Categories > TV > Dark Angel > If Scheherazade

Ali Baba

by sheepy 0 reviews

Ben discovers the subtle shift from love to obsession to insanity. (Slash. "Pollo Loco" pre-ep.)

Category: Dark Angel - Rating: R - Genres: Angst - Characters: Ben, Krit, Zack - Warnings: [!!] [V] [X] - Published: 2005-05-19 - Updated: 2005-05-20 - 5215 words

If Scheherazade
by Melissa the Sheep (Pooh_Bah)

Part 2/6
Posted October 20, 2001


Ali Baba

"Ben, why are you doing this?"
"You know why."

You would ask Pike about Van, but you don't have the slightest idea where to find him. Few people ever do.

The next best thing is Krit, because somehow or another they always know about what the other's been up to. You need someone who listens, anyway, and Pike was never strong in that department. Krit has an address in New Orleans, and that's where you've gone.

It's four in the morning when you arrive at his door. He might be asleep, or he might not. You knock softly; he'll hear, because he sleeps as lightly as a dove.

There's shuffling inside, and Krit opens the door in wrinkled jeans and rumpled hair and a sleepy look more pronounced than ever. His brain is following at least five conscious trains of thought, and even groggy he can kill a man before anybody knows what's happening--but if you didn't know him, you'd never believe any of that.

"Ben?" he asks as he rubs one eye with the heel of his hand. "Wasn't expecting you."


"Come in." He nods over his shoulder and steps back so you can enter. He looks you over--he can't hide his inspection from you, and he doesn't try. He doesn't ask about the fading fingerprints on your throat or the way your face is still a little swollen, just puts a hand on your shoulder and gives you a concerned look. "You okay, Ben?"


"Zack?" You never did tell Krit about you and Zack, but it seems like he's always known. He always seemed to know about Joel and Ethan too. Breakups are the only reason you've ever come knocking on his door like this, unannounced, empty-handed, travel-worn.

"He left me."

"Shit," Krit mutters. It sounds more like he's annoyed for his own sake than for yours. You wonder if it's because Zack's screwing him now and your visit spells trouble--Krit's not above using sex to get what he wants, and you've wondered before about him and Zack.

"What do you mean?" you ask.

"Zack's an asshole 'n' you should be glad he's gone." Krit sounds almost like he thinks that's a real answer. He said the exact same thing about Ethan, four years ago, but it made so much more sense then.

He walks across the apartment to the miniature kitchen and finds a blue plastic glass and a jug of that moonshine he makes. He fills the cup and hands it to you. "Talk, Ben."

You've never had anything stronger than beer before, and the first swallows of Krit's whiskey burn almost as much as remembering the last time you saw Zack. Your throat adjusts and your sorrows lighten some as you stand there talking. Neither hurts quite as much when the story is over.

Krit refills your glass, and watches you closely as you take another swallow--you're not looking at him, but you can feel his eyes. "Zack's an asshole," he observes again as he refills the coffee mug he's been drinking his booze from.

You can't remember when he got his drink, or when the two of you sat down on the bed that's about all the furniture he has, or when the whiskey jug got as light as it seems now as he sets it back down on the floor, or why he's sitting so close that his shoulder brushes yours when he moves.

You stare down into your drink. The cup is a cheap plastic impression of frosted glass, made to hold innocent things like lemonade or milk or orange juice. In it, the moonshine looks almost like iced tea.

"Van says he dumped her too," you say.

"Pike told me about that," Krit agrees.

"She says he found Max."

"Oh yeah, Ben, he found Max." Krit's got a sly smile on his face when you look up at him, but he jumps right back to that expression that could mean almost anything.

You sigh and swallow more whiskey. "I tried to kill Van."

"So that's what happened to you, big brother." He reaches up and brushes his fingers against your still-bruised cheek. He must remember Ethan, must have been afraid it'd gone the same way with Zack.

"She'd be dead right now, if she wasn't as sharp as she is."

"You wouldn't be sorry about that," Krit notes.

"Yes I would." You'd be sorry that you couldn't keep your predatory instincts in check. You'd be sorry that the thoughts her blood stirred up had been beyond your control. You'd be sorry that you were losing your grip on humanity.

Krit cocks his head to one side. "Why?"

"If I killed her, it would mean I'd gone mental."

"It would mean you were jealous." He brushes your cheek again, and you wince a little this time.

"Mental," you insist. You don't want to explain it. It just is. Maybe Krit doesn't have moments like that and he can't understand.

Nobody says anything, and nobody moves.

Krit finally shifts, moving smoothly to kneel on the floor in front of you and put his other hand on your other shoulder. "You seen Syl lately?" he asks. You wonder about the change of subject. Maybe he's done all the listening he can handle.

"Last year," you say. "Why?"

"You think she was crazy?"

"Of course not." You look at him curiously, trying to decide how his face has changed in the last few seconds. He seems a little more calculating now, almost the way he looks when he sets out to talk his way into a naive stranger's money or seduce someone who's still half reluctant to come home with him. He's never used that expression much around you, and it's a little unnerving to wonder what's going through his head.

"She ever tell you about that guy she killed?"

"What guy?"

You notice a slight tension in Krit's lips. Most of the change has been in his eyes, though--harder, brighter, more alert.

"Zane tells me she killed this guy back in '15, right before he visited her. It was totally random, totally unprovoked. Z-man freaked out when she told him, high-tailed it back to Oklahoma."

"That's not sane," you say.

"You thought she just fine when you saw her."

"Maybe she wasn't really," you speculate darkly. Maybe there's something insane lurking inside all of you, in Van and Zack and Krit and Brin. Maybe even in Zane--maybe what scared him about Syl was that he almost understood why she did it.

Krit barks a laugh, amused at the way his analogy's been turned around, and runs his hands up and down your arms, from shoulders to elbows and back. "Well, no, Ben, that's not what I mean. Syl's okay--she's got her job and her apartment and everything, she hasn't done anything else fucked-up. Everybody does insane things once in a while, even normal people. I think we've got more right to it than they do, growing up like we did. . . . And if you killed Van, at least you got a reason. There's shitloads of jilted lovers out there who've done much stupider things with a hell of a lot less cause."

"You don't get it," you tell him.

"Explain it to me, then."

"Something in me wanted blood, and pain, and death. Like some animal."

"What else are you meant to want for the bitch? Sunshine and daisies? Hell, I want to kill Van sometimes. Somebody needs to save Pike from himself, and if she got iced, that just might do it."

You shake your head--he just doesn't understand. "You ever get nightmares, Krit?"

"You mean like about experiments and shit?" he asks.

"Like Jack getting dragged off, or us killing that Nomaly."

"Not those," says Krit. None of those ever did seem to bother him. "Why?"

"Forget it, Krit."


"What's Max like?" you ask, since Krit might know.

He takes a moment to reply, keeps on rubbing your arms through the sleeves of your shirt. "I hear she's a bad-ass, wouldn't listen to Zack when he told her to leave town, likes to steal things. I think that makes about nine of us kleptomaniacs, right? Me and Pike and Zack and Tinga and--"

"What's she look like?"

Krit shifts uneasily. "I hear she's pretty."

"What kind of pretty?" you prod after he doesn't elaborate.

Krit shrugs. "How many kinds of pretty are there?"

"A lot," you tell him. "What kind of pretty is Max?"

"Oh . . . Tall, skinny, kinda Hispanic-Asian."

You close your eyes, and drain your glass as you try to form a picture of Max in your head. Krit's hands disappear from your arms, and one of them brushes your fingers as he pulls your glass away to refill it.

Your eyes snap open to look at him as he empties the last of the moonshine into your cup, and then it hits you--he's tall, skinny, kinda Hispanic-Asian. You tip your head to one side. "How'd you hear about Max, anyway?"

He watches you cautiously as he hands back the glass, and he doesn't touch you. He's turned evasive and sneaky now, you note- -it's a side of him you've hated the few times he's shown it to you, but it's also one he can't quite get away from when things get dicey.

"I walked in on him screwing this girl, and then he put the moves on me the next day. Turns out me and the girl both look like Max."

It's no shock to hear that about Max. It wasn't even a shock when you guessed it a second ago. "So you slept with him, Krit?"

Krit raises one eyebrow and puts a tentative hand back on your shoulder. "There was nothing I wanted from him," he tells you.

"You're not answering my question." You hate it when Krit gives you answers that aren't really answers. Asking for explanations hasn't helped much before--he's just kept pussy-footing around-- but you're giving it a try anyway.

"Does it make any difference if I did?" Krit asks softly. He leans closer to you and his hand moves from your shoulder to your neck, brushing your barcode and the base of your skull and your back under your shirt collar. "He's horny, I'm easy, it wouldn't mean shit to either of us."

"It matters." You like Krit. You'd hate to lose him over Zack, but you know you couldn't take it if they were lovers. He would be another Van, and he might end up dead because he wouldn't be as quick and brutal with you as she had to be--he just doesn't have it in him to smack you around.

"Is there a difference here between 'would' and 'did'?" he asks.

"Just tell me."

"There was nothing I wanted from him. So I didn't. Never have, either."

You believe it, because Krit hardly ever lies outright, and because it's what you want to hear. You close your eyes, let him pull you into his arms and plant gentle kisses on your cheek.

"You would, though," you murmur. Even when Krit says something directly, there's a half that he leaves out.

"Yeah," he admits, breath warm against your cheek, hands untucking your shirt little by little and sliding over your bare skin underneath. "Most of us would, I think."

"You think?"

"Yeah. Pike and Zane are too damned straight, and Tinga's got her Charlie, but the rest of us would. The other girls don't have Charlies, so they go looking when they're in heat. And I'll screw anything in a skirt or a pair of pants, if they're cute or I'll get something out of it. . . . "

You open your eyes, look sideways at him. All you can see is hair and an ear. There's the faintest traces of a scar on his earlobe, aged tooth marks that somehow make you think of Syl. "What about me, Krit?"

"You loved him. Nobody's doubting that, Ben."

You twist out of Krit's arms and push him away. "No--am I cute or are you getting something?"

"What the hell would I get out of you, Ben?"

You shake your head, trying to clear the fog he's been creating little by little ever since he let you into the apartment. "I don't know. Something. Anything. Maybe you just want someone to play your twisted little mind games on."

"Ben, I wouldn't. You're too . . . too . . . too sweet, too innocent. I feel sorry for you, losing Zack like that, and I want you to feel better, maybe do something to take your mind off that bastard."

You jump to your feet, furious with him. "You look like the girl he left me for! How can this not be a mind game?"

"Because fucking with your head would be like kicking a puppy dog." Krit stays on the floor--you figure it's so you're the taller one and you feel less threatened.

"It's a mind game," you insist. "Everything is with you."

"Not everything. Not even most things."

"I wish you'd just admit it, Krit."

"Fine." He looks up at you with wide, sincere eyes. "I hate Zack's guts. You're his ex. He wants to fuck me but I won't let him." Krit pauses, offering you a guess.

"And it'd be a slap in the face if we were sleeping together," you say.

"Exactly." Krit smiles and gets to his feet, trails his thumb over your cheekbone and behind your ear, kisses you. "Don't tell me you don't want that, Ben," he whispers against your lips.

"I don't know. Not now."

Krit nods and steps back. "Okay."

You shiver, suddenly cold without the heat of his chest against you, his arms around your back, his lips on yours.

You've been in New Orleans almost a week and haven't left Krit's apartment once. He's been in and out, picking pockets, running scams, smuggling, brewing his moonshine, whatever he does. You talk with him when he's home. When he's gone, you sleep in the bed or just sit cross-legged on the floor and think the way that's going to drive Jondy batty one of these days. You sit there thinking when Krit's in bed asleep, too--he's invited you to sleep with him, no sex if you don't want it, but you're reluctant to do even that. You haven't touched him this whole time, no matter how often he brushes you or puts an arm casually around you while you two talk.

To tell the truth, you still can't get over his similarity to Max. You stare at him constantly, memorizing his features and guessing at what the feminine version would look like. You don't blame Zack for liking her . . . but you've looked at men you've liked, and you never left Zack over one, never even cheated on him all those four years.

It's Saturday morning now--almost five o'clock, judging by the slow bleed of light into the cold blue sky. Krit left the apartment this time yesterday and hasn't come home yet. You're not worried, because you know this is just how he is. He says he stays out all night every Friday because of parties and all the business deals to be make between dance sets. You've always thought it's just a feline need to prowl, because he's also been known to not come home on days of the week when there aren't a lot of parties. You're sitting on the floor, concentrating on listening for his footsteps coming down the hall.

Your attention is rewarded twelve minutes later, and Krit comes in the door looking rumpled and smug. He greets you before pulling his shirt over his head and tossing it into the corner with the heap of other laundry.

"Good night?" you ask as he's stepping out of his jeans.

"The best," he says.

"Boxers with little red hearts," you observe as the pants go sailing into the corner after the shirt. You've never seen those before, on him or in his laundry heap or in the dresser drawers he's been lending you clothes out of because you came here without any luggage. They're too loose on him, and he had to hold on to the waistband to keep from dropping them with his jeans.

"Yup," Krit agrees. "Didn't think they really made those, did you?" He drops into the bed, landing on his stomach and pulling the sheet over his head in one efficient move. He's slept on his stomach for as long as you can remember, and it's one of the few predictable things about him.

You've heard it takes twenty minutes to fall asleep, but Krit does it in under five, the same way every one of you drops off when they want to. You sit there, watch the lump under the sheet rise and fall, match your breathing to his, wait for his scent to spread through the apartment. You could smell the beer on him the moment he walked in the door--he was probably drinking right up to the moment he decided to come home, and you know he'll have an ugly hangover when he wakes up in four hours. Soon you can also smell traces of sultry perfume and aftershave that isn't his, and somehow that bothers you.

"Krit," you hiss.

He moves under the sheet, pulls it off his head and props himself up on his elbows to look at you.

"Who'd you sleep with last night?"

"Nobody you know," he assures you. "And 'sleep' is the wrong word."

"But who?"

"I was fooling around with Amy O'Hara in a club, and then I went home with a guy named Jean I found at a gay bar after Amy decided she'd rather be with Bubba Grant. God knows why anybody would want to go home with Bubba. But like I said, it was nobody you know."

You don't reply. You try to keep your expression neutral, but Krit must see something in it.

"Jealous, Ben?"

You shrug.

"There's plenty of me to go around," he reminds you.

"You're like Zack that way."

"Ohhhh," he says knowingly. "I'm sorry. It's just that I waited around for you for a week and that's a damned long time for me to go without getting laid."

"I've gone longer," you tell him coolly.

"You could grow spider webs waiting around for Zack to come screw you again," he remarks.

"Do you fool around all the time," you return, "or just between relationships?"

"The only relationship I ever really had was two years ago, and that was before I did much fooling around. We lasted a month and we broke up 'cause Steve got distracted by another boy."

You wrinkle your nose. "You were all of what, fifteen?" You were fourteen, Joel was twenty, he used you and you've come to regret starting so young.

"Sixteen," says Krit. "And Steve's my age, so it's not like you with Joel or Ethan. I still see him sometimes--slept with him last month, actually. First loves got a lot going for them, you know? . . . Anyway, I don't think I fool around while I'm in a relationship." Krit bats his eyes and gives you a coy little smile. "Wanna help me find out for sure?"

You don't answer, just stand up and walk out the door, leaving Krit sitting there wearing his borrowed shorts and an expression of surprise behind his five o'clock shadow.

You wander for blocks and blocks, shivering a little without the sun yet out to send up a muggy Louisiana heat, steering wide paths around the scattering of other early-rising pedestrians. Your pace is as rapid as you dare use in public, every brisk, measured step trying to release a bit of your frustration with Krit but not making any difference that you can tell.

Maybe your marching would help more if you knew exactly why it bothered you that he'd picked up a guy last night. You knew that 'fidelity' isn't in his vocabulary. He's never liked being trapped or tied down, by perimeter fences, by orders, by sector checkpoints, by anything or anybody, and least of all by something he entered into voluntarily. You wonder for a moment if you love him--but you wouldn't, so soon after Zack. You're not the kind to move quickly between men; when you fall in love, you fall hard, and you fall for keeps, no matter how self- destructive it is. You left Joel only because Zack made you move, and it was a month before you got involved with Ethan. That ended when Ethan died, after Zack had seen the bruises on your face and arms, asked point-blank if you liked rough sex, found out you didn't. It's true you slept with Zack the next night, but you'd fallen out of love with Ethan a long time before. . . . Maybe you fell out of love with Zack, too, before he left you.

It's nearly an hour of fruitless walking, rising sun at your back, before you hear the bells striking six, look up and see the tower rising above the other buildings, blocks away from you. There's an odd comfort to it, history and permanence in every stone, a solemn grounding influence in each peal. You work your way toward the church, and with every step you feel less and less lost in your sea of feelings and memory and heartache.

You've reached the heavy front doors by the time you hear Krit jogging behind you. You stop and turn, wait for him as he takes the front steps two at a time to reach you.

"Ben . . . " He looks you in the eye and puts a hand on your shoulder. He still smells like beer and another man's aftershave, and with more sunlight now you start to notice the tiny red vessels in his bloodshot eyes.

You jerk away, snap at him not to touch you, turn your back to him and reach for the door's handle.

He puts his hand right back, turns you around to look at him. "Ben, I'm sorry. I didn't know you'd be upset like that. Steve wouldn't've been, Zack wouldn't've been, I--"

Your right hook connects with his jaw before he sees it coming, and he backs up a few steps, nearly losing his balance on the stairs he encounters in the process. You wonder exactly how drunk he still is, that his balance could be so faulty. He gives the steps a quick glance to correct his memory, then raises his fists defensively in case you plan to hit him again.

"I'm not Steve or Zack," you growl at him.

"You hit better than either of 'em," says Krit with a wry grin.

"I'm not you either."

He doesn't answer, and you don't continue.

Krit's smile fades as he goes serious again.

"Look," he sighs, dropping his fists and running one hand through his hair. Even though he's been awake for an hour, ever since you left, he hasn't done a thing to fix his case of bed head. He's a sorry sight in his stubble and mussed hair and wrinkled clothes. "Ben . . . I am sorry. You're just not like anybody else I've ever wanted to sleep with, and I don't really know what to do with that. Sex and cheating and everything, it all means so much more to you."

You narrow your eyes at him. "I think it does to a lot of people, if you get to know them before going to bed."

"I'm sorry."

"Let's talk inside." You nod over your shoulder to the door, open it and slip through, leave it ajar for Krit as you wait for him in the foyer.

He doesn't follow you.

"Krit?" you call. "Come inside."

His face appears slowly in the doorway, peering inside with rounded eyes, jaw tense, Adam's apple bobbing as he tries to swallow with a dry throat. You're not sure whether it's wonder or caution or both.

"Can't," he says, eyeing the candles and stained glass and altar and crucifix--you decide that it's not wonder or caution in his eyes. It's fear.

"Why not?"

"Churches freak me out. They remind me of Manticore."

You laugh, and it's far too loud against the silence of the sanctuary.

Krit waits for the last echoes to fade, then reaches an arm inside to point out the church's features. "Look at it, Ben. Teeny-tiny confessionals, like if you crossed an interrogation room and an isolation cell. Altar's too much like a gurney. The whole crucifixion thing sounds like something Lydecker would make up. And it's always quiet, so you feel like you're under silence orders again. And don't even get me started on the Virgin Mary. . . . "

You look around at all the things he's described, and you see nothing but oak and stone and paint--no cold steel or endless institutional-white corridors. "Krit." You chuckle again, because it's just so ridiculous. "How could you be scared of a church?"

"Look, I'm serious. It's like you getting nightmares about Jack and that Nomaly--that's what you carried with you when we left. This is what I carried. . . . You stay if you want, but I'm going home before this headache gets worse. You know where to find me."

He pulls out of the doorway and you hear him walking away, the rhythm of his steps so slightly erratic that no normal person would ever notice.

You stay behind, because it feels like none of your past could ever follow you into this sanctuary, even if Krit's haunts him most here. You sit in a hard wooden pew and let your eyes roam until Krit's comparisons start flickering more and more frequently behind your eyes. And suddenly, the demons become Nomalies, you can't stop seeing Jack in martyred saints' faces, Mary's comfort is lost in swirling memories of seizures and roofs and teeth.

You can't stand it here any more, and you leave too.

You're sitting cross-legged on the floor when Krit comes home Monday with mail. He tosses you a manila envelope labeled with his alias and post office box number and a return address you recognize as Van's, then goes over to the kitchenette's counter and starts opening business envelopes.

"What's this?" you ask.

He glances up from the bill he's reading. "'Sfor you."

"It says 'Christopher Boone.'"

He shrugs. "She meant 'Ben Kirszner.' Open it."

You rip off the envelope's top, slide out a report with a familiar logo in the corner. . . . Words fail you as you stare up at Krit, so you just pull in an awed breath.

"Save it," he suggests. "Van's the one who got that for you."

You mouth the word three times before you can get your throat to make the sound to match: "Why?"

"Oh," Krit shrugs, "you're her little brother and she cares about you. In a kinda warped way."

"We almost killed each other ten days ago."

"Well, she cared about you a lot more after I sent her two thousand dollars and promised to keep Pike away from El Paso for the next month so she won't do something regrettable when she's in heat."

You scan the report, read about Lydecker's near-capture of Max and Zack in Seattle. It's cold and factual and down to business, and it misses everything important--the changes that night made in Zack, the ways that it didn't change him, all the pain it's caused. The report doesn't come close to answering your questions. What's so important about Max? Why couldn't you fit into his life along with her? Does she love him back at all?

"Coulda got her to steal some of the stuff they found in Zack's apartment," Krit remarks, "but she wasn't willing to risk that for the money I could give her up front. I don't think she trusts me to pay up later."

You flip back to the page that's a scan of a block of classified ads. One was circled on the original newspaper sheet, Max's barcode printed for the world to see. 332960073452 . . .

For the first time in years, the first time since Zack left you, you think back to the way things used to be between you and her. You think back to stories whispered so the guards wouldn't hear, shadow puppets made with your hands when the search lights swept over the windows, the way two years' age and a desire to entertain put you in such a place of adoration. Zack and Van and Eva commanded more respect from her, always did--but she never smiled for them, never asked them for stories, never kept them awake for hours because she couldn't get enough of their words and ideas.

It amazes you how quickly and thoroughly you came to hate her. Just having her identified as the root of Zack's desertion was enough that years of hero worship, years of big-brother concern, every story you made up just to see her smile, all of it became nothing. Maybe you shouldn't have let it all go so easily.

"She doesn't love him, you know," Krit says, and your memories dissolve into the present. He's leaning on his elbow against the countertop and tapping an envelope against the crook of his thumb and palm. "Van says he was moping about how Max turned him down flat before she found out who he was. 'Tell me, Grasshopper, what's the sound of one hand slapping you upside the head?'"

You snicker, and Krit grins.

"You should be glad Zack hasn't been by here," he continues. "Van says he's very, very annoying when he gets to whining about rejection, and it wasn't worth listening at all 'cause he didn't even try screwing her to dull the pain."


"She loved him too, you know. . . . Or at least got as close as she's capable of--she was upset that he left."

You remember the way she almost strangled you without meaning to, the shiver that rippled through her as she pulled away, the fury she let out by slamming you into walls.

You look back down to flip through the detached and useless report again, and Krit turns back to opening his envelopes.

"Do you miss Max?" you ask him after a minute.

He pauses to think, probably not about the question but about how you'll respond to his answer. "Hell yes," he says quietly. "Do you?"

You nod.

Krit stares wistfully out the window over your head, at the rusting ironwork on the building across the street. "You know what's funny, Ben? I wasn't really close to her in Manticore, like I was with Pike or Zane, but now I feel like half of myself's gone missing. . . . I guess you take people for granted when you spend so much time with them, and you don't realize how important they are to you until they're gone."

You wonder if Krit matters more than you think. . . . And when he turns back to his mail, you stand up and move across the apartment and slide your hand across his back as you head out the door.

[ END Part 2/6 ]
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