the park where people didn't usually bother to go. Not as pretty, but he had miles to go, baby. He smiled and checked his watch. He was doing fine, plenty of energy left and his legs felt strong.
With his body busy, his mind drifted back to the phone conversation with his mother this morning before he'd jogged away from it all.
"Toby, you should find a job."
"I will. Give me another week."
Toby hated to lie to her, and it wasn't technically a lie. He'd looked, but the facts were brutal. He could wash dishes or mooch off the family firm. Those were his choices, and to say they both sucked was an understatement. It wasn't as if he needed the damn money after all, but it would look good to his parole officer. Fuck him. Toby used his towel again. He had to stop cursing all the time. Once or twice, he'd thought his mother was going to fall over dead from it. But ten years of saying fuck a thousand times a day was a hard habit to break. Ten fucking years. Ten fucked up years.
A dog barked and chased him for about
a hundred yards,
yanking him from Oz and into
"Come on, Brutus!"
Brutus. Perfect name. How'd he guess? They were all named Brutus, Caesar, or Spike. He slowed back down and spat in the grass. Fucking dogs. He'd never felt the same after that German Shepard had walked over his prone body, leaving claw marks that bled. Toby shook the memory away and ran deeper into the park. This part was rougher, but he didn't worry about muggers. After prison, a mugging seemed pretty tame. A light mist began to fall, and Toby lifted his face to feel it. He liked the weather, any weather.
"What the fuck?" Toby came to a complete stop. His legs went into shock, and his breath went from steady to panic. "God fucking damn!" He did not need this shit. Frantically, he looked for someone, anyone, but there wasn't a soul. "Fuck me. I am fucked!"
He rubbed his chest and memories crashed over him. That could be his son, his child, his baby lying there. He could see the blood, and if he contaminated the crime scene, they'd kill him, but what if the boy were alive? He watched the small chest, but saw nothing, and with a heartbroken sob, he went to the child and put two fingers on his neck. Nothing. Oh. God.
"Better run, Beech," Chris said. He was always close and never there.
Toby lowered his head. Chris needed to leave him alone, for now. He moved away exactly in his footsteps and pulled out his cell phone. The temptation to listen to Chris and run, run, run, was strong, but he couldn't, not from a child. He dialed 911 and resigned himself to getting ass fucked. His children lived with his brother and wife. They'd be safe. That was all that mattered.
Toby answered in a steady voice, shut the cell, and waited for hell to descend on him, and it would. It would.
"Stabler, get Benson and get out there."
"On our way."
Toby said as little as possible to the police officers. He kept it short in the vain hopes that they'd decide he was harmless and turn him loose. And then the detectives arrived. They were obvious, in their trench coats and attitudes. They all gave him a look, and he was careful not to appear nervous. He tried for concerned.
"I'm Detective Munch. You found the body?"
"I did." Toby used his towel to wipe some of the mist off his face. "I went directly to him there and came out the same way. I only touched him on the neck."
"Dead, huh?" Munch wanted a reaction.
"Yes." Toby kept his attitude to a minimum and bit off the curse word that wanted out.
"Stay here. Someone else will want to talk to you."
Toby nodded and wanted to bolt for home, but it was too fucking late for that. He turned so he didn't have to see what they were doing to the boy and his heart stopped beating - completely. It was a good thing he had no air in his body because he'd be sprouting a stream of obscenities.
They all turned and stared at him. He
did his best not to
faint, fall dead or throw up. Everyone on the planet had one. That's
fuckers said. So what that Chris's was here in fucking
"I'm Detective Stabler. You look kinda pale. You okay?"
"Sure." Toby used the towel again and wished this guy would go away. "It's a shock, ya know?"
"I do." Stabler nodded. The voice was the same, on Chris's good days, when he could smooth talk his way inside Toby's heart. Stabler flipped through a notebook. "Your name is Tobias Beecher?"
Toby bit back the number that almost slipped through his lips. "Yes." One word was enough. He tried his best not to stare at the detective. Chris was long gone and good riddance. Love hadn't been enough for that prick.
Chris leaned against a nearby tree and laughed silently at the lies. "You're fucked now."
"Tell me again what happened."
Toby knew the drill too damn well, but he had to sound cooperative, not bitchy. "I was jogging. I jog this route every day. I spotted him, checked him, and called 911."
"You didn't throw up?"
"No." Toby shook his head. "I was upset, but I haven't eaten today." He looked away and swallowed hard. "That's somebody's baby there."
"Glad you understand."
Toby waited for it. It was coming. "I do. Can I leave you my contact information?"
"Give me a minute." Stabler strode off, back to the crime scene. Toby moved as far away as was prudent. He was innocent, but he wouldn't look it if he ran. That wasn't Chris. That was a cop, born and bred, probably from six generations of cops. Toby had nothing but respect, anything else would be a terrible mistake. He waited. The mist stopped, and the ambulance arrived. He took another step and a uniform moved closer. Toby sighed. He was screwed.
Stabler came back to him. "Come down to the house with us, so we can get your statement."
Toby knew his rights. As a parolee, he had none. "I'd be happy to."
"Good." Stabler hustled him to a car and put him in the back. Toby went with it, but having those hands on him made his brain seize up. He couldn't think enough to protest. Once again, he told himself that it wasn't Chris. Not Chris. Not. Toby put his face in the towel and made a vow not to curse or act like the convict that he was.
"You ran him?"
"He's on parole. Served ten of fifteen. Vehicular manslaughter."
Stabler sighed. "Give it up. I can tell you're holding back on me, Munch."
"He killed a little girl." Munch nodded. "You know me too well."
"Let's get him back to a room. I'll break him down there." Stabler rubbed the mist from his face.
Benson touched him gently on the arm. "Why don't you let me go at this guy?"
"This one's mine."
Toby sat down in the interrogation room and nearly took his own pulse. Chris, no Stabler, was right there, larger than life, or death for that matter. Was this real? Was his heart beating?
"Don't pass out on me now," Stabler said. "You want a soda?"
Toby nodded. His throat had clenched on him. They had his prints anyway. Stabler wasn't being cute. Toby took a long drink and wondered who was behind the glass watching.
"You want your lawyer?"
Now that was an odd question from a cop. Toby tried very hard to look at the blue eyes that shined at him. Evasiveness was a sign of guilt. "You'll tell me when I need one."
"You have a healthy attitude for a convict." Stabler was edging toward sarcasm.
"I think it was Harvard that helped me out there." Toby managed not to curse, but it was coming. Stabler prowled around him, and then sat down abruptly. He wasn't Chris. Toby watched him open the file and read. Stabler wasn't rushing. That was a bad sign. He wasn't Chris. Toby drank some more soda, pulled his cell phone from his pocket, and pushed it across the table. They could take it, so he might as well give it to them.
Stabler took it. "You're giving this to me?"
"I am." Toby watched him take it to the door, hand it to a woman, and come back. This was Chris, but the suit threw it all out of whack. Stabler shrugged off his coat and rolled up his sleeves. Toby looked closer. "Marine Corp?"
"I guess you picked up tattoo identification at Oswald."
"They give a class. Helps us stay alive." Toby didn't smile at his own humor. Smiling made a man look weak, so he saved them for when he was with his children. He was glad to see something that could remind him that this man wasn't his lover. Not Chris. Not.
"Tell me again what happened."
"Every detail of my day?" Toby finished the soda while Stabler answered.
"Yes, and don't give me any bullshit."
Toby wouldn't dream of it. He recited his day from the beginning, making sure to mention the jogger he'd flipped off and the German Shepard, Brutus. Details made cops happy. Stabler wrote it all down. Toby couldn't help but watch him. This was the man Chris could have been, if he hadn't been a sociopath.
"It was a shame about
Toby sat up straighter. "Your file is very comprehensive."
"Lawyer talk." Stabler rolled his eyes. "Did you kill that inmate four years ago?"
"No," Toby said firmly. "It was an accident. He went berserk on me, and he had a history of it."
"I see that." Stabler nodded. "Let's talk about your son."
"Fuck." Toby scooted his chair back, as if he was going to get up, but he knew not to do it, and he remained seated. "Is it time for me to get a lawyer?"
"We're just chatting. I need to know if you're telling the truth about the boy you found." Stabler smiled at him, and it was a smile that Toby had seen a hundred times before. He was being played by one of the best. Maybe this was Chris's long lost twin brother.
Toby put his hands on the table. "I've been out four months. You'll forgive me if I slip and curse occasionally."
"Of course. It's natural." Stabler picked up his pencil. "Hang on. I need to sharpen this." He walked out, and Toby refused to lower his head and give up. He'd done nothing wrong, this time, and he wouldn't go back, maybe. His wet clothes made him shiver, not worry. Fuck them. If he went back, he'd be right at home.
"Technically, he hasn't violated his parole."
Stabler watched him.
"Good point." Benson crossed her arms and leaned against the wall. "Wave an orange jumpsuit at him. Make him talk."
"He does look cold, and his clothes
Stabler had a feeling in his gut that he had to play this just right.
"We'll know in about an hour. Right now. He's all we got." Benson made a quick call. "Suit will be here soon."
"You look away when he changes." Stabler grinned at her. "Promise?"
"See the muscles on him? I don't think so." Benson laughed with him. "He might open up more for me."
Stabler shook his head. "He and I have something. I can feel it."
Benson moved right to the glass. "Go easy. Losing a child is always traumatic."
Toby tried to lock it all down and push it all away, but seeing Chris come back to life made him want to rock back and forth and cry all over again. Cry for all the souls that had been lost. Cry for all the love that had been wasted.
"Here. Put this on." Stabler came through the door. He'd lost his tie. "Your clothes are wet."
Toby's gut clenched. "I don't mind."
"I'm not asking." Stabler threw it on Toby's lap. "Strip and put it on."
Toby's freedom rested in Stabler's hands, and they both knew it. Stabler would use it to his advantage, and Toby would have to deal with it. "Thank you. I am cold." He took the suit away from the table and yanked off his shirt. How many cops were laughing behind the glass? More than one he'd bet. He turned his back, gave them a healthy view of his swastika, and slipped into the suit. It was warmer, and he brushed his long, wet hair off his face. His thoughts were adjusting into an old rhythm, and it was dangerous. He had to stay calm. He had to stay the ex-lawyer father that had done nothing wrong. This time.
"Thanks," Toby managed to mumble. He bit back a comment that would have gotten him a fist at Oz.
"Feels like home, huh?"
"As you're aware, these are for transport only. Get me some Gen Pop blues, and then I'll know where I'm going." Toby sat back down because to do otherwise would make him look guilty.
Stabler smiled. It didn't reach his eyes. "You ran with the Nazis, I see. Is it just a coincidence that dead, young boy is black?"
Toby had felt those damn, blue eyes on his ass. "I was branded and sodomized by a Nazi, which I'm sure is in that file somewhere, unless they left it out because they didn't give a damn." He wouldn't respond to the part about the boy. No matter what he said, it would be twisted.
"I don't see it." Stabler flipped through it. "Are you clean?"
"Clean and sober. I haven't touched anything in years." Toby wasn't bragging. He wanted a drink every day, but he didn't because alcohol and drugs made him vulnerable, weak, and he loved his children.
"Good for you. Hard to do in prison. It sucks a man down." Stabler pulled a picture out of the file and stared at it.
Toby didn't need to look to know who it was. "Excuse me, Detective Stabler, but how would you know?"
"You're too polite. It's getting on my nerves." Stabler shot him a hard look. Toby nearly trembled. For a blink, it was Chris, getting ready to slap him, punch him, or kiss him. They were all the same to Chris. Stabler held up a sheet. "These terms of parole are interesting. Usually, they insist you get a job."
"They recommend it, and I've been looking."
"You attend meetings?"
"I opted for seeing a shrink. AA is for pussies." Toby leaned back. He shouldn't have said that, but it was the truth.
"No car." Stabler gave him another look. "How'd you get to the park?"
"I live close. I walked." Toby shrugged. He didn't need a car. He took the subway and cabs. Stabler was intent on the file, and it made Toby nervous. Years of ugliness and despair were in there, disguised by official language. Stabler pulled out another photo. Toby suddenly wondered if there was a picture of Chris in that file. That would definitely get Stabler's attention. "Is there a picture of Chris Keller in there?"
"The fellow you offed?" Stabler smirked. "No."
Toby controlled both reactions: relief and anger. He pointed at one of the pictures. "That's my son."
"I know." Stabler frowned at him. "They caught the guy who did it."
"That's what they told me." Toby lowered his head. He had to shift the subject. "He's the reason I couldn't jog past that boy this morning. I had to check. I had to make the call. That's someone's child, and they deserve to know the truth."
"Did you know the truth?"
Toby was caught by surprise. "They dole it out to you in clumps and whispers. No one gives you a straight answer, especially not the FBI, not when you're a convict."
"And you were angry?"
"Would you be angry?" Toby asked with no heat, only curiosity. The anger was long gone, leaving only regrets and tears. "Did prison make me any less of a father?"
"No, but the booze did."
Stabler went right for Toby's heart and the shank stuck there - quivering. Toby watched it hurt him. The truth did that. "If you expect an argument, you won't get one."
"You're an honest convict, not something I see a lot of." Stabler nodded. "I know you didn't have anything to do with the boy this morning."
Toby didn't believe that. He was about an hour from taking it up the ass again. Stabler was waiting, expecting a relieved outburst. Toby smoothed both hands through his hair, crossed his arms, and said nothing at all.
"That's Oz showing through right there." Stabler put the photos away, got up from the table, and tucked the file under his arm. "You're staying here until I'm satisfied that you had absolutely nothing to do with this, and I'm calling your parole officer."
"I need to piss." Toby wouldn't dream of complaining. It would do exactly no good anyway. He didn't make the mistake of standing. Cops were quick to perceive it as aggression.
"Come on. I'll find you a holding cell."
Toby nodded, got up, and met the eyes of the female detective outside the door. "Enjoy the view?"
"That means you're still human." Toby felt Chris's strong hand dragging him away, and he followed along. The holding cell was small: cot and toilet. Home sweet home. "Thank you, Detective."
"Sarcasm ain't pretty." Stabler slammed the door. Toby stuck his hands out the bars and watched him stride away. That ass looked the same, maybe a little tighter. He sighed and went to piss. Fuck it. He was so fucked.
"His story checks out. We found the guy with the German Shepard, Brutus." Munch sat down with a thump. "My feet hurt."
Stabler nodded. He shot Benson a look. "What?"
"Branded and sodomized? We should be investigating his case!" Benson looked sick.
"Guy who did it is dead.
Benson took the file and went to look it over. Stabler took the photos of the crime scene from Munch and flipped through them. The captain came through his office door and asked, "What's the deal with Tobias Beecher?"
"He found the body." Stabler looked for details. "He's in a holding cell."
"He had to piss, and I might want to talk to him." Stabler went to the next photo. "He's on parole. I'll take him home later."
Cragen picked up a photo. "If he's on parole, let's be certain."
"That's the plan." Stabler hated this. That boy had been brutalized.
Stabler shrugged and got to work on
Toby sat on the cot and watched everyone. He was alone, but he wouldn't be much longer. Old defenses were about ready to kick in, and someone might get hurt.
Chris leaned against the bars. "You're fucked. I told you to run."
"Thanks, asshole," Toby muttered. As if he didn't know that.
"Only one down there at the end!"
Toby stayed on the cot and stared at the fucker they'd just pushed inside. Drugs. The guy was messed up. His eyes glittered. "Got any juice?"
"Fuck off." Toby didn't want to know what juice was. Street names changed every fifteen minutes.
The drug addict pissed on the floor. Great guy. Toby moved away from the cot, in the hope that the fucker would pass out on it. No such luck.
"You want to suck my cock?"
Toby wanted to rub his face and groan. This guy was strutting. "Listen, fucker. Touch me and I'll kill you."
The fucker smiled - no teeth. Crank will do that. "Think you're tough? I'll show you tough, bitch."
"No. Oz showed me tough. You're a pussy bitch! Now sit the fuck down!"
"You did Oz?"
"Ten of them. Sit!"
The druggie sat down. "Sorry, bro. No problems with me."
Toby kept his game face on. "Shut the fuck up!" It was natural as breathing. After Em City had been shut down, they'd all be shipped to Gen Pop at Rikers. It was at Rikers that Toby had finally understood what Chris had been trying to tell him, about prison, inmates, and life in general. After a year there, he'd been transported back to Oz. Em City had been razed, and no one had given a damn, especially not him. Gen Pop wasn't for bitches, and Toby hadn't taken shit off anyone. Chris had shown him how to survive, and he had. The clock on the wall kept moving, and Toby hoped that someone had taken the time to call his mother, but it was a useless to ask. He was in the system.
"Okay, process them! We're full!"
Toby had one chance. "Officer, I was put in here by Detective Stabler. He expects me back."
"He can get you at Rikers. Roll it up!"
The druggie went out first, and Toby waited for his turn to be chained. They seemed heavier than last time, or maybe that was his heart. Stabler had fucked him good for doing the right thing, just like Chris. Twins? No. But similar? Yes.
"Any trouble and we will shoot you!"
Toby didn't listen. He'd heard it all before. He shuffled off to the van. Would anyone even notice that he didn't have any processing papers?
Stabler stretched back in his chair before getting back to the paperwork. It had taken a full day, but that little boy could rest in peace, the mother would live with the guilt, and the boyfriend might face the needle.
"Headed home soon?"
"Yeah. Tomorrow's my day off." Stabler smiled. He needed it. A cell phone rang. "That you?"
Benson shook her head and pulled open Stabler's desk drawer. "That one."
Stabler picked it up and stared at
the number. "
"Are you taking him home?"
"I'll pick him up as soon as I finish this." Stabler stuck the phone in his pocket.
"Are you reporting this to his parole officer?"
"I don't see any reason to jam him
wouldn't bother feeling guilty for making a parolee wait all day. It
to be careful, and kids had a way of dying around
"I'll see you later." Benson threw him a wave, and she was gone. Stabler hurried to finish. He hoped to see his wife before .
Toby was extremely glad that someone had finally noticed he didn't have proper papers.
"This one's not done!" The CO shoved Toby to another bench. "Name?"
"Tobias Beecher." Toby sighed and gave his number. "This is a mistake."
"That's what they all say." The CO laughed. "What'd you find, Ralph?"
"Wrong prison! This one goes to Oz." Ralph didn't give a damn. That was obvious. "Put him back on the van."
"Guys, look. Detective-" Toby nearly crumpled as the air flew from his body. The CO smiled at him. Toby quit trying to talk. He got back on the van. Oz. It was always right around the corner. The van only had him and one other poor fucker. It was after , and they wouldn't be processed until the morning. Toby went into another holding cell, this one right under the main gates. Place looked the same. Too bad no one had burned it down.
Stabler glanced at the clock and put
on his coat. He wasn't
going to make it home by ,
but he had the day off tomorrow. Could be worse. His wife did her best.
hours would be tough on any marriage.
"I'm sorry, but this is Detective Stabler."
"Oh my God." It had to be
Stabler wondered why that question popped so easily from her mouth. "Your son was involved in an investigation today. I'm on way to get him and bring him home. Can I have your address please?"
She gave it to him in a voice that
trembled. Stabler was
glad to have it.
"Is Toby alright?" She was crying. "He's never been the same since . . ."
"He's fine. I'll have him there
shut the phone and turned it off. He didn't doubt that
Toby didn't sleep. That would be stupid. His cellmate was a Nazi. The tattoo on his arm said it all, and none of those fuckers could be trusted.
"Nope." Toby wished for a shank.
"Got no sleeves." The Nazi was observant.
"Not everyone gets tattoos." Toby crossed his arms and waited.
"So, you're a faggot."
Toby did what Chris would have done. Chris cheered him on, and Chris was never wrong, not when it came to prison.
Toby used his fist next. "I'll tattoo my initials on your forehead, if you don't stay the fuck away!"
The Nazi groaned, held his balls, and crawled away. "You are a nasty motherfucker!"
Toby nodded. "Don't forget it." He went to the bars to wait. Chris approved, and maybe his doppelganger, Stabler, would have too.
Stabler groaned. "Where the hell is Tobias Beecher?"
The officer on duty shrugged. "Two vans went out. One to the county jail and one to Rikers. Maybe he was on one of them."
"Maybe?" Stabler saw his night going to hell and maybe tomorrow too. The captain was going to have his ass for this. "Maybe?" he yelled.
The officer rubbed his face. "I'll find him."
"Move on it!"
Toby began to pace. It had been a long day, and he couldn't fall asleep until he was in the relative safety of a cell. Luckily, Oz started business early, so he wouldn't be here much longer - so to speak.
Stabler called his wife to apologize, and then he tore the desk sergeant a new asshole, but they still didn't have a clue. Cops. Right.
"Have you looked at the surveillance videos?" Stabler tried to be patient. This was his fault, not the sergeant's.
"Good idea." The sergeant smiled nervously. "Let me get someone to help you. It's late. We're short staffed."
Stabler wanted to bang his head on
the desk. "Get them.
Now." For some reason, the words 'branded' and 'sodomized' kept
through his head. He'd sent Tobias Beecher back to a place that was
Toby gave up. He had no paperwork, so they all assumed he'd broken his parole, again. They were dummying up some lies right now. He watched his back, did what he was told, and quit trying to argue. Even when he did the right thing, it was wrong.
Toby didn't spare her a glance. She'd done nothing for him after Chris had died, and he'd never forgiven her for it. Chris. Damn. His presence was strong inside these walls, and Toby wished to hell he could manage to forget.
"You broke your parole?" Her sadness was nothing but a lie. She didn't care.
Toby turned away. He had enough chain to get it done.
"I know you're still angry. We'll talk later."
No. They wouldn't. Toby took his shower, dressed in regulation blues, and went down the line getting the proper items. He didn't talk, even though he knew the Muslims working. They didn't greet him either. A CO took him and three other guys to Unit B, and he made his bunk. Schillinger's old unit and it was probably still full of Nazis. Nice pool table though.
Toby wandered out of his cell and leaned against the wall near the pool table. "Bad news travels fast. Do you mangle, I mean, manage this unit now, McManus?"
"Yes." McManus glared at him. "You realize that you'll do your five. No more parole."
Toby shrugged. He wasn't even supposed to be here. "Don't really give a shit."
"Is that you talking or Keller?"
"You figure it out." Toby was glad when McManus gave up and went off to make another report that said nothing. Was Querns still the warden here? A lot could happen in four months. Toby would have to call his mother and get her to send him some money. He was going to need a shank.
Stabler drank his fourth cup of coffee, but he was about half-asleep. "Any idea where Tobias Beecher might be?"
"I don't have any record of him being processed."
Stabler had heard that all night long. "Can I see your surveillance videos please?"
"I'll have to get approval." The CO frowned. "Can you wait?"
Stabler didn't even have a sigh left in him. "Sure."
Toby didn't trust his cellmate, and never would, but the guy wasn't a Nazi. He was a faggot, and that was fine.
"Want me to blow you later?"
"Not really." Toby got up on the top bunk. He knew most guys would already have their pants down, but there was no way it could feel good enough to block out the memories of Chris and his mouth. And the faggot was ugly as sin. "I'm gonna rest before lunch. You go fuck yourself."
The faggot laughed and left him alone. Toby put his hands behind his head and dozed with one eye open.
Stabler quit when the sun came up. He was at Rikers now, and they didn't have any idea what he was talking about. Getting in his car, he headed for home, and he cursed the entire way.
His wife met him at the door, and her eyes were murderous. He started apologizing, but she didn't care. The kids were happy to see him though. It was enough to bring him home. He grabbed a quick shower and gave up on a nap. His wife would kill him. He'd drink lots of coffee and hope he didn't nod off. They had company coming over for dinner, and he had to be alert.
Spending the day with his kids was great, but Tobias Beecher pecked at the back of his skull. Finally, he gave up and called Benson. She was on duty today.
"You're supposed to be relaxing."
"I am relaxed. I'm also an idiot." Stabler sketched in what had happened quickly.
She groaned. "You're dead. When the captain finds out, you're dead!"
"I'm aware of that." Stabler rubbed his eyes. "Try Rikers again for me, please. Someone must have seen him."
"Will do, but you owe me something nice."
Stabler snapped the phone shut. He
was dead. If his wife
didn't get him, his captain would, and if something happened to
"Tobias! Where are you? A detective called and said he was bringing you home, but you never came, and-"
"Mother! Listen to me." Toby took a deep breath and told the horrible, yet familiar, truth. "They shipped me back to Oz. Wire me some money."
"Oz!" She started crying. "But-"
"He lied. He set me up. Mother, please. Wire me some money so I can buy a few things. Visitation is Thursday. Come see me, and I'll give you all the bad news."
"Okay. Okay. Okay." His mother paused. Her sobs quiet now. "Toby, I love you."
"I know. It keeps me alive." Toby put the phone down and went to the gym. He had time for a workout, but there was no place to run.
Stabler smiled in embarrassment when his jacket pocket rang during dinner. His wife had outdone herself. It was nice, and the kids were behaving. He yanked the cell out; cringed from the look he got, and took it to the kitchen.
"Detective, this is Victoria Beecher."
Stabler could only hope she knew where her son was. "Has your son called you?"
"I would like you to return my son's
cell phone. You
should be ashamed of yourself." And she shut him down. Stabler leaned
against the kitchen cabinets and squeezed the phone. He'd done his
no, he hadn't. He hadn't given
Stabler called Benson. She had gone home, but the captain wanted to see him, and now. His wife came through the door. "You're going to work."
"The captain wants to chew my ass."
She nodded. "I know the feeling." And she walked away. Stabler made more apologies than any man should, kissed his kids a dozen times, and went to the precinct. He'd drop off the cell phone after the captain balled him out.
Toby stared at the ceiling and ignored his cellmate. The faggot could jack off until Nazis kissed Jews, but he wasn't going to lend a hand.
"Come on. Join me."
"I bought a shank."
Silence. Now if all the other fuckers would shut up, Toby could get some sleep.
Stabler handed her the cell phone. "Ma'am, please. Where is your son?"
"As if you care." She sniffed.
Stabler saw the son in the mother. He tried again. This time, he put a hint of beg in his voice. "I do. He wasn't supposed to have been sent anywhere!"
She grudgingly let him in the house, but he knew he wouldn't get coffee and cake. She sat on the sofa, but her face made it clear that he should stand. "Thanks to you, he's back at Oswald. I wired him some money earlier."
Stabler suppressed a groan. "Did he mention how it happened?"
"You should know. You set him up."
"I hope not." Stabler nearly winced at the harsh words coming from her mouth. "On the phone, you said, he'd never been the same since . . . what?"
She gave him a glare. "Toby had a friend inside, Chris Keller. When Keller died, so did my son. Tell me, are you terribly pleased with yourself?"
"Your son gave us a hand with an
was a huge mistake." Stabler almost promised to have him home by
but that would be another mistake. What if Oz had sent him up to
"Get out." She looked away and didn't stand.
Stabler didn't mention that
His own cell phone rang, and he answered, "Stabler."
"I found your lost one." Benson. She sounded smug.
"He's at Oswald."
"That irritates me."
Stabler hoped so. "Get him out."
"No can do. I tried. The warden wants paperwork, and lots of it. They have a report that he broke his parole."
"He didn't." Stabler stated the obvious.
"According to this, he resisted arrest." Benson sighed. "Have you ever heard anything so stupid?"
"I think that's a first." Stabler rubbed his forehead. He was a cop, not a paper pusher. "I'm in a lot of trouble with my wife and my captain."
"And me. I'm tired of chasing your phantom prisoner." She laughed. "They're bringing him to me. I'll tell him we'll straighten it out."
"Thanks." Stabler sighed with relief. "I do owe you something nice."
"You do." She hung up. Stabler got in
the car and
headed home. Tomorrow morning, he'd get
Toby quickly put on his pants, but the hacks were too impatient to wait for a shirt. He turned, they cuffed him, and he was on his way somewhere. The CO's weren't talkative down here in Unit B. They took him to an interrogation room. He had no idea why, until he saw the female detective that was Stabler's partner.
"Sit down. We need to talk." She had a sexy voice, but it was no nonsense from her. She was all business.
Toby sat down. "This is nice. Would you like some coffee?"
The CO smacked Toby's head. "Smartass. Shut up for the lady."
The lady got to her feet. "Why don't you fellas wait outside?"
"Go on." She was tough with them.
Toby smiled innocently. The CO
grumbled but left and she sat
down again when the door shut. "
"That's what I hear. Sorry they didn't give me time to put on a shirt." Toby wiggled his shoulders. The cuffs were tight. "Do you need something else? I told your partner Stabler everything. Did you catch whoever killed that boy?"
She stared at him. "Where's the anger? The protestations? You know you didn't do anything wrong!"
Toby stared at her. Was she an idiot? Did she think the prison system was fair? The justice system did its poor best, but the prison system had given up years ago. He tried again. "Did you catch the killer?"
"We did. The boy hadn't been dead very long - lots of evidence." The detective shook her head. "You've given up."
"I'll get out again." Toby had never given up. He had just taken his life in a new direction after Chris's death - a quiet one that didn't involve him taking shit off anyone. "It wasn't your fault."
"I spoke to Warden Querns."
"He doesn't like me much." Toby gave her one of his rare smiles. She had earned it, coming to this fucking place. "What's your name? Somehow I missed it."
"Detective Olivia Benson."
Toby nodded. He'd remember. "Tell Detective Stabler not to worry, and for God's sake, keep him out of here."
"Just do it. For his sake. And mine." Toby stood up. They were finished. The CO was glaring, and there was nothing else to say.
The CO was inside immediately, grabbing him, dragging him towards the door. "This piece of shit give you what you needed, ma'am?"
Benson seemed shocked. "Mr. Beecher cooperated fully. Please return him to his cell."
Toby had to get his point across, and he fought enough to get out another warning. "Tell him, Benson. Tell Stabler to stay the hell away! It's dangerous! Tell him!"
"I'll tell him." She looked confused, but she'd do it.
Toby was surprised that they didn't hit him on the way back, but they saved a little something for him when they took the cuffs off. Chris chuckled softly in Toby's ear. Ah, now he was home.
Stabler went to work. He wanted to talk to his partner before making the trip to Oz. Benson was already at her desk, and she looked tired.
"Sorry I dragged you into my mess."
She smiled at him. "It wasn't like I
volunteered to get
Stabler got some coffee. "Give me the rundown."
"The warden is not cooperating. The
unit manager looks
like a weasel, on crack, and
Stabler's guilt went up a notch. "I gotta go to confession this week."
"I'll go with you." Benson opened a file and pushed it at him. "Getting him out won't be easy. The paperwork alone could take a month."
"Can we get him brought back here?" Stabler grasped at straws. His negligence had sent an innocent man back into the system.
"I doubt it." Benson shook her head. "And I have a message for you from him."
Stabler waited for it. It was probably 'eat shit and die,' and he'd earned it.
"He said to stay away from Oz. He seemed . . . almost panicked with the idea of you turning up." Benson shrugged. "He said, 'Tell Stabler not to worry, and for God's sake, keep him away from here.' It was kinda spooky."
"That's weird. I can spring him, and
he tells me not to
show up?" Stabler took the file and went to sit down. He had to try to
"It's barely possible he knows something." Benson got herself some coffee. "Someone at Oz might want you dead."
"Probably a few of them, but Beecher
had only been
there a day." Stabler didn't understand it, but he was going to, and
he'd go get
Toby shook his head firmly. "I will not work for Sister Pete."
"I'm putting you in the toilets then." McManus frowned. "She asked for you!"
Toby thought it over again. There was no parole to screw up. Maybe it was time to clear the air. He couldn't carry a grudge forever. Well, yes, he could. "Fine. When?"
"Now." McManus made a note. "I'm sorry parole didn't work out for you."
"Right." Toby walked out the door. He didn't want to hear that shit. Sister Pete had a new office, and he'd been there a couple of times. He hadn't spoken to her while he was in there. She got out of her chair fast when he stepped through the door. Toby didn't meet her eyes. "I'm here."
She gave him a small smile. "You know your job better than I do."
Toby didn't answer. He went to the small desk and sat down. She'd talk until she was satisfied, but he didn't think he'd ever get her to understand his point of view.
"Group is in two days."
"Fuck that." Toby had no incentive to go, and he wouldn't. "I'm clean. It's enough."
She was silent, and Toby ran a system diagnostic on the computer. It needed one. He heard papers being shuffled - his file.
"I know you're angry at being back here."
Toby clicked defrag and got up to go stare out the glass. He put his back to it and stuffed his hands in his pockets. "I'm not angry at finding myself inside Oz. I'm angry at you."
"What did you do?"
Toby shook his head. He wouldn't discuss Stabler, the boy, and the fucked up prison system with her. "You. Just you."
"I can handle it." She pointed at the chair. "Why don't you sit down?"
"No." Toby brushed his hair back. He stared at her. Such a little woman and she'd grown old behind bars, trying to help fuckers who were beyond it. Was that the nun in her or the psychologist?
"Let me help you."
"You didn't help Chris, and you were remarkably absent from my corner after he died," Toby spat out each word. Chris was close now, and he was angry also. Toby refused to make nice. "Was it the fact that we were lovers that repulsed you?"
"I never judged you."
"That's a fucking lie," Toby said softly. "You talked a good game until I actually needed someone to stand up and say, 'Hey, Toby wouldn't kill the man he loved.' Wow, you sure were gone then."
"My testimony would have been useless."
"Your testimony into my state of mind wasn't." Toby rolled his sleeves up one more time. "They read it. I couldn't help but hear it. Thanks. A lot."
"I did my job. You were co-dependent. You did have battered wives syndrome." She flipped to a page in his file. "What you and Chris shared wasn't healthy by any stretch of the imagination."
"Good judgment call. You should have been an umpire." Toby went back to his chair. The computer was chipping away at the fragments. It was going to take forever. Piece of shit. Couldn't they get her a laptop? He should have his mother buy her one, just so he wouldn't have to deal with this crap.
"Were you in a relationship on the outside?"
Toby didn't answer. He had said enough. Anymore and he was going to start yelling, and he didn't want to go to the hole just yet.
"Tell me why you were arrested."
Toby pulled the files into his lap and started familiarizing himself with her new cases. She'd shut up eventually.
"Any luck getting Tobias Beecher out?"
Stabler looked up at the captain. "None."
"I got a call from
"No." Stabler had a feeling he was going to before this was over.
"Great." Stabler went back to reading
The mother had talked about
Dr. Huang chose that moment to stroll past, and Stabler waved him over. "Hey, Doc. Can men have battered wives syndrome?"
"Of course. If the abuse is systematic and pervasive. If the man is broken down, repeatedly humiliated."
"Sounds like prison." Stabler nudged the file at him. "Pull up a chair. Tell me what you think."
The doctor did just that, and Stabler
knew more than he
wanted to by the end of it.
"Yes. He didn't belong at Oswald. No prior convictions. No violence. He was a drunk, not a murderer." Huang stood up and sighed. "Even I heard that you lost him into the system."
"Pile on the guilt. It's what you doctors are good at." Stabler rubbed his face. "I'll get him out. The paperwork is being processed."
"Good luck." Huang waved goodbye. What was he doing over here anyway? Was there a case that Stabler should have been working on? Stabler got up and went to lean against the door of the captain's office. "What am I missing?"
"Rape victim. Male. Thirty years old." The captain didn't apologize. "You're tied to your desk today, and other Mr. Beecher will be here momentarily. You'll be meeting with him."
"Thanks." Stabler hesitated. "This going on my record?"
"You're going to feel the heat before it's over. Get some answers ready." The captain pointed at the door. "Shut that, will ya?"
Stabler got the hint. He shut the
door, turned, and spotted
a man who had to be
"Yes. We'll find some place quiet and talk." Stabler nearly reached for the lawyer, as he seemed almost in a daze. "You okay?"
"I need to sit down."
Toby waited to take his shot, his hand idly moving up and down the pool cue. Schillinger must have loved it down here. This place was much more 'manly' than Em City had ever been.
"Gonna kick your ass, cracker."
"In your dreams, dick face." Toby set up his shot and sank it. "You're fucking fucked."
Toby's faggot cellmate laughed. "Fuck me, baby."
Toby ignored that and went around the table. He didn't quit until the eight ball rolled home. "Pay up, fucker."
"Damn, dawg, you one cold mutherfucka!" The homeboy slapped some cigarettes in Toby's hand. "Again?"
"Nah. I'm tired of kicking your ass." Toby tucked his cigarettes away. He wandered to his cell and picked up his book. "Stay out, faggot."
"This is my cell too."
"Fuck if it is. Now go the fuck away." Toby glared, and his cellmate pouted, but he left. Faggot had a boyfriend; he could go there. Toby found his page and started to read.
"Hey Toby, can I have a cigarette?"
Toby rolled his eyes. "You're dead."
Chris laughed and faded away. Toby knew he was closer than ever to the psych ward, but it was very hard to care.
Stabler stared down at the picture that had been pushed across the table. "What the hell?"
"My exact reaction." Angus Beecher still looked pale. "I'm appalled by all this. My brother knew the risks, he helped you out, and . . ."
"He did. I regret it. I will get him released. It's just going to take some time."
"Tobias has plenty of time on his
end, as long as the
Nazis don't kill him."
"Two ought to be enough." Stabler rubbed his forehead. No scar. "Your brother was polite. He didn't give us any trouble."
"He was probably in shock from seeing
your face. His
transition has been difficult. One moment he's my brother and the next
hardened criminal that will shank you for a cup of coffee."
"I won't need him-" Stabler stopped. It was a good idea. "I'll do it. He'll be safer out of Gen Pop."
"My thoughts exactly, because if he
takes a shank, my
associates and I will bring the full resources of the law against you
"Very." Stabler itched to take the picture back. "Did you meet Chris Keller?"
"I saw him. Toby talked about him. Keller was the reason that Toby lost his first parole. Well, Toby made up his own mind to be an idiot, but Keller was as bad as they come and he made no apologies for it."
Stabler stood up. "You go tell the world what an ass I am. I'll work on getting your brother out."
"I'll cut you some slack. I think
Toby would want me
"You holding up?"
"This day is more than strange. I have to call the warden over at Oz, and then I'll fill you in." Stabler managed a smile for his partner. "You catch the perp yet?"
"It's never easy when men are raped. He's shutting down on us." Benson waited at the door for him. "He needs to talk to someone that truly understands."
"You're right. Someone who's been down that road and survived." Benson walked with him. "I assume that Tobias Beecher isn't available?"
"No, but I'm taking a step in the right direction." Stabler walked faster.
"Roll it up,
Toby sighed, snapped his book shut, and got his shit together. He had learned years ago not to bother asking questions. The good news was that he couldn't be transferred to Em City, and he laughed on the inside.
"See ya, sweetheart."
"Later, fucker." Toby left his shank in his mattress. He'd get another one. They escorted him out of Unit B and to protective custody. He tossed his stuff down and watched dispassionately as it was searched. They did him next.
"He's clean. Lock it down!"
He made his bed and sat down to read his book, but before he could find his page, Warden Querns was there, glaring at him. Toby waited him out.
"Got a call from NYPD. They wanted you moved here. Said that you'll be testifying at one of their trials."
"Really? News to me." Toby looked down at his book. He had thought things couldn't get any worse. He was wrong.
"It'd be a shame if everyone in Gen Pop found out you were a snitch." The warden sounded happy about that. "A real shame."
"Since I don't know what the fuck you're talking about. I'm not going to worry." Toby refused to give Querns the satisfaction of any kind of response. "Don't you have a job? Somewhere? Try upstairs."
"Fucker. But you're mine for the next five years." The warden went away laughing.
"I never liked him." Chris shrugged. "We should get him fired - again."
Toby sighed and shut the book. "Chris, go haunt someone else." He got down on the floor to do some exercises. So the NYPD called and got him moved? Were they trying to kill him? Why didn't they just have Stabler a.k.a. Keller snap his neck? Toby ripped off his shirt and tried to hurt himself with sit-ups. The only good news was that he wouldn't have to go work in Sister Pete's office.
Stabler ignored the flak he was
taking and kept making
calls. There was nothing slower than paperwork in
Toby looked over at the homeboy mopping the floor. "You believe everything the hacks tell you?"
"Fuck no!" The homeboy laughed. "They're squeezing you, ain't they?"
"Giving it a try." Toby shrugged. He had to play this right or someone would kill him. "They can kiss my ass. They got nothing coming from me."
He nodded. "Fuck 'em all."
"Hey, I had a bag of cigs in my mattress. Get them for me and I'll give you half." Toby didn't worry too much. One cigarette was better than none.
"I'll bring them tomorrow. You won them off my nigger playing pool." The homeboy laughed. "Fuck the po-leese."
"No shit. No shit." Toby nearly smiled. He'd get his cigarettes. Now he had to get some magazines and another book or two.
Two hundred sit-ups, fifty push-ups, and thirty pages later, Detective Benson came around the corner. She looked good today. Toby let himself admire her.
Toby saw the CO smirk, and he knew he was a heartbeat away from a shank. "Detective, I told you that I'm not cooperating. You and Stabler can shove it up your ass!"
Her mouth fell open, she blinked in shock, but she recovered quickly. Toby had to give her credit. "We spoke to your lawyer."
"Keep talking to him because you aren't getting fuck from me." Toby wrapped his hands around the bars and squeezed. He knew he looked angry, but he wasn't, not all that much.
"Get back!" The CO was there immediately, hitting the bars, and Toby took a healthy step away.
Benson seemed confused by it all. She stared, and Toby narrowed his eyes. She nodded slowly. "I thought you might say that, but we can get you out on time served. Your lawyer is hopeful we can make a deal."
"Get my lawyer down here, and I'll tell him personally that you two are fucked!" Toby hoped he got the message right. They were getting him out. "And tell Stabler I'd love nothing more than to put a dozen airholes in him. If you're smart, you'll keep him the fuck away from here!"
"I get the message." Benson lowered her sexy voice. "You will cooperate, or you'll rot in here. Your lawyer will explain it."
"I'm already rotted." Toby gave her a smile that scared most normal people. "Kiss my ass, the half with the swastika."
Benson turned on her heels and pounded away. She looked pissed. The CO shook his head. "You better cooperate with them."
"Fuck off," Toby snarled. He lay down and stared somewhere other than at stupid CO's. They were trying to get him killed.
"You talked to him?" Stabler pulled her aside.
"I did. He's pissed, or not. Looked like a show to me." Benson didn't shout it out. "Do you think they'd try to kill him in PC?"
"Only if they thought he was a snitch." Stabler saw the look on her face. "Shit."
"The warden is working against us."
"He's screwed." Stabler shook his head. "Absolutely nothing has gone right. I put him in more danger, not less."
"You couldn't know the warden was a mouthy bastard." Benson tugged Stabler's arm. "Let's get a cup of coffee and figure this out."
"Right. I guess I could break him out."
Benson laughed. Munch and Fin looked over at them. "Care to share, Benson?"
"Stabler's going to break
They all laughed. Stabler didn't. "Shut up, all of you." It had no effect.
"I know. Get him transferred to Rikers. And then back here." Munch smiled. He was enjoying this.
"I actually tried that." Stabler slumped down in his chair.
"He's burned." Fin threw out his opinion.
Benson nodded. "
"Spill it." Stabler wasn't sure he wanted to hear it, but his guilt couldn't get any worse. His priest might not agree.
"He said, 'I'd love to put a dozen airholes in him. You'll keep him the fuck away from here.' Or something like that."
"I say we leave him there," Munch said.
Stabler drank some coffee. "
"I like him." Benson smiled. "Sure, he curses a lot, but he did the right thing for the right reasons."
"Let's keep that in mind that he's a convict," Fin said. "He's probably a crack addict."
Stabler had heard enough. "Why don't
we focus on
"He's good at it." Munch laughed.
He'd never owed a man a bigger apology, and if
Toby slapped some skin and took his cigarettes. "You get your half?"
"My nigger, Cooler, told me if I did, he'd fuck me up." The homeboy shrugged. "I got matches though."
"What'll it cost me?"
They laughed and made the switch. Toby would make them last. "Good doing business with you."
"You righteous, dawg." The homeboy smiled. "Told that cop bitch to fuck off."
Toby was never surprised at how fast news traveled in prison. It was almost as if every prisoner had a cell phone. "They can kiss my ass." He went to sit down. If he had to spend the next five years in here, he was going to go insane, again. Chris nodded in agreement, which was ironic.
"Get your ass back to mopping!"
Toby lay back flat and shut his eyes. Maybe he could sleep for a couple of years.
Stabler couldn't sleep. It was the
guilt. Sure, he'd made
mistakes over the years, and people had gotten hurt, but this one was
with him. Maybe it was
Stabler looked at his wife. "Nope."
She gave him a look. "Don't get any ideas."
"Why not?" Stabler edged closer and tried to fondle her. "We haven't, not lately."
She rebuffed him firmly with nothing more than her eyes and a hand. Stabler backed off, fast. He wasn't going anywhere he wasn't wanted. She was asleep not long after she rolled away, and he stared at her back. His life wasn't all that great lately. Would it kill her to be a little nice?
Toby used the crossbars to do pull ups. When he finished, sweat covered him and his arms shook, but he felt something.
"Your lawyer's here. Play nice or I'll fuck you up!"
Toby washed his hands and face, drying off before turning to face his brother. "Hey, bro, wassup?"
Angus laughed. "You are so fucked, dawg."
Toby laughed, and they shook hands and embraced. "We really can't pull that off. You're finally here. Better late than never?"
"Exactly." Angus sat down and opened his briefcase. "The press is having a field day with this. Detective Stabler-"
"Is getting fucked up the ass."
"You said it, not me." Angus nodded. "Unfortunately, this means that everyone in Oz knows your story now."
Toby stood over him and sighed. "Well, I've taken it up the ass before. This is just another example of our fine legal system."
"Uh, Toby. Shut up." Angus pulled out a stack of briefs. "The warden is caving. After all, there is no record of any crime and nothing at central booking."
"They made it up when I got here."
"I couldn't tell." Angus rolled his eyes. "Resisting arrest? How dumb are they?"
"Pretty stupid." Toby smiled - a real smile. It was good to see his brother. "Tell me about my kids, instead of this stupid shit."
Angus smiled. "They miss you. I told them you were out of town on business."
"And you shut off the news."
Toby was glad to hear it. "I owe you everything for raising them right."
"They're my blood." Angus stood up and hugged him again. "Don't worry. You'll see them soon."
"I don't ever tell myself that." Toby sat down and poked through the file. "Now tell me about Stabler and how long it took you to regain consciousness."
Angus sat down next to him. "I don't usually say this, but-"
"Yeah. I kept telling myself that there were differences." Angus shook his head. "Did you nearly vomit?"
"Yeah. That was it. Vomit, cry, and kiss him - all at once." Toby didn't enjoy the flinch he saw cross his brother's face. "I love Chris. Don't forget it. I don't."
"I wish you could. You'd sleep better." Angus put his hand on top of Toby's.
"When you see him, tell him not to come here. Someone will shank him. No one has forgotten Chris Keller. He's a legend, in a bad way." Toby put his hand on Angus's shoulder and squeezed. "Remind Stabler, or better yet, tell his captain."
"You have my word."
Stabler marched straight into Cragen's office. "Am I getting a rip for this?"
"Yes, but only one day." Cragen didn't soften the blow. "It was your decision to put him in a jumpsuit and toss him in holding. It's out of my hands."
Stabler almost started yelling, but it wasn't going to do any damn good. "He's on parole. I couldn't take the chance. He'd killed another child."
"Tell the press that. Maybe it'll
cool them off."
Cragen threw up his hands. "I know you were doing your job. The good
"That's something." Stabler hoped he'd sleep better, after he apologized. "If I had any balls, I'd go over there and get him myself."
"Put one foot in Oz, and I'll have you arrested for endangering a police officer." Cragen picked up his pen. "Get out."
Stabler grumbled under his breath, but left the office. "Benson, tell me I didn't screw up."
"We screwed up. It was my idea, remember?" Benson shrugged. "I'll make sure he gets out alive tomorrow."
"Thanks." Stabler stared at his shoes. Nothing was going right lately, but he wasn't going to whine about it. "I'm going home."
"A good idea. How many days did they rip you?"
"Just one." Stabler got his jacket off his chair and put it on. "Sometimes, I wish I drank."
Munch laughed. "Fin, let's take him out for beer."
Stabler shook his head and got moving towards his car. This would blow over, but it would be awhile before he looked himself in the mirror again.
"Roll it up,
Toby got off the floor and started packing. He didn't have much, no chance to buy anything in PC.
The CO came to the door. "Let's go."
Toby went first and fished his cigarettes out of his pocket. When he saw a homeboy, he passed them off. The CO gave him a push. "Think I'm stupid?"
"Nah." Toby nearly smiled when he saw Angus waiting for him. He handed off his state items with relief.
Angus smiled. "I have some clothes for you."
Toby looked down at the clothes. "I hope you brought jeans and a shirt that says 'Fuck prison.'"
"Sorta." Angus handed them over, and Toby changed quickly in the small room provided. It was a relief and a blessing. He went straight back out to his brother to wait for the next step.
Toby almost didn't look at her, but finally, he did. "Sister Pete?"
"I did what I thought was right." She looked sad. "I'm sorry it hurt you so badly."
Toby sighed. It was time to get over it. She did her best in this fucking place. "Forget it. I will." He hoped. Someday soon.
Angus took a sturdy hold on Toby's arm, pulled him close, and said, "There's press. Lots of them."
"Fuck them." Toby embraced him, signed all the papers, and caught sight of someone else familiar. "Hello, Detective."
Benson nodded. "I'm glad this is turning out well."
Toby wondered what it would feel like if it had turned out poorly. "Thank you for keeping your partner out of here."
"You have my thanks for the heads up." Benson looked at the door. "Are you ready to face the press?"
Toby shrugged. He'd think of something. Angus whispered in Toby's ear, "Want me to talk?"
"No. I'm fine." Toby took a deep breath. He was going home, again. For once, the system had kicked him out instead of shoving him deeper. "Let's go." He paused though and managed to give Sister Pete a small smile. She returned it and went back to work - Oz, where nothing changed, certainly not the men incarcerated there.
"Hey Stabler! It's your homeboy." Munch pointed. "Turn it up, Fin!"
Fin turned it up, and they all listened. Stabler waited to be torn a new one in public. Christ, his kids might be watching.
"Are you angry at Detective Stabler?"
Stabler clicked his jaw shut. "Damn."
"Look at him go!" Munch shouted.
"Have you heard that the city is settling out of court? It's rumored to be a six-figure sum."
"Righteous," Fin muttered. Stabler agreed, but silently. He picked up a file. Time to get back to work.
Toby looked down at his Nikes and smiled. He stretched and smiled some more. He had to stop. This was ridiculous. Was it sweeter this time? No, but yes.
"You look happy."
Toby whirled and put his smile far away. "Hello, Detective."
"No urge to call me Chris?" Stabler was right there, and he looked so much like Chris, now that he was out of a suit.
"Chris is very dead. You're not him, even though the resemblance is annoying." Toby itched to get running. "Going for a run?"
"Yes." Stabler started stretching. Toby tore his eyes away and considered protesting. Stabler laughed softly. "You look like you'd rather be shot than jog with me."
Toby rubbed his face. It was true. He didn't want to see Stabler because all he saw was Chris. "You have to know that he was my lover."
"Figured it out." Stabler shrugged. "I'm not him."
"You are when I see you for the corner of my eye." Toby started jogging, and Stabler fell into pace beside him. They ran together, but separately. "How far can you go?"
"As far as you." Stabler kept up easily. "Thanks for not kicking my ass in public."
"I figured we'd save it for a private conversation."
"Bring it." Stabler would enjoy it. It was all over his face.
Toby bit back a laugh and didn't stop moving his legs. He wasn't going to fight, but he was going to run Stabler into the ground. "Gee, I wonder if that would get me sent back to Oz?"
"Might get you sent to the hospital."
Toby shivered. That had sounded just like Chris. "Don't ever show your face at Oz."
"My captain said that if I tried, he'd have me arrested for endangering a police officer." Stabler wasn't slowing down. "He meant it."
"I have enough blood staining my hands without that." Toby checked his watch, realized he was lagging, and picked up the pace. "Let's hope that Brutus died recently."
"Not a dog person, huh?"
Toby tried not to look at him. "Ever had a dog claw over your body and shove his nose up your ass?"
Stabler paused. "That would make me consider cats in a new light."
"It did it for me." Toby needed to stop talking. He was losing his rhythm. "Let's just run."
"And then we'll get a bite to eat."
"You're buying." Toby shut up and ran. He focused on his legs, the path, and the sun on his face. He ran. Chris was with him every step of the way.
Stabler did wonder if they'd ever
stop, but his pride didn't
let him heave a sigh of relief when they did.
"Every day?" Stabler made sure not to pant, but he was feeling every breath.
"Or you want to scream?"
"She's at her parents with the kids." Stabler eased the words out. It was more than he wanted to say, and it meant more than he was willing to discuss.
"Is this a bribe?" Stabler joked. It was lame, but he felt awkward. Apologies didn't come easy, and he'd done nothing wrong, not all that much.
"Fucking worse bribe ever." Toby uncapped it and drank deeply.
Stabler did the same, and they walked
without talking or
"I owe you an apology," Stabler choked out. The words, as mild as they were, stuck in his throat.
"Hey, did you really donate that money?" Stabler had wanted to ask that back while they were running, but hadn't had the breath to do it, and he desperately wanted to change the subject.
"Every fucking dime."
"You feel strongly about it." Stabler
that. His job was to put guys behind bars, not sit around and worry
"No. Chris Keller saved me."
"I want to discuss something with you over at the house." Stabler finally pushed his second agenda. It was the right time.
"I knew this wasn't about an
"You want to go home, dress, and meet
Stabler backed off. He didn't want to scare
"Yes. I do."
Stabler smiled at him. "Do I look like an idiot?"
Stabler shrugged and threw his bottle in the trash. Nothing he could say about that. "Meet me there around eleven, and then we'll go to lunch. Do not under any circumstances wear orange."
"Very fucking funny."
Toby wore a black T-shirt, jeans, and
a scruffy leather
jacket. He had considered a suit, but it would be all show and no blow
he wasn't that man any longer. His brother was learning to live with
Angus. Toby glanced around the small flat that he had right off
"Toby, are you coming for lunch?"
"Not today. I have to meet with Detective Stabler."
"I'll wire some money to Oz."
"Not funny." Toby nearly laughed though. "I'll be there for dinner, unless he says otherwise."
His mother sighed. "Toby, be careful."
"Don't worry more than you have to. Bye." Toby shut it and stowed it away. He might turn it off. She would worry a lot. He went out and caught a cab. Stabler would come after him, if he were late.
"Think he'll show up?"
"Yes. I do." Stabler sipped another water. He was thirsty and his legs ached. "That guy can run. He should try the marathon."
"I told you just to meet him after. Your pride is going to give you sore muscles!"
Stabler glared at his partner. "I can bench press more than he can."
"You sure?" Benson laughed. "Did you see his biceps?"
"I did not check him out!" Stabler snorted.
"Check who out?"
Stabler flushed and got out of his
"You'd have sent a squad car for me."
Benson smiled and shook his hand. "I understood completely, but you're welcome."
"You don't cuss at her." Stabler sucked some more water.
"She's a lady. You're a fucking cop,
and she can call
"I like this guy," Munch said. "Not much, but some."
"I didn't mention that he could call
"We're partners, so permission for me is permission for him," Benson said. "Come on. We need your help."
Toby followed Stabler's square back and didn't check out the ass in jeans underneath it - not much at least. It was the best he could do. Stabler and Benson took him right outside an interrogation room and turned on the sound, and Toby stopped in amazement. "I'm not supposed to be here."
"We know that." Stabler sighed. "I got approval for it. See him?"
Toby nodded. It was guy around thirty. "He looks like shit."
"Accurate description." Benson put her hand on Stabler's arm. "Let me tell him. That's Arthur Saville. He was raped violently about the time you were transported, by accident, to Oz."
"I didn't do it!" Toby blurted out. Seeing that man like that made him want to cry and choke someone to death.
Stabler put a hand on Toby's shoulder, and Toby quivered on sheer reflex. If he shut his eyes, it was Chris. Hell, it was worse with his eyes open. Stabler pulled his hand away, and Toby was glad.
"We know. You were in jail. He knows who raped him."
Benson picked up the slack. "We asked him back so we could speak to him, but he refuses to give up his attacker."
Toby saw only his pain behind that glass. He had to pull himself together. They were using him, for something. "Detective Benson, I need you to walk away."
Benson blinked. "What?"
Stabler nodded at her. "Give us a minute, Olivia."
Toby heaved out a breath when she was gone and the hallway was clear. "You fucking want me to do what?" He was loud.
"Help him!" Stabler was loud right back. "Go in there. Talk him into helping us!"
"What the fuck are you fucking talking about? I'm not a fucking shrink! I'm shrink-wrapped!"
Stabler put his hand on Toby's shoulder again and squeezed. "We know that, but you know exactly what happened to him. You're uniquely qualified to help him, and you were a lawyer. You know how to do it right."
"Because I've been ass raped!" Toby turned violently away from Stabler and the window. "Fuck you! Fuck you!"
Stabler was quiet for a moment. "You have no job. Nothing but your feet. We want you to consult for us. You were a lawyer, and you can help us with these cases."
"I'm fucking wealthy. I don't need a damn job." Toby stayed turned away. Those words hurt. "And someone will find out and your pretty ass will be fired!"
"The captain thinks it's a good idea. We have a shrink. You can work closely with him. He's a good guy, for a doctor." Stabler pulled him around. "And don't talk about my ass like that!"
Toby shoved the hand away. "You think I want to fucking relive what happened to me?"
"I think you do every day of your life. Chris Keller saved you because he cared about you. Somehow, he healed you." Stabler loomed over him. "Healed you enough that you could survive Oz. I'm asking you to help this guy like you were helped."
"Fuck off." Toby was through yelling.
He hated this,
and he hated Stabler for asking it of him. Of all the men in fucking
"I understand." Stabler shrugged. "I'll shut up now and let you think about it."
"Good fucking idea." Toby went back to the glass and watched Benson get Saville a soda. She was nice, but he would never talk to her. And Stabler? He didn't have a fucking chance - too much testosterone oozing out of him. "I'll try it once. If I can't handle it, I'm walking out the door, and you will not fuck up my parole!"
"You have my word." Stabler stuck out his hand.
Toby snorted and ignored the hand. If he touched Stabler, he'd start to cry for Chris. He tried to focus. "Find us a room with no glass. You think he doesn't know that half the cops in the precinct are out here, hoping to hear about an ass fucking and laugh about it?"
Stabler lowered his head. "That would never happen!"
"Right. How many were out here the first time? Four? Benson? Your captain?" Toby pushed his point home. "If you want this guy to open up, you've got to give him some respect."
"Fine." Stabler opened the door. "Benson, take Mr. Beecher to a conference room. I'll meet you there with Saville."
Toby heard the anger in Stabler's voice, most likely because he wouldn't shake hands - too fucking bad. He let her guide the way. "You heard every word."
"No." Benson smiled. "Not every word. Just the ones you yelled at him. I've seen it all working this unit. You can't shock me."
"Sister Pete would have my ass." Toby surveyed the room. No mirrors. "This place wired?"
"Not to my knowledge." She appeared to be telling the truth.
"Good. When he gets here, stay out. I mean that. No asking us if we need coffee or a donut. Stay out!" Toby felt like he was right on the edge of coming unhinged. Schillinger was close, and he was always laughing.
"We won't interrupt. I promise. Here's the pad so he can write down what happened." Benson pointed at a small fridge. "Help yourself to a soda."
"I might puke it." Toby waved his hand at the door. "Cops. I remember when I thought they were my friend."
Benson went out. She wouldn't answer that. Stabler was right there with Saville, and he looked terrified. Toby knew that feeling so well. He sat down, lowered his face into his hands, and waited until Stabler shut the door firmly. When he looked up, he knew he could do this, but it wasn't going to be easy.
"Arthur Saville." Saville grimaced and looked away. "You a cop?"
"Hell no!" Toby shook his head. "I'm another poor, dumb fuck that they're hoping to get some information out of today."
"I hear you." Saville's fingers tapped the table. "At least they're not watching us in here."
"And laughing at us."
"Exactly." Saville suddenly stared at him. "You too?"
"Yeah." Toby shifted in his seat as if his ass were sore. He could remember it like it was yesterday. "They don't get it."
"They can't." Saville rubbed his face. "How am I supposed to be a man now?"
Toby acted as if he were thinking about it. "Well, you are a man. He didn't take that away."
"Yeah, he did. Treated me like his woman." Saville took a deep breath. "Told me he was gonna breed me. Make me his bitch."
"Did he make you wear lipstick?" Toby threw it out there.
Saville flinched. "No! Thank God."
"Yeah. I hated that part." Toby got up and found a soda. He had to stay calm. "You want something? If they're going to leave us in here, we might as well help ourselves."
"Sure." Saville seemed to relax just a little.
Toby slid a Coke down to him. Now they both had something to fidget with. Toby sat down with a wince that Saville noticed. "The dress wasn't much fun either."
"What?" Saville stared at him. "You were his bitch!"
"I was. It sucked like you wouldn't believe. I kept praying he'd just fuck me and leave, but he had me right where he wanted me, and he kept coming back for more and more." Toby's throat tightened. He did want to puke. "You got it once?"
"Just once. In the alley behind this bar." Saville looked away. He popped his soda and took a long drink.
"Okay. What were you doing in the alley?" Toby wanted to shake his head at the stupidity. "Buying some ecstasy?"
Saville looked at the door. "Yeah. It makes sex great." He sighed. "He beat, raped me, and left me for dead. Someone called the cops, and they've been after me ever since."
"You get the drugs?" Toby knew that was the right question.
"No! Damn it!" Saville groaned and got up to pace. "I see him almost every day."
"Does he rub his crotch and grin?"
"Sure as hell does. He's coming back for more. I know it." Saville slumped down and put his head on the table. "If I wasn't such a chicken, I'd kill myself."
"I'm chicken too." Toby managed a sip and took a deep breath. He was doing this, and it hurt like hell. Stabler was to blame. Toby groaned very softly. He wasn't good at blaming men that had Chris's face. "What will happen if you rat him out?"
"He'll get loose and come kill me?"
Toby shrugged. "Actually no. He'll get five to fifteen in a maximum security prison where somebody named Vern will tear his asshole open. After about a week, this guy will have a new appreciation for consensual sex."
"But I was buying drugs!"
"Had you taken them yet?"
"Did you ever see them?"
"Then that's intent to buy and you may get probation, or you may not, depends on your lawyer." Toby leaned forward. "If you do nothing, you'll be wearing lipstick before the month is out."
Saville jerked away from the table, flew to his feet, and paced frantically. Toby let him think. Saville suddenly stopped. "What are you going to do?"
"I killed the guy who fucked me up the ass." Toby smiled his worst. "I'm out on bail. I'm pleading self-defense, but I'll probably get a needle. It'll suck."
Saville pounded the wall. "I thought of that! I thought of that!"
"If I were you, I'd give him up. Ain't nothing lower in prison than a rapist." Toby pushed the soda away and shoved the pad at Saville. "Fuck him like he fucked you."
"I'm gonna do it. Fucker thinks he can fuck me. I'll send him some place that'll teach him to keep his dick in his pants."
"Good plan. Death row sucks." Toby remembered Chris's time there with a quiver. "Write it down for them."
Saville got busy writing. "Is that Stabler guy gonna laugh at me?"
"No. He's not all that bad. Kind of a prick, but he takes his job seriously." Toby shrugged and nearly smiled. "You see his ass? Someone's fucked it. Why else would he work in this unit?"
"That's a good point." Saville kept writing, and Toby prompted him to give better details twice. "I'm gonna get this guy."
Toby nodded. His heart ached, and he needed to get out of here, but he'd done it. Was it the right thing? Who the fuck could know? But Saville might not kill himself now. Toby waited until Saville was completely finished before going to the door and opening it. "Hey Stabler, can I go piss?"
Stabler took him by the arm. "Come on. I'll take you. Maybe you won't get lost this time."
Benson slid inside the room, and she was the best choice for talking to Saville. Toby just went along until they were inside what looked like a locker room together. "Um, you gonna hold my dick?"
Stabler pushed him away and sat down on a bench. "You get him to write it all down?"
"I can tell from the look on your face that you listened." Toby went to piss. "I told you not to!"
"I should've followed that advice," Stabler said in a quiet voice. "Lipstick?"
"I'm not discussing that with you." Toby washed his hands and pushed away several emotions that were too difficult to deal with when the sun was shining. "Not ever, and if you want me to do this, I suggest you turn off the damn bug!"
"I will. Next time." Stabler rubbed his face. "You did kill the guy who . . ."
"I did. We were in a play together. MacBeth. Keller was the prop manager. He handed me a real knife." Toby sat down on another bench and spread his hands. "Keller moved us all around like chess pieces. I'm not proud of it. It was horrible."
Stabler opened a locker. "I read his file. Keller was a piece of work. I'm going to change shirts so we can go to lunch. Don't panic."
"Like I've never seen a naked man." Toby rolled his eyes. "I'm not doing this every day."
"Maybe once a month. Maybe. Once or twice, we've been out to Rikers."
"Not doing that." Toby shook his head. "They'll decide to keep me."
Stabler took off his shirt. Toby's mouth fell open, his vision swam, and he woke up on his knees. Stabler came towards him. "What's wrong?"
Toby raised his hand and got up, falling back against the wall. "No. Don't touch me!"
Stabler stopped reaching and moved away. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
Toby put his head on his knees and breathed deeply. When his voice worked again, he whispered, "Chris had that same tattoo."
Stabler ran his hand over it and put on a clean shirt. Toby tried not to stare. That was Chris, for just one beautiful moment that would end any second.
"I'm Catholic, and I'll tell you a secret." Stabler tucked in his shirt, and the second was over. "A lot of altar boys get them."
"He said he got his in
"He lied. Over at St. Mark's, nearly every altar boy gets them at about seventeen. It's a tradition." Stabler smoothed his hair back. "My wife hates it."
"I thought it represented sacrificing for the ones a man loves." Toby wanted to kick himself. He sounded like a fool.
"That's why I still have it. I like to think of it that way. How many of us would hang on a cross for our fellow man?"
Toby got to his feet and left the locker room. He couldn't sit there and talk about love with a man that looked like the man he loved. Still. Even if they did smell different, walk different, and Chris had been an inch shorter. Ass was about the same though. Benson caught him in the hallway. "You did a hell of a job, Toby."
"Thanks. I think. He needs to see a shrink. Often." Toby put his hands in his pockets to hide them. They were shaking. "When the word gets around, not a cop in this place will give me the time of day." It was nothing but complaining. "Not that they would have anyway."
"I like to think we're better than that." Benson smiled at him.
"Think again. The CO's at Oz knew what was happening to me. I heard there was a pool on when I'd crack and whether or not I'd live through it." Toby backed further away. "For years, the system blamed women when they were raped. Well, the system laughs when a man is raped. It laughs pretty damn hard."
"I'm not laughing." Benson started for the squad room, and Toby went with her. Stabler would catch up any minute. Toby felt washed out, drained. He flashed back to that sickening crunch when the knife had driven itself into Schillinger's heart. It was like yesterday, and it hadn't made any of his pain go away.
"Ready to go eat?" Stabler was suddenly there.
"No. I need a bottle of Jack Daniels." Toby backed towards the door. "You have my cell number?"
"Yes." Stabler frowned. "Don't-"
"Don't lecture me." Toby got out of there fast before he started throwing things and screaming. Damn cops. Helping Saville had been a good thing, but it might have bad results. The next time he went through those doors, someone would snicker. He beat it home and went right to his weights.
"We pushed him too far."
"I pushed him too far." Stabler took a bite of his hot dog. "At least you got lunch out of the deal."
She nibbled at it. "He's tougher than he looks. He helped Saville, and he knew it. He'll be back when we need him."
"Next time, you run with him." Stabler smiled at her.
"No. Thank you. I'll sit on the bench and watch." She laughed. "I know you. You're going to go see him. Aren't you?"
"What if he's drunk?" Stabler nodded. "I have to make sure he's okay."
"And your house is empty."
"That too." Stabler added some more relish. "Do you like him?"
"Yes. Do you?"
"I don't know." Stabler took a big
bite so he
didn't have to talk. He felt responsible for
Toby called his mom and canceled dinner. His stomach still hurt, but he could feel his heart again. He could feel again. The TV was a necessary distraction, and he took another shower that lasted until he felt clean. It took awhile. He was sitting at the kitchen counter, watching the Patriots kick ass when there was a knock on the door. He wanted to ignore it, but somewhere in his roiling guts, he knew who it had to be.
"Go the fuck away!"
Stabler opened the door and walked inside. "You don't lock your door?"
"I'm hoping someone will shoot me and put me out of my misery." Toby stared at the game. He didn't want to look at him, not yet. "You have a warrant?"
"I had probable cause. Some guy was yelling." Stabler leaned against the countertop. "Patriots need to lose more often."
"Giants suck and it gladdens my heart." Toby hooked his thumb at the fridge. "Help yourself."
Stabler pulled it open. "You have beer."
"Of course I do. Have one." Toby smiled in his crazy way that made people nervous.
"You're an alcoholic." Stabler twisted it open and took a drink. He sounded like Toby's dad. Toby missed his dad. He wished again that he'd killed Vern years earlier in their twisted relationship. His dad might be alive.
"I am? I had no idea." Toby finally came up with an answer to what was a statement of fact. He fought the urge to lick the beer foam from Stabler's lips. Stabler would kill him for trying.
Stabler chuckled. "Smart ass. Where's your shank?"
"Under my pillow. I can't sleep without it," Toby said dismissively. If Stabler were smart, he'd believe it. Toby stroked a hand down his thigh. He had to ignore the slight ache in his jeans. It was time to start pushing Stabler out the door, before he looked anymore like Chris and Toby's heart broke again. Toby smirked. "You gay, Stabler?"
"I have a wife," Stabler spat.
"She left you. I thought maybe she got tired of you sinking your pole somewhere else." Toby couldn't wait to see the point at which Stabler bolted. "I know you aren't fucking your partner."
"Perceptive of you." Stabler sat down on the windowsill. "You're not gay."
"No." Toby shrugged. "I'm just easy."
Stabler choked on his beer. Toby watched the game while Stabler got himself under control. That had been fun. It almost came out the detective's nose. "You little prick!"
"You should have invited your partner. I like her. She's got balls a mile wide." Toby did like her, and she was safe.
Stabler's eyes bulged. "Shut up!"
"Hey, you let yourself in. Let yourself out." Toby sighed. Commercial. He rubbed his face. If Stabler wasn't going to leave, Toby did have a question. "Since you're housebroken, I need to buy a bed. Any place you'd recommend?"
"No." Stabler acted as if he were watching the commercial. "Get a real television too."
"I don't want to go wild. I might end up back in Oz next week. Or tonight." Toby could smell the beer, and it was driving him crazy. He got himself a Dasani and didn't waste air complaining about it. "Before I went to Oz, I was polite and well-spoken."
"I know. You showed brief flashes of it when I picked you up. Then the cursing started, and I can't decide which of you I like more." Stabler flashed a fake grin.
"You don't like me at all. I respect that." Toby sipped his water and wished for beer, or a beer-flavored kiss. He couldn't believe Stabler liked him. Liked him? Right. What a bunch of bullshit. Stabler could lie almost as well as Chris. Toby wasn't sure how he felt about Stabler, and he didn't want to talk about it. He wanted some privacy. "I don't like you either."
"Why did I stop here again?" Stabler had half that beer gone.
"To make sure I wasn't drunk. Remember?" Toby went back to watching the game and readied another insult. "Are you working tomorrow?"
"That's one day I won't have to worry about seeing you in the park. It's a relief." Toby knew he should shut up, but he couldn't. He laughed in a mean way. "Legs sore?"
Stabler snapped off the TV. "Why don't we work this out like men?"
Toby thought about it. It might be fun, but it wasn't a good idea. His parole officer would love to ship him out - for real this time. "You fucked me over. I almost had to kill a man because you couldn't be bothered to send me home in a black and white."
"Good point." Stabler leaned closer. "He was alive, right?"
"Yeah. I busted his balls and brain, but he was breathing. Dumb fuckers always think I'm a faggot."
Stabler nodded. "You got no sleeves."
"Fuckers." Toby shook his head. He wasn't getting tattoos up and down his arms to prove he was a tough ass convict. "And no. We're not going to work this out like men, whatever the fuck that means. If you touch me, I'll lose control."
Stabler took a step back. He looked worried. "Maybe I should confiscate your shank."
"You are so fucking stupid." Toby got up and walked to the door. It was time to insist Stabler leave. Toby opened it. "Here it is. Walk through it."
Stabler sauntered over, but he didn't go completely out. "Lose control?"
"I'll shove you down and kiss you." Toby stepped close very fast and brushed his fingertips across Stabler's lips. His hand lingered for two heartbeats, Chris's eyes snapped at him, and Toby got the hell away before he was struck down. "Get out."
Stabler's nostrils flared. "I'll give you a call, if we need you."
"I won't hold you to it." Toby slammed the door and threw the lock. He leaned hard against it and shut his eyes. So much the same, with the bad parts made good, or at least, less lethal. Temptation and lust made into a man. He groaned and rubbed his face. Life had a way of laughing at him.
Stabler went home to his empty house. He had work tomorrow. It would have to be enough.
Toby grabbed his cell phone and headed for the park. He stretched and started out slow. His legs were a little sore from running Stabler into the ground yesterday. The park was emptier than usual, and that was welcome. Toby was sick of people. He lifted his face to the rain and ran.
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