Saul's Tale: In Two Parts
by Merri-Todd Webster
(17 July 1999)


I: The Armour-Bearer

(And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he
loved him greatly, and he became his armour bearer....
And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon
Saul, David took an harp and played it with his hand: So Saul
was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed
from him. --I Samuel 16:21, 23, AV)

I miss him.

Those are simple words to convey the depth of what I feel.
It is an ache not unlike the ache of arthritis in my hands,
constant, dull, unyielding. An ache like the loss of a tooth,
a gap which the tongue searches out again and again.

I miss him. I have never allowed myself to miss anyone.

I love my grandson Benjamin above all my other children and
grandchildren, but I never miss him. When he is away from
me, he is safe, out of the reach of the dangers from which I
have spent my life protecting him. When he is with me, it is
a joy, but his absence is clean and simple, like the cutting away
of dead stalks which have no more life or feeling. In his absence
the work goes on.

Now Alex does my work for me, and oh, how I miss him.

I pace the halls at night, unable to sleep. Tomkins knows why, but
mercifully, he says nothing. Elisabeth writes me long letters,
diverting me with talk of the sheep, the hunt, the cup our
granddaughter Alicia won, and mentioning, as if casually,
that she heard from him, that they spoke briefly on the phone.
I read and re-read Blake, Dante, Shakespeare, Eliot, Auden, far
into the night, falling asleep at last in Alex's room, in the armchair
where once I only watched him, sitting upright with the book fallen
from between my stiff old fingers.

Geneva is lovely--even its cloudy grey days are beautiful, at
least to an old Londoner like me--but with Alex gone, I don't care.
He has taken over my work, you see, and I have nothing to do *but*
miss him, worry about him. The lake, the mountains, the wildflowers
give me no joy without him by my side, listening with that little
half-smile on his face as I ramble on about botany, history,
plate tectonics. We spent so many hours walking together--
I taught him how to walk, Americans are all so bound to their
four-wheeled drive--around the lake, and up into the foothills,
and back again in the evening to a soak in the tub, and the
sweetness of his body in the darkness of the curtained bed.

How to describe what Alex gave me in giving me his body, and his
heart? It was... new, something I'd never had before. It was as new
as what I had with Peter, my first lover, at Oxford; as new as what
I had with Elisabeth in the first days of our marriage, the discovery
that I could feel some of that same ardour with a woman--we were
passionate together and it was good, though the passion did not
last. It was something other than either of those loves, and certainly
far different from what I'd bought with my patronage of young men
before him. If I accomplish nothing else, at least I've convinced Alex
that he is more, far more than merely a pretty boy, or a hired killer.

Before we parted--before I sent him out to work for Spender--in that
last moment before he left me in the limousine, he said, "I love you." And
my heart broke. Every instinct begged me to keep him always by my
side; all the wisdom of my years told me I had to send him forth. I
held him close to me and told him what I had to tell him, that he must
play the game for me, and *win*, for me, for Benjamin, for all of us.
When he closed the door behind him, I covered my face with my hands
and wept, trusting in Tomkins neither to see, nor to hear, nor to speak.

I look out at the lake in the mornings as I sip my tea, eat half of a scone
or a few bites of sausage before pushing my plate away. No matter what
its weather, there is a dark cloud hanging over me. I am depressed, as
people like to say now. When I was young, one was never depressed. One
kept a stiff up lip and carried on, regardless. Now I am old, and Alex carries
on, and I wait. Wait to hear how the game is going; wait to hear that he is
well; wait to hear Tomkins announce him. Only his presence can dispel the
gloom that hangs over me, as only the harp of David could dispel the
torments of Saul. But David was also Saul's armour-bearer, and then the
commander of his armies, and the husband of his daughter.

I look up from the _Times_ and see a sight which I cannot believe, yet it
fills me with hope. Tomkins has come in, and he is... smiling.

*********

II: A Meeting at Endor

(Then Saul said unto his servants, "Seek out for me a woman
that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her."
And his servants said to him, "Behold, there is a woman that hath
a familiar spirit at Endor." So Saul disguised himself, and put on
other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came
to the woman by night, and he said, "I pray thee divine unto me by
the familiar spirit, and bring me up him whom I shall name unto
thee." --I Samuel 28: 7-8, AV)

***

As soon as I saw Alex's face, I knew my boy hadn't been able to
handle it.

I had hoped, you see. Even I can still hope. I hoped I could--make
something of the boy. Of my son. My son. That he could follow in
my footsteps. I hoped. But hope is a pipe dream, and it disappears
faster than smoke on the exhale. I knew he'd blown it as soon as I
saw Alex's face.

It twists my gut that Alex Krycek should be the one to tell me. Of
course, he has to be the one to tell me. I sent him along as back-up.
Not because he's such a good driver. I knew that if Jeffrey--failed,
Alex could be counted on to finish the job. Even to finish Jeffrey, if I
asked him. Though I'll do my boy the honor of doing that myself.

No, what galled me wasn't that Alex had to step in and take over.
What galled me was hearing about it from him. The way he does it.
He sits right on the edge of my old couch as if he's too good for the
place. He sits on my old couch with that little smirk on his face and
tells me--with obvious self-satisfaction--that Jeffrey almost puked
at the sight of the dead shapeshifter.

He's dressed better than I've ever seen him. He must have learned
it from the old Brit. I've never cared what I looked like or what people
thought about me; why should I care when I've got the power to kill
them or keep them alive? It doesn't matter to me if I look less
important than I am. But the old man was upper-crust, the kind of
blueblood who learns how to pick a tailor at the same time as he
learns how to pick a horse or a gun or a wife, and his taste has
rubbed off on Krycek. A silk shirt, a long black coat, very expensive,
pants that won't wrinkle no matter what you do to them. Not quite
a dandy like the old man, but--a far cry from the ambitious kid in a
cheap suit that I first met at a track meet at Quantico, or the thug
in a beat-up leather jacket, his eyes swimming with the black oil, that
I shut the door on at the missile silo.

Not for the first time, I wonder what really went on between
those two. Krycek had asked his lordship for protection against me,
and he'd gotten it. The Englishman and I--never been able to stand the
sight of each other. But every man has his vice; I get mine out of
a vending machine for three dollars a pack. I know what kind of
candy the old man liked. And even if I'm not interested, I know Alex
Krycek must look pretty sweet to a man with those tastes. I'm just
not sure if Alex is any good at being a boytoy. He did a lousy job of
seducing Mulder, after all. Yet he looks calm, confident, and just
a little bit--contemptuous, as he tells me how Jeffrey turned his back
on me. Went after his mother. Threw away everything I had to give
him.

I have to admit, even as I blow cheap cigarette smoke onto those
expensive tailor-made clothes, the old man succeeded in something
where I've failed. I hate to say it, but, well, it's true. He took a nobody
as his protege and made him a player; he put Alex Krycek, the son of
Russian immigrants that nobody trusted, the man who bungled with
Mulder, into a position where we have to listen to him. To take him
into account. And along the way, he cleaned up his grammar,
improved his wardrobe, and probably took him to the opera.

As for me, I had a son, by the woman who was the key to the whole
project. Cassandra's son.... I groomed him carefully--I thought--
from a distance, to take over my hand and play the cards I'd chosen.
And now my old rival's pretty, well-groomed successor sits on my
couch and tells me Jeffrey is a failure. And, by inference, so am I.

I take a long drag of my cigarette--it's burnt down almost to my lips--
and blow it out into his face. We all pay a price for getting what we
want. Alex's price, right now, is that he has to work with me. The way
his eyes squint up even as he grins right into the smoke tells me he
hasn't forgotten the car bomb, or Hong Kong, or the silo. And neither
have I. Just what did you tell him, old man? How much does he know?
If I believed in ghosts, I'd look for an apparition in the smoke, conjure
up the ghost of his lordship. For now, I just listen to Alex. And wait.

***