Krycek had always hated jail, even when he knew he was in no danger of being stuck there for very long. Prisoners, by definition, weren't cunning enough to avoid getting caught, so they didn't make very interesting company. More than anything, he hated the boredom. After the phone call, there was nothing to do but hurry up and wait. Today, jail seemed like an absurd inconvenience -- didn't the pigs in this town know an imminent viral apocalypse when they saw one? Chasing down B&Es in sleepy suburbia should have been the least of their concerns.
Krycek was incredibly hungry.
Slouching on the wooden bench, he leaned back to peer through the bars of the cell door, trying to see what the guard at the table was (noisily) eating. The lard-ass had one arm elbow-deep in a box of saltines, and was thumbing through People Magazine in an annoyingly self-satisfied way.
Krycek sat back with a short, irritated sigh. He turned his eyes on the only other prisoner in the cell: a short, stout man who was half curled up on the opposite bench, wrapped in a strange kind of coat that looked a few sizes too big for him. He had a round and pasty face, set with quick, beady little eyes that darted every which way (but seemed to be directed at the carbohydrate-loving guard most of the time). He had a slightly turned-up nose, and the lines of his face fell in a way that made him look constantly terrified. He looked like a real nobody -- but Krycek had learned long ago that sometimes it was the nobodies you had to watch out for.
He'd just turned away to see if he could spot a clock, when the man shifted, and a gleam of metal caught the light. Krycek looked back sharply. It was a prosthetic hand -- looked like it was made entirely out of silver, and the way the joints articulated was impossibly smooth. He couldn't help but stare, until the man jerked the hand protectively back under his coat. Krycek met the man's eyes, surprised in spite of himself.
"Didn't your mother teach you any manners?" the man demanded in a quavering, high-pitched British voice.
Krycek shook his head. "Etiquette isn't too far up on the list of priorities for KGB hit men," he answered roughly -- his throat was dry. "Or hit women," he added.
The man made an indignant noise, but he looked strangely blank, as if he hadn't really understood what Krycek was talking about.
"What are you in for?"
"Theft and trespassing," the man said. "But if people don't keep their gardens properly warded, then how am I meant to *know* I can't eat their turnips?" he added piteously.
Krycek raised an eyebrow, then scoffed. "That's gonna be your defense? Good luck."
The man shifted uncomfortably. "Things are... different where I come from."
"Apparently." The man's foot was poking out from under his coat; Krycek could see part of what looked like a very pointy shoe. "What are you doing in the States?"
"Hiding," the man said frankly, hugging his knees. "From some people who are trying to kill me. Rather a lot of people, actually," he added on reflection.
Krycek breathed a tired, unsmiling laugh. "Tell me about it."
"I just wish they'd understand," the man went on, furrowing his brow and addressing the wall above Krycek's head. "If only they'd realise the *danger* they're putting themselves in. Pursuing petty grudges... Following weak leaders... Putting noble principles before consequences... If they truly wanted the world put right, they'd accept that there have got to be *sacrifices*!" The man punctuated his point by hitting his fist against his palm. Unfortunately, it was the metal fist, and he let out a very undignified cry of surprised pain -- a squeak, almost.
Krycek couldn't stifle a hissing snicker. "That's a nice little gauntlet you've got there," he said, jerking his chin at the prosthesis.
The man looked down at his hand, cradling it protectively. His lips slowly curled into a smile of cautious pride. "It was a gift from my master," he murmured. "A reward for loyal service." He raised his eyes to Krycek's arm. "You know something of sacrifice too, I think..."
"Yeah," he said softly, adjusting the dead weight that hung from his shoulder with a bitter smile. "That's what loyalty gets you, all right."
The man didn't seem to have caught the irony. He nodded. "A leader must have the loyalty of his servants, or he is lost..."
"That's true," Krycek said.
The man sighed. "Do you think someone will come to interrogate us?" he asked, scratching at the side of his neck with quick little digs of his fingernails.
"Interrogate a couple of trespassing drifters? I doubt it."
"Really," the man said, raising his eyebrows as if pleasantly surprised. "As prisons go, this is really quite nice."
Krycek shrugged. "I've been in a lot worse. Central heating goes a long way to making a place feel like home."
"Oh, I'm not planning to stay all that long," the man said in a detached tone, peering out the tiny window at the climbing moon.
"Neither am I."
The man looked back at him, cocking his head sharply. "Oh? What's your plan of escape?"
"There's somebody... who has a tendency to get me out of trouble."
The man looked doubtful. "I wouldn't put my trust in anyone... Not in times like these."
"Your boss trusts you. You said."
The man flinched and trembled slightly. "That's because he's... stronger than I am. He knows things no-one else knows..."
"You always think that," Krycek said. "But chances are, a guy who acts like he's got all the answers up his sleeve... he's really just blowing smoke up your ass to get ahead."
The man gave a brief, twitchy smile. "I think I can tell the difference," he said. "How long do you reckon it's been?" he asked after a pause, glancing anxiously out the window again.
"Since they brought you in? I don't know, an hour?" Krycek turned and whistled sharply to draw the guard's attention. "Hey, you! How long till dinner?"
The guard only sneered and went back to pointedly stuffing his face with saltines.
Krycek cursed and ran his hand back through his hair. "I'm starving."
"You look like you haven't been eating very well," the man observed.
"I haven't, the last couple weeks."
The man nodded and sighed wistfully. "It's hard, living on nothing but cheese and chocolate."
Krycek looked at him quizzically, but no explanation was forthcoming. He'd just decided it must be some strange British idiom, when--
BANG! A sound like a muffled thunderclap from somewhere around the corner, followed by shattering glass and shouts of confusion; Krycek was instantly on his feet and at the cell door, pressing against the bars trying to see what was going on. The guard had jumped up too, overturning his chair and sending the box of saltines flying. He glanced briefly at his two prisoners before rushing into the squad room. A low cloud of dust was billowing slowly down the corridor. Krycek couldn't be certain his mind wasn't playing tricks on him, but it sure as hell looked like the dust was... pink. And unusually glittery.
Krycek's fellow prisoner pushed himself to his feet with a melancholy sigh. "What a waste," he said, shaking his head. "That was my favourite wand."
Krycek twisted around to ask the guy what the hell he was talking about, but the words never quite made it out.
Before his eyes, the round-faced man melted away, and in his place appeared a large, scruffy rat.
The rat trotted through the bars of the cell door, its silver front paw chittering against the concrete floor. The way out was clear, but the rat suddenly stopped. It glanced back at Krycek, and then at the box of saltines lying on the floor. Coming to a decision, it dashed into the box and re-emerged with one of the crackers held delicately between its long teeth. Slipping back through the bars, it carefully put the food down next to Krycek's foot before darting out again.
The guard was returning, coughing and waving his hand at the pinkish smoke. The rat spared one last meaningful, beady-eyed glance at Krycek over its shoulder before it fled down the corridor and disappeared.
Krycek stared for a minute, and then gave the rat a quick goodbye salute. He picked the cracker up off the filthy concrete floor. It had two tiny, shallow indentations from rodent teeth, but was otherwise intact. He brushed it off and ate it with relish. It was a gift from a truly cunning man, and such a gift should definitely not be refused.