Disclaimer: HBO owns Oz, Dick Wolf owns SVU.
Summary: Beecher and Stabler meet unexpectedly and the sparks fly.
Beta: Suespur - thanks!
His arousal was painful. Unexpected. His skin suddenly felt tight,
stretched across his body. He vaguely remembered feeling this way when
he was younger. Intensely aware of eyes that danced away and the brush
of a hand, unintentional, of course, as they accidentally bumped into
each other. They’d both been attempting to avoid a rush of
"Are you feeling well, Detective?"
The words were heard dimly, and he prayed that he looked calm. "Sure.
No one's spiked the punch yet." He tried to laugh, and he must have
"I don't think anyone is going to spike the punch with a cop around."
Elliot nearly blushed. "I don't think anyone has noticed but you." He
snapped his badge off his belt and stuffed it in his coat pocket. "How
did I get roped into this?"
"Like I know."
Elliot watched him wander away towards the other side of the gym. Who
was that guy? He didn't remember asking for a name. No. He'd been too
busy trying to hide his boner. Geez. He was such a loser.
"Hey, Dad, try not to look like you want to shoot someone, okay?"
Elliot smiled at his son. "I'll try harder to look nice. Who are you dancing with?"
Dickie blushed and shuffled his feet. "Holly Beecher, she‛s new, and I really like her. Please don't embarrass me."
"Nice family?" Elliot hoped so. "And where's your sister?"
Dickie shrugged, grabbed some punch, and disappeared into the mass of
teenagers. That had been no answer at all. Hopefully, she had parents.
Elliot sighed softly. Kathy had bailed at the last minute, and he'd
come straight here from work. It didn't kill him, but after spending
the day chasing perps, he wanted to sit down. Glancing about, he
spotted a chair, yanked it over, and sat down. The principal had put
him in charge of the punch bowl, but he could do it sitting. He
stretched his back, made sure his gun wasn't digging into him, and
tried to relax. At least, his johnson had settled down. He was
definitely feeling the lack if a guy could get a rise out of him. The
music got that much louder, and he rubbed his forehead.
Elliot looked up fast. He shrugged and flashed a quick grin at the man
he'd spoken to earlier. "I'm good. Long day." He stood and nervously
stuck out his hand. "Elliot Stabler."
They shook hands, and Elliot nearly cringed as fireworks went off in
his groin again. Damn. He put his hands in his pockets fast and leaned
away. "Holly's dad?"
"Yeah." Tobias smiled. "How'd you know?"
"She's dancing with my son, Richard." Elliot was slightly reassured by
the fact that Holly's father was here. It showed that he cared, and it
seemed most dads were never available these days. Dads like Elliot
Stabler. Tobias gave him a look and walked away. Uh-oh. He'd seen it
more than once over the years. Some people didn't want their kids
dating his kids. He was a cop, and for some reason, that wasn't always
a good thing. Dickie was going to kill him. Now, he needed that Tylenol.
A sudden mob of kids rushed the snack table, and he watched them
closely. The boys were usually the culprits, but girls were no angels
any longer. He finally had to move around the table, flash his big
smile, and whisper, "Go put it in the trash, and I won't tell the
The young lady blushed and sprinted away. Elliot watched her, and she
ditched it. She wouldn't be back to try again, and he hoped that would
be the end of it. Kids today were always pushing their luck.
Tobias moved back into sight, and Elliot watched him break up a small
scuffle between two boys with too much testosterone and not enough
brain cells. Elliot noticed the lean body, nothing but muscles, and it
made him intensely uncomfortable. He was checking out a guy, for God's
sake! Kathy would laugh her head off.
"So nice that you could come, Mr. Stabler."
Elliot turned slightly and smiled at Dickie's homeroom teacher, Miss Adams. "Glad to help. They seem to be having a good time."
"They do, and as long as they don't have too good a time, the school
won't be sued." She grinned. She was cute and single, and Elliot wished
his package noticed her.
"Richard likes Holly Beecher. Is she a new girl?" Elliot knew he'd get in trouble if Dickie found out, but he was curious.
"Transferred in right after the start of the school year. She'd been
living with her uncle, but now that her father is home, she lives with
him. Nice girl." Adams gave him a small shrug. "Sad story, but she does
Elliot didn't ask. He didn't want to know. It was always something that
he wished he could fix, but he couldn't, and he was left with the taste
of ashes in his mouth. "Can you watch the punch bowl? I need to take a
Adams nodded. "Of course!" Elliot gave her a smile and headed out into
the hallway for the restroom. He wasn't ducking out, just wishing he
could. He nearly turned the corner when the voices made him stop.
"Holly, all I'm saying is that no matter how much you like him, I want
you to be prepared for him to back away. His father, who we thought
wasn't in the picture much, is going to insist on it."
"I like Richard," Holly said softly.
Tobias groaned. "Like him, yes, but let's not date him. His father's a cop!"
"Not everyone is as prejudiced as you think they are!"
"I hope I'm wrong, but please, prepare your heart."
Elliot turned immediately and went the other way. He didn't want to
hear any more, and he didn't want them knowing that he'd heard. Back in
the gym, he relieved Miss Adams and took up his post again in his
chair. The music seemed to pound through his brain, and even though he
noticed when Holly returned, he didn't look directly at her. Dickie
gave her a big smile, and they danced together - a slow one.
Tobias came through the door a few minutes later and headed for the
other side of the gym. His eyes didn't even slide over to the punch
table. Elliot groaned softly. He hated not knowing. She seemed like a
nice girl. Well, he'd trust his son. Dickie was growing up into a fine
man, and Elliot liked to think that he got some of the credit. Kathy
would probably argue about that.
"Hey, um, Elliot, is it?"
Elliot got out of the chair and forestalled the coming conversation.
"Glad you're here. I need a break. Take over." He strode away before
Tobias could say another word. Tobias could wait or change his mind and
skip it. Elliot went back to the restroom and pushed open the door.
"Put them out and get out. Now!"
Boys bolted every direction, and he held open the door while they
streamed out into the hallway. He rolled his eyes and went to piss.
Finished, he washed his hands and stared in the mirror for two seconds.
He looked old and tired. It wasn't the years, it was the mileage. He
dried his hands and walked slowly back towards the gym. How much
longer? He tried to remember, but he was clueless, and he was glad that
tomorrow was his day off.
Tobias was on duty, and he should've smiled, but he didn't. Elliot
didn't either. "Thanks. I chased about ten boys out of the john.
Smoking. Can't they wait until college?"
"Doesn't seem like they can." Tobias checked his watch. "Another hour and we'll be out of here."
Elliot was glad to hear it. He looked out over the dancing crowd again,
but couldn't see his either of his children. Had Elizabeth come? She
should have. This was her class too.
"Who are you looking for?"
"My daughter." Elliot was careful not to snap, but Tobias needed to go elsewhere. "Richard is a twin."
"Runs in families, I understand."
Elliot stopped looking for her and glared at Tobias. "What's that mean?"
Tobias shoved his hands in his pockets. "Aren't you one?"
"That's none of your business." Elliot suddenly didn't like the tone of
this conversation. He left Tobias at the punch bowl and walked the
perimeter of the dancing teenagers.
"Dad, you looked pissed, and you're scaring people," Dickie said and caught him by the arm. "Please, chill."
Elliot had to smile at him. "Holly's dad is asking questions and it's
making me nervous," he said quietly, pulling him closer so they could
talk over the music. "You know that nosy people drive me nuts."
"You're nosy." Dickie laughed. "Sis is making eyes at a guy in the band."
Elliot groaned. "I'll go glare at her. You really like Holly?"
"Yeah. She's cool and smart, and she knows the score."
"What is the score?" Elliot wasn't reassured, far from it.
"Cops ten, perps zero." Dickie grinned and bounced away. Elliot rubbed
his hand down his face and tried to figure out what that meant, but he
had no idea. He did catch sight of Elizabeth and moved fast.
"He's too old for you. Go find someone more your age." Elliot pulled
his badge back out, clipped it to his belt, and glared at the band
member. The young man took one look and went far away.
"You always spoil the fun." She huffed. "But I love you."
Elliot watched her dance away. She had been messing with him. She was
like that - full of trouble. More like him than Dickie had ever been.
He'd always been careful not to force her to do anything. No, he'd
reasoned with her. He was not his father, damn it. Tobias was still at
the punch bowl, and Elliot returned there out of guilt, nothing else.
The explosion that had taken place earlier in his package was gone. His
cop instincts told him that Tobias was a problem.
"I spiked the punch while you were gone."
"I figured you would." Elliot nodded. He could smell it now. Tobias was
a troublemaker and probably always had been. What was acceptable in his
children, wasn't in someone else. "Beat it."
Tobias drew back slightly. "You're all the same." He left quickly, and
Elliot wondered what that meant. Elliot didn't waste time worrying
about it though. He still had to protect the punch bowl, and he aborted
one more run before the principal came over to him.
"Mr. Stabler, I'll need the names of any students that attempt to spike the punch."
Elliot sighed, but quietly. He didn't like this fellow, never had. "You
should have told me earlier, Mr. Jenkins. How can I remember?"
"Point them out."
Elliot shook his head. "I might make a mistake. You wouldn't want to unjustly punish someone."
Jenkins glared. "Did I see you speaking to Mr. Beecher?"
"Yeah. Nice guy." Elliot threw it out there.
"Keep your eye on him as well. He hasn't been out of prison that long!"
Mr. Jenkins marched away to yell at other hapless teachers. Elliot
eased down in his chair and rubbed his eyes. He was going to kill Kathy
for this. Kill her. It was the giggling that made him look. Holly and
Dickie were grabbing a snack.
"Hi, Mr. Stabler," Holly said.
"Hi, Holly. Nice to meet you. Make sure Richard treats you right,
okay?" Elliot smiled gently at her. No matter what her father had done,
she deserved kindness.
"Dad!" Dickie groaned.
Holly giggled some more, and they went off with a plate of food. Elliot
wasn't surprised at all when Tobias showed up two minutes later.
"Please don't take it out on her. She's done nothing." Tobias wasn't begging. If anything, he looked defiant.
"But cope with a screw up for a father?" Elliot didn't want to talk
about this, but he had exactly no choice. Where did Kathy stand on
this? Did she like Holly?
Tobias nodded. "Exactly."
"They're kids. It's a passing infatuation." Elliot turned slightly away. "Get over yourself."
"Maybe you're not as stupid as most cops." Tobias didn't hang around
after that rude statement. He retreated to the other side of the gym
again. Elliot sat back down and wished for a beer. He should've spike
the punch. He laughed softly. They were just kids. Of course, he didn't
want Dickie going over to her house if her skel of a father was going
to be there, but he'd talk to Kathy about it.
Finally, blessedly, the music ended, the principal made a few
announcements, and the kids started filing out the doors. He made his
way out to the parking lot and leaned against his car. The night air
was a relief, and he didn't mind waiting for his kids. Unfortunately,
Tobias found him first.
"What?" Elliot asked before the skel started talking about his problems.
"Are you a twin?"
"Yeah." Elliot wasn't going to say any more about it, but the question
was a surprise. Why did this guy care? And more importantly, what had
he done to land behind bars? "What prison?"
Elliot controlled his reaction. He'd expected Rikers or somewhere cushy
upstate for white collar crime. Suddenly, he connected the dots, and he
didn't like the picture. "I'm the good twin."
"He was good too." Tobias put his butt on the car and scooted up to
sit. He pulled out his cell phone, pushed some numbers, and said, "Five
minutes. Row three."
Elliot didn't get this guy at all, but he was suspicious. "So, what do you want from me?"
"Give my kid a break. That's all." Tobias shrugged. "And tell me where you buried him."
Elliot grasped quickly for his temper before he lashed out in front of a bunch of teenagers. "None of your damn business!"
"Easy, easy. There are young people listening." Tobias slid off and smiled. "I'll ask Kathy. She's cute. I like her."
"You little prick," Elliot ground out. He moved fast and caught a fistful of shirt. "I should slam-"
Elliot turned him loose immediately. Dickie and Holly were both staring
in horror. He could only smile. "Sorry. Grownups argue occasionally."
Tobias brushed his shirt off. "No big deal. Holly, say your goodbyes. There's the car."
Elliot didn't watch the children whisper. He took another step. "I like Holly, but don't push your luck."
"I don't have any luck." Tobias moved away from the car. A limo
stopped, and he pulled open the back door. Holly waved and got in
first. Tobias shut the door hard.
Elliot watched the limo pull away before turning to his son. "You sure know how to pick them."
Dickie blushed. "She's special."
Elliot got in the car before he started yelling. She was wealthy, her
dad was an ex-con, and worse yet, he knew about Chris. Dickie and
Elizabeth piled in the back, and Elliot took them home. Well, he took
them to Kathy's new place. Kathy had lived with her mother at first,
and then found a place to rent. It was nice enough, but it wasn't their
home. The ride was pretty quiet. His twins talked softly to each other
once or twice, and he pretended not to notice that they still had their
own code. They dashed out of the car immediately, and he followed, but
Kathy was in the kitchen, cleaning up, and she looked tired. "Thanks for doing that."
"Not a problem." Elliot put his hands on his hips. "What do you know about Holly Beecher?"
Kathy shrugged. "Nice girl. Dickie, or Richard, as he prefers to be
called now, really likes her. I met her father. He seemed nice enough.
They're rich, but not snobs."
"I noticed the limo." Elliot knew he was glaring. "Stay away from her father. He's trouble."
"And you aren't?" Kathy laughed at him. "I may have to date him now. I could double with Dickie."
Elliot didn't find that amusing at all. "He was in Oswald with Chris. Chances are good that he's dangerous."
Kathy's mouth fell open. "No kidding? Wow. No wonder you look like you
ate bad fish." She poured two cups of coffee and sat down. She knew
he'd join her. "What did he say?"
"He wants to know where Chris is buried," Elliot said softly and sat down. "I didn't tell him."
"Why not? Maybe they were close friends."
"In prison?" Elliot didn't want to think about it. If his brother had a
bitch, well, he didn't want to know, ever. "Don't give him the time of
"I'm not going to be rude." Kathy never listened. "You need to get over it."
"He was my brother."
"You never knew him! Your parents gave him away when you two were born.
You're not responsible, and you didn't even know about him until he was
dead." Kathy had plenty of answers, but she didn't understand. "Be
pissed at your father, not Tobias."
"Oh, I'm pissed at my dad." Elliot thought that was the understatement
of the year. "But stay away from Tobias. There's no telling what he
"Elliot, go home. Get some sleep." Kathy sipped her coffee. "Child support is due next week."
"I'm aware of that." Elliot hadn't even sipped the coffee, and he
wouldn't now. He went through the house, kissed his kids, and then went
out to the car. She would do what she wanted. Damn it. He'd have to
talk to Tobias - man to man. Damn it!
"Dad!" Dickie came barreling out of the house.
Elliot rolled down the window. "What's up?"
"Since tomorrow is your day off, could you take Holly and me to the
movies? Please?" Dickie's eyes begged. "The big cineplex has ten
screens. You can find something you want to watch!"
Elliot rubbed his eyes and knew he was helpless. "What time?"
"Can we meet here at four?" Dickie smiled so big at him. "You're the best, Dad."
"Suck up," Elliot muttered after his son ran off. He didn't mind going
to the movies on his day off, and he'd just have to hope that Tobias
stayed far away.
"I'm getting in the car." Elliot nearly laughed. "You must like her."
"Yeah. Please be nice. Bye." Dickie clicked off. Elliot shut his cell
and grabbed his keys. He wasn't sure he remembered ever being crazy for
a girl. Kathy might smack him upside the head, but all he remembered
was fast and furious sex, followed by a complication that had forced
him to make some hard choices. He kept his eyes on the road and made it
there by five minutes after four. It could have been worse. There was a
limo out front, and he prayed that Holly was the only one in it.
Elliot slammed the car door and leaned against it. He'd wait out here.
He adjusted his leather jacket and checked to make sure he had money.
When he looked up, a small bomb went off in his jeans. Angrily, he
pressed his lips together, uncertain of what to say.
Tobias slipped his hand through his hair. "Can I go?"
The urge to snap at him was overwhelming, but the earnest look on
Tobias's face made it impossible. "Can't you can find something else to
do on a Sunday night?"
Elliot was glad for the diversion, and he turned so he could adjust his
jeans. Dickie was two steps behind Holly, and they laughed together.
Love in the afternoon. Great. "Dad, can we take the limo, please?
Holly's dad says it's okay."
Holly looked at him with huge blue eyes. Elliot rubbed his forehead. He
was caught. He could send his son to the movies with a skel or ride in
a limo, and neither was appealing in the least. If Dickie were older,
none of this would be necessary. Elliot shrugged. "Sure."
They raced off together, but Tobias hesitated. "You coming?"
"I'll drive my car." Elliot was not getting in the limo. No way in hell.
Tobias nodded, moved fast around the side of the car, and got in.
Elliot felt his jaw creak, but he managed to get in without slamming
the door too hard. "Get out."
"If you think I'm riding with two hormone-crazed teenagers, you're crazy." Tobias buckled up.
Elliot had to rub his face. He fished out his keys. "They better not be necking."
"Right." Tobias laughed. "Richard told me you were strict, but I figured that when I saw the picture of you in your uniform."
Elliot pulled out of the driveway and followed the limo towards the
cineplex. This was not how he'd wanted to spend his day off -
chaperoning two thirteen year olds and a skel. "How often do you hang
out at my house?"
"Kathy's house. You're divorced, remember?" Tobias shot him a look.
"I've dropped Holly off to do her homework with Richard twice. The last
time, Kathy invited me in for coffee. Your picture is in the front
Elliot wondered how Tobias would have arranged to meet him if they hadn't met at the dance last night. "Did you cry?"
Tobias tapped his fingers on his leg and looked out the window. "You're a bastard, just like him."
"You don't know me."
"You didn't know him."
Elliot watched the road, made the correct turn, and parked quickly. "Just tell me what you want."
"I made that clear last night, and don't pretend that you don't
remember." Tobias got out of the car fast and snapped open his cell
phone. "I'll call you later, but you can meet us at the Stabler
Elliot rolled his eyes. "Must be nice having a chauffeur."
"Must be nice having a driver's license," Tobias bitched right back at him.
Elliot watched the Dickie and Holly get out of the limo, and they went
inside without a care. They'd pretend they didn't have a father close
by for the next couple of hours, and that was fine. "Why don't you go
watch a movie?"
Tobias stuck his hands in his pockets. "While they're busy, we can talk. What do I have to give you for the information?"
Elliot narrowed his eyes. "This ain't Oz. You don't have anything I need."
"Money? Or how about I tell you what kind of man he was?" Tobias didn't smile.
"I know what kind of man he was." Elliot thought he did. "And I don't need your damn money."
Tobias looked down, rubbed his face, and put out his hands. "Just like
Chris, I'm always begging. Please, Detective Stabler. I loved him. He
loved me. Let me take some flowers out to his grave and say goodbye."
Elliot leaned against his car. Tobias was pleading, and he didn't like it. Elliot bit his lip and said quietly, "Love? In Oz?"
"One in a million shot, I know." Tobias took one step closer. "We
shared something. I don't think I realized how much I loved him until
he was gone. Please."
"I'll take you." Elliot made up his mind fast. He wasn't sure he was
doing the right thing, but it was the only way to get this guy out of
his life. "Get in."
"Now?" Tobias looked at the cineplex. "But-"
"We got two hours. Get in." Elliot got in and started the engine. He
had made up his mind to do this, but he wasn't happy about it.
Tobias got in fast. "Thanks."
"Shut up," Elliot growled. "Never in a million years did I think I'd
have to take my brother's prison wife out to his grave." He gunned the
engine and got them moving. It'd take twenty minutes to get there.
"Right back at ya." Elliot just drove. He didn't chat and he didn't
answer any of the questions Tobias threw at him. Only after he parked,
did he say, "Come on."
Tobias followed him through the cemetery. The sun was starting to go
down, but he knew exactly where it was. Tobias finally said, "Go back
to the car."
"Why? So you can cry like the bitch you are?" Elliot was surprised at
the anger that came out. He wasn't usually such an asshole, but being
here made him furious.
"You're almost a bigger asshole than he was." Tobias caressed the stone gently. "How the fuck did this happen?"
"My damn father." Elliot took a deep breath. He might as well tell the
truth. "I'm the youngest of six. My father thought twins was a very bad
idea, so he gave Chris away. No adoption, no paperwork, just gave him
away to a family that couldn't have children." He choked back the rest
of the words that he'd said to himself more than once. His father had
given Chris away like a damn puppy!
"How the hell did they find you after he died?" Tobias looked stunned.
"There was no birth certificate so they sent out an email with his
mugshot, asking for any information. One of my buddies saw it and sent
it to me. Weirdest damn day of my life." Elliot sighed softly. "I
always knew something was missing."
"Damn." Tobias crouched down and pulled a weed that had grown up in
front of the headstone. "I assumed he went to Potter's Field."
"I had to go get him." Elliot had hated that day more than any other in
his life. His father had screwed him over one last time. "Was it you
that killed him?"
Tobias jerked up. "No! I tried to stop him!"
"Suicide is a sin. Chris wouldn't have done it. Are you the prisoner
that was implicated in his death?" Elliot knew the answer from the look
on Tobias's face. "You killed him."
"I swear to God that I didn't. He kissed me and shoved backwards. I
tried to grab him, but he fell." Tobias put his head in his hands. "I
told him that we were finished, but he did it!"
"Keep telling yourself that." Elliot turned away in disgust and went
back to the car. He got in and put his head in his hands. There was
nothing he could do. The review board had found Tobias not guilty. Of
course, Elliot had only known the number, not the name. Now he had a
face to go with it. His johnson gave a pulse, and he looked down at his
idiot self. It made sense now. They were twins. Chris had felt
something for him, and now Elliot found him attractive also. It was
ridiculous, but true. The height of stupidity, but his dick didn't know
"Let's go. I don't want Holly to think something bad happened," Tobias said harshly as he got in the car.
"She'd probably think I arrested you."
"Probably." Tobias kept his face turned away. "Thanks anyway, ya dickhead."
Elliot didn't snap back at him. It didn't seem worth it. This bitch had
known his brother. Tobias gave him a long glare. Elliot shifted
uncomfortably. He suddenly felt as if he were at a disadvantage. "You
got what you wanted. Now you can leave my family alone."
"Holly still likes Richard. I had nothing to do with that."
"Bet you shit your pants when you saw my picture at the house." Elliot knew it was true.
"Apt description. I cried for a week." Tobias suddenly grinned. "Just like the little bitch I am."
Elliot drove faster. He would not feel guilty. Damn it. The trip back
went faster than the trip out, and he parked the car again. This time,
he went towards the front door without looking to see if Tobias was
following. He was though, and they went through the door together.
Their shoulders brushed, and Elliot hated himself. Hated his twin self,
and hated his dick. He found a bench near the entrance and sat down.
He'd be damned if he'd pay to watch fifteen minutes of a movie. Tobias
went towards the restroom, and Elliot pulled out his cell phone.
"Hey, Liv, anything going on today?"
"Not much." Olivia hesitated. "It's your day off."
"Just making sure you had my number." Elliot wished he were needed, right now would be good.
"Funny. Enjoy the evening. Bye." Olivia clicked off, and Elliot tucked the phone away and laughed softly.
Elliot ignored that. He wasn't going to chat it up with the skel that
had killed his brother. Time seemed to crawl, and he edged away when
Tobias sat down on the other end of the bench.
"You're overdoing it. I'm not that bad."
Elliot thought Tobias was that bad, but his dick was in serious disagreement. "How'd you end up with custody of your daughter?"
"They're my children. Mine." Tobias looked offended.
"That must be an oversight by the Child Protection Services." Elliot shrugged. "I could make a call or two."
Tobias flashed to his feet and stuck his finger in Elliot's face. "Back
off! I've lost everything but my kids, and I'll be fucked if you're
going to take them too!"
Elliot smiled. "Shut up and sit down or I'll arrest you for being a public nuisance."
Tobias sat down and turned his back, but Elliot heard him mutter,
"Prick. All I wanted was to say goodbye. I'm such a fucking idiot."
Elliot tried to ignore the small clench in his guts. He understood too
well what it was to be a complete screw up. He also knew the
desperation that came from not being able to see his kids. Damn. Maybe
he needed to slow down, and give Tobias a break, but not a big one.
"Look, Toby, I won't do that, unless I see something inappropriate."
Tobias sniffed. "Chris called me Toby. I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't."
"Whatever." Elliot hoped that Tobias had heard the rest of that sentence. "Holly isn't your only child?"
"My son, Harry, is with my brother today. He attends a magnet school."
Elliot nodded as if he cared. "How long have you been out?"
"Less than a year." Tobias rubbed his face. "I didn't kill your brother. I swear on my children."
Elliot blinked in surprise. He believed that, and he shouldn't. Skels
knew how to play to their audience, and Oz was the worst prison on the
Eastern seaboard. Tobias had, no doubt, learned all the tricks. Elliot
checked the time and asked, "So, you're gay?"
"Excuse me?" Tobias got back to his feet. Now, he just looked pissed.
Elliot eased up, in case he had to dodge a fist. The damn movie had better end soon. "You loved him. You must be gay or stupid."
A huge vein popped out on Tobias's forehead. "I hate cops. Hate them.
You live in your own little world where everything is black and white,
like your cars, and you never dare to think outside the box that you're
busy throwing people inside. I've never met a cop that used his brain.
I know I never will."
Elliot clenched his fist to bust him across the mouth.
"Dad!" Dickie came up fast. "Hey, Mr. Beecher. Can we get pizza now? We're starved!"
Tobias looked at him. Elliot put his fist in his pocket for later. "Let's just go home. You have school tomorrow."
"Please?" Dickie used his big blue eyes to good effect again. "It's early!"
"Tobias has things he has to do," Elliot said, afraid he sounded desperate.
"My shank is sharp enough. It's okay with me. I'm sure Elliot knows a good place," Tobias said.
Dickie grinned. Holly came from the direction of the restroom, and
Elliot saw the hope on her face. Poor kid. A skel for a father. How
many years had she suffered through searches at Oz, just to see her
loser dad? Elliot rubbed his forehead. "Okay, but home after that."
"Cool!" Dickie grabbed Holly's hand, and they went out the door. Tobias
was behind him, and Elliot felt his shoulder blades itch. That shank
had better be nothing but talk. They piled in the car, and Dickie
complained about the lack of the limo, "Did you have to send it away?"
Holly giggled. "Eduardo needed his dinner too."
Tobias turned slightly in the seat. "I'd rather have a car, but I'm stuck with limos."
"Poor baby," Elliot said softly. He tried to remember where the closest pizza place was. "Was the movie good?"
"Yeah, sure." Dickie sat back, and Elliot ignored the whispers and laughter.
Tobias shifted in his seat. "Like they watched it."
Elliot made up his mind to talk to Kathy. Tobias might not mind if his
girl was bubbling with hormones, but Dickie was going to keep it
zipped. Elliott took a shortcut and got them to the Pizza Palace in
good time. He turned around, but made sure not to bump Tobias. "Are you
Dickie smiled. "Not yours, but hers, yeah."
"Well, go on your date. When we come in, pretend you don't know us."
Elliot smiled. They left the car very quickly, both grinning.
Tobias sighed softly. "So, you're not a complete asshole."
Elliot rubbed his hands down his jeans. "After tonight, I don't ever want to see you again."
Tobias shrugged. "Like I care."
"I don't want you thinking we shared a moment or anything." Elliot watched him closely.
"A moment?" Tobias laughed. "I don't give a shit about you."
"Good." Elliot was relieved to hear it. The last thing he needed was a stalker. "Let's go eat."
"You can pretend you don't know me."
"And you never fucking will."
They both slammed their car doors and went inside. Unfortunately,
Elliot's plan of having a quiet meal alone was ruined by a sweet girl
with blue eyes and a heart full of pain. She got up from her table with
Dickie and whispered in Elliot's ear, "Please be his friend. He doesn't
have a single one."
Elliot knew why - the guy was a jerk. "I don't think-"
"Give him a chance," she said softly. "Please."
"Okay, but I hope you're not expecting much." Elliot resigned himself
to the fact that children of any age could force him to do their will,
especially when they'd been victims. He sighed and claimed the other
side of the booth from Tobias. Tobias gave him a dirty look. He'd
probably cultivated it in Oz. Elliot looked over the menu. "What are we
"Let me guess what you like - supreme, extra cheese, thick crust?" Toby smirked.
Elliot's eyebrows went up. "Yeah. But we could get something else."
"It's fine." Tobias shrugged. "Better get a side of buffalo wings too."
"Suddenly, I think I'm at a disadvantage." Elliot didn't like it. He changed the subject. "Holly is a great kid."
"I know it amazes you." Tobias glanced over at her. "Don't underestimate her. She's tough."
Elliot looked also. "She looks like a fairy princess."
"Yeah, the one that carries the sword and slays the dragon. Oz taught
her how to be brave, and she learned it well." Tobias sniffed. "My damn
fault, but everything is, so pile it on."
Elliot almost laughed. He ate and slept that feeling every day of his life. "Dickie ain't so tough."
Tobias gave a tiny jerk. "You call him Dickie?"
"It was a childhood nickname. He's outgrown it, but it slips out
occasionally." Elliot blushed. He worked hard not to say it, and it had
popped out at the worst possible moment.
"I'm surprised he's alive. The playground can be tougher than the yard
at Rikers." Tobias laughed softly. "Dickie. Kathy's smart, so that must
have been a dumb cop idea."
Elliot swallowed back several curse words and a threat. The waitress
finally showed up, and he ordered the pizza and wings. "Also, I want a
long neck, domestic, if you got it."
"Sure, and for you?"
"Coke is fine." Tobias smiled at him. "Drinking and driving don't mix."
"One with pizza is nothing and you know it." Elliot felt he had to defend himself. "Rikers?"
"We got shipped there after that little bio-hazard incident." Tobias
leaned forward and whispered, "Where did Chris get that stuff anyway?"
Elliot had no idea what Tobias was talking about. He'd skimmed Chris's
file, but he hadn't memorized it. "I don't understand, and I don't want
to discuss Chris, at all."
"I thought you knew everything." Tobias leaned back. The waitress
delivered their drinks, and Elliot sipped his beer. Tobias watched him.
"Chris loved beer. Loved it. Once, he managed to buy a couple of
Coronas from one of the Hispanic guys. He'd have fought to the death to
"Sounds lovely." Elliot made up his mind that he wasn't going to argue
or curse any more tonight. After this, he'd never see Tobias again.
That would be enough. "Did he give you a drink?"
"I loved him enough not to ask." Tobias smiled. "And, I'm an alcoholic."
Elliot heard the easy tone which belied years of pain. "My dad was too.
He used to beat us when he was drunk." He pointedly looked at Holly.
Tobias sniffed. "I knew you were anal for a reason."
Elliot had to get away from him, and he quickly went to the restroom.
These pizza places took forever, and that had been Dickie's plan, but
damn it! He had to shut his mouth. He'd never told anyone but his
shrink that, and it was certainly none of Tobias's business! He took
several deep breaths, pissed, and washed his hands. Thank God he wasn't
carrying his gun. He chuckled to himself. Shooting Tobias wasn't an
option. After a few more deep breaths, he returned to the booth,
shucked off his coat, and sat down. He pushed up the sleeves of his
sweatshirt and told himself twice not to say a damn thing. Not one word.
Elliot drank some beer. That didn't need an answer anyway. He watched his son flirt and tried to remember his first girlfriend.
"You like Mr. Jenkins?"
"He's a prick." Elliot wanted to slap himself. He'd managed to be quiet
two minutes. Lord, he was a loser. "Ignore him, but get on the good
side of the secretary."
"Did that. I took her out last week. Nice lady." Tobias grinned. "What?"
"Nothing," Elliot muttered. "I guess you're not gay."
Tobias snorted and shook his head. "No, but you're cute enough." He
laughed. Thank God the waitress arrived with the buffalo wings. It
saved Elliot from reaching across the table and choking Tobias to
death. Tobias kept at it. "Hey, I guess this counts as a date. Maybe I
Elliot glared and took some wings. "Just shut up."
"Okay." Tobias took a couple, but not much. "I like these, but I like those blooming onions better."
Elliot didn't answer. He was beginning to think he was completely out
of his depth. Tobias went from angry to happy and back again in the
space of minutes. He was either a nutjob or extremely nervous, and
Elliot didn't want to guess which. The wings were good, and he refused
to talk while he was eating. The beer washed the heat away, and he
nearly ordered another one, but since Tobias didn't have a driver's
license that wasn't an option.
"No license?" He was making sure.
"Condition of my early release. No license, not ever." Tobias shrugged.
"I can call my limo if you want to get drunk. No big deal."
Elliot considered one more, but he would look weak, and he wasn't. "I'll get a Coke."
"You're scared of my limo. That's interesting." Tobias pulled out his
phone. Elliot shook his head, but Tobias made the call and gave the
driver the location. "No rush."
Elliot wiped his hands on the napkin, drained his beer, and refused to
give in to temptation. "You must be loaded to afford a limo."
"I don't own it. I use a company, and it's cheaper than you'd think.
The company employs illegals. I almost always get Eduardo." Tobias
shrugged. "He sends the money home. I try to tip him well at the end of
"You trust him?" Elliot wasn't surprised. He'd seen it all in this city.
"To drive. Yes." Tobias gave him a sharp look. "I don't trust anyone."
"Not even Holly?" Elliot couldn't resist a dig at him.
"That's different and you know it." Tobias waved the waitress over and
ordered two Cokes. Elliot didn't argue about it. Another beer was a bad
idea. Tobias shrugged. "Are you in homicide?"
"Special Victims Unit." Elliot took a breath to explain, but Tobias cut him off.
"Yeah, I can see that. Chris would have made a good cop. Well, maybe a
bounty hunter, but something where you can kick ass and get away with
it." Tobias paused. "Sorry. You don't want me talking about him."
"I'd rather we didn't. You being his bitch and all." Elliot saw the
anger come and go across Tobias's face. He'd only said it to shut
Tobias up permanently about Chris. Chris was dead, and there was no
chance to get to know him.
Tobias gave him a look without anger, only sadness. "You're right. You're better off not knowing."
At that moment, the pizza arrived, and Elliot nearly cheered. They
could eat and leave and never glance at each other again, but there was
one thing that he had to make clear. "Richard doesn't know about his
"I think he does. There's a picture of Chris in my living room." Tobias
looked him right in the eye. "Richard came over to study last week."
"God damn it." Elliot made sure not to scream it. "What were the damn
odds? Jesus Christ. How the hell am I going to explain it?"
"Settle down. Richard is no fool. He's watched you be a cop his entire
life. Just leave out the part where Chris killed a bunch of
Elliot felt forced into a corner. "A little picture or a huge mosiac with candles in front of it?"
Tobias had the nerve to laugh. "It's huge. Gilded in gold and hangs
over the fireplace. I throw money at it, play Led Zeppelin, and dance
"I really don't like you." Elliot meant that. Lord, did he.
"Yeah. I got that feeling. Eat. Pretty soon, you can give me the kiss
off." Tobias picked up some pizza. "Chris was right. This is really
Elliot ate, but it sat in his stomach like a lead ball. Damn it. He
didn't want to deal with this. He wanted to shove it under the rug and
pretend it didn't exist. This was something else that could be laid at
his father's door. The old man had better be rotting in hell. "I think
they're done. We're leaving."
"Are we going to let them take the limo back?" Tobias asked softly. "Your decision."
"Why? You my bitch too?" Elliot snapped.
"Fuck you." Tobias got up fast, threw down a fifty, and went to Holly. "Come on. It's time to go home."
Elliot leaned back and watched them leave. Him, insisting, and her
protesting every other step of the way. Dickie sat down in the booth
across from him. "What did you say?"
"Dickie, some respect or you'll lose privileges." Elliot meant that,
and he watched his son take a deep breath and stomp on his temper. "You
knew he was an ex-con. Did you think it'd be sunshine and roses?"
"I guess - I guess I thought you'd give him a chance. He loved Uncle
Chris. It should count for something." Dickie leaned forward.
"Him being gay doesn't bother you?" Elliot avoided the first part of
that. His son thought he was a better man than he was. And Uncle Chris
was definitely out of the bag.
"He's not gay! It was prison." Dickie sounded as if he knew, and he
couldn‛t. "And anyway, you've never had a problem with gays before."
Elliot picked up his Coke and took a long drink. His son had all the
answers. "I don't mind if you date her, but I don't like him."
"I pray to God he's more reasonable than you are." Dickie sighed heavily. "I think I love her."
"You're young. Please, Richard, don't make the mistake I did." Elliot wanted the words back instantly.
Dickie nodded. "Don't worry. I know how to put on a condom!"
Elliot felt his control slipping away. "She's too young. You are too. Please, keep it zipped for a few years."
"You regret having us. I always knew it." Dickie looked up at him.
"I knew how to put on a condom too." Elliot hadn't expected to have
this conversation for a couple of more years. "And you four are the
best thing in my life. I have never regretted you, not one day, not one
Dickie picked up a piece of pizza and took a bite. "I love you, but I
was angry when I found out about one of my own family from the new girl
Elliot looked around the restaurant. This was no place to discuss Chris
Keller. "Let's take this conversation to the car." He had a lot of
explaining to do, and irrational as it was, he blamed Tobias.
"What are you working on, Elliot?"
Elliot leaned back in his chair, pulled the straw from his soda, and
stuck it in his mouth to chew on. "I'm looking into the family of the
girl my son is dating."
"Why? They a bunch of drug dealers?" Olivia's eyes were big.
"Dad's an ex-con. If he's gonna pull a shank at prom, I want to be
ready." Elliot wasn't completely joking. His thirty minute break was
over though, and he had barely skimmed the surface. The file was huge.
Damn. He'd have to put in some hours after work if he wanted any
answers, and he did. Holly and Dickie were still studying together and
probably necking when no one was looking.
"What'd he do?"
"Got fifteen for vehicular manslaughter." Elliot had been surprised.
"He killed a little girl while driving drunk. The judge made an example
of him. Fifteen at Oswald." He watched her react. She was shocked.
Well, he'd been furious at first and then fairness had forced him to
admit the sentence was harsh.
Olivia finished her lunch and then commented, "I'm surprised he's not dead. I assume he's white."
"And wealthy." Elliot nodded. "He was someone's bitch." He sure as hell
wasn't mentioning that it was his brother that had needed a wife. There
was more to the story, but he didn't have time to figure it out right
"Dead. Suicide. The daughter, Holly, is a nice girl, and Dickie's
attached to her." Elliot chewed the straw harder. "The dad's an
"An alcoholic that spent years in Oz as someone's bitch? Ouch, Elliot, that can't be good."
"No kidding." Elliot transferred the file to his portable disk and
tried to forget it until later. "Now, how about the case we're supposed
to be working on?"
"I invited Tobias and his family over for Sunday dinner."
Elliot swallowed hard. "Why?" He barely managed not to yell, but it was close.
"I've given up trying to slide a piece of paper between Dickie and
Holly. It's not going to happen, so I'm going to get to know him
better. Dickie spends a lot of time over there."
Elliot didn't want to hear that. "Kathy, I-"
"I know this bothers you, but I did it. You usually come for Sunday dinner, but if you don't want to, I don't care."
Elliot knew she didn't care, but it still hurt like hell to hear it. "Are you dating him?"
"He's not my type."
Elliot forced his hand to unclench from around the phone. That didn't mean they hadn't dated. "I'll be there."
"Fine, but if you bring that badass attitude, I'm kicking you to the curb." Kathy disconnected fast.
Elliot didn't bother to call her back. He could go and act like an
adult or he could act like an idiot and she'd call a squad car. She
would. He rubbed his forehead, got his coat, and headed home. He'd
finish reading Tobias's file, and he had a feeling it was going to be
hard to avoid discussing some of the finer points of it.
Elliot took a nice bottle of Chianti with him for Kathy, but he nearly
didn't give it to her when his sharp eyes caught the new bouquet of
flowers on the coffee table. Tobias was already here.
Kathy smiled over the bottle though, but her words weren't as nice as her smile. "Behave or you're gone."
"Thanks," Elliot growled. He took off his coat and hung it in the hall
closet. He'd be damned if he'd go looking for Tobias, but he wanted to
see his kids, so he went upstairs. Holly and Dickie threw him a wave,
and he didn't stop to interrupt them. The girls were in a clump around
the computer, and when they parted, he saw why. A boy, about nine years
old, dark hair, blue eyes, and a serious expression was showing them
something. Elliot said softly, "Hi, girls."
They mobbed him, and he gave them all kisses. "Who's your new friend?"
The boy blushed, and Kathleen spoke up. "This is Harry. Holly's brother. He's a whiz on the computer. He knows the best sites!"
"Nice to meet you, Harry." Elliot stuck out his hand, and Harry tentatively shook it. "The right kind of sites?"
"Of course, sir," Harry said quietly. The girls swarmed him again, and
Elliot nearly laughed as he saw a cartoon kitten being blown out of a
cannon. Maybe it was safe. He wandered back down towards the kitchen.
God help him, he knew more than he should about Tobias Beecher and his
family, and he was afraid it was all over his face.
Tobias was at the kitchen table, making nice, and Kathy was cooking. It
smelled like meat loaf, and hers was the best. She hadn't made it for
him in a very long time.
"Hey, Beecher." Elliot stuck out his hand. He had to play this cool.
Tobias stood and took the offered hand, which, considering their last words, was a surprise. "Stabler."
It hit him like a truck. His arousal was painful, abrupt, and he sat
down fast to cover it. It made his head swim and his skin hurt, but
more than anything, it made him furious. Kathy put a long neck in front
"Thanks." Stabler hoped his face wasn't beet red. Tonight, he was
indulging in more than one. Kathy usually let him sleep on the couch.
"I met your son. He's a whiz at the computer, huh?"
"He's already building them." Tobias shook his head. "I don't know where he gets his smarts."
"Me neither." Elliot caught the fast glare that Kathy shot him. He took
a long drink and made up his mind to listen to them chat, instead of
talking and getting kicked out before the meatloaf.
"Are you divorced, Tobias?" Kathy asked innocently. Elliot tried to look as if he didn't know the answer.
"My wife passed away not long after Harry was born." Tobias sipped his coffee.
"I'm sorry for your loss," Kathy said, and Elliot nodded. "So, two kids and two schools?"
"Makes the day interesting," Tobias said and laughed. "Harry lives part-time with my brother to make it easier."
Elliot had to bite his tongue. He filled his mouth with beer so he said
nothing. Kathy gave a quick nod. "Nowadays, any family help is
appreciated. So much is going on in their young lives."
"Yeah. When we were kids there was nothing to do but watch the grass
grow." Tobias and Kathy laughed together, and Elliot didn't bother to
try. He checked his johnson, but he couldn't get up yet. He wanted to
curse at his pecker, and that was ridiculous. What was the damn deal?
Christ, his ex-wife was three feet away, and his dick didn't give a
damn about her.
"I appreciate you putting up with Richard," Kathy said. "He can be a pest."
"He's a nice young man. He told me he wants to be a lawyer when he grows up."
Elliot glared. "On a cop's salary? He better pray we find oil out back."
Kathy moved close enough to whack him with a wooden spoon. "Elliot has a bizarre sense of humor."
Tobias grinned. "I see that. There are always avenues. My brother's law firm gives out several scholarships each year."
Elliot nearly threw up his hand and shouted no, but he pressed his lips
together and waited for Kathy's reaction. Kathy gave him a look and
said, "Your brother is a lawyer? That's nice." She glossed over the
"What's your job?" Elliot had to ask. He did, and he wouldn't apologize for it.
"I help out in little ways." Tobias smiled and didn't look uncomfortable. "I also do some pro bono work."
Elliot began to think he'd just chew his tongue right off. "Doesn't being disbarred slow you down?"
Kathy made a small huff that meant Elliot was on his last leg. Tobias shrugged. "Not really."
"Elliot, go tell the kids to wash up."
Elliot took his beer and went. He was one comment away from missing out
on the meatloaf. Holly and Dickie were still in his room, heads bent
over their homework. He knocked on the doorjamb and said, "Go wash for
They both looked up and nodded. "Glad you're here, Dad," Dickie said. "You're being nice, right?"
"Son, don't push your luck." Elliot would not be chastised by a
thirteen year old. Dickie slid out the door, but Holly paused and
looked up at him.
"He does try hard. It's not his fault all that bad stuff happened in prison."
Elliot nodded slowly. "It's not your job to protect him. It's your job to be a kid."
Holly shrugged. "Not always easy."
"I know." Elliot put a gentle hand on her shoulder. "You're a great kid, Holly."
Holly smiled and went off towards the bathroom. She was the true victim
in Tobias's sad story. Harry was too young to remember, and the other
son was dead. Elliot rubbed his face. He was going to have to speak
honestly with Tobias, but it could wait until much later.
"You acted like an ass!"
Elliot got his coat before she finished her sentence. "He's a skel!"
"His daughter isn't, and all you're doing is hurting her!" Kathy put her hands on her hips. "Out. Go. I've had enough you."
"Got it." Elliot practically stumbled out the door. He'd had a six-pack
and had no business driving, but she wanted him out, and he was going.
He cursed when he saw that the limo was still out front, and Tobias was
leaning against it with a smirk a mile wide. Elliot went to his car
anyway, but Tobias plucked the keys from him.
"No. Get in the limo." Tobias pointed. "You jackass."
Elliot considered decking him and sleeping in the car, but Tobias had a
look about him as if he expected that. "I'll sleep in the car."
"No. You'll get in the limo and behave in front of my children." Tobias smiled as if they were having a pleasant conversation.
Elliot took a deep breath. Suddenly, he noticed his son watching him
from the upstairs window. Dickie looked scared. Elliot nearly cringed.
He was acting like his father. He was, and it made him want to puke.
"Fine." He got in the limo and sat back. Harry and Holly both looked
scared of him, and he was deeply ashamed. Tobias got in, sat down, and
tapped the glass. The ride was a long one, and not because of the
distance. The kids got out fast, but Tobias waited for him.
Elliot looked at the brownstone and saw nothing but money. "Have him take me home."
"Come on in. We can talk - honestly. After I put the kids to bed." Tobias smiled. "Chicken?"
"No, but I'm not sure I want to waste my time." Elliot hesitated and
then followed him. The place was nice, not overly done, and he found a
comfortable chair to sit in. His head was a little woozy, but he was
far from drunk. He shut his eyes and waited, trying not to think of
"Here's some Tylenol."
Elliot jerked awake. He took the pills and the offered cup of coffee. "Thanks."
"Are you always a dickhead or was tonight a special performance?"
"I think pretty much always." Elliot took the pills and sipped the coffee. It was the good stuff. "I'm not going to apologize."
"For scaring your kids and mine? Of course not. I mean, I'm a dirty
ex-con, so you can act like a fucker and scare the shit out of them.
It's all good." Tobias grinned and sat down across from him.
"Enough guilt for one night." Elliot rubbed his forehead and drank some more coffee. "I guess I lost it."
"No shit." Tobias sighed. "What the hell is your problem? Me? Chris? Your own sexual inadequacies?"
"Shut up," Elliot growled. He tried to think clearly. "I read your file."
"So, that's the problem." Tobias got up and paced to the mantle above
the fireplace. He took down Chris's picture - it was a small one - and
smiled at it. "Life is ugly. I thought you'd know that."
"I do know it." Elliot knew it too well, and he didn't want it touching his family. "I've protected Dickie from the ugliness."
Tobias frowned at him. "How? By staying at work all the time?"
Elliot clenched his fist and stared at it. Only the truth could hurt so badly. "And when did you become father of the year?"
"Chris would have punched me." Tobias shrugged. "You're not him."
"It's hard to deal with you because I think of him." Elliot was glad to
hear he had a little more self-control than a man who'd committed
murder. "His life was wasted, thrown away. My father might as well have
Tobias put the picture down. "Maybe. Maybe not. Did you ever think your father kept the wrong baby?"
"Of course, you asswipe." Elliot drank some more coffee. "Chris might have made him happy. I sure as hell never did."
"Pretty screwed up situation. Let's go to the kitchen and get some snacks." Tobias didn't wait for him.
Elliot picked up his coffee and went, glad for something other than
more talk. The kitchen was large and shiny clean. He plunked himself
down on a bar stool and drank some more coffee. He had to sober up.
Tobias rummaged through the cabinets. "There's got to be something good
"Who does the cooking and cleaning around this place?"
"Sandy. She comes in the morning, early. I'm hopeless." Tobias found
some stuff and brought it over. Stabler claimed the peanuts and poured
some out on his hand. Tobias opened a bag of chips and got a soda from
the fridge. "So, other than murder and mayhem, why are you so pissed?"
Elliot wasn't going to answer that. He looked everywhere but at Tobias. The peanuts were good, and he ate some more.
Tobias laughed softly. "You're not gay either, but this twin shit is weird."
"What the hell does that mean?" Elliot glared at him now.
"I saw the condition of your pecker. A blind man would have noticed
it." Tobias rolled his eyes. "I make you hard and it pisses you off.
Now that I understand a little too well."
Elliot wanted to deny it and deck him, but he wasn't completely crazy tonight. "Forget it. I did."
"Chris was so sexy that chairs would perk up when he strutted past."
Tobias sighed softly. "He could seduce anyone, and he did, for fun."
"I ain't like that." Elliot shook his head. He wasn't.
"I know, and I wonder why. I guess it never worked for you, but I'd be
willing to bet, when you want, you can charm anyone into confessing."
Tobias got up and brought the coffee pot over to the counter.
Elliot didn't want to hear that. He changed the subject to something serious. "Does your daughter see a therapist?"
"Yes." Tobias frowned. "And we go together once a month. We had to learn how to talk to each other again. It's been difficult."
"I can't even imagine." Elliot refilled his coffee and slugged some more back. "And Harry?"
"Harry and I are establishing a relationship. He always knew I was his
father, but obviously, we don't know each other very well. In some
ways, he had it easier than Holly."
Elliot could see where that would be true. "Did they ever meet Chris?"
"No, but I don't lie about it. It happened. Whether it was real outside
of prison is something I'll never know." Tobias shrugged. "Honestly,
I'm not very happy that Holly is so involved with a boy at her age. If
I felt comfortable doing it, I'd move her to a new school."
"I'm not happy about it either. I told Dickie to keep his jeans zipped,
but I can't guarantee he will." Elliot groaned and rubbed his face.
"What does Holly say about him?"
Tobias didn't answer right away. He ate some chips. Elliot decided not
to rush him. Finally, he said, "She told me that Richard understands
how much she missed her dad. That his father was never around either.
She also said that Richard doesn't think less of me for going to
prison. For her, it's a major thing."
Elliot felt those words hit his heart. He knew it was true. Dickie had
said those things. It hurt. Christ. It did. "I worked more than I
should have. It's why Kathy left me. The job . . . took over my life."
"Alcohol took over mine." Tobias sounded tired.
"He doesn't blame you because he's seen just enough cases to know that
justice is truly blind. The judge made an example of you. Oswald? Come
on. You should have done your time in a minimum security somewhere
upstate. Dickie has heard me talk it enough." Elliot shut up and
focused on his coffee again. He'd probably said too much.
"She, the judge, felt bad about it, in the end." Tobias suddenly laughed. "Sorry, my sense of humor is odd."
Elliot thought about it. "In the end. I get it. Your end." He rolled his eyes. "How you can laugh about it is beyond me."
"Might as well. It's over. I was lucky to get out alive." Tobias
suddenly came around the kitchen peninsula and put his hand on Elliot's
arm. "Just walk away. Don't look back and don't concern yourself with
Richard and Holly. Kathy and I will take care of it."
"He's my son." Elliot nearly squirmed on his seat. His dick was back in business. "And Chris was my brother."
"You can't handle this." Tobias edged even closer, and when Elliot
looked up, their faces were so close. Elliot nearly shut his eyes, but
he had to see. Tobias brushed his lips across Elliot's in what could
have been a kiss but wasn't.
Elliot heard himself groan. "This is wrong."
"I know." Tobias smiled. "Twins. I'd have never guessed it."
"And I'm the lucky one. Ain't that ironic?" Elliot focused his eyes
solely on his coffee, trying by willpower to force Tobias away. It
worked. Tobias went around and sat on the other side with his soda and
chips. Elliot heaved out a huge sigh of relief. "Nice place you got
"It's okay. Kinda big. Took me awhile to get used to it." Tobias gave him an odd look. "Do you want to move in?"
Elliot blinked, raised his eyebrows, adjusted his still raging hard
dick, and counted the number of beers he'd had again. "What?"
"Never mind." Tobias rolled his eyes. "I sometimes have these crazy ideas."
"I can see that." Elliot rubbed his face for the tenth time since beer number two. "We don't like each other."
"That's not the truth. You acted like an ass, but it has nothing to do
with how you feel. Trust me. I've seen it before." Tobias put his elbow
on the peninsula and leaned into his hand. "Where's your house?"
"Quite a hike from here." Tobias shrugged. "Well, offer stands."
Elliot felt his anger surge again, and he let it out. "One of us wasn't enough for you? Got a thing for twins?"
Tobias laughed. He laughed. It was unexpected, to say the least. "I
hadn't thought of that, but it would be interesting. I wonder if you
give out that little grunt right before you-"
"Stop!" Elliot threw up his hand. "Please. Don't say another word."
Tobias threw him a grin and went to dig through the fridge. He came
back with another soda and opened it. Elliot just watched him drink it.
They didn't talk. When the coffee pot was empty, he got up. "Bathroom?"
Tobias pointed, and Elliot went. Coming out, he yawned so hard his jaw
cracked. Tobias met him in the hallway. "Guest bedroom is there. Go
sleep it off. I'll have Eduardo take you home in the morning, early,
Elliot didn't much like being bossed around, but he was too tired to
argue any longer. He shrugged and went in the bedroom. Quickly, he
stripped off his sweatshirt and threw it on the bed.
"I'll be damned!"
Elliot turned. "Go to your own room. Now."
Tobias ignored him and stepped far too close. He ran his hand down
Elliot's tattoo without a qualm. Elliot was thinking of knocking him
through a wall, and Tobias should have known it.
"He had the same tattoo. Some research scientist would completely dig this." Tobias touched him again. "It's still beautiful."
Elliot ignored what his dick was saying and moved away. "Coincidence. Leave me alone."
Tobias threw him a sloppy salute and shut the door. Elliot turned off
the overhead light and collapsed on the bed in the darkness. The dark
was safe. He could still feel the touch of Tobias's hand, and it made
him quiver. Move in? Was the skel insane? Holly and Harry were
frightened of him, and he didn't blame them. God, he was an asshole. No
more beer for awhile, not until he had his emotions under control. The
two didn't mix. He was also going to have to apologize to Kathy - big
time. Something like roses would probably be good. They weren't
married, but she guarded the gate that led to his kids, and he was
sorry. They'd always been friends, even when they fought.
Elliot pulled the extra pillow close and tried to not think. It worked.
"Get up, asshole."
Elliot rolled over and groaned. "Go directly to hell."
"Been there. Not going back." Tobias shut the door hard. Elliot lay
there another five minutes just to be contrary, but eventually it got
old so he hit the shower. The hot water helped wake him up, and he
remembered that he was due at work today. It was Monday. Shit. He had a
fresh shirt in his locker, and he'd need it because he didn't have time
to get his car and go to Queens. There was an electric shaver in the
medicine cabinet and he shamelessly used it. Tobias probably kept it
here for his boyfriends. Elliot stared into his own blue eyes and
nearly slapped himself. If he didn't stop, this was going to lead to
Tobias wasn't going to take any shit off him. That had been made pretty
clear. Elliot looked away from his own guilt and made a promise to be
nicer. Nicer. To a skel who'd been his brother's wife. Well, not
really, but some would say that. He‛d better not, not again, or Toby
might hit him. Smoothing his hair down, he went out to the kitchen. A
large woman was serving breakfast, and he took a spot at the table when
she pointed with a spatula.
"Elliot, meet Sandy. Sandy, Elliot." Tobias gave him a look that told
him to behave in front of the kids. Holly and Harry were both there
also, and they gave him nervous smiles.
"Nice to meet you." Elliot had to smile at the kids. "School?"
They both nodded. What they thought about his presence at the breakfast
table was a mystery. "Eat up, Harry. Angus will be here in ten minutes."
"I'll miss you, Toby," Harry said quietly.
"I'll miss you too." Tobias hugged him. "You can stay."
"I know, but I miss Angus too." Harry shrugged. "I'll figure it out."
"I know you will. Angus's house isn't big enough for all of us, but we all love you."
Harry shot Elliot a funny look. "I know."
"Holly, no Richard tonight. So don't ask." Tobias didn't look at
Elliot. Sandy sat a huge plate of food down in front of him, and he
picked up his fork and thanked her.
"Holly, please tell Richard that I'm fine." Elliot wasn't going to apologize to her.
"Sure." Holly gave him a tiny smile. "I'll tell him you spent the night."
Elliot managed not to choke on his eggs, but it was close. "Thanks." He
drank some more of that good coffee. A huge breakfast like this was a
real treat and he intended to eat every bite. Tobias got the kids off
to school, and Elliot watched. This was . . . nice. Almost like being
at home. He sighed softly. He missed his kids so much.
"Okay. Quit slacking." Tobias laughed and sat back down.
Elliot shoveled some more food in his mouth, swallowed, and shrugged. "This is better than a diner. Give me a break."
"Cops." Tobias made a nasty face.
"You send Holly in the limo alone?"
"Hell no. Holly takes the bus. She says she likes it." Tobias drank
some coffee. "She might be telling the truth. Harry will be back
Thursday night. He has a four day school week."
"That bug you?"
Tobias sighed. "I didn't see him until he was six years old. He lived
in San Diego. I'm grateful for every minute he's willing to spend with
"Don't tell him. He'll use it against you." Elliot smiled.
"He might. I don't care." Tobias smiled back at him. "Sandy always makes too much. Have seconds."
"I'll sleep at my desk." Elliot shook his head. "Can I be nosy and ask what you're doing today?"
"Some lawyer stuff. A nap, and later today, I'm going to Oz."
"What the hell? You nuts?" Elliot finally had to stop eating. He was going to explode. He was finishing his coffee though.
"Yes, but I'm helping a friend with something." Tobias looked worried for a moment.
"You were joking about the nap."
"Maybe." Tobias stood up. "Let's get moving."
"I can go alone."
"I know, asshole, but I have some errands to run." Tobias shook his head. "Is it all about you?"
"You tell me." Elliot found his coat and put it on. "Oh, and my name is Elliot, not asshole."
"Earn it." Tobias opened the front door. Elliot dragged his feet for a
minute, scooped the picture of his brother off the mantle place, and
stared at it. Chris didn't look like a killer, but he had been, and if
they'd have met, it would have been disastrous. So much alike, and yet,
so very different. Maybe his father had beaten him for a reason. Tobias
suddenly put his hand on it. "Take it."
Elliot wasn't sure. "But-"
"It's a copy. I keep the originals away safe." Tobias looked him right in the eye. "Come over and see them some time."
Elliot tucked the picture in his coat pocket. "Thanks."
"Let's go. I'm going to be late, and I hate that." Tobias started
moving, and Elliot followed him to the limo. When they were seated,
Tobias used the intercom. "Eduardo, don't stop for yellows."
"You bet, sir."
Elliot leaned back and relaxed. "Money."
"It doesn't buy anything that's important." Tobias looked out the window.
"Did you know that before Oz?"
"No." Tobias stretched back and ran his hand through his hair. "Is there anything from my file that you want to ask me?"
Elliot thought it over. The file had been difficult to read. It was a
miracle that Tobias Beecher had survived and seemed somewhat sane. "Did
you kill him?"
"No. Look at me. He outweighed me by fifty pounds." Tobias spread his
hands and finally looked him in the eye. "Do I feel responsible? Yes.
If I'd have forgiven him for screwing up my parole, maybe he'd be
"You screwed up your parole." Elliot was certain of that. He still
wasn't convinced that Tobias hadn't murdered him, but he was right
about the weight difference.
"Right. I could watch Bonnie die a slow, painful death from cancer or I
could move a few drugs. That's no choice at all." Tobias started
staring out the window again. "I loved him too much to say no."
"Bullshit." Elliot didn't believe any of that. "You let him con you.
You, a lawyer, should have known he was lying. You probably missed him."
"Eduardo, stop here." Tobias used the intercom. The limo pulled over
almost instantly. Tobias threw open the door. "Get out. I hate cops."
"I ain't too fond of skels either!" Elliot got out. He zipped his coat
while the limo pulled away. His hand hit the picture, and he pulled it
out to stare at it again. Chris had probably charmed Tobias, but Tobias
should have done what was best for his children, not some convict
lover. Hopefully, he had learned his lesson and put his kids first now.
Hopefully. Elliot put the picture away and started walking. He checked
the street signs and saw he was about five blocks away. The exercise
would do him good. He didn't stop to see if Kathy was home. His car had
been moved to the street, and he got moving towards work. The picture
seemed heavy in his coat, but that was ridiculous.
Elliot sat patiently in the hallway at the court house, waiting his
turn to testify. This was an easy one, and he wasn't worried. They'd
call him soon.
"Mr. Beecher, you have no grounds for dismissal!"
"The evidence was tainted. It's fruit of the poison tree. Look at the sequence of events!"
Elliot told himself not to look, but he did, and his entire body seemed happy to see Tobias. Traitorous dick.
The other lawyer began talking very quickly, but Elliot had seen that look on a judge's face before.
"You can't admit anything that results from the illegal search." Tobias
was insistent. "Yes, my client is currently incarcerated, but he does
"I'd argue that!"
Elliot didn't recognize the other lawyer, but he had a point. Convicts
didn't have rights. The judge wavered and grimaced. "The search was at
his home, correct?"
"Correct. There was no warrant, and a neighbor can not legally give the
police permission to search for evidence no matter how long the
property has been vacant." Tobias was passionate. Elliot nearly
groaned. The judge was folding.
"Mr. Beecher, while disbarred, is correct. It's all out. Find something
else or drop the charges." The judge put up a hand. "My ruling stands.
He's not up for parole for another five years. You have time."
Elliot didn't get up. The judge strode away. The other lawyer made some
noise and left angrily. Tobias turned, walked to him, and said, "Enjoy
"Very entertaining." Elliot stayed sitting. "What did he do?"
"They found a cache of illegal guns in his house." Tobias shrugged as if it were no big deal.
"And you got him off?"
Tobias sat down and sighed. "He's been in jail for the last five years.
The property has been abandoned. They get a tip, storm the place, find
the weapons, and charge him with possession. Come on, think they were
"New stuff or old?"
"All shiny." Tobias shook his head. "They were just looking to pile on
the years. They love doing that. Blame the guys already behind bars.
"They're usually guilty."
Tobias didn't answer that. "Crappy seeing you again too, asshole. Later." He got up.
"Wait!" Elliot got up now and took two steps. "How are our kids?"
"Don't you call your wife?" Tobias suddenly smirked. "She's still mad?"
"Pretty much. Yeah. How are they?" Elliot hated sounding like a beggar, but Kathy was taking the phone off the hook at night.
"Richard came over last night to study. They left the door open." Tobias gave him a hard look. "I did it because I loved him."
Elliot knew they were picking up their last conversation where they‛d
left off. "You betrayed your children. How can you expect them to
Tobias lowered his head. "You did the same, but for the love of your
job. We're both self-centered jerks, but I know it, and you don't."
"I know it!" Elliot hissed. He'd just come out the loser in this drawn-out conversation. "I was helping people!"
"Bonnie died. She did have cancer. Chris used it against me. I bet you
twist facts to catch the perp when you have to." Tobias wasn't pulling
any punches today. Elliot wanted to beat the shit out of him.
"Elliot Stabler!" The bailiff called for him.
Elliot didn't hesitate. He went to testify, turning his back on his
brother's bitch. Thinking of him that way made it easy to walk away
without even the barest courtesy. Tobias wouldn't care. The facts were
simple - they weren't ever going to get along.
"Dad? Can we, uh, take Holly out to eat with us?"
"No." Elliot hooked his thumb at the car. "Everyone go pile in."
"Told ya." Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "Dad hates your girlfriend's skel dad. Too bad!"
Elliot squeezed the bridge of his nose. "Elizabeth, I don't hate anyone. Please. Let's go eat."
Dickie shot him a look that bordered on insolent. "Prove it. Let Holly come along."
"Dickie, I don't get much time with you guys. I don't want to share."
Elliot smiled at his boy. That was the truth, whether Dickie believed
it or not.
"I knew you'd mess it up for me," Dickie muttered. "Now I'm lucky if Mr. Beecher lets me come over once every two weeks!"
"They have lives of their own, Dickie."
"Richard. It's Richard!"
Elliot saw that his son was going to have a complete meltdown - over a
girl. This was bad. "It's not like you were going to marry her. You're
"Nearly fourteen." Dickie had this look on his face that Elliot had
seen in the mirror a time or two. Stubborn. Angry. Liable to do
anything. Elliot looked at Elizabeth. She rolled her eyes. Maureen and
Kathleen weren't coming along tonight. It was just the three of them,
and he'd wanted it to stay that way. "Richard, go on out to the car. I
want to yell at your sister."
Dickie gave him some attitude, but left, and Elizabeth suddenly looked worried. "Dad, I didn't do anything!"
Elliot grinned. "I know. Listen, tell me, what's the deal with those two?"
"You're smart, Dad." Elizabeth smiled. "Well, the thing is, Dickie is
crazy about her. When they got to study twice a week he was fine, but
Holly's dad put an end to that about a month ago. Dickie's furious, at
"I figured that part out. Spill the rest of it." Elliot smiled to
encourage her. A month ago was when he'd seen Tobias at the courthouse.
"Dickie says they're soulmates. I think it's stupid. Really stupid, but
he had been getting better grades." Elizabeth edged closer. "Twins are
connected, ya know?"
"Yes." Elliot thought he knew. He wasn't sure.
"He's really sad."
"Dad! Mom would smack you."
"Like you haven't heard it before. Come on. I'll try to fix this."
Elliot knew as sure as shit that he was going to regret what he was
about to do. His johnson was going to be thrilled though. Stupid prick.
"I don't know how."
"What would Uncle Chris do?"
Elliot veered away from that line of thinking. "I have no idea." He
steered her towards the car and made sure they'd buckled before leaving
the driveway. His twins had been strangely happy to discover that he
was a twin. It didn't seem to matter to them that his brother was dead.
He drove over to the brownstone without saying a word. When he stopped
the car, he unbuckled and turned in the seat.
"No matter what happens, you will get in the car when I tell you to."
He pointed to make sure they understood how serious he was. "Say, yes
"Yes, sir," they chorused, but he could tell they meant it. Dickie even
managed not to run to the door, and it was Elliot that rang the
Sandy answered the door. She smiled. "Richard! Good to see you, lad! Let me get Tobias."
"Stay here, son." Elliot forced him back with a look.
Tobias came to the door. He was in an old pair of jeans and a
wife-beater. Elliot made sure his jaw didn't drop. That was just wrong.
"Slumming?" Tobias clearly wasn't going to play nice.
Elliot could almost feel his son deflate. "Hi, Tobias. Can we come in? Talk?"
"Sandy's putting dinner on the table." Tobias shook his head.
That was a no. Elliot looked at Dickie. "You heard him. Let's go. No more arguments."
"Okay," Dickie whispered. Elliot turned away immediately. He had to play this right. Elizabeth went with him.
"Richard, now!" Elliot barked it, doing his best to sound as if he meant it.
"Geez," Tobias said. He came out on the little porch. "Wait! I'll ask Sandy if there's enough for three more at the table."
"Of course there is, Tobias. I love company!" Sandy had been right
behind the door. Elliot nearly laughed at the look of chagrin that
passed over Tobias's face. Dickie beamed. Tobias groaned softly, but
Elliot heard it.
"Elizabeth, would you mind if we ate here instead of the pizza place? I
think I know Richard's answer." Elliot was careful to use Dickie's full
name. The boy was about nuts tonight.
"It's okay with me. Harry's all right." Elizabeth smiled.
Elliot looked at Tobias. "Thanks for the invitation." He let the kids
go in first. He paused and whispered, "Even if it did nearly kill you."
"Yeah. Exactly." Tobias shut the door and locked it. The kids had
already vanished into the house. Sandy was in the kitchen, and Tobias
grumbled, "I don't have any beer."
"I gave it up for Lent." Elliot took his coat off and let Tobias hang it up in the closet by the door.
"Could you take off your gun?"
"I came from work." Elliot decided to tell the truth. "I'd feel better with it on, unless you have a safe."
"I do." Tobias pointed and started walking. "Don't trust anyone, do you?"
"Not with my gun." Elliot followed him. Tobias opened the safe fast.
Elliot stuck his gun inside. "Hit code change and walk away."
"I can't believe you." Tobias did it though, and he left the room.
Elliot reset the code to his shield number and locked it. He gave it a
tug. Satisfied, he went back out to the living room. He was determined
to fix this situation for Dickie. Tobias was on the sofa, watching the
news on a plasma screen TV that dropped out of the ceiling.
Elliot found a comfortable chair. He couldn't help but think that
Tobias was under dressed for dinner. A wife-beater? Tobias looked . . .
cut. Elliot forced himself to say, "We have to talk about our kids."
"Why?" Tobias glanced at him, but went back to watching the news.
"Shit," Elliot said softly. He leaned back and tried to relax. It wasn't easy with a dick as hard as stone. Stupid thing.
Sandy came in the room. "Coke? Coffee? Some ice tea?"
"Ice tea would be fine, thank you," Elliot said. Sandy smiled and came
back with tea for him, and a Coke for Tobias. They both thanked her,
and Elliot hoped she didn't mind playing the waitress. Hopefully,
Tobias paid her a good salary. Elliot sipped it, sat it down, and tried
again. "Richard is angry with me."
"What's new?" Tobias pushed off his shoes and tucked his feet under his knees. He drank some coke.
Elliot wanted to smack him. The mantle had another picture of Chris on
it, but this one was different. In this picture, Chris almost looked
sad. Elliot wanted to go get it, but he didn't. Chris should have been
sad. He had been going to spend the rest of his life in prison. Elliot
forced his eyes to watch the television.
"You still in the guard?"
"No. I put in my twenty." Elliot was glad he wasn't in Iraq, but he wasn't going to talk about it.
Tobias wiggled his shoulders, as if he needed more comfort from the over-sized couch. "Why'd you come here tonight?"
"To work this out. Richard thinks you're punishing him for my behavior." Elliot didn't know if that were true or not.
Tobias shrugged. "Sounds like something an asshole would do."
Elliot bit off the sharp comment that wanted out. He'd come here to make it better, not worse. "What's for dinner?"
"Your guess is as good as mine." Tobias suddenly started flipping
channels. He stopped on the local weather channel. "Harry‛s been sick.
In addition, I had business out of town, and the kids stayed with
"And the other weeks?"
"It seemed prudent to throw some water on them." Tobias glanced upstairs. "I don't want to raise a grandchild."
Elliot could only agree with that. "Is it better or worse?"
"Both. But Holly knows I'm serious now." Tobias shrugged. "You tell
Richard to keep it zipped or I'll move Holly to another school, and I‛m
not fooling around."
"I've told him once. I better remind him." Elliot could only stare.
Tobias was acting completely different tonight. No snippy comments. No
smirks. Not much of anything. Elliot drank some more tea and got up the
courage to ask, "Everything okay with you?"
Tobias looked shocked for one second, and then he covered it up. "Yes, Detective."
Elliot got up, took off his badge, and opened the closet to put it away
in his coat. He was off-duty. Tobias said nothing further, and Elliot
sat down again. His tea was excellent. He liked it sweet. Desperately
searching for something to say, he settled on work. "Work was hell this
week. I left ten open cases on my desk."
"You'll catch them." Tobias didn't even glance at him this time.
Elliot quit trying. They weren't going to chat. He should've brought
some beer with him. Lent was about over anyway. Tobias loved to change
channels, and Elliot wondered if prison had done that to him. "You
still have friends inside?"
"Most are dead." Tobias put the remote down.
Elliot looked over at Chris again. "I wish I'd known him."
Tobias ran his hand through his hair. "He'd have tried to take that stick out of your ass, and you'd have hated him."
"Hey, kiss my ass." Elliot hoped dinner was soon because sitting and
talking was going to lead to him punching Tobias in the mouth. "This
was probably a bad idea."
"Probably. You could have handled this with a phone call."
Elliot clenched his jaw and told himself twice to settle down. "My apologies. Richard was upset."
"You caved big time tonight. Next time, find your balls."
Elliot was extremely tired of talking to this asshole. "I guess we're just not going to get along."
"Guess not. Now, don't you feel better?" Tobias got up and padded out
of the room. Elliot drank his tea before getting up to go look at the
picture of Chris. There was a report from a Sister Peter Marie in
Chris's file. She'd mentioned the relationship between Chris and
Tobias. It had been strong. If not love, something powerful. Chris
definitely looked sad. Elliot felt that emotion wash over him as well.
He'd never had chance to hate his twin. Even hate would have been
better than nothing but an ache that whispered of might have beens.
The only thing Elliot had was a picture, and Tobias. Tobias had known
Chris, intimately. Elliot felt something inside himself break. Maybe it
was the anger. Maybe it was the sense of helplessness. He would deal
with what he had been given, and that was Tobias.
"Dinner!" Sandy called out from the bottom of the stairs. "Are you ready to eat, Mr. Stabler?"
"Please call me Elliot." Elliot smiled. "I'll go wash up."
Sandy smiled and went back to the kitchen. Elliot went to the restroom,
pissed, washed his hands and face, and told the man in the mirror to
start acting like the man he was instead of the little boy that had
been beaten. The little boy was still angry, but he was a man now, and
he was going to use his brain, not his overdeveloped sense of outrage.
None of this was Tobias's fault. And his father was dead. Elliot dried
off and went to the kitchen to eat. Everyone else was there already,
and he saw two nervous smiles, two sets of rolling eyes, and one face
didn't even glance at him. Tobias was angry, and Elliot didn't blame
him. Elliot took the chair at the other end of the table from Tobias
and smiled at the kids.
"Is the food good at this restaurant?" he whispered to break the tension.
Holly giggled. "The best, but it isn't cheap."
"I believe that." Elliot tugged at his tie, loosening it, and finally
pulling it off. Sandy delivered trays of food. Everything looked good,
and there was plenty of it. How Tobias stayed thin was a mystery.
Elliot gained five pounds just looking at all the food. The kids got
busy eating and passing things around, and Elliot saw exactly why
Tobias was cut muscle and bone. Tobias didn't really eat. He picked at
it, pushed it around, and gave up far too early.
Elliot made sure his kids used some of their manners, and they ate
plenty. He went ahead and had two platefuls. Lunch had been a soda
today. Sandy was having a great time. She chattered, fussed, and
refilled drinks. Holly and Harry were obviously attached to her. He
could see why.
"Did you shoot anyone today?" Harry's soft question managed to drop into a moment of silence.
Elliot blinked in surprise. He was sitting next to the young boy, and
he leaned closer. "I try not to do that. I don't like hurting people."
"I thought cops shot people." Harry furrowed his brow. "It's on the TV and internet all the time."
"It does happen, but the media focuses on the cases that end in
violence. Most don't. Since I'm a detective, I rarely use my gun."
Elliot saw that Harry understood perfectly. "What's more exciting? A
shootout or me slogging my way through telephone records, trying to
figure out who called the victim in her last moments of life?"
Harry thought about that. He slowly said, "Why would you care who they called?"
"A crime - the type I investigate - is like a puzzle. I have to piece
together everything that happened in that person's life for the last
twenty-four hours or so. If I do it right, the murderer is usually
pretty obvious." Elliot saw Dickie roll his eyes. Dickie had heard it
"That sounds interesting." Harry smiled. "I might have to do some research."
"Just don't hack into the files at the police station, okay? We have enough trouble."
Harry grinned. Tobias cleared his throat. "Harry, I know you wouldn't do that."
"I wouldn't, but I could go look at the NYPD web site. It might be cool." Harry wiped his hands and mouth. "Can I be excused?"
"Finish your milk," Elliot said automatically. He caught the look of death that Tobias gave him. "Sorry. It was habit."
"Finish, Harry, and then go on." Tobias didn't look at Elliot again.
Elliot nearly groaned. He wasn't going to be forgiven any time soon.
Even an apology would fall on deaf ears. He knew it. The table began to
empty of children, and finally, it was him, Tobias, and a pot of coffee.
"No dessert?" Elliot teased Sandy.
"Tobias doesn't allow it except on Fridays." Sandy looked disgusted. "It's not right."
"Too much sugar." Tobias smiled at her. "I bet you could find something for Elliot. He'll be here another hour or so."
Sandy obviously took that as a challenge and marched away to the pantry. Elliot laughed softly. "You are so lucky to have her."
"First smart thing you've said." Tobias poured himself some coffee and sipped it. "Kathy is a good cook."
"I miss it." Elliot did, even the re-heated leftovers had been good. "This was nice. Thank you."
Tobias gave him a long, suspicious look. "What do you want?"
"Nothing," Elliot growled. He added some cream to his coffee. It was real cream. "Am I like him at all?"
"No and yes. When I catch a glimpse of you, my heart beats faster
before my brain reminds me that it's nothing more than you." Tobias
shrugged. "It's probably fear, so don't panic."
Elliot heard the mild insult, but he wasn't going to react to it. "He hurt you."
"Yes. More than once." Tobias sipped his coffee. "You will too, if I let you."
"Didn't I already? Isn't that was all this attitude is about?" Elliot knew it was true.
Tobias shook his head firmly. "I don't give a damn what you think."
"For some reason, I know you're lying." Elliot watched Tobias struggle
with his temper. "I'm all you have left of him, just like you're all I
have of him."
"He left me more than just you." Tobias smiled a little, and Elliot
knew it wasn't for him. "My right wrist also aches when it rains."
Elliot knew better than to laugh. He drank his coffee and waited.
Tobias might have something more to say, and eventually, he did. "Let's
go to the basement."
"You gonna murder me down there?"
"Don't tempt me." Tobias picked up his coffee and started moving.
Elliot followed, but abandoned his empty cup. He was full. They went
down a short flight of stairs, and he saw that this was where the
family spent their time. Tobias had a weight set in one corner, and
Harry was tinkering with a train layout in another corner. Elizabeth
was watching him. The sofa was huge, old, and beat up, and the TV,
while large, was the older style. Now, this was living.
"Nice weight set."
"I still like to work out." Toby took a spot on the sofa and stretched out. "Harry, you got that train running yet?"
"Almost!" Harry laughed. "Angus said I'd never fix it."
"He's an idiot." Tobias laughed. Elliot stared at him. When he laughed,
he was transformed. The suspicious skel was gone, and so was the snarky
Elliot dragged his eyes away and went to look at the layout. Elizabeth
gave him a casual hug and started pointing and talking. He just
listened. Once or twice, Harry chimed in. Harry was shy. It was
obvious, but he was young - lots of growing to do. Elliot looked back
at Tobias. Tobias had the TV on, but he was mostly paying attention to
"I think I got it!" Harry blushed immediately. He put the train on the
track, made a bunch of adjustments, and it began to go. Elizabeth
cheered, and Elliot grinned and patted Harry on the back.
Tobias was suddenly close. "Good job. You should call Angus and tell him."
"Can I?" Harry grinned. Tobias handed him a cell phone.
Elizabeth gave him another squeeze. "We never had anything cool like this."
Elliot was inclined to agree. "Did you ever want to build one?"
"Well, no, but I don't think it would have fit in our basement!" She
laughed. Elliot went to flop down on the sofa and stretch out. There
was plenty of room for two grown men, and he was very full. His eyes
betrayed him by traveling down Tobias's wife-beater to old, snug jeans.
Elliot realized dimly that he was looking to see what his brother had
found so attractive, and the sudden pressure against his trousers
forced him to watch television. There was nothing there for him.
Couldn't his dick see that?
"I'm going to go check on the two lovebirds." Tobias trotted upstairs.
Elliot hoped they weren't naked. If they were, Holly was going to a new
school, and Richard was going to be mad for months. The boy was going
to have to settle down. It was time for the honest sex talk that his
own father had given him. Of course, it hadn't worked. Well, maybe he
should modify it. He would definitely take out the part with the belt.
Tobias came back downstairs, but so did Dickie and Holly. They
retreated to a corner that had bean bags and a computer on the floor.
Elliot looked hard at it. That computer was nicer than his. "You always
keep your computers on the floor?"
Harry turned. "I made it. It's not worth anything, but it goes on the internet fine."
"You made it?" Elliot was slightly amazed.
"At school. Yeah." Harry gave him a small smile. "It was a class
project. They had all these donated parts from Microsoft. It was the
"Sounds really cool. Did you get an A?"
"The school doesn't grade that way, but yes." Harry suddenly became
interested in the layout again, and Elliot saw that Elizabeth was
actually glueing stuff down. Elliot hoped Harry supervised her. If she
messed it up, Elliot wasn't buying Harry a new one.
"Hey, are you always so damn nosy?"
"Richard says that I am." Elliot sat back and relaxed, or tried to, it was hard with Tobias right there.
"Did you almost call me Elliot?"
"Not even close." Tobias changed the channel about fifty times. Elliot
was slightly nauseous before Tobias stopped on CNN. "Talk with your son
Elliot glared at his boy. They'd been kissing or something. "It must be genetic."
Tobias suddenly laughed. "All the Stabler boys are probably gifted in that area."
"Funny." Elliot was careful not to tag that with the word asshole. He
also had the feeling that Tobias was making a reference to Chris. Chris
had been a Stabler too, whether he'd known it or not. Elliot looked
over at the weights. "How much can you press?"
"Enough." Tobias shrugged. "Don't get any ideas. It's late and you're not dressed for it."
"I wasn't. I lifted this morning over at the station house." Elliot wished the house had all of that equipment though.
"Do you sleep there too?"
Elliot decided not to answer that. He went home occasionally, even
though he didn't always know why. He'd considered getting a small
apartment for weeks now. The money would go a long ways towards helping
out Kathy and the kids, but it was their home too. He couldn't just
"Never mind. The answer is obvious." Tobias started clicking again, and Elliot resisted the urge to grab it from him.
"Slow down! Christ, I'm getting seasick!"
Tobias stopped. "Richard, what site are you at?"
Elliot looked there immediately. He didn't see any naked girls, so he
waited. Tobias strolled over there and sank down on the plush carpet
next to them. Richard looked slightly guilty. "Oswald has a web site.
We were looking is all."
Elliot stared at the television. He grabbed the remote, found a
football game, and settled back to watch. Staying out of that was a
"Holly, how long have they had this?"
"It was pretty primitive when it started about eight years ago," Holly
said. "Angus and I would check it for news. If visitation day was
canceled for some reason, the information was here."
"I never got inmate of the week?" Tobias laughed, but Elliot heard the hurt, and he knew the kids did too.
"Well, yeah, you did." Holly put her hand on him. "Sorry, Dad."
"Holly, hush. You have nothing to be sorry for, remember?" Tobias hugged her. "Too bad you can't see pictures of Em City."
Harry strolled over there and took the keyboard. "Yes, you can. I'll use the wayback machine."
Now Elliot was curious, and he went to look. The carpet was
comfortable, but his knee would ache if he lay on the floor too long.
Harry's fingers flew and Elliot knew he was watching a child genius. He
wondered if it made Tobias nervous.
Elliot clapped his hand over Tobias's mouth and put up with the glare.
All the kids laughed. Tobias shoved him away and took over the mouse.
"That was my pod - one of them."
"I always wondered," Holly said softly. "They upgraded the site after you went to Rikers. Em City was gone."
"Yeah. It was." Tobias kissed her on the forehead.
Elliot knew now that they blamed Chris for shutting down Em City. It
might be true. Who could know? Chris was dead. Elliot had to ask, "Did
you share that one with Chris?"
"Yes." Tobias started clicking. He was good with that thing too, and when he stopped, they all stared.
"My brother." Elliot wanted to brush his fingers along the computer screen. "Where's he at?"
"The quad. The open space between the pods where we watched television and played cards."
Elliot noticed all the kids were quiet. He had to make them feel better. "Handsome guy. I love that face."
They all laughed. Tobias gave him a smile. "Harry, email that picture to me, will you?"
"Want me to look for others?"
"Nah," Tobias said. "Thanks."
Harry got busy, and Elliot got off the floor. His knee creaked, but he
made it back to the sofa. He was getting old. Tobias took the other end
of the sofa again. "Thanks for not being a jerk tonight."
"You're welcome." Elliot gave him a nice smile and winked at him. It was funny to watch him stare and then suddenly turn red.
"Dessert!" Sandy yelled from the top of the stairs.
The kids moved fast up the stairs. Tobias laughed. "She can clear a room."
"I'm out of here." Elliot got up and brushed past him. It wasn't much
of a touch, but he'd have sworn that electricity crackled between them.
It made him flinch, and he went faster. Tobias was right behind him
though, and Elliot almost felt as if they were connected. They weren't.
They never would be. He'd be lucky of Tobias even let Dickie come over
to see Holly.
"Don't give me those blue eyes."
Elliot had no idea what that meant. He went through the door and found
a spot at the kitchen table by Holly. Sandy smiled at him, and he
picked up his spoon. He might be full, but there was always room for
"It's nice having company," Holly said quietly.
Elliot winked at her. "It's nice being somewhere other than work. Do you like your new school, Holly?"
Holly smiled at Richard. "I do. It's fun, and there are no packs of snobby girls roaming the hallways."
Elizabeth snorted. "There are snobs."
"Not real ones. Those girls are amateurs. They don't really have money
and they don't bring their horse to school." Holly suddenly blushed.
"It's okay, Holly. I see your point." Elliot got the message. At her private school, they'd picked on her. "Kids can be mean."
Tobias wasn't having dessert. He tapped the table. "Eat up, kids. Sandy wants to get home before midnight."
"Don't worry about that! It's nice having people here that eat!" Sandy smiled.
Elliot hid his smirk with his spoon, but he thought that Tobias had
seen it. They should probably leave after dessert. It was Saturday
night, but they had most likely worn out their welcome. It was time to
negotiate a new deal.
"Tobias, how often do you think these two should see each other?"
Tobias cocked his head to the side. "I'm not adverse to once a week. Wednesday. Alternating houses."
"Dad! Come on, two nights a week!"
"Push your luck, young lady, and we'll forget it altogether. You two are thirteen."
"Couldn't even get married in Alabama." Elliot grinned. "He's right, but what about weekends?"
"Not every weekend, but every other is acceptable. Saturday. You two can use the limo." Tobias smiled.
Dickie finally put in his two cents worth. "For what?"
"Movie, mall, whatever, as long as it's pre-approved, and Holly has her
cell phone with her." Tobias looked at him. "Okay with you?"
"Saturday is my night with them. So, no." Elliot wasn't going to give up his time. "Friday, after school? Until, say nine?"
Tobias drummed his fingers on the table. "That would be fine. Clear it with Kathy."
"I will." Elliot would speak with her tonight. "This has been fun. Ready to go, kids?"
Dickie groaned, but it was Harry that surprised him. "I have to
research a career for my school. If I pick yours, will you give me a
tour of the precinct?"
Elliot saw Tobias's jaw clench. "Harry, if your dad says it's okay, I don't have a problem with it."
"We'll talk about it later," Tobias said firmly. That was a no.
Elliot pushed away from the table. "Thank you, Sandy, for a lovely
dinner, and thank you Tobias, for not throwing us out so hard we
Tobias didn't even smile. "Good night."
Dickie and Holly had to make a production out of it, but Elliot got his
two moving towards the car without having to use force. He found his
tie, put on his coat, and said, "I better get my gun."
"Go." Tobias waved in that general direction.
Elliot went quickly, got his gun, put it on his hip, and left the safe open. He hesitated at the door. "I meant that. Thanks."
"We're done. Right?" Tobias managed to look pissy. "One of you was enough."
Elliot had accomplished what he'd come for, and that was what he
mattered. He merely nodded, went out the door fast, and was a little
surprised it didn't slam. The drive to Kathy's house was quiet, and he
went in with the twins. He and Kathy had to talk.
"Elliot, it's for you, line two," Olivia said.
"Who is it?"
Elliot sat down, looked at the blinking light, and considered skipping it. He shrugged and picked it up. "Stabler."
"I'm sure you didn't want to take this call, but we need to talk."
"Why?" Elliot raised his eyebrows. He could only pray that Holly wasn't pregnant.
"About Harry and career day. Can you stop over after work?"
Elliot gave a mental sigh of relief and looked at the pile of paperwork on his desk. "I thought you were going to tell him no."
"I tried my hand at parenting and failed. We need to talk."
"You sound a little angry." Elliot laughed. "It'll be late."
"Just come over." Tobias sighed. "Please."
"I bet that hurt." Elliot would do it because it was about Harry, and Tobias had managed to say please. "Okay. Later."
"Later." Tobias hung up, and Elliot sat the phone down slowly. That was
unexpected. It had been three weeks since he'd had dinner at Tobias's
house. Dickie and Holly were behaving, and Elliot had been staying out
of it. It was working. Now this.
"Got a new friend?"
"No." Elliot shook his head firmly. They were many things, but not
friends. "Beecher hates me. Hates cops. I don't blame him, but our
conversations usually consist of name calling."
"Better hope Dickie doesn't marry that girl," Fin said smoothly.
Elliot did more than hope. He'd prayed about it once or twice. "No one marries their childhood sweetheart."
"You did," John said and laughed as he walked past.
Elliot shrugged. He was also divorced. It wouldn't last. Benson looked
amused. He didn't worry about it again until he got in the car. It was
eleven o'clock at night. Usually, he slept up in the crib. He yawned,
rubbed his eyes, and tried not to stumble as he went up the steps to
the brownstone. It had been a long couple of days. Before he could ring
the doorbell, Tobias pulled the door open. Elliot waited for him to say
"Come in." Tobias didn't look happy about it.
Elliot went in and stayed close to the door so he could leave and get some sleep. "Spill it."
Tobias glanced upstairs. "Let's talk in the kitchen. Coffee?"
"No. I want to sleep." Elliot followed him though and slumped down on a
barstool. He leaned his face into his hand and stifled another yawn.
Tobias sat down across from him. "It's like this. My son signed you up."
"So, call the teacher and change it." Elliot rubbed his face.
"The assignments have to be approved by the administration. His was."
Elliot felt his eyelids droop. "Get it changed."
"By the time the approval process goes through again, Harry will get a
failing grade, which he knew. He forced my hand." Tobias waved his hand
in front of Elliot's eyes. "You awake?"
"Yeah." Elliot thought he was. He wasn't sure. "I was counting on you to tell him no. Sex crimes ain't pretty."
"No shit." Tobias sighed and threw up his hands. "Help me!"
Elliot considered it. "Either trust me to look after Harry or let him take the consequences of his deception. Your choice."
Tobias lowered his head and rubbed his face. "I can't even come along.
The assignment is designed to let the children experience other work
environments without parental interference."
"I'm too tired to think clearly." Elliot was. "Your choice. Give me a
call." He got up, but he knew he swayed. Shit. He was crashing.
"Elliot, how long have you been up?"
Elliot had to think about it. "Thirty some odd hours. Rough case. I gotta go."
Tobias took him by the arm. "Go sleep in the spare bedroom."
Elliot hesitated. He could always sleep in the car and did occasionally. "You said my name."
"Go lie down. I won't bother you."
Elliot wasn't worried about that. He still wasn't sure. "Get me up at six."
Tobias nodded. Elliot knew where the bed was, and he hit it hard. He
pushed off his shoes, took off his shirt and pants, and crawled under
the covers. This was probably a bad idea, but he was too tired to drive.
"It's six, Elliot."
Elliot groaned. He couldn't get up. "Come back at eight."
Tobias shut the door. Elliot lay there, trying to remember why he was
here, but not much was coming through. He sighed, rolled over, and went
back to sleep.
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