Diamonds and Rust
by Skinner Box
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Spender/Krycek
Spoilers: Existence
Disclaimer: The X-files and these characters belong to Chris Carter and Fox Broadcasting. I play with them out of love and for no profit.
Notes: A Leedsville story. Thank you to Wildy for beta, Ursula for encouragement, drovar and the Spenderfic folks, and Meir. This story is for RiF.
Archive: please ask first

Diamonds and Rust
by Skinner Box

I. Rust

It's brown, like rust, the smeared thumbprint on the corner of the letter. Three days later I still sit and stare at it. As if it were your blood, not mine. It's all I can do. Here at the kitchen table, in the never quite comfortable vinyl and metal chairs we hardly ever sat in.

I don't know. Maybe if I could sum it up, somehow. Fix what we were to each other in these scant two years in this run down little house. But. But. But...

The official story- easy enough- MIA, you're lost in a war zone. Close enough to truth I suppose.

I suppose I should eat something.

I'll have to tell someone something. Sometime. I suppose.

You'd be lecturing me, if you were here.

Maybe you'll haunt me. A sardonic ghost squinting his olive drab eyes at me, going on about nutrition and keeping the cover up.

For fucking what?

The words are fading out. Not much moonlight comes in the kitchen window. So who's the "honourable man," imaginary ghost of my vagabond Alex? Who in this wide and empty world did you trust enough to send me a letter if you were dead?

I dreamt about a boat. Some wide rectangular barge, like the scows carting garbage from New York to Jersey. We were refugees, you and I, part of the huddled masses of, oddly enough, college kids with backpacks. Some cross between a war and youth hostelry gone terribly wrong. We hid in the woods by day and floated down some wide anonymous river by night. I got a crick in my neck, sleeping here at the table.

God, if I'd known, if I'd known, if I'd known.

I'd have taken my go-bag and walked the first time you went back to the war.

I'd have pulled you into my bed months before I finally did.

It doesn't matter. Whatever I did or didn't do I knew I was setting myself up for this. For a long brown windblown leaf of a fall.

I never told you about Spook. Spook was a little brindled cat, a stray, that set up residence in the shed behind the house Mom rented for us when we followed her visions to Oklahoma. I used to put out food for her. And water. Always water in that long dry scorching summer, full of rust-red dust in clouds that choked me. She stopped coming around when fall came, rain and tornados. And then we moved again. I begged Mom to wait a few weeks, see if Spook came back so we could take her with us. But the prophet was called to Pennsylvania. I still miss that damn cat. She even let me pet her, toward the end.

The phone is ringing. It's rung before. The answering machine is filling up- work, church, John, Janine. Thank God the Gilmores across the road are away. Why the fuck did you settle us in a small town?

I'm listening to my own voice with half an ear, turning and turning the single sheet of the letter in my hand. Leave a message at the beep.

Your voice is harsh and fast and low. "Hey, Love." Code words for 'get out fast.' I tangle in the chair, in my robe, trying to get to the living room to the phone. "I'll be home on the sixteenth." And you hang up. Sixteen. The code for Northfield, Minnesota.

Less than an hour later, hair short again, pack on my back, Jeffrey Wallace is buying a bus ticket in Hamilton. I don't know what I'll find. Northfield sounds like a phone booth surrounded by midwestern wheat. Are we going further underground? Are you finally drafting me into the war?

Vague empty-bellied nausea washes over me on the bus. I don't care. The swish of wheels on wet pavement lulls me.

I should have known better than to sleep. I wake up in the goddamned kitchen again.


II. Diamonds

The stars look like diamonds out here.

Cliche, yeah. But I mean cold and sharp, not kiddie song-engagement ring romance.

I'm flat on my back in the field behind the house. Relatively whole. The faceless barbecue squad came through for me again.

Weird to look up at where I've just been. My first time on the ship. I don't remember much, of course. I don't think you can- not and stay human- their point of view is that much different.

I've got no business lying out here. My life is waiting. And it's starting to snow.

Snow. Months then. It's been fucking months. Yobaniy v'rote. That picks me up and moves me, body stiff from the cold, vague ache where my left arm used to be. They can pull a bullet from my brain and somehow patch the shreds of my frontal lobes back together, but growing an arm is beyond alien technology? Or just not something they'd think to do for me, however much of an edge it might give their human operative to be able bodied?

Over the rise and I can see light leaking around the curtains from the sliding glass door at the back of the living room. I wonder just how fucking long it's been. Am I even welcome any more? Jeff kept things vague between us- even after the sex started. Not that I looked for declarations, but it was like I'd strayed into his path, into his arms, and he kept me there because it was simpler than letting me go. I mean I'm sure he's grateful for his life, mostly. But maybe he's liked having it to himself.

I don't have anything on me. No key, nada. It's not like I carried one around, anyway. I'd cache it with my Rubens id when I switched identities.

That window is drawing me. Only light I can see. If Jeffrey's home, he's there. Maybe with a fire going? Sideways on the couch, those long legs of his stretched out, book on his lap, staring like he does, his eyes dark as the sea, temporarily lost.

The back steps are narrow, lightly dusted with white. So am I. Snow on my shoulders, in the folds of my jacket, in my hair- grown long, past my ears. Just how many months was I gone?

I can see my hand tremble as I raise it. Not from cold. I make it stop before I knock.

A minute. Another. Goddamnit Jeff, don't make me wait.

He stands there a moment, the curtains pushed behind his shoulder. God, he's so thin. Then the door we hardly use slides open with a rusty groan. I give the password and he answers, our breaths mingling, one white cloud hanging in the air between us. Not that passwords are any good if you've already opened the damn door.

I'll point that out later. He looks at me, and a tear spills over and tumbles off his too-sharp cheek, flashing like a diamond as it falls. We could both die right now and I would be fine.

The End

Archived: July 04, 2001