Disclaimer: Korben, Leeloo, Mrs. Dallas, and The Cat belong to Luc Besson and all parties involved.


Five Things Korben Knows


I

He does things he isn't necessarily proud of; he does things he knows will slowly smolder into his brain until some years later when he's fifty, he wakes crying and alone, another casualty of a belated stress-related syndrome. He thinks sardonically of the check they'll give him once a month, when he's insane and no one will want to hire a cracked and bloodshot ex-soldier: here's disability, for your lights and your fridge and your goddamn cat.

There's a dead man behind this door, though the man doesn't know it yet. Dallas thinks, There's plenty of dead men out here.

The hallway is dark and the lights flicker; he checks his gun and hoists it to his shoulder, opening the door with the stolen code the government gave him to memorize. The dead man turns and gapes, too terrified to scream or run.

"No," says the dead man, weakly, and Dallas can't care enough to correct him.


II

Her name is Carmen and she is twenty-two years old, tall, leggy, and blonde. She knows how to style her hair, and she knows what she wants from him and his job. He likes the way she looks when she's painting, checking every corner in their middle-class joint-owned apartment to make sure the colors match.

She says, "Why don't we get married?" The light reflects off her pale hair, and she smiles slyly at him, ducking into the forgotten white dress-jacket he bought and never used. "We can call your mom."

Ma likes her, even though she thinks no girl is good enough for her son. "You could do worse," she snorts at him, and demands grandchildren at some point. He nods, and fixes his eyes on the distance, not really listening as he sees Carmen flipping through a magazine for fashionable dresses.

He wants to believe he loves Carmen. He knows he doesn't.


III

He says he'll quit; he'll retire and find something else he can do for a living, something else his talents are good for. Carmen won't ask what talents those could be, and he's glad - he thinks, humorlessly, it would be a life of crime.

She takes her ring off and throws it at him, sometimes, when screaming isn't enough, when she doesn't want him to shout right back. He lets the gold jewelry hit him and he shouts anyway, wants her to understand this isn't what he wanted either.

"You're never here!" she screams, and he shouts, "When the hell have you ever noticed?"

She sleeps with a man he doesn't know and sometimes Dallas thinks he doesn't even care anymore.


IV

He stopped answering the phone a month ago, tired of Ma and legal threats from Carmen (with his former lawyer breathing at her neck) and various military types all wanting something. He wants to tell them to shut up, to go to hell because he's having a hard enough time trying to hold a goddamn job that starts before he's even fully awake in an apartment he can barely walk in, with no company but a drug-dealer to his right and a drug-addict to his left.

Some time after the second month of retirement from the military and the first year away from Carmen, he stops caring when they call. The small check the military gives him - pension, disability; whatever it is, it's money - helps him pay for what utilities he does use. He buys a treat for his cat every once in a while, and has some faith that at least this one creature depends on him.

Eventually, the phone stops ringing and Ma only calls when she thinks he'll answer.


V

Her hand hangs from the vent, limp and pale, streaked with dark red - her blood, or alien blood, but all he knows is he has to get Leeloo out of the ventilation system, out of danger. He sees the bodies on the floor, mostly dead and lumped where they fell; it's only when he has her in his arms, and he looks at the serene, uneven grey around him, that he realizes how easily he reverted back to special operations.

She breathes, lightly, weakly, and he thinks, fine, I'll do whatever I have to if she stays safe.

He never thinks he loves her; he never knows.

He merely does.


end