I've been looking for an original sin
All I wanted was a piece of the night
I've been looking for the ultimate crime
I'm applying for a license to thrill
Part One: The Hunger
The hand sliding across his shoulder nearly made Krycek leap out of his seat, weapon at the ready. The hostess at his favorite restaurant in St. Petersburg knew to seat him with his back to the wall. He thought no one could creep up behind him without his knowledge. But someone had.
The hand skimmed across his shoulder and Krycek felt sharp fingernails caress the short hairs at the back of his neck. He knew without turning around who stood behind him. "Marita."
She stepped forward and spun on her heel. "Excellent guess, Alex. Imagine meeting you here."
He made no move to help as she pulled out the chair across from him and seated herself. "Imagine," he repeated sarcastically. How had she come up behind him without his knowledge? Either he had too much vodka before dinner or he was slipping. "So what brings you Russia in the middle of winter? Palm Springs too crowded this time of year?"
"Arntzen said you would be here," she told him.
Krycek gave her a crooked smile. He came to see Arntzen only a few times a year to report in and escape the confines of the Siberian gulag. It was no coincidence. "Of course, our mutual acquaintance. I assume he told you exactly when as well. Or have you been waiting in this fine establishment every night for months, hoping to see me walk through the door?"
Marita Covarrubias ignored his sarcasm. "I have a proposition for you, Alex," she said, leaning forward and lowering her voice.
"A proposition?" he replied, raising one eyebrow. Now she had his attention.
"Yes, and I'd rather not discuss it here."
Dropping a handful of bills on the table to cover the tab, Krycek rose from his seat and headed for the door. If she followed him, fine. If not, he had better things to do than talk business with the woman who worked for the Cigarette Smoking Man. Heading briskly down the icy sidewalk towards his hotel, he caught sight of her out of the corner of his eye. Sure enough, she followed him. Inwardly he smiled when he saw she had to trot to keep up with him.
He didn't stop until he reached his hotel a few blocks away. She continued to follow him without another sound so he allowed her to accompany him to his room. The door closed and locked behind him, Krycek watched her shrug out of the warm wool coat she wore, revealing a finely tailored suit underneath. Marita had barely tossed the coat aside when he made his move. He took a few strides forward and pulled her roughly against him. Krycek dug a hand into her hair, yanking her head back to reveal her throat.
"What do you think you're doing?" she said coolly, even as her fingers tightened on his sweater.
"You said you had a proposition for me. I intend to take you up on it." With that he kissed her brutally, plundering her mouth. Marita's hands moved up to his neck, digging into his scalp.
Before long her finely tailored suit lay puddled on the floor along with his own jeans and sweater. Absently Krycek wondered if her cries were practiced, deceptive, but he didn't care.
His hunger sated, he lay with casual ease, his head resting against thick down pillows. His eyes looked out the window into the dark Russian night. Marita settled in above him, her chin resting where her hands crossed over his chest. Krycek didn't know what she saw when she looked at him. A man who knew what he wanted and took it, most likely. Her voice brought his wandering thoughts back from the darkness and he turned his head to face her.
"This isn't what I meant by a proposition," she said evenly.
He laughed in her face. "You didn't exactly tell me to stop, now did you?"
Marita kissed him lightly on the mouth and rolled over, sitting up. After a quick trip to the bathroom, she returned clothed in a velvet bathrobe. "I did come here to talk business, you know," she said, tossing him a robe like her own. She took a seat beside him and regarded him carefully.
"I know," he replied, sitting up and leaning back against the ornately carved wooden headboard. "But a man such as myself has to take what he can get."
For the first time Marita smiled. "It gets lonely out there in Siberia?"
Krycek didn't want to discuss it. "Tell me why you came looking for me."
"I hear you're coming closer to a cure."
Searching her guarded eyes, he found no clue as to her true intention. "Is that what your sources tell you?" he asked, unwilling to give an inch.
"Think of it, Alex," she said in a tone he had never heard before. She sounded almost eager, impatient. Hungry. "You're in the perfect position for this, the man on the inside. I've been keeping up on our own work. Once your men have finished developing the vaccine, we take it right out from under their noses. Then we put it on sale for the highest bidder."
Krycek blinked. This was not what he expected to hear. "You want to steal the vaccine from both sides? So they have to come to us for it?"
She smiled, showing her teeth. "Isn't this what you've always wanted?"
"I want to put Smokey out of his misery, that's what I want," Krycek said without thinking. "As slowly and painfully as possible." Then his eyes returned to the woman sitting on his bed. "What's in it for you, Marita? Why do I need you at all?"
Her face showed no expression. "It's true, I need your help. But you need mine, Alex. Unless you think you can walk off with the American vaccine and the research on your own."
"And you can do that," he said as a challenge, not a statement.
"I can do that," Marita assured him. "When the time is right." She didn't smile but her eyes shone. "They underestimate me, Alex. They underestimate both of us."
Krycek considered the possibilities. The men behind the conspiracy didn't care about the vaccine, or that's what he had been told. What if it wasn't true? Even if it was, he liked the idea. "We can rule the world," he said idly. The world owed him a debt or three. It was only fair. He could worry about Marita later.
Part Two: A Lamb for the Slaughter
Long before he came over the rise Krycek knew what he would find. He had spent enough time in the Persian Gulf to recognize the smell of burnt human flesh. But for some reason he doubted anything human caused this particular holocaust.
Krycek spotted movement and signaled to his men. Obediently they followed as he approached the thinning woods. A boy lay on the ground, completely unaware of the cadre of soldiers behind him much less the man standing above him. Suddenly the boy glanced up and Krycek saw utter shock in his eyes. No wonder he lay prone, defenseless, like a lamb for the slaughter.
The boy stumbled to his feet and looked dumbly at Krycek, only then noticing the crowd that materialized around him. Rapidly an idea formed in Krycek's head but nothing showed in his hooded eyes. *"Kak tebya zovoot?"* What is your name?
"D-Dmitri," the boy stuttered, looking almost hopeful, as if his rescuers had finally arrived.
Unexpectedly Krycek felt a twinge of guilt, quickly suppressed. How could he feel guilty for something he hadn't even done yet? He turned the boy, Dmitri, over to his men and headed down the slope. Someone else came to examine the carnage.
Krycek walked up to the group of men in uniforms clearly marked "UN" and came face-to-face with Marita Covarrubias. He hadn't seen her since one particularly memorable night in St. Petersburg last November. But now it was February. And who knew how many of her companions spoke English?
She must have come to the same conclusion. Defiantly she fed him some line about UN authority and a mission of mercy. Krycek played along until she noticed his captive, then began pestering him with questions. He didn't appreciate the interference and he didn't appreciate her inquiries. After all, Marita Covarrubias worked for the man he hated above all others. Reminding her of that fact, he told her to take her men and go. Krycek only wished he had the men and the firepower to enforce it. Turning his back to her, he stalked off. He didn't have the time to worry about what she would tell her employers. Krycek already had plans of his own.
As the oil fell like black rain over Dmitri's face, invading his eyes, his nose, Krycek readied the suturing needle and thread. All in all it had been a productive encounter. He smiled inwardly. A vial of the vaccine weighed reassuringly in his pocket and the trump card lay on the table before him. He didn't need Marita Covarrubias after all.
After he hid the boy he headed upstairs to the Doctor's laboratory for one last task. A hush lay over the gulag this late at night as if a heavy snowfall absorbed all noise. Krycek had enough snow for a lifetime. He wanted to feel the sun on his face. He wanted to hear a language other than Russian. Most of all he wanted revenge.
For a long moment he stood in the scrupulously clean lab, breathing in the chemical smell of the air. Ignoring the test tubes, pipettes, and Bunsen burners, he headed directly for the mother lode--the Doctor's computer. With careful precision he opened up the case with a screwdriver and ripped out the hard drive. In a few moments he had it open and the delicate platters within fell to the floor. Smiling at the irony, he deftly closed the case once more, leaving no sign of his invasion.
Next Krycek eyed the stacks of disks. They held the backups and records of all the research the Doctor had painstakingly gathered over years. He carefully removed the most recent backups and set them aside. Picking up the platters of the hard drive, he tossed them in one of the sinks. The remaining disks followed soon after.
Looking over the shelves of chemicals, Krycek considered his options. Sulfuric acid? Effective, but not quite what he had in mind. In the end he chose several jars and poured them all into the sink. He lit a match and watched the flames burn slow and hot, hot enough to send him a step backwards. After a few minutes the fire died down enough and Krycek stepped forward once again. The platters, his most pressing concern, had already melted from the heat. The plastic disks were burnt beyond any chance of recovery. Only then did he hear the noise behind him.
The Doctor stood in the doorway, the fire in the sink reflecting off his glasses. "What is the meaning of this?" he demanded, shaking with rage. "They told me of the boy. What have you done with him? Why was I not informed?"
Slowly Krycek smiled and stepped forward, putting a reassuring hand on the Doctor's shoulder. "Your work here is done," he said, gesturing to the empty shelves. With a wordless cry the man rushed towards the fire, only now realizing the extent of Krycek's betrayal. He reached into the sink in an attempt to rescue any bit of his work, but he yanked his hand away quickly.
Krycek slowly moved back towards the computer. Hiding the last remaining disks behind his body, he reached for the screwdriver. When the Doctor came for him Krycek was ready. The man's eyes burned with fury, all sanity lost. His hands went for Krycek's throat. They never reached it.
It was too simple, really. The Doctor's momentum carried him towards Krycek's upraised hand, the tip of the screwdriver piercing his heart. Krycek moved aside as the man fell forward and hit his head against the table.
Shaking his head, Alex Krycek picked up the tapes and stepped over the man's lifeless body.
Part Three: A New Alliance
Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right.
In a garage under New York City, a woman crouched by a black Lincoln with diplomatic plates. She almost had the lock open when a hand landed on her shoulder. Kate Marcus bit back a screech, dropping her lockpicks. They fell to the concrete with a dissonant clatter. She sprang up and turned to face her opponent.
A man stood before her. He was tall and thin and wore a black gabardine suit with casual ease. He looked like a butler from a Victorian horror movie, not a killer. But he found her breaking into a certain car under a certain building on 46th Street in New York City. Kate only recently found out what that meant. Right now she knew it meant instant death. Or it should mean, anyhow. The man simply looked at her with clear blue eyes and made no movement at all.
*Don't be afraid.*
Kate's eyes grew wide. *So this is what it means to be scared out of your mind,* she thought. *Now I'm imagining things.*
*It's not your imagination,* the voice came again.
"Who are you?" she said, her own voice shaking in fear. *What do you want from me? Why haven't you killed me yet?*
"My name is Victor," the man said, and she recognized the sound of his voice from the echoes in her head. He surprised her by speaking with an ordinary American accent, not British. "I'm not going to hurt you."
Kate instinctively reached out to his mind to gauge his intent, then jerked away quickly. What she found, or failed to find, shook her to the bone. No wonder she never heard him approach. She could see him, feel the weight of his hand on her shoulder, but when she reached for his mind she hit a solid wall. If she hadn't been specifically searching she never would have felt his presence.
Until that moment Kate never realized how much she relied on her supernatural abilities. She never bothered to listen for footsteps. She didn't have to. She could feel anyone approach from at least twice as far away. Anyone except this man.
"Who are you?" she repeated, slowly moving back a pace.
"A friend," he answered, letting her go. "I've known about you for some time, Kate. I'm very happy to finally meet you."
"How do you know my name? How do you know anything about me?" She tried to sound demanding but she had trouble speaking any louder than a terrified whisper.
Victor looked at her with compassion. "I'm very sorry for frightening you so. I will answer your questions but I would rather not discuss it here," he said, his words echoing off the concrete walls. "If you please, I would be honored to escort you upstairs."
Shaking her head frantically, she replied, "I'm not going anywhere with you, buddy. If you're not going to kill me then just let me go."
"But what about your message? Surely you don't intend to leave without delivering it," he said casually.
Kate's eyes went wide with shock. More than anything she wanted to run, leave this frightening man behind and run home to her nice comfortable life where everything made sense. But he had a point. She came here for a reason and that reason was too important to simply abandon out of fear.
"I'm not even going to ask how you knew that," she said, thinking of the carefully worded letter in her inner jacket pocket.
Victor smiled and it threw her once more. He looked so normal. His brown hair was thinning at the temples. He had laugh lines around his mouth and at the corners of his eyes. If she passed him on the street she would never give him a second glance. Yet here he stood, holding his hand out to her and inviting her upstairs. For tea perhaps. And a little conspiracy.
"No one will see you enter," he assured her. "There is a back stairwell. It's right over there." He gestured to a door not far away from where they stood.
"I never intended on delivering it personally," she muttered.
He held out his arm, cocking his elbow in wordless invitation. "What the hell," Kate said, and put her hand on his arm. "I feel like Mary Fucking Poppins."
The stairwell led to a short hallway with a small elevator lined in brass. Kate followed him into the elevator and studied the intricate marble inlay under her feet. "Mr. Manwaring has his own private suite," Victor explained. "He's not expecting you but I'm sure he will want to hear what you have to say."
Kate looked up and watched the floors tick by. She had never said a word about Manwaring. By now she didn't question how he knew the intended recipient of her letter. "Guess I won't be needing these," she said, removing her gloves and tucking them into the pockets of her jacket. "You probably have my fingerprints already," she said, hoping to goad him into some response.
In the small confines of the elevator Victor's laugh resounded. "No, Miss Marcus, you've been very careful in the past. You need not worry in that regard."
"That's because I value my anonymity," she snarled.
Victor nodded. "As do we, I assure you."
The elevator stopped and the doors opened to a hallway with plush carpet and walls painted a deep green. Victor escorted Kate down the hall and into a richly appointed room. Unzipping her jacket in the welcome heat, Kate took in her surroundings with a glance. The walls were the same deep forest green as the hallway. A large picture window displayed the lights of the nighttime skyline.
"Please, take a seat and make yourself comfortable," Victor said, gesturing her to a leather chair studded with brass.
Kate sat down and shrugged her jacket off. "I guess world domination pays pretty good, huh?"
"I believe you know better than to say such things, Miss Marcus," Victor gently chided. Can I get you anything? Tea? Coffee?"
Tea. Of course. "Water would be fine."
When he left Kate rose from her seat and approached the window, looking down a dozen stories to the street below. Briefly she considered taking this opportunity to drop the letter and escape. But who knew what she would find if she stepped outside that door? Who she would find? Other men occupied these rooms. She didn't sense the Cigarette Smoking Man specifically but he could be out of her immediate range. No, it was too dangerous. Better to stay and face the danger she knew.
The door to the adjoining room opened and Kate turned around. Victor entered first with a tray carrying a teapot, cups and saucers, and the requested water. Then William Manwaring stepped into the room.
As Victor carefully placed the tray on a table, Manwaring closed the door behind him. Kate nearly cried with relief when she touched his mind and found the same apprehension she felt.
He approached her and introduced himself. "My name is William Manwaring," he said, offering his hand.
"Kate Marcus. Pleased to meet you, sir," she responded politely, shaking his hand. As soon as she touched him her fears subsided. The physical contact increased her sensitivity to his thoughts and feelings. For some time she had known that Manwaring was unlike his associates but deep down she still harbored some doubts. Behind his calm facade the man fairly boiled with emotion: fear of betrayal, curiosity about Kate's message, even a tinge of anger at the other conspirators. Deepest and strongest of all she felt the perpetual guilt that weighed on the man's soul. No, she had nothing to fear from this man.
Victor was another story altogether. *I thought you said you would answer my questions,* she reminded him.
*I will,* he responded. *But your message takes precedence, don't you agree?*
His cavalier attitude made Kate grind her teeth in impotent fury. Caught up in her own thoughts, she almost missed Manwaring's next comment.
"Make yourself comfortable, Miss Marcus," he offered.
Returning to her chair, she requested, "Please, call me Kate."
Manwaring took a seat across from her. Victor made the third point of the triangle. He poured two cups of tea, one for Manwaring, one for himself. Kate picked up the glass of water Victor had provided and took several gulps, catching the ice in her mouth.
Victor took a sip of tea and set it down on the table before him. The china rattled, the only sound in the room. "William, do you recall the package you received last summer? The one with the computer disks?"
"I hope you found someone who could translate Russian," Kate said without a hitch.
Manwaring's eyes caught hers instantly but he showed no other sign of shock. "Indeed I did. With some trouble, I must admit. But the information was invaluable. It's a pity our attempts have met with little success so far."
"Glad I could help the cause," Kate said. I almost went back, you know. To get more. They've had more luck than you." Loudly she crushed the ice between her teeth. "But I would rather walk through hell than go back there. It's too late now anyway. Krycek has it all."
Manwaring's stunned disbelief was eloquent. "Alex Krycek?"
She hadn't heard his name spoken in so long the sound of it echoed in her ears. "Yes, that's what my letter is about. I intended to leave it for you and go home," she said, glaring at Victor.
"Why don't you give it to him now?" Victor suggested blandly.
Kate fished a crumpled piece of paper out of her coat pocket and gave it to Manwaring. He looked it over carefully, examining his name printed in deliberate letters on the front. "This is your handwriting?"
She nodded. "You recognize it?"
"From the envelope with the disks, yes. That is not the sort of thing one easily forgets." Carefully he broke the seal and took out the letter, smoothing out the creases. He read aloud:
The Russian vaccine works but Alex Krycek stole it and destroyed all the research so they can't make more. In a few days he will contact you and ask for your vaccine and all your research too. He is aboard the Uroff-Koltoff Star of Russia, coming into New York harbor. Find him and stop him."
A silence fell over the room. Kate pulled her knees up to her chest, her boots scuffing the polished leather of her chair. "I just wanted to let you know, sir. I thought you could do something about it. I know you're not like the others. That's why I got the disks for you."
Manwaring placed the letter on the table before him. He studied it for a moment, then regarded Kate with the same unflinching gaze. "Whom do you work for?"
"No one," she responded, tightening the laces of her boots. "This isn't exactly my day job. I'm just a little old bartender from DC. Gotta pay the bills somehow," she said with a thin smile.
"A bartender?" he said, his voice hushed with stunned disbelief. "For someone who denies espionage as her calling, you have a rare talent," Manwaring observed.
Kate's reply came out more sharply than she intended. "Just because I'm good at it doesn't mean I like it. Sir." Manwaring had an inscrutable look on his face. She got the impression not many people spoke to him with such candor.
Victor broke in. "So Krycek has the Russian vaccine. Now he wants ours as well."
Manwaring laughed, a dry, husky sound. "Surely he doesn't expect me to hand it over simply because he asks nicely."
Kate did not want to be in this room with these men having this conversation. *This is why I wanted to drop the goods and get the hell out,* she thought, shifting in her seat. She put her feet back on the floor and tried to brush away the scuff marks her boots left. *Too late now.* She didn't want to think about Krycek, much less discuss his intentions. Days ago she watched helplessly as he tortured, infected, and sewed up Dmitri. Every day she felt him getting nearer. Every day she knew she had to do something. She had to stop him somehow. Once a coherent plan formed in Krycek's head she acted.
For an instant she recalled her last visit to Tunguska. Kate had the knowledge to get in and get what she needed because of her constant awareness of Krycek's thoughts. In the same way she learned the location of the conspirators' headquarters. As long as she stayed aware of him she stayed one step ahead of him.
During Kate's silence Victor took the opportunity to speak. "There is more," he told his employer. "There has been an attack in Kazhakstan."
With shaking hands she used her fingers to fish another piece of ice from her glass. Pressing the ice to the roof of her mouth did nothing to calm her nerves. How did Victor know? Once more she instinctively reached out to his mind and hit a solid wall. Frustrated, she pulled away.
She admired Manwaring's composure as learned of the attack. When she heard Dmitri's account through Alex's ears it shook her to the core. Now Victor supplied more details, things Dmitri didn't know. He spoke of a force of alien soldiers intent on disrupting the colonization. Kate nearly dropped her glass in surprise and Manwaring went pale.
"You mean there's two groups? Not just the colonists?" she asked, her misgivings forgotten for the moment.
Manwaring answered her but his eyes stayed on Victor. "There have always been two groups. The colonists work with another type of alien. Outwardly they look human but they possess special skills such as shapeshifting and healing powers. In the past these collaborators have been subservient to the colonists."
Victor met Manwaring's gaze steadily. "The humanoids have split. Most of them still serve the colonists but others have formed a separate group. A rebellion, if you will. They wish to thwart plans for colonization. To save the human race."
Kate put down the glass and held her hands up to form a T. "Time out, hang on a minute. You mean these rebels are the ones killing humans? Isn't that what the colonists want to do?"
"The men and women killed in Kazhakstan were not chosen at random," Victor calmly explained. "They were all part of the experiments." He looked pointedly at his employer.
"What experiments?" Kate asked, looking from one man to the other in confusion. "You mean the ones to develop the vaccine?"
Manwaring cleared his throat. Turning to Kate, he said, "No, that is another project entirely. My associates and I have been conducting a project at the colonists' request. I believe Victor is referring to the so-called alien abductees."
Victor nodded. "The rebels wish to put a stop to the project."
"So they just go around killing all these innocent people? That makes it okay?" Kate fumed. The stench of burnt human flesh still haunted her, along with a thousand other memories she would just as soon forget.
Manwaring's calm voice cut through her outrage. "Kate," he said gently, "surely you know of the suffering and death in Tunguska and here in the United States as well. We must make sacrifices if we are to have any hope of survival."
He was right. That didn't make it any easier to accept. Kate stretched her legs out in front of her, slouching down in the chair. "That still doesn't make it right," she said quietly, crossing her arms over her chest.
Manwaring had no response to that but she knew he agreed with her. Changing the subject, he asked Kate, "You have yet to tell us why Krycek believes he can force us to give him our work on the vaccine."
Krycek. She had almost forgotten about him. "He found a boy who saw what happened. He wants to trade the boy, what he knows, for the vaccine. So he'll be the only one with a cure and everyone else will have to come to him for it. But I guess he didn't think you would know already," she said, looking at Victor. "All he knows is what the kid saw. He has no way of knowing all that stuff you just said," she finished, unwilling to speak of the reasons behind the attack.
"So his pawn is now rendered useless," Manwaring concluded.
Kate rubbed her eyes with her hands as if the motion could wipe away the memory of Dmitri's torture. The boy suffered for no reason. For that alone she wanted to kill Krycek with her bare hands. No, not just that. For making her watch while he did it.
"Yeah, and a lot of good I did you," she said. "Victor here knows the story better than I do."
"No," Manwaring immediately countered. "You have given me a great deal of information, knowledge I would not have had otherwise. Krycek's exact location, for instance. I never had the chance to thank you for the research you procured for me, Kate. Now I am doubly grateful."
"Just doing my civic duty," Kate muttered.
Manwaring smiled. "You give yourself too little credit, my dear," he told her as he rose from his seat. "It has been an honor to meet you, Kate Marcus," he said with a slight bow. "I regret I must take my leave of you now. I trust Victor will see to your needs?" he said, and Victor nodded.
He exited the room, leaving her alone with Victor. "Now I can answer all those questions of yours," he said, giving her a friendly smile.
Part Four: Victor
"You're damn right you can," she said, sitting up in her chair. "You're one of them, aren't you," she accused him.
"The rebels? Yes, I am," he said calmly.
Kate's hands clenched the arms of her chair, digging into the padded leather. "So where's your flamethrower? Or am I one of the lucky ones?"
"Please, allow me to explain."
The regret in his voice stopped her from throwing the remaining water in her glass in his face and stalking out. She didn't know aliens could feel regret. Or was it just another act? Kate had no way of knowing. She sat back again and folded her arms. "Explain away."
Victor began, "Many years ago the alien colonists attacked my planet just as they will attack yours. Nearly everyone was killed but a handful escaped. The colonists hunted them down and would have killed those last few as well, but instead they offered them a choice. An alliance was struck."
He leaned forward and laced his hands together. "My people have been slaves to the colonists for many years. I hope you can forgive them. They did what they could to survive." He paused for a moment, gathering his thoughts. "You don't know what it's like," he said, his voice catching on the words. "My world is gone, completely overrun by my enemies. I have no home. I never have. I don't want your people to suffer the same fate. If we don't put a stop to it now, the colonists will continue to massacre entire worlds."
"So why now?" Kate asked, her anger put aside for the moment. The thought of losing her world, everything she'd ever known, shook her to the bone. "And why not all of you?"
"Most of us have lived so long under their rule, it's not even questioned. But some of us, the younger generation for the most part, want to put a stop to it. We've become powerful enough at last to make a stand. And we know enough of their plans to disrupt them."
"Like the people who got experimented on," Kate responded. "That's how you knew how to call them, get them all together and then..." she trailed off.
Victor nodded. "Yes. I don't know if you will believe me, but we regret all the deaths we have caused. We want to help you, not kill you."
For a while Kate sat motionless, staring out at the twinkling lights of the New York City skyline. "I hate this," she said at last. "I try so hard to just walk away, to just be normal. But I can't, can I?" she said to herself. "No matter how hard I try, I keep getting sucked in again."
"That's not true," Victor argued. "If you wanted to, you could put it all behind you and forget about it. Stick your head in the sand, as it were. But you're not like that, are you, Kate? You care too much. You took a rather large risk coming here."
She put her feet up on the table and crossed her legs at the ankle. "Yeah, and it was one of the stupider things I've done in my life," she declared.
She didn't see Victor's hastily hidden smile. "In that case, you must consider most of your actions stupid."
"Yeah, what gives? How do you know anything about me, anyway?" she fired back.
Victor looked uncomfortable. "I was present when you visited William's estate."
"You saw me?" she asked, thinking back to the night she dropped off the disks from Russia. Clearly she recalled sensing only Manwaring in the house and he slept through her entire visit. But she couldn't sense Victor. He could have been right behind her the whole time and she never would have known the difference.
"Well, to be completely honest, you woke me up," he confessed. "You tend to think rather loudly, Kate."
"I think loud," she repeated, trying to come to terms with the idea. "And other people don't?"
"My people can communicate telepathically with each other, but not with humans," he explained. "You are the first person I've come in contact with who can both hear my thoughts and speak to me. I didn't even know you could hear me until a short while ago when we met."
For a moment Kate's temper flared. How dare he invade her privacy like that? For all she knew he had monitored her every thought from the moment she set foot in Manwaring's house over six months ago. He must know everything about her--
Alex. He must know about Alex. Kate felt her cheeks redden so she leaned forward and covered them with her hands.
"How much do you know about me, anyway?" she asked timidly.
"I only hear specific thoughts," Victor explained. "Unlike your link with Krycek, I don't share your perceptions or emotions."
Shit. He did know. What must he think of her? Kate massaged her temples, wishing the world would open up and swallow her whole.
In a softer tone, Victor said, "I must apologize, Kate. I never meant to invade your privacy. I only wanted to find out more about you. It's not every day someone hand-delivers classified government documents to your doorstep."
"So now you know everything about me," she concluded.
Victor shook his head. "No, I don't. After I learned how you acquired the disks I left you alone," he said, ashamed as well. "I made a concerted effort to stay out of your mind. To give you your privacy. I know how much you want to live in peace. To be normal, as you say."
"Yeah, and we both know how well that worked out," she sighed. "You didn't tell Manwaring any of this, did you?"
"No. I know how hard you try to keep your secret. The last thing I want to do is betray your trust."
"It's a little late for that," she replied.
"I suppose so," he admitted.
In the tense silence that followed Kate retrieved her glass and placed it against her forehead. The ice had almost completely melted and water dripped down the side, cooling her flushed skin. "So what now?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"You're not just going to let me go now, are you?" A bit of water tricked down her face and off her nose.
"Is that what you want?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You do realize what will happen next. You've given Manwaring the information on Krycek. You don't think he will sit here and let Krycek do whatever he wants, do you?" he said.
"What do you want me to do about it?" she asked with a tinge of irritation. After their last encounter she had no desire to see Krycek again. Ever. She came to Manwaring hoping that he could deal with the man so she wouldn't have to.
Victor regarded her in earnest. "William would never consider asking you. He feels you have done enough for him already. But I think you could help him immensely," he started, but Kate interrupted.
"No," she said vehemently. "I don't play spy games anymore. Not for him, not for you, not for anyone."
Hesitantly Victor spoke. "He needs you. If you won't do it for him or for me, do it for yourself. You know what Krycek is capable of. If anything happened you would never forgive yourself."
Kate removed the rapidly warming glass from her forehead and held it in both hands. "So what do you suggest?"
"I suggest you think about it," he answered. "In the meantime, you can stay here in New York City instead of returning home. At least until this is over."
Putting the glass back on the tray, Kate leaned back and wiped her hands on her jeans. She looked out at the dark night, acutely aware of what was coming. Who was coming. She closed her eyes.
When she opened them, she said, "Alright. I'll stay. But I'm not promising anything more than that."
Part Five: Until the End of the World
Haven't seen you in quite a while
In my dream I was drowning my sorrows
His right hand held immobile with handcuffs, Alex Krycek glared at Manwaring. The older man stood above him, regarding him with utter contempt.
"This is your last chance," Manwaring said. "Tell me where the vaccine is or I will leave you here to die."
Krycek's eyes narrowed. Kicking out helplessly, he growled, "You're just trying to frighten me, old man. You don't have the stomach to kill me."
"I don't have to," Manwaring responded calmly. "I'm sure your Russian comrades will be more than happy to do that for me. All I have to do is walk out that door," he said, glancing back at the exit behind him. The exit that seemed miles away from where Krycek lay chained.
Krycek looked away, his voice tight with fury. "If you want it so bad, you come get it. I can't exactly reach it, if you know what I mean," he said, indicating his motionless left arm.
Manwaring sat back down in front of Krycek. "Very good," he said, and the satisfaction in his tone made Krycek want to spit in his face.
"It's in my back pocket," Krycek told him.
The older man leaned forward and in an instant Krycek's left hand shot out and grasped his throat tightly. Krycek gave him a vicious smile. "Look who's helpless now," he said, and increased the pressure.
So intent on his prey, Krycek didn't notice the movement until it was too late. Kate's thumb dug deeply between the bones of his hand below the base of his fingers. He cried out in pain and let go as her middle finger found the soft tissue of his wrist and squeezed.
"Get up!" she shouted, twisting his arm around at an unnatural angle. "So you can still feel pain in this hand, you son of a bitch," she hissed in his ear.
Krycek didn't have much choice. He scrambled to his feet and she pinned him to the wall with her left arm. Her right hand never loosened its relentless grip on his wrist. Her other thumb found his jugular but she didn't push. For the first time she met his eyes, a wordless threat in her angry gaze.
Only then did she speak to the other man in the room. "Are you alright, sir?" she asked without turning around.
Coughing slightly, Manwaring stood up. "Yes, I seem to be unharmed. Thanks to you."
Krycek shifted to relieve the pressure on his hand but Kate moved with him. Her thumb inched farther up his throat. He swallowed, more afraid than he liked to admit.
"How did you know?" Manwaring asked with a slight rasp.
"You mean his arm? I was there when it happened," she answered. "I should have let them cut it off," she snarled in a voice meant for him alone.
Krycek couldn't pull his eyes away from Kate's. They held him trapped as surely as her hand on his throat.
"Do you have the key?" she asked Manwaring.
"The key?" he repeated, confused. "Of course," he said after a moment, placing the key to Krycek's cuffs in her outstretched left hand.
Deliberately Kate unlocked the cuffs from the wall. Her death grip on his hand tightened as she pulled it around behind him in a parody of an embrace. Once she had him securely cuffed to the wall with both hands she let go and backed up a pace.
Kate turned to Manwaring, examining the red marks on the man's throat. "I'm sorry, sir, I should have told you. He's unpredictable when he's cornered," she threw back at Krycek.
"How long have you been here?" the older man asked.
"Long enough," she replied succinctly. "It was Victor's idea, actually. He didn't think you should come here alone."
Manwaring smiled at Kate. "Remind me to thank him." Then his eyes returned to the man she chained to the wall.
Kate spun around to face Krycek and before he knew it her hand came up hard under his chin, cracking his head against the unforgiving steel wall. "Where's the vaccine, Krycek?" she asked reasonably.
He glanced over to the corner of the room to a pile of unidentifiable refuse. She let him go and dug through the pile until she found his duffel bag. Rummaging through his bag, she came up with a vial and the last remaining disks. Kate handed the vial to Manwaring and tucked the disks in his coat pocket. "Go save Covarrubias," she quietly said. "I'll keep an eye on him."
He nodded and gave her a kind smile. "Thank you, Kate."
After the sound of his footsteps faded, Krycek found her facing him once again. When she stepped toward him he flinched but she only reached around his back to unlock the handcuffs.
Rubbing his aching right wrist, he watched Kate kneel down by his bag and stuff his clothes back into it. Once in a while she paused to wrinkle her nose in distaste. Why did you do that?" he asked.
"Let me go," he explained. "For all you know I could track that old bastard down and finish the job. Get my property back," he said angrily, staring into the distance.
Kate finished packing and stood to face him. "You could try. But you know I'd stop you. Why are you so pissed at him and not me, anyway? You're not stupid. You've already figured out I'm the one who told him where to find you."
Krycek blinked in surprise. He looked at her, taking in every detail from the black leather boots on her feet to her dark hair pulled back in a braid. Dressed to kill. Suddenly he remembered Tunguska, the night she broke in and paid him a visit. Kate looked exactly the same then as she did now.
He remembered what he said to her that night as well. He said he didn't care about the vaccine. What he did care about was her. It sounded so out of place after all that had happened. A moment ago he would have killed a man to keep the vaccine, not to mention the same information he allowed her to steal that night in Russia. Krycek glanced down at the makeshift bed where he kept the boy alive through the long journey to the United States.
It was Marita's fault, he decided. Kate told him only the Brit cared about the vaccine, not the other collaborators. Marita made it sound so important. She convinced him he could bring them to their knees, have them at his mercy. Just another lying bitch who betrayed him. He never would have stolen the vaccine, attempted to trade the information for the boy, if she hadn't talked him into it.
Kate tapped her foot, bringing him back from his wandering thoughts. "Are you working for him now?" he asked, turning the question back on her.
"Not officially, no. But you knew I was helping him before. You didn't honestly think I was going to sit back and do nothing, did you?"
Krycek hadn't thought of it that way. Obviously, or he never would have tried it. "Damn it, Kate, why can't you just leave me alone?" he asked, more frustrated than angry.
"I tried that. Believe me, I tried," she said, irritation in her voice, but if anything she looked tired. Exhausted, in fact. Did he do that to her? "But you got in the way," she sighed. "Alex, if I could walk away, I would. Nothing would make me happier than getting the hell out of your mind. You do your thing, I do mine. But it doesn't work that way. You pulled me into this the minute you captured that kid and then..." she trailed off, looking down.
He didn't know what to say. "I never meant to put you through this," he tried.
"Well duh," Kate said, rolling her eyes. Alex almost smiled when he caught a glimpse of her old self peeking out. "You never mean to do anything wrong. That's your problem." She ran her fingers through her hair, up under her braid. "Forget it," she said, suddenly impatient. "It's done, it's past, time to move on. I'm going home."
Something tightened in his chest at her words. Before she had a chance to walk away from him, he asked, "What about me?"
"What about you?" she shot back.
"For all you know I'll just go after the Brit again," Alex said, trying his best to sound angry and dangerous. But his fury had faded. In the past few days he had hardly slept, eaten nothing at all, and had accumulated several bruises. Alex wanted nothing more than a hot meal, a shower, and someplace to crash.
Kate eyed him, her brow furrowed in concentration. "No you won't."
"You willing to take that chance?" Alex growled, but he doubted he'd get much farther with that approach. Maybe he should try to make her feel sorry for him.
Alex sighed and tried to look helpless, like a little lost puppy. "Okay, you got me," he admitted. "I'm tired, I'm starving, and I feel like hell. I don't have anywhere to go. For all I know there's a dozen angry Russian assassins on my back."
Watching her closely, he caught a glimmer of a smile on her face. "You need a bath, too," Kate said, wrinkling her nose. "You stink." She kicked his bag half-heartedly. "Are you asking me for a favor? Political asylum or some kind of crap like that?"
Alex shrugged. "I guess so. For a while, anyway."
Her smile faded.
"What is it?"
"What's in it for me?" she asked in a tone he didn't recognize. Regret? Irritation? Alex didn't have a clue.
An idea formed in his head. "I'll translate the disks for you," he offered.
She laughed at him. "Out of the goodness of your heart."
"Okay, so that one was a little weak," he said, laughing back. "How about this. If I'm with you then you know where I am and you don't have to hunt me down whenever my ass needs a good kicking."
Kate ran a hand over her hair, smoothing her braid. "Your ass always needs a good kicking."
"See? This way it's more convenient," he said, walking over to her and retrieving his bag. "I'll be your POW. Just please don't starve me. I've suffered enough."
She headed for the door and he followed her. "How the hell do I let you talk me into these things?" she asked no one in particular.
What anger worse or slower to abate then lovers love when it turns to hate.
Toweling off his blissfully clean hair, Alex walked out of the bathroom and studied himself in the mirror. He had lost weight and his ribs showed clearly. Wiping off his face, he heard Kate's voice in the next room.
"No, don't worry. It's just for a few more days," she said.
She paused and Alex leaned around the partition to the main room. Kate sat on the bed, her back to him, the phone to her ear.
"I know I said that before," she said, not noticing the man coming up behind her. "I'll call you when I get back, okay? Yeah, I miss you too. Bye." Kate hung up the phone and looked up at him.
"Who was that?" Alex asked.
Putting the phone back on the desk, she answered, "A friend."
"Anybody I know?"
Uh oh. He pushed her too far. Kate's eyes turned dark and angry. "None of your business," she told him on no uncertain terms.
Alex sat down on the bed across from hers and watched as she crossed her legs underneath her. "So do you feel better now?" she asked.
"Let me think. I'm warm, I'm fed, I'm clean. I'm not headed back to Vladi-fucking-vastok on some godforsaken ship. Yeah, I'd say I feel better," he answered with a wry grin.
"Christ, you are thin," she breathed, staring at his prominent ribs.
Alex leaned over and reached for a t-shirt. The rest of his clothes were in the motel's laundry room. He didn't want to talk about it and he didn't want her looking at him like that. It looked too much like pity.
She wouldn't meet his eyes. "For what?"
"For taking me prisoner," he joked, trying to lighten the mood.
"If you give me any trouble, I still have the handcuffs," she growled.
Alex grinned and rolled over, stretching out on the bed. His feet hung over the edge but he didn't care. It felt so good to have a real bed again. "Talk dirty to me, baby."
"Stop it, Alex," she said.
Kate didn't sound mad, or amused, or even a little irritated. It was as if he wasn't even there. He didn't like it. He crossed his arms under his bruised chin and looked at her hopefully. "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."
"You didn't," she said in that same dispassionate tone.
"Yeah I did."
At last her eyes met his. "What are you talking about?"
Alex rubbed the back of his head where it hit the wall. A large bruise had already formed but at least he didn't need stitches. "You seemed pretty pissed off before. You know, on the ship. My hand still hurts."
"That was the idea."
"So you're going to sit there and tell me that nothing I did got to you? Not what I did to the kid, not killing the Doctor, not trying to kill the old man?" he asked, desperate for some sort of response.
Her gaze remained steady on his. "You missed one."
Rapidly he thought back through all his dastardly deeds. There were so many. Sometimes he lost track.
Oh. Yeah, her. Wait a minute...
The dark, angry look returned to her eyes. "You never even considered that, Alex? That I'm in the back of your head all the time? Trust me, it's not a nice place to live. And no, I don't like to watch."
How could he have missed that one? "Jesus, Kate, I never even thought about it that way. I never meant to hurt you." Then another thought hit him. "But you gave him the vaccine anyway? To save her life?"
"Yeah," she said, staring him down, daring him to challenge her. "I did."
Alex's mind reeled. He couldn't comprehend it. "Why?"
Kate looked thoughtful. "Well, for one thing, we're both on the same side," she began. "Or didn't you know that? No, I guess you wouldn't. She was using you, Alex, just like you thought you were using her. Only it wasn't for," she gasped for effect, "The Smoking Man. As soon as she got the kid, you know who she called? Mulder. I'm serious, Alex. She was going to give him to Mulder. But she must have taken pity on his poor abused carcass and cut some stitches."
Alex put his head down, unable to look at her face.
She continued. "The Brit found her, luckily. That's why I knew he would come for you. She would die without it."
Kate took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "You are one sick, demented son of a bitch. So no, Alex, I'm not going to play your games. I will feed you and I will give you someplace to sleep but the sooner you are out of my life, the better. I gave you a chance to take some time and figure everything out and you fucked it up royal."
Anger flared, raw as the day she sent him away. "You never gave me a chance," he insisted. "You said I had a chance and I blew it."
An invisible door slammed in his face. "We have already had this conversation. I am not going to talk to you about it any more. Get some rest, Alex. Go to sleep and leave me the hell alone."
With that she turned away and lay down with her back to him. For a long time Alex looked at her. He thought about what she said. That made him angry. He thought about what she did. That made him confused. Kate rejected him, beat the crap out of him, and basically told him to go to hell. But she also took the vaccine from him to save Marita Covarrubias, of all people. Then she let him stay in her motel room, bought him dinner, and did his laundry.
Finally Alex gave up trying to figure her out. He put on the rest of his clothes and went to get the laundry. When he got back he noticed Kate had fallen asleep. A faint crease marked her brow and she moaned slightly. She was probably having a nightmare about him. Waking her up would only make it worse.
Alex turned down the covers on the opposite side of the bed. Gently he gathered her up in his arms and laid her down, tucking her in. Thankfully Kate had already dressed for bed so he didn't have to touch her clothes. That would have been too much. It was hard enough to keep his distance. His empty arms ached to feel her once more, to comfort her, to soothe away her fears. Everything he caused in the first place, basically.
Alex turned off the lights and threw himself down on the other bed. He thought he wouldn't get much sleep but before long his weary body overcame his busy mind and he drifted off.
Part Six: Coffee and Chaos
Closing the door behind him, Victor entered the main room of Manwaring's suite. A man he knew to be Alex Krycek lounged in a chair facing the door but his attention went to the woman standing by the window.
"Kate? What are you doing here?"
Kate sipped her coffee and continued to stare out the window. "He's not going anywhere without me," she said neutrally.
Confused, Victor looked to Krycek but the man only glanced at Kate and back again. A moment later Manwaring entered the room and took a seat across from Krycek. Manwaring's eyes went to Kate briefly but he reserved his attention for his opponent. Victor moved to his employer's side, standing slightly behind him with his hand on the back of the chair.
"Nice to see you again," Krycek sneered. "Did the bitch survive?"
"Yes," Manwaring replied angrily.
"Then why am I here?"
Victor reached for the woman's mind. *Kate? Why are you here?*
*I told you,* she responded smoothly. *I'm not leaving him alone with Manwaring for one minute. Didn't he tell you?*
Confused, Victor asked, *Tell me what?*
He heard surprise in her voice and she put down the coffee cup. *Krycek tried to kill him. You were right to ask me to stick around. If I hadn't been there Manwaring would be very dead.*
*He tricked him,* Kate said, a little sadly. *Manwaring didn't know he's faking the arm thing.*
Victor took a better look at Krycek, the man's gloved left hand tucked limply in his pocket. *Son of a bitch,* he swore, stunned.
*You could say that,* she answered, her smile reflected in the window. *I didn't know you knew any words like that, Victor. Did you pick them up from me?*
Victor tried to regain his composure and direct his attention to the confrontation between Manwaring and Krycek. His conversation with Kate had only taken a few seconds and his employer had yet to respond to the other man's question.
"I have need of your services," Manwaring informed Krycek.
Victor saw Kate's spine stiffen at Krycek's response. "You must be pretty hard up," he laughed. "What's the job?"
The older man remained outwardly calm but Victor knew his admission would cost him dearly. Krycek was right. Manwaring needed help and he had nowhere else to turn.
Smoothly he replied, "You know of the attacks in Kazhakstan, Skyland Mountain, and now Pennsylvania. But I doubt you know the motivations behind them."
Krycek smirked. "I know enough."
"I doubt it," Manwaring repeated. As he told Krycek of the alien rebellion, the man's face lost its smug expression.
Once more Victor looked to Kate but she remained still. He said nothing but reached out with a wordless question.
*He thought he knew the whole story,* she told him. *He always thinks he knows the whole story.*
She sounded so beaten, so resigned to her fate, his heart went out to her.
In the meantime Manwaring had continued his explanation. "The military has been holding one of the alien rebels prisoner. My associates have decided to turn him over to the colonists. I need you to assist me in his liberation."
Before anyone could say a word Kate whipped around, overturning her coffee cup. It hit the floor and bounced, the dark liquid staining the carpet. "Excuse me, sir, but what the hell do you think you're doing? You want him to help you?" She strode forward and put her hands on the back of an empty chair, her fingers gripping the soft leather. "He tried to kill you! You think he's a dog who's going to heel when you snap your fingers?"
"No, I think he is a man who knows an opportunity when he sees it," he told Kate but his gaze held Krycek's. "I am willing to compensate you generously for your work. In addition, I can offer you protection from any retribution your previous employer might have in mind."
In one swift motion Kate stepped around the chair and sat down. "No. Don't do this, sir. Leave him out of it. I'll do it. Whatever you need, I'll do it."
"As much as I appreciate your offer, Kate, I must decline," Manwaring said evenly.
She stared at him, her mouth agape. "What? Why?"
Smiling softly, he replied, "You have already done more than enough. You told me you're just a bartender from DC. Go back home and be a bartender again."
Frustrated, she looked from Manwaring to Victor and back again. *Can you talk some sense into him, Victor?* Kate silently pleaded. *He thinks he can control Krycek. That's crazy! He's only going to wait for the right time to stick a knife in his back.*
With her last thought Victor caught a vivid image of Krycek plunging a screwdriver into another man's chest. He flinched, disgusted and frightened at the same time.
*He did that?* Victor asked, fighting back nausea.
*What?* Kate asked, confused for a moment. *You saw that? Yeah, he did that. Now do you see why I won't let him near Manwaring alone? We have to do something. We can't let him do it again.*
They all turned when Krycek spoke. "I'll do it," he said casually.
Kate frowned. *He hates it when people ignore him,* she told Victor with no small amount of exasperation.
"Like hell you will," she said aloud.
"Shut up," Krycek snarled at her. "You don't belong here."
Before things got thoroughly out of hand, Victor interjected, "Perhaps I might make a suggestion." He stepped forward and took a seat next to Kate. "If you are so committed to taking on Mr. Krycek as an associate, I would advise you to reconsider Kate's offer," he said to Manwaring.
Only because he knew him so well did Victor see the surprise in his employer's face. Victor gave him an earnest look, one that his friend should recognize. When Manwaring nodded slightly, Victor knew he would have to explain himself later. For now the other man would take his advice on faith.
"You mean hire them both," Manwaring replied. Turning to Kate, he asked, "How would you feel about that arrangement, Kate?"
"It's better than nothing," she said fervently.
"Don't I have any say in this?" Krycek asked the assembled group.
Kate turned on him with fire in her eyes. "No, you don't. You took the job. Now you get to live with the consequences. Me." Her voice softened slightly. "You're getting what you wanted, right? Sanctuary?" she said, her tone slightly mocking.
With one last angry look Krycek settled back into his chair. That one action caused the tension in the room to ease immensely.
As Manwaring and Krycek began to hammer out the terms of their agreement, Kate leaned back and ran a hand through her hair. *Thank you, Victor. He really trusts you, doesn't he?*
Without looking at her he smiled slightly. *Yes, he does. And I trust you to keep him safe.*
*You mean keep him alive.*
*I would rather not think of it that way, but yes,* he replied with distaste. *Are you sure you want to do this? I certainly don't know everything but you can't be too happy with that man right now.*
*Krycek? Oh, I'll be okay. It's not like I can ever escape him. Maybe if I keep him from killing people on a regular basis I won't have so many nightmares,* she said, and winced slightly.
*I'm sorry it had to come to this.*
*Me too, Victor. Me too.*
Part Seven: A Piece of the Night
When Krycek reached the fourth floor, Kate put out a hand to stop him. "Give it," she demanded.
"What, you mean you don't trust me?" he asked with a smirk.
When he made no move to retrieve his weapon, Kate pushed him up against the wall and removed the automatic from his shoulder holster. "You didn't really think I'd let you go in there and blow Mulder's brains out, did you?"
Insolently he smiled, showing his teeth. "Well, I was hoping."
Her eyes narrowed. "Listen to me, Alex. The minute you even think of hurting a hair on his head, I will personally put a bullet in your brain."
His smile faded. She could and she would. Now she had his weapon. He didn't have much choice, did he?
Without another word he headed down the hall to apartment number 42. Kate remained in the stairwell as he picked the lock and found place to hide in the shadows.
When Mulder opened the door Kate moved stealthily down the hall, gun held at the ready. She stopped outside Mulder's apartment and gritted her teeth. Through Krycek's eyes she saw him tackle the other man, throwing him across the room and taking his Sig in one smooth motion.
"You must be losing it, Mulder. I can beat you with one hand," she heard him say.
For an endless instant she considered kicking down the door and making good on her promise to put Krycek out of his misery. Her misery, too, come to think of it.
"Isn't that how you like to beat yourself?" Mulder shot back, staring down the barrel of his own weapon. Krycek cocked the hammer, but Mulder didn't stop. "If those are my last words, I can do better."
Searching Krycek's mind, Kate saw red rage flare and then subside. He was handling this much better than she expected. She couldn't explain it. She relaxed fractionally as Krycek told Mulder about the attacks by the rebels and what it all meant. Mulder's reaction made her want to beat some sense into him with her own hands. Both of them. He didn't believe Krycek. Mulder, of all people, didn't believe in aliens anymore? What was the world coming to?
Slamming the door behind him, Krycek shot her a look that seemed to say, "There, are you happy now?" She handed him his automatic, butt-first. Tucking it back under his jacket, he headed down the hall towards the elevator. He didn't even look to see if Kate followed.
Alex didn't speak until they arrived at her apartment. "What are we doing here?"
She unlocked the door and flipped on the lights. In a rush she remembered the last time they stood in this exact spot. He held a gun to her head. Kate remembered that quite clearly. But he never pulled the trigger. She remembered that too.
"I'm coming with you," she announced as she headed to her bedroom and dropped her bag.
For a moment Alex stood speechless. Then, glib as ever, he asked, "You can't get enough of me?" With a sly smile he sat down on her bed and leaned back against the pillows.
"Don't flatter yourself," she said, unpacking her dirty clothes. Kate refused to look at him. Besides, she had work to do. She opened her dresser drawers and started throwing clothes in a pile on the floor. "Somebody's got to stop you from killing everyone you meet. Especially your employer."
Now he sounded hurt. It made her want to hit him. "Hey, he's giving me a safe place to crash. And paying me for it."
"Relatively safe. Or don't you remember?"
His blank stare told her everything she needed to know. "His farm, Alex. Arntzen knows about it because I told him. That's where he sent Peskow to kill Dr. Charne-Sayre. I don't know if Arntzen will put two and two together. He doesn't know you're working for the Brit now. But you better stay on your toes anyway. That's why you wanted to sack out with me in the first place, right? Good old Kate, she can hear 'em coming a mile away."
Krycek actually had the nerve to look insulted. "You think I'm just using you?"
"I think that's part of it. You're a man who knows an opportunity when he sees it, right?" she said, echoing Manwaring's words to him earlier.
"You didn't have to volunteer for this, you know," he said with a sneer.
Kate stopped sorting clothes and sat back on her heels. "Are you trying to piss me off on purpose? Do you really think I want to do this, dammit?" It took all her willpower to keep the simmering rage out of her voice, but she would die before she let him hear it. She couldn't trust him. If he knew how much each word hurt, how much it hurt just to be around him, he would use it against her. "Don't lie to me," she said calmly. "I know you'd kill him the first chance you got. I won't let you. It's as simple as that."
Rising up from the floor, she heading to the bathroom to collect the rest of her belongings.
Alex followed her, blocking the doorway. "Why would I want to do that? You heard how much he's paying me."
She ignored him but he kept talking.
"You're one to talk, Kate. You're taking his money, same as I am."
Gritting her teeth, she almost lost her temper right then and there when a knock came from the front door.
Kate brushed past him and headed to the kitchen. "I don't think you want to follow me," she suggested.
"The hell I don't," he muttered, hard on her heels.
When Kate stopped suddenly he almost ran right into her. "I thought you hated Feds."
"Is it Mulder?" he demanded.
Kate clenched her hand into a fist, imagining the feel of her elbow connecting with his ribs, the satisfying crunch of broken bones. Instead she snapped, "Will you get off your Mulder fixation? Just stay here and keep your mouth shut, 'k?"
Wisely Alex stayed out of sight when she answered the door to Liam's smiling face.
"Nice to see you, stranger," she said, hugging him. "How did you know I would be here?" She pulled back and looked at him sideways. "Are you staking me out?"
Liam laughed out loud. "No, you told me you were coming back today. I saw your lights on and thought I'd say hi. Can I come in?"
Alex remained in the next room but Kate knew he heard every word. "Um, sure. I can't talk long, I only came home long enough to pack."
Liam stepped inside and leaned back on the kitchen counter. "Pack? You're leaving again?"
She nodded. "There's something I have to do. No, I'm not disappearing off the face of the earth," she said to his worried frown. "I'll call you," she offered hopefully.
"Do you know how long you'll be gone?"
Looking into his blue eyes, Kate saw everything she ever wanted slip away. All she asked for was some peace and quiet. Now she had to leave her best friend, her life, everything she worked so hard to rebuild. Again. For Alex. Again. "No, I don't know for sure this time. Hey, I can still come back and visit, right?"
"It won't be the same," he said sadly.
"I know," she answered, her voice strained. "I'll miss you. God, you don't know how much I'll miss you, Liam." Kate put her arms around him again and buried her face in his shoulder, willing herself not to cry.
"I have a pretty good idea," he said quietly, holding her close.
No, he really didn't. At that moment Kate knew without a doubt why she chose to leave everything behind and work for Manwaring. She had to make a difference. Not just for herself but for everyone. For people like Liam who never suspected the truth. Planned colonization. The extinction of the human race. The holocaust in Kazhakstan was the merest shadow, a glimpse of what was to come if the colonists succeeded.
He didn't know about any of it. She didn't want him to know. She wanted him to live his life day by day with ordinary concerns. Kate could never unlearn what she had learned so she chose to stand and fight. Even if it meant her death. Even if it meant living like a renegade, unable to find safe haven anywhere. Even if it meant dealing with an asshole like Krycek.
"I'll help you pack," Liam offered, bringing her back to reality.
Kate let go and stepped back. He had no idea what he was offering. She would be damned if she let Krycek kill one more person. Especially this one.
"I'm sorry, Liam, but I'm kind of in a hurry," she quickly covered.
Now he looked suspicious. "Is everything alright?" he asked, glancing around the room.
"Yeah," she said, trying to sound casual. Why did her best friend have to be an FBI agent? Why did he have to be so good at it? "If I was in trouble, Liam, I would tell you."
He met her eyes again. "I guess you would," he sighed. "But I hate to leave you like this."
"I'll be okay," Kate assured him. "I'll call you when I get there and let you know I'm alright. I promise."
They said their goodbyes and Liam left. Kate closed the door and turned around to meet Krycek's angry gaze. "I remember him," he said as if accusing her of some heinous crime. "He's the guy from Seattle."
With a particularly unnerving sense of deja vu, she looked around. He had her cornered, her back to the door. Kate shoved him aside and stormed back to her bedroom.
Kate knelt down in front of her closet, searching for her spare boots. When she found them she tossed them over her shoulder and into Krycek.
"Why won't you answer me?" he demanded.
"I didn't realize you asked me a question," she said smoothly, retrieving her boots. "He is my friend, Alex. Why does that scare you so much?"
Alex backed off but he wouldn't look her in the eye. "Most people have friends." In all the time she knew him he had never had any. He had contacts, he had employers, he had enemies. "Is that so wrong?"
At length Alex spoke again. "So what's his name?"
"What's his name? I heard you call him Liam," Alex said quietly.
"His name is Liam O'Connor. Yeah, he's the same guy I knew in Seattle." Kate continued to pack. "When I came to DC I ran into him. He's a nice guy."
"Do you like him?"
The absurdity of the question almost made her laugh but at the same time it made Kate sad too. Her friendship with Liam was so far out of Alex's understanding he almost couldn't comprehend it.
"Yeah, I like him," she answered. Sitting back on her heels, she tried to explain in a way he would understand. "You must have had a friend once. What about when you were in the Army? Didn't you have buddies back then?"
"Yeah," he said, looking off into the distance as if struggling to remember back that far. "Then there's Misha," he said, referring to Arntzen, the Russian colonel he used to work for.
Kate snorted. "I don't think he counts."
"No, I guess not." Alex frowned, deep in thought. "Do you count? We were friends once."
"I guess we were. A long time ago."
*Yeah, we were friends,* she thought. *Then we were more than friends. Then we were nothing. Since then we've been enemies. Now...I don't know what we are. I don't know what he is.* Kate got the impression he didn't know what he was, who he was, either. She didn't understand him. The man she knew would have killed Mulder in an instant, no deliberation.
She should know these things. Of anyone else on the planet, she alone should know Alex Krycek. She spent every waking moment and plenty of nightmares inside his head. ate heard his confused thoughts and sensed he wanted to ask her to be his friend again, but he didn't. That alone spoke volumes. The Krycek she knew didn't ask, he took.
Dangerous thoughts, these. Everything she thought she knew seemed to move and slide underneath her as if she was standing in a quagmire. Alex Krycek was a thief, a liar, a murderer. He tortured the innocent for pleasure and had no regrets. Hating him was easy.
When she sent him away she made the right decision. He needed time to think, to figure out why he tried to kill her. But he didn't think. He just hated. Now he was thinking and it frightened her. What made him change? When would he stop thinking and start hating again?
Kate didn't have any answers. In silence she packed the rest of her belongings and headed out the door without bothering to see if he followed.