Categories > TV > Dark Angel > If Scheherazade


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 - 5041 words

If Scheherazade
by Melissa the Sheep (Pooh_Bah)

Part 5/6
Posted March 18, 2002



"I've killed."
"Go on."
"I've taken human life; what more is there to say?"

"Oh, fuck."

Steve's muttered curse awakens you. You open your eyes to find him propped up on one elbow, holding his head with his other hand, squinting at you in confusion as he brushes back the dark, dark hair that has fallen into his face.

You stare right back up at him, trusting your eyes to be seductive, intoxicating, irresistible. Joel always told you that you had beautiful eyes. Ethan never noticed that; he looked at you but never saw beyond the bruises he'd left, fading rapidly from your enhanced skin so they never had a chance to symbolize the scars he left on the intangible parts of you. But no bruise could ever last long enough for that, even on a normal boy.

"Good morning," you purr. You wonder if Steve's noticed yet that the skin on the back of his neck is sore. You wonder what he'll do when he finds out what's there. You reach out to touch his shoulder. He pulls back to avoid your hand--you go on anyway, thumb caressing the perfect bulges of his muscles.

"You were wonderful," you lie. If it really had happened, you wouldn't have enjoyed it any more than you enjoyed sex with David last night. No, it would have been even worse; there's a huge, gaping difference between a stranger from a bar and a man who, from the moment you knew he existed, you've hated.

"Do you want to make love again?" you ask. Even if you know you would hate it, hate him, hate yourself, to the last fiber of your being, you offer. You don't know why. You suppose that, after last night, you're beyond caring about meaning and emotional depth. What you're doing now feels so natural--it's hard to remember ever not using sex and lies to get what you wanted. It's what they made you to do, after all. It's why they designed you so pretty, so graceful, so goddamned easy; it's why it felt like you'd been seducing men for years, when you first caught Joel's eye. And the only thing that didn't turn out right was that you ever cared--/cared!/--about who you went to bed with and whether you loved him and whether he'd at least told you pretty lies about loving you too.

Steve turns away from you, away from your sultry look and your hand straying onto his chest. It's almost as if he felt guilty for finding out he'd slept with you, and he walks out of the bedroom with the slow but deliberate pace of a man who doesn't want to believe what he's leaving behind in the bed. But that's okay, it's all okay. You'll still be here when he comes back. And even when you've left, he'll still have that tattoo. And even though he can't see it, he'll feel its mark. And even if he has it removed, he'll always remember that it had been there.

And he'll never, never get rid of you, get rid of what he did to you and what you did back. Never.

You hear a door shut down the hall, and the shower running. Here in the bedroom, the window is open and sunbeams are tumbling into a pool of light on the worn-out carpet that might have been white or powder blue years ago. There's a light breeze--there are no curtains for it to blow, but you can feel it, you can feel everything, however small, that comes in contact with your skin: the wind, the weave of the sheets, the tiny ridges of your own handprints as you rest your palms on your belly. Your nose twitches; you can smell Steve, of course, but the breeze has brought in other odors, odors so faint that he'd never even suspect they were there--you can smell the garbage cans outside and pick out things like chicken bones and bar soap wrappers and discarded vodka bottles, you can smell that five different cats have marked territory there just this morning, you can smell the bed of newspapers somebody slept in last night.

It's a long time before the water turns off in the bathroom. You tense alertly when it does, remembering the wonderful sound of the tattoo needle, waiting for Steve's reaction. Once he's stepped out of the shower, it doesn't take very long for him to mutter a string of curses. You assume he's felt the soreness, found a hand mirror to reflect his neck onto the medicine cabinet, and found out that he's been marked. But he doesn't come out right away; he stays for almost as long as the shower took. You wonder why he's not here now, furious and at your throat. It hits you that maybe he doesn't remember last night clearly, doesn't realize what you did, doesn't understand the meaning of those lines.

He doesn't come back to the bedroom. You hear him walking up the hall and into the kitchen. You hear him dialing a phone, and he speaks quietly, foolishly believing you can't hear him and can't hear the other side of the conversation either.

"Yeah," Krit's voice says on the other end. You should have figured Steve would call him. Should've noticed what you're starting to notice now, that whatever's between them goes too deep for your presence to end it.

"Where's that asshole twin of yours?" Steve demands.

"Baton Rouge, Atlanta, Timbuktu--not like he told me. Why?"

"He got me drunk and fuckin' tattooed me!" That's dead wrong, and somehow it bothers you that he's blaming somebody else for your work. "I woke up with a barcode on the back of my neck! What kind of sick obsession do you two have going, anyway? That barcode-tattoo trend was dead before you hit kindergarten."

Krit tries to stifle a laugh. You don't see the humor in the situation--but maybe it's downright hilarious when you're a sociopath and you don't realize what the tattoo really means. Or maybe it really isn't something to take lightly. Maybe Krit's just insane. There's a strange, strained edge to his laugh, after all.

"Shut the hell up, Krit. It's not funny." There! There! Krit's gone nuts! You get up, pull on your jeans. The fabric feels rougher against your legs than it ever has before. The scrape against your skin is distracting, and it takes a conscious effort to tune it out.

"But I've warned you about Pike," Krit points out. "I've told you that going drinking with him only gets you trouble. Anyway, you can always get the tat removed after it heals--I'll pay for it and send him the bill."

You walk down the hall on bare feet, silent like the predator you are, feeling the grimy flattened nap of the carpet under your toes. You round the corner and Steve comes into view. He has a bath towel wrapped around his waist and his back is turned to you. One fist is planted argumentatively against his hip, while the other hand holds the phone to his ear.

"Forget it, asshole," he snaps.

"Go fuck yourself," Krit snaps back. "I'm just trying to make it right, you know."

Steve scoffs, and tosses his head. His wet black hair swings with the motion, and it brushes over his barcode just like Van's hair would over hers, if she ever indulged in such a frivolous gesture. You can smell his shampoo, a baby-gentle formula without silly flower scents, and his soap, plain Dial antibacterial. Even his taste in toiletries is like Van's.

"Honest," says Krit. "I don't want you pissed at me, baby."

"You think you can fix every fuck-up with a little cash and a couple words? It doesn't work that way, Krit. Not when you just sweep all the shit under the rug and go right on being the same careless fuck you've always been."

"Steve, c'mon," Krit coaxes. "I didn't even do anything this time."

"But it's the same attitude, and it's still gonna catch up with you."

"I'm a smart cookie, Steve. I know what I'm doing."

"Doesn't make you immune, just makes you cocky." Steve feels your eyes on him. He glances over his shoulder at you--his perfect, tanned shoulder--then turns back away. You wonder if all that sunbathing will give him skin cancer someday and kill him.

"Honestly," Krit huffs, and you can almost hear him rolling his eyes. This conversation reminds you of Zack and Krit, with their mutual dislike, and Krit's constant disregard for everything Zack says, and that power struggle Krit dragged you into without a second thought. Steve's right that Krit's careless--maybe not about self-preservation, but about other people. People like you. You're so much more fragile, and so much more dangerous, than he ever gave you credit for.

Steve smirks--he's not facing you, but you can see how his cheek bulges with the smile. "You don't know where Ben is either, do you?"

"Not like you would have a bigger clue," Krit says. "You were out drinking with Pike. Ben probably went to midnight mass or something."

Steve looks at you again, with the smirk still on his face, and his expression reminds you of Krit. Maybe everybody in the world is that devious at heart. Maybe it's a built-in defense, as instinctive as returning a blow when you're struck. "Ben just got his lovely ass up out of my bed."

"Sleeping with my boyfriend, huh? That's low, Steven Connor. Wish I'd thought of it."

"I think Missouri is a little far for you to go just to bang Neil."

"He'll be back one of these days, you know. Now, do you want that tattoo off or not?"

"You know, big shot, you're not the only guy in town with money."

"Fine!" Krit huffs.

Steve hangs up. And he turns to you. "I swear, if I find that son-of-a-bitch Pike, I'm gonna break his neck."

Your mouth opens, and you speak. "But it was me." And you didn't really mean to tell him that.

But it doesn't really matter what you meant to say, does it? What matters is what you did say, and what you've done. Those are what make Steve's jaw clench and his fingers curl into fists, what make him aim a right hook at your jaw. He moves so slowly, like any other normal person, but you still can't duck in time. You just watch the ripple of each muscle involved, and you can't move at all.

"You bastard! What the hell is wrong with you?"

"Nothing's wrong with me," you croak, and you didn't really want to say that either. You don't hit him back, just slump against the wall he's knocked you into. You always froze like this when Ethan smacked you around, but Steve shouldn't be like that, shouldn't stir up that fear. . . .

"Like fuck it isn't," Steve snaps, and hits you again, same spot. You can feel your teeth loosening, and you taste the blood pouring into your mouth. Your eyes focus on a point beyond his shoulder, on a patch of sunlight like the one in the bedroom but on the floor by his couch.

"Nothing's wrong with me!" The blood spills over your lip when you scream that, and your eyes are have begun spilling over as well. "It's not my fault, what else was I supposed to do? It's Krit, it's you, but it's not me!"

He brings his fist back to hit you again, still so much slower than could possibly surprise you, and nothing really surprises you any more, no matter how unexpected it is. You could block him. You could hit him back. You could break his neck if you wanted. You could do any of that.

But you don't. You take the hit; you swallow the new rush of blood, but there's more to replace it, always more, millions-of- dollars-of-engineering more; you squeeze the hot angry tears out of your eyes, but there's new ones to replace those too, too many new ones, new ones that never should have been there because you were trained better than to cry.

"Stop," you beg, "stop, stop, stop, stop, stop . . . " but he keeps right on hitting you again and again and again, your face and your bare chest and your belly, first until you double over with pain, then until somehow you find the strength to knock his fist aside. He tries to hit you again, but you raise your forearm to take the force of the blow, and you push him back before he can attack you another time. He stumbles backwards a few steps, and stands there panting.

You stare at one another, and you can't see his expression because your vision is too blurred by your tears. It doesn't matter anyway. You don't need to see him to know that he wants Krit, and he hates you, and he'd love to have you out of his way for good--and that means you have to get him out of your way instead.

You want to slide to the floor and pull your knees up and just cry and bleed and hope all your organs survived the punches to your gut. But you can't seem to dictate your actions anymore, and that's the most terrifying thing in the world. You push yourself upright and walk over to him, and the only thing you're doing that you wanted to is that you're still sobbing. Even if you really can't have Krit, there's no reason Steve should either.

You reach a trembling hand to touch his shoulder and wrap around to the back of his neck, and you touch your lips to his. He has to die, you realize. He won't leave you alone--won't leave Krit alone--as long as he's still alive.

He doesn't move in response to your kiss; maybe his expression says he's too shocked to do anything, if you could just see through your tears. Or maybe he understands what's going to happen, realizes the inevitability of his death, isn't going to give you any trouble. You're still crying, but you can see enough to spot the blood that's come off on his lips. How sick is it to kiss the man who just made you bleed? What's wrong with you? No, please no, this can't be real, this can't be happening. . . .

"Last night was beautiful," you whisper to him, voice breaking with your crying. You pinch his neck to knock him out--your hand twitches involuntarily and there's a snap beneath it.

Your whole body shakes for a second, a tiny seizure, and you'll have to hurry up and immobilize Steve in case a stronger seizure is on its way and he wakes up before it's past. Steve falls to the ground, a crumpled heap in the sunlight in front of the couch. You let yourself go down with him, still sobbing as you turn him over roughly and slam him face-first into the floor, even as your limbs turn unsteady and barely controllable. You twist his arm behind his back, and a sudden jerk of your body makes the bones crack apart and his shoulder pull out of its socket. He doesn't cry out or whimper in pain, but you don't mind because at least now he won't hit you again--you should have done this to Ethan, years ago. You turn him back over with your shaking hands, and he holds so still as you land faulty blows against his jaw, trying to get the wet sound of damaged teeth, trying to get him back for the huge bruises you feel forming on your face and the blood still pouring into your mouth. Your seizure shakes you more violently, and you have to stop to ride it out. You curl around Steve, so that if he tries to escape you'll at least know.

He's still lying there beneath you when the shakes are past, and you pick up right where you left off. You open his mouth--he's complacent, so complacent, and maybe he's realized it's useless to struggle because you really are stronger and better--to see if your blows loosened his teeth at all, but they're still clinging to their sockets. Pike has talked about a time he got a tooth knocked out in a fistfight, but now you doubt it could happen so easily. You did at least make Steve's jaw bleed, and your fingers slip too much on the blood to pull the teeth out. "Stay there," you tell him, then stumble to your feet, go to the kitchen on still-weak legs to see if you can find some pliers to help you. Your hands leave bloody prints on the countertops and the cupboard doors as you search, and you eventually find a toolbox under the sink. It's mostly empty--knowing Zane, you'd expected toolboxes to always be full--but it still has pliers, and that's all you want, so you pick them up and go back to Steve. He hasn't tried to get away, and you have a twisted admiration for someone man enough not to scream and beg when he knows nobody can stop what's going to happen.

Yes, pliers were just what you needed. It goes so easily now, one tooth, two teeth, three, four, five. You count them out loud to him, so he'll know exactly what's happening, and you place the extracted teeth in his open hand, letting him hold on to them just a while longer until you leave and take them with you forever. Even the teeth on the other side, where you didn't hit him at all, come out so nicely now that you have a tool. When they're all out, all thirty-two, you arrange them on the floor in a ring around his head, a last cruel sarcastic joke to him before he has to die--"Take a good look at it, Steve, it's the only halo you'll ever get." He doesn't reply; your jest hangs heavy in the silence, and you realize that it was out of place, that he didn't deserve even this horrible parody of a saint's or angel's blessed glow. So you gather the teeth back into your hand, and this time you lay them out in rows. Just rows, rows on the carpet, plain rows of molars and of incisors and of eye teeth, and you adjust their positions over and over again until the lines are perfectly straight and the teeth are in perfect order.

When you're finally through, you place a hand against his chest to push yourself back to your feet and get one last look at him alive--but you pause.

His skin is cold.

He's dead; he's been dead for hours. All the blood streaking his chest and staining your hands and flowing down your chin has dried. The sun patch that he first fell on has shifted toward the window until now it's nothing but a sliver on the windowsill. You've stopped crying, though you never noticed--maybe you just ran out of tears. Maybe you'll never cry again.

You look down at what you've done, at the blood and the teeth and the cold stiffening body. You get a sick feeling, like a snake twisting around in your stomach. What have you done? They'll find him. They'll find the body, and the teeth, and the blood. They'll find your barcode on his neck. They'll find out that some of the blood is yours. They'll find /you/--they'll ask you how it happened, but you don't know now and you won't know then, so they'll say that you're crazy, and maybe they'll be right--and they'll take you back and lock you up. In the basement. With the creatures you feared so much as a child, the X2s who went insane and tore their trainer apart with their bare hands--even though you're not like them, and you're not crazy, and you had every reason to do what you did. But they'll lock you up anyway, and that's the most terrifying idea in the world.

Clean it up. That's what you should do. Maybe nobody will even know it happened, or at least they'll never know it was you. You start with the teeth, fold them into a paper napkin and tuck it in your pocket. Then you move to the kitchen, wiping the blood from the surfaces you touched. As you throw the blood-stained rag into the trash can, you see your hands, smeared and reeking, and realize they should have been the first thing to clean.

Your hands are still full of soap lather when you hear a knock on the door. Your heart jumps with fear, and you don't say a word, just keep washing and hope whoever it is will go away. The knock comes again, this time with a call--"Steve? Steve Connor?"


Your breath catches in your throat, and you rinse the soap off quickly. You don't even bother to dry your hands before hurrying to the door. Your hand is already on the knob when you realize that even David shouldn't see what's inside the apartment--you open the door just enough to slip out into the hallway, and you pull it shut quickly behind you. You hug yourself, curling your hands around your sides so David won't see the blood that wouldn't wash off, hunching your shoulders for no reason you can tell, refusing to meet his eyes because if you do maybe he'll see right into your soul and know what happened beyond the door.

"Dear God, Ben," David murmurs, brushing a hand against your bruised cheekbone so gently that you--even you--barely feel it, then wrapping his fingers around both your shoulders. "Are you alright?"

You shake your head and stare at his arms, revealed by the wifebeater he's wearing. The dragon is still there on his left forearm, strong and fearsome, and it's never going to change the way that everything else does.

He reaches around your waist and leads you toward the stairs, and his arm is stronger than you expect from a normal man. You have no shirt or shoes, but you don't even care. "What happened to you, precious?"

You stare back over your shoulder, worried about the mess you didn't finish cleaning, but so relieved that David is taking you away from there that you don't want to go back. He's saving you, like a knight in shining armor; he's come to take you away from your dragons--from this place, from Steve, from the jealousy that's pushing you toward the edge of insanity.

You don't answer his question, just ask one of your own: "How did you find me?" Your lip tears as you speak, and you realize that one of Steve's blows must have split it. You never even noticed at the time.

"I asked Krit where you were, but he wouldn't say a word. I looked all over town for you, precious. I wanted to find you anywhere but here." It surprises you that he could guess and fear that you'd be with Steve, when he's only known you since last night. You yourself never expected to be here.

You sigh, and rest your head on his shoulder, and close your eyes and just let him guide you. That's your problem, trying to change things. If you'd just accepted all along that Zack would leave you someday, that Krit might never be yours . . .

"Talk to me, Ben," David begs.

You shake your head. Talking hurts, in more ways than one. And you're afraid you'll say something you shouldn't, and then David will know what you did.

Since you won't talk, he does. "I kept worrying about you. You told me you were okay--but okay people don't cry as much as you did, precious, and then you were gone before I woke up."

You open your eyes as the two of you reach his car, an old Ford Tempo with peeling red paint, like Syl used to drive when she lived in Miami. He guides you into the passenger seat and makes sure you buckle the seatbelt.

"You poor thing," he murmurs as he slides in behind the wheel. "I think I was right to worry."

You let your eyes slide closed again as he starts the engine. You're so tired suddenly. It's no wonder, after a beating and a seizure and a murder. "Where're we going?" you ask, careful not to move your lip more than you can avoid.

"The hospital. I think your lip needs stitches. I don't know how about the rest of you."

You shake your head. "No, I'm fine."

"But you're not fine, precious. Don't think I can't see that."

"Don't take me to the hospital," you plead. Hospitals are dangerous. Hospitals have doctors, and doctors like to experiment and run tests and tell people about it when they find something strange like your blood or the way you're healing up so much faster than any normal person. "Please don't, David." You only half expect him to follow your wishes; nobody else ever listens to what you ask.

He's silent, and you have to open your eyes to see if his expression contains an answer. He's looking at you, a world of pity in those green eyes. It's wrong, so goddamned wrong, that a one-night stand is the only person in the world who cares enough to make sure he doesn't hurt you, to worry about you when you leave suddenly, to go looking for you and to save you from a place you should never have let yourself go. You wonder if he could save you from yourself too, if you let him; you know he would at least try to, and that might make all the difference in the world.

"Please just take me home, David," you whisper, and you're not quite sure if it's loud enough for him to hear.

"Home to my place?" he asks.

"No. To Krit." You don't want that. But you can feel your hand starting to shake again, and David won't understand that, so you have to go back to Krit, so you'll be safe with someone who won't ask questions.

"Alright," he agrees, soft with reluctance, so that you might not hear and then he wouldn't have to do it. He drives in silence for several minutes. You close your eyes again and will your body to remain still--you can feel the turns he makes, and you know the streets enough to notice if he tries to take you somewhere else. You listen to the other cars, all of them passing you--David's driving too slowly, probably because he wants to keep you with him as long as he can. You listen to the pedestrians you drive past, chattering to each other about their mundane, shallow lives, none of them talking about the wounds and death and fear that are so heavy on your mind. You listen to David's breath and his heartbeat and the tiny gurgling of his stomach asking to be fed--the clock in Steve's kitchen said it was half past three, and David must have skipped his lunch to go looking for you.

"Ben . . . "

You answer with a little rumble in your throat.

"I hope that knowing Steve's a prize fighter will keep you from going back."

"No, I won't go back," you assure him. Anything to get yourself home. You never want to go back to Steve's anyway. There wouldn't really be a point--you can't clean well enough to compete with the forensic detectives they'd bring in. It would be smarter to just leave town while you still can. Maybe Krit would help you with that, if you didn't tell him why you had to go.

David stops in front of Krit's apartment. You take off your seatbelt and reach to open the door.

David stops you with a hand on your knee. "You know where my shop is. You know where my apartment is." He leans over and leaves a feather-light kiss on your cheek. "Find me if you need me, precious."

"What the hell did you do?" Krit demands the moment you step into the apartment. He can smell the blood, of course--and he can tell that it's not all yours. Maybe he can even tell that it's Steve's, if Steve has ever bled near him. There's no way to tell if that's ever happened, so you can only hope it hasn't.

You don't answer. You give in to your shaking and drop to the floor. The bedsprings creak as Krit rises from his seat on the mattress, and you can hear the slight stick of his sneakers on the floor has he walks over to the bathroom. He comes and kneels down beside you; there's the rattle of pills in a bottle as he moves.

He's silent for a long time. Your eyes are shut, but you can feel that he's watching you.

"It was you, wasn't it?" he finally murmurs. "Pike didn't do a thing. . . . "

"I d-didn't mean to," you force out between clattering teeth.

"You hurt him. That's Steve's blood on you."

You shake your head no. It's a complete lie, and there's no reason to expect Krit to believe it, but you need him to stay with you now. He can't go over there--he would know that you didn't stop at hurting Steve, and then how could he stand to ever look at you, touch you, kiss you, make love to you again?

Krit sets the tryptophan bottle down on the floor and steps over you as you lie there shaking. He never asked if you were okay. He didn't care that you arrived without even your shoes, or that you'd been hurt too.

The door clicks shut as he abandons you, and it's the most honest thing he's ever done.

[ END Part 5/6 ]
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