Another in the Cornerstone Series, with love to MJ. Follows after
"Saul's Tale" by yours truly, which follows "Mene
Mene Tekel Uparshin" by MJ. Rated PG for discussion of adult
matters. --Merri-Todd Webster
by Merri-Todd Webster
(17 July 1999)
(And Naaman said, "Shall there not then, I pray thee, be
given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth? for thy servant
will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto
other gods, but unto the LORD. In this thing the LORD pardon thy
servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to
worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in
the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon,
the LORD pardon thy servant this thing." --II Kings 5:17-18)
He's not a bad lad, after all. Funny to say that about someone
who does murder for pay, but it's true. If he were just a good
shot with a gun, a quick hand with a knife, or just a pretty face,
my master would never have taken him on.
The first time I saw him, I thought, This one's different. I've
seen a lot of fair-faced lads come and go--they all thought they
were a lot bigger in the world than they deserved to be, but they
found out--but I knew Krycek was going to be different. It wasn't
just that Master said the boy would be working for him; that's
been the official word on a lot of these goops. Makes it look
better, don't you know. I can't put my finger on it--no, wait,
yes, I can. He was dangerous. I took one look at Alex Krycek--dirty
as if he'd just come out of a furnace, touchy as a cat with a
singed tail--and knew he was a dangerous blighter if there ever
was one. Dangerous as Master, almost.
You wouldn't know it to look at him now, but my master is a holy
terror. I've been with him for over thirty years now, and I can
remember when he didn't sit back and let others do his dirty work.
He don't always, even now, you know. He's hard, when he needs
to be. He feels nothing he don't want to feel. For all his fine
manners, he can turn on you like a knife in your hand, and cut
you to pieces, if he has to. He makes a good friend--a good master--and
a bad enemy, let me tell you. He doesn't like weakness and won't
keep it around him. Not for long--that's why few of those pretty
lads lasted with him. His missus is just like him, for all they
haven't lived together since before I came to him, and their children
all just like mashed potatoes, soft and buttery, whining when
things don't go their way. It doesn't figure, but there it is.
At any rate, I spotted pretty soon that this Krycek was about
as weak as an adder, and he really was working for Master. Not
that he didn't work for him by night as by day, if you know what
I mean, but he *did* work by day. Master was teaching him The
Business--the real work he does, the work none of those pudding
children of his know about. So that's how it is, I says to myself.
He's found a proper heir at last.
I got to know the lad a little better one night when he took me
out to the pub and stood me a few drinks. With a name like that,
I thought he'd be brought up to drink only vodka, but damned if
he didn't order an black-and-tan and put away as many of them
as I did. I seem to remember telling him that I was a race car
driver once, before a bad smash-up that convinced me to look for
a safer line of work. We both had a good laugh about my current
situation being that "safer line of work". I also might
have told him that it was getting caught with my knickers down
and one of my pit crew having his way with me that really got
me out of racing. Time to quit before my name was on every dirty
rag in the United Kingdom, in big red letters. So now you know
why I don't mind the master's pretty friends.
But Krycek really showed what he was made of when little Benjie
fell out of the yew tree and broke his leg. Master couldn't attend
to it himself--I know that could have broken his heart if he'd
let it--and I was surprised that he turned to Alex to do it instead.
Griffin was there, after all--cold bitch that she is, but she
*is* in charge of the children, as much of a mum or a dad as the
little tykes ever see. But he turned to Alex and I have to say,
he took care of our little boy right. He didn't turn all sugary-sweet
just because he was speaking to a child, but he wasn't harsh,
either. He was kinder to the boy than I thought he had in him,
for all he can bat his eyelashes and charm anybody he wants to,
man or woman or stone. He didn't try to charm Benjamin; no, I
got the feeling he knew what it was like to be hurting and feel
you mustn't cry, no matter what. His kindness was real because
it had real hurt behind it. And he spent a lot of time with the
boy in hospital that he didn't really have to. I liked Alex better
When it came time for the master to disappear, I wasn't surprised
that Alex was one of the few who knew. It made sense, after all,
with him taking over the business. I was surprised when he came
to Geneva with the missus, though. They seemed to understand one
another, just so. The master had kept his boys out of her sight,
mostly--sometimes she came to have a look without asking--but
he was always careful not to hurt her feelings. I don't think
he ever had any of those friends till well after they'd separated.
Nor did she do him a bad turn by parading around in the City with
her lover, whatsisname. She stayed in the country with her Scot,
mostly, and when master and missus had to appear together in public,
they always did it properly.
Well, right before she left Geneva, she asked me to bring two
brandies and let Mr. Krycek know she would like to see him. Oh,
I wanted to be a fly on the wall for *that* meeting! I was sure
she'd never spoken to any of the playmates before, but of course
she must know he'd taken over the business--she knew all about
that, though she wasn't involved in it. Still, the missus went
back to the air field, the master went in for his usual bath,
and I had another surprise when *Alex* came to tell me master
was finished and wanted my help. Seeing the master in his bath
now, was he?
He spent the night with Alex, then, and I'll swear before God
and man, that's never happened before. Not with a one of them.
The other boys were lucky if they got to stay overnight at the
big house, instead of having himself come to visit them. So what's
going on here? I says to myself. I figured it out when I brought
breakfast to the library, as usual, and caught 'em staring at
each other like lovesick calves. Oh ho, I thought. The master
had thawed at last, and the clever green-eyed lad had the old
man's heart. What would happen now?
I've been watching to see what would happen, ever since. Wondering
if anything would change. If Alex would disappoint. But Krycek
flies back to Geneva from time to time--this house is in his name--and
once, an elderly woman with a thick accent and a snow-white bun
piled up on her head came to visit, and turned out to be Krycek's
mother. She was another holy terror--taught cook to make piroshki,
had us all laughing like fools at bawdy jokes. I mind me of Benny
Hill in a dress.
Then there was the time they parted at the airport, the last time
Krycek left Geneva. Master took a huge risk in coming out in the
car. He did it for Alex. Servants don't see or hear anything,
of course, but I'll never forget how the master wept after Alex
said, "I love you," kissed him goodbye, and got out
of the car. I'd never seen anything like that nor thought to.
It made me feel queer about being there, about the whole thing.
At any rate, as far as I can see, Alex is doing what master trained
him how to do, doing it well and reliable, and that's what matters.
And when he does come to visit, master still sleeps in Alex's
bed. So it's all right with me, as far as it goes. I take care
of my master. And so does Alex Krycek.
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All Nick. All the time.