Later, there will be regret or an emotion akin to it. For now, though, there is only pleasure and that is enough.
She exits, quickly and quietly. She doesn't mumble an excuse or promise to call or make me promise I will call her. She doesn't even make me promise to never tell. This one knows better; she knows I have no one to confess to. I can't say I'm not thankful. It's nice to be relieved of playing the heavy for once.
The light from the hallway seeps into the room and evaporates along with her. I am alone. Not a situation I am unfamiliar with. Not a situation I am uncomfortable with. The truth being that I enjoy the solitary nature of my existence. Let's face it; the problem with "the company of others" is that it is just that.
Afterwards, there is the cleansing process. Normally, I find the imprint of another's touch, the tickle of their kiss, the odor of their sex disquieting; it's just too damn personal. Tonight, though, I find myself hard pressed to drag my sated body out of the entangled sheets. I linger, telling myself that this conquest is a personal victory to be savored. I ignore the hard truth; I've been used.
I dress, every muscle protesting. As I slip on my shirt, her scent invades my senses. My clothes are tainted with her perfume. I suppose she planned it that way. What better revenge than to give me what I want while illustrating its fleeting nature? Let me know what I've been missing, while making it clear I will never have it again.
I saw it coming, but didn't move out of the way. I let her run right over me. I deserve it.
She approaches the bar and orders a drink, giving me nothing more than a cursory glance. The bartender sets her drink down as she slides into the seat beside me. I watch her more than a bit confused. I wait for her to speak; she never does. She sits beside me, pretending she doesn't know who I am and watches Sports Center mindlessly. Men approach her, try hard to engage her in conversation. She acts disinterested until eventually they give up.
The hours pass, the occupancy of the bar reaching its high tide then ebbing. She's been nursing the same beer for about twenty minutes. Clearly, she doesn't need courage -- women like her don't need the pretense of inebriation; their courage is branded into them early on. They do what they want, accepting the consequences willingly. The bar begins to empty; the bartender does the last call.
"Anything for you?" he asks her. She drags her eyes away from the television, regarding him softly then smiles and shakes her head.
The bartender is clearly taken aback. He fumbles over his words as he asks me, without looking at me, whether I want anything more. I decline. I'm comfortable: not drunk, not sober. I don't dare tip the balance. He retreats to the end of the bar, leaving us alone at our end of the world.
Her hair is longer then when I saw her last. Where once she was soft and supple she is now defined, hard lines and edges to her. She is impossibly petite, still incredibly youthful. She takes one last drink, carefully setting her glass down at the end of it. Finally, she turns to me; the warmth flushes out of me.
There are few words between us. There doesn't need to be a whole lot said. We both know what this is. And still, as she slips her coat off, I think of a million things I could say, wish I could say. She does that to me. I can see by the predatory glance she tosses me, that she knows it.
She undresses without ceremony, draping her things neatly across on the chair beside her. I sit on at the foot of the bed and watch. My throat clenches, burns, my mouth suddenly dry. She stands before me, hand on hip, satin bra and panties the only thing between me and refuge. She smiles mischievously, ordering me to undress then adds a coy 'never mind' as she crosses the small space between us, informing me she will take care of the matter herself.
She doesn't know the power she has over me. The power she has always had. She traces the path of my spine. Or maybe she does. Her hand slips down to my ass then between my legs. Maybe she has always known.
The air in my apartment is stale. The smell of dead flowers permeates the entire place. I drop my bags in the entryway, step into the living room and give the place a long look. I can hardly breathe. I can hardly believe I am home.
I take care of the mundane details first. I call my lawyer, my accountant, my broker. They are all glad to hear I am well, and that I enjoyed my extended stay in the Orient. It's been so nice being back from the dead -even if it is only as my alter ego. The one I have nurtured since it became apparent being myself might not be the best option. Nice, playing the model citizen; one that pays taxes and runs a successful consulting firm from his home office.
I won't deny that having an air of credibility appeals to me. Part of me relishes having a piece of myself that's untainted, untarnished by my own life. I peruse the earning statements copied to me by my accountant and can't help but smile. Henry Colburn has done very well.
I don't know what she tells herself. I don't know how she rationalizes our meetings. She should have nothing but hatred for me. Nothing to reward my betrayals and subterfuge with but anger and resentment, a need to punish me, to make me pay. Yet, here she is, three barstools down from me, acknowledging me in all sorts of small ways. I can't fathom what has brought her to me. She must have so many questions; must need more answers than even I can give her. She turns to me, her cool gaze latching onto mine. Suddenly, I don't care what brings her here, only that she is.
At the most inappropriate moments, I find myself wondering if she is setting me up. She bites the soft part of my shoulder. Wondering if this seduction is part of some elaborate plan to actually do what Skinner only pretended to that night so long ago. Her nails scratch my back. I moan into her hair, whisper her name into the dark groove her neck. Scully. She is suddenly still. I feel her blood pulsing, strong and fast beneath my lips. A small gurgle erupts from her throat. She pushes me back, holding me at arms length.
"Are you all right, Scully?"
She takes a long look at my face; fear and shock intermingled in her eyes.
I regard her cautiously, uncertain of how to proceed. Her hand slides across my chest to my left shoulder, tracing the long scar with her palm. She cups my face with the other, her thumb caressing my cheek. She stares into my eyes, boring into me the way no one except Marita ever could. I feel her take a strangle hold of me; I am hers.
The moment doesn't last.
She quickly drops her hands. I feel her retreat. We are in bed together, our bodies pressed and joined, but we couldn't be further apart. As I begin to pull away, she stops me.
"Don't. Don't stop," She whispers, choking on each word, clearly ashamed of her needs.
I wait for something more. Validation or at least acknowledgment, anything that will make me stop feeling like a fucking whore. A feeling I'm already too familiar with, a role I swore never to reprise, a life I gave up when I gave up being Alex Krycek. She closes her eyes, tears peeking out of the corners and swallows hard, draping her arm across her face.
It is dangerous. I don't need anyone to tell me so. I maybe dead, but there is still revenge to be exacted on me by those who would have destroyed me long ago. I run the hot water, fill my palm with shaving cream, spreading it slowly across three days worth of stubble and regard my own reflection curiously, mildly annoyed at how little I recognize of myself. The man I used to be would never have taken the kind of chances I am taking now. He would never have traded his safety for a piece of ass.
I rinse my hands.
A piece of ass? I shake the water off. With her it is more than that. The man I used to be and the man I am now both know it has always been more that. What wouldn't I have sacrificed in the past for her graces? I wipe a strip of lather off my lips. Didn't I pay over and over to gain her favor? Was it my fault she never knew? Never understood the role I played in keeping her alive? Keeping Mulder alive? Would she have believed me if I had ever dared tell her? Didn't I try? I dip the razor into the warm water. No matter. Mulder's gone.
I stare into my own hardened eyes. Whatever else might have changed; they remain the same. The fact is I am still here. I beat them all.
I step into the kitchen, bare feet leaving moist footprints on the black tile. I peruse the contents of my kitchen cabinets, finding there is nothing that can in anyway be called appetizing residing there. Tucking in the tip of my towel around my waist, as I move into the living room. Half way to the couch, the call comes in. It comes in on a secure line; a line completely separate from the one Mr. Colburn conducts business on. I am paralyzed. I hear the phone ringing but don't actually believe it could be. I stare at it, waiting for it to stop. Eventually, it does.
I arrive at the prescribed time -a time prescribed by precedent not mutual agreement- and slip into my usual spot, prepared to wait however long it takes for her to arrive. I order vodka straight, gulp it down and order another. I run through the list one more time, but come to the same conclusion. There is not one person on the short list of people who might posses that number that is still alive. I finish off my drink; ask for more. Apprehension burns like an ulcer in my heart.
It was presumptuous of me to think I could slip back into the real world without consequences. How could I have carelessly tossed aside all the hard work and preparation just to have her? I consider the veracity of that statement and conclude that while she clearly has me, I don't nor will I ever have her.
She never shows.
The bartender removes my empty glass. "I think you've had enough." He tells me, ignoring my belligerent glare.
"I certainly have." Tossing a bill at him, I stumble out.
The secure line is ringing when I enter the apartment.
I had made my escape in the trunk of Skinner's car, working carefully within the confined space to clean up his mess, prying free the make up and special effects cartridge, which had helped me convince everyone present that I was dead. My life in exchange for his own, for Scully's and her baby. Hours later, I was half way to New York, to a first class ticket to London on the Concorde, from there just a stopover away to a syndicate clinic in Moscow where I would be made whole.
I was on my way to a new life.
I was on my way to freedom.
As I stand in the living room watching the telephone, it dawns on me; I was never free. I never will be. The past always comes back to haunt you. The phone sputters a half ring and falls silent. All you can do is face it and eliminate the threat.
Alex Krycek hated mornings; Henry Colburn does not. I wake at dawn, walk four blocks in the morning light to my favorite coffee shop. There, I read the paper, watching the passersby as I eat breakfast. Mr. Colburn likes leisure, seeing as how Alex Krycek never had the opportunity to become acquainted with the concept.
I peruse the headlines, only mildly interested the conflicts and economic hardships plaguing the rest of the world. Truth is that that world never really applied to me anyway. I existed on another plane in an underworld inhabited by an unfortunate few, with even fewer ever making their escape from it. She never understood how fortunate she really was. Never realized how many dead bodies paved the way for her survival. I, on the other hand, have no delusions.
She arrives, looking frazzled and annoyed and slips into the seat beside me. A single glance tells me this isn't how she likes to play the game.
"Would you like anything?" I ask her.
She shakes her head, irritated. "What do you want?"
"You didn't show last week."
She crosses her arms around her purse. "I'm not going to have this discussion with you. I don't owe you any explanations. Don't push me, Henry."
Is that derision I hear as she spits my name? My name...not my name, that's not me. I realize suddenly that it never will be.
"I was expecting you..."
"Stop it!" She clutches the strap of her bag tightly, her knuckles turning white under the stress.
"I know who you are." She hisses, leaning in close. "I know who you are."
"I never doubted that."
She falls back against her seat, shaking her head. Either she doesn't believe me or she is surprised by my lack of guile.
"How did you know?" I ask casually, as if her admission that she is the sole person left able to identify me is of no consequence.
Her mouth opens and closes like fish struggling for air or a like a woman grasping at straws.
"Are you sure you wouldn't like something to drink?"
She runs the tip of her tongue across her dry lips, taking her bottom lip between her teeth.
"I'd like some water." She says, buying time for herself.
I wave down the waiter and order Scully a glass of water.
"How did you know?" I ask again.
She looks to her right, tipping her chin to her shoulder.
"I didn't." She admits. "Not at first."
I ponder the implications of her confession. She hadn't known who I was. I had been a stranger to her, a man like any another.
"Why what?" She demands, regarding me impatiently. Then as if suddenly understanding the question, she adds. "It's personal. It has nothing to do with you."
Not a good enough answer, not really, but it's also not the focus of my inquiry. I'm not here to do anything but assess the risk she might pose to me. I try to shove the comment out of mind, but can't. Personal?
Her thumb slips between her middle and ring finger. Ah, personal. It makes perfect sense.
"You're married, aren't you?"
The question is like a slap across her face. "That is none of your fucking business."
Her spiteful response is all the affirmation I need.
I finish my drink, anything to disguise my resentment. It doesn't matter that I knew she was using me. Hearing her all but admit it still makes me angry; it still makes me bitter.
"What gave me away?" I ask, changing the course of our conversation in a weak attempt to desensitize my inquiry.
She shifts uncomfortably in her seat. She doesn't want to say. Why? I press her for a response.
After a long silence, she mutters. "Your voice. The way you said my name. I never told you my last name." She looks up at me, her expression lacking any of the umbrage, acrimony that was evident only moments before. "And your eyes, the scars."
Dread claws its way up my body. My voice? The way I said her name? Hadn't she told me her last name? My eyes? Is she being facetious? How can she claim to know me that well? How can she expect that I would believe that she could recall such detail? Scars? What did she know of my scars? When had there been occasion for her to have anything but a cursory look?
She is uncomfortable; my protracted silence is not helping alleviate that in any way.
In all the years I interacted with her she never once gave me the impression that she had noticed anything about me, let alone such minute details, yet... Doubt seeps in through the cracks, gnawing at my resolve. I sift through the handful of interactions I had with her, searching for a clue. The thought that I let the opportunity for something more slip past me is unacceptable.
"Are you all right?" She asks cautiously.
I step back into the conversation, ignoring her prior admissions. "Are you the one calling?"
"I wanted to confirm my suspicions."
"Where did you get the number?"
"Skinner gave it to me-a long time ago. I thought it was worth a shot."
The waiter sets down her water and asks if she'd like something more. She regards him impatiently and he begs off.
I supposed she means to sound indignant, but doesn't quite manage it.
"Why did you keep coming back?"
She sighs, closes her eyes for an instant, obviously tired of my questions, tired of my company.
"You are my last tie to that life. I needed to cut you loose, purge you from my system. I needed to know there nothing buried in the past worth resurrecting. I needed to know it was over. You've plagued me long enough. I came back, so I could finally let you go."
She stands, draping the strap of her purse on her shoulder. She leans down, kisses the corner of my mouth, her long hair tickling my cheek. "Good-bye, Alex."
I watch her walk away. Watch as her hand glides into her pocket. Watch as she slides her wedding band onto her finger. As she disappears onto the crowded sidewalk, my own words taunt me.
The past always comes back to haunt you. All you can do is face it and eliminate the threat.