It is, but it isn't like Alex Krycek to utter pointless trifles. He stands there, leaning his shoulder against the side windowsill, looking out at the water.
"Yes, it is," I say. I drop ice into my glass, then his. The cubes tinkle when I pour liqueur over them. "Have you been to this part of the world before?"
"London," he says. "I came here with-" He stops.
"With Miss Covarrubias, yes," I say, neatly bridging the gap. "You were under surveillance at the time." He shifts a little. "But not Somerset?"
He shakes his head. "It's pretty." It seems a strange word to hear from him, but then, what words are there? Pretty. Quaint. Picturesque. None of them seem like Krycek.
"I was raised here. The water you can see is Bridgwater Bay. There's a lighthouse just out of view - I used to play there as a boy." He glances at me over his shoulder, frowning, then turns back to face the water again.
"You've always lived here?" The question gives me pause. I suppose that kind of stability seems odd to him. He himself has not had it since he had the misfortune of being recruited by my colleague in Washington.
"No," I say momentarily. "I had a house with my wife. Smaller than this. She went with the hostages in 1972. My father had passed away by then, so I brought the children here. It was - easier." He makes a small sound. Not quite sympathy, but something close to it, and I hasten to explain. "She wanted to go. She was terminally ill anyway. It was better than sending one of the children." He watches as I approach, and he nods. Understanding.
Right on cue.
That's a cynical thought, I suppose, but it is kinder than it first seems. This is not very different to any of our other conversations, after all. It is a negotiation. A means to an end. We have been enemies; now, our circumstances force us to be allies. This conversation, this awkward, mutual self-disclosure, is nothing more than a series of concessions made in the name of forging a truce.
Not that it is unwelcome. Not at all. His understanding is a comfort of sorts, I suppose, and I sense that mine is a comfort to him also. And in honesty, I don't dislike the man.
But ultimately, it's just one more strategic move. For both of us.
He takes the drink I hold out for him. "Thanks." He turns back to the window. I match him, leaning against the other side, looking out at the bay in the dark.
He drinks his liqueur. We both do. We don't look at one another.
"My butler is making up the guesthouse for you," I say finally. "You'll stay there." I don't permit him room to argue. He would refuse on general principles, and I doubt he has anywhere to go. Marita has an apartment in Kensington, and it's possible that he has a key, but I don't think he'd be willing to go there. Not yet.
He nods. "All right."
"You'll be my driver," I say. "That will do for an explanation for your living arrangements." I wonder if he will argue, but I doubt it. Krycek never cared much for people's impressions of him. He just wants to get the job done. I rather like him for that.
"The fallen rebel, reduced to begging for scraps," he says sardonically, but there is no bitterness in his voice.
I nod. "Something like that."
He looks at me over his glass. "You want me away from Marita."
"You can't do anything for her. It's for the best." He looks away. "I'll do what I can for her. She'll be treated as humanely as she can be, in the circumstances." It is a hollow promise, and we both know it. I could be removed from the equation at any time.
His Adam's apple bobs a little as he swallows. "Thank you."
Oh, that must have hurt. Men like Krycek can't stand indebtedness. He's still young. It isn't until you get older that you realise that all debts get repaid. One way or another.
"There's a more prosaic reason for your living arrangements," I tell him after a moment. He looks at me. "If I should be eliminated, I will need someone to see to my grandchildren. Arrangements have been made for their care, but they will need an escort." That's mostly to alleviate the indebtedness, of course, but it can't hurt. My colleagues are not in the habit of third-party revenge executions, but there's always a first time.
"I'll take care of it."
"They'll go to my estate in Charlottesville. There's a woman there. Lydia Charne-Sayrre. She'll take them."
I grit my teeth. "That's right."
"A doctor too, isn't she?"
I shoot him a look of warning. "I know you ordered it. Peskow was very talkative by the time my men finished with him."
"Yeah, I heard about that." He drains his drink. "I didn't think you had it in you."
I drain mine. "Every man can be brutal when something he values is lost."
He looks at me sharply. "Then why are you helping us?" he demands, and the pronoun takes me by surprise. Suddenly, I understand his secret fear. That I will take Marita from him. That she will be my revenge for Bonita.
"Men in our position don't have the luxury of grudges. There are too few of us left." My reflection in the window looks suddenly haggard. "And I'd have done it myself if I could have."
The confession seems to shock him. He stares at me. Frowning.
"I knew it needed to be done." I can say that, now, after the passage of a year - now, when the actions of my colleagues have shown me all too plainly what Alex Krycek understood long ago. That salvation would never, could never come of the work of the Consortium.
But sometimes, I remember her laughing on her horse that last day in Charlottesville, and I wish -
Well. Better to forget. At least for a while.
"So - Marita - isn't revenge," he says. Hesitantly.
I shake my head. "No. It just has to be done. You know that."
"Yeah. I know." He pushes away from the window and nods to the bar. "May I?"
I hand him my glass. "I'll have a top-up, too." He nods and retreats to the bar.
"Do you need anything?" I wonder presently. It's more a courtesy than anything. I don't really expect him to say yes. I have already provided him with a change of clothes, and I can't imagine any other needs he might have overnight. His expense account will cover any further needs when he goes to the village in the morning.
"Some antiseptic cream," he says after a moment. "And bandages."
I turn and look at him. Puzzled.
"I'm not supposed to wear it for this long," he explains, looking studiously into his glass. He pours himself a double.
I look at him. At his arm.
I think about it. He removed it, perhaps, with Marita. I had them followed, of course, and I know they argued about her taking the boy to Mulder. That she left him, and defied him, taking the boy anyway. I know that much. I did not, however, seek the intimate details of their encounter. Our cigarette smoking friend might have. I did not.
So that was Tuesday. I handcuffed him there Tuesday night. Left him there to stew in his juices until he gave me the vaccine Wednesday night. Left him there while I saw to Marita. Finally freed him and enlisted his aid with Mulder on Thursday. We took a night flight and arrived here-
Four days? He's been wearing it for four days?
"I'm sorry," I say. The realisation is shameful. "I didn't realise."
He presses his lips together, shrugging, and brings our drinks back to the window. I take mine. "It's okay," he says, and of course it is not, but I nod, accepting the gesture.
"Thank you," I say into my glass.
He shrugs again. "It's not so bad now. I've adjusted." Part of that is bravado, I'm sure, but not all of it. He's very adaptable. That's why he's still alive.
"But at first?" I wonder. I shouldn't ask, but the words leave my mouth before I think about them.
He takes a long swallow of his drink. "Marita came. She-"
Strange to think of her going to nurse him. I've read their files, of course, but she didn't strike me as the type. Too crisp and businesslike. But then, Bonita was like that, and still, she was there for me. I remember her hovering over me when I came to. "A coronary, darling. It's not at all original." I remember -
"Yes," I say, as though in agreement. Completely out of context, but he doesn't question me. Surveillance is a two-way street.
We drink a while. Thoughts adrift, a continent away. Mine with the woman he took away. His with the woman whose destiny I hold in the palm of my hand.
"What are you thinking?" he asks after a while.
"That war makes for strange bedfellows."
A nerve in his cheek flickers. "Yes. It does."
We don't look at each other.
We just stand there, drinking our liqueur in the dark.