An Alex Krycek backstory for the Sanctuary universe
The awkwardness of Ché and Krycek's first
(Imagine an accent. Ché is from Eastern Europe.)
Something small is tossed from behind the couch as I enter the living room. It hits the bookcase and bounces off--a crumpled piece of paper. I ignore it and go to the computer, where I check my upload. The rate is good. By sitting down, I could casually glance toward the darkened end of the room, where the couch has been turned to give Comrade Krycek some privacy on the spare mattress behind it. But it would be a deliberate invasion of his privacy. I cannot bring myself to do it.
Instead, I make my way to the kitchen, put the kettle on to boil and reach for my favorite cup. What sounds like a grunt comes from the far end of the room, though I cannot be sure over the low rumbling on the stove. The noise increases and before the whistling can start, I switch off the burner and pour the steaming water over the tea ball in my cup. Gradually the water is stained a deep, fragrant gold. We have done everything right, Krycek and I, since he arrived this afternoon, and yet things are not right. I find myself walking on eggshells, as they say, and Krycek is strangely subdued. It has been like this from the first, when he knocked on my door.
Hi, he said. He managed a bit of a smile. Then we embraced in the usual fashion, but I was more careful than usual, and it did not escape me that his left arm rose only as far as my elbow. I looked at his bag, then at him, and he spoke of it immediately, which was a relief. No point dancing around the obvious, he said, and I asked what had happened, and he told me the story of the men in the woods, though what he was doing in the woods and the nature of the experiments the men were trying to avoid, he did not mention. I hear only fragments of any of Krycek's stories. Sometimes--possibly most times--I realize I am better off not knowing the details he omits.
But I digress. He described for me the month he'd spent in Brussels, and the process of fitting an artificial arm, and the experience of learning how to use it. He demonstrated the clasping motion of thumb and fingers. Like tongs, he said. As if it were nothing.
Which of course it is not.
The building? he asked then. Had I discovered who might be Mulder's contact? His bag was immediately deposited beside the couch, his overcoat came off, we sat down at the computer and looked over the information I had gathered. For a few minutes there, working together, I saw the man I've always known: strong, focused.
I dip the tea ball absently in my cup. Across the room, a shadow rises from behind the couch and disappears into the hallway. The bathroom door closes. I squeeze a little lemon into my tea and take it to the computer. Settling myself, I pull up the file listing the occupants of Krycek's New York building and begin to work my way through the document yet again. I have never before known Krycek to wear anything resembling pajamas. Indeed, his appearance this afternoon surprised me, the dark suit and fine silk shirt, though the first time I saw him--in Prague--he was dressed formally. But I have become used to the man in the leather jacket and faded jeans. That man I know. As well as one knows Krycek.
The sound of flushing comes from beyond the hallway and suddenly it strikes me how very difficult it must be to pull up a pair of pants--even of the elastic-waisted variety--with only one hand. A moment later Krycek returns to his mattress. I stare at the list on the screen. My guest says nothing but merely disappears from view. Jet-lag, he'd said when he retired to the mattress several hours ago. It is the first time he has ever felt a need to excuse his silence.
Dinner was where the awkwardness began. Usually we have more to say. Some convenient detail is seized upon and used for conversational material: the countryside beyond Prague, the pitfalls of bureaucratic institutions, or the recipes of my mother, whose specialties I have reproduced to the best of my ability for our current meal. The progress of the soccer season. Krycek seemed to have little heart for small talk this time. But then he has never before come to me after losing an arm. Perhaps he understood how carefully I planned the meal to avoid any awkward moments--stew with no pieces large enough to need cutting, garlic bread that had been already sliced and buttered before it was heated. Perhaps my forethought offended him.
A sigh comes from beyond the couch, accompanied by the sound of blankets and pillow being repositioned.
"You are warm enough back there?"
"Yeah. I'm okay."
I refocus on my document.
More sounds of restlessness come from behind the couch and finally there is silence. A moment later my neighbor's footsteps can be heard coming up the stairs. She pauses on the landing. Something--no doubt a bag of groceries--thuds softly beside her and a key is poked at the lock. She needs new glasses; I have watched her squint, focusing on the keyhole. Next month, she says. She is saving for the cost of the exam.
"Would you do it again?" comes a voice from the shadows. "You know--if you could've seen ahead to how things would play out?"
I turn, surprised. "Do what?"
"Hack those files."
"The first ones. The Prague files."
My mouth opens, but he continues.
"You know, if it meant the difference between... say, between seeing your father again--having some kind of regular life--or not." A pause. "Or just being able to stay in Prague, not having to deal with the craziness of getting used to a foreign place--"
"You mean, like trying in vain to find good palacinky?"
"Yeah, like trying to find palacinky."
I wait but nothing more is said.
"We were not allowed to see my father anyway," I begin. "It was a deliberate part of the--"
"I know, but--" He pauses. "Is it worth it, I guess? Are you satisfied with what you've got, what you're doing?"
My eyebrows rise involuntarily.
"Is it enough?" he says.
"Enough for what it's cost you?"
Krycek's words hang in the quiet that follows. From the sound of his voice I know he has turned again on the mattress. Now he sighs. His tone has been quiet, pensive, not the voice of certainty I am used to, quick to decide or command, or taut with frustrations whose origins I am left to guess.
"There is no denying the trouble I would be in in Prague, comrade. Or rather, the prison I would be in. Here I am safely anonymous. It was the only way."
I switch off my monitor, make my way through the darkened room to the couch and settle myself on the rug in front of it.
"There was this old man in Brussels," Krycek's voice comes again after a long pause. "Old guy. White hair. Lost an arm in the thirties and they'd just taken one of his legs. Used to tell me stories about his grandkids--"
I lean back against the couch and let my head fall against the seat cushion. An arc of light from the street lamp outside reaches toward the far corner of the room.
"Ever think about settling down?"
I pull myself upright. "Me?"
"There somebody over there besides you?"
I shrug. "I would not object if the right woman came along. But I am not the social type. I'm... a geek; you know that. I would require a woman open to foreigners, who was not put off by men with very pale skin or the intrigue of the internet."
"You could wow her with your cooking."
"Of course. Why not?"
He is laughing at me now--not laughing, but there is a quiet chuckle to his voice.
"No, I'm serious. You could. It's good stuff. Good stuff," the words echo again after a pause.
I lean back again and stare up at the ceiling.
"My father," I start, and take a moment to picture him, "was able to send us letters from time to time. The ones they officially allowed him were censored, of course, and said nothing. But there was one guard who would occasionally sneak correspondence to us. They were very precious to us, those letters; both my father and the guard could have been shot had they been discovered. My father was very firm, always, in his beliefs. He told us to bear up, that it was because he loved us that he was in prison, that sometimes life makes our intentions and our realities appear to work at cross-purposes. Often I have thought about this--whether I did the right thing in coming here, in leaving my mother to go forward not only without a husband but without a son as well. Yet I have done so many things here I could never do in Prague. I have the ability to make connections, to trade information that has benefited many struggling people, a great satisfaction for a closet revolutionary such as myself."
I glance toward the window. "As a boy I wondered why my father must show his love in such a way, by being absent from us. Now I have seen the other side of the coin, you know? And yet still I wonder how much my family has suffered so that I may attain this other success, this gain." My eyes close. "How is my mother's resolve now, knowing my father is finally gone? If I were there, would her burden be less? But there is no way of knowing." I sigh. It is difficult even to picture her properly anymore; it has been nine years. I open my eyes and watch the slight red glow on the curtains turn to green. "One of the things my father said in those letters was that our sufferings often build within us unexpected strengths. The muscles we develop in trying to scale the impossible peak are nonetheless strengthened for other tasks as well."
I pause. There is no reply. The breathing coming from beyond the couch is steady and light, but it is not the breathing of sleep. Quite obviously, our conversation is at an end. I get up from the floor and go quietly to the bedroom where I confront a pile of unfolded laundry. I work through the items absently, picking up one after another. I have not seen this before, Krycek asking questions that reveal him. I move from one task to another, organizing, cleaning. Before I know it, half an hour has slipped away. It is then, when a stack of clean towels takes me to the kitchen, that I hear his breathing again. This time it comes in short, painful gasps.
"Is there anything I can get you?"
"It's just... There's this pain sometimes. Hits at night, mostly." He sits up in the shadows and I can see him rocking back and forth. "In Brussels, I'd go out walking... in the courtyard... like a labyrinth, this garden full of little hedges--" He stops and swallows another breath. "Can't do that here, under the old man's nose--"
I murmur agreement, though my mind is fixed on a box sitting in my hall closet. This is the appropriate time. I leave the room, retrieve the item with some trepidation and return, reminding myself, as if I did not already know, that he will not want an audience. He does not like to be catered to. But is it preferable to let him suffer? I step forward and make my way around the end of the couch.
"I came across something that may help," I say. "Try this." I hold it out.
"What is it?" He glances up. Pain glistens in his eyes.
"A special kind of fabric. Here--"
He takes it.
"They weave it from steel and nylon. How it works is not completely understood, but many people find it takes away this kind of pain. It is suggested to wrap it around your... what is left of your arm."
I swallow but he seems not to have noticed my blunder. He does as I tell him. After a few moments he eases himself down against the pillow.
"You find this online?"
"Where else? The world at one's fingertips." I pause a moment. "Do you feel anything?"
"Seems... better. A little better, yeah."
I excuse myself and turn to go.
I glance back. He doesn't turn or look up.
I return to my room. Ten minutes later when I approach the doorway again, I am met by the sound of shallow, even breathing. Coming close, I find Krycek on his side, mouth slightly open, asleep and apparently peaceful. I pull the blanket up farther around his shoulders and pause above the shadowed form of my friend. He has always been strong-willed, determined, hard as a diamond. I myself treat him carefully, as I would a loaded weapon. But the kind of strength he has honed in the past will do nothing against this new adversary.
And yet he possesses other strengths of which he is perhaps unaware. I remind myself that this dangerous man is also the one who saved a seventeen-year-old boy from sure ruin in his own country by bringing him here to safety. For all I owe him, he has never demanded any pound of flesh in return. Surely that is a strength. It is a building block.
Sleep, Aleksei. Morning will come soon enough.
© bardsmaid 2005 |