An Alex Krycek backstory for the Sanctuary universe
Scene: With Patty
NOTE: This wasn't so much a new story, since it basically expands on the material in Deep Water, but rather a writing assignment I set myself in an effort to explore two different views of the same scene. A bit of 'he saw/she saw'. Why did I write it in second person? Mostly because it came to me that way. But I think second person can useful if used judiciously. It provides a character with a convenient way to distance him- or herself from material that might otherwise be too painful to relive as a narrator.
It's not the first time you've wakened to find him like this, standing by the window in the dark, staring out. You roll slightly to see him better but he doesn't notice that you've stirred. A slash of light cuts across his stomach and trails down one bare hip. He's beautiful and you wonder again just how it all happened; there seem to be a few links missing in the logic when you try and recount it. But four weekends later he still shows up on Friday nights and every Saturday and Sunday morning you wake up loose and warm, tangled with this man.
Nights sometimes seem like a page from another story.
He looks over quickly.
"Were you dreaming again?"
"Do I dream?" He seems to frown into the shadows.
"Sometimes," you say. "You toss sometimes."
He shrugs and looks back out the window.
Twice he's done more than toss: he's cried out in his sleep, as if trying to ward someone off. The words were garbled at best, except for the one you recognized--nyet. But maybe one of his parents or grandparents is Russian. Maybe he grew up with it, though he doesn't tell you enough about his life for you to know with any certainty.
"Hard work week," he says, and looks down at the window sill. He guards himself so well.
You let your head fall back on the pillow and stare at the ceiling, unsure whether to go to him or turn away. The air fills with a creeping uneasiness, as if you're a stranger in your own room.
"No, I--" He shakes his head and turns to face you.
You sit up.
"Why do you do it?" he says after a pause. There's a cold edge to his delivery.
"Put up with me."
Your mouth opens but no words find their way out.
"What do you get?" His sigh is as sharp as the tone of his last word.
"Get? Alex, this-- " Why is this happening? "It's not some kind of... business deal."
"Maybe you shouldn't."
He stares out the window a moment longer, then reaches down to pick his pants off the floor and starts to pull them on. You watch him zip up and put on his shirt. Your head is swimming; your pulse thuds a jarring rhythm, as if you were standing inside a drum. It's not a dream. He's picking up his shoes, heading toward the door but you stay where you are because you know that following will only make him go faster. Your fingers tighten to white against a fistful of cotton sheets.
At the door he glances back. "Maybe I should have looked where I was going that day in the grocery store."
Then he's gone. You hear the footsteps on the stairway and the sound of the front door closing when he finally goes out. You curl down against a pillow that smells of him and clench your teeth so hard they ache. Below the window his motorcycle rumbles to life. A minute later its roar melts into the distance and dissolves.
Suddenly it's so clear: the way this has been a convenience and not a relationship, each of you looking for something, giving something, too, but on your own terms. You've been playing house like two children, a fragile game of make-believe. The grocery store, for godsake: how could you ever explain it to anyone with a straight face? He picked you up in the grocery store and you brought him straight home to bed. The facts are stark--ugly--and what do they say about you?
Your lip hurts where your teeth are pressed into it, and your chest aches, stretched to bursting but filled with... emptiness, like the room around you.
You make yourself get up and go into the bathroom for your brush, but it's not on the counter. Looking up just a little, you see a strip of your green chemise in the lower part of the mirror. It was a fantasy purchase, the pretty green satin. Something to dream in, a substitute for having an actual man wrapped around you.
You take a deep breath and focus on the way the air courses through you. Beyond the end of the counter you notice your brush fallen into the trash can. You pick it up, clean it off and take it back into the bedroom, avoiding the temptation to look out the window. Settling on the end of the bed facing away from the door, away from the window, you start to brush through your tangled hair. Nobody deserves to be cursed with hair like this, the curls so tiny your hair puffs out like a fog around you unless you wrestle it into some kind of clip or hair band. Though, granted, it's not as bad here in California, without the Midwest humidity. Still, what a luxury it would be to have the slick, smooth hair that models have, hair that must feel like water flowing over you.
Even though you start at the bottom of each frizzy handful you take, the brush's progress is painfully slow. The hair pulls at the roots, making your eyes tear, and your throat aches, full of pressure. You fumble with the brush and when you catch it again, the bristles dig into the fingers of your other hand. You get up abruptly, walk the perimeter of the room, go downstairs to the kitchen and drink a glass of water slowly at the sink. The memory still lingers here, Alex gradually peeling away your defenses that first night, his fingers coaxing your body's desire naked and begging to the surface.
Leaving the glass on the counter, you wander into the living room. His jacket's gone from the end of the couch but the dishes you used for ice cream are still sitting on the coffee table. You take them to the sink and run water in them. He does show his private self--occasionally, when he doesn't realize it. When he curls up against your leg on the couch or when he first falls asleep and buries his head against you, giving the lie to his studied self-containment.
The air is cold. You shiver and go back to the kitchen, pick your brush from the counter and hurry upstairs. In the bedroom you sit down on the foot of the bed and begin to work again at your tangled hair. It's no better this time, slow progress and the needle-prick pain of pulled hair against your scalp. What tension you've walked off begins to build again. You suck in a sudden, sharp breath and in the startled silence that follows, you're aware of someone standing in the doorway. You jump involuntarily and turn. Alex stands in the shadows with his jacket on. You turn away and feel the brush pressed hard into your palm. Your eyes sting.
You scared me, you want to blurt out, but it must be obvious so your lips remain pressed together. No voice comes from behind you, only a silence that grows until it buzzes, and then his footsteps start toward you. You tighten.
"What're you doing?" he says, his voice quiet, intentionally subdued.
"Trying to untangle this awful hair." You shrug but don't turn to face him.
Your heart pounds and there's an almost physical sensation to the cushion of distance between your body and his. The cold takes you again and you shiver. Finally a knee pushes into the mattress behind you. You take the brush, grab another section of hair and start to brush it from the bottom. He sits behind you, the unseen pressure of his eyes burning into you. It's disconcerting. He goes. He comes back.
You keep to your work, barely realizing how the bristles scrape your knuckles. Then his hand catches your wrist. He tugs gently against the brush and after a second you let it go. Your lungs ache. Your hands, empty now, knot together in your lap.
A moment later a section of hair is lifted. He does what you did, brushing through from the bottom, working slowly, carefully upward. When he's done the brush moves away and you feel the warmth of his face buried in the hair beside your neck.
"This is the softest stuff."
He sits back. Fingers take your hair carefully, smooth it back from your temple, draw all of it into one hand and off to the side. Warm lips touch your bare shoulder. Neither of you says a word. Then the lips are replaced by the stubble of his cheek and his arms slip around you. His hands lock together around your waist and you sit there in the dark, rocking slightly with the rhythm of your pulse, cold where he's not against you, your arms over his. Gradually the events of the last hour begin to settle, no longer sharp enough to impale you. When you finally yawn he lets go, gets up, pulls you up to face him. Still he says nothing, but he looks at you squarely. Somewhere behind those green eyes a mental wall slips down.
Back in bed he pulls you into his arms and tucks his cheek against your head. In two hours you'll half-wake to fingers tracing your neck and shoulder and small kisses he won't realize you feel. For now he just holds you, pulls you a little closer and lets his lips graze your temple.
"It's nice hair," he says as you start to drift.
A warm hand settles beside your
You wake from a dream that your phone's ringing. It's the old man wondering about Harrison again, asking more questions, but you're not home to answer it; you're here, Patty tucked against your side. You open one eye. It's just starting to get light.
Your eye closes and you roll toward the window. Twice in the last three days he's called. You keep telling him Harrison's methodical. He's going to gather all the pieces, have all his ducks in a row before he tries to make any kind of move. There'll plenty of time to stop him. Anyway, it's your ass, not his. It's not Afghanistan. The cops are going to be looking for you afterward so you'd damn well better plan carefully.
She's up on one elbow, this sleep-thick look of alarm on her face, as if maybe she's only dreaming you. As if you hadn't come back last night after all.
"It's okay. Hey--" You roll toward her, kiss her cheek but her eyes still have that look. After a moment you pull her into your arms and smooth her hair back from her face. "It's early. Get some sleep."
You tuck your cheek against her temple and close your eyes. Somehow you're tangled around each other now. You don't remember it happening.
It was good last night before things went downhill. Your birthday's never been anything, just a day that follows any other day, but after dinner while you were lying on the couch she came in from the kitchen, something in her hand with a little lighted candle stuck in the top. Happy birthday, she said, and set it down on the coffee table. There was a wrapped package underneath it. Not much, she said, as if she needed to apologize for doing something nobody's ever done for you in all your twenty-three years: remember the day as if it counted for something.
She knocks herself out for you. How far did she say she had to go to get those berries? It was nice, her little shortcake. And the book was a good choice; she knows how much you like hiking those mountains. Half an hour later you were upstairs and it was... different somehow than it's ever been before. Better. Not that the sex itself had changed. It was a mood, maybe--as if the two of you were lying in your own private patch of sunlight while the rest of the world was gray and cold around you.
Your bubble burst around 2 a.m., the possibility that the old man might be tailing you jarring you awake. And at the window all you could think to do was turn things. As if it were her fault.
Might as well have stabbed her.
If only she knew who you were, and what the world was really like.
Or where it's headed.
She's lucky not to know; the place wouldn't be worth living in if everybody knew. Better she should be happy. She can breathe in the world she's got: work and her school plans and cooking for the old people upstairs. Or for you. It took guts coming out here from her home, leaving everything and starting a new life on her own.
You pull back and look at her, cheeks flushed, soft hair like a cloud between you. Just a short step off the path rushing toward crazy destruction, a space to breathe in, to smile; she makes you do that and it's really not so bad. Her lips sit slightly open. You lean closer, kiss the corner of her mouth and run a slow, wet line along her lower lip. A soft moan comes out of her. She reaches for you, urgency struggling with the thickness of sleep, and your body flares like the phosphorus on a match head. You lean toward her...
...and ease back again. She'll wake up and what will you say about last night? Some things you can work around, but last night isn't likely to be one of them. Not if you want this to go on. And you did come back, even though it's her turf, and half the time the game and the rules are a puzzle.
Patching up a misunderstanding with a woman: How did it come to this?
You try to think of excuses, or explanations, anything that'll make sense to her when you're not even sure it makes sense to you, and then your mind drifts to the old man. You've watched, gotten up in the night any number of times to look out that window, or the ones downstairs, and there's been nothing. Yet. But it's something he'd do--spy on you that way.
Yeah, well it's not Russia anymore. You're not a kid and what you do on your own time is none of his damn business.
When you wake again the room's warm and bright. She's easing away from you, leaving a cold spot where you've sweated against each other. You swallow against a sudden crawling in the pit of your stomach. No 'good morning' comes from the other side of the bed. You glance toward her. She's looking at you, wondering which way this will go.
"Hey." You try for a smile.
It takes a moment before the corners of her mouth start to pull up. You take a deep breath. No point in waiting.
"Last night--" Your voice is drier than you thought it would be. "What's the word they use? Dysfunctional? My family..." Your mouth's hot. "Not the best training, I guess, for--"
Real eloquence, stupid. You look away, toward the window, while the silence clangs like bells in your ears.
"Did your parents divorce, Alex?"
After a beat you nod but you don't look at her. It's close enough to the truth.
"It must be hard."
You swallow and then nod again. Damn knot in your throat.
Her fingers touch your forearm and slide up to take your hand. You turn and push up to meet her halfway. A touch of lips and she moves to get up. It's obvious she wants like anything to shake this awkwardness.
She goes into the bathroom without looking back. You lie there staring up at the ceiling, drained as if you'd run for miles. Finally you get up, go to the window and study the carport below. Nothing to catch your attention, no sign of anyone the old man might have sent. Not that it means you can let your guard down. You pull on your jeans, go downstairs and start coffee in the coffeemaker. It plays like a ghost scene in front of you: the first time you walked in here, in some other life, and the way she wanted you in spite of herself. The look in her eyes when she thought you might leave.
In the living room a shaft of light crosses the book she gave you, still on the coffee table nested in its wrappings. You sit down and start to thumb through it. 'Alex--Keep climbing' she's written inside the front cover in her typical understated way. How much more did she want to say but hold back, afraid she'd overstep? You start to flip through the pages. Some of the trails the book describes are ones the two of you have taken together. Others you'd like to try some Sunday. If there's time left. In however much time you have.
You sit back, put your feet up, make yourself turn the pages. Overhead, the water in the shower shuts off. The book falls open to a map insert showing the whole recreation area. Naturally, the first thing that catches your eye is the trail where Harrison goes off-roading. You let your head fall back against the cushions and will Harrison into a locked compartment in the back of your mind. In the darkness behind your closed eyes the village near the orphanage materializes: Lena's street but three doors down. A woman with a club-footed boy lives there. People hassle the kid; he scrawny and he's dead weight in a place where every hand reaching for bread needs to be a working hand just to keep a family in the basics. But the woman doesn't seem to notice. She handles him like he's some great gift, patient and careful like nobody else you've ever seen.
"Alex?" Patty stands in the doorway, a dust mop in one hand. "You want some coffee? It's ready." She smiles tentatively.
"In a minute. Come here."
"I need to dust this floor," she says.
You pat the cushion beside you. "Just for a minute."
She leaves her mop in the doorway and comes to sit beside you. You run a finger along her leg.
"Did I thank you for this?" You reach for the book.
"Well... yes." She nods.
She smiles, a little red-faced. There's an awkward beat of silence.
"I mean it." You reach for her, pull her close against you. Why did she do it, the village woman? You brush your lips against Patty's hairline. "That's for the book."
A moment later you do it again. She looks up.
"What was that for?"
You shake your head and try to hold a serious face but for some reason you're smiling. You pull her close again and hold her hard, maybe too hard.
Takes a minute before you realize she's holding you the same way.
© bardsmaid 2005 |