Multitudinous thanks to Alcott, my beta, who noticed that the waiting was driving me mad.
The waiting drove me mad.
You're finally here and I'm a mess.
I take your riches back.
Can't let you roam inside my head.
I don't want to take what you can't give.
I would rather starve than eat your bread.
Pearl Jam. Corduroy.
UROFF-KALTOFF STAR OF RUSSIA
In the arena of Krycek's head, he's playing chess. The man playing against him has curly brown hair, short stubby fingers. He's wearing a lame-o sweater-vest with an argyle pattern. He's grinning like a fiend. His breathing shakes the board. His breathing swells the lame-o argyle vest and stretches the knitting grotesquely. He's wearing a Russian army hat at a rakish angle, and it keeps threatening to slide off his flat head.
Krycek has no idea who he is, but the man is winning. He moves his queen and captures Krycek's last knight. It's a done deal; the game is almost over. Why, then, does Krycek want to keep playing?
Boy Alex plays chess in school. He is not a good player; in fact he is in last place in his class's chess tournament. Even Ebenezer, who is an effing Jew, is ahead of him. Boy Alex fumbles through the last game. He is stupid and gives up his knight in a meaningless battle. Later he tries a ploy with his other knight and is checkmated instead. The teacher eliminates him from the tournament. He tips his king over and it falls across a white and a black square. He feels only a stifling humiliation.
At home, Boy Alex does not speak to his parents, nor they to him. His brother and sister go about their day and don't notice their silent older brother. Boy Alex does his homework in his room and takes silent vicious pleasure in finishing his math homework at an astonishing pace. Even effing Ebenezer can't do it this quickly. Boy Alex does one hundred and seventy-seven pushups. He goes to sleep without eating. He has learned not to be hungry; no one has withheld food from him, but he loves to be able to control his body.
Boy Alex lies in bed listening to the creak of the apartment, the stomp of the neighbors upstairs. He envisions a life-sized chess set. He is the knight with the huge sword; effing Ebenezer is the king, wearing a crown of effing thorns and laughing at him. Boy Alex strides up to him (bishops move diagonally) and strikes him through the heart.
Effing dirty Jew. Christ-killer. How dare he be better than me.
He flips over to his stomach. Sleeps.
STAR OF RUSSIA
He shifts slowly against the freezing floor of the old ship, trying to bring feeling back into his frozen ass. Dirty water has soaked through his jeans and he feels slightly moist, as if he were covered all over in condensation.
Condensed Alex. Now in an easy open can.
Trapped like the proverbial rat, he smiles again tightly as he first did when he was handcuffed to the pipe by a man he used to work for. The man had not smiled back. He had pulled on the handcuff to make sure it was securely fastened. He had rapped on Alex's plastic shoulder with one old, arthritic fist.
And he'd whispered in Alex's ear: You let a woman fuck you over again, Krycek. When do you think you will learn?
Alex had turned his head quickly and snapped his teeth at the man's cheek, but caught only air. Easy, easy to say that in hindsight. When he'd pressed her up against the Star of Russia's bulkhead, he'd thought it was a terribly good idea.
So he had a little thing for women who told him what to do. Who spoke to him as if he were sand under their shoes. Who wore trench coats and licked their lips and refused to let their guard down.
Just a little thing.
Her mouth is wide and warm and she uses it to curse at him in Russian.
He tells her that he is going to rule the world. That He. Is going to rule. The world. It doesn't seem to faze her and he thinks that somehow if he can get her naked, he can strip her down to her shell. Can smash her glass walls. Can feel her warm palm flat against his back. Her ankles, twined around his.
He wants to rule the world. He will. But the moment that he slides her up against steel, the moment that she tugs his hair back so she can slide her tongue along the underside of his jaw, that moment sees him lost and unthinking. That moment makes a terribly bad idea seem terribly good. Terribly, wildly, rhythmically fine. Her hair, molten and golden, spreads in his hand. She closes her eyes. Curses him.
STAR OF RUSSIA
He licks his hand, because beads of water have condensed on it. He can hear the engines throbbing in the deep ship's interior. They will be at sea soon. With one hand, he has no means of escape. Again and for the last time, he vows never to let a woman near him again. He also vows not to speak to the man he used to work for, but changes his mind almost immediately. He will do what is necessary to get out of these chains. He has hated handcuffs ever since he lost his hand and with it, his ability to pick locks.
He will do what is necessary, as he has always done. Krycek does not consider himself a whore, though he has been called one many times. He considers himself a man who has swallowed his pride so many times that he has none left. Unlike other men, it is no trouble for Krycek to beg. He does it prettily, looking up through his spiky eyelashes and smiling with his teeth.
He has begged the man who hired him many times. So many times, in fact, that he has lost count. The Englishman is pleased when he begs, and it often gets him off hooks that otherwise might have impaled him. Krycek knows many of his boss's weaknesses.
The Englishman recruited him a long time ago and he did a lot of odd jobs for his strange thin boss. Sometimes the jobs were pleasant and sometimes they were not.
In his head, the man in the lame-o sweater wins. The man, come to think of it, might be Ebenezer, grown up. Krycek knocks the imaginary board off its stand. The grown-up Ebenezer only smiles fiendishly and says nothing. After a while, Krycek apologizes to him, picks up the board, sets out the pieces. Begins the game again.
"I want you to go to the FBI Building and report to an Assistant Director Walter Skinner. You will be the replacement partner for a Dana Scully." His strange boss flips a file folder at him. Two pictures stare out at him. The redhead is missing. He will soon come to think of her as Mulder's cross, Mulder's albatross, Mulder's bitch.
The other picture is much nicer.
He reports, is given an assignment, works as hard as he can. For the first and only time in his life, the man he works with is not a shadow or an unreal negative on Krycek's positive plane. Mulder, Fox Mulder, Fox William Mulder, is as real and solid as Krycek himself. Krycek thinks with a sort of awe that they must be the only two real people in the world.
Later, Krycek must fight Mulder on a cable car. He is truly sorry to have to fight Mulder over his bitch. When he leaves Mulder, he misses Mulder's solidity, Mulder's brick-wall-ness. When he meets Mulder's albatross, much later, he notices with a smirk that she is just as insubstantial as everyone else. He could kill her easily.
STAR OF RUSSIA
Krycek slowly recites a passage from the Fellowship of the Ring. It is the passage where Boromir speaks to Frodo. Boromir wants the One Ring for himself. The ring also wants Boromir. It is easy to see.
"It is by our own folly that the enemy will defeat us!" says Krycek out loud, rolling the words and their rich, cakey meanings. Temporarily, he forgets where he is. "How it angers me! Fool! Obstinate fool! Running willfully to death and ruining our cause. It is not yours save by unhappy chance. It might have been mine. It should be mine. Give it to me!"
He lays his head back against the frozen metal behind him. "Give it to me," he says again. "Give it to me."
In his head, Ebenezer wins again. Ebenezer always wins at imaginary chess. Krycek closes his eyes and feels the thrum of the engines vibrating him slowly, blending his molecules in with the ship's steel plates. In the arena of his head, he curses Ebenezer.
"It should have been mine, you shadow, you nobody. It should have been mine."
Silently, Ebenezer sits and waits for a new game. Moisture drips from a cold, clammy bulkhead. Alex Krycek sets the imaginary board up again. He's getting better.
My mother is Jewish. Which means I am too. So don't send me any nasty notes, please. I hope JRR will forgive me because I edited Boromir just slightly for my own purposes. Oh JRR, how I love your hobbits! And how I hate the Silmarillion! "Sand under his shoes" is a quote from a Tori song.
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