Part One: Through the Fire
I give the fight up: let there be an end,
Kate eyed the brown paper bag as if it contained a live cobra. She rocked her chair back until it rested against the wall behind her.
"I brought you a present," Mulder said, opening the bag and revealing a pint of Ben & Jerry's.
"How do you know where I live?" she asked bluntly.
"You never told me your friend O'Connor was an agent."
"You never asked," she said, her eyes never leaving the pint of ice cream.
Mulder ignored her cynical tone. "Chocolate Fudge Brownie, he said it was your favorite," he offered.
"Then make yourself useful and get me a spoon," she ordered.
Mulder returned with the requested spoon and took a seat at the kitchen table, careful to keep his distance from Kate. He watched her peel back the lid one-handed and delicately scrape the ice cream off the inside.
She couldn't blame Liam. He had no reason to distrust a fellow agent. Knowing Mulder he would have found her soon enough anyway. He had questions, she had answers. Answers she wanted to forget, not blurt out to the incessantly inquisitive man who thought he could bribe her with ice cream and a goofy smile.
"So how's your shoulder?" he asked amiably.
Kate examined her left arm, held immobile in a sling. "It hurts like hell. It'll take time to heal, but the docs say there's no permanent damage."
"That's good. I mean, that's great," Mulder replied. "Thanks again."
"Whatever," she growled.
Catching her menacing gaze, Mulder reconsidered his tactics. "If now's a bad time..." he tried cautiously.
"Oh, cut the crap," she said harshly. "If you came here looking for answers, just ask. Don't lay a guilt trip on me."
"I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, Murphy, that's the last thing on my mind," he said.
Through her aggravation she sensed his sincerity and it shocked her. She didn't think he had it in him. Amid his quest for The Truth, he still had room for compassion. *Unlike some others I could name. He ran. He shot me and he ran. The fucking coward didn't even stick around to see if he killed me.*
"That came out wrong," she apologized, and meant it. "I guess I'm a still a little jumpy."
"I can understand that."
*Can you?* she thought. She doubted he could understand half of what she felt.
When she didn't respond he continued. "Okay, I'll come out and ask you. There's so much you must know, I mean, after...what you've been through."
She heard him think "after working with Krycek" but he didn't say it. She admired his restraint and relaxed slightly.
"You don't have to tell me anything, but it would help me a lot if you could answer a few questions," he gently prodded.
Kate felt torn. On one hand, she didn't want to think about her involvement with Krycek, much less talk about it. But she regretted what he did to Mulder. *What I let him do,* she thought. Her conscience nagged her. She made so many mistakes. She had to make up for it somehow. What better place to start?
She bit her lip, her eyes downcast. "Okay," she yielded. "Ask away."
Mulder hesitated. "Are you sure you're okay with this?"
Looking him in the eye, she said emphatically, "Yes, I'm sure. He fucked you up royal and I helped. I can at least tell you why."
He held up his hands in a gesture of defeat. "It's your decision."
Kate tried to dig into the ice cream with her spoon but she barely made a dent. Frustrated, she picked it up with one hand and bit a big chunk out of it with her teeth.
"What the hell are you laughing at?" she demanded from Mulder.
"You have ice cream on your nose," he said, trying valiantly not to smile.
"Fuck!" she swore, wiping her face with her shirtsleeve. She spotted the toothmarks she left on the cardboard and realized how foolish she must look. Once more she tried using the spoon, intending to skim a little off the top. In her agitation she nearly knocked the entire carton off the table but Mulder caught it just in time.
"Guess you need a little help," he said, holding fast to the Ben & Jerry's with one hand.
One hand. Kate hated depending on anyone for anything but she let Fox Mulder hold the ice cream for her because she couldn't do it herself. Unbidden, thoughts of Krycek came to her head. For a split second she almost understood why he let everyone believe he had lost his arm after all. Never show weakness. Or fear, or desperation, or anything else that made a person human. She saw the same qualities in herself and it frightened her.
Kate pushed her wandering thoughts aside and dug into the ice cream with reckless abandon. "It all started with the militia," she said, getting right to the point. "He knew you would shoot him on sight if he approached you any other way," she said, carefully sidestepping Alex's name. "He hated those men, Mulder. They would have killed a lot of people if they had the chance. Well he gave them the chance. Then he double-crossed them."
She paused, her mouth full of brownie. "Old news. So you got yourself a bunch of redneck mass murderers busted, and he gets close to you. Close enough to mess with your mind. He likes doing that to people. I guess that's old news too."
"So what did he want?" Mulder asked quietly, still holding the ice cream down for her. Kate dug up another spoonful.
"He wanted you to do exactly what you did, to find the rock," she said. "He manipulated you, Mulder. You're very predictable, you know that?" she accused him, the old anger returning. "Maybe if you took a minute to think before you went haring off on some wild goose chase I wouldn't have to rescue you so damn often."
Chastened, Mulder said nothing.
Kate regretted her harsh words. "I'm sorry," she apologized. "Here I am blaming you when I should be blaming him. I just get so damn frustrated sometimes," she said, clenching the spoon tightly.
"It's okay," he reassured her. "I've done some really stupid things in my life. You're right, I'm lucky to have someone like you around." *And Scully,* he finished silently.
Kate continued, "His employer wanted him to find out who was smuggling the rock out of the country and stop the experiments. So he's thinking, 'Hey, why not use Mulder to do my dirty work?' All that time you thought you had him trapped, well, let's just say he had you right where he wanted you."
"Until I escaped," Mulder said, putting the pieces together in his mind.
"Uh, yeah," Kate mumbled. The memories of Alex's manipulation of Mulder brought back other memories she wished to forget. Once he had Mulder trapped in the gulag his vengeful streak spiraled out of control, forcing her to choose between him and her conscience. She wished Mulder would hurry up and change the subject.
He did. "Why did he want me to find the rock? What is the black oil, Murphy?"
She shrugged awkwardly. "I don't know any more about it than you do," she replied, avoiding his first question. "You saw Tunguska, you know about...the experiments," she said, suddenly aware of his own painful memories.
"You said his employer wanted him to stop the experiments. You mean the ones in Russia?" he asked emotionlessly.
Through his tough exterior she saw that he felt just as shaken by the whole experience as she did. The irony was not lost on Kate. Here they sat in her kitchen, discussing memories best left forgotten. She never expected to have anything in common with Mulder. Unexpectedly she found herself empathizing with him. Weren't they both victims? Of Krycek?
Pulling her mind back to the matter at hand, she answered, "No, I mean the ones over here, in the United States. You do know about those, don't you?"
"Yeah, my partner tracked them down," he said, thinking of the nursing home patients, guinea pigs in the same experiments he suffered. "Why did he want me to know about that? If he did, then why did he try so hard to cover it up afterwards?"
She regarded him gravely. "You know who he used to work for, right?"
"Yeah," Mulder said warily, confused by the sudden turn of the conversation.
"Well, he hates Cancerman as much as you do, maybe more. That's why he did it, Mulder. Not because he was hired to. Because it was a chance to hit the old bastard where it hurts. You know he's behind it," she said matter-of-factly. "I guess that's why I went along with him. I thought I was doing the right thing. Then, before you know it, the bodies start piling up. I just wish I did something sooner," she said vehemently.
"You did do something," Mulder replied, trying to reason with her. "You got out of it, didn't you? Away from him?"
Kate made a face. "All I want now is to have a nice, normal life. No more plots, no more secrets, no more lies."
"Is that what you're going to do then? Just walk away?"
"If I have anything to say about it, yeah," she said, surprised he had to ask.
"After everything you've seen. You know what's out there. You of all people, Murphy. How can you just forget about it?" he asked, completely thrown by her indifferent attitude.
"What the hell do you want me to do? Run off and find more Truth for you, Mulder?" she demanded. "No. I've done my time. I played that game and I got burnt," she said, setting her chin. "I am not a fucking spy. I am not a fucking FBI agent either. I am Kris Murphy, innocent bystander, and I want my life back the way it was."
"It doesn't work that way, Kate Marcus," he said as a simple statement of fact.
Her eyes blazed. "Kate Marcus is dead."
"Pardon me if I disagree," Mulder replied calmly.
"Oh, this is so like you, Mulder," she said, her voice pure venom. "You want a partner, only one Skinner doesn't know about. So I can run off on your little errands, do all the stuff you can't because it's just the tiniest bit illegal," she accused him, almost shouting.
"That's not what I mean," he replied sadly, compassion in his eyes. "You and me, we've been through the fire, we've seen what's on the other side. You can't just pick up where you left off and pretend it never happened."
"Maybe you can't, but I can."
Mulder shook his head. "I hope so, Murphy, I really hope so."
Part Two: Maskirovka
Notes: Yes that is a Russian word, it means "camouflage". I like it because it sounds like "masquerade" and I wonder if it's related to the English word somehow.
I considered making this story Phantom of the Opera songfic (thus, "Masquerade") but it didn't work out. Instead I went for symbolism and downright plagiarism in a line or two. This isn't the first time either. A section in "When Angel and Devil Kiss" is named "Point of No Return" after the song from Phantom. In fact, I named Kristine Murphy on purpose after Christine Daae and that was waaaaaay back in Chapter 1. I've got Phantom on the brain.
In case you forgot, "tovarisch" means "Comrade" in Russian.
What though the field be lost?
"It's nice to have you back, Sasha," Mikhail Arntzen said.
"It's good to be back, my friend," Krycek replied.
Arntzen smiled. "So tell me, how did you kill him?"
Krycek gritted his teeth. He left St. Petersburg on assignment to kill Mulder, but a certain shoulder got in the way. His face revealed nothing as he thought of Kate, how he could have killed her. Knowing she'd do the same thing if he tried to hurt Mulder again.
He poured a shot of vodka from the bottle on Arntzen's desk, temporarily avoiding the question. Feeling the alcohol burn his throat made him wish he could burn the memory from his mind the same way. But there wasn't enough vodka in the world for that.
Krycek fixed his eyes on Arntzen's and tried to look sorrowful. Like every good lie, his had a hint of truth. "I have bad news for you, Misha."
Arntzen drew back, appalled. "You don't mean to tell me you failed yet again? Did you even try?" he asked scornfully.
On the long trip back to Russia, Krycek considered telling his employer he had succeeded. In the end he decided Arntzen would find out eventually. *Most likely from Covarrubias,* he figured, remembering her business partnership with the Russian.
With the barest hint of anger, Krycek replied, "Of course I tried. But the man knows nothing, I assure you, *Tovarisch*. As for what he has seen, what good will it do him? Who will listen?"
For a long moment the two men remained locked in a battle of wills. Arntzen responded first. Krycek smiled inwardly but nothing showed on his face.
"Are you certain?" the Russian asked. "There is much at stake here, I need not tell you that."
"When my attempt failed, I took the opportunity to study the man," Krycek improvised. "Not even his superiors in the government agency take him seriously. You have nothing to worry about, I assure you," he repeated.
Changing tactics, he reminded his superior, "I did as you requested, Misha. I halted the American research on the virus. What difference does one man make?" His friend owed him at least one favor for a successful mission and they both knew it.
Arntzen sighed with resignation. "This does not please me, Sasha."
"For that I am sorry, my friend," Krycek replied with as much integrity as he could muster.
"Very well, I will overlook this incident," the Russian grudgingly allowed. "I assume you wish to move on to your next assignment."
"If it pleases you, Colonel," Krycek said, a smirk the only hint of his sarcasm.
Arntzen laughed out loud and shook his head. "You are a dangerous man, *Tovarisch* Krycek."
Krycek smiled, showing white teeth. "Always."
Krycek took to his post as administrator of the gulag as if born to it. His employer was right, the Doctor resented his new commander both as an outsider and an American. Since Krycek hated him to begin with, he enjoyed the power he held over the man and did not hesitate to use it.
Only once did he wonder what went on behind the Doctor's cold eyes. A few weeks into his assignment, he tracked down the men who attempted to rape Kate at her first and only visit to the gulag. One by one they disappeared into the woods, shot execution-style in the back of the head. Knowing the Doctor might suspect the connection, Krycek watched him closely for some time after the incidents. If he suspected, the man gave nothing away.
From half a world away, Kate observed Krycek's every thought, his every action. When she watched him kill her attackers, she felt more ambivalent than horrified at his brutality. Though he never admitted it to himself, he did it for her, hoping she would see through his eyes and know her attackers were dead.
Krycek reminded Kate poignantly of her cat when he brought her dead mice as presents. He meant well but she felt more disgusted than grateful. In her heart she knew Alex, like her cat, would have no comprehension of why his gift failed to please her.
There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.
The months passed by, winter turned to spring. As soon as her shoulder healed Kate found a job as a bartender at Thompson's, an establishment in downtown DC. On her second day at work she looked up from washing glasses to find Mulder grinning at her.
"So this is what you do in your spare time," he joked.
She stacked clean glasses behind the bar. "Gotta pay the bills somehow."
Mulder took a seat and smoothed his tie. "What made you choose this place? Are you following me around or something?"
Confused, Kate raised an eyebrow. "What are you talking about?"
"I come here a lot, that's all," he explained.
"Then I guess I'll have to put up with you a lot," she said, smiling wryly.
Though his expression never changed, his voice lowered and she had to struggle to hear him. "How is it really?"
She glanced away, then back again, meeting his eyes with defiance. "It's fine. The tips are good, the people are nice, except for certain agents," she said with a hint of a smile. "I'm moving on, Mulder. This is my life now," she said firmly.
"Okay," he replied, his casual attitude returning easily. "Just wondering."
The rest of the evening he left her alone but his question haunted her. Though her link with Alex never faded, she tried her best to ignore it. In the same manner she avoided thinking of her past. She would never forget, but she could put it behind her and live in the present. She embraced her new life as a long-lost friend, reassuringly familiar.
*Speaking of long-lost friends,* she thought as she spotted Liam walking in the door.
He worked his way through the crowded room and found an empty spot near her station. "So how's my favorite bartender?" he asked with a smile.
She smiled back. "I'd be great if the Feds would get off my back."
"What?" he responded, hurt by her implication. "You mean me?"
"No way, silly," she teased, swatting him lightly with a dishrag. "Mulder was just here pestering me. He says he hangs out here a lot," she said, rolling her eyes.
Liam sat down on an empty barstool. "Well I do too and you're just going to have to put up with me."
"What have I done to deserve this?" Kate pleaded, looking to the sky.
Liam laughed out loud. "When does your shift end?"
She raised an amused eyebrow. "Are you coming on to me, Liam O'Connor?"
"Yep. I thought I could sweep you off your feet and make you forget all about pesky Feds like Fox Mulder."
Kate laughed with honest amusement. Liam had always flirted with her but she knew he meant nothing by it.
"What would I do without you, Liam," she thought out loud, then regretted her words. She did without him for entirely too long while on the run with Alex Krycek.
The thought never crossed his mind. "Well, your life would be a lot more boring, if you don't mind me saying so."
She stared off in the distance. "Boring isn't so bad sometimes," she said thoughtfully.
Liam's eyes went wide with mock horror. "Are you telling me to buzz off?"
Kate leaned in close, resting her elbow on the bar. "You got it," she replied in a stage whisper. "And don't come back without a lot of money and tickets to the opera."
"You hate the opera."
She pouted. "How would you know? You've never taken me."
"Sorry, Kris, you don't strike me as the type to enjoy a lot of incoherent yelling in foreign languages," he said, laughing.
"You've got a point there," she conceded. "But I meant what I said about the money. If you're gonna sweep me off my feet, it's gonna take cash, buddy."
"And I'm just a pitiful government employee," he sighed. "I guess you're out of my league."
"I get off at midnight, by the way," she said and got back to work.
Part Three: Manwaring
Notes: Yep I gave WMM a name and there's a story behind it. It comes from an old role-playing game and I would be shocked if anyone reading this recognized it. One of the more powerful villains in the game is a vampire named Baron Victor Manwaring. He lives in a Victorian society and pretty much runs it from behind the scenes. I thought it only fitting. Besides, I like the name, it's kind of creepy.
Early one July evening, Kate pushed the back door of Thompson's open and the summer heat hit her like a wall of fire. Wrestling the heavy bags of garbage over to the Dumpster, she cursed the humid DC weather. Absently she noticed a car in the alley, a black Lincoln with diplomatic plates.
Heart in her throat, she dashed for cover. A man walked down the alley, a man smoking a cigarette. *Chill, Kate,* she told herself. *Even if he saw you he wouldn't recognize you.* Still, the irrational fear held her pinned to the wall.
Even out of sight she recognized the oily feel of his presence. *Shit, shit, shit,* she swore, unable to block his thoughts or the thoughts of man waiting in the car.
"Thank you for coming to see me on such short notice," the man with the cigarette said.
"You left me little choice," the British man replied gruffly. "I fail to see why we could not leave this business to our regular meetings in New York."
The other man smiled cruelly and crushed out his cigarette. "I had no desire to publicly humiliate you. I know the project will take time to rebuild."
The British man frowned. "No thanks to you," he growled.
The man took out a new cigarette and lit it. "You blame me for this," he said incredulously. "I took care of it. I always take care of it."
Kate slid down the filthy wall and put her head in her hands. Too absorbed in the thoughts of the two men, she didn't even notice the unknown puddle staining her clothes.
She vaguely remembered the British man from the first time she touched the Smoking Man's thoughts. He hated his English counterpart, that's all that had mattered at the time.
*Manwaring,* she thought to herself, picking the British man's name up with ease. *His name is Manwaring.* She still didn't know the Smoking Man's name. Such an integral part of person's identity, normally Kate sensed names right off. The Smoking Man truly lived his identity as a man without a name. He worked from the shadows, directing the destiny of so many with an untraceable hand.
But Manwaring had nothing in common with his companion. She doubted even the Smoking Man realized the true motivations of his associate. Now shock held her motionless instead of fear. Kate always assumed the men behind the conspiracy shared the senselessly evil motivations of the Smoking Man. This man felt nothing but contempt for his associates and their selfish agendas. At one time he might have believed in the work but that time ended long ago.
She had to know more. Concentrating hard, she scanned Manwaring's thoughts. With a feeling of dismay she learned that the Englishman, not his colleague, supervised the development of the vaccine. *What the hell?* she thought, shaken to the core. *He must have a good reason. He's not the kind to do it out of spite.*
From what she could tell, the Smoking Man cared little for the vaccine. Kate caught the impression of a covenant with alien colonists put into motion years ago. They would invade the planet, killing everyone, but for some reason the Smoking Man felt assured of his survival. She had the sudden insane image of him watching from above, laughing, as the world burned to ashes around his feet.
Manwaring collaborated with the rest of the group but he stayed with them only to minimize the damage others like the Smoking Man caused. *He wants to save the planet,* Kate realized. She didn't know how or why, but the vaccine was the key. The alien colonists knew nothing of it and Manwaring made sure they would not learn. This knowledge made her want to bang her head against the rough concrete wall at her back. *I wrecked his work,* she thought, racked with guilt.
Then she thought of the prisoners suffering in Tunguska, the nursing home patients infected with the black oil here in the United States. At the time she thought she was doing the right thing. She rid the world of Dr. Charne-Sayre and halted the work on the vaccine. What made it any different now? She looked to Manwaring for the answer and found a guilt deeper than any she had ever imagined. The torture and death of all those innocent victims weighed on his soul every moment of every day. He sacrificed hundreds, thousands, for the chance to save billions. Kate didn't know if she could make that kind of a decision much less live with the consequences. She wondered how many nightmares, how many sleepless nights he had suffered over the years.
At last the Smoking Man went along his way and Manwaring began the journey back to his home in Charlottesville. Kate staggered through the back door of the bar, her mind reeling from the implications.
The rest of the night she considered her options. Kate's first impulse was to tell Mulder. More than anything she wanted to dump this whole sordid mess in his lap and let him figure it out. But what would she tell him? "Hey Mulder, everyone but Smokey and his buddies are gonna die horrible deaths at the hands of alien invaders, think you can help me stop him"?
After long deliberation Kate made her decision. Sabotaging the work on the vaccine was her mistake and she had to rectify it. Besides, she doubted even Mulder could pull off what she had in mind.
Lost in her own thoughts, Kate pushed the food around her plate. Only yesterday she hid in an alley and overheard a conversation that turned her world upside-down.
"Kris? Are you okay?"
She looked up to find Liam's face creased with worry. "I'm sorry, Liam, I guess I'm just not hungry." Kate felt acutely guilty for lying to him. Since her return he went out of his way to reach out to her, to be her friend. Kate spent most of her free time with him, whether they went out to the movies or shared a quiet meal at home like tonight.
They finished dinner in silence, though Kate felt his eyes on her the whole time. While he rinsed the dishes in the sink, she made her way into the living room and collapsed on the couch. Sandy immediately came over and began licking Kate's hands.
Liam sat down at the other end of the couch and regarded her thoughtfully. "I think you better tell me."
Kate blinked. She had never heard him use that tone of voice before. Was he trying to make her feel guilty so she would tell him everything? In any case it didn't work. It only put her on the defensive.
"I don't have anything to say."
"Bullshit," he said evenly.
Shocked by his language, she exclaimed, "What did you just say? I should wash your mouth out with soap!" Liam had never once sworn around her, or as far as she knew, at all. She didn't know what to make of it.
He shrugged. "That's what I get for spending so much goddamn time with you, Kris. Your bad habits are rubbing off on me."
"Now you're just trying to keep me off-balance," she growled.
"Yeah. Is it working?" he asked amiably.
Kate took a deep breath and tried to calm her temper. He only asked because he cared. "No, actually, it's kind of annoying. Are you trying to get a confession out of me like one of your suspects?"
Now Liam looked ashamed. "I'm sorry, Kris, I didn't mean it that way. You're no criminal, not by a long shot. I'm worried, that's all. I guess old habits die hard."
Kate wondered if he would rethink that statement if he knew what she had truly done. Not to mention what she was planning to do. She had never told him the truth about her life with Alex. "Don't worry about me, Liam. I can take care of myself."
He snorted. "I never doubted it. But something is obviously bothering you."
For a split second Kate considered telling him everything, just to lighten the load of all those secrets at least for a little while. But she didn't want to do that to him and she didn't want to do that to herself. When she was with him she could forget about government conspiracies and alien invasions. Liam knew nothing about any of it and she envied him. The last thing she wanted to do was pull him down with her. For the first time she understood why Alex tried so hard to keep her away from his work, refusing to put her at risk.
Kate pulled her knees up under her chin. "When I first came back, do you remember what I promised you? That I would never run off like that again?"
Wordlessly he nodded.
"I have to leave for a while," she said. "But it's only for a few days, a week at most. I wish I could tell you more."
"Does this have anything to do with the stuff you were involved with when...when you were gone?" he asked.
"Yeah, sort of," Kate replied, reluctant to give him any details.
"I thought you wanted to put it all behind you," he replied, trying desperately to dig deeper.
"So why are you doing this, Kris? Why won't you tell me? Don't you trust me?" he asked.
"It's not like that. I'm sorry I can't tell you anything else, okay?"
Liam sighed, obviously disappointed, but Kate refused to feel guilty for protecting him. "It's better this way," she said and reached for his hand. Looking him in the eye, she willed him to hear and to believe. "I promise you, on my word of honor, I will come back."
Part Four: Hold Me
Every sense on full alert, Kate waited in the shadows. At the right moment, she sprinted to the next piece of cover and waited once more. At long last she reached the back door and adeptly picked the lock.
Silently she crept through the empty halls of the gulag to the lab. One more lock behind her, she found what she sought -- the Doctor's computer. Pulling a handful of specialized disks from her backpack, she quickly downloaded all the information the man had accumulated on the vaccine. If she hadn't seen it all through Alex's eyes, day after day, her mission would be next to impossible. Because of him she knew exactly where to go and how to get it, right down to details like the Doctor's password.
While she waited she looked around the lab, a complex and scrupulously clean room, complete with an advanced computer system. The Doctor's private fortress provided a stark contrast to the rest of the ramshackle gulag. *Maskirovka,* she thought. Camouflage. On rare occasions her grandfather used to tell her stories of his experiences in World War II. The Russians were experts at camouflage, he said. From all reports they hid a nuclear research facility in a barn and no one knew the difference.
The files downloaded, Kate stashed the precious information in her pack and locked the door behind her. She walked down the hall, heading through the living quarters to the exit and freedom. Abruptly she stopped outside a door no different than any other door along the hallway. Taking a deep breath, she commanded her feet to get moving before she was discovered and executed. They refused to listen.
She sensed Alex not ten paces away from where she stood. Heart pounding, Kate came to understand that it is one thing to feel him in her mind, another thing altogether to have him on the other side of a door. *Get the fuck out of here,* she told herself harshly. *Do you want to die? This was NOT part of the plan. You get in, you steal the shit, you get the hell out. No discussion.*
Silently cursing herself with every metaphor she could think of and several others she came up with on the way, she picked the lock. Without a sound she opened the door and slid inside. For a long time she watched him sleep, listened to his steady breathing, admired the serenity of his face. Kate remembered a morning in Seattle after their first night together, her thoughts coming back to haunt her: an angel asleep, a demon awake. She told herself she just wanted to talk to him, just for a few minutes. After hiding her pack in the shadows, she sat down next to him, waking him up. No going back now.
Alex's eyes opened slowly, then he sat straight upright as if someone hit him with a cattleprod. The covers fell to his waist, his bare skin glowing in the dim light of the room. His eyes went wide. "Kate?" he whispered huskily. "Is it really you?"
Wryly she answered, "It sure feels like me. It must be me."
"What are you doing in my room?" he asked, still in a daze.
"Waking you up from what looked like a very peaceful sleep," she answered.
"I was dreaming about you," he said, then made a face. He didn't mean to say it, the words just came out.
"It's not a dream. I'm really here. Want me to prove it to you?" She reached for his left arm, running her thumb gently over the scar just above his bicep. Absently she noticed his left arm looked stronger than his right.
He saw the naked pain in her eyes from the memory. "I never thanked you for saving me, Kate. For saving my arm."
"You don't have to thank me," she whispered.
"I mean it."
She raised her eyes to his face and nodded once. Lost in his eyes, she barely heard him ask, "Why are you here?"
"I was just asking myself the same thing."
Alex looked at her sideways. "You came halfway around the world to wake me up in the middle of the night?"
Then he took a good look at her and his dream-fogged mind cleared in an instant. She wore all black, right down to the gloves. "What have you done?" he demanded. "How did you get in here?"
"You sound so surprised," she replied flippantly, holding up the lockpicks. "You're the one who taught me."
He rose up on his knees and grabbed her roughly by the shoulders. "Taught you what? What the hell have you done?" he repeated.
Kate met his angry gaze with smoldering eyes. "Will you calm down before you wake everyone up and bring the whole place down around us? Do you really want to see me dead?"
The thought of the guards bursting in and gunning her down brought him back to his senses immediately. He let go and sat back on his haunches, rubbing his hands on his boxers. "No," he said. "No, of course not. You scared the hell out of me, waking me up like that."
"I guess so," she replied emphatically. "I didn't mean to scare you. No one else knows I'm here. I was all sneaky, just like you," she said, smiling and wrinkling her nose.
Alex didn't smile back. "Just like me, huh? You break into a top-secret military installation, just like me. Only it's my top- secret military installation. Tell me what you did, Kate. Tell me the truth."
Kate began pulling her gloves off with her teeth, trying to avoid an answer as long as possible.
Alex simply watched and waited patiently for her response.
She hunched over and regarded her booted toes. "I downloaded all the Doctor's research on the vaccine. The disks are in my pack. Do whatever you want with them. Take them back, burn them, whatever you want. But I went to a lot of trouble to get them and I think you might want to know why."
He made no move to search the room. In fact, he didn't move at all. Though he didn't realize it, his silence did more to persuade Kate to talk than any amount of interrogation.
"We made a mistake, sabotaging the work on the American vaccine," she said, turning her head to look up at him. "It's important, way more important than I thought. It's our only chance, Alex. Smokey and his friends, they don't care about the vaccine. They'll survive no matter what. But the rest of us will die without it."
The familiar rage burned when he heard the Smoking Man's name. "So what we did was for nothing?" he replied, his voice cracking with frustration.
Kate's brow furrowed. "You don't seriously believe everything Arntzen tells you, do you? You took that job to piss Cancerman off, and you did. But that's all you did, piss him off. It's not like we upset his personal plan for world domination or anything."
"Oh." Alex leaned back against the wall, defeated. "Then why does he care at all?"
"Do you know about another man, the older Brit? The one Smokey hates?"
"Yeah, sort of," he said offhand. "Wait, you're not working for Them, are you?" he asked, a note of panic in his voice. "After what they did to me--"
She could feel concern for her radiating through every pore of his body. Did they get to her somehow? Were they forcing her to do this? "Relax, they don't even know about me," she said calmly. "I know what you went through. I know what those men are like. But the Englishman -- he's not like the rest of them."
"Is that why Nicotine Breath hates him?" Alex asked, bringing the subject around to the object of his hatred once more.
"No, he doesn't like Smokey's approach," she answered, ignoring his single-mindedness. "I don't know much more than that. But he just plays along with the other men, the conspiracy. He's the one in charge of developing the vaccine, not Cancerman."
"That's why you took the information? To give to the Brit?"
"Yeah," she replied, feeling a painful stab of remorse. "Maybe he can get a working vaccine quicker than your guys. I don't know, Alex," she cried, grabbing handfuls of her hair and pulling. "I can't believe what I did, helping you and Arntzen. I didn't realize how much I fucked everything up. I have to do something about it. I have to make up for it."
From behind her she heard Alex make a low whistle. "You sure did something. I didn't know you had it in you."
Kate didn't know how to respond to that. The skills she learned from him made her feel uncomfortable in her own skin. Smoothing down her hair, she said, "I didn't either. I still don't know why I came in here and woke you up. For all I know you would have tossed me out on my ass. Maybe you should. Like you said, it's your top-secret military installation and I've made off with the classified information."
"I don't care about that."
Baffled, she turned to look him in the eye. "What do you mean you don't care? Don't they shoot spies where you come from?"
"I'm not going to shoot you," he said. *Again*, he finished, but didn't say it. "Kate, I don't care about the vaccine, or you breaking in here, any of that. I almost want the Doctor to find out," he said, laughing out loud. "God, can you imagine the look on his face?"
Terrified, her eyes grew wide. "You're not going to tell him, are you? You said you didn't want to see me dead," she choked out, almost too frightened to speak.
Her fearful expression made him instantly regret his thoughtless words. "No, that's not what I mean," he assured her quietly. Alex moved close to her and took her head in his hands. "I won't let them hurt you. I would never let anyone hurt you," he said, his voice taught with emotion.
Kate gazed up at his dark eyes, losing herself in their bottomless depths. Tentatively she reached out and put her hands on his wrists. With a little laugh she said, "I guess we both scared each other, huh?"
"Yeah," he said quietly, stroking her cheek with his thumb.
Suddenly Kate became undeniably aware of his bare skin on hers. He was so close she could see the stubble on his chin, smell the strong masculine scent of him. With infinite tenderness he let go of her face and tangled his fingers in her hair. She closed her eyes and felt a wave of desire tugging at her, pulling her under. When his lips met hers she slid her hands up to his bare shoulders and dug in with her fingers. At last she broke the kiss. Kate put her forehead to his and whispered, "This shouldn't be happening."
"Give me one good reason," he said, his voice low and husky with need.
"I can't think of any," Kate answered, and surrendered to him.
Part Five: Thrill Me
Smut warning for all you out there who don't like it for whatever reason. You can skip this part and still be okay, but there's one comment later that will make you go, Huh? But it's really not that important anyway.
Smut hounds, enjoy!
Then drowned in desire, our souls on fire
Kate pushed him back with one hand and crawled on top of him. Everything was so achingly familiar: the feel of his hands, the turn of his head, the sound of his breath. It felt like coming home after a long, long absence. In the back of her mind she caught random thoughts from Alex. He was simply, inexpressibly amazed. Amazed that she was here, that she came to see him, that she let him touch her at all. Off in a corner he was confused for all those same reasons but he didn't let it stop him.
His tongue stroking her mouth, Kate decided she needed to lose some clothes, fast. She had to feel this man against her as soon as humanly possible. Without breaking the kiss she stripped off her jacket and flung in a corner. He followed her lead, tugging her shirt loose and running his hands up her back. Soon the shirt followed the jacket into oblivion. Rapidly Kate rolled over and sat up, her feet hanging off the side of the bed. As she pulled at the laces of her boots, she felt his mouth on the back of her neck. Moaning, she finally removed the offending footwear and yanked off her socks. Her jeans were next to go.
Kate turned to face him and before she knew it he pulled her beneath him. He crouched on all fours like a cat, barely touching her. She stretched luxuriously, every muscle tense and quivering. Alex hesitated.
"What is it?" she asked. He shook his head, beyond speech, simply taking in the sight of her, real, alive, in his bed.
Kate watched his eyes go to the angry red scar below her shoulder. "Oh shut up," she told him and dragged him down over her. The feel of skin on skin made them both gasp. She tangled her legs over and around his, wrapped her arms around his chest and squeezed.
"Ungh," he said. "What was that for?"
She smiled up at him, pure happiness shining in her brown eyes. "To make sure you're real and not just another dream."
"Oh I'm real alright," he said with a sly grin. "I'll show you just how real."
Alex kissed her roughly, almost brutally. She met him breath for breath, moaning into his mouth. Her hands ran over his back, pulling him ever closer. Her hand returned to the scar on his arm, running her fingernails over his shoulder until he shuddered.
His mouth went to the scar his bullet left, kissing it softly. She arched her back in a silent cry. "Never, ever again," he promised, the pain raw in his voice. Then his mouth went lower, pulling her bra aside with his teeth and going for her nipple. Kate couldn't wait one more minute, she undid the clasp and tossed the scrap of lace to the floor.
Propped up on one arm, he caressed the other breast with his left hand. "I knew there was a good reason I wouldn't let them take your arm," she laughed, her breath coming in quick pants. He didn't answer in words. Instead he replaced the hand with his teeth, his tongue, and ran his hand down her body to her hip, caressing her thigh.
God, she wanted this man so badly she could almost taste it. Kate rose up on her elbows and ground her hips into his, hoping he would take the hint. He did. Deftly he removed the last bit of clothing from her body, then slid out of his own.
She cried out softly when he reached between her legs, finding her wet and ready. Alex caught her mouth in a kiss and caressed her with two fingers. Kate thought she remembered the heights of passion he brought her to but either her memory failed her or it had been too damn long. *Too damn long,* she decided, then lost the thought in a cry of pleasure. He stroked her deeply with long fingers. She let out a long, almost painful sigh.
"Jesus, Alex, I want you so much," she moaned softly. Feeling her body writhe against his, he only hoped he could make it last. He held onto his control with both hands.
Alex tried to go slowly, but the feel of her, incredibly tight and wet around him, overwhelmed his senses. He drove into her deeply, suddenly, and she gasped, trying to catch her breath. He wouldn't let her. Forcefully he moved inside her. She thrashed helplessly, biting her lip to keep from crying out loud. Alex grabbed her wrists and held her down, keeping her from throwing them both on to the floor. She groaned through clenched teeth, driven up and over by the force of his passion. Then sheer physical need took over and he followed her into ecstasy.
Immediately he released her, ashamed. Kate tried to calm her frantic breathing. Alex began to lift himself up but she grabbed him and wouldn't let go. "Please," she whispered. "Don't." He buried his head in her hair, wild against his sheets, and breathed in the scent of her. Of them, of what they had done. She kissed him lightly on the shoulder.
Her head resting in the curve of his arm, Kate threw a leg over his hip and he stroked it, over and over. Down her calf, behind her knee, up to the curve of her ass. "Careful where you put that," she warned him. "I thought I wore you out."
"Hell, woman, you should be worn you out by now," Alex said, grinning. "We can always start over again, you know."
"Don't tempt me."
"You know damn well why not. If anyone finds me here, I'm dead. They won't care if you run the joint."
"They won't find you. Not while I'm alive."
"Does that mean you want me to stay?" she asked playfully.
"Yeah," he replied, shocking her into silence. "God, Kate, how can I let you go? Again? It would kill me," he said, his voice breaking.
All at once reality came crashing down. *What the hell have I done? What am I doing?* At last denial caught up with her. *Yeah, sure, I just came in here to talk to him,* she thought sheepishly. She knew this was inevitable from the moment she decided to come to Russia. *Why else would I have taken the time in Kiev to shave past my knees?*
"I have to go, Alex," she said, her voice shaking. "I have to get the disks back to the States."
"Why?" he asked, almost pleading. "Why is it so goddamned important to you? Can't you just mail them or something?" he suggested, grasping at straws. Suddenly a thought occurred to him and his voice turned calm and dangerous. "You're not going to tell Mulder about this, are you?"
"Christ, not the Mulder crap again," she swore. "Just because I keep you from killing him a couple times, that means we're in bed together? Literally?"
"Look, I know you didn't mean it when you said that, okay? And I hope you have enough sense to know that there's no way. I mean no way. He's a nice guy and all, but he's no Alex Krycek," she said, teasing him.
"And how would you know?" he asked, deadpan.
"I wouldn't. You're just going to have to believe me."
"Prove it," he said with a grin.
Kate kissed the grin right off his face, running her hands over his chest. When he shuddered she kissed his chin, rubbing her cheek against the rough stubble of his face. She sucked on his collarbone for a while, then worked her way lower. She bit him lightly just below the nipple, gratified to hear his breath come faster. She ran her fingernails across his back, digging in lightly.
"God, how do you do this to me," he asked, breathless.
"Serves you right," she said. "It's my turn now."
"Is that the way it works?" he said, her only warning before he trapped her underneath his strong, lean body.
"No wonder we always fight. You think you can get away with doing whatever you want with me. You should know better," she said, then gasped as he took a pert nipple into his mouth and nibbled lightly.
"You were saying?" he asked in between nibbles. "It's your fault for getting me all hot and bothered."
His hands found her thighs, stroking the smooth skin lightly.
*I'm glad I remembered to shave after all.* Aloud she said, "Alex, I think you were born hot and bothered."
He laughed softly and kissed her deep and long, his tongue stroking her as his hand did between her legs.
She didn't complain when he took her again. Instead she cried out softly as he slid slowly inside. His eyes never left hers. She lost herself in those eyes, sharing every bit of the passion he felt for her.
Kate arched her back and took him deeper. To get as close as possible, to make it last forever. For a long while he stayed there, holding her close, feeling every bit of her wrapped around him, instinctively clutching him. It took his breath away.
After an endless moment he pulled away gradually and then returned. She moaned and wrapped her arms tightly around his back, her legs around his hips. Alex tried to pull away but she only grabbed him tighter, unwilling to let him go for even an instant. Changing tactics, he lifted her up with him and swung his legs over the side of the bed. Her teeth on his earlobe, she straddled his thighs and wrapped her arms around his neck. Cradling her in his arms, he rocked her slowly, staying deep within. He kissed her, nipping at her lower lip, and her eyes fluttered closed.
Kate clawed at his neck and moved with him, rubbing her entire body against his. She could feel the inexorable tension building, the sheer bliss of him filling her so completely. When he hit the exact spot he sent her into rapturous convulsions. Watching her face overcome with sweet ecstasy, he kissed her lightly on the lips. "You are incredible, Kate. Do you know that?"
"What makes you say that?" she asked in between gasps.
"I love to watch you, what I do to you."
"Typical male ego," she countered. With a sneaky smile Kate tilted her hips and clamped down on him hard, from inside.
His eyes slid half-closed and he groaned. "Point taken," Alex gasped out. But he took it as a challenge, kissing her neck, her shoulders. He slid his hand along her side and cupped a breast, stroking lightly, running his thumb over her nipple.
Kate pouted. "Now you're not playing fair," she complained.
"Do you want me to stop?"
With breathless laughter he picked up where he left off. Just when she thought she couldn't take any more Kate felt him grow even harder within her. She rose up and thrust downward forcefully, wordlessly begging for more. When she arched her back and came with a choked cry, he let go. Alex moaned her name, pushing deeply once, twice, then came hard inside her.
Exhausted, they fell back into bed together. Kate pulled the covers up to her chin, suddenly chilly.
Alex peered out the window at the fading darkness. "Dawn's coming," he said, then looked down. She had already fallen asleep. Careful not to wake her, he curled up beside Kate and planted a kiss between her shoulderblades.
Continued in Part VI