Honorary, Mercenary

by zara hemla :: x-files :: r :: story 5 in the "mercy" series. spender gets a taste of the high life. not.

Thanks to Nancy FF, who risked a brain aneurysm to beta this. No! This is not my contribution to the OBSSE revulsion thread.

There's a light on in the attic;
I can see it on the outside. And I know
you're on the inside -- looking out.
--Shel Silverstein, "A Light In the Attic"

One. Honorary.

Nothing in the fridge but ketchup, and I can't drink that. Well, I could, but it reminds me uncomfortably of drinking blood. I sigh and close the door of the very old, very yellow refrigerator. Alex has been gone for a week and a half and I have eaten nothing in the past two days. I haven't felt like eating. But now I am thirsty and the water in this apartment tastes like it's been strained through my keys. That is, when it runs at all. Sometimes I swear, if it would slake my thirst I'd drink out of the toilet. But I haven't quite gotten to that point yet: I still have a couple of scruples.

It is five in the afternoon and I have expected Alex back for six hours. I am praying that he comes back. I am praying that he's dead. But how would I know? Who would come and tell me that he had shuffled off this mortal coil, or whatever? I imagine a police officer in a blue cap, come to tell me the news. She looks like Scully. I sigh again. That way lies madness. My jacket lies in a heap on the kitchen chair; I dig through it and find my wallet. I shall go find something to drink. Not booze; I've sworn off liquor for a long time. But something to drink, preferably with carbonation and a sugary taste.

I leave the apartment, making sure to lock the door behind me. Alex punched me in the kidney once when he found that I'd left the door open. It hurt enough that I don't forget now -- I guess that was his intention. Alex never asks me anything. He tells me, and if that doesn't work, he uses corporal punishment. Well, he's always sorry afterwards -- does that count for anything? I go down the narrow, moldy staircase and out the door, trying to stay in the afternoon shadow as I head down the block. I don't know if anyone is watching, but it never hurts to be careful. That's a lesson I learned too late; I died before I could put it into use to benefit Mulder and Scully. Now I'm trying to do the makeup work.

Halfway to the corner, I see a white limo screech past me and come to a stop in front of my apartment building. The back door opens and out slides Alex, home at last. He shuts the door and turns around, leaning in through an open window. A white hand, a woman's hand, twines itself into his hair and yanks his head back in through the window. His shoulders wiggle a little and then he extricates himself (I assume) and saunters up the stairs to the apartment. He's slung his suit jacket over his shoulder. His blue silk shirt catches fire in the light of the setting sun, turning him the indigo color of deep sea. His black pants shimmy with his steps. Oh, Alex knows how good he looks. What did that poor woman do for him? He may look edible, but only a few people know -- not that he keeps it a secret -- that he has no heart and no soul. Mulder and Scully know it. I know it. I wonder if the woman who owns that slender white hand knows, or if she cares. I am, suddenly, horribly jealous. Alex got laid and he has a fancy suit and a limousine. I'm aware that I haven't shaved for six days, that my shirt has sweat-stains.

The car pulls away as he reaches the top step, and I step out of the shadow to follow him back inside. He must see me from the corner of his eye, for he pivots sharply and drops into a crouch. His teeth, bared, gleam a little in his fashionably stubbled face. Just enough for the white hand to scratch over a little and giggle about, I assume. Damn the man. I am suddenly so angry at him that I could cut his throat, or try, because I wouldn't get far and I know it. I walk forward, and he sees that it's just me and straightens up.

"Hey Jeffrey," he says, and he holds the door for me as we walk inside. He smells a little like cherries, and as I go past I see that it's because he's got on lip gloss. He's made up like a gigolo in his silk shirt and his pretty hair. I say that to myself, but I'm still jealous. He sees my sneer and laughs. As we climb the stairs, he sings at me. "I feel charming . . . oh, so charming . . . it's alarming how charming I feel. . . And so pretty that I hardly can believe I'm real. . . ." Ick.

I unlock the door and throw myself down on the couch. I don't ask him where he's been. But tonight, as the sun lights him still through the west-facing window, he seems eager to talk. He sits at the table and begins to pull things out of his jacket pocket. Napkin-wrapped things. I perk to attention, my anger submerging in a wave of hunger. He looks at me and smiles shinily.

"Brought you something." Chicken wings emerge from the napkins. Grapes, cut-up canteloupe. A twenty-ounce bottle of Pepsi. Baby carrots. Artistically sliced broccoli. And what looks like a quarter of a pound cake. He beckons to me and of course, I go to him. He pushes it all towards me and I can't think because I'm too busy stuffing my face. Around the smell of chicken, I hear him speaking.

". . . in the city for awhile. Something's up again, and I'm in the middle of it again." He looks at me, seeming a little anxious. I just grin nastily around my chicken. Why should he care what I think? He continues, "I've got Skinner on a hook and I have information on your father. . . ." and suddenly he stands up and smacks the flat of the table with his good hand. The napkins jump. I jump. He's pacing back and forth across the small room, and his eyes jitter across the walls. He unbuttons his shirt, baring an affair of straps and buckles that really must chafe sometimes. The deep blue silk slides unheeded to the floor as he pulls off his arm. Later, I will pick up that shirt and hand-wash it. Orders are orders.

You know," and he sounds puzzled, "I just never thought any of them would really die. I knew about the aliens and I knew about El Rico, but damn me if I ever thought it would really happen. But it did! And even now, I'm being beaten to the punch by your father! I run and I scamper and I pull all my strings and it doesn't. Work. That man still is two steps ahead of me." He rounds on me of a sudden and I blink at him, caught in the act of crunching celery. "Did you know he already has a bunch of candidates for the next generation? Not to mention your ex-partner. Diana Fowley." At the name, his mouth puckers and tightens and his eyes narrow at me, like I should say something. I don't reply. He's always laughed about her before, never caring what she did. He takes her casually, like a pet rabbit, though I am scared stiff of the woman. But now his hand clenches and he stalks, steel-stiff, across the room and back.

"No, I didn't know," I finally say needlessly. He isn't paying attention to me anyway. He stalks away from me, toward the bedroom, and he leaves his pants behind on the floor. I have finally finished eating everything on the table, so I go and pick up his clothes and lay them on the back of a chair. The silk of his shirt nubbles against my rough fingers. A vision flashes into my head -- Scully wearing this shirt, the tails reaching mid-thigh, the sleeves rolled up to her elbows. My knees wobble; I have to sit down. As I smooth the silk down against the chair-back, he comes back out, wearing black sweatpants and a grey T-shirt that reads: Losing Is For Losers. He carries a videotape in his hand.

"I'm going to beat him. I want to beat them."

"Why?" I ask him. Sometimes I wonder why he doesn't just retire to some Caribbean island and play benevolent god all day. He has the money.

He grins again. "Why not? I know the codes, Jeffrey. I have the keys and I have your knowledge of the X-Files. I know where the rebels are and I know who's fighting whom. I'm young, and he's going to die. I'm the Machiavelli of the nineties." I am reminded of the question: why do you climb Mount Everest? Answer: because it's there.

Then he adds something else, speaking slowly and looking at the ceiling. "Plus, they're in my territory." He wipes the lip gloss from his mouth with the back of his hand and grimaces at it. "I hate that crap." By 'territory,' he doesn't mean property or power or money. In Alex-speak, territory means Mulder.

"What do you mean, your territory?" I snark. "He doesn't want you. Never has." Instantly the grin falls off his face.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

It means that I am angry, jealous, and not hungry anymore. "Whatever," I say, taking my life in my hands. He doesn't move. "You know so much poetry but you can't figure this out? 'We two boys together clinging, one the other never leaving' -- "

He takes two steps toward me, making no sound and lighter than helium with feet. I upend the table onto him and it's just a card table, it doesn't faze him, he's looking at me, and he's not smiling or frowning, he just looks desperate and sick to his stomach.

I snap, "What's your problem? You've been out eating and drinking and being merry, you got laid -- "

"And so did he!" he yells, stalking through a blizzard of napkins, and he drops the videotape to the floor in front of me. I pick it up, curious, and take it over to the TV. It turns out to be a grainy picture of Mulder's living room. Surprise, surprise. It looks no different from other tapes that Alex brings home from time to time. Here is what happens on the tape:

The door opens. Mulder enters, half-supported by a woman who just recently had taken Krycek's arm and bitten off a finger or two. Diana Fowley. Mulder whines: I don't feel so good. He slurs his words and his pupils look large and dark. Fowley: Get to bed, Mulder, and I'll come see how you are in a minute. Mulder: Okay, Diana. He walks into the bedroom. Static for a moment, then: Mulder's bedroom. He takes his jeans off and tucks himself under a cozy-looking quilt. Diana Fowley walks into the room a few minutes later with the telephone. Conversation is clearly audible, from Mulder's side, at least.

Hello, he says.
I'm here. I'm resting.
I'm home. It's okay. Where are you?
So he's talking to Scully. I try to imagine her side of the conversation. She will be cool and rational. She will tuck her hair behind her ear. She will exhale softly through her mouth.

I focus back on the videotape. Pause. Mulder: No, it would mean that our progenitors were alien, that our genesis was alien, that we're here because of them; that they put us here. Longer pause. Then: you're wrong. It holds everything. Don't you see? All the mysteries of science, everything we can't understand or won't explain, every human behaviorism -- cosmology, psychology, everything in the X-Files -- it all owes to them. It's from them.

Pause. Sigh. Well then, you go ahead and prove me wrong, Scully. He hangs up. Gives the phone to Fowley. She smiles at him and returns to the living room. Mulder seems to be trying to sleep. Only his hair is visible above the covers.

Alex is standing behind me; I can hear him breathing harshly onto my neck. And then I see why. It's Fowley again, and I'm seeing more of her than I ever wanted to. She's wearing nothing but a pair of dark panties and she goes to Mulder's bed and she crawls under the covers with him. A little movement under the covers, then he flips over toward her. You can't see much because the quilt is so puffy, but one thing is clearly delineated: Mulder's hand splays out into Diana Fowley's hair, and his fingers tangle in her dark tresses, squeezing and releasing in slow motion. Then the noises start, and since I am feeling horribly uncomfortable with Alex there, I pause the tape. Mulder's fingers freeze in the middle of relaxing. I feel Alex's hand on my shoulder. It is very heavy.

"The woman in the limo?" he whispers. "She's a member of the new Consortium. She's rich and she's gorgeous, and I screwed her stupid in the car on the way here." His hand smooths up my neck and he twines his hand in my hair and pulls my head back.

"I could make you want me, Jeffrey," he says, and his jasper gaze slides to my mouth.

"To act out your revenge fantasies? No thanks," I say, and twist my face away from his gaze. The tape decides it's been paused long enough and stops itself. Mulder's hand disappears from the screen and Alex's hand leaves me. He laughs bitterly.

"True enough. My revenge fantasies would probably leave you in a very unhappy condition." No kidding -- they'd probably leave me dead. I go back to the upturned table and begin picking up napkins. He throws himself on the couch and, like I'm his shrink or something, begins to speak.

"It's just that...he was never with anyone else...so I could pretend...um...pretend."

I don't ask him about Scully. If Mulder was likely in love with anyone, it was her. But I didn't want to talk about that either.

"That woman wasn't anyone...she was just information...just to prove to myself...I don't know...prove something."

No one. I think of the white hand. What he counts as nothing, I can never have.

"And then after I saw the tape...I made a copy of it and I went to Dr. Barnes and I gave it to him...and Mulder was lying there on the stairwell floor," pause, "he was writhing around on the floor in pain, and I stepped over him. That was my revenge fantasy, Jeffrey. I stepped over him and went up the stairs and I didn't look back, not once, to see if he was dead or alive." I look at him and he's examining his hands.

"He's not dead," I say. Mulder never dies. He will always be there to upstage me. I'm the one that dies, not him.

"I could make him that way," whispers Alex. He reaches into the pocket of his jacket and takes out what looks like a piece of stone. It has strange, hieroglyphic markings on it. It's got ragged edges, like it's been chipped off a larger piece.

"Have you been breaking pieces off the Rosetta stone?" I ask. He doesn't answer; instead, he holds the piece of stone out to me. I take it. It's warm from being in his pocket.

"Did you listen to what Mulder was saying on that tape?" he whispers raggedly.

"Sure, it's the usual crapola about our alien progenitors," I say.

"Yeah, he's wrong about that," Alex replies. "But that -- what you're holding -- that's the gen-u-wine article. You are holding an alien artifact."

I look at it curiously. It's not really stone; it's more like a metal, something heavy and sheeny, something I've never seen before. "What's it do?"

"Nothing, now," he says. "It's a part of a passage from the Bible. Genesis. Except it's in Navajo. Back during first contact, the aliens used Navajo to contact us. Your dad thought it was because they intercepted our code-talkers during the world war. They put in a Bible passage to get an idea through to us. But no one is sure why they didn't just use English."

"Maybe they were trying to weed out the stupid ones," I venture. He looks up at me, grinning.

"Maybe so. But when it's put together, it can be used for contact purposes. We can use it to call up their ship." He grabs it back from me. "But until the pieces are reconnected, Mulder's going to slowly go crazy."


His wide pupils stare back up at me, just green-ringed eyes around a space-black hole. "I have no idea. I don't care what he hears in his head. But the question is, Jeffrey, the real question is, do I want to leave him like that?"

The weight of the afternoon suddenly rests on my thin shoulders. I've never understood that attraction: who am I to dispense advice? "Alex, why do you want him anyway? You can have anything you want, you can have wine, women, and song, so to speak, so what do you want that freak for anyway?" I expect I sound bitter. It'll pass.

"I don't know," he says hoarsely. "You can't just turn emotions off. I try not to think about him -- I try so hard. . . ." and he stops again, searching for something in my face that isn't there.

I stand in the late afternoon sunlight, feeling its orange rays sizzle down my face. My head itches and I want to change my shirt. I'm tired of talking psychology -- I already know the answers to his questions. The grass is always greener on the other side. Alex wants something he can't have; and I want to be Alex. Sometimes.

"You could have it, if you wanted," he states, eerily reading my mind. "The wine, the women, the song. You could be Alex Krycek if you wanted." Then his smile twists up, frazzled yarn in the tapestry of his face. "You could be an honorary rat."

"Get out of my head," I say irritably, scratching my arms. He smirks.

"It's all over your face. Look, princess, I could make you the prettiest girl at the ball if you want."

"Grandmother, what big teeth you have," I spit out, sourly, and head for the shower. As I undress, I hear him talking to me through the door. "All you have to know is this: kill or be killed. Everything else you can take in stride, but killing, well that's the thing you have to get over." He continues talking, but I've turned on the water. I don't want him to know how much I want it, how much I want to be like him.

Two. Mercenary.

We stand in the observation room of Georgetown Memorial Hospital. Alex has latched onto my wrist: his fingers clench and release in a pattern that will cause bruises later. And on the screen, Fox Mulder screams hoarsely as his Scully-less world fuzzes and greys.

"Where is she?" I whisper. I think that if I speak aloud, Mulder will hear me.

"She's in West Africa," says Krycek in a normal tone. "She's about to blow the lid off of a major conspiracy. And you don't have to whisper."

"What's in West Africa?" I ask. But before he can reply, Mulder suddenly wheels to face the camera. He shoves his face into the lens and we can both hear him clearly as he screams again.

"Kryyyycek, I know you're watching me, I know you can hear me, Krycek, get me out of here, Alex, let me out of this crazy-house, I'm not crazy, oh, Alex, Alex, Alex. . . ." His cracked voice rises and behind me, I hear Alex whimper. He will break my wrist in a moment. I lead him out of the room and into the main white hall, which is deserted. It is five in the morning, so no one but me is there to hear him whisper "Fox," and roughly wipe his eyes. When he looks at me, his bright, feverish gaze defies me to speak. We have left the hospital before I find something to say.

"He was just desperate," I venture. "If he knew I was there, he'd have begged me too."

"I know," he says shortly. We came in a cab and Alex told him to wait, but apparently the guy didn't bother. The street on both sides is almost deserted, except for people coming to the hospital and the occasional passing car.

"We're gonna have to walk," he says, and begins pacing measuredly up the street. I follow as best I can, but he outpaces me. I feel sorry for him again, the usual flip side of my jealousy. I want to offer to let him beat me up; if I thought it would help, I might do it. Half the time I want to kill Alex, and the other half of the time I want to offer him anything. We turn the corner into a seedier area and Alex begins to slow down, obviously waiting for me. I hurry. We say nothing, pacing side by side, just trying to get home.

Halfway down the block, a dark blue Mustang with the bass thumping pulls up beside me. A skinny white guy wearing a tie and glasses leans out of the passenger side window. In a heavy English accent, he yells over his stereo, "I'm really lost, man. Do ya know the way to 27th from here?"

Alex, who is on the curbside, smiles twistedly at me and pivots toward the man. As he does so, he grabs my hand and places it on his waistband, where the man in front of him can't see. At the small of his back, something lumps up like a metal tumor and I pull it out from under Alex's shirt: a Smith & Wesson 9mm. Alex calls it his 'spare.' I don't understand why Alex wants me to take the gun, why he doesn't just draw it himself. I feel a cold sweat begin to sheen on my cheek. Something is happening here; I'm not sure whether I want to stay around for it.

"You wanted it, now you've got it," he says to the man in the car, but he's talking to me. Suddenly he steps composedly to the right as a gun goes off. There is a hollow thonk! sound as the bullet imbeds itself in Krycek's fake arm. The skinny man with the tie, who now holds a pistol in his own hand, wears a look of terminal shock on his face: guess no one told him about the arm. Alex says, calmly, to me: "Shoot him." And I raise the gun, sighting over Alex's shoulder, and the trigger seems to pull itself.

There is very little kick to the shot; Alex spent a lot of money on that gun. The shock of it vibrates through my shoulder, and I see over Alex that the skinny man now sports a small black hole in the middle of his forehead. Behind him, the driver of the car is covered in blood and brain-goo, and he is yelling something that sounds like "kooooo." The Mustang screeks away from the curb, and the last thing I see is skinny-man, who cannot keep himself upright anymore, slumping limply onto the dashboard. The back of his head is completely missing. Time has either sped up or slowed down; I feel like a bug stuck in flypaper.

I am suddenly, violently, inexplicably ill, but I don't throw up. Instead I hand the gun back to Alex and avoid his eyes as I walk down the street. My stomach feels as if it has its own pogo stick and is trying to jump out of my throat. I can hear him following me but it was too easy, that was too easy, I can't believe it is so easy to kill. Why, I could do that all day and all night. I think of the way that Alex just stepped aside, casually, letting the bullet bury itself in his arm. I think of Mulder, slowly disintegrating in a little padded room. He's killed before. How does he stay sane? It hurts to think. I believe I will give up my resolution about alcohol.

Down the block half-way, I see a bar/club set into the side of a building, aptly named "The Pit." I make my way over there. Alex, behind me, says "Jeffrey - " once, but then I hear no more from him, which relieves me. I enter the club, running smack into a wall of sound. Techno blasts from the huge speakers mounted on the walls. People mosh and jump all around me, a cacophany of movement that makes my stomach even worse.

But before I can belly up to the bar, a girl with glittery eyeshadow pulls me into the crowd. I go blind for awhile. And when I look up again, it is three hours later and I am doing some kind of modified tango with a girl in black leather fringe. My heart pounds triple-time and I gasp for air into her ear. She responds by backing me into a side-room and winding her white arms around me. She has black hair and a pointed face. I kiss her anyway. I close my eyes. I give her something, nothing, everything. Could she die by violence? Could I just wrap my hands around her throat? Mercifully, she gives me something else to put my hands on. I grasp her gently, like porcelain. So she won't - she - won't - oh, she won't break.

My watch says 8:15 when I awaken, alone, in what appears now to be a storeroom. The music has stopped. I pull on my shirt and my shoes and I leave through the back exit. Only three hours ago, I took the first step toward becoming like Alex. My brain feels soft and very vulnerable. I think of how little effort could be expended to make it pop right through my skull. Ouch. I walk home, thinking about Life According to Alex. He's brave and unscrupulous, and I'd add misguided to the list. He's abusive - I know that. He likes pain. Maybe that's the difference between us. I don't and never have. Not mine, not other peoples'. Alex plays games; I don't have the head for them. I can't think in twists and corners. I can't play chess. But I guess I could try to be brave and unscrupulous.

I mount the stairs to my apartment. Do I want this?

What do I want?

Absently I smooth my hand over my shirt as I climb the stairs. It's one of Alex's; it's a deep purple-black. It's silk. I feel funny wearing it. Alex is sitting on the couch as I walk in the door.

"Well, princess, looks like your coach didn't turn into a pumpkin after all," he says. I show my teeth to him.

"Alex, do you like killing?" I ask, involuntarily.

"Nah," he answers. "I don't like much of anything. Except cream soda, I like that."

Morning sunlight has taken the corners of the room. In the windowsill, grass grows. I sit down by Alex -- he's watching the news. No mention of a dead guy in Georgetown. I have killed someone, but the day moves on.

Alex sniffs at me. "You smell like cherries." I realize that I've got lip gloss on my mouth. From the black fringe girl, no doubt. I wipe it off with the back of my hand.

"I hate that crap," I say.

the end.

Notes: "A Light in the Attic" is from the book by the same name, author: Shel Silverstein. "I feel pretty" is Sondheim's ditty from West Side Story. "We two boys" is Whitman's Leaves of Grass.

I borrowed an image from Jen Stoy, and here it is: "The delight of Alex, our very own evil Alex, with just a little stubble going on in his best Eurotrash suit, creased black trousers, deep blue silk shirt, mocking his state of overdress (and of course, he's wearing lip gloss.)" Yow. I had to use it; of course, I twisted it to my own ends, but that isn't Jen's fault.

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