Categories > TV > Dark Angel > If Scheherazade

A Thousand Nights . . .

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 - 4820 words

If Scheherazade
by Melissa the Sheep (Pooh_Bah)

Part 3/6
Posted January 7, 2002


A Thousand Nights . . .

"Do you hate yourself that much?
Hate what you're doing that much?"


If Krit has been playing games with you, he's won. And when it happened, you never noticed and you wouldn't have cared. All that mattered since you first reached out to touch him on Monday was touching him again.

You went back to the church when you left the apartment. It still held the same comfort and peace as it first did, and this time you weren't driven away by nightmarish comparisons. You were pulled home instead, by images of Krit, by memories of him touching you, by your fingers' tingling to reach out to him again.

It had gotten muggier while you were in the church, and it was muggier still by the time you got home. The air conditioner was broken, and Krit hadn't been able to get ahold of Zane for advice--so he was stripped to the waist as he stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes.

He heard you come in, of course, but he didn't turn around when he greeted you. It didn't make any difference; you came right up behind him, flattened your palms against his shoulders and ran your hands over his back, slid them around to his belly and held him against you.

"Change of heart?" he asked. Your goal couldn't have been more obvious, pressing into the back of his thigh, and he couldn't have kept the delight out of his voice if he'd wanted to.

You kissed him, ran your lips all over the back of his neck and shoulders, over the barcode you could almost feel burning against his skin. He moaned deep in his throat, almost below the range of human hearing. You pulled him with you to kneel on the floor, settled your chin in the crook of his neck while you dealt with his jeans. He turned his head back over his shoulder as you worked, neck twisting more like an owl's than a human being's, and he kissed you back.

If Krit's been playing games with you, that's the moment when he won. Even if you had noticed, you wouldn't have cared. Everything that mattered was him. Pulling off his clothes, touching every inch of his bare skin, pushing into him, feeling his back arch beneath you as he cried out your name again and again. . . . Him.

It started quickly, it's been going two months now, and it's going to fall apart any day. Oh, part of you wants to believe it'll last--but nothing's ever lasted before for you, not even when you thought there was no way away from Ethan and even when you thought Zack would always come back eventually. If Krit's been playing games, it's as good as over. He's never been one to stop and dwell on his victories.

Seventy-six hours ago, the ringing phone pulled Krit from bed in the dead of the night, and left you cold without his arms. He talked, quietly, urgently, begged the caller to wait and not do anything, promised to be right there. He came back to you, dropped a kiss on your forehead, whispered goodbye. You asked who that was and what it was about, but he ignored your questions as he pulled on his clothes and left you to finish your night's sleep alone.

You expected him home the next morning, and he never came. You expected him home that afternoon, and he didn't come then either. He wasn't back that evening, or the next day. You've been sitting here, waiting for him to walk in the door or call or send somebody to let you know he's okay, wondering what's going on that's so important and so secret, wondering if you'd rather not know, wondering if he has it in him to leave you like this and just not come back.

You jump when the phone rings, and dart across the apartment with inhuman speed to answer. Maybe it's him, maybe there's an explanation for this and no reason to worry, maybe . . .

But it isn't him. It's Van, voice tired, old, thickened almost imperceptibly as she asks for Krit.

"He's not here." He could be anywhere. He could have left New Orleans forever, and you wouldn't know.

"Fuck," she whispers. It takes her a second to say anything more. "Sit down, Ben."

You drop to the floor and fold your legs under you, and wait for Van to go on.

"It's Zack and Max. Stupid little cunt didn't get out of Seattle when she had a chance, so he turned himself in last week to save her. I just saw the report."

You hardly hear the rest of what she says, and when she hangs up you don't know what to do. Cry? For him, like for Ethan? For yourself and the fact you ever loved him? For whoever's out there who still had a reason to care? But you don't feel any tears welling up. You couldn't cry if you wanted, and its a strange feeling to have dry eyes right now.

Tell Krit? . . . Yes, tell Krit. Find him and tell him. Because he's out there, and he might care that Zack's gone. You've wondered about them before, and he's admitted that he would--and maybe some part of him deep down did care about Zack, beyond the power struggle and the manipulation. You would want to know, if you had somebody like that.

You get up to go looking for Krit, without any idea where he'd be or who to ask. You're out the door, running down the deserted hall, scrambling down the staircase toward the ground floor three stories down. You don't have to look far to find him--he's just crossing the street toward the building when you burst out the front door, and you stop dead in your tracks.

The corner of Krit's lip twitches nervously as he notices you, and he abandons some of his controlled movements to dodge slower- moving pedestrians as he hurries the rest of the way to meet you.

He doesn't touch you.

He always touches you, when he comes home, when he wakes up in the morning, when you smile, when you look at him, when he's telling a story about some prank he and Pike pulled on Zack once- -a hand on your shoulder, an arm around your waist, a quick brush of his lips against yours. But he's not touching you now, and he always . . .

"Ben?" he asks. "What's wrong?"

His clothes are rumpled, you think you can smell someone else's sweat on him, and the stark light before dawn leaves you unsure whether you see the edge of a hickey that his jacket collar doesn't quite cover.

But none of that matters. You reach out and pull him into your arms, and it takes him a moment to hug you back. There's no reason to cry for Zack after the way he used you, but you do anyway. You've always cried for the men you've lost--or maybe it's mourning your own folly and the parts of yourself you left with each of them.

"Oh, Ben, nothing happened, I swear nothing happened. It's not like--like--" He cuts himself off, because you've stopped crying and you've pushed yourself out of his arms and you're staring at him wondering what he's talking about. He's put his foot in his mouth and he knows it. They designed him smarter than that, he's not meant to ever say a word he doesn't mean to say, he should have done so much better.

"Ben, are you okay?" he asks. He never did like to explain himself. "What happened?"

"No," you whisper, head shaking side to side, suspicion and anger rising up again even with Zack still heavy on your mind. "You tell me. Where were you? What did you do? Why didn't you come back sooner?"

You wait a full minute for him to answer.

He doesn't.

You turn and start walking, the same aimless path that you never consciously recognize until the bell tower comes into sight.

Krit's sitting cross-legged on the bed when you get home. He doesn't get up to greet you, doesn't even speak for several minutes as you stand in the doorway waiting.

The sun's setting outside, though all you can see through the window is the changing shades of light on the building across the alley. You saw it already, anyway, before you came inside--you climbed up onto the roof, looked out over the rooftops around you, wondered why there wasn't the same sense of awe you remember from childhood. When did the world change? When did you stop trying so hard to categorize things as black and white, good and bad, us and them? The lines started blurring before you can even remember--before Jack disappeared, before you screamed questions to the sky but found no answers, before your loyalties turned completely and you scrambled over that fence into another world that was meant to be better but turned out to be every bit as hostile.

"About the other night," Krit finally starts, then trails off.

You push the door shut and lean back against it. He showered, shaved, and put on clean clothes while you were gone. Nobody's scent could survive so much soap, and no careless marks could show through the collar of the turtleneck that's too warm for this time of year. But you remember what he's trying to hide. Is lying to you such a black thing, if he knows you can see right through him? Couldn't it be a shade of gray, like other rationalizations and attempts to smooth out situations too rocky for anybody to come out really happy?

He starts again: "About this morning." And he doesn't finish this time either. Maybe it doesn't make any difference. You have an idea of what happened, thoughts of him tangled in someone else's bedsheets, him moaning someone else's name. Anything he could tell you would be just painful details, blackening the gray of the situation. You liked Krit better when he was closer to the white end of the spectrum--but he hasn't been there in a long time, maybe not since you parted ways outside Manticore.

Krit clears his throat. "Van called again while you were gone. She told me everything, wanted to know how you're dealing."

"I'm fine," you say. You're not, not quite, maybe never will be, and Krit knows it. But if you ignore it, it doesn't bother you as much. Isn't that something? Isn't that a step in the right direction?

"Now about the other night?" you ask. Maybe it's just painful details, but your curiosity has always had a morbid streak. There's not so much difference between explaining the nomilies in the basement and finding out where Krit's been and what he's done--is there?

"It was Steve on the phone," says Krit.

"And?" you ask after the silence starts to drag.

"And he was depressed and drunk and suicidal, and what the hell else was I supposed to do?"

"Since when do you care?" Maybe he doesn't now and never did.

What you know now, you knew two months ago when you first took him on the kitchen floor. You knew Krit's not the kind who can maintain a stable relationship. You knew he doesn't come close to understanding you, no matter how sincerely he apologized that morning you first found the church, no matter how hard he's tried to figure you out, no matter how much he's restrained himself for you and tried to give you what you need.

"Ben . . . " Krit sighs, runs a nervous hand through his hair. He's almost making eye contact with you, but not quite. "Ben, I care. I care a lot more than you'd think."

But he doesn't say what it is that he cares about--is it about Steve, about everything in life, about you?

No. Not about you. Never about you.

You don't answer him.

"Ben, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you."

"Why didn't you think about me earlier? They made you smart enough." Five trains of thought, and you thought you would have been in one of them when he contemplated sleeping with Steve--but you weren't.

Love is blind. Or infatuation is blind, or meaningless sex is blind. You're not sure any more how to classify what you have with Krit. He could be genuinely concerned for you. He could be just playing around with you like with everybody else. He could be using you toward some larger end. Or he could be exactly as much and as awkwardly in love as you were with Joel, fumbling with new emotions your trainers never warned you about, fighting against old habits of caution and detachment, more vulnerable than you ever feared or suspected. There's just no way to know for sure.

You thought you knew about you and Krit. You thought it was love. You thought he was telling the truth when he said he didn't fool around in a relationship. You wanted so badly to believe that, for once, you really would be the only one, not like with Joel, not like with Ethan, not like with Zack. You were sure Krit would want to save himself for you, and that they'd bred and drilled enough discipline that he could do it. You were sure that--on some level, in his odd way--he loved you.

"I'm /sorry/," Krit repeats. Why can't you take it at face value? Isn't anything he tells you outright always true? Isn't that the way it's always been? People don't change. He's still the Krit you grew up with, and he always will be.

"So you did do something wrong," you observe. So he lied when he said nothing happened, lied outright when he'd always been tenuously honest before. You can't trust anything he says any more, because people do change after all. But it's hard to notice, because it's subtle--they stop making exceptions to their ways, stop trying to be something they don't have it in them to be, and just become more and more like themselves.


"You two never did break up completely, did you?" When he told you it had been Steve's fault, maybe that wasn't true either. Maybe both of them got distracted by other boys, and maybe he does fool around during relationships, and it's a slap in the face that he could lie to you about that when he knew he was exactly the kind of man you've always been with before--and maybe you haven't changed all that much either, even though you realize what a fool you've always been. Maybe you'll always be the exact same fool.

"Ben, don't be so paranoid."

That's no direct answer. There's so much room for interpretation, for facts he avoided mentioning. And he's made it about you, as if anything between him and Steve is just in your head.

You just stare at him, daring him to meet your eyes. He doesn't- -he probably couldn't hide his guilt if he did.

Krit gets to his feet, pads over to the kitchen, and starts scrubbing surfaces with a sponge that's so discolored you doubt it'll do any good. "Anyway," he says without turning to look at you. "Pike called too while you were gone. He was heading for El Paso, but I got him to come visit us instead. He'll be here tonight."

It's like you were just talking about the weather before.

Pike arrives about as expected. He bursts through the door without knocking, because he knows Krit heard his Jeep pull up outside. He barely glances at you, sitting on the floor by the bed, and pauses only long enough to toss his duffel and sleeping bag into the corner before tackling Krit with a playful bear hug. "I missed you!" he cries. "Life's dry as dust and twice as boring without you around!"

Krit chuckles and shakes his head. "I don't believe that for a minute."

"Well," Pike shrugs. He rolls off of Krit to sit on the floor, one leg tucked under himself and the other extended in front of him. "I had to cut back on a lot of stuff, 'cause I didn't have an evil twin around to blame things on. . . . "

Krit punches him in the shoulder and gets to his feet. "I hate it when you do that to me. Like in St. Paul, I spent a week in jail and they busted you too when you tried to break me out."

Pike grins happily behind his three-day stubble. "And how 'bout Rochester? Now that was something. Zack had a fit. I think that's the only time he's ever had a seizure."

Zack seized in your apartment once, too, when he'd cut back on tryptophan bit by bit until he wasn't taking any at all, trying to wean himself off of it. He hated his dependence on the drug, he told you as he lay sweat-drenched and pale on the bed and one arm twitched in the seizure's wake. He hated the weakness in his DNA that had made him collapse trembling onto your bathroom floor. . . . Maybe he kept coming back because you were a weakness too. Maybe he left because you're one of the few weaknesses he's ever been able to control. But how much control does he really have, if all he's done is swap you and Van for Max and Krit, one flaw for another? And if he was willing to go back to Manticore for her sake, wasn't she the more dangerous soft spot?

Krit shifts uneasily at Pike's mention of Zack. "And you've seen a few Mexican jails by now, right?" he asks.

Pike raises a fist and solemnly extends his thumb and first three fingers in turn as he recites his list. Ethan used to count that way; he'd been an army brat, and he'd spent so much of his childhood in Europe--you have no idea where Pike would have picked it up. "Leon, March '16, gas theft. Chihuahua, January '17, unlicensed firearm. Durango, April '17, assault. Veracruz, October '18, breaking and entering. What can I say, they love me."

Krit raises an eyebrow in surprise. "Nothing this year?"

"I've gone clean," says Pike with too straight a face.


"I haven't gotten caught," he corrects. The only change in his expression is a mischievous twinkle in his eye. "And how's your rap sheet, Krit?" "Nothing since St. Paul."

Pike gives him an incredulous look. "What the hell have you been doing with yourself, then?"

"Fraud, blackmail, smuggling, petty theft, and I've invested in a couple underground casinos." He leans down toward Pike's ear and whispers conspiratorially, "I haven't gotten caught either."

Pike laughs, too low-pitched for a giggle, but too frivolous to be a chuckle. You wonder whether he's high on something, or just having one of his more characteristic moments. Krit straightens back up and turns toward the kitchenette. "Drinks?"

"Yup!" Pike agrees cheerfully.

"How 'bout you, Ben?"

"Water, please," you say.

The conversation halts awkwardly while Krit opens a cupboard and clinks glasses around. "So!" Pike chirps. "How's you and Steve?"

Krit whirls around with a fearsome glare in his eye, and his elbow knocks one of the glasses over the counter's edge and onto the cracked linoleum. It's the sound of translucent saints falling to the cold floor in thousands of pieces, the sound of the family portrait Van didn't own shattering, the sound of breaking through a window and coming up on your feet to sprint through the snow. The muscles in your neck tighten, and you can feel your heart rate and temperature rise.

Pike glances between you and Krit and back, a perplexed look on his face. "What's wrong? Isn't Steve still--"

"No," Krit denies too quickly, too emphatically. "Have you heard from Tinga lately? She said Case was starting--"

"Jesus, was your breakup that ugly this time?"

"Get out," Krit orders.

"Okay. I can take a hint. Forget I said anything." Pike shrugs with forced nonchalance, and raises a hand to scratch absently behind his ear. "Didn't know it was the wrong week to ask."


Pike gives Krit the one of nastiest glares you've ever seen. "Well, fuck you--if I wanted to get yelled at, I woulda visited Van." He picks up his luggage, flashes Krit a middle finger, and leaves the door hanging open behind him. "In fact," he calls back in a voice obviously meant to be heard, "I hear El Paso's been having some nice weather . . . "

Krit aims a dark glare at the empty hallway. You can hear Pike stomping down the stairs in his surplus-store combat boots.

"What's your problem?" you demand.

Krit sighs, runs his eyes over the ceiling as he looks for a good reply. He looks back down to you and then the glass scattered over the floor, and rubs the sole of one shoe over the opposite leg of his jeans. "Nothing," he mutters. "Go stop him, would you?"

"Nothing, my ass! You know I've figured out about you and Steve, and there's no point getting so touchy about Pike mentioning him! Unless there's more that you're doing a better job keeping from me?"

Krit stares at you with helpless pathetic dewy eyes. "He's not gonna listen to me right now, Ben, and Van's gonna have my ass."

That's not an answer.

"I'm sick of this, Krit. I'm tired of you lying and denying and avoiding everything that's important. You're treating me like dirt."

"Would you stop Pike for me?" he asks again. "Please?"

"Stop him yourself," you whisper, but you walk out the door after him anyway.

You step out onto the street and look around for Pike's Jeep, but don't see it. So he's gone, and there's nothing left for you to do. The last place you're going is back upstairs to Krit, but there's nowhere else to go either--so you stand there, breathe in smells of people and city dirt and a cigarette burning nearby, look up to a sky too polluted to see more than a handful of stars. The sky was so much clearer in Utah, before Zack left you, before you came here. It was beautiful there; beautiful to have a barren empty wilderness so close at hand, beautiful to drive five miles out of town and see so many thousands of points of light, beautiful to have Zack with you and make love with him under those stars. Beautiful. And you wonder how it could all vanish so quickly, with so little warning.

"Pssst, Ben," a voice hisses, and you turn around. Pike is leaning against the side of the building, hidden in the shadow of a dumpster, easy to overlook.

He flashes you an almost maniacal grin as he waves a wallet in the air. "Lookit this."

You come over for a closer look. "What is it?"

"Pickpocketing's in the genes." He grins wider and flicks through the stack of cards he pulls from the wallet. Driver's license, sector passes, employee IDs from a dozen businesses-- every one forged, every one with Krit's picture on it.

"Dude," Pike titters, giddy with his good fortune, "I could paint the town red. Damn, Krit's got it good. I wouldn't have such a stick up my ass with these in my pocket--why's he got that stick up his ass about Steve anyway?"

"Krit's been sleeping with me. And I'm not the only one any more."

"Hmmmm." Pike cocks his head to one side and looks at you. "First Zack and now Krit--I'd say you've got lousy taste in men, Miss Fidelity."

You sigh, feel a sardonic smile tug at your lips.

"Cheer up, Ben!" Pike admonishes, with a playful blow to your shoulder. He never could take being around anyone else's emotions, and you wonder what he did with his own feelings when Eva died, or a month ago when Brin went back, or when he found himself alone in a world he wasn't prepared for. Maybe his constant flurry of motion and chatter and beer and women and adrenaline is all to distract himself and keep every painful thought buried just under the surface where he doesn't have to worry about it. Maybe he's got the right idea--so you'll play along with it, focus all your attention on him, let him keep you from thinking about your own heartaches.

"Let's go to El Paso," he suggests. "Maybe you'll find a nice, stable, normal boy. And I'll flash Van Krit's ID and convince her that I'm him. Think I'd have a chance?"

"No," you say. They may be identical, but Van's not stupid.

"Damn." Pike shrugs and tucks the cards back into the wallet and tucks the wallet into his back pocket. "Think I'd survive long enough to see Van kick his ass?"

You narrow one eye suspiciously. "How did you know about that, anyway?"

"I saw Syl last week, and she said Krit'd put out an APB on me. I figured it out from there." He goes quiet, the way he does in the split second he spends considering the consequences of some spur-of-the-moment idea. "Hey, man, let's go for a ride--the Jeep's in the alley."

You've got no problem with that. You follow him around the corner of the building and over to the beat-up Jeep with his luggage in the back. You get in the passenger side, and he settles in behind the wheel.

"Whadda you think, Ben, should we go clubbing and ruin Krit's reputation?"

You buckle your seatbelt because you don't trust Pike's driving and you're only almost indestructible. "I don't think there's a way to sully Krit's reputation."

"Point," Pike agrees. He fires up the engine and pulls onto the street too quickly for comfort. "Maybe we could get to El Paso before Van goes out of heat instead."

"She'd kill you as soon as look at you," you say. And she'd probably treat you the same, after what happened last time.

"Yeah," Pike sighs. "She would. Clubbing it is, then." He ignores a stop sign, then turns right and speeds nonchalantly through a red light. You can hear tires squealing and horns blaring in his wake.

"You're going to kill us driving like that!" you holler over the wind the open frame is letting in.

"Isn't it great?" He guns the engine and flashes you a toothy grin. You've always suspected he was insane, and now you know for sure. "I'm young, I'm invulnerable, and I'm engineered to raise hell. I'm just doin' what I was made to do."

"Are you looking for trouble?"

"No," he replies cheerfully. "But if any comes askin' to join us, I won't say no."

The Jeep speeds by another stop sign, almost running over a pedestrian who'd been about to cross the street. The sound of shouted curses prompts Pike to slam on the brakes, and you're grateful for the seatbelt as you jolt forward.

"Ow! Pike!"

"Speaking of trouble . . . " He throws the Jeep into reverse and zips backward to the crosswalk.

"Hey, sailor," he chirps to the man still standing there, and you can practically feel him turning up the charm as high as it'll go. The man on the curb is thickset and muscled, and strikes you as the kind who can't count his hours in the gym because he doesn't have enough fingers.

"Damn you, Krit, what the fuck are you thinking?!" The Jock waves at the Jeep to indicate he's talking about the reckless driving.

"Oh, no," Pike corrects, "Krit's a much worse driver."

The Jock groans in disgust. "Now what the hell are you doing back in town?"

Pike forms his lips into a pout and softens his eyes, a ridiculous parody of the face Krit puts on sometimes. "Awww, honey, you haven't lost interest in me /again/, have you?"

The Jock barks a laugh, shrugs in an admission that Pike's charm has broken through to him. "So where's Krit tonight, anyway?"

"I left him at home. He's got his panties in a knot 'bout his love life, and that was cramping my style. Hop in, sailor, and I'll buy you a drink."

He gets into the back seat, and Pike sets the Jeep speeding forward again.

"So who's this?" asks the Jock.

Pike claps a hand on your shoulder. "This is my bro Ben. I think Krit's told you about him."

"Yeah," says the Jock, a simple word that seems so much more laden than it should be.

"And who's the sailor?" you ask in return.

Pike gives you his smoothest, most disarming smile. "Ben, I'd like you to meet Steve."

[ END Part 3/6 ]
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