And so she woke up
You got to cry without weeping
She runs through the streets
She is raging
Part One: Midnight Angel
The time is out of joint:
Notes: Yes I named this section after Isahunter's wonderful Krycek story of the same name. Check it out, she rocks. We laughed when I wrote her and asked permission to use the title because she named her series "Moving Heaven and Earth". She never intended it to sound so much like "Crawling Between Earth and Heaven", the name of this series. Despite the fact that they are both Krycek/other romances, we went in totally different directions.
The man fell as the butt of the Sig Sauer impacted his skull. The knife he intended to use on Mulder's arm clattered to the floor. Mulder looked up, shocked, to see a diminutive woman standing before him. She dressed warmly in a thick coat two sizes too big for her, dark hair spilling over the hood. She stepped over the unconscious man and handed the gun, butt-first, to Mulder.
"I believe this is yours," she said in English.
Mulder gaped like a freshly caught fish. He took the Sig, looked it over as if he'd never seen it before.
The woman spoke again, this time in Russian. "Tell your husband I'm sorry for the headache he will have when he wakes up."
The man's wife nodded, speechless.
She gestured impatiently at Mulder and returned to English so he would understand. "We've got to get moving."
She dressed him in the clothes he never thought he'd see again plus a warm coat like her own. He tucked the gun in his pocket, feeling somewhat secure for the first time in days. Then she reached into her saddlebags and pulled out another miracle.
"Okay, Mr., ah, Gilnitz, you might need these," she said sarcastically as she handed over the passport and cover identity Covarrubias provided back in New York.
Then the scent of food drove all coherent thought from his head. Rudely Mulder snatched the bread from her hand and stuffed as much of it as he could in his mouth at once.
"Hey! Slow down, if you eat too fast you'll only lose it again," she advised as he gulped down the half-chewed bread.
"Sorry," he mumbled around a mouthful.
"Yeah, whatever," she muttered as she helped him mount his horse, adjusted his stirrups, showed him how to hold the reins.
In between smaller bites he heard her mumble something about stupid Americans coming to Siberia in December.
"But that wouldn't stop you, would it?" she said aloud as she directed her horse briskly along the snow-covered road. Mulder tried to concentrate on his balance; he wasn't used to riding a horse and his muscles protested. Luckily his horse followed Kate's and didn't give him any trouble.
"I don't know why I put up with you idiot men," she continued impatiently. "What, did they cut your tongue out at the gulag?"
"Who are you?" he tried.
"That's original," she said snidely. "Let's see. Well, I'm American, you should be smart enough to figure that out."
"Yeah, I figured that out. Why are you helping me? What are you doing here?"
"No, the question is, what are you doing here?"
He didn't answer, too afraid to press his luck.
"Never mind," she said, irritation evident in her voice. "Call me Murphy."
"Fox Mulder, nice to meet you. Okay, Murphy, at least tell me what an American like yourself is doing in Siberia in December."
"Freezing my ass off, that's what." She sighed, relented. "Let's skip that question for now. The important thing is, I'm here, and so are you. With both arms. And I hope you want to get back to the States, because that's where I'm headed."
In his vast experience dealing with ornery women, Mulder decided to play it safe. "Thank you. For the food, the clothes, for showing up when you did, for everything."
She didn't answer for a long time. "Yeah, well, I had to do something," she said softly, as if to herself.
Encouraged, he tried for another question. "Will you tell me how you know me?"
"No." Kate pulled her hood up to cover her face and stared straight forward. "I don't have to tell you anything."
Wincing at her tone, Mulder replied, "I'm sorry, you're right. I owe you for saving me."
She made a wordless sound of frustration. Saving Mulder. The sheer irony of it galled her. "*Nichevo*," she said without thinking, then grimaced. The uniquely Russian word roughly translated to "it can't be helped," but had a broader meaning. It was an all-purpose expression of resignation that fit her emotion perfectly.
"Well maybe if you hadn't come here in the first place then people like me wouldn't have to come charging to your rescue," she said through clenched teeth. "Did that ever occur to you, Fox Mulder?"
Kate shut her eyes and tried to calm down. She wasn't truly angry with Mulder. *Although he is an idiot*, she thought. She was angry with Alex for putting her in this position. For making her choose between him and her conscience.
With the thought of him she found her awareness reaching out. When he reached the gulag, she put any further thoughts of him from her mind. He was alive and safe, that was enough.
Kate considered what she said about heading back to the United States. Everything happened so fast, she didn't have a chance to think about her future. She could hear Mulder's thoughts like a broken record in her head. He could think of nothing but returning to DC and Scully.
*And what about Kate? Where does she end up?* For so long she simply shadowed Alex, let him make all the decisions. She never voiced an opinion or even had one. The thought shamed her. If she had come to her senses sooner, could she have stopped him in time? *In time for what?* she thought harshly. Now she was alone and she had to make her own decisions. She wondered if she could even figure out how. Everything always seemed to happen to her in the past, and it was no coincidence. She let things happen, never took charge, never considered her choices beforehand. Until now.
Kate rearranged her feet in her stirrups and thought about life. She knew one thing for certain: she had to get the hell out of Russia. More than anything she wanted to put the whole bloody snowy mess behind her and start over. Deep down she knew better. Nothing would ever be the same, but she could try to make a new life for herself. Again.
With a pang she remembered the time Alex gave her a new identity and her freedom. She took that freedom and chose to side with him, to fight his fight. At the time her reasons made sense. Now, a little older, a little wiser, a little more scarred, she knew better.
She still had the forged ID Alex gave her in Salt Lake City a lifetime ago. With little trouble she could become Kristine Murphy, mild-mannered bartender, once again. No one had to know about her past, her involvement with Alex, her responsibility for his crimes. *Except me. Will I ever be the same? Do I want to be?* she wondered, but found no answers.
After some consideration Kate decided to go back to Washington with Mulder. She needed a new city, a new place to rebuild the wreckage of her life.
Mulder's voice interrupted her thoughts. "So how do you know so much about horses?" he asked innocently.
She admired his ability to make small talk in such an absurd situation. "I grew up on a ranch," she told him.
"Where?" he asked, his tone neutral.
"Oklahoma," she responded, staying as vague as possible. "What about you?"
"Massachusetts," he said. "I guess you could call me a city boy."
She snorted. "Yeah, I figured that out," she said, obviously eyeing the awkward way he sat his horse, fiddled with the reins.
"You don't miss a trick, do you, Murphy?" he asked, his tone guileless.
Kate didn't buy it for a second. Mulder had a mystery and he would try every trick he knew to learn more about her. "Yeah, and you are one nosy son of a bitch," she responded sharply.
He took the hint. "Why else would I be freezing my ass off in Siberia in December?" he joked, then left her to her own thoughts.
Kate heard him thinking how lucky he was that she came along when she did. She wondered how he would react if he knew the whole story. He had no clear idea what she was doing in Russia, much less her involvement in the trap Krycek set for him. She intended to keep it that way.
Mulder and Kate stood in the lobby of the motel she remembered from the last time she was in town, what was it, barely a week ago? A few days? Over time she lost count. It felt like years instead of days.
"Are you gonna be okay, Murphy?" he asked, concern lining his features. As much as he wanted to ask her everything and then some, he kept the questions simple.
She shrugged. "I'll figure something out."
Mulder smiled, wondering what truth lay beneath her tough act. "Thanks again."
"Whatever. Just try to stay out of trouble in the future, okay?" Kate thought of Scully but didn't mention her name. "You may not always have someone ready and willing to bail you out," she said and smiled wryly.
Mulder hissed through his teeth. "You've got me there," he admitted. "Take care of yourself. I have to go." Unexpectedly he gave her a quick hug, then headed out the door.
Kate checked herself in and sighed deeply as she dumped her bag on the bed. Peeling her dirty clothes off, she regarded them distastefully. She emptied the contents of her duffel out on the bed and sorted through her paltry belongings. When she found a set of somewhat clean clothes she headed for the bathroom and a hot shower.
As the water washed off the last of the Siberian dirt, she let her mind relax and found it wandering back to Alex. On the trip she managed to avoid thinking of him at all. Now she felt his presence clearly, lurking as always in the back of her mind.
With frightening clarity she saw through his eyes, shared his emotions as her own once more. Their bond had grown over the last year together. She never realized just how much. She saw the room they shared the last night together in Tunguska. The memory still raw, she buried it and concentrated on Alex.
His arm hurt with a dull throbbing ache. She felt every one of the Doctor's stitches as if they penetrated her own flesh. "It will never heal completely," she heard the Doctor say in Alex's memories. "There is too much tendon and nerve damage. You will have to work to keep it functioning."
Krycek sneered at the Doctor. "Just sew it up, grandfather," he said. "And remember what I told you. No one is to know. And you know what I will do to you if you do not keep your word."
With a jolt Kate realized what he meant. The Doctor would tell everyone the damage was too deep and he had to amputate. Instead of a weakness, he intended to exploit his injury, to make others underestimate him. She shook her head with disgust. *All this simply to make himself a more effective killer.* She thought she knew how far he had fallen. Now she reconsidered that too.
Amid the haze of pain and rage, he thought only of leaving Tunguska and returning to St. Petersburg and Arntzen. His anger left no room for logic, much less ethical consideration. Krycek looked forward to returning to his employer. He craved another chance to spread death and suffering for the simple pleasure of it. Kate pictured him shaking his fist to the sky, vowing to repay the injustice the world inflicted on him a thousandfold.
Kate shivered, grateful she got away when she could. She barely recognized the man she once knew, the man she loved. At first she felt only guilt for betraying him, for rescuing Mulder, the man he hated so passionately. What she saw now convinced her she made the right choice.
Part Two: Liam
Leaning back in her chair, Kate gulped down her beer. After her shower she decided it might not be such a bad thing to get very drunk. She took a drag off her cigarette and tried not to cough. Never a regular smoker, Kate only indulged when she felt pushed to extremes. This qualified and then some.
Focused on the drink in front of her, a voice she vaguely remembered caught her by surprise. "Murphy? Is that you?"
Kate looked up slowly and found O'Connor staring at her as if she had come back from the dead.
*She looks half-dead,* she heard him think.
"It is you! Jesus Christ, I thought I'd never see you again," he said aloud as he took a seat next to her. "Where have you been?" he asked anxiously.
Kate stared at her old friend disoriented. *This is too weird,* she thought, the numbing effects of alcohol fogging her brain. "It's a long story," she evaded. "What are you doing here? The last time I saw you was Seattle, what, a year ago?" she asked instead.
"I live here now," he said simply. "I got transferred to the main office."
O'Connor couldn't stop looking at her as if she would vanish if he took his eyes off her for an instant. Even if Kate couldn't sense his anguish, the distress in his voice would have given it away. He left Seattle because he couldn't stand being in a place that reminded him so much of her.
Kate ran a hand through her hair and stared at the drink in front of her. After so much time on the run, never staying in one place for long, she forgot what meant to have a friend. Seeing O'Connor again brought back so many good memories, things she'd forgotten. With a twinge of remorse she realized she forgot on purpose. When she traveled with Alex, they only had each other. She never let herself feel the loneliness inherent in her way of life.
Lost in her own thoughts, she had to pull her mind back to the present when O'Connor spoke again. "What about you?" he asked. "What are you doing in DC?"
"Having a drink or three," she said, sidestepping the question. "Like I said, it's a long story."
"I've got the time."
She sighed. "To be honest, O'Connor, I can't really talk about it right now. But I will tell you one thing." She looked him in the eye, willing him to understand and to believe. "I'm here to stay. I'm not going to run off like last time. I..." she paused, her heart in her throat. "I'm sorry I left like I did."
The hurt in O'Connor's eyes made her throat even tighter. "Then why did you?"
Kate rubbed her thumb over the frosted glass of her mug. "Alex," she said neutrally. "He was in trouble."
"The guy you were dating?" O'Connor knew of him, but had never met the man.
Kate laughed bitterly. "Yeah, the guy I was dating. The scumsucking son-of-a-bitch motherfucker, may he rot in hell."
O'Connor bit his lip. "Did you guys split up?" he asked discreetly.
Kate nodded her head without looking up. "Yeah."
"It's complicated. I guess he wasn't the person I thought he was." She reconsidered. "No, he was, but then he changed...and when I saw what he turned into, I left." She took a long drink, closing her eyes in a vain attempt to block out the images of blood and darkness.
"I'm sorry," O'Connor said sincerely.
"Thank you." She raised her head to look at him once more. "I mean it. I can't believe I met you like this," she said, laughing with a tinge of hysteria.
O'Connor smiled, his blue eyes twinkling. "It's crazy, I know. But I'm not going to argue." Tentatively he reached for her hand. When he found it, she squeezed it, hard, as if that alone could bridge the time and the distance between them.
"So what are you going to do now?" O'Connor asked.
*That is so like him,* Kate thought. *He doesn't care where I've been or what I've done.* Honestly she didn't know how he would react if he knew the truth. As much as she wanted to reach out, as much as she needed someone to listen, she shrank from telling him anything more. What would happen if he rejected her? In her current state Kate knew she couldn't handle it.
"Get drunk, throw up, and pass out," she joked, then turned somber. "Everything happened so fast, I haven't had time to think about it." She didn't explain exactly what "everything" meant, but O'Connor took it in stride.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" he offered.
"I don't know, I only got back today. I haven't even had a chance to do my laundry," she said, laughing. "It's pretty foul."
O'Connor smiled and his eyes shone like stars. "I might just have the remedy for that."
When you need someone
Goodnight my sweet angel
Not much later Kate found herself stretched out on O'Connor's couch with his dog, Sandy, on her feet. After a thorough sniffing the golden retriever decided Kate was a good person to curl up with. "I think she likes you," O'Connor said after watching the interchange.
"It's a good thing you have a big couch," Kate said, smiling at the furry lump warming her feet. "This is a great place," she said, taking his apartment in with a broad gesture. "And I don't just mean the laundry room," she joked. "They must pay you Feds pretty well."
He moved Sandy over and sat down at the other end of the couch. Kate felt acutely self-conscious in his borrowed t-shirt and shorts. His kindness made her heart turn over with regret once more. Why did she run out on the best friend she'd ever had?
*Alex,* she thought with distaste. When he was around everything else seemed to fade into the background. Like he was in vivid Technicolor and everything else a scratchy black-and-white. He made her forget about everything else, anyone else but him. She swore right then and there to never let that happen again.
"Oh hell," she said without explanation.
O'Connor looked at her with compassion. "I'm sorry."
Kate sat up, exasperated. "Will you stop saying that? It's not your fault, dammit," she said, then instantly regretted her harsh words. "Shit, now I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to come out that way. You've been so nice to me."
"It's okay, you must be really stressed out," O'Connor observed.
"You can say that again," she answered.
"Is this helping at all?" he asked hopefully.
"Are you kidding?" Kate said with feeling. "This, this is so..." she faded off. She almost said, "so much better than a Siberian gulag" but stopped herself. "It's a lot nicer than anywhere I've been lately," she finished instead. "I haven't had a chance to relax since...I don't even remember when. Thanks, O'Connor. I mean it."
"Please, call me Liam," he said.
Kate blushed, ashamed. "I never even knew your first name. After all this time. What the hell does that say about me?" she asked, not expecting an answer.
He gave her one anyway. "It says you're cautious, you don't trust everyone you meet. That's not a bad thing. At least I don't think so."
"God, you talk like a fucking profiler," she said without ire.
He shrugged. "It's all part of the job, Murphy."
Kate smiled sadly but said nothing for a long time. "If you want me to call you Liam, you really should call me Kris," she finally said.
"Thank you, Kris. For trusting me," he said and smiled, his blue eyes twinkling.
Sandy picked that moment to started licking her toes and Kate squirmed. "Can I get some socks before she cleans my icky feet with her tongue?" she requested between giggles.
When Liam came back with the socks he found Kate having a heart- to-heart with his dog. She tried to logically explain to Sandy why licking humans' toes is not acceptable. Kate held her head gently in her hands, caressing her ears, and Sandy's mouth dropped open in a uniquely doggie grin.
Liam's face lit up in a smile as he witnessed the absurd beauty of the scene. He knew he would never forget that moment for the rest of his life. "Here's your socks, Kris," he said.
Taking care not to hit Sandy in the face or tongue, Kate pulled on the socks. "What is it?" she asked, sensing he had something important to tell her.
"I, I don't want to upset you," he stuttered. "But I have some of your stuff from your old place."
Kate's eyes went wide. "What? How?"
He looked at her, compassion turning his eyes an even deeper shade of blue. "The landlord called the cops to evict you when you didn't show up to pay rent. I managed to get most of it before your oh-so-charitable neighbors swiped it all."
"Where is it?"
"In my closet."
"Can I see it?"
On shaky legs she followed her friend to the closet in his bedroom. "I'm sorry I couldn't get more," he apologized.
"I--I don't know what to say," she stammered. She reached out and opened her jewelry box, one of the few things she managed to rescue from her apartment in Colorado. The first time she left without a word to anyone.
"I never thought I would see this again. Look," she said to him, holding up a faded photograph. "My grandfather," she explained. "He raised me, my parents died when I was a kid. And oh," she said, her voice strained, "My mother's necklace." She fingered the heavy silver strands. "My father gave it to her as a wedding present."
She carefully set the box aside and covered her mouth with her hand. "Dammit, I'm going to start crying."
Liam pulled her into a rough hug. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
Her face in his shoulder, she mumbled, "Why are you sorry? You did this for me, how can I ever thank you?"
"I'm sorry it happened at all," he said, kissing the top of her head.
She choked back tears. "How can you say that? If you knew what really happened...what I've seen, what I've done..." she trailed off, unable to say more.
Liam gently put a hand on either side of her head and turned her to face him. Unable to look away, she saw the honesty in his eyes as he told her, "It doesn't matter. You don't have to tell me anything. As hard as you try to hide from me, from yourself, it doesn't matter. If you broke down and told me everything, do you think I would run screaming?"
Kate nodded almost imperceptibly.
Liam smiled sadly. "You said I talk like a fucking profiler. Did it ever occur to you that I am a fucking profiler? It's part of my job, Kris. And every instinct I have tells me you are one of the good guys. I simply can't believe you could have done anything bad enough to make me hate you. You're not capable of it."
He let her go. She put her hands on his shoulders and pressed her forehead lightly against his chest, staring at her feet. "Yeah, well, you're biased," she whispered.
She could feel him fighting back the chuckle rising from his chest. "Maybe I am," he admitted. "But I've also known you for a long time. Like it or not, I pick up on things. You're so afraid of opening up, you must feel awfully guilty about something. I wish I could make you stop. I hate to see you hurting yourself like that."
It was too much; everything he said hit too close to the mark. Kate raised her head, staring at his chin but no higher. This time he let himself laugh.
"Look, I'm sorry, again. I only wanted to help, and here I go making wild assumptions," he apologized.
Kate smoothed down his shirt and crossed her arms over her chest, her eyes never moving to his face. "No, it's okay. You've done so much for me already. Getting my stuff, letting me bum around...I feel like I owe you."
"You don't owe me anything," he assured her.
Kate took a deep breath. "Can we just...I can't deal with any more right now, okay?" she asked, hoping he would understand what she couldn't put into words.
He did. Taking her hand, he led her from his bedroom back to the living room and settled her on the couch. When he sat down next to her, she let her head fall on his shoulder. He smiled to himself, content.
When he heard her snoring softly and Liam carefully arranged her on the couch. When he returned from the bedroom with a blanket, he found Sandy sitting at Kate's side as if taking up guard duty. "You do that, girl," he whispered to his dog. "She needs someone to watch over her."
Part Three: Reckless
Notes: Okay, I promised I wouldn't use any Russian without giving a translation to go along with it. You might remember from my other stories, "tovarisch" means "Comrade", let's see, what else? "Spasebo" means "thank you", and "bolshoe spasebo" means "Thank you very much".
I already used "nichevo" and tried to explain it but it's complicated. It doesn't translate literally into English. It means something like "it can't be helped", but it's sort of an all-purpose expression of resignation. From what I understand the Russians use that word all the time.
I have to apologize Yanichka for calling Krycek "Sasha", she says that's her own pet name for him. "Sasha" is the Russian nickname for "Aleksandr", I guess I got tired of everyone calling him "Alexei". I'm only borrowing the name to make a point. I hope you forgive me, Yanichka, especially after I bribed you with "Due South" tapes. :)
Liam smiled when he heard the knock on his door. When he opened it he found Kate standing on the other side.
"Can I come in?" she asked politely.
"Jeez, Kris, how many times do I have to tell you? You don't even have to knock."
Since she met him a week ago she found a place of her own, but she always stopped by after he got home from work. Like always the they ended up on the couch watching TV. *I have to get my ass in gear and get a job,* she thought. With a sad smile she remembered the shock on Liam's face when she produced not only the money for her own apartment, but cash for furniture and everything else she needed to start over.
"You must have been busy," was all he said.
"Yeah, I had a stash overseas," she said, unwilling to volunteer the details. Working with Alex wasn't extremely profitable but they never seemed to have anything to spend it on. *It's hard to live it up when you're trying to keep a low profile,* she remembered thinking. But after spending so much of it on her apartment, even buying a car, she knew it wouldn't last.
Liam smiled when he discovered Kate had fallen asleep on his couch again. She seldom stayed late but the exhaustion must have caught up with her. He didn't mind, quite the opposite. He appreciated the fact that she trusted him enough to let her guard down and relax.
When he got up to get her a blanket, Sandy automatically went over and laid down next to Kate. Liam's eyes twinkled but he said nothing.
I am one, my liege,
Waiting outside Mikhail Arntzen's office, Krycek glanced up when he heard the door open. Someone he never imagined seeing again walked out and closed the door behind her.
She caught his eye, taking him in with a glance. "Alex? What are you doing here?" she asked, sidling over and taking a seat next to him.
"I could ask you the same thing," he replied, never taking his eyes off her.
The Russian secretary looked up from his desk, annoyed at his inability to understand the conversation going on right under his nose.
"I came to talk to your friend. You caused quite a stir back home, Alex. I wanted to know why."
"I'm impressed," she purred, showing her teeth.
"I'm glad you approve," he answered, a slow smile forming on his own face.
They both turned when Arntzen appeared in the doorway. "Aleksandr? If you are finished with the lady, I would like to speak with you," he said in gruff Russian.
"I guess that's my cue," Marita sighed when the door closed again.
Krycek studied her with glittering eyes. "I'd like to see you again before you head out," he offered, then named a place and a time.
She licked her lips. "I look forward to it." On her way out she ran her fingertips along his shoulders.
Krycek watched the door long after she left. With a deep shuddering breath he crossed the room to Arntzen's office. He entered and found his friend puffing happily on a Cuban cigar.
"You're moving up in the world, Colonel Misha," Krycek said wryly. "They even gave you a secretary."
Mikhail Arntzen laughed, the sound echoing in the spacious room, a large step up from his previous cramped quarters. "You had a little something to do with it," he said, offering Krycek a cigar.
When Arntzen discovered the American operation to smuggle the out the Tunguska rock, he knew they must be working on their own vaccine against the black oil. He hired Krycek to track down the men behind the project, halt the smuggling, and destroy their work on the vaccine.
Krycek jumped at the chance to give the Smoking Man a taste of revenge. With Kate's help he set Mulder on the trail of the operation, acquiring the information he needed to complete his assignment.
"Is that your way of saying *spasebo*?" Krycek asked, lighting the cigar one-handed.
"*Da, tovarisch. Bolshoe spasebo*," he congratulated his operative. "Too bad it cost you so dearly," he said, indicating Krycek's left arm.
"*Nichevo*," Alex waved away his friend's sympathy. "I can still do what I need to."
Arntzen poured Krycek a drink and refilled his own. Out of nowhere he asked, "Why the pretense?"
Against his will Krycek's eyelid twitched. "What did he tell you?" he demanded, referring to the Doctor at the Tunguska gulag.
Arntzen laughed away his friend's angry response. "Only what I need to know. You are among friends here, Sasha," he said, surprising Krycek once more. In the past Arntzen always referred to him as "Aleksandr", never the corresponding Russian nickname. The other man continued, "Your secret is safe. Only the two of us know, and yourself of course. What I want to know is why." The man's tone changed. He leaned forward, folding his hands on his desk, and regarded Krycek in earnest.
Krycek knocked back the vodka, feeling the liquid like fire down his throat. "He said I will never recover full use of it, Misha. So I turn a liability into a strength. How many men will fear a cripple?"
Unexpectedly he wished Kate was there to tell him what thoughts ran unseen behind the other man's inscrutable eyes. He quickly crushed the thought.
Arntzen laughed once more. "You have come a long way, my friend," he said.
Krycek didn't reply.
The smile never left the Russian's face. "I don't know how or why, but you seem to have overcome your misgivings. I have nothing but hope for you, Sasha, my personal assassin," he finished.
Any other time such an implication would have set Krycek at his friend's throat. Instead he found himself smiling. "Yes. I like the sound of that."
"I thought you might. Therefore I must bring up an unpleasant subject."
"The American you brought to take part in the test. He escaped."
Krycek gritted his teeth in impotent fury. "I did not know he got out of the country."
"Yes, the woman came here to inform me. Now, Sasha, I am very pleased with your work. The experiments at Tunguska can continue without interference. But I must ask why you involved the American."
Krycek's eyes narrowed. After days of physical abuse, he couldn't resist the chance to watch Mulder suffer and die in the gulag. Thinking on his feet, he quickly came up with a plausible excuse.
"I had no choice, Misha," he lied. "The man discovered Tunguska on his own," he said, never consciously aware of his understatement. Mulder would never have found Tunguska without Marita Covarrubias' help, yet he omitted that detail. "During the course of my assignment he held me prisoner and forced me to accompany him," he continued, hoping against hope Kate kept her conversation with the Doctor short. He sent her ahead to warn the man of his arrival. If the Doctor knew of his true plan and told Arntzen, his lies would fall apart in the light of day.
He returned to the matter at hand. "I thought it fitting he should die in the test."
"Ah, Sasha, but he did not," Arntzen chided him softly.
Krycek mentally sighed with relief. His friend suspected nothing.
He hung his head in feigned disgrace. "I am truly sorry, Misha."
Arntzen brushed the apology aside. "So you left a loose end. Overall the mission was a success. My only request is that you tie up that loose end."
Krycek raised his head, careful to keep the glee from his eyes. At last he could have Fox Mulder at his mercy. "Consider it done," he assured the colonel.
"Who was the woman?" Arntzen asked as the other man feared he would. "The one who preceded you to the gulag."
Krycek felt like he had been kicked in the stomach. His employer watched him carefully, gauging his reaction. In a flat tone he replied, "She was helping me with the mission. I made a mistake, Misha. I trusted her. She betrayed me and allowed the other American to escape."
Arntzen sighed and Krycek wondered what the Doctor had told his friend about his female companion. Did he know they had been lovers? He couldn't tell. But he knew what his next order would undoubtedly involve.
Krycek heard himself say, "She has been taken care of, Misha. I killed her myself."
The colonel raised one eloquent eyebrow.
"Still, the man escaped?"
"In the confusion, yes."
Over the smoke rising from his cigar he studied Arntzen surreptitiously. The other man questioned his story, but in the end Krycek's hard-won loyalty convinced him.
"*Nichevo*," he said with a sigh.
"*Nichevo*," Krycek repeated.
"So what do you see in your future, Sasha?" his friend said, abruptly changing the subject once more.
Krycek looked at his friend with guarded eyes, unsure of Misha's meaning. "I will carry out your orders, as you requested."
Arntzen leaned back in his chair. "You have undoubtedly made yourself very unpopular in your home country," he began. "But you have proven yourself to me and I do not wish to let a man of your talents go to waste. Surely you do not wish to remain a simple operative," he said matter-of-factly.
"Exactly what are you offering?" Krycek asked suspiciously.
Arntzen puffed on his cigar and regarded the other man. "Your choice of assignments."
Immediately Krycek thought of the Doctor. "Tunguska."
The colonel put down his cigar and howled laughter. "Oh, Sasha, you are one vindictive son of a bitch, you know that? I would be more than happy to put you in charge of the test."
Still chuckling, he shook his head. "That man deserves it. Deserves you. He has had free run for too long, he oversteps his bounds. I wish I could see the look on his face when he knows you will be overseeing the project from now on."
Krycek's only response was a slow smile.
Kate woke up to the sound of a dog barking. She sat up and scanned her surroundings, trying to get her bearings. Slowly the memories returned: she fell asleep on Liam's couch the night before. Beside her Sandy continued barking. Kate tried to quiet her but it was too late.
Liam came running from the bedroom. "What is it? What's wrong?"
Through the faint light he could make out Kate sitting bolt upright, staring at him with wide eyes.
"I had a bad dream," she said. "I'm sorry I woke you."
Liam snorted. "You didn't wake me, Sandy did. That must have been one hell of a bad dream."
She shook her head, trying to clear it of the images of vodka and cigars, clandestine meetings in low-lit rooms. "I think I scared her, that's all," she said, hoping he would drop it.
Instead Liam sat down beside her. "Does this happen a lot?" he asked. She wouldn't look at him, her head held low from what looked like guilt. He pieced it together, suddenly understanding why she always looked so worn and frazzled when they knew each other in Seattle. She caught his thought and panicked, then searched deeper. He assumed her nightmares came from some past trauma. He never imagined their true cause.
Kate didn't realize she was shaking until Liam pulled her close. "It's okay," he whispered into her hair. She gripped his arms, willing her hands to stop trembling. "It was just a bad dream. You're safe now," he said quietly, rocking her. She leaned back into him and closed her eyes.
*If only it was just a bad dream,* she thought. *But I saw it through his eyes. I know it's real.* The thought of Alex, knowing what he had become, made her shake even worse.
Liam whispered reassurances and rocked her until the shaking stopped. "Are you going to be okay now?" he asked quietly.
"I think so." She reached out to pet Sandy. The dog had arranged herself on the other side of Kate and put her head in Kate's lap. "I'm sorry I woke you," she repeated.
"I'm glad you woke me," he retorted. "I hate to think of you going through this all alone."
*If only he knew.* Kate thought of all the times she suffered the nightmares without a word to anyone. Even now she didn't want to think about it much less let Liam know of her burden.
Checking his watch, he announced, "I have to get ready for work soon anyway. Are you sure you're going to be okay?"
Kate stood up and stretched. "I just have to get up and work it out of my system. You go do your thing. I have to go job-hunting today anyway."
She turned and looked at Liam when he didn't respond. Quietly he said, "So that's why you used to work double shifts," he said. "No wonder you were always exhausted."
Unable to deny the facts, Kate simply shrugged. "I do what I can."
Part Four: Ashes
In the distance
Smiling broadly, Alex Krycek entered his room followed by Marita Covarrubias. She slunk into the room, her body still racked with laughter. "Alex, you slay me," she began, then fell silent. He stood with his back to the locked door, gun pointed at her head.
"Don't lie to me, Marita. I don't like it when people lie to me," he said, his voice calm, dangerous. "Tell me why he sent you here."
"I don't know what you're talking about," she said mildly, looking down the barrel of his gun.
"The hell you don't. I know who you work for. If you think you can take me in with your little feminine ploys, you can think again. I'm not buying it, bitch," he spat out.
"I'm not playing games," she continued in the same flat tone. "I hate him as much as you do, Alex. It's true, he sent me here, though he has no knowledge of the identity of my contact. He knows you had something to do with the rock. What did you expect?"
His eyes never left Marita's. "What are you going to tell him?"
"What I always do," she said. "Exactly what he wants to hear."
Slowly Krycek lowered the gun. "How can you stand it? I don't think I could spend two seconds with that chain-smoking bastard without putting a bullet in his head," he said fervently.
"We've both changed, Alex," she said slyly. "You chose your way, I chose mine. Just because I run his errands doesn't mean I'm not waiting for the right moment to stick a knife in his back."
Alex tossed the gun aside. "I like your style," he said with a grin.
Marita smiled coyly and moved closer until she nearly had him pinned against the door. "So what are you going to do about it?" she whispered, her breath tickling his cheek.
Dimly Krycek wondered what she wanted from him but right now he didn't care. Her hands played across his chest, drawing a growl from his throat. She laughed breathlessly and caught his lips in a kiss.
Afterwards she slept amid the tangled sheets. Alex leaned heavily against the windowframe, staring sightlessly into the darkness. He closed his eyes and hung his head, his breath coming in tortured gasps.
Barely ten days had passed since Kate left him alone and bleeding in the snow. She was gone. She left him and sided with the enemy. He used Marita, he knew that as well as he knew she was using him. He thought she could make him forget, burn the memory of her from his mind at least for a while.
Instead he closed his eyes, picturing Kate's face in the throes of passion. He thought only of her, recalled every gasp and moan ripped from her throat when he made love to her. At the end he called out to her in his mind, repeating her name silently like a prayer. He couldn't forget her, no matter how hard he tried. He wondered if he ever would.
Kate lay on the floor of her apartment and felt his every breath, every beat of his heart. Though she told Liam she planned on job hunting today, her dream convinced her to stay home. Just in case.
*He certainly didn't waste any time,* she thought bitterly, then relented. *Why should he? It's not like I'm ever going to see him again.* Only she did, and she would.
Anger faded and Kate faced the cold reality of her former lover sleeping with another woman. *He doesn't even like her,* she thought. *She works for the man he hates more than anyone. Except maybe me.* Going to bed with her, trivial as it was, meant one more chance for retaliation against the diabolical Smoking Man. Arntzen was right. He was one vindictive son of a bitch. Yet even then he protected her from the Russian's long arm, telling the colonel she was dead.
He knew about her psychic link. He knew she always kept an awareness of him in her mind, more so at times like these when his passions ran so strongly. *He's not even thinking about that. He's not doing it to punish me.* With a deep ache she remembered the last time they made love, the very day before she left. The act itself was violent, frantic, but for the first time he told her he loved her, couldn't live without her. Apparently he felt the same way even now.
Kate sat up. She slowly worked her way across her apartment to the bathroom and examined her tattered reflection in the mirror. "Why me?" she said aloud. "Will it ever end?" The only answer was the echo of her own voice.
She stood under the pounding beat of the showerhead, willing the scalding water to wash away the devastating pain in her heart. As if to spite her, her wearied mind brought back the memory of Alex making passionate love to her in the shower in North Dakota. She gave in to the memory, savoring each tender word, the gentle yet relentless way he brought her to ecstasy time and time again.
Powerless to stop, Kate gave into desire, her body still aroused from sharing Alex's passion. She imagined his hands caressing her instead of her own, relived his ardor as he made love to her in his mind. Her eyes slid shut and she could almost feel his lips on hers, his body pressed impossibly close to her own. When she came she could almost believe it was real. "Alex," she whispered, then opened her eyes. The memory turned to ashes in the cold light of her empty bathroom.
Part Five: Do What You Have to Do
What ravages of spirit
Staying to the shadows, Kate lurked in the darkness of the motel room and waited. She watched the pattern of the neon light play on the floor, unexpectedly reminded of Alex in Hong Kong.
Over the past few days she watched him from afar, acutely aware of Arntzen's directive. To Kate's boundless relief, Marita left before Alex woke up the next morning. He figured she must have headed back to New York and her job at the Secretary General of the U.N. The same day he booked a flight to Washington, eager to carry out his superior's orders.
Kate spent a sleepless night deliberating her best course of action. The images in Krycek's mind would have given her nightmares anyway. Caught up in fury at the injustices of the world, Mulder in particular, his emotions overcame his reason. Where was *Tovarisch* Krycek, cold-blooded assassin? He thought only of murdering Mulder as slowly and painfully as possible.
Kate shook her head with disdain. *You get in, you make the kill, you get out. You taught me that, Alex. Where is your mind?* With a start Kate saw where her thoughts led her. *Jesus Christ, has he made me this cold?* she thought, disgusted with herself.
A noise caught her attention. With her heart in her throat she watched the knob turn, the door open, and Alex Krycek walked in the room. He flipped on the light and saw her waiting in the corner. Speechless, he closed the door behind him and took an awkward step forward.
"Hi," Kate said, keeping her tone neutral. Despite the painfully fresh memory of him with Marita, her heart turned over in her chest at the sight of him. She stared at him with wide eyes, drinking in every detail, every motion, to lock away in her heart forever. "How are you?"
"I've been better," he said, his voice low and husky. "But I got back okay."
With a clarity that never faded, she recalled the last time she saw him, leaving him in the snow to find his way back to the gulag.
"Good," she said sincerely. "I didn't want you to bleed to death."
"I did," he said, the pain raw in his voice. "When you left."
The lump in Kate's throat wouldn't go away. She kept her back to the wall, willing herself to stay still. Everything in her cried out to go to him, to forgive him anything, just to have him back. Instead she said, "I had to."
"Why?" he said quietly.
The anguish in his voice made her shake uncontrollably. "I couldn't let you do it."
"So you chose him over me?" Alex asked, almost begging.
"You didn't leave me a choice!" she wailed. "What happened to you, Alex? I don't even know you anymore."
"I did what I had to do," he said, his voice cold as the Russian winter.
A choked cry erupted from Kate's throat. "How can you say that? You didn't have to kill him, you didn't have to kill anyone. You should have told Arntzen where to stick it the first place, before any of this ever started!" she cried, her pent-up frustration finding its target at last.
Sadly Alex shook his head. "You don't understand, Kate. You just can't understand why I did what I did."
She gritted her teeth. "Okay, Alex. Now's your chance. Explain it to me so I can understand."
Caught off-guard, he paused for a moment. He figured she had already made up her mind about him.
"Why are you asking me this?" he responded. "You were with me, you helped me all along, until..." he trailed off.
"Exactly. Until Mulder," she said. "Why do you hate him so much?" She crossed her arms and gripped herself tightly, willing the shaking to stop. She felt so cold, so cold, like a brick of ice had taken up residence somewhere in her chest. Where her heart used to be.
Alex blinked, surprised. He never thought about it before. "Because...because of the way he treated me," he said weakly.
Kate pressed her lips together and considered his words. "Because he beat you?"
He nodded, then reconsidered. "No, not just that. He took advantage of me."
Kate thought back to the circumstances that led Mulder to take Alex prisoner in the first place. He arranged it that way, to get close to Mulder and manipulate him.
"But you let him do it, Alex, that's how you planned it," she said, trying to get him to see reason.
Quickly he replied, "But he didn't have to humiliate me! Jesus, Kate, do you have any idea what it was like? To have him knock me senseless whenever he got the urge?"
Kate chose her words carefully. "So you wanted to show him what it felt like. Is that it?"
"Yeah," he said, relieved that she could finally see it from his side.
"Why do you think he treated you like that?" she asked neutrally.
"The son of a bitch hates me, Kate, you know that," he responded, surprised she even had to ask.
"Hell, I don't know," Alex replied, exasperated.
Kate recalled the irrevocable damage he perpetrated on Mulder in the past: killing the man's father, Scully's sister, participating in Scully's abduction. But she knew better than to bring it up. Although he regretted his actions, he never took responsibility for them. In Alex's mind the blame lay firmly on the Smoking Man's shoulders.
"Okay," she said softly. "But don't you think you're being a little extreme? So the guy knocks you around. Is that enough reason to torture and kill him?"
Alex sighed heavily. "See, you just don't get it."
Kate felt hope dissolve into dust. She came here to reason with him, reach out for the man she once knew and bring him back, but it didn't work. It wouldn't work. "That sounds like an excuse to me, Alex," she said, then cursed herself for her sharp words.
"Is that why you betrayed me? I'm not good enough for you anymore?" he asked, almost as an accusation.
Kate felt tears of bitter disappointment welling up in her eyes. "I never meant to betray you, dammit," she said quietly. "But what you did, what you're planning on doing, it's wrong. I can't let you go through with it. I can't let you kill him."
Unstoppable tears flowed when she saw the rage surface once again in his eyes. "So you betray me again, choose him over me. To hell with Alex, right?" His tone changed from rage to quiet, deadly calm. "You think you can stop me. I'd like to see you try."
Pulling herself together, Kate flung back, "I've done it before, and so help me God, I'll do it again."
She brushed past him on the way to the door and felt his hand reach out and grab her arm. *The bastard thinks he can get away with it again,* she thought, furious. The last time they argued he told her to leave, then grabbed her before she could. They ended up making love rather violently. All the pain, the agony, turned to red rage when she realized his intention.
It was too much. The sheer arrogance of it, thinking he could fuck her into submission, made her lose control. In a flash she swung around with her free hand, hitting him full-force in the face with all her momentum.
He lost his grip and fell to the floor. She stood above him, shaking with rage. "Don't you fucking dare try that shit with me, you fatherless son of a whore!" she shouted. She thought he couldn't get any angrier. But her accusation, and the truth of his parentage, wiped away all trace of sanity from his eyes. He pulled himself up off the floor but she was already out the door and gone.
Time, thou anticipat'st my dread exploits:
Kate took the stairs two at a time, praying helplessly she wouldn't arrive too late. She knew Mulder's location only from Alex's thoughts. After she left he headed straight to the man's home, but he was too distracted to give her a good idea of his direction. After several wrong turns she knew he had the lead on her. She only hoped it wouldn't be too much of a lead.
When she hit the fourth floor she flew down the hall and skidded to a stop outside number 42. The door ajar, she could hear Krycek speaking in a low tone. Silently she pushed the door farther open and slid inside. With his back to her Krycek didn't see her enter. Mulder stood across the room from his attacker, hands slightly raised, his back to the desk. He must have seen Kate but his eyes never left Krycek's.
"I've been waiting to do this for a long time," Alex said. "I intend to enjoy this, Mulder. What's it like to be at my mercy for a change?"
Against all good sense, Kate spun around until she stood directly in front of Krycek. When he caught the movement from the corner of his eye he trained his gun on her and kept it there.
"Don't do this," she said, moving slowly backwards towards Mulder.
"Get out!" he hissed at her.
She stopped barely a foot in front of Mulder and slightly to his left. Kate could feel the heat of Mulder's glare over her shoulder.
"Get out of the way," Mulder ordered her. "You don't have to do this."
"Oh yes I do," she said, her eyes never leaving Alex's face.
With a wry grin lacking any trace of humor Krycek said, "So that's how it is. How long have you been shacked up with him?" he asked. Directing his attention to the other man he said, "So how's it feel, Mulder? To know you're getting Alex Krycek's sloppy seconds?"
He must have seen a look of shock on Mulder's face because he continued. "Yeah, we've been working together all along," he said. "I would have had you in Russia, except this bitch developed a conscience all the sudden. I bet she's filled your head with all kind of lies."
"The only liar here is you, Krycek," Mulder spit out. Kate fought through the wild, senseless anger coursing through Alex, desperate to predict his next move. Hopelessly she willed Mulder to shut up and let her think.
"Oh yeah, I'll give you all the truth you want, Mulder. The truth about the woman you sided with," Krycek continued. "She decoded the digital tape. She set me up with Kallenchuk. She even found the militia for me. What were you saying about liars, Mulder? I guess she's pretty good at that too." He smiled with white teeth, cocked his head. "Among other things."
Focused as she was on Mulder, Kate barely heard Krycek's tirade. All at once she saw what he meant to do.
She broke in. "Shut up, Krycek," she hissed. "And get out!" she screamed in warning, but he didn't understand.
Time seemed to slow, almost stop, and she watched from outside herself as several things happened at once. Mulder reached behind him and grabbed the Sig Sauer off his desk, meaning to reach past her and take his shot. Krycek saw the movement and fired. Without conscious thought Kate slammed Mulder's gun arm down and stepped into the path of the bullet.
Time resumed. The impact threw Kate backward into Mulder's arms, nearly knocking him over. Krycek took one look at the rage in the other man's eyes, the gun in his hand, and fled.
Part Six: Bloodstains
"I got you all messy," Kate said groggily, pawing the bloodstains on Mulder's shirt.
He smiled. "Don't apologize. It would have been a lot messier if he hit what he was aiming for."
Alex's bullet caught Kate in the left shoulder just under the collarbone. They both knew that shoulder kept the bullet from shredding Mulder's heart.
Without warning Liam appeared at the door of Kate's hospital room. "Can I come in?" he asked, his voice tight with anxiety.
Kate looked a question at Mulder. "I found his number in your wallet," he said quietly.
"Yeah, come on in," she called to Liam. "And don't freak out, it looks a lot worse than it really is." He hurried over and examined her closely, frowning at the pale cast of her skin.
Only then did he notice the other man at Kate's bedside. "I'm Liam O'Connor," he introduced himself, shaking Mulder's hand. "Thanks for letting me know, I worry about her. With good reason it seems," he said, laughing nervously.
"Fox Mulder," he replied, taking Kate's friend in with a glance. Liam stood several inches shorter than his own six feet with sandy brown hair and freckles. "I'm sorry we had to meet under such circumstances."
"How did this happen?" Liam asked, directing his question at Kate.
She looked up at Mulder and he took the hint. "I'll be right outside," he assured her.
"It's a long story," Kate said, trying in vain to avoid the question.
"You always say that," he replied, exasperated.
"That's because it's always true," she explained logically. Then she took a deep breath, careful not to rip the stitches. When it hit her flesh the hollow-point bullet expanded, preventing it from going straight through and hitting Mulder. Good for him, bad for Kate. It took the doctors some time and effort to work the metal out of her shoulder. Luckily the medication brought the searing pain down to a dull ache.
Liam studied her face, then took a seat nearby. Without saying a word he made it perfectly clear he would not leave until he heard the whole story.
Kate leaned her head back against the pillows. "I got shot."
"I can see that."
"It was a mistake."
"Whose?" he asked evenly.
She turned her head to look at him. "What are you talking about?"
"Whose mistake? Yours, Mulder's, or Alex's?"
With great effort Kate kept from flinching at the mention of his name. How did Liam always seem to know? "A combination of all three."
"So it was Alex," he said.
She nodded, angry at herself for letting him lure her out so easily. "He tried to kill Mulder. I got in the way."
"You don't strike me as the clumsy type."
"What's that supposed to mean?" she snapped.
Ashamed, Liam's pale skin flushed.
"I know, I know," she said. "You only just met the guy."
"It's not that I want to see him dead or anything, it's just that if I had to choose between him or you..." he trailed off.
"I know," she said mildly, reaching for him with her good hand. Gratefully he took it. "That's what makes you such a good friend."
Mulder appeared at the door. "I hate to interrupt, but they want us to scram and let her rest." He went to Kate and kissed her cheek. "I'll come visit you tomorrow," he promised.
Liam squeezed her hand. Once Mulder left he said, "If you think you can keep me away either, you're wrong."
"I would never think of it," she said. "Good night, Liam. Thanks for coming to check on me."
He stopped at the door to wink at her, then left.
Part Seven: What Dreams May Come
God be thanked, the meanest of his creatures
Kate was dreaming. She knew she was dreaming because Alex sat beside her in the endless darkness of night. He held her hand, stroked her hair. She just watched him, savoring the feel of his hands on her. She heard him talking and tried to make out the words.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm so sorry. "I never meant to hurt you. I never meant for any of this to happen."
"I know," she said gently. "You never mean to do anything wrong. You just don't think before you act." Dreaming, Kate let herself say what she would never say in the daylight. "I miss you so much," she cried softly. "I love you, Alex, in spite of everything. I try so hard to stop but I can't. Why does it have to be this way? Why do we have to be enemies?"
She would have said more but his lips on hers stopped her. It felt so real she could almost believe it was really happening. Incongruously, Kate wondered how her mind captured every detail of his kiss with such clarity to replay it for her like this in a dream.
He lightly brushed his lips against hers, his breath sweet on her skin. So tender, so gentle, it almost made her believe he truly felt the same way about her. Alex raised a hand to her face and caressed her cheek with his thumb. She sighed with resignation and desire, turning to kiss his palm. In his eyes she saw such regret, such pain, she lifted her right hand to smooth out the lines of his face.
"I love you," he choked out. "Why isn't it enough?"
"Nothing you do will ever make me stop loving you," she whispered, trying to ease his pain.
"I don't understand," Alex admitted, his face inches from hers.
"I know you don't," she said, kissing him lightly. "I wish I could make you understand. Maybe someday you will."
For a long time he studied her face, his hand never leaving its place behind her ear. It felt so familiar, so comforting. With a strangled sob he kissed her again. Kate's lips parted, accepting him in spite of the mess he made of their lives. "You have always been like this," he said softly as he kissed her time and time again. "You see into my soul, but you don't run away. You save me instead. How...how is that possible?" he asked.
For a moment he stopped kissing her and paused to collect his thoughts. "If it was me instead of Mulder, would you have done the same thing?" he asked in earnest.
"What do you think?" she asked softly.
"You would, wouldn't you. After everything I've done." His mind struggled to comprehend the knowledge.
She nodded. "I wouldn't even think about it."
"I don't deserve you. I never have. I never will," he said as a statement of undeniable fact. Suddenly he kissed her again, long and slow, as if to make that one kiss last forever. Kate closed her eyes.
He stood up and walked out of the room. When she woke up in the morning Kate wondered what kind of medication would make her dream so vividly.
Part Eight: Rabbits
True to his word, Mulder came to visit her the next day. He closed the door carefully behind him and took a seat by her side.
"So are you dead yet?" he asked, grinning.
"No, it only feels that way," she responded in kind.
"I'm sorry," Mulder said, guilt lining his face.
Kate rearranged her blankets. "No, I should be sorry. It's my own fault. I knew what he meant to do, I should have found you and warned you in time."
"What?" he asked, confused. "Why?"
Kate grimaced. "It's really stupid. I thought I could talk him out of it. Instead I only pissed him off worse, that's why he came for you when he did."
"That's how you knew to show up just in time," Mulder asked.
"Yeah, basically." She knew this was coming from the moment Krycek opened his big mouth and told Mulder about her. Now he knew and he wanted the details.
"It's true, part of it at least. You might as well know," she said.
"What are you talking about?"
She rolled her eyes. "Don't get all innocent on me now, Mulder. He told you I helped him, remember?" she spit out. "I'm not proud of it. I can't sit here and give you some lame excuse, 'I didn't know what I was doing'," she whined. "I knew damn well and I did it anyway. All I can do now is regret it and move on."
Kate studied Mulder carefully as he considered the information. She could feel his ambivalence, mostly caused by his irrational hatred of Krycek. But Mulder couldn't bring himself to believe she had anything in common with the man he considered lower than dirt. Twice now she saved his life, rather dramatically last night. He never doubted her words, though Kate thought he should. He was all too willing to believe what he wanted to hear. Why else did he buy all that crap Krycek fed him about the rock? Besides, she knocked the gun out of his hand in her desperate leap to save him. Being Mulder, he refused to acknowledge that information, the implication. Krycek could easily have killed her, yet she refused to risk his life.
"Why did you do it?" he asked at last.
"Because he tried to kill you," she said, avoiding the more difficult parts of his question.
Mulder shook his head as if to clear it. "No. I mean, you don't strike me as the type to throw your lot in Krycek."
Suddenly Kate panicked and cursed herself silently. Amid the tumult of the past twenty-four hours she missed a very important bit of Mulder's knowledge. She underestimated both his curiosity and his capability to assuage that curiosity.
"I don't know how to tell you this," he started apologetically. "But I did a little checking when I got back home."
She said nothing, trying her best to maintain an outward calm.
He continued. "I found an unsolved case involving a Colorado detective who disappeared in 1995. Her name was Kate Marcus. It's the damnedest thing, she looks just like you."
Trapped, Kate went on the defensive. "How did you find out?" she growled.
Mulder had the good grace to look ashamed. "I ran your prints," he said. "From my passport."
Kate swore under her breath, knowing how well the material held fingerprints.
"You had no right," she accused him.
"I know. I haven't told anyone else," he said quietly.
"Do you think that makes it right?"
"No. And this is no way to repay you for saving my life. Twice."
Kate sighed. "Okay, so now you know about me."
"No, there's a lot I don't know. We both know Krycek is a liar. For God's sake, he thinks we're fucking like rabbits," he said somberly. Kate laughed both at the absurdity of it and his serious tone.
When he saw her laughing his face broke into a wide smile. "So tell me, Kate Marcus, how did a police officer like yourself end up working with a rat like Alex Krycek?"
"You certainly are direct," she observed. "You're one to talk, didn't you two used to be partners or something?" she asked in an attempt to turn the tables on him.
It must have worked because Mulder made a face. "You've got me there," he sighed. "I guess I'm just being nosy again."
"Yeah, actually, you are," she said. "So do you believe me?"
"That I don't work with him anymore," she explained, concerned.
Mulder snorted. "Let's see. First, you saved my ass in Russia. Second, you threw yourself in front of a bullet to save my life. Now this could be just an elaborate setup," he said sarcastically, "but Krycek seemed pretty pissed off at you. I have trouble believing he got me locked up in a gulag just so you could bust me out again. And the bullet thing, that's pretty extreme. It's just not his style."
Kate found herself smiling at Mulder's words. "You're right about the last part," she said, remembering how he fled like a coward. "Speaking of rabbits."
Mulder laughed out loud. "He did run off pretty quick, didn't he?" he said without thinking, then recalled the rest of Krycek's speech. Mulder couldn't wrap his mind around any woman wanting to sleep with Krycek, much less falling for his dubious charms. But he had a pretty strong hunch about that part. How else could she put up with him for so long?
Kate heard his unspoken reasoning and her heart ached. Too vividly she remembered what she said to her dream Alex, that she loved him in spite of himself and nothing could make her stop. Even now she knew it to be true.
Continued in Part V