"To err is human, to forgive, divine"
"I love you, Mulder" Alex whispered passionately, jade-green eyes burning with love and desire. He arched into Mulder's body, moaning his need...
Mulder sat straight up, heart pounding, disoriented, his cock hard and heavy between his legs. He stared wildly around him, seeing nothing but the familiar outlines of his bedroom through the darkness. Slowly sinking back again, he felt sweat dripping off his sides, his guts still aching with frustrated lust. A swift glance at the clock informed him that it was quarter to seven and time to get up and go do the work that until recently had absorbed him.
Fox Mulder closed his eyes and wondered if he could call in sick.
However, after a short while, he sighed deeply and got up, padding into the bathroom. A hot shower revived him sufficiently enough to feel something approximately human. Standing beneath the spray, Mulder closed his eyes and let himself remember...
Twenty months and not a night went by without the memories haunting him; a naked writhing body beneath him, sliding his fingers along damp satin skin, sheathing himself in the tight heat of Alex. There was not a night when he did not wake sweating, shaking, and so hard he ached. Yet, always, when he instinctively reached for Alex his seeking fingers encountered nothing but empty air.
Turning off the water, Mulder stepped out, wrapping a towel around his hips.
Alex with his green eyes and devil's mouth. He suddenly smiled wryly, self-mockingly; obsession thy name is Mulder. Since the morning when Alex had walked out the hotel room door, Mulder had learned the true price of his bloody dark vengeance.
A price he paid each time he saw a dark head on the street, the flash of green eyes, smelled leather; a lightning bolt of desire shook him to the core, followed always by an almost overwhelming aching sense of loss. He paid for it in the sleepless nights when he lay still and waiting in his bed, tense for the least noise, praying each time that it was Alex come back to him.
During the long empty evenings when he had been too restless to work, and yet unable to sleep, when the very silence of his apartment echoed with the memory of Alex Krycek, he forced himself to remember and to relive every moment, every emotion. It was like prodding a sore tooth, the pain unbearable yet perversely irresistible.
He had compelled himself to face, unflinching, the darkness he had discovered living inside his soul, the fact that he was a man who had taken pleasure in Krycek's pain and humiliation. He had sworn to himself during those dark hours that if ever he was able to, he would do anything, mortgage his soul and his body to the devil himself, if only Alex would forgive him.
There had been times when the temptation to go to the enemy once more to beg for the knowledge of where Alex was, had almost overwhelmed him. Yet, he had made Scully a promise that first terrible morning when he had come downstairs to find Krycek gone. He had promised her to give the man he loved the one thing he wanted - peace and distance. It had been pure torment, but he had already hurt them both enough, even in his self-absorption he realized that. So all he could do now was wait and hope that one day Alex would return.
That hope was all he had left.
Once before he had lost everything, and though he had thought at the time that nothing could equal the pain of Samantha's loss, he was discovering that it was a pale shadow of the anguish that now haunted him. Anguish heightened by the simple fact that unlike Samantha he had not so much lost Alex as thrown him away.
Because of his own actions, his own blind hatred and vengeance, Alex Krycek had gone, never to return.
A swift glance at his watch made him swear and sprint towards his car. He was just opening his car door holding the cup of coffee in one hand and jiggling the car keys in the other when he felt two men smoothly slid up behind and around him.
"Please do not turn around, Agent Mulder." Something cold and hard was pressed into his back. "We mean you no harm."
Mulder arched an eyebrow and said sardonically, "I think I heard that line on the late night movie." He glanced over his shoulder at the common place face he saw there and added, "is that a gun or are you just happy to see me?"
There was not a shadow of a returning smile as the man on his other side took his arm and steered him into a car with tinted windows sliding up to the curb.
Having little option, Mulder stepped inside and sat down. A rich aroma of aged leather and older brandy surrounded him. Sitting in the car was an old man. He was impeccably dressed in a three-piece suit that probably cost more than Mulder's yearly pay-check. His thinning white hair grew in tufts around his pink scalp and his wrinkled hands were liberally dotted with liver spots, horn-rimmed glasses reflecting the light.
"Do not be afraid, Agent Mulder, I mean you no harm," the man said calmly.
"Who are you?" Mulder glared at him. "Are you aware that kidnapping an FBI agent is a federal offense?"
A slight smile crossed the other man's face. "Please, Agent Mulder, you are not being kidnapped, I merely wanted an opportunity to speak with you. As for who I am, I could tell you my name, but it would mean nothing to you. Suffice it to say that I was a friend of your father's."
Mulder froze. "I see," he said very carefully.
The man nodded, as if pleased, and then continued, "We have studied you carefully over many years, Agent Mulder. For a long time we believed you were too stubborn and blind to see where your true destiny lies."
Mulder was almost beginning to enjoy himself as he cocked his eyebrow and said, "One mystery I'll never be able to solve is how the hell you people can say lines like that with a straight face. Or do you all go to school to learn how to spout it? Melodrama 101."
The man smiled faintly, "So young and passionate," he murmured and then continued smoothly, "It has greatly pleased us that you are maturing at last. Your deal with a certain, ah, gentleman, and I use the term loosely, with a nicotine addiction persuaded us of this."
A harsh breath and then Mulder had himself under control once more. "What do you want?" He asked flatly.
The man paused, "I believe it is more a question of what *you* want. We can give you the two things you desire most; the truth and - Alex Krycek."
Mulder felt very cold. Was this the man he had become? A man they believed would be open to further corruption. He thought of the old Chinese proverb - the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So it was with the corruption that now and forever clung to him. Once you take that first step, touch the first darkness, there is no return.
His silence lasted a fraction too long, and the man's smile widened. "Yes, indeed, and unlike your previous contacts, *we* deliver what we promise." The quiet, dry voice murmured softly, "consider, Agent Mulder, incontrovertible evidence for everything you have so desperately tried to uncover. Not in bits and pieces, but the entire unvarnished truth. And at your side, as he should have been, Alex Krycek. Yours to command and own..."
Mulder shook his head violently. "No! I don't want to own him!" The very violence with which he rejected the offer bore testament to the strength of his desires.
The man said smoothly, "But of course not. We are not crude butchers like Spender. He will be there because he so chooses. He will be there because he loves and wants you, Agent Mulder."
Fox Mulder opened his mouth...
Fox Mulder's Apartment
He sat in the darkness watching Mulder sleep, restlessly tossing and turning, the covers in an untidy heap. A tall, muscular man, leather creaking softly in the darkness as he shifted slightly, cool green eyes contemplating the man before him.
The embodiment of all he had left behind.
Although Krycek didn't move, made no sound, suddenly Mulder opened his eyes, tensing, some deeply buried instinct informing the man in the bed that he was no longer alone.
"Hello, Mulder," a soft husky murmur.
"Alex?" There was no mistaking the shock, or the joy. Mulder sat up, running his hands through his hair. "Alex?!"
A faint smile. "You don't sound too surprised."
Mulder laughed as he swung his legs over the edge of his bed, pleasure and something else electrifying him. He smiled brilliantly. "I always knew you'd be back."
Krycek shook his head, a strange smile curving his lips. "You were right. I need your help," he said abruptly. He watched silently, motionless as Mulder padded barefoot across the room, wearing only boxers.
Breathing in the spicy scent that he would know blindfolded, Mulder tried to concentrate on the words although most of his focus was on the fact that Alex was *here*. So close he could reach out and touch him. He slid his fingers slowly down one smooth cheek, watching as green eyes dilated slightly.
"Mulder?" Softly, almost uncertainly.
"Yes, Alex?" He knelt before the other man, both hands cupping his face, eyes sliding shut as he leaned forward and kissed the soft lips hovering so temptingly close.
Krycek breathed out in a soft shudder, but he didn't move away, if anything he leaned into the touch slightly. "Mulder," he sighed, "I didn't come here for this."
Mulder looked up and smiled sweetly. "I know," he slowly slid his hands along smooth shoulders, and then moved down, pulling up the T-shirt, insinuating themselves beneath the fabric. Both men shivered at the first feeling of skin against skin. "But I'm hoping that's why you'll stay."
Mulder moved lower, kneeling before Krycek, long elegant fingers tracing the shape of hips and thighs, feeling the contours through the roughness of denim.
Stealing another kiss from the strangely silent man, Mulder murmured, "I've spent two years dreaming of this, fantasizing." He traced the shape of an ear with his tongue, his voice deepening, "regretting..."
Krycek stiffened, "Don't!" he said sharply.
"I'm sorry," Mulder lowered his eyes, sounding contrite, wandering lips returning to the mouth, stroking along the curve, pushing gently to demand entrance. "God, Alex, I'm so sorry," the words a whispered husky litany.
Abruptly, Krycek stood up, pushing Mulder away, pacing back. "I need your help," he said curtly, taking a deep breath.
Mulder remained on the floor, still kneeling. "What is it?"
The dark figure swung around. "It's a long and complicated story."
Mulder stood up and crossed the room, each movement smooth, almost predatory. Silently he stalked Krycek, watching green eyes widen and the beautiful lithe body unconsciously tense. "I love long and complicated stories," he said earnestly, his body hard and aching with need. Pressing Krycek against the wall he took another kiss, less gentle this time. "I want you," he murmured, not even aware he said the words aloud.
The sudden hard shove took him by surprise, and he staggered back a pace or two.
"Back off, Mulder!" Krycek hissed, eyes hard. "Get your brains out of your pants and back where they belong."
Mulder flushed, "I..." he began when the doorbell abruptly rang and interrupted whatever he was going to say.
Krycek sighed in something like relief, "That's Scully and your boss and unless you want them to see something I'm sure they've seen before, I suggest you go put on some clothes and calm down." He walked past Mulder and into the hallway where he opened the door and Mulder heard Scully's quiet voice and Skinner's deep bass.
Hastily throwing on a pair of faded jeans and a sweatshirt, Mulder pushed both hands through his hair, smoothing it down, telling his body to think of arctic lakes and snow.
He was furious with himself. Five minutes and he'd already managed to antagonize Alex.
"Mulder?" A knock on the bedroom door, "Mulder are you in there?"
"Yeah, I'm coming, Scully," he called out. He took a last look at his reflection in the mirror before opening the door and walking into his living room.
Skinner was on the sofa, Krycek standing by the window, back against the glass. Scully gave him a swift assessing glance, "You okay?" she asked.
He nodded, giving her a faint reassuring smile and watched her eyes soften in return before all his attention shifted to the two silent men.
Mulder sat down on the sofa, "I didn't expect to see you here, sir," he said, turning to Skinner.
Skinner ignored the faint snort from Krycek as he said curtly, "We need to talk."
Krycek laughed huskily, "You always were one for understatement, Skinner."
The sound of Krycek's laugh pierced Mulder and his body hardened in instinctive arousal.
Behind Mulder, Scully almost rolled her eyes. You could cut the tension between Skinner and Krycek with a knife. Skinner alternated between completely ignoring Krycek's presence and glaring at the younger man with murder in his eyes.
Krycek's response was a deliberate, calculated insult, losing no opportunity to needle or taunt the AD.
Skinner gave Mulder a level look and said coolly, "I think it's no use pussyfooting around. Recently you were offered the chance to join the Consortium," he paused, "and given certain promises if you did." Almost inadvertently his eyes slid briefly to the man standing by the window.
Mulder had gone very still. "How do you know this?" he almost whispered, and Scully winced, having hoped against hope that it was all some terrible mistake.
A mirthless smile stretched Skinner's mouth. "I had a little visit from a certain man who left ashes all over my carpet."
"The smoker," Mulder's heart beat loudly and he too found himself helplessly looking towards Alex.
"The very same," Skinner agreed grimly.
Krycek returned to the center of the room, grabbing the chair by the desk and reversed it straddling the seat. Mulder tried to ignore the way the action tightened the denim covering his legs and the long muscular thighs spread across the seat. Leaning his elbow on the back, Krycek said dryly, "The man does get around. He paid me a visit after those two," he nodded towards Scully and Skinner, "appeared. You were set up," he continued flatly, "the smoker was unable to find me himself, so he used you two to track me down, so he could issue his little threats."
Scully bit her lip, not happy her suspicions had been confirmed about the way they had been used as dupes by the smoking man. "I'm sorry," she offered quietly.
Krycek gave her a quick smile but as his focus shifted back to the two men on the sofa, it swiftly died. "Look, we've all got our own reasons for wanting Spender off our backs."
"Is Spender his real name?" Mulder suddenly asked.
Krycek shrugged, "I don't know. It's certainly one of them. I've heard him called other things as well. Does it matter?"
Mulder shook his head, "Not really, I was just curious."
Krycek worried his bottom lip between his teeth for a moment, "I think the time for playing games is over." Eyes went hard and dangerous. "Petya's got a chip in his neck," he said harshly, ignoring Scully's sharp inhale of breath, loud in the stillness created by his blunt statement. "I want it out. As long as it's there, Spender tells me jump, and I'll ask how high. But I need your help to do it."
Mulder stared down at the floor, knowing they were all thinking of what else Alex was prepared to do to protect his nephew. It hurt, God how it hurt, for a variety of reasons he didn't even want to begin to unravel. Not the least of which was the unexpected stab of jealousy at the love and loyalty Peter Krycek demanded from his uncle.
"I said no, you know," he said abruptly to the room at large. "I told him to take his offer and shove it up his ass."
Krycek made an impatient sound. "Nice, very smooth, Mulder," he said sarcastically. He thought for a moment, "still, it shouldn't change the plan much."
"What plan?" Skinner demanded.
Calmly Krycek said, "Mulder goes undercover at the Consortium," he ignored Mulder's shock. "Of course it would have been easier if he'd at least said he'd consider the offer, but we can work around that. I'll go with him to lend credence to the cover story. Once we're inside we should be able to find the data we need to get the chip out of Peter's neck." He gave Scully a sudden swift glance, "And yes, there is a very good chance the same data can give you the info you need to cure your cancer." For the first time he hesitated slightly, "see, the reason all the abductees get cancer once you remove the chip is that they've got alien DNA inserted into their genetic mass. The chip regulates and negates their body's natural immune system. Without it, the body reacts to the foreign tissue and the result is cancer. It's all related to the altering of Cassandra Spender, although she represents a different approach, but it's the same general idea."
Scully took a deep breath. To be free of the threat of cancer. To know that she was finally cured.
To her own faint surprise, her voice was actually steady when she said, "You really think they'd go for it?"
Krycek shrugged once. "I dunno, but if we can plant or encourage some rumors going around already that Bill Mulder's son is taking up where his father left off... why not? It's not an important part of the Consortium we're aiming for, it's actually duplicated several times over."
There was a moment's silence, and then Scully said, her voice tightly controlled, "Let's do it."
He shook his head, amusement warming his eyes. "See, that's the problem, Scully. They might, with any luck believe that Mulder's turned, but no one will ever believe you have."
Scully bit her lip, "You mean I'm too - "
"Loyal, upstanding and plain good?" green eyes danced, "yup. Sorry, Scully, but it's a harsh world."
Not even Skinner could hold back the hint of a grin, and Mulder laughed. "See, I told you Scully, that no good deed goes unpunished."
She scowled at him. "Fine! So what do I do while you're out cloak and daggering?"
Biting back his amusement, Mulder said gravely, "Sit back and wait to be rescued?"
The glare she shot him was hot enough to singe.
Yet, simultaneously with the hope Scully also felt the heat of rage grow. To finally, *finally* after years of hunting out pieces, fragments, trying to puzzle together clues, and never getting anywhere, know that the answer was there all the time, to have it so casually offered. Locked in the mind of this, this... assassin! She knew her voice was stiff, when she said, "Why are you telling us this now?"
Mulder heard the pain, and reached out a hand, grasping her cold fingers gently, warming them. "I think Scully asked a valid question," he said calmly.
Krycek didn't seem aware of the sudden coldness that permeated the room. " To make this work we need to not only cooperate, but trust each other," a sardonic smile, "so you can call it an offering of trust."
Skinner said in his deep voice, "Interesting, do you really think it can work?"
Krycek inclined his head gracefully. "Oh yes, I think we could have a mutually profitable deal." He continued, "I haven't worked out the details yet, but when you told me about the offer I realized that this was a great opportunity. See, Sharpe wouldn't have made it without a pretty general consensus."
Scully frowned, "Who is Sharpe?"
"The man Mulder met with; Bill Mulder's old friend," Krycek's voice was completely without expression. "Before we got on the plane I talked to some people on the phone and they confirmed my suspicions that it was Sharpe."
He gave Mulder a swift glance, "You know Spender will never let you go now. He won't be so crude as to threaten you with secret video tapes, but he'll always remind you of what you owe him." He smiled without humor. "As long as he thinks he can use me as the bait to hook you further, *I'll* never get him to leave me alone either."
Mulder nodded silently. Alex's words did not come as great surprise. He may be many things, but Fox Mulder was not a fool. "I know," he said flatly.
Krycek said calmly, "You may not know this but Spender is really not very popular among the Consortium. He's been playing private games for a long time now. He keeps his position, but no one would exactly mourn his passing. So we have a shot at getting the chip out of Petya's neck, curing Scully's cancer, *and* taking out our friend with the bad nicotine problem." His lips peeled back in a wolfish smile. "If we're going to do it, this is the right time. Most of his potential allies and friends got grilled en brochette a couple of years back."
"Why are you telling us all this?" Skinner still didn't give an inch.
Krycek returned the look with interest. "Because Petya's life is too important for me to play games with."
For once, not one of them doubted his truthfulness.
They discussed possible alternatives for a while longer then agreed to meet again in the morning to finalize the plan. None of the other three commented that the only one who did not seem overly enthusiastic was Mulder. While Scully, Skinner and Krycek talked, he remained silent and distracted.
Krycek said little and missed nothing, green eyes wary and alert.
Picking up her coat, Scully glanced at Krycek who was still sitting down. "Are you coming?"
Krycek gave Mulder a swift look, the other man was standing very still, silent, hazel eyes wide and unblinking not looking at either of them. He shook his head. "Nah, I'll stay for a while. I'll see you tomorrow."
She nodded and did not ask anything else. She knew that the two of them definitely needed to sort some things out if they were going to work together.
Down on the street Skinner looked at Scully and asked, "Can I drop you somewhere, Agent Scully?"
She shook her head, "No thank you, sir, my car is parked just around the corner."
Although neither said anything, both were acutely aware of the two men they'd left staring silently at each other, and the thought of what was happening in the apartment they'd left minutes before remained uppermost in both their minds.
AD Skinner watched as Scully unlocked her car and started driving away before he turned to fish out his own car keys. Involuntarily he glanced up toward Mulder's window. Although he had shown little outward emotion when Scully had told him, he had been... stunned was probably the best word.
Unlocking his car door and sliding behind the wheel, for a moment Skinner wished for a cigarette. He had given up the habit years ago, not liking the thought of being dependent on anything. He'd seen too many good friends turn to other dependencies like alcohol and drugs to be comfortable with even a socially accepted addiction like smoking. However, right now he could really use a cigarette, or a good stiff drink.
Without volition his eyes slid towards Mulder's window again before he yanked them away forcibly, and with a soft oath started the car and gunned the motor remembering the night it had all begun...
FBI AD Walter Skinner's Condo Crystal City, VA
Skinner put his briefcase on the table and rubbed the bridge of his nose wearily. Christ, he was tired. Who would ever have thought that just sitting at a desk reading reports and playing politics would exhaust him in a way combat never had. Now, all he wanted was some smoky whisky and some cool blues.
"Do not turn on the light, Mr. Skinner," the dry rasp reached him from behind and he froze.
Skinner swore silently, furious that he'd allowed his intruder to get the drop on him. He turned slowly, holding his hands in easy view.
The smoke curled straight up, fouling the air. In silence the two men stared at each other. Although Skinner let no hint of emotion cross his face or eyes, there was cold hatred coiled inside his heart as he looked at the man who, however much he might like to deny it, owned a part of his soul. It did not matter that he had gone into the darkness with his eyes open. That he had sealed the bargain with evil for the sake of a good woman. He was caught like a wolf with its paw in a trap.
"What do you want?" he growled.
The man's face did not change; cold reptilian eyes watched him dispassionately. "Alex Krycek."
Skinner almost laughed. "I don't have him. I haven't seen him since..." an infinitesimal hesitation, a memory of pain and death, "you sent him to kill me."
Again there was no response. "We need him," the man said flatly, blowing out a cloud of smoke.
"Why?" Short, uncompromising.
A brief hesitation and then, he was given the one thing he had never expected, an answer. "Fox Mulder recently received an offer of Consortium membership."
Dark eyes widened fractionally. "Agent Mulder is a part of the Consortium?!"
The man with a thousand names shook his head. "No, I said he had received an offer to join the Consortium."
"He will never accept," Skinner said flatly.
"Once, I believed as you do Mr. Skinner, however, the offer was made very cleverly. He was offered the two things he desire."
The smoker lit another cigarette, "One of the things they are offering him is Alex Krycek."
There was a long silence while Skinner wondered when the world had gone mad. The old man couldn't possibly mean what he had just implied.
"Mr. Skinner, Mulder has to be prevented from this course of action, no matter what the cost. It would have disastrous and far more wide-reaching implications than you will ever know."
Deciding that this was a moment that called for a stiff drink, he walked across the room and opened a cabinet pouring himself a whisky. Turning, with the glass in his hand he said evenly, "What do you want from me?"
"I want you to find Alex Krycek and persuade him to cooperate."
Skinner had to subdue a bitter laugh tossing down half the whisky and felt it burn all the way down to his stomach where it settled like a glowing coal. "What makes you think he'll listen to me?" He added with dry acerbity, "As I recall, the last time we met, he killed me."
The old man stubbed out his cigarette, "Ah, but you see, you were supposed to die permanently, Mr. Skinner, your usefulness at an end. Instead Krycek, for his own reasons no doubt, chose to revive you and kill Dr. Orgel instead."
Skinner blinked once. "I see," he said carefully, swirling his glass watching the amber liquid, "surely you do not need my help to find one of your own." The silence made him look up sharply.
The stillness might, in another man and another place, have been interpreted as... sheepish. "The Consortium is not what it once was," the admission was made grudgingly. "The events of the last years have left us undermanned and with lost resources. And Alex Krycek is very good at covering his tracks, as you know, Mr. Skinner." Soft insinuation curled through the raspy voice. "Furthermore, as I said, it would seem that Krycek has a, ah... fondness for you. It may be that you will have more success in persuading him to cooperate than we."
PanAm Flight 505 to San Francisco
"Sir, are you sure this is a good idea?"
Skinner turned in his seat to look at Scully, who stared back at him with a stubborn light in her blue eyes.
"No, I am not," he admitted calmly. "But I believe that the alternative might be more disastrous in the long-term." The tall AD leaned back in his seat, "let's go through what we have."
"Yes sir," she opened her briefcase and took out a pale folder. "I don't know where you found that newspaper clipping but it proved an excellent starting point. The boy in the picture was indeed Peter Krycek and an Internet database search also provided me with the name of the photographer. I spoke to him yesterday morning," she paused and shook her head, "I still can't believe that Krycek didn't even change his name."
"The purloined letter theory, Scully." He noticed her frown and waved his hand, "Never mind, please go on."
She turned a page, "Yes sir, ah, once I knew which local newspaper the picture was in, I spoke to City Hall records in San Jose which is a mid-sized town located on the west coast, about two hours drive from San Francisco. About twenty months ago, Alex Krycek and his nephew Peter Krycek moved to the town. Alex Krycek bought an old building and renovated it. The bottom floor is a bookstore and they live on the two top floors. It is, as far as I understand, moderately successful."
"Alex Krycek as a bookstore owner? The mind boggles," Skinner said dryly.
Scully's smile was reflected in her eyes although her face remained calm, respectful. "Yes sir, but the evidence is incontrovertible." She looked down at the file again, "it all checks out. By all accounts he lives a very quiet life, not so much as a parking ticket." She said thoughtfully, "I also managed to get hold of an old friend who's at the local FBI office in San Francisco, and he talked to a contact in the San Jose Police Department. As far as Tom's source knew, Alex Krycek does nothing except work in his bookstore during the day, take care of his nephew during the evenings, and the closest he ever gets to any excitement is having a quiet drink at the nearest local bar." She shook her head, "I've wondered at times how Krycek lived when he wasn't making our lives miserable. I always imagined him in exotic locations, doing dark and dangerous things." She actually smiled, "ah well, another illusion lost."
She hesitated, but then asked, "Sir, don't you find it just a little curious that the smoking man has asked the FBI to find Krycek? With the kind of resources the Consortium has, why come to us?"
"I already thought of that," the tall AD acknowledged her doubts, "and the fact is, I don't know. We may be walking into a trap," he sighed, "frankly, this is a bad deal. We're going in blind, but not to act could, in the long run, be more disastrous than doing what he wants. All we're doing after all," Skinner said carefully, "is trying to find Krycek and persuade him to help. It may be that Spender thinks we have a better chance at persuading Krycek than any of the Consortium." He cleared his throat a little uncomfortably, remembering what Scully had told him, quietly, concisely, and with pain in her eyes. "If what you've told me is true, then I can certainly see why he would think so."
Scully's eyes dropped, and neither of them said anything else.
Books N' Ends, Ridgeview Street, San Jose, CA
"Hel..." Alex Krycek came around a bookshelf, a welcoming smile on his face. A smile that faded into complete shock. "Fuck!"
Scully raised an eyebrow, "Hello, Krycek."
They were standing just inside the door, side by side. The epitome of correct FBI agents.
Krycek stared at them, and for a moment, naked emotion carved deep lines into his face before it quickly lost all expression. "What the hell are you doing here?!"
Skinner matched his glare, "Looking for you."
Krycek's eyes swept from one to another and the hunted, trapped expression made them appear even greener. And then he sighed, a deep, bitter sound. "Ah shit, I should have known it was too good to last."
Skinner said nothing, hostility radiating off him. The AD was seeing not the cheerful bookstore but a garage and a sibilant whisper from out of the darkness. The frustration mingled with cold fear at the man's soft gloating words.
Scully glanced at her superior but when he didn't speak, she said quickly, "Krycek, we need to talk."
"I see," he said with studied neutrality. For a moment rage glittered in the green depths, but then, firmly back in the persona he'd built for himself during the past two years, Krycek shrugged almost carelessly. "Well, as long as you're here, you may as well come upstairs."
He called out to the cheerful blond woman by the coffee pot, "Jenny, mind the place for me?" She waved her hand in acknowledgment, and Krycek turned to his unexpected, and unwelcome, guests. "This way."
Silently, Krycek led them through the door and through a hallway behind, then up a winding stair to a door. Opening it, a delicious aroma wafted through the air and hit their nostrils. Scully inhaled appreciatively. Looking around, she was pleasantly surprised by the quiet, comfortable and welcoming place. Bookshelves were everywhere, filled with books, obviously used and well-loved; the furnishings consisted of comfortable sofas and cheerful woven carpets, and attractive prints on the walls. Sitting at the kitchen table, listening to some sort of hip hop, tapping his pencil in rhythm, books spread across the surface was Peter Krycek.
The intervening two years had wrought far bigger differences in the boy than in the man. He was taller, though still in the all arms and legs stage. Looking up from his books at the sound of the door opening and closing, he started to smile, "You're la..." his voice died away and he stared at the two uninvited visitors.
It was amazing how two pair of eyes could blaze with exactly the same kind of wary shock. "What the fuck are you doing here?!"
"Peter, language," Krycek murmured, going over and giving him a quick hard hug, although it was unclear to the onlookers if it was to receive or give comfort.
The action gave the two FBI agents a chance to take a closer look at Alex Krycek.
Scully noted with cool approval that he had gained some weight, losing the half-starved waif look, although it was solid muscle not fat. However, apart from that, there was little outward change, he was still an extremely attractive man. Her focus sharpened, as she realized that the biggest difference was in his eyes. He had lost some of the perpetual wariness, the restless frustration and anger that had seemed always to simmer just below the surface.
Sometime in the past twenty months, Alex Krycek had found peace.
She had to fight to hold back a smile at the glare Peter Krycek gave them as he obviously recognized her. Shock was quickly replaced with anger. "Go away!" he told them furiously, rising and moving in front of his uncle as if trying to shield him. The love and adoration was more than mutual, as was the instinct to protect.
Krycek put his hand on one thin shoulder. "Calm down, Petya. Have you finished your home work?"
Turning his glare on his uncle, eyes softening immediately Peter nodded reluctantly, "Yeah, everything except trig, I was waiting for you to come home."
Turning the boy and giving him a quick kiss on the forehead, completely natural and unembarrassed, Krycek murmured, "I'll help you later. Go to your room."
Peter looked stubborn, "I want to stay."
Krycek shook his head, still gently but implacably, "No, this is not for you, go on, I'll be up later." He smiled, ruffling brown hair, "and since it's my fault dinner is late, you can watch the videos I know you've got hidden behind the book shelves."
"How did you...?" He broke off and muttered something under his breath. "I don't know why I even try," Peter complained, gathering his books and giving the two agents a final furious look.
Krycek smiled a little ruefully, eyes still warm and tender as he turned back to them after Peter's departure. "He's still in the awkward age I'm afraid."
"He's very protective," Scully said gently. "But he looks like he's grown into a nice young man."
The smile widened, "He's a great kid."
Abruptly all softness faded and the mild-mannered bookstore owner was gone, replaced with the familiar ruthless survivor as Krycek gave them a hard look. "Sit down and tell me what I have to do to get you out of my hair."
Scully took a deep breath and tried again. "Krycek, we really need your help. No one knows the Consortium the way you do."
Krycek raised an eyebrow, "Yes, and?"
"I..." Floundering, Scully glanced at Skinner for help.
Coldly, not trying to hide his antipathy of the man facing them, Skinner bit out, "I'm not going to appeal to your better side, we both know you don't have one, but Scully's right. We need you to save a good man."
"A good man? Not exactly the way I'd have described Mulder." He paused, and his mouth twisted in a sardonic smile. "Besides, I don't know what you want me for. I've been out of the game for two years, I bet by now Skinner here knows more than I do, don't you, Skinner?" He baited, watching in cold amusement as the AD grew red.
"You son of a bitch!" Skinner almost lunged across the table and wrapped his powerful hands around the neck of Krycek.
"The truth hurts doesn't it, Skinner?" Krycek spat back, not backing down. "You and Mulder make me sick! Both of you are such fucking hypocrites!" He suddenly laughed, a strange glitter in his eyes. "You despise me for what I've done, but you forget your own deals with the devil. I'm not fit to wipe your boots but when you need me, oh yes, then I'm good enough to - " He broke off abruptly.
When Krycek spoke again there was no emotion in the level voice. "Look, I have no intention of leaving Peter and go off on some crusade to save Mulder's ass. I don't owe him a damn thing."
Scully said quietly, "Krycek, this time Mulder has gone too far, he's going to get killed."
"I'll send flowers to his funeral." Krycek looked at the two intruders and said icily, "Now get the hell out of my home."
With a disgusted sound Scully gave up and stalked downstairs to wait for a cab.
Skinner, however, hesitated briefly in the doorway. For a moment the memory of a underground garage, the smell of a car and leather creaking softly in the darkness filled his mind, overwhelmed him, and suddenly he had to *know*.
"The smoker said you were supposed to kill me, and didn't," he spoke abruptly.
Krycek gave Skinner a sudden hard look, before shrugging casually. "You shouldn't believe everything you're told," he returned easily, a little mocking note in his voice.
"I don't, but I have to wonder. Why did you revive me and not Orgel? Surely in the order of things he was far more important than I?"
Another shrug, although Krycek didn't meet the steady gaze. "Let's just say I have different priorities from the Consortium." His hand began plucking restlessly at a loose thread in his well-worn jeans.
"And what priorities are those?" Skinner wouldn't give up.
A hint of a smile curled one corner of his mouth, "Call it a courtesy between professionals." Long black lashes swept up and he gave Skinner a thoughtful look from which most of the anger was gone. "Actually, I always thought you were an okay guy caught up in something you had no control over."
"Well, you were right about that," Skinner said dryly.
"So," a quick smile dying swiftly, "sure I could have kept that bastard Orgel around, but hell no man deserved to die more than he did, and you didn't."
"Morals according to Krycek?"
A soft chuckle, "Yeah, I guess you could call it that." A brief pause, "Skinner? Truce?"
Skinner took his time answering, not willing to be railroaded into anything. He studied the wiry, muscular body leaning against the door with boneless grace. An assassin, a liar, a traitor, his memory whispered. Yet the hard-nosed pragmatism that had ensured his survival in the jungles of Vietnam and the corridors of the FBI reminded him that far more important than old memories and old hatred was present need.
"Truce, Krycek," he finally agreed but added, "I still owe you a beating though."
Krycek arched both eyebrows, "What about the night I spent freezing my ass off on your balcony?"
Skinner said dryly, "Ah, but you started it by the gang-bang to get the DAT tape."
Krycek considered that, "True, okay, let me know a time and place and we'll go off and you can pound me into the ground, deal?" A sudden bitter smile, "or if it's more to your taste, you can fuck me through the nearest wall."
Skinner didn't answer, and suddenly Krycek looked wary. "That was supposed to be a joke, you know."
"Not a very funny one," Skinner said shortly. He decided to pay Krycek back in the same coin, and let his eyes sweep, slowly, deliberately over the muscular body, stripping it with his look. When they finally returned to Krycek's face, there was a flush running along the cheekbones, and a strange glitter in the jade-green eyes.
"Point taken," Krycek said quietly.
Skinner gave a grim nod. "Don't play games with me, Krycek. I don't like it and you won't like the way I play, got it?"
"Yes, sir." There was a certain wry amusement mixed in with the sarcasm.
Skinner gave him a sharp look but refrained from saying anything else.
It was not even ten minutes after the FBI agents had left that the phone rang. Krycek picked it up with a hand that he realized was actually shaking. "Hello."
"Liberty Park in half an hour."
The connection broke and he was left staring at the buzzing tone his stomach in knots. From the moment he'd seen the two FBI agents standing in his bookstore Alex Krycek had known that the life he had built for himself and Peter in the past two years was disintegrating, but even so Spender's swiftness took him by surprise. A humorless smile twisted his lips; the old bastard must be very worried.
Krycek walked into his bedroom and opened the wardrobe kneeling as he reached inside to take out a small metal box. He unlocked it and then stared for a long time at the gun lying there. Slowly he picked it up feeling the familiar touch of cold metal slide easily, smoothly into his palm, fingers curling around the trigger.
"What are you doing, Uncle Alexei?" He blinked, looking up to find Peter staring at him, face pale, green eyes so like his own, wide.
Krycek shook his head standing up and tucking the gun into his jeans. "Don't ask, Petya."
The boy came into the room and sat down on the bed, "You said you weren't going to shoot anyone again. It's because of them, isn't it? The two FBI agents?"
Krycek raised an eyebrow, "How do you know they're FBI agents?"
Peter calmly admitted, "I listened through the door. Are you going to do it?"
"Go with them to help this Mulder?"
Krycek shook his head, reaching inside and taking out his leather jacket. "If you were listening in, then you also know I said 'no.'"
Peter cocked his head, a sudden intense look that reminded his uncle uncomfortably of Fox Mulder. "So why the gun?"
Krycek came over to the bed and sat down beside the boy, putting his arm around Peter's shoulder. Theirs was not the usual uncle-nephew relationship. Rather their bond was a strange mixture of father-son, best friends and brothers.
Peter was the one person Krycek had never lied to. He didn't start now. "Because, the Consortium has found us as well." His arm tightened in instinctive comfort as the boy suddenly shuddered. "Yeah, I know, it's not good, but I'll get us through this, somehow, trust me." He rose, giving Peter a gentle kiss on the forehead. "Go to bed; I'll be back as soon as I can."
Peter bit his lip, "Be careful, Uncle Alexei." There was a disconcertingly adult look in his eyes, a maturity that didn't belong to a teenager.
Walking down the path, hearing the gravel crunch beneath his feet, Krycek walked back into his past.
The old man was sitting on one of the park benches, looking like some grotesque parody of the old men who spent their empty days feeding the birds and watching life pass by.
"Hello, Alex," the harsh rasp was the same. "You have proved elusive."
A faint shrug, "I did not want to be found, besides," there was the hint of a challenge, "I have Petya. We're even."
"Not correct, you belong to the Consortium, you belong to me."
Krycek shook his head, "No. Not any longer." There was no hint of the hatred, the bitterness or the anger, he knew far better than that.
A thin smile, "You may chose to believe so, but we both know the truth; don't we, Alex?"
Suddenly, Krycek knew he couldn't play the game any longer. "What do you want?"
The smoker studied him for a moment and then he said calmly, "Mulder."
Mulder, always Mulder. "What has he done now?" he asked pretending ignorance.
"He is beginning to realize his true potential as a player. He is becoming dangerous."
Krycek arched an eyebrow. "Kill him."
"He is too important to kill. What I need is a way to leash and control him."
A bitter laugh threatened to choke him. Of course, whatever Mulder did, whatever he threatened he would never be killed or even seriously harmed. Others would always pay the price for Fox Mulder's blindness and folly. "What makes you think I can make Mulder do anything?" It was a last futile attempt to stave off the inevitable.
His answer was a knowing look, a voice ripe with soft lascivious innuendo, "Come now, there is no need to play games, Alex, we know each other too well. Mulder will do whatever you want, if you just offer him the right incentive."
"I'm not your whore anymore," he said coldly.
The other man lit up another cigarette. "True, and more's the pity, since you were so good at it. As you said, there is little we can do to compel your obedience. However, for Petya's sake, if nothing else, you should be more than willing."
The smoker had not needed to add the last. From the moment he heard that too familiar, hated voice, in the phone, he had known he was caught. "You touch Petya and I'll kill you," he hissed.
The old man looked supremely unimpressed by the threat. "It will not be necessary for me to do anything."
His stomach suddenly clenched. "What are you talking about?"
"Have you looked at his neck?"
The quiet insinuation was obvious. "You're lying. Only women were implanted."
The silence hummed with satisfaction, and Krycek's shoulders slumped. The old bastard had him, and they both knew it. "Very well," he let no hint of the defeat he felt show, "I'll do it."
"I always knew you'd make the right decision, Alex." There was more than a little insinuation in the soft, smooth voice.
Neither Skinner nor Scully seemed surprised when he came to their hotel the next morning and curtly, coldly told them he was coming. Stone faced he arranged for his assistant, Jenny to take Peter for however long he had to be gone.
What hurt most was that, Peter neither sulked or pleaded for him to remain.
Once again Krycek was painfully reminded that he wasn't the only one scarred by the years with the Consortium.
"I know why you have to go, Uncle Alexei, but let me come with you," Peter said, sitting on the bed and watching him pack.
Krycek swung around in shock. "Out of the question!"
"Why not?" the boy argued, "I can shoot, not as good as you I know, but I'm not bad."
His uncle stared at him. "When did you learn how to shoot?"
Peter shrugged, "When I was five or so? Yeah, I think five or maybe six. Some of the guards at the place I was then, the one in Murmansk, thought it would be fun teaching me."
Krycek closed his eyes, breathing out a curse. "No, Peter," he said when he finally got his voice under control again. "Besides," he added, "even if you learned to shoot then, you have to keep up the practice."
"But I have. I go to a club once a week; I've done so ever since we moved here," his nephew said very calmly.
Once again Alex Krycek could only stare in silence at the boy who's biggest problem should be his love-life. "Why, Peter?" he finally said sounding profoundly weary.
He was stunned, unable to believe that Peter had kept this secret from him. Their relationship had always been based on absolute trust and they both knew that Peter had broken something important by his silence. "I was under the impression that to shoot at most clubs you need a signed consent form from your guardian." He paused, "and where did you get a gun?"
Green eyes fell, "I forged your signature," Peter admitted quietly, "and I bought a gun on the street when we first came here."
Alex Krycek was very pale.
Softly he repeated his question. "Why, Petya?"
Peter stood up and went over to his uncle, kneeling beside him on the floor. "Uncle Alexei, we always knew they'd come after us, and I wanted to at least give them a fight when they did." He bit his lip, "I know you're trying to protect me, but I want to protect you just as much as you want to protect me." His voice sank into a whisper, "I know what you've done to keep me safe." His eyes didn't meet Krycek's. Some of the guys thought it'd be funny telling me. I... I understand why you did it," he faltered, "but I wish you never had to, and... and I know it's only because of me you did it."
A pain, deeper than any knife or bullet would ever cause, pierced Alex Krycek's soul.
Once the door had closed behind a stone-faced Skinner and an expressionless Scully, Krycek swung around. "We need to talk," he said flatly.
Mulder swallowed, his throat dry. The feeling of deja vu was overpowering, and he was desperately trying to forget about the last time they'd been alone like this in his apartment. He wet his lips, "Yes, we do," he agreed softly.
He curbed the impulse to reach out and touch Alex. To fall on his knees and beg forgiveness. Mutely, he gestured at the sofa, and then bit his lip, closing his eyes at the tiny, barely perceptible flinch. Every surface in the room screamed silently with memories, the floor where Alex had knelt naked, in chains... The sofa where he had sprawled, dark head bent, strong hand wrinkling the fabric in response to the pain Mulder inflicted on his body... the table Mulder had flung him across that first terrible night.
"Umm, maybe we could go out somewhere?" Mulder mumbled uncomfortably.
Krycek gave him a swift glance and then suddenly chuckled, "Relax, Mulder, you look like you're about to spontaneously combust. I'm not going to scream accusations at you. What's done is done, and if we're going to work together," his eyes hardened fractionally, "then you're going to have to stop flinching each time I come close."
"I'm no..." Mulder started to deny.
"Like hell you aren't!" Krycek stood up and paced towards him, and Mulder almost jumped out of his skin at the light touch on his face. "See?" Alex murmured.
Taking Krycek by surprise, Mulder's hand came up and covered the strong elegant fingers, while he rubbed lightly against the warm skin. "Do you know how often I've fantasized that you'd come back again?" he whispered, aching loss haunting his voice.
Krycek started to shake his head, and Mulder interrupted before he had to listen to the words, "Oh, I knew you never would, but the fantasy was what kept me together more nights than I want to admit, Alex." He slowly, carefully leaned forward and kissed the firm lips just a few inches from his own. Although Krycek didn't back away, nor did they soften and open, and when Mulder looked into moss-green eyes, they were wary and aloof.
"One night, Alex, that's all I ask." Softly, pleadingly, he whispered, "One night Alex, please?" He thought that unless he could bury himself in the elegant, muscular body standing so close to him, unless he could touch and caress and stroke the long, lean lines and pale skin, he would die from the craving. In his frustration he added, "You said if we're going to work together then we have to trust each other. Don't you trust me?"
Krycek looked at him for a long searching moment, and then asked quietly, "Does it really mean that much to you?"
Mulder couldn't speak, his throat too full for words, so he simply nodded.
Krycek sighed, a long, weary sound. "All right, Mulder, one night." He hooked a foot around Mulder's leg, pulling him close and turning so he was pressing the older man against the wall lightly. He used his artificial arm to lean his body weight, and his real arm to stroke down the lean body, which shuddered at his touch as Mulder arched forward, spine bent, gasping.
"Want, *need* you," he moaned, already lost in the wonder of touch and smell and taste. Of everything he thought hopelessly lost. One night, the words pounded in his thoughts. One night to make it right. One night to show Alex his remorse. One night to prove his love. One night.
In a dream he felt Krycek slowly unzipping his jeans, the slight pressure of his fingers shifting the metal into hot, hard aroused flesh. And then, God, Mulder almost levitated at the sensation of a strong hand, stroking down his stomach, dipping inside his boxers and grasping his cock. He gasped at the first touch, like liquid fire burning into him, carried along unbearably sensitive nerve endings.
Yet, this wasn't how he'd imagined it. This time he wanted to be the one to give, not just take. So although it was pure torture, he moved back, and knelt in front of Krycek, slowly sliding his hands along long denim-covered legs, up beneath the leather jacket. Mulder breathed deeply, the blood pounding through his veins, his body throbbing hard with desire and his mind pounding with the need to expiate the bitterness of the past with the passion of the present.
The soft rustle of denim was an explosion of sound in the silence as the jeans fell, pooling around his feet as Krycek stepped back a pace, kicking them away. For the first time he tasted the other man on his tongue, the musky, slightly bitter indefinable taste of Alex. Mulder breathed in sharply, tongue snaking out and tracing the throbbing vein on the underside of the hard cock. The husky groan forced from the mouth of the man above him was the sweetest music Mulder had ever heard.
Balancing on the balls of his feet, he held the slender hips in a steady grip as he used tongue and lips to push Alex closer and closer to ecstasy, each moan, each frantic thrust sending a corresponding rush of pleasure through his own trembling body. As he worked harder, taking Alex deeper and deeper, his hands slid from the hips to strong thighs, beginning to knead them rhythmically adding to the tactile sensation. Ruthlessly he controlled his own body's increasingly frantic demands. This was for Alex, he kept reminding himself almost grimly, as with a soft moan, Alex came, losing control of himself, hand clutching Mulder's hair, as he leaned back against the wall, breathing in soft shuddering gasps.
Mulder rose lithely, smiling despite the aching hardness between his legs that screamed at him. He glanced down at his hand and finding a trace of creamy liquid, he slowly, never breaking eye-contact with the green of the eyes that looked back at him sated and dazed, seemingly almost stunned, lifted it and licked it off, his tongue a deep sparkling pink.
Although his body throbbed for the man in front of him, Mulder felt suddenly uncertain, almost shy. A lifetime of being a watcher rather than a doer, of concealing who he was, had not left room for much experience, a few drunken fumbles during his student days, the abuse of Alex's body that he would like more than anything to forget, and the last night... The night when he had finally understood what the term, 'make love' really meant.
Strangely, Alex seemed to catch his sudden doubt, and the smile that shaped the elegant curve of the lips was unexpectedly tender. Reaching out, he gently slid his hand around Mulder's neck, bringing his face close enough to kiss. "Shh..." he murmured, "come to bed, Mulder." His eyes sparkled with sudden mischief and renewed passion.
Mulder laughed shakily, "I'm not sure I can move," he admitted.
Krycek's chuckle slid like a caress across his skin, and he moaned faintly.
"It's only a few steps away, and we'll be more comfortable there," he murmured, tugging Mulder gently along.
Biting his lip in concentration Mulder obeyed, realizing with less shock than he should have felt, that he would follow this man anywhere he asked.
Once in the bedroom Krycek turned towards Mulder, gently drawing him to the bed, and kissing him, deeply, passionately as they sank down on the mattress. Sliding his leg, between Mulder's thighs Krycek gently grasped the hard cock, stroking up and down, in a slow repetitive movement.
Although it was pure torture, Mulder pulled away a little, rising himself up on the elbow to watch the expressive and strangely delicate face only inches from his own.
"I want to be inside you, Alex," he said softly, a mute pleading in his voice. Although he knew that Krycek did not want to hear of his regrets, his remorse, the silence thrummed with unspoken words... to atone for the earlier hateful ones and replace them with this. He hesitated, hands stilling on the suddenly tense body beside him, "Please?" he whispered.
A silence that lasted for the time it takes a deep breath to be inhaled and then released. "All right," Krycek said quietly, rolling over, and spreading his legs. A dark head was bent in a submissive curve, exposing a pale vulnerable neck. Mulder leaned forward, pressing a kiss to the soft skin, feeling the pulse jump beneath his lips.
"You're so beautiful," Mulder said in wonder, as he began to move, not about to be hurried, no matter how much Alex moaned and gasped. No matter the sweat dripping off them both, Mulder was determined to do the things he had dreamt of doing.
Using his body to beg a wordless plea of forgiveness, he tried to tell Alex with every silken caress, each soft kiss of his regret and remorse. To erase with passion and tenderness and love, the darkness pain and hatred.
No matter that he had precious little real experience, he had always been an excellent student, and he had spent enough time remembering each touch, each caress that Alex had used to drive him mad with need. Returning and improving each one, watching Alex's husky passionate response was something he could spend the rest of his days doing. He laughed quietly, face buried in the hot, salty body of his lover; his teachers had always told his parents that he had too much imgaination.
Afterwards, Alex stretched slowly alongside Mulder and ran fingers lightly down pale flanks feeling the goose bumps his touch caused. He said lazily, "You were hungry, Mulder."
Rolling over on his side, there was unexpected gravity in the hazel eyes that looked back at him. "Hungry for you," Mulder said quietly, "only you."
Krycek smiled as if Mulder had just told a joke. "What, even more than your collection of videos?"
A strange expression crossed pale intense features, "More than anything."
The smile died from green eyes, "Don't, Mulder," he said abruptly, turning away and starting to rise.
Involuntarily he reached for the body sliding away. "No!" he said, a little sharper than he would have wished, "Don't go."
Krycek shook off his hands. "I have to go; there are some people I want to contact before our meeting tomorrow." He gave Mulder a glance over his shoulder, "If you're sure you're going to go through with it?"
Mulder's breath caught in his throat as he watched the graceful movements, the subtle play of light over the planes of his body. He stretched slowly, supremely satisfied, "If it means more nights like tonight, I'll do anything you want," he smiled.
Dressed once more, Krycek gave him an odd searching look, but all he said was, "You have a deal."
A small knot of tension suddenly formed at the pit of Mulder's stomach. "What do you mean?" He asked.
Krycek stilled, a strange sadness rippled across his face and then was gone. "It doesn't matter." He crossed the room, sitting down on the bed beside Mulder and leaning in, gave him a short, hard kiss. "I'll see you tomorrow."
He was gone, leaving as silently as he'd arrived.
Scully and Skinner were already at the table when Mulder opened the door to the coffee shop. When he sat down, they turned to him with almost identical questions in their eyes. He grinned back, knowing his eyes were sparkling, lines of weariness smoothed from his skin, from his soul.
"Good morning," he said cheerfully, reaching for the coffee pot and grabbing some toast.
Scully lifted an eyebrow, "Good morning, Mulder. You seem very upbeat today. Did you sleep well?" Although her tone was innocent, the knowing look in her eye was not.
Mulder almost choked on his toast, bending double and coughing. Luckily he was spared from answering, as a familiar figure made it's way through the room.
Krycek sat down, dressed as always in his ubiquitous denim and leather jacket. There was no expression on his face, and his eyes were shuttered and distant. Mulder frowned, a tendril of tension suddenly whispering through him. It wasn't that he'd expected Alex to behave as a teenager in love, but this was too reminiscent of the face he had worn during the weeks in Mulder's apartment.
"Hi, Alex," he murmured, feeling oddly shy.
Krycek gave him a quick nod as he slid into a chair beside Scully. "I've been thinking," he said in his husky voice that never failed to send a shiver through at least one of his listeners. "If we're going to pull this off, our security is going to have to be watertight. We're going to need somewhere safe to hole up and use as a head-quarter." He leaned his elbow on the table, "I'm not sure I'd trust any of my old hidey-holes or contacts, not after two years away, and I definitely don't think we should involve the FBI or any other official government agency. So does anyone have any ideas?"
Scully smiled, having anticipated the problem. "The Gunmen," she said with relish.
For the second time in less than five minutes Mulder choked. "You have got to be kidding?!"
Scully shook her head, eyes dancing, "Think about it, Mulder, they're going to be perfect. They can help with surveillance and data collection. They definitely don't have any ties to the government and they'd never forgive you if you didn't let them help with this." Amusement ran through her voice, "and I'm the one making the sacrifices here not you." She smiled a little wryly, reminding him of Frohike's strong and unrequited passion.
Krycek raised an eyebrow, "Who are the gunmen?"
"Mulder's friends," Skinner said succinctly. "Conspiracy kooks, but very good hackers, extremely paranoid and definitely without government ties. They will be ideal." He and Scully had obviously discussed this before either Mulder or Krycek arrived. "Mulder, I want you to phone them today and ask. Tell them that if they don't have room for us all at their place I'll shake something loose, find a safe-house somewhere."
Mulder sighed, he was obviously out-voted, "Yes, sir," he said resigned.
Skinner left after a curt good-bye, stalking out of the coffee shop, every line of his body pronouncing his discomfort with the situation. Scully excused herself to go the ladies' room and suddenly the two men were alone at the table.
Hesitantly, Mulder said, "We should talk."
Krycek gave him an impatient look, "Somehow I don't think talking is going to change anything. Just leave it alone, all right?"
"Alex..." Mulder was a loss, uncertain of what to say, what to do. "We can't just pretend that last night didn't happen."
"You sound like someone on Oprah. Yeah it was great, what we both needed, but it was just sex."
"How the fuck can you say that!" Mulder glared at him, inexplicably angry.
"Because it's the truth?" Krycek said coolly. "Don't make a production out of it."
He stalked away from the table towards the entrance.
Safe House, Washington, DC
Mulder led the way inside the house that would be their headquarters during this operation. After much discussion between Mulder and the Gunmen it had been decided to let Skinner find them a a safehouse.
Krycek quirked an eyebrow in a mute question at his first look at the run-down house located in a quiet working-class suburb, weeds growing high in the neglected garden.
Skinner said curtly, "Don't ask."
Mulder turned his head, giving them both a grin, "It was your idea, sir, besides, haven't you ever heard that you shouldn't judge a book by its covers?"
Krycek looked at the grotty walls and flaking paint. "Mulder, this book doesn't have any covers."
His mood did not improve when the door opened and they entered a dark, cramped and messy room, computer equipment and cables running everywhere; evidence that the Gunmen had already made themselves at home. Krycek had to stop himself from staring at the three odd figures, one looking like a grad student, one like a hippie refugee, and the third, a dwarf in glasses that kept sliding down his nose.
They looked back at him with no less distrust that turned into outright horror when Mulder who had been watching the interplay with thinly veiled amusement said, "Guys, this is Alex Krycek."
Three pairs of eyes fastened on Krycek who gave them his widest, most boyish smile. "I don't eat babies except at full moon," he offered.
Behind him, Skinner snorted in amusement, and Mulder grinned. "He's one of the good guys now."
The dwarf backed away, "Mulder have you lost your mind?! He's a fucking killer!"
To everyone's shock, including his own, Skinner growled, "So am I. So are we all, including Mulder. Besides, if we're going to win this one, we're going to need people prepared to get down and dirty, not Sunday school choir boys."
Five pair of eyes swiveled to stare at the tall, brawny AD; Skinner had to hold back a certain grim amusement at the fact that the person most shocked by the unexpected defense was Alex Krycek.
"Ah, umm," Byers recovered first, "There are only four rooms upstairs, and the three of us are bunking in one, that leaves Scully with a room to herself," Frohike looked a little wistful at the last, "and, err," Byers suddenly blushed, "we thought the rest of you could sort yourself out."
Mulder glanced at Krycek, "Alex?"
"What?" Krycek sounded distracted, still watching Skinner. "Oh, the room? Sure, we can share."
Mulder smiled in satisfaction, missing the bewildered look Krycek gave Skinner, a trace of wonder flickering in green eyes.
Later that evening, Skinner walked into the room at the back, finding Krycek seated at the table cleaning his guns, each touch sure and professional.
Skinner leaned over his shoulder and picked up the closest one, "A H&KMP5 semiautomatic. That's some firepower you've got there," he held up the gun, sighting along the barrel.
Krycek nodded without looking up, "It's a Submachine that's been modified into firing as a gun. 9mm ammunition, 15 bullet cartridges, easily concealed. Armored exploding bullets, and it'll stop a charging elephant in its tracks. Best way to make sure they don't get up again."
Skinner sat down professional interest overriding his instinctive distrust and dislike of Krycek. He picked up another, and whistled softly, "Where the hell did you get this one?! It's outlawed in this country."
A shrug, "Do you really want to know?"
Skinner gave him a long speaking look. "I guess not," he finally admitted. Absently reaching for a cloth he started to clean one of the guns, "so you think they'll come after us?"
"I honestly don't know, but it never hurts to be ready."
Running the oily cloth over the metal, Skinner frowned. "Krycek, level with me, do you really think this plan of yours has a chance to work?"
Krycek looked up, "Truth? I give it a fifty-fifty chance, but hell, that's good enough odds for me." He smiled a little crookedly; "Don't tell me you would ever pass up a chance however small to get the smoker off your back, Skinner."
Running his hands down the smooth cool metal, Skinner didn't answer.
He didn't have to.
As soon as they were settled in, Krycek started phoning old contacts, hinting that Fox Mulder had changed sides. After the first phone call, he returned to the living room with a strange expression on his face.
Mulder looked up from where he was typing, "You're looking very thoughtful, Alex," he said casually.
Krycek didn't answer, rubbing his neck as he sat down in the sofa.
Mulder swiveled his chair around. "Alex?"
"What? Oh yeah," he still looked a little stunned. "It turns out," a rather odd smile, "that it won't be hard to convince anyone that you've gone renegade."
That got everyone's attention. Even Skinner, who usually liked to pretend that Krycek didn't exist, lost interest in the report he was perusing.
Mulder, looking as if wasn't eager to know the answer, said carefully, "What are you talking about?"
Leaning back against the sagging springs of the ancient couch, Krycek closed his eyes. "Apparently the deal you made with Spender two years ago is common knowledge within the Consortium. The buzz is that you'll do just about anything to have me in your bed." He smiled as if it was a joke.
Mulder only wished it was.
"Is that good or bad?" Scully demanded, practicality rearing its head.
"Oh good, definitely good," Krycek told her, "it's the perfect hook on which to build our cover. It gives Mulder the perfect excuse and hints at his weaknesses." His voice turned sardonic, "They like knowing people's vulnerabilities."
"And you're mine," Mulder actually smiled when he said it. "I can live with that."
Krycek opened one eye, "Yeah? Your father thought the same thing."
He rose abruptly and stalked out, leaving the others staring after him.
It was the first sign they'd had that Krycek wasn't taking all this in his stride as effortlessly as it had appeared.
Still not sure why he was doing this, Skinner went in search of Krycek. Mulder had been shocked by the parting words, and Scully outraged. Yet Skinner had been watching the graceful, elegant face with its expressive features and he had seen what his two agents missed - the flash of fear beneath the flippant sarcasm. It had forced him to consider the kind of courage it took, not just to voluntarily walk back into a life of pain and death, but to *plan* and then force an unwilling companion into compliance. He shook his head unwillingly impressed by Krycek. The man's survival instincts were quite astonishing. He must have phoned old contacts at the airport and then spent the silent uncomfortable trip to the east coast planning this.
Whatever else he was, Alex Krycek had guts Skinner reluctantly admitted to himself.
Krycek was standing outside on the verandah, leaning one hip casually against a post. Wearing only a T-shirt and jeans, with the thin fabric of the shirt molded to his body and his hair flopping down into his eyes, he was a perfect picture of greasy, rough sex.
"You," Skinner said dispassionately, "look like a street hustler on the prowl."
Krycek looked up from where he'd been contemplating a half-rotting floorboard. "Been there, done that, didn't even get the T-shirt," he quipped.
There was a short silence and then Skinner said calmly, "I think I owe you an apology."
Surprise forced Krycek into looking at him; it was the last thing he'd ever thought Skinner would say. "What?"
The older man took his time answering, as he crossed his arms. "It occurred to me that I've been punishing you for my own sins," his voice was very dry.
Krycek stared at him obviously surprised by the quiet words. "It's okay," he finally said. "I guess I've been a little pissy as well."
Skinner gave him a long look, "No shit. Look, Krycek, we don't like each other, and we don't trust each other, but right now we've got to work together."
Krycek nodded slowly, flipping back dark hair that fell into his eyes. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend?"
"Something like that, yeah." He hesitated again, "I'm willing to make the truce permanent if you are."
Krycek arched a dark eyebrow. "No more beating the shit out of me?"
Skinner considered it for a moment. "No. I lived after all," he finally said, "I don't believe in holding grudges. So..." he held out his hand, but when Krycek reached out for it, Skinner pulled him forward, off balance and punched him in the stomach, hard enough to force the breath from his lungs. Gasping for air, all Krycek could do was to bend double as Skinner said calmly in his ear, "just as long as you remember, if you ever pull another stunt like the last one I'll hunt you down and kill you, nanocytes or not, got it?"
When he finally managed to get his breath back, Krycek backed away a step, rubbing his midriff ruefully. "Gotcha." He grimaced, "you don't believe in pulling your punches, do you?"
Skinner turned abruptly and walked away leaving Krycek staring after him, a strange smile playing on his lips.
It was the beginning of a wary, distrustful truce.
Skinner ceased scowling at Krycek, treating him as if he was invisible, and Krycek stopped needling the AD.
Two days later, Mulder and Skinner walked into the living room discussing the rumors surrounding the latest Quantico appointments to find Krycek munching popcorn and watching a soccer game.
"Hi, Alex, what are you watching?" Mulder asked.
Krycek looked up, a sudden wary guarded glint in his eyes as he saw the two FBI agents loom over him. "Champion's League, Lazio against Bayern Munich. The Gunmen have an amazing satellite feed set up."
Skinner snorted, "Soccer?" his tone conveying immense contempt.
A sardonic smile flirted with Krycek's lips. "Well, it's not the game the wimps here in the States call football. I mean, just look at them, all trussed up in protective stuff, real men play *real* football."
Skinner glared at him. "They don't need protective gear, those sissies never touch each other and when they do, they dive to the ground like dying swans." He mimicked someone clutching his leg in mortal agony. "And then they just stand up and walk away. It's about as real as pro wrestling."
Mulder leaned his elbows on the backrest of the couch thinking that his superior looked just like another man without the ever-present suit and tie. "I didn't know you watched soccer, sir," he said politely, to hide his amusement.
Krycek arched an eyebrow. "He's got you there, Skinner."
Skinner scowled at both of them, "I don't!" He denied emphatically, "but during the World Cup in '94, I headed up the team that was responsible for the Irish President's security." He added sourly, "New York in July, the asphalt was literally melting off the roads, and I was stuck with sixty thousand screaming Irish Americans and Italian Americans." He grimaced, "It was a fucking nightmare."
Mulder grinned and Krycek actually started laughing at the disgruntled tone.
Leaning back, Krycek seemed to relax again as green eyes lit with sudden mischievous amusement. He made Mulder's breath catch in his throat and his grin died. That was the Alex he had dreamed about, wanted, needed. Unable to resist, he sat down in the sofa and reached out a casual hand to rest on Krycek's neck, stroking gently.
Krycek didn't exactly flinch, but his body lost some of its mellowness. Very casually he shifted away keeping the distance between himself and Mulder. Finally he got up, stretched and said, "This has been fun, but I've got to phone some more people; see you later," and disappeared.
Mulder bit his lip hard enough to draw blood, taking an obscure pleasure in the tiny stinging pain as he noticed Skinner carefully avoiding looking at him. Frustration and misery clawed at him. Although they slept in the same bed, he was all too aware that Alex was still running, that no matter how hard he tried, Krycek would not let him past his defenses. He felt something tighten deep in his chest. It wasn't as if Alex ever refused him in bed either. Whenever Mulder reached for him, his body yielded. Yet his eyes, even in the heat of passion, remained distant and cold.
All he could hope and pray for was that as time passed, Alex would lose some of his wariness and distrust. He had believed that once they'd made love, once Alex had seen that Mulder would never hurt him again, that they could begin with a clean slate. Instead it seemed as though the more he tried to hold on, the more Krycek slipped through his fingers.
The situation did not improve as they started their final preparations.
As he listened to Krycek calmly brief him and the others on the inner workings of the Consortium, the by now all too familiar knot of ice spread through Mulder. He wanted to stand up and scream "no!" To tell them to forget this insane plan. To refuse to have anything to do with it.
Two years and still he had not come to terms with the truth. It had been easier accepting what he was, what he had done, than to acknowledge the truth about his father. It was the one place he had always resolutely refused to go. He had tried to cover up the confused emotions he felt for his father alive with a fanatical devotion once he was dead. With a burning, insane hatred of the man who had killed him. Yet, for all his obsessive introspection he had never been able one simple question...
What do you do when you realize that the man for whom you sold your soul is not worth the price? What do you do when you realize that everything you have ever believed about your father was a lie? Fathers are not supposed to be exposed as child-molesting rapists, murders and monsters.
As always, it was Scully who, during the final discussion, noticed as Mulder became more and more quiet while Krycek and Skinner argued about covers and back-ups and surveillance. Finally, he slipped away unnoticed to everyone except her. She waited for five minutes and then followed him.
She found him sitting outside on the steps and sat down beside him. They sat in a warm, companionable silence for a long time.
Finally, Mulder said quietly, "I don't know if I can do this, Scully."
She didn't say anything at first, and then, "Because of your father?"
He nodded. "I know he was a bastard, but he's still my dad."
She thought of her own father, how he had always seemed the fount of all wisdom and strength, and wondered how she would have felt if she'd learned he was a traitor and rapist. "Have you talked to your mother?" she finally asked.
He shook his head, "Ever since her stroke, she's completely disconnected from the world." He paused and then admitted softly, "and to be honest, I'm not even sure I want to know more."
She didn't touch him, but the warmth of her blue eyes was like a caress. "You already know the worst."
Mulder scuffed the toes of his sneakers on the step he was sitting on. "If I do this, do you think Alex will forgive me?"
Her heart turned over at the wistful hope in his voice. "I don't know, Mulder," she said, and then honesty forced her to add, "but I suspect that he'll never forgive you for not doing it."
He nodded, knowing she was right, but still loathed the very idea. In many ways it was so much easier to accept what he'd done to Alex if he could tell himself it was just a temporary aberration, an insanity he'd woken from and now regretted deeply. Yet, every time he thought of what his father had done to the young boy Krycek had once been, it twisted his stomach and soul, as he wondered if monstrosity, if evil, could be inherited. More than once he had woken from a nightmare, dreaming it was *he* not his father who wielded the whip that laid open Krycek's back. He, not Bill Mulder, who 'tamed' and shaped the boy into the man he was.
What truly horrified Mulder was the fact that it could so very easily have been him. It *had* been him in those dark weeks when he had taken out all his hatred, all his rage and frustration on Krycek. It was not something he could share even with Scully; he had hurt Alex and he had loved doing it.
It was that fact more than any other that woke him from sleep shaking and sweating, and caused him to spend the rest of the night in the bathroom, helplessly vomiting his guts out.
He opened his mouth to answer, when the door opened and Krycek stepped through it. He didn't seem surprised to see them. "There you are, I wanted to talk to you, Mulder," he said abruptly, coming down the stairs. Leaning casually against the railing, his eyes narrowed. "I've been on the phone to some old contacts, there is a meeting starting tomorrow evening. Your scruffy friends are busy faking a phone call from the smoker." He smiled, "and incidentally I take back everything I said about them. Loony they may be, but they're also fucking geniuses." He sounded supremely satisfied. "Sharpe and his friends will think you've got Spender's backing, and if they discover they've been set up they'll go after him." He shook his head, "it's fucking brilliant."
Mulder stood up, brushing off his pants. "Okay, what do I do?"
Krycek said sardonically, "What comes natural to you, Mulder. Just be your ordinary arrogant self, and you'll have no problems."
Although Scully chuckled and he smiled, Mulder felt a tightening in his stomach. "Fine, and you?"
"Oh, I'll be your loyal bodyguard and toy," the words were said a little too casually.
Mulder raised an eyebrow, "Sounds kinky. What do you do, wear your gun to bed?"
There was no responding smile, "If that's what you want me to."
"Hey," Mulder moved a little closer, running his fingers down Alex's back. "That was a joke you know."
"Whatever," Krycek pulled away abruptly. "Come on, Mulder, I need to brief you on Consortium etiquette before we leave."
Behind, and unnoticed by the two men, Scully looked more than a little worried. She had seen the pain in Mulder's eyes at Krycek's withdrawal and the flicker of something suspiciously close to fear in Krycek's face before it became its usual blank mask.
When she came back inside again, Krycek was briefing Mulder while the three Gunmen listened in silent fascination. "... Remember, your usual bulldog style just won't fly in the Consortium. Bluff is the name of the game. You're going to have to convince them that you already know what you want to know, if you follow me? Admitting your ignorance is the surest way of blowing our cover." He smiled a little crookedly, "one thing though, you won't have to persuade anyone to believe in aliens. They all know they not only exist, but are here."
There were general chuckles at that, but they were soon wiped out by Krycek's next words. "I'll be your bodyguard and property. That means if anyone asks, I'm yours. Oh, and if anyone wants to borrow me, just say no, all right?" A sudden, bitter smile, "And any suggestions you follow family tradition, I'd appreciate if you'd refuse."
Scully bit her lip, willing Mulder not to ask the question. But of course he did.
Krycek's face hardened even more, and his voice turned cold as ice. "Your father had rather exotic tastes, he liked whips and blood, lots of blood. He also liked to perform in public, and yes, before you ask, I was his favorite, because," he bit out, "I could take so much pain without passing out and because he liked the way I screamed."
The silence was total.
Strangely enough it was Skinner who intervened diffusing the tension. "Cut the trip down Memory Lane, Krycek," he said coolly. "Continue the briefing."
Even more strange was that Krycek didn't get angry. Instead the look he gave Skinner was oddly grateful. When he spoke again it was with his habitual cool distance, "The data we need is in the mainframe in the lab, which is located beneath the house. When we are inside we'll be able to make a more accurate assessment. Once we know where it is.... Frohike?"
The short balding man stepped up, blinking through his glasses and handed them a small black box. "Hook this up to the computer and we'll be able to access everything from here." He looked extremely proud, "it's a prototype that uses a sat-uplink to connect to our modem. Which means we can hack into the computer even if it's not hooked up to a network with an outside connection."
Mulder took the box, weighing it in his hands. "You're sure the smoker won't know what we're doing?"
Krycek shrugged, "Nothing is certain, but chances are he'll be too busy following the false tracks we've laid down. Besides - " he glanced at Skinner.
The man stepped up to the table and put his hands on the surface, leaning forward. "I've talked to some old contacts in NI, Navy Intelligence," he clarified, "they'll keep an eye on our friend. It's not ideal by any means," he admitted, "but it does give us a chance if he moves."
Mulder nodded tensely, "Fine, let's get this show on the road." He avoided looking at Krycek.
A former SEAL lecturing at Quantico had long ago told the young Mulder that the hardest part of an op was the waiting once it was a go. The tense hours before an operation began when you second-guess yourself and try desperately to think of an option not covered, of everything that could go wrong. Too keyed up to sleep or rest, Mulder had paced restlessly, leaned over the shoulder of the Gunmen who just ignored him, and then listened in on Scully's phone call to her old university professor until she told him, politely, to go away.
That's when he'd been desperate enough to go bug Skinner who told him less politely to fuck off, and finally he'd ended up in his room, trying to read a book. However, after finding himself on page 114 and having no idea what the book was even called, he gave up, closing it with a soft exclamation of disgust. He needed someone to talk to, and wondered if Scully had finished her phone call, but before he could go in search of her, the door opened and Krycek came in.
He didn't seem surprised to see Mulder, just gave him a brief nod before going over to kneel by his bag, opening the zipper and pulling out a small black book. Yet, something in the stillness of the figure by the window must have caught his attention because he did what he rarely would; he crossed the room to where Mulder was sitting. Standing so close, Mulder only had to lean forward to bury his head in the soft clean fabric of his shirt, Krycek said quietly, "What is it?"
A brief hesitation as Mulder considered that Alex was the last person he could tell about his doubts, and then he shook his head wearily. "Nothing."
Reaching out with his one remaining arm to gently cup the face, Mulder turned his face and pressed a kiss into the warm palm, nuzzling the soft skin. He closed his eyes and simply breathed in the scent of Alex, enjoying the quiet strength, the hard body slowly pulling him to his feet and towards the bed. Even as he followed Alex, a small part of him knew that it was deliberate, that Krycek was using sex to divert and relax him. Yet, the reasons didn't matter, only the reality of the hard body beside him, the hand on him, the lips sliding across his skin.
When he tried to speak, Krycek placed a finger against Mulder's lips and shook his head. "Shhh..." he whispered and leaned forward, kissing the words from Mulder's mouth.
They made slow, unhurried love, skin gliding against skin, Krycek taking his time, using lips and hand and body to entice and arouse. Mulder closed his eyes and let the hot red tide take him.
Afterwards, Mulder raised himself on his elbow, slowly running his fingers down the smooth planes and hard muscles of the man lying so bonelessly beside him on the narrow bed. He felt happy, relaxed, ready to face the world, and the smile on his face he knew was more than a little goofy.
He looked over at the man sharing his bed and saw that Krycek's eyes were closed, black lashes fanned out against the faint tan of his skin. For a long time Mulder was content to simply look, relishing this quiet moment of simple reflection. *I love him,* he thought, the smile widening.
Long black lashes trembled and lifted, and he found himself staring almost breathlessly into jade-green eyes. Eyes that revealed nothing. Some of the happiness died. It wasn't the first time he wondered what thoughts moved behind those eyes, what it would take to break through to the real Alex. Frustration, usually well-leashed, threatened to overwhelm him, no doubt in part brought on by the knowledge of what they were about to do and the fear of what he would have to face.
Perhaps that's why Mulder found himself short of patience enough to demand, "Why?" as Krycek swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up.
He half-turned, giving Mulder a faint questioning glance. "Why what?"
"Why can't you for once just stay in bed afterwards?"
It was rather blunt, but he had come to hate the way Krycek pulled himself free after sex, leaving their bed, followed soon by the sound of hissing water.
Looking so calm and aloof it was impossible to believe that just moments past he had been writhing and moaning in Mulder's arms, his body open and begging for each lingering stroke, each silken caress, Krycek said evenly, "Because I'm sticky and itchy and I want a shower," before disappearing into the bathroom.
Fox Mulder lay back on the rumpled sheets and tried to convince himself that he could do this.
There was a good deal of stubbornness in Fox Mulder's genetic makeup and he bent all his formidable will, all his vaunted determination on a single fact, Alex Krycek's love.
He willed it to be the truth.
He had read somewhere, that the mind and the body can have different memories, and never had it been demonstrated as graphically as now. He knew that Alex felt pleasure when they were in bed. That he could make his lover moan in passion and need, and for a little while he had believed it was enough. That it had to mean that Alex loved him.
He was wrong.
Once again Mulder found himself wondering about the complex soul Alex Krycek kept so tightly locked away. He wondered if anyone had ever been allowed inside the walls Krycek had built around himself. Above all else, he wondered if that person would be himself.
He could only hope and pray that somehow he would be able to tie his lover to him with passion. That he could use physical desire to create a bond that would overcome the past.
He smiled a little bitterly, maybe he should be grateful for the mission, since it at least gave him the perfect excuse for being close to Alex.
"Ready?" Krycek asked, quietly as they watched the car break and stop. A car that the Consortium had provided them with.
Mulder swallowed, "Ready," he said. He stepped forward as Krycek opened the door for him, and sank into the leather seat.
The drive was completed in total silence. Sitting in the backseat, watching the back of Krycek's neck as he spoke quietly to the chauffeur, Mulder told himself for the thousandth time that he could do this.
After about half an hour's drive the car slowed and turned into a gently curving driveway, finally gliding to a smooth stop outside a large Georgian manor. Mulder stepped outside, trying his best to match Krycek's impassive face. He walked towards the imposing carved oak doors.
Krycek took up his place behind Mulder, a little to the left, half a pace behind.
"Fox Mulder?" An elderly, white-haired man came forward a smile on his face.
Ah yes, Mulder relaxed, remembering Krycek's briefing. "Doctor Mendes," he held out his hand.
The old man ignored the hand clasping him to his chest. "Dear boy, it seems only yesterday that it was your father standing where you are."
Mulder smiled easily, concealing his sudden stiffening. "I'm afraid that I didn't know my father as well as I wished. He was away much when I was growing up."
Nodding his head, grasping Mulder's elbow, Doctor Mendes said sadly, "The inevitable price of duty and loyalty I'm afraid. But I am sure he would have been delighted to know that you are following in his footsteps." He glanced at Krycek who was standing close, face carefully blank. "Even to your servants, however," he lowered his voice, "I am not sure that this is very wise. You do know what he did, don't you?"
Mulder fought down his intuitive dislike and smiled again. "I know, but," he lowered his voice as well, pretending intimacy, "he is a most accomplished tool as long as you are able to control him."
Doctor Mendes smiled, "So like your father, dear boy.... " He repeated happily freezing Mulder's soul.
They entered the house with Dr. Mendes still chattering away pleasantly, and introducing Mulder to various old men. Mulder smiled and nodded and agreed until he thought his face would crack. It was the normality of it all that truly unnerved him. The people he saw were the same ordinary men he met every day of his life, government employees who lived out their conventional, pedestrian lives, without anyone ever knowing differently.
He felt Krycek shift, the rigidity slight and probably unnoticeable to everyone but himself. It was all the warning he had before a tall dark man with a narrow face approached them. Mulder gave him a sharp look, alerted by Krycek's sudden tension. The man was not one of the 'masters' as Krycek dubbed them sarcastically, by his dress and demeanor. The stranger held out his hand, "Mr. Mulder?"
Automatically Mulder shook it. "Yes."
"I had the pleasure of knowing your father," a long searching look, "forgive me, but you do not look much like him."
Mulder summoned a smile from somewhere, "They say I take more after my mother."
"Ah yes, that must be it," but he continued to look sharply at Mulder. "My name is Garrett by the way," a sideways glance, and Mulder could feel Krycek tensing even further. Then the man walked away, a small satisfied smile on his lips.
"Alex?" Mulder glanced towards Krycek who had schooled his face to immobility by now. He shook his head once and Mulder nodded slightly in reply. In response to the slight warning Mulder did not even look at Krycek again until they were alone in their private suite of rooms.
When the door closed, Mulder immediately turned to Krycek. "Are you okay, Alex?"
"No, yes!" Tense as a bowstring, he stalked across the room. "Fuck! I never thought it'd be this hard to come back." The last was a whisper not meant for Mulder's ears.
Mulder watched, uncertain of what to say, what to do. "That man, Garrett, you knew him?"
Krycek nodded once, prowling around restlessly, "Yeah, he's been around as long as I have." A bitter twisted smile, "he used to be another of your father's favorites."
Mulder swallowed. All he could think of to say was, "Oh!"
Krycek turned and looked at him, and suddenly he seemed to relax a little. "Very eloquent," he mocked.
Mulder grinned back, too relieved to see Krycek return to his normal self to take offense. "Well, all this is a little overwhelming you have to admit."
Sitting down on the bed, Krycek sighed, "I know, and it's going to get worse. Look, we're going to have to watch our step out there."
Mulder glanced around, "Is it safe in here?"
Krycek raised an eyebrow, "You mean bugs? No problem, it's against Consortium rules to bug the private rooms," he added dryly, "one of the few rules they have. Besides, I've got an old friend down in surveillance. No, it's clean."
"Thank God for that!" Mulder muttered loosening his tie. "So, what's the schedule?"
Krycek frowned, "If things haven't changed too much tonight there's cocktails and dinner. Then comes the really interesting part, you all," his voice turned *very* dry, "the masters that is, gather in the library for some quiet discussion and alliance-making. Then," he shrugged, eyes sliding away from Mulder, "it's time for entertainment. We should probably stay for a part of it, it will look extremely odd if we don't."
Mulder had to swallow and wet suddenly dry lips. "Entertainment?" He croaked.
Krycek's mouth twisted, "Don't get too excited; we're not talking Roman orgies." He paused, "Well, not most of the time. But yes, basically it's what you think it is, some nice relaxation after a long hard day of plotting the betrayal of humanity."
Mulder stood up and moved up behind Krycek who stiffened but didn't move away. He put his chin against Krycek's back, and slid his arms around the hard body. "We don't have to do this," he whispered.
A long, shuddering sigh, and then Krycek said wearily, "Yeah, we do." He turned, and cupped Mulder's jaw. "Look, there is something I forgot to tell you." He didn't look at Mulder, his voice a little tight. "You have to act like your father or this isn't going to work."
Mulder sounded confused, "What are you talking about?"
Krycek hesitated, releasing Mulder and stepping away. "You're going to have to stop looking at me like you do."
He was silent for a moment, and then said as if the words hurt his throat, "Like you really... care, okay? Lust is fine, but not concern."
Mulder for once in his life found himself at a total loss for words.
Dressing for dinner, Krycek came out of the shower, hair slicked back and damp and with nothing but a towel around his hips. "I was thinking after dinner we'll try for downstairs. I only hope Frohike's magic box works."
Mulder frowned, buttoning up his white, starched shirt, "It'll work. But you think we should both go?"
Krycek nodded, muttering a little as he fumbled with his shirt, "Yeah, not only because one of us can keep watch, but also because it can easier be explained away if it's both of us."
"All right, you know best," Mulder agreed shrugging into his black dinner jacket. "Jesus," he swore, as the fabric caught on one of his cuff links. He tugged at the recalcitrant snag, swearing again under his breath.
"Here, let me do it, you'll tear it," Krycek said calmly coming up beside him and using only one hand managed to free the link.
Before he could move, Mulder covered his hand with a strong, gentle grip. "Alex..." he hesitated not sure what to say.
Krycek shook his head and pulled away, his face closed. "Not now, Mulder."
At dinner, Mulder was seated beside an older man who spoke courteously to him and seemed well informed if a little vague. They had a pleasant conversation about banshees and Celtic legends. It was more than a little pleasurable and exciting to be in a room where not a single man thought he was a half-mad eccentric. However, no matter how involved he became, he was always aware of the dark-haired man standing by the wall, along with other hard-eyed silent men, guarding their master's back. The thought thrilled him far more than it should.
It wasn't until the long dinner was over that it suddenly occurred to him that Alex must be half-starving. He wondered what the protocol was, but no, it seemed that Krycek was to stay with him as they moved from the dinner into a large room with comfortable sofas and a roaring fire in the enormous carved fireplace. Sinking down into softness, Mulder caught a whiff of aged leather and he smiled a little ruefully at the tiny dart of arousal that shot through him at the scent. Instinctively his eyes once again sought out Alex who had taken up his position by the wall, watching everyone with opaque eyes, body deceptively loose and relaxed.
"Welcome back, Krycek." The oily voice sent silent shudders up his spine. "I wasn't sure we'd see you here again."
Turning slowly, Krycek's smile was just a baring of his teeth. "Hello, Garrett."
Leaning against the wall, the larger man followed Mulder with dark, liquid eyes. "Interesting, he doesn't seem much like his father."
Krycek forced himself to shrug, pretending disinterest, "He's not in many ways, in others, they could be the same man." That was truer than he wanted to admit and it was making him more than little twitchy. No matter how many times he told himself that father and son were two very different men, just being back here meant that one inevitably started to slide into the other.
Idly Garrett said, "What's the deal between you two?"
"None of your business," Krycek said shortly and then cursed himself at the sudden sharp interest.
"Oh? You sound rather possessive..."
Almost he laughed, relieved beyond measure that his tension had been misunderstood. "Not really."
Still idly, Garrett murmured, "So say if someone else were to offer him a bed partner, you wouldn't object?"
Pretending to think it over, letting his gaze sweep over Mulder who was listening in rapt attention to an old man, he said casually, "Depends on who was asking." He glanced at Garrett from the corner of his eye. "Why? Sentimental for the old days?"
A shrug, "I could be. I've heard rumors about this one."
Although his stomach tightened, Krycek forced a careless tone into his voice, "Anything interesting?"
Still watching Mulder, an avid, hungry look darkening brown eyes, Garrett murmured, "They say he's a renegade and working against everything his father stood for."
"They, whoever they are, were right," Krycek said caustically. There was, after all, little sense in hiding what Mulder had been.
"Yet here he is," Garrett raised an eyebrow inviting an answer.
Determined to reinforce the cover they were using, Krycek said calmly, "The old man offered him a deal he couldn't refuse."
Cold eyes swept over him. "You?" He shook his head, at Krycek's brief nod. "What the fuck is it with you and the Mulders?"
A sudden weary chuckle, "Fuck if I know, Garrett." Another truth he could have done without.
They both fell silent as Mulder came up beside them, "Time to leave, Alex," he said, laying a possessive hand on his shoulder. Feeling the tenseness of the muscles as they spasmed beneath his fingers, he massaged the nape lightly. For a moment he thought Alex would shrug it off, but, obviously recalling where they were, he leaned into the touch instead.
"Ready when you are, sir."
Mulder had to transform his exclamation into a brief cough. Gathering himself, he knew Krycek had seen his betraying start, laughter flashing deep in the green eyes. Giving in to impulse and remembering what Alex had told him in their room before dinner, he leaned forward, and cupped the smooth jaw in his hands, bringing it close for a long, deep kiss. "Mmmm," he said when he reluctantly released him again. "I'm more than ready, Alex." The sudden stillness took him by surprise. "Alex?" he prompted softly.
Krycek's mouth smiled, but his eyes were shards of green glass. "As you said, sir. But perhaps we can take this somewhere more private?"
Garrett chose that moment to intervene, "Come on, Krycek, why spoil the fun? Surely you're not going to keep him to yourself? You never used to be so selfish."
Mulder stiffened, suddenly understanding the cause of Krycek's tenseness. Sickness roiled in his stomach. Unfortunately Mulder was unable to follow his initial reaction, which was to punch this obnoxious lout in the face. He did not have to pretend the tone of possessiveness, as he all but snarled, "Alex's mine! And I don't share."
Garrett chuckled, as did the old man coming up behind them. "Ah, this is familiar," he said amiably. "Hello, Krycek."
"Doctor Mendes," Krycek said too politely.
"It's good to see you back where you belong, boy," the doctor said.
"Yes, sir," was the quiet answer. Krycek gave Mulder a look, and there was a strange pleading in the usually opaque eyes.
Mulder's breath hitched in his throat. Krycek had never pleaded, never asked. Not when he was beaten, not when he was used... "Come on, Alex," he said hoping the huskiness in his voice would be taken for desire.
Silently, obediently, Krycek fell into place, a pace behind and to the left.
As soon as they were alone, Mulder turned to him. "Alex, shit, I'm sorry. I just didn't think!" Even to his own ears he heard how pitifully inadequate the words sounded.
Krycek shook his head. "Leave it alone, Mulder." He turned away, "I hate this fucking place!" he muttered.
Mulder wasn't sure how to deal with the pain that slid across Krycek's face for a moment. He wished he could simply hold Alex and tell him that everything would be all right, to shield against the memories that put the haunted anguish in emerald eyes.
Yet he didn't move, knowing instinctively that right now the last thing Krycek would want was to feel another man's hands on him, least of all... a Mulder's.
So instead he waited until Alex had regained his composure and then said quietly, "Should I change if we're going downstairs?"
Krycek shook his head, "No, better not," he crossed the room and took out Frohike's little black box from his bag. "Let's go."
"Hurry up!" Krycek hissed, flattening himself against the wall, gun at the ready.
They had made their way downstairs, hiding from the occasional guard. However, it seemed that most of the people were still upstairs from the sounds of laughter, talking and music filtering down.
Following Krycek through a maze of dark corridors and empty rooms, Mulder marveled at the surety with which he moved. Freezing, hardly daring to breathe when Krycek gestured sharply, they waited for the echoing footsteps to fade again. Relaxing fractionally, Krycek started to move again - without making a sound.
Trying his best to emulate the cat-soft tread of his partner, Mulder silently swore that if he got out of this alive and whole he'd sign up for the commando courses the FBI offered its field agents. He almost stumbled over something and barely saved himself from falling over, earning himself another sharp look from Krycek.
Finally they arrived at the right door and Krycek stopped abruptly bending down and pulling up a small key. He smiled in satisfaction as he inserted it and gently turned the handle down.
Mulder whispered, "Where the hell did you get that key?!"
Krycek turned and gave him a grin over his shoulder, green eyes glimmering with wicked satisfaction, "Lifted it from the security surveillance room earlier today. Good to know some things never fade."
Mulder's eyes narrowed, but then he had to hold back a quick chuckle. "You can pick pockets?"
Krycek straightened, motioning to Mulder to precede him inside. "Yup."
They entered a small bare room one entire wall taken up with glowing computer panels. In the middle were three monitors and keyboards. "Let's find an outlet," Krycek said.
Mulder took the box and knelt down, frantically looking for an empty slot, heart beating. "Shit! I can't find one," he muttered, putting down the thin flashlight on the floor, searching with his fingers, "it should be down here somewhere!"
Krycek swore softly, running over, "Jesus, you're useless," he fell on his knees, pushing Mulder away, running his fingers lightly over the sockets near the floor, the tips of his fingers just touched a small indentation when Mulder who'd gone over to stand by the door, ear pressed against it, stiffened.
Krycek immediately stood up and went over. Peeking cautiously outside he cursed viciously in what Mulder presumed was Russian. Then continued, "Fuck! It's the next shift, they're early." He thought frantically for a moment and then told Mulder urgently, "When he goes to check the room beside this one, do exactly what I say, and no arguments!"
Mulder nodded mutely, throat going dry. Krycek waited tensely and then, suddenly exploded into action, pulling Mulder along with him outside and closing the door silently behind them. However, when they exited Mulder knew after a single frantic look both ways that they would never have time to get away from view before the guard came out again and saw them.
Krycek didn't try and run. Instead he gestured for Mulder to follow him down the opposite direction from the guard. When they heard the door behind them open, Krycek spun, grabbed and almost threw him against the wall, dropping to his knees all in once smooth motion.
Before Mulder could react, Krycek unzipped his pants and pulled out his cock, swallowing it deep. To his everlasting shame, Mulder felt a jolt of electricity arch through his body at the first wet touch of Alex's tongue, licking and teasing. His hands clenched in the dark hair before him, and he leaned back against the wall, wondering if was going to be able to stay upright. His eyes opened wide in shock and dismay as he realized that one of the guards was moving past them to take up his post outside the lab. He wanted to tell Alex to stop, the presence of the guard both exciting him in a half-shamed perverted way, and embarrassing him horribly.
However, when his eyes flew again to the guard, he realized the man was staring in front of him, ignoring the soft wet sucking sounds, the moans just feet away from where he was standing. Mulder could not help but wonder how many similar sights the stony-faced man had seen in his time.
He came with a soft gasp. Krycek immediately rose, leaving it for Mulder to zip himself up again. When Mulder sneaked a quick glance, the elegant features were without expression. Stepping back, Krycek smoothly slid into position by Mulder's shoulder, waiting for his master to move.
Mulder walked past the guard, aware his face was on fire and grimly, determinedly kept his eyes fastened on the distance. Although he wanted nothing as much as to break into a run, or yell at Krycek for putting him in this situation, he did neither, preferring to keep whatever tattered remains of his dignity he had left.
Once back in the relatively safety of their room, the two men undressed in silence. Krycek carefully took off his holster and placed his gun on the small table by the bed.
Still silently they got into bed, but when Mulder tentatively reached across and tried to slide an arm around his waist, Krycek froze, and then jerked away violently. The "No!" that burst from his lips resonated with pain as he curled up in an almost fetal position.
"Alex..." a soft, agonized whisper. "Please, I'm not the enemy." He bit his lip, remembering a time not too long past when he *had* been the enemy.
Turning on his back, staring up into the ceiling, Mulder felt the disturbing pull of the past. During the day every time he had seen another old man pass him in the corridor or nod at him across the room, he had wondered how many of the men had known his father, had seen his father in the exact same position, even with the same man following behind him.
Alex wasn't the only one hating this fucking place, he decided.
Although Krycek didn't make a sound, somehow Mulder was certain that he was still awake. Yet, neither man said anything as they lay side by side, silent, tense, sleepless.
There was no transition between reality and memory. Suddenly he was back again in the past... in hell.
Alex was waiting in the bedroom for his master to return. Restraining an impulse to chew on his fingernails - the last time he'd been severely punished - or wander restlessly, he curled into one of the chairs, staring out the window, listening to the rain thrumming against the glass. He hated the weather, it meant that everyone was cooped up inside and people were getting bored and frustrated.
Unconsciously he shivered, feeling the throbbing pain in his back. Surely not, surely his master would know he was hurting too badly to do it again tonight. Please, he prayed, not to any deity but just praying, let him be too tired or too busy or even... nice. Usually he hated the times when his master told him he loved him, the times he had to assure his master he loved him too. A bitter smile twisted his thin face. Sometimes he wasn't sure if he *did* love his master or not. Or perhaps it was just the not hurting he loved?
The door opened and he immediately stood up, the automatic smile he readied dying on his lips. Shit, shit, shit! His master was not alone; there were three other men with him. He didn't recognize two of them, but the third was his master's new friend. Alex's nose wrinkled remembering the taste of stale cigarettes in his mouth the last time.
The men ignored him to his great relief, and instead he was kept busy serving them, pouring drinks, making himself useful and actually earning a small grunt of approval from Bill Mulder. Alex relaxed even more. Perched on a windowsill he was a small silent unobtrusive presence, head resting on his pulled up knees. As the time grew late he even dared to hope that perhaps everyone would be too tired to do anything.
However, at midnight, Bill Mulder stretched, joints popping. "I think we've gone as far as we can with this tonight," he said.
There were murmurs of agreement as the others too shifted in their chairs.
Alex bit his lip, curling up even further, still not giving up his hope. But then Bill Mulder's eyes fell on the slender young boy, and he lazily he ordered, "Come here, Alex."
Obediently Alex stood up and moved to the table. He tried not to show his apprehension, knowing he would be punished for the least flinch or hesitation. Long lashes fell, hiding the fear in his eyes. He hated when there were several of them, it made him feel even smaller, more insignificant and trapped than usual. It was also, as he'd once shyly tried to tell his master, hard to do what he was required to when there were several men demanding his attention. He hid the bitter smile at the memory of Bill Mulder's incredulous laughter and subsequent anger. Alex had never repeated his mistake of telling his master. Instead he did what he was told and tried not to think of it.
Swallowing he felt one of the men pull him close as pudgy, sweaty hands impatiently slid down his slim body. It was still a boy's body, slender and nearly hairless. Yet the length of leg and arms gave promise of future height and muscular development. An impatient tug on his hair and obediently he opened his mouth, relaxing his jaw, feeling himself float away gently even as his body moved smoothly in submission to the grunted curt commands. He knew if he opened his eyes that his master would be sitting a ways off, watching it all with avid, amused eyes. For some reason, Bill Mulder liked watching, but not participating when he brought guests to his room.
When the men finally left, Alex was lying in a small curled boneless heap on the bed. Burying his face in the fabric, he tried to still the trembles that still wracked his slender body. He knew how much his master hated it when he couldn't control his tears, so although his throat ached with unshed tears; he sat up, stretching sensuously the way he knew Bill Mulder liked, getting lithely on his feet, not letting the bruises or aches of strained muscles show as he moved across the room.
However, when he dared a flirtatious glance through long black lashes, his heart sank as he saw his master's frown. He never even saw the large hand descending, just felt the force of the slap that sent him crashing to the floor.
"You little whore!"
He started shaking, huddling on the floor, not daring to move or say anything. Bill Mulder towered over him, eyes stormy. "I saw you flirting with Sharpe."
Despite himself, Alex could feel tears glitter more from fear than the pain. Sharpe? He frantically searched his memory, which one was Sharpe? They tended to blur in his consciousness. Not sure what response his master wanted, he was silent, watching with apprehensive eyes.
"I'm sorry," he whispered finally. That seemed a safe enough answer.
Bill Mulder looked at him with cold contempt. "You're such a little slut, spreading your legs for anybody who'll have you. Maybe that's what you want, Alex? Shall I start lending you out?" He smiled thinly, "I've already had offers."
Oh, god, no! Alex swallowed, "Please, no," he whispered, getting up on his hands and kneels, crawling to Bill Mulder. "Please, I'll be good," he promised quickly, rubbing the side of his face against the leg of the man standing above him.
Bill Mulder reached down and tousled the thick brown hair. "Now, Alex, you know I don't like punishing you, but you need correction and reminding whom you belong to." Alex held himself very still beneath the petting hand. No, no, no, throat going dry. He knew that tone. Tonight was going to hurt, hurt badly. He wasn't sure if he could take it, not after last night, and the night before that. But of course he could, he could because that was the only alternative.
"Go to the cabinet and take out the whip." From a distance he heard Bill Mulder's voice and obediently he got his feet and went over, pulling out the drawer with trembling fingers. Taking the short dog-whip, he returned and silently handed it to his master.
"Turn around and bend over." Still without a word he obeyed, closing his eyes and with a skill born of long practice he placed his mind somewhere else, somewhere safe. If it would have helped he would have pleaded and begged, but although at times that amused his master enough to make him stop; instinctively Alex knew that tonight Bill Mulder just wanted to hurt.
Distantly he felt the tears in his skin, the hissed, broken sobbing breaths as Bill Mulder beat him without mercy. He could taste his own blood on his tongue where he'd bitten through his lip in his agony. It was almost a relief when the beating was over and he was flung across the bed and brutally penetrated. It didn't even hurt that much, not after being stretched and used by the other men earlier tonight.
Half-suffocated beneath the heavy weight of Bill Mulder, pressed into the softness of the mattress, trying to ignore the agony of coarse body hair rubbing against his beaten back, Alex concentrated on breathing but he couldn't get enough air into his abused lungs. He was beginning to feel light-headed, black spots dancing before his eyes and wondering if he was going to pass out when he felt the sting of teeth biting deep into his shoulder as Bill Mulder grunted and came.
Not moving for a few moments, the older man finally rolled away, reaching out an arm and pulling the small limp body towards him until it was resting in the crook of his arm. Distantly Alex could feel his hand stroking though his hair. "There, there, it's over now. You know I only do it because I love you, Alex."
He could feel large hands encircle his arms and torso, probing casually, measuring and evaluating then sliding down the crack of his ass, long fingers pushing inside. "You really are quite astonishingly beautiful," he heard the deep voice continue. Alex felt the mouth on his lips, obediently opening in response and a large wet tongue thrust inside almost gagging him. Passively he lay there, letting his master turn him this way and that, explore every inch of his body, listening to the soft murmurs of appreciation sliding along his skin.
"Look at me, Alex," he opened his eyes and found Bill Mulder gazing at him. "You do know why I have to punish you, don't you?"
He nodded immediately, the look in his eyes that of a mortally wounded animal. "Yes, sir, I know it's for my own good, that I'm a very bad boy, and that I really deserve much worse," he recited quickly and then held his breath, hoping it was the right response, and almost sagged in relief when he saw the brown eyes watching him soften in approval.
The hands that were the cause of so much pain and terror stroked him slowly, almost gently, "That's right, my Alex. And you love me, don't you?"
Again he nodded quickly, "Yes, sir, I love you."
Bill Mulder smiled in satisfaction. "Yes, you are mine. Say it Alex, I want to hear you say it."
"I am yours, sir," peeking up through long lashes at the man holding him, Alex added, "I love you, and only you." He felt the approval and even dared a smile cuddling close to the big body the way he knew Bill Mulder liked it.
As soon as he was sure his master was asleep, Alex silently slipped from the bed and went into the bathroom, closing the door behind him softly. No matter how much he longed for it, he didn't dare take a shower for fear it would awaken Bill Mulder. Instead he opened the medicine cabinet behind the mirror and pulled out some disinfectant and soft rolls of cotton wool. Then, setting his teeth, he cleaned all the scrapes and cuts, even hunching over and cleaning deep between his buttocks, biting his lip to prevent the soft gasps from escaping. Finally he wadded up the used stained cotton and threw it into the toilet watching it flush from sight.
Staring into the mirror, he flipped back his hair grimacing at the sight of the bruise blooming across his cheekbone. Touching it gingerly, he winced from the tenderness. Well, at least it wasn't swelling too badly. Besides, the sight might actually make Bill Mulder ease up on him for a day or two.
Not able to face the bedroom or the man sleeping in it quite yet, Alex curled up on the toilet, pulling up his knees to his chest and silently repeated his vow. One day, no matter what it took he would get out of here and then no one would ever be able to tell him what to do or who to fuck!
Krycek woke with a gasp, sitting up. For one nightmarish moment he wasn't sure what was dream and what was reality. The room, bathed in moonlight was the same, the bed was the same, even the man beside him was the same as Mulder stirred and asked sleepily, "Alex?"
The quiet voice was enough and Krycek dove from the bed into the bathroom where he was violently ill, vomiting well past the point where there was anything left in his stomach.
Finally, with the bitter taste of bile in his mouth, he sank down beside the toilet, hearing Mulder flush it and then a glass of cool water was stuck beneath his nose. Too exhausted to do anything but drink, he closed his eyes, breathing shallowly through his nose.
Mulder perched on the edge of the sunken bathtub. "That must have been a hell of a nightmare," he said quietly. "Want to talk about it?"
Krycek didn't look at him, drinking down some more water, feeling the cool liquid slide down his abused throat. "Leave me alone," he said curtly.
He whispered, so he wouldn't scream hysterically, "I said leave me alone, Mulder."
For once in his life, Fox Mulder actually did what he was told.
In the bedroom, Mulder clenched his fists, wanting to kick something. It had shaken him to the core to see Alex's eyes, blind and tormented and then when they finally focused on Mulder, filled with cold hatred.
It was the final irony that the very act he had hoped would bring Alex's forgiveness was exactly what was tearing them apart.
Helplessly Mulder knew that the distance between them widened for every moment, every hour they were undercover. Although Krycek was far too professional to let anything show, Mulder had *felt* him withdraw mentally. He hadn't left Mulder's side for long, the perfect bodyguard during the meetings... hard-eyed, alert; a pace behind he was the obedient property in all aspects. Yet, as they slid into their roles, Mulder felt not just distance but memories overtake them. Memories and the ghost of Bill Mulder.
Mulder sat down on the bed and buried his head in his hands.
Finally the bathroom door opened and Krycek came out. Mulder could read nothing in the opaque green eyes or the face that could have been carved from stone.
"How are you feeling?" He asked softly.
"Fine." The closed expression on Krycek's face and the distance in his voice was not encouraging. Not that it deterred Mulder.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Krycek arched a dark eyebrow. "Talk about what?"
"The reason you were throwing up," Mulder gnawed on his lower lip. "I've spent a few nights like that as well," he offered.
Krycek laughed shortly, "Hardly for the same reason." He sat down on the bed, his back towards Mulder, and then laid down, hand behind his head, staring up into the ceiling.
For a while they lay there side by side, neither saying a word, the silence heavy with things unspoken and the darkness of memories.
"Alex? Can you at least accept how sorry I am for what I did?" Mulder finally said softly into the darkness. It was the first time either of them had spoken of the past.
A long silence, and then Krycek said quietly, "Forget it, Mulder."
Abruptly Mulder turned on his side and raised himself on his elbow. "How can I? When I know that every time you look at me you hate me for what I did!?"
A long pause, and then a soft, husky, "I don't hate you, Mulder."
A harsh laugh. "Of course you don't," the disbelief evident.
Krycek sounded impatient, "Why can't you just leave it alone?"
Abruptly putting his hand on Alex's shoulder and smiling bitterly at the sudden tenseness, Mulder said, "Because of that. You flinch away from me every time I get close." A little desperately he added, "Please, tell me what to do to make it okay again."
Krycek closed his eyes and breathed out wearily. It was so typical of Mulder to think that everything revolved around him. That his actions somehow could make everything right again. "Sackcloth and ashes don't suit you. Stop feeling guilty Mulder. I don't want or need your damned contrition."
"What do you want, Alex?" Mulder asked quietly.
"To be left alone," the soft words were followed by a long silence before Krycek said quietly, "To raise Petya in peace and hope to hell I never see an alien again unless it's on a silver screen."
A long silence until Mulder thought Alex had gone to sleep, but then out of the darkness a husky, yearning whisper. "To forget."
Abruptly Krycek turned away, pulled the covers around his shoulders and refused to say another word.
The next morning Mulder tried again to talk to Krycek, who just told him curtly to go down and eat breakfast since the meeting was starting at nine thirty.
Attempting to find some humor, however grim in the day, Mulder kept thinking of the proverb, 'be careful what you ask for, you may get it.' His entire life he had hunted the truth, been obsessed with searching for it and now he suddenly had more truth than he knew how to handle. As he sat silently listening to the Consortium's plans and projects, he could do nothing but marvel and be horrified in equal measures at the sheer scope of the operations, the world-spanning hydra.
"I can understand why you refused my offer of witness protection," Mulder muttered as they walked back towards their room.
Krycek gave him a cynical look, "I would have been dead in hours. It's pure arrogance to think there is any hiding from the Consortium."
Mulder only wished he didn't believe the flat statement.
"And you know this isn't even the highest echelon," Krycek told him once they were alone in their room. Rubbing a hand over his face, he sank down in a chair, leaning back and closing his eyes. Mulder threw himself down on the bed.
"I can't believe this has been allowed to grow unchecked. Hell, the Mafia has nothing on these guys."
Krycek allowed himself a sardonic smile, "Trust me the Consortium makes the Mafia look like Sunday school." It should have sounded melodramatic, but somehow Mulder failed to see either the melodrama or the humor.
Before Mulder could answer there was a knock, and Krycek stood up and went to open the door, while Mulder sat up and smoothed down his hair plastering a smile on his face.
It was another of the old men who had known his father and who came to assure the son of his friendship and loyalty, offering alliance in the hope of more power. Listening to the rambling memories about his father, Mulder watched Krycek leaning against the wall, watching the room with guarded emerald eyes.
"Your father was a great man, my boy, a great man." He re-focused on the old man, Finney, again.
"As I said, sir, I really didn't know him that well," Mulder admitted. "He was gone during most of my childhood."
Finney patted his knee and Mulder had to suppress a shiver. "Of course, we all knew of the great sacrifices poor Bill had to make. If you will forgive me for saying so, the worst mistake he ever made was to ally with Spender." His tone took on a delicate sniff; "the man is nothing but a common schemer if you ask me."
Mulder felt the smile freeze on his face. "You know Spender?" he asked carefully.
"No more than I have to," the old man made a moue of distaste. "Such a stupid man; thinks everything can be solved with a bullet or a well-placed bomb." He gave Krycek a swift glance.
Mulder intercepted and interpreted the look correctly. "There is no need for concern, sir, Krycek is completely loyal to me, aren't you, Alex?"
"Yes, sir," the voice was completely expressionless.
Finney laughed thinly, "So sure of yourself, dear boy," he rose, leaning heavily on his ebony cane, "you are your father's son."
Your father's son.
Ever since Krycek had first spoken of the mad plan, Mulder had been filled with fear. It had been augmented and reinforced by the knowledge that during their time here, he had slipped into old patterns of behavior, ordering instead of asking Alex and treating him more like a possession than an equal. It made no difference that this was what Krycek - no *demanded* - that he do. It still brought a haunting sense of deja vu. A deja vu of his own darkness, and of his father's.
He would not, could not, deny that there was a wonderful sense of rightness seeing the ever-present shadow at his shoulder and watching Alex carry out his every wish. Nor could he deny the dark temptation to have this forever no matter the price paid. To know that every time he reached out his hand, every time he turned around, Alex was there, beside him, in bed, during meetings, when he ate dinner.
Yet, all it took was one look at the closed, blank face and he knew that it was no real enticement. Not when he could remember the Alex who had laughed, eyes clear and without shadows, mouth curling in real laughter instead of sardonic grimness.
That was the man he wanted with all his heart and soul.
Sitting in his chair, staring blankly in front of him, he thought that since he had come here that was all they had told him, how like his father he was. How proud his father would have been to see his son take up his legacy.
It froze him to his soul, the knowledge that when the old men looked at him they saw not Fox Mulder, but Bill Mulder's son.
"Come on, Mulder," the husky impatient voice broke into his dark thoughts. "This is the perfect time for another try at the mainframe computer." He smiled grimly, "I made a deal with Garrett who agreed to divert the guard."
Mulder looked alarmed. "Was that safe?"
Krycek shrugged, "It should be, Garrett thinks we're after info on some of the other guys." He allowed himself a sardonic smile. "Just ordinary Consortium games. If he ever finds out what we really did he won't dare breathe a word to anyone since killing the messenger is standard operating procedure."
Following behind Krycek, watching the cold, calm efficiency, the impenetrable facade, Mulder wondered with a sudden piercing fear if in saving Peter Krycek and Scully he had lost everything.
This time there were no interruptions, although Mulder couldn't stop the fierce flush warming his cheeks as they once again made their way through the endless dim corridors.
It was with a soundless but nonetheless heartfelt sigh of relief that he watched as Krycek swiftly slid the small black box into place, disguising it so skillfully that unless you knew exactly where it was no one would ever notice.
Krycek stood up and smiled, the first genuine smile Mulder had seen on his face since they'd arrived.
"Let's get the hell out of here."
Safe House, Washington, DC
"Mulder, we've got a problem."
Mulder looked up to find Frohike and Langley all but hopping from foot to foot, Byers hovering uncertainly behind them.
"What is it?" he asked warily.
"Halfway through the transfer they discovered what was going on and locked us out."
Mulder's heart suddenly started beating like a jack-hammer. "What?" he finally managed to croak.
"We must have tripped a security wire somewhere 'cause suddenly, boom! We had to disconnect or they'd have traced us."
"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" Mulder cursed.
"Yeah, that was pretty much my reaction as well," Frohike agreed. The three men seemed more ashamed than anything else, as though they had failed a test of some sort. "Well, we're going back and looking over what we have and we'll tell you tonight, okay?"
It wasn't more than twenty minutes later that Krycek walked into the room. Mulder took one look at his face and sighed, "I guess you heard the bad news?"
Krycek nodded. "I've been on the phone," he flopped down in the sofa and put up his legs, stretching bonelessly, like a tired cat. "It was damned lucky we didn't blow our cover. The meeting is over, but there are still some people out there, it shouldn't be too hard to get back inside."
Mulder bit his lip. The very last thing on earth he wanted to do was to go back. He looked up and caught impassive green eyes on him.
"I can't say I like the idea much either," Krycek agreed calmly, "but I don't think we have a choice, do you?"
Mulder sighed, "No, we don't." He hesitated as Krycek stood up again, "Ah, Alex? Look, we really do need to talk."
Although his back was turned, Krycek nodded jerkily. "I know, but not until it's over."
When they got back to the house again, it seemed much more empty. They were however greeted with casual welcome and were soon installed in their old room again.
While Mulder was showering and changing, Krycek left to 'check out some possibilities,' as he put it.
Mulder was just buttoning his shirt when Krycek returned, looking dark and cursing softly. "What is it?" he demanded.
Krycek spat something unintelligible in Russian and then said sourly, "They've discovered someone mucked around with the mainframe so they've doubled security, we're not going to get back in again."
Mulder felt like throwing something, had it all been for nothing then? The danger, the fear and the demons he'd called up from his memories. "It's over?"
Krycek wearily rubbed his neck, "I'm not sure, there are one or two possibilities I can check out." He added absently, "I've been around for a long time, and I know quite a few people, something may shake loose."
"So we stay," Mulder couldn't quite restrain a sigh.
Mulder spent the rest of the day in the library, doing some quiet research. Sitting in the oak paneled room, breathing in the dusty rich scent of old books and leather, he shook his head ruefully. This was the life he had been destined for, the quiet, unexciting existence of an academic. What was the French proverb? 'The more things change, the more they remain the same.'
A soft footfall behind made him turn his head, and he saw Alex come up to the table.
"What are you reading?" Krycek asked.
Mulder looked a little abashed, "Nothing too earth shattering actually. I found a first edition of Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein', fascinating stuff."
Krycek shook his head and didn't say anything, although the slight flash of impatience was evident. Badly wanting to change the subject, Mulder asked, "Did you find anything useful?"
Sitting down, Krycek hesitated briefly, "There is someone, but he's not coming back until tomorrow morning, Murphy, remember him?" Mulder shook his head, "he's an old ally, and enemy, of your father's." A faint smile, "a bit more of an ally than an enemy. I found out through one of the guys in security that he's got some of the mainframe files backed-up. With a little luck he might have enough of what we didn't get for Scully to puzzle it all together."
Mulder arched an eyebrow, "Is that allowed?"
Krycek gave him a sardonic smile, "Of course not, but that's never stopped anybody. The point is, unless he's changed drastically, Murphy can be bought."
Krycek shrugged, "Don't know yet, and usually it's not money he wants, he..." he hesitated choosing his next words carefully, "he's after other things; excitement, manipulation."
"Oh wonderful, " Mulder buried his head in his hands. "Christ, isn't there one normal guy in this place?"
The sudden husky laughter surprised him. "What's normal? Here, normality would make you dead very quickly." Krycek shrugged standing up, "In any case, it's time for dinner now. Come on."
A soft groan, "Don't tell me I have to change for another formal black-tie event."
Krycek shook his head, "Nah, now that the meeting is over you can chose between dining in the hall or in your room."
Mulder brightened, "Room, please." He gave Alex an almost shy look, "and you can eat with me?"
Krycek hesitated, "If you want."
Suddenly feeling more cheerful and galvanized into action, Mulder rose, "I definitely want." He swallowed down the rest of what he wanted. Since the nightmare, he hadn't so much as touched Alex. The stark fear in the green eyes had sickened him to his soul, and he never wanted to chance seeing it again. But it had not been easy not when every night since he had been on his back, staring up into the ceiling sleepless, listening to the soft even breaths of the man beside him in bed. When all he'd had to do was to reach out his and touch a smooth shoulder. When his body remembered only too well the blinding pleasure found in the velvet heat of the lean body beside him.
During dinner that night they talked more easily than they'd done for a long time. However, gradually, Mulder realized it was only his voice talking and Alex had fallen still and silent, half the food left untouched on his plate. "Why don't you try some of this?" Mulder was forking up some of his veal, and then held out his fork, "it's great." For a man who usually lived on Chinese take-out and pizza he was enjoying the recent change in his diet.
Krycek waited until his very stillness had caught Mulder's attention.
The slow, deliberate movement set the blood thudding heavily through Mulder's body as Alex leaned forward, green eyes trained steadily on the stunned hazel of the man opposite him, a pink tongue curled out. His white teeth bit into the tender meat, chewed and swallowed with obvious enjoyment.
"Mmmm..." he said softly, "you're right, it is delicious."
Mulder blinked. "Umm, Alex?"
Krycek shook his head with that small wry smile that Mulder loved curling his mouth. The one that spoke of amusement not pain. "Yes, Mulder?" The tone was very innocent.
Still uncertain but more than willing to follow Krycek's lead, Mulder put down his fork, a part of him noting his hand was actually trembling. "Should I ask what you want?" He laughed breathlessly.
Green eyes danced with humor and something warmer as Krycek stood up and moved around the table, holding out his hand. "If you have to, then I'm obviously doing something wrong."
"No," Mulder said taking his hand and rising, sliding his arms around Alex's neck, kissing him deeply. "Oh, no," he murmured again, when they had to break for air, "you're doing everything perfectly right."
Looking at him with a strange glitter in the green eyes, Krycek arched against him, taking Mulder's mouth hungrily again, with enough force that Mulder felt his lip crack and tasted his own blood, and then he almost jumped when another tongue gently pushed aside his own, exploring and soothing the tender flesh.
Still entwined they moved the few steps to the bed and sank down on it, mouths still locked to each other.
There was something different about Alex tonight, Mulder thought hazily. He seemed like a man possessed as he pulled at Mulder's clothes. There was no finesse in him, no slow skillful seduction just an almost desperate need.
Finally they were naked, chest to chest, near bursting cocks moving against each other. Krycek greedily swallowed Mulder's moan at the gentle friction, reaching down and grasping Mulder's cock, rubbing the swollen, tender head, at the same time he bent his head and started licking at Mulder's nipples, coaxing them to pebble-hardness.
Sobbing, head flung back, eyes wild, Mulder choked down a scream as Krycek slid a thigh between Mulder's open legs, moving it slowly back and forth as his hand moved around behind. His warm finger insinuating itself inside he pressed lightly on the prostate at the same time as he bit down on one nipple hard. His knee rubbed Mulder's cock. Nerve-endings overloading with sensation, Mulder was unable to hold back and with his scream muffled in Krycek's shoulder, he came hard.
Cradling Mulder's trembling body in his arm, whispering soft endearments and using his remaining hand to run light, teasing patterns down the wiry pale body, Krycek chuckled softly, the sound slithering like silk across Mulder's too sensitive skin.
He bent his head and kissed the swollen silk of the lips hovering so close, laughing into the moist welcoming cavern as Mulder silently begged for more, arching his body into Krycek's, strong hands suddenly clutching dark hair, pulling Krycek impossibly closer, as though Mulder wanted to swallow him whole.
When the hand traveled down his back, stroking long, lazy circles moving along the pale curve towards the tempting swell beneath the slenderness of the waist, Mulder opened his legs eagerly, hips pushing up to meet the questing fingers. "Fuck me," he whispered, lifting his mouth for more kisses, "please, Alex."
Sliding down Mulder's body, Krycek stopped for a moment, admiring the feast laid out before his eyes. "You would let me do anything right now, Mulder, wouldn't you?" He whispered huskily.
Mulder closed his eyes, his body dissolving, burning, "Yes," he breathed, "oh yes...." every syllable drowsy and heavy with pleasure.
Reaching out, Krycek opened the small drawer and pulled out a small tube. Squeezing some thick jelly on his fingers, he moved between Mulder's legs, coating long fingers, he reached deep inside, probing, and *touching* just there, making Mulder bite his lip and writhe in need. But then he felt Krycek's warm breath in his hair, and felt the soft chuckle whisper along his skin. "Oh no, so far I've done most of the work." Still with that devilish smile dancing in his eyes, Krycek stretched out on his back, "come here, Mulder," he murmured, using his hand to guide the other man to kneel above him, fingers splayed across one pale hip.
Mulder felt the first touch of something hot throbbing against him. He shuddered; pleasure and apprehension shaking and mingling as he slowly, oh so slowly sank down, feeling Alex's cock enter him, millimeter by millimeter. Oh god, the feeling of being stretched and filled, the burning pain shot through with the most intense pleasure he had ever felt. Tensing his thigh muscles to control the speed and angle of descent, Mulder felt sweat pour off his sides, his head flung back, moving slowly from side to side. "Oh *God* Alex!" He could feel the hard length slide slowly, oh so slowly inside him until it filled him completely. Gathering himself, he began a slow rhythm, guided by the strong hand on his hip, slowing down or speeding up. And then he felt himself turned on his stomach, Alex kneeling between his legs, sliding inside again in one smooth thrust, his hand stroking along the heated length of Mulder's cock, milking it in time to his thrusts.
Arching his hips, hands clenched to the headboard so tightly they whitened, Mulder muffled his screams of pure pleasure in the pillow.
Krycek's strong thighs imprisoned and shaped him, he was being fucked and used and he loved every moment. He felt Krycek shift; his cock driving impossibly deep inside, and the moan that broke from Mulder's lips was not unmixed with pain. Unheeding, Krycek rode him hard, fingers shifting from Mulder's cock to his shoulders as he pushed Mulder down on the bed, gripping hard enough to leave bruises, selfishly intent only on his own satisfaction.
Trapped beneath Alex, Mulder squirmed, pushing up his hips, impaling himself even deeper in his attempts to free his trapped cock. He moaned again, "Please, please..." Sweat sleeked their skin, mingling and joining the acrid scent of arousal and sex.
"No!" Krycek ordered, shifting his weight, pressing Mulder's aching cock deep into the mattress. "Don't move!"
"Alex, please..." Mulder groaned hands still locked to the headboard. But Krycek's only reply was to increase the pace until Mulder thought his spine was going to break. Fingernails scrabbling desperately across the smooth surface of the wood he pushed back, almost sobbing in his frustration at being unable to touch his cock or have Alex do it
Low husky laughter as Alex leaned forward, and whispered in his ear, the sound almost feral. "Feels good; doesn't it?"
"God yes," Mulder breathed, then jumped at the bite in his ear, hard enough to break the skin followed immediately by the sting of a wet tongue slowly licking, and when Krycek wrenched his head for a brutal kiss, Mulder could taste his own blood on Krycek's lips. "Beg me, Mulder," Alex hissed. "Beg me to fuck you."
Without shame, without hesitation, Mulder begged. "Please fuck me, fuck me, I'm yours!" he groaned in time to Krycek's thrust. Even with his aching cock trapped and crushed against the mattress the force of Krycek's thrusting the friction was enough to keep him on the edge but not enough to push him over. "Fuck, Alex!" he keened...
In answer, Krycek increased his speed and then he suddenly groaned, back arching as he came. Desperate for release Mulder couldn't believe it when Krycek simply pulled out and rolled over on his back, leaving Mulder still aching hard and unsatisfied.
"Alex?!" he asked unable to believe what was happening. He tried to catch his breath; his cock still hard and begging and his breath came in gasps.
Krycek didn't even look at him, his eyes were closed, arm flung across his face. "What?"
"You can't leave me like this!"
Krycek smiled thinly, viciously. "If you're that desperate, finish it off yourself."
The blood still pounding through his veins, Mulder bit his lip, balls heavy and aching, his gut clawing with frustrated need. "Why, Alex?" he demanded angrily. "Is this how you get your kicks?"
The dark head was turned away buried in the pillow and the broad shoulders were shaking faintly, as if Krycek was holding back sobs. But when he turned and looked at Mulder his eyes were dry. "Go to sleep, Mulder," his voice was very tired.
There was something in the face that effectively halted Mulder's anger, replacing it with cold fear.
He woke in the morning to an empty bed and an icy feeling of deja vu. However, a panicked look around revealed Alex standing by the window watching the sunrise, wearing nothing but skin. The lean, long lines of his body enough to make the breath catch in Mulder's throat and his body to harden.
Naked as well, he slipped out of bed and padded over to the other man. Pressing a kiss to one sinewy shoulder, he stroked slowly down pale flanks.
Krycek shivered and shifted slightly. But when he turned his head, the lines of pain carved deep into the deceptively youthful face stunned Mulder.
When he spoke, however, it was in a calm, almost conversational voice, "Did you know that this used to be his room?" He looked around, "the first time I ever saw it I must have been twelve or so, I can't remember... " Vaguely he added, "It used to seem a lot bigger then. I thought - " he stopped abruptly.
"You thought what?" Mulder twinned himself around Krycek, pressing quick kisses across a smooth shoulder.
Krycek smiled wearily, "I thought I could chase away the ghosts if I..." again he didn't finish.
Mulder closed his eyes, suddenly understanding the strange desperation he'd seen in the green eyes last night. "You thought if you fucked his son here it would make the father go away."
Krycek's hand dropped and he stepped away. "Something like that, yes," he admitted tiredly. He looked around, "but he's too strong for that."
"Alex, he's dead."
Krycek gave him a strange smile, "Do you really think so, Mulder?"
Uncertain of what to say or do, not wanting to be reminded of his father, Mulder just continued to touch, light, gentle caresses, slow, sensuous strokes of fingers and lips, trying by the sheer force of his love, and his desire to keep the memories at bay.
Although the hard body with its long, clean, aristocratic lines yielded easily, almost wantonly, the pain never left Krycek's eyes even as he turned and arched against Mulder.
"Come back to bed," he finally whispered against Alex's lips, tongue stroking them apart, delicately exploring.
Krycek looked at him for a moment, and then with a soft sigh he capitulated, body suddenly fluid and pliant. "Yes..." he let his head fall onto a hard pale shoulder, mouth touching the rapid pulse at the base of the taut arch of an exposed throat.
Slowly, almost as if in a dream, Krycek reached for him, sliding his hands down Mulder's body, kissing and licking his way down the flat stomach, running teasing light fingers along the sensitive skin of his inner thighs. Slowly, he wove a spell of passion and need.
It was the most exquisite, shattering experience of Mulder's life. For long moments all he could do was lay there, heart beating, filled with the wonder of it. But then, slowly, reality began to impinge on his consciousness, and he shifted slightly, feeling completely satiated lips curved into a lazy, relaxed smile. "Mmmmm..." he murmured, "that was amazing."
There was no answer and when Mulder turned his head he found Alex lying on his back, his remaining arm flung over his forehead and staring emptily into the ceiling.
"Alex?" Sudden fear sharpened his voice, as he raised himself on his elbow, touching gentle fingers to the face he loved.
Slowly, Krycek stirred and blinked, "What is it?" His voice was distant and cold as an arctic wind.
Mulder dipped his head, drinking of the swollen, flushed lips. "I love you," he said softly.
Krycek closed his eyes, a twisted ugly smile thinning his mouth. "Don't confuse sex and love, Mulder. You just haven't fucked enough guys yet."
Mulder shook his head, confused and hurt at the coldness. "Stop it, Alex," he murmured, "I don't want to fuck anyone but you."
Abruptly rolling away, Krycek rose. "I need a shower," he said over his shoulder.
Mulder sat up, "Want some company?" He tried to smile despite the knot of hurt inside him.
The only answer was a curt shake of a dark head. "Get dressed, I'll go see if Murphy's returned and if Garrett can set something up."
Helplessly Mulder watched as Krycek disappeared into the bathroom.
He was dressed and waiting with badly concealed impatience when Krycek returned. "Well?" he demanded as soon as the door opened.
Krycek was looking rather strange, but all he said was, "Not here."
He wouldn't say anything else as they gathered their things and left the house. In the car back he seemed distracted, deep in thought, very distant.
After a long look at him, Mulder decided to let him alone. He was learning through hard experience that when Alex was wearing that distant look there was no use trying to get anything out of him.
It wasn't until they were back with the Gunmen, Scully and Skinner, all of them seated at the table that Krycek quietly, succinctly told them that Murphy not only had the data they needed but was willing to trade it.
Mulder sat up straight, "This is the break we're looking for!" he exclaimed. "How much does Murphy want?"
Krycek nodded, although a barely perceptible tension had invaded his shoulders. "That's the catch," he said a little distantly.
"What is?" Mulder asked.
"His price includes..." a barely perceptible pause, "one night."
Although Mulder looked confused, Skinner was quicker on the uptake. "Out of the question," he said shortly.
Krycek gave him a faint smile, "That was my first reaction as well."
By now Mulder had caught up. "With you?" he sounded stunned. "He wants, uh, to spend the night with you?"
"That was the general idea, yes," Krycek said coolly. The shrug was in his voice, "Fuck only knows why he would want a well-used, over the hill, one-armed guy, but there is no accounting for perversion."
Dark brown eyes lit in a glimmer of real amusement. "I don't think that only perverts still want you, Krycek," Skinner said mildly, his gaze shifting to Mulder for a moment.
Catching the look, a more genuine smile twisted Krycek's lips. "Hell yes, and he's the sickest of them all."
"Hey!" Mulder felt the grin tugging at his mouth. It was all too rare to see Alex relaxed and at ease enough to joke, especially now. He felt intensely grateful to Skinner for lightening the mood. "I resent that. I'm not a pervert. Sick maybe, and definitely spooky, but not a pervert." He shifted slightly, fingers brushing against Krycek's arm, ignoring the slight stiffening, although Skinner noted it. "But Skinner's right, we don't need the data that badly."
The smile died. "The problem is, we do," Krycek said slowly. "And we can't steal it, he's too well covered. Look," he took a deep breath, "I'm not saying I'm exactly enjoying the idea myself, but hell, it's a small price to pay." He gave Mulder a warning look when the other man was about to protest, "and I'm not doing this for you guys or Scully, I'm doing it for Petya, and I would do a hell of a lot more for him - " he stopped abruptly as Mulder went white, eyes losing all their light, and the hazel turning into muddy-brown.
Krycek sighed, exasperated, "Shit, Mulder, will you stop being so fucking sensitive? I didn't mean that as a crack at you."
"Of course you did," Mulder bit his lip. "But it's okay."
In a strange way it really *was* all right. Because, as long as Krycek snapped at him, at least he didn't cut himself off. It was the one thing Mulder hated above everything else. That empty, distant look, the absent smile that said Krycek had gone away into a far-away country of the mind where Mulder couldn't follow.
Krycek said nothing, but there was a shuttered look in the green eyes, and Skinner cleared his throat, breaking the tension. "To bring things back on topic, you're sure there is no other way? I could make some phone calls, I've got some people who owe me a favor or two, I might even be able to shake out a search warrant."
Krycek smiled wryly, all sign of emotion gone. "I only wish it was that easy, Skinner, but if you do that you also blow our cover to kingdom come." He shook his head again. "Nope, we do it my way."
"You are not doing this, Alex!" Mulder glared at him from the open door.
Krycek didn't even bother to turn around. "The discussion is over, Mulder."
"No it's not!" Mulder crossed the room, glaring at Krycek, wanting to shake him. "We'll find another way, the gunmen can hack into his computer. You are *not* sleeping with this guy."
"Who said anything about sleeping?" Krycek's mouth twisted in a caustic smile.
Mulder bit down on the sarcasm that rose to his lips. "Alex, please listen to me - " he began again.
Krycek shook his head. "Stop arguing with me Mulder. We've run out of options. As I said, it's not like I haven't done it before." A shadow crossed his face and he shivered a little.
However, Mulder was too upset to notice the slight shudder. "You sound like a whore. Anyone would think you're eager to do this," he said bitterly, and then could have bit his tongue off.
Krycek gave him an incredulous look. "Oh yeah, Mulder, I just *love* being fucked and used by a fat slobbering bastard who gets off on pain and submission."
Unspoken but hovering in the air between them were Krycek's memories of another time and place. When it was the man facing him now who had used his body. When it was Mulder who had fed on his pain and hatred.
Krycek reacted, as he always did, by withdrawing, mentally and physically.
"Alex, I'm sorry," Mulder whispered, wondering savagely how many times he had said the words to the man in front of him.
He wondered how many ways there were to hurt the one person he had come, albeit unwillingly, to love. Because he was flooded with guilt, his voice, when he continued, sounded surly. "I'm not blaming you."
"Forget it, Mulder," Krycek said, pulling the covers around him, rolling on his side. "Good night."
"Alex..." there was so much he wanted, needed, to say. To explain. But the back turned to him was stiff and uncommunicative. With a sigh, he said, "Good night," and curled up on his side, soon asleep.
When he woke in the morning, Krycek was gone.
However, when he came outside, Krycek was waiting for him, sunglasses covering his eyes. Without preamble he said, "You're going to have to talk to Murphy."
Mulder stared at him. "You want me to *what*?!"
"I need you to broker the deal." Krycek's mouth twisted, "you own me, he can't move without your permission."
"Are you seriously asking me to be your fucking pimp!?"
"Yes." The answer was short, uncompromising. "You just don't get it, do you, Mulder? Nothing matters, nothing except to get that data. So yes, and I am not asking you, I'm telling you to do this."
"And if I don't?" Mulder was too angry to back down.
The car arrived and slid to a stop by the curb. Krycek opened the door, waiting for Mulder to get in. "Ah, but you will do exactly as I want," he took Mulder's jaw in a steel grip, kissing him deeply until Mulder felt his lips soften and part in helpless pleasure, his body arching in reflective need. Krycek drew back a little and smiled cynically, "you'll do it or you'll never have that again," he said calmly.
Mulder spent the entire ride to the house fuming in silent fury. How dared Alex give him ultimatums? How fucking dare he?! His eyes narrowed into icy slits. By god, if Krycek wanted to be treated like fucking property, then that's what he'd be!
He did not realize how much he resembled his father in that moment, nor how deeply he had fallen into his undercover persona.
When they arrived at the house, Mulder got out and slammed the car door behind him. Krycek's eyes narrowed when he saw the pale set face, but before he could say anything Garrett oozed up as they entered the house. "Mr. Mulder, Krycek, Mr. Murphy said he will unfortunately be delayed and will be here after lunch."
"Fine," Mulder said shortly, "come on, Alex." He stormed up the stairs.
He didn't hear Garrett's soft lascivious chuckle, or see Krycek's sudden wariness as he followed Mulder followed upstairs.
As soon as the door closed behind them Mulder slammed Krycek against the wall, an arm against his throat, the other roaming impatiently, pulling up the T-shirt, unzipping the jeans. "You're *mine*, Alex," Mulder said between clenched teeth, staring into narrowing green eyes. "Mine!"
"Fuck you, Mulder!" Krycek spat back.
Mulder laughed bitterly, "My pleasure. You wanted me to be like dad? Well, congratulations, you've got what you wanted!"
Krycek's eyes suddenly widened, and his body went tense. "No," he shook his head. He took a deep shuddering breath. "Back off, Mulder."
Mulder smiled unpleasantly. "Not a chance. Ever since we started this fucking insane plan of yours I've been jumping through hoops. 'Do this, Mulder, be that, Mulder.' I've had it with being ordered around!" He spat, "Now shut the fuck up and spread or I'll fucking leave!"
Not doubting that Mulder would do as he threatened, Krycek suddenly went limp, not protesting as Mulder wrenched his jeans off and pushed him towards the bed.
He fell forward on his stomach, landing heavily. Krycek felt Mulder nudging his legs apart. Closing his eyes, he made no sound, not even when Mulder slammed deep inside him, careless of anything but his own pleasure, his own anger.
Dimly in his ear, he heard Mulder's low furious voice calling him names, 'whore', 'slut', 'possession'. He wanted to scream "no!" but it was too much effort so he just closed his eyes and rode it out, allowing his body to surrender and tried his best to forget how many times before he had been in the same position, on his stomach, a man between his open legs, his body ground into the mattress by the force of the thrusting. He tried to forget how many times it was this man's father who had pinned him down and hurt him in this room, on this bed...
Mulder thrust deep and came with a groan slumping against the still body beneath him. For a few moments he remained where he was, panting, trying to catch his breath.
Abruptly his eyes widened in horror as he realized what he'd done. Withdrawing as gently as he could to avoid any more pain, his stomach clenched at the sight of the blood on his cock.
"Oh fuck, Alex!" his throat closed as he silently cursed his temper. "Oh, hell, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry!" He reached out in desperate regret, hands as gentle as they had been brutal before. He knelt beside the body, kissing the bruises marring the texture as tears fell on the hot damp skin.
Krycek remained where he was, still on his stomach, head turned away from Mulder, breathing in a low, even rhythm.
"Alex, please look at me," Mulder whispered filled with self-loathing and fear. Again he tried to reach out, to comfort and soothe. Krycek flinched at the touch, his body stiff and unresponsive. Ignoring the silence Mulder continued to hold and rock and stroke, "I'm sorry," he whispered huskily, again and again.
When Krycek jerked away, turning his head, there was a thin trickle of blood dripping down his chin where he'd had bitten his lip to prevent the sounds of pain.
Mulder wondered if it was possible to feel any more terrible. When, moments later Krycek got up from the bed and said evenly over his shoulder, "Get dressed, Murphy is waiting," Mulder knew he could.
Apologizing was useless he knew as Krycek disappeared into the bathroom and slowly, wearily he pulled his clothes back on, wondering if in a few minutes of madness he had destroyed all his hopes for the future.
When he came out of the bathroom again there was still no discernible expression on Krycek's face. He went over to his bag and bent unzipping it and pulling out a clean shirt and pair of jeans. Dressing, Mulder saw a flash of pale skin and to his own shame felt the responding tug inside.
"Ah, Alex," he stood up and crossed the room. Careful to keep his distance he said quietly, "How do I do this?"
Krycek spared him a single glance. "Don't worry about it, Murphy will know what to do." He straightened. "Let's go."
Helpless and frustrated, Mulder followed.
"Ah, there you are, Mr. Mulder," Murphy greeted him jovially, coming down the stairs, not even glancing at Krycek standing silent by Mulder's side. "Have you considered my proposal?"
Mulder longed to plant his fist in the fat face with its small pig eyes. However, he forced himself to smile politely. "I have." He looked at Murphy, and heard his voice go cold and hard. "There are however some conditions."
"First of all I want payment in advance."
Murphy nodded, "Understood, you will have half the data within the hour." He smiled thinly, "and the rest afterwards."
"The second condition is, I don't want him harmed."
Small eyes narrowed into mere slits. "Define harmed."
Although Mulder had to choke back hot rage, his face remained impassive. Alex would be proud of him, he thought vaguely. "No open wounds, no injuries that would incapacitate him, and no..." he paused, "no tearing."
Murphy looked like a sulky boy. "Ah shit, Mulder, you drive a hard bargain."
Mulder just looked at him unemotionally. "Take it or leave it." Although he knew that this was the key to helping Scully and Peter Krycek he prayed that the bastard would refuse. But no such luck.
"Fine, I'll transmit half of the data immediately. I'll give him the rest of it." He turned away and left, still without looking at Krycek.
"Fucking bastard!" Mulder snarled once they were safely back in their private room.
Krycek shrugged, his voice very tired. "He's no worse than any of the others."
Mulder said quietly, "It's still not too late to pull out. You don't have to do this."
"Yes, I do." Krycek actually smiled a little. "And you know what Mulder? It's okay, because for the first time it'll actually mean something." He turned away, "I have to go."
Safe House, Washington DC
Unable to stand a night knowing what was going on in another room, Mulder made some excuse and fled the house. He had never felt so helpless or frustrated in his life.
They were all in the crowded and messy living room watching the clock move.
Although Byers and Langley were talking softly, neither Skinner nor Mulder made any effort to pretend that they weren't waiting. The clock had already passed three when a sudden noise made them all stiffen. Then the door opened and Krycek stumbled through it. He stared at them, eyes too wide, face flushed.
"Hey, what are you guys doing up? You didn't have to wait up for me to come home," he said carelessly. He dug through his leather jacket, coming up with a computer disc. "Here you are," he flipped the disc to Frohike who caught it automatically, "all bought and paid for."
He suddenly started to shake.
Both Skinner and Mulder rose, and for a moment he flinched at the sight of them coming towards him, a blind panicked look in bottle-green eyes. Skinner saw, recognized it for what it was, and swore silently.
"Krycek," Skinner said quietly, taking charge and gesturing sharply for Mulder to stay back. "Alex?" he repeated gently, "it's all right, you're home, you're safe," he continued to talk in a low, steady voice, all the time approaching slowly until he was standing so close he could see the faint, rapid breathing, the emptiness in the green eyes. Still he didn't touch the other man. "Come on," he said calmly, "what you need is a shower."
Ignoring Mulder's concern and the Gunmen's wide-eyed interest, Skinner herded Krycek into the room he shared with Mulder, blessing the fact that it was next door to the tiny grotty bathroom. Still talking in a calm, deliberately casual tone, he knelt digging through the canvas bag on the floor for clean clothes.
Finally there was the sound of a shower.
He waited patiently, but when Krycek hadn't come out after twenty minutes, Skinner straightened, mouth narrowing and opened the bathroom door. A cloud of steam met him, and he choked for a moment, vapor hitting his glasses and making him temporarily blind.
When he could see again, he crossed the floor to find Krycek sitting on the floor of the shower-stall a brush he'd found somewhere still in his hand. Patches of red showed where he had tried to scrub himself raw. "I can't get clean," he said blankly not looking at Skinner. "No matter how I rub, I can't get rid of the smell and taste of him."
Vaguely surprised by the sudden sting of compassion and hell yes, pity, that coursed through him, Skinner said in a calm, level voice. "I know, Krycek." Approaching carefully, he knelt on the floor, unheeding of the water wetting his jeans. "Here, let me help," he said picking up the soap and using his hands and a washing cloth he found, he lathered it up and started to clean the reddened tender skin.
"Fuck," Krycek muttered, head bent, shivering under the large hands that gently stroked down his back, washing away the stench of pudgy, sweaty, fingers pawing at him. "I don't know why the hell I'm not dealing with this." He hated the thought of being vulnerable, especially in front of Walter Skinner.
Skinner, following his train of thoughts easily, said wryly, "Don't be too hard on yourself, Krycek. Humans, and that includes you more or less, have an amazing power of recovery. You've managed to forget quite a bit in the last two years, so it's bound to be hard to get back into the shit again."
Krycek managed a grin, "You're all heart, Skinner," he said with cool irony, but no real hostility. "Anyone ever tell you your bedside manner sucks?"
Reaching out for a towel, rubbing down pale shoulders and back with brisk impersonal movements, Skinner replied, "Frequently. But luckily for me, bedside manners aren't a part of FBI duties." Now dry, he guided Krycek back into his small room, handing him some jeans and a sweatshirt. Dropping the towel, Krycek took the clothes, unconcerned with his nudity.
Skinner swallowed and looked away, clearing his throat a little uncomfortably.
When he looked back again, Krycek was watching him with a familiar baiting amusement. "Sorry," he said, not sounding it in the least. "Didn't mean to embarrass you."
Skinner shot him a look, "I don't embarrass so easily," he growled to hide his discomfort.
A flippant grin, "Ah, in that case..." he slowly and deliberately arched, passing so close by Skinner could swear he *felt* the texture of the silky skin sliding past him.
While he could understand Krycek's need to regain his equilibrium and some of the self-respect that had been stripped from him by tonight, there was a limit to his patience. "Go to bed, Krycek," he said gruffly, turning away.
There was a soft rustle of sheets, and when Skinner turned around Krycek had crawled beneath the covers, huddling into their warmth. With his eyes closed and long black lashes resting against the smooth paleness of his skin, he looked deceptively young and vulnerable. A long slow shudder traveled through the lean body and then another.... and another.
Like many big men, there was a hidden, rich vein of gentleness in Skinner. It had been masked by his experience, first in 'Nam and later in the FBI, and he had played the part of gruff, unemotional FBI agent with great skill. However, it showed in little things. Like the bag of birdseed he carried in his brief-case, and how during lunch he would go to a nearby park and sit on a bench eating a sandwich and feed the birds.
He hesitated only briefly, and then he walked over to the bed and sat down. Another hesitation and then he put a single hand on the nearest shoulder, ready to withdraw if Krycek shrugged it off.
The only reaction was a single deep breath and then complete stillness once more.
Skinner didn't say anything, didn't move apart from that light touch, but slowly the tremors decreased and the wire-tense muscles began to ease.
Skinner wasn't sure how long he sat there, listening to the soft even breaths slow, feeling the limbs gradually uncurl and relax into sleep. Sitting in the darkness, some lines from a story he'd read as a child ran through his memory; "But the wildest of all the wild animals was the Cat. He walked by himself and all places were alike to him." That described Krycek perfectly. A complex tightly-wound man who had walked through darkness and emerged, if not whole, then comparably sane.
It was hours later when Skinner finally stood up and slowly stretched. Krycek didn't move, deeply asleep, and didn't even stir as Skinner opened and then closed the door quietly.
Outside he nearly fell over Mulder who sat with his back against the door, slumped over on the floor, half-asleep. Blinking, the younger man sat up and yawned. "How is he, sir?"
Letting some of the anger he felt boiling inside, anger at himself and the situation, through, he hear himself growl, "How do you think he is? He's just whored himself out to a man he hates. How the fuck do you think he feels?"
Recoiling from the glare, Mulder blinked at the unexpected ferocity. "Hey, no need to bite my head off."
Rubbing the bridge of his nose, Skinner sighed. "Sorry, Mulder, I shouldn't take it out on you." He gave his agent a dry look; "I never thought I'd say this, but, poor bastard." There was no joy in the truth that no matter how much he wanted to deny it, they were not so different after all, he and Krycek.
Mulder smiled a little ruefully, "I know the feeling sir, but he rather grows on you."
Skinner nodded, and then said, "Leave him alone for now, Mulder."
Mulder looked reluctant but something in Skinner's voice must have convinced him because when stood up, he stretched slowly and then wandered off towards the room where Frohike and Langley were working.
Dawn had already begun to creep over the horizon when Mulder returned to the room he shared with Krycek. Stumbling a little, yawning, he undressed slowly, letting his clothes fall where he threw them. Krycek was still asleep, curled into an almost fetal ball.
Getting into bed Mulder yawned again, and was tempted to reach out and pull Alex into his arms. Unfortunately he had quickly learned that Krycek hated being held during the night. The first time Mulder had tried to cuddle, Krycek had nearly broken his neck, and the bruises on his chest had just begun to fade.
When Mulder woke up the next morning he was alone. Alex had obviously been gone for some time judging by the coolness of the sheets and the almost unnoticeable indentation on the pillow beside him. Mulder stretched lazily, reveling in the realization that it was finally over. That he would never have to return to the house, to the old men who so carelessly re-opened wounds that had barely had time to scab. The old men had frightened him more than facing vampires and zombies ever did, by their calm conviction that he was Bill Mulder's true son.
Getting up, Mulder focused on the fact that finally he and Alex could begin to sort out their complicated relationship. The past days had taught him one thing at least; he would do whatever it took to keep Alex in his life. Yes, today they would talk and perhaps lay some ghosts permanently to rest.
However, Krycek proved strangely elusive. He seemed to avoid Mulder and Skinner with equal zeal, spending most of the day on the computer watched over by Langley and Frohike. Judging by the new respect in their eyes, Mulder assumed Alex knew what he was doing, something proven when Frohike told him, with awe, that Krycek had managed to access databases even the Gunmen hadn't known existed.
Standing in the small dingy bedroom that night, Mulder yawned. He heard Krycek enter and turned his head, "I never thought I'd be so happy to see this dump again," he said easily.
Peeling off his jacket, Krycek threw it across the chair by the window. "Yeah, is Scully okay? I heard you talking on the phone before dinner."
Scully had moved to the university where she was working with her former professor to decipher the data. Professor Handelman had professed himself fascinated by her research and offered the use of the university's facilities. They had all agreed that Scully working there was the best thing possible.
Mulder smiled. "She's fine. She sounded very grumpy when I asked if she needed any help." He grinned at Krycek's expression. "No, that means everything is going fine." Wryly, "you've never seen Scully when she's on the trail of something have you? She said she and Professor Handelman were pursuing some very interesting possibilities. In Scully-speak that means they're dancing up and down with excitement." He shook his head, "I know people think I'm dedicated, even obsessed, but they've never seen Scully in a lab. I only hope she'll remember to eat. Remind me to send some Chinese take-out to the university tomorrow."
"I envy you, Mulder," Krycek said softly, eyes suddenly a little wistful.
"Envy me what?" Mulder asked startled.
"Scully. She would walk through fire for you. She already has. You have any idea what that kind of loyalty is worth?"
Hazel eyes turned thoughtful. "I guess I never really think about it," Mulder admitted, "we're partners."
Krycek smiled wryly, "You're more than that. You'd die for each other, you're there for one another whatever it takes." He paused and then said softly, "I've often wondered what it would be like to trust someone like that. Unconditionally. Whatever you do she backs you, even if everyone else thinks you're a murderer or lunatic or even dead, Scully won't give up."
"You sound as though you're in love with her," Mulder joked a little uncomfortably.
Krycek didn't laugh. Instead he said rather pensively, "I think if things were different I could have been. I sure as hell respect her, she's got guts and morals and - " he broke off and smiled rather sardonically, "everything you and I don't have."
Mulder arched an eyebrow, "Speak for yourself."
"Oh come on Mulder, it's too late to pretend you're a lily-white innocent any longer." The husky voice took on a slight edge. "Face it, Mulder, you and I are more alike than you're willing to admit."
Mulder wondered if he should be angry, but he didn't feel like getting angry or arguing. What he wanted was something very different.
Mulder crossed the room in a few easy strides. "I rather like the sound of that," he said, pulling Alex into his arms.
"Like what?" Krycek didn't flinch away, but he didn't respond either. Green eyes unreadable, he was deceptively relaxed.
"You and I. Us." Free of the Consortium and the dark memories, Mulder felt giddy with relief. He wanted to laugh and fuck and... pushing Krycek against the wall he pinned the other man lightly. They were almost the same height and he just had to lean forward the few inches that separated them and kissed the tempting lips. Krycek closed his eyes, neither responding nor rejecting, just standing there quietly while Mulder explored his mouth.
"You're so beautiful," Mulder murmured, stroking the face, the pad of his thumb lazily following the curve of sensuous lips. "I love you, Alex."
Krycek jerked away violently.
Confusion widened hazel eyes, as Mulder watched internal shields slam up and into place. "What is it?" he asked genuinely bewildered.
Very distantly, Krycek told him, "That's what *he* used to say. 'Hold still, Alex... you'll love this, Alex... I love you Alex...' " His fist knotted, "Don't you fucking dare tell me, I'm *beautiful*" he spat the last word.
"I am not my father!" It was a desperate, furious explosion of sound.
"I know!" Krycek turned away, "but it doesn't really matter." he turned and gave Mulder a long, level look, "Every time I look at you I see Bill Mulder." His mouth stretched into a mirthless smile. "You have no idea just how alike the two of you are. You pursue the 'truth' as fanatically as he ever did his covert projects. What you did, the deal you cut with the smoker. That's something *he* would have done."
"Jesus, Alex," how often do I have to tell you I'm sorry? That I would give anything I own to take it all back?!" Mulder wanted to bang his head against the wall in howling frustration.
There was a terrible weariness in the husky voice, "Truth is, I don't give a fuck how sorry you are."
He paused and smiled bitterly, his words mocking Mulder's remorse. "I know I forced you into the deal with Murphy, but I have to hand it to you, you handled the deal like a real pro."
Mulder whitened at the reminder of his fury and where it had led them.
Krycek continued, his voice a level torment. "Want to know how often I stood beside your father while he did the same?" Again there was a profound weariness in his voice. "How many times he took out his frustration and anger on me?"
Mulder stared at him, his insides torn into shreds. He could have dealt with anger, even hatred, but Alex's anguish defeated him. The knowledge that through his own hatred, his own actions he had brought them to this pierced his heart. "I love you," he repeated helplessly.
"Yob tvoyu mat'!" Krycek spat suddenly blazingly angry. "This isn't a fucking soap, Mulder. Falling in love isn't the automatic answer whenever something goes wrong in your life!"
He laughed without humor. "You lose your job, your fucking dog dies, fall in love and suddenly everything is sunshine and roses. Surprise, that's not the way it works in real life."
Mutely, Mulder stared at the man facing him, wondering why every effort to win his forgiveness, every attempt to bridge the darkness of their past backfired? Always leaving him powerless in the knowledge that the chasm between them widened as he grasped desperately, hopelessly for something as elusive as marsh fire.
He bit his lip and tried again, because not to try was simply not an alternative. "Alex, I can't change the past, no matter how much I want to, but at least give me a chance to show you how different things could be between us."
The sound that fell from Krycek's lips was too bitter to be called a laugh. "Yeah, right." His lip curled, "and what happens the next time you get angry? The next time you remember who I am; who I was?"
Mulder flinched violently. "It won't," he said in a strangled tone. "I'm not going to let it." He took a deep breath, keeping his emotions in tight check. "Alex, I know that this whole Consortium deal has had us all pretty strung out; I mean neither of us was at our best. That was a lot of past, of memories we had to deal with. But, well, it's all over now." He strove for a light tone. "All we have to do is let Scully work her magic, and Peter will be safe."
That if nothing else would surely reach Alex.
There was no answering smile as Krycek snarled, "Just leave me the fuck alone, Mulder!" he turned and left abruptly.
Leaving Mulder still calling his name, Krycek walked outside, breathing in deeply the cool fresh night air. The darkness of the night embraced him and welcomed him back into its familiar cloak of protection and concealment. It would be so easy to become what he once was, to let the shadows swallow him again.
Krycek shook his head sharply, rejecting the emotion whispering through his mind. That wasn't who he was, not any longer.
He held the memories of the past two years to him like a shield. The memories of Peter coming home throwing his back-pack in a corner, drinking milk out of the cartoon and playing the terrible noise he called music loud enough to shatter the windows. Of watching Saturday morning cartoons in the kitchen together. Of long golden afternoons spent fishing together. Of standing in the bookstore smiling at the customers, feeling the warmth inside at their casual greetings, knowing that for the first time in his life he belonged somewhere.
That was the Alex Krycek he was. The Alex Krycek he wanted desperately to be.
Returning inside he hesitated. He couldn't go back to the room he shared with Mulder. He was too weary; too torn, to deal with Mulder's emotions.
Especially if Mulder was going to continue stubbornly insist on declaring his eternal devotion. Krycek's mouth twisted cynically. What Mulder felt was not love but sexual obsession and guilt wrapped up in a package Fox Mulder's mind could accept. For a moment he wondered if it wouldn't be easier to just let Mulder screw himself raw and get it out of his system. But fuck, he had told Scully the truth that time in San Jose, he didn't owe Mulder a damn thing.
That's when, for some insane reason, he suddenly thought of Skinner and the strange understanding he had read in the usually so hostile brown eyes last night. Without volition he found his feet turning past Mulder's room and he watched his hand raise and knock on the closed door.
"Come in!" A deep voice called out.
For a moment he stood, poised to flee, questioning his sanity and the reason for being here. Suddenly it was too late, and the door opened in his face, and all he could do was remain where he was, silent, uncertain, as he met the cool eyes of the man facing him.
Skinner had obviously been about to go to bed and was wearing nothing but his jeans. The glasses Krycek always suspected he wore more for protective camouflage than anything else had been put aside for the night.
In silence he stared at the hard body, outlined in the moonlight spilling across the floor painting a silver pool and for a moment panic gripped him. The memory of other bodies, big, hurtful bodies. Large hands whose grip bruised and pawed, probing his body with casual lust. He swallowed, and as he had done so many times before, deliberately closed off a part of his soul, of his mind. That detachment was what had allowed him to survive whatever they'd done to his body. It was what allowed him to step forward, a lazy, sensuous smile shaping his lips, his head tilted. Old tricks, and he felt himself slide back into another time, another life. A time when he was a possession to be owned and used.
Tonight, as past and present and future collided he found he needed comfort, as never before and if the price was the use of his body, it wasn't a bargain he was unused to.
"Skinner," ah yes, just the right touch of huskiness.
"Krycek," Skinner seemed a little surprised. "Did you want something?"
He wondered what Skinner would say if he answered, 'you.' Abruptly he knew that it was not a lie if not the complete truth either. In a strange way he did want Walter Skinner. "Not really, I just thought we'd talk."
Still relaxed, Skinner asked, "What about?"
A slow, rippling shrug, "I wanted to say thank you. I didn't mean to fall apart." He smiled faintly, "not a pretty sight, I know."
Skinner raised an eyebrow, "I've seen worse." A strange understanding threaded through his voice when he added. "No thanks necessary, either, I know last night was tough."
He nodded, somehow sure that the other man did know. Yes, Walter Skinner would understand in a way that Mulder never could. He took another step. "I..." and then he stopped not sure how to continue, for once in his life very uncertain.
Oh on some level he had always known that Skinner wanted him, although the man hid it well beneath that stony-faced FBI AD mask, the signs were easy enough to read. The real question was; would lust transcend hatred?
The two men stared at each in silence, Skinner's face unreadable, and once again Krycek had to question his sanity for coming here. What did he expect? Did he really think that Walter Skinner would so easily forget the past? And for what? A fuck with Alex Krycek, the man he hated?
Skinner waited, unmoving, but his eyes had darkened and his body gone tense and still in a predatory crouch.
Krycek hesitated and then slowly almost tentatively he tilted his head slightly, exposing his throat in a mute, primeval surrender. Half closing his eyes he waited for Skinner to take what was offered.
Instead of the expected response, Skinner simply touched one shoulder lightly and then stilled again. When puzzled green eyes focused on him, he said quietly, deeply, "Is this what you want?"
Used to Mulder's impatient arrogant demands, for a moment Krycek was disconcerted. Finally he nodded once and in reply, without words, Skinner slowly reached out and pulled him into strong muscular arms.
Held closely, Krycek relaxed a little. It was complete madness, and something that would have to be paid for in the morning, but at this moment nothing mattered except a need to be held in the ephemeral illusion of safety and desire.
Green eyes lit in an ironic smile. Had anyone asked yesterday if he could ever imagine himself held by AD Walter Skinner, he would have told him to go check into the nearest funny farm.
His mouth twisted in bitter cynical amusement. Once again a man who wouldn't shake his hand in public, would happily fuck him.
For a long time, Skinner simply held him in silence; the only sound the quiet steady taking and releasing of breaths. Finally he shifted and moved towards the bed, sinking down on it, never releasing the man in his arms, maneuvering them until they were side by side, facing each other.
Bending his neck and burying his face in the broad chest, Krycek stilled in resignation, knowing that it was time to pay. He lightly touched the small hollow at the base of Skinner's throat with his tongue, a small murmur of satisfaction humming in his throat feeling the responding shiver and increase in the pulse beating there.
Sliding his leg between Skinner's, moving close, rubbing lightly against the mass of muscles and sinews that held him in a warm and yet light grip, he smiled as he felt Skinner's cock harden against his thigh. He shivered a little and told himself silently, no, don't think of big cocks ripping tender tissue apart, big hands holding him down with bruising force. Lifting his head, he kissed his way up a suddenly tense throat lapping up the tiny beads of moisture breaking from the skin.
"Mmm," he smiled lazily, spine fluid as he melted into the bigger man. Shifting so he could get his hand free, he trailed his fingers over suddenly clenched stomach muscles, down lower, hovering teasingly just above the straining, twitching cock. When he suddenly felt a large hand close around his wrist.
"No." Skinner said deeply, eyes dark and unfathomable. It was the first word he'd uttered since he'd pulled Alex into his arms.
"You don't want to fuck me?" Krycek raised an eyebrow, staring at the hardness close to his hand.
Skinner, followed his look, and actually chuckled. "Yes, I do. But that's not all I want."
Krycek frowned suddenly very wary. "What are you talking about?"
The AD looked at him thoughtfully, and then said calmly, "I have no interest in just a quick fuck, Alex." Krycek started, it was the first time Skinner had used anything but 'Krycek.'
All kinds of alarm bells were going off as Krycek stiffened and pulled away. "What the hell are you talking about?"
A quiet chuckle was the answer, as Skinner calmly pulled him back again into his arms. "I'm talking about making love, not fucking. I'm not a boy at the mercy of his hormones. I want more."
Krycek bit his lip; this wasn't going as he'd planned. He almost jumped as a blunt finger slowly smoothed the delicate arch of a dark eyebrow.
"I want to make love, Alex."
Skinner gently but firmly removed the hand from his thigh. "And you don't want that, not yet." Again he shook his head at the automatic protest. "You're going to learn, if it kills me, that someone can want more than just your body, great as it is, or your skill in bed."
He bent his head and tasted the mouth, firm lips opening easily tongue meeting and curling around Krycek's. However, then he drew back whispering, "Tonight, Alex, let me just hold you..." he felt the bunching of tense muscles as Krycek made another abortive attempt to flee, before suddenly going limp and boneless.
Bitterly shamed Krycek fought the tightness in his throat, telling himself that this was ridiculous. For fuck's sake, what was he doing?! Jesus, was he completely mad?
Why the hell couldn't Skinner just do what he was supposed to? Why couldn't he be like Mulder and just greedily take what was offered?
No, instead the fucker just continued stroking his back, making quiet comforting noises.
Christ it had been so long. So fucking long since he cried, and even longer since someone just held him.
Abruptly the memory breached the walls he'd placed around it.
"Hush, Aloysha, we'll be fine."
The boy in her arms sniffled and rubbed the tears from his cheeks leaving them oddly stripped. "I'm scared, Tatya. I don't want to leave you again."
She shook her head, rocking him, "Don't be. I'm not going to let anything happen to you." She kissed him on the nose, "We'll always be together, no matter what."
The boy smiled, leaning his head against her breast, one thin hand gently stroking her distended belly. "You, me and the baby." He looked up into her eyes, as green as his own, but with even fewer illusions. "Are you happy about the baby, Tatya?"
The woman, a girl in years only, smiled wearily. "I don't know, Alyosha." She put her hand over his and together they could feel the faint movements beneath the skin. "You know I hate the man who fathered it, but the baby..." she was silent for a long time and then finally shook her head. "No, I can't hate it. It's already a part of me, of us."
Curling into the thin body of the only person in the world he loved, who loved him, Alex Krycek closed his eyes, soothed by the steady beat of her heart beneath his ear, her arms around him, stroking his back and hair. And then he heard her whisper, "I love you, Alyosha. Sleep little one, I'll be here when you wake up and always. You're not alone..."
"...Alone. You're not alone, Alex."
By some diabolical twist of fate Skinner echoed Tatya's words. That was the moment Krycek finally gave up the uneven fight and closed his eyes tightly. His chest heaved with dry sobs as he fought for control.
He had not cried when Tatya died in childbirth, her body too narrow for the baby that tore it's way out of her. He had not cried when Bill Mulder and a succession of men raped and beat his body and twisted his soul. He had never shed a tear over the men he had killed so efficiently at his masters' orders.
Distantly he heard Skinner's deep voice saying quietly, "Let go, Alex."
Shaking his head violently in negation, every muscle in his body tensed against memories that would have broken any other man.
A single tear slid down his face and fell on Skinner's chest.
In the arms of a man he didn't trust, who hated him, he cried without tears for his past, for the boy he had been and for the man he was.
He mourned without words what that man had been forced to do in the name of survival as the memory of last night filled him. He had closed his eyes while Murphy grunted and thrust into his body and wondered if the freedom he had fought so hard for had all been a illusion, a fantasy and he was still owned by men without humanity or mercy.
Once he managed to gather himself together again, Krycek's heart suddenly began to pound heavily, as he realized he had just handed himself to Skinner on a plate. He wondered what price this man, his enemy, would ask for this moment of weakness.
Pulling away slightly, he said dryly, striving for a casual tone. "Guess I've really blown the image as a cold-blooded killer, huh?"
Skinner chuckled as he firmly pulled Krycek back again. "Everyone, even assassins are allowed to show their emotion once in a while."
A long thoughtful look through long dark lashes, "Does that include ex-Marine FBI AD's?"
Skinner smiled, shifting lightly, pulling Krycek even tighter against him. "Even them," he agreed solemnly.
They lay in silence for a long while, and then Krycek whispered into the darkness, "Thanks."
"Don't mention it," Skinner's deep voice was very soft.
"Sir, have you...?" Mulder's voice trailed away and he stared in open-mouth shock at the sight of the dark head resting on one broad shoulder. "This is not happening," he said calmly. "This is fucking not happening."
"Mulder - " Skinner growled a warning as he began to sit up, moving away.
Krycek chose that moment to open his eyes and stretch lazily. "Good morning."
Suddenly his gaze fell on the frozen figure framed by the door. "Oh shit," he said softly.
A slam of the door was his answer. Krycek stared at the closed door with a rueful smile. "I better go after him," he said, shaking his head at, Skinner's unspoken protest. "No, it's my problem, Skinner, not yours." He freed himself from the brawny arms that still held him.
He stood for a moment looking down at the big man in the bed, eyes unreadable. In the light of the day it was too easy to remember that they had once been enemies. "Well, I guess I'll see you around," he murmured a little uncomfortably.
Skinner rose and stretched slowly, "Oh I think you can rather count on it, since I'm the one making breakfast." He waited until the thinned lips had relaxed fractionally into a smile, and then continued blandly, "it's not every day you'll have breakfast cooked by an FBI AD, better make the most of it."
Krycek had to force himself to stillness when a heavy hand settled on his shoulder. "Alex, I'm not going to forget about last night, and neither will you." Skinner looked at him, something dangerous suddenly crossing the austere lines of his face and glimmered in dark eyes.
Guarded green eyes gave him back look for look. "I won't." A brief hesitation and then Krycek said distantly, "You said I wouldn't like the way you played. Is that what this is?" He knew only too well that after last night Skinner had him by the throat. The only question was what the older man would do with his advantage.
Skinner shook his head. "No games, Alex." He gave the younger man a level look. "I fight fair and I never bring a fight into the bedroom." He paused, "do you understand what I'm saying?"
Krycek nodded jerkily. "I understand."
"Good," Skinner said steadily. "I just wanted to make that clear. Now go talk to Mulder, I'm going to see if there is anything beside saturated fats in the refrigerator." He shook his head, "I tried to tell them about nutrition, and Frohike just looked at me and said, and I quote 'oh you mean the four food-groups, fat, sugar, carbs and food coloring?'"
Krycek was actually smiling when he closed the door and went to find Mulder.
He finally found the other man at the back of the house, where the Gunmen had stored whatever was too bulky to fit into their temporary home. Mulder was leaning against a satellite dish, staring blindly into the distance.
"I'm sorry you had to see that..."
Fox Mulder would have known that husky voice anywhere although he didn't acknowledge it in any way, except to tense a little.
Krycek came up by his side. "But I'm not sorry about anything else," he said coolly.
Mulder turned and pinned him with a look. "No, I guess you don't know much about fidelity and trust," he said and heard the blunt unspoken accusation in the words.
A faint, ironic smile, "True enough." He leaned on the railing. "He... he made me feel safe, Mulder. Safe and warm," Krycek finally said softly, almost hesitantly. "Last night, nothing happened. We talked," there was a note of wonder in his voice. "We just talked," he repeated.
Mulder clenched his hands to keep from reaching out, from shaking the other man, to imprint once again that Alex was *his*. He controlled the impulse and said, a little too evenly, "Talk to me Alex. Tell me what's wrong."
Krycek smiled without humor. "There's nothing wrong, except that you're changing the rules. Look, we had a bargain, you helped with the Consortium and in return you could fuck me. That's all it was."
This time there was no hiding the shock. "Is that really what you think we have?!"
A long level look. "Yes."
"I... I thought we were falling in love," Mulder said harshly.
Krycek laughed shortly. "Love never entered into it. Christ, Mulder, how the hell could you ever think it did?" There was geniuine surprise in his voice. He almost reminded Mulder of the past, he almost asked the other man if he remembered their last meeting in a hotel room and what he had said then.
It was only shock that kept Mulder upright. For the past day he had let himself hope. He had believed that Alex had finally let go of the past.
He stared at Krycek, eyes blind and shocked. "I love you," he whispered.
A tired, cynical smile twisted the beautiful mouth he had kissed only yesterday. "I told you before, don't mistake sex for love." Krycek turned away.
"Wait!" He could feel Alex slip away between his fingers, all his dreams and hopes turning to ashes and dust in his hands, and so he allowed pride, and anger, to rule him. "I want you out of our room tonight," he said coldly, "If you've got the hots for Skinner so badly, go crawl into his bed."
A shadow of regret was followed swiftly by something close to relief. Krycek started to say something, then changed his mind, and just said quietly, "I'll move my stuff out."
He walked away without another word.
It was the start of an extremely uncomfortable day. Understanding the necessity for laying low in case anyone in the Consortium realized what they'd done, Skinner, Mulder and Krycek were all cooped up in their temporary home. The Gunmen after one look at Mulder's face had made themselves scarce. Krycek solved it by finding a book and burying his nose in it. Skinner growing tired of Mulder's glower went outside and continued working on the perimeter defenses he'd begun while Mulder and Krycek were undercover. He was just laying the last wires when Mulder walked out. Skinner took one look and knew that the younger man was spoiling for a fight.
Dressed in jeans, and a T-shirt, with his hands smudged. Skinner gave his agent a curt nod, but said nothing, patiently waiting for Mulder to get it off his chest not pausing in what he was doing. "Don't step there," he ordered and Mulder froze, "not unless you want to lose a leg."
"You stole Alex from me." Oh great, Mulder thought with a wince. I sound like a petulant child.
Skinner, from his sudden sharp look, apparently agreed. "I did not steal anything, Mulder. Alex is not someone's to steal."
"I know that, sir," but deep inside there was a stubborn core, a primeval instinct that shouted his ownership. "But we were, we are" he corrected himself, "involved and still you..." no he couldn't say the words. He couldn't accuse his superior of fucking his lover. "You went behind my back."
Reaching out to take a screwdriver, Skinner started loosening a screw gently removing the cover and pulling the wire through it. "Wrong, Mulder, no one is trying to go behind your back or lie to you. Last night Krycek needed to talk, and I was there." He looked up, the sun reflecting off his glasses, but still he looked hard, dangerous. "I think the question you have to ask yourself is why Krycek felt the need to come to me."
"Trust me, sir," Mulder said between gritted teeth, "I'm going to ask him that myself."
Grunting softly with effort, Skinner finally managed to remove a second stubborn bolt, "I'm not going to lie to you, yeah, I'm attracted to Alex," he made the admission calmly, as though it meant little, instead of rocking Mulder's world. "But I'm not about to get into some idiotic pissing contest with you. If anything happens, then it will be out in the open, that's the only thing I can promise you."
"You... you, want Alex Krycek?" Mulder croaked.
Skinner didn't even bother looking at him, "Yes."
Skinner was feeling decidedly out of sorts when he finally returned inside. It had been too much to ask that Mulder would have simply left it alone. Instead he'd spent a wearisome hour as Mulder attempted to argue him into submission. It too closely resembled all those 302 battles, all the endless demands and accusations, and finally he'd just walked away, leaving a frustrated Mulder behind. Now, an incipient headache threatened and he badly wanted some quiet and solitude. Instead when he opened his bedroom door it was to find Alex Krycek whirling around looking guilty, a tote bag in his hand.
"Do I want to know what you're doing here?" Skinner growled, looking and sounding the gruff AD.
A hesitant grin turned the corner of Krycek's lips. "Umm, Mulder threw me out and I decided to follow his advice."
Skinner almost winced knowing what said advice probably entailed. "Are you sure it's what you want?"
Krycek shrugged casually, "It's either that or the sofa in the living room and that would result in permanent back damage I suspect."
Despite the apparent nonchalance, Skinner noticed a wary look in the moss-green eyes.
Instead of making an answering quip, Skinner just said calmly, "Alex, you're more than welcome to stay here, you know that." He paused and waited until Krycek looked at him before adding quietly, "and sleeping in the same bed is all we will do. Do you understand me?"
Krycek shook his head, a strange light in his eyes, "I think I got that yesterday."
At dinner that night, the three gunmen were too intimidated by Skinner's glare to do anything but gape when Skinner stretched and told everyone a curt good-night, and Krycek immediately stood up and followed him.
As one, three heads turned to look at Mulder who stared fixedly at the table wondering in a distant, abstract fashion if it was possible to die from jealousy. Things were not helped by the knowledge that he had only himself to blame.
In the tiny bedroom Skinner turned to Krycek, a smile in his deep voice. "Did you see Frohike? I thought his eyes would bug out."
Krycek smiled, although the tenseness didn't quite leave his body. "I never thought they'd be so prudish."
Skinner stretched leisurely, working at the kinks in his back. "They're not. I think it's more that they're worried about Mulder. He's their friend you know."
Krycek turned away, hunching his shoulder. "I know," his voice suddenly a little cooler.
He almost flinched, cursing himself for being so damn jumpy. But he hadn't realized how close Skinner was behind him.
"Shhh..." Skinner said quietly, "come on, let's go to bed, we're both tired."
Despite everything, Krycek couldn't help tensing a little as the older man gently steered him towards the bed.
All the AD did was to take off his glasses, lie down and close his eyes.
Krycek stood looking down at him until Skinner asked lazily, without opening his eyes, "Are you going to stand there all night?"
Then he actually smiled a little pulling off his jeans and shirt and slid into bed next to Skinner. He wasn't sure why he was so nervous. It wasn't as if this was anything new or as if Skinner hadn't already had the chance to fuck him. Forcing himself to relax, Krycek suddenly wondered if the reason he was so tense was that he didn't want Skinner to be proven a liar.
When he felt the first soft puff of air against his back he almost jumped again, but instead he breathed evenly, body loose and relaxed as he waited for Skinner to reach for him. However, instead of spooning up against his back, the other man moved back giving him plenty of room.
"Good night," Skinner murmured and very soon Krycek heard soft rhythmic snores.
Shaking his head, thoroughly confused, Krycek drifted off to sleep.
In the morning Skinner woke first. Opening his eyes he came instantly awake, a legacy from his years in the army. He shifted and the mattress dipped under his weight as he turned and saw Krycek still asleep. Most people looked younger, innocent, when sleeping, their faces relaxed, cares smoothed out. Alex Krycek looked the same, wary, guarded, giving nothing away. He also, Skinner noticed, kept his distance even in sleep, curled up as far away as possible. Somehow it did not surprise that Krycek wasn't a cuddler.
Walter Skinner smiled a little wryly at the strange whims of fate. There had been a time when he'd wanted nothing so much as to kill the man sharing his bed. Unfortunately, there had also never been a time when he hadn't also wanted to push Krycek up against the nearest wall and fuck him through it.
AD Skinner had taken one look at the young, puppyish agent assigned to Mulder, bursting with enthusiasm and naiveté and a gracefulness that even his terrible clothes and strange hair couldn't hide, and he had known that this was someone he could never have. So he had contented himself with keeping what he convinced himself was a avuncular eye, on the odd pairing. He had seen Mulder's instant, and unconscious, attraction but Alex Krycek for all his apparent openness and ingenuity was far harder to read. Skinner suddenly smiled grimly, Mulder had not been the only feeling betrayed when Krycek was revealed as a traitor.
Much later, after reading Alex Krycek's true file, he had thought bitterly that at least he'd been set up by a pro. The traitor was good, very, very good at what he did. Skinner had read and hated his own stupidity and the young man who had fooled him with such ease and a pair of smiling green eyes.
His morning ruminations were interrupted at that point as Krycek woke. Like Skinner he moved instantly from sleep to consciousness. Long dark lashes blinked once as his body tensed, and then relaxed slightly as Krycek absorbed where he was and with whom.
A slow, lazy, knowing smile began deep in drowsy cat-eyes. Sleep-softened lips parted, "Kiss me?" Krycek murmured, shifting against the body beside him. He moved with a practiced ease that made Skinne wonder how often the younger man in his bed had woken in the same position.
Skinner bent forward and brushed his lips against the inviting mouth in a quick soft touch. "Good morning," he said quietly.
Krycek tilted his head slightly. "I don't get you, Skinner," he said in his husky drawl. "I know you want me," he bent his head and bit lightly at the nape, smiling knowingly at the shuddering traveling through muscular limbs. "I'm here, so what are you waiting for?"
Skinner's large blunt fingers framed Krycek's face and held him still for inspection. "Hell yes, I want you, Alex," it was his turn to smile a little ruefully, "rather impossible for me to deny. But," he paused, waited until he had Krycek's undivided attention, and then he said calmly, "I have no taste for rape."
Green eyes widened incredulously. "What the fuck are you talking about? You're not raping me."
Skinner slowly traced the narrow up-turned nose and slanted cheekbones with his fingertips. "Wouldn't I be? Alex, I'm not Mulder, he may believe only what he wants to, but..." he paused wondering how to put it into words. "That first night when you came to my room - you know I was in 'Nam?"
Krycek nodded, uncertain where this was leading but rather enjoying the slow gentle stroking.
"Back there I saw enough faked desire. Whores," Skinner said quietly ignoring the sudden stillness, "walking the street for johns." Pensively he added, "and often enough I was one of them. I learned very young, Alex, not as young as you granted, but still too young, to recognize fake need and the desperation not for you but for the bills you throw on the bed after you're finished." He leaned forward and very gently kissed Alex again, not forcing the entry of pressed lips, as Krycek turned his head away. "Rape doesn't have to be an attack in some dark back-alley or being held down forcibly. Rape means having no choice."
Skinner ignored Krycek's sudden unease although he moved behind and his strong hands massaged away the sudden tightness that coiled shoulder and back muscles of the younger man.
Quietly he said, "That night, Alex, that's what I read in your eyes. Was that the bargain you had in mind? The use of your body in return for being held for a night?"
Krycek swallowed, aiming for a light sardonic tone yet somehow it emerged closer to an agonized whisper. "You're right I was a whore," a smile bitter as death, "once a whore always one, huh?"
"Is that what Mulder said?" Skinner asked quietly.
Krycek didn't answer. "It's all right," he finally said wearily. "I know what I am."
Large arms held him, their grip not bruising or confining, offering quiet support instead. "So do I. You're intelligent and resourceful," a wry smile, "not to mention deadly." Skinner moved away putting his hands behind his head secretly pleased with the hint of confusion Krycek couldn't hide.
Krycek raised himself cat-like, limb by limb until he was perched beside Skinner, legs crossed. "What do you want from me, Skinner?"
Skinner didn't smile but his voice was laced with lazy amusement, "Would you believe nothing?"
A calm nod, "Then, nothing but what you're willing to offer."
"Like what?" Krycek asked suspiciously, "what's your angle, Skinner?"
"No angle, no plan, no plot, Alex, I leave that up to the experts." Skinner smiled through heavy-lidded eyes.
Krycek looked torn between distrust and the need to believe him.
"I'm telling you Hemingway is crap!" The raised voice from the kitchen made Mulder hasten his stride. The sight that met him had him shaking his head in mingled wonder and pain. Krycek was standing by the kitchen counter, a glass of wine in his hand and arguing with Skinner who was stirring a pot on the stove.
"The man was a genius," Skinner growled back.
Krycek hooted in derision, "That's bullshit, he just knew the importance of PR. He managed to convince everyone that there was something special with his 'style'" Krycek's voice mocked the word style. "He was a second class journalist and that's all."
"Hmmph! I guess you prefer the brick type of author," Skinner scoffed. "More is not necessarily better."
Krycek looked at him in challenge, "Russian literature is the greatest in the world."
"Great at doom and gloom you mean," Skinner retorted giving the pot a stir. "Do you know the definition of a happy ending in a Russian novel?"
Krycek shook his head.
"It's when everyone dies," Skinner said. Taking out the plates and glasses from the cabinet he started to set the table.
Krycek's mouth twitched as he hitched his hips against the counter and dangled his feet. "What's a tragic ending then?"
Skinner turned off the stove and removed a loaf of crusty bread from the oven. "When only half the people die and the rest spend the next fifty years agonizing over their deaths."
Krycek burst out laughing, "I'll have to remember that one." He suddenly noticed Mulder standing in the door and the smile died on his lips. "Hi, Mulder," he said, all amusement and warmth abruptly wiped from his voice, leaving it completely expressionless.
Mulder fought the feeling that he was interrupting a private moment. "Something smells good," he said, having decided to be civil if it killed him.
Skinner gave him a glance; "You're just in time for dinner, Mulder. Please call the others."
"Yeah, and don't forget to wash your hands and behind your ears," Krycek added, then grinned at the look Skinner shot him.
Mulder actually smiled as he left.
During dinner conversation flowed easier and more natural Skinner noted with approval.
Krycek was soon discussing encryption with Byers and Langley. Paradoxically it seemed as though the three Gunmen had relaxed more with Krycek since he had moved in with Skinner. Or perhaps it was just that Krycek had unbent enough for them to realize there was more to him than just a killer. Or, he thought a little cynically, they believed that Skinner could control Krycek better than Mulder could.
Observing Krycek, Mulder suddenly realized that Skinner was doing the same. Saying little but missing nothing, Skinner was watching Mulder watching Krycek. Mulder shot him a faintly challenging glare.
Skinner gave him a small smile and raised his voice slightly, "Everybody finished?"
It hurt, hurt intensely, to see the dark head turn away from the discussion and the green eyes rest on Skinner, a smile in them.
"That's the problem with these military types," Krycek said to no one in particular, "always clock watching."
Standing up and starting to collect the dirty plates, Skinner growled, "Another thing I learned in the Marines was how to deal with insolent little boys."
Krycek smiled mockingly. "I'm shaking in my boots, what's the punishment, fifty push-ups? Ten laps around the track?"
Skinner gave him a quelling look, "Bed without dessert."
Swift as a cobra, Krycek pounced, "Oh? I rather thought I *was* dessert in bed."
The three Gunmen who had been chuckling over the exchange choked on their laugh and there were some red faces and hasty mumbles of checking on mail. Within moments Skinner, Mulder and Krycek were alone.
Stretching like a lazy satisfied feline, Krycek murmured blandly, "Was it something I said?"
"You," Skinner told him sternly but with a smile twitching in the corner of his mouth, "are incorrigible."
"I know, I know, but they're so easy," Krycek admitted. He pushed back his chair and stood up. "I'm going to phone Peter." He gave Skinner a strange, almost shy look and left.
Skinner began washing the plates, stacking them neatly to dry. Mulder still said nothing, just sipped his wine.
There was little use in denying that Alex with Skinner was a very different man. More relaxed, smiling easier, light-hearted enough to tease and joke.
"How do you do it, sir?" He suddenly burst out. Oh great, he was still calling the man 'sir', but the honorific was so automatic by now it just slipped out.
"Do what?" Skinner asked calmly wiping the counter clean.
"How do you make him smile and laugh like that?"
Wringing out the dish-cloth and folding it neatly, Skinner returned to the table and poured himself another glass of wine. "Alex's got a great sense of humor if a bit warped." He smiled wryly. "He's also got a rather acute sense of the absurd."
He gave Mulder a level look; "I think the secret, if there is one, is that I treat him like Alex Krycek. He's not a possession," Mulder flushed darkly, "or a toy, or a *thing*. He's a human being, try treating him like that once in a while, Mulder, and you'll find that behind the admittedly spectacularly stunning facade there is an equally fascinating personality lurking."
He walked off leaving Mulder alone.
Hell, Mulder decided three days later, was being cooped up in the Gunmen's place with no way of leaving, together with the man he loved and watching said man fall in love with Fox Mulder's superior.
After spending a sleepless night tossing and turning, and trying not to imagine what was going on in Skinner's room, Mulder sought out Skinner the next morning, finding him working on his damn security, Krycek watching.
"I'm thinking of leaving. I'll go and check on Scully," Mulder said abruptly.
Krycek looked up, "It's been nice knowing you, Mulder," he said dryly.
Mulder glared at him. "What are you talking about?"
A sigh of exaggerated patience. "Mulder, are you living on the same planet as we are?" Krycek crossed his arm, hip leaning against the table. "Granted we covered our tracks, but if Spender or someone else starts suspecting what we did you're fish-food." He added coldly, "What do you think Skinner and I are doing?" He gestured at the half-finished mines and surveillance equipment, "building Legos for our own amusement? There is a very good chance that there will be an attack here. Alone out there you're a sitting duck."
Mulder said no less coolly, "I'm willing to take he risk."
Icy green eyes gazed back at him, "I'm not."
"What the fuck are you talking about?" Mulder demanded.
Krycek said sardonically, "If you'd just get yourself killed that's one thing, but the chances are they'll get the truth from you before they kill you. I want that chip out of Petya's neck, and that means Scully doesn't run off on some crazy rescue mission just because you're too stupid to keep your ass where it belongs."
"You can't stop me," Mulder spat.
Krycek uncoiled his body, eyes narrowing, "Try me," he said with a deadly softness.
That's when Skinner intervened. "Back off, Alex," he ordered, and to Mulder's mixed amazement and anger, Krycek actually obeyed.
Skinner turned to Mulder. "He's right. You're staying put until this is finished." When Mulder opened his mouth to protest, Skinner silenced him with a single look. "I don't want any arguments from you, Mulder. Remember, you're the one who chose to become involved in this mission."
Mulder glared at them both, angry that he couldn't throw the real reason he had to get away in their faces. "Fine!" he finally muttered, stalking out. Over his shoulder he could see Skinner say something quietly to Krycek and fuck but it was pure torture to see Alex's answering smile.
Hell was finding them on the sofa watching 'Independence Day' with Krycek providing loud and derisive comments.
"I can't fucking believe it, he just steals a chopper goes off to LA and just *happens* to fly to the exact spot where his girlfriend is," Krycek complained. He was stretched out in the sofa, feet in Skinner's lap. In his faded jeans and T-shirt with long, narrow feet bare he looked more like a grad student than an ex-assassin.
He stared in obvious disgust at the TV. "Who the fuck writes these things? A five year old could do a better job. And the aliens are just so fake!"
Skinner said blandly "Maybe you should consider a new career, creative consultant to sci-fi movies. You could probably make sure they're a lot more realistic." Krycek gave him an evil look, which he promptly ignored.
Skinner looked up and saw Mulder. "Hi, Mulder."
Mulder moved into the room, seeing the subtle tension that immediately invaded Krycek's body before he relaxed again.
"Come on, join us," Krycek said with a quirk of dark eyebrows. "We're just taking apart a lousy movie that made too much money for its own good." He moved a little closer to Skinner giving Mulder the odd impression that he was seeking comfort or a kind of subtle, unconscious, protection.
Mulder sat down in the chair fighting down his impulse to go drag Krycek away from Skinner. "I've seen it, it's not that bad."
A soft husky laugh set his blood pounding. "Bullshit, it's got plot-holes you can drive a truck through, and I fucking hate movies where two brave men save the entire universe while everyone stands around and applauds. Fucking John Wayne syndrome. Fucking heroes." He brooded.
Skinner patted one of the feet in his lap. "Not all of us can be shady vil - ah," he broke off at the dirty glare Krycek shot him, "anti-heroes?"
A sudden smile lurked in usually somber brown eyes. "Besides, you know bad guys are always considered not only more interesting but also more attractive."
Krycek gave him a long suspicious look, "Are you trying to say that you think I'm sexy?"
Skinner very slowly, very deliberately let his eyes sweep over the sprawled body, starting at his feet and working his way up.
By the time Skinner's inspection reached Krycek's face, red burned along the slanted cheekbones, but green eyes were bright with laughter. "Skinner?"
"Hmm... I'm thinking," Skinner said solemnly, and then, "you'll do in a pinch I guess."
It was all rather light-hearted, and it sliced Mulder apart from the inside. Not, he thought bitterly, that either of the other two noticed.
He would have been surprised to realize that Skinner was very aware of his feelings. However, they were noted and then dismissed as unimportant as Skinner began the process of re-building shattered trust and overcome walls Krycek had spent a life constructing.
Another man would have found the task more than a little daunting, but not Walter Sergei Skinner. He had always liked taking care of people, seeking out responsibilities as assiduously as most men avoided them. Sharon had once teased him that he was a born nurturer, and indeed one of his greatest sorrows had been the fact that they'd never had any children. Sharon's decision, not his. In Vietnam he had been father, protector and older brother to his men. It had not taken more than a few weeks for him to lose all his illusions about the war he had been sent to fight. Victory was impossible, and he had found his purpose not in military conquest but in the safekeeping of his unit. Later on, during his FBI career the agents under his command had become his surrogate family, perhaps that was why he had allowed Mulder's antics - the agent had little idea of just how close he had been to permanent exile before Skinner intervened and assumed responsibility for him.
Krycek, however, was a very different matter. If Mulder wore all his emotions on the outside, all but revelling in his neuroses, Krycek resembled an onion; the more layers you peeled away, the more was revealed. Hiding behind the smooth, sarcastic, flip mask he had perfected, the only thing Alex Krycek could not guard completely was his eyes.
Looking into jade-green irises, Skinner had to his shock seen and recognized the same pain that stared back from his own eyes when he looked into the mirror. It had made him wonder what kind of life had shaped the traitor and assassin, and to his own amazement he had actually begun to speculate on just how to help a young man with too much pain in his past.
The torment in Krycek's eyes when he thought no one was looking had also made Skinner, if not forget, then forgive his own suffering and hatred far more easily than he probably should have.
Alex Krycek was deadly, fiercely independent; wary as hell and with defenses a mile high and wide. He also had a disconcertingly acute sense of when someone lied to him, probably because he was such an expert liar himself. Helping him heal would not be easy. Skinner grinned to himself, he did love a real challenge.
"That's a funny smile; what are you plotting?" Krycek's husky voice broke into his thoughts. He looked up and found green eyes regarding him quizzically.
He patted the denim-clad leg close to him; "I was thinking about our defenses, I have to talk to Langley about a broken security camera."
No, it wouldn't be easy but then the worthwhile things in life seldom were.
Krycek's words were proven true less than two days later.
Despite their precautions, the attack took them by surprise. Krycek was on the computer doing a database search when the alarm went off. He reacted automatically, throwing himself to the left and out of the line of fire just as the front door burst open and four armed men burst through it spraying the room with gunfire.
Skinner, who was coming from the kitchen carrying a cup of coffee, had time to shout a warning over his shoulder to Mulder and the Gunmen and then he dove for cover, the hot liquid splashing over him and making him swear. Krycek pulled his gun while rolling. It had taken more hours and pain than he wanted to remember before he'd regained even a fraction of his old speed and dexterity. In the old days none of the attackers would have had the chance to return fire, he'd have taken them out before they were halfway through the door. But these weren't the old days, and two years away from the game had further slowed his reactions.
Swearing, he ended the roll on his stomach, handling the gun one-handed, firing, laying down cover for Skinner who darted forward in a crouch.
"Behind you!" he yelled, and watched Skinner turn and shoot. A small detached part of him noted and filed away the information that Skinner was good in a firefight. Crouching behind the desk, he called out, "How many?"
Balancing on the balls of his feet, Skinner answered calmly, "I count eight, four in front, two are coming in from the left, and," a quick look at the security monitor, "two are in the backyard." He smiled in satisfaction at the dull boom and startled yelp of pain. "Six now."
Krycek nodded and seizing a box of discs on the floor beside him, threw it to the left. As the attackers automatically tracked the movement; he raised his head and shot twice in rapid succession, listening with satisfaction to the resulting thuds. "Two more down," he called out.
Adrenaline pounding through him, body preternaturally alive, head cool and calculating, Skinner acknowledged it with a wave of his hand as he pressed himself against the turned over table. He called softly, "Krycek!" And waited until he saw green eyes turned on him. Mutely he held up two fingers and then pointed. Krycek nodded once to show he understood and then they rose, moving as one, covering each other's blind spots as they moved in perfect tanmed taking out the remaining men.
In the back of his head, Skinner noted with faint surprise and appreciation just how smoothly they moved together, almost able to read each other's thoughts. He threw himself to the left, feeling Krycek's bullet pass over his shoulder and taking out the man aiming for his back. It usually took years to click that well with anyone.
That's when what must never happen did. Skinner was laying down fire as Krycek ran forward when his gun jammed. Swearing viciously he frantically re-loaded but realized with a sick sense of failure that he was leaving Krycek wide open as he watched a man rising from behind the overturned table and take aim.
Even knowing it was too late, he yelled a warning, "Look out, Alex!" Knowing with a terrible certainty that it would be too late. He closed his eyes unable to watch Alex fall and then there were three shots in rapid succession and when he opened them again, Mulder was standing in the open door, a gun in his hand and looking rather pale.
Krycek rolled over, and rose, "Thanks," he breathed out slowly, "I thought I was toast."
Skinner rose as well, surveying the wreckage of the room, the blood, and brain matter splattered over the walls and floor and the dead bodies. He walked over to the nearest dead man and prodded it with his foot. "Who are they?"
Krycek looked down at the dead man, arms out flung in the obscene limpness of death. "Never seen them before," he said shortly after a quick inspection. "Doesn't have to mean anything though, after two years I wouldn't."
A soft groan behind them had them turning and aiming swiftly, as they saw that the leader was still alive, if barely. Walking over to him, Krycek rolled him over, and then his face turned to stone...
"All clear," Mulder said, coming up behind him. He looked down at the dying man and exclaimed, "Hey! Isn't that...?"
"Yeah," Krycek went down on his knees beside the man and almost gently stroked back sweat-soaked hair from a grimy blood-spattered forehead. "Why, Garrett?" he said quietly.
Garrett's mouth twisted. "Spender wanted you dead, and I was more than happy to oblige." His dark eyes burned for a moment. "Once he heard Fox Mulder was talking to his father's old friends and that you were with him, he wanted both of you taken out."
The two men stared at each other for a moment.
"How long have you been working for Spender?" Krycek asked harshly.
Garrett coughed wetly, "Years." He gave Krycek a narrowed-eyed look of hatred. "You do what you have to in order to survive, isn't that what you always said?" he coughed again, a small trickle of blood running from the corner of his mouth. "And not all of us were so lucky as to have a private protector."
Krycek gave him an incredulous look. "Jesus fucking Christ, Garrett, you of all people can't seriously think I ever wanted anything of Bill Mulder's?"
Garrett wheezed, "You never knew how fucking lucky you were, Krycek. You try being common property." His mouth twisted, "meat for anyone who wanted it."
"Oh, hell, Garrett," Krycek closed his eyes, a strange pain flickering in their depths. "I would have traded with you in a second. I would have given anything not to be exclusive to the Mulders."
Behind him, and unnoticed by either, Mulder winced, feeling a knife shoved through his ribs, would he never cease being reminded of what kind of man his father was?
"Yeah, well, I never got the chance, not as long as little Alex Krycek," the name was a curse, "with his green eyes and whore's body was there. Alex who always thought himself better than the rest of us."
Very, very softly, Krycek said, "I'm sorry."
The look the two men exchanged thrummed with things unsaid, feelings shared and rejected. And then Garrett hissed, "You fucker, you got out and left me behind, what the hell did you expect?"
His eyes closed as he fought for breath. "Christ, I laughed my ass off when I heard about the deal the cub made with Spender, but then the fucker wimped out," Garrett gave Mulder a malevolent glare, "and instead of killing you, his fucking son fell in love with you!"
"Garrett, will Spender come after us again?"
A bitter smile, "I hope so, but I doubt it. He was angry when he gave the order, but once he calms down, hell, you know he'll let the fox cub get away with anything."
His breathing was becoming more irregular, fainter. "I always hated you Krycek," he whispered. They were his last words. Two, three more labored breaths and then his body arched, and abruptly relaxed in the limpness of death.
Krycek remained at his side, head bent for a moment, and then gently reached out and closed the two staring eyes.
When he rose his face was calm, composed. "We need to dispose of the bodies," he said. Calmly re-loading his gun, not looking at the body at his feet, he was suddenly the cold, calculating assassin and traitor. The man Mulder had hated.
He turned away abruptly, "Better phone someone to come clean up," he said over his shoulder stalking off.
Skinner looked down at the dead bodies again, "He's right, we need disposal. I've got a friend who works black ops out at Langley; he owes me a favor. I'll go call him." He too walked off in the opposite direction, leaving Mulder alone, blinking and wondering what the hell had happened here.
Frohike peered around the door, "Everything okay?" he asked, glancing nervously at the bodies.
Mulder shook his head. "I have no idea," he admitted.
Frohike came all the way into the room, still avoiding looking at the mute evidence of violence. "Man, that was intense," he said.
Mulder almost laughed, pushing a hand through his hair, "That's one word for it."
After talking to his friend who agreed to send some cleaners, Skinner went in search of Krycek and found him cleaning his guns. He didn't look up when Skinner approached.
"Want to tell me what that was about?" Skinner asked casually, sitting down at the table.
There was no answer as long slender fingers moved unerringly over the metal.
"Talk to me, Alex," Skinner said quietly, "tell me what's wrong."
Krycek laughed bitterly. "Wrong? Nothing's fucking wrong."
Skinner was silent for a moment. "You knew Garrett." It was not a question.
Krycek shrugged, "We came up together. We fucked, we killed, what else is there to know?"
"You were friends?"
Another shrug. "As much as you could be in the Consortium." A short pause, "he saved my life once."
"I'm sorry," Skinner said softly. "It's not easy killing friends." Ancient pain haunted his voice unnoticed by Krycek.
Krycek looked up and smiled. A glittering hard smile, lips peeling back from white teeth. "Don't be. You heard him, he'd have killed me in a second and enjoyed doing it."
"Alex..." Skinner's voice was very soft. "Don't do this to yourself. You killed to survive that's all it was."
Krycek suddenly sprang from his seat, "You don't know shit!" he hissed. Restlessly pacing towards the room he turned back and said feverishly, "I've killed; good men, bad men, didn't make a difference. They ordered; I killed. Better them than me, I always thought. I still do." He spat the words at Skinner. "Fuck or kill, that's been my two choices, and hell yes, I'd rather kill than fuck!" He laughed coldly. "Do you think there is a special place for dead assassins? A place where we finally get to meet those we've killed? The faces we've only seen through a telescope on a high-powered rifle?"
"Stop it, Alex," Skinner said coldly, and something in his tone brought the younger man whipping around, eyes wide at the sudden icy hardness.
And then, Skinner said harshly, "Do you really think that when we took a vil in 'Nam," unconciously he used army slang for a civilian village, "that the bullets somehow managed to miraculously miss the innocents? The women and children?" Big hands knotted into fists, "I've probably killed as many as you have, Alex, and more of mine were innocent." When he looked at Krycek, pain flashed across his face and haunted his dark eyes. "I've gotten stinking drunk and laid everything that moved to forget the screams of the kids we shot, the old women who died, cursing our names. Fuck, yes, Alex, I know what you're feeling!"
There was a long silence, and then Krycek said quietly, all anger abruptly gone. "I'm sorry Walter." For the first time he used the intimacy of a first name.
Reaching out, he slowly cradled the larger man in his arms, kissing his way down a temple and jaw, feeling tense muscles slowly relax. It was his turn to hold and comfort and succor. He, who had never held anyone but Petya in tenderness and love, was experiencing a strange, dangerous compassion for Walter Skinner.
A long silence and finally Krycek sighed, "We are a pair, aren't we?"
Skinner closed his eyes, "Yeah."
"Very eloquent," Krycek kissed him again, coaxing firm lips apart, tasting the mouth slowly, thoroughly. "The strong, silent type, huh?" He broke off the kiss, "I like it," he kissed Skinner again, whispering against his mouth, "I like it a lot. But then, I like just about everything about you."
His body hard and begging without words, Krycek pulled Skinner against him, thrusting, feeling the responding shiver, the nudge of a hard cock against his thigh. "I want you, Walter," he whispered, "I want you so much I ache." Although he had spoken the words many times, they had never been truer.
Skinner froze. "Are you sure, Alex?" he asked, unable to keep the longing from his voice, the need that shook his body and bathed his skin in a fine sheen of moisture.
Alex laughed up at him, green eyes wide and filling with a burning, desperate need. "Oh yes...." he breathed. Slowly, he pulled Skinner along towards their small bedroom uncaring if anyone would see them.
Closing the door behind them, Skinner reminded himself that a battle always brought with it this sudden urgency. He had seen soldiers disappear into the bushes with blood and powder-stains marking their skin dragging women, willing or not, with them. He had not liked it but he had understood the need, though he had never been tempted himself.
However, now that the time had come he was feeling suddenly awkward, almost shy. A flash of doubt tore through him. Even with only one arm Alex Krycek was a strikingly attractive young man. And he had no doubt that Krycek had all the experience he himself lacked.
But then soft lips touched his skin, bit gently and all doubts evaporated into thin air.
Half closing his eyes, Krycek gave Skinner a long assessing look. The tall brawny body laid out before him did not have the rangy perfectness of Mulder's, but as Krycek knelt on the bed scattering kisses across the broad chest, curling his tongue around first one nipple and then the other, enjoying the responding soft gasps, he whispered, and again it had not often been as true, "Fuck, Walter, I want you."
Skinner laughed deeply, the breath hitching in his throat as Krycek moved closer, trailing kisses along the planes of his stomach, "Trust me; I want you more," and then he moaned, as Krycek slid between his legs,
Glimmering cat-eyes smiled up at him, "Impossible."
Skinner shook his head, "I'm still not sure why you're here, Alex."
Alex stretched out beside him, arching his body, all but purring as Skinner ran his hands down his flanks. "Could it be because I want to?"
Skinner looked into jade-green eyes hazy with arousal. "Want, Alex?" Bending his head for a kiss, the soft curve of lips opened easily beneath his mouth and he let need rule him until they were both gasping for air. "You really want an old scarred marine?"
Krycek slid his thigh between two thick muscular legs. "I'll match you scar for scar," a shadow darkened his face and his voice turned bitter.
Skinner chuckled softly, cupping the firm ass, bringing Krycek up against his body until they were both gasping and writhing, their cocks sliding against each other. "Ah, but the difference is you started out pretty."
"Pretty?" Krycek growled. "I'm not fucking pretty!"
Skinner's grin grew wider. "Cute?" he suggested mock seriously.
Krycek groaned. "Worse and worse."
Brown eyes grew dark and smoldering. "How about exciting.... magnificent.... amazing... superb..."
Taking Skinner's mouth deeply, tongue stroking, teasing deep into the moist cavern, Krycek broke the kiss to murmur; "Now you're talking." He bent his head, trailing kisses along the firm jaw, the arched throat, relishing each moan, each gasp, as large hands molded him, shaped him,
Spreading his legs wider, Krycek raised his knees. But although the long thick fingers continued to probe and touch finding the exact spot that made him writhe in helpless response, making tiny desperate cries, Skinner didn't move.
Krycek pushed his ass closer up against the hard body behind him, and said between gritted teeth, "Will you just *fuck* me?!"
In answer a long sweep of a wide warm hand began a massage of the nape of his neck, lips biting lightly at his shoulder, and then licking the small mark. Suddenly Skinner stilled. "Look at me Alex," he said softly.
Krycek twisted his head. Skinner was watching him carefully and then he said with a tentative gentleness poignant enough to break a heart, "May I?"
For a moment Krycek looked confused. Skinner waited silently, still, although a fine sheen of sweat covered his body, tiny shivers running beneath the skin and pre-cum dripped from the rock-hard cock nudging against Krycek's thigh.
A moment of bewilderment and then a slow dawning wonder, as if no one had ever asked him that question before.
"Yes, oh yes," Krycek whispered, hooking his arm around Skinner's neck, pulling his head forward for a deep kiss, legs sliding open, hips thrusting upwards.
Breathing out in a deep shuddering breath, Krycek forced himself to relax as he felt Skinner push inside, muscles giving way under the steady pressure. No matter how many times he did this, still there was that one moment where he tensed waiting for the man sliding inside to hurt. To grasp his hips in a bruising grip and force himself inside faster and deeper than the yielding body could take.
Skinner, as if feeling the minute hesitation, shifted, stilling, one hand reaching around and enfolding Krycek's cock. For long moments the only movement was Skinner's hand slowly milking the hard cock, alternating the rhythm until Krycek was groaning, pushing his hips in an attempt to take Skinner deeper. But a strong hand held him still.
"No," Skinner whispered in his ear, "don't move." He remained immobile except for his hand, as he knelt behind Krycek, spreading his thighs strong muscles taking the weight of the younger man's increasingly frantic motions.
Reaching behind him, arm wrapping around the solid shape, he felt Skinner nip at his throat, it was enough and Krycek shuddered and came, gasping and moaning. In a daze he felt himself gently moved, stretched out on his stomach, his legs spread as Skinner used the relaxation of climax to bury himself to the hilt.
Closing his eyes, Krycek shifted, moaning softly and raising his hips in response to the hands urging him gently. He wrapped long legs around Skinner's waist pulling him closer, his eyes sliding shut and another moan working its way up his throat as he felt Skinner's cock nudged him just *there* and then he almost screamed as he felt his nipples being pinched lightly, coaxed to a bursting hardness, matching the state of his cock. Fuck where had Skinner learned how to do that? He asked as much between clenched teeth.
Skinner laughed huskily, nuzzling his ear, a light tremble traveling through the tall husky body as the older man flexed his hips, burying himself even deeper. "Just doing what comes naturally, Alex..."
And still Skinner refused to be hurried, moving slowly, almost deliberately, as he bent over the curved back, licking the salty sweat that saturated hot smooth skin.
Krycek groaned again, his spine arching in response to the sensation of Skinner's tongue sweeping again and again across his shoulders, licking, nipping hard enough to shudder on that exquisite line between pleasure and pain. Finally, Skinner's hand moved down to his cock again, smoothing the skin between his fingers, playing lightly across the crown, before moving down to the base and gripping hard for a moment preventing the man in his arms from coming.
"Please!" Krycek panted, shamed to hear the naked need in his voice.
"Shh...." Skinner's deep voice was very soft in his ear, and the large hands shaping his willing body were wonderfully gentle. Gradually the shudders stilled until he was lying motionless, tiny shivers running beneath his skin, the only movement Skinner's slow flexing, the lazy slide of his cock inside its hot tight sheath. "It's all right... let go, Alex, I've got you...."
With a deep shuddering breath, Krycek did. He went suddenly boneless allowing passion to rule his body and mind safe in the knowledge that when he fell, Skinner would be there to catch him.
He never knew how long Skinner kept him shuddering on the edge of release, teasing, exploring every inch of his pliant body, each sinewy curve and hard line, coaxing whimpers and moans from the writhing man in his arms. In a daze Krycek felt his own identity subsumed, his body nothing but a puppet in the wide warm hands that caressed and stroked, finding every never-ending and some he never knew existed.
It was with as much relief as pleasure that he finally felt Skinner's breathing pick up speed and become ragged as the force and speed of the thrusting increased, the fingers encircling his cock tighten, as with a deep shuddering groan, Skinner came, the sensation of the hot wetness poured into him, enough to push Krycek over as well.
Afterwards, Krycek curled peacefully against the big body next to him, and suddenly realized that he didn't feel the need to crawl away, to go take a shower. Instead he burrowed into the strong arms, smelling himself and sex on the pale skin. He almost laughed, loving the tendril of fire whispering through him at the thought.
"You know," he said lazily, fingers tracing patterns on the broad chest he was resting his chin against. "Things would have been a lot less complicated if we'd done this years ago." He glanced up and smiled at Skinner, "fuck knows I wanted to."
Skinner shook his head. "No, it wouldn't, it would have been worse." There was no regret in the deep voice. "At the time the Consortium held your leash," he paused, eyes suddenly dark and hard, "and mine."
Krycek bit his lip, eyes falling. "Yeah, you're right," he said softly accepting the truth.
They lay in silence for a long time, Skinner's arm around the younger man. Finally Krycek stirred and said quietly into the darkness. "Now what?"
Skinner didn't answer at first. "We take it one step at a time, Alex." He looked at the man in his arms and his voice softened. "I don't know where this is going, but I think we've got something worthwhile here."
There was another long silence. "This is crazy you know," Krycek said although he didn't move. "You and I. It's pure insanity."
"Why?" Skinner asked calmly.
Krycek said dryly, "Because the last time we met I killed you? Or because the time before that you punched me in the gut and handcuffed me to your balcony leaving me to freeze my ass off?"
Skinner chuckled one hand sliding down and cupping the rounded ass stroking lightly, teasingly along the crack and enjoying the responsive quiver it caused. "Hmm... everything is still here." His arms tightened a little, "and so am I. I'm not saying I enjoyed what you did, or that there haven't been times when I've dreamed of what I'd do if I ever got my hands on you." He ignored the sudden stiffening. "But hell, Alex, I figure if I can forgive Charlie for shooting at me, I can forgive you for following orders." A sudden smile glimmered for a moment, "especially since, according to Spender, you didn't actually follow orders."
Krycek chuckled although his eyes were still watchful, relaxing at the wry tone. Skinner's calm logical pragmatism was far more reassuring to him than Mulder's impassioned promises. "I've never been good at doing what I'm told."
"I remember," Skinner said wryly.
Again Krycek was trapped by a real laugh. "Yeah I guess you do," he yawned feeling suddenly sleepy.
Skinner yawned as well, his eyes closing as he relaxed. "Good night, Alex," he murmured.
"Good night, Walter," Krycek said as he freed himself and turned on his side. Skinner let him go, putting his arms under his pillow.
Like old lovers comfortable with each other, he and Skinner drifted off to sleep.
Krycek woke to a gentle kiss coaxing his lips apart, tongue stroking smoothly inside, tasting and exploring until he was clinging breathlessly. His eyes opened and stared in the tender chocolate-brown of his lover.
He froze. Eyes snapping wide and panic exploding through him. Lovers. He and Walter Skinner were lovers. Not casual fucks, not a body to be used or given in payment. Lovers. Caring. Commitment.
He shot from the bed, "I, uh, I, I'll be right back," he stammered like an idiot and fled into the bathroom. Standing beneath the hot spray he told himself to calm down, to cool it. While shaving he told himself that he was over-reacting. Nothing said Skinner was interested in anything more than a few friendly fucks while they were here. He ignored the piercing pain that thought caused. While brushing his teeth he told himself that he could handle this. What was there really to worry about? So he and Skinner had fucked? Big deal. And brushing back unruly dark hair he looked in the mirror and smiled wryly knowing he was lying to himself.
When he came out again Skinner was dressed but waiting for him. "Want to tell me what that was about?" he asked calmly.
Krycek shook his head. "Back off, Skinner," he said rather abruptly.
Skinner hesitated and then he brushed his fingers through dark silky hair. "All right," he said quietly. He waited until Krycek was halfway to the door before he spoke again. "Alex."
The dark man turned gracefully, "Yes?"
"Just so you know... I'm not just after a few friendly fucks."
He ignored the sudden and dramatic paling as he walked past, saying over his shoulder. "I thought you should know the truth."
Krycek was limbering up, stretching, face distracted still thinking about Walter's last shocking words when Mulder came out dressed casually in sweat-pants and a T-shirt.
"What are you doing?" Mulder asked.
"I'm going out for a jog."
"Would you mind some company?" Mulder asked casually.
A brief hesitation and then, "Sure, why not?"
He waited while Mulder went in and got his running shoes and then they started off down the road towards the park. Falling into rhythm easily, Krycek felt the usual rush of pleasure as his body responded to the exercise, blood circulating faster and muscles and sinews stretching and moving.
By unspoken agreement they did two laps of the park and then slowed down to a walk by the small lake.
They walked in silence side by side for a while, and then Mulder broke it, "So, Scully tells me you own a bookstore," he smiled, "I must admit it's not the first thing I would have thought you'd be doing."
Krycek shrugged pushing back a strand of dark hair that had fallen in his eyes. "I've always loved books," The image of Alex curled in his sofa reading suddenly flashed before his eyes, "and when I started thinking of what I could do to, a bookstore seemed ideal. I set my own hours and because we live in the same house I can be there when Peter comes home from school if he needs me."
"You really love him, don't you?" Mulder said a little wistfully.
"Yes," Krycek said simply. "I would do anything for him."
Mulder cleared his throat, "Back, you know, then, you said his mother was your sister."
Krycek didn't answer and his face turned cold and closed.
"Umm, I'm sorry I didn't mean to pry," Mulder apologized.
Krycek didn't answer but picked up speed, moving from a walk into a run. They didn't say anything else until they were a couple of blocks from the Safe House, Washington, DC. Krycek slowed to a walk once more. His face however was more relaxed again. Feeling the beginnings of cramp he stopped and bent, massaging his leg, looking up at Mulder and said ruefully, "I'm really out of shape."
Mulder smiled wryly, "Ain't it great when your body starts going out on you? Here, let me help," he knelt reaching out and massaging the calf, feeling the knotted muscles and digging his thumbs into them.
Krycek groaned but didn't pull away. "Oh yeah, fuck, that feels good."
Finally Mulder felt the knot dissolve beneath his fingers. He looked up and found Alex looking down at him; their faces so close he could feel the light touch of Alex's breath stir his hair. "Alex...?" he murmured, reaching out and tentatively pressing his lips to the tempting spot just below his ear.
Krycek closed his eyes and swayed towards Mulder, moaning faintly.
Startled and delighted by the response, Mulder increased the pressure, feeling Alex's lips part and his tongue dart out and wrap itself around Mulder's sucking him in.
Still with his mouth firmly on Alex's, he reached down and slid his hands beneath the loose sweatshirt, fingers exploring the silky skin and lingering on the sensitive nubs of flesh causing Alex to moan and arch into the touch. Mulder smiled, bending forward and kissing his way along the tense jaw and taut throat as Krycek closed his eyes and leaned against the wall behind his back, his hand sliding along Mulder's shoulder, strong fingers massaging the smooth flesh.
"God, I want you so much, Alex," Mulder whispered as he explored the delicate curve of an ear, biting gently into a soft spongy earlobe before moving lower again. His hands pulled Alex's ass between his legs, dipping inside the loose sweat-pants, stroking across tense muscles and smooth flanks.
He paused waiting for Alex's response, but the other man only shook his head, his eyes still closed he moaned again, reaching for Mulder.
Smiling in fierce satisfaction, the words of love froze on Mulder's tongue as he stared at the faint red mark on Krycek's neck; the mute testament that last night Alex had been in bed with another man. That he had allowed another man to take him, to mark him as his.
A jealous, possessive rage filled him. He pushed Krycek up against the wall and spun him around brutally. "How fucking dare you?!" he ground out between clenched teeth. Using spit and pre-cum to lubricate himself enough to thrust into the open, still body of the man he pressed against the unyielding surface of bricks and cement. "Damn you, Alex!" he whispered against the bent neck, biting into the sensitive soft skin, tasting blood, listening to the soft groans, muffled against the wall, as Krycek pushed his body against Mulder's riding out the violence and punishing rhythm. "Say it! Say you love me!"
The words were far closer to an arrogant command than a plea.
Krycek shook his head, "No," he whispered, closing his eyes. "No," he suddenly turned his head and sought Mulder's lips, catching them in a deep hungry kiss as his hips began thrusting with greater urgency, as he braced himself against the wall. "No," he said for a third time even as his body yielded.
Reaching around, Mulder found Krycek's cock, milking it in counter-rhythm to his own thrusts. Running his fingers along the silky hardness, fondling the heavy balls, he laughed deep in his throat at the small helpless sound Alex made as Mulder found the heavy vein throbbing along the hardness, running his fingernail along it, slowly.
With a final harsh groan, Alex came and the shudders that shook his body pushed Mulder over the edge as he poured himself into Krycek's hot willing body.
Even before Mulder had ceased his internal trembles, Krycek slipped away, ducking beneath Mulder's bracing arm, pulling up his pants and stepped around the man he been joined with only moments before and headed for the house.
Mulder wanted badly to say something but he was kept mute by the sick self-loathing in green eyes before Krycek lowered them. Still, he couldn't keep from thinking that this would finally show Alex what a mistake he'd made.
When the two men walked into the house Mulder had a satisfied little smile tugging at his lips while Krycek trailing behind him looked weary and disheveled.
Skinner looked up, eyes suddenly sharp and cold. Mulder looked at him with a mixture of defiance and satisfaction, Krycek had ducked his head, not looking at anyone. "We'll finish this later, Langley," Skinner said shortly, stalking forward. "Mulder, Frohike wants, you," he snapped.
For a moment it looked as if Mulder was going to refuse, but then old habit took over and he left with a long glance over his shoulder.
"Come here, Alex," Skinner ordered curtly.
Krycek's head jerked up and he stared at Skinner. "I guess this means you want me to move out," he said coolly.
Skinner lifted an eyebrow, "What makes you think that, Alex?"
Krycek bit his lip, "Oh, I see." He tried to shrug nonchalantly, "Ah well, if you don't care Mulder's been poaching." A sudden searing bitterness, "I guess it doesn't mean anything to you, huh."
Two long strides took Skinner to within reach of the younger man. "Is that how you see yourself, Alex? As property to be poached?"
Another shrug. "Does it matter?"
Strong fingers framed his jaw, pulled him in close to the large body. "Yes." And when he dared look up, there was no anger just sadness darkening mahogany-brown eyes. "You're free to share your bed and your body with anyone." He allowed a little emotion to bleed through, "That doesn't mean I like it. But, in the end, it's your decision, Alex."
Krycek stared at him for a moment. "Christ, you confuse the hell out of me! Every time I think I've got you figured out, you pull something like this and I'm left in a tailspin. I was sure - " he broke off.
Skinner said calmly, "That I would either scream 'slut' and throw you out, or fuck you through the wall to prove my ownership of you?"
Krycek gasped, "How the hell did you know?!"
Large blunt fingers threaded themselves through dark hair, gently massaging the scalp, "I may not be a brilliant profiler and psychologist like Mulder," he ignored the tension the name caused, "but give me credit for some intelligence. I've lived through a lot of shit, Alex, and I know where you're coming from. Hell, we have enough acquaintances in common for me to make an educated guess of what you've done to survive, even without," he paused, "Scully filling me in on the details." He ignored the sudden stiffening, the utter stillness.
"She told you?" A choked whisper.
Skinner met the anger calmly. "Yes, she did. She wasn't betraying you, Alex, but she thought I needed to know." He admitted a little wryly, "let's just say that when the smoker first wanted me to find you, I wasn't too happy about it. I guess she wanted to make sure I didn't go off the deep end, when we met." A thread of amusement ran through his deep voice, "Agent Scully can be a bit of a busybody at times."
"I don't need your pity!" Krycek spat, eyes slitted and cold.
"Why should I pity you, Alex?" Skinner asked calmly. "You've survived hell and come out of it relatively whole. Why the fuck should I pity the man you've become?"
Krycek remained frozen, staring at him suspiciously, ready to pounce on the least hint of pity. He reminded Skinner irresistibly of an angry feline, graceful, deadly, fur bristling and tail lashing the ground. He almost laughed at the image and the smile colored his voice when he said, "Stop glaring at me, Alex." He sobered, "look at me." When Krycek stubbornly looked away he repeated the words, a command, not a request this time. "Look at me."
Slowly, unwillingly, Krycek raised wary green eyes. "What?"
Quietly, but with great force, Skinner said. "I'm only going to say this once, so listen carefully. I don't care about your past. I don't care what you've been. You've sold your body. So have we all in one way or another." He met Alex's eyes squarely, reminding him without words that there were others who had been owned, however unwillingly, by the Consortium. Then he continued very calmly, "what you did does not make you evil or weak nor," a crooked smile, "does it make you good. It makes you a survivor."
Krycek blinked. Somehow Skinner's simple words struck at the core of his being in a way that all of Mulder's impassioned statements hadn't. Perhaps it was because he looked into the calm, dark brown eyes, of this man and felt a spark of recognition leap between them.
"It's not the same thing," he argued, unwilling to concede.
Skinner growled, "Tell me, Alex, is it some inborn perversity that makes you so contrary?"
That surprised a real laugh from the younger man, and although still wary Krycek didn't back away when Skinner reached for him. He had expected Skinner to act the alpha male, growling, proving his ownership. But he was slowly coming to see that in the AD's case, strength was tempered with a rare and wonderful gentleness and generosity.
Very softly he spoke the words which he had said to nobody but Petya and meant them; "I'm sorry."
In answer Skinner reached out and enfolded him. Feeling brawny arms go around him, Krycek closed his eyes and slowly, slowly exhaled, feeling muscles that had been tense too long literally quiver with release. It was humiliating and foolish and childish to feel so relieved just because Skinner whispered in his ear, "It's all right, Alex." Stupid to feel this almost incandescent joy just because he could feel Skinner's lips travel slowly across his skin, pausing occasionally to soothe and kiss.
Skinner kissed the upturned face, lingering over one slanted cheekbone listening to the soft moan, the instinctive arching into his body. He allowed himself a quiet smile at the intense tenderness that filled him as he held and comforted this man who could probably kill him, ex-Marine or not, in minutes.
The gentleness that was usually hidden beneath the gruff demeanor of an AD reached out and enfolded Krycek. "You don't have to explain yourself." He ran his hands down the muscled, wiry body. Light, teasing touches.
Suspicious green eyes glared at him, "How the fuck can you understand?!"
Skinner said quietly "After 'Nam, a bunch of us used to get together, talk because no one who hadn't been over there would understand what we were feeling, why the hell we couldn't keep a job or a relationship. One of the guys used to get drunk as hell, run around with women he didn't care a damn about, all to drive away the one person he loved more than life. He was feeling so guilty for what he was, what he'd done, that he honestly didn't think he deserved to be happy." A brief pause and then in a voice thick with remembered pain Skinner said, "and in the end, she did leave, and Jimmy put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger."
Krycek snorted, "I'm hardly about to do the same thing."
Skinner chuckled softly, running his fingers through thick sable hair. "I never thought you would, you're tougher than any of us. But you do feel the same guilt we all do, don't you, Alex."
It wasn't a question and the deep voice continued relentlessly, "You live every day with the guilt over the people you've killed and the promises you've broken. For what you did to survive." Very gently, he finished, "and most of all you feel guilt for surviving when those you love haven't."
Shuddering as he felt Skinner's word strike him, Krycek tried to pull away. When the older man wouldn't allow it, he said stiffly. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Sure you do," Skinner said evenly, "I can see it in your eyes, in everything you do." He paused, "that's the real reason you went off with Mulder today. You're punishing yourself. You can't face the fact that someone might actually genuinely *care* not just about fucking you or your skill with a gun. Hell," he said, still in that calm voice, "you're nothing but a whore and you wanted Mulder to prove it to you." He shook his head, "and he, poor bastard, wants you enough that he'll go along."
Krycek didn't say anything, stunned by Skinner's perception.
Skinner sighed wearily, "Dammit Alex, you're not being fair to either yourself or Mulder." He ran one hand lightly through the silky hair, "Mulder's not a bad man. He would have helped you for nothing if you'd given him the chance."
Krycek almost shrugged. "If you say so."
Large hands stroked slowly down his body in a soothing repetitive motion. "You know, Alex, one day you're going to have to trust somebody and not automatically assume the worst." He said quietly, "Have you ever trusted anybody?"
A long silence, and then slowly, "I, no..." he hesitated and then very softly, "I trust you." He glanced up and strange smile shaped his mouth. "I've done just about everything I could to you, and you're still here."
"Good," Skinner said a little gruffly to hide the emotion deepening his voice. "I'm glad you've realized that much at least." He tilted his lover's head, looking down into the elegant, deceptively delicate features, "even Mulder has forgiven you, why don't you try and forgive yourself Alex? I think it may be time."
When Mulder came into the tiny kitchen, he almost backed away again as quickly. Krycek was standing by the refrigerator pouring a glass of beer, a double bologna sandwich beside him. At the sight of the other man, Alex gave a nod and a tentative smile but didn't say anything. He took his plate and sat down at the table, munching on the sandwich in silence, watching Mulder.
Both men were only too aware that they had not spoken since their early morning encounter.
Mulder had no idea what Skinner and Alex had said to each other during their confrontation, but whatever it was, afterwards Krycek had seemed to relax a little. As if some sort of barrier had been breached he had spent the next couple of days sleeping almost around the clock with the AD guarding his rest.
Even when he emerged, tousled and heavy-eyed, he seemed utterly self-contained, interacting little with his fellow prisoners apart from Skinner. Apparently content to do nothing, he spent his days reading, watching TV, and on the phone to Peter. It was in stark contrast to Mulder how thought he was going to go crazy in his confinement.
Mulder tried to ignore the silence and the steady look and opened the refrigerator, finding half a cold pizza. Taking it out and tearing off a piece, he ate it standing up.
Krycek grimaced, "I don't know how you can eat that garbage," he said.
Mulder grinned, "Don't knock it 'till you've tried it."
"No thank you," Krycek said, drinking down some more beer. "I prefer non-edible x-files. Besides, with those guys you never know what's on it."
"Well at least here you don't have to push through Scully's medical specimen and risk small-pox just because you want a soda," Mulder countered.
There was a small silence, and then suddenly, Mulder couldn't stand it any longer. "Fuck, Alex, how can you do this? He's almost twenty years older than you are."
"Eighteen to be exact," Krycek said calmly, not fazed by the sudden change in conversation. "And no, I'm definitely not looking for a father figure," a strange expression slid across green eyes, "trust me on this."
"Okay, fine, so you're not looking for a father figure, but hell, Alex, what do you see in him?"
"He wants me," was the simple answer.
Mulder bit his lip, "There are other people who want you," he pointed out, not stating the obvious that he was one of them.
Krycek shook his head, "Not like Walter does," he said softly. "He knows where I'm coming from, Mulder, he knows what I've done, and he still wants me. And not for this," he gestured at his face, the jade-green eyes, the tilted cheekbones, the firm sensuous mouth. "He wants me for me."
There was an awed quality to the soft words that cut the man listening like a knife.
A sudden wry smile lit Krycek's eyes, "And not that you're interested or anything, but yes, the sex is great," he gave Mulder a knowing, amused look.
Mulder shook his head, "I'm sorry, I just can't imagine AD Walter Skinner going crazy in bed, and not to belabor a point or anything, but he's middle-aged, Alex."
Krycek raised an eyebrow, "So?" He chewed on his bottom lip for a moment, obviously hesitating, but then he said, "Let me put it this way. I've had the young perfect bodies and any variation of the sexual act you can imagine, plus a few you probably can't. I can't remember how many men I've fucked, who've fucked me. And if I learned one thing it's that desire doesn't depend on the physical perfection of a body, the flatness of a stomach or the width of shoulders."
His voice was very dry, "Call it Krycek's addendum to 'it's not looks but personality that matter.' What Walter and I do in bed is beyond great, beyond anything I've ever experienced because it's *Walter*."
Krycek paused and then said calmly, "It's none of your damned business, but actually he's got one hell of a body, and trust me, he knows how to use it," a sudden lazy sensuous heavy-lidded smile.
Mulder had sworn that he wouldn't do it, that he wouldn't beg, that he would accept what Alex had done, but he heard his own voice saying, "What about us, Alex? Why couldn't you give us a chance?"
Krycek sighed, "Mulder, be honest with yourself. What has there ever been between us apart from lies, secrets, hatred and sex?" He shook his head to forestall the words, "no, really *think*, Mulder. What did we have except for sex? Sex and enough emotional baggage to sink the Titanic."
He paused, "Can you see us waking up in the morning, reading the newspaper? Watching a football game and arguing about the rules? Going for a Sunday afternoon walk? Coming home after a day's work? Hell, even," he added derisively "go out for dinner together?"
A crooked smile, a slight shrug, "Maybe the man I was would have been satisfied with what you're offering, wouldn't have wanted anything but a few nocturnal fucks now and then. But the man I've become in the past two years, the man I want to be," he shook his head, "he values himself more than that."
There was no regret, no hesitation in the cool voice.
He had forgotten the hard purpose that was an integral part of Krycek's personality, the ability to simply discard whatever was unnecessary for survival; be it emotions or people.
Mulder knew in that moment that what he most wanted would never be his.
Alex would never love him.
And with that knowledge came not only pain but also anger and hatred. He had hated Krycek once and he knew he could very easily do so again.
When he spoke next there was nothing of the confusion and pleading that had been present in his voice only moments earlier.
His voice icy, Mulder said. "All right, fine, you don't love me, you'll never love me. But then I want something else."
Krycek stilled at the change in tone. "What do you mean?" he asked suddenly looking extremely wary.
The cold detached part of Mulder's mind was glad to see the hint of uncertainty and doubt in emerald eyes.
"I want you."
Krycek stared at him and then he actually laughed. "Mulder, haven't we already had this discussion?" Suddenly he relaxed. "You're the one who told me to go, remember?"
Mulder didn't smile. "I know what I said," he crossed his arms feeling suddenly in control, after too long of helplessly floundering. His voice remained dispassionate and level. "I was angry." A slight shrug, "I changed my mind."
Krycek shook his head. "No way, Mulder," he said abruptly.
Mulder smiled, lips peeled back and teeth showing. "Yes you will. The reason you're free from Spender, Peter's only chance of removing the chip. It's because of me. If you refuse I'll make sure Scully doesn't finish her research."
"She wouldn't do that," but for a moment fear shaded the husky voice.
Mulder smiled coldly. "She won't like it, but she'll do it... for me."
Krycek's hand fisted. "Why, Mulder?"
"Because you owe me."
The stark words hung in the air.
"Whatever I owed you I paid," Krycek finally said, evenly.
Mulder raised an eyebrow, hazel eyes gone cold as ice. "Really? You're free, you've got Peter back, what exactly have I got in return?"
"Fuck, Mulder, we're not kids in a sandbox," Krycek returned. Yet his response lacked the force of anger.
"That's right. We're not kids and I risked everything for you, Alex. I denied my father for you. If Spender is really pissed not only my mother but Scully is in danger, and all you can say is, 'sorry, Mulder, have a nice life, bye, bye?'" He shook his head, "oh no, I want more than that."
"I'm not a fucking toy you can discard and then suddenly decide you want again," Krycek spat with the first signs of anger.
Mulder laughed bitterly. "No, you're not, you're a master manipulator. Are you going to deny that you've used me to get what you want?"
They glared at each other and it was Krycek who looked away first. "What do you want me to say?" he asked wearily. "Yes, that's the bargain we made, fucking for your help."
Mulder said coolly. "And now I'm collecting my debt."
Krycek bit his lip. "Is that really what you want, Mulder? Sex as payment?"
"No," Mulder said evenly. "What I want is you. You're the one who made it into a business deal." He smiled without humor. "See, that's the true irony. I want you enough that I'll take any terms offered. At this point I really don't give a fuck whether you hate me or not as long as I've got you back in my bed."
Coming into the bedroom from the bathroom, Skinner found Krycek perched on the bed, knees pulled up. It was a favorite position, and it made Skinner smile, thinking that one day he must tell Krycek it made him look like a kid, "Deep thoughts, Alex?" He sat down on the bed beside his lover.
Krycek nodded, "I talked to Mulder today," a wry smile, "or rather he talked to me." He rose abruptly and went over to the window.
Skinner just stopped himself from rolling his eyes. He had seen Mulder's frustration rise in the last couple of days. "What did he want?"
Evenly Krycek repeated Mulder's threat and his demands.
"He wants what?!" Skinner exploded. He had seldom been angrier.
Krycek didn't turn around, "You heard me," he said distantly, looking out the window.
"No." Skinner said curtly. "Fuck Mulder."
The tall straight figure swung around and ironic amusement curled a corner of his mouth. "Well, that's the point, isn't it?"
Skinner stared at him. Once again Krycek had withdrawn, and there was nothing but aloof detachment in the bottle-green opaque eyes. Skinner knew he had to tread carefully and so he restrained his first impulse, which was to go punch some sense into Fox Mulder. "Is this what you want?" he finally asked, his voice as cool and even as Krycek's.
For a moment some indefinable emotion flickered across the still face, and then Krycek shrugged. "Does it matter?"
Once again Skinner was silenced. "Yes," he said calmly. "Yes it matters, Alex."
Krycek turned away again. "I don't know," he admitted after a long silence.
"Do you love him?" Skinner asked in a deceptively casual voice.
A bitter, startled laugh was the answer. "Hell no!" Krycek's mouth twisted. "I'm many things but a masochist is not one of them. No, I don't love Mulder, most of the time I don't even like him. But - " abruptly he stopped and shrugged.
"You want him." It wasn't a question.
Again there was that too casual shrug. "Yeah, I guess I do. I wanted him for many years, Walter. I think a part of me wanted him even before I met him."
"Because of his father."
Once again it wasn't a question but Krycek chose to answer it as one. "Yeah, because of Bill Mulder. He used to talk about his son, about Fox all the time. How smart the boy was, how quick, how he played Little League Baseball... the fact that he skipped two grades in high school..." Krycek sighed, running his hand through thick dark-brown disheveled hair. "We go back a long time, Walter, longer than Mulder knows." He let his hand fall to his side. "Look, I'm not saying I understand it myself, but if that's how he wants to be repaid, then I'll do it."
"I see..." Skinner said flatly, not giving away anything. "So it doesn't really matter what I think."
A brief hesitation, "It matters, but it's not going to change my mind." Krycek met his eyes. "I don't know what we've got here, Walter. But I do know what it isn't. It's nothing like what's between Mulder and I."
Skinner arched an eyebrow. "Is that good or bad?"
Krycek actually laughed softly, "Oh, good, definitely good." He hesitated and then said quietly, "I don't know what I feel about you, but it's not like anything I've ever felt before, okay?" It was as far as he would go.
It would be so easy to do what he wanted, Skinner thought. To react with instinct and emotion. To haul Mulder off and punch him in the gut. But while momentarily satisfying, he was also sure that it wouldn't be worth its price.
All three of them knew that Mulder's threat was pretty empty, but it wasn't the threat that was the point. It was Krycek's reaction to Mulder's blatant emotional blackmail.
It surprised Skinner that Alex Krycek could so easily fall for Mulder's manipulationYet studying the younger man, his lover, he suddenly thought that perhaps it wasn't so strange after all. Facing your demons is never easy and even for a man as hard and circumspect as Krycek it was inevitable that he would be shaken by it. Then too... for a man with so few morals, Alex had a surprising code of honor, albeit an unconventional one.
"Yeah, it's okay," Skinner said quietly. He waited until Krycek was looking at him, and then he continued, "Alex, let's get some things straight. I can go to Mulder, tell him to get his hands off my property," he ignored the sudden stillness of the man by the window. "And he may or may not back off. I can order him," a crooked smile, "not that he's ever obeyed orders before. I can give you an ultimatum, either tell Mulder to screw himself or we're through." Again he paused, watching the emotions cross the finely-drawn face. "But I'm not going to. Frankly I find domination games childish and boring, and the truth is that you can't have a relationship unless it's built on equality and trust between adults. I don't own you, I have no interest in owning you."
Krycek looked out through the window body still and tense. "I don't get you, Walter," he said quietly.
Skinner moved up behind him, a large hand slowly beginning to massage a rigid neck. Krycek breathed out but remained still beneath the soothing touch.
"I know, and that's what I'm counting on," Skinner said in his deep bass. With a small secret flash of amusement he thought that it was rather like hooking a salmon. A steady pull, then roll the line out followed by a sudden tug.
And like a salmon, Alex fought instinctively. But whether he knew it or not he was caught and Skinner wasn't about to let him go.
Very slowly, Skinner bent his head, lips replacing his fingers. He could feel Alex's deep shudder as the younger man's eyes slid closed and he leaned back, head falling on a broad shoulder. Still slowly, Skinner let his hands rediscover familiar territory, sliding up beneath the T-shirt and stroke lightly across taut muscles and satin soft skin before they moved to the zipper, stilling for a moment as they traced the contours of the button and zipper.
Breathing picking up, Krycek pressed himself against Skinner, rubbing against the hardness he felt against his ass.
With agonizing slowness Skinner slipped the button free and one hand on Krycek's hip, stilling the instinctive movement, the fingers of his other hand, pulled the zip down, tooth by tooth...
Krycek's breathing was very loud in the silence of the room a deep quiver running the length of his body as Skinner lightly bit his ear, and murmured, "For what it's worth, I know why you're doing it."
In answer, Krycek shuddered, but there was a strange fear in his husky voice when he muttered, "I don't know what the hell you want with a fucked-up guy like me."
Fingertips stroking lightly across pale flanks, making Krycek jerk in response even as a large warm hand freed his cock, stroking down the hard length, Skinner laughed, "I must be the masochist."
Krycek turned abruptly looking up at Skinner, the wariness in his eyes in stark contrast to the sensual yield of his body. "I mean it, Walter. Why are you doing this?"
Skinner gazed back, his face showing only calm interest. "Why do you think, Alex?"
A long silence, and then Krycek moaned faintly, his hips moving in response to Skinner's continued stroking, and the broad thumb smoothing the crown of his cock, "I don't know, and that's what's bugging me." He closed his eyes, another moan forcing itself through his clenched teeth at the sensation of Skinner's fingers closing around his balls, rolling them in his hand.
Stepping out of the pool of denim at his feet and kicking his jeans away, Krycek spread his legs; hips raised as his ass begged to be fucked. But once again Skinner managed to surprise him. Instead of accepting the open invitation, he wrapped his arms around Krycek fingertips flirting lightly with silky skin and whispered into his ear, "No, this time I want you to be inside me..."
Krycek swung around, eyes brilliant with surprise to find dark eyes laughing at him. "You want me to what?!"
Somehow he had never imagined that Skinner would let anyone fuck him. But the mere thought of burying himself in the brawny body set his blood afire in a way he would once have thought impossible after all the countless meaningless sex he'd had.
Skinner framed Krycek's face between two large hands. "I told you once before, I don't play power-games in bed, Alex." He kissed the firm lips coaxing them apart before taking a ripe lower lip between his teeth and chewing gently.
Shuddering in response, Krycek felt himself tugged towards their bed, and still kissing they sank down on it together....
Later, in bed, his head resting against Skinner's shoulder, Krycek said very quietly, "You know, he's right Walter, I do owe him."
Skinner arched an eyebrow. "The man beats and rapes you and you owe him?"
Krycek said dryly, "Well, I killed his father, remember?" Not even to Skinner could he explain his compulsory need to leave no debts behind once this was over.
Skinner shifted. "Alex, what do you want from me? My blessing?"
There was a long silence and then, "I don't know," Krycek admitted softly. "It scares me to realize just how much I want to ask you. Since - " he cleared his throat, "since I got away from the Consortium I haven't asked anybody for anything and that's the way I intended it to stay."
"Sounds pretty lonely to me," Skinner said calmly. "You can't have a relationship without limits and trust and all kinds of uncomfortable compromises, believe me after being married I know."
"Forgive me, but I do not really want to know about your marriage to Sharon," Krycek retorted.
Skinner actually chuckled, "Hmm, you wouldn't be jealous by any chance, Alex?"
"Me? Why should I be?" was the curt answer, and then suddenly Krycek laughed. "Fuck, listen to us, we sound just like a - " he stopped and the laughter died abruptly.
"Like a couple?" Skinner arched an eyebrow. "I think that's what we're working towards, don't you?"
"I... don't know," was the slow admission. "I've never really been in a relationship, if you mean the kind where you date and make dinner together and all that shit."
"It's not shit, Alex. If it works, it's the best, the only thing that keeps you sane," Skinner said quietly.
"If you say so," Krycek sounded openly skeptical.
"I do say so," Skinner said firmly. There was a long comfortable silence, and then just as Krycek was drifting off to sleep, he heard Skinner's deep voice say quietly, "and Alex... I know you're not asking my permission, but for what it's worth I'll respect your decision."
Krycek didn't say anything, but his body relaxed, and although Skinner still wanted to go pound Mulder into the ground, he knew that it had been the right thing to say.
Skinner was working in the main room the next morning, thinking of Alex Krycek. So much pain, and so much passion. A wry smile curved his lips, so *Russian*.
The room was clean and far tidier than before the attack. Through some miracle most of the computer equipment had survived and Skinner, Mulder and Krycek had all chipped in to replace whatever had been lost.
Sitting by the workbench, Skinner was tinkering with one of the mines he planned on burying along the perimeter later on. Although they hadn't heard anything from Spender again, he wanted to be ready. However, he was also aware of the patience and cunning of their enemy, and felt a small trickle of ice down his spine. He knew that if Spender wouldn't forgive them for their betrayal, none of them would ever live in safety again.
A soft sound behind made him look up and unconsciously his eyebrows knitted in a frown. Mulder, and by the looks of him, ready for another confrontation. Well fine, he wasn't too happy with his agent either.
He nodded curtly and said, "Hand me one of those will you, Mulder?" He nodded at the beer he'd lined up against the wall. Mulder obeyed, popping open the tab and handing it over. Skinner drank down, sighing in satisfaction. "Ahh, nothing as good as a cold beer on a hot day."
Mulder said nothing giving Skinner a defiant glare.
There was a long tense silence and then Skinner said evenly, "What exactly are you trying to accomplish, Mulder?"
"I.... I want - "
A hint of steel crept into the deep level voice. "I know what you want," the cold contempt drove the blood into Mulder's cheeks. "The real question is how the fuck you have the stomach to demand what you do."
Mulder's hands clenched. "I don't have a choice," he said harshly.
Skinner gave him an incredulous look. "No choice?"
"No, I don't! Because you took it away," Mulder accused bitterly.
Skinner sighed and asked wearily. "Are we back to that again? I did not take anything away from you." He took another swig of his beer. "This has nothing to do with me, just with you and Alex. What did you really think he'd do, Mulder? Fall into your arms and swear eternal love?" Mulder flushed again.
Although Skinner meant to keep his promise to respect Alex's decision, that didn't mean he couldn't at least try and make Mulder back off. Bitter experience had taught him that rage and yelling only made the younger man more contrary and stubborn. Besides, he knew that he had to tread very carefully. Krycek was wary as hell. However, that did not mean that Skinner couldn't do a little manipulation of his own. Maybe he could make Mulder see sense through logic. His mouth twisted into a grim smile. Mulder logical?
"I just don't get it," Mulder admitted reluctantly. "How is it that you and Alex seem to have this... this connection? He beat you up, and nearly killed you, and you beat him up and left him to freeze half to death on the balcony. You should hate each other, instead he trusts you."
"We have a connection, as you call it Mulder, because we are the same." Skinner slowly swirled the beer can around, hearing the dregs swoosh inside the container and then settle again. "We've walked through hell and lived to tell the tale."
Wadding up the can and tossing it into the trashcan, Skinner leaned back. "Alex feels safe with me, Mulder, because he doesn't think he has to hide anything from me and because I won't judge him for what he was."
"I don't understand," Mulder said flatly, "I know what he is. I know what he's done."
Skinner shook his head, "No, knowing and understanding are two different things." He gave Mulder a thoughtful look. "Alex was a whore, a Consortium whore and a killer."
Mulder winced despite himself, pain reflecting in the hazel of his eyes. "I know."
"Hurts doesn't it?"
He nodded mutely.
"But why does it hurt?"
Mulder shook his head, confused. "What are you talking about?"
"What I mean," Skinner said rather coolly, "is whom do you hurt for, yourself or Alex? Because the thought of him with other men, *many* other men makes you jealous, or because he didn't chose to be with them."
Mulder swallowed finally seeing what Skinner was driving at.
"I don't know," he muttered, ashamed and yet unable to deny his selfishness. He couldn't deny that his first instinctive reaction was bitter jealousy at the thought of his Alex with anyone else. Except, he thought embittered, Krycek wasn't his Alex any longer; he was Skinner's.
Skinner nodded, unsurprised. "That's the price you pay for loving a man like Alex Krycek, Mulder. All those ugly painful memories... They have made him into the man he is." He spread his hands, looking down at the neat workbench in front of him. "And they've hurt him, make no mistake about that. He hides it well, granted, but the wounds are still there." There was something distant in his eyes, "one of my best friends married a Vietnamese whore. A lovely woman, Wei-Ling. Brad's the one who told me of the price you pay, but he also said something else." He paused, "if you manage to get past the first instinctive revulsion, the hurt. If you can help them heal, then you'll have something very, very special. A woman like Wei-Ling, or a man like Alex Krycek, they would never cheat on you, once they give their heart, they would die for you," a crooked smile, "or in Alex's case, kill. Because they have seen too much of ugliness they treasure what they have all the more. They are capable of a kind of love we all dream of but seldom find."
"You really love him, sir." The 'sir' once again slipping out easily.
Skinner gave him a strange look, "Why is that so hard to believe?"
Mulder shook his head, "No reason I guess, but I've always thought of you as such a white-bread straight arrow conservative guy."
Skinner smiled a little wryly, "Shows how little you know about me, Mulder. I like to keep my private life exactly that, private. But you're right that I don't go cruisin' for ass down on the Strip, nor am in to leather or BDSM, I'm really a very vanilla kind of guy."
It was beyond strange to hear those words from the lips of Walter Skinner, Mulder thought, wondering when he'd fallen through the rabbit's hole. "Yes, sir," he said woodenly.
Skinner gave him another keen look, and a faint, almost sympathetic smile, "It's rather like realizing for the first time that your parents actually have sex," he said calmly. "It tends to shift everything around a bit."
Mulder felt a sudden burning resentment, akin to hatred, of this man who had taken everything he had ever wanted from him, and now gave him a condescending, superior smirk. He felt the need to hurt in kind, as he had been hurt. "Are you sure you can give Alex what he needs then? As you say you're a vanilla guy, and Alex might get bored and wander off."
"You couldn't be more wrong," they both started at the cool husky voice coming from the doorway.
Krycek walked into the room, "Interesting conversation, can anybody join?" he asked, folding his body and settling down at Skinner's feet, leaning against his leg. He looked at Mulder, "it's exactly because I have something to compare it to, that I love what Walter and I do in bed," he smiled up at Skinner who let one large hand rest gently on his shoulder.
Mulder felt encased in ice. It was a knife through his soul the knowledge that Alex had never smiled at him like that, never curled up around his body, never leaned his cheek against his leg, rubbing lightly, not in an overtly sexual way, more as if to give and receive casual affection and intimacy.
"This is your revenge, isn't it?" He whispered between stiff lips.
Krycek looked up, "Revenge?"
"For the deal I made."
Krycek opened his mouth and then he closed it again, a strange expression crossing his face. "I honestly don't know, I can't deny that yeah, a part of me doesn't mind what you're feeling."
He gave Mulder a candid look, "The deal you made... I thought you were one of the 'good guys' and good guys don't do what you did." He smiled faintly and shrugged, "ah well, another illusion lost." He stretched sinuously, deliberately rubbing himself against Skinner, trailing his fingers down a powerful arm. Meanwhile green eyes watched Mulder, mocking silently.
Skinner gave Krycek an enigmatic look but allowed the touch.
Mulder's eyes narrowed. "If you don't mind, sir, I would like to speak to Krycek in private."
Skinner opened his mouth to growl out a refusal when he felt the body pressed against him tense. "Alex?" he asked softly.
A moment's hesitation and then Krycek shook his head. "I'll deal with it, Walter."
It was with a sense of surrealism that Mulder watched as Skinner, *Walter Skinner*, obeyed without a word, rising his hand remaining a moment longer on Krycek's shoulder and squeezing gently before he said calmly, "I'll be in the kitchen if you need me." And then he left, closing the door behind him.
"How the fuck did you do that?" Mulder asked in amazement.
"It's all done with kindness, firmness and a rolled up newspaper." Krycek's smile died rapidly.
There was an uncomfortable silence and finally Mulder couldn't stand it any longer as he said abruptly, "Why, if you hate me, did you let me fuck you. And don't give me that shit about a bargain. You *wanted* me. You can't fake something like that."
"I don't hate you," Krycek said calmly. "There is a part of me that will always want you, Mulder. Hell," he smiled almost wistfully, "I was more than a little in love or at least in lust with you for years."
Mulder bit his lip, tasting his own blood. To hear Alex admit it so casually. The answer to all his dreams. The pain tore through him. "But?"
"I trust Walter." His voice turned dry, "I don't trust any easier than you do, and what you did," his gaze did not falter, "tore that trust apart."
"Why the hell didn't you *tell* me, Alex?!" He felt completely devastated by the calm words.
"Tell you what? That when you and your mother thought Bill Mulder was working, he was actually fucking me and my sister? That the men who formed the second government also liked some pretty strange entertainment? Would you have believed me? Or would it have been just another lie from the ratbastard?"
His eyes suddenly hardened. "Oh no, Mulder, I don't explain myself to anybody, and that's how it's always been. There is an old Portuguese proverb that goes something like, 'take what you want and pay for it says God.' That's what I did. I wanted to kill your father, Mulder. I loved it! When I pulled that trigger - " he stopped abruptly. "It doesn't matter."
Mulder sat very still. He tried to dredge up some of the cold anger that had always filled him when he thought of Krycek killing his father, but God he was so tired of hating. Of emotions that tore his soul apart.
Abruptly it hit him. "Your sister? Petya's mother?" A terrible suspicion suddenly filled him. He went white as paper. "Alex?"
There was only silence and Krycek didn't meet his eyes.
One could accuse Fox Mulder of being many things but stupid was not one of them.
"Oh my God!" Mulder sank down, suddenly devastated. "Peter's my half-brother isn't he?"
There was no answer and when Mulder looked up, Krycek was watching him steadily.
"It's the truth isn't it? Why the hell didn't you tell me?!"
Krycek knelt on the floor, a hand on Mulder's leg. "The truth is I didn't want you to go off the deep end."
"I see," Mulder said icily. "Mad Mulder is carted off by little men in white coats? Screw you, Alex! You had no *right* to keep this from me!"
Krycek stood up, "Yes, I did. You are nothing to Petya that is not just a genetic accident."
Mulder stared blankly in front of him. God, he had a brother. A fucking *brother*. The next moment a thrill shot through him. That meant that Alex.... "I want to see him you know," he said flatly.
Krycek nodded calmly, "I know you do. Wait a couple of weeks until I've had time to talk to him and then you can come for a visit."
A brief hesitation as Mulder fought the need to see Peter Krycek *now* "I guess that will be best," he said reluctantly.
"Yes, it will."
Mulder restlessly stood up and started to pace. "That's why you killed dad, wasn't it? Not because of the Consortium or what he did to you, but because of Peter and your sister."
"I shot him because he deserved it," Krycek said flatly.
For the first time, fury did not fill Mulder as he listened to the words. "Yes," he said softly, "he did."
And with the acknowledgment came a strange peace. The man Bill Mulder was had indeed deserved death and the genetic accident that made him a father did not excuse the crimes he had committed or the lives he had destroyed.
Krycek stared at him, obviously stunned, and Mulder felt an insane laugh bubbling up. "Is it so hard to believe, Alex, that I can understand what you did? Why you did it?"
A moment's silence, and then Krycek said, "Yeah, it is, Mulder." He arched a dark eyebrow, "Especially since you've made it your life's work to blame me for everything wrong on earth, including the greenhouse effect."
Mulder gave him a half-hearted glare before he surrendered and actually smiled. "Maybe I've been a little single-minded," he admitted.
"The word you're looking for is obsessed, Mulder."
They looked at each other and abruptly Mulder's smile died. "I've said it before, and I'll probably say it a thousand times more, but I'm sorry, Alex. I'm sorry for what I did. I would give just about anything to take it back." He hesitated, "No, that's not quite true."
This was a time for honesty, so although he felt like choking, he said softly, " I can't say that I regret everything. I don't regret learning the truth about my father. I will go to my death remembering the feel and smell and taste of you in my arms." In a whisper he added, "I don't regret falling in love."
"Oh fuck, Mulder!" Krycek sighed as crossed the space between them and knelt before Mulder, each movement graceful and assured. Slowly he reached up and cupped Mulder's jaw, and then he bent his head for a slow, lazy kiss, nibbling on the lower lip.
Mulder's heart stopped and then resumed again at double speed. All his focus was concentrated to the smooth sweep of Krycek's tongue, the light nip of strong white teeth. He closed his eyes as his breath shuddered out slowly. "Alex..." he wasn't sure how to finish that sentence.
Krycek shook his head as he pressed a finger against Mulder's lips. "Shh..." he murmured, "don't say anything." His lips whispered along Mulders jaw, and down his throat, as knowing, skillful fingers made Mulder moan and arch into their touch helplessly, already so hard he ached.
"Alex...?" he opened his eyes to look right into jade-green depths. "You do want me!" he breathed in triumph.
Krycek's smile was a bitter twist of his mouth. He pulled Mulder up with him. "One last bargain, Mulder. You and me until Scully finds the cure."
Mulder stared at him, unable to believe what he'd just heard. "You can't be serious!" he croaked.
Another smile, a shade more caustic this time. "Isn't that what you wanted?"
"Alex, you know I would never have gone through with what I said. I was angry," Mulder mumbled, looking away.
"Do I?" Krycek said cynically. "Maybe. It doesn't matter."
Mulder thought it mattered a great deal. "You do believe me, don't you?" He said urgently, "I would never really threaten Peter's life, not even before I knew who he was."
"What I believe," Krycek replied evenly, "is that you'll do whatever is necessary to get what you want."
Mulder paled. "You despise me," he whispered feeling the cool words strike him.
A shrug even as he pulled Mulder along to the bedroom. "Why should I? I do the same. The difference is, I don't pretend I'm being moral."
Listening to the sound of the door closing behind them, Mulder turned to the man watching him with cool, distant eyes. He hesitated, as his brain screamed at him to stop this now. But then Krycek pushed him against the wall, pinning his body, one corded thigh sliding slowly between Mulder's spread legs, the denim sliding slowly against the sudden burning hardness, and Mulder was lost. His body caught fire and he arched, moaning and gasping into the touch, almost screaming at the first feel of Alex's lips against his skin as Krycek gently bit at his ear, hard, only to soothe the tender flesh the next moment. Meanwhile long fingers started tracing the outline of hard muscles as Mulder sucked in his breath.
"What... what about Skinner?" Mulder gasped, grasping hard, muscular shoulders, pulling Krycek closer, rediscovering territory he had thought lost forever.
A shadow of pain crossed Krycek's face, and then the eyes turned opaque. "He knows, he understands," Alex sounded like a man trying to convince himself. . Hearing the well-concealed hint of pain, Mulder knew that the right thing to do would be to tell Krycek to go. He opened his mouth to do just that. But instead he found himself kissing Alex hungrily, going mad from the taste and touch and fell. In the end, all he knew was that Alex was back with him again. That he could touch and caress the supple, beautiful body in front of him, that Alex was kissing him back and was pulling him towards the bed. He even thought he could read a glimmer of pity for the insane need that shook him, but even that didn't matter. He would grasp at the weakest straw, he had fallen that deeply.
"I love you," he groaned, and waited in hope for the return of his words. But none came, just soft touches, hot searing caresses, gasps, moans and.... silence.
Anger and desire shook him in equal parts. He wanted to punish Krycek for not loving him. For being here, moaning and writhing in his bed. For loving someone else, for the dark, blood-soaked past that rose like a specter between them. He wanted to punish, yet pleasure the other man. To imprint himself until Alex would never look at a bed and not see Mulder. Never touch another body without remembering this night, this lover.
When the time came he was not gentle, thrusting deeply, using his body as punishment, but whom he was punishing, himself or Alex he never knew. Krycek more than met him, as lost in need as Mulder, head flung back, mouth open as he breathed in harsh gasps that sounded like sobs.
Finally there was nothing but the silence that comes after. Lying in bed, feeling the sweat slowly dry on his body, the sharp acrid musky scent of sex filling his nostrils, the blood still thudding through him, he felt Alex shift away and begin to leave. He knew the answer, and whatever remained of his pride should have prevented him from speaking, but still he whispered, the words torn from him. "Stay. Please."
Krycek didn't even turn his head. "No."
When Mulder spoke again, each word was a knife flung at the man he loved, meant to hurt and maim. "Is it so easy for you then, to go from one bed to another?"
Strangely, Krycek did not grow angry. "Easy?" he said slowly. "No, not easy, but this," he nodded at the stained, rumpled sheets, and Mulder sprawled naked across it, "has nothing to do with Walter."
"He's a more generous man than I!" Mulder spat.
Krycek laughed softly, "No, just a wiser one I think."
Mulder watched the light of the lamp by the bed paint soft shadows across Alex's body, and he knew with despair that the fire of passion and need had died and faded into the cold ashes of bitterness and indifference. "What will he say when you come to his bed with the sweat and come of another man on your skin... inside you?" he asked, and watched with a vicious satisfaction, Krycek's flinch.
"Mulder, don't." He returned, kneeling on the floor still wearing only his jeans, upper body bare, "Why can't you be satisfied with what you have?"
Mulder sat up, "Because it's not what I want." Unable to stop himself, he ran his fingers along the smooth planes and beginning stubble. Krycek remained still and submissive beneath the touch for a moment, before he pulled away.
Rising again, when Alex looked down at the man on the bed, there was no expression on his face. "This is all you may have, Mulder, do you understand?"
And to his shame, Mulder heard himself whisper, "Yes..."
Skinner sat in the darkness, watching the surveillance monitors. Since Garrett's attack had taken them by surprise, Skinner had doubled security. He had set up a schedule that ensured someone was always screening the security cameras. He would not easily rely on technology alone again. And yet, even if there had been no need, he would probably have found himself here or somewhere else just as long as it wasn't in bed, thinking of what was going on just a few doors away.
Absently keying in a command, one camera zooming in and sweeping across an empty street, Skinner's mouth turned grim. It had not been easy keeping his temper in front of Alex and even more Mulder. But he was playing for high stakes and he could not afford to lose.
"I should have known you'd be here," a soft husky drawl whispered in his ear, and he felt a light touch of lips on his jaw.
Mouth relaxing into a crooked grin, Skinner pushed his chair back and stretched. "Old habits."
"Good habits," Krycek said easily, hooking his foot around a nearby chair and pulling it up beside Skinner's, straddling it, elbow resting on the back. "Unlike your thoughts."
Skinner gave him a swift look. Although the voice was casual, the body relaxed, he could see the watchfulness glimmering deep in green irises. "Well, this is not exactly an ideal situation, is it? We know that Spender's planning something, and - "
A single word, spoken softly, but there was something in the quiet voice that made him flinch.
"I know what I said, Alex, and I'm keeping my word. But I'm not inhuman, you know," he said as quietly.
"I know." Krycek looked down. "Why do it?"
Skinner waited until his continued silence forced the younger man into looking at him. Then he lifted his hand, ignoring the tiny stiffening, the flinch before Krycek stilled beneath the large fingers stroking down his neck, cupping his jaw. "Because you're worth it," Walter Skinner said deeply.
For a moment there was nothing but naked pain in the emerald eyes before long dark lashes trembled and hid them. "That's bullshit, and you know it."
"Do I?" Skinner leaned back. "Have you ever talked to anyone about this image problem you've got?"
"Fuck, I never knew you had a sense of humor, Walter," Alex murmured, startled laughter running through his voice.
Skinner said blandly, "There are many things you don't know about me." It was with secret satisfaction that he saw the slight shift, the grim defensiveness smoothed from the lines of Krycek's face and body.
"I realize that," Krycek said softly, "and I'm looking forward to finding out all of them."
Again Skinner had to hide his satisfaction. It was the first time Alex had ever spoken of the future. However, careful not to spook the man beside him, all he said was, "That won't take long. I'm a very uncomplicated man."
"You?" Krycek arched an eyebrow, "actually..." he continued slowly, thoughtfully as if he'd just realized something, "you're a hell of a lot more complex than I ever realized."
"I - " but whatever Skinner was going to say was interrupted by the arrival of Byers who had the next watch. Giving the two men a curt nod, the slim brown-haired man pointedly looked at them until Skinner stood up catching Krycek's eye, his own glimmering in amusement as Krycek rolled his eyes.
"Good night, Byers," Krycek said cheerfully, stepping a little closer to Skinner and letting his hand slide slowly down one powerful thigh.
Byer's flushed and ducked his head, mumbling something unintelligible and breathing a sigh of relief once Skinner and Krycek were gone. He liked Mulder, he really did, but sometimes things just got a little too weird around him.
Sex and pain. Violence and need, one bleeding into another, blending into a red-hot darkness. And always he watched Krycek rise from the bed without a look backwards. Watched him move, silently, ghostly through the door, and then heard the muffled sound of a door opening and closing. He knew that in the other room Skinner would turn over, open his arms, and settle Krycek against his shoulder. That they would sleep entwined, two bodies mingling in the darkness, finding comfort and security in the touch of each other.
He knew that he could easily drive himself to insanity imagining Alex and Skinner together, but it didn't stop his fantasies, or rather, nightmares
Mulder lay in his cold empty bed, knowing what he had lost, body and soul aching for what he would never have; the trust of Alex Krycek.
Once he had believed that it would be enough to have Alex in his bed, to know that Alex wanted him. Now, he knew just how wrong he had been. He came to understand that he would never, could never, be satisfied with the pale imitation of lust and need. Not when what he really craved was love and trust.
Each day he died a little inside as he was reminded of what grew between the man he loved and the man he worked for, and whom once he had respected and trusted as he did few others.
It wasn't that there was much to see. A brief glance, and light brush of fingers in passing, that was all, and yet no one who saw them could remain unaware of their emotion. The warm smile whenever Krycek caught sight of Skinner, the gentle look that touched Skinner's eyes when he looked at Alex.
Mulder watched and wondered if it was possible for the pain to get worse, and each day the answer was, yes.
His only consolation and his greatest torment remained the nights when Krycek came to his room and his bed. In silence, he undressed. In silence, Mulder received him. Words were seldom exchanged, just soft moans and wordless cries that spoke of need and want. But not love.
And when Mulder tried to whisper them, they were thrust back into his throat by hungry forbidding lips.
Leaning over Krycek, Mulder watched as long black lashes trembled and rose, baring green eyes. Cat eyes, he thought. "You want me," he gasped.
His only answer was a bittersweet smile. "Yes," and then Krycek leaned up and kissed him, deeply, hungrily. "Oh, yes..." he sighed into Mulder's mouth. But it was not enough, it could never be enough, and gentle caressing hands turned suddenly cruel, as if he could, somehow, *force* Alex to love him. As if through passion he could flay the layers of protection and finally reach the vulnerable core at the center of Alex Krycek. Yet, though Krycek's flesh and skin molded themselves easily, wantonly in his hands, strong muscles met and returned each thrust, each searing caress, still he could not reach what he wanted, it remained quicksilver-like forever out of his reach.
Afterwards, sitting up in bed, watching Krycek dress, Mulder said with a bitterness he did not even try and hide, "I don't understand, Alex, how you can do this."
Krycek half-turned. "Because you were right and I do owe you," he said calmly, "because you risked your life at the Consortium getting the data I need for Petya and because you saved my life when you shot Garrett."
"And you always pay your debts?" Mulder asked harshly.
Krycek nodded composed. "Yes. I don't have many rules or morals, but the one thing I always do is pay my debts, and this one is easy." An odd smile shaped his lips.
Sickened, Mulder stared at him. Suddenly he understood what Krycek meant. "I see, you whore for me and you make love to Skinner?"
Krycek turned and gave him a steady look. "You're the past. A past I want to forget." Mulder flinched at the quiet implacable words.
An unnamed emotion shaded his face for a moment, "I don't know," Krycek smiled a little wryly, "you don't have to tell me that I could seriously screw up his career and his life, and trust me I would never do that. Walter is - " he broke off.
"He's what?" Mulder realized there was a kind of horrible fascination in sitting here listening to the man he loved explain just how he loved another man.
"He is the first man who has ever looked at me and seen just me. Did you know," his eyes lit in soft memory, "that for a long time Walter just held me at night? I offered that first night, and every night since, but he said no. He told me he would wait until I wanted him." A shake of his head, "he was prepared to wait just to give me a choice. Do you understand, Mulder? He gives, he doesn't just take."
Unlike you. The unspoken words hung in the air. You who grasped greedily and selfishly for what you wanted. Who never thought of what *I* wanted or desired. Who saw only yourself, your needs, your wants and not the man you say you love.
Feeling sick, Mulder whispered, "Well, you don't owe me a damned thing." His heart and soul screamed at him to stop, to hang on to whatever little he had of Alex, but his brain overruled them both for the first time. "Alex, I do love you, and I would never..." he broke off, "I never thought," he admitted bleakly.
A wry, sardonic smile, "That's your problem Mulder, you never think. You just charge off blindly."
Mulder nodded wearily. "I mean it, Alex, I know what I said in the heat of the moment, but you don't owe me anything, and," he took a deep breath, "I'm through forcing things on you." He bit his lip, "this was the last time," he heard the aching loss in his voice. "Don't come here any more."
Krycek stilled and then turned. "Do you mean that?"
Mulder nodded again. "Yes," his voice was harsh rasp, "I'm as sick as you are of this. I thought -" he broke off. "It doesn't matter what I thought."
Krycek came back and sat down on the bed. Reaching out his hand, he tilted Mulder's head so he could look deep into hazel-gold eyes. "You thought what, Mulder?"
"I thought I could show you what you were missing..." Mulder whispered.
"Oh, Mulder," Krycek sighed wearily and when he bent his head for a last kiss, it was strangely gentle. "You're a fool. How could you ever think a few fucks could change my mind or re-build trust?"
Telling Alex not to come to his bed any more was the right decision; Mulder knew that. So why did it hurt so much? He felt like an addict whose drug had been withheld. Like the sickly-sweet fumes of an opium pipe, Alex's offer of his body was as addictive and as ultimately destructive.
Unfortunately Spender's threat hung heavy over them all, adding to the already tense situation. Although they had heard little from him, none of the six men cooped up together had any doubt he would try again.
Sitting on guard duty late at night, Mulder was absently watching the monitors, thinking of the two men sleeping just a few doors down the hallway.
Once again he marveled at Skinner's skill in breaking through the walls Alex kept around himself. Hazel eyes narrowed thoughtfully as Mulder wondered if it really was a simple as Skinner had made it sound that night in the kitchen. Somehow he suspected there was far more.
Mulder had never been able to read Walter Skinner; he had always found the AD an enigmatic personality. Yet the one thing he had never doubted was the older man's intelligence or, come to think of it, ability to manipulate people, Mulder suddenly thought grimly as he recalled several times in the past when he'd found himself outmanouvered and manipulated into doing what Skinner wanted.
Surely, Alex would see through that - wouldn't he?
He wished that he could talk to Scully and he badly missed her calm common sense. In her absence he actually found himself confiding in Frohike who wandered into the room. Like all the Gunmen, he was used to working during odd hours.
Offering to share some Mexican take-out and a beer from an all-night take-out place, he stayed to keep Mulder company.
"I really don't get it," Mulder brooded. "What the fuck does Alex *see* in him? The man has all the charisma and warmth of a rock."
Frohike who had been more than a little startled by the developments, drank down some more beer, and then shrugged. "Don't ask me, I mean it's not as if Skinner's my type y'know? Too few X-chromosomes for one, and too little hair for another."
Mulder stared down at his can. "I just don't get it."
Frohike chewed on a burrito. "Wanna know what I think?"
Mulder shrugged, and taking that for a yes, Frohike said, "I think he trusts the big guy. I mean Skinner is pretty uncomplicated, y'know? You hit him and he hits you back, but he doesn't spend years plotting revenge. You try and kill him, and he'll attack you, but it'll be like in a stand-up fight. I think Krycek likes knowing where he has Skinner."
Mulder took another bite of his spicy burrito, tasting the melted cheese dribbled on top of the filling. "Maybe," he said gloomily. "That's great in a friend I agree, but a lover? There has to be something more, and... *Walter Skinner*?" he grimaced.
Frohike shrugged, "Yeah? I could be wrong, but it seems to me Krycek wants a friend more than he wants a fuck."
Mulder stared at his friend, feeling as if someone had suddenly opened a door. Shit, how could he have ever forgotten? He was supposed to be a brilliant profiler and psychologist, so why the hell hadn't ever tried to understand and analyze Alex instead of just reacting blindly.
Safe House, Washington, DC
"We've got a problem," Krycek announced flatly coming into the living room. He was looking extremely grim.
"What is it?" Skinner looked up from his notebook, alerted by his tone.
That got everyone's attention. "I finally got hold of an old friend who knows some of Spender's people. He says Spender is still truly and royally pissed."
"Shit," Mulder muttered.
A dry smile crooked Krycek's mouth, "I couldn't have put it better myself." The room fell silent as they all thought of Spender and just what the man was capable of.
"He'll never give up, even if it takes ten years," Krycek admitted wearily, sitting down in the sofa.
"So what do we do?" Mulder asked.
"Kill him," Skinner said flatly.
Mulder stared in mingled astonishment and horror at his superior.
Krycek however shook his head, "I've already thought of that, but it's not an option unfortunately."
"Why not?" Once Mulder was over the shock, he began to warm to the idea.
"Because," and Krycek gave him a sarcastic look, "if we do, we'll have the rest of the Consortium after us like that!" he snapped his fingers. "No, we need to make a deal with him."
Skinner almost winced. Another deal, "What do we possibly have to deal that he would be interested in?" he asked.
Krycek looked weary, almost defeated, "That's the problem," he admitted, "I can't think of anything right off the bat, well," he glanced sideways at Mulder, "nothing that either of us would be willing to trade."
Mulder shuddered, "No way, Alex."
Another silence and then Krycek said broodingly, "If only we had some evidence Garrett was working for Spender as long as he claimed, that would have *really* pissed off Sharpe and the others."
"Actually...." Skinner suddenly said, "Alex, would Garrett be the kind of guy who liked insurance?"
Krycek looked up suddenly alert, "Insurance was his middle name, why?"
"Because when my friends from Langley went through the bodies they found a safety deposit box key taped inside, ah, his body."
Mulder winced, "You have got to be joking?! He kept it *there*?"
Krycek suddenly jumped from the sofa, "Fuck! You might be on to something, Walter."
"Yeah, but we still don't know where the box is kept," Skinner pointed out.
"Not a problem, it would be the Chase Manhattan," Krycek answered absently.
Both Skinner and Mulder stared at him. "How do you know that?" Mulder demanded.
Krycek gave him a cynical look. "Even trained operatives tend to talk after sex."
There was a moment of silence, as there sometimes was after one of Krycek's comments, and then Skinner broke it, "How do we get to it, you can bet Spender's got people watching this place. Scully?"
Mulder shook his head, "He's probably watching her as well, besides she's working, and trust me you don't want to be the one to tell Scully she has to break off to go retrieve a box that may or may not contain something important."
There was more silence and then Mulder said thoughtfully, "What if we use one of Frohike's friends? He can come as a pizza delivery guy," he grinned, "There are certainly enough of those coming and going every day. He dresses up as one, goes to the bank gets the box and returns."
"Not bad," Krycek admitted after pondering Mulder's suggestion for a moment. "The question is, can he be trusted?"
"I don't think we have much choice at this point," Skinner asked dryly.
After some more discussions they all agreed upon the plan, and Frohike, when briefed, was very enthusiastic and even offered to do hit himself. An offer they refused as diplomatically as possible.
The small odd-looking man Frohike had introduced as 'my friend Bob,' returned safely two days later with a padded envelope. "That was the only thing in there," he said brightly. "So, is anyone gonna tell me what's going on?"
Skinner gave him his best AD 'look' and growled, "No!"
The man blanched, "Oookay, man," and scuttled out.
Krycek chuckled softly, "Very nice, Walter, you'll have to teach me how to do that sometime. Do you strip paint off fence posts at fifty paces away, as well?"
Skinner gave him another look, Krycek gave him an innocent grin, and stern brown eyes, softened. "Only for practice," he said, and then turned back to where the Gunmen were huddled over the computer. "What have you got?"
Langley looked up, "It's encoded," he grinned, snagging and opening a bag of pork rinds, "well you'd expect as much, but we'll crack it."
Two days later there were no smiles, just intense frustration and the ripe smell of unwashed feet and stale coffee, candy bar wrappings and empty chips bags lying around.
Frohike rubbed his eyes wearily, "I want to meet whoever encrypted this, the guy is a wizard."
Krycek who had come in to look over his shoulder said, "Better hope you go to hell after you die then."
Startled the small man looked up, "What do you mean?"
"Because that's where I sent him two years ago," Krycek said matter-of-factly.
Although none of them actually flinched there was some careful moving away from Krycek, and much clearing of throats and shuffling of feet.
Skinner, unmoved by the words said dryly, "Before you shot him, you didn't by any chance ask him about his encryption system?"
Real amusement lit moss-green eyes, and Krycek shook his head, "Sorry, didn't have time, things were a bit frantic, and I doubt he'd have been very cooperative." He glanced back at screen. "None of the passwords I gave you worked?"
"No, sorry, not a one." Langley stared in intense frustration at the screen. "I can't believe this!" Gloomily he added, "If we don't find the password, we might never crack this." He sounded like a sulky child.
Krycek straightened abruptly and turned away.
"Alex?" Skinner said quietly, alert to the change.
"Try," Krycek cleared his throat, "try, typing, 'Bill Mulder'"
Mulder who was just coming through the door froze.
Frohike's busy fingers were already flying across the keyboard and then a yell of triumph shattered the air. "We've got it! We've fucking got it!"
Everyone immediately clustered around the monitor staring at the information scrolling past.
"Holy cow!" Frohike said in awe.
Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC
"You think he'll show?"
"He'll be here. Calm down Mulder," Krycek said coolly, leaning against the rail.
Mulder shot him an irritated glance, wondering if Alex really was calm or just putting up a good front.
They both saw the stooped figure at the same time but waited for him to come to them.
The old man stopped and looked at them. Standing side by side, united against the enemy, against him, and he allowed a faint smile to shape his lips. He took out a cigarette and lit it. "I am here."
It was Krycek who broke the silence. He dug inside his jacket and came up with a small disc that he handed to Spender. "This is a copy of a disc containing incontrovertible evidence that Garrett was working for you. That he betrayed his masters on your order." A wolfish smile, "they won't like it, Spender, they won't like it at all. You know the rules as well as I do."
Unmoved, Spender took a deep drag of his cigarette. "He always was a fool."
Krycek looked at him, "A needy fool, a fool you took advantage of and used."
Spender smiled coldly, "You've always been too emotional, boy, that's your weakness."
Mulder almost laughed, Alex Krycek too emotional? But then he supposed that compared to Spender, a white shark would be too emotional. He said evenly, "Even if you kill us, it won't stop the information from reaching your enemies. I can have the entire contents of this disc out on the 'net in less than ten minutes. What do you think your 'friends' in the Consortium would think about that?"
If they hadn't been watching him so carefully they might have missed the slight trembling, a flash of fear so swiftly gone it was uncertain it had ever been there. But it was enough and Krycek laughed softly, mockingly.
"That's right, Spender, just think, all the guts of the Consortium spilled across the internet, all courtesy of Spender."
"What do you want?" The level voice ignored the taunting.
"You dead," Krycek said flatly before Mulder could say anything. "But for now, back off. We'll keep the disc as insurance and in return you never contact, never touch either us or the people around us ever again."
Spender looked at Mulder. "Is this what you want?"
Mulder nodded grimly. "Yes. I just want you out of my life, Spender." There was no regret, no hesitation in his voice. The price for some things, even the truth, was too high.
"Very well," the old man let the butt of his cigarette drop and crushed it out with his heel, "if the information is accurate, then you have a deal." He didn't glance at Krycek again, focusing all his concentration on Mulder. "I only hope you never regret your choice, Fox," the use of his first name made Mulder flinch. "You could have had so much, you still can." A strange note of something akin to tenderness threaded through the even voice for a moment, "do you think he'll thank you for tonight? He'll use you, Fox, and then throw you away, or kill you... the way he did your father."
Mulder met his eyes unflinching. "I would much rather be a fool than your tool." He actually smiled a little, "you're both users. The difference is Alex has done what he had to, to survive, while you, you're doing it to validate your lies, your plots and your plans. I think," he said quietly, "I would rather have Alex use me, than you." His voice was very calm, "and I know I would rather have Alex's respect than yours."
Spender shook his head; "You're as stupid as Bill then." He suddenly shifted his attention to Krycek. "He feels guilty you know, but guilt won't last forever. And that's not why he's helping you now. What will you do when he comes and wants his payment?" A cold supercilious smile, "whore for him as prettily as you did it for his father?"
Krycek arched a dark eyebrow, "He won't ask." There was no doubt in his voice. He glanced at Mulder and a small genuine smile curved his lips, "despite what you and Bill Mulder tried to make him into, there is a hell of a lot more good in him than dark. It took me a long time to realize that I admit, but now I know he's not his father and he's not you."
Mulder felt a heavy burden lift from him at the sound of Alex's quiet words.
Spender looked at them, side by side, and something tired dulled his eyes. "Have it your way then," he turned away and left them without another word.
They remained where they was until the old man was out of sight and then Krycek abruptly exhaled deeply. "That was...!" He couldn't find the words, almost hugging himself, blazing with satisfaction. "Fuck I've waited years to do that!"
Mulder was sagging against the rails. "My God!" he said blankly, "I can't believe we did it."
"Believe it, Mulder." Krycek laughed again. He turned and found Mulder watching him in silence, something dark in the hazel eyes and the smile died from his lips.
A brief hesitation and Krycek started to say something but then he just shrugged and said, "Come on, Mulder, let's get back to the rest of our lives."
Safe House, Washington, DC,
With the threat of Spender neutralized, and Sharpe and his friends apparently not suspecting anything, there was really no need for the odd group to stay together. Yet, without any words being exchanged everyone remained in the house, waiting...
The phone rang and Mulder groped for it sleepily, glancing at the clock beside him. It showed 03:28. "Mulder..." he mumbled.
"We've got it, Mulder!" The voice pierced his eardrums. "We've got it!"
He sat up rubbing his eyes. "You got what?"
"The cure!" A breathless laugh told him she was flying high on adrenaline and endomorphines. He could almost see her in front of him, exhausted, dark shadows under her eyes, hair held back carelessly in a pony-tail.
"My God!" he croaked. "Does that include your cancer?"
"Yes!" Her voice broke slightly, betraying the strain she had been under. "It's not a cure-all for cancer unfortunately, but it will cure my specific type of cancer. And it will get the chip out of Peter's neck without causing harm. I'm on my way back!"
Mulder stared blankly at the phone and then he threw back the covers and bounded from the bed, banging doors and shouting, "Everybody, wake up, I've got great news!"
That night, together with a still exhausted but elated Scully they had a small celebratory dinner. All of the talk was of the cure, of how Spender had been neutralized and everyone was carefully avoiding any mentions of the future.
It was at desert that Skinner cleared his throat, looked around at them and abruptly said, "I've put in for a transfer to the San Francisco field office, and I have little doubt it'll be approved."
Silence fell as everyone stared at him. He said with shrug, "I've gone as far as I ever will." A wry smile, "and let's face it, I'm tainted goods no matter how you look at it. Even if the Consortium by a miracle is taken down, I'll go down with them. Better to get out now. Six months from now I'll retire with a golden handshake." He looked at Krycek, "so I was thinking, I've heard San Jose is a really nice little town, close enough to San Francisco for commuting, good fishing and bookstores. You know a place to live there?"
Ignoring everyone else, for once green eyes were unguarded. A soft, incredulous whisper, "Do you mean it? You would do it for me?"
Skinner looked a little uncomfortable to do this in front of witnesses, "Well, that and the fishing."
Seeing the naked pain in Mulder's eyes, knowing just how devastated he must be, Scully hastily stood up. "Come on, I wanted to show you something, Mulder."
Mulder shook his head. He wasn't going to miss this. "Come *on* Mulder!" Scully hissed, almost dragging him outside.
Over his shoulder he saw that Krycek had not moved, but was staring at Skinner in total shock... Then the door closed.
Krycek said quietly, not moving from his seat. "Why, Walter, why give it all up?"
Skinner was silent for a moment and then he said calmly, "The truth is that I'm tired of chasing my own shadow, tired of riding a desk and signing papers. There have been times, more and more recently that I've actually wished myself back in 'Nam. At least back there when Charlie shot at me I could shoot back."
He rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Alex, I originally joined the FBI because I thought I could make a difference, do some good. I always swore that the day I didn't feel like that anymore I'd quit." He paused, "I stopped feeling like that years ago, I just didn't realize it."
Still speaking in that calm, dispassionate voice he continued, "it's not because of you I'm resigning from the Bureau, but I am moving to the west coast because you're there. I can't ask you to come back to Washington, it wouldn't be fair to Peter and..." a crooked, wry smile, "to be honest I'd rather not have Mulder bang on our door from time to time."
Krycek didn't show the small secret thrill that shot through him at the casual mention of 'our' door. "You're right, he would."
Still, the cynical, wary part of him that always looked for the motive behind, made him add, "Are you sure, Walter?"
Skinner stood up and walked around the table, pulling Krycek into his arms. "Yeah, I'm sure."
He bent his head and kissed the firm lips gently, coaxing them apart, teasing with light touches until with an impatient sound, Krycek hooked an arm around a broad neck and pulled it down, pink tongue curling around and capturing the maddening mouth.
Finally forced to break apart for breath, Krycek looked up at Skinner, his face for once naked and vulnerable. "I love you," he said, the heat lightening his eyes robbing the words of any cliche. "And I'm yours for as long as you want me."
"Just as I am yours, Alex," Skinner said deeply. "Always remember that." He had seen the brief shadow, the flicker of doubt. "Never forget that it goes both ways."
A deep shuddering breath. "It's not that I doubt you, it's just - " he broke off suddenly.
"That too many men have owned you. I know." Big, gentle hands held him close, not to imprison but to comfort. "I'll give you the space you need, " Skinner said quietly. "When the nightmares come."
Krycek leaned in to the solid warmth of the big body, "As you said, it's mutual..."
Skinner suddenly had difficulties swallowing. Sharon had never understood his moods, the nightmares that had forced him to wander their house or the deserted streets restlessly; every nerve tense against the images that haunted him. "I know you will," and he heard unaccustomed emotion in his own voice.
Still not letting go of Alex, Skinner moved them both to the sofa, sinking down, pulling Alex even further into his arms, settling his head against his shoulder. They lay like that in silence, just enjoying the feel and touch of the other, the steady joy at the thought of a shared future.
"But won't you be bored if you have nothing to do?" Krycek suddenly asked.
Skinner shook his head, "I'm not going to just mooch around the house and wait for you to come home," there was another silence as they both imagined a time when they would be together every night and then Skinner continued, "I've got an old friend from my army days, Mac, who runs a kind of think tank and security operation in San Francisco. He's offered me a job there several times. Actually," Skinner snorted in amusement, "with the kind of salary I can command, the sale of my condo and the Bureau pension I'll be very well off indeed." He leaned over Krycek and kissed him, "how would you like being a kept man?"
Although Krycek smiled Skinner was swift to see the flash of hurt, and he cursed himself. "I'm sorry," he said quietly, "that was stupid and crass."
It was Alex's turn to shake his head, "Don't apologize. I'm not usually this raw and," a sudden twinkling of humor, "I'd hate if you always had to watch your tongue."
Skinner smoothed the graceful arch of a dark eyebrow with his fingertips. "You're not the only one feeling a little insecure here, Alex. I mean, you're a young man," he emphasized the word 'young' a little, "and at times I wonder what you'd want with someone like me." His smile was rather rueful, "and I deal with it by joking. You really could have anybody, one arm or not, just look at Mulder."
The younger man's response took him by surprise. He groaned, "Not you too! I've already had this conversation with Mulder." He sat up, and framed Skinner's head between his hands. "Yeah, I really wonder what I would want with the first man who wants me for more than what I can to him in bed, or who I can kill for him."
Skinner had to clear his throat, awed to see the trust of a man who had never let himself be vulnerable enough to believe in anything or anybody before. But all he said was, "I love you, Alex."
It was a gentle, quiet moment, not one of great passion, and when Krycek observed as much, Skinner laughed. "I can give you passion, but somehow I think you'd rather have love."
There was a long pause and then Krycek said slowly, "I'm not sure I like that you can read me so well. Not when I can't do the same."
"In time you will," Skinner kissed him, "it just takes experience, one advantage," his voice turned wry, "of old age."
"Oh for fuck's sake! You're not old, Walter," Krycek said with a hint of impatience.
Skinner looked at him very somberly, "We're going to have to deal with that Alex. I'm eighteen older than you, that's a huge difference." He was silent, "you know those jokes about being someone's father? Well, I'm old enough to *be* your father."
Krycek nodded calmly, "Yes you are, that's a little too young for me, but I won't complain if you'll do your best to act older." A cough of laughter was his reward, and he grinned in reply. "That's better. Look, Walter, I know you'll probably worry about this from time to time, but don't you think both you and Mulder are just a little hung up about the physical side of things? I mean, I admit I didn't fall in love because of your pretty eyes," another grin. "But, since you brought it up...."
Krycek said very calmly but with a glimmer of devilish humor in his eyes. "The truth is that I've fucked men who are real experts at what they do. Who know exactly where to touch, where to press, where to suck and lick to achieve maximum effect. *Beautiful* physically stunning men, and yeah, compared to them you're wrinkled and flawed and clumsy." He arched an eyebrow, "and none of them have ever made me shake the way your lightest touch can. I love you, and trust me, I know better than most how to distinguish between love and lust."
Skinner couldn't help laughing. It wasn't exactly the most romantic declaration in the world, but it was typical Alex's hard-eyed pragmatism and it suited him perfectly.
Mulder waited until he knew that Skinner was alone. Then he slipped into the room. He carefully avoided looking at the bed he knew they had shared, subduing a sudden piercing stab of burning jealousy. "I wanted to know if I could talk to you, sir?" he said.
Skinner was neatly folding a shirt into his bag. "If you don't mind me packing while we talk, sure."
Now that he was here, he was suddenly uncertain of what to say. "Sir, won't you reconsider your decision." When Skinner had made his announcement Mulder had suddenly realized just what he would lose. "I, we, would really miss you if you leave."
Skinner gave him a long look, "I appreciate the sentiment Mulder but I'm afraid my decision is non-negotiable."
"Because of Alex?"
"He's part of it, yes," Skinner said calmly, "but not all. I just feel that staying on will cause more harm than good. Whatever the reason, Mulder, I did allow myself to get embroiled with the Consortium. I lied. I covered up crimes and did other things I'm not very proud of. To be honest I've wanted to get out for some time now." He shrugged, "and with Spender off my back, now's the time."
"Does Alex know that's why you're resigning?"
Skinner nodded, "I told him, he understands." He added wryly, "it may not sound very ah, romantic, but I think Alex prefers it that way. Giving up everything for love may be great drama, but in reality other pieces have to fall into place as well, especially when you've got a past as dark as Alex's," he paused, "or mine."
There was a short silence and then Mulder said abruptly, "Why you and not me?"
Skinner didn't answer at first although he obviously understood what Mulder meant. Finally he said, "Because he knows by now that the one thing I will never do is try and possess him." Large hands stilled in the process of folding a T-shirt. "Ownership, bargains and sex, that's all Alex's ever known, but I think he's finally realizing that there is something else."
He gave the other man a sudden hard look, "You don't think I've wanted to tear your fucking heart out this last week?"
Mulder flinched at the sudden icy anger in Skinner's voice.
"But I knew if I let myself do that, I'd lose." Skinner said coldly, "I could see him watch and wait for me to act the 'alpha male.'" He smiled wryly, remembering Alex's words. "Another man might want protection and the reassurance of a jealous lover, but Alex doesn't see it that way. He sees possessiveness and ownership, and at the slightest hint that's how I felt he'd have gone. So," he shrugged, "I backed off no matter how hard it was, and by doing that I got his trust."
"You don't care that we fucked? That he still wants me?" Mulder couldn't stop himself from asking viciously.
Skinner took a deep breath, obviously controlling himself. "What do you think?" He gave Mulder an icy look. "Yeah, I hated every fucking moment he was with you. But what I really loathed was the effect it had on Alex."
Mulder flushed in guilt. "He wants me," he repeated stubbornly.
"Yes he does, and there is a part of him that will always want you," Skinner admitted coolly. "But that's all it is, Mulder, a physical reflex. And you should know by now that it won't ever get you anything other than a few mercy fucks."
"I know." Mulder said bitterly. "While you're going to have the rest of him."
Skinner couldn't quite contain his small smile. "Yes, I will."
He bent and zipped up his bag.
They were all standing at the airport watching the planes take off. Krycek was taking a flight to San Francisco. Scully would follow in two days time and take the chip out of Peter's neck. Skinner was returning to DC to pack up his office, sell his condo and arrange for the transport of his things. Tactfully he and Scully had gone ahead to check about their tickets leaving Mulder and Krycek alone.
Krycek was leaning his hip against one of the plastic chairs, his face open and so filled with quiet joy it was no wonder that many women, and even some men, turned around for a second look. However, Krycek didn't notice. Instead he smiled at Mulder, "I talked to Peter again last night. He aced his latest math test and is bargaining with me that, if he gets on the Honor's roll I'll buy him a car." He smiled fondly, "he's such a little capitalist."
Mulder wasn't really listening to the words, just drinking in the sight of the lean jeans-clad man.
Abruptly, Krycek said, "Mulder?"
"I meant it, you are welcome to my house to visit Peter. But when you're there you play by my rules, understood?"
Mulder arched an eyebrow. "And that means what exactly?"
"It means you don't shout and generally behave like an asshole. And that you keep your temper under control." He smiled wryly, "Peter's inherited some of it I think, and I don't even want to think of the two of you going head to head."
"I don't have a temper," Mulder objected.
"No of course you don't," Krycek said dryly, "I've never met anyone with such a mild disposition." He hesitated, "one more thing, Mulder, as I said you are welcome to visit Peter, but that's all, do you understand?"
Mulder gave him a long look. "Yeah, I understand," he said finally. "But don't expect me to bring Skinner a housewarming gift."
A sudden husky laugh, "I know, you wouldn't be Mulder if you surrendered gracefully."
Krycek paused, and then he said quietly, "Mulder, we've been many things, partners... enemies... even," a wry ironic twist of his mouth, "lovers of a sort. But we've never been friends. Maybe," he paused, "maybe we could try that?"
Mulder put his hands in his pockets. "I'm willing to try if you are," he said evenly.
Krycek gave him a crooked grin as he bent and picked up his bag. "Friends then, Mulder."
Watching Alex make his way towards the gate, Mulder allowed himself a small cold smile. Friends? Just accept that Alex was lost to him forever?
Like hell he would.
Mulder was standing outside the 19th century two-story house, carefully and lovingly renovated. It was the last place he had ever imagined Alex Krycek to live in, and perhaps because of that he should have expected exactly a place like this.
For the past month all he had been able to think about was this meeting. Scully had returned more than three weeks ago and reported that the operation was a complete success. He had tried to question her about Peter but had gotten only vague replies, and finally she had told him that he should make up his own mind. He had also confronted her about why she hadn't told him. The fact that she had known about Peter Krycek and not said a word had shaken him badly.
"Why the hell didn't you tell me, Scully?!" he'd demanded angrily, feeling devastated by her unexpected betrayal.
"Because, Mulder," Scully returned, "I didn't want you to go chasing after Krycek." She had continued forcefully, "I told you after he'd gone, that it was the right thing to do, and you agreed. For his and your sake. He deserved a second chance, and you needed to put him out of your mind."
"He's my brother!" Mulder had shouted at her.
She had looked at him, sadness replacing the anger. "Yes, he is, but I couldn't be sure, Mulder, that you wouldn't have used him to hold on to Krycek." Very softly she added, "He deserved better than that."
Her words had stunned him. Mostly because, if he was completely honest with himself he *would* have been tempted to use Peter to get to Alex. He had been that desperate.
He still was.
Not feeling the chill of the evening, Mulder stared at the house and the cheerful inviting lights shining out through the windows. He was trembling with excitement and apprehension as he crossed the street and walked up the stairs.
He rang the bell and then waited.
The door opened and a teenage boy stared at him. A boy with Alex's eyes and his own square jaw and nose. Mulder took a deep breath.
"Hello, Peter, I'm Fox Mulder, your brother."