Title: Joseph's Tale
Author: MJ
Date posted: 5/24/99
Fandom: XF
Pairing: Krycek/Well-Manicured Man
Rating: PG
Spoilers: the movie, a bit...
Feedback: MJR91@aol.com



Joseph's Tale
by MJ


follows "Bilhah's Tale" in the Alex/WMM series; mirrors Merri-Todd
Webster's "Benjamin's Tale"

("Your son Joseph says this: 'God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come
down to me without delay. You will live in the region of Goshen where you will
be near me, you, your children, and your grandchildren... Give my father a
full report of the honour I enjoy in Egypt, and of all you have seen; and
quickly bring my father down here.' Then throwing his arms round the neck of his
brother Benjamin he wept; and Benjamin wept on his shoulder." Genesis
45:9-14, New Jerusalem Bible)


Before I came here, I thought that Somerset was a soap opera my mother
used to watch. But no, it's a county in England. We didn't get English
counties in geography class in high school. This is most definitely the country,
but the phrase "country house" over here doesn't have anything to do with
cutesy cottage decor and geese with blue neckbows that you see in Stateside
grocery store women's magagzines. This place is about as small a cottage as a
Newport "beach house" is a shack. I'd been here for weeks before I didn't
need a road map to get from my bedroom to the dining room for breakfast.
A family could live in one wing of this house and never meet the family
living in the other end if they didn't want to.

Which is why, although his grandchildren had been here for a good three
weeks, I hadn't come face to face with any of them. Of course, their
nanny, their tutor, and Miss Gilchrist thought it their duty to keep the brood
away from Bad Influences, and I think Miss Gilchrist, whatever her job with
these children is, determined that I was a Bad Influence within thirty seconds
of meeting me.

Don't get me wrong, I like kids. Usually with cornbread stuffing, cranberry
sauce, and mashed sweet potatoes with the marshmallows all over top. Hey,
I may be vicious, but you can't say I'm not a patriot. I told Gilchrist
that, and I meant it. No place like the States for a nice, roasted toddler with
giblet gravy. Anyway, Miss Gilchrist apparently decided the grandchildren
should be kept far away from me. I'm not sure if she thought I'd really
cook and eat them, or if she thought it was her solemn duty to protect the
children's minds from the impression that their grandfather was keeping a
harem of pretty young men.

I didn't have time to deal with these kids anyway, cute as they were. We
had a major strike against Spender planned, something that had the chance to
blow the whole balance of power in the project into shreds if it worked, and I
didn't have playtime with kidlets budgeted into my days.

But I needed to get away from the papers and the planning for a bit; I
needed to clear my head, to come up with some other ways we could use the vaccine
I'd brought back from Russia that hadn't been turned over to the
project -- you didn't think we gave them the whole lot I took from Russia, now
really -- to their disadvantage. It was chilly out, but a beautiful day; I thought
that a stroll around the grounds for half an hour might clear my head.

He was standing at the library window, watching them romping on the front
lawn with a look of absolute delight. He loves those children like
nothing I've ever seen. I interrupted him long enough to tell him that I was
going for a walk over by the rose garden. He turned away from the window just
long enough to nod and give me a very slight smile; then he turned his
attention back to the rousing game of tag that was happening outside.

I slipped on an overcoat, and the gloves I've taken to wearing, and had
just stepped round to his prize-winning Elizabethan old roses, when I heard two
things. The first was a very loud, very young screech. The second was
Tomkins, who came chasing after me a minute later. One of the swarm had
broken his leg while tagging the next It; the master had asked if I would
help Tomkins run his grandson to the hospital, as there was a dredfully
important call, and the master might be running to the City any minute.

I've done worse things in my life and not been bothered; of course I'd do
it. It was a break from the mind-numbing paperwork of world domination and
international conspiracy that day to do something vaguely associated with
Real Life. The old man had been teaching me about the real world I'd
managed to forget in the process of working with Spender; cleaning up after kids
is as real as the opera, or Renoir, or a thousand other things he loved to
talk about. Maybe more so. The aliens don't care about kids any more than
they do about Western civilization; in fact, they'd chomped on some kid in
Texas, Spender's people were saying.

I came around front and had no trouble finding the victim at all -- his
youngest grandson, his absolute favorite, from what little he'd said to
me. Our victim was curled up on the ground under the yew tree, where he'd
taken a very nasty fall for a young man his age and size. I bent over, took a
good look -- I think I frightened the poor kid, because I know I made a face
when I saw that leg. I know the kid wanted to cry pretty badly; I could see
that puffy, blubbery look they get when something cry-worthy has happened, but
he was holding it back big time. I forced the grimace off my face and tried
for a smile, which probably didn't help a lot. The angle on that leg -- the
kid might as well have been in one of Spender's explosions.

"What's your name, son?"

He hiccuped, trying to keep the tears back. "Benjamin, sir"

"Hi, Benjamin. You can call me Alex, and you don't have to call me'sir',
okay? Tomkins and I are going to take you to the hospital so they can fix
that leg."



"Where's Tomkins?" Benjamin was a smart kid, I gave him credit. He'd
never sen me before and he didn't trust me for dirt. Whether that was his
parents' doing, to keep him safe from kidnapping, or whether his grandfather had
drilled him on the fine art of not winding up like Samantha Mulder, I
didn't know. It was good training either way. But it wasn't really helpful in
trying to get him to the doctor right now. I bit my lip and decided to
try reason; kids usually do understand it.

"He's waiting by the car, waiting to drive really fast to take you there.
But you have to let me carry you to the car, Ben, you can't walk on that leg.

Benjamin nodded at me, I could see he knew he wasn't moving on his own, so
I got under his upper body with my right arm and tried as inconspicuously as
possible to adjust my left arm to support his legs. He didn't weigh that
much, but try carrying someone when you only have one arm. He leaned up
against me, and I could feel his chest heaving with the effort not to cry.

I know what that feels like. I spent more than enough nights at his age
with the covers over my head, trying the same trick so my father wouldn't hear
me.
.

His grandfather was outside, waiting for Benjamin to be loaded in the car.
Which was fortunate, because I really wanted him to tell Ben that it was
okay to go witrh me, that yeah, Alex Krycek's a liar, a thief, and a killer,
but that doesn't mean you can't trust him.

Ben gave his grandfather an enormous hug, and he got a kiss back in
return. Whatever that man thinks of me, I'm sure as hell not Ben. From the look
he gave that boy, I think God's a distant second on his list compared to his
grandson. "There's a good boy. You'll be more careful the next time you
climb the old yew, won't you? Alex will take care of you, and everything
will be all right. Won't it, Alex?"

I knew he wasn't talking only about Ben. He'd just entrusted me with his
grandson, but from the look he was giving me, I gathered we might be due
for a rapid acceleration of plans. He could only be heading out of town to
meet with Spender or that rich toad Strughold if he was being called to the
City right now. Damn. And I was now his second-in-command in his own
operations. If anything happened...

"Yes, sir. Everything will be all right." It was just going to have to be.

I got him out to the Mercedes and found Tomkins waiting for us, looking to
see if I needed help getting Ben into the car. I seemed to be doing okay,
so he climbed into the driver's seat, and once Ben was settled we took off like a bat
out of hell. I got Tomkins drunk once and found out he used to race cars.
Bet the old man doesn't know what happens to the Jaguar when there's no family
at the house..

The kid was doing a good job of trying to control himself, better than I'd
have done at his age, a little too stoic. Finally, he gave a big snuffle
of some sort. "You okay, Benjamin?"

"It hurts."

Of course it hurts. Tell me about it. I remember when my father -- but
that's another story, from another time, from an Alex Krycek I don't
remember. "I know it does, son. But Tomkins is driving as fast as he
can."

Ben snuggled up against me as much as he could considering the leg. Now
that he knew I was safe, he'd decided to get closer, and that was fine. I wish
I could have trusted adults when I was a kid. "Daddy says big boys
shouldn't cry, no matter how much it hurts." Yeah, mine said that too. Usually
when he'd done something first.

I had to snort, otherwise I'd have cursed, and the kid didn't need that --
besides, his grandfather would kill me. "Yeah, that's what daddies say,
but I don't think you're a really big boy, yet, do you, Benjamin? I won't tell if you want to cry a little bit, and Tomkins won't, either." Let's ignore that Fox cries on a dime.
Bet his father'd like knowing about that. It's been a long time since I
really cried. Getting it beaten out of you is pretty strong conditioning. And
the project always wondered why I don't feel pain.

"It hurts a lot. I feel dizzy."

"Come on and lie down, Ben." I got my hand on his head and let him get
settled against my leg. He wasn't too old to suck his thumb; the old
bitch Gilchrist hadn't gotten that juvenile pleasure out of his life yet. Good
for him.

"Nobody calls me 'Ben'." Factual, not resentful.

I ruffled the kid's hair, watched him snuggle in deeper. "Do you mind if
I call you that?"

"No."

"Good."

"What does your grandfather call you, Ben?"

"He calls me his dear boy. Sometimes his special boy. Or just Benjamin."
He would be formal. I've never seen him not formal. "Are you Grandpapa's
friend?" Ben asked
.
Gilchrist hadn't protected the little brat too much, had she? I wondered
exactly what Ben knew about his grandfather's arrangements, voted for the
nondisclosure that had kept me alive this long. "I work for him."

"Sometimes Grandpapa has a special friend. Usually his friend is a man.
Some of them haven't been very nice to me."

I'm not sure if that constituted too much information or not enough -- I
knew what his grandfather would have done to a few of his previous toyboys if
he'd known any of that. Obviously his little friends didn't -- apparently he
usually leaves his business out of his personal arrangements. "They were
stupid not to be nice to a boy like you, Ben." Big time stupid. For more
reasons than one.

"Can I tell you a secret?" Aha, I'm trustworthy. Thank you.

"Yes, you *may*." Lord, I sounded like my mother there. It must be a
genetic response to kidspeak.

"Daddy has a friend. A special friend. She lives far away and I'm not
supposed to ever talk about her in front of Mummy. It feels funny to keep
secrets from Mummy. Once she gave me a present, though. Daddy's friend,
I mean."

I smiled. Knowledge, as they say, is power. That sounded like a useful
piece of knowledge. I wondered if my employer knew about that. If he
didn't, he'd certainly appreciate knowing. "That was smart of her, Ben."
And dumb of daddy, thank you very much. " -- How's the leg?"

"It still hurts, but not so bad." The pain was starting to make him numb;
just as well, really. We were nearly at the hospital anyway.

I wasn't comfortable with that call my employer had gotten when I left. I
was torn between checking in and doing guard duty on Ben. But I realized
that nothing could happen tonight other than a project planning meeting;
he wouldn't need to act the very next day, surely. However, if they caught
wind of anything, Benjamin was all too exposed. They have a thing about family
members, or Spender does. So I voted for guard duty until I got word.
Then Ben's grandmother arrived. While I was on an important mission. Well,
two, actually, because I did call in. I heard Ben speaking when I got back up
to his room. "Where's Alex?"

"Right here, kiddo." I figured every kid his age needs balloons, and
they'd had some in the gift shop. So I bought out all the ones they had done up.
If Ben held them himself, he'd have floated away, so I tied them to the
bedframe. The nurses could hate me later. "You came through with flying
colors, Ben."

"Alex carried me to the car and held my hand through all the bad stuff,
Grandmama, he helped me a lot."

"Did he now...." She didn't have to be *that* incredulous, did she? I
knew she figured my primary function was family hit man, but really. After I
shook off what I thought might be a vague insult to my babysitting skills,
it occurred to me to wonder if she'd gotten the news herself. Oh, of course
she had. Otherwise he'd have been here himself.

"He was as good as gold, madam, and very brave. Hospitals are scary
places, aren't they, Ben?" God forbid he ever has some of the hospital
experiences Fox Mulder's had, or I've had.

She was looking distracted. That didn't surprise me, from what I'd been
told myself. I don't think she'd been prepared for the news to come this soon.

"When is Grandpapa coming to see me?" I looked at her; she stared back,
looking a bit more ill than Ben had earlier. She really hadn't been
prepared for it to happen yet, had she? I wasn't, myself, but at least I'd been
there with her husband. She wasn't going to have the chance to see him, I
realized.

"Excuse me, boys, I must go speak to Tomkins." She rushed out. She's a
tough woman, but this task was just a bit much even for her.

I crouched over at Ben's side, whispering. "I've got a secret to tell you,
Ben, but you mustn't tell anyone, ever, okay?"

"Okay...." He looked thrilled to hear a Secret. He wouldn't be so thrilled
once he'd heard it. Why do I get stuck with these things?

"This is like the secret about Daddy's friend, only even more important."
Was it ever. "Don't tell anyone. Okay?"

"Okay." Eyes as wide as a doped-up kid could get them. I liked him.

And here it went. Wonderful. "Your grandfather had to go away for a
while. Probably a long while. And he has to make certain people think that he's,
well, dead."

Ben started crying -- fortunatrely, quietly.. "Grandpapa's dead?"

"No! No, he just has to pretend. Because of a very important game that he
plays." Yeah, only the most important game on earth -- human survival.
"Like, you know, when you get 'out' in a game and you have to pretend you
aren't there any longer."

Benjamin snuffled hard and wiped his eyes. "Oh. Oh, I get it. I think I
get it." I thought so too. He was, after all, the tag champion of the
grandchild brood.

"Good boy. Because he's out in the game, you won't be able to see you for
a while. But he told me I could tell you about this and that you could come
visit him after a while." That was taking a few liberties with my actual
phone call earlier, but not many. I'd get forgiven one of these days.

"How soon?"

"Not for a while. But I'll see him, and your grandmother will see him,
and we'll tell him how good you were for the doctors and how you're getting better." It
would be a while before either of us saw him, as well, but I wasn't telling Ben
that. He wouldn't appreciate it, I knew.


Tomkins took him home, a few days later, back to his mother and that lout
of a father, while I ran down to help finish off the business we'd planned.
The last thing he did, after he left my bed and before I dropped him off for
his flight was to give me a list of instructions about Ben, who was up at the
house in Scotland, "Grandmama's house" as Ben would think of it. I gues
the wolf had to go pay a visit to grandma's house now.

I entered his bedroom at Grandmama's preceded by Grandmama, a maid, a huge
tray of scones and cakes and a teapot that could serve a few thousand.
Recovery burns up calories, I'm told. I have a pretty good appetite
myself, especially for cream scones, I've discovered. "There's someone to see you,
Ben my love."

"Alex!"

It was good to see young Master Benjamin, I had to admit. The kid was
growing on me; I could see why he was the favorite. I parked myself at
the edge of the bed, up near him, and honest to God, I thought of Christopher
Robin. Yeah, I read Winnie the Pooh as a kid. Spies read books too, you
know. "How's the leg, Ben?"

"I'll be on crutches, soon!"

"Good boy."

"Would you sign my cast?" He was practically bouncing. One or two other
signatures on it, from what I guessed o be neighboring children up here.
No daddy, and no Evil Gilchrist Woman on it. The handwriting styles
suggested I was the first adult he'd asked, which I think is an honor of some sort.
So of course, I had to.

"If you want." I'd worn a tweed hacking blazer over old corduroys;
fortunately, I had a map marker in one of the pockets, which I thought
would look better than a regular pen. Ben sat up to see what I was writing.

"Best wishes," I recited as I wrote, "from your... friend... Alex."

"Thanks!" Kids are the same everywhere. I got my casts signed, too, when
I wasa kid.

"You're welcome. Want some tea?"

"Not really." Not hungry? I doubted it. I was starving. If he saw me
eat something, he'd start eating, too.

If that Gilchrist bitch ever leaves, I ought to tell Ben's family I can do
twice the job she could without even trying. If I want to give up my
current work, that is. When all of this is over, maybe I'll be a rich, powerful
man who teaches kids how to be spies. It looks like I'd be good at it. "Well,
I do." I poured a cup of tea, found the lemon, and snagged a cream scone.
If only they had Russian tea instead, I'd have been a happy man. My mother
made the best tea I've ever drunk.

"Is that for me?" Ben pointed to the shiny package I'd been carrying.
Kids and packages. It might as well have been Christmas.

"This? Oh, yeah. It's for you." I handed it over, which gave me time to
go after another scone. The clerk at Harrod's had wrapped it very well when
I'd said it was going to Scotland with me. Ben was able to deal with the
paper after a moment, but the cardboard box underneath was proving a little bit
tricky. Fortunately, there are lots of uses for switchblades. I never go
anywhere without one. "Here--let me help you with that. "Take your hands
away, Benny-boy." He moved them way far away really quickly -- he's got
good reflexwes -- and I cut through the packing tape. I hate that stuff
with the strings in it. "There you go."

Ben went back to his quest with a vengeance, scarfing through the packing
ramie and generally making a mess of the bed. Finally he struck pay dirt
and nearly screamed. "A teddy!"

"That's what it is."

"Thank you, Alex!" Ben leaned forward and gave me the hug of my life.

So I hugged him baclk and passed on the latest news. "Thank *you*, Ben,
but it's not really *from* me. Remember our secret? The one not to talk
about?"

Ben nodded, putting his finger over his lips.

"That's who it's from."

Ben nodded at me, looking at the bear in near wonder. "Is it really,
truly?"

"Yes, it is, Ben."

He gazed at the bear again thoughtfully, finally burying his nose in its
fur. The thing was nearly as big as he was. Christopher Robin, indeed, but
the bear was too chocolate-brown to be a Pooh. "It's a smashing, big bear.
I'll name it Alex." A pause. "If you don't mind."

Spender once told me that the aliens had the secret of immortality. He
looked forward to finding it for himself, the wrinkled old bastard. I
don't think we need aliens for immortality. I think immortality is when someone
names their bear for you.